Archive for June 2010

Institutional Brain Freeze

When a large institution is faced with disaster which it is unprepared for, it freezes up. Disasters require action – usually fast. But institutions are hierarchical and subordinates can’t act without being told to do so by their superiors, so they do nothing, choosing to wait for superiors to tell them what to do instead. Meanwhile members at the executive level work at cross-purposes, doing their best to protect their “fiefs” from the brunt of the disaster while at the same time using it as an opportunity to expand their powers over their peers.

This type of “brain-freeze” can occur in any centrally organized hierarchical institution: the government, military, and corporations.  It even partly explains the Roman Catholic Church’s slow reaction to sex abuse scandals over the past two decades.

The solution? Effective leadership at the highest level.  Generals personally intervening to cut red tape that threatened their mission. Corporate CEO’s taking charge, choosing a remediation strategy, and implementing it. Governors declaring a hard-hit region a disaster area and co-ordinating relief across different branches of state government. Anyone standing in the way of these leaders is either run over or fired.

Unfortunately for the Gulf states with tar balls washing up on their beaches, America lacks effective leadership at the highest federal level. President Obama has struggled over the past 71 days to respond to the BP disaster. First he ignored the crisis, and when it became clear that wasn’t working to calm down the hysterical calls for leadership from the states that didn’t vote for him in ‘08, he held a flurry of meetings and photo ops proving that he was in charge and searching to learn “who’s ass to kick.” Next he sought to use the crisis for partisan political advantage as an excuse to drum up support for his climate change/energy bill. Becoming bored with that, he left the country, got ignored by the G20 and went golfing in Toronto.

Throughout the crisis President Obama has failed to fight the brain freeze gripping the federal government. Whereas his predecessor suspended the Jones Act to allow foreign crewed ships to help with the clean up, Obama has yet to do so two and half months into the crisis. Obama treats the disaster as a distraction at best, a political tool to leverage his agenda through Congress at worst. In no way has the President shown the leadership required to stop this disaster and help those affected by it to recover.

President Obama cannot single-handedly stop the oil from gushing out of the broken well, but being at the top of the federal food chain gives him the power to cut through red tape and to provide the ass-covering bureaucrats require to act.  His failure to grasp this perk of leadership – perhaps due to his lifetime spent campaigning for higher office – is typified by the red tape that prevented the Dutch from moving in skimmer ships. Each ship could take up to 400 cubic meters of sea water an hour, remove most of the oil, and spit it back into the ocean. The Dutch offered a whole fleet of the ships to the US, but the US refused because EPA regulations stated that the ships could not suck up the sea water and release it back unless oil in the water was less than 15 parts per million. That’s 99.9985% clean. The Dutch also offered to send dredges to help build 60 mile long sand dikes that could have kept the oil off Louisiana’s wetlands within 3 weeks of the disaster.

I had no idea that to comply with the EPA rules, US skimmer ships were sucking up sea water, storing it, then traveling to shore where it is offloaded in storage tanks for processing to meet the 99.9985% regulation. Has our government lost it’s collective mind? Yep: Brain freeze, an only the President has the authority to cure it by exercising leadership.

But America doesn’t have a president: it has a presidential candidate. Eventually the crisis will resolve itself without a president, but by then the environment and the livelihoods of millions will be destroyed and Candidate Obama will be out of a job.

The Council has Spoken: June 25, 2010

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: Bookworm RoomIsrael hasn’t changed; the world has

Noncouncil: Pajamas Media/Zombie - Radicals, Islamists and Longshoremen blockade Israeli ship in Oakland submitted by Bookworm Room

Full voting here.

The Council has Spoken: June 18, 2010

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: Mere Rhetoric - NYT: “Angry Israeli Commandos” Turned “Ship Of Protesters Into Bloodbath”

Noncouncil: Elder of Ziyon - Gaza: The “Staggering quality of the very ordinary” Submitted by The Watcher

Full voting here.

The Council has Spoken: June 13, 2010

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: Joshuapundit Helen Thomas,Jew Hatred And Its Polite Acceptance

Noncouncil: Walter Russell MeadGoo-Goo Genocidaires: The Blood Is Dripping From Their Hands Submitted on behalf of Wolf Howling

Full voting here.

