Archive for December 2009

The Last Post of the Year

A heavy fog hangs in the cold mountain air obscuring the blue moon, the nearby river gently murmurs. The fields are dead and the trees are barren, but the fog cocoons us from the rest of the world in their place.

Inside our home kittens play as dogs lay on the couch. Most of the animals here didn’t even exist a year ago, but one that did, one magical little cat that was part of our lives is gone. She is dearly missed, but amongst the 2009 kittens there are already rising stars. They cannot replace her, but some will join her in the pantheon of dearly loved pets.

We started the year with anticipation and we end it the same way just in a different location. No matter how troubled the present, no matter what fears we have for the future, we still look to it and welcome it with open arms.

And fireworks. Lots of fireworks.

Hard Choices Needed to Stop Terrorism

As a proponent of the multiverse theory I have to say that there are quite a few universes nearby where hundreds of people in Detroit and around the world are having pretty lousy Christmases. In our universe the Briefs Bomber can very close to taking down a Detroit bound flight over the Motor City, killing hundreds on board and perhaps scores more on the ground. But for a poorly chosen plastic syringe and a heroic Dutchman that reality could easily have been our own.

We are scrambling to figure out what we can learn from this failure to prevent such attacks in the future. As Deitrich Dorner points out in his classic work the Logic of Failure, failure or disaster does not occur from a single instance; instead it is the result of a series of adverse events each of which could prevent the disastrous outcome had they gone the other way.

I believe that what we as a society find particularly disturbing about the Briefs Bomber plot is how easy it was for him to reach a point where the only outcome preventing the success of the attack was the chemistry of the plastic used in the syringe containing the plastic explosive’s detonator. Eight years of taking off our shoes, infiltrating terror groups, waging war, apologizing to Muslim countries, standing in lines and missing flights apparently did nothing to keep us safe. Our fate was in the hands of a bunch of sullen Muslim guys who knew how to take a plane down but not how to talk to girls.

The Briefs Bomber carried 80g of PETN - an explosive first developed in World War I and the one chosen by al-Qaeda in the Shoe Bombing plot 8 years ago. The US government conducted tests after the Shoe Bomber failed and found that 50g was enough to take down a full-size airliner. I measured out 80g of sugar and found that’s less than half a cup. That amount of powder fits in the palm of your hand. There is simply no way that we can screen millions of people and their carry on bags – trillions of grams – in order to find 80g. To find those 80 grams would require our screening system to achieve an accuracy of 99.999999999%. For you Six Sigma freaks out there, that’s 3 more ‘9’s – or a 1000 times more accurate. Achieving that level of accuracy against an attack using technology alone is simply impossible.

Americans love technology fixes. As a technology geek myself I love them too. But the full body scanners proposed as a solution to this problem won’t work. They subject everyone to an intrusive scan that raises a whole raft of legal, religious and privacy issues. As the former head of El Al said today on Fox News, the scan itself would offend Muslims by showing their wives and daughters naked. It could also be easily defeated. In an August 2008 attack on a leading anti-al Qaeda figure in the kingdom, a Saudi minister was injured by a suicide bomber who had explosives concealed in his rectum (WARNING: link contains photos that are not for the squeamish). The full body scanners proposed to prevent attacks like the Briefs Bomber and Shoe Bomber would be easily circumvented by al Qaeda just as the metal detectors are today. Just like the metal detectors, they are an expensive fix that makes the government appear that it is doing something when in fact it is accomplishing little.

So what is the solution? As with any complex system, there isn’t a single point of failure so there cannot be a single solution. Each opportunity that leads to possible failure – in this case a successful bombing on a US bound airliner – must be examined to determine what we could do to prevent that outcome from leading to the next event in a chain ending with pieces of aircraft and bodies falling from the sky.

First an engineering fix must be found to prevent 80 grams of anything causing a catastrophic failure of an airplane. Judging by his seat selection, the bomber chose to detonate his bomb over the wings. This would place him nearest the fuel as well as structural parts of the wing whose failure would lead to a crash. Such a fix could include armoring the fuel tanks, baggage compartment and passenger cabin over the wings. This would be an expensive retrofit, without a doubt, but we cannot continue to rely upon al Qaeda to screw up.

