Friday, September 30, 2011

Film Friday: Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

Boy did I hate Star Trek: The Motion Picture when it first came to theaters. Everything about this film was wrong. But over the years, I’ve had a change of heart. Don’t get me wrong, everything about TMP is still wrong, but it has one thing all the other Star Trek movies are missing. It has a sense of adventure.

Click Here To Read Article/Comments at CommentaramaFilms [+]

With Friends Like Pakistan . . .

Admiral Mike Mullen recently testified at the Senate Armed Services Committee that our "ally" Pakistan has allowed the Taliban-supported faction Haqqani to become nothing less than an arm of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency. This testimony comes from the outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It wasn't very politic, and it has caused quite a stir.

We have been buoying up our Pakistani “allies” for years, often to the detriment of our much firmer ally, India. The Afghanistan War has opened wounds we either didn’t know we had or thought were healing. Pakistan makes no pretense of being a purely secular state. After all, its capital is Islamabad (“the abode of Islam”). But we counted on the fact that after the first round of Islamists were ousted from power decades back, the military would suppress the major jihadist impulses of the government and the Muslim clerics. They even elected a woman as head of state. It worked for awhile and up to a point.

The war in Afghanistan, a nation which borders Pakistan, has ripped the bandage off the long-festering wound. After successfully driving the largest groups of Taliban out of Afghanistan, we quickly discovered they were being given safe harbor and assistance in Pakistan, particularly the border province of Waziristan. Waziristan is comprised of two administrative districts, North and South, but for all intents and purposes, South Waziristan is an independent state under the very loose administrative control of the central Pakistani government.

Both parts of the province are comprised largely of warring tribes. In the South, the population is largely comprised of Waziris, Mahasuds and Burki. They are not ethnically close to the Pakistani Punjabis, Sindhi or Pashtuns, and consider Pakistan to be an occupying force. In the North, the main tribe is the Darwesh Khel, alternatively known as the Utmanzai Waziris. They are ethnically Waziri, but often at war with the southern Waziris. Unlike the South, which is largely uncontrolled, the North is actually under some direct control from Islamabad, but also unlike the South, the North shares an open border with Afghanistan. In fact, both North and South Waziristan sound a lot like Afghanistan just before the Taliban took over the government.

The battles between the North, the South and the central Pakistani government make this a slippery situation for both Islamabad and Washington DC. The problem that has come to light in recent years is that despite their internal battles, Pakistan and Waziristan are extremely Taliban-friendly. Pakistan makes occasional forays into Waziristan to stamp out open rebellions or arrest terrorists who want to blow up Islamabad. But by their own admission, the Pakistanis are unable to gain effective control of the province.

Though the government of Pakistan is still largely in military hands, those at the top are now more militantly Islamic and bellicose toward India and hesitant toward the United States. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) has been the recipient of complaints from the White House for its complicity in Taliban-sponsored terrorism since early in the Clinton administration. The army’s failure to gain effective control of the Afghan border regions has also been a source of considerable diplomatic maneuvering.

But it is only recently that a personage as important as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has publicly and clearly called Taliban-supported Pakistani terror group Haqqani a “veritable arm of the ISI.” American-Pakistani relations, already strained, were pulled to near-breaking by the honest words of an American Admiral. The official Pakistani response was very angry, indicating that the government believes America is interfering in internal Pakistani matters. The usual mad Muslims took to the streets in the thousands to warn America not to try to deal with Haqqani on its own (though there was no suggestion from any American official that America has any intention of doing anything faintly resembling acting independently on the Haqqani matter).

All that Admiral Mullen really did was point out the danger of an ally which officially claims to be doing its best, but in reality is at best neutral about Taliban/Haqqani terrorism and at worst, actively complicit. Having the truth pointed out in public caused the Pakistani government to announce that it would not tolerate American attacks on Taliban and Al Qaeda bases in Waziristan without prior permission from Islamabad. This, even though the government admits outright that it has scant control of the border regions. It doesn’t help that the Pakistani government at its highest levels has more leaks than a sieve, and that any forewarning to Islamabad about a pending American attack on terrorist bases would get to the terrorists faster than the drones and the bombs.

