Archive for December 2008

Last Post of the Year

TV is on mute, the Kid is upstairs on a computer. Wife is checking out properties in North Carolina, our future home, while the Chi sits curled up between us.

The ropes tying us to this port are being cut one by one and soon we will leave the place we’ve called home for almost 12 years. Acreage, mountains, horses and small town Southern America loom. It will be a big change in a life full of changes.

We leave a loved one behind in this year, the Mother-in-law. I’m afraid that I will lose my own mother during the coming year. Nevertheless Life will happen regardless of my hopes and fears, but that doesn’t stop me from hoping (or fearing) as I do every year.

This is my home, filled with Life and hope. I would have it no other way.

Time For Reid to Surrender

So the question I wanted to ask the Gov, “How much did he pay you for the appointment?” wasn’t asked Blago by the j-school grads at the press conference naming Roland Burris to the Senate.

I fully expect Burris to be seated in the Senate. I don’t think Sen. Harry Reid has the balls for this fight.

Reid has lost the war (against Blago). It’s time for him to withdraw (from the fracas).

It’s going to be a fun political year. I just feel it.

Walking In Israel’s Shoes

As I write Israel is bombing Hamas targets in the Gaza strip, leaving 360 Palestinians dead, most of whom are women and children judging by the sympathetic (and stage managed) European press.

Palestinian Child Watches Funeral of Palestinian Children Killed by Israeli Air Strike
A Palestinian boy watches the funeral of three
children in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip
December 29, 2008. (Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters)

The Western Press has paid little attention to the rocket and mortar attacks on Israelis occurring on a daily basis for the past 8 years. Here is a photograph of a mother of 4 who was killed by a Hamas rocket in Ashdod.

Israeli Mother of 4 Killed by Rockets
Murdered: Irit Sheetrit, mother of 4 (Avi Rokach, Ynet News)

While the newspapers and airwaves are filled with pictures of Palestinian killed or wounded by Israel thanks to careful manipulation by Hamas, the European and American press ignore the Israeli victims that are behind the Israeli attacks. This fits “the narrative” that Israel is an apartheid, terrorist state while the Arabs are the oppressed, allowing the terrorists to use the consciences of Jews, Europeans and Americans as cover for their killing spree.

Since 2000 Islamic terror groups have launched 10,046 rockets and mortars at Israel, most falling within a 20 km band from Gaza. Of these, terror groups launched 7,000 after Israel quit the Gaza Strip in 2005. The attacks killed or wounded nearly 300 Israelis (est), a ratio of roughly 35 missiles for each Israeli casualty.

Kassam Rockets, courtesy
Kassam 2 Rockets, Enough to Kill an Israeli Mother of Four 

Kassams compromise the majority of rockets used in the attacks against Israel. The Kassam I was first used in 2001 against Israelis settlements in Gaza. The Kassam I weighs 12 lbs is 60mm in diameter, 31 inches long and carries a pound of explosive. The Kassam I has a 3km range. The Kassam 2 (shown above) weighs 70 lbs, is 150mm in diameter, 72 inches long and carries 11-15 lbs of high explosive. It has a range of 8 kms. The Kassam 3 and 4 are even larger, with the latter having a range of 20 kms. Israeli intelligence suspects that longer range rockets are on the drawing board, especially if sanctions are lifted on the Hamas regime. While these relatively small rockets can be manufactured in Gaza or be smuggled in from Egypt through tunnels, the larger and more sophisticated rockets would have to come from Iran, Syria or Russia by land and sea. These rockets have ranges of 40 km, effectively doubling the area currently under siege.

Recently as I was viewing satellite imagery of Israel, I was struck by how small the country is. At 20,770 km square if Israel were an American state it would be the sixth smallest – bigger than New Jersey, Hawaii, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island. Gaza itself is roughly the size of Detroit at 360 km square. At its narrowest point between the Mediterranean Sea and Judea and Sumaria (aka the West Bank) Israel is only 15 km – 9 miles – wide.

