Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: April 20, 2008, 12:32:20 PM
**Best argument for McCain yet**http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/015/006dgrlw.asp
24 Hours on the 'Big Stick'
What you can learn about America on the deck of the USS 'Theodore Roosevelt.'
by P.J. O'Rourke
04/28/2008, Volume 013, Issue 31
Landing on an aircraft carrier is...To begin with, you travel out to the carrier on a powerful, compact, and chunky aircraft--a weight-lifter version of a regional airline turboprop. This is a C-2 Greyhound, named after the wrong dog. C-2 Flying Pit Bull is more like it. In fact what everyone calls the C-2 is the "COD." This is an acronym for "Curling the hair Of Dumb reporters," although they tell you it stands for "Carrier Onboard Delivery."
There is only one window in the freight/passenger compartment, and you're nowhere near it. Your seat faces aft. Cabin lighting and noise insulation are absent. The heater is from the parts bin at the Plymouth factory in 1950. You sit reversed in cold, dark cacophony while the airplane maneuvers for what euphemistically is called a "landing." The nearest land is 150 miles away. And the plane doesn't land; its tailhook snags a cable on the carrier deck. The effect is of being strapped to an armchair and dropped backwards off a balcony onto a patio. There is a fleeting moment of unconsciousness. This is a good thing, as is being far from the window, because what happens next is that the COD reels the hooked cable out the entire length of the carrier deck until a big, fat nothing is between you and a plunge in the ocean, should the hook, cable, or pilot's judgment snap. Then, miraculously, you're still alive.
Landing on an aircraft carrier was the most fun I'd ever had with my trousers on. And the 24 hours that I spent aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt--the "Big Stick"--were an equally unalloyed pleasure. I love big, moving machinery. And machinery doesn't get any bigger, or more moving, than a U.S.-flagged nuclear-powered aircraft carrier that's longer than the Empire State Building is tall and possesses four acres of flight deck. This four acres, if it were a nation, would have the fifth or sixth largest airforce in the world--86 fixed wing aircraft plus helicopters.
The Theodore Roosevelt and its accompanying cruisers, destroyers, and submarines can blow up most of the military of most of the countries on earth. God has given America a special mission. Russia can barely blow up Chechnya. China can blow up Tibet, maybe, and possibly Taiwan. And the EU can't blow up Liechtenstein. But the USA can blow up .??.??. gosh, where to start?
But I didn't visit the Theodore Roosevelt just to gush patriotically--although some patriotic gushing is called for in America at the moment. And while I'm at it let me heap praise upon the people who arranged and guided my Big Stick tour. I was invited on the "embark" thanks to the kindness of the Honorable William J. (Jim) Haynes II, former Department of Defense general counsel. The trip was arranged by Colonel Kelly Wheaton, senior military assistant to acting Department of Defense general counsel Daniel Dell'Orto, and by Lt. Commander Philip Rosi, public affairs officer of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group.
I traveled with the Honorable Mr. Dell'Orto and a group of ten Distinguished Visitors (minus me). Onboard we met people more distinguished yet, including Captain C.L. Wheeler, commanding officer of the Theodore Roosevelt, Rear Admiral Frank C. Pandolfe, commander of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group, and Command Master Chief Petty Officer Chris Engles, who--as anyone with experience in or of the Navy knows (my dad was a chief petty officer)--actually runs everything.
I could go on about the TR and its crew at epic length. And one day, if they'll invite me back, I'll do so. But, being a reporter, I wasn't there to report on things. I was there to get a journalistic hook--a tailhook, as it were--for a preconceived idea. I wanted to say something about Senator John McCain. And as soon as our distinguished visitor group donned "float coats" and ear protection and went to the flight deck and saw F-18s take off and land, I had something to say.
Carrier launches are astonishing events. The plane is moved to within what seems like a bowling alley's length of the bow. A blast shield larger than any government building driveway Khomeini-flipper rises behind the fighter jet, and the jet's twin engines are cranked to maximum thrust. A slot-car slot runs down the middle of the bowling alley. The powered-up jet is held at the end of its slot by a steel shear pin smaller than a V-8 can. When the shear pin shears the jet is unleashed and so is a steam catapult that hurls the plane down the slot, from 0 to 130 miles per hour in two seconds. And--if all goes well--the airplane is airborne. This is not a pilot taking off. This is a pilot as cat's eye marble pinched between boundless thumb and infinite forefinger of Heaven's own Wham-O slingshot.
Carrier landings are more astonishing. We were in heavy seas. Spray was coming over the bow onto the flight deck, 60 feet above the waterline. As the ship was pitching, 18 tons of F-18 with a wingspan of 40-odd feet approached at the speed of celebrity sex rumor. Four acres of flight deck has never looked so small. Had it been lawn you'd swear you could do it in 15 minutes with a push mower.
Four arresting cables are stretched across the stern, each thick as a pepperoni. The cables are held slightly above the runway by metal hoops. The pilot can't really see these cables and isn't really looking at that runway, which is rising at him like a slap in the face or falling away like the slope of a playground slide when you're four. The pilot has his eye on the "meatball," a device, portside midship, with a glowing dot that does--or doesn't--line up between two lighted dashes. This indicates that the pilot is . . . no, isn't . . . yes, is . . . isn't . . . is . . . on course to land. Meanwhile there are sailors in charge of the landing hunched at a control panel portside aft. They are on the radio telling the pilot what he's doing or better had do or hadn't better. They are also waving colored paddles at him meaning this or that. (I don't pretend to know what I'm talking about here.) Plus there are other pilots on the radio along with an officer in the control tower. The pilot is very well trained because at this point his head doesn't explode.
The pilot drops his tailhook. This is not an impressive-looking piece of equipment--no smirks about the 1991 Tailhook Association brouhaha, please. The hook doesn't appear sturdy enough to yank Al Franken offstage when Al is smirking about the presidential candidate who belonged to the Tailhook Association. The hook is supposed to--and somehow usually does--strike the deck between the second and third arresting cables. The cable then does not jerk the F-18 back to the stern the way it would in a cartoon. Although watching these events is so unreal that you expect cartoon logic to apply.
Now imagine all concerned doing all of the above with their eyes closed. That is a night operation. We went back on deck to see--wrong verb--to feel and hear the night flights. The only things we could see were the flaming twin suns of the F-18 afterburners at the end of the catapult slot.
Some say John McCain's character was formed in a North Vietnamese prison. I say those people should take a gander at what John chose to do--voluntarily. Being a carrier pilot requires aptitude, intelligence, skill, knowledge, discernment, and courage of a kind rarely found anywhere but in a poem of Homer's or a half gallon of Dewar's. I look from John McCain to what the opposition has to offer. There's Ms. Smarty-Pantsuit, the Bosnia-Under-Sniper-Fire poster gal, former prominent Washington hostess, and now the JV senator from the state that brought you Eliot Spitzer and Bear Stearns. And there's the happy-talk boy wonder, the plaster Balthazar in the Cook County political crèche, whose policy pronouncements sound like a walk through Greenwich Village in 1968: "Change, man? Got any spare change? Change?"
Some people say John McCain isn't conservative enough. But there's more to conservatism than low taxes, Jesus, and waterboarding at Gitmo. Conservatism is also a matter of honor, duty, valor, patriotism, self-discipline, responsibility, good order, respect for our national institutions, reverence for the traditions of civilization, and adherence to the political honesty upon which all principles of democracy are based. Given what screw-ups we humans are in these respects, conservatism is also a matter of sense of humor. Heard any good quips lately from Hillary or Barack?
A one-day visit to an aircraft carrier is a lifelong lesson in conservatism. The ship is immense, going seven decks down from the flight deck and ten levels up in the tower. But it's full, with some 5,500 people aboard. Living space is as cramped as steerage on the way to Ellis Island. Even the pilots live in three-bunk cabins as small and windowless as hall closets. A warship is a sort of giant Sherman tank upon the water. Once below deck you're sealed inside. There are no cheery portholes to wave from.
McCain could hardly escape understanding the limits of something huge but hermetic, like a government is, and packed with a madding crowd. It requires organization, needs hierarchies, demands meritocracy, insists upon delegation of authority. An intricate, time-tested system replete with checks and balances is not a plaything to be moved around in a doll house of ideology. It is not a toy bunny serving imaginary sweets at a make-believe political tea party. The captain commands, but his whims do not. He answers to the nation.
And yet an aircraft carrier is more an example of what people can do than what government can't. Scores of people are all over the flight deck during takeoffs and landings. They wear color-coded T-shirts--yellow for flight-directing, purple for fueling, blue for chocking and tying-down, red for weapon-loading, brown for I-know-not-what, and so on. These people can't hear each other. They use hand signals. And, come night ops, they can't do that. Really, they communicate by "training telepathy." They have absorbed their responsibilities to the point that each knows exactly where to be and when and doing what.
These are supremely dangerous jobs. And most of the flight deck crew members are only 19 or 20. Indeed the whole ship is run by youngsters. The average age, officers and all, is about 24. "These are the same kids," a chief petty officer said, "who, back on land, have their hats bumped to one side and their pants around their knees, hanging out on corners. And here they're in charge of $35 million airplanes."
The crew is in more danger than the pilots. If an arresting cable breaks--and they do--half a dozen young men and women could be sliced in half. When a plane crashes, a weapon malfunctions, or a fire breaks out, there's no ejection seat for the flight deck crew. While we were on the Theodore Roosevelt a memorial service was held for a crew member who had been swept overboard. Would there have been an admiral and a captain of an aircraft carrier and hundreds of the bravest Americans at a memorial service for you when you were 20?
Supposedly the "youth vote" is all for Obama. But it's John McCain who actually has put his life in the hands of adolescents on a carrier deck. Supposedly the "women's vote" is . . . well, let's not go too far with this. I can speak to John's honor, duty, valor, patriotism, etc., but I'm not sure how well his self-discipline would have fared if he'd been on an aircraft carrier with more than 500 beautiful women sailors the way I was. At least John likes women, which is more than we can say about Hillary's attitude toward, for instance, the women in Bill's life, who at this point may constitute nearly the majority of the "women's vote."
These would have been interesting subjects to discuss with the Theodore Roosevelt shipmates, but time was up.
Back on the COD you're buckled in and told to brace as if for a crash. Whereupon there is a crash. The catapult sends you squashed against your flight harness. And just when you think that everything inside your body is going to blow out your nose and navel, it's over. You're in steady, level flight.
A strange flight it is--from the hard and fast reality of a floating island to the fantasy world of American solid ground. In this never-never land a couple of tinhorn Second City shysters--who, put together, don't have the life experience of the lowest ranking gob-with-a-swab cleaning a head on the Big Stick--presume to run for president of the United States. They're not just running against the hero John McCain, they're running against heroism itself and against almost everything about America that ought to be conserved.
P.J. O'Rourke is a contributing editor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 'America Alone'
on: April 19, 2008, 05:50:06 PM
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Mark Steyn: Guns and God? Hell, yes
Obama attacks two of the things that elevate the U.S. above places like Europe
Our lesson today comes from the songwriter Frank Loesser:
"Praise The Lord And Pass The Ammunition."
Or as Barack Obama and his San Francisco pals would put it: God and guns. Loesser got the phrase from Howell Forgy, a naval chaplain at Pearl Harbor, who walked the decks of the USS New Orleans under Japanese bombardment, exhorting his comrades. When the line came to Loesser's ears, he turned it into a big hit song of the Second World War:
"Praise the Lord and swing into position
Can't afford to sit around a-wishin'…" – which some folks sang as "Can't afford to be a politician." Indeed. Sen. Obama's remarks about poor dumb, bitter rural losers "clinging to" guns and God certainly testify to the instinctive snobbery of a big segment of the political class. But we shouldn't let it go by merely deploring coastal condescension toward the knuckledraggers. No, what Michelle Malkin calls Crackerquiddick (quite rightly – it's more than just another dreary "-gate") is not just snobbish nor even merely wrongheaded. It's an attack on two of the critical advantages the United States holds over most of the rest of the Western world. In the other G7 developed nations, nobody clings to God 'n' guns. The guns got taken away, and the Europeans gave up on churchgoing once they embraced Big Government as the new religion.
How's that working out? Compared with America, France and Germany have been more or less economically stagnant for the past quarter-century, living permanently with unemployment rates significantly higher than in the United States.
Has it made them any less "bitter," as Obama characterizes those Pennsylvanian crackers? No. In my book "America Alone," just out in paperback and available in all good bookstores – you'll find it in Borders propping up the wonky rear leg of the display table for the smash new CD "Michelle Obama And The San Francisco Macchiato Chorus Sing "I Pinned My Pink Slip To The Gun Rack Of My Pick-Up,' 'My Dog Done Died, My Wife Jus' Left Me, And Michael Dukakis Is Strangely Reluctant To Run Again,' Plus 'I Swung By The Economic Development Zone Business Park But The Only Two Occupied Rental Units Were Both Evangelical Churches' And Other Embittered Appalachian Favorites."
Where was I? Oh, yes. In my book "America Alone," I note a global survey on optimism: 61 percent of Americans were optimistic about the future, 29 percent of the French, 15 percent of Germans. Take it from a foreigner: In my experience, Americans are the least "bitter" people in the developed world. Secular, gun-free big-government Europe doesn't seem to have done anything for people's happiness. Consider by way of example the words of Keith Reade. He's not an Obama speechwriter, he's a writer for the London Daily Mirror. And the day after the 2004 presidential election he expressed his frustration in an alarmingly Obamaesque way:
"Were I a Kerry voter, though, I'd feel deep anger, not only at them returning Bush to power, but for allowing the outside world to lump us all into the same category of moronic muppets. The self-righteous, gun-totin', military-lovin', sister-marryin', abortion-hatin', gay-loathin', foreigner-despisin', nonpassport ownin' rednecks, who believe God gave America the biggest d*** in the world so it could urinate on the rest of us and make their land 'free and strong.'"
Well, that's certainly why I supported Bush, but I'm not sure it entirely accounts for the other 62,039,073 incontinent rednecks. Reade, though, does usefully enumerate some of the distinctive features that separate America from the rest of the West. "Self-righteous"? If you want a public culture that reeks of indestructible faith in its own righteousness, try Europe – especially when they're talking about America: If you disagree with Eutopian wisdom, you must be an idiot.
Obama and far too many Democrats have bought into this delusion, most thoroughly distilled in Thomas Frank's book "What's The Matter With Kansas?", whose argument is that heartland voters are too dumb (i.e., "moronic muppets") to vote for their own best interests.
Europeans did "vote for their own best interests" – i.e., cradle-to-grave welfare, 35-hour workweeks, six weeks of paid vacation, etc. – and as a result they now face a perfect storm of unsustainable entitlements, economic stagnation and declining human capital that's left them so demographically beholden to unassimilable levels of immigration that they're being remorselessly Islamized with every passing day. We should thank God (forgive the expression) that America's loser gun nuts don't share the same sophisticated rational calculation of "their best interests" as do Thomas Frank, Obama, too many Democrats and the European political establishment.
As for "gun-totin'," large numbers of Americans tote guns because they're assertive, self-reliant citizens, not docile subjects of a permanent governing class. The Second Amendment is philosophically consistent with the First Amendment, for which I've become more grateful since the Canadian Islamic Congress decided to sue me for "hate speech" up north. Both amendments embody the American view that liberty is not the gift of the state, and its defense cannot be outsourced exclusively to the government.
I think a healthy society needs both God and guns: It benefits from a belief in some kind of higher purpose to life on Earth, and it requires a self-reliant citizenry. If you lack either of those twin props, you wind up with today's Europe – a present-tense Eutopia mired in fatalism.
A while back, I was struck by the words of Oscar van den Boogaard, a Dutch gay humanist (which is pretty much the trifecta of Eurocool). Reflecting on the Continent's accelerating Islamification, he concluded that the jig was up for the Europe he loved, but what could he do? "I am not a warrior, but who is?" he shrugged. "I have never learned to fight for my freedom. I was only good at enjoying it."
Sorry, it doesn't work like that. If you don't understand that there are times when you'll have to fight for it, you won't enjoy it for long. That's what a lot of Reade's laundry list – "gun-totin'," "military-lovin'" – boils down to. As for "gay-loathin'," it's Oscar van den Boogaard's famously tolerant Amsterdam where gay-bashing is resurgent: The editor of the American gay paper the Washington Blade got beaten up in the streets on his last visit to the Netherlands.
God and guns. Maybe one day a viable society will find a magic cure-all that can do without both, but Big Government isn't it. And even complacent liberal Democrats ought to be able to look across the ocean and see that. But, then, Obama did give the speech in San Francisco, a city demographically declining at a rate that qualifies it for EU membership. When it comes to parochial simpletons, you don't need to go to Kansas.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: April 18, 2008, 09:12:54 AM
MoveOn’s definition of “hurting the country”
By Michelle Malkin • April 18, 2008 08:02 AM
Yes, it’s true. The left-wing anti-patriots at MoveOn.org, who didn’t think twice about handing jihadists potent ammunition the day before the sixth anniversary of 9/11 with their despicable attack on Gen. Petraeus, are now worried about actions that “hurt the country.”