Second in place of new screening technology, we need to use existing screening techniques. These include ethnic and behavioral profiling used by other nations especially Israel’s El Al airline. In the 1980’s the Wife was dropped off at the airport by her Japanese-American boyfriend for a flight to Jerusalem on El Al. While standing in line she was met by El Al security and taken to a room in the airport where she was subjected to 2 hours of intense questioning by several El Al security guards. They asked her personal questions about her relationship with her Japanese-American boyfriend, her political and her religious beliefs. They also searched her and her luggage intensively. Because of the interrogation she missed her flight. At the end of the interrogation she was exhausted and asked why she was singled out. It turns out there had been cases where Japanese Red Army members had used their boyfriends and girlfriends to unwittingly carry explosives onto El Al airplanes. She was angry about missing her flight, but when she was placed on the next El Al flight to Jerusalem, she said that she knew she was on the safest flight in the sky. Ethnic and behavioral profiling techniques work and are much more effective than handsearching little old black ladies.

Third we need to remove the barriers between domestic and foreign sourced intel. Terrorists don’t recognize boundaries and neither should we. The Department of Homeland Security was supposed to accomplish this. Obviously it hasn’t, so it should be abolished and the existing intelligence services be allowed to pool their information and analyze it together and in secret.

We must accept that the terrorism we face today is not criminally based. It is not a law enforcement issue or solely a military one. It is much broader than that. Terrorism has a religious and ideological basis that we cannot combat with prison sentences and drone attacks alone. We must fight it in the same way we fought slavery, Nazism, Communism and other ideologies: by actively countering their propaganda with our own and attacking it on every front. That means supporting Islamic groups and institutions that disagree with Wahabi teachings and investigating Saudi funded mosques in the US and the UK. For every Youtube video extolling the virtues of 72 virgins, we should put out a video by an Imam explaining why the jihadi was going to hell instead. The Federal Government has done a good job containing the spread of white supremacist hate groups, so we need to apply the same techniques we used with those groups to Wahabi mosques.

Saudi Arabia needs to be treated for what it is: a state sponsor of terrorism. The Saudis have been allowed to spread their hatred around the world unhindered for decades because of our addiction to oil; we are now paying the true price of the cheap oil that nation supplied to us and our allies. What this would ultimately mean is a reverse oil embargo: The US and its allies should refuse to buy oil sourced from Saudi Arabia or sold by companies owned by the kingdom. Such an action would be unprecedented and would no doubt throw western economies into recession. But the truth is that 9-11 did the same thing and was completely beyond our control. We could use the action as a diplomatic threat to the Saudis, but we should be prepared to institute the embargo should the Saudis call our bluff. I would expect all Gulf nations to support the Saudis, so we would have to do without their oil as well. We would subject Saudi finances to the same international sanctions we apply to Syria, Iran and North Korea.

Can we do it? Oil is nowhere near as critical to our economies as it has been in the past, and will continue to decline in importance as we move to electric cars and hybrids. I currently cannot imagine an American administration with the guts to do this, but another 9-11 could change that.

Lastly the Obama Administration must ultimately be removed from office. It is clear by its conduct in the Global War on Terror that the administration does not take the threat posed by terrorism seriously. It has begun rebuilding the Chinese Walls separating the sharing of intel between domestic and foreign intelligence gathering operations, miring the sharing of operable intelligence with bureaucratic red tape. It is closing down detention facilities around the world including Guantanamo Bay, releasing experienced terrorists into society. Two alumni from that prison are leaders of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group behind the Briefs Bomber plot. It is pursuing a legal approach to terrorism which by its very nature is reactive: in most cases you cannot charge a person with a crime until he actually commits it. Like the Bush administration before it, it refuses to recognize the role Saudi Arabia plays in sponsoring al Qaeda directly with cash and indirectly by funding Wahabist mosques around the world.

These are some hard choices needed to stop al Qaeda on top of hunting them down with predator drones and special forces, and building successful states in Afghanistan and Iraq. No wonder the Obama administration acts like its 1999 when it comes to terrorism. Things like health care and global warming are only important when someone isn’t trying to kill you.

Our choice is simple: our way of life or their way of death. One would hope that such a choice would be easy, but given the way our leaders have failed us so far, I have my doubts.

Toby Harnden writing for the Daily Telegraph gives Obama a failing grade for protecting Americans.

In his studied desire to be the unBush by responding coolly to events like this, Obama is dangerously close to failing as a leader. Yes, it is good not to shoot from the hip and make broad assertions without the facts. But Obama took three days before speaking to the American people, emerging on Monday in between golf and tennis games in Hawaii to deliver a rather tepid address that significantly underplayed what happened. He described Abdulmutallab as an “isolated extremist” who “allegedly tried to ignite an explosive device on his body” – phrases that indicate a legalistic, downplaying approach that alarms rather than reassures.