I don’t think Americans appreciate how physically small Israel is. When we hear that Hamas is firing missiles with ranges of 20 km (12 miles) into Israel, it’s difficult to relate it to anything we know. After all 12 miles from the border of Mexico is less than 1% of the distance between the Mexican border in the south and the Canadian border in the north. With the exception of border cities like El Paso and San Diego, Kassams launched by Mexico would fall into scrubland and desert.

America is a large country and our geography determines much of how we think and relate to the world. Americans perceive of space differently – speaking as one taking 2 years to navigate the narrow aisles of a Japanese grocery store without knocking food off the shelves. Our country is big, our homes are big, our roads are long and wide. Two oceans protect our eastern and western shores, and we have neutralized our only military threat in the entire hemisphere – Cuba an island 90 miles away.

But things are different in Israel. Israel is a small, fragmented country surrounded by enemies. When people urge Israel to trade land for peace they fail to consider that Israel doesn’t have very much land to trade. Worse, while Israel gives its precious land away – as it has in Gaza and in south Lebanon – it receives nothing in return. Instead of peace its enemies quickly use the land as a staging area for more attacks in a quest to get even more land from Israel. In essence “Land for Peace” becomes ”Land for More Land”, a method of conquest of Israel by its enemies.

Here is a map showing the actual ranges of rockets fired from Gaza superimposed on a map of Israel. Note that prior to 2005 settler outposts in Gaza had buffered Israel from many of the rocket attacks. Once Israel withdrew, Hamas and the other terror groups were free to hit Israel-proper with missiles and mortars. The area shaded red is expected future capabilities and will be ignored for now. Everything blue, yellow and green has been under bombardment for the past 8 years.

Kassam rocket range, Israel
Bombardment ranges from Gaza, source: Anti-Israeli Terrorism in 2007
and Its Trends in 2008, IICC (pdf) (hattip). 

The 20 km distance ranges between 2/3 and 1/7 the width of Israel. For argument’s sake I will use an average of 1/4. For perspective imagine that a quarter of the width of the USA from Mexico – 500 km (300 miles) – was under bombardment from our southern neighbor.  What would a similar map look like?

USA Under Comparative Missile Range (copyright 2008
Comparative Range of Rocket/Mortar Bombardment at 500 km (300 miles)

Virtually the entire southwest including all of Southern California, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Albuquerque and most of Texas and approximately 40 million Americans would be exposed to daily attack. It’s difficult to imagine any American administration no matter how Leftist that could tolerate the attacks that Israel has been putting up with for the past 8 years. Interestingly this region corresponds to Aztlan, an area which Chicano supremacist groups like MEChA and “La Raza” hope to one day liberate.

We can go further. Israel’s population of 7.2 million is roughly 1/40 that of the United States. Multiplying the number of rocket and mortar casualties by 40 and the American equivalent is 12,000 dead and wounded. How much “restraint” could an American government be expected to exercise in such a scenario?

The old adage that one should wait to judge a man until after walking a mile in his shoes can help us appreciate the conditions of “peace” that Israel has lived under for most of the decade. We can only hope that the Israelis have the wisdom and fortitude necessary to do what it takes to protect itself. Given the performance of its current government, it has shown that until now it lacks both.

2008 in Rearview Mirror: 2009 Just Beyond the Hood Ornament

So here we are, another year after this post in which I pretty much threw up my arms and got out of the prediction business (or not: I actually predicted the decline of oil prices). I never would have imagined that 2008 would prove the greatest test of American Capitalism since 1929, that oil would be 1/2 of what it was at the end of 2007, and that we would elect America’s first black president who would then stay the course of the foreign policy that propelled him into the office. While it’s too early for me to say I like Obama, I must say that I admire his chutzpa.

I actually leave 2008 feeling a bit more sanguine than I usually am at these times. I’m a contrarian by nature, and when everyone is panicking and heading for the exits, I’m the kind of guy who grabs a bag of popcorn and moves to a better seat. I am seriously troubled by the looming bankruptcy of the state governments like California and New York, but when it comes to Wall Street I’m feeling confident that the worst is over. The Street tooks its lumps and things are going to be slow for the next year, but I trust two things: American enterprise and human greed. Wall Street will figure out new ways of making money and the financial industry will recover.