Dangerous, perilous, damaging, harmful actions…like having a Democrat debate moderated by journalists who aren’t complete and total sycophants.
Sound the alarm!
Issue the Important Action Alerts ASAP!
The Soros water-carriers say they will run an ad against ABC–Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulous photoshopped as Hitler and Eva Braun? Nah, too subtle–if they gather 100,000 signatures.
And, of course, MoveOn blames Karl Rove:
Moderators George Stephanopolous and Charlie Gibson spent the first 50 minutes obsessed with distractions that only political insiders care about–gaffes, polling numbers, the stale Rev. Wright story, and the old-news Bosnia story. And, channelling Karl Rove, they directed a video question to Barack Obama asking if he loves the American flag or not. Seriously.
Enough is enough. The public needs the media to stop hurting the national dialogue in this important election year. Can you sign the petition to ABC and other media outlets and pass it on to friends who are also fed up?
A compiled petition with your individual comment will be presented to ABC and other media.
What’s your over/under on ABC and other media caving in to the MoveOn/nutroots ultimatum?
On an even more hysterical side note, one nutroots blogger has now dubbed the ABC News debate the “‘Michelle Malkin/Steve Doocy’ driven non-policy based debate.”
The country will not be safe until the Schoolmarm/Snoozefest regime of Democrat debates is restored.
MoveOn to the rescue!
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: April 18, 2008, 08:28:56 AM
Obama’s strange defense of William Ayers
POSTED AT 8:34 AM ON APRIL 18, 2008 BY ED MORRISSEY
Barack Obama has decided to push back against criticisms of his association with former Weather Underground terrorist William Ayers, but the arguments he offers sound less than convincing. Rather than chalk it up to political naivete and issue a non-apology apology, Obama has decided to argue that he can’t be expected to consider the actions of people that took place in his childhood, and that Ayers only was bad for a few days. No, really, this is his entire opening argument:
REALITY: OBAMA WAS EIGHT YEARS OLD WHEN THE WEATHERMEN WERE ACTIVE
Obama Turned Eight In September 1969, The Days Of Rage Occurred In October 1969. Barack Obama was born on September 4, 1961. He turned eight on September 4, 1969. The Days of Rage, in which William Ayers participated, occurred in October 1969. [Obama Birth Certificate, UPI, 10/21/81]
William Ayers Participated In The “Days Of Rage” In 1969. The AP reported, “In the autumn of 1969, the Weatherman, led by Bernardine Dohrn and Mark Rudd, converged on Chicago and planned a series of demonstrations to dramatize their beliefs. The riots, which came to be known as the “Days of Rage,” caused thousands of dollars in damage in the downtown and Near North Side areas and resulted in injuries to several policemen. Rudd and Ms. Dohrn were named in federal riot indictments with ten others — William Ayers, Kathy Boudin, John Jacobs, Jeff Jones, Michael Spiegel, Howard Machtinger, Terry Robins, Lawrence Weiss, Linda Sue Evans and Judy Clark. Another prominent activist, Cathy Wilkerson, was arrested on state charges of mob action and resisting a police officer. Some surrendered years ago. Two — Ms. Dohrn and Ayers, son of the former chairman of Commonweath Edison Co. — surfaced Wednesday. Charges against Ayers had been dropped in 1978 but Ms. Dohrn still faces charges of aggravated battery and jumping bail.” [AP, 12/3/80]
Well, at least he got his age right, unlike his association with events in Selma in his speech from March 2007. In that speech, Obama didn’t mind deriving authenticity with a march that occurred when he was less than four years old and with people he had never met, let alone with whom he partnered on foundation boards.
The age issue is a transparent dodge. When terrorists killed Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972, I was nine years old. Would that give me a pass if I chose to associate myself on a board with Mahmoud Abbas, the reported mastermind of the Black September operation? Of course not. Obama wasn’t eight years old when he sought Ayers out for his support and later worked with him at the Woods foundation.
Ayers doesn’t help matters with his own dodge, claiming he wasn’t a terrorist at all. Ben Smith explains:
He contests the notion — central to the objection to him, as opposed to other people who were bad actors 35 years ago — that he he has “no regrets” about bombings– but he doesn’t exactly contradict his 2001 line that “I don’t regret setting bombs.”
I’m sometimes asked if I regret anything I did to oppose the war in Viet Nam, and I say “no, I don’t regret anything I did to try to stop the slaughter of millions of human beings by my own government.” Sometimes I add, “I don’t think I did enough.” This is then elided: he has no regrets for setting bombs and thinks there should be more bombings …
Terrorism—according to both official U.S. policy and the U.N.—is the use or threat of random violence to intimidate, frighten, or coerce a population toward some political end…. I’ve never advocated terrorism, never participated in it, never defended it.
Ayers tries to argue that terrorism is defined by its randomness, but that’s absurd. Ayers committed acts of violence intending on forcing the kind of political change he couldn’t get through the democratic process. That’s not only terrorism but an assault on self-government. The fact that he still can’t acknowledge that shows the unrepentant nature of William Ayers very clearly.
Obama’s inability to grasp this has him grasping at straws instead. He winds up being an apologist for Ayers, most laughably in this passage:
REALITY: AYERS COMMENTS WERE PUBLISHED ON SEPTEMBER 11; THE INTERVIEW OCCURRED PRIOR TO PUBLICATION
On September 11, 2001, A Story About William Ayers’ Memoir Was Published In The New York Times; The Interview Occurred Prior To Publication. “‘I don’t regret setting bombs,’ Bill Ayers said. ‘I feel we didn’t do enough.’ Mr. Ayers, who spent the 1970’s as a fugitive in the Weather Underground, was sitting in the kitchen of his big turn-of-the-19th-century stone house in the Hyde Park district of Chicago.” [New York Times, 9/11/01]
I think almost everyone sophisticated enough to hold a newspaper right-side-up understands that an interview gets conducted before publication. No one claims that Ayers said this at the moment the towers fell. The point is that after a decade of terrorist attacks against American interests, Ayers still hadn’t reconsidered his own terrorism after 30 years, and the publication of that fact on 9/11 had its own twisted sense of irony.
The bigger question is why Obama spends so much energy defending Ayers. If he wasn’t that important to Obama, why offer this page on the campaign website to rehabilitate Ayers?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: April 17, 2008, 03:04:31 PM
Dem Debate: Obama’s Waterloo
POSTED AT 10:30 PM ON APRIL 16, 2008 BY ED MORRISSEY
The last Democratic debate has finally concluded, and perhaps the last chances of ending the primaries early. Thanks to a surprisingly tenacious set of questions for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton from ABC moderaters Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous, Barack Obama got exposed over and over again as an empty suit, while Hillary cleaned his clock. However, the big winner didn’t even take the stage tonight.
The first 45 minutes of the scheduled 90-minute debate (which went 15 minutes over) wound up focusing on the series of gaffes and stumbles from both candidates. Hillary more or less defused the Tuzla Dash by admitting she essentially lied about it, trying at one point to use the “sleep deprivation” defense. Obama, however, never did figure out the First Rule of Holes. Once again, he described religion as a refuge people use when government doesn’t work — a fatal misreading of religious faith in America. He not only came up with bad answers, he looked lost and tentative throughout the entire period.
Hillary didn’t let him off the hook, either, not when it came to Crackerquiddick or on the Wright Stuff. Noting that “you choose your pastor, not your family,” Hillary once again pounded Obama for not doing anything about Wright when he had the chance. She also jumped at the chance to note that former Weather Underground terrorist William Ayers was more than just a “neighbor”, as Obama described him. Hillary pointed out that Obama and Ayers worked on a foundation together for years, even after 9/11, even after Ayers said publicly that he didn’t regret his terrorism.
And what was Obama’s response? He compared Ayers to Senator Tom Coburn, who opposes abortion. Of course, Coburn hasn’t bombed abortion clinics, but Obama can’t tell the difference between a Senator and a terrorist. That won’t help him in Middle America either, and Coburn may have a few words for Obama after this night.
By the time Gibson got around to the issues, Obama looked lost and upset. It got worse when Gibson asked about capital-gains tax rates, which Obama has pledged to raise. When Gibson repeatedly pointed out that decreasing the rates actually increased the revenues, Obama simply couldn’t come up with an answer, stammering while trying to change the subject. On guns, both Hillary and Obama stumbled through tortured explanations of how they support a Constitutional right for individuals to own guns while backing gun bans like the one in DC.
The winner of this debate? John McCain. Both Democrats came out of this diminished, but Obama got destroyed in this exchange. If superdelegates had begun to reconsider their support of Obama after Crackerquiddick, they’re speed-dialing Hillary after watching Gibson dismember Obama on national TV tonight.
And kudos to ABC News for taking on both candidates fearlessly. John McCain has to feel grateful not to be included. Don’t forget that you can read through our live blog at any time.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security
on: April 17, 2008, 02:52:11 PM
If anything, the Chinese Ministry of State Security (China's version of the KGB) is more interested in economic espionage than getting political-military secrets, although that line is increasingly blurred, as technical knowledge IS political-military-economic strength in the 21st century.
As I understand it, the approach made both on Chinese nationals and Americans and Canadians of Chinese ancestry in high tech fields is to play on the ethnic loyalty and the Chinese Mainland's poverty to get small bits of sensitive information without formally recruiting their assets, unlike how the KGB recruited agents during the cold war.
(Published in The Asian Pacific Post August 8, 2003
3,500 Chinese spy companies identified in Canada and U.S.
By Asian Pacific News Service
The man looks and acts like any other Korean corner store owner - a hardworking newcomer to Canada.
You cannot tell by his simple appearance that he owns the building the store is in and that he has just bought a million dollar mansion in the posh Beaconsville area of Montreal.
You also cannot tell that he is one of North Korea's foremost spies in Eastern Canada who actually owns a large computer business in Mapo, South Korea, that employs hundreds of people.
In the highrise glass towers of Vancouver - Tricell (Canada) Inc. and Top Glory Enterprises Ltd., both incorporated in the late '80s work for the Communist government of China.
Among their jobs was to help facilitate the covert entry of secret police into Vancouver by hoodwinking the Canadian government. The agents were hunting for high profile fugitive businessman, Lai Changxing, who himself was recruited by the Chinese military to spy on Taiwan.
The visitor visas from the bogus business delegation was endorsed by Chinas Ministry of Trade and Economic Co-operation (MOFTEC) - one of the most powerful ministries in the Chinese government, responsible for such vital areas as negotiating China's entry into the World Trade Organization.
From the windows of both these firms, which constantly invite "Chinese business delegations" to Canada, company officials can see the arrival and departure of ships belonging to the maritime behemoth - COSCO.
The shipping line is intimately linked to the China International Trust and Investment Corp., a key fundraiser for the Chinese government and a technology-acquiring source for Chinas military.
Its vessels have been caught carrying thousands of weapons into California and Chinese missile-technology and biological-warfare components into North Korea, Pakistan, Iraq and Iran, according to U.S. intelligence reports.
Insisting there is no evidence to show COSCO is involved in any illegal activity - the Vancouver Port Authority has a "gateway to North America" deal with the shipping giant.
When Canada's Nortel Telecommunications based in Brampton, Ontario wanted to do business in China, they hired Katrina Leung's company - Merry Glory Ltd.
Little did they know that 49-year-old corporate matchmaker would be in the limelight several years later accused of having have slept her way into the good graces of two FBI agents while stealing secrets for the Chinese government.
Leung, who was paid $1. 2 million in 1995 and 1996 for negotiating the Nortel-China deal, has strong connections to Canada's Chinese business associations.
Around the same time, the modern day Matahari was greasing the way for Nortel, the Canadian spy agency - CSIS - was conducting an investigation in the offices of Ontario Hydro regarding the theft of information in the nuclear technology field by "an individual of Chinese origin".
According to a secret intelligence report obtained by The Asian Pacific Post, the individual sent unauthorized faxes, some containing hours worth of data, to a telephone number in the offices of the State Science and Technology Commission of China.
The report said that there were two other cases where Canadian companies have alleged that their employees had been selling industrial secrets to China.
Like other ambitious young men who based their businesses in Hong Kong, James Ting was a citizen of the world, an entrepreneur who constructed a universe of interrelated companies and finances from Toronto to Tokyo to New York.
Ting was a darling of the Chinese-Canadian trade lobby. Even the Prime Minister's Office website lists Ting's Semi-Tech, once ranked as the nations 10th largest employer, as a member of Team Canada's business deals with China.
On the flip side, spy watchers were warning Ottawa without much success, that Ting was China's frontman to acquire high and medium technology and engage in economic and industrial espionage.
Among the companies Semi-Tech showed as part of its organization were several Chinese state-owned companies, related to military and intelligence activities obviously using what seemed to be a Canadian consumer based company as cover.
Two months ago, after avoiding a global manhunt while hiding in China, Ting surrendered to Hong Kong authorities where he is accused of serious financial crimes.
The mega-dealmaker, who stripped down companies in the west and to take their technology back to the east, left a trail of nearly $2 billion in debts and thousands without jobs.
The cases listed are but a small illustration of what the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said this week was the greatest espionage threat to North America in the next 10 years to 15 years.
FBI Director Robert Mueller told the United States Congress that China has more than 3,000 "front" companies in America whose real purpose is to direct espionage efforts. Some of the thousands of Chinese visitors, students and business people who go to the United States each year also have a government intelligence task to perform, authorities say.
"Left unchecked, such a situation could greatly undermine U.S. national security and U.S. military and economic advantage," Mueller told Congress.
"They figured out that what they want is throughout the United States, not just embassies, not just consulates," David Szady, FBI assistant director for counterintelligence, said in a published interview. "Its a major effort."
To meet this challenge, the FBI has transferred 167 agents into counterintelligence and set up an anti-espionage operation for the first time in all 56 field offices. Each is putting together a comprehensive survey of the potential espionage targets in their domain to give the FBI its first broad national picture.
Preventive efforts include FBI meetings with corporate executives, university officials and others to gauge vulnerabilities. It also means undercover work at conferences that draw foreign scientists and development of intelligence "assets" who describe for an FBI agent what the foreign government wants.
The FBI has made fighting espionage the No. 2 priority behind stopping terrorism, with the same philosophy of tracking and stopping spies rather than waiting to prosecute them.
Training has been strengthened, the career track resurrected and a cadre of intelligence analysts is being built.
In Canada, intelligence reports indicate the number of Chinese front companies to be between 300 and 500.
But unlike the Americans, China experts say the political climate in Ottawa is not conducive to cracking down on this significant threat.
"Virtually all the recent prime ministers and Paul Martin who is likely to be the next have strong connections to China on the personal, business and political fronts," said an intelligence analyst specialising in East Asian affairs.
"They find it difficult to understand this threat some just deny it," he said.
For former Canadian foreign service officer Brian McAdam, this week's FBI warning reads like a passage out of a report he worked on for the Canadian spy agency.
McAdam worked on "Project Sidewinder" which was conducted by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and aided by the RCMP between 1994 and 1996.
The conclusions were never publicly released, until leaked to the media amidst allegations that "political influence nixed the project."
That study mirrors this week's FBI assertions that China posed the most significant threat to Canada.
Sidewinder, analysts state, did not present theories but indicators of a multifaceted threat to national security. The report was generally ignored by the politicians. It was ahead of its time.
Among those whose connections were investigated were Macao casino king Stanley Ho, who has extensive interests in Canada, and Li Ka-shing, one of the world's wealthiest men, known in Vancouver for his purchase of the Expo lands and companies linked to tycoons like Robert Kuok, Cheng Yu Tung and Henry Fok.
Sidewinder among other things said many of the companies identified by the analysts have contributed "several tens of thousands of dollars to the two traditional political parties, the Liberals and the Conservatives."
A major financial and brokerage house gave the Liberal party C$20,432.94 in 1994, a large petroleum company owned by a Beijing-friendly tycoon gave more than C$100,000 to the same two parties and political donations were also made by a triad-run Chinese film studio.
At the time of the study, analysts said at least 200 Canadian companies are under the direct or indirect control of China.
The central point of the Chinese strategy is first to buy a Canadian company to obtain a "local identity".
Then, using this acquisition, the Chinese-Canadian company invests heavily under the Canadian banner.
But control lies in Hong Kong or Beijing and the financial benefits or fruits of research, often paid for by Ottawa or the provinces, are likely to make their way to Asia.
One China-controlled multinational with assets of more than US$23 billion, had spent more than $500 million buying companies in the forest sector in B.C., petrochemical firms in Alberta and real estate in central Canada.
It said that Triad or Chinese mafia members are behind an international seafood processing company that has offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Mississauga. The company is believed to be a front for importing heroin. In addition, company managers have maintained regular contacts with Chinese army officials and paid for visits of Chinese delegations.