This is clearly a thorny problem. But pretending that we don’t know how treacherous Pakistan has been is simply no longer viable. The best example of all was the capture and killing of the greatest terrorist of the last half of the twentieth century—Osama bin Laden. He had been living comfortably in a very obvious compound a mere sixty miles from Islamabad, in a security zone, and practically on the grounds of a nearby Pakistani military base.

When a sophisticated American helicopter went down during the operation, the Pakistani government made sure the first people to get to it were the Chinese military experts. Yet we are expected to believe that our ally didn’t know about bin Laden’s compound, had no idea he was in Pakistan, and was acting in the interest of our alliance by allowing Chinese military operatives to sort through highly-sensitive war-making machinery before allowing the Americans in.

So how does the Obama administration react to the admiral’s statement? Just about as you would expect. It wussed out. Barack Obama has refused to publicly endorse the admiral’s statement, and is presently hiding under his desk. He has sent his better-half, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to soothe the Pakistani savage breast.

Despite recent border incursions from Pakistan into Afghan war zones aiding the Taliban, the Taliban-led attack on the US embassy in Kabul, and attacks on NATO outposts near the border, Clinton failed to address the fact that Haqqani was clearly linked to the attacks. Instead, she met for three hours with the Pakistani ambassador, repeating platitudes about cooperation and vital strategic interests.

This flies in the face of the unrefuted testimony of Admiral Mullen who named names and tied Pakistan and the terrorists together: “With ISI support, Haqqani operatives planned and conducted the truck bomb attack on September 10 which killed five and wounded seventy-seven coalition soldiers. We also have credible evidence that Haqqani was behind the June 28th attack on the International Hotel in Kabul and a host of other smaller but effective operations.”

So what did our brave Secretary of State do? Her department leaked a memo to the Washington Post that said: “Adm. Mike Mullen’s assertion last week than an anti-American insurgent group in Afghanistan is a veritable arm of Pakistan’s spy service was overstated and contributed to overheated reactions in Pakistan and misperceptions in Washington.” She doesn’t contradict the admiral’s statement with any evidence whatsoever, but makes it very clear we mustn’t upset our “allies.”

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Times They Are A Changing Back

Things aren’t going well for Obama’s economic policies, and people are starting to notice. In fact, things have gone so badly that a backlash has formed and a wholesale rejection of his policies is underway. But even more than that, there seems to be a serious attitude shift in the public.
How Bad Is The Obamaconomy?
After three years bankrupting the country with futile “stimulus” spending and give-aways to Obama’s supporters, our economy stinks. In fact, it’s the worst economy since the Great Depression. How bad is it? Theoretically, the recession ended in 2009 and the Obama recovery began at that point. Indeed, Team Obama twice now has heralded “the recovery summer.” And yet:
● Official unemployment remains at 9.1% in August.

● Unofficial unemployment remains around 17%.

● Official black unemployment remains at 16.7%.

● Median household income is down to $49,445, below 1996 levels. In other words, fifteen years of income growth are gone.

● Inflation is officially 3.2%, but it’s really closer to 12-15%.

● There are 46.2 million people living below the poverty line ($22,314 per family). This is a record since the statistic was first kept in 1959. The poverty rate of 15.1% is also a record.

● 13.7 million Americans receive unemployment.

● 16.3% of people still have no health insurance.

● Health insurance premiums are up 9% this year, following 2010’s rise of 14%. Thanks Barack!
About Face!
In 2008, when Obama came to power, the conventional wisdom assumed the public was ready to move left and accept more government control over their lives. But that didn't last. People now see the government as the problem. Indeed, not only has the public rejected Obama's agenda, but they've moved further right than ever. Consider these numbers from Gallup (which typically shades about 5% to the left):
● 57% of Americans say the federal government has too much power and only 8% think it needs more.

