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Monday, January 31, 2011

State of the Union Address 2012




                                                        STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS


Jan 13th, 2012, Capitol Hill

Mister Speaker, Vice President Biden, Supreme Leader Hu Jintao, distinguished lenders and fellow indebted Americans

I would like to begin this address by congratulating the brave women and men of the 113th congress who managed to make it here tonight. I know that it was not easy reaching Washington D.C. due to the furious blizzard of what appears to be the onset of a new Ice Age. My administration has been focused on combating Global Warming, now as our planet falls farther and farther away from the sun, and polar bears have come streaming in force from the North Pole-- I pledge to you that I will put just as much effort into battling the new Ice Age, as I did in resisting Global Warming.

Some of those sitting here in this chamber may take issue with me on this. And they have a right to do so. Under our North American Union system, we still have free speech. For now. But as I stand here looking down on congresspersons who have lost their limbs to polar bear attacks, Democrats, Republicans and Neo-Monarchists, I am reminded that we are all one single family. And that is why I believe that we will get through this crisis, and all the others that I will continue to cause if the voters of the North-American Union are foolish enough to elect me once again to misrepresent them.

Should my administration have seen the Ice Age coming? That is a valid question that millions of North-Americans are asking themselves tonight. Maybe we should have. If only NASA had not spent all its time on outreach to the Muslim world instead of noticing the dramatic shift in our planetary orbit around the sun, we might have been ready. But sadly when the temperature reached twenty below in Miami, top NASA scientists were busy teaching Muslim suicide bombers feel good about themselves by helping them solve a Rubik's Cube with vivid hand gestures. I have no idea whatsoever who was responsible for misdirecting NASA so badly, but I intend to find out. Even if I have to be reelected to a second term to be able to do so.

But directing blame is not what truly matters. For example some resentment has been voiced at the 2 trillion dollars we spent last year on a high speed rail system between Hawaii, Chicago and Washington D.C. If you recall in the last State of the Union address, I pledged that 80 percent of Americans would have access to High Speed Rail. And by 80 percent of Americans, I meant the 80 percent of the Americans that I knew and liked personally. The project did run into trouble building a bridge between Hawaii and Washington D.C. for the high speed trains to run over. Not only did more men die on the project, than were killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, but two trains were accidentally swallowed by blue whales. My thoughts and prayers, and Michelle's go out to the unfortunate Global Warming researchers on those trains, and the whale who ate them.

However as North-Americans, we have a 4 month tradition of refusing to bow to bad news. Not the collapse of the dollar, nor the invasion by China, or the polar bear takeovers of Seattle and Toronto and a mainstream fashion magazine calling Michelle ugly can break out spirits. Because we are committed to Thriving the Future.

Some of you may not know what Thriving the Future means. I'm not entirely sure I do either. My speechwriters have never been the same since their fingers froze off when the White House solar panels were covered over with snow. Sometimes they type things that don't really make sense. Sometimes they cry for their mommies. We could let them out of the cages, but then all hope would be lost. For my reelection campaign anyway.

And so I tell you now once again, that we will Thrive the Future. That may mean that we will thrive in the future, at some future point in time. Possibly it means that only by thriving, will we have a future. Maybe my speechwriters meant something else entirely, but their frozen tongues could not properly pronounce the word. I don't know, and it doesn't matter. Because thriving is what we do. And the future is when we do it in.

Chinese troops may be occupying most of California. Their Supreme Leader Hu Jintao is here with us right now. He has come with an ultimatum demanding that we surrender or he will kill us all. And by way of reply, I have let him know, how much I and Michelle love Chinese food and respect their ancient culture and wise traditions. China has been a world leader in industry and technology. It is an example to us all. And I am fully committed to negotiating with the Supreme Leader on any and all topics, so long as he agrees to give me more spending money.

But to the American people, I say that we will not give in. We will negotiate our hardest and come away with an agreement that we can all live with. Especially me. I draw inspiration in this from some of this nation's greatest presidents. Franklin Pierce, James Earl Carter and James Earl Jones. The words of these wise men have accompanied me into my deliberations, and when combined with the herb, Cannabis Sativa, have allowed me to reach an entirely new level of enlightenment. I am one with the molecules, Buddha, the Twelfth Imam and James Earl Jones are a part of me now. Their wisdom informs my decisions.

There are some who have called on us to use force. Like my idol, Martin Luther Gandhi, Jr, I have made a decision to strive for peace, rather than war. Only through peace can we Thrive the Future. Those who make war will not be permitted to Thrive the Future at all. Or even be told what it means.

Also when 32 of the 57 states of the union defected to join the Independent States Union, they took most of the military with them. We still have some of the coast guard and a great many angry paid union picketers. Thus far the picketers have not done well against either the Chinese army or the polar bears, but if congress approves my call to invest 40 billion dollars in educating our nation's angriest youth to protest against working conditions in Chinese factories, I have every faith and confidence that we will prevail. Or someone will anyway. Possibly the Chinese in the tanks. I'm not a military man, I don't actually know how these things work.

The good news is that our economy is recovering. We have not only broken the back of the recession, but kicked in the spleen of its brother the depression, and karate chopped the wrist of its uncle, the complete economic meltdown. The stock market is riding high thanks to its transformation from an index of companies, to an index of racehorses and greyhounds. I have been told by GE CEO Jeff Immelt that his horse, Foreseeable Disaster is coming up 4th, behind Microsoft's Blue Nag of Death, GM's Safety Issues and EcoTech's Al Gore. Betting is high and anyone who wants to get in on the action, please come see Vice President Biden in the cashier's cage to the right.

And there is still more good news. After yesterday's speech commemorating those killed in the Seattle Polar Bear Invasion, my popularity has shot up all the way to 27 percent. This puts me ahead in the polls, in front of my rivals, Republican challenger, George Prescott Bush III and my Neo-Monarchist challenger, the King of Nebraska, but still well behind Chinese Supreme Leader Hu Jintao, who has seized control of several key states.

Additionally with my new proposal to take all our remaining money and bury it in Michelle's vegetable garden, we may finally have a plan to cut spending that really works. At least until we dig it up that same night and spend it on one of those really bad ideas that I and my advisers come up with when we get high together.

I would like to direct your attention to a woman seated in the audience. Patricia Balogney from Canton, Ohio. Patricia lost her right arm to a polar bear and her left leg to frostbite. Yet she went on to enroll in a community college and come out with a degree as a professional solar panel synthesizer. And while there are no more working solar panels due to the ice age, and no job for her, I salute her courage and determination. And so should you.

Last week I spoke to a 3 month old baby who had not even learned to read yet. But he was determined to read. In his crawling and mewling, I recognized an eager mind. I recognized myself. That is why I am announcing a new plan to teach 3 month old babies to read. It is Michelle's initiative. Some experts say it can't be done. Just as some experts said that we could never get to the moon or invent Algebra or get me elected. But we proved them wrong. And I am confident that we will prove them wrong again.

Patricia's example reminds us that we should never give up on a bad idea, whether it be building a high speed rail bridge to Hawaii so I don't have to sleep overnight in the cold White House, or letting China invade half the country while the other half secedes, or electing me to this office even though I have no idea what I'm doing. Bad ideas are what make the North American Union great. Only through truly bad ideas will we Thrive the Future (TM).

So while we could waste time arguing and debating and thinking for ourselves, I ask you to join with me. To stand by me as we Thrive the Future together. When we stand united doing whatever crazy idea comes into my head, there is no force on earth that can defeat us except reality. Healthier live snail lunch program for kids. We're on it. Taxing all barbers at the highest possible rate. Done. More hair leads to less heating which leads to higher energy use, which isn't something we need to worry about because it's an Ice Age, not Global Warming, but we're on it anyway. We're on everything and under everything. We don't know what we're doing, but we're doing it anyway. Together!

We may be crazy, but sanity is overrated. Like experience. And not wrecking the country. What matters is that we're Thriving the Future. Together.

Four more years. Allah bless you and Allah bless the North American Union. Why isn't anyone applauding?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Obama Loses the Middle East

It's no coincidence that major revolutions against Western backed governments have occurred under weak American presidents. The Iranian revolution against the Shah happened on Jimmy Carter's watch. The current violence in Tunisia and Egypt is taking place under Obama. And the timing is quite interesting. Revolts which coincided with a new opposition congress almost suggest that they were scheduled for a time when Obama would be at his politically weakest.

Additionally the 2010 defeats would have indicated to the Iranian regime that they might only have a 2 year window in which to act before Obama is replaced by an unknown, but probably more conservative politician. A "Now or Never" moment. The Iranian Revolution might never have happened under Reagan. But Carter's weakness, left wing politics and contempt for the very notion of defending American interests made it possible. Similarly despite attempts by some Bush advisers to take credit for Tunisia and Egypt, it is unlikely that they would have taken place on Bush's watch. Not because the Bush administration was so omnipotent, but because it had regional credibility. The general perception was that the Bush Administration was on alert and supportive of allies. That is not at all the regional perception of the Obama Administration which doesn't seem to know what an ally is.

