What I have been asking myself and, as of this date, still have not answered is whether Capitalism can survive Obama's political populist fairness doctrine whereby government determines outcomes?
Capitalism is not inherently egalitarian. In fact Capitalism is often harsh and therefore, difficult for politicians bent on populism. Consequently, populist politicians resort to hysteria and hype when human manipulation causes the economic engine to go off track, as it frequently does. Objectively, Capitalism has produced more benefits for more people and floated more ships than any other economic system but facts never deter politicians from tinkering, manipulating and destroying. Power to control is their goal and a free economic system is contrary to their lustful desires.
Capitalism gone astray also can cause indeterminable damage, loss and reallocation of resources but it eventually sorts matters out in a manner best suited for a fruitful recovery and rebalancing.
The newest wrinkle is Obama's desire to tax earnings of corporations operating overseas and force repatriation based on 'fairness.' Not only does it reveal misplaced economic thinking but it also shows the length to which this naive president's views regarding Capitalism are distorted by whimsical thinking. Furthermore, his projection of the amount of taxes ($220 billion over ten years) his illogic will produce is s straight line extrapolation based on the assumption corporations will stand still while they are being run over by Obama's hypocrisy.
If this Administration cared a fig about budget excess they would run government more efficiently and gut waste and bloat but his goal is 'fairness' and government control of our Capitalist system so bureaucrats can determine outcomes and thereby, help "The Forgotten Man." Roosevelt tried it and most of his policies failed to produce their desired intent and such will be the same with Obama's initiatives.
The economy will recover on its own as excesses are corrected and the markets work their magic but Capitalism allocates resources in a manner anathema to politicians who are often egalitarian control freaks. Why? Because this kind of 'pap' sells and wins votes. People love the 'free lunch' particularly when they are told someone else will pay the bill. (See 1 below.)
Caroline Glick has reviewed the AIPAC law suit episode and several matters come to mind:
a) First, there are those in the Pentagon supported by their media friends who see evil when it comes to Israel's relationship with the United States. No doubt Israel, as with any nation, thinks in terms of self serving ways and AIPAC (I have been a member for years after Sen. Sam Nunn encouraged me to join) exists to further Israel's relationship with America.
What the enemies of this relationship do not want to recognize is that Israel and America are democracies and both have a similar vested interest in a more peaceful and stable Middle East. Sam Nunn, told me directly at lunch in The Senate Dining Room, some 40 years ago, that AIPAC reports were objective and an excellent source of information for his staff.
Carter and his disciples manipulate and distort Israeli actions, some of which have been harmful, to create backlash against Israel. They do so by lying and prevarication, but they are effective because the world is more prone to turn against the strong regardless of the facts. By winning wars it did not seek, Israel has lost the propaganda battle because the world loves the underdog.
b) The second reason has to do with criminalization by the government of free speech. This is a dangerous trend which is gathering momentum. Partisanship cannot and will not tolerate dissent and challenge of their orthodoxy. Wherever and whenever Liberals gain the upper hand freedom of speech is, all to frequently, the victim - witness college campuses, media reporting, union voting and most egregiously the efforts of this Congress and Administration to bury opposition. (See 2 below.)
In yesterday's memo I expressed my concerns about the way we increasingly receive news and the difference between TV and reading a newspaper - Hysteria versus cooler reasoning. Hysteria and reckless disregard of facts, more likely, serves the interests of those with a biased agenda. (See 3 below.)
Any meaning behind Ahmadinejad's sudden cancellation. (See 4 below.)
The Obama Administration, by its own words, intends to become more forceful towards pressing Israel vis a vis concessions favoring a two state solution. A two state solution will not work as long as Palestinians, Iran and Iran's surrogates seek Israel's destruction but facts have a way of interfering with ideology and bias so disregard them and proceed full speed ahead.
Why will a two state solution fail? Because, in my opinion, it rests on a foundation of believing those who are untrustworthy and whose every word is propaganda meant to achieve an obective. Such was not the case with Sadat and the King of Jordan.
In the case of the interview with Masaal, why didn't the NYT reporter follow up and ask some obvious questions among them:
#1. Demilitarized state or one arming to the teeth in anticipation of ending
the ceasefire (or declaring it over when it serves its interests?)
#2. Unlimited return of refugees (and their great grandchildren) to flood
what is left of Israel? (See 5 and 5a below.)
More garbage from the U.,N. just as one should come to expect. Ban has yet to ban naked and unadulterated bias when it comes to Israel. (See 6 below.)
A long but interesting read about the role of American Advisors. (See 7 below.)
Sowell offers some thoughts regarding empathy and the law. Is our future to be determined by whim?(See 8 below.)
The untested one! (See 9 below.)
David Brooks analyzes the Republican Party's goal of Civil Order through the prism of Old Western Movies. Yes, Westerns focused on the hero who conquered the villain but that was not the central message, according to Brooks.
The question Brooks poses is whether Republicans can return to their lost roots, ie civil order versus untrammeled freedom.
It is neat when writers impose their own observations by manipulation and mis-interpretation. Conservatism does not seek to ride unbridled horses but it does prefer to mount steeds whose direction is more determined by the individual holding the reins than some bureaucrat.(See 10 below.)
1) Psychotherapy for liberals
By James Lewis
Talking with liberals is frustrating, because you can't just talk about facts. That will only get them all upset, and all they will get out of the experience is never to listen to people like you. Most liberals live in their heads, or in little fluffy white clouds floating right above their scalps and resist efforts to engage them in rational conversation.
Our media are perfect examples. They never learn. They never listen to any other points of view. They know they have nothing to learn. Intellectually they are stuck, stuck, stuck.
(That's why the media are finally going bankrupt, thank goodness. But for years they got away with an endless parade of flagrant nonsense. Some of them still do. It's embarrassing.)
Talking to liberals is very much like doing therapy. The first lesson any psychiatrist learns is that most clients don't listen. They only pretend to listen, and then they never follow any sensible advice. So talking doesn't do the trick. It never does. If talking helped, they wouldn't be there in the first place.
So what do you do?
You wait for life to happen.
And then slowly, a tiny little bit at a time, you gently point out the ways in which clients defeat themselves, over and over again.
Therapists don't change people. Life does -- sometimes, if we are lucky and very patient.
A good therapist can turn life into learning opportunities. But you have to be very, very patient and forbearing. And the client has to be pretty desperate to learn.
Talking to liberals is like that. As the Obamanistas run out their string of self-celebration, preening and prancing before the world's media, as they keep bumping into the harsh walls of reality, getting a bloody nose here, a black eye there, there will be life lessons galore. Every day will bring new lessons. Already, the Obees are acting like George W. Bush in Afghanistan and Iraq -- notice that? Their actions don't differ in any visible way from the most scapegoated administration in history; all they've changed is their talk.
On the economy they're hopeless. Already Midwestern Democrats have refused to commit political suicide with carbon Cap and Trade. So that is going nowhere.
As the economic downturn starts to bite, watch for the Obees to blame Republicans for not saving them from their folly. It is crucial for Republicans to remind the American people that they do not approve of Obama's egomaniacal fantasies. Hold fast, ride out the storm, and the people will come around when they feel their pain.
If the United States of America is very lucky, Obama -- who always acts like a bright grad student, always hopping up to prove how well he has learned his lessons -- Obama, as I say, may learn to avoid the biggest international traps and pitfalls.
If we are lucky.
If not, the United States will get Carterized again and again -- in Iran, with Russia, the Middle East and the UN. Those are all the places where Jimmy Carter got royal bloody noses. And then blamed the Republicans for his mistakes.
With Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians, Jimmy Carter twisted Israeli arms over and over again, and finally got a so-called peace agreement that never worked. He walked away with a Nobel Prize from the suckered Oslo Nobel Committee, but no real success on the ground. Guess who got the blame for those failures? When somebody is mentally stuck, they only have one story to tell, no matter how reality turns out. They just have to blame other people for their disasters -- the alternative is to blame themselves, and they are not capable of doing that.
With Russia, Brezhnev invaded Afghanistan after telling Jimmy he wouldn't, and with Iran, Jimmy Carter enabled the worst medieval throwback tyrant of modern times, Ayatollah Khomeini, to take over the fastest-modernizing country in the Middle East and drive it back to the Dark Ages. Iranians are immensely talented people. In the West they do extremely well, when their opportunities are not limited and their lives are not oppressed.
But in Iran itself the last three decades have been painful for no reason at all. The war between Iran and Saddam Hussein cost a million lives. Saddam would not have attacked Iran with the Shah in charge, because the United States would have backed the Shah. The Shah would not have sent teenage "martyrs" on motorcycles into minefields to open the way up for his assault troops. The Shah, even with all his flaws, was a great modernizer, and would have spared his people endless pain and suffering. Today Iran would be a model of Islamic modernism but for our hero Jimmy Carter. But now it threatens a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, one that can spread the plague to the whole world.
Carter didn't like the Shah, and allowed him to be overthrown out of sheer, liberal guilt for what the United States did to Iran's Prime Minister Mossadegh in 1954, twenty years before Carter came to power.
See how well liberal guilt works in the Hobbesian "world community"? The world is not a "community." It is a wilderness full of predators. Liberals are just like that woman in the Berlin zoo who decided to jump into the polar bear enclosure, and got chomped. Want to understand Vladimir Putin? Remember that polar bear.
What we are seeing today with Obama is a neurotic repetition compulsion. All the things that didn't work for Jimmy are being tried again by Barry O. They will end up not working again. Only a fool could be surprised.
Obama is a natural follow-up act for Carter. Right now he looks like Jimmy Carter, Jr., with even more self-righteous arrogance and even more towering folly -- which is quite an accomplishment. Oh, yes, and he's black, which delights the media, because our media airheads always confuse symbolism with substance. But being black is only skin-deep. It doesn't guarantee anything. You have to be a fool to believe otherwise.
Being our first black president won't save Obama from the consequences of his arrogance. Nor will it save the country. Sorry about that. Reality always gets the final vote.
We have never seen an administration that lived more in its heads and less on Planet Earth -- the real earth, that is, not the fantasy dream of Mother Gaia. We have never seen a more mentally stuck power-mad gaggle of innocents abroad. Their mistakes will mirror their arrogance.
The prancing and preening Obama crowd is a natural victim for all the con artists in the world -- and that's practically every real enemy of the United States and Western civilization.
That's the way it is. Get used to it, because any therapeutic intervention first requires them to bump into reality. Just listen for the loud bangs as they go bouncing off the walls.
We can predict the Obama administration will run into trouble, because they have set out plans that are self-contradictory and doomed to failure. We also know what will happen when they fail really big: They will blame the grown-ups. That's what such people do. It's how they keep their self-esteem in the face of repeated failures.
The question is not, "Will they blame the rest of us?" They are bound to.
Rather, the adult question is: How can we protect the United States and the civilized world, even with mentally stuck Keystone Cops in charge?
Take just one little example, a very minor blooper, but one that defines this administration: The PR disaster of flying an Air Force One backup plane right over the Statue of Liberty, with an F-16 on its tail. Those are serious planes, with serious purposes. They are not manufactured to make pretty pictures. But that's evidently what the White House thinks they are for. It's like a kid trying to drive his Dad's car because it looks so cool.
The fly-over freaked out New Yorkers, as all sensible people knew in advance. But the White House still did it. Bottom line: PR considerations and a power-hungry, mentally stuck White House overrode simple common sense.
Sounds just like therapy, right? We know the White House was advised not to do this. But good advice has no effect on people who just want to keep bashing their heads into brick walls.
This is not the only mad PR move of the Obamanites. PR is really important to them. That's how they think they won; and with too many voters, it was how they won. They are mostly PR. The styrofoam Greek columns were another one. Promising to stop the rising seas was another one. Michelle's $540.00 tennies at the charity affair for poor people is another one. The iPod for the Queen and the deep bow for the King of Saudi were two more.
In fact, the Obama team has constantly overreached on public relations stunts. They have a predilection for that. It's part of their predictable neurosis. And eventually, when people get the joke, they will run head-on into a brick wall of public laughter. They will never laugh at themselves, nor confess their arrogance and ignorance. They can only steam straight ahead, running right into that looming wall. Again.
And when they do, the rest of us have to be ready just to point out the obvious.
It's beginning already.
Don't expect quick results, just remember that reality always gets the last vote.
2) A cautionary tale
By Caroline B. Glick
AIPAC reports are quite objective and among the best his staff generally received according to Sam Nunn (told to me directly by him at lunch in The Senate Dinbins Room) some 40 years ago.
2) A cautionary tale
By Caroline B. Glick
Just in time for the annual AIPAC conference, the US Justice Department announced last week it is dismissing its charges against former AIPAC staffers Keith Weissman and Steve Rosen. Their prosecution, and what it exposed about the nature of AIPAC, and the position of Israel, and of pro-Israel Jews and non-Jews in America must serve as a cautionary tale for Israel and its American supporters.
A brief summary of the now five-year-old affair is in order. In August 2004, just as the question of how the Bush administration should contend with Iran's nuclear weapons program was becoming the issue of the day, CBS news reported on an "Israeli spy scandal." According to that report, AIPAC lobbyists were working with a pro-Israel, neo-conservative hawk in the Pentagon and the Israeli embassy in Washington to try to force the Bush administration to adopt a more confrontational policy towards Iran due both to its nuclear weapons development program and to its central role in fomenting the insurgency in Iraq.
At the time, as a New York Times report noted, the Bush administration had yet to adopt a clear policy on Iran. As one government source told the newspaper, "We have an ad hoc policy [on Iran] that we're making up as we go along." The idea behind the AIPAC spy scandal story then was that these nefarious pro-Israel forces were being used by Israel to compel the Bush administration to adopt Jerusalem's preferred policy on Iran.
The truth however, was far less impressive. In the event, Rosen and Weissman were approached by Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin (who happens to be Catholic, not Jewish). Franklin asked them to use their connections with the National Security Council to make then-president George W. Bush aware of Iran's central role in the insurgency in Iraq and of its swift progress in its nuclear program. He felt that this information was being obfuscated by the CIA and the State Department in their briefings to the president.
After that meeting, Franklin was approached by the FBI, which had been wiretapping his conversations, and was compelled to entrap Rosen and Weissman in a sting operation. He was given false information relating to a supposed imminent threat to the lives of Israeli agents operating in Iraqi Kurdistan which he passed to Weissman and Rosen, who in turn, passed it on to Naor Gillon then serving at the Israeli embassy. It was this incident that spurred the CBS report and the accusations that Weissman and Rosen were Israeli spies.
ROSEN AND WEISSMAN were indicted under the 1918 Espionage Act - a law that had not been enforced since World War I - and accused of "conspiracy to communicate national defense information to people not entitled to receive it." The maximum penalty for this offense is ten years in prison.
Franklin, for his part was sentenced to 12 years in prison for mishandling classified information. For similar offenses, prominent Democrats like former national security advisor Sandy Berger and former CIA director John Deutsch were dispatched with misdemeanor convictions and slaps on their wrists from friendly prosecutors. Franklin's lawyer is now seeking to overturn his conviction.