● 56% of Americans say the federal government “is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and business.” Only 39% believe the government should do more.

● 56% want lower taxes and fewer services and only 16% want more taxes and more services.

● 50% think the government regulates too much. 23% think it regulates about right and 23% want more regulation.
That means 60% of the public is ready to declare an end to the Pelosi/Obama Age of Big Government (Redux). But even beyond these numbers, something else has changed.

When Reagan came to power, there was a sense the government had gone too far. But there seemed little appetite for wholesale butchering of government functions and agencies. It was still a world of “the government should be smaller, but don’t cut any of it.” The left used this dualism for years to justify continued spending, by claiming that people don’t really want cuts because they can’t identify anything they are willing to give up. That’s changed. Suddenly, people want it all cut. Questions like “what agency would you wipe out,” are now common topics for discussion and were even asked by an MSM journalist at the last debate -- in the past, this would have been considered fringe stuff.

Also, Republican governors are slashing budgets, cutting taxes, demanding an end to regulation, and ending collective bargaining right, and House Republicans are in near revolt to make similar changes. . . yet this isn't hurting them with the public. In fact, many of their poll numbers are up (some Democratic pollster recently noted to their chagrin that the Democrats are doing even worse now than they did in 2010). Moreover, we just aren't seeing a popular backlash like we've seen in the past when sacred cows were touched. Where are the million old people who flooded the Capitol switchboard when Republicans first proposed changes to Social Security in the 1990s? They're silent. Instead, all we've seen is professional protestors, whose buffoonish efforts achieved nothing. Heck, this trend is so obvious that even Democrats are starting to adopt similar rhetoric, without the substance of course.

Obama wanted to be an historic President, and he has been in many ways: his deficits are historic, he lost our credit rating, he’s the least popular President ever, and he’s headed for an historic beat down landslide in 2012. But his most historic achievement may ultimately be that he brought to life a change in belief in the United States away from slowly expanding the welfare state to ending it. . . i.e. he may complete Reagan's legacy!

The only question now is will the public turn out in large enough numbers to overcome those with a vested interest in big government? Someone said the other day that this election will be between those who work for a living and those who vote for a living. Workers of the world unite! ;-)

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Chicken Comes Home To Roost

For those of you who might have thought that a liberal Democrat would wander off the reservation for long, Ed Koch (former New York City mayor) should put your minds to rest. Koch has been loosely credited with creating the margin of victory by which a Republican took a New York Democratic seat for the first time since 1923. His concern was Barack Obama's terrible record on Israel.

Koch says that he heard Obama's moral equivalency speech at the United Nations, and was instantly convinced that he had been wrong about Obama's dedication to the survival of Israel. While supporting Republican Bob Turner in the recent Congressional election, Koch said the following: "I am doing what I'm doing to cause President Obama to change his hostile position on the State of Israel and to re-establish the special relationship presidents before him have had." What it was about Obama's UN speech that was any different is mystifying to many. Polls taken since the UN speech indicate that Jewish support for Obama continues to decline.

Koch is very influential among liberal Jewish voters, so it remains to be seen how strongly he will back Obama and how much effect it will ultimately have on that particular demographic. Polls taken after the President's UN speech indicate that the President's views on the Israel/Palestinian issue have not changed voters' minds in the President's favor. Two years ago, Obama still had a clear majority with the Jewish vote on the issue, according to the polling of the American Jewish Commission. That poll showed that in 2009, Obama's favorables were 54% to 32%. After the UN speech, the same poll asking the same questions about Palestine showed that Obama's approval was at 40% against a disapproval rate of 53%.

On overall approval of the President's job, the Democrat-leaning Gallup poll found that Obama's approval rate among Jewish voters was still high at 54%. But even that is a dramatic drop. In 2009, his approval rate was at 83%, dropping to 54% in 2010, and staying there. Likewise, the AJC poll in 2009 showed that Jewish voters were 53% Democratic. The same poll today shows that figure to be 45% (the loss was to those registered as Independents or decline-to-state, while the Republican percentage has remained unchanged at 16%).

