Archive for October 2008

The Manifesto of the Silenced Majority

• We believe that Barack Obama is a brilliant orator and a man possessed of more charisma than any politician since JFK.
• But we also believe that his philosophy of “spreading the wealth around” is an ill-disguised form of socialism that undermines everything America holds dear.
• We believe that a “tax cut on 95% of working Americans” when only 63% of Americans pay taxes is nonsensical.
• We believe that the Obama campaign’s obfuscated funding for ACORN (originally described as “event planning”) undermines the integrity of our elections and calls into question the legality of his tactics.
• We believe that Barack Obama’s plan to form a “civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded” as our military is ill-considered at best.
• We believe that the Obama campaign’s efforts to intimidate WGN (on two separate occasions) when it interviewed his political foes endangers free speech.
• We believe that Obama’s choice of Joe Biden as VP runs counter to his twin aspirations of “hope” and “change”.
• We believe that a man who could not otherwise receive a security clearance should not serve as Commander-in-Chief…

Click here for the entire manifesto.

The Press Starts Realizing…

It has swung an election.

First this story “McCain Getting Hammered on Late-Night TV” points out that from Sept 1 to Oct 24 the McCain ticket has been the butt of 475 jokes by David Letterman and Jay Leno alone, versus 69 jokes targeting the Obama ticket. Next there’s this story that attempts to rationalize the press bias against McCain/Palin and its ass-kissing of anything Obama/Biden. The writer, of course, denies the fact that 80% or more of the Media is voting for Obama has anything to do with the negative coverage.

I’ve always been fascinated by propaganda – the culture of lies used to achieve and maintain power – for a similar reason that otherwise law abiding citizens are fascinated by the escapades of outlaws. Sometimes the Truth simply isn’t as exciting as Falsehood. The Truth can often be dull while Lies are often quite interesting and fanciful – just as a fireman’s daring rescue of a child from a burning building may not be quite as titillating as the nefarious doings of a local mob figure.

The greatest propagandists of the twentieth century were Joseph Goebbels and William Randolph Hearst. Both men consciously took kernels of Truth, twisted them and debased them for personal and political gain. While the current propagandists are shadows of these infamous men, New York Times publish Arthur Sulzburger jr, and Rolling Stone and US publisher Jann Wenner continue the tradition of repeating lies until the become truth, to paraphrase another master of propaganda, Joseph Stalin.

I expect that after the election is over and the Press understands the groupthink it engaged in over the past year, ruining the careers of anyone who stood in the way of the Obama juggernaut it created (Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Sarah Palin to name just a few) it will have to come to terms with an inexperienced president with personal views that are extreme to all but a small segment of the American population.

It will also have to question whether it wishes to become the arm of the White House press secretary or whether it will resume its traditional role as the Fourth Estate. I expect it to choose the latter – in which case the height of the Obama phenomenon will no doubt go down as Inauguration Day 2009. From then on the balance that has been lacking for the past two years should eventually return.

That will be cold comfort for Hillary and Sarah. And a true American hero like John McCain deserved better treatment at the hands of a bunch of snotty under-paid j-school graduates.

UPDATE: Michael Malone writes…

The sheer bias in the print and television coverage of this election campaign is not just bewildering, but appalling. And over the last few months I’ve found myself slowly moving from shaking my head at the obvious one-sided reporting, to actually shouting at the screen of my television and my laptop computer.

But worst of all, for the last couple weeks, I’ve begun—for the first time in my adult life—to be embarrassed to admit what I do for a living. A few days ago, when asked by a new acquaintance what I did for a living, I replied that I was “a writer,” because I couldn’t bring myself to admit to a stranger that I’m a journalist.

Jonathan Last writes:

There are questions about Obama’s governing style, too. On the stump, he says he wants a more transparent government. His campaign has introduced a host of proposals to promote transparency.

Yet the campaign has sent threatening letters to radio and TV stations in an attempt to bully them out of running anti-Obama ads. It has asked that friends and former classmates not speak to reporters. And it has organized supporters to bombard media outlets hosting unfriendly viewpoints.

So is Obama an idealist or a traditional hardball pol? When he ran for the Illinois state Senate, his insistence on flawless petitions got all three of his opponents removed from the ballot. Yet, recent reports say 30 percent of the 1.3 million new-voter registrations gathered by the liberal organization ACORN - which are likely to favor Obama – were fraudulent. No word on whether he finds this troubling.

Perhaps showing my long-standing bias towards the Left, I’ve always expected an American demogogue to appear from the Right. I never anticipated that America would spawn it’s own Hugo Chavez on the Left.