The decision to prosecute Weissman, Rosen and Franklin was clearly political — and deeply discriminatory. In speaking to Franklin and acting on the information he provided them, Weissman and Rosen did nothing that lobbyists and journalists in Washington don't do every day of the year. By selectively choosing to enforce an arguably defunct law against them — and against no one else — the FBI and the Justice Department and whatever forces in the State Department the CIA and elsewhere that supported them made clear that the US government will treat pro-Israel forces in Washington differently than everyone else.
This politically motivated prosecution was wildly successful. No, it didn't lead to Rosen and Weissman being convicted of anything. But that was never the point. The prosecutors - and those faceless bureaucrats pulling the strings — managed to drag not only Weissman's and Rosen's names through the mud for five years, they managed to cast a pall of criminality and treason on the whole pro-Israel community and the hawks in the Pentagon that tended to agree with it on matters of national security policy.
And having accomplished this goal, the forces behind the Rosen-Weissman-Franklin persecutions went on to intimidate AIPAC into firing Rosen and Weissman. In an act of disgraceful cowardice, AIPAC not only fired the men, they refused to pay their legal fees and so cast them adrift as millions of dollars in legal bills began piling up.
AIPAC was not alone in abandoning these men to their fates. Aside from some lone voices — almost never heard above a whisper — the organized American Jewish community lost its voice when it came to the AIPAC scandal. While behind closed doors everyone was quick to shake their heads and acknowledge the obvious fact that these men were being railroaded in a scandalous abuse of legal power, in public everyone was mute. There were no angry letters to the White House and the Attorney General's office demanding an explanation of how these prosecutions came about. There were no demonstrations outside the Justice Department demanding that the charges be dismissed. There was no media campaign to discredit the decision to abuse legal tools to weaken the pro-Israel community and specifically, to weaken the anti-Iranian hawks in the US. There was silence.
In a perfectly fair world, where people care about both process and outcome, the human rights and specifically the first amendment crowd at places like the American Civil Liberties Union and likeminded institutions, could have been counted on to stand up and denounce the abuse of executive power that stood at the heart of the AIPAC scandal. After all, in transferring a classified memo on Iran to Weissman and Rosen, Franklin was doing something that the ACLU generally supports.
At one of its major 2008 conferences, for instance, the ACLU invited Daniel Ellsberg, the former Rand Corporation official who leaked the top secret Pentagon Papers regarding US involvement in Vietnam to The New York Times in 1971 to serve as it keynote speaker. Both in photocopying the documents and in transferring them to The New York Times, Ellsberg committed serious criminal offenses. And yet, because he was doing so to advance the cause of the anti-war movement, groups like the ACLU worked to discredit his prosecution. Charges against Ellsberg were dropped in 1973. Ever since, he has enjoyed hero's status in left-wing, first amendment circles in the US.
But then, apparently, process is not important. For like the organized American Jewish community, the ACLU, The New York Times, The Washington Post and all the other outspoken champions of free speech were silent on — if not supportive of — the Justice Department's case against Franklin and against Rosen and Weissman.
THIS ENTIRE STORY, in all of its disparate parts, holds some very sad lessons for supporters of Israel in the US and beyond as well as for the government of Israel. First, AIPAC's cowardly decision to abandon Weissman and Rosen and the willingness of the overwhelming majority of the organized Jewish community to mutely endorse the move exposes an unpleasant truth about the nature of the American Jewish community. Simply stated, the majority of American Jews are either indifferent to the treatment of Israel and its supporters, or are too frightened to express their concerns.
Second, the fact that the AIPAC scandal unfolded during the Bush administration's tenure shows that even when administrations friendly to Israel are in office, a persistent, powerful group of bureaucrats in the federal government remains ready and able to persecute pro-Israel activists and policymakers. Moreover, members of this group are willing to abuse executive power to achieve their aim of weakening the standing of both Israel and its supporters in the US capital.
One of the disturbing aspects of the AIPAC scandal was the readiness of pro-Palestinian Jewish organizations like the Israel Policy Forum and J Street to defend the persecution. As James Kirchick from The New Republic noted over the weekend, M.J. Rosenberg, the Director of Policy Analysis for the IPF, wrote recently that "as a guy on trial for espionage," Rosen had no right to point out that Charles Freeman, US President Barack Obama's initial choice to serve as Director of the National Intelligence Council, had a record of egregiously anti-Israel behavior and action. What the behavior of the likes of Rosenberg shows is that anti-Israel forces in the federal bureaucracy can depend on having an anti-Israel American Jewish amen corner backing any decision they take to persecute Israel's supporters.
The silence of the human rights and free speech crowd also provides food for thought. The fourth lesson of the AIPAC affair is that Israel and its supporters can expect to receive absolutely no backing from this policy community. As is the case with the US feminist movement's silence on the plight of women in the Muslim world, and the US human rights community's silence on the plight of human rights activists in places like Iran and Syria, Israel can expect that the American Left — both Jewish and non-Jewish — will be silent about any actions taken against the human rights of Israelis and the civil rights of Israel's supporters in the US.
It is important that these lessons be properly understood by pro-Israel activists in the US. And it is imperative that they be internalized by the Netanyahu government as it crafts its strategy for contending with an openly hostile Obama administration in the months and years to come.
Many in Jerusalem expressed their disappointment that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu decided not to travel to Washington this week to participate in the AIPAC conference but rather delayed his visit to the US for two weeks to better prepare for his meeting with Obama. But what the AIPAC scandal shows is that it may be advantageous that Netanyahu's first visit to Washington as premier not be conducted as part of the AIPAC conference.
The weaknesses of the pro-Israel community — and first and foremost of AIPAC — which the Rosen-Weissman-Franklin affair exposed show that it is unwise for Israel to rely on pro-Israel organizations to sell its policies to the American people and their elected officials. These groups cannot be trusted to help out in a crisis because they may simply not care that much about Israel's security or because they are too frightened of being persecuted to stick their necks out.
Rather than focus his efforts on rallying the likes of AIPAC, Netanyahu would be better served to bring his message directly to the American people. Only by garnering wide-scale, popular, grassroots support for a strong US-Israel alliance will Netanyahu have a chance of maintaining strong ties with Washington under the Obama administration and beyond.
JWR contributor Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East Fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, DC and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post.
3) Hyping hysteria
By Michael J. Economides
The alliance between politicians, their supporters with agendas and the news media is an unholy union, one that does not need elaborate conspiracies to consummate. Hysteria and alarmism in the news is a business-driven matrimony and, in spite of proclamations of safeguarding the public's right to know, it has little to do with knowing the truth.
For us westerners our press was supposed to be one of the main institutions that separated us from the rest of the world, made us be smug about the superiority of our political system. It was supposed to be different from totalitarian regimes where the press expresses no opinions other than the party line. Our newspapers and TV were supposed to be unbiased and objective.
But the situation today has become pitiful. It may be because of the evolution of the internet and the collapse of the traditional press; it may also be because pop culture has changed and the press is feeding on it. As William Allen White, the father of the American regional newspaper once said: "a newspaper is as good as the community it serves."
Tarting the news, mixing gossip and the salacious with serious issues, has destroyed much of the high road. It is hard to find common ground between Hollywood theatrics (and any pretensions of social concerns) with war and economics. Still, this can be shrugged off. Nobody forces one to read a particular newspaper and the TV channel changer is one of the most powerful tools of modern freedom.