Sidewinder warned that the Chinese government was taking advantage of growing business ties between China and Canada to provide cover for intelligence services.
One example cited said a company owned by a Chinese-Canadian national sponsored what was ostensibly a Chinese business delegation to Canada. In reality, the delegation was comprised of Ministry of State Security officials travelling to Canada to conduct an intelligence operation.
Another similar delegation comprised officers from a sensitive sector of the People's Liberation Army, who were attempting to make arrangements to purchase secure communications technology for military purposes.
The Canadian spy agency which was at loggerheads with the RCMP over certain characterizations in the report said the Sidewinder study done by McAdam and others was revised and certain documents destroyed because they were based on unprovable conspiracy theories.
The spy agency later issued a watered-down version of the Sidewinder study to a select government group.
The Security Intelligence Review Committee, the civilian watchdog of Canada's spy agency, has once again been asked to review the handling of Sidewinder by CSIS.
"What is critical here is to compare the FBI study with Sidewinder. What is being released to Congress is what we warned the Canadian government about in the mid-nineties," McAdam told The Asian Pacific Post.
"The stuff about influence in universities, etc., was in Sidewinder... They did not want to listen to us then... maybe they will listen now."
Meanwhile, a report out of Ottawa this week said that Prime Minister Jean Chretien is planning a trip to China as part of an international farewell tour.
"Taxpayers are footing the bill on a trip that is going to do Canadians very little good. Do you think there's one beef farmer in Canada, whether it's Ontario or Western Canada that wants him to go to China - unless he's trying to sell them beef. Why can't he go sit down with the leader in Japan? That is the most important issue right now," said Canadian Alliance House leader John Reynolds, referring to the ongoing crisis caused by the mad-cow disease.
Reynolds said if Chretien wants to wrap up his time in office conducting an international farewell tour to "say goodbye to his friends," thats fine, but he should ask Paul Martin, his anticipated successor, to fill in for him while he is away.
Chretien is to attend the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation meeting in Bangkok Oct. 17-21 as well as the annual Commonwealth meeting in Nigeria in December.
But sources say he is seriously considering tacking on a trip to China and another one to India after his APEC meeting in Thailand.
The prime minister's office said Chretien may go to Shanghai at the recent request of the Chinese president to attend the opening of two Candu reactors.
The reactors, which employ 450 Canadians, were sold to China by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd after Ottawa changed legislation to provide Beijing with over $1.9 billion in loans.
The office also confirmed that Chretien is also considering an invitation to meet with the Canada-China Business Council (CCBC) in Beijing.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena
on: April 14, 2008, 09:00:12 AM
What's the Matter With Obama?
THE FOUR SINS OF "CLING."
By Mickey Kaus
Updated Monday, April 14, 2008, at 5:19 AM ET
Nein, bitter: There would seem to be four distinct, major problems with Obama's "cling" gaffe.
1) It lumps together things Obama wants us to think he thinks are good (religion) with things he undoubtedly thinks are bad (racism, anti-immigrant sentiment). I suppose it's logically possible to say 'these Pennsylvania voters are so bitter and frustrated that they cling to both good things and bad things,." but the implication is that these are all things he thinks are unfortunate and need explaining (because, his context suggests, they prevent voters from doing the right thing and voting for ... him). Yesterday at the CNN "Compassion Forum" Obama said he wasn't disparaging religion because he meant people "cling" to it in a good way! Would that be the same way they "cling" to "antipathy to people who aren't like them"--the very next phrase Obama uttered? Is racism one of those "traditions that are passed on from generation to generation" that "sustains us"? Obama's unfortunate parallelism makes it hard for him to extricate him from the charge that he was dissing rural Pennsylvanians' excess religiosity.
2.) Even if Obama wasn't equating anything on his list with anything else, he did openly accuse Pennsylvanians of being racists ("antipathy to people who aren't like them").
3) He's contradicted his own positions--at least on trade and (says Instapundit) guns.. Isn't Obama the one trying to tar Hillary as a supporter of NAFTA? Is that just 'boob bait.'
4.) Yes, he's condescending. It's not just that in explaining everyone to everyone Obama winds up patronizing everyone. He doesn't patronize everyone equally. Specifically, he regards the views of these Pennsylvanians as epiphenomena--byproducts of economic stagnation--in a way he doesn't regard, say, his own views as epiphenomena.** Once the Pennsylvanians get some jobs back, they'll change and become as enlightened as Obama the San Franciscans to whom he was talking. That's the clear logic of his argument. Superiority of this sort--not crediting the authenticity and standing of your subject's views--is a violation of social equality, which is a more important value for Americans than money equality. Liiberals tend to lose elections when they forget that.
Please note that Obama's characterization of Pennsylvanians as "bitter" doesn't even make the top four. (See Instapundit: "Bitter is the least of it" Patrick Hynes: "it's not about the bitter.") At this point, the MSM and Hillary are only doing Obama a favor by focusing on the "bitter" dispute. ... Anyway, maybe he meant "bitter" in a good way!
P.S.: Andrew Sullivan and John Rosenberg both say that Obama's "cling" argument comes from Thomas Frank's economistic "What's the Matter with Kansas?"--which seems semi-tragic to me. The great achievement of Republicanism over the past decade, I'm convinced, was getting average Americans to think that it was the Democrats who were the snobs. The person who convinced me of this (in a highly persuasive lecture) was Thomas Frank. Now Frank's theories--if you follow Rosenberg--are on the verge of convincing millions of average Americans that the Republicans were right, at least about the likely Dem nominee. ...
See also this 2004 interview, in which Obama appears totally aware of the condescension problem--though I don't think he avoids it there either. His now-familiar go-to idea--that men spend time hunting and women go to church because of deindustrialization, as opposed to because they like to hunt and believe in their religion--seems inherently condescending (see below).
**--You might argue that this was the same 'it-will-go-away' attitude Obama had toward the anger of parishioners of Rev. Wrights's church--which would reinforce the "he condescends to everyone" theory of Obama. But the parallel isn't there. Obama describes ongoing black anger about racism as an artifact of racism--it's an epiphenomenon only in the sense that it will eventually disappear when its legitimate cause disappears. Obama describes white anger--indeed white anger, white racism, white religiosity, white NRA membership and white opposition to comprehensive immigration reform--as an artifact of something unrelated, namely the loss of good industrial jobs. It''s fundamentally inauthentic, Obama suggests, because (unlike black anger) it isn't caused by what those who express it say it is caused by.
And Obama never describes his own views as the products of anything except an accurate perception of reality. Come to think of it, has he ever expressed any doubt about--let alone apologized for--his views? He certainly didn't apologize in his "race" speech. He presents himself as near ominscient, the Archimedian point from which everyone else's beliefs and behavior can be assessed and explained, and to which almost everyone's beliefs will revert after the revolution. ... sorry, I mean after President Obama has restored hope! ... 10:59 P.M. link
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Watch that Myth: Hillary Clinton had apparently stopped losing ground in PA polls before Obama's "cling" fling in Frisco. It's a bit unfair to say that 'Obama had been gaining ground until ...," though I think I've heard that nascent myth being spread at least three times today. ... P.S.: Obama's lead on Rasmussen (11 points a week ago) has gone and disappeared. Note that the slide began pre-gaffe. ... 7:29 P.M.
Strike 2.5--They're bitter, left-behind, and have their little traditions: Don't think this digs Obama out of his hole. Might even dig it a bit deeper. ... 9:23 A.M.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Ann Coulter is reading Obama's autobiography and comes up with a not-implausible interpretation of the famous Racist Grandma incident:
As recounted in Obama's autobiography, the only evidence that his grandmother feared black men comes from Obama's good-for-nothing, chronically unemployed white grandfather, who accuses Grandma of racism as his third excuse not to get dressed and drive her to work.
Cling Along with Barack: The always-suspect Michael Lind nevertheless sends around a useful commentary on Obama's gruesomely off-key condscension toward downscale Rustbelt voters:
According to Obama, working class (white) people "cling to guns" because they are bitter at losing their manufacturing jobs.
Excuse me? Hunting is part of working-class American culture. Does Obama really think that working-class whites in Pennsylvania were gun control liberals until their industries were downsized, whereas they all rushed to join the NRA ...
I used to think working class voters had conservative values because they were bitter about their economic circumstances--welfare and immigrants were "scapegoats," part of the false consciousness that would disappear when everyone was guaranteed a good job at good wages. Then I left college. ...
P.S.: Because Obama's comments are clearly a Category II Kinsley Gaffe--in which the candidate accidentally says what he really thinks--it will be hard for Obama to explain away. [He could say he was tired and it was late at night?--ed But he was similarly condescending in his big, heartfelt, well-prepared "race speech" when he explained white anger over welfare and affirmative action as a displacement of the bitterness that comes when whites
are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition ...
Obama's new restatement confirms the Marxist Deskwork interpretation of the race speech, removing any honest doubt as to his actual attitude.
Rather than trying to spin his way out, wouldn't it be better for Obama to forthrightly admit his identity? Let's have a national dialogue about egghead condescension!]
P.P.S.: Note that guns are not the only thing Obama says "white working class" people "cling" to for economic reasons:t's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations. [E.A.]
Hmm. Isn't Obama the one who has been clinging to religion lately? Does he cling to his religion for authentic reasons while those poor Pennsylvania slobs cling to it as a way to "explain their frustrations"? ... They worship an awesome God in the blue states because they're bitter about stagnant wages! I think that's what he said in his 2004 convention address ... 4:41 P.M. link
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China
on: April 12, 2008, 05:15:46 PM
11/04/08 - World news section
Why China is the REAL master of the universe
By ANTHONY BROWNE
Cecil Rhodes, the businessman-imperialist of Africa, the creator of Rhodesia, suffered no flicker of doubt about who were the masters.
"To be born an Englishman," he mused, "Is to win first prize in the lottery of life."
It wasn't idle boasting. In the jingoistic triumphalism of the late 19th century, when waving the Union Jack was a simple pleasure, people sang: "Rule Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves" without any irony. It was a statement of fact.
A quarter of mankind lived under the British flag in the largest empire the world had ever known.
And many of those parts that weren't under Britain's rule - such as the U.S. - had been created by Britain.
British missionaries had opened up the Dark Continent almost unchallenged.
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The British Army found it easier to invade troublesome nations - or most of them - than it does nowadays.
Britain was the workshop of the world, dominating science, manufacturing and trade.
To many Victorians, unquestioning of the ideology that underpinned much imperialism, British supremacy was a simple matter of racial supremacy - Europeans, and the English in particular, were fated to be the masters.
The truth is that we are masters of the world no more.
The global power shift from the West to the East is no longer just a matter of debate confined to learned journals and newspaper columns - it is a reality that is beginning to have a huge impact on our daily lives.
What would those Victorian masters of old have made of the fact that Chinese security men were on the streets of London this week, ordering our own police about and fighting running battles with British protesters while bewildered athletes carried the Olympic torch on its relay through the capital?
It was a brazen display of how confident China has become of its new place in the world, just as the British Government's failure to take a firm stand on Chinese abuses of human rights shows how craven we have become.
The dire warnings from the International Monetary Fund this week that the West now faces the largest financial shock since the Great Depression, while the Asian economies are still powering ahead, simply underlines our vulnerability in this new world order.
The desperately weakened American dollar appears to be on the verge of losing its global dominance, in the same way as sterling lost it a lifetime ago.
The credit crunch has brought home to all of us in Britain how over-reliant our country has become on financial services. Meanwhile, the loss of our manufacturing industries to Asia continues unabated.
Last month, an Indian company, Tata, bought up what was once the cream of British manufacturing - Jaguar and Land Rover.
A couple of years ago, Nanjing Automotive, a Chinese company, snapped up MG Rover.
Just as the 19th century was the British century, and the 20th century was the American century, the 21st century is the Asian century.
But the handover of global power from the UK to the U.S. was trivial compared to what is happening now.
The U.S. was Britain's offspring, based on the same values and the same language.
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It, too, was an Anglo-Saxon country, and passing the baton across the Atlantic ensured the continuation of the Anglo-Saxon world order, based on democracy, free trade and a belief in human rights, upheld through international institutions that both powers supported.
But the world order we have grown used to - and comfortable with - over the last century is coming to an end.
Napoleon III compared China to a sleeping giant and warned: "When China awakes, she will shake the world."
After a long hibernation, China, and her 1.3 billion people - twice the population of the U.S. and EU combined - is awaking almost overnight.
And not just China. The world's second most populous country, India, is industrialising at a historically unprecedented pace.
Their economies are growing on a long-term basis about four times the speed of the UK's and that of the United States. Goldman Sachs, the bank, recently predicted that by 2050, China and India would have overtaken the U.S. to be the world's first and second biggest economies.
We have long heard about the benefits this brings, in terms of plentiful cheap goods from toys to TVs, and huge opportunities for Western companies to sell their wares in these booming markets.
But there are also downsides, which are becoming more apparent. Unskilled workers in the West have become unsettled by the threat to their jobs as production moves East.
The most vulnerable Western workers have found their wages stagnate as they struggle to compete in an increasingly global market place.
And competition for raw materials is pitting East against West.
The economic explosion of China, and to a lesser extent India, has given them an almost overpowering hunger for raw materials with which to build their factories, homes and cars.
Wherever you turn, the rise of Asia is making its impact felt on our existence.
Every time you complain about the price of petrol being over £1 a litre, it is to the Far East you have to look to find the culprits.
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There are even reports that manholes in Britain have been disappearing to feed the monstrous appetite for scrap steel in the other side of the world.
China is spending 35 times as much on crude oil as it did eight years ago, and 23 times as much on copper.
As it builds gleaming skyscrapers on its fields, China alone consumes half the world's cement and a third of its steel.
What is happening is so extraordinary that economists have had to invent a new word for it - this is not an economic cycle, but a supercycle, a shift in the world economy of historic proportions.
When demand increases and supply stands still, prices shoot up. Iron, wheat and oil are all at record prices, despite slackening demand in the faltering Western economies.
The cost of living in Britain is now rising faster than wages, making the British on average poorer year on year.
Asia's expansion means that its influence is starting to be felt more directly around the world.
Asian countries are not just buying up foreign raw materials, but as their companies try to become global leaders, they are buying up Western companies.
It is not just Land Rover, Jaguar and MG Rover. The Malaysian company Proton owns Lotus. Indian company Tata owns Corus, once British Steel, as well as Tetley Tea.
The hunger for raw materials is also making China lose its shyness and venture out into the world. Like Germany and Russia, China has traditionally been a land empire, focusing its expansionist energies on countries it had borders with, and it eschewed the world-conquering exploits of Europe's sea-faring maritime nations.
Europeans have, for half a millennium, been unchallenged as the global colonisers, but last month the respected Economist magazine dubbed the Chinese "The New Colonists".
While the Congo in central Africa was once over-run by Belgians, it is now the Chinese that can be found wondering around its mining belts.
In Lubumbashi, the capital of the Congo's copper-rich region Katanga, the Economist reported "a sudden Chinese invasion".
Troubled Angola recently shunned Western financial aid because of the amount of Chinese money pouring into it, in return for commodities.
From Kazakhstan to Indonesia to Latin America, Chinese firms are gobbling up oil, gas, coal and metals.
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Canadian authorities were recently alarmed to find the Chinese interested in exploring the Arctic Ocean, in a bid to get a share of the minerals beneath the thawing icecap.
In eastern Siberia, Russians worry that China is by default taking over their empty land.
The West has long seen Africa as its backyard, but Western diplomats now worry that not just Africa, but South America, too, is being lost to China.
And Western governments are concerned that the rules of the game are changing. Most worryingly, as China's brutal suppression of the once independent Tibet shows, this is not a superpower that respects Western standards on human rights.
From Darfur to Myanmar, China is cuddling up to murderous dictators.
At home, it holds mass executions of criminals with bullets in the back of the head while transplant surgeons stand by to harvest their still pulsating organs.
Yet Western governments have been in such awe of China's looming power that their response has not been to challenge its abuses, but to try to silence their own protesters at home.
From the UN to the IMF to the World Bank, the international institutions that attempt to govern the planet were made in the image of the victors of World War II. Now power is shifting from West to East, the whole liberal democratic world order will face its first serious challenge in decades.
Many fear that things could get ugly.
There is only one thing worse than an unchallenged superpower - it is a superpower with a victim mentality, which feels the world owes it a favour.
And the bitter truth is that, after centuries of humiliation in foreign affairs, there is a nationalist mood in China that the country's time has come again, that it can again claim its rightful place as the world's most powerful country.
Its comparative weakness over the last few centuries is, in fact, but a blip in the last 2,000 years, during which China was the world's most economically and culturally advanced nation.
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It is an accident of history that Europeans took advantage of their window of opportunity in the last half of the second millennium to take over the world.
The cause was a combination of factors such as the development of maritime technology in Europe, the competition between European countries that drove them to look outwards and find new ways to increase prosperity, and the fact China remained firmly locked in its agrarian, introspective past.