Our Iraqi Allies

Are progressing...

The new Iraqi Army wants to be just like their American counterparts. Iraqi military uniforms look very much like the U.S. ones. The weapons and vehicles are the same. And the Iraqis are emulating how U.S. troops move, as well as how they look. In combined operations, it’s often difficult to tell, at a glance, who are the Americans, and who are the Iraqis. More than once, during a firefight, an American soldier dives for cover next to what he thinks is another G.I. But when he talks to the other “American”, he comes face-to-face with an Iraqi face talking back to him in Arabic. Fortunately, both armies use the same hand signals (a form of sign language used during combat, when voice commands cannot be heard, or when you want to maintain silence.) So the two will communicate with hand signs and get on with the battle.

The Council Has Spoken: 10/24/2008

Congratulations to this week’s winners:

Council: Bookworm Room – Why Obama’s “share the wealth” argument should hurt him

NonCouncil: Hot Air – The Comprehensive Argument Against Barack Obama

Voting here.

Oil Cost Differences between OPEC Nations

This Bloomberg article point out something that I haven’t come across before regarding oil production:

``The divisions arise in OPEC because what countries need and want varies,’’ said Gareth Lewis-Davies, an oil analyst at Dresdner Kleinwort Group Ltd. in London. ``The Saudis are playing a long-term political game. Other countries have higher costs.’’

Saudi Arabia needs oil prices of less than $30 a barrel to balance its government budget, according to Merrill Lynch & Co. estimates. The United Arab Emirates requires $40 a barrel and Qatar $55.

Iran, with double the population of Saudi Arabia, has a breakeven point of about $100 a barrel, according to Edward Morse, managing director and chief economist at Louis Capital Markets LP in New York. In Venezuela, where President Hugo Chavez’s government is spending oil revenue on social programs, the figure is about $120, he said.

Today oil is trading at $69 a barrel, down 52% from its high this past July. Given that the price is dropping at the same time an announcement is expected from OPEC cutting production by 2.5 million bbls/day – the output of Kuwait, it’s clear that investors believe that the recession in the US and oil consuming nations will boost supplies more than OPEC can cut them. It also shows an expectation that the OPEC nations will cheat, producing more than their OPEC quotas in an attempt to sell as much oil they can before the price falls even further. This is the exact opposite of the situation this past summer where rising prices made it lucrative for nations to pump as little as they could in order to sell oil later at higher prices.

By pointing out different production costs between OPEC nations the Bloomberg article explains the behavior the individual OPEC states. Saudi Arabia has been one of the few OPEC nations to recognize the long term costs of high oil prices. They show a heroin dealer’s acumen when it comes to addiction: make your product too expensive and you increase the incentive of your junkies to quit. Iran and Venezuela lack that knowledge – and given that their production costs are up to 4x that of the Saudi’s it’s clear why.

UPDATE: Here’s an article at the Economist with slightly different figures but roughly the same idea.

The Good Daughter

The sky was almost as violent as the ocean it hung above, grey and violet blue tinged clouds rolling high above the wind whipped sea. As we trudged our way up the dunes, the three of us could hear nothing but the angry roaring of the waves slapping the shore. When we reached the top, the wind slammed us with a constant force as it came out of the north. Up and down the coast we looked and found that we were the only people determined enough to visit the ocean for a mission planned over three and a half years before. This was a nameless beach on Fenwick Island Delaware, near to the moldering Sands Motel, sacred ground for the Wife’s family. And in these gale force winds we came down to release the ashes of her parents.

Today for sale signs dot the lot where the Sands Motel sits along Route 1 on Fenwick Island. The outdoor pool is drained to near empty, exposing peeling paint along its walls. The outdoor carpeting is worn through in places and patched with duct tape. Inside the rooms are showing their age too, with scratches on the walls left where large painting had once hung, replaced by smaller prints that leave no impression or memory once you look away. The faucets are stained with rust and the slats of the vertical blinds are broken.

We had booked the room the day we arrived using the Wife’s name. At one time long ago the owner of the Sands had been a family friend, but this time the slightly bored receptionist watching college football was polite but made no comment about the name when I registered. Members of the Wife’s family had been going to this hotel for most of its existence, arriving there in the late 1950s when the motel was new and the solitude offered by Fenwick Island had not yet been discovered by the monied in Virginia and Washington DC. Instead Fenwick was a place that most people from the north sped through on their way to the boisterous and exciting boardwalk in Ocean City, and the Fenwick Island police padded the city’s coffers by catching them as they breezed through town above the 35 MPH speed limit.