Koch says that Obama's "words of support for Israel" during the UN speech, combined with his recent intervention in the Cairo attacks on the Israeli embassy and providing bunker buster bombs to Israel (in 2009) has changed his mind. Says Koch: "I'm now on board the Obama Reelection Express." It strikes me that Koch's mind is easily changed and his political stance easily modified.

I could understand Koch's change of heart if Obama had said "I will immediately supply Israel with all necessary military support for bombing Iran's nuclear facilities," or "I firmly support Israel's claim to Jerusalem--all of Jerusalem--as its capital, and reject any claims by the Palestinians to portions of Jerusalem." But what he did say was the usual blather about the longtime friendship of Israel and America, then launched into moral equivalencies, the "cycle of violence," and the "walk in their shoes" nonsense. In other words, "I sort of support Israel, as long as I don't have to do anything about it." With friends like that, who needs enemies?

In the ACJ poll, Jewish voters would elect Obama over Romney 50-32, over Perry 55-25, and over Bachmann 59-19. That's a hefty Democratic advantage among Jewish voters. It's also a hefty increase among undecideds. But is it that great? In 2008, Jewish voters chose Obama over McCain by 77-22. Herman Cain was not mentioned in the poll, but after his Florida victory in the straw poll, it will be very interesting to see how that plays with Jewish voters in the next poll.

Between now and the election, the polls I'm looking at tell me that Koch and Obama had better make appearances together, kiss a lot of babies, shake a lot of hands, and attend a lot of bar mitzvahs if they want to win back the formerly top-heavy Jewish vote. A real rejection of unilateral Palestinian demands might help too.
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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Audio Commentaries

by ScottDS

One advantage of DVD and Blu-Ray is the audio track. These can be used for foreign languages, Descriptive Video Service, and, best of all, audio commentary. The very first audio commentary was recorded in 1984 by film historian Ron Haver for the Criterion laserdisc release of King Kong. Whereas this feature was once reserved for classic films with scholarly merit, today the feature has been co-opted by marketing departments and can be found on such cinematic dreck as Epic Movie and Meet the Fockers.

Click Here To Read Article/Comments at CommentaramaFilms [+]

Obama's Words Are "Racist"

Did you know Obama’s very words are racist? Actually, let me rephrase that: repeating Obama’s words without cleaning up his mistakes is racist. . . even when the mistakes are intentional. So says the race-baiting industry.

Last Saturday, Obama gave a speech at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's “Cry Racism” Dinner. During this speech, Obama used some negro dialect (to quote Harry Reid), which apparently involves dropping many of the g’s from his words. Hence, he said things like:
“Stop complainin’. Stop grumblin'. Stop cryin'. We are going to press on.”
You tell ‘em Barack! He may even have said, “lon’ duk don’” but that’s unconfirmed. Anyway, the AP repeated this in a transcript without cleaning up Obama’s diction as they do for such other luminaries like every NFL player.

Enter the idiots. . . Afro-American author Karen Hunter whines that it was “inherently racist” not to clean up the president’s speech. Oh tell me more!
“I teach a journalism class, and I tell my students to fix people’s grammar, because you don’t want them to sound ignorant. For them to do that, it’s code, and I don’t like it.”
Code huh? So now it’s racist code to quote black people accurately? Interesting. Isn't this the same crowd that claims Ebonics is a language that should be respected? But now it’s racist code when whitey doesn’t whiten up a black person’s quotes? Does anyone see a problem here? And does anyone wanna bet that if they did clean up Obama’s speech, some other race-baiter would have screamed “racism” because clearly the reporter was “trying to wipe out Obama’s blackness”? They might even have called it “genocide,” like they do when white people adopt black kids.

The AP is now offering sniveling assurances that it always cleans up people's quotes and thus presumably should have cleaned up Obama's. . . although when the Bush White House tried to clean up his quotes, the AP refused to go along. Hmm. I guess the AP was racist against the Bush family.