Update #2:
Charles Krauthammer points out why America seems unsettled by Obama’s responses to the “man-caused disaster” attempt:

The reason the country is uneasy about the Obama administration’s response to this attack is a distinct sense of not just incompetence but incomprehension. From the very beginning, President Obama has relentlessly tried to play down and deny the nature of the terrorist threat we continue to face. Napolitano renames terrorism “man-caused disasters.” Obama goes abroad and pledges to cleanse America of its post-9/11 counterterrorist sins. Hence, Guantanamo will close, CIA interrogators will face a special prosecutor, and Khalid Sheik Mohammed will bask in a civilian trial in New York—a trifecta of political correctness and image management.

And just to make sure even the dimmest understand, Obama banishes the term “war on terror.” It’s over—that is, if it ever existed. Obama may have declared the war over. Unfortunately, al-Qaeda has not. Which gives new meaning to the term “asymmetric warfare.”

Update #3:
More on the failure of the proposed body scanners to detect the powdered explosives of the type used in Detroit.

The Council Has Spoken: December 25, 2009

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: Bookworm Room - The Communist Cat is out of the Climate Change Bag

Noncouncil: Michael Yon - Arghandab & The Battle for Kandahar

Full voting here.

Baby Boomers: It’s Always All About You

Over the snowy weekend the Wife caught a few hours of the documentary Woodstock Revisited. I watched about as much of it as I could stomach given my feelings about hippies in general and the Baby Boom Generation in particular. Members of my Generation X, the generation that followed the Baby Boomers, have always lived in the shadow of their more numerous (and interesting at least according to the Media) elders – siblings and in many cases parents. While the Baby Boomers had The Graduate and Woodstock, Gen X’ers had John Hughes movies and Duran Duran. Yep we drew the short-stick pop culturally there.

The Woodstock Revisited movie ended with a crescendo, as if all along the purpose of the Baby Boomers was to do one thing: elect Barack Obama to the presidency. Those interviewed waxed poetically about the similarities between tripping on acid in the New York mud as teenagers and sipping lattes in the DC cold as AARP members. I’m serious, if you watch the documentary you would think that the culmination of the Hippie Ideals of the 1960s was to elect Barack Obama to the presidency. And here all these years I thought it was to fornicate freely, smoke dope and listen to 20 minute long drum solos.

That got me thinking. Was Students for a Democratic Society fighting to elect a black man president? I thought they were fighting to end capitalism and institute communism to join their brothers in the Soviet Union in creating an international workers paradise. The SDS despised liberal democrats like Barack Obama because they were part of “the System” and “the System” needed to be smashed. But Systems tend to be resilient, and in the 1970s the System had not been smashed, while the SDS discovered disco, cocaine, and in some cases, the warm, lucrative embrace of Academia.

Barack Obama isn’t a member of the Baby Boomers. At the time they were getting stoned and changing the world, he was playing with Legos in Indonesia. Obama was a nobody until 2000, so why had the Baby Boomers waited so long?

After all they had plenty of chances. Tom Hayden, a former SDS leader, was their man – yet the pinnacle of his career was marrying Hanoi Jane. Fonda herself never even attempted a career at politics after playing NVA ack-ack gunner in Hanoi. Abbie Hoffman? He got thrown off the stage at Woodstock by Pete Townsend in a brotherly display peace and love, that is if one’s brother is prone to stabbing one in the back with a guitar while shouting expletives. Jerry Brown? Ruined by his relationship with Linda Ronstadt or all the dope he smoked it’s difficult to say which. The closest the Boomers ever came to electing one of their own was John Kerry in 2004, and we all know how well that turned out.

So how could the Boomers claim credit for Obama? Because for the past 60 years everything has always been about them. Vietnam? About them. Civil Rights? Ditto. Disco? Yep. Reagan’s America? Wait… Clinton’s stained dresses? Well…

So maybe Obamacare’s death panels and medicare cuts for the care of the elderly isn’t such a bad idea after all. Hell, maybe the Democrats should institute a form of Logan’s Run: Hold another Woodstock for 60 year olds and spike the brown windowpane viagra and boniva with strychnine. That will hold down medical costs and provide jobs burying the dead.——-
The only thing more annoying than the Baby Boomer generation is the myth that there is such a thing as a generational voice.  I have sisters who are Boomers and were hippie-types, and their politics varies from the neo-socialism of liberation theology to Ayn Rand’s free market ideal. The whole idea that a group of people can agree on something simply because they happened to be born within a few years of each other in the same country isn’t borne out by history. The same generation that claims credit for electing Obama today placed Reagan in office not once but twice starting 29 years ago. The age profiles of the political parties are roughly the same. From a 2004 study:

In addition to its lead among older Americans (those age 65 and older), the Democratic party holds a clear edge among the early Baby Boomers ­ people in their middle 40s to late 50s. But younger Baby Boomers and those in Generation X (roughly ages 30-44) are somewhat more Republican… The parties are virtually even among the youngest cohort of citizens today.