Back then the In-Laws would load the Wife and her siblings into the car for the long drive through the Delaware countryside and the small towns of Middletown, Milford and Dagsboro along Route 113. The journey took twice as long as it does today after the completion of the Route 1 toll road between Dover and the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. At least once a year, usually after Labor Day, the In-Laws would pack up the kids, and later, their grandchildren, and stay a week or two at the Sands in what would eventually become a family tradition. Most of the photographs of her family on our walls were taken at Fenwick Island as a testament to the longevity and importance of these family outings.

We arrived in the late afternoon and spent the night at the Sands along with a handful of other guests. While walking the dogs around the neighborhood after arriving we noted that since our last visit several small single story beach homes had been replaced by multi-story palaces, many sporting for sale signs like the Sands motel itself. Most of the properties were empty but those that weren’t had cars in their driveways sporting out of state plates. Virginia. New Jersey… Those states have beaches, the Wife growled, why do they have to come here?

That night we stopped at a candy shop. When we arrived back at the motel the Kid noted that the candy tasted different; the following morning he made a similar observation about the breakfast at the local restaurant where his grandparents had taken him numerous times over the years.

The truth of the matter was that Fenwick Island was different for us. What had made it special was gone, lost to time and now known only in memory. If Fenwick itself was different, so was our family. The Sister-in-law’s divorce was no excuse for her children, one of whom only called his grandmother around the holidays. I pass the other in the aisles of Target where he works when he’s not in school. We smile and nod “Hi” to one another like acquantenances. He visited his grandmother four days before she died, then ignored our messages begging him to come to her death bed. I haven’t seen him since.

Fenwick was different; our family was different. There was nothing left to do but accept these truths.

I took the box containing the ashes and at the Wife’s request I opened them and removed the plastic bag that held them shut with a twist tie. Inside were the mixed remains of both the Father-in-law and the Mother-in-law. The Wife cradled them under her pullover as we climbed the dune and walked to the waterline of the beach. As the Kid took the dog upwind, she undid the twist tie and allowed the bag to billow open.

The Wife shook the bag, and with each shake a great cloud of dust took flight as the wind whisked them along the beach and near the surf line, exactly where they belonged, leaving a greyish-black smudge on the sand and the fine froth whipped up by the wind.

At such a poignant moment one would hope that one could transcend the mundane in order to feel some sort of cosmic connection or at least a touch of the sublime – what Buddhists term satori. Unfortunately that wasn’t possible for me. I was concerned about a sudden change of wind direction coating us in ashes, or worse, take them to the direction of the multi-million dollar homes on the leeward side of the dunes. I also had to fight back tears of my own that wouldn’t have done anyone any good. I was terrified that our Auxiliary Dog, who was bounding happily on the sand chasing sand pipers and sea gulls would step in the black and grey remains as they laid in the wet sand waiting for a wave to wash them away.

The heavier fragments fell closest to us, and most appeared the same size and shape as fingernail clippings. However the Wife bent down and picked up one, about the length of a matchstick and as thick as a pencil. At first I thought it was a piece of driftwood, and said as much. “It’s bone,” she said, looking at it calmly for a moment before lobbing it into the surf.

We wait for the sea to wash her parents’ remains away, to blend them with the sand and sea water that had lapped timelessly at this beach. The Wife stands braced against the wind at her back, her face devoid of emotion. A wave laps near the remains but breaks before reaching them, then soon another. Finally a few seconds later a larger wave comes in on top of a smaller one and washes over the remains, leaving little trace of the physical remains of a brilliant scientist and his headstrong yet devoted wife. Married fifty-eight years, with four children, and several grandchildren. Together in death as they had been in life, their remains blend together then disappear into the sand and surf on Fenwick Island.

Sometimes I imagine my life to have the same poignancy and drama as a movie, but Life – or at least my life – is not like that. It wasn’t until we were on the ride back home, the Wife and the Kid in their own separate iPod encased worlds, the Chihuahua splayed out on the Wife’s lap and the labrador laying between the seats that I was able to see the moment for what it was.

In my mind I imagined that Time became untangled from Space and all of the fifty year family history that had occurred on the beach took place at once. The Wife as a child exploring for sea shells with her older brother while her mother played with her little sister in the sand and her father relaxed behind sunglasses. Nearby the Wife plays in the sand with the Stepson as her parents stroll along the water’s edge. The Sister-in-law and her husband build sand castles with her nephews. The Kid, only a few months old, scrambling like a turtle along the sand as the Wife focuses her camera. The Kid hoisted high onto my shoulders as I walk at the water’s edge. The Kid and I splashing in the surf as the Wife and her parents lounge in folding beach chairs. The Kid running after the dog to keep him away while the Wife shakes the ashes into the wind.