As for the American car industry, I see this languishing through 2009 with the Democrats loading the shotgun and putting the collar around its neck, but chickening out before they get to the back door. I expect more bailouts, more lackluster promises but no real action that forces the car makers to restructure and begin making cars people want to buy for prices people are willing to pay.

Over the short term I expect deflation to be as big a problem as inflation was in the 1970s. People are expecting prices to fall, and are holding back their purchases until they do. I know; I’m doing it myself. However I’m already beginning to consider what all these bailouts mean for the long term. Flooding the country with cash for everything from bridge repairs to autoworker salaries is going to create a situation where there is too much cash chasing too few goods and services – and that means inflation. Consider that right now companies are hoarding cash; when inflation hits that cash is going to lose even more value. What investments are safe? I’d sound like a Right wing loon if I said “Gold” so I won’t say it; but that metal is sure looking pretty these days.

So deflation followed by 70’s style inflation seems a recipe for economic instability over the next year or two. A lot of people are going to be hurt, especially by inflation which erodes the value of cash. If anything people need to pay attention to what’s going on; don’t panic just pay attention.

It will be interesting to see how wrong I am in a year.

Oh, and whatever happened to hood ornaments anyway?

The Council Has Spoken: 12/26/2008

Congratulations to this week’s winners:

The Razor - The Symbol of Oppression
Thank you to the Council. I am honored.

John Stossel - Arrogance and Conceit Won’t Fix the Economy

Full voting here.

The Modern Lament

My house needs its own IT department. I just wasted an hour getting one of my laptops’ reinstalls of iTunes to recognize a dozen songs that the Wife had just purchased under a different iTunes account than her iPod is registered under. This comes after getting the laptop’s XP drivers to recognize the iPod (2 out of 3 USB ports wouldn’t recognize the iPod – so I wasted another 15 minutes on that). That problem came hot on the heels of discovering that the 3rd power cord I’ve bought for the laptop is failing (Toshiba plugs are straight instead of “L” shaped like on most units. This puts the wires under tension when they are curved – leading to failure about every 4-6 months). Oh, and that don’t forget the reinstall of the laptop two days ago after several reboot freezes caused by a corrupted boot file somewhere.

Steve Jobs: I demand that 1 hour fifteen minutes back…

What Constitutes a Weapons Cache?

Two guns.

Police yesterday seized a small cache of weapons and ammo from the Totowa, NJ, home of troubled Giants star Plaxico Burress... Seized in the raid were one 9 mm handgun, a rifle and ammo for three additional guns – a .380, a .45 and a .40

The Yahoo! headline: “Weapons cache reportedly found at Plaxico Burress’ home

Gotta love that MSM

Is Gang Rape of a Lesbian Worse Than The Gang Rape of a Straight Woman?

Evidently it is in California.

Authorities are characterizing the attack as a hate crime but declined to reveal why they think the woman was singled out because of her sexual orientation.

So a straight woman can be gang raped in California and her assailants would be charged with “rape in concert” – carrying a possible sentence of 5-9 years, but a lesbian’s attackers will get that plus the additional time for the attack being deemed a hate crime? Do lesbians warrant special treatment like children?

Here’s an idea. Instead of creating a standard where some are more equal than others, why not toughen the punishment for rape regardless of the sexual orientation and irrespective of the sex of the rapist? Put these thugs away for 10-18 years – and keep them there.

Local story here.

Lego Terrorists

When Lego figures go bad…


The Symbol of Oppression

UPDATE: Voted Watcher of Weasels Council Winner 12/26/2008 – I am humbled by the honor.

This symbol represents the oppression of Eastern Europe during the Cold War. It played an important role in the genocide of the Killing Fields of Cambodia, and the continuing atrocities in Tibet, Burma and Sudan. Throughout its 50 year history it has been used as a weapon solely against democracies in support of authoritarian and dictatorial regimes. It’s body count is second only to the swastika yet is viewed as a symbol of peace by millions.