The very idea of generational similarity was created by marketing departments and journalists looking to create stereotypes and oversimplifications so that they could sell stuff to and stories about millions of people. But the theory breaks down as soon as you look at the data; people are just more complicated than that.

So while I may treasure my 80’s music while my son listens to the crap that passes for music today on his iPod, the truth is that this concept of generations has been overblown – especially when it comes to politics. The elderly hippies from Woodstock Revisited might be patting themselves on the back for electing Obama, but my youngest sister, the Randian who went through her hippie phase that same year, is cursing them.

Copenhagen a Disaster: Obama to Blame

Try as he might our president cannot seem to please the Left. He bows to foreign leaders, kowtows to China, rubs shoulders with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, and allows Iran to develop nuclear weapons so that it can finish off what the German ultra-right started 77 years ago: cleansing the world of Jews. Obama traveled to Copenhagen two months ago to beg for the Olympics to come to Chicago and left empty-handed. Now he’s preparing to leave Denmark without a climate deal, and the Left is blaming him. The Guardian newspaper, an outfit that makes Pravda and Izvestya look as conservative as Fox News, writes:

Tim Jones, a spokesman for the World Development Movement, said: “The president said he came to act, but showed little evidence of doing so. He showed no awareness of the inequality and injustice of climate change. If America has really made its choice, it is a choice that condemns hundreds of millions of people to climate change disaster.”

Friends of the Earth said in a statement, “Obama has deeply disappointed not only those listening to his speech at the UN talks, he has disappointed the whole world.”

Well, good. These are the same idiots that gave Chavez a standing ovation and allowed a genocidal African dictator Robert “Comrade Bob” Mugabe to speak and blame the West for failing to improve the lot of his people so that he could rape and pillage them some more. Seeing so-called “environmentalists” in league with some of the worlds most despicable dictators shows what a sham the fantasy of AGW really is. So Friends of the Earth: What will be the effects of the fallout from Iranian nuclear explosions in Israel, Jordan and Lebanon? Mr. Jones of the WDM, how much dosh do you get from Robert Mugabe and the people of Zimbabwe? Given that the former was once the wealthiest country in African and the latter now struggles to survive, I doubt that you have to worry much about converting Zimbabwean currency to the American dollars that constitute the majority of funding of your sucky little organization.

The issue that even the most liberal American politician cannot stomach is China’s refusal to allow inspections of their CO2 emissions. China wants to say that it cut emissions by X% and have the world believe it without actually checking. Meanwhile the US, Europe and Japan will be monitored (and hectored by the likes of Mr. Jones) for every cow fart and football hooligan belch emitted in these countries.

But Leftists have always given China a pass, probably due to the cool posters of Mao that they used to hang in their dorm rooms while getting stoned on Moroccan hash paid for by their wealthy parents. They tend to ignore things like Mao’s Great Leap Forward which forced China back into the middle ages technologically and killed anywhere between 30,000,000 and 100,000,000 depending on whose estimates you go by. They have forgotten the Cultural Revolution which forced intellectuals and academics like themselves out of the cities to slave on farm communes in the countryside where they were starved to death for not being peasants. Chinese communism is quite cool until you study it. Then it’s pretty uncool no matter how stoned you are.

So Obama will leave Denmark a failure once more. This makes me question why he went in the first place. Does he really believe that he alone can fix something as fucked as a UN Climate Conference? If not him, then is Rahm Emmanuel to blame? Whomever it is should be sent away to silk-screen Obama t-shirts.

But the conference wasn’t a total disaster. It did inspire the following from Gerald Warner writing for the Daily Telegraph:

What a bunch of buffoons. Not since Neville Chamberlain tugged a Claridge’s luncheon bill from his pocket and flourished it on the steps of the aircraft that brought him back from Munich has a worthless scrap of paper been so audaciously hyped. There was one good moment at Copenhagen, though: some seriously professional truncheon work by Danish Plod on the smellies. Otherwise, this event is strictly for Hans Christian Andersen.

Some seriously professional truncheon work by the Danish Plod on the smellies. Now that’s the kind of change I can believe in!

