Tuesday, August 31, 2010

And You Thought Holder Was Bad

While Barack Obama and Eric Holder are a couple of matched pompous jackasses, this man runs alone. Meet Assistant Attorney General Thomas Edward Perez. He is supposed to be Holder's right-hand man, but the fact is that this man is calling the shots. And that is particularly true when it comes to stirring up racial divisions. Obama sets the agenda, Hoder brays for the cameras, but Perez writes the policy.

Naturally, Perez was appointed by Obama to be in charge of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. Perez has all the qualifications. Born in the Dominican Republic, Perez has a warm spot in his heart for immigrants, legal or illegal. He got his B.A. at the most liberal of the Ivies, Brown University. On to liberal Harvard Law, and an additional master's degree in public policy from the liberal John F. Kennedy School of Government. He moved on to the position of prosecutor for the Clinton Justice Department, but don't get heartened by that. He was a prosecutor of civil rights violations only, real and imagined.

Perez also served for three years as special counsel to underwater motorist Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. According to his bio, Perez advised Teddy on civil rights, criminal justice, and constitutional law. So at last you know that Teddy's crazed views were not solely the fault of demon rum. He had help from Perez. Perez then returned to the Clinton Department of Justice as deputy assistant attorney general. But it was during his sojourn with Teddy that it first became abundantly apparent that for Perez, the law was secondary to his political agenda.

His first landmark achievement was the passage of the Church Arson Prevention Act. While Kennedy was stumbling around looking for a discreet gentleman's pub, Billy Joe Jim Bob Clinton was telling grand stories of the horrors of black churches in his beloved State of Arkansas being burned. He was particularly horrified because he saw them burn. Of course, like sex with Monica Lewinsky, he lied. He never saw anything of the kind, though nobody denies that many black churches were burned during the civil rights movement three decades earlier (while Clinton was busy getting supersmart at Oxford University and Moscow).

But that gave Perez the impetus to draft and successfully push Congressional legislation based on hysteria, thirty-five year old events, and jury-rigged facts that indicated that black churches were being targeted at a rate far higher than those of whites. Not even close to true, and the rate of synagogue burnings were higher than those of black and white churches combined. But nothing stops a zealot determined to pass legislation in 1996 which would have had some minor effect in 1964.

Upon his return to the Department of Justice in 1998, he had already plotted out his next attack on bigotry. It was a foretaste of things to come. He helped to found the Worker Exploitation Task Force. But not just any workers. Illegal immigrant workers. Anybody want to hazard a guess as to how he currently stands on amnesty by any means necessary? He was also instrumental in vastly decreasing the number of black and hispanics placed in remedial and special-education facilities. Rather than accept a sad fact of life about two minority communities, he instead found institutional racism. Most of those affected by the change were instead moved to the top of the class in "GATE" (gifted and talented education), which replaced the real achievement and brain-power program called "MGM" (mentally gifted minors).

And of course, he was the administration's expert litigator on police misconduct (aka, police arresting minorities), hate crimes (white-on-black only, thank you very much) and the complete elimination of anything even faintly resembling racial profiling. He had many rich socialist friends who think much like him. His deepest pocket belonged to one George Soros. Between 1995 and 2002, Perez was a board member of the Soros-funded and State-supported Casa de Maryland. Sounds innocent enough, until you know that it is nothing but a major promoter of illegal immigration.

Finally broadening his lifetime of living off the federal public dole from 1999 until the Bush Department of Justice became operative, he was the metaphorical roommate of Donna Shalala in the Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services. I'll bet you didn't even know there was such an office, did you? Why there would be any need for yet another civil rights office, let alone within HHS, is entirely beyond me.

When they ran out of jobs for leftist Democrats at the end of the Clinton administration, Perez decided to live off the State dole for awhile. He became a Maryland Montgomery County Council member and president, then moved on to become Maryland's Secretary of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. He also earned a little extra money moonlighting as a professor of law at the University of Maryland and a part-time instructor at the George Washington University School of Public Health. Perez managed to maintain a lifelong avoidance of the private sector.

As a reward for his electoral campaign efforts for Barack Obama, Perez became part of the Obama transition team (you know, the one where we fundamentally change America). Perez did not disappoint when he was appointed by Obama to the DOJ Civil Rights top spot. He told the idiots who confirmed him in the Senate that the Civil Rights Division's mission was to "help those Americans who were living in the shadows, including our Muslim-American brothers and sisters subject to post 9/11 backlash." And let's not forget the Bush-caused economic meltdown and its affects on the shadow people, "communities of color disproportionately affected--LGBT (no, that's not a sandwich) brothers and sisters forced to confront discrimination, and all too many children lacking quality education."

Despite the clear ruling of the United States Supreme Court, Perez publicly stated that he would view all employment, public or private, in light of "disparate impact" when whites as a group score higher on proficiency exams than blacks. He even went so far as to proclaim that such results are prima facie ("on their face") proof of discrimination. Considering that the New Haven Connecticut firefighters case (Ricci v DeStefano) held exactly the opposite, including an entirely different set of legal presumptions, Perez must think that Obama will yet get that third and fourth leftist seated on the Supreme Court.

His public announcements include stating that he would greatly expand DOJ's prosecution of "hate crimes." He also made it clear that the definition of a hate crime can only be white-on-black. He has urged that compensatory damages to successful claimants in civil rights cases should not go exclusively to the "injured parties." Instead, portions of the judgments should be given to "qualified organizations" approved by, guess who, the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ.

He isn't only a zealot for racial minorities. He is equally adept at making a fool of himself for the "disabled." He successfully pressured several major universities into abandoning a program in which students could buy their textbooks in digital format for Kindle instead of bound paper. He never bothered to find out that Kindle was releasing "talking Kindles" for the blind shortly after the visual digital version. Now, nobody gets a Kindle. He hung his hat on the fact that Kindle is still working on a format for the blind which has an audio menu equal to the visual options on the original product.

He has been the center of several major controversies which call his judgment and race-neutrality into serious doubt. It is alleged, and as yet unrefuted, that Perez reviewed the Philadelphia New Black Panther voter intimidation cases and judgments, and announced to his staff that "civil rights law should not be enforced in a race-neutral manner, and should never be enforced against blacks or other national minorities." Whether or not it can ever be concretely proven that he did instruct his staff in that manner, it is still a simple fact that he convinced Holder to dismiss the cases--even those which had already gone to judgment. He was instrumental in putting together the lawsuit against the State of Arizona for passing a bill protecting its citizens from the predations of illegal immigrants.

Perez was the moving force behind a record number of employment discrimination cases filed by the CRD during Obama's first full year in office. Among them were the ridiculous contention that after Congress screwed the pooch and forced banks to lend to totally unqualified people who were disproportionately black and minorty, the banks were still discriminating. He again made one of his grandiloquent statements: "I am committed to eradicating the discriminatory practices that resulted in discrimination against African-American borrowers." It actually means that any black person who wanted a loan, however unqualified, could come to Perez's Division and demand redress, no matter how financially unqualified the borrower. Remember the "disparate impact" rule Perez has imposed. Creditworthiness is a non-consideration when it comes to black borrowers.

Let's not forget those oppressed women. He also filed a record number of suits alleging, contrary to every current professional statistic, that women are not compensated equitably in relation to men. In fact, university studies (including the Ivies) show that in most employment areas, women are now compensated slightly better than their male counterparts performing essentially the same tasks.

But here's the one that requires a complete lack of any sense of shame. Says Perez, "I intend to hold law-enforcement accountable for discriminatory police practices and excessive use of force, and I pledge vigorous enforcement of the provisions of the National Voter Registration Act "The Motor Voter Act" (emphasis added)." So he not only won't prosecute black people who intimidate voters, he will prosecute registrars who put any roadblocks in the way of potential illegal immigrant voters who falsely obtain drivers licenses, then drive around the DMV building, returning to register to vote using their new drivers licenses as identification.

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A New Approach To Fighting Poverty

I thought about writing about the historic 10% lead the Republicans have in Gallup’s generic poll (51% to 41%), but that’s hardly unexpected to Commentarama readers. I thought about writing about all the laughable racism allegations made against Glenn Beck’s rally, but that’s nothing new either. So instead, I thought I’d talk about an article that appeared on Drudge yesterday, an article that most people probably missed and which actually signals a significant change in world-wide thinking.

According to this article, a local charity in St. Louis is offering money to the parents of children whose kids have near-perfect attendance in school. What you probably don’t know is that this is part of a world-wide trend that is reforming the way charitable money (and welfare money) is being handed out, a trend that is showing remarkable success.

Prior to the 1960s, charity was largely handled by church and civic organizations. This system worked pretty well because these groups used the opportunity of the recipient’s need to try to instill new values that would set the person’s life right. Indeed, some groups required the recipients to give up alcohol. Others required them to attend church services or put them to work in soup kitchens or other charitable projects to learn a sense of responsibility and jumpstart a work ethic.

But in the 1960s, the government stepped into this “market” and became the dominant provider of charity. And once the government got its hands on this “market,” the left demanded that the government act in a “value-neutral” way. There were many reasons for this, but the main one frankly was that the left had been embarrassed by its embrace of eugenics, which was disgraced by Nazism, and it wanted to repudiate that. Thus, it swung to the polar opposite of what it had been advocating and it began to claim that society had no right to tell anyone how to live.