The roots of this symbol are soaked in the blood of innocents. The group credited for popularizing the symbol, a stylized combination of the semaphore signals for ‘N’ and ‘D’ (for nuclear disarmament), is the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). The CND was founded in 1958 by supporters of the Soviet Union including a spy for the East German Stasi, Vic Allen, and Michael Foote, later accused by KGB defector Oleg Gordievsky as being a KGB spy (Foote challenged the claim in UK court as libel and won.) Another member of the CND Granny Melita Norwood was the KGB’s top spy in the UK, passing secrets to them until she was arrested in 1999 at the age of 87 . She died unrepetant and free in 2005. The Mirror wrote at the time  “she never regretted her betrayal and was committed to the Soviet cause and to ‘peace and socialism’ up to her death.” In 1982 Deputy CIA Director John McMahon testified before Congress that the Soviet Union had provided $100,000,000 to anti-nuclear groups including the CND.

High ranking CND members also assisted in the rescue of KGB spy George Blake, who participated in a KGB misinformation ruse that ” systematically misled the West about the economic strength of the Iron Curtain countries.” Had Blake been discovered earlier it could have shortened the Cold War by years. Blake was discovered and jailed but managed to escape to East Berlin with the help of two senior members of the CND.

While most of the rank and file members supported disarmament on both sides of the Iron Curtain, CND actions were focused solely on weakening the US and its Western European allies. CND protests and actions never targeted the Soviet Union, China or other authoritarian regimes seeking or possessing nuclear weapons. It did not protest the placement of nuclear tipped missiles in Cuba in 1961 that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. The group did not march against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia that brought winter to the freedoms of the Prague Spring. Instead the group sought the unilateral disarmament of the West.

Mr.(Vic) Allen, the retired economics professor, tells the BBC in a coming segment of a series, ‘’The Spying Game,’’ that it was ‘’perfectly legitimate’’ for him to have kept the Soviets informed on his activities, since he represented an openly pro-Soviet wing of the antinuclear movement, which advocated disarmament by the West. ‘’I have no shame,’’ he said. ‘’I have no regrets.’’ (New York Times, Sept. 20, 1999).

The innocuous chicken scratch, the so-called symbol of peace represents nothing less than the capitulation of freedom to slavery, the subjugation of the individual to the State, and the oppression and outright genocide of millions. What is truly frightening is what could have happened had the CND gotten their way and disarmed the West. We recognize today the importance of the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) that prevented the Cold War from turning into a hot one. CND’s stance of unilateral disarmament would conversely have made a nuclear attack more likely, or at the very least have allowed the Soviet Union to use its vast nuclear arsenal to bully nations into subjugating themselves to its empire.

The impact of the symbol remained limited to the Western nations. The symbol has never been held against forces of dictatorships or non-democratic regimes. For example the Chinese man shown below was not wearing earrings crafted into the symbol nor was he wearing a shirt emblazoned with it.


No one carrying signs bearing this symbol can be seen in this picture taken in August 1968 as Czechs and Slovaks fought the onslaught of Soviet and Warsaw Pact tanks rolling into their country.

Soviet Tank in Prague - Copyright 1968 by Koudelka
Source: Movie City Indie: Photo by Josef Koudelka

As the 1960s wore on, the CND gradually splintered into various factions and the symbol was taken up across the Atlantic by Vietnam War protesters. In 1973 their efforts paid off with the withdrawal of US forces out of South Vietnam. In 1975 when the US Congress cut off funding to the regime, South Vietnam fell to North Vietnamese and Vietcong forces.

The symbol had triumphed at last, and those who had carried it aloft or worn it at protests could bask in the success by listening to disco music, snorting cocaine and enjoying promiscuous sex oblivious of the consequences of their actions in Southeast Asia. 200,000 South Vietnamese soldiers, politicians, business leaders and their families were sent to “re-education camps,” subjected to torture, disease and malnutrition. A decade later 120,000 remained in custody and upwards of 65,000 had died during the purges and forced resettlement to the countryside to the cities.