All these moments blend together seamlessly into one crowded scene taking place on a small strip of beach at the Delaware shore.

“They were good parents. I was a good daughter,” the Wife said to no one in particular as we had returned to the car, our mission accomplished. I knew at that moment we would never again return this beach, never stay at this motel. Like so many other places I had been, I knew deep down that I would never see it again.

I am okay with that.

The Council Has Spoken: Oct 18, 2008

Congratulations to this week’s winners:

Council: Joshuapundit- The Jewish Stockholm Syndrome

Noncouncil: Jim Hoft/Pajamas Media – The Complete Guide To ACORN Voter Fraud

Full voting here.

McCain’s Bad Luck

At least one MSM writer gets it. Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Jonathan Last recognizes that McCain has suffered some of the worst luck a presidential candidate can suffer.

Furthermore, with one exception (Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel), no Republican in Congress had been more critical of President Bush’s administration than McCain. He was the only Republican to seriously oppose Bush in 2000, and the two had never been personally close.

And yet the Obama campaign, with some success, has depicted McCain as Bush’s heir. And it wasn’t just Bush who was being hung around McCain’s neck. In September, the Obama campaign ran ads tying McCain to Rush Limbaugh.

Limbaugh, of course, detests McCain, having said during the primaries that he would vote for Obama or Hillary Clinton before casting a ballot for the Arizona senator. McCain had always worn this scorn as a badge of honor. But now he was getting it coming and going.

Had Wall Street not melted down over the past month, or had some foreign policy crisis arisen, McCain would have surged even with the majority of the mainstream media working against him. But economic trouble traditionally leads to Democrat surges – unless the Democrats are in power in which case, like Jimmy Carter in 1980, the Republicans benefit.

John McCain deserves better than this. If anyone deserves blame for the failure of John McCain to achieve the presidency, it’s the Bushes. McCain’s best shot was in 2000, and had he survived the Super Tuesday hit by the Bushes, I believe that he would have handled things much better than the ultimate winner, George W. Bush.

But we will never know.

If Obama Wins… Part 2

This is Part 2 of a series. 
Part 1 can be found here
A satire of the Obama presidency can be viewed here.—- 

In three short weeks America will go to the polls, and if the current polls are in the least bit accurate, elect Barack Obama to the presidency. This will end the presidential ambitions of John McCain and I suspect Hillary Clinton. It will also mark the high point of the Democratic Party for the next 20 years, and mark the end of the current generation of Republican Party with its roots in the Reagan Revolution and Newt Gingrich’s Contract for America.

Psychologically his ascendancy to the highest office in the land will inspire faith in the system for the disenfranchised – for a while. However people’s expectations for his presidency are completely out of whack with the reality of the office he will assume come January 2009, and if the Republicans need a strategy to survive as a party, they could do worse by encouraging them once the election is over.

Obama cannot lift an entire segment of the population out of poverty. There will be no increased handouts under an Obama administration, no slavery reparations that will turn everyone in the inner-city into millionaires overnight.  The tax credits he proposes – the ones that pay the poorest back more than they pay in taxes won’t be noticeable. A few hundred dollars extra in their pockets will not make them feel rich, even if the tax package becomes reality after it goes through the meat-grinder of the budget process.

Barack Obama will face a deficit of half a trillion dollars (some forecast a deficit in 2009 of $700 billion)  and a total debt of $9.67 trillion with declining tax revenues, thanks to a recession that economist Nouriel Roubini predicts will be the worst in 40 years.  There cannot be an explosion of social programs that some on the Left would like without the money to pay for it. Even nationalized health care, which is possibly the Democrat’s most popular platform plank (I even support it to some degree) isn’t possible under such economic conditions. While the Republican party will be in disarray, opposition to spending will most likely come from his own party: the so-called “blue dog Democrats” who opposed the recent Wall Street bailout bills.

What do his supporters expect? Since many of the disenfranchised don’t know about budget constraints or separation of powers they will either become impatient with Obama or blame a conspiracy – most likely the latter.

What can Obama do the economy? The American economy is roughly $15 trillion. As Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson are finding out, it’s not easy to control such a large economy. The US Federal Budget for 2009 submitted by President Bush weighed in at $3.1 trillion. Even if as expected Obama boosts spending significantly over the next four years it is unlikely that he can either “save the economy” (as his supporters believe) or “wreck it” as his detractors expect. Managing such a large economy using federal spending is like controlling a car using only one wheel; while it is possible for a single tire to make the economy speed up or slow down a little it can’t turn the car around on its own. 