Consequently, an entire generation of people who had demonstrated a history of making poor choices was handed money with no responsibility and no requirements. Predictably poverty exploded, the inner cities imploded, and whole generations of kids ended up being “raised” by the state in conditions that were barely better than being tossed into the wild at birth.

Thirty years later, the black community was destroyed and a large chunk of the rural white community was following at full speed. But in the 1990s, things began to change. Forced by a Republican Congress, the Clinton Administration allowed the states to begin experimenting with limited changes to the system. Suddenly states were forcing those of its wards who could work to get jobs if they wanted to keep their benefits. Hundreds of thousands of people lifted themselves off the welfare roles. In fact, this was so successful that the left went from screaming that millions would die in the streets to claiming that they were responsible for this reform.

This led liberals worldwide to rethink the value-neutral approach. Soon programs began to appear all across the world where charity/welfare was handed out with conditions attached. For example, money was given to poor parents on condition that they vaccinate their kids or send them to school. Many on the left whined that this was unfair, but slowly it became clear that this was causing massive positive changes in these people’s lives. By providing an incentive to these people to make good choices, they actually began making good decisions and, in return, their lives began to improve. This has worked everywhere from Brazil to Africa to the Middle East, and now St. Louis, and has spawned many offshoots -- things like microloans to very small businesses and tying foreign aid to demonstrable numbers like the number of kids in school or the amount of clean drinking water provided to citizens.

I’m sure some of you are uncomfortable with this idea because you don’t like the government telling people how to live their lives. But I think this is heading in the right direction.

The sad truth is that 30 years of rampant liberalism has create an underclass that no longer has the tools to change their lives on their own. And they are raising new generations all the time with the same non-values, new generations that are fated to go straight to welfare. The only way to break this cycle and to undo the damage that has been done, i.e. to lift the underclass, is to give these people an incentive to start making good decisions instead of bad. These types of programs do that.

So I, for one, hope that this spreads.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Media Campaign Contributions

You may have heard the big liberal brouhaha about Fox News’ parent corporation giving one million dollars to the Republican Governors Association. Total outrage, right? Proof of right-wing bias at Fox, right? But then the outrage suddenly disappeared. In fact, the story vanished. Any guesses why? How about this. . .

When word hit the street that News Corp. had donated one million dollars to the RGA, everyone pounced. All the networks ran with the story, as did liberal bastions like the New York Times and every other liberal slag heap with journalistic pretensions. The Democrats pounced on this as well. Nathan Daschle, the executive director of the Democratic Governors Association, even called on Fox News to put a disclaimer on its coverage of gubernatorial campaigns.

Daschle, by the way, is the son of rich lobbyist and former Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who couldn’t get into the Obama Administration because he hadn’t paid his taxes and because he earned five million dollars from lobbying for health care groups. Despite this, Daschle eventually ended up being hired for behind the scenes work for the Democrats on the health care issue. And now his son is in the business. . . I guess the rotten apple doesn't roll far from the barrel.

In any event, this story didn’t last. Why? Because something went wrong on the way to Outrage Avenue. Indeed, the parade took a wrong turn and found itself on Hypocrite Street instead. See, it turns out that 88% of the contributions of the employees of ABC, CBS and NBC were made to the Democratic Party. Indeed 1,160 network employees -- executives, on-air personalities, producers, reporters, editors, etc. -- gave a total of $1,020,816 to Democratic campaigns in the 2008 election cycle. By comparison, only 193 of their employees gave to Republicans ($142,863)

Hypocritical Democratic journalists? Wow, I never saw that one coming!

Also, it turns out that News Corp. gives to both parties.

So there's no story after all? Actually, there is, but it's not one they want to talk about. The real scandal here is that ANY journalist would donate to either political party. They call themselves the Fourth Estate and they claim a nearly official role as the watchdog of our government. They even have special protections under the law to allow them to perform that role, i.e. protections against slander and liable laws and the right to protect their sources. Yet, if they truly are to hold such a role, then they should be non-partisan. That means no political contributions. . . no journalists married to politicians or campaign directors for politicians (and recusals if you are). . . and no more revolving door where journalists move back and forth between the profession and Democratic campaigns and administrations.

The real story here is the scandal of the entire profession having interwoven itself with the political establishment.

And if they won’t unweave themselves, then maybe Daschle actually has a good idea (a first for his family). Maybe journalists should be required to put up a disclaimer that identifies how much money they, their producer, their writers, their editors, and anyone else who worked on the story gave to each side any time they do a political story. Journalists pushed to get such rules forced on corporations, and corporations don’t even claim to be unbiased. So if this is good for corporations, then I would say it’s more than good for journalist. In fact, I would call it necessary.

And that’s the way it is this August 30, 2010.

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Education Improves In DC--Quick, Stop It !

Pictured is Washington (DC) Teachers' Union President George Parker. It is unclear whether he is puzzling over why he agreed to the contract he is holding in his hand, or simply unable to read it. WTU is one of many, many locals representing educators who don't educate and teachers who can't teach. But Parker signed an agreement, subsequently ratified by the DC City Council, which made the common sense move of providing rewards for successful teachers and the exit door for those who can neither do nor teach.

Just six years ago, Parker's union had over 5,000 members. Its current in-house publication now opens its site with: "Welcome to our new and improved Washington Teachersʼ Union (WTU) website. We serve more than 4,000 DC Public School (DCPS) teachers." The decline in membership is largely attributable to the DC city council approval of vouchers (with federal assistance) for children to leave the failed DC schools and attend charter schools instead. Most charter schools are not unionized, which is one reason why the education is so much better there.

But that is not what Parker is actually puzzling over. In fact, after the membership voted 1412 to 425 (45% of the membership) to ratify the contract, Parker realized he had just cut his membership rolls even farther. "How the heck did they slip that one past me?" may be what Parker is thinking. Among the major provisions of the contract is a provision which makes it quantum leaps easier for the DC Public Schools Chancellor (currently Michelle Rhee) to dismiss failing teachers.

The contract was approved in June of this year, and by late July, exercising her new power to toss out the deadwood, Chancellor Rhee released 241 teachers because of low performance ratings based on both student improvement and supervisorial evaluations. Better yet, Rhee further announced that there were another 741 teachers with substandard ratings who face termination in 2011 if they are unable to improve their ratings and evaluations. That's a total of 982 teachers out of the already-shrunken membership totaling approximately 4,000.

Any union president facing the loss of twenty-five percent of his membership in a period of one year should indeed be wondering if he was suffering from a brain aneurysm when he recommended approval of the contract to his membership. Twenty-five percent loss in membership means a twenty-five percent loss in forced union dues. The balance of the local union leadership is already pedaling like mad. On their website, they simply misstated the law, claiming that full union membership costs only $4.98 biweekly more than bargaining-unit mandatory dues of $28.22 in this union shop, but provides many more benefits for voluntary members than for mandatory members. That is a no-no. About the only thing allowed under the law (particularly Beck v Communications Workers Union) to distinguish between members is that voluntary members paying the higher dues get to vote in union elections and contract negotiations. Mandatory members do not.

Considering that only 45% of the total membership voted on the last contract, that doesn't seem like much of a benefit. In addition, the law is specific about how much (and for what) can be collected from non-voluntary members. The $4.98 difference is already facing litigation, since unions routinely lie about what percentage of their collected dues are attributable to legitimate union activities.

Since the major purpose of teachers' unions is to make it nearly impossible to fire illiterate and incompetent teachers, Mr. Parker has just bargained away one of his few reasons for existence. So it's not surprising that after creating the situation that allowed for the firing of the first 241 losers, it was time for Parker and his staff to start looking like they actually know what they're doing. With the assistance of union honcho Randi Weingarten of the parent American Federation of Teachers, the WTU is striking back at the school district.

Together, Parker and Weingarten have prepared unfair labor practices actions against the district for the 241 dismissed teachers. They prepared them before even reviewing the materials which are the basis for the terminations. As we all know, it's unfair to fire people who can't or won't do their jobs. As ridiculous as that may sound to normal people, it doesn't deter union bosses. The previous head of the mammoth AFT, Al Shanker (president from 1974 through 1997) put it simply: "A lot of people who have been hired as teachers are basically not competent."

The problem for the district is that once union leadership decides they're going to argue against the very contract they themselves approved, the stalling, procedural rules, and determination to perpetuate incompetence can play hell with the district, even if the district ultimately wins. Those hurt most are the students, but they are of no import to the union. The teachers' unions are about protection of jobs, not educating students. With the Obama recess appointment of left/labor hack Craig Becker to the NLRB, the WTU and AFT tactics have a much better chance of success.

George Bush and the Republicans went along with the foolish concept of "no child left behind." Obama's policy is "leave no union member unemployed, for any reason." And since neither Becker nor Obama thinks a contract means what it says, this is going to be an ugly battle which will once again harm the future of minorities in the District who simply want a good education for their children and know they can't get that in the DC public schools. Charter schools, unlike the public schools, must perform or die. Those which are presently performing badly will either go out of business or do what the public schools have such difficulty doing--firing teachers who are totally unqualified for the job they are being paid for.
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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Getting Off On The Wrong Foot

I am concerned. It looks like the Republicans are going to win the House, which is a good thing. But winning power is only half the battle. The other half is what you do with it, once you get it. For months now, I’ve been saying that the Republicans were starting to get it. But I am concerned that they are about to blow it.