Is it just me or is this getting really stupid? We’ve reached a point where this whole racism issue has become a mental problem. They are seeing racists lurking behind every corner, under every rock, in every cup of Tea, and hidden in every word. The word “black hole” was recently called racist. The words “picnic” and "tar baby" are supposedly racist. Now quoting Obama using a form of speech that tends to be associated with class, not race, is racist. This needs to stop.

But there are no signs this is even slowing down. Obama’s speech actually brought howls of racism. . . only without the word itself. Maxine Waters whined that Obama’s speech “surprised” her and was “not appropriate”:
“. . .the president spoke to the Hispanic Caucus. . . and he certainly didn’t tell them to stop complaining. And he never would say that to the gay and lesbian community. . . or even in a speech to AIPAC, he would never say that to the Jewish community ‘stop complaining’ about Israel.”
In other words, she thinks he's treating blacks in a discriminatory manner, and you can bet she would be screaming racism if he were white -- just as Emanuel Cleaver admitted that they "probably would be marching on the White House" if anybody but Obama was President.

And for good measure, several others are now debating what Obama meant when he said, “take off your bedroom slippers [and] put on your marching shoes.” Apparently, there may be some racism in that too, depending on whether “bedroom slippers” is somehow code for something inherently black. No, I'm not joking.


Bill Shakespeare wrote, “The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves.” Maybe that’s something blacks should think about... “the racism, dear friends, lies not in all around you, but in yourselves.”

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fox News: Left Turn For Circus Maximus

There was an interesting article yesterday by Howard Kurtz about an interview given by Roger Ailes, the Grand Pooh-Bah of Fox News. It’s interesting on several levels. First, Fox is apparently moving left in its coverage. Secondly, it really highlights why conservatives should not trust Fox.

One of the most striking things Ailes said was that Fox is undergoing a “course correction” toward the left. Apparently, Fox executives think the entire network took a hard right turn after Obama’s election and “as the Tea Party’s popularity fades” they are shifting back to the center. Oh, where to begin.

First, there was no hard right turn. The types of stories Fox covers and the slant they put on them was no different in 2009 than it was in 2006 or 2002. Sure, they hired Glenn Beck, but he didn't dictate what the network would cover. He simply provided one opinion show. By that token, MSNBC is right wing because they hired Joe Scarborough.

Secondly, the presumption that the Tea Party is fading sits exactly at the core of why conservatives should be leery of Fox. Fox only cares about drama. . . not truth, not politics. To achieve that, it tries to shoehorn every issue into an easy storyline with clear winners and losers, so it can hire attractive women to represent each side and slap it out on television. The only thing missing is the Jello.

The Tea Party is an idea, not an organization. It is twenty million Americans all doing their own thing with the same goal in mind: change our government. It has no leaders, it does not engage in political theater. In many ways, it is akin to communist cells. And that cannot be squeezed into Fox’s format. But Fox tried. Rather than reporting what was really going on and helping people understand the Tea Party, it instead appointed fake leaders, like Michelle Bachmann, Dick Armey, and Glenn Beck to make its storylines work. Not surprisingly, those people failed to catch on. So now Fox is declaring the Tea Party finished because Fox's storylines didn't work and are played out. . . without ever considering that it has completely misrepresented what the Tea Party is.

This is why you should not trust Fox, because it does not care about presenting conservatives fairly, it cares about using conservatives to sell its drama, and it will twist conservatives to fit its needs.

Third, if Fox is to be a legitimate news source (as it pretends) then it should not be setting any sort of course. It should take the news as it comes without comment and bias. Indeed, Ailes himself complains about the bias of the other networks and the AP: “the AP is so far over the hill, they’ve become left wing, antiwar. Gotta watch their copy.” That’s certainly true. But let me ask, why then does FOX do nothing more than repeat AP stories? Why doesn't it gather its own news? And if bias is bad, why does Ailes admit in the article that he's advised so many of these candidates, including Romney, Perry and others?