Obama's mistreatment of the UK, Israel and Honduras, the alienation of Karzai and continuing humiliation at the hands of China and Russia through diplomatic insults, showed weakness and stupidity. The Iranian takeover of the region is premised on that incompetence. Lebanon was a test. The next step was Tunisia. Then Egypt.

Iran has three major obstacles to regional dominance. Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Of these three, Egypt with its radicalized population, great poverty and limited influence in Washington D.C. was the most vulnerable. Any overthrow of Mubarak will move the Muslim Brotherhood closer to taking power. But for Iran the priority is to take Egypt out of the game. Whatever happens in Egypt, it will weaken the country. And what weakens Egypt, only strengthens Iran.

Turkey and Syria are part of Iran's regional coalition. Jordan appears to be leaning that way. Lebanon has been taken over. Iraq is set to fall when America leaves. If Egypt falls, that just leaves Saudi Arabia and Israel in the way. The Saudis will face domestic unrest, possibly from that alliance with Al-Qaeda that Bin Laden originally rejected. And there's a nuke with Israel's name on it somewhere in Iran. All this has happened because the Obama Administration has been too weak, confused and incompetent to stand for anything.

Iran is showing us its cards now, knowing that there's very little we will do about it. Its plans are moving forward. Ours are not only going nowhere, but actually helping the enemy.

Why did the Second Iranian revolution fail, while the revolts in Tunis and even Egypt seem to be gaining some traction? One element is foreign backing. No one outside the country provided support to the Iranian protesters. But the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt have not only Iranian backing, but also Western support. We provided training and political support to the "liberal" Egyptian pawns of the Islamists like El Baradei. And even now we're on the verge of endorsing a provisional government under a man who is allied to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Iran's backers in Russia and China did not in any way indicate a loss of support during the protests in its cities. But Obama has made it muddily clear that he doesn't really support Mubarak, certainly not Ben Ali. Rather than endorsing one side or the other, he tried to play both sides. A non-committal statement that communicates that we will support whoever wins. Which means that unlike Russia and China, we don't support the current regime. That withdrawal of support from our allies, translates into a win for the opposition. It's a tacit boost to efforts to overthrow the government.

The key determinant of whether a revolution will succeed in ousting a government is its staying power. The key players who make or break a revolution rarely go out into the street waving banners, at least not until they have an armed escort and the foreign photographers who conveniently snap photos of their best side. Those key players are the power brokers, tribal leaders, heads of the army and the intelligence services and leaders of various influential associations who don't choose sides until they have a pretty good idea which side will prevail.

The game of revolution is really about two sides trying to tote up how much support they each have. One side is the government, the other side is usually a coalition of factions who are pooling their resources in order to overthrow it. That leads to odd alliances and strange marriages between leftists and Islamists. Once the government is out, then the process will begin again with the coalition members playing the same game against each other.

The game takes place on several levels. Violent street protests are a show of force. Their purpose is to demonstrate that the government is weak and cannot control or subdue their protests. The riot police display dominance by trying to drive them away. These displays are common enough in the primate kingdom, but here they are dressed up in self-righteous rhetoric and riot gear. Whoever wins scores dominance points. If the riot police succeed, then they show that the government retains control over the cities. If they fail, then the protesters show that the government has lost control.

It doesn't matter how ruthless the government crackdown is. Brutality may create more enemies in the long run, but if it succeeds in controlling the cities, then the revolution cannot move forward. The politicians associated with the protests (and they're always there) become impotent and irrelevant. Men and women who gambled on a revolt and lost. They may become martyrs or they may find a way back into the government, depending on their own principles and whether the government is willing to have them. But brutality is also a sign of weakness. A last resort to maintain control. But it is also a sign of strength. A government that unleashes total violence on its own people demonstrates that it has staying power.

If the riots continue, the next step in this chess game is to call for the restoration of order. The politicians attached to the protest movements will claim to be the only ones who can calm the public's anger and restore order. The government will step up enforcement to show that it is perfectly capable of restoring order. Foreign diplomats will counsel the government to negotiate with the politicians representing the protesters. This is usually the last step in the dismantling of the government.

A government with staying power will refuse to negotiate and play the waiting game. A revolution runs off the energy of ongoing protests and street violence. But that energy is not a perpetual motion machine. Even with new government outrages, keeping the protests going takes dedication and resources. Eventually the casual looters and bored teenagers who fuel such protests go home. The working class men go back to work in order to feed their families. This leaves the protest core of middle-class and wealthy students exposed. They are the educated core of the protest movements, the ones who actually seem to know what they want. But they are also much easier to scatter and break than their poorer compatriots. Occasional protests will still go on, inspired by the events of that month, they may in time succeed in toppling the government, but only if it weakens significantly.

That means Mubarak might still survive, but our influence won't. The endorsement of Suleiman means that we won't see a dynasty of Mubaraks, which is probably a good thing, but also means that Egypt's secret police will call the shots in the future. The Cedar revolution has been swallowed up by Hezbollah. Lebanon will almost inevitably see another civil war, along with ethnic cleansing and possibly genocide. Jordan is falling under the Iranian umbrella. The days of the Hashemite kingdom are numbered. Imagine a Gaza four times the size of Israel. That's what we're on track for now.

Once Israel is bracketed in by enemies, an Islamist Turkey, a Muslim Brotherhood run Egypt and a Palestinian Jordan, and Iranian dominated Syria and Lebanon-- the game will move into its final stages. Iran needs to destroy Israel in order to prove its right to rule the region, but Israel is also one of the few points of agreement between Sunnis and Shiites. Iran's real foe is Saudi Arabia, but it can't act directly against it without bringing America into the game. If Iran can take Mecca, its leaders become the supreme authorities of Islam. Shiite control over Mecca might trigger a global Muslim civil war. Or a global accommodation.

If Iran can checkmate America in an armed conflict, it may have a chance. So it will try to initiate a limited conflict on its terms, once it has a nuclear deterrent to prevent the United States from escalating the conflict. A likely scenario is a regional version of the Korean War in a divided Iraq or Afghanistan, in which Iran plays the China role, overwhelming an undermanned US presence with a show of force and then negotiating an armistice. The goal will be for Iran to inflict enough damage on the United States to gain credibility as the ultimate Muslim superpower. And that would lead to some of the bloodiest battles since the Tet Offensive, with a courageous showing by American forces acting under severely restricted rules of engagement fighting a war that their government has already decided it can't win. Even if Obama is not in office by then, whoever is would be faced with a choice or prolonging a conflict against the Taliban/Mahdi Army to reclaim territory that the United States has already withdrawn from. It's not an enviable decision.

That is the path that Iran's leadership is following. We are being maneuvered into a tighter and tighter corner, with fewer and fewer allies left. The Middle East is being lost. And it's happening on Obama's watch.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Fall of the Strongmen

The attempt to establish a post-colonial order of kings and strongmen to replace the British and French colonial rule over the Arab Muslim world was doomed from the start. Some of the kings were overthrown by native officers who had been trained by the British and the French to fight their wars. The officers who overthrew them became strongmen themselves.

The recently deposed Ben Ali was a Tunisian officer trained in French and American schools, who had helped push out the French and his predecessor. Egypt's Mubarak was an Air Force officer who replaced Sadat, who replaced Nasser-- all members of the Free Officers Movement which overthrew the Egyptian monarchy. Saddam Hussein took power in a coup against the coup led by army officers which had deposed the King of Iraq. Syria's Assad was an Air Force officer who took power after a long series of coups by army officers that it would take too long to list. If you're seeing a pattern here, congratulations and welcome to the Middle East.

The only Middle-Eastern Arab countries which held onto their monarchies, were either oil rich enough to spread the wealth to the important families and retain only a weak military to avoid the risk of being overthrown by their own army while relying on US protection (e.g. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE) or so small and deliberately apolitical to avoid attention (Jordan, Morocco). The rest ended up with military strongmen, some backed by the US, some backed by the Soviet Union. The Soviet backed strongmen usually unveiled some poorly thought out version of Arab Socialism. The US backed strongmen just stuck to taking a cut of everything and packing it away in foreign banks.

But there was a ticking time bomb underneath these pyramids of wealth and misery. Islam. The kings had been nothing more than British puppets. The strongmen that replaced them were the apex of a new praetorian guard. Despite whatever philosophies they brought to the table, sooner or later they tried to become kings as well. Syria's Assad passed power on to his son. Saddam was preparing his sons to oversee his own dynasty. In Egypt, Mubarak is trying to do the same thing. But they have no tradition and no history on their side. Their rule is a farce in which they call themselves presidents and prime ministers, and go through the pretense of holding elections, but function like absolute monarchs. An unbalanced situation that eventually implodes.