Where Obama will have the greatest impact will be on taxes, which can be “reformed” or flat-out overturned by a Republican congress or presidency in the future. I believe that it’s likely such manipulation by Obama will make any recession worse; however to blame a Depression or recession on him alone is giving the man and the position power that they lack. The forces that are at play in the economy – bad loans and deflating asset values – are complex economic forces that took years to develop and will take just as long to dissipate. But American capitalism has weathered similar crises in the past and will no doubt survive them in the future.

Another area of impact will be his administration’s effect on the judiciary. By appointing judges to the lower courts and having his party in the majority to rubber stamp them, an Obama presidency can leave its mark on the federal judiciary that will outlast its potential eight years in office. Given the likelihood that the Republicans will eventually regroup to resist the more extremist appointments to the lower courts after the 2010 election at the earliest (more likely 2012), expect the next Congress to fill most judicial vacancies quickly. I would expect this to be one of the Obama administration’s highest priority early in his first term.

What about the Supreme Court? Is the 2nd Amendment about to be repealed and abortion made legal for all ages and in all forms? The most conservative justices on the bench also happen to be some of the youngest: Clarence Thomas (60), Samuel Alito (58), and John Roberts (53). Only Antonin Scalia and moderate Anthony Kennedy are showing any kind of wear at 72. Any Supreme Court appointment by Obama will most likely replace one of the aging liberals on the bench. If I were a gambling man I would bet that John Paul Stevens (88) can’t wait for Obama to takeover so that he can retire – possibly as early as Spring 2009. In the end I would expect no changes to the direction of the court unless Obama pulls an FDR and tries to pack it – and the medication I’m on to control my paranoia makes that hard for me to believe.

UPDATE 10/20/2008:
For a contrasting view visit Roger Kimball, “Is Obama a “transformational figure”? You don’t know the half of it.”

Stop Paying Your Mortgage…

And win big from the government. That’s the realization Paul Michael comes to in this excellent piece on how the stupid are rewarded and the cautious penalized.

But here’s the big question. Should we just stay in the house and stop paying the mortgage completely? An article I recently read by Peter Schiff seems to confirm my thinking. Let’s look at the pros and cons. First, if we stop paying the mortgage we know we won’t be kicked out. There will be a moratorium put on foreclosures, so we could quit paying our largest bill and put that money in the bank, ready to use to buy a new home.

Second, as we have now stopped paying our mortgage we would fall into the category of “struggling homeowner.” Which means, ladies and gents, that the government will swoop in and help us out! Yep, as unfair as it sounds, we’ll get help if we suddenly become irresponsible. My mortgage would be renegotiated, probably at a lower rate, and for the current price of my home. Plus, I’ll have saved thousands on mortgage payments until that happens. It could take six months…that’s around $10,000 we’ll have saved.

The only downside I can see would be a tarnished credit rating. But so what? For the amount of money I’m saving, it seems well worth it. And I’ll still keep my house.

Go on. Fight the Power after speaking Truth to it. Do like Lefty hero Abby Hoffman and “steal this house.”

Firing the S&W 1911 .45 ACP

With the Kid at school and a mandatory holiday from work I headed down to the range for a little “me time.” We’ve had our eyes on the Smith and Wesson 1911 .45 for awhile now, but since the experience with the .40 I wanted to try it out alone before I handed it over to the Kid.

Smith and Wesson 1911

This was my first time firing a large bore handgun, and the 1911 did not disappoint.  The gun felt substantial without being heavy and honestly kicked about as much as some of the smaller calibers I’ve fired. At 10 yards out after my first shot hit at the 8 mark, I hit 9 nine marks and the remaining 40 falling into the red 10+. The groupings were very narrow left-right, leading me to believe that had I focused more on my breathing I would have shot even better. This was some of the best shooting I’ve done with any handgun, and the accuracy of such a large bore weapon surprised me. The trigger was smooth without being squishy, giving me that bit of surprise when I was on target and triggering the round.

On the negative I did have a few jams ejecting the rounds and reloading. I attribute these to my modified weaver stance with married thumbs – or rather my failure to execute the stance properly. My right arm was slightly bent at the elbow so that when the round fired, my arm took some of the force that should have gone into moving the slide. Towards the end of the session I did manage to keep my arm solid in the stance without causing too much shake, but I think it would be much easier to fire the gun with a classic stance. Stronger arms would no doubt have helped too.