UPDATE: Obama has announced that a “meaningful deal” has been reached at the Summit, but it’s nonbinding and a step towards an agreement instead of an actual agreement. It saves some face for the thousands who traveled from around the world, filling the atmosphere with the very gases they believe will change the planet’s climate. Since it was a UN conference, your tax dollars helped pay for around a quarter of it. Hope you feel that you got your money’s worth.

The Council Has Spoken: December 18, 2009

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: I am honored that my post Obama Vs. Carter was this week’s council winner.

Noncouncil: Zomblog - Why America Hates Universal Health Care: The Real Reason

Full voting here.

Democrats Gripping the Disemboweling Knife

I am a dedicated Nipponophile having lived in Japan for a good chunk of the 1990s and received my degree in political science with a concentration on East Asian politics. One of the many exciting bits of Japanese history is the Bushido warrior code of the Samurai and the part ritual suicide or seppuku played in it. In case you’ve forgotten seppuku is suicide in which the suicide uses a long knife called the tanto to splay out his guts, followed by a swordsman lopping off the suicide’s head.

I’m reminded of this act reading the polls that categorically and emphatically state the American public’s opposition to Obamacare. The Democrat’s shoving it down the throats of Americans is now bleeding over into the attitudes of Americans towards the party, making the election of 2010 appear likely to be a repeat of 1994 when the Republicans swept the Democrats out of power in all but the office of the presidency.

The Democrats themselves know this. Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), a conservative Democrat and former Republican official of the Reagan administration, is expected to do what John Kerry did in authorizing the war in Iraq: vote for cloture, allowing the Obamacare bill to avoid death by filibuster – then vote against it when a simple majority of 50 is needed. Other conservative Democrats like Sen. Ben Nelson (D-VA) and Sen. Mary Landrieu are expected to do the same. They can allow the bill to become law and claim to their constituents that they voted against the legislation. It didn’t work for Kerry (“I voted for the bill before I voted against it”) and it likely won’t work for these senators.

Defying public opinion by forcing “reform” that the American people clearly don’t want will have a price, and the Democrats in the House – all of whom are up for reelection in 2010 – and at least 5 incumbent Dems who are facing uphill reelection battles, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, will pay that price. Given Obama’s failure to save John Corzine’s governorship in New Jersey, it’s unlikely that any popularity the president has left (it too is sinking) will save them. Nor will any benefits of Obamacare, since the majority of the program doesn’t kick in until 2014. The Republicans already have a game plan laid out for them thanks to the Democrats. Running against something, especially when that something is as unpopular as Obamacare, is much easier than supporting it.

So why are the Democrats committing suicide? Here’s where the ritual of seppuku is instructive.

The ritual is designed to be as solemn and scripted as a wedding to offer no escape once started. It is a series of small steps, the site selection, the layout of the tanto or wakizashi (short sword) on the ceremonial table ending in the cutting of the head by the kaishakunin - “assistant” or swordsman. Like a wedding, once the ritual is started it is very difficult to stop because of the series of small steps and the sacredness bestowed upon each. In a wedding, the “I do” reflects the point of no return; in seppuku the swordsman’s blade can come at any time – even before the suicide touches the knife or sword! Merely reaching for the blade can be considered enough for the kaishakunin to strike, technically making the suicide a murder, although not in the eyes of the believers in bushido.

Obama has led the Democrats to the room, and set them down in front of the tanto in a way that Republican leaders like Michael Steel or Karl Rove could never have done. Obama is willing to sacrifice the Democrats because he doesn’t face reelection until 2012 – giving him plenty of time to convince the American people that he is smarter than they are and that he knows what is best for them. Obama sees himself as being destined to make History, and part of that History is to “reform healthcare” – whether or not the system is reformed or not. Now the Democrats have withdrawn their hands from their kimonos, grasped the tanto, and are gripping it ready to rip themselves to pieces an instant before the Public’s blade falls on their necks.

Of course the Public can’t lop off their heads for another 11 months, which leaves the party to suffer a long while before the American people can strike. I expect a lot of blood during the coming year – and whimpering too.

Obama vs. Carter

Thanks to the Watcher’s council for voting this the Council winner for the week ending December 18, 2009. I am deeply honored.

Recently fellow Watcher’s Council member Terry Trippany stated his belief that Obama is a worse president than my nominee of “worst president ever” James “Jimmy” Earl Carter. I am no fan of our current president, so I thought I would take a moment to explore why I continue to believe that our current president has a long way to go before he surpasses his mentor Jimmy Carter in the pantheon of infamous chief executives.