The strongmen depend on army backing, but the armies of the Arab world are split drastically between an elite officer corps and the soldier who is treated like sheep dung. The officers and the secret police run the country, but when a mob gathers, it's up to the soldiers to hold them back. If the soldiers choose not to, then it's time for the strongman to get on a plane and escape the country. (This is essentially what also brought down the Soviet Union.) As an alternative, the strongman will leverage support from tribal structures, appointing loyalists to top positions in the bureaucracy and the military. (This is what kicked off the initial insurgency in Iraq.) But that too is a balance. Elevating one family, alienates another family. The tribal power structure has its own enemies built in. Those maneuvers for power can cause the incredible chaos so common after the fall of a strongman.

The Arab world may hold elections, but it is a long way from accepting notions such as equality, open access or guaranteed freedoms. Its rulers will occasionally sign on to UN covenants on women's rights or religious rights, without ever taking them seriously. The idea that one man is just as good as another, regardless of his family or religion, is a completely alien one to them. A woman being just as good as a man is not even a conversation starter. The Middle East still mostly consists of peasants from feudal backgrounds lorded over by a small elite. Bring democracy and human rights to the Middle East? You might as well walk into 12th century Europe with a copy of the Constitution and expect not to be beheaded.

So what happens when a strongman is overthrown? Either he will be replaced by one of the coup leaders who will become the new strongman. If not he will also be overthrown. Or he will be replaced by an oligarchy which will eventually come to be dominated by its strongest and most ruthless member who will become the new strongman. (That is how Iraq ended up ruled by the House of Saddam.) As you can see there really isn't an alternative here. It's the strongman or nothing.

But there is a seeming alternative. A different power structure than a corrupt dictator and his thugs. One  based not on power, greed and family-- but religion. Islam.

Most of the 'reformers' are usually fighting for either a takeover by the local socialist party or the local Islamist party. The general public will join in the stone throwing and the looting, without necessarily taking sides. Often the socialists and the Islamists will actually cooperate to bring down the dictator. Then one will take power and begin killing the other. Western media rarely bother to report this, either out of ignorance or due to propaganda. They treat most of the crowd scenes as popular uprisings, which they are but not in the sense that the people will get to decide one way or another. Only that they get a chance to take part in the brief spurt of violence before being ordered to go home.

The Islamists promise a system based on Allah's law. Rule by moral clerics instead of greedy officials. Traditional values, benefits for families and teddy bears not named Mohammed for everyone. It's a scam of course. The Islamist takeover means another strongman or oligarchy. Except instead of being named General Saddam Hussein, he'll be known as the Ayatollah Khomeini. The differences are minimal. The ruling families will still sock away money in foreign banks. Loyalists will still be appointed to top positions. The bureaucracy will go on abusing and blackmailing the public. The police will still be vicious thugs. And law will be promulgated by Imams or Muftis or Mullahs, but it will still be the law that those at the top want.

Despite all that, or maybe because of it, the Islamists are still inevitable. Islam manufactures a group identity that may be paper thin, but it still more solid than recently manufactured national identities for regional Arabs who are expected to see themselves as Egyptians, Syrians, Jordanians or Iraqis. Islam bridges tribal identities better than strongmen do. Its rulers will ultimately still reward their own families and favor their own tribes, but the process will take place under the guise of Islam.

When Mohammed invented Islam, he took existing beliefs and laced them up into a grand tribal identity. Islam is the meta-tribe, less a religion than a makeshift political system based on tribal alliances with the convenient sanction of a deity. Islam expands by creating a two-tier system that puts non-Muslims on the bottom, and encourages Muslims to wage constant war against them. None of this makes for a stable system, but it does make for a very volatile and expansionistic one. Arabs who will not die for Saddam or Ben Ali or Mubarak, will die for Islam.

The Islamists may not take over in Tunisia this time, but they will take over sooner or later. There and all across the Muslim world. (If it happened in militantly secularist Turkey with its army, then it really can happen anywhere.) Dictators will come and go, and eventually the local Islamists with funding from Saudi Arabia or Iran will put together a proper show and take over. And eventually the people will get tired and try to throw them out, as is happening in Iran. It's the natural political cycle of a region with no true national identities, no real principles of government, no law and no commitment to anyone outside the family.

We could slow down or even avert the process, by pushing Westernization and cutting the legs off Saudi Arabia and Iran. But we aren't about to do it. We could at least stop sending them money by the barrel, but we aren't about to do that either. And that's the real problem, not Ben Ali or Mubarak. Calling for the regimes to respect democracy and human rights just undermines whoever is in power. It does not lead to them being replaced by anything better. To do that, the entire culture would have to change. And that isn't happening.

The strongmen will fall. And the media will act like it's Romania in 1989, rather than just part of the cycle of coups in a system that cannot have anything better than tyrants of one sort or another. Eventually Islamists will come to power and wage war against us. It's up to us whether they win or not.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday Afternoon Roundup - The Challenge of Challenger



Today is the 25th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. It is an almost unremarked disaster.

In his State of the Union address, Obama mentioned Sputnik, but not Challenger. He only briefly mentioned NASA, the agency that he effectively dismantled and turned into a global warming alarmist press release mill and Muslim pandering laboratory.

But the story of Challenger is also the story of how one of America's greatest achievements was watered down and turned into another grant factory. The Space Shuttle program was always a white elephant. It had no real point, except to run research missions. It had no goal. And now even it is dead and Obama has killed its replacement vehicle.

Probably one of the saddest moments has to be NASA's commemoration of Challenger.

NASA on Friday said "fear of failure" should not hold back its mission to test the boundaries of human space exploration, as the agency marked the 25th anniversary of the Challenger disaster...

"We who remain on the ground and asked them to fly failed them that day, as we would fail the crew of Columbia 17 years later and as we failed the crew of Apollo 1 19 years before," said Bill Gerstenmaier, who now oversees NASA's human space flight programs.

"We can't let the fear of failure stop us," he said. "The team has learned tremendous lessons from these events," Gerstenmaier told a crowd of about 250 gathered at Kennedy Space Center's Space Mirror Memorial.

But it's not fear of failure that's holding us back, but fear of American exceptionalism.

NASA's human space exploration is now a relic of history, like Apollo. The only way NASA personnel can get to space is by hitching a ride on Russian space vehicles. Just like the billionaires who pay the Russians 20 million for a ride each.

There's nothing bittersweet about this. Just bitter. We did not meet the challenge of challenger. Or the challenge of America. We elected Obama to rule over us and give us a nanny state instead.

Moving on, I was initially not going to write about the so-called 400 Rabbis ad. What's ridiculous about the 400 Rabbis ad is just how much attention it has received. The ad should have been ignored, instead it's been talked up to death. Without the histrionics some conservative bloggers have engaged in, let's cut directly to the chase.

This is an ad taken out by a left wing group which uses Jews as a front. This is an old tactic going back to the Communist days, when front groups would pop up for races, religions and professions all pushing the same line. Jewish Funds for Justice is not a Jewish group, it is a left wing group run by a community organizer. There are hundreds more identical to it which associate themselves with Latinos, African-Americans, Asians and so on and so forth.

The bulk of the 'Rabbis' who signed on are left wing activists. Some are not even Jewish. Some like Michael Lerner (Hillary Clinton's favorite Rabbi) are not even Rabbis. They are the same people who sign on to left wing letters while hiding behind the moral authority of a religion that they undermine at every occasion.

After Hamas won, 400 Rabbis signed a letter urging Bush to "constructively" engage with the Hamas terrorists who are sworn to destroy Israel and exterminate the Jews who live there.

Plenty of the signers of both letters are the same. Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, Rabbi Rolando Matalon, Rabbi Andrew Hahn, Rabbi Melanie Aron, Rabbi Michael Holzman, Rabbi Lewis Barth, Rabbi Victor Reinstein, Rabbi Steven Jacobs, Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld, Rabbi Phyllis Berman, Rabbi Raphael Kanter, Rabbi David Rosenn, Rabbi Jennie Rosenn and I've hardly even gotten through the first 60 names on the list. I don't have the time or energy to go through both lists in detail, anyone who wants to can do it here and here. Along with the Rabbis for Obama list here.

Remember Rabbis for Obama? Guess what, many of the same names. Again. I documented that way back during the election.

In other words these are many of the same 'Rabbis' you go to if you want someone to sign their name on a left wing petition.

A list with left wing radicals like Michael Lerner, a campus radical who began claiming to be a Rabbi when he got too old to riot on campus, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, a freakshow who's played mentor to a generation of anti-Israel and left wing activists, and Rabbi Rolando Matalon of Brit Tzedek Ve'Shalom, a radical anti-Israel organization, have one thing in common. They don't represent Rabbis or Jews. They represent the far left.

That's it. Bottom line.

Conservative blogs should not be treating this as a rabbinical organization. There is no organization here. Just a group of left-wing activists who pull the same stunt over and over again. They know that calling themselves Rabbis will give them more authority, than just sticking their own names on a sheet of paper.