After finishing a box of 50 I switched to .22 do to price ($20 vs 100 rounds of .22 for $7) – but reluctantly. Even with the power of the .45 I probably could have shot another box without tiring.

Overall I’m very impressed with this weapon. For stopping power and accuracy this gun will serve you well.

A better review of the gun can be found at Gunblast.

The Council Has Spoken: Oct 10, 2008

Congratulations to this week’s winners:

Council: Wolf Howling – Hurricane Subprime – Part I (1977-2000)

Noncouncil: Baseball Crank – The Integrity Gap, Part I of III: Gov. Sarah Palin

Full voting here.

Oil Boom Turns to Bust

In May I wrote the following:

In January 2007 oil was at $50 barrel; in May 2007 it was at $60. Today, May 21, it traded at $134. So in a period of 1 year it the price of oil has more than doubled. In 16 months it has nearly tripled.

When prices rise quickly in a very short time you are in a bubble. It doesn’t matter whether you are talking about commodities, internet stocks, or tulips. When you have the feeling that you are on a rocket and the only way to go is up, then you are actually standing on the surface of a bubble. And bubbles always burst.

I even went so far as to predict that the oil bubble would burst the last week of July. As far as an educated guess goes, I wasn’t that far off the mark. Oil peaked on July 11. Oil is trading as I write, October 10, 2008 at $77.32 - a 47% decline from it’s high.

What happened? Several things. First demand slackened and the dollar strengthened. These two factors caused speculators to realize that the downside of oil was greater than the upside. As money started to flow out of the commodity, investors expecting the price to rise were forced to cover their positions. This lead to the slow deflation of the bubble until the last weeks of September.

For the last weeks panic has gripped the stock market as irrational exhuberance switched to fear caused by the credit crisis. Now everyone is expecting a deep recession which will caused demand for oil to plummet. What had been a perfect storm supporting the these of “peak oil” has changed into a “perfect storm” where the value of oil has collapsed.

As a contrarian by nature, I believe that the panic occurring in the market is ignoring the fundamentals. If I gambled, I would be plowing money into the market, buying stock in companies with solid fundamentals that have been caught up in the, I believe the economic term is “hoopla”. As for Oil, OPEC is going to cut supply, but the organization has a terrible track record in stabilizing prices so I don’t expect the official cut to do much (or stop countries from selling on the side to make as much money as possible before the oil price falls even further). Russia and Venezuela, two countries that have ridden high on the boom in oil prices will be hit the hardest.

So what does this prove? It shows that for every boom there is a bust, that economic gravity still exists. There is no need for exotic explanations like “peak oil”. I doubt we will be hearing that term much more over the next few months.

The Razor Turned 7

The Razor turned 7 years old this week. While it has never become a popular destination on the Web, I do hope that it has added something positive to the blogosphere during this time.

It all started with this....

Rohrschach Test for the Left

Currently there is a strain of logic that is appearing on college campuses and salons of the Left as America goes to war. This logic is what is called the “rape victim asked for it” defense of the indefensible. This logic which has been repeated in the letters to the editor of this and other papers states that the terrorists are not at fault for the attack on the Pentagon and WTC  – we Americans are. The terrorists were merely reacting to American policies abroad such as the support of Israel and continued sanctions on Iraq and are therefore ultimately not responsible for the 7,000 dead. The American government is – and since the government represents the will of our people, we Americans are to blame for the death and destruction of September 11, 2001. All that remains is for a call for reparations to the families of the dead hijackers.

As several commentators on both sides of the political spectrum have pointed out, this logic is flawed for a variety of reasons. First, it de-humanizes the terrorists by making them into thoughtless automatons, lacking the human quality of “free-will”. However, we know that these terrorists had the free-will to call off their mission by walking away, refusing to do it, or by contacting authorities. Instead they exercised their free-will by choosing to kill as many people as they possibly could.

Secondly, they excuse the attack by blaming American policy abroad. American support of Israel is mentioned as a possible reason for the attack. This logic seeks to ignore the fact that Israel is the only democracy in the region, and that for every atrocity blamed on the Israelis there is another one perpetrated against them. It also ignores the fact that the Israelis have never committed a terrorist act against the United States, unlike other groups within the region. Nor does it take into account the thirty years America has worked to build a lasting peace within the region, and the fact that the US is hated almost as much by the Israeli Right as the Islamic Right as a result.