For some time now, I’ve been pointing out that the Democrats are staring at an historic loss in November. Although the MSM is openly talking about the Democrats losing 30-40 seats, and more knowledgeable people are suggesting closer to 70, the evidence is there for something in excess of 100 seats. Even now, more evidence is pouring in, such as the quiet announcement this weekend by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee that they are about to cut off a large number of “under-performing candidates,” i.e. guys who look like they’re going to lose.

At the same time, I’ve been pointing out instances where the Republicans are getting it. They stood unified against almost everything Obama tried. Representatives like Paul Ryan have been doing some heavy thinking of conservative ideas. Senators like Jim DeMint have been doing some heavy funding of conservative candidates (much to the establishment’s chagrin). Bright, shiny new candidates like Christie in New Jersey and McConnell in Virginia have been showing how conservative ideas can be put in place despite the objections of the entrenched entitlement brigade. And even the MSM is starting to talk about moderate conservatives like Mitch Daniels as “attractive alternatives" to Obama -- so sayeth The Economist twice now.

So what’s the problem?

Well, as I’ve said before, the Republicans need a platform, and not some weirdo 1,000 page platform that caters to every fringe interest group in the party or that promises “conservatism” as defined by K Street along with neoconservative international nation building. What they need to promise is ultra simple: cancel Obama’s brand of soft-socialism, cronyism, and rule by unaccountable czars. Replace it with genuine free market reforms, genuine stimulus, a massive trimming of the federal government and its privileges and perks, deep spending cuts to control the deficit, entitlement reform, and repealing and replacing ObamaCare.

And if you want the top three to put into a sales pitch, (1) slash payroll taxes to encourage hiring and to make work more valuable for American workers, (2) repeal and replace ObamaCare with a system that lifts burdensome regulations, wipes out state-insurance monopolies, frees doctors to manage their own businesses, improves medical oversight, and gives patients incentives to cut their own costs, and (3) slash federal spending by cutting salaries, ending bailouts, canceling the porkulus, and cutting spending across the board to 2007 levels.

That’s what they should be promising. But here’s what is coming out of the mouths of several prominent Republicans. . .

“Woo boy, we is gonna hold hearings!”

Hearings into where the stimulus money went (i.e. which Obama cronies got the money). Hearings into the handling of GM. Hearings into Obama’s Afghanistan policy. Hearings into Jobgate (i.e. the offers to Sestak and Romanoff). Hearings into a dozen other matters the public doesn't remember. Said one staffer, they are salivating at the “opportunity of making ‘the most transparent administration in history’ respond to subpoenas.”

There is one word that comes to mind when I hear this and it rhymes with truck. Have these ignorant fools learned nothing? The public wants the nation’s problems solved. They want a government that sits quietly in the background minding its own darn business until it is needed to solve a national crisis. They do not want political show trials and chest-pounding hearings where Congressmen get all bent out of shape over issues we already know all about and about which we made up our minds a long time ago. Wow, the unions benefited from the bails outs? You don't say?! You mean Obama may have made an illegal job offer to Joe Sestak? You're kidding! Tell me more.

I know many of you don’t like Obama and would like to see him dragged through the mud and every one of his warts exposed for the public, just as the Democrats did to Bush and Reagan. But let me assure you, this will not hurt him, it will hurt our side. It always does.

Did Bill Clinton lie under oath? Certainly. Does anyone care? The public certainly doesn’t, his popularity soared after those hearings. Indeed, all the Republicans achieved was making him into the victim and making themselves come across as a party composed of petty morality police and hypocrites. Did Reagan break the law during Iran-Contra? Sure. Did anyone care? No. The public liked the fact Reagan was fighting the bad guys. His popularity soared. All those hearings did was make Oliver North into a hero and make the Democrats look like vindictive anti-American scum.

Our history is littered with attempts by one party to use the Congress to expose the President of the other party as the boogeyman. It’s never reflected well on the party that started the witch hunt. The public just doesn’t care. They want results, not grandstanding.

And right now is certainly not the time to try this garbage again. When you see Tea Party people show up at rallies, they aren’t demanding hearings. You don’t see signs that say “Send out the Subpoenas!” There are no rallies demanding that the Republicans expose Obama -- Obama exposed himself! We know what he is and we want him stopped. We want the wasteful spending he’s lavishing on his friends stopped. We want spending cut, power curtailed, and freedom restored. We don’t want show trials and mock outrage as grandstanding Congressmen pretend to discover what we all already know.

Obama came into office with the power to make the Democrats into a permanent majority party, and he blew it with his crony neo-socialism. The Republicans now have the chance to seize the initiative and cement themselves as the new permanent majority party. But if they go down the road of political theater, of investigations and weak referrals to special prosecutors, rather than boldly standing up and declaring a new day in America. . . a day of free market capitalism and an end to abusive government power, then they can hang it up right now.

Fight the battle for the future, don't try to score points with wonks about the past.

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

The MSM Finds A Villain--Then They Lie About It

The mainstream media has searched high and low for an instance of anti-Muslim violence ever since September 11, 2001. With the sudden wave of protest and anger over the despicable plans to build a triumphal mosque at Ground Zero, they found one at last. Or at least it appeared they had.

The New York Times advanced the lie, then the network nightly news and "lesser publications" repeated it. Islamophobia is the controlling voice of the mob which is out to murder every Muslim in America. Or at least one Muslim cab driver in New York City. After the right-wing bigots and professional haters stirred up the troops of ignorant rubes into a feeding frenzy, one of them obligingly used a knife on a Muslim cabbie. See? It was all so predictable. All that hate was bound to produce deaths and serious injuries. This one is only the beginning. Soon Bill Clinton will be talking about all the mosques he has seen burning in the South. Barack Obama will be doing his best out-thrust Mussolini chin thing, decrying the mass violence against innocent Muslims. Oh, the humanity!

The only problem is that they jumped the gun. It turns out that the only part that was true was that somebody stabbed a cabbie who was indeed Muslim. But it wasn't the right wing zealot they claimed it was. You're all waiting for the headlines and network mea culpas about the mistake, aren't you? As the famous peacemaker Al Sharpton said, "well, maybe it wasn't true, but it could have been." Don't hold your breath waiting for follow-up stories explaining how they were completely wrong about the attack.

Turns out that the attacker who was the "if it bleeds, it leads" poster boy for right-wing religious hatred is actually a volunteer for Intersections International, an organization that has taken a strong and public stand in favor of the building of the Islamic sharia center at Ground Zero. He was drunk and quite possibly more than a little nuts when he attacked the cabbie. When caught with their journalistic pants down, many of the liars pointed out that they had mentioned Intersections International in previous unrelated articles. Unfortunately for their ongoing lie, none had mentioned the pro-mosque stand the group takes.

Never much for admitting error, and always creative in finding red herrings, The New York Times found a whole new source of Islamaphobia to discuss so you wouldn't notice their minor "error." And now it's time to explain why I used that picture of the Empire State Building to illustrate the deviousness and perhaps pure evil of the mainstream media. That is one of the many versions of lighting up the building for special occasions, in this case St. Patrick's day. It's been done in yellow to celebrate the Simpsons (of all things), and best of all in red to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the murderous commmunist regime in China.

Times Metro writer Clyde Haberman on Friday has found the new source of Muslim-hatred which will result in blood in the streets and mayhem committed by ignorant Islamophobes. The Jews and the Evangelicals are bad enough, but nobody can touch those Papists for promoting anti-Muslim violence. On Thursday, about the time it became apparent that the cabbie attack was perpetrated by a crazed liberal, the Catholic League was holding a rally to protest the denial of special lighting on the Empire State Building to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Mother Teresa.

Of course, the Jews were involved, as always. One of the speakers was famous rabbi and comedian Jackie Mason. But most of the hatred kool-aid was carried by Catholic League president William Donohue. Haberman took a swipe at Mason, calling him "that noted theologian," but reserved most of his hysteria for Donohue. Haberman still managed to tie the cabbie stabber, William Enright, to the "fever of hatred" promoted by those opposed to the mosque.

Said Haberman: "In this most tolerant of cities, we have been swept up in culture wars rooted in religion (I guess nobody tipped him off to what the word 'jihad' actually means). The dispute over Mother Teresa is relatively small. Bearing far greater potential for lasting damage is the multisided anger over the proposed Muslim community center and mosque (and library of sharia) near the World Trade Center site, a struggle that may or may not have influenced a man charged on Wednesday with knifing a Muslim cab driver after having made anti-Muslim remarks."

OK. Now I know you're all rubes like me, so I had a liberal explain the logic to me. All the hatred being stirred up by Islamophobic ignoramuses caused a crazed and drunken lefty to shout anti-Islamic words and stab a Muslim cab driver. Now do you understand?
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Friday, August 27, 2010

Another First For California

And this one isn't even weird. The Judicial Commission has just unanimously approved Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's choice to sit as Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, replacing retiring C.J. Ronald George. George was known as a moderate with strong traditional Constitutional respect for the rule of law. His replacement is not expected to be much of a change.