Now things have changed, and already the shift in the world economy is starting to have dramatic effects on migration patterns.
The emigration of poor people from China and India to the West is slowing down, as their citizens see more hope in their own rapidly advancing nations.
Instead, their expanding middle classes are paying large fees for their children to enjoy a Western university education, before returning home.
There are now 60,000 Chinese students in Britain, more than from any other country.
Westerners have become accustomed to being the only tourists in the world's tourist hotspots, but the Chinese and Indians want to enjoy the fruits of their labour by expanding their horizons, too.
Chinese tourists are likely to replace American tourists as popular irritants in Britain, and replace the Germans as competitors for the ski lifts.
As the opportunities flow from West to East, so too do the people.
India is luring the global Indian diaspora back, with laws that would be judged racist in Britain, offering visas to anyone living in the West with Indian blood in their veins.
Even some non-Indian Westerners are heading East for opportunities greater than they find at home.
The West's cultural supremacy is likely to be as challenged as its economic supremacy.
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As their economic confidence grows, Asians are discovering pride in their own cultures and are less inclined to mimic Western ones.
There is an infectious confidence in Bollywood, and the price of Chinese antiques is rocketing as the newly rich Chinese decide they want a slice of their history. Western culture, like the dollar, will soon find its heyday behind it.
But Western attitudes will change as well, with a likely shift to the political Right. White liberal guilt, the driving force behind political correctness, will subside as Westerners feel threatened by the global order changing, and their supremacy slipping away.
Anti-Americanism will disappear as Europeans realise how much better it was to have a world super power that was a democracy (however flawed) not a dictatorship.
There is even speculation that the intense economic pressure on countries such as Britain will cause them to trim down their bloated welfare state, simply because it will no longer be affordable at present levels.
Western attitudes of superiority to China and the rest of the East will also subside, as Westerners realise they are no longer the masters of the world.
The U.S. company Orient Express complained when Tata tried to buy it, that any association with the Indian company would damage the Orient Express's premium brand.
Responding, R K Krishna Kumar, a senior Tata executive, thundered that "Indian companies ... will take their rightful place in the international arena.
"Enterprises and individuals must recognise and adapt to these fundamental economic changes. We believe that those with a fossilised frame of mind risk being marginalised."
In a world in which we are no longer masters, it is a warning that we ignore at our peril.
Find this story at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/worldnews.html?in_article_id=559133&in_page_id=1811
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena
on: April 12, 2008, 04:42:02 PM
20 Questions for Barack Obama
By John Hawkins
Friday, April 11, 2008
So far, because the mainstream media is smitten with him, Barack Obama has been able to get by running a campaign based on hope, change, unity, love, and rainbows made of cuddly kittens.
However, before we get around to coronating Barack as our new President/Cult of Unity Leader, there are a few questions he should have to answer before America starts drinking his Kool-Aid.
Granted, many members of our esteemed press seem to consider it crass to expect Obama to actually answer questions about unimportant things like his agenda, his character, and what he actually wants to do when he becomes the leader of the free world. That's why he would probably get away with doing what slick politicians like him always do when they're asked tough questions: lie, misdirect, and dodge.
But still, wouldn't it be great if there were some members of the mainstream media that at least had enough integrity to ask him the tough questions in the first place? Ok, you can stop laughing now. Let me put it another way: if there are any Hillary Clinton fans in the press who'd like to help derail Obama so that your preferred liberal candidate can win, start putting questions like these to him:
* You've made unifying the American public and putting our political divisions behind us one of the central themes of your campaign. Yet, National Journal ranked you as the single most liberal senator in 2007. So, which liberal beliefs of yours are you willing to give up for unity's sake?
* Along the same lines, John McCain has been behind numerous pieces of prominent bi-partisan legislation. So, if voters are looking for a candidate who can unify the country, wouldn't he be a better choice than you?
* If you didn't agree with Jeremiah Wright's racist and anti-American views, why did you take your own children to his church and expose them to what he had to say?
* If I may steal a question from Peter Weher, "With which elements, if any, of black liberation theology — as represented by Reverend Wright and Trinity United Church of Christ — do you strongly disagree? Do you think any of the core tenets of black liberation theology are racist?"
* Could black voters trust a white candidate to fairly represent their interests even if he attended an anti-black church and was close friends with a prominent white minister who was famously hostile to black Americans?
* John Conyers has said that he intends to "move legislation that could lead the federal government to apologize for slavery and pay reparations" if you become President. Would you support that legislation?
* Given our budget deficit, how can you justify giving away 845 billion dollars of our tax money to other nations over the next 13 years via your Global Poverty Act?
* In 2004, you said that you opposed the Defense of Marriage Act, which is designed to keep gay marriage from being imposed on the country by judicial fiat. Do you think the American people and their representatives should have a right to decide whether or not they want gay marriage in their states? If the answer is "yes," how can you possibly square that with your opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act?
* Given that you're pro-partial birth abortion, would you support overturning the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003?
* You claim to support the 2nd Amendment, but why should people believe you when, in 1996, you supported "banning the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns?"
* Many people believe your plan for Iraq would be viewed as a huge victory for Al-Qaeda in much of the world, would lead to the collapse of democracy in that country, would boost Iran's standing in the region, and would lead to genocide on a massive scale. Do you believe that those things won't happen or do you believe that those are prices we should be willing to pay to leave Iraq?
* You've often spoken about what the positive effects of pulling out of Iraq will be, but what do you think the negative consequences of your choice to lose the war in Iraq will be?
* Given that we're fighting a war on terror, why do you think it's appropriate for you to continue to personally associate with terrorists like William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn who bombed buildings on American soil, attempted to murder Army officers, and even today, publicly say that they have no regrets about their actions?
* Can you give a more convincing explanation for why you no longer wear a flag pin and why you famously chose not to hold your hand over your heart for our National Anthem?
* Your campaign has suggested that you should receive half the delegates from the state of Michigan even though your name wasn't even on the ballot. Given that your supporters helped thwart a re-vote, isn't that extraordinarily hypocritical, arrogant, and undemocratic of you?
* Given your past history of using cocaine, which is extremely addictive, would you be willing to regularly take drug tests during the campaign and when you're in the White House to insure Americans that you're not still using?
* You claimed that you "never saw or approved" an "Illinois voter group's detailed questionnaire" that had you taking some embarrassingly liberal stands "on gun control, the death penalty and abortion." You chalked up those answers on the questionnaire to an overzealous aide. Yet, it turned out that you were blatantly lying and were actually interviewed for the questionnaire and even sent in your own handwritten notes. So, if you're willing to tell such a bald-faced lie to cover up your liberal positions, why should the American people believe you now when you claim, on issue after issue, to have flip flopped to a more moderate position than you held just a few years back?
* You personally, along with your campaign, have continuously and consistently lied and claimed that John McCain wants to fight a war in Iraq for the next 100 years. However, what he actually said -- and has repeated many times is, "Maybe (we'll be in Iraq for) 100 (years)...We've been in Japan for 60 years, we've been in South Korea for 50 years, that'd be fine with me as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed." Why have you continued to knowingly lie about this issue and why should voters trust what you say if you're going to deliberately try to mislead them in this fashion?
* After engaging in a crooked land deal with Tony Rezko, a man who donated $10,000 from (an) alleged kickback scheme to your campaign, how can voters trust you to act in an ethical fashion in the White House?
* According to an April 23, 2007 article from the Chicago Sun-Times called "Barack Obama and his slumlord patron, "Obama, who has worked as a lawyer and a legislator to improve living conditions for the poor, took campaign donations from Rezko even as Rezko's low-income housing empire was collapsing, leaving many African-American families in buildings riddled with problems -- including squalid living conditions, vacant apartments, lack of heat, squatters and drug dealers." Do you have any regrets about teaming up with a slumlord to further your own political career on the backs of the very poor people you claimed to be helping?
John Hawkins is a professional blogger who runs Conservative Grapevine and Right Wing News.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / You say "Unrestricted Warfare, I say "Indirect War"
on: April 08, 2008, 08:46:15 AM
Hizbullah’s indirect war
Hizbullah uses smugglers to flood Israel with drugs, acquire intelligence
This is not just an espionage affair. In Hizbullah’s written war doctrine this is referred to as the “indirect war.”
Drugs for Info
IDF soldier suspected of disclosing information to Hizbullah / Ahiya Raved
Indictment to be filed against non-commissioned officer suspected of disclosing sensitive information to Hizbullah terrorists in south Lebanon as part of drug-smuggling operation
In other words: The way to bring down the State of Israel not through fire and slaughter, but rather, by flooding Israeli society with drugs. This is not paranoia. This Hizbullah strategy is well known in Israel for two decades at least.
In the past, the indirect war included another area: Forging foreign currency, and particularly dollars, for the purpose of distributing it in Israel and using it to acquire weapons in the West. The forgeries were of relatively poor quality and therefore they died away. The drugs, on the other hand, are a matter of stable and ancient tradition on this front that has been enabling several clans to make a living for hundreds of years now.
Hizbullah took over the smuggling rings and routes and enlisted the drugs for the purpose of its “indirect war” on Israel.
It is no coincidence that the person orchestrating this project from Beirut is a former Arab-Israeli, senior Hizbullah figure Kais Obeid. He started his career as a drug dealer in Israel who escaped to Lebanon. He was also the man who managed to lay the trap for former captive Elchanan Tannenbaum through a scheme that involved drug deals.
It is for good reason that Hizbullah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah adopted Obeid’s ideas and turned them into a part of the organization’s operational doctrine. This effort is profitable, it pushes Israel into a black market economy, and it poisons Israelis. In any case, Nasrallah perceives Israel to be a rotten and weak society whose days are numbered. Flood it with drugs, and it will be lost in the drug-induced high.
And so, for years now Hizbullah has maintained poppy fields in Lebanon’s Beqaa region and producing opium and heroin in labs. Nasrallah also has business connections with drug cartels in South America, where some of the organization’s funds come from.
Hizbullah members themselves do not deal with drug smuggling directly. They take advantage of existing rings. Therefore, anyone who gets close to drugs in Lebanon knows that it is operating under Hizbullah’s patronage. Initially, about 15 years ago, the dealers required passage permits from Hizbullah, which controlled the roads. Today we are talking about operational ties in the full sense of the word. By the way, this is why the IDF fires at drug smugglers as if they were terrorists.
Rift is deepening
In order to improve the drug smuggling into Israel, drug dealers from Lebanon recruited Israeli collaborators, mostly non-Jews. Some of them serve in the army and the clans they come from are related to the drug trade; and the road from drugs to treason and espionage is short. For example, before the IDF withdrew from Lebanon, Arab Israelis assisted Hizbullah members in hiding weapons inside Israeli territory. The weapons awaited infiltrators who were supposed to come into Israel in order to carry out terror attacks (as was the case in the Metzuba attack in 2003.)
In fact, almost every year we see one kind of such drug-related espionage ring or another being uncovered, along with the involvement of Arab Israelis. This time around the story is apparently more severe than the previous one, because several Arabs are suspected of involvement. The information handed over to Hizbullah is not necessarily strategic, yet Hizbullah doesn’t look for such information. It seeks information that would expose vulnerable points in the system so that it can carry out a terror attack or abduction.
To that end, even traitors who are not motivated by fundamentalist ideological zeal, but rather, by greed, are effective enough.
In the wake of the latest affair, the IDF Northern Command engaged in a process of self-examination in relation to the non-Jewish career officers operating in this sector. This is apparently not enough. After all, it is impossible for soldiers to be operating on the border without being able to trust their non-commissioned officer and fearing that he will sell them out to the enemy. This rift with Israel’s minority groups is deepening, and goes beyond the confines of the Northern Command and IDF.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China
on: April 06, 2008, 10:27:14 AM
I like that Doug begins a discussion about the complexity of our relationship with China.
In addition to the well known platitudes, I offer to the mix:
1) China as a unique demographic profile due to the one child policy. What are the implications thereof?
War. China has a growing wave of males with no chance of ever finding a mate. These tend to be from rural stock, as urbanites, especially China's upwardly mobile tend towards valuing a daughter as much as a son while the peasants are still overwhelmingly "son-centric" and willing to commit infanticide and/or gender selection abortion. The PRC will ensurte the wave of poor, rootless males doesn't threaten it's existance.
2) China is a toxic dump, an ecological disaster;
A story out the other day labled China the most polluted place on the planet. I remember how horrified I was seeing the pollution firsthand. The air in China's cities makes LA look like a ecological paradise. My wife traveled to places in China where plating factories dumped chem waste directly into the rivers that were the water supply for villages downstream.
3) China's banking industry's books make Enron a paradigm of financial rectitude. Is there a disaster in the making? Or will it lead to an even worse version of what happened to former econ juggernaut Japan?
China is running as fast as it can to stay in one place. Sooner or later, this won't be enough.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science
on: April 02, 2008, 01:21:36 PM
China's stealth war on the U.S.
By Max Boothttp://www.JewishWorldReview.com
| Maj. Gen. Zhu Chenghu of the Chinese People's Liberation Army caused quite a stir last week when he threatened to nuke "hundreds" of American cities if the U.S. dared to interfere with a Chinese attempt to conquer Taiwan.
This saber-rattling comes while China is building a lot of sabers. Although its defense budget, estimated to be as much as $90 billion, remains a fraction of the United States', it is enough to make China the world's third-biggest weapons buyer (behind Russia) and the biggest in Asia. Moreover, China's spending has been increasing rapidly, and it is investing in the kind of systems — especially missiles and submarines — needed to challenge U.S. naval power in the Pacific.
The Pentagon on Tuesday released a study of Chinese military capabilities. In a preview, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a Singapore audience last month that China's arms buildup was an "area of concern." It should be. But we shouldn't get overly fixated on such traditional indices of military power as ships and bombs — not even atomic bombs. Chinese strategists, in the best tradition of Sun Tzu, are working on craftier schemes to topple the American hegemon.
In 1998, an official People's Liberation Army publishing house brought out a treatise called "Unrestricted Warfare," written by two senior army colonels, Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui. This book, which is available in English translation, is well known to the U.S. national security establishment but remains practically unheard of among the general public.
"Unrestricted Warfare" recognizes that it is practically impossible to challenge the U.S. on its own terms. No one else can afford to build mega-expensive weapons systems like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which will cost more than $200 billion to develop. "The way to extricate oneself from this predicament," the authors write, "is to develop a different approach."
Their different approaches include financial warfare (subverting banking systems and stock markets), drug warfare (attacking the fabric of society by flooding it with illicit drugs), psychological and media warfare (manipulating perceptions to break down enemy will), international law warfare (blocking enemy actions using multinational organizations), resource warfare (seizing control of vital natural resources), even ecological warfare (creating man-made earthquakes or other natural disasters).
Cols. Qiao and Wang write approvingly of Al Qaeda, Colombian drug lords and computer hackers who operate outside the "bandwidths understood by the American military." They envision a scenario in which a "network attack against the enemy" — clearly a red, white and blue enemy — would be carried out "so that the civilian electricity network, traffic dispatching network, financial transaction network, telephone communications network and mass media network are completely paralyzed," leading to "social panic, street riots and a political crisis." Only then would conventional military force be deployed "until the enemy is forced to sign a dishonorable peace treaty."
This isn't just loose talk. There are signs of this strategy being implemented. The anti-Japanese riots that swept China in April? That would be psychological warfare against a major Asian rival. The stage-managed protests in 1999, after the U.S. accidentally bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, fall into the same category.
The bid by the state-owned China National Offshore Oil Co., to acquire Unocal? Resource warfare. Attempts by China's spy apparatus to infiltrate U.S. high-tech firms and defense contractors? Technological warfare. China siding against the U.S. in the U.N. Security Council over the invasion of Iraq? International law warfare. Gen. Zhu's threat to nuke the U.S.? Media warfare.
And so on. Once you know what to look for, the pieces fall into place with disturbing ease. Of course, most of these events have alternative, more benign explanations: Maybe Gen. Zhu is an eccentric old coot who's seen "Dr. Strangelove" a few too many times.
The deliberate ambiguity makes it hard to craft a response to "unrestricted warfare." If Beijing sticks to building nuclear weapons, we know how to deal with that — use the deterrence doctrine that worked against the Soviets. But how do we respond to what may or may not be indirect aggression by a major trading partner? Battling terrorist groups like Al Qaeda seems like a cinch by comparison.
This is not a challenge the Pentagon is set up to address, but it's an urgent issue for the years ahead.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics
on: March 27, 2008, 09:33:14 AM
We don’t call him “Baghdad Jim” for nothing; Plus: Another treacherous CAIR official
By Michelle Malkin • March 26, 2008 07:18 PM
When I lived in Seattle, he was well-known as “Baghdad Jim McDermott” and the name has stuck over the years.