Any day now Jimmy Carter is going to fall permanently off his high horse. Carter recently turned 85 so it won’t be long before flags fly at half-mast and the nation eulogizes Carter. Given the current resident of the White House I expect the prose to be florid, plentiful, and a complete white-wash of the Carter era that Obama seems intent on consciously or not resurrecting. It’s not surprising; it happened to Richard Nixon – another member of the pantheon – under a Democratic president no less, so I expect the worst when Carter dies.

Human memory mixed with Time becomes adulterated. Events become blurry, and both painful events and pleasurable ones soften and fade. Take a moment to imagine the worst physical  pain you ever felt in your life; now imagine a recent event where you stubbed your toe or had a sinus headache. Which seems stronger? Most likely the more immediate pain because it is fresher and hasn’t faded with time the way the other pain you experienced has.

And that’s the difference between Obama and Carter. Carter’s four years of infamy ended nearly thirty years ago. We’re less than a year into Obama’s. It’s difficult to judge the relative strength of painful incidents when you are experiencing one.

Life under the Carter administration was indeed painful for the average American. When is the last time you waited in line for gas? Under Carter, gasoline lines were the norm and the country was gripped with an energy crisis caused by the fall of the Shah of Iran (see below). Carter’s solution? Encourage Americans to conserve energy (easy to do when you couldn’t drive anywhere or pay your heating bill). Inflation was out of control. It tends to hurt the poorest because the only assets they have are savings. High inflation is often characterized by high growth, but in the Carter era high unemployment was the norm.  Those employed couldn’t afford homes thanks to double digit interest rates. The economy was so bad that a new index was used to track it: the Misery Index. Carter used the term often in his 1976 campaign but failed to improve unemployment and inflation rates. At the time he took office the index stood at 13.57%. When he left office four years later it stood at 21.57% – its highest ever.

Carter may have been inept domestically but foreign policy-wise his administration was a disaster. By failing to support the Shah of Iran Carter allowed that nation to fall into the hands of Islamic militants – who then stormed the US Embassy in Teheran and held Americans hostage for 444 days. Carter’s sloppy handling of the crisis showed Islamic militants that terrorism worked, and that the United States was a “weak horse” as Osama Bin Laden later characterized it. The Iranian regime also became one of the largest state sponsors of terrorism throughout Europe and the Middle East. When the Israelis and Palestinians closed in on a peace deal in the mid 1990’s, Iranian-sponsored Hamas conducted a string of homicide bombings that sabotaged the peace process. Hamas sank the deal again in the summer of 2000 in the waning days of the Clinton administration when President Clinton worked feverishly to settle the conflict. Any act of Islamic terrorism today against the West can be traced to the bumbling Carter administration of 30 years ago.

Like Obama today, Carter presented a weak America to the world. It emboldened our enemies from Cuba in this hemisphere to the Soviet Union on the other side of the planet. The Soviets viewed America’s weakness in the Middle East as the opportune time to spread its sphere of influence in the region, and invaded Afghanistan. The best that Carter could do was muster a feeble boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics that penalized American amateur athletes, a boycott that the rest of the world ignored. He then covertly authorized the destabilization of the country by beginning to support the Mujaheddin, Islamic radicals opposed to the Soviets. Support of the Mujaheddin continued through the 1980’s under the Reagan administration, but it began under Carter. As History later proved, Afghanistan became the training ground for an entire generation of Islamic radicals with Osama Bin Laden one of its most prestigious graduate.

In short Carter – intentionally at times and not in others – laid the foundation for the threats America faces today, almost 29 years after he left office. While President Obama has the potential to reach this level of malfeasance he has yet to achieve it. Can he do it in the next 3 years? Given the apologies, the kowtowing to America’s enemies, the mistreatment of American allies, and the blatant ignorance of the threat posed by Islamic terrorism, he’s following in his mentor’s footsteps.

With Iran on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons he even has the potential to outdo his mentor.

100 Reasons Why Climate Change is a Natural Process

I’m surprised that this is even necessary, but the propaganda of AGW alarmism is so pervasive (I even fell for it myself two years ago) that it’s good to have it spelled it in one place.

The Council Has Spoken: December 11, 2009

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: Wolf Howling - Obama Fails His First Test As Commander In Chief

Noncouncil: Gateway Pundit - Fistgate II: High School Students Given “Fisting Kits” At Kevin Jennings’ GLSEN Conference ( Photo)

Full voting here.