Where the press has become dangerous, a disastrous influence, is the almost universal inkling towards alarmism, where the hysterias it spawns and the responses to them, grossly outweigh the dangers from the "crises" in the first place. It sells and, used by politicians, wins them elections and advances hidden agendas.
The latest, the swine flu, came in as an enormous dragon; just a week later it was reduced to a mere lion. Most probably it will go out as mouse, not even as a lamb.
Echoes of another flu scare, this one in 1976, when the US Congress mandated the vaccination of every citizen: 25 people died from the vaccine, one died from the flu.
The list of politicians/press-fomented scares is endless.
AIDS, identified in the United States in 1981, has infected less than half a million people since then (about 1 in 600) (http://www.avert.org/usa-statistics.htm.) "High-risk heterosexual" transmission, read totally unprotected sex, is blamed for 24% of the cases which translates to about 1 in 2500. My guess is that for reasonable people the chances approach those of being hit by a lightning. And yet, if one read some of the news of those days, a good 75% of us by now would be carrying the virus. It was the religious right, the gay activists and their assorted politicians that formed that alliance. It was the religious right, the gay activists and their assorted politicians that formed that alliance.
By the mid-1980s, as if cut by a knife, AIDS changed the free and fun mores of two generations, terrified hundreds of millions to this day, but, even more seriously, it redirected an enormous amount of medical research at the expense of many others.
And who is to forget Y2K and the global catastrophe it was supposed to bring?
But nothing comes close to the global warming hysteria.
Even the most outrageous ‘green' positions have been legitimized, as being "socially responsible". Environmentalism has provided the ideology for people to grab at a meaning in their life. It has become the religion of the ‘non -religious'. As the recently deceased science writer and novelist Michael Crichton famously put it: "One of the most powerful religions in the Western world is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists."
Western countries have been a particular target for environmentalists for more than four decades. Global warming alarmism handed the environmental movement and socialist ideologues, often the same individuals, an unprecedented opportunity. After all, what higher moral action could there be than saving the planet? How can one have enough of a good thing? Save the planet while cutting down in size the most hated, most profligate and, oh so, more successful nations on earth?
It was perhaps the most brilliant politically and ideologically loaded masterstroke in many decades. Because the United States, one of the least polluting nations in the world could now be accused as one of the largest polluters and this was directly linked with the use of energy sources, one of the most vital links to a prosperous life. Clearly implied even if not uttered is that America's wealth and power has not only been at the expense of the rest of the world, a common refrain of leftist ideologues for decades, but, in addition, it has put the entire physical not just human world in severe peril.
Many in the press love all this.
It would be only an intellectual exercise one that would surely pass like the others had it not been for what politicians try to do. On April 17 the United States EPA declared finally what many had hoped and others dreaded: that there is "overwhelming and compelling evidence" that "greenhouse gases in the atmosphere endanger the public health of current and future generations." It went on to adopt the most strident and alarmist presumed catastrophes from climate change such as rising sea levels, more wildfires, more hurricanes and degraded air quality.
Just trying to change from fossil fuels to wind and solar, which is not just economically but physically impossible, will cost unbelievable amount of money and lots of suffering. Ultimately, it will simply not happen.
In the meantime do not underestimate the power of the press and politicians to use alarmism to affect this "change." What do not change are the transparent benefits from alarmism.
Economides is a professor at the University of Houston and Editor-on-Chief of the Energy Tribune
4) Sudden cancellation of Ahmadinejad Latin American tour without explanation
Ahmadinejad's Latin American tour postponed "indefinitely"
Sunday night, May 3, Iran's foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki announced the Iranian president would pay official visits to Brazil, Venezuela and Ecuador from May 7 to 8. Although the US and Israel voiced concern, Brazilian foreign minister Celso Amorim said the visit would go ahead as scheduled.
Twenty four hours later, Iranian news agencies announced the tour by the Iranian president with 110 representatives of 65 companies had been postponed "indefinitely" without explanation. Instead, Ahmadinejad would visit Damascus Tuesday.
Monday (under the heading: Brazil jumps aboard Iran's Latin American bandwagon) that Ahmadinejad and Brazilian president Luiz Inacio da Silva would this week sign deals for selling Iran quantities of uranium, with secret transactions covering nuclear cooperation, reciprocal arms sales and exchanges of nuclear and arms production experts.
Friday, May 1, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dubbed the Ahmadinejad visit to Brasilia "quite disturbing." She said: "I don't think in today's world, where it's a multi-polar world, where we are competing for attention and relationships with the Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians, that it's in our interest to turn our backs on our own hemisphere."
Venezuela's Hugo Chavez was not the only godfather of the Brazilian-Iranian transaction; another live wire was Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the Russian Atomic Energy Commission. The Russian official tipped Tehran off to the high potential of this connection both for gain and for planting a second large stake in America's back yard.
Last week, Tehran signed a broad military cooperation pact with Caracas and was preparing to continue its march of conquest through Latin America.
Kiriyenko visited Brasilia last October and offered his hosts modern Russian methods for extracting the uranium, new nuclear power plants and superconducting technologies.
Russian scientists surveyed 25-30 percent of Brazilian territory at shallow depths for uranium deposits; even that limited search uncovered reserves of 350,000 tons, which the Russian nuclear czar believed could be increased at least threefold - or as much as ten times over.
Kiriyenko planned to win a concession for developing Brazil's uranium mines by offering its government a big ready-made customer, Iran.
5) Obama gets tougher with Israel on Palestinians, Iran
By Barak Ravid and Natasha Mozgovaya
As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Washington May 17 approaches, the United States is sending strong messages on the establishment of a Palestinian state and Israeli settlement activity.
Gen. James Jones, national security adviser to President Barack Obama, told a European foreign minister a week ago that unlike the Bush administration, Obama will be "forceful" with Israel.
Meanwhile, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told an AIPAC conference last night that two states for two peoples is the only solution the United States is committed to.
"Relations between Israel and the U.S. are unbreakable," Emanuel said before a gathering of 350 AIPAC donors, adding that "this is the moment of truth for Israel and the Palestinians."
He also declared that "Iran is the number-one threat to the Middle East," and noted that it is hard to make progress wherever Tehran is involved in the Middle East.
Emanuel called for Israeli-Palestinian cooperation if Iran is to be countered effectively.
He said the United States was trying to enter a dialogue with countries such as Syria and Iran, even though it was still unclear whether these countries would alter their behavior. He reiterated that the United States wants to talk with Iran in the hope that Tehran will relinquish its efforts to gain nuclear weapons.
Jones is the main force in the Obama administration stressing the Palestinian question and believes the United States must become more intensively involved in the matter vis-a-vis both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Several days ago, a classified telegram was received in Jerusalem discussing a meeting between Jones and a European foreign minister. Jones told his European interlocutor that President George W. Bush had avoided actions on the Palestinian question that Israel opposed, but the Obama administration intended to change this practice and become more active. It would not make concessions on matters that Israel had committed to.
"The new administration will convince Israel to compromise on the Palestinian question," Jones said. "We will not push Israel under the wheels of a bus, but we will be more forceful toward Israel than we have been under Bush."
Jones is quoted in the telegram as saying that the United States, European Union and moderate Arab states must redefine "a satisfactory endgame solution."
The U.S. national security adviser did not mention Israel as party to these consultations.
In the face of the strongly worded American signals, Netanyahu reiterated yesterday to the Knesset that "recognition of the State of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people is the necessary basis for genuine peace between us and our Palestinian neighbors."
In the upcoming days Uzi Arad, Netanyahu's national security adviser, will travel to London for a meeting with his American counterpart to discuss the meeting between the prime minister and Obama on May 18.