In case you're wondering, the picture is the Earl Warren Supreme Court/1st California Appellate District courthouse located in San Francisco. Like almost everything else, California does things somewhat differently. The Supreme Court building in the state capital at Sacramento is currently under reconstruction. But even when the building is functioning fully, most of the court's work is done in San Francisco, with occasional forays to Los Angeles.

Now to the appointee, who is expected to win easy approval of the voters in November to start her twelve-year term on January 3. Her name is Tani Cantil-Sakauye. She is the daughter of immigrant farm workers, and will be the first minority (Filipina) Chief Justice. She would also be the second female Chief Justice. From my point of view, she should be considered the first female Chief Justice appointed on her legal merits rather than a leftist political hack like former Chief Justice Rose Bird, who was appointed by Governor Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown, and removed from office by the voters after a string of horrendous activist decisions.

There is another first involved as well. With her elevation, Cantil-Sakauye will create the first female majority Supreme Court in California history. Her story is inspiring and her career is notable. She was a self-starter from early in life, and excelled all the way through her education. She graduated with honors from the University of California at Davis law school. She then went on to become a county prosecutor for three years, moving on to two years on the legislative staff of Governor George Deukmejian, who subsequently appointed her to the municipal court bench.

Cantil-Sakauye was later elevated to the superior court bench, and in 2005 was appointed by Schwarzenegger to the California Court of Appeal. Her decisions have been reasoned and thoughtful, following precedent and the rule of law. Her history as a prosecutor indicates that she is not going to find mysterious umbras, penumbras and emanations from the State and US Constitution to exonerate dangerous felons, expand government intrusion, or advance radical gender, economic or ecological agendas. She has a sense of public duty, and once took a week off the bench to serve on a jury in 2003 (I'm still trying to look into what kind of attorneys don't challenge a judge for jury duty, but that's a whole other story). Her compassion for victims is clear. After sentencing a murder defendant to life without parole, she later came out of her chambers and sat with the victim's relatives, holding the mother's hand.

I know most of you are not used to me using the word "moderate" as a compliment, but it has an entirely different meaning in the judicial realm from that of the political realm. It means her track record is one that doesn't indicate a future activism on either side of the political spectrum. She won't write her own law if she doesn't like the law the legislature and the governor or the people have written. She has a prosecutor's eye and a judicial temperament. The worst criticism of her came from one Sacramento deputy attorney general who claims Cantil-Sakauye has exhibited a "gender-biased perspective" in domestic violence cases.

The nominee also demonstrated that she knows when to express her opinion, and when not to. It was inevitable that when she was asked about her predecessor's opinion striking California's first traditional marriage initiative, she was smart enough to reply that a similar issue (Prop 8) might very well be returned to the California courts after a Supreme Court decision, and she should not prejudge the outcome. Unlike Sonia Sotomayor, Cantil-Sakauye, addressed her gender as follows: "Either as a woman, a Filipina, a mother, a 50-year-old woman in this society--that always has an influence on how I see the facts, but not on how I apply the law." Her record tends to indicate that she means what she says.

Though she has never ruled on a death penalty appeal (those go directly to the State Supreme Court without an intermediate court first hearing the appeal), she has appeared to come down on the side of law and order, made no public comments on her views on the death penalty, and applies the law whether she likes it or not. That is about as much as any reasonable person can ask of a high court nominee. She would be very unlikely to take a new tack putting California back in the leftist camp of the Jerry Brown/Gray Davis era. California's Supreme Court has a far better reputation than the politicians in the other two branches. In fact, this nominee has a far better reputation than the governor who appointed her.

Compared to Obama's appointment of Red Sonia Sotomayor and "Kick ROTC Out of the Schools" Kagan, this appointment is positively brilliant. Proof that even Schwarzenegger isn't all bad. Cantil-Sakauye is young in judicial terms, and if she does a good job, perhaps will move on to the US Supreme Court some day, once we're rid of the con artist in the White House claiming to be a Con law expert.
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Film Friday: The Usual Suspects (1995)

The Usual Suspects is a neo-noir crime thriller with an intensely intelligent plot that twists and turns and wraps a riddle within an enigma as it tricks the audience with their own preconceptions. Add in stellar acting from an incredible cast, a pitch perfect soundtrack, an absolute lack of mistakes or bad choices by a creative director, and easily the most daring script of any film I’ve seen, and you’ve got one of my favorite movies and a movie you must see.

To discuss this film will require MAJOR SPOILERS. Do NOT read this if you haven’t seen the film.

Directed by Bryan Singer, The Usual Suspects ostensibly is a story of a robbery gone wrong, but that’s hardly a fair description. When all is said and done, The Usual Suspects is a mystery, where different characters give you different facts that you need to piece together to decide what really happened.

The story begins with small-time criminal Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey) telling U.S. Customs Agent Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminteri) what happened the prior night when a group of criminals attacked a boat in San Pedro harbor. Verbal appears to be the only survivor and he has given testimony in exchange for immunity. Kujan is racing against the clock to question him before he is released. According to Verbal, the robbery began several weeks prior in New York, when the police brought in four hardened criminals (and Verbal) for a lineup after a truck was highjacked. This group consists of Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne), Michael McManus (Stephen Baldwin), Todd Hockney (Kevin Pollak), and Fenster (Benicio del Toro). They decide to use the opportunity of the lineup to work together on a heist in NYC. After they pull off the heist, they fly to Los Angeles to meet the fence who will sell what they’ve stolen. In L.A., they are forced to perform a robbery for a criminal legend named Keyser Sӧze, who may or may not exist. Sӧze, supposedly, is a ruthless, omnipresent Turkish criminal mastermind who uses other criminals to commit his crimes. The robbery involves forty million dollars in dope and an equal amount of cash on a ship in San Pedro harbor.

This sounds straight forward, but director Singer does something daring. As Verbal tells this story, Agent Kujan keeps interrupting him with facts that Verbal either does not know or has lied about. At the same time, FBI Agent Jack Baer (Giancarlo Esposito) provides us with additional facts. For example, there were no drugs and it appears the true purpose of the raid was to kill a man who could identify Sӧze. When Kujan finally confronts Verbal with what Kujan believes happened, Verbal breaks down and agrees with everything Kujan says. He is then released. But as he leaves, we learn one more crucial fact -- Verbal is identified as Keyser Sӧze by a witness pulled out of the harbor. In this way, Singer presents four different versions of what happened. Verbal tells one story. Within Verbal’s story, we are given a second version by Dean Keaton, the man Kujan thinks is the leader of the group and who Kujan ultimately believes to be Keyser Sӧze. Agent Kujan and Baer give us a third version based on the facts Kujan collected from before the robbery and Baer collects from the harbor. Finally, we are given what appears to be the truth when we learn at the end that Verbal is Sӧze.

This alone makes this a brave script. The use of the four different version plot device (which dates back to Kurosawa’s Rashomon) is very difficult to pull off and extremely confusing when done poorly. Moreover, unlike prior films that used this and which always told the audience what really happened in the final version, Singer only provides some verified facts and leaves it to the audience to piece the truth together. That is a daring choice because it’s by no means certain the audience will be able to put this back together, and a confused audience is an unhappy audience.

What’s more, Singer doubles down on the difficulty by mixing up the movie’s chronology: it starts the night before, moves forward to today, backs up several weeks, swings back to the present, moves back to a different point in the past, and so on, as different parts of the story are told. There are many dangers to this approach. For example, the audience may not be able to put the story back in the right order. Moreover, because the audience knows the ending right at the beginning, there is a real danger the attack on the harbor will lose its drama because the audience knows how it will end. But Singer overcomes these issues brilliantly both by maintaining a strong pace and by giving you characters who seem so determined, so in control, and so competent that you don’t believe they can fail, even though you’ve already been shown that they do.

But even more than these issues, Singer takes a tremendous chance in that ultimately we know nothing of what really happened. Indeed, when we analyze the facts presented and we consider what we actually know to be true, rather than what we think we know, we quickly discover that we can’t believe anything we’ve been told throughout the movie. The only facts we know for certain are (1) Verbal is Keyser Sӧze, (2) Verbal and a group of men attacked the harbor, (3) the four criminals (Keaton, McManus, Fenster and Hockney) are dead, and (4) Keaton’s girlfriend is dead. That’s it. Nothing else in Verbal’s story can be verified and most of it can even be dismissed out of hand. Thus, Singer essentially shatters the entire film. The danger with this approach is that it risks alienating the audience. Audiences don’t like feeling like they’ve been misled or like their time has been wasted, and nothing feels more like having your time wasted than being told that you can’t believe anything you’ve seen over the last two hours. But Singer does something very clever here. Despite telling the audience quite plainly that nothing they’ve just seen can be believed, he also gives them one moment of truth -- when Verbal’s true identity is revealed. This allows the audience to feel that they really do know what happened; indeed, strangely, we take this fact and instantly reassemble the story into a new narrative that makes sense to us. . . even though none of the pieces we use to reassemble that narrative are true.

And that brings us to the twist. Using a twist in a movie is very risky because a poorly done twist, i.e. one that isn’t organic to the story, feels cheap and tacked on and leaves the audience feeling cheated. But making a twist feel organic and still keeping the audience from seeing the twist too early is very difficult and often requires careful slight of hand.