Beck isn't always right, but his statements about Soros are undeniably factual and backed by Soros' own personal recollections. And some of the "Rabbis" on the list are as bad as Soros.

Take Rabbi Tirzah Firestone.

Firestone is on the advisory council of radical anti-Israel organization J Street (funded by Soros) who has repeatedly condemned Israel and promoted Hamas.

Here's one of her op eds

In addition, we must call upon the government of Israel to resume indirect talks with Hamas. It is abundantly clear that military action, blockades, and occupation are unsustainable tactics that will never yield true or long-term peace, but rather engender more anti-Semitism and suffering on all sides.

Demanding that Israel negotiate with terrorists and blaming Jews for anti-semitism for defending themselves, all in one paragraph. Yet we're supposed to believe that this radical anti-Israel leftist is concerned with the memory of the Holocaust. Please.

There's Rabbi Rolando Matalon, another one of the Hamas Rabbis, who blamed Israel for Hamas' victory. Matalon was also instrumental in Clinton's pardon of two Weathermen terrorists.

I could go on, but I don't have the stomach for it. This is the far left masquerading as the religious left. They have their opposite numbers in most major churches in America. They are an unmitigated evil and like Soros, Jews are their primary targets. Believe me, they hate Jews and Israel, much more than they hate Glenn Beck. Some disguise it behind lovey dovey rhetoric, and some just bare their teeth.

These people are not Rabbis, anymore than Father Pfleger is a priest. And calling them the 400 Rabbis only maintains the 'wolf dressed up as grandma' image that they're employing.

After Tunisia, the disturbances have moved on to Egypt, Yemen and Jordan. Despite what is being predicted, I wouldn't count on any of these countries undergoing the same kind of turnover.

Mubarak is a canny old goat and his secret police forces are extensive and effective. And given a choice between complying with Obama's demands and giving in, on cracking down, he will crack down. All that is being accomplished by the calls for Mubarak to democratize and resign is to show how irrelevant America is and how worthless it is as an ally.

Probably the dumbest piece so far comes from Jackson Diehl at the Washington Post

the Obama administration's embrace of Mubarak, even as the octogenarian strongman refused to allow the emergence of a moderate, middle-class-based, pro-democracy opposition, has helped bring the United States' most important Arab ally to the brink of revolution. Mass popular demonstrations have rocked the country since Tuesday; Friday, when millions of Egyptians will assemble in mosques, could be fateful.

Key word here, mosques. Read Muslim Brotherhood. Mubarak will not be replaced by Diehl's imaginary moderate middle class democracy opposition. It will be a tyranny of one kind or another. And the odds are still on the Muslim Brotherhood as the only force capable of replacing Mubarak.

Second, the Obama administration's Middle East experts concluded that there was no chance of serious reform - much less revolution - under Mubarak. So they plotted at playing a "long game" of slowly nurturing grass-roots movements and promoting civil society, in preparation for the day when Egypt might be ready for real reform. In this they badly underestimated the secular opposition that was rapidly growing in the blogosphere and that months ago began rallying behind former U.N. nuclear director Mohamed ElBaradei.

This is so much crap that it could be shoveled to make strawberries. Only a Beltway journalist would take the Egyptian blogsphere seriously as an opposition force. The Egyptian blogsphere consists of mostly middle and upper class privileged Egyptian kiddies. They will be absolutely irrelevant once the shooting starts and they have no role whatsoever in determining who takes over the country.

Mohamed El Baradei's "popularity" is an even bigger myth. El Baradei is mostly popular with Western journalists. No one in Egypt gives two shakes of a donkey's tail about him.

Those demands are coherent and eminently reasonable: Mubarak should step down and be replaced by a transitional government, headed by ElBaradei and including representatives of all pro-democracy forces.

How is this reasonable? ElBaradei hasn't won an actual election. Why should it be assumed that he should take power? Because he's a favorite of the WaPo columnists? Get real.
That government could then spend six months to a year rewriting the constitution, allowing political parties to freely organize and preparing for genuinely democratic elections. Given time to establish themselves, secular forces backed by Egypt's growing middle class are likely to rise to the top in those elections - not the Islamists that Mubarak portrays as the only alternative.

And then happy bunnies will fly out of their ears and sing magical songs about something or other.

Really? Open elections. That are going to be won by the secular middle-class? What secular middle-class? Most of Egypt is poor. The vast majority of it is religious and fanatical. If this had happened in the 1950's, it still probably wouldn't have worked, but there might have been a shot. But now. A secular middle-class government in Egypt?

I don't have the proper words to express how insane and delusional this is. The only secular governments in the Muslim world are run by dictators. And that is how it is going to stay.

A democratic election will be won by the Muslim Brotherhood. No ifs ands or buts. They may temporarily enlist secular allies, but they will ultimately rule alone. They are happy to use ElBaradei as a front, but the end result will be an Islamist regime.

Either Jackson Diehl should learn something about Egypt beyond browsing the so-called Egyptian blogsphere, or be replaced by a talking banana. It's not too late to take the right side.

A footnote, consider the pundits who have urged us to embrace Castro's reforms, but would like us to see remove Mubarak. There is little difference between the men in principle. Mubarak is certainly less of a tyrant than Castro. But Cuba is the left's pet cause. And they fantasize that Egypt will see a left wing government take hold once Mubarak is gone. Fantasies are those are. Iran should have taught them better.

An alliance between secularists and Islamists will lead to an Islamist regime. A sample of the apologetics via Atlas Shrugs shows the excuses being trotted out.

The Egyptian Brotherhood renounced violence years ago, but its relative moderation has made it the target of extreme vilification by more radical Islamists. Al Qaeda’s leaders, Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri, started their political lives affiliated with the Brotherhood but both have denounced it for decades as too soft and a cat’s paw of Mubarak and America.

If you ever wanted to be around when pundits were explaining that Hitler was really a moderate who wanted to restore Germany, and the real threat would come from a German military regime, you can be witness to it right now.

And if you want to understand why our governments make such awful decisions, here's the author's bio

Bruce Riedel, a former long-time CIA officer, is a senior fellow in the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution. At Obama’s request, he chaired the strategic review of policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2009

The Muslim Brotherhood are non-violent moderates. This coming from a man who has significant input into administration policymaking. God help us all, seems to sum it up nicely.

Pamela Geller also has coverage of the Sheepshead Bay mosque. I've been aware of this for a while and had been meaning to write about it, but it got overshadowed by the Ground Zero Mosque.

It's a story about a community trying to resist what Creeping Sharia calls the Zoning Jihad. Muslims are operating without regard for the law, building mosques and defying anyone to stop them. And in Bloomberg's New York, it's working.

Geller also has the invaluable Sarah Honig's take on it. It's one of those articles that must be read to get the street level flavor of what is happening in New York.

It was common for the house-proud Irish to keep property in the family, and hence I'd soon reenter the two-story red-brick home in whose wood-paneled rec-room we occasionally whiled away hours. But when I climbed up the grimy station stairs and surveyed the street, I suspected that some supernatural time-and-space warp had transported me to Islamabad. This couldn't be Brooklyn.

Women strode attired in hijabs and male passersby sported all manner of Muslim headgear and long flowing tunics. Kathy met me at the train and astounded me by pointing out long kurta shirts as distinguished from a salwar kameez. She couldn't help becoming an expert. She's now a member of a fast-dwindling minority because "people are running away.

We're among the last holdouts of our generation. My kids have fled." Pakistani and Bangladeshi groceries lined the main shopping drag, and everywhere stickers boldly beckoned: "Discover Jesus in the Koran." An unremarkable low-slung building on the corner of Kathy's block was now dominated by an oversized green sign identifying it as Masjid Nur al-Islam (the Light of Islam Mosque) and announcing that "only Allah is worthy of worship and Muhammad is his LAST prophet." Here too Christians were urged to "turn to the Koran" if they were "genuinely faithful to Jesus."

It wasn't hard to identify the remaining non-Muslim residences. Kathy's was typical. A huge American flag fluttered demonstratively in the manicured front yard, accompanied by a large cross on the door and an assortment of patriotic/jingoistic banners. "We're besieged," she explained. "Making a statement is about all we can do. They aren't delighted to see our flag wave. This is enemy territory."

This is a story that deserves to be told. Because this is part of the spearhead of the invasion. What is happening in the UK and France, is happening here too. We are all becoming Israel. Our geography becoming seized and transformed into a cultural and eventually military war zone.

In other Hussein news, Powerline's Scott Hindraker has a brief roundup of SOTU Sputnik moment reactions, including my own

Scott points out Krauthammer's own NR piece

And of course, once again, there is the magic lure of a green economy created by the brilliance of Washington experts and politicians. This is to be our “Sputnik moment,” when the fear of the foreigner spurs us to innovation and greatness of the kind that yielded NASA and the moon landing.