President Shimon Peres also addressed the AIPAC conference and complimented the new U.S. president. He described Obama's election as having "engulfed the world with a huge wave of hope."
"President Barack Obama was elected at a time of difficult crises around the world," Peres said. "I am convinced that he has the abilities to transform these crises into opportunities."
Peres also said that "Israel is extending its arms with open hands for peace with all peoples, with all Arab states, with all the Arab peoples. To those who still stand with clenched fists I have only one word: enough. No more war. No more destruction. No more hate. Now is the time for change. The definition of success according to Israel is not by wars that were imposed on us and which we won, but by the peace we gained with some of our neighbors."
Peres' speech drew criticism from the main opposition party, Kadima, which accused the president of becoming a public relations agent for Netanyahu.
"Instead of being president of Israel he became president of the government," a source in Kadima said.
Former finance minister Roni Bar-On described Peres as a defense attorney for Netanyahu who was sent to the United States "to ease the hearing that will be held on May 18" before Obama.
Meanwhile, some observers in the United States have expressed concerns that the differences between Israel and the new U.S. administration are leading to a clash.
Robert Satloff, the director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said he is concerned by the disagreements between Israel and the United States regarding Iran.
"If there is no complete agreement on all the details in dealing with this issue, there is a chance for the most serious dispute between the U.S. and Israel in the entire 61 years of relations between the two," Satloff said.
5a)Khaled Meshal: We promise not to attack Israel for decade if it retreats to '67 line and floods itself with returning refugees
By TAGHREED EL-KHODARY and ETHAN BRONNER
Why didn't the NYT report follow up and ask some obvious questions among them:
#1. Demilitarized state or one arming to the teeth in anticipation of ending
the ceasefire (or declaring it over when it serves its interests).?
#2. Unlimited return of refugees (and their great grandchildren) to flood
what is left of Israel? ]
The leader of the militant Palestinian group Hamas said Monday its fighters had stopped firing rockets at Israel for now. He also reached out in a limited way to the Obama administration and others in the West, saying the movement was seeking a state only in the areas Israel won in 1967.
"I promise the American administration and the international community that
we will be part of the solution, period," the leader, Khaled Meshal, said
during a five-hour interview with The New York Times spread over two days in
his home office here in the Syrian capital.
Speaking in Arabic in a house heavily guarded by Syrian and Palestinian
security agents, Mr. Meshal, 53, gave off an air of serene self-confidence,
having been re-elected a fourth time to a four-year term as the leader of
the Hamas political bureau, the top position in the movement. His
conciliation went only so far, however. He repeated that he would not
recognize Israel, saying to fellow Arab leaders, "There is only one enemy in
the region, and that is Israel."
But he urged outsiders to ignore the Hamas charter, which calls for the
obliteration of Israel through jihad and cites as fact the infamous
anti-Semitic forgery, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." Mr. Meshal did
not offer to revoke the charter, but said it was 20 years old, adding, "We
are shaped by our experiences."
He explained why he was giving the interview, his first to an American news
organization in a year, by saying: "To understand Hamas is to listen to its
vision directly. Hamas is delighted when people want to hear from its
leaders directly, not about the movement through others."
That also seemed aimed at the Obama administration, which has decided to
open a dialogue with Iran and Syria, but not with Hamas until it renounces
violence, recognizes Israel and accepts previous Palestinian-Israeli
Regarding President Obama, Mr. Meshal said, "His language is different and
positive," but he expressed unhappiness about Secretary of State Hillary
Rodham Clinton, saying hers "is a language that reflects the old
On the two-state solution sought by the Americans, he said: "We are with a
state on the 1967 borders, based on a long-term truce. This includes East
Jerusalem, the dismantling of settlements and the right of return of the
Palestinian refugees." Asked what "long-term" meant, he said 10 years.
Apart from the time restriction and the refusal to accept Israel's
existence, Mr. Meshal's terms approximate the Arab League peace plan and
what the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas says it is
seeking. Israel rejects a full return to the 1967 borders, as well as a
Palestinian right of return to Israel itself.
Regarding recognition of Israel, Mr. Meshal said the Palestinian leader
Yasir Arafat and Mr. Abbas had granted such recognition, but to no avail.
"Did that recognition lead to an end of the occupation? It's just a pretext
by the United States and Israel to escape dealing with the real issue and to
throw the ball into the Arab and Palestinian court," he said.
In April, only six rockets and mortar rounds were fired at Israel from Gaza,
which is run by Hamas, a marked change from the previous three months, when
dozens were shot, according to the Israeli military. In late December,
Israel began a three-week invasion of Gaza, saying that it sought to stop
the rockets, which land on its southern communities. About 1,300
Palestinians were killed in the invasion.
Mr. Meshal made an effort to show that Hamas was in control of its militants
as well as those of other groups, saying: "Not firing the rockets currently
is part of an evaluation from the movement which serves the Palestinians'
interest. After all, the firing is a method, not a goal. Resistance is a
legitimate right, but practicing such a right comes under an evaluation by
the movement's leaders."
He said his group was eager for a cease-fire with Israel and for a deal that
would return an Israeli soldier it is holding captive, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, in
exchange for many Palestinian prisoners.
Iran is a major sponsor of Hamas, and Israel and the United States worry
that Gaza has become an Iranian outpost. But Mr. Meshal said: "Iran's
support to us is not conditioned. No one controls or affects our policies."
Asked whether his movement, a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist
in outlook, wanted to bring strict Muslim law to Gaza and the West Bank, he
said no. "The priority is ending the occupation and achieving the national
project," Mr. Meshal said. "As for the nature of the state, it's to be
determined by the people. It will never be imposed upon them."
Mr. Meshal, one of the founders of Hamas, barely escaped assassination at
the hands of Israeli agents in 1997 in Jordan. He was injected with a
poison, but the agents were caught. King Hussein, furious that this was
taking place in his country, obliged Israel to send an antidote. Mr. Meshal
ultimately went to Damascus, the base for Hamas apart from its leaders
The Israeli prime minister during that assassination attempt was Benjamin
Netanyahu, who has been returned to that post. Mr. Netanyahu has said that
Hamas is a tool of Iran and that Iran is the biggest danger to world peace
and must be stopped.
Mr. Meshal was born in the West Bank city of Ramallah in 1956, the son of a
religious leader who was a farmer, and moved with his family to Kuwait in
1967 when he was 11. He studied physics in college and taught it at school
for six years. He is married with seven children, aged 13 to 27.
Asked if he feared assassination, Mr. Meshal said no, he would view it as
martyrdom. Moreover, he said, since the first attempt, "death has become
like drinking water."
6) Israel blasts UN report on Cast Lead as 'patently biased'
By Elie leshem
Israel on Tuesday rejected as "patently biased" a UN inspection committee report which alleged that the IDF had intentionally attacked UN installations during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip and called on the UN to reassess its modus operandi in "the complex reality in which a terror organization operates in proximity to" its installations.
"Immediately upon the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead, and unrelated to the UN investigation, Israel carried out independent inquiries into the damage caused to the UN installations," the Foreign Ministry said. "The findings of these inquiries were published two weeks ago, and proved beyond doubt that the IDF did not intentionally fire at the UN installations."
The Foreign Ministry's statement cited a letter that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is expected to send to the Security Council in response to the report, in which Ban praises the "close cooperation accorded the inspection team by the Israeli authorities" and the "coordination between the IDF and the UN during Operation Cast Lead."
Ban, the statement said, "further emphasizes in his letter that the UN inspection committee is not a judicial body and is not authorized to examine legal issues."