With good reason. Back in 2002, Stephen Hayes reported on how Baghdad Democrats David Bonior, Jim McDermott, and Mike Thompson took a trip to Iraq in the run up to the invasion and followed up with a report on how Saddam’s cash paid for the junkets.
Now, the AP has a new report on the payments:
Federal prosecutors say Saddam Hussein’s intelligence agency secretly financed a trip to Iraq for three U.S. lawmakers during the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion.
An indictment in Detroit accuses Muthanna Al-Hanooti of arranging for three members of Congress to travel to Iraq in October 2002 at the behest of Saddam’s regime. Prosecutors say Iraqi intelligence officials paid for the trip through an intermediary.
In exchange, Al-Hanooti allegedly received 2 million barrels of Iraqi oil.
The lawmakers are not mentioned but the dates correspond to a trip by Democratic Reps. Jim McDermott of Washington, David Bonior of Michigan and Mike Thompson of California. There was no indication the three lawmakers knew the trip was underwritten by Saddam.
“There was no indication the three lawmakers knew the trip was underwritten by Saddam?”
Debbie Schlussel has the lowdown on the al-Hanooti case:
For at least six years, I’ve been asking why the Justice Department–specifically the Islamo-pandering parade of U.S. Attorneys for the Eastern District of Michigan–were breaking pita with officials of LIFE for Relief and Development, including Muthanna Al-Hanooti.
Today, Al-Hanooti, a former chief of CAIR-Michigan was indicted for acting as a spy for Saddam Hussein in America. (And–shocker–he has a second wife and family in Iraq.) To me and anyone who followed the story and read a newspaper, that isn’t news. In fact, the indictment is far too little, far too late. The indictment says that a trip taken by three Congressmen–liberal Democrats Jim McDermott, David Bonior, and Jim Thompson–to Iraq in 2002, was funded by Saddam Hussein, using a third party to arrange the financing, and Al-Hanooti to put the trip together. Again, not news, since I wrote about it repeatedly on this site and also in The New York Post as far back as 2003.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena
on: March 26, 2008, 11:04:15 AM
Some Obama fabulism as well?
POSTED AT 11:30 AM ON MARCH 26, 2008 BY ED MORRISSEY
We have had a field day with the Tuzla Dash and the exposure of Hillary Clinton as a fabulist over the last few days, although I have been writing about this since December. In truth, though, finding a Clinton untruth is something akin to shooting fish in a barrel. At this stage, political investors have, as they say in Wall Street, factored dishonesty into the Clinton stock price.
However, Barack Obama has promised a new kind of politics. Unfortunately, he has the same problems with calculating birth dates as Hillary does. In his speech commemorating the 42nd anniversary of the march on Selma, Alabama, he credited the march with his existence — even though he was almost 4 years old at the time:
What happened in Selma, Alabama and Birmingham also stirred the conscience of the nation. It worried folks in the White House who said, “You know, we’re battling Communism. How are we going to win hearts and minds all across the world? If right here in our own country, John, we’re not observing the ideals set fort in our Constitution, we might be accused of being hypocrites.” So the Kennedy’s decided we’re going to do an air lift. We’re going to go to Africa and start bringing young Africans over to this country and give them scholarships to study so they can learn what a wonderful country America is.
This young man named Barack Obama got one of those tickets and came over to this country. He met this woman whose great great-great-great-grandfather had owned slaves; but she had a good idea there was some craziness going on because they looked at each other and they decided that we know that the world as it has been it might not be possible for us to get together and have a child. There was something stirring across the country because of what happened in Selma, Alabama, because some folks are willing to march across a bridge. So they got together and Barack Obama Jr. was born. So don’t tell me I don’t have a claim on Selma, Alabama. Don’t tell me I’m not coming home to Selma, Alabama.
The first march on Selma took place on March 7, 1965 (there were three of them). At the time, Barack Obama was three and a half years old. Now, Obama also mentions the Birmingham march as part of this speech — but that took place in May 1963. Obama would have been 20 months old when Dr. King led that demonstration.
That’s not the only bit of fabulism here. Obama’s birthdate is August 4, 1961. It doesn’t take a doctor or a math whiz to calculate his conception as sometime in 1960 — before John Kennedy took office. In fact, it might have taken place on Election Day, when Kennedy won the presidency. That would tend to indicate that Mom and Dad met sometime before the African airlift that Obama credits for his birth.
So what does that mean? It could mean that his father and mother found hope in America even before the election of John Kennedy. It might mean that hope and change had already started because a broad class of Americans had already found racism intolerable and had started working to end it. It certainly doesn’t mean that Obama owes his existence to the marches on Selma and Birmingham, and his appropriation of those marches reeks of something other than hope, change, or “new politics”.
Perhaps the Democrats need to add positions to the staff of presidential candidates, just to handle the difficult task of calculating birth dates and world events. Between Obama’s Selma conception and Hillary’s Mount Everest naming, the Democrats look hopelessly inept at history on both a global and personal scale. (h/t: HA reader Stoo)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: March 24, 2008, 05:04:22 PM
Key Obama Iowa Adviser Invokes 'Monica's Blue Dress' When Assailing Bill Clinton's 'Patriotism' Comments
March 24, 2008 11:07 AM
Gordon Fischer, the former director of the Iowa Democratic Party and a senior adviser for Sen. Barack Obama's efforts in the Hawkeye State, is still very much involved in making sure Obama gets delegates as the caucus process continues.
He's also quite fired up about former President Bill Clinton's comments in front of a North Carolina VFW Hall, which the Obama campaign took to be an impugning of Obama's patriotism.
In his blog, Fischer writes:
"B. Clinton questions Obama's patriotism. In repsonse (sic), an Obama aide compared B. Clinton to Joe McCarthy. This is patently unfair. To McCarthy.
"When Joe McCarthy questioned others' patriotism, McCarthy (1) actually believed, at least aparently (sic), the questions were genuine, and (2) he did so in order to build up, not tear down, his own party, the GOP. Bill Clinton cannot possibly seriously believe Obama is not a patriot, and cannot possibly be said to be helping -- instead he is hurting -- his own party. B. Clinton should never be forgiven. Period. This is a stain on his legacy, much worse, much deeper, than the one on Monica's blue dress."
That's not quite the kind of comment that keeps with Obama's pledge to focus on policy differences instead of personal attacks, I think it's safe to say.
UPDATE: Fischer writes to say, "On my individual blog, I made a stupid comment. I sincerely apologize for a tasteless and gratituous comment I made here about President Clinton. It was unnecessary and wrong.
"I have since deleted the comment, and again apologize for making it. It will not happen again.
"I hope my readers will accept my apology and we can move on to the very important issues facing our state and country. Thank you."
UPDATE 2: Obama spox Tommy Vietor writes, "As Senator Obama has said repeatedly, comments like this have no place in our political dialogue and he strongly rejects them.”
Vietor also says that Fischer was not a co-chair, though he's been identified as such, as well as an
adviser, someone who organized Iowa for Obama, etc. etc. So I changed his label to "key adviser." The point is he's directly affiliated with the Obama campaign and he was invoking the blue dress.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: March 24, 2008, 04:49:11 PM
Slouching Toward Denver
The Democratic death march.
Noam Scheiber, The New Republic Published: Wednesday, April 09, 2008
When Democrats contemplate the apocalypse these days, they have visions of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton slugging it out à la Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter at the 1980 convention. The campaign's current trajectory is, in fact, alarmingly similar to the one that produced that disastrous affair. Back then, Carter had built up a delegate lead with early wins in Iowa, New Hampshire, and several Southern states. But, as the primary season dragged on, Kennedy began pocketing big states and gaining momentum. Once all the voting ended and Kennedy came up short, he eyed the New York convention as a kind of Hail Mary.
Any candidate trailing at the convention must employ divisive tactics, almost by definition. For example, much of the bitterness in 1980 arose from the floor votes Kennedy engineered to drive a wedge between Carter and his delegates. At one point, Kennedy forced a vote on whether each state's delegation should be split equally between men and women. Carter counted many feminists among his delegates, but the campaign initially opposed the measure so as to deny Kennedy a victory. "You had women who were with Jimmy Carter who were crying on the floor," recalls Joe Trippi, then a young Kennedy organizer.
The Kennedy strategy worked both too well and not well enough. Kennedy won many of the floor votes thanks to Carter's unwillingness to squeeze conflicted delegates. He captivated the rank and file with his mythic "Dream shall never die" speech--a stark contrast to Carter's ham-handed rhetorical style. (In his own speech, Carter famously confused former vice president Hubert Humphrey with Horatio Hornblower, a fictional character from a British book series.) But, for all the maneuvering, the delegate tally barely budged. Kennedy won the convention's hearts and minds; Carter locked up the nomination.
One of the iconic images from that episode has the two men on a crowded stage in Madison Square Garden. Carter edges toward Kennedy expectantly, hoping for a symbolic show of unity. But Kennedy's back is turned, and he's moving in the opposite direction. Capping four days of intramural mud-wrestling, it perfectly captured the party's rift heading toward the general election. Carter himself later lamented news accounts portraying the scene as "an indication that the split in our ranks had not healed." "This accurate impression was quite damaging to our campaign," he wrote in his memoir, Keeping Faith.
As it happens, it's possible that Kennedy never intended the cold-shoulder treatment. The original idea was for Kennedy and Carter to appear alone together at the podium. But, thanks to some horrific Manhattan traffic, Kennedy didn't show up until legions of Carter supporters had flooded the stage. He may have been disoriented amid all the chaos. "To this day, I don't know that there was deliberate effort by Kennedy to snub Carter. It was just a big confusion," says Bill Carrick, one of Kennedy's floor managers. "The lesson is that, if you go into conventions, you're going to have messes. These are not manageable processes."
With little chance that either candidate this time around can clinch the nomination at the polls, it's not inconceivable that Democrats will re-enact this spectacle in Denver this August. (One direct link: Clinton operative Harold Ickes oversaw Kennedy's convention effort in 1980 and would likely oversee Hillary's.) The sequel could be even more damaging. It's true that the ideological gulf separating Kennedy and Carter doesn't divide Obama and Clinton. But, precisely because the substantive differences are so small, the temptation to court delegates along racial and gender lines would be even greater. And the sense of alienation among the losers would be overwhelming. Says former Al Gore campaign manager (and undecided superdelegate) Donna Brazile: "I don't have the 1980 experience, but that was two white men. This is a woman and a black. What's different about this fight is that, when they attack each other, supporters feel like they're attacking them personally." Remember the recent firestorm over Geraldine Ferraro's comment that, "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position"? Well, imagine that flap playing out continuously over four days among hundreds of people with no other news to displace it, and you begin to see the problem.
The good news is that an ugly convention fight is highly preventable. The one advantage of a scenario that's both completely hair-raising and utterly foreseeable is that everyone has an incentive to stop it. The bad news is what's not preventable: a contest that rolls into June. Even without a messy convention, the current trajectory of the primary campaign could easily destroy the party's White House prospects.
Democrats have never been known for Spock-like rationality, but even they see the logic of avoiding a convention fiasco. "It's in nobody's interest in the Democratic Party for that to happen," says Mike Feldman, another former Gore aide. "There is a mechanism in place--built into the process--to avoid that." That mechanism, such as it is, involves an en masse movement of uncommitted superdelegates to the perceived winner of the primaries. Almost everything you hear from such people suggests this will happen in time. "I think once we have the elected delegate count, things will move fairly quickly, " says Representative Chris Van Hollen, who oversees the party's House campaign committee. Increasingly, there is even agreement on the metric by which a winner would be named. Just about every superdelegate and party operative I spoke with endorsed Nancy Pelosi's recent suggestion that pledged delegates should matter most.
Assuming Feldman and Van Hollen are right, that means Democrats won't wait much past June 3--currently the last day on the primary calendar--before crowning a nominee. At the same time, it means there's very little chance of ending the contest sooner. Undecided superdelegates on Capitol Hill, along with party elders like Pelosi, Gore, and Harry Reid, "don't want to be seen as elites coming in and overturning the will of the people," says one senior House aide. A Senate staffer says his boss "thinks this give and take is natural, it will be helpful in the end." "That's a view held by a majority of these guys who have been through the cut and thrust of politics," he adds. Which means early June it is.
The problem is that each day Clinton and Obama spend consumed with the other is a day that moves John McCain closer to the White House. McCain's biggest asset is his political brand, which evokes a straight-talking, party-bucking reformer. Among his biggest liabilities is the suspicion he inspires among conservatives thanks to these same attributes. McCain apparently plans to spend the next few months making nice with his base. But anything he accomplishes on this front clearly diminishes his swing-voter appeal and, therefore, his chances in November.
Ideally, the Democrats would be exploiting this tension like mad. They would highlight the anti-Catholic, anti-gay ravings of John Hagee, the evangelical minister whose endorsement McCain recently accepted. They would ridicule his chumminess with supply-side Neanderthals like Jack Kemp and his flip-flop on the Bush tax cuts. They'd dwell on McCain's less-noticed association with crony-capitalists during his tenure as Commerce Committee chairman.
Instead, something close to the opposite is happening. McCain's courtship of the lunatic right and his ties to K Street have largely been hidden from view, while the Democrats' dirty laundry has been aired for swing voters. The upshot for Democrats has not been good. In late February, a Gallup poll showed Obama leading McCain among independents by 15 points. By March 6, a Newsweek poll put McCain up ten points among this group--and that was before Jeremiah Wright weighed in. Hillary went from down five to down 15 among independents during the same time.
A quick look at some recent campaign coverage sheds light on why this is happening. On March 12, Ferraro and the racially polarized Mississippi primary were A-1 news in The Washington Post. It wasn't until page A-6 that you stumbled across a story about McCain's ties to the parent company of Airbus, the Boeing rival to whom the Pentagon recently handed a lucrative contract. The second story could have muddied McCain's reformist credentials, but it barely caused a ripple on cable or the blogosphere.
McCain has no doubt stumbled while trying to consolidate GOP support. He prompted some grumbling with his recent appointment of former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, a moderate Republican with little history of party activism, to head Victory '08, a key campaign committee. But there's evidence that, on balance, he's well ahead of schedule. Since Super Tuesday, three-quarters of Republicans have routinely proclaimed themselves satisfied with McCain as their nominee.
If McCain winds up facing Obama, he'll enjoy yet another advantage: a nominee weakened by attacks from a fellow Democrat. "Clinton hit a raw nerve several weeks ago when she said she had thirty-something years of experience, McCain had twenty- to thirty-something years, and Barack Obama had a speech," says Representative Artur Davis, an Obama supporter. The suggestion that Obama isn't ready to be commander-in-chief is "unusually corrosive," Davis complains. Indeed, when I asked various Republican and neutral Democratic operatives to name the most damaging twist in the primaries, most cited this same critique. "It's very good messaging--that he's not fit to be commander-in-chief," crowed one Republican strategist. "When you get the Democrats saying it, that's kind of the nuke in the whole thing." One of his Democratic counterparts was even more blunt: "It's one thing for John McCain to say [Obama's] not as muscular. It's another thing to have a girl saying it. It has some influence on swing voters."
Of course, if Obama's the nominee, he's unlikely to win a national security debate against McCain, with or without Hillary's broadsides. Obama's best bet is to focus the discussion specifically on Iraq. On the other hand, debating national security credentials during the primaries invariably alters the general-election landscape. You can now count on seeing another "3 a.m." ad sometime this fall--not to mention a "3 a.m." debate question from Tim Russert, and a shadowy, "3 a.m."-obsessed 527 group. ("Insomniac Prank-Callers For Truth"?) "I do believe the winner of the 3 a.m. ad is John McCain," says Kevin Madden, a former aide to Mitt Romney. "It's like an NCAA bracket. She may get the play-in game [against Obama], but she'd lose that in the championship game."
And there will surely be more body blows to come. Ad hominem attacks are an almost necessary feature of an unusually long campaign in which policy differences are minimal. At a certain point, there's just no other way to get traction against your opponent. That's one reason Pelosi has informally spoken with colleagues about stepping in if the tone abruptly deteriorates. But there's a catch-22 involved here: Party elders won't forcefully intervene unless an attack does serious damage. But, by then, the damage will have already been done.
Worse, any missile that hits its target would also destroy the person who launched it. Given the delegate math, Hillary's only path to the nomination, barring a meltdown by Obama, is to destroy his electability. But harsh attacks on Obama will inevitably discourage African Americans from voting in the fall, and Hillary can't beat McCain without strong black turnout in places like Cleveland, Detroit, and Philadelphia. Conversely, any attack on Hillary that alienated moderate Republican women could cripple Obama's chances.
Opinion journalists have a time-honored technique for dealing with news they don't like: Keep making phone calls. In my case, this yielded a depressingly meager haul. The most optimistic scenario I could plausibly construct didn't end the campaign until the second week in May. To make it happen, Obama would have to overtake Hillary among superdelegates--a key psychological barrier. He'd have to limit his margin of defeat in Pennsylvania to ten points, then hold serve two weeks later in North Carolina and Indiana, a pair of states he's slightly favored to win. At that point, Hillary would face nearly impossible odds of overtaking him in the delegate race.