Apart from the irony of this appeal being made by the very president who has just killed NASA’s manned space program, there is the fact that for three decades, since Jimmy Carter’s synfuel fantasy, Washington has poured billions of taxpayer dollars down a rat hole in vain pursuit of economically competitive renewable energy.

This is nothing but a retread of what used to be called industrial policy, government picking winners and losers. Except that in a field that is not nearly technologically ready to match fossil fuels, we pick one loser after another — from ethanol, a $6 billion boondoggle that even Al Gore admits was a mistake, to the $41,000 Chevy Volt that only the rich can afford (with their extended Bush tax cuts, of course).

I would argue that the real problem is not just that we're picking winners and losers, but what we're not actually picking winners. These are not serious attempts at energy independence, but pork tossed toward particular states and companies. We are not trying to get off oil, foreign or domestic, just spending taxpayer money for political reasons.

There is no comprehensive plan. What I wrote about Obama's high speed rail yawp applies here too

China's high speed rail program is impressive, but also a Communist party project that loses money every year. It's more about control, than it is about economic necessity. If we had expanding urban infrastructure and a booming manufacturing sector, the way China does, then at least we would be building high speed rail in context. But we don't. We're building high speed rail, because the administration likes the idea. Not because American business is in desperate need of it. Like Kathy's biofuels degree, it's another program without context.

Is there actually a comprehensive government plan to switch to biofuels or electric or anything else? No there isn't. Just money being tossed around. Remember Bush pledging 100 million to develop an electric car in a SOTU address. It's just more of the same. Some people in key positions cash in. Research grants get doled out. And nothing moves forward. Biofuels are not meant to move us off oil, but to move money around.

Ramparts has Mark Levin's reaction to the SOTU, for those who have trouble accessing his Facebook

President Obama’s foot remains where it has been since the day he entered the Oval Office, on the gas pedal. He’s not braking for anyone or anything. All this pre-SOTU spin from Obama’s whisperers, gobbled up by the Obama-hungry media, was always nonsense. Obama has no intention of touching entitlements in any significant way, period. Why would he tamper with the New Deal and Great Society when he considers them a good start but insufficiently bold to advance his statist beliefs? Obama has no intention of honestly working with Republicans on health care, cap-and-trade, etc. These are hallmarks of his transformative agenda. They define him and his presidency. His bureaucracy is working overtime to institute them.

It amazes me that some usually thoughtful people seize on anything they can find to argue, or hope, that Obama has been chastened by the last election. For weeks they’ve pointed to the tax deal as evidence of his “pivoting.” Actually, what Obama did is tee-up the tax fight for a time when he believes his class warfare demagoguery can be best employed — during the final weeks of his re-election bid. He already started it last night. And, of course, the Republicans fell for it, hailing the tax deal as momentous. Obama is ready to deal some more, they reckoned — a sad delusion.

I would argue that there has been a mild change in tone, but none in substance. Procedurally compromises have to be made, but they're not favorable ones. It's a Judo contest to see who can flip whom. And the Republicans are in danger of getting flipped.

My article on Warsi's speech, Anglophobia or Islamophobia - What's the Real Problem? has won the Watcher's Council non-council vote.

But I would like to spotlight the third place, New Zeal blog post on the elevation of Patrick Gaspard.

In a move clearly signaling that planning for the 2012 Presidential election is underway, President Barack Obama's "go to" man Patrick Gaspard is leaving the White House to serve as Executive director of the Democratic National Committee...

Gaspard's move also signals the almost complete acceptance of hard-left and labor union influence in the upper reaches of the Democratic Party. In embracing Gaspard, the D.N.C. has surrendered its "commanding heights" to the Party's almost completely dominant far left.

While never a proven member of any of the several radical and Marxist organizations operating within and the Democratic Party, Gaspard has worked with several of the most influential.

He is undoubtedly a servant of the far left.

Patrick Gaspard was reportedly born in Kinshasa, Zaire, after his father, a political opponent of the Duvalier dictatorship in Haiti, fled there.

Patrick Gaspard’s father moved with his wife from Haiti to "post-liberation" Zaire, when its pro-communist leader, Patrice Lumumba, appealed to French-speaking academics of African descent to teach in the impoverished nation.

Three years after Patrick Gaspard’s birth, the family moved to New York.

Read it all because it tells us what the 2012 fight will really be like. Obama may make a show of playing nice, but he's relying of Get Out the Vote programs among the union rank and file and the plantation vote among heavily controlled minority groups. This is about to become a very ugly election. I am beginning to have a feeling that 2012 will make 2008 look good.

Closing note from the same article

Barack Obama, as a young man, admired third world revolutionaries like Frantz Fanon. He went into community organizing and the DSA/Committees of Correspondence aligned Chicago left, before moving on to the White House.

Patrick Gaspard, as a young man, admired third world revolutionaries like Aime Cesaire. He went into radical organizing and mixed with the DSA/Committees of Correspondence aligned New York left, before moving on to the White House.

Patrick Gaspard was "made" by the same socialist "mafia" who made Barack Obama.

Now these socialist "twin souls" face the struggle of their lives, the war for the White House 2012.

Obama cannot succeed in 2012, without complete control of the Democratic Party machine. He'll surely be sleeping a little easier now, knowing that Patrick Gaspard has back over at the DNC.

This is Obama and his backers doubling down in a big way. Make no mistake about it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Obama's State of the Soviet Union

When the applause had died down and the softly glowing screen of the teleprompter faded to black, the echoes of the Leninist cadences of Obama's State of the Union address, "We must out-educate, out-compete, and out-innovate the rest of the world", "We have broken the back of the recession" and "We can't win the future with a government of the past" suggest that we are now living in a land without history.

How else could Obama get up and deliver an address whose rhetoric represents a 180 degree turn, while the substance continues down the same track. The meat of the address was stolen from Clinton's 1992 campaign stump speeches on the economy. There is the same invocation of personal stories of unemployment combined with promises of replacing the old bad manufacturing jobs with free educations for everyone. But Clinton was better at pretending to be one of the boys, a working class man who only got out thanks to a good education. Obama's people must have known that dog wouldn't hunt.

As usual, the slogan du jour comes from the dictionary of the left. "Winning the future" was a common slogan on the left. While it was belatedly used by Newt Gingrich, it was most commonly employed in the 20th century by Communists and the far left. Two time Lenin prize winner, Danilo Dolci used it as the theme of one of his addresses. Jesse Jackson made use of it during his presidential campaign. Max Lerner gave a number of talks on "Winning the Future". Mandella threw it in there. Most notably it was used by Lenin, "Our hopes must be placed on the young. We must win the youth if we are to win the future."

The thrust of Obama's agenda follows Lenin's. The old jobs are gone. We must prepare for the future by educating our youth. The sturm und drang of the "We Musts" quickly becomes an argument for pandering to the teacher's unions. Only by empowering the teacher's union will we be able to compete with China. But China isn't strong because of its teachers, but because it has no independent unions, no minimum wage, no pollution laws and nothing to get in the way of the terrible machine of its industry. The People's Republic of China is not beating us in science or math, but in manufacturing cheap products with an undervalued national currency.

Handing out free educations to beat China is like going to college to fight a bear. Not only will it not improve your bear fighting skills, it actually gives the bear the upper hand. American math and science degrees are used to do research whose practical applications take the form of products manufactured in China. Even if all 300 million Americans all go to work as researchers, we are not going to "out-compete" and "out-innovate" by "out-educating" Americans. Russia has the highest percentage of college degrees by population in the world. China has the lowest. These figures have little to do with their economic success.

America already has a college degree program percentage rate on par with Sweden and Finland, countries that almost wholly subsidize higher educations. Greece subsidizes 99.7 percent of higher education, and yet has a lower degree rate than America and is in a state of complete economic meltdown. America has higher rates of graduates than many of the European countries which heavily subsidize their education systems. The takeaway is that state subsidized education does not ensure more graduates. And more graduates does not mean more jobs.

One of the more surreal moments in the address came when Obama mentioned Kathy Proctor, a 55 year old woman who after losing a job in the future industry is now a second year student at a community college working toward a biotechnology degree. Her plan is to become a biofuels analyst.

I can't imagine a worse model for American workers than a 55 year old woman amassing unknown amounts of student debt for a job in an industry that doesn't exist except as a government subsidized program. Even if Obama succeeds in obtaining more ethanol subsidies and some biofuels company decides to hire Kathy to be their biofuels analyst, her job will only exist because of the billions poured into subsidizing the educations and industry that make it possible. A job and an industry that would not exist without those subsidies. This is not how a genuinely productive country is run. It's not how we're going to beat China.

What's worse is that the odds are very good that Kathy Proctor will join the ranks of other struggling Americans whom Obama singled out as examples, only for them to lose their jobs and homes. Jennifer Cline was one of those success stories, using unemployment benefits to go to college. Then she had to sell Obama's "Things will get better" card to make ends meet. It's true, "Things will get better", as long as you have a letter from the big man himself and there's still a market for Obama's autographs.