Islamic fundamentalists have universally condemned the Camp David Accords negotiated by President Carter and signed by Egypt and Israel, an agreement which President Anwar Sadat of Egypt paid for with his life – assassinated by members of the Islamic Fundamentalist movement. These groups do not want peace between Israel and the Palestinians. What they seek is what Arab commentators have euphemistically called “finishing what the Germans started”, namely, the slaughter of all Jews present within Israel. This claim was reiterated this week by Osama Bin-Laden’s fatwa calling for the “killing of Americans and Jews wherever they might be”.

The motives of the attackers are still unclear – a problem which allows the imaginations to run wild on the Left, blaming the attack for American aggression against North Vietnam (a state currently seeking better ties with the USA), North Korea (a Stalinist regime known for its rattling of sabers while food bowls go empty), and the all-encompassing term, “American Imperialism”.

Such attempts at ascribing motives to the attackers simply show that the attackers didn’t have any. The attacks become a kind of Rohrschach Test for those bearing a grudge against the US government in which they see the motive they want to see. Such attempts have everything to do with the mindset of the explainer and nothing whatsoever to do with the true motives of the attackers.

In a sense this is an attempt by minds to make sense of the nonsensical. By providing motive to the attack, people feel better. They can take comfort in people having been killed for a reason, that the attack was some kind of message which we now must heed.

This attempt at understanding is the Left’s attempt at gaining control of the situation. However it is the kind of control exercised by a battered wife who seeks to take command of the violent outbursts and attacks of her husband by making him happy and avoiding the actions which set him off.

However, to an outside party it is evident who is in control in this situation: the husband is. And the only solution to the problem is to remove the woman from the situation or jail her husband. In our situation there is no “jail” that will hold Bin-Laden, nor is there anywhere that we can run. Imagine a scenario where a group attempts to free him by holding a city hostage to a small nuclear device. Our only solution is to hunt him down and kill him before he kills us.

This anti-American government logic also ignores the positive things America has done in the Muslim world. America has fought two wars against a Christian nation, Serbia, to halt atrocities the Serbs were committing against Muslims in Kosovo and Bosnia. It has been the primary aid donor to Afghanistan. It intervened in Somalia in an attempt at bringing peace to the collapsing nation and attempted to feed its starving population while bandits robbed aid agencies and UN forces and Muslim militants shot and killed American soldiers. America’s experience in Somalia prevented its intervention in Rwanda a year later. 800,000 people were murdered in an orgy of violence which the US and UN forces could have easily prevented. Since Osama Bin-Laden has been implicated in the actions in Somalia against US forces, by the logic of the Left he would also be responsible for the resultant slaughter in Rwanda.

Finally, it ignores the failures of Islamic fundamentalism in the region. What has Osama Bin-Laden and the Taliban done for Muslims except starved and killed them? Bin-Laden killed more Muslims in the WTC and embassy attacks in Africa than the Israelis have in years of bloody fighting in the West Bank and Gaza. He is wealthy, yet how many hospitals has he built? How many clinics? How many Muslim children has he put through school?

Bin-Laden and his organization are nothing new – contrary to what you may be reading. We have seen his type before: Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. The Hutu Militias which like to explain their atrocities using political terms. Slobodan Milosovic and his fanatical followers of thugs, murderers and rapists which also resorted to religious imagery – albeit of a later time (13th Century vs the 12th Century espoused by the Taliban). Idi Amin in Uganda. And of course, Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich.

All of these men have stood up against the USA and been exposed as murderous charlatans. Bin-Laden and his Taliban supporters will as well – if not abetted in their conquest by the well-intentioned Left.

If Obama Wins…

While I am a die-hard McCain supporter and Republican who believes deep down that electing Obama to the presidency will weaken the United States economically and militarily, I think its worth considering as objectively as possible whether any good could come out of an Obama win next month. Given the white-hot rhetoric at this point in the election it’s almost impossible to imagine anything good coming out of the election of the most liberal US senator to the Presidency without the constraints of a strong opposition party. But given the poll numbers it’s worth a try.

For the past forty years a large segment of the American population has been alienated from politics to the point where the most common public enemy in our culture is the American government itself. The United States government regularly plays the “bad guy” role in Hollywood movies, and TV shows from the X-files to the more recent 24 have the heroes battling against a government which knows everything and attempts to silence its critics using all means at its disposal. These anti-government conspiracy themes, once exclusive to the extremist right wing, have gone mainstream thanks to two generations of anti-government propaganda in the schools, newspapers, magazines, movies, music and nearly all forms of media. What once motivated only the likes of Timothy McVeigh has now become mainstream.