Moreover, listen to what happened prior to the debate. Hours before the last debate, Ailes’s team sat in the auditorium plotting how to trap the candidates. And yes, “trap” is the right word. Listen to what Chris Wallace planned to do to trap Perry to generate “fireworks”:
“[I'll ask] 'How do you feel about being criticized by some of your rivals as being too soft on illegal immigration?' Then I go to Rick Santorum: 'is Perry too soft?'”
This is inappropriate. There is nothing wrong with planning an interview question. In fact, a well-prepared journalist needs to think of things they will ask in advance. BUT, this goes beyond preparing a question. This adds the element of using Rick Santorum to sneak attack Perry. This is akin Jerry Springer bringing out a surprise guest. This is trying to make the news, not report it.

Rush rightly criticized this: “Fox wants these people to tear each other up.” And what did Ailes say in response? “Because [people] see conservative thinking on our channel and don’t see it on any other channel, they think we’re in someone’s pocket.” Well, no. Because you call yourself “news,” we figure you would act like journalists, not game show hosts. Apparently, we were mistaken.

Frankly, none of this is new.

Fox has been a fraud since its inception. The way Fox works is simple. They buy stories off the wire from the Associated Press and ask their anchors to spin those stories to the right. That's all they do. To add excitement, they hire telegenic guests to slug it out. That’s not journalism. . . it’s a game show.

And it's not conservative either. Fox's conservatism is the conservatism of big, crony corporate socialists. It is the voice of K Street. And now it wants to turn our primary into reality television. Enough!


As an aside, according to a Zogby poll, Herman Cain is now the leader at 28% with Republican voters.

Cain: 28%
Perry: 18%
Romney: 17%
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Do We Really Want The Hikers Back?

San Francisco Chronicle headline: "U. S. Hikers Leave Iran Prison Fitter With Sean Penn to Thank." By their friends shall ye know them. Iran has kept two of the three American hikers in prison for 781 days, releasing them earlier this week. They were finally released after the Sultan of Oman paid their $1 million bail (read "ransom").

I truly hope the United States government doesn't decide to reimburse the sultan with taxpayer money for the return of these two twerps. It isn't just that they didn't have the brains to stay out of harm's way. It's the question of whether these two were worth all the breathless headlines and sob-stories that led up to their release. In case you didn't know the details, these two (along with a female companion who was released earlier) couldn't find a good hiking trail anywhere in America or Europe, so they decided to take a jaunt around the Iraq-Iran border.

All three were arrested by Iranian storm troopers and tried on charges of spying. Needless to say, they were found guilty. Is anyone brought before an Iranian court ever found not guilty? Whether they were actually inside Iranian territory is debatable, as is the question of whether or not they knew exactly where the border is. So naturally, American indignation was fanned into a blaze. American diplomacy failed to get them released. We must obtain the release of these young American innocents! How dare Iran imprison such fine young American patriots?

Despite my feelings about Iran, its insane concept of "justice," and the imprisonment of American citizens, I can't get too exercised about their incarceration nor too joyful about their release. Let's take a slightly closer look at these sweethearts. Asked why they were stupid enough to explore a waterfall in the wilds of Kurdish Iraq without a map, they acted as if the questioner was the stupid one. "This was never about crossing the unmarked border. We were held because of our nationality. We do not know if we crossed the border. We will probably never know."

I'm not one for believing anything that the government of Iran tells us, but how did the Iranians know what nationality they were when they were arrested inside Iranian territory? Their nationality may very well have been the big issue at the show trial, but it has damned little to do with their original arrest. Sarah Shourd, who was the earliest of the trio to be released (on $500,000 "bail") said: "We regret we didn't know more about the area." Well, duh.

Shourd and Shane Bauer had been shacking up with each other in Damascus before they got the brilliant idea of hiking along the Irag-Iran border with their companion, Josh Fattal. Shourd was studying Arabic and teaching English to our good Syrian friends when they all met up in Damascus. Fattal is a radical environmentalist who joined the other two just before they went hiking. When they encountered locals who spoke Farsi rather than Arabic, Shourd should have been able to figure out they weren't in Kansas anymore. And if Fattal wants to investigate waterfalls, then I suggest he visit Yosemite next time, and gaze at the wonders of Bridalveil Falls. Or Niagara, maybe.