If I Could Speak as Natalie’s Mother…

Losing a child is every parent’s nightmare, but seeing the man who admitted murdering your daughter go free to kill again must be especially tormenting. I can’t imagine what Beth Twitty, Natalie Holloway’s mother, has endured over the five years since her daughter Natalie disappeared in Aruba. The immediate horror that your child is lost, the futile hope that it is all just some sort of mistake and she’ll turn up any moment, minute, hour, or day now – followed by an investigation into her disappearance by authorities with the competence of the Keystone Cops. Watching the cold hearted smugness of the Van Der Sloots over the years. The father pulling every string and spending every bit of cash necessary to keep his son out of jail. Joren’s admissions to Natalie’s murder – even his smug, shark-like grins as he revels in the international press. I don’t think I could have done it without eating a gun.

Now Joren has been caught for a murder that if anything proves the banality of Evil. He took the life of Stephanie Flores, a 21 year old Peruvian whom he had met hours earlier at a casino, as easily as reaching for a cigarette. He kills a complete stranger with his bare hands for no compelling reason whatsoever. She was using his laptop and found out he was involved in Natalie’s disappearance. Please… I’m surprised he didn’t relish her discovery. Maybe he did. Regardless he killed her because he felt like it.

And why shouldn’t he? He’d gotten away with it at least once before. Like a true narcissist, Joren saw people in the world as things that existed for his manipulation and amusement. He had manipulated his parents for his entire life, had manipulated the press and the Aruban and Dutch police, and was in the process of manipulating the FBI which had even paid for his trip to Peru.

But Joren’s view of his mastery of the world was just an illusion. There is a reality that exists independently of Joren Van Der Sloot, one in which Joren isn’t the center of the universe and will one day be forgotten.

To prevent that day from coming, Joren will play his final card: what happened to Natalie Holloway and where she is buried. He will try to use this information to get extradited to Aruba where Mr. Magoo, the local police chief, would set him free*. Failing that he will use this information to get a shorter sentence, better food in jail, even a more comfy bed. He will prey upon the humanity of others for his own benefit just as he has done his entire life.

And when he does this, I want Natalie’s mother to say publicly, “Joren Van Der Sloot, I know you killed my daughter. I will never see my daughter’s smiling face again. The life that I brought into this world, that I spent 17 years nurturing you snuffed out in seconds.

For five years you have preyed on my need to know what happened and why. But nothing that you say will bring my daughter back to me. Nothing you do will fill the tear in my soul that you ripped. And because of that I am announcing that I don’t care what you know about the night you took my daughter’s life. I don’t need the details you wish to barter to me or the authorities for something that you want. It is time for you to finally learn that you don’t control anything or anyone anymore.

You ripped a hole into the life of another parent as easily as one might swat a gnat, and you have already explained why. The Flores family knows how you murdered their daughter while I am left to wonder.

But you know what, Joren? I can live with that. I don’t need to trade with you. I don’t need to bargain or haggle for the details of my daughter’s death with her murderer, because in the end nothing I give you will bring her back to life. So why should I? Why would I barter your possible freedom to kill again in exchange for how she died – which may or may not be a complete lie coming from a self-professed liar like yourself? Why should I trade a TV in your cell that will dull your boredom and make you more comfortable simply to learn where my daughter’s bones lay?

You are now going someplace where it will be impossible to kill women, a place filled with men who understand you and are immune to your manipulation. I take no pleasure in knowing what is likely to happen to you there since you took away my ability to feel pleasure when you took my daughter’s life, but at least I know that you will not be able to do to others what you have done to the Flores family and to mine.

It is time that I stepped out of the way and let your fate descend on you. It is time that I moved on.

That is what I would like to say, but as I said earlier, I cannot judge Beth Twitty. I cannot condemn her for allowing herself to be manipulated by her daughter’s murderer, nor can I ever offer anything that will soothe the pain she has felt for the past five years. All I can hope is that each day that passes for her will not be quite as horrific as the last.

*UPDATE: Van Der Sloot has tried to barter Holloway’s resting place for jail in Aruba.

Walter Russell Mead on the Peace Camp’s Bloody Hands

The people I have in mind are the ‘goo-goo genocidaires,’ the willfully blind reformers, civil society activists, clergy, students and others whose foolishness and ignorance was a necessary condition for tens of millions of deaths in the last hundred years. Unreflective, self-righteous ‘activists’ thought that to espouse peace was the same thing as to create or safeguard it. As a result, tens of millions died.


I can think of quite a few people who that applies to. Since my hands are bloody for my support of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, I figure it’s only fair that peaceniks be held partly responsible for those killed by the dictators they protect.

The New Anti-Semitism Presents Tough Choices To American Jews

White House correspondent Helen Thomas has gained respect simply for living a long public life, one that finally ended this week with her resignation over her opinion that the Jews should leave Israel.
Was it a gaffe as some on the Left claim? A gaffe is defined as saying “something that is true, but inappropriate.” By this definition her statement is a gaffe, because it displayed her belief that Israel has no right to exist.