Yet, despite this difficulty, Singer hides nothing. Indeed, from frame one, we are told this will be a mystery and the question will be “who killed Dean Keaton.” Thus, the audience is put on alert from the beginning. Then, throughout the film, Singer constantly gives clues as to Keyser Sӧze’s true identity. For example, Sӧze and Verbal have the same lighter and Verbal clearly is playing with Kujan -- something that should be out of character if he is who he says he is. Yet, the audience overlooks these clues because Verbal doesn't fit our preconceived notions about what a criminal mastermind must look like and act like. In other words, we simply find it impossible to believe that the meek cripple is the Satanesque villain we are looking for (Kujan, by the way, makes the same mistake and indeed tells Verbal repeatedly that a "stupid," "cripple" like Verbal could only be a pawn). Instead, we find it much easier to believe that the menacing, brooding Dean Keaton is Sӧze, just as Kujan urges us to believe.

Which one is the master criminal?

Singer takes a huge risk here that the audience will see the twist coming and link Verbal to Sӧze right away -- which would ruin the movie. He even adds to that risk by warning us that we need to look beyond our perceived notions. He does this when Verbal warns Kujan: “for the cops, there’s no mystery to the street. If you think some guy did it, then you’re going to find you’re right.” And that is exactly what we do in the film: we size up the suspects and we pick the guy it usually would be -- Dean Keaton. Singer deserves tremendous credit for correctly calculating that we would ignore the clues.

That’s why this is easily one of the smartest films you will ever see. It is so tightly written, so daring in its choices, so mistake free, so perfectly acted, and so expertly assembled that a movie that could have been a horrific jumble in other hands turns into an intelligent puzzle in Singer’s hands. And Singer takes real risks and overcomes them brilliantly by skillfully deceiving us with our own preconceptions. The American Film Institute ranked this the tenth best mystery film of all time, I would rank it higher.

Not bad for a six million dollar film no one wanted to fund.

Check out the new film site -- CommentaramaFilms!

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Democrats Acknowledge Disaster

I’ve been saying for some time that the Democrats are in trouble. In fact, I’ve pointed out that it’s very, very likely the Democrats will lose the House and come very close to losing the Senate. Now the Democrats are starting to admit this as well.

In the past couple days, we’ve been hit with interesting poll results:
• 48% of Americans think Obama’s views are extreme (42% don’t).

• Voters now trust the GOP more than the Democrats on all 10 of the most important issues identified by voters: education, health care, Iraq, the economy, social security, government ethics, national security, Afghanistan, taxes and immigration.

• Unelectable Colorado Tea Party Extremist Loser Ken Buck is leading Democrat Michael Bennet 48% to 40%.

• Unelectable Nevada Tea Party Nutjob Sharon Angle and Saint Harry Reid are tied 47% to 47%.

• Unelectable Corrupt Washington Insider Roy Blunt is leading Robin Carnahan 51% to 40% in bellwether Missouri.

• Unelectable freak Marco Rubio is winning his three way race against shoe-in Charlie Crist and also-ran Kendrick Meek 40% to 32% to 17%. And Crist’s numbers keep falling now that the Democrats have chosen a candidate.

• 60% of Americans still want ObamaCare repealed.
This should shake the Democrats up, right? Probably, but they’ve been so shaken up by internal polls for some time now that this is old news. Consider this quote from one Washington Democrat:
“Democrats kept thinking: ‘We’re going to get better. We’re going to get well before the election.’ But as of this week, you now have people saying that Republicans are going to win the House, and now it’s starting to look like the Senate is going to be a lot closer than people thought.”
Who is saying this? Well, listen to one Democratic pollster who is working on several key races: “The reality is that the House majority is probably gone.” What’s worse, his data shows that the Democrats’ problems are “spreading.”

Democrats are in a panic. They’ve noted for example that House seats they considered “safe” are suddenly up for grabs. In a tacit admission of this, they've begun running ads in many of these safe districts, and even in districts where historically the GOP has never been competitive. Moreover, some Democrats have become so panicky that they’re running ads attacking their own leadership, and there is a sudden exodus of House committee staffers looking for lobbyist jobs before the election. Also, 15.4 million voters came out for Republicans in the primaries so far, but only 12 million came out for Democrats, evidence of a massive enthusiasm gap (polls show 46% of Republicans report being “very enthusiastic” compared to only 23% of Democrats).

As always, the Democrats are looking for a scapegoat. They seem to have chosen Obama. Indeed, they’re bitter that the “summer recovery” they were promised never came. . . waaaah, I never got my unicorn!! And they’re furious at the White House for “keeping the debate over a New York mosque in play for two weeks” and now trying to talk about Iraq when they should be talking about the economy.

But isn’t the economy Bush’s fault, you ask? Well, said one former party chairman: “the problem is that a lot of the message talks to the base, and we’ve got to talk to the middle. You can only blame Bush for so long.” You don’t say?

Speaking of the public, last week we learned a little bit about one of their key problems when information was released about polling and focus group work done on ObamaCare. It turns out that no one believes that ObamaCare will reduce costs, lower the national debt, or improve services. In fact, the public isn't buying any of the talking points put together by the Democrats (debunked here many times). In the end, the marketing gurus recommended that Democrats stop talking about it and instead talk about the future. . . including “fixing ObamaCare.”

Does this mean the Democrats are doomed? Not necessarily, but the evidence is getting pretty overwhelming that a disaster is coming. And even if the evidence doesn’t actually add up to a tidal wave yet, this type of pessimism often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Also, when I hear that the new plan is to demonize John Boehner, a man known by less than 1/3 of the electorate, I begin to suspect that the Democrats just might be on the wrong track.

Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of skunks.

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The NY Times Puts Us In Our Place

I don't know about you, but I feel terrible that I am so unsophisticated and uneducated that I can't understand the brilliance that comes out of Washington DC and now out of New York City. If I were only one of the elite, I might understand why it's necessary to build a mosque right on top of the gigantic hole in the ground in New York City that represents Islamic tolerance.

New York City Mayor Auntie Bloomberg just had a Ramadan dinner for all those moderate Muslims, and once again instructed us rubes that we are intolerant, bigoted and just plain stupid for opposing the lovely Islamic center funded by Saudi Wahabbists, al Qaeda and Hamas. Of course I'm just guessing who's funding it since the moderate Muslims planning it won't reveal their funding sources. Bloomberg reminded us of just how tolerant Islamists are by pointing out that if we don't quit opposing their great center of learning, it might promote violence from the Middle East.

The boy from Chicago also fits right in with the Beltway and West Side liberals. Even a faux president from the midwest (by way of Hawaii, Indonesia and Kenya) can become sophisticated enough to recognize just how crude and anti-intellectual all Americans are outside of NYC and DC. The menu for the pro-mosque feasts comes, of course, from the rapidly-declining Newspaper of Record, The New York Times.

Times "reporters" Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Jeff Zeleny recently participated in a Political Points confab in which they blamed racism for Barack Obama's low poll ratings, and opposition to the Ground Zero mosque as both racism and a clear lack of Manhattan-style sophistication. This would also explain why 18 percent of the American people believe that Obama is a Muslim. According to both Stolberg and Zeleny, such a belief would also cause them to believe that Obama is responsible for all those pesky things presidents are supposed to be doing.

The moderator, Sam Roberts, kicked things off by channeling Michael Lerner of Tikkun magazine's "demonized other" concept. Said Roberts: "Well the whole notion, Sheryl, you wrote, of 'otherness,' which is rather incredible, considering how far we've come. I guess maybe we haven't come that far, and the whole notion that America, a majority-white country, elected a president who is black, we still haven't gotten over that in a way." Is he asking a question, or arguing with himself? Still, he asked the right leading question, even if it wasn't elegantly put. America is majority-white, therefore racist. Right or wrong Sheryl?

Now don't gasp when you hear her answer. "Well, I think that's right." No? Really? Says Stolberg: "There's a new poll out from the Pew Research Center that finds a startling rise in the number of Americans who believe if incorrectly that President Obama is a Muslim." Well, I don't think he's some kind of Muslim. But I do believe that he's more Muslim-friendly than the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, so it really doesn't matter if he's actually a Muslim himself. Ergo, I'm an ignorant hick (even though I did live in midtown Manhattan for two years).

Stolberg made it clear that the rubes disapprove of the plan for the Ground Zero mosque because they don't know what's going on, unlike those knowledgeable Manhattanites. She has failed to notice that outside of Gracie Mansion and the upper West Side, most Manhattanites are equally unsophisticated. Still, Stolberg opines: "I think, in New York, especially in Manhattan, people realize that Muslims live and work in Lower Manhattan, in the area where they're seeking to build this community center, which would also include a fitness center where young people could play basketball or swim or what have you. Out in the country (that's us, the rubes), the news coverage has not been as intense, there are fewer details and it allows for the debate to be reduced to its essence, boiled down to a few words: Mosque at Ground zero. (emphasis added). And those words have become inflammatory around the country and I think the nuances is [sic.] somewhat lost, frankly."