The Foreign Ministry asserted that the UN had been "deceived" by Hamas, who used "violence and intimidation against citizens of Gaza as tools to prevent them from presenting the actual truth."
Israel "rejects the criticism in the committee's summary report, and determines that in both spirit and language, the report is tendentious, patently biased, and ignores the facts presented to the committee," the statement said. "The committee has preferred the claims of Hamas, a murderous terror organization, and by doing so has misled the world."
The statement also blasted the UN report for failing to reflect the "various intelligence materials, including videos, aerial photographs, eye-witness reports and other material" presented to it by the Israeli investigative team.
"The report completely ignores the eight years of attacks against Israel that preceded the decision to initiate the operation, and ignores the difficult circumstances on the ground as dictated by Hamas and its methods of armed operation," the Foreign Ministry said. "Surprisingly, the report lays no responsibility on the Hamas organization, which placed its installations and dispatched its men to confront the IDF in proximity to the UN installations."
7) "The American Military Advisor"
By Michael J. Metrinko
In August 2008, the Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute and the Strategic Studies Institute at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, jointly published a manual entitled, The American Military Advisor: Dealing with Senior Foreign Officials in the Islamic World. Authored by Michael J. Metrinko, a leading U.S. government expert on the eastern Islamic world, the 95-page manual is a refreshing and blunt how-to guide for civil affairs and political affairs officers, excerpts from which follow. Metrinko brings to bear considerable experience. He was a Peace Corps volunteer in Turkey and Iran and spent fourteen months as a hostage when Iranian students seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979. Subsequent to the 9/11 attacks, Metrinko reentered government service. After assignments in Yemen and Iraq, he spent four years on provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan and eighteen months interfacing with the new Afghan National Assembly as an advisor on parliamentary affairs for the U.S. embassy in Kabul. —The Editors
The American Advisor
In the post-9/11 world, an advisory position at the political and strategic level in the Islamic world can have great and immediate consequence for U.S. interests, and can make the American advisor a prime figure in the decision-making process of foreign leaders. The advisor is as likely to be dealing with a civilian counterpart as he is with a foreign military officer, and the range of duties will go far beyond mere military tasks. The position has become a critical one in today's world where stability, peacekeeping, and obtaining civil support are considered equally important to kinetic offensive and defensive operations, and where "nation-building" has become a de facto and integral part of the military mission …
The American advisor must take care not to let himself be regarded as just another person who has come to pass out gifts in order to curry favor. He must not be regarded as simply a source of material assistance, supplies, high tech presents, and trips abroad under the rubric of training. In resource-strapped Afghanistan, for example, local and even senior officials became accustomed to requesting telephones, office furniture, office supplies, security accessories, equipment of all sorts, vehicles, and a wide variety of other items from Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) commanders, American officials, and other foreign visitors and donors. On many occasions, the Afghans would request the same items from multiple sources. The advisor must look at himself through local eyes and the local culture. If the American officer's "can do" attitude is too highly developed, he may just seem ill-mannered and abrasive to the official and his staff, who often operate at a different tempo than that in U.S. military circles. If he appears to be too young and lacking in authority, the American may be regarded simply as a decorative foreign staff aide who tags along to add luster to the official's entourage.
Age is important in many parts of the traditional Islamic world. For example, the term "white beard" is commonly used in Afghanistan as a term of respect, implying that only someone who has grown old has experience and expertise. Tribal and village elders are the source of advice and authority, not the younger generation, and young men attending a major meeting or assembly are expected to sit silently and listen to the older generation.
When "Tomorrow" Means "Never"
The senior foreign official and the American advisor may have very different concepts of the time necessary to complete an action. Some cultures do not place value on undue haste, and the smart advisor soon learns that "bukra" or "fardo" ("tomorrow" in Arabic and Farsi) or "inshallah" ("God willing" in Farsi/Dari/Turkish and Arabic) often mean that action has been relegated to some other time and place, but probably not any time soon or any place near.
Ignoring the local cultural concepts of timeliness will simply lead to frustration and ultimate failure for the advisor, and cause hidden discomfort and annoyance in his local counterpart in response to his frustration. In the Islamic world, religious holidays and daily prayer times will take precedence over scheduled meetings, and decisions may be made in loose gatherings with endless cups of tea rather than at official conference tables. A meeting may break, even at a critical moment, so that participants can pray as a group. Much of this world falls more into the "Haste Makes Waste" category rather than "The Early Bird Catches the Worm," with many meetings, programs, and social events only drifting towards a start when the senior official arrives …
An American officer assigned as an advisor normally knows how long his tour of duty will be. From the day that he arrives in-country, he hears a clock ticking off the days left in his assignment, and he may feel a subconscious compulsion to complete a check list of "things to do" in order to satisfy performance goals. His starting point for action is the date of his arrival at post. The U.S. government's fiscal year, his own evaluation report and upcoming meetings, official visits, American holidays, and the normal needs of his family in the United States can all be markers that affect his timing. Looking at his new environment, the advisor may feel that action is vital and should be immediate.
The foreign official, on the other hand, has a different view of time and a different perspective. His focus is indefinite, and he will not be rated on one year's performance. He has been a player in the long process that brought local conditions to their present state and assumes that he will be in power for a long time to come, so he generally will not share the American's sense of urgency. He probably does not share the Puritan work ethic either, and will see little reason to change his habits or his work environment in order to fit a foreigner's conception of what is appropriate. And the official has probably seen a large number of foreign advisors come and go, their names long since forgotten, and their presence leaving only minor or no impact on local conditions.
By the same token, the foreign official's tenure is ultimately uncertain. Because he owes his position to local politics in what is probably a volatile environment, he can be reassigned, disgraced, promoted on a whim, or assassinated. ...
Assigning the Right Person or Right Team
Selecting the right individual to become an advisor is not a simple paperwork assignment process, and involves far more than his having rank and military knowledge. In the bureaucratic world, however, such selection criteria may not be addressed or even understood, and advisors are often chosen for the wrong reasons ...
A young male captain or major may be the best soldier in the world and a great teacher. A female of any high rank may be a paragon of military ability and experience. In foreign eyes, however, they face great initial obstacles, and have a serious disadvantage compared to an older male officer of colonel to general officer rank.
Many foreigners do not accept contemporary American views about rank, gender, age, or race. Insisting that they do so will hinder or doom the advisory mission. It took the United States hundreds of years to reach today's stage in political and social sophistication, and it is counterproductive and illogical to insist that foreign cultures and foreign histories evolve the same way that America has …
Ethnic background, skin color, and religious faith also play a role, based on local society and tradition. The result may translate into what Americans consider prejudice and discrimination. A good advisor will set a personal example of fairness, but cannot impose his standards on his foreign counterparts.
In traditional Muslim societies, a senior male foreign government official might find it unacceptable to be advised by a foreign female advisor. He might tolerate it on the surface, but would be unlikely in the initial stage to pay serious attention to her advice and might not be comfortable in her presence. The female advisor would find it difficult to accompany the official to many events, and being alone with him would be improper culturally. No matter how moral, professional, and correct she might be, an American female officer assigned such duties would have to overcome certain negative assumptions in foreign eyes. The female advisor may be able to overcome these cultural inhibitions against her success by force of personality and professional competence, but it will be a difficult, uphill battle, consuming inordinate time and energy and possibly detracting from the advisory mission. …
It is difficult to know by what standards a foreign leader will judge an American. In an introductory conversation with a major and much feared Pashtun warlord in Afghanistan, an American diplomat began by listing the war zones and hardship assignments he had had, tying his life abroad to what hostilities were taking place at the time. But the warlord was oblivious to other countries' conflicts. Then the diplomat noted that over the course of his life he had been held by security officials in the United States and two foreign countries, eventually spending well over a year in prison abroad.