Following the collapse of the South Vietnamese regime, the Khmer Rouge under the leadership of Pol Pot took power in Cambodia. Pot had been supported by China and allied loosely with North Vietnam since 1970 against the pro-Western government in Phnom Penh. On April 17, 1975 Phnom Penh collapsed and surrendered to Khmer Rouge forces. During the take over of Cambodia the Khmer Rouge fully instituted its Maoist philosophy. Cities and villages were depopulated and people were sent to work the fields. Any type of dissent was met with summary execution. By the time relations with Vietnam had soured and its neighbor had invaded, between 1.6 million and 3.0 million had starved or been executed by the increasingly paranoid regime.

Phnomh Penh Skulls

Is it a stretch to link the anti-War movement in US cities like San Francisco, Chicago, and New York to the piles of skulls that dot the landscape of Cambodia?

Dr. Puangthong Rungswasdisab, Cambodian Genocide Program Research Fellow atYale University in his essay, “Thailand’s Response to the Cambodian Genocide” writes that the sole remaining pro-USA power in the area, Thailand, felt that the US had abandoned the region leaving Thailand no choice but to negotiate with the Khmer Rouge:

The Thai military had always believed that U.S. military power would no doubt defeat the communists in Southeast Asia and that they could rely on the U.S. commitment in the region. But the U.S. failure in the Vietnam War as well as Washington’s shift of focus to the Middle East, Europe and Latin America forced Washington to abandon its full involvement in Southeast Asia. The U.S. signed the Paris Accord with Vietnam in January 1973, and Congress prohibited direct or indirect U.S. combat activities in Indochina after August 1973.


When the situation dispelled all hope for the U.S. military intervention in Indochina, the Thai leaders realized that they had to try to live with communist neighbors. As it became clear in April 1975 that Washington had decided to abandon its client Nguyen Van Thieu of South Vietnam, Kukrit told the press that he had never thought of relying on the U.S.

One can rightfully argue that had the US under presidents Kennedy and Johnson not supported South Vietnam, it’s possible that the North Vietnamese would not have supported the Khmer Rouge initial rise to power. The nation as a whole bears responsibility with the North Vietnamese for the deaths of Vietnamese, Americans, Laotians and Cambodians during the war during the Vietnam conflict.

But opponents of the Vietnam War must shoulder some responsibility for the events that occurred after getting what they wanted: a US government out of Vietnam, legally barred from involvement in Southeast Asia, that created a power vacuum that the Khmer Rouge was only happy to fill. The result? 1.5-3.0 million dead Cambodians, and hundreds of thousands of dead South Vietnamese. President Lyndon Johnson has been called a war criminal by some on the Left. How about Jane Fonda, Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman, John Kerry and other leading anti-war figures? Don’t they bear some responsibility for the genocide that happened after the US left Indochina in 1975?

The CND continues its support of oppressive regimes today, this time by opposing defenses against nuclear missiles. This allies it with its old Cold War paymaster Russia. By opposing the shield it is in effect defending Russian nuclear deterrence.

Today the symbol is a thriving industry of apparel, jewelery and ephemera.

The peace symbol is displayed prominently in our culture, yet few question its origins or consider how a positive symbol could lead to genocide and oppression. But the truth is that Peace has killed in the past in Cambodia and Eastern Europe, continues to kill today in Darfur, Tibet and Burma, and will no doubt continue to kill in the future.

The Council Has Spoken: December 19, 2008

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: Bookworm Room - Selfish is as selfish does

Noncouncil: The Brussels Journal - On Deconstructing the Majority: Nothing To Do With Islam? Really?

Full voting here.

Bush’s Automaker Bailout

I knew the $15 billion automaker bailout was doomed yesterday when I saw it referred to by a Democratic pol as “Bush’s bailout.” This was squeezing the last bit of cover out of the soon-to-be former president in order to vote against the will of the American people. Too bad he was a wee bit premature.

One pundit has questioned the wisdom of the lame-duck Republicans in killing the bailout.

Congratulations GOP! You are now known as the only reason the American auto industry went down the tubes and the highly newsworthy blood of every disappearing auto sector job around the country will be on your hands. And all for a measly $15 billion – after you’d already given several times that to Wall Street.