I'm glad she decided to be frank. Prior to that, I wasn't clear just how unsophisticated she considered us to be. She reveals her own lack of sophistication, however, by not knowing that mosques are neither churches nor synagogues, nor is their primary purpose a place of worship. Historically, they have been armories with worship as part of the jihad activities. More recently, they have become heavily legalistic, preaching (or teaching) sharia law which specifically denies the rule of any other law (like the Constitution, for instance).

So I'll be frank as well. She's full of crap. I couldn't be happier that I am no longer a resident of San Francisco, aka New York City Junior. I take back what I said in my opening paragraph. Instead I am proud to be a rural California hick who thinks the least informative newspaper in America is The New York Times. And pace our regular contributor, Bev, I'm just unsophisticated enough to believe that if the mosque does get built, it will show that New York City, home of The Times, is lacking in self-respect and is the most suicidal city in America.
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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

In Praise of the Human Brain

The human brain is an incredible piece of machinery. Not only does it keep your body functioning, but it provides a pretty credible GPS and it lets you store phone numbers. But even more interesting is its power to make sense of the things we see.

Consider the example of the noble stick figure. Five straight lines arranged at odd angles, with a circle placed near the top. Somehow, our mind is able to take this arrangement and determine that this represents a human being, even though it doesn't look like anyone you know. We can even distinguish its gender with as little as one more line added horizontally, near the bottom, to make a dress, or added vertically to. . . never mind.

We can do the same thing with dots. I can arrange a collection of dots in such a way that you will soon see what I’m making, even though the actual image is nothing more than a series of dots.

This is truly an incredible power if you think about it. Without this ability, we could not communicate by drawing, art would be meaningless, and even television would seem like nonsense to us. Music and speech too are nothing more than a collection of tones and notes, the audio version of our stick figure.

And the power of the brain doesn’t stop there. We have the power to rearrange objects in our minds to make sense of them. Consider for example this sentence: administration the disaster total Obama is. That last sentence would be meaningless if we didn’t have this power, but because your brain is a problem solver, it can reassemble that sentence. The same holds true with chronology. Indeed, it is our ability to reassemble stories that have been mixed around time-wise, that lets us understand so many interesting films and novels.

And here’s an example you probably did not know: a recnet sutdy fnuod taht haumns are able to mkae sesne of wdors so lnog as the fisrt and last leertts of the wrod are in palce. The order of the letters in between is entirely irrelevant to our ability to understand the meanings of the word. Cool huh?

So the next time you understand anything, thank your brain.

(And if you have nothing to thank your brain for, then just use this as an open thread.)

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This Is The Right Direction?

“There’s no doubt we're moving in the right direction."

-- Joey “The Brain” Biden

Yesterday, in an announcement that strains credulity, even for Joe Biden, lying Joe told us there is no doubt we’re moving in the right direction. But Obama didn’t retract that statement. So let’s take a quick look at what Obama apparently thinks is the direction we should be heading.

Team Obama has been touting a positive GDP for the year. But everyone is now lowering their estimate of GDP growth to 1.5% for the year, an anemic number, with more lowering to come. And in case you’re wondering, a positive number does not mean we’ve turned the corner. The Great Depression saw six quarterly bounces in GDP with an average gain of 8%, along with stock rallies to 50% of the pre-1930 levels. . . right where we are today.

Speaking of the stock market, from February 2009 until June 2010, small investors pulled $9 billion out of the stock market. The DOW is down 4% this month, a seven week low.

Bank failures continue to climb. Only 25 banks were closed during the credit crunch in 2008. Since that time, 140 banks failed in 2009 and 118 banks have failed so far this year -- on pace for 200+ this year.

Official unemployment remains at 9.5%, though real unemployment remains around 17%. Various government officials are now predicting that this is the new normal. Teenage unemployment and minority unemployment are at all time highs.

The Federal Reserve reports that factory activity slipped to negative levels in August, meaning economic contraction is coming, i.e. more recession.

Sales of existing homes fell to their lowest level in 15 years, and the drop in sales this last month is the biggest drop since record-keeping began in 1968.

Crude oil futures are down at an 11 week low, and that’s in the middle of the driving season.

Tax revenues continued to fall, this time by 11% from 2009.

Obama’s budget includes a $1.2 trillion deficit, supposedly a decrease from last year’s $1.42 trillion Obama deficit. But this doesn’t count the cost of Afghanistan and Iraq, which are kept off the budget, and it includes fake receipts like estimated receipts from the never-passed cap and trade bill. This $2.6 trillion Obama has added to the debt in his first two years, by the way, compares to the $11 trillion added to the debt in the 40 years since 1970.

China is selling U.S. dollar-denominated assets in anticipation of a collapse of the dollar, and in hopes of replacing the dollar with a new reserve currency. This would be disastrous for our cost of borrowing.

Speaking of China, they and Russia have rejected sanctions against Iran. Russia is now helping Iran finish its nuclear power plant. China is buying gas from Iran. Both have refused to agree to sanctions, even those that would forbid the selling of weapons to Iran. All of this, and Obama’s effete response to Iran, have made war all but inevitable.

Afghanistan is a disaster, with more reports coming out every day that it will never end and cannot end well. The latest involves a report that after nine years of training, Afghanistan’s army still will not be ready to take the field for at least another year.

Obama just flubbed the “worst environmental disaster in history” in the Gulf.

Almost two years into Obama’s term, the Democratic Senate still has not confirmed 118 of his nominees.

Other than that, how was the play Mrs. Lincoln? Is this seriously what Obama thinks is the direction the country should be headed? Apparently so. And this doesn’t count the significant hurdles about to come up. Either the Bush tax cuts will expire, destroying the economy, or they will be renewed, blowing the deficit even higher. The effects of ObamaCare have not yet begun to smack around the economy. Medicare is on the verge of collapsing. Our costs of borrowing are on the verge of going up. The EPA is about to regulate carbon, i.e. everything. When Israel bombs Iran, you can expect serious blow back to reach us, both in international condemnation and in increased terrorism. Not to mention that Obama’s nonactions toward Iran are getting countries like Saudi Arabia thinking about building their own atomic bombs. And so on. . . and so on.

If Joe has no doubt that we’re moving in the right direction, then Joe’s version of paradise looks a lot like hell. And if Obama didn’t realize he needed to shut Joe’s trap, then Obama’s a fool.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bush And Eastern Europe Betrayed Eastern Europe, Not Obama

Do you remember how Obama sold out Eastern Europe to improve relations with the Russians? That would be the same Russians who are now helping Iran build a nuclear bomb. . . er, power plant. Well, it turns out that we got that wrong. Obama didn’t sell out Easter Europe, Bush did. Oh, and they had it coming.

Let’s go over the allegations that the haters are making about Obama’s Eastern European policy:
• First, he scrapped a missile-defense system, which had been promised to Eastern Europe to defend them against missiles from Iran and Russia. But “promised” is an understatement. Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic undertook great national risk in agreeing to become bases for the various components of this system. In fact, in response to Poland’s actions, Russian conducted a war game which involved simulated nuclear strikes against Warsaw.

• Ukraine and Georgia’s NATO applications have ground to a halt. Basically, Russia has been allowed dictate NATO membership and extend its control over its former vassals.

• Nothing has happened on European energy security and, specifically, by letting Russia cut off Georgia, Russia continues to control all supplies of gas to Europe.

• Several Eastern European countries (most notably Poland) sent troops to Afghanistan and Iraq to curry favors with us, but Obama has refused to relax visa rules for Poles wishing to travel to the United States, even though those rules have been relaxed for everyone other country you can think of.

• There are a myriad of snubs, such as Obama skipping World War II ceremonies, demanding that the Poles invite the Russians to a pro-Democracy gathering, the sending of a “snooty” envoy who treats anyone below the prime minister level as an inferior, and Obama’s constant use of the words “partners” rather than “allies,” which they fear signifies a less protected status.
These matters have so bothered the Eastern Europeans that last year they sent an open letter to Obama criticizing his policies. What? You didn't hear about that? How strange, I wonder why?

In any event, The Economist wants you to know that it’s just not right to blame Obama for any of this. In fact, they present an extensive counterargument that thoroughly proves that Bush is the guy who really sold out Eastern Europe, and Eastern Europe had it coming. Let’s consider that “argument.”

First, The Economist begins by attacking an argument that really hasn’t been raised. It notes that under the weak-kneed George Bush, NATO never made contingency plans to defend the Baltic nations in the event of a Russian invasion. Now, under President Ass-To-Kick, NATO is making such plans. How’s that for tough! NATO is even preparing military exercises in those countries. . . something that happened under Bush as well, if The Economist had checked.

Second, with regard to this “flimsy” missile defense argument, President Ass-To-Kick has actually done more than was promised. Yep. Sure, he cancelled the system Bush wanted to install, but in its place he’s putting together a ship based system that The Economist swears is soooooo much better. Of course, that system can only stop Iranian missiles, and it relies on stopping those in the Persian Gulf. But to make up for this, President Ass-To-Kiss actually took the extraordinary step of sending a patriot missile battery to Poland! Woo hoo! Of course, the Patriot Missiles can’t hit an intercontinental ballistic missile, and this particular battery happens to be unloaded. . . and he’s only letting the Poles have it for training purposes only. But still, it’s obvious the Poles are just being whiny.