If you're following Obama's curve ball so far, the plan is to fund education for entirely new industries. The same clean energy industries he wants to subsidize. All in the name of innovation. But this isn't innovation, it's central planning. The Obama administration has decided which industries to promote. It will use taxpayer money to subsidize those industries. It's a great plan aside from one small hitch, what if those industries don't succeed? That's the fallacy of central planning. It all looks good on paper. But paper isn't life.

Obama acted as if he were delivering Lenin's 10th congress speech on the New Economic Plan, but he has nothing revolutionary to say. He wants to cut spending, and all he does is talk about more spending. He wants to see more innovation, but what he's actually proposing is economic central planning, the opposite of innovation. Lenin's "Commanding Heights" approach allowed for socialism to be promoted through market economics, as long as the Communist party controlled the commanding heights of key industries. That seems to be Obama's approach as well. Nationalize and subsidize the country's remaining industries in order to shape the trajectory of the economy, while letting small businesses enjoy their freedom until the time arrives to shut them down. Even Obama's talk of innovation seemed to echo Lenin's "We are a party of innovators".

The internet, GPS and the space program were mentioned as examples of government subsidized innovation. And he has a point. But the internet, GPS and the space program were all spinoffs of ARPA/DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. They were outgrowths of the Cold War. Elements of a plan to checkmate the Soviet Union by protecting the homefront and denying them space supremacy. They are proof that subsidized government programs can create amazing and revolutionary technologies. But to do that there has to be a plan.

Obama's speech is devoid of plans. We're going to build rail, because China is building rail. China is also building factories, but we're not going to do that. China is leveraging its exports in order to move manufacturing into the country, but we're not doing that either. Chinese companies are moving into Africa, but we're not doing that. So why are we building high speed rail?

China's high speed rail program is impressive, but also a Communist party project that loses money every year. It's more about control, than it is about economic necessity. If we had expanding urban infrastructure and a booming manufacturing sector, the way China does, then at least we would be building high speed rail in context. But we don't. We're building high speed rail, because the administration likes the idea. Not because American business is in desperate need of it. Like Kathy's biofuels degree, it's another program without context.

Had such a project been contemplated under the Eisenhower administration, it's possible that it might have been revolutionary and feasible. But it's just so much noise now. Connecting 80 percent of the country with high speed rail is doable, but we aren't going to do it. And no one seriously thinks that we are. The money isn't there and neither is the commitment. The only part of the government that can actually carry out grand projects is the military. No other part of the Federal government can successfully complete major infrastructure projects anymore, except for the new buildings they need to house their own bureaucracy. The Chinese are building high speed rail on the backs of a booming economy. We are not. And our own bureaucracy is not performance oriented. Instead of completing projects, we hand out subsidies for projects that never get built or if they do, never get utilized. And we borrow the money to pay for all that from China.

In the Soviet Union, Khrushchev did the same thing when he tried to integrate innovations he picked up on his trip to the United States, into Soviet industry and agriculture with no context. The results were disastrous. Khrushchev tried to imitate America's corn industry, by growing corn in the USSR. But Soviet farmers didn't want the corn and didn't understand how to plant it and where. Food production fell and usable land was ruined. Attempts to imitate American construction resulted in equally disastrous Khruschobas. That is what happens when techniques and approaches developed through innovation are filtered through a system of central planning.

This is our Sputnik moment, Obama says. But what is our Sputnik? Is it Chinese rail. What happens if the Chinese outrail us? Is it investing in clean energy, as he suggests the Chinese are doing. But China doesn't care about clean energy. Try taking a brisk walk through Bejing if you think pollution is a major concern there. Liberals have cynically pushed the meme that we're losing to China in the clean energy race. We're not. We're losing to China in every race.

China is building coal and nuclear plants, and manufacturing solar panels and wind turbines. It's a diverse strategy, not an environmental one. The ChiCom leadership does not care whether energy is clean or not, but how much it costs and how much it frees them from concern over energy supplies. Obama mentioned that China has the world's largest solar plant, but he failed to mention that the vast majority of their solar panels are manufactured for export to environmentally obsessed Western countries.

China's clean energy industry is heavily subsidized by the government. Obama wants us to follow suit. But China's export market for wind turbines and solar panels is us. What is our export market? Mostly Western countries which will also begin subsidizing their own clean energy industries. If every country subsidizes its own clean energy manufacturing, then there is no export market. Only a giant scam. Another closed loop of central planning as governments mandate the use of solar panels and wind turbines, and then subsidize solar panel and wind turbine manufacturing. Again this is not innovation. It's money being moved around at the expense of jobs and innovation.

Clinton promised all Americans an affordable college education and a home. What millions ended up with were piles of debt. That debt mushroomed and imploded on itself. Obama is still promising the college education and green jobs. Take out a loan, get a biotech degree and sign up to be a biofuels analyst. All to be paid for by more debt, with no actual economic prosperity in sight. The future is here, except it's more like the past.

"In the State of the Union, President Obama laid out a vision for the future," Obama's Organizing for America site proclaims in leaden Leninist tones. "We must out-educate, out-compete, and out-innovate the rest of the world... That work begins right now, with each of us committing to the work necessary to bring it about. The future is ours to win, but to get there, we can't just stand still. Join the fight to make the President's vision a reality." The message concludes by encouraging the prospective young Komsomol member to sign a letter saying, "I stand with President Obama and his vision for winning the future."

But what future has Obama actually laid out? There is the Khrushchevian "We will overtake you" directed at China. Calls for a Stakhanovitesque commitment by the masses. And a promise to win the future. But what future is that? We haven't been told. It's an unknown future with high speed rail, green jobs, college educations for everyone, but no flying cars unless they're electric or solar flying cars. This isn't a future. It's more mouthwash. Soviet mouthwash.

There's a 5 year plan to give broadband access to the masses. How did Khrushchev never think of that. More subsidies for solar and wind, at the expense of oil. Because 4 dollar gasoline isn't expensive enough. A 25 year plan to give 80 percent of Americans access to high speed rail. Except there's no actual plan either. It's all mouthwash. Soviet leaders rinsed their mouths with talk like this to assure their citizens that the future was moving forward on schedule. Now Obama is spitting their mouthwash out all over the country.

But don't worry, comrades. We're winning the future. History is on our side.. This is not a State of the Union address. It's a State of the Soviet Union address.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Intermission for America

A snowstorm may be finally headed for Washington D.C. A thread of the blanket of white that has swept across New York and Boston. So far 49 out of 50 states have been hit with snow. There's snow in Hawaii, but still none in the nation's capital. As the nation slogs, the capital rolls on. Americans dig out, the elite dig in deeper.

The 2010 elections marked a pause, a hush in the cold winter air, an intermission for America. A battle was won, and now the entire war is on the table. In a White House, still untouched by snow, the difference between an accident and history is one term. A one term president is an accident. A two term president is history. Nixon was history. Ford and Carter were accidents. Reagan was history, Bush Sr was an accident. Clinton and Bush Jr were history. But what will Obama be? An intermission for America or the final curtain.

As the snow fell, he climbed up a wounded congresswoman in the polls. But he can't count on one of those being shot every week. Or being able to score points by playing America's minister without a frock, delivering yet another solemn homily about people he hardly knew. Gazing down from jumbotrons on a congregation of screen printed t-shirts with the message of the hour. The polls rose in approval. Not for a deed, but for a well read speech. But the best speech in the world will not put food on a hungry child's plate or restore her father's job or bring the dead back to life. Speeches are artful collections of words, artfully read. But unless they are actionable, then they are just words.

A good speech is a dessert after the job is done and a great speech is an appetizer that inspires a movement. Obama's speech was a snack. A confection without context. The treat that he baked for himself and then offered to us. Ate it, smacked his lips, rubbed the tips of his fingers together and then took a plane back from a place he hardly wanted to be in. Buzzing in his mind, the worry that he might be an accident of history after all. Just another name, another face. Not so special after all.

His menace is the uprising of the middle class. They call it the Tea Party, but it is bigger and broader than that. It is the great rumbling in the nation's belly. Where political correctness reigns, it goes unheard. The sufferers remain in their couches, watching their televisions speak to them, and mumble something while flipping through unpaid bills. But across the broad stretches of the land, many are no longer willing to be silent or silenced. The middle class does not easily stir, but its frustrations run deep. Upon their shoulders governments deposit the burden of their regulations and their debt. When times are good, the middle class pays the bill and says little of it. Civility is one of the burdens it bears. But when money is tight and the government spends, then they learn to protest.