Credit Where Credit is Due

I am about to do something I haven’t done since he took office: praise President Obama. His speech given yesterday in Oslo accepting the Nobel Peace Prize was a good one, and reflects a deeper understanding of world history and America’s role in it than I have expected.

“(A) nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies … negotiations cannot convince al-Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms …the  belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it.”

Damn right, Mr. President.

“The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest — because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other people’s children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.”

Wow… Is he channeling Ronald Reagan?

This doesn’t mean that I will vote for the guy in 3 years, or that I’ve suddenly gone soft on him. I still believe the man is the worst president to hold the office since Jimmy Carter. But even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while, and I’m not irrational about my dislike of the guy.

So good job, Mr. President.

Today’s Hypocrite of the Week Award Goes to… Canadian Journalist Diane Francis!

The National Review notes:

“The whole world needs to adopt China’s one-child policy,” writes Canadian journalist Diane Francis, mother of two.

The President’s Deaf Ear

Watching the president’s approval ratings sink and hearing people regret their votes cast a year ago makes me consider the president’s failure to acknowledge the growing chorus of criticism of his policies. The tone deafness of his administration manifests itself from the refusal to compromise with the GOP on health care to the shrugging off of the losses of governorships in Virginia and New Jersey. Where Clinton kept a close watch on his polling numbers, Obama has shown a George W. Bush-like steadfastness against bowing to public pressure.

Obama was elected to bring change, and the president is well aware that change can be painful. But he understands that there is no danger to him for ramming through the most radical and unwanted parts of his agenda. His Gallup poll numbers might put him in the approval-rating cellar of post-war presidents, but the only poll that matters is still 3 years away – plenty of time to build a political legacy that will eventually become popular and reelect him, or leave a mark on the American polity that will be hard to erase by future administrations.

Either way, the president doesn’t care. He views himself as an historical figure and is driven by reshaping American society according to his ideals than he is staying in power. This is a fundamental difference between him and his predecessor Bill Clinton, and in my view shows that he has more in common with George W. Bush than any other recent president.

President Bush ignored popular opinion when it came to the War on Terror and the associated wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But his fortitude in those areas contrast with his willingness to cut any deal – no matter how unpalatable from the perspective of his base – with the Democrats on domestic spending and other issues. Bush was an ideologue on Defense, but a politician in all other areas. This probably explains his success at reelection in 2004. Even though conservatives such as myself disagreed vehemently with his domestic agenda, it allowed him to peel away the hawkish independents from Kerry. After all, we weren’t going to stab him in the back and not vote for him when the deciding issue in the 2004 election was the Global War on Terror.

The danger is that where Bush showed a pragmatic side on issues unrelated to Defense, I have yet to see Obama don his deal-making hat and work with the Republicans. Where Bush got squishy with his domestic agenda, we might expect to see Obama act similarly over Defense – but it’s too early to judge whether that is the case. Granted he has followed the Surge recommendations of General McChrystal, the man Obama himself appointed to manage the war there, but only after an excruciatingly long decision. Republicans and hawkish conservatives have finally found something to agree with the President on, but it comes after a year of foreign policy mistakes around the world: apologizing, refusing to support the pro-democracy movements in Iran and Tibet, kowtowing to China and Russia, apologizing some more, bullying Israel and Honduras, patronizing Venezuela and Cuba, snubbing American allies like the UK, apologizing yet again.

If Obama is hoping to peel away enough hawkish independents over his foreign policy stance, then he’s got a long way to go. But I doubt he’s concerned with the 2012 election. To paraphrase a line from the Blues Brothers, he’s on a mission from God – although given his lack of spirituality, I doubt it’s god in the sense of the Jude0-Christian tradition. It’s History.

Obama sees himself as the peer of Abraham Lincoln – another president who defied the advice and opinion of others to do what he believed was right. Such a man on a “Divine Mission” is more than willing to sacrifice a governor or two this year, and perhaps even a House and Senate majority next year if History demands it. That’s why if I were a Republican strategist, I would be collecting all the pictures and videos of Democrats – and RINOs – shaking hands with Obama, tallying how often they voted for the President’s legislation, and preparing to flood the airways with these in campaign and 527 ads next Autumn (the RINOs should be targeted in next Spring’s primaries). When unemployment is in the double-digits and the President’s approval rating is in the basement there is a political term for these politicians: dead meat.

A president should have the ability to leave his mark on the nation, but he should never forget that he is ultimately there to serve the American people. A great leader leads by charming his charges into believing that his goals are really their own – not by forcing his ideas upon them whether they like it or not.  The poll numbers showing the majority of Americans in opposition to everything from health care “reform” to global warming prove the president has taken the latter route. They show that Obama is at present not a great leader.