The warlord's single question was about the incident in America, and when told it involved a death, said simply, "then I can talk to you."
Knowing the Local Culture
... Even informal social settings can be a minefield for the unwary, and what is normal and ordinary in the United States might be considered rude, embarrassing, and very detrimental to the advisor's mission. For example, concepts of personal space are different in many Muslim countries, and the American may find himself far too close physically to other men to be comfortable, with guests leaning against him while everyone is eating or simply sitting down to talk. It is not unusual for Muslim men to walk hand in hand, or to hold hands far longer than a quick American handshake would allow. In the United States, men and women will shake hands or possibly even kiss cheeks on first meeting, an act that would be inconceivable by conservative Islamic norms. For example, blowing one's nose in public is regarded as repulsive in Iran and Afghanistan, as much a turn-off as picking one's nose in public would be in the United States.
Asking personal questions about an official's wife or daughter (or describing one's own) might be absolutely routine and acceptable in a Western meeting, but would be considered insulting in a conservative Muslim setting. And in these settings, the American officer who tries to show a foreign counterpart personal photos of female relatives in order to display a common bond of "family" would immediately lose face in conservative Muslim eyes ...
On a trip in a remote part of Afghanistan's Ghor Province, a PRT commander and his political advisor stopped at a small roadside teahouse to talk to the villagers gathered there. The commander, who really did not want to drink anything, politely turned down the offered tea. Turning to the local villagers, the teahouse owner said in Dari, "These foreigners think what we eat and drink is dirty." If the POLAD [political advisor] had not understood the comment and quietly told the commander to accept the tea, the atmosphere would have turned very cold very quickly.
Sometimes hospitality can be carried to extremes. At a Pashtun banquet in northern Pakistan when an American diplomat was guest of honor of a large group of clergy at a refugee camp, a whole roast sheep was carried in on a tray. The bearded host reached his hand under the sheep's tail and pulled out a large wad of semi-raw fat, holding it up to the American official's mouth and saying, "Eat. It's the best part." Swallowing the suet directly from his host's hand with a nod of thanks was the only way to continue the momentum of the conversation.
Foreign Officials' Sources of Income
Sources of national income at all levels may have little relationship to what the Budget Office has in its ledgers. Is the salary structure set by regulation, or is it based on fees for service, on the order of American waiters and waitresses who receive only a token salary from the restaurant owner and make their real income in tips from customers? Is taking a gift or bribe the normal state of affairs? How large can bribes be and still be acceptable, or is it full no-holds-barred in the bribery arena? Is there a well-understood and expected "payment for service" that satisfies both officials and the public—say 10 to 40 percent over and above the published fee—and on which government bureaucrats rely to supplement meager official salaries?
Is it really corruption for a low-level worker, policeman, or soldier to ask for a few dollars as a gift when he would otherwise not have enough income to feed his family? Do workers in the agency have to pay off more senior officers in order to get a job? Is acquiring an office a one-time purchase, or a percentage of the official's salary every month to those higher up the chain? Does anyone in the hierarchy actually receive a living wage, or are they all expected to supplement their incomes by demanding additional money from people who need their service (e.g., contractors or supplicants) or from people who want to get promoted or get better assignments within the official's agency?
In much of the developing world, the Western concept of "conflict of interest" is incomprehensible. Senior officials do not place their assets into a blind trust when they assume office. Rather, many assume office in order to get rich, and paying for office can be a normal procedure at all levels of the bureaucracy, just as enriching their families and friends through their office can be regarded as normal behavior.
 Accessible as a free download from the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College, at http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/Pubs/display.cfm?pubID=869
8) 'Empathy' Versus Law
By Thomas Sowell
Justice David Souter's retirement from the Supreme Court presents President Barack Obama with his first opportunity to appoint someone to the High Court. People who are speculating about whether the next nominee will be a woman, a Hispanic or whatever, are missing the point.
That we are discussing the next Supreme Court justice in terms of
group "representation" is a sign of how far we have already strayed from the purpose of law and the weighty responsibility of appointing someone to sit for life on the highest court in the land.
That President Obama has made "empathy" with certain groups one of his criteria for choosing a Supreme Court nominee is a dangerous sign of how much further the Supreme Court may be pushed away from the rule of law and toward even more arbitrary judicial edicts to advance the agenda of the left and set it in legal concrete, immune from the democratic process.
Would you want to go into court to appear before a judge with "empathy" for groups A, B and C, if you were a member of groups X, Y or Z? Nothing could be further from the rule of law. That would be bad news, even in a traffic court, much less in a court that has the last word on your rights under the Constitution of the United States.
Appoint enough Supreme Court justices with "empathy" for particular groups and you would have, for all practical purposes, repealed the 14th Amendment, which guarantees "equal protection of the laws" for all Americans.
We would have entered a strange new world, where everybody is equal but some are more equal than others. The very idea of the rule of law would become meaningless when it is replaced by the empathies of judges.
Barack Obama solves this contradiction, as he solves so many other problems, with rhetoric. If you believe in the rule of law, he will say the words "rule of law." And if you are willing to buy it, he will keep on selling it.
Those people who just accept soothing words from politicians they like are gambling with the future of a nation. When you buy words, you had better know what you are buying.
In the American system of government, presidential term limits restrict how long any given resident of the White House can damage this country directly. But that does not limit how long, or how much, the people he appoints to the Supreme Court can continue to damage this country, for decades after the president who appointed them is long gone.
Justice John Paul Stevens virtually destroyed the Constitution's restrictions on government officials' ability to confiscate private property in his 2005 decision in the case of "Kelo v. New London"-- 30 years after President Ford appointed him.
The biggest danger in appointing the wrong people to the Supreme Court is not just in how they might vote on some particular issues-- whether private property, abortion or whatever. The biggest danger is that they will undermine or destroy the very concept of the rule of law-- what has been called "a government of laws and not of men."
Under the American system of government, this cannot be done overnight or perhaps even during the terms in office of one president-- but it can be done. And it can be done over time by the appointees of just one president, if he gets enough appointees.
Some people say that who Barack Obama appoints to replace Justice Souter doesn't really matter, because Souter is a liberal who will probably be replaced by another liberal. But, if no one sounds the alarm now, we can end up with a series of appointees with "empathy"-- which is to say, with justices who think their job is to "relieve the distress" of particular groups, rather than to uphold the Constitution of the United States.
9) Obama the Untested: A look ahead to the crises—from Russian power plays to Israeli military strikes—that could really show us what the president is made of.
By Robert D. Kaplan
The American media has just released an avalanche of reports assessing President Barack Obama’s first 100 days in office. Ignore it all. It doesn’t matter. The revealing part of his presidency hasn’t begun yet. At about this point in his presidency, George W. Bush had, with the help of his secretary of state, Colin Powell, just won the release of the crew of a U.S. spy plane from China, leading the world media elite to declare Bush a pragmatic president in foreign affairs, and Powell his most important advisor. As for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, it was said that he would be gone by summer—a short-serving and utterly forgettable secretary of defense. 9/11, of course, still lay in the future.
President Obama may not face a single cataclysmic event like 9/11. But he will certainly face an array of unforeseen crises that will test him and reveal his inner self the way that 9/11 revealed Bush’s inner self, and will take his presidency in ironic directions. American presidencies in these tumultuous times, with their rapid-fire sequences of events, are like wars. And wars—even successful ones—never go according to plan. If presidential terms were like visits to the dentist, Obama is still in the waiting room listening to the elevator music, with the drill yet to be turned on.