Unfortunately for anyone who wants the race to end soon, there are several problems with this scenario. For one thing, even if all this comes to pass, Hillary would still have to bow out voluntarily--an unlikely twist in any event, but highly implausible if the limbo states of Florida and Michigan still offer her hope. Meanwhile, any one of the aforementioned steps could easily fall through. Polls currently show Obama trailing by double digits in Pennsylvania; the good Reverend Wright could make that tough to change. And, though Obama now leads in North Carolina and Indiana, his advantage is either small or, in the latter case, based on a single, flimsy poll. As for superdelegates, as of this writing, the last two out of the closet opted for Hillary.
So, to review: The most optimistic scenario we have relies on a highly tenuous assumption; it's unlikely to happen even if that assumption holds; and, regardless, it allows the Democratic contest to drag on for six more brutal weeks. The dream may never die, but it's seen some better days.
Noam Scheiber is a senior editor at The New Republic.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: March 24, 2008, 03:56:53 PM
6) Does McCainland understand this? It's unclear. So far, the only strategic news out of the McCain campaign has been a half-baked scheme to fool around with regional offices and "decentralization." Such plumbing and wiring trivia misses the critical point: what McCain needs at once is a well-executed back to the center message strategy to enlarge his appeal beyond just national security issues and win this vital election.
Never interfere when your opponent, or opponents are busy committing suicide. McCain might well glide into the white house while the dems get caught in a civil war. IMHO, he's playing it exactly right, for right now.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena
on: March 24, 2008, 09:56:15 AM
March 24, 2008, 5:00 a.m.
The Obama Crash and Burn
If he acts as if the Wright controversy is behind him, it's over for Obama.
By Victor Davis Hanson
The latest polls reflecting Obama’s near-collapse should serve as a morality tale of John Edwards’s two Americas — the political obtuseness of the intellectual elite juxtaposed to the common sense of the working classes.
For some bizarre reason, Obama aimed his speech at winning praise from National Public Radio, the New York Times, and Harvard, and solidifying an already 90-percent solid African-American base — while apparently insulting the intelligence of everyone else.
Indeed, the more op-eds and pundits praised the courage of Barack Obama, the more the polls showed that there was a growing distrust that the eloquent and inspirational candidate has used his great gifts, in the end, to excuse the inexcusable.
The speech and Obama’s subsequent interviews neither explained his disastrous association with Wright, nor dared open up a true discussion of race — which by needs would have to include, in addition to white racism, taboo subjects ranging from disproportionate illegitimacy and drug usage to higher-than-average criminality to disturbing values espoused in rap music and unaddressed anti-Semitism. We learn now that Obama is the last person who wants to end the establishment notion that a few elite African Americans negotiate with liberal white America over the terms of grievance and entitlement — without which all of us really would be transracial persons, in which happiness and gloom hinge, and are seen to do so, on one’s own individual success or failure.
Instead there were the tired platitudes, evasions, and politicking. The intelligentsia is well aware of how postmodern cultural equivalence, black liberation theory, and moral relativism seeped into Obama’s speech, and thus was not offended by an “everybody does it” and “who’s to judge?/eye of the beholder” defense. But to most others the effect was Clintonian. Somehow Obama could not just say,
There is nothing to be offered for Rev. Wright except my deepest apologies for not speaking out against his venom far earlier. We in the African-American community know better than anyone the deleterious effects of racist speech, and so it is time for Rev. Wright and myself to part company, since we have profoundly different views of both present- and future-day America.
The more the pundits gushed about the speech, the more the average Americans thought, “Wait a minute — did he just say what I thought he said?” It’s not lost on Joe Q. Public that Obama justified Wright’s racism by offering us a “landmark” speech on race that:
(1) Compared Wright’s felony to the misdemeanors of his grandmother, Geraldine Ferraro, the Reagan Coalition, corporate culture, and the kitchen sink.
(2) Established the precedent that context excuses everything, in the sense that what good a Wright did (or an Imus did) in the past outweighs any racist outburst of the present.
(3) Claimed that the voice of the oppressed is not to be judged by the same rules of censure as the dominant majority that has no similar claim on victim status.
What is happening, ever so slowly, is that the public is beginning to realize that it knows even less after the speech than it did before about what exactly Obama knew (and when) about Wright’s racism and hatred.
Even elites will wake up to the fact that they’ve been had, in a sense, once they deconstruct the speech carefully and fathom that their utopian candidate just may have managed to destroy what was once a near-certain Democratic sweep in the fall. And a number of African-Americans will come to resent that they are being lumped into a majority akin to the Rev. Wright, millions of whom the majestic Sen. Obama has nobly chosen not to “disown,” despite their apparently similar embarrassing racialism.
Over the past four days, I asked seven or eight random (Asian, Mexican-American, and working-class white) Americans in southern California what they thought of Obama’s candidacy — and framed the question with, “Don’t you think that was a good speech?” The answers, without exception, were essentially: “Forget the speech. I would never vote for Obama after listening to Wright.” In some cases, the reaction was not mild disappointment, but unprintable outrage.
The blame, such as it is, for all this goes to the Obama campaign “pros,” who, in their apparent arrogance over Obamania (a phenomenon due to the candidate’s charisma, not their own savvy), simply went to sleep and let the senator and his wife resort to their natural self-indulgence — itself the offspring of the Obamas’ privilege and insularity. Any amateur handler could have scanned that speech and taken out just 8-10 phrases, called for a tougher stance on Wright, a genuine apology, and put the issue behind them.
Now it’s too late. Like Hillary’s tear, one only gets a single chance at mea culpa and staged vulnerability — and he blew it.
Where are we now? At the most fascinating juncture in the last 50 years of primary-election history.
Superdelegates can’t “steal” the election from Obama’s lock on the delegate count. And they can’t easily debase themselves by abandoning Obama after their recent televised confessionals about abandoning Hillary.
But they can count and compute — and must try to deal with these facts:
(1) Obama is crashing in all the polls, especially against McCain, against whom he doesn’t stack up well, given McCain’s heroic narrative, the upswing in Iraq, and the past distance between McCain and the Bush administration;
(2) Hillary may not just win, but win big in Pennsylvania (and maybe the other states as well), buttressing her suddenly not-so-tired argument about her success in the mega-, in-play purple states. Michigan and Florida that once would have been lost by Hillary in a fair election, now would be fairly won — and Clinton is as willing to replay both as Obama suddenly is not; and
(3) The sure thing of Democrats winning big in the House and Senate is now in danger of a scenario in which a would-be Senator or Representative explains all autumn long that the party masthead really does not like Rev. Wright, whose massive corpus of buffoonery no doubt is still to be mined. (The problem was never “snippets,” but entire speeches devoted to hatred and anger, often carefully outlined in a point-by-point format).
What is the remedy?
I would go buy about 10,000 American flags to blanket every Obama appearance, have a 4x4 lapel-button flag custom-made for the senator, have Michelle finish every appearance by leading a chorus of “God Bless America,” draft every middle-of-the-road crusty drawling Democratic veteran (the knightly Harris Wofford doesn’t cut it) to criss-cross the country — and try to Trotskyize Rev. Wright from the campaign.
Oh, and no need for any more Obama half-conversations about race and “typical white person” clarifications. All that does far more damage to the country than even to Obama himself.
— NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and author, most recently, of A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War.
National Review Online - http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=NjBjODFmNmMxZWU2ZGE5YjBhMjZlYmQ2MmM2MzNiZTc=
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why
on: March 24, 2008, 09:25:44 AM
Why do terrorists stop?
POSTED AT 9:30 AM ON MARCH 24, 2008 BY ED MORRISSEY
Michael Jacobson asks why some high-profile terrorist attacks didn’t happen, and relates how defections and resignations plague even the most extreme terror organizations — and the petty reasons why. One terrorist quit the follow-up to the 9/11 attacks because he tired of the extremism. Another al-Qaeda terrorist quit because Osama bin Laden wouldn’t pay for his wife’s C-section. Jacobson wants us to find a pattern that we can use to defuse the biggest weapons AQ and other terror groups have:
Why do some terrorists drop out? We rightly think of al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups as formidable foes, but the stories of would-be killers who bail give us some intriguing clues about fault lines that counterterrorism officials should exploit. The reasons for a change of heart can be strikingly prosaic: family, money, petty grievances. But they can also revolve around shaken ideology or lost faith in a group’s leadership.
It’s become a truism of counterterrorism that we must understand how and why individuals become jihadists in the first place. But almost nobody is studying the flip side of radicalization — understanding those who leave terrorist organizations. We’d do well to start. Figuring out why individuals walk away from terrorist groups can help governments predict whether an individual — or even a cell — is likely to go through with a plot. Understanding the dropouts should also make it easier for governments to determine which terrorists might be induced to switch sides, help stop radicalization and craft messages that could peel away people already in terrorist organizations. The more we know about why terrorists bail, the better we can fight them.
So where to start? Despite al-Qaeda’s reputation for ferocity and secrecy, plenty of wannabes wind up dropping out from it and its affiliates[.]
One obvious point comes from Jacobson’s essay, although Jacobson doesn’t offer a way to capitalize on it. AQ handlers impress on their suicide jihadists to keep from contacting their families. Jacobson notes that Ziad Jarrah, who piloted United 93 on 9/11, almost dropped out of the plot because of his relationship with his German fiancée. Ramzi Binalshibh had to talk him into staying in the plot, but another potential member dropped out when he returned to his family in Saudi Arabia after leaving the training camp in Afghanistan. Family ties, therefore, should provide a means to negating the attraction to the nihilistic strain of Islam.
But how could the US leverage that? We can’t. Even though it is the most effective manner in disarming the human time bombs produced by terrorist training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the US has little influence on whether jihadists contact their families, or even whether the families would want to disarm their brainwashed members if they made contact. That leaves us with other methods of squeezing the terrorist groups, especially financially but also operationally.
Here we can have some direct impact. The loss of funds makes it harder for AQ and other organizations to pay their people, and that creates dissent. One early AQ member “fumed” over the lack of compensation he received and began embezzling from Osama. When Osama demanded restitution, Jamal Ahmed al-Fadl — who at one point tried to acquire uranium for AQ — went on the run, fearing for his life. L’Houssaine Kerchtou wanted to kill bin Laden when he got turned down for the $500 reimbursement for his wife’s C-section in Morocco.
Others have left over tactics and lack of success. Osama’s own son Omar left after 9/11, asking what good the mass murder had accomplished, telling a journalist that the organization consisted of “dummies”. Another AQ leader left during the Afghan jihad, resentful that people with less military experience than himself were in command and botching the job in late 2001. Failure breeds resentment and a lack of confidence in leadership.
Jacobson wonders whether we can learn from these lessons, but in fact we already have. It shows that terrorists don’t stop when people surrender; rather, they stop when they start losing. The myth that fighting terrorists breeds more terrorists ends with Jacobson’s essay. If we cut off their funds, kill them on the field, and stop their attacks before they begin, terrorists get the message. It won’t stop the Osamas and the Baitullah Mehsuds, but it eventually cuts them off from their recruiting base and their experienced underlings. It takes longer than some attention spans can handle, but that is the path to victory for the West.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena
on: March 20, 2008, 09:26:35 AM
From the Los Angeles Times
Obama blew it
What the candidate should have said about race.
By Michael Meyers
March 20, 2008
Tim Rutten's column, "Obama's Lincoln moment" and The Times editorial, "Obama on race" both miss the mark.
In my considered judgment as a race and civil rights specialist, I would say that Barack Obama's "momentous" speech on race settled on merely "explaining" so-called racial differences between blacks and whites -- and in so doing amplified deep-seated racial tensions and divisions. Instead of giving us a polarizing treatise on the "black experience," Obama should have reiterated the theme that has brought so many to his campaign: That race ain't what it used to be in America.
He should have presented us a pathway out of our racial boxes and a road map for new thinking about race. He should have depicted his minister, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., as a symbol of the dysfunctional angry men who are stuck in the past and who must yield to a new generation of color-blind, hopeful Americans and to a new global economy in which we will look on our neighbors' skin color no differently than how we look on their eye color.
In fact, I'd say that considering the nation's undivided attention to this all-important speech, which gave him an unrivaled opportunity to lift us out of racial and racist thinking, Obama blew it.
I waited in vain for our hybrid presidential candidate to speak the simple truth that there is no such thing as "race," that we all belong to the same race -- the human race. I waited for him to mesmerize us with a singular and focused appeal to hold all candidates to the same standards no matter their race or their sex or their age. But instead Obama gave us a full measure of racial rhetoric about how some of us with an "untrained ear" -- meaning whites and Asians and Latinos -- don't understand and can't relate to the so-called black experience.
Well, I am black, and I can't relate to a "black experience" that shields and explains old-style black ministers who rant and rave about supposed racial differences and about how America ought to be damned. I long ago broke away from all associations and churches that preached the gospel of hate and ethnic divisiveness -- including canceling my membership in 100 Black Men of America Inc., when they refused my motion to admit women and whites. They still don't. I was not going to stay in any group that assigned status or privileges of membership based solely on race or gender.
We and our leaders -- especially our candidates for the highest office in the land -- must repudiate all forms of racial idiocy and sexism, and be judged by whether we still belong to exclusionary or hateful groups. I don't know any church that respects, much less reflects, my personal beliefs in the absolute equality of all people, so I choose not to belong to any of them. And I would never -- as have some presidential candidates -- accept the endorsement of preachers of the gospel according to the most racist and sexist of doctrines.
But someone's race or religion is not mine or anybody else's concern. I couldn't care less that Wright is a Christian or that Louis Farrakhan professes to be a Muslim. I couldn't care less whether the hateful minister who endorsed John McCain is, deep inside, a decent man or a fundamentalist. But I do care about these pastors' divisive and crazed words; I do care that their "sermons" exploit and pander to the worst fears and passions of people based on perceptions and misperceptions about race. I hate that these preachers' sermons prejudge people's motives or behavior based on their race or ethnicity. I hate the haters, and I expected Obama to make a straightforward speech about what has become the Hate Hour -- and the most segregated hour -- in America on Sunday mornings.
I expected Obama, who up to now had been steering a perfect course away from the racial boxes of the past, to challenge racial labels and so-called black experiences. We're all mixed up, and if we haven't yet been by the process of miscegenation, trans-racial adoptions and interracial marriage, we sure ought to get used to how things will be in short order.
That would have been the forward-looking message of a visionary candidate. But Obama erred by looking backward -- as far back as slavery. What does slavery have to do with the price of milk at the grocery store? He referenced continuing segregation, especially segregated public schools, but stopped short. What is he going to do about them? How does he feel about public schools for black boys or single-sex public schools and classes? What does the gospel according to Wright say about such race-based and gender-specific schemes for getting around our civil rights laws?
We can't be united as a nation if we continue to think racially and give credence to racial experiences and differences based on ethnicity, past victim status and stereotypical categories. All of these prejudices surrounding tribe-against-tribe are old-hat and dysfunctional -- especially the rants of ministers, of whatever skin color or religion, who appeal to our base prejudices and to superstitions about our supposed racial differences. The man or woman who talks plainly about our commonality as a race of human beings, about our future as one nation indivisible, rather than about our discredited and disunited past, is, I predict, likely to finish ahead of the pack and do us a great public service.
Michael Meyers is executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition and a former assistant national director of the NAACP. These views are his own.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena
on: March 20, 2008, 09:04:58 AM
March 20, 2008, 5:00 a.m.
The Wright Stand
Judgment, character and Barack Obama.
By Peter Wehner
Several years ago my wife and children attended a Presbyterian church in Washington, D.C. We liked and respected the senior pastor, we had close friends in the congregation, and we felt spiritually nourished by the congregants and the worship. Two of our children were baptized there.
Not long after the attacks of September 11, my wife and I heard two different visitors — one in remarks during a church service, the other while teaching an adult Sunday-school class — that were derogatory of and inflammatory toward Israel.
Upon hearing the words of these two people — which I found both shocking and disquieting — I immediately raised concerns with the senior pastor. He tried to reassure me and then put me in touch with an associate pastor who was in charge of a ministry to Palestinian Christians (one I had been previously unaware of). I engaged in conversations and written correspondence with the associate pastor and the head of the board of elders over this issue; in the process, I discovered that our church hosted an annual conference which featured only speakers who were highly critical of the state of Israel. For the first time it became clear to me that the church we attended was deeply biased against the Jewish state. When what we deemed to be adequate counter steps were not taken, we left the church, in good measure because of this matter and how it was handled.
I thought of this episode in our lives in the aftermath of learning about the bigoted and vicious anti-American statements by Barack Obama’s pastor, friend, and spiritual adviser, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright Jr. of United Trinity Church of Christ.