Finally, The Economist finished off its stellar argument with some classic blame the victim assertions. Georgia and Ukraine brought their NATO problems on themselves because their politicians are unacceptable. As for energy security, well, that’s really Europe’s fault because they just aren’t attentive enough to the issue. And did you know that those grubby Eastern Europeans don’t spend enough on their own defense? If they had been spending enough on their own defense, then maybe that “would encourage America to turn up when needed.” Yeah, and maybe they shouldn’t dress so proactively either.

So you see, it really is Bush’s fault and it’s those darn whiny provocateurs in Eastern Europe. It isn’t Obama’s fault at all. And anyone who says otherwise just isn’t being honest.

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Guess He Wasn't So Bad After All

You all know that with the exception of Supreme Court appointments, tax cuts, and his love for America, I was no big fan of George W. Bush. For me, "compassionate conservatism" was a long way of saying "liberalism." Big gummint, fix everything from Washington DC, fight a war against an enemy you refuse to name without a clear goal in mind. But even his late-term low polling numbers are beginning to look good now next to the Messiah's.

The last place on earth I would look for W. to be outpolling Obama is in the rich, liberal enclave of Martha's Vineyard. Well, if T-shirt sales are any indicator, Bush today would be elected if he ran against Obama. Yeah, I know, it's not scientific. But it's fun.

The Boston Globe, a noted liberal newspaper, breathlessly announced that they were shocked--shocked--to find out that during his weekly vacation, Obama was less popular than Bush, at least on Vineyard T-shirts. On August 18, the Globe reported: "One barometer of the plunge in excitement has been the sale of Obama-themed T-shirts, which designers had been banking on after the craze of last year [Obama's last visit there]. Clothing labeled with the president's name sold by the thousands, helping to salvage a tough economic year for the island. But this year's T-shirt sales are much less brisk, merchants say." Except for Bush tee-shirts, of course.

A local clothing merchant says: "Last year, Obama gave you goose bumps, but I don't think you're going to see that this year." Last year this merchant sold 4,000 tee-shirts emblazoned with "I vacationed with Obama." This year, his hottest item is one depicting George W. Bush with the legend "Miss me yet?"

T-shirt sales in Martha's Vineyard are off across-the-boards, but then so is everything else. A year ago, Obama didn't even need a boat to get to Martha's Vineyard. He just walked over from the mainland. The economy was terrible, and Obama was blaming it all on Bush. To paraphrase Dinah Washington's best-selling hit--"What a difference a year makes." Even loyal Vineyardites (Vineyarders? Vineyardians?) aren't buying the "Bush did it" mantra anymore. They have given Obama nearly two years to make some inroads into the recession. There are few indicators that his massive government programs are doing anything except deepening the debt and the deficits needlessly.

As for the tourists, they're aware that they're about to get taxed heavily for Obamacare and the stimulus packages that didn't stimulate much of anything except unemployment in the private sector. So, many visitors who might have sojourned there during Obama's visit decided to hold onto what little money they have left just in case they're next in the unemployment lines. They're cringing at the thought of which socialist policy Obama might next push through against their will.

For the tee-shirt folks, I suggest a new one. A picture of a homeless person, wearing a shirt with Obama's picture and the legend "mission accomplished."
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Monday, August 23, 2010

Rick Santorum Was Right

The ink isn't even dry yet on Judge Vaughn Walker's decision to end several millennia of traditional marriage by overturning California Proposition 8. In anticipation of an appeal to the United States Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has stayed the judge's decision, but there will ultimately be a showdown.

A few years back, then-Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania got a big horse laugh when he suggested that polygamy would be the obvious next step after gay marriage became "normalized." He was ridiculed mercilessly by the left wing "anything goes" crowd. But we've come a long way, baby. And where did the gay marriage movement get its first major push outside the gay community? Answer: TV and Hollywood movies. Progressively sympathetic productions in specials, as well as in drama and comedy series, made the rubes in flyover country think they were out of step with mainstream America.

Tearjerkers about gay lovers kept apart by traditional marriage bigots became a staple. The TV and movie industries kept pushing the agenda. Over a period of about twenty years, we went from actor Perry King whining that playing a gay character had ruined his career to La Cage aux Folles, the blown-up (literally) gay marriage on Dynasty, and Will and Grace. There are now at least twenty mainstream TV shows which feature regular gay characters and couples.

Quite a transition, right? Well, laugh at Sen. Santorum if you will, but the same pattern is starting to emerge for polygamy. First, cable TV brought us polygamous Big Love on HBO. It is fiction, but presented as a forbidden practice that suffers from all the problems of traditional marriage combined with the deleterious effects of those bigots who also opposed gay marriage. For some reason, it doesn't rate any better in Utah than it does in, say, San Francisco or New York, but it has been a successful and ongoing serio-comedy-drama.

But fiction isn't enough. So in the tradition of 60s porn (pre-"if you show it, they will come" Supreme Court decisions in the Miller and Roth cases), polygamy will now be given the scientific, cultural and positive portrayal we all know it richly deserves. The Learning Channel (which now styles itself "TLC," since much of what they showed involved little learning and a lot of editorializing) is beginning a seven episode reality show called Sister Wives. It follows the daily lives of of the members of a polygamous family.

In the red-herring vein of gay marriage, this show follows the predictable pattern of establishing that polygamists are people too, with wants and needs just like everyone else. Co-producer Bill Hayes effused over the family he was chronicling: "Their children were so well behaved and polite and healthy and happy. Pardon the cliche, but the proof was in the pudding (he can't even get his aphorisms straight--the proof of the pudding is in the eating). What a bunch of great young people, and there was nothing strange about them. They have an unusual lifestyle, but for them, it was their lifestyle." Any guesses about which side of the issue he's on?

The show follows the family and particularly the patriarch, an advertising executive, as he seeks to marry his fourth wife. Says Hayes about the illegality of the multiple marriages, "while the family had been living in quasi-secret over its lifestyle for many years, Hayes said the Browns decided to do the series to show that polygamy does not have to be a world enshrouded in dark secrets." When criminal activity becomes a "lifestyle," hold on to your hat. Decriminalization then legalization will be the next step. And this TV show will help to promote that concept.

The patriarch, Kody Brown, actually did an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune in which he said "In the past, polygamists have had to be secret due to the threat of indictment or expulsion from work. Our civil rights got thrown out a long time ago. Even though society has evolved to the point of not knocking on my door with pitchforks and a lynch mob, that doesn't mean that they couldn't get away with it." Get it? The real miscreants here are those bigots with the tar and feathers who can't legally harm the polygamists, but they might do it anyway. That one is from Al Sharpton's Tawana Brawley handbook.

So just like gay marriage and illegal immigration, polygamy is being elevated from a crime to a civil right. Game over. In California, they'll probably have to judge-shop to find somebody willing to ignore the Constitution, history, and Western civilization other than Judge Vaughn Walker. He's likely to believe only in gay polygamy, and so far, the practice is largely heterosexual.

Back at the time that Sen. Santorum first suggested that gay marriage would lead to a flood of other presently-illegal marriages, he was lambasted by gay activist Dan Savage in an editorial in New York Times: "Striking down an insulting, discriminatory, unconstitutional law will not, as Santorum fears, open the doors to incest, adultery, bigamy, and bestiality. Straight people blew those doors off their hinges long, long ago." Another "gotcha." You see, straight people who opposed gay marriage were bigots and hypocrites and secretly participate in all those practices. All straight people, you know.

The previously ridiculous idea of two members of the same sex getting married used to be on that list of "insulting, discriminatory and unconstitutional law." Several state courts, a couple of legislatures, and now a federal court have taken gay marriage off that list against all logic and precedent. Santorum saw the inevitable parallel. Savage listed all those things that would "never happen," not realizing (or at least lying about) the fact that he had just produced the shopping list for the lawyers and activists who will follow the road map of gay marriage successes.
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Democrats Panic Over NYC Mosque

I have largely avoided discussing the New York mosque issue because there wasn't much to add, until now. Obviously, they have the legal right to build it, but that doesn’t make it right. What fascinates me now though, is just how badly this issue is playing for the Democrats. Sure, we’ve all heard that 65% of the American people oppose the mosque, but that doesn’t tell us anything about the political impact. What tells us about the political impact are some recent events.

Event One: Desperate Democrats Abandon Obama

For the Democrats, the mosque issue couldn’t have come at a worse time. With voters ready to bury them in November, they needed the summer to calm the voters down and to generate a new narrative. But that fell apart when Obama flubbed the BP oil spill in the Gulf. And then Arizona hit, showing not only that Democrats were opposed to protecting our borders and stopping the flood of illegal immigrants, but that they were happy to demonize the public for believing that citizenship means something. Now the housing market and jobs market have tanked, confirming that all that money the Democrats spent was indeed wasted.

The last thing the Democrats needed right now was another reminder that they are weak on the issue of Islamic terror and that they are anti-religious -- except for Islam. Then bam-O! Enter the mosque. For weeks, the Democrats tried not to address the mosque issue, knowing that their response would only anger us hicks. But then Obama did what he does best, he opened his mouth and stupid words came out.

Like a reflex, every Democratic mouthpiece ran to a microphone to repeat his words and to declare how racist and Islamophobic we ignorant hicks are. They whined about religious freedom and tolerance, a freedom and tolerance they never extend to Christians. They spoke of Americans being racist, even though Islam spans many races. They spoke of meeting Islamic aggression with tolerance and whined that we were the villains for refusing to accept this provocative humiliation.