Ironically, all three of these UC Berkeley graduates are ardent advocates of closing the detention facilities at Guantanamo. And surprise, surprise, they compare the two as if the purposes of the Iranian jails are based on the same rationale as Guantanamo and as if the two facilities are like each other. That silliness is worth another entire article, so I won't bother vetting that argument here. But whether it's Stockholm syndrome or their radical education at Berkeley, the trio found very little negative to say about their Iranian captors. (Full disclosure: These clowns are among the multiple reasons why I am not attending my 45th Berkeley reunion, despite multiple pleas, letters and e-mails from the Alumni Association).

At their homecoming festivities, the families of the former captives read a written statement in which they credited the release to Hollywood celebrities and heads of state. Chief among the former was America-hating Sean Penn. It's probably no coincidence that the Chronicle ballyhooed Penn's role, since they also used him as a "war correspondent" during the hostilities in Iraq. Among the latter group, Venezuelan socialist dictator Hugo Chavez (a great friend of Iran) received special notice, as did the Sultan of Oman (for obvious reasons).

We are expected to celebrate their safe return. Cindy Hicks (mother of Shane Bauer) praised her son's brillance in keeping fit by exercising using full water bottles as exercise equipment. Well, I guess that shows that a UC Berkeley education is worth it. "They're both thinner than when we left them," she said, "Their hair is nicely cut. They had slight gray under their eyes because they did not have much sunshine. No vitamin D." Well, that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

On the same day that the two fans of Mideast democracy returned to New York, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived at the United Nations building to make his speech damning American imperialism, touting the elimination of Israel from the face of the map, repeating his Holocaust denial, and charging capitalism with the decimation of the world economy. I'm not so sure that the unholy trinity of Bauer, Fattal and Shourd would disagree with Ahmadinejad.

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Obama The Terror Warrior

Following Barack Obama's UN speechifying about Palestinians and other terrorists, it is probably an appropriate time to revisit the Obama administration's alleged counter-terrorism policy. To summarize it, he doesn't have one. Like J. Edgar Hoover refusing to recognize the existence of the Mafia and organized crime, Obama thinks in terms of individual criminals and criminal acts.

It's easier and more comfortable to think of using the vast resources of American law enforcement and the military to track down one high-profile international criminal like Osama bin Laden than it is to think in terms of using those same resources to break the back of organized terrorists or fight a war against jihadism. It's easier and more comfortable to pat oneself on the back for having captured or killed a single criminal than it is to recognize the need for 24/7 vigilance in fighting a huge multi-national amorphous yet hydra-headed enemy.

Like the Lernean Hydra, when you chop off the bin Laden head, others grow to replace it. The entire beast must be killed and the stumps of its heads seared with fire before a victory can be claimed. And since Obama is no Hercules, and "victory" has become a dirty word, his counter-terrorism program is the same old liberal war-on-crime model with an added twist. The twist is that Obama admits that he and his cadres of law enforcement are incapable of going it alone. So the solution is to "energize the strength of communities, to enhance the understanding of the threat posed by violent extremism."

I've touched on Obama's August formal report to the American people in the past, but after his UN moral equivalency speech and the hackneyed "walk in the other's shoes" admonitions to Israel and the Palestinians, it's probably a good idea to do a little more analysis. Obama's counter-terrorism policy is simply more feel-good, one-nation-under-therapy, liberal utopian silliness. The title of the the report alone is a strong hint of just how unserious he is about domestic terrorism. "Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States." If you are empowered, he and his resources can be used for more important things.

"Empowering" is a liberal concept that actually means very little. Essentially, it's giving pretend power to people too timid or too lazy to do things on their own initiative. It makes them feel better about themselves, and is in reality just another facet of the self-esteem movement. If you have to be told that it's a good idea to report "suspicious activity," you're probably too ignorant to get it right.