Yes, Obama has faced great crises and choices already: the meltdown of the economy, the bailout of the Detroit automobile companies, the release of the Bush-era memorandums on torture. But all of these crisis were entirely predictable. They are leftovers from the last administration. And the decisions Obama has made on them are the product of staff meetings going back to the days before he was even elected. In all of them he has had the advantage of advance planning. The piracy incident off the coast of Somalia and the swine flu epidemic (provided it doesn’t get worse) do not qualify as crises that define a presidency.
What are the kind of crises that will make the media instantly forget their musings on Obama’s first 100 days?
Getting bogged-down in Afghanistan. Obama has just committed 17,000 more American troops to the effort, and will likely commit more. The war in Afghanistan is about to be Americanized to a greater degree than it ever has. A summer of higher casualties is upon us, as U.S. marines and soldiers advance down Taliban ratlines in southern Afghanistan. That is predictable. But what if the August elections in Afghanistan go badly—or they go well and, nevertheless, there is no political progress in Kabul? What if the war continues in a bloody manner the following summer? Obama in 2010 could find himself in a similar situation as Bush in Iraq in 2006.
Pakistan slowly, chillingly unravels. Obama is now knee-deep in Pakistan’s murky and intractable politics. He is dealing with its greatly unpopular president, Asif Ali Zardari, even as he reaches out to its very popular opposition leader, Nawas Sharif. The Administration is selling arms to the Pakistan military as a bribe to get it to take action against the Taliban. This all makes good policy sense, but Pakistan as a piece of political geography makes no sense. What if Zardari is reduced to a figurehead and the Pakistan military stages a quiet, soft coup: taking power in all but name, even as it becomes further comprised of pro-Taliban officers? Such a scenario will reveal who Obama really is.
Russia officially becomes a dictatorship. As the economy falters and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin looks vulnerable, he could force President Dimitri Medvedev to resign, change the constitution, and get himself reelected as president. In other words, Russia could become a dictatorship in all but name. And by the way, because of an understanding between Russia and Iran that they will respect the status quo in Central Asia and the Caucasus, Putin will likely reject Obama’s offer of scrapping missile sites in Poland in return for Moscow’s help in taming Iran’s nuclear ambitions. What is Obama’s next move, then? Obama has spent 100 days being nice to the outside world, but what happens when the outside world – Europe, Russia, Iran – does not return the favor?
And I haven’t even mentioned the possibility of an unraveling in Iraq, an Israeli military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, or another stock market collapse as the economy refuses to recover quickly. Indeed, there are a slew of nasty probabilities lying in wait to define Obama. There could be more incidents between the U.S. and Chinese navies in the Western Pacific; a country in Africa could implode, requiring a massive relief effort, fraught with the specter of nation-building; the collapse of the North Korean regime could precipitate the mother of all humanitarian interventions, as well as the need for cooperation between the American and Chinese armies.
At present, Obama’s foreign policy team is talented but unwieldy. The National Security apparatus under former Marine General James Jones appears to be handling Israeli-Palestinian matters with the help of special envoy George Mitchell. The State Department, with the help of special envoy Richard Holbrooke, has apparently taken control of Afghanistan-Pakistan matters. This is a very unstable arrangement: Holbrooke is building his own mini-empire in the shadow of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Someone will be forced to resign, and that will affect foreign policy dramatically. This Administration is still just settling in.
Keep in mind that Obama has never really been tested. Life has been easy to him. He has achieved so much at such a tender age. He commands the American Congress and the global media. But such situations are ephemeral. The crises ahead will test him to a degree that perhaps even he himself, so thoughtful and deliberative, cannot yet imagine. And in the process we will all come to know him better.
10) The Long Voyage Home
By DAVID BROOKS
Republicans generally like Westerns. They generally admire John Wayne-style heroes who are rugged, individualistic and brave. They like leaders — from Goldwater to Reagan to Bush to Palin — who play up their Western heritage. Republicans like the way Westerns seem to celebrate their core themes — freedom, individualism, opportunity and moral clarity.
But the greatest of all Western directors, John Ford, actually used Westerns to tell a different story. Ford’s movies didn’t really celebrate the rugged individual. They celebrated civic order.
For example, in Ford’s 1946 movie, “My Darling Clementine,” Henry Fonda plays Wyatt Earp, the marshal who tamed Tombstone. But the movie isn’t really about the gunfight and the lone bravery of a heroic man. It’s about how decent people build a town. Much of the movie is about how the townsfolk put up a church, hire a teacher, enjoy Shakespeare, get a surgeon and work to improve their manners.
The movie, in other words, is really about religion, education, science, culture, etiquette and rule of law — the pillars of community. In Ford’s movie, as in real life, the story of Western settlement is the story of community-building. Instead of celebrating untrammeled freedom and the lone pioneer, Ford’s movies dwell affectionately on the social customs that Americans cherish — the gatherings at the local barbershop and the church social, the gossip with the cop and the bartender and the hotel clerk.
Today, if Republicans had learned the right lessons from the Westerns, or at least John Ford Westerns, they would not be the party of untrammeled freedom and maximum individual choice. They would once again be the party of community and civic order.
They would begin every day by reminding themselves of the concrete ways people build orderly neighborhoods, and how those neighborhoods bind a nation. They would ask: What threatens Americans’ efforts to build orderly places to raise their kids? The answers would produce an agenda: the disruption caused by a boom and bust economy; the fragility of the American family; the explosion of public and private debt; the wild swings in energy costs; the fraying of the health care system; the segmentation of society and the way the ladders of social mobility seem to be dissolving.
But the Republican Party has mis-learned that history. The party sometimes seems cut off from the concrete relationships of neighborhood life. Republicans are so much the party of individualism and freedom these days that they are no longer the party of community and order. This puts them out of touch with the young, who are exceptionally community-oriented. It gives them nothing to say to the lower middle class, who fear that capitalism has gone haywire. It gives them little to say to the upper middle class, who are interested in the environment and other common concerns.
The Republicans talk more about the market than about society, more about income than quality of life. They celebrate capitalism, which is a means, and are inarticulate about the good life, which is the end. They take things like tax cuts, which are tactics that are good in some circumstances, and elevate them to holy principle, to be pursued in all circumstances.
The emphasis on freedom and individual choice may work in the sparsely populated parts of the country. People there naturally want to do whatever they want on their own land. But it doesn’t work in the densely populated parts of the country: the cities and suburbs where Republicans are getting slaughtered. People in these areas understand that their lives are profoundly influenced by other people’s individual choices. People there are used to worrying about the health of the communal order.
In these places, Democrats have been able to establish themselves as the safe and orderly party. President Obama has made responsibility his core theme and has emerged as a calm, reassuring presence (even as he runs up the debt and intervenes rashly in sector after sector).
If the Republicans are going to rebound, they will have to re-establish themselves as the party of civic order. First, they will have to stylistically decontaminate their brand. That means they will have to find a leader who is calm, prudent, reassuring and reasonable.
Then they will have to explain that there are two theories of civic order. There is the liberal theory, in which teams of experts draw up plans to engineer order wherever problems arise. And there is the more conservative vision in which government sets certain rules, but mostly empowers the complex web of institutions in which the market is embedded.
Both of these visions are now contained within the Democratic Party. The Republicans know they need to change but seem almost imprisoned by old themes that no longer resonate. The answer is to be found in devotion to community and order, and in the bonds that built the nation.