But this wasn’t polling very well.

Soon Democrats in difficult races, like Harry Reid, ran out to express their opposition to the mosque. And don’t underestimate the worry that must have caused this. When the left start with the shrill calls of racism, few Democrats will ever dare cross that line no matter how badly the issue hurts them. So for Harry Reid and others to side with the “racists,” means that this issue must have been truly devastating for Democrats.

Event Two: The Media Falls Back On The Argument Of Last Resort

With the rats fleeing the sinking ship to side with the “racists” and “Islamophobes,” and Obama desperately trying to backtrack without backtracking -- and getting called out for it by both sides. . . and as people all over the country began openly opposing the mosque. . . and as terrorist groups like Hamas announced that this mosque would be a victory for Islamic terrorists. . . and with the racism argument failing so miserably. . .

The media fell back on the truly last refuge to which they flee when the Democrats are in a corner from which there is no escape: they begged Republicans not to politicize this issue. Seriously, I’m not joking.

Democratic activist. . . er, journalist Mark Halperin wrote an article in Time in which he literally begs Republicans not to use this issue against the Democrats:
Obama has given you an in [with his mosque comments]. . . . If you go full force on the offensive, every Democratic candidate in every competitive race in the country will have three choices, none of them good, when asked about the Islamic center: side with Obama and against public opinion; oppose Obama and deal with the consequences of intraparty disunity; or refuse to take a position, waffling impotently and unattractively at a crucial time.

Say what you will about the wisdom of Obama's policies overall, but his belated commentary on religious freedoms clearly was not done for political gain. Quite the contrary, the President knew that he and his party would almost certainly pay a political price for taking a stand. . . The reaction since the President spoke has been vitriolic and unvarying from leading voices on the right, painting Obama as weak, naive, out of touch and obtuse (not to mention flip-flopping, after his confusing follow-up comments Saturday suggested to some that he might be hedging his position).

Yes, Republicans, you can take advantage of this heated circumstance, backed by the families of the 9/11 victims, in their most emotional return to the public stage since 2001.

But please don't do it. . . . As I said, Republicans, this is your moment. As a famous New Yorker once urged in a very different context: Do the right thing.
Yes, please don’t point out how anti-American our side is, those ignorant hicks in Hickville will hold it against us. ** boo hoo hoo **

And it gets even stranger than this. Communist. . . sorry, “columnist” Maureen Dowd has begged Bush to bail the Democrats out. Honestly, I’m not making this up: “It’s time for W. to weigh in. [Bush understands that] you can't have an effective war against the terrorists if it is a war on Islam.” The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson also thinks Bush needs to lend his support to this mosque: “I would love to hear from former President Bush on this issue. He held Ramadan iftar dinners in the White House as part of a much broader effort to show that our fight against the al-Qaeda murderers who attacked us on 9/11 was not a crusade against Islam. . . it would be helpful to hear his views.” Even Peter Beinart of the far-left New Republic “pines for George W. Bush. Whatever his flaws, the man respected religion, all religion.” He longs for Bush to remind us that “‘the was on terror’ was a struggle on behalf of Muslims, decent folks who wanted nothing more than to live free like you and me.”

How strange to hear the left calling for us to “respect religion.” And how bad must their troubles be if they are calling on Bush to save their rear ends on this?

Sadly, various Bushies have been happy to comply. Bush advisor Peter Wehner attacked Gingrich’s opposition to the mosque and warns us that we are “conflating all of Islam . . . with wahhabism and bin Ladenism.” Michael Gerson and Mark McKinnon (who you may remember from this article) also have weighed in defending the mosque, as have Bush alums Ed Gillespie and James K. Glassman, who insists Republicans should be “communicating a message of tolerance to most Muslims.”

Event Three: Democratic Fratricide Begins

Finally, the Democratic fratricide began this weekend, when Howard Dean said: “we have to stop the polarization in this country, [and] some of the folks on my end of the spectrum are demonizing some fairly decent people who are opposing this. Sixty-five percent of the people in this country are not right-wing bigots.” He was skewered for his comments.

So there you have it. Forget the poll about 65% of the public, look at the panic on the left to tell you how this issue is really playing.

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Oh, Brother. Here We Go Again

The lovely United Nations stamp represents how much the upcoming negotiations with the Palestinians are worth. Following in the footsteps of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, our current Peacemaker-in-Chief has invited Israel and the Palestinians (whoever they are) to the White House to reach an agreement to establish an independent Palestinian state.

Here's how it works. A Democratic president, in trouble with the electorate, brings together a real nation and a ragtag group of terrorists, they jaw for awhile, Israel agrees to major concessions, the terrorists make no concessions but plenty of demands, and the grinning Democrat gets a big boost for being a peacemaker. A peace agreement is signed. Shortly after the next American election, the terrorists realize they didn't make enough demands, begin killing Israeli civilians and blowing up buildings in Israel, then declare victim status when Israel defends its right to exist. Rinse and repeat. With friends like the Democratic presidents, Israel doesn't need any enemies.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will meet with Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Obama represents a nation and Netanyahu represents a nation. It's unclear exactly what Abbas represents, since there is no such nation as Palestine, and the "Palestinian Authority" is a magical creation of the United Nations pretending to be a nation, or a people, or something. One thing is sure. Abbas represents the group that replaced the former Fatah "government" of Yasser Arafat. Fatah was a terrorist organization. Abbas represents the new Palestinian Authority formed by Hamas, an organization that makes Fatah look like sissies.

Obama has already decided, publicly, that Israel has no right to the territories it has controlled ever since the first round of Palestinian terrorists made it necessary to expand Israel's security perimeter. He has already determined that those nebulous Palestinians are entitled to a nation of their own, carved out of Israel. And he has made it clear that he believes that about half of Israel's capital and historical heart should also go to the Palestinians. It also seems that along with the land, those rich Jews will be expected to come up with some kind of monetary reparations to the dirt-poor Palestinians.

Unlike Bill Clinton before him, it does appear that Obama has actually succeeded in getting the Palestinians to come to Washington to meet with Israel's top official. Very generous of them, I'd say. Particularly since everyone knows that Israel never negotiates in good faith and is nothing more than an oppressor of Muslims and Arabs. But maybe having "honest broker" Obama already stacking the deck in their favor gave them some impetus to show up at world citizen central.

The current plan is that they will follow the agenda set by shuttle diplomat former Senator George Mitchell. First, the president will meet with Netanyahu, then with Abbas. Then they will meet together with the additional honest brokers Hosni Mubarak, president of Egypt, and King Abdullah II of Jordan. Mubarak and Abdullah are very much acquainted with the Palestinian problem since their countries played a major part in creating the problem. After telling the poverty-stricken and land-hungry Arabs of the newly-founded nation of Israel to leave the country while the Arab nations crushed the fledging Zionist entity, they miscalculated, lost the war big-time, and were stuck with the Palestinians. They re-created the problem when they got fed up with the violent freeloaders and sent them back to the border regions of Israel.

Obama knows that it is too early to reach a formal agreement. It's an agreement to agree. That way, the grinning messiah can say that he told them to "come now, let us reason together." Almost Biblical, isn't it? He needs to time it so that there are grandiose plans for peace that he can tout to the American people just before his reelection bid, but before a final agreement is reached which will ultimately fall apart during his second term (if such a thing happens).

Unlike the Camp David accords put together by Jimmy Carter and his peaceniks, further talks and negotiations preceding a formal agreement will take place in the Middle East, starting with Egypt. Abbas has made a preliminary statement regarding the talks, holding an olive branch in one hand and a club in the other: "We hope that the Israeli government would refrain from settlement activities, incursions, siege, closures and provocative acts like demolishing of homes, deporting people from Jerusalem in order to give this peace process the chance it deserves." Not exactly a demand for unconditional surrender, but it has the makings.

Abbas neglected to mention anything about missiles being lobbed into Israel from across the UN protected and promoted Palestinian Authority border. Mention of such a thing could cause reasonable people to think that Abbas's laundry list of suggestions to Israel was really just a dodge to prevent anyone thinking that Israel's actions might be simple self-defense.

Abbas does not actually represent Hamas directly. He represents the Palestinian Authority. Yet Hamas has the controlling interest in the Authority. His agreement to meet with Obama and Netanyahu has caused a rift among Hamas leaders. In Gaza, where most of the Palestinians are located, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuri said: "We consider the invitation and the promises included in it empty, and it's a new attempt to deceive the Palestinian people and international public opinion." Well, I have to admit that for once, I agree with Hamas.

Obama's spokespeople expect the initial round of negotiations to take at least a year, allowing for plenty of photo-ops and announcements full of hope and change for the Middle East. Despite her differences with her boss, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the front-woman for the talks, giving her an opportunity to succeed in putting together a worthless agreement which her husband was unable to accomplish.

I leave it to you to decide which is better. A signed agreement which will necessarily fall apart almost immediately such as that put together by Jimmy Carter. Or a failure to get an agreement out of the Palestinians such as the experience of Bill Clinton. Personally, if Obama were a movie actor instead of a messiah, I might be tempted to see this whole charade as a publicity stunt.
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