I don’t for a moment believe that Senator Obama shares Wright’s manifold and manifest hatreds. What bothers me — particularly as one who has had good things to say about Obama in the past — is why Obama apparently never raised any concerns with Wright about his rhetoric or the black liberation theology being practiced at United Trinity. This was the obvious and appropriate thing to do.
Reverend Wright clearly preaches from a particular cast of mind, one with which Obama was surely familiar. If Obama isn’t willing to voice his concerns and objections with Wright and stand up for his country as it is being slandered by his pastor, what can we expect from Obama when he is asked to stand up against some of the world’s worst dictators?
The options aren’t particularly good for Senator Obama. He either agreed with the views and core beliefs of Reverend Wright, which would essentially disqualify him as a serious candidate for the presidency; or he didn’t agree with Wright but for decades sat passively by and accepted Wright’s teaching and rants. Didn’t Obama consider, even once, pulling Wright aside and pointing out — as any true friend would, in a civil but forceful way — that hailstones of hate simply have no place in a church and that the “social gospel” is not synonymous with preaching bigotry and anti-Americanism?
Beyond that, Senator Obama’s speech on Tuesday, for all the praise it has garnered in many quarters, created additional doubts about Obama’s candor and his willingness to speak up and speak out against a charismatic, forceful, and pernicious figure.
ABC News reports that earlier this month Obama, at a community meeting in Nelsonville, Ohio, said, “I don’t think my church is actually particularly controversial.” Obama went on to say, “[Wright] has said some things that are considered controversial because he’s considered that part of his social gospel; so he was one of the leaders in calling for divestment from South Africa and some other issues like that.”
Last Friday, as Senator Obama was making the round on cable TV trying to explain Wright’s remarks that were being replayed over and over again, Obama indicated that he had never heard his pastor of 20 years make any comments that were anti-American until last week. But in his Philadelphia speech two days ago, Senator Obama seemed to change his explanation:
I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely — just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.
But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country.
This is where things begin to get sticky for Obama. In half-a-month we’ve gone from Wright and his church being essentially non-controversial; to Obama implying that the venomous statements by Wright came as news to him; to admitting that he was in the pews when Wright spoke as a “an occasionally fierce critic” of American domestic and foreign policy. Those remarks were so fierce that even Obama, himself an orthodox liberal who has scorched the Bush administration, was clearly made uncomfortable by what Wright said.
It also begs the question: What exactly did Wright say that Obama strongly disagreed with? Was Wright in fact presenting a “profoundly distorted view of this country”? The odds are a good deal better than even that he was. But Obama has yet to answer those questions — and he probably won’t, at least with any specificity, unless he’s forced to do so. This story, which seemingly changes in every re-telling, is beginning to resemble nothing so much as Bill Clinton’s evolving explanation about his draft notice. It was then that most of America was introduced to “Slick Willie.”
Senator Obama’s speech on Tuesday was a brilliant effort to deflect attention away from what remains the core issue: what did Obama hear, when did he hear it, and what did he do about it? The answers, as best we can tell at this stage, is that Obama heard some very harsh things said from the pulpit of Trinity United Church of Christ; that Obama heard them said a long time ago and probably repeatedly; and that he did little or nothing about it. This from a man who tells us at almost every stop along the campaign trail that he has the “judgment to lead.”
One always wants to be careful about making sweeping conclusions about any individual, particularly one as interesting and compelling as Senator Obama. All of us, in replaying our lives, would change certain things. We would all hope to show more integrity, more courage, more honor. Nevertheless, in a presidential campaign we have to judge based on the available evidence. And given his deep and long-standing association with Reverend Wright, it is fair to ask whether Senator Obama — a gifted writer and speaker and a man of obvious intelligence and appeal — has the appropriate judgment and character to lead this nation. Spending 20 years at Trinity United Church of Christ under the leadership of Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. doesn’t tell us everything we need to know about Barack Obama — but it may well tell us enough.
— Peter Wehner, former deputy assistant to the president, is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
National Review Online - http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=OTU2N2ViMGFkN2VmMzdmMTk1YzVlMDc0NzUyODQyMmQ=
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues
on: March 19, 2008, 10:31:57 AM
NPR = NATIONAL PROGRESSIVE RADIO
March 16, 2008 12:00 AM
Four short segments of conservative views were enough to flood NPR with angry phone calls and email. So much for “fairness,” writes Pam Meister.
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by Pam Meister
Imagine you’re a typical NPR listener, tuning in as you sip your Starbucks Café Latte — made with skim milk and a shot of cinnamon — work the New York Times crossword puzzle, and think about how great it is that you don’t have to stop for gas on your way to work this morning because you drive a Prius. Suddenly, you’re jolted out of your comfortable morning routine by the unimaginable: a segment entitled “Conversations with Conservatives.”
Choking on your latte and misspelling “pestiferous” on your crossword, your head begins to spin as Rev. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, discusses the status of evangelical voters. But surely it’s just an anomaly. An early April Fool’s Day joke. Yeah, that must be it! And fortunately, it was only seven minutes.
But the next day, you hear Grover Norquist, founder of Americans for Tax Reform, talking about which fiscal policies appeal to Republican voters. And the day after that, radio talk show host and CNN personality Glenn Beck discusses core conservative values. And on the last day of February, you are treated to David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, blathering on about the challenges that Sen. John McCain faces when it comes to proving himself to the conservative base.
If there’s a reason to abolish Leap Year and February 29, then having David Keene spoil your Starbucks experience surely must be it. Who can you call? There has to be someone.
The Washington Times reports that for daring to air the views of conservatives on its morning drive show during the final four days of February, NPR fielded “more than 60 angry e-mails and phone calls … calling the programming ‘shameful’ and a ‘lovefest with radical, right-wing nuts.’ There were only a few … that praised the series as ‘refreshing’ and ‘articulate,’ among other things.”
National Public Radio is funded in part by federal tax dollars. The last time I checked, both liberals AND conservatives are required to pay federal taxes. So what’s wrong with having four seven-minute segments out of the year where conservative ideas are brought forth? You know, throw them a Milk Bone once in a while to pretend you care about them while you spend their money on things like Garrison Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion.”
The problem with many liberals is that while they say they espouse tolerance, love for your fellow man, and discussing problems instead of resorting to fisticuffs, when they’re actually expected to “walk the walk,” things get ugly. To them, just listening to conservative ideas is akin to Dracula finding out about a nationwide tainted blood supply. It’s painful when liberals realize that not everyone thinks the way that they do: that there are unenlightened souls out there who don’t recycle, who go to church once in a while, who respect our military, and who don’t think that the sun shines out of Barack Obama’s nether regions. So, being the enlightened, progressive types that they are, instead of listening respectfully to what the other side has to say — and possibly learning something new — they stick their fingers in their ears, chant “I can’t hear you,” and complain to the person in charge about how awful the experience was.
It’s sort of like the people who believe that vandalizing and bombing military recruiting stations is a great way to get their message of peace out to the masses.
They also institute “speech codes” at universities — ostensibly so that no college student will get his widdle feewings hurt — but in reality limiting students’ First Amendment rights in the name of keeping certain “unwanted speech” off campus.
In an ironic twist, the same people want to see the Fairness Doctrine brought back. They think that it’s a way to silence folks like Rush Limbaugh and Neil Boortz, whose very existence means that even driving that Prius isn’t enough to erase the negative feelings that must result from knowing these individuals are adding to the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere simply by existing. Wait a minute, that’s it: Rush Limbaugh causes global warming!
But the knife cuts both ways. Want the Fairness Doctrine? Fine, but be prepared to listen to more conservatives on NPR. In fact, NPR’s ombudsman Alicia Shepard has a wish list that includes “Thomas Sowell, Janice Shaw-Crouse, Shelby Steele, and the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez Jr. as possible guests.
“’There are dozens of diverse conservative voices, but NPR and all news organizations need to work much harder to bring them into the conversation,’ Ms. Shepard noted.”
And if they don’t want conservatives on NPR, that’s fine too. Just send conservatives a refund for their portion of the taxes that support it.
Now that’s progressive.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenoma
on: March 18, 2008, 10:32:04 AM
The Obama Bargain
By SHELBY STEELE
March 18, 2008
Geraldine Ferraro may have had sinister motives when she said that Barack Obama would not be "in his position" as a frontrunner but for his race. Possibly she was acting as Hillary Clinton's surrogate. Or maybe she was simply befuddled by this new reality -- in which blackness could constitute a political advantage.
Jesse Jackson and Barack Obama, June 4, 2007.
But whatever her motives, she was right: "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position." Barack Obama is, of course, a very talented politician with a first-rate political organization at his back. But it does not detract from his merit to say that his race is also a large part of his prominence. And it is undeniable that something extremely powerful in the body politic, a force quite apart from the man himself, has pulled Obama forward. This force is about race and nothing else.
The novelty of Barack Obama is more his cross-racial appeal than his talent. Jesse Jackson displayed considerable political talent in his presidential runs back in the 1980s. But there was a distinct limit to his white support. Mr. Obama's broad appeal to whites makes him the first plausible black presidential candidate in American history. And it was Mr. Obama's genius to understand this. Though he likes to claim that his race was a liability to be overcome, he also surely knew that his race could give him just the edge he needed -- an edge that would never be available to a white, not even a white woman.
How to turn one's blackness to advantage?
The answer is that one "bargains." Bargaining is a mask that blacks can wear in the American mainstream, one that enables them to put whites at their ease. This mask diffuses the anxiety that goes along with being white in a multiracial society. Bargainers make the subliminal promise to whites not to shame them with America's history of racism, on the condition that they will not hold the bargainer's race against him. And whites love this bargain -- and feel affection for the bargainer -- because it gives them racial innocence in a society where whites live under constant threat of being stigmatized as racist. So the bargainer presents himself as an opportunity for whites to experience racial innocence.
This is how Mr. Obama has turned his blackness into his great political advantage, and also into a kind of personal charisma. Bargainers are conduits of white innocence, and they are as popular as the need for white innocence is strong. Mr. Obama's extraordinary dash to the forefront of American politics is less a measure of the man than of the hunger in white America for racial innocence.
His actual policy positions are little more than Democratic Party boilerplate and hardly a tick different from Hillary's positions. He espouses no galvanizing political idea. He is unable to say what he means by "change" or "hope" or "the future." And he has failed to say how he would actually be a "unifier." By the evidence of his slight political record (130 "present" votes in the Illinois state legislature, little achievement in the U.S. Senate) Barack Obama stacks up as something of a mediocrity. None of this matters much.
Race helps Mr. Obama in another way -- it lifts his political campaign to the level of allegory, making it the stuff of a far higher drama than budget deficits and education reform. His dark skin, with its powerful evocations of America's tortured racial past, frames the political contest as a morality play. Will his victory mean America's redemption from its racist past? Will his defeat show an America morally unevolved? Is his campaign a story of black overcoming, an echo of the civil rights movement? Or is it a passing-of-the-torch story, of one generation displacing another?
Because he is black, there is a sense that profound questions stand to be resolved in the unfolding of his political destiny. And, as the Clintons have discovered, it is hard in the real world to run against a candidate of destiny. For many Americans -- black and white -- Barack Obama is simply too good (and too rare) an opportunity to pass up. For whites, here is the opportunity to document their deliverance from the shames of their forbearers. And for blacks, here is the chance to document the end of inferiority. So the Clintons have found themselves running more against America's very highest possibilities than against a man. And the press, normally happy to dispel every political pretension, has all but quivered before Mr. Obama. They, too, have feared being on the wrong side of destiny.
And yet, in the end, Barack Obama's candidacy is not qualitatively different from Al Sharpton's or Jesse Jackson's. Like these more irascible of his forbearers, Mr. Obama's run at the presidency is based more on the manipulation of white guilt than on substance. Messrs. Sharpton and Jackson were "challengers," not bargainers. They intimidated whites and demanded, in the name of historical justice, that they be brought forward. Mr. Obama flatters whites, grants them racial innocence, and hopes to ascend on the back of their gratitude. Two sides of the same coin.
But bargainers have an Achilles heel. They succeed as conduits of white innocence only as long as they are largely invisible as complex human beings. They hope to become icons that can be identified with rather than seen, and their individual complexity gets in the way of this. So bargainers are always laboring to stay invisible. (We don't know the real politics or convictions of Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan or Oprah Winfrey, bargainers all.) Mr. Obama has said of himself, "I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views . . ." And so, human visibility is Mr. Obama's Achilles heel. If we see the real man, his contradictions and bents of character, he will be ruined as an icon, as a "blank screen."
Thus, nothing could be more dangerous to Mr. Obama's political aspirations than the revelation that he, the son of a white woman, sat Sunday after Sunday -- for 20 years -- in an Afrocentric, black nationalist church in which his own mother, not to mention other whites, could never feel comfortable. His pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, is a challenger who goes far past Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson in his anti-American outrage ("God damn America").
How does one "transcend" race in this church? The fact is that Barack Obama has fellow-traveled with a hate-filled, anti-American black nationalism all his adult life, failing to stand and challenge an ideology that would have no place for his own mother. And what portent of presidential judgment is it to have exposed his two daughters for their entire lives to what is, at the very least, a subtext of anti-white vitriol?
What could he have been thinking? Of course he wasn't thinking. He was driven by insecurity, by a need to "be black" despite his biracial background. And so fellow-traveling with a little race hatred seemed a small price to pay for a more secure racial identity. And anyway, wasn't this hatred more rhetorical than real?
But now the floodlight of a presidential campaign has trained on this usually hidden corner of contemporary black life: a mindless indulgence in a rhetorical anti-Americanism as a way of bonding and of asserting one's blackness. Yet Jeremiah Wright, splashed across America's television screens, has shown us that there is no real difference between rhetorical hatred and real hatred.
No matter his ultimate political fate, there is already enough pathos in Barack Obama to make him a cautionary tale. His public persona thrives on a manipulation of whites (bargaining), and his private sense of racial identity demands both self-betrayal and duplicity. His is the story of a man who flew so high, yet neglected to become himself.
Mr. Steele, a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and the author of "A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can't Win" (Free Press, 2007).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans
on: March 18, 2008, 09:19:13 AM
If this was an atrocity, the MSM would be all over it. Instead our heroes are recognized on blogs and message boards while the MSM largely ignores them.
edited by Marc to add:
The name may not ring a bell but if you’re a blog reader you’ve heard of him. So valorous were his actions that even a media not inclined to celebrate the heroism of U.S. troops noticed his death when it happened. What kind of man are we talking about here? He won the Silver Star for pulling a comrade to safety in May 2006; four months later he was on a roof in Ramadi with three other SEALs when an insurgent tossed a grenade up. It bounced off his chest and dropped to the floor in front of them. “He never took his eye off the grenade, his only movement was down toward it,” said one of the three. His family will be at the White House on April 8 to receive the recognition due.
There is a clip at the URL as well.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam the religion
on: March 16, 2008, 09:03:33 PM
And it protects everyone’s property — including women’s — from being taken from them. Unlike in Iran, where wearing a head scarf is legally mandated and enforced by special religious police, the Islamist view in most other Muslim countries is that the head scarf is one way of implementing the religious duty to dress modestly — a desirable social norm, not an enforceable legal rule.
**Uh-huh, ask the women in muslim countries (like parts of France) what happens to them in public if they don't wear the hijab in public. We won't get into what happens to women in Saudi Arabia either.**
And mandating capital punishment for apostasy is not on the agenda of most elected Islamists.
**Not yet. Besides, there is no need for it to be a legal process when observant muslims are glad to kill an apostate without governmental sanction, as is happening in muslim enclaves in europe, Canada and Texas.**
For many Muslims today, living in corrupt autocracies, the call for Shariah is not a call for sexism, obscurantism or savage punishment but for an Islamic version of what the West considers its most prized principle of political justice: the rule of law.
**Again, it's not about "the rule of law", it's about imposing "Islamic law".**
The Sway of the Scholars
To understand Shariah’s deep appeal, we need to ask a crucial question that is rarely addressed in the West: What, in fact, is the system of Islamic law? In his lifetime, the Prophet Muhammad was both the religious and the political leader of the community of Muslim believers. His revelation, the Koran, contained some laws, pertaining especially to ritual matters and inheritance; but it was not primarily a legal book and did not include a lengthy legal code of the kind that can be found in parts of the Hebrew Bible. When the first generation of believers needed guidance on a subject that was not addressed by revelation, they went directly to Muhammad. He either answered of his own accord or, if he was unsure, awaited divine guidance in the form of a new revelation.
**This is why under sharia law allows for girls as young as 9 to be married to adult men. Muhammad's 3rd. wife, Aisha was 6 when he married her. Being a prophet of god, Muhammad waited until she was 9 before consummating the marriage. He was in his 50's at this time. Isn't sharia wonderful?**
With the death of Muhammad, divine revelation to the Muslim community stopped. The role of the political-religious leader passed to a series of caliphs (Arabic for “substitute”) who stood in the prophet’s stead. That left the caliph in a tricky position when it came to resolving difficult legal matters. The caliph possessed Muhammad’s authority but not his access to revelation. It also left the community in something of a bind. If the Koran did not speak clearly to a particular question, how was the law to be determined?