This ignores the political mistake of bailing out the banking industry made by the Republicans (the bailout was vehemently opposed by the American public and opposition to it could have been used as a campaign issue against the Democrats during the ‘08 election) as well as the basic economic fact that banking is a critical industry to the functioning of our economy while car making is not. The argument that “we bailed out the banks so we should bail out the automakers” also ignore the fact that the two industries are struggling for very different reasons. The banks were overwhelmed by bad debt, in which case bankruptcy would have resulted in their dissolution, while automakers are tied by labor and supplier agreements which bankruptcy will remove allowing the companies to restructure.

The bottom line is that the automakers must restructure, and the bailout bill prevented that from happening. Anything that stands in the way of the restructuring only draws out the pain and makes the situation worse. Better to deal with the problem now than to carry the wounded automakers into the future at taxpayer expense.

Unfortunately at the time of writing it appears that the Treasury may step in and do the deed for Congress by raiding the $700 billion TARP fund. Rest assured that by doing this all the government has done is pushed forward the day of reckoning by a quarter or two. The Big 3 are still bleeding cash and producing cars that no one wants to buy, can’t buy even if they want to thanks to banks stockpiling cash instead of lending it, or can’t afford to buy given their household finances. With the $15 billion in hand, automakers and those who work for them or for the companies that supply them may breathe easier – but it would be a mistake to think that the crisis is over.

For decades the Big 3 have been producing too many cars and paying everyone too much to do their jobs. Statistics that I’ve seen show the Big 3 as paying autoworkers anywhere between $52-75/hour in salary and benefits. This does not include s0-called “job banks” where laid-off workers collect 90% of their pay while doing nothing but waiting for a job opening.

As a university educated family man who has spent the past 11 years working in information technology, it’s difficult to sympathize. I have seen my jobs sent to India and people imported from abroad to do jobs that paid only a fraction of the UAW salaries. I have never received severance pay of any type, let alone any that paid 90% of my working salary. I have had to adapt to the economy in order to keep a roof over my head and family fed without any safety net beyond the 6 months of $320/week state unemployment insurance. I have worked hard, learned new skills, and become flexible in order to to survive.

Why shouldn’t autoworkers have to do the same?

Now the finger pointing is in full swing. Nancy Pelosi calls the Republicans who voted against the bill “irresponsible”.  However Nancy must be weak math. The Weekly Standard notices that 10 Republicans voted for the bailout. With those 10 the Democrats should have easily had the 60 votes needed to pass. So what happened?

Four Democrats voted ‘nay’: Baucus, Tester, Lincoln, and Reid.

Four Democrats did not vote: Biden, Kennedy, Kerry, and Wyden.

(And, of course, the Democrats would have another member right now if Blagojevich had sold that Senate seat before he was busted.)

Reid voted against on procedural grounds but that still leaves Baucus, Tester and Lincoln – plus Delaware’s own Joe Biden (?), Kennedy – who’s dying from brain cancer, Kerry (?) and Wyden (who?). Baucus and Tester are “Blue Dogs” who probably feel the same way the rest of America does about the bailout and voted accordingly. So are they now on Nancy’s Poo-poo List?

The Council Has Spoken – Dec 12, 2008

Congratulations to this week’s winners:

Council: Joshuapundit - The Message Of Mumbai

Noncouncil: It’s time to speak out against the Mormon boycott - American Thinker

Full results.

The Obama Enigma

Like many who opposed the election of Barack Obama, his performance so far as president-elect has lessened the sting of the Republican’s loss of the White House. While I am no fan of Hillary Clinton or those who served under her husband, I do see her nomination as Secretary of State, and the elevation of other Clintonistas to serve in Obama’s cabinet with some  relief. I expected Barack Obama to act like a radical and pack his cabinet with the likes of Dennis Kucinich and Ward Churchill. Keeping on Defense Secretary Robert Gates helps assure me that America repeating 1975 Saigon in 2009 Baghdad was unlikely. Gates would not have stayed on if Obama had made it clear to him that he intended to flee the region with America’s collective tail between its legs. And the Clintonistas, while on the other side of the political divide, are at least grown ups who are capable of keeping the lights on in DC until the next Republican administration.