The Council Has Spoken: December 4, 2009

Congratulations to this week’s winners:

Council: Mere Rhetoric - Leaked Global Warming Docs: “Publicity Machine” Used To Manipulate Journalists And Intimidate Scientists

Noncouncil: Victor Davis Hanson - Dithering And Trashing America

Full voting here.

Joanna: Put Down the Cross, Put On Some Clothes and Adopt an Animal

I had planned on writing something a bit more political about supermodel Joanna Krupa donning a pair of wings and hiding her naughty bits behind a large silver crucifix in a billboard ad for PETA. My first thought was that it’s safe to piss off Christians. Had she held a Koran or one of the Mohammed cartoons she would have had to join Salman Rushdie in hiding or risk being hit by a homicide bomber at her next catwalk.

I then wondered how many rescued animals she cared for. We currently care for 13 dogs and cats – all rescues and most acquired this year. Each has a story.

  1. “June”* was found in a dumpster in Japan still attached to the placenta. She likes drinking water straight from the tap and is the eldest of our crew. She survived the parvo virus while we were still in Japan. The Japanese vet even came to our small apartment to attend to her.

  2. “Betelgeuse” was a black cat abused by teens who likes to be brushed and is a fierce mouser. Last year we had to have one of his canine teeth removed after it became abscessed – for $700. I guess one mouse didn’t go down without a fight.

  3. “Killer” our chihuhua is 13 years old and suffers from epilepsy. I have to give him phenobarbital twice a day wrapped up in a slice of pepperoni. He is fiercely loyal to our family and taught me to appreciate this unique breed of dog.

  4. “Lady” is a 3 year old black lab mix who is one of the fastest dogs I have ever seen. She is also one of the most gentle, although she doesn’t like being disturbed once she has staked out her place on the bed.

  5. “Bella” is a complete mutt who ran up our driveway here in North Carolina. She loves stretching out on her back next to you on the couch. She also enjoys chasing deer and playing with the kittens.

  6. Four of our six kittens were born last May when the Kid brought home a pregnant stray into our pro-life home. “Cow” has a thick tail and loves sleeping beside the Wife. He was the last one born.

  7. “Chirp” is all black with white whiskers and has a meow that sounds like a cricket.

  8. “Sinatra” is black with a tuxedo pattern. He thinks he is a dog and saddles up to Lady and Bella more than people.

  9. “Siouxie” is all black and likes to lay beside me and nibble on my fingers while I’m reading.

  10. Then there is “Baby”, a 12 week old Siamese who somehow crossed several acres of coyote infested open farmland and woodland to meow outside our bedroom window. It was love at first sight, and he’s sitting here watching me type. I’ve always had a soft spot for Siamese since my sister had one when I was a kid.

  11. “Tortie” is a tortoiseshell we picked up from an elderly couple along with the following two feral cats. She was originally wild but showed a pleasant demeanor when being fed. So one day we brought her in to join the crew. Her fur isn’t the best colored – looking like a box of crayons melted together – but it is soft.

  12. Kitten #1 is the sister of Tortie but is completely wild.

  13. Kitten #2 is a long-hair who lives with Kitten #1 in a shed. I had to put him inside a cinder block to hold him while treating an eye infection. The infection cleared up – and he’s outgrown the cinder block.

All of these animals have been spayed, neutered or are in the process of being so. All are fed, watered, housed and taken to the vet when sick. All are up to date on their shots.  Even Kitten#1 has been to see the vet because all three ferals were sick and needed medicine. Only “Tortie” chose to be domesticated.

Compared to all the work I do for my creatures, holding a cross in front of my naked body would be much easier. Try cleaning up bloody diarrhea first thing in the morning – after you’ve stepped in it.  Or how about holding your pet while he’s having a seizure, whispering to him and stroking him as he stiffens and convulses at 3am.  She could afford the vet bills much easier than most – including us.

But we chose this path. In fact it’s one of the reasons we chose this house. As a very young child I dreamed about having a lot of land where I could let all the cats and dogs needing a home live out their days in peace. We’ve made that dream a reality – at least for these 13 animals.

So Joanna, put down the cross, put on some clothes and adopt a homeless animal or dozen. While I agree with PETA’s message, I don’t like it’s methods and would rather see it do fewer theatrics and more actions to find homes for homeless animals.

*All names have been changed to avoid putting TMI on the Internet.