It isn’t the first such statement she has made. Over the past decade she has shown an intense hatred of Israel. In 2002 she asked then White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, “Does the president think that the Palestinians have a right to resist 35 years of brutal military occupation and suppression?” Years later she confronted White House Press Secretary Tony Snow in a an anti-Israeli tirade that ended with Snow thanking her for “the Hezbollah view” (video). The Guardian’s Dan Kennedy in a piece titled “Helen Thomas: Good Riddance to a Garden Variety Antisemite” noted that no one read her. Thomas main role in the White House briefing room “was to take advantage of her position as the senior White House correspondent in order to engage in a kind of performance art.” Kennedy notes that “Robert Zelnick told Politico that Thomas’s ‘bias regarding Israel has long been known to anyone – including this commentator – who has spent five minutes in her company.’”

Condemnation originated among conservatives but later spread across the political spectrum. Former White House spokesman under President Bill Clinton Lanny Davis equated her statements on Israel to those by racists who believe that African-Americans should return to Africa, and former Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer noted that her comments reflected religious cleansing. In the end, she did the only sensible thing and fell on her pen.

The controversy highlights an important philosophical change. For most of the past century antisemitism has come from the Right. During the 1920’s and 1930’s the bigotry that would eventually culminate in the Holocaust festered in the US on the Right in the sermons of Father Coughlin, and Henry Ford’s newspaper, The Dearborn Independent. After World War 2 William F. Buckley Jr’s cleansed the Right of its bigotry, and the movement became a staunch defender of Israel. Religious Christians viewed the continued existence of Israel as ordained by scripture, while neo-conservatives recognized the strategic importance of the nation as a natural ally in the volatile Middle East.

But the bigotry didn’t die. Today the millennia-old hatred has taken up residence in Leftist thought and literature. This new anti-semitism has made its way into the mainstream as shown by a recent study that found more Democrats than Republicans believed Jews were responsible for the recent financial crisis. Actions by Israel to defend itself are filtered through a Left-wing media sympathetic to the suffering of Palestinians more than the Jewish victims of Palestinian terrorism, adding support to the Leftist antisemitism.

The infection of modern liberalism with Jew hatred presents Jews with a dilemma. The vast majority of American Jews are liberal and lean to the left. 78% voted for Obama in 2008, and 70-80% regularly back Democratic congressional candidates. Zionism and the Israel state itself have strong socialist underpinnings, perhaps due to the communal living their survival depended on during the Diaspora. Even today the most right-wing Israeli political party would fall to the left of the American Democratic party on the political spectrum on economic issues. The laissez-faire and small government policies espoused by the American Right, with its foundation in the frontier individualism and the libertarian core this experience created, are anathema to most Jews and Israelis.

The Obama Administration’s actions to isolate Israel and appease its enemies have had an impact on its Jewish support base. Obama has lost almost half his Jewish support. But that support hasn’t moved to the Republicans nor is it likely to. As the Republicans move towards the Right and their libertarian base under the prodding of the Tea Party* – and following the Democratic party’s playbook of 2006-08 which saw that party move hard to the Left to win elections, it is unlikely that American Jews will find the Republican party platform palatable as a whole. But if Israel experiences a spate of terror attacks or is threatened by a nuclear armed Iran, it is possible that the Republican support of Israel will trump their other concerns and American Jews will support the Republicans.

It is a difficult choice for American Jews: to embrace libertarian ideals in order to support Israel, or align with anti-Semites who share your belief in socialism.

The ultimate solution is for the Left to purge itself of antisemitism just as the Right did after World War 2. The Holocaust opened the eyes of many on the Right, and the power and veracity of William F. Buckley jr. purged the movement of the paleo-conservatives who believed hating Jews was acceptable. The Left may need the equivalent of both in order to reform itself.

*Many of those Buckley Jr. chased out of the conservative movement in the 1950’s found themselves among libertarians at the far right extreme. One of the dangers of the Republican Party’s movement towards the libertarian Right is that these discredited beliefs including Jew hatred may be taken in and infect the party. As History as shown, antisemitism shows a remarkable resilience.

UPDATE: The Progressive Movement’s unqualified support of the Palestinians against the Israelis is covered by Abraham Miller here. It leads to absurdities such as gays in Madrid banning gays from Tel Aviv for the latter’s refusal to condemn the seizure of ships attempting to break the Gaza blockade, put in place to isolate Hamas – a radical Islamic group that believes in killing homosexuals whether Jewish or not.

The Council has Spoken: June 4, 2010