The middle class is not naturally given to shouting in the streets. Where it is easy enough to gather a rally of idlers, men and women who work all day are uncomfortable behaving that way. But they learn. It is not the wealthy who have been shouting the most about Obama. Economic turmoil affects the middle class, more than it does the wealthy or the poor. It is those who walk the balance, who risk slipping off. The middle class is an endangered species. In most of the world, it is easier to find child soldiers and slavery. The rich and the poor may always be with us, but the middle class won't. The survival of the middle class demands a balance. A walk along the tightrope between business and government, socialism and monopolies, the bomb thrower and the top hat. Sheer vigor has gotten them through this far, but this is a government that looks askance at their kind.

Barry's honeyed speeches come dipped in the comb of Reverend Wright who denounced middle-classness as if it were a disease. When he speaks you may not always hear it, but even many of the good and kindly people who voted for that clean shaven young man who promised hope and change, are learning to listen. The empty charm, the warm glow of a television set, the beaming smile practiced four score and seven times before a mirror every morning, are losing their magic. There is less of the fireside chat about them and more of the depression era comedy, lavish and tinkling, but only a distraction.

Where to now? There are no answers. Just the ongoing intermission. The first act of the play is over. The audience in their tuxedos and glittering dresses meet, down cocktails, and look nervously out into the night. It is beginning to snow. Soon they will have to go back inside. But they are not just the audience, they are also the actors. And the playwrights. The set dressers and the directors. That is the scene in the capital where the next act is beginning.

The Democrats wonder whether Obama can win. The Republicans wonder who will run. Solidarity is easy before the revolution, but ephemeral in the face of victory. Unity quickly dissolves into careerism. Factions rise, egos clash and snowballs with a heart of ice sail through the air. The struggle is a complicated one now, with human complications. We fight for ideas, but it is people who do the fighting, and when a battle is won, it is people not ideas who divide the spoils of victory. People can only carry ideas for so long, before ideas start carrying people. It is not a new problem, but then there are no new problems. Only old problems in new suits. 

What the middle class wants most from government, to be left alone, is the one thing that government will not give it. Ask for subsidies, protectionism, grants and agencies and they shall be given to you. Ask to be left in peace, and you shall meet with a pained sigh. It is the middle class that makes this sort of government possible, and it is the middle class that falls victim to it. The vampire may change from a bat to a gentleman in evening wear, but not give up his prey. The politician will don a protest shirt, but underneath he is still wearing a suit. Business is business. And the business of government is to provide unwanted services at non-negotiable prices.

The next act of the play is a farce. It has already begun. The Mourner in Chief on the Jumbotron, the slogan bearing t-shirts, congressmen learning to skit together like kindergarteners, the debates over caucuses and conventions and the quiet sniping between would be candidates. All that's missing are the wealthy dowager and the Marx Brothers rushing along to add madness to the confusion and confusion to the madness. The tug of war between issues and careers tears apart even the best of politicians. And the happy and unhappy warriors who tread the road to 2012 are no different.

In his part of the production, Barry must either prove to the public that the last two years were unrepresentative of his style of governing by distancing himself from himself. But if his pride gets in the way, he'll instead have to improve his messaging to prove that they were actually not so bad after all. Prove or improve, proof or disproof, it all comes down to ego. Barry has no shame, but he isn't shameless either. He will humiliate himself on stage, but only if he doesn't realize that he's doing it. It's a tricky task for his advisers to maneuver him like a pawn across the chessboard of his own arrogance. And if they can't do it, Barry has already boasted that he could be his own Chief of Staff. Maybe he should try it. And his own Treasury Secretary too.

On the other side of the stage, there are racers and fighters. The racers are doing their squats, preparing for the November sprint. The fighters want to change the country. The racers only want to cross the finish line. And the fighters are in their way. The racers push aside the fighters. The fighters try to get up again and explain their point, only to be pushed down again. On the jumbotron, Barry is busy explaining his latest civility proposal. He wants everyone to wear nametags. That way everyone will know everyone's name and be able to greet them.

And above, the snow whirls through the atmosphere, cold fronts meeting warm fronts, breaths mingling and holding in the air. The snow will fall regardless of what men talk about. It waits for no intermission and cares nothing for elections and selections. It will fall where and when it pleases. The snow sweeps forward spreading a white curtain downward, as another curtain rises and the second act begins.

Monday, January 24, 2011

In the Crosshairs of the Speech Police

In the weeks since the Arizona massacre, the media has revealed a preoccupation with language almost as intense as the one that motivated her shooter. Loughner's obsession with Congresswoman Giffords seems to have begun in 2007 when she mockingly replied to his question, "How do you know words mean anything?" And Loughner's killing spree has touched off the media's obsession with that same question, leading a CNN anchor to apologize for using the term "crosshairs".

It was almost as if the media had come down with a lighter version of Loughner's fixation on grammar as a tool of mind control. If only they could properly censor the language, no one would have to die or go on shooting sprees. Somehow if we refuse to use the word 'crosshairs', no one will ever wind up in anyone else's crosshairs. It's as if the use of the word creates the idea, rather than the word being only another means of describing an idea.

But controlling language is not the same thing as controlling minds. Orwell's 1984 depicted a totalitarian regime which controlled language in order to prevent forbidden ideas from finding expression. Since then (1948 not 1984) the left has obsessively tried to politicize language. There are entire seminars on the political uses of language. Newscasts are dotted with politically correct terminology, homeless, differently abled, custodial worker-- yet has changing language actually changed attitudes?

Historically euphemisms have taken on the meaning of the underlying idea. So much so that today we often have no idea that many of the taboo words in our language started out as euphemisms. That is because language is a way to express ideas and emotions. A language which attempts to repress common human tendencies will be subverted by slang and eventually transformed by common use, no matter how much the grammarians may protest. Even in totalitarian states, it is the people who control the language, not the language which controls the people.

Believing that words can change reality is magical thinking that appeals to lunatics and tyrants who view other people as less than human, machines whose functions can be altered by inputting the right code. When Giffords replied to Loughner's question, "How do you know words mean anything?" with a few words of Spanish, she was implicitly suggesting that meaning is contextual. Spanish has no meaning to those who don't speak it. And it's full of slang words whose meaning shifts by geographical location. While Loughner believed that language had to be decentralized and the media wants language to be centralized, language is a mirror, not the image itself. Language reflects people, rather than creating them.

For Loughner controlling his grammar could have seemed like running an anti-virus program on a machine constantly being hammered by outside invaders. As a schizophrenic, his mind naturally interpreted the gap between reality and his own distorted thoughts as hostile and threatening. Even language carried with it ideas that cut his gray matter the wrong way. By building a fortress out of grammar, he was trying to protect the deviations of his own mind against the invasion of reality. It was not government that he was opposed to as an individual idea, but the entire world outside his shaved head. A world whose normalcy impinged on his madness with its status quo of sanity.

The media with its word madness is another kind of nut. It is natural for people who work with language to believe in its power. Writers believe in the supremacy of the pen like no one else. Creating worlds out of language circularly allows them to see the creative powers of the word. But for a propagandist press, words are not creative, but constructive. They are building blocks in creating the world that they would like to see. The careful use of language and the delineation of forbidden and permitted words allows them to manufacture and market their worldview to the masses. Orwell's Newspeak, written on digital sand. To the builders and the bosses of the worldview, if something cannot be said, then it also cannot exist. Stop saying 'crosshairs' and no one will ever point a gun. It is absurd, but also grimly revealing.

The media believes in its own power far more than anyone else does. And how could it be otherwise. If they didn't believe in their own power and influence, then why bother. (Aside from the high salaries and free hair gel.) The media's mission is to change minds, to educate and inform the common man so that he will become more enlightened. So that he will become more like them. The blowdried white man's burden operating out of a studio adjoining Park Avenue.

The best propaganda is not just accepted by those who hear it, but also by those who tell it. The lie so compelling that even the liar comes to believe in it. But lies are accepted more deeply when they appeal to the emotions and worldview of the hearer. And so when there is a cultural gap, the liar is more often fooled, than the lied to. He believes his own lie, because he wants to believe it. The lie reflects how he thinks the world really works.


With the rise of the Tea Party, the left finds itself in the curious position of once again denouncing the right as violent agitators plotting a mass revolt against the government-- an occupation that is meant to be the exclusive provenance of the community organizers of the left. But such accusations always reveal more about the accusers, than they do about the accused. What this accusation reveals is a view of the public along the lines of the proles in 1984, mindless and unthinking workers and peasants who can never do more than trudge to their jobs and drink beer, unless someone from the intellectual classes works them up to it with the right combination of words.

When the media fails to win on an issue, it will blame the messaging. But if after every effort is exhausted, the public remains unconvinced, it will decide that the public is unreasonable. Dangerously so. In the media narrative, unpersuadability is equivalent to irrationality. And such people are dangerous. Having placed its own worldview at the apex of reason, worldviews that deviate from it are treated as unreasonable to the extent and magnitude of their deviation. Culture gaps that are not based on race or ethnicity, will elicit a violently xenophobic response. While the media celebrates diversity, it is actually profoundly intolerant of differences.