The distrust of authority is not new. In fact one could argue that it appeared at the genesis of the country as the oppressed fled their homelands in Europe for new lives and less interference in the New World. In fact distrust of government could be thought of as a common interest between Left and Right although for different reasons. While the Left distrusts the military industrial complex it paradoxically expects a check every month from its social services arm. The Right is the opposite, pouring money and power into the military while starving federal bureaucracies. Nevertheless there is a contradiction at the core of both political wings: both distrust the government with some things yet trust it completely.

Many of Obama’s backers have been disenfranchised from politics for generations. Voting and seeing the results of their actions should prove that the system works for everyone – not just the wealthy.  So far Obama has campaigned against an unpopular lame duck two-term sitting president. Upon his inauguration a President Obama would have to lead. This will require making choices, each of which will leave just as many unhappy people as pleased ones. His popularity will inevitably wane as his supporters realize that he is not a messaianic figure, just a normal politician that has risen to meteoric heights quickly through luck as much as political acumen. It is better for the schooling in political reality of the newly empowered to occur by their own man than his opponent.

The press and the mainstream media has openly championed the Obama candidacy. An Obama presidency would force the media to make a choice: Resume its antagonistic Fourth Estate role towards power or give up and become the propaganda outlet of the government. Faced with this hard choice some media outlets would no doubt opt for the former (newspaper outlets) while others like Jann Wenner’s rags would no doubt continue to mythologize an Obama presidency just as it has the Obama candidacy.

Budget reality – a deficit of 3% of GDP and rising heading into a recession – will constrain Obama’s spending programs much more effectively than an opposition wielding the fillibuster.

An Obama presidency will purge the last vestiges of the Clinton machine from the Democrats. Even a reality-chastened Obama will enter 2012 much stronger than the junior senator from New York, so it’s unlikely that Sen. Hillary Clinton will be able to mount a formidable challenge to his reelection as Reagan was able to do in 1976 against Gerald Ford and Ted Kennedy was able to do four years later during the Democratic primaries against President Jimmy Carter.

President George W. Bush has become a figure of hatred in the eyes of many both here and abroad. His replacement in office by Barack Obama, a figure that is viewed favorably abroad, would at least serve to temper rising anti-Americanism among our allies in Europe and South America. This would also take some of the allure away from Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; while the Bush administration has been successful at wielding hard power of the military, it has been much less successful at using soft power such as the international media to further American interests abroad. An Obama presidency could give the appearance of change while America’s military might remained.

Iraq is relatively stable and quiet going into an Obama presidency. If in a year or two it destabilizes then Republicans could capitalize on the situation using the meme “Obama lost Iraq.” If it remains stable, then the Bush presidency will look less a disaster than it has been portrayed by the media, although the “success” in Iraq will no doubt be attributed to Obama. For those of us who have never waivered in our support of a free and democratic Iraq, it doesn’t matter who gets the credit as long as Iraq thrives.

Which brings us to terrorism. Terrorism is Obama and the Democrats Achilles Heel. Any successful attack on US soil under an Obama presidency would force the Democrats to “own” this issue in a way that they haven’t done in opposition to Bush. Under the Bush administration Democrats have used their opposition status to champion the closure of Guantanamo Bay and the extension of civil liberties to terrorism suspects without bearing the responsibility of those policies. This would change if and when a terrorist attack occurred on Obama’s watch. While the 9-11 Report blamed the policy failures of the prior administrations for the event, the public and many commentators viewed the attacks as such a shock that they gave a pass to those who formulated policies that allowed the attacks to happen. Such forgiveness would not occur to an Obama administration that failed to take the lessons of the 9-11 Commission to heart. Either the adminstration would swing further to the far left to justify this failure, which would result in its removal from office in the next election or worse, impeachment, or it would advocate many of the same policies the Democrats opposed under the Bush administration.

Finally, the complete loss of power would force some much needed Republican soul searching. Either the party will return to the ideals of small government and fiscal responsibility that swept Reagan to power in 1980 or it will die and be replaced by a new conservative party. Such “creative destruction” is common in the free market beloved by Republicans, so it should be embraced when it applies to a political party. With a rejuvenated Republican Party or a completely new opposition party, either way the nation will be strengthened.

America is nothing if not resilient, and to absorb the rhetoric that Obama will ruin it makes Obama appear stronger than he really is, and America weaker. It has survived numerous wars and economic collapses. It has weathered bad presidents and managed to thrive. It will survive an Obama presidency and even be made stronger if those of us who oppose him recognize the opportunities that his presidency present us and use them to our full ability.