Obama began his tack rightward after securing the Democratic nomination, and has continued to drift in that direction since winning the election. He has already distanced himself from several campaign promises including promised windfall profits taxes on oil and reversal of elements of the Bush administration’s tax cuts. This is causing apoplexy among his liberal supporters. Politico reports:

OpenLeft blogger Chris Bowers went so far as to issue this plaintive plea: “Isn’t there ever a point when we can get an actual Democratic administration?”

Even supporters make clear they’re on the lookout for backsliding. “There’s a concern that he keep his basic promises and people are going to watch him,” said Roger Hickey, a co-founder of Campaign for America’s Future.

While many of us who opposed his election are chortling with glee to see his supporters fretting, we shouldn’t get carried away into thinking that Obama was really our candidate all along. Obama’s actions as President-Elect and the Right’s reaction to it only support the belief that Barack Obama is a mirror for the hopes and dreams of Democrats and has turned that charm on the Republicans. Yet Obama’s true character and beliefs remain hidden, thanks to a Mainstream Media that refused to investigate him as thoroughly as they had ”Joe the Plumber”,  and the man continues to be an enigma. We will only understand what Obama truly believes after he is in power making decisions and establishing a track record in the Oval Office, and there is every likelihood that track record will be the disaster we on the Right predicted.

I once hoped that Obama’s radicalism was a ruse, that he initially surrounded himself with radicals like Bill Ayers and Pastor Wright because they helped give a mixed-race Harvard graduate street cred in Chicago, one of America’s more racially sensitive and politically tough cities to be a politician. Obama may have felt the need to go to an extreme to bond with the African-American community because he was alien to it. He might share the same skin color as Jesse Jackson, but he has about as much in common with traditional black politicians as President George W. Bush does.

But Obama’s liberalism isn’t rooted in black politics. His mother was a white intellectual and his father a Kenyan foreign student. He grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, not the inner city streets. He spent more time at universities and law firms than he did in urban neighborhoods. It also didn’t hurt that the association to Bill Ayers connected Obama to Ayers’ family fortune and connections. Obama is ambitious but he wasn’t stupid. It was much easier for him to further his political career on the fringes of the Left than it was at the political center or right. The academic and intellectual waters he swam in were polluted with leftist ideology; his career would have gone belly up early on had he not soaked up at least some of their views.

At the very least Obama is steeped in a traditional liberal culture where Government is the solution to every problem. Therefore it’s tragic for the country that he is coming to power at a time when American Capitalism has been laid low by economic bubbles and regulation failure and the scions of American business line up under the Capitol dome for taxpayer handouts. Better to have a president committed to open and free markets at a time of economic crisis than one who looks to the New Deal for inspiration.

Is it possible that America has elected a stealth moderate or possibly even a conservative? Possible but unlikely. Obama’s moves to the center and the right have more to do with political style than they do a change in Obama’s substance.

Surrounding himself with moderate Democrats and a Republican (Gates)  appears more important than it truly is. Hillary Clinton might be Secretary of State but Obama sets the agenda; she may make recommendations but it will be up to Obama to choose which course to follow. Should that agenda not work out, Hillary will be forced to resign and accept the blame for the failure – not Obama. By selecting Hillary Obama shows appreciation for Chinese strategist and General Sun Tsu who was the first to advocate keeping ones friends close and ones enemies closer. By selecting Hillary, he’s neutralized a potential political threat in the Senate (and especially in 2012) at little cost to him – a truly brilliant move.

Similarly Obama’s apparent moderation has little political risk with much to be gained. It throws off-balance both Republicans and opponents to his agenda within his own party at a time when Obama is strongest. Leftists may be concerned, but they aren’t going to revolt anytime soon. They need him today much more than he needs them.

Obama’s apparent drift rightward isn’t due to a change of philosophy; it’s due to gamesmanship. While we may not know what he really believes, we already know that President-elect Obama is an astute political tactician. His enemies should underestimate him at their peril.

The Council Has Spoken: Dec 5, 2008

Congratulations to this week’s winners:

Council: Right Truth - P.C./D.C.

Noncouncil: Elder of Ziyon - Islamist strategy vs. Western tactics

Full voting here.