The media's chief power is language. The word that contextualizes the carefully selected image. It is easy for  them to slip into the error that it is the word that alters reality. That events and people can be transformed just as comprehensively as the images and videos can be contextualized and framed by their narrative. The idea that the people and events on the other end of the viewfinder may have an energy and a force that dwarfs their own never properly occurs to them, except during the occasional war or revolution. And even then they remain confident that their live version of history will properly define it as it should be. Will fix it in the frame of the lens and freeze it that way forever.

In such a frame of mind, it can seem as if their act of withdrawing a word from the collective grammar of the broadcast will also withdraw it from the minds of the listeners, as comprehensively as anything Orwell envisioned in 1984. And a larger uninformed public, which to them always seems on the razor edge of bursting into unreasoning violence, will no longer have the mental tools to plot and plan violence against government officials. It is the arrogance of the tyrant in the bubble,representing an alienation from the general public that is almost as pervasive as the one that hummed inside Loughner's malfunctioning brain.

Loughner and the media both agree that words can control men's minds. The media's descent into the madness of the speech police reflects a multichannel schizophrenia of their own. The belief that their words create reality. And in the crosshairs of the speech police, criminals become the victims of language, and language becomes the target.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Anglophobia or Islamophobia - What's the Real Problem?

In the UK, Baroness Warsi, better known as PM Cameron's pet Muslim, delivered a speech lambasting Britons as racists for in any way associating terrorism with Islam. If you have been guilty of trying to distinguish between moderate and radical Muslims, that too is now forbidden. According to Baroness Sayeeda Hussein Warsi, trying to distinguish between head-chopping and non-head-chopping Muslims only helps "fuel intolerance and misunderstanding". Which may or may not be better than Mohammed Asha and Bilal Abdulla, a British doctor and engineer, who filled up their Jeep Cherokee full of fuel canisters and tried to drive it into Glasgow International Airport.

Warsi warned that Islamophobia is the last acceptable form of bigotry. Actually the last acceptable form of bigotry appears to be Anglophobia, along with solid doses of anti-Semitism. In poll after poll, native Britons have been shown to be the most positively disposed toward Muslims in all of Europe, and British Muslims have been shown to be the most anti-Western in all of Europe. Clearly there's a problem here, and it isn't that mythical scourge of Islamophobia.

In a 2006 poll, 63 percent of Britons viewed Muslims favorably. Less than a third said that they thought of Muslims as violent. On the other hand, 67 percent of British Muslims viewed Westerns as selfish, 62 percent saw them as arrogant. British Muslims rated Westerners far lower than German Muslims, French Muslims or Spanish Muslims did. And 68 percent of British Muslims view Jews negatively, suggesting that anti-Semitism is still the last acceptable form of bigotry. And that rather than being the "New Jews" as some Muslim leaders like to claim, the Jews are still the Old Jews. And maybe the Britons are the New Jews of Londonistan.

You might put this down to the resentments of an oppressed Islamoproliteriat, but most Muslims polled also believed they were fairly treated. Above the numbers for French and German Muslims. Yet British Muslims are also far more 'immoderate' (if one may dare use the word in the presence of Baroness Hussein) than other European Muslims. It almost seems as if Muslim bigotry against the natives increases proportionally with how well they are treated. That might help explain why younger Muslims are actually more radicalized or 'immoderate' than their parents who immigrated to the UK.

According to Warsi, Islamophobia has passed the "dinner table test", that apparently being the test where people dare to express an opinion around their own dinner table without being shipped off to stand trial before the European Court of Justice. But is it really the dinner tables of England that we ought to be concerned with, rather than its army of prayer rugs.

In an environment where 40 percent of UK Muslims want Sharia law, 10 percent support the 7/7 bombers and 13 percent admire Al Qaeda, 40 percent believe that 9/11 was a Jewish/American conspiracy, 62 percent do not believe in protecting free speech, 68 support the arrest and prosecution of writers and cartoonists who insult Islam and 36 percent support the death penalty for Muslims who leave Islam-- -- is it really time for another lecture on Islamophobia?

Shouldn't Baroness Warsi be donning a hefty burqa (which she assures us in no way represses women and is actually incredibly liberating in the sense that shackles make one feel incredibly free and being blindfolded helps you get in touch with the world inside your own head) and trot off to the grimiest mosques in Manchester to tell them all about the evils of Anglophobia?

That won't be happening of course, and not only because Baroness Warsi is a rich man's daughter who lost an election, but was nevertheless appointed a life peer, the Tory party co-chairman and made a minister without portfolio, represents UK Muslims about as well as I do. She has been told before by some of that immoderate crowd we're forbidden to refer to foe fear of "fueling misunderstanding and intolerance", that she will be stoned if she goes there. All her gay bashing still couldn't win her Muslim votes. And her current Briton bashing won't either. Warsi is a token Tory Muslim, a jumped up immigration lawyer who represents nothing so much as the palpable fear of even British conservatives before the onslaught.

And that's why there'll be lots of talk of Islamophobia, but none of Anglophobia. There is a reason why Islamophobia goes around the dinner table like bad curry, it's the same reason that Hinduphobia and Sikhphobia don't. The UK has sizable Hindu and Sikh populations, but they don't chop off heads, plant bombs, groom little native girls for the sex trade, curse at soldiers or trumpet that they plan to take over the country and implement beheadings for anyone who leaves their mad cult.

The very word is the tipoff. Islamophobia. There's a difference between bigotry and fear. Bigotry is directed at people you have power over. Fear is the relationship you have with those who have power over you. No one is afraid of people who eat different foods, listen to odd music or non-violently worship a strange religion. They might be hated, but not feared. On the other hand being afraid of those who think they have an Allah given right to murder your children in cold blood-- is not entirely unreasonable.

No one rides the underground, worried about Hindu or Sikh suicide bombers. Because there is no such thing in the UK. But when 10 percent of UK Muslims think the chaps who blew themselves up there are role models, then Islamophobia is as unreasonable as being afraid of spending the night in a locked room with 10 men, 7 of whom hate you, 4 of whom want to force you to be their legal inferior and 1 of whom wants to kill you. Except that locked room is now England.

Islamophobia hasn't passed the dinner-table test, rather the prayer rug test. Muslims have openly cultivated an attitude of violence and intimidation as a means of gaining power and advancement. Some like Baroness Warsi are the beneficiaries of this process. And the Baroness Hussein knows that she is where she is, because of Islamophobia. Because her bosses are afraid of the rough men in the vicinity of the East London Mosque who keep grinning and miming hitting the detonator button. And more so they are fearfully afraid of what will happen if all their pathetic gestures of appeasement fail, and they will actually be forced to confront a problem with no overtly acceptable solution.

The British government has banned American preacher Terry Jones from entry, but has Jones called for a single murder, the way that numerous Muslim preachers in the UK have? Has he distributed tapes justifying the mass murder of people who are not members of his faith, the sort of tapes that can be found commonly in Muslim bookstores? Yet if Terry Jones' name were Anjem Choudary, he'd have a warm place from which to preach the overthrow of England. And scream vile hatred at returning soldiers. Jones' only crime is being critical of the Koran while trying to visit a country where 68 percent of Muslims believe that such criticism should be punishable under the law.

That may also be why Peter and Hazelmary Bull, a Christian couple, were dragged into court and forced to pay thousands of pounds to two gay men whom they refused to rent a single room to-- while Baroness Warsi's attempt to fish for Muslim votes with homophobic leaflets got her rewarded with a plum political spot that she has done absolutely nothing to deserve.

There was a great deal of outrage when Israeli President Shimon Peres suggested that there might be some anti-semitism in England, but the country is obligated to listen to Baroness Warsi denounce it as Islamophobic. Yet while an English judge legalized the Kristalnacht vandalism of Jewish factories and stores, I don't recall any legal ruling that permitted Muslim stores and factories to be treated the same way.

The problem is indeed Islamophobia, but not the way Sayeeda Hussein Warsi thinks. It's not the Islamophobia of the dinner table, but of Number 10 Downing Street which is at issue here. Warsi gets used as Cameron's stalking horse, delivering a speech that panders to Muslims, which he carefully disassociates himself from. But the problem remains. And the problem is Muslim Anglophobia reacting with the Islamophobia of the political class. Bigotry meets appeasement. Terrorism meets pathetic silence.

The British teenager of tomorrow is named Mohammed, and he takes his inspiration not from the Magna Carta, but the Koran. His hero is not Winston Churchill or Oliver Cromwell, but that bloody butcher of men and raper of women and little girls, the Islamic prophet Mohammed. When he plays video games, he imagines that the men he's killing are the soldiers returning home from fighting against teenagers just like him Iraq or Afghanistan. Sooner or later, he dreams of being to do the same thing. He thinks of British girls as whores, of English culture as corrupt and worthless, and feels he owes no obedience to its laws or its government. The word 'Islamophobia' makes him chuckle. He likes the idea that the natives are afraid of him. "They should be," he thinks. They should be indeed.