The answer that developed over the first couple of centuries of Islam was that the Koran could be supplemented by reference to the prophet’s life — his sunna, his path. (The word “sunna” is the source of the designation Sunni — one who follows the prophet’s path.) His actions and words were captured in an oral tradition, beginning presumably with a person who witnessed the action or statement firsthand. Accurate reports had to be distinguished from false ones. But of course even a trustworthy report on a particular situation could not directly resolve most new legal problems that arose later. To address such problems, it was necessary to reason by analogy from one situation to another. There was also the possibility that a communal consensus existed on what to do under particular circumstances, and that, too, was thought to have substantial weight.
This fourfold combination — the Koran, the path of the prophet as captured in the collections of reports, analogical reasoning and consensus — amounted to a basis for a legal system. But who would be able to say how these four factors fit together? Indeed, who had the authority to say that these factors and not others formed the sources of the law? The first four caliphs, who knew the prophet personally, might have been able to make this claim for themselves. But after them, the caliphs were faced with a growing group of specialists who asserted that they, collectively, could ascertain the law from the available sources. This self-appointed group came to be known as the scholars — and over the course of a few generations, they got the caliphs to acknowledge them as the guardians of the law. By interpreting a law that originated with God, they gained control over the legal system as it actually existed. That made them, and not the caliphs, into “the heirs of the prophets.”
Among the Sunnis, this model took effect very early and persisted until modern times. For the Shiites, who believe that the succession of power followed the prophet’s lineage, the prophet had several successors who claimed extraordinary divine authority. Once they were gone, however, the Shiite scholars came to occupy a role not unlike that of their Sunni counterparts.
Under the constitutional theory that the scholars developed to explain the division of labor in the Islamic state, the caliph had paramount responsibility to fulfill the divine injunction to “command the right and prohibit the wrong.” But this was not a task he could accomplish on his own. It required him to delegate responsibility to scholarly judges, who would apply God’s law as they interpreted it. The caliph could promote or fire them as he wished, but he could not dictate legal results: judicial authority came from the caliph, but the law came from the scholars.
The caliphs — and eventually the sultans who came to rule once the caliphate lost most of its worldly influence — still had plenty of power. They handled foreign affairs more or less at their discretion. And they could also issue what were effectively administrative regulations — provided these regulations did not contradict what the scholars said Shariah required. The regulations addressed areas where Shariah was silent. They also enabled the state to regulate social conduct without having to put every case before the courts, where convictions would often be impossible to obtain because of the strict standards of proof required for punishment. As a result of these regulations, many legal matters (perhaps most) fell outside the rules given specifically by Shariah.
The upshot is that the system of Islamic law as it came to exist allowed a great deal of leeway. That is why today’s advocates of Shariah as the source of law are not actually recommending the adoption of a comprehensive legal code derived from or dictated by Shariah — because nothing so comprehensive has ever existed in Islamic history. To the Islamist politicians who advocate it or for the public that supports it, Shariah generally means something else. It means establishing a legal system in which God’s law sets the ground rules, authorizing and validating everyday laws passed by an elected legislature. In other words, for them, Shariah is expected to function as something like a modern constitution.
The Rights of Humans and the Rights of God
So in contemporary Islamic politics, the call for Shariah does not only or primarily mean mandating the veiling of women or the use of corporal punishment — it has an essential constitutional dimension as well. But what is the particular appeal of placing Shariah above ordinary law?
The answer lies in a little-remarked feature of traditional Islamic government: that a state under Shariah was, for more than a thousand years, subject to a version of the rule of law. And as a rule-of-law government, the traditional Islamic state had an advantage that has been lost in the dictatorships and autocratic monarchies that have governed so much of the Muslim world for the last century. Islamic government was legitimate, in the dual sense that it generally respected the individual legal rights of its subjects and was seen by them as doing so. These individual legal rights, known as “the rights of humans” (in contrast to “the rights of God” to such things as ritual obedience), included basic entitlements to life, property and legal process — the protections from arbitrary government oppression sought by people all over the world for centuries.
**Lies, lies, lies. Where did this magical islamic land exist? Were there rainbows and unicorns and halal gumdrop trees there too?**
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Why Shariah
on: March 16, 2008, 09:02:01 PM
A Harvard Prof writes in the NY Times:
By NOAH FELDMAN
Published: March 16, 2008
Last month, Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, gave a nuanced, scholarly lecture in London about whether the British legal system should allow non-Christian courts to decide certain matters of family law. Britain has no constitutional separation of church and state. The archbishop noted that “the law of the Church of England is the law of the land” there; indeed, ecclesiastical courts that once handled marriage and divorce are still integrated into the British legal system, deciding matters of church property and doctrine. His tentative suggestion was that, subject to the agreement of all parties and the strict requirement of protecting equal rights for women, it might be a good idea to consider allowing Islamic and Orthodox Jewish courts to handle marriage and divorce.
The practical application of Shariah in most Muslim countries (as here, in this Egyptian courtroom) is in matters of family law.
Then all hell broke loose. From politicians across the spectrum to senior church figures and the ubiquitous British tabloids came calls for the leader of the world’s second largest Christian denomination to issue a retraction or even resign. Williams has spent the last couple of years trying to hold together the global Anglican Communion in the face of continuing controversies about ordaining gay priests and recognizing same-sex marriages. Yet little in that contentious battle subjected him to the kind of outcry that his reference to religious courts unleashed. Needless to say, the outrage was not occasioned by Williams’s mention of Orthodox Jewish law. For the purposes of public discussion, it was the word “Shariah” that was radioactive.
**And rightly so. As europe's rapid cultural demise looms before it.**
In some sense, the outrage about according a degree of official status to Shariah in a Western country should come as no surprise. No legal system has ever had worse press. To many, the word “Shariah” conjures horrors of hands cut off, adulterers stoned and women oppressed.
**Funny enough, this is the result of sharia law creating the horrors of hands cut off, adulterers stoned and women oppressed. Go figure.**
By contrast, who today remembers that the much-loved English common law called for execution as punishment for hundreds of crimes, including theft of any object worth five shillings or more? How many know that until the 18th century, the laws of most European countries authorized torture as an official component of the criminal-justice system?
**Well, most people with a basic grasp of history know this. The western world, based in judeo-christian philosophy, evolved secular governments and the concept of human rights and freedoms and legal protections separate from any religious structure, meanwhile sharia law, being based on the quran, ahadith and sunna has very little, if any room for evolution or change.**
As for sexism, the common law long denied married women any property rights or indeed legal personality apart from their husbands. When the British applied their law to Muslims in place of Shariah, as they did in some colonies, the result was to strip married women of the property that Islamic law had always granted them — hardly progress toward equality of the sexes.
**Again, trying to whip the western world for sins of the past while ignoring the brutal oppression of the islamic world of today takes a special sort of dishonesty. Given that under sharia law, a woman is only half a witness in court, can be divorced at will, but can only divorce her husband with a sharia court's approval and can be beaten at will by her husband and in the case of divorce, loses custody of her children, i'm not sure many feminists will cheer sharia law in the west as "progress".**
In fact, for most of its history, Islamic law offered the most liberal and humane legal principles available anywhere in the world. Today, when we invoke the harsh punishments prescribed by Shariah for a handful of offenses, we rarely acknowledge the high standards of proof necessary for their implementation. Before an adultery conviction can typically be obtained, for example, the accused must confess four times or four adult male witnesses of good character must testify that they directly observed the sex act.
**And now, reality:http://asiapacific.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGAFR440172004?open&of=ENG-2F5
The new Sharia penal codes
The new Sharia penal codes which have been introduced in 12 states in northern Nigeria since 1999, includes death by stoning for behaviour termed as zina the perpetrator of which is defined as "whoever, being a man or a woman fully responsible, has sexual intercourse through the genital [sic] of a person over whom he has no sexual rights and in circumstances in which no doubt exists as to the illegality of the act". Zina was previously punishable by flogging for Muslims under the Penal Code. However, in the States that have introduced new Sharia penal codes, zina now carries a mandatory death sentence if the accused is married, while 100 lashes is the mandatory sentence if the accused is not married. This applies to Muslims only. Of particular interest is that by using the death penalty to regulate sexual behaviour, other rights are being violated, such as the right to be free from discrimination, freedom of expression and association as well as the right to privacy.
"...we cannot imagine or envisage a Nigerian being stoned to death (...) it has never happened. May it never happen."
President Olusegun Obasanjo commenting on the sentence of death by stoning under Sharia penal codes at a public appearance on 1 October 2002.
Amnesty International believes that zina as a criminal offence only for Muslims negates the principle of equality before the law and equal protection of the law. The organization furthermore opposes the criminalization of consensual sexual relations between people over the age of consent. The application of the death penalty for zina offences combined with the gender-discriminating rules of evidence within the Sharia penal codes have meant that women have disproportionately been sentenced to death for zina in northern Nigeria since the introduction of new Sharia penal codes. Amnesty International has raised this concern by campaigning on the cases of Safiya Yakubu Hussaini, Amina Lawal and Fatima Usman. At least 11 death sentences have been handed down since 1999 by Sharia courts in the States of Bauchi, Jigawa, Katsina, Niger and Sokoto and in four of these the convicted are women. Three of these cases concern women accused of zina. Only two men were sentenced for zina in the same period. As of May 2004, three people have lodged appeals against their death sentences and are awaiting dates for a hearing. Two of the women, Safiya Yakubu Hussaini and Amina Lawal, have had their convictions and sentences for zina quashed on appeal. The most recent woman convicted of zina is Fatima Usman who received her death sentence in May 2002 by the Sharia court of Gawu-Babangida, Niger State.
Although at present no-one sentenced to death for zina under the new Sharia penal legislation has yet had their sentence carried out, Amnesty International remains concerned that prescribing the death penalty for the behaviour termed as zina is in violation of international law including Article 6 of the ICCPR, to which Nigeria is a state party, and which states "sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes". The definition of zina de facto recognizes that men have in certain cases, namely marriage, sexual rights over women. This in itself is a violation of the principle of equality between the sexes and results in women in reality having less control over their sex life than men. Other capital offences under the new Sharia penal codes include rape, so called "sodomy", incest and robbery, amongst other.
July 10, 2006
Will Pakistan ease harsh Sharia rape laws?
As I have noted many times, Islam's evidence laws put victims of rape in Islamic societies at considerable risk. It is good to see that some Pakistanis have noticed this also.
"After TV Debates, Pakistan May Ease Laws on Rape Reporting," from the NY Times, with thanks to DFS:
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, July 8 — The young audience fell into confused silence and then buzzed with whispers after Mir Ibrahim Rahman announced that there was no difference between an apple and an orange.
Mr. Rahman, 28, chief executive of the immensely popular Geo TV network, was speaking last Sunday at a youth conference in Rawalpindi, the garrison city adjacent to the capital, Islamabad. His absurd statement, he immediately made clear, was meant to illustrate the failings of a set of Islamic decrees known collectively as the Hudood Ordinance.
The laws, introduced in 1979 and criticized internationally since, include a clause stating that to prove rape, a woman must have at least four male witnesses. If the woman fails to provide proof, she herself faces the charge of adultery.
"The Hudood Ordinance makes no distinction between rape and adultery," Mr. Rahman explained to his audience. "It is just like saying there is no difference between an apple and an orange."
That flaw, critics say, has put many women behind bars. Of about 6,000 women in Pakistani custody awaiting trial as of March, 4,621 were being held on Hudood violations, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent group. Some 1,300 women awaiting trial were ordered released on Friday, after President Pervez Musharraf allowed bail in nonviolent offenses.
Pakistani society has remained bitterly divided over the laws. Orthodox clergymen have often portrayed the laws as divine ("hudood" refers to punishments in the Koran for adultery and fornication, as well as for consuming alcohol, making false accusations and stealing). Rights advocates have demanded absolute repeal since 1980's. They maintain that the Hudood Ordinance not only negates the rights of women but is also a misinterpretation of Islam.
Now, there are signs that the laws may be, at the least, softened. And Mr. Rahman — who has pressed for public debate over them in television shows, advertising campaigns and personal appearances at seminars, like the one last Sunday — may be a major reason.
Of course, these laws are based on the notorious incident in which Muhammad's wife Aisha was accused of adultery. The brouhaha was settled when Muhammad received a revelation from Allah requiring four witnesses: "Why did they not bring four witnesses to prove it? When they have not brought the witnesses, such men, in the sight of Allah, (stand forth) themselves as liars!" (Qur'an 24:13).
That will be hard to reform.
Posted at July 10, 2006 8:44 AM
The extremes of our own legal system — like life sentences for relatively minor drug crimes, in some cases — are routinely ignored.
**Do I really need to cover the brutal punishments for the possession of alcohol under sharia law?**
We neglect to mention the recent vintage of our tentative improvements in family law. It sometimes seems as if we need Shariah as Westerners have long needed Islam: as a canvas on which to project our ideas of the horrible, and as a foil to make us look good.
**There is no need for projection. A clear examination of the islamic world's horrors need no exaggeration.**
In the Muslim world, on the other hand, the reputation of Shariah has undergone an extraordinary revival in recent years.
**Yes, this is true. As the global jihad has gained steam since 9/11, the civil movement for imposing sharia on all the nations of the world has gained momentum.**
A century ago, forward-looking Muslims thought of Shariah as outdated, in need of reform or maybe abandonment. Today, 66 percent of Egyptians, 60 percent of Pakistanis and 54 percent of Jordanians say that Shariah should be the only source of legislation in their countries. Islamist political parties, like those associated with the transnational Muslim Brotherhood, make the adoption of Shariah the most prominent plank in their political platforms. And the message resonates. Wherever Islamists have been allowed to run for office in Arabic-speaking countries, they have tended to win almost as many seats as the governments have let them contest. The Islamist movement in its various incarnations — from moderate to radical — is easily the fastest growing and most vital in the Muslim world; the return to Shariah is its calling card.
Page 2 of 6)
How is it that what so many Westerners see as the most unappealing and premodern aspect of Islam is, to many Muslims, the vibrant, attractive core of a global movement of Islamic revival?
**Is it because those westerners rightly see the brutal, totalitarianism theocracy inherent in this islamic revival? I'd say yes.**
The explanation surely must go beyond the oversimplified assumption that Muslims want to use Shariah to reverse feminism and control women — especially since large numbers of women support the Islamists in general and the ideal of Shariah in particular.
**They believe it's "the will of god".**
Is Shariah the Rule of Law?
One reason for the divergence between Western and Muslim views of Shariah is that we are not all using the word to mean the same thing. Although it is commonplace to use the word “Shariah” and the phrase “Islamic law” interchangeably, this prosaic English translation does not capture the full set of associations that the term “Shariah” conjures for the believer. Shariah, properly understood, is not just a set of legal rules. To believing Muslims, it is something deeper and higher, infused with moral and metaphysical purpose.
At its core, Shariah represents the idea that all human beings — and all human governments — are subject to justice under the law.
**Lies, lies, lies. Under sharia, non-muslims are lesser beings. Under sharia, muslims that leave islam are to be killed. Under sharia, a non-muslim can be put to death for killing a muslim, but a muslim cannot be put to death for killing a non-muslim.**
**Under Islamic law, which unlike judeo-christian civilization does not recognize a separation between the religious and secular government. Islam is all controlling, from the personally spiritual to the laws of a society and the nation-state on a geo-political basis.
In fact, “Shariah” is not the word traditionally used in Arabic to refer to the processes of Islamic legal reasoning or the rulings produced through it: that word is fiqh, meaning something like Islamic jurisprudence. The word “Shariah” connotes a connection to the divine, a set of unchanging beliefs and principles that order life in accordance with God’s will. Westerners typically imagine that Shariah advocates simply want to use the Koran as their legal code. But the reality is much more complicated. Islamist politicians tend to be very vague about exactly what it would mean for Shariah to be the source for the law of the land — and with good reason, because just adopting such a principle would not determine how the legal system would actually operate.
Shariah is best understood as a kind of higher law, albeit one that includes some specific, worldly commands. All Muslims would agree, for example, that it prohibits lending money at interest — though not investments in which risks and returns are shared; and the ban on Muslims drinking alcohol is an example of an unequivocal ritual prohibition, even for liberal interpreters of the faith. Some rules associated with Shariah are undoubtedly old-fashioned and harsh. Men and women are treated unequally, for example, by making it hard for women to initiate divorce without forfeiting alimony. The prohibition on sodomy, though historically often unenforced, makes recognition of same-sex relationships difficult to contemplate. But Shariah also prohibits bribery or special favors in court. It demands equal treatment for rich and poor. It condemns the vigilante-style honor killings that still occur in some Middle Eastern countries.
**No it doesn't. Honor killing have a root in islamic theology and are given lenient treatment in sharia courts. I like how the author glosses over the death penalty for homosexuality commanded in the qu'ran.**