But the real problem with the report and Obama's entire counter-terrorism policy is that he carries on George Bush's inability or unwillingness to identify the enemy we need to be fighting. "Terror" is a concept, but it can't be an enemy since it exists only in the mind. Wars are fought against real, physical, human enemies. And if you can't identify them, you are taking shots in the dark. But Bush and Obama both refuse to name the enemy for fear of being politically-incorrect and/or wounding the feelings of those actually making war on America, Israel and the entire civilized world.

We are not in the middle of the war on crime, or the war on disease, or the war on poverty, or the war on any other euphemism. We are in the middle of a war--period. Like the Cold War, there are occasional hot outbreaks (such as 9-11), but mostly the enemy is fighting small actions in multiple locations while planning and organizing for the next big strike. Since 9-11, there have been 23,000 terror attacks in the world. So far, America has suffered few but awful attacks since 9-11. The Fort Hood massacre is the most infamous of them.

Multi-culturalism, leftism, one-worldism, moral relativism, blind secularism, and stealth jihadism are the fellow-travelers and enablers of the enemy, but they are not the enemy. Militant Islam is the enemy, and our government refuses to admit that simple fact. To prove that, here is the list of naughty persons in the report that the Obamists want you to look out for: "Neo-Nazis, environmental extremists, anti-tax groups, militias, racial supremacists, and religious zealots." But when it comes to religious zealots, the biggest and most violent of those groups is not identified by name. In fact, isolated radical fundamentalist Christians are treated as if they are as numerous, as determined and as organized as radical fundamentalist Muslims.

Though there are scattered mentions of radicalized Muslims, the report never uses the words Islamism, jihadism, or any other expression which might identify fundamentalist Islam as the most dangerous, most active, and most violent group of all--dwarfing all the others combined. Another interesting thing about the report is that is purports to be a counter-terrorism document, but the words "terror" and "terrorism" do not exist anywhere in the document.

Instead, the harshest description, and the closest to being accurate, is "violent extremism." No mention of the fact that the "violent extremists" who brought down the World Trade Center buildings, the shoe-bomber, the Christmas Bomber, the Times Square Bomber, and the Ford Hood shooter, among many others, all share one violent belief in common--Islamism. Most of the planned attacks were thwarted, usually at the last minute by observant civilians. Each of those civilians was empowered by his or her own inner strength, not by a worthless government report and some feel-good words. The same can be said of those brave passengers who rushed the Islamists aboard Flight 93 and prevented a fourth jumbo jet hit on America on 9-11.

The one "violent extremist" Muslim organization mentioned by name in the report is Al Qaeda. That gave Obama a temporary victory when he took credit for killing the head of that organization. But the report fails to take note of Wahhabi mosques and schools nationwide, of the Muslim Brotherhood, Jamaat ul-Fuqra, Hizb ut-Tharir, Hamas, Hezbollah, or any other Islamist group with tentacles spread throughout America. It doesn't even come close to mentioning domestic terrorist-supporting groups posing as peacemakers such as unindicted Holy Land Foundation co-conspirator CAIR.

Quotes from persons intimately involved with terrorism have some telling things to say about the report specifically and Obama's lackadaisical approach to the problem of Islamism generally. Melvin Bledsoe is the distraught father of Carlos Bledsoe, a Muslim convert who murdered a soldier at a military-recruiting center in Little Rock, Arkansas. His comment on the report was that "It's never going to fix the problem when they're dancing around the issues." Islamists are recruiting faster than the military. Ed Husain, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations said that the report said "worryingly little and was primarily designed not to offend Muslims."

Barack Obama, as President and Commander-in-Chief is charged with a major constitutional obligation--to protect the citizens of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic. He is not charged with being America's chief investigator of crime. Nor is he charged with being America's chief soother of injured feelings. He is charged with leading America when the nation is at war.

Obama has failed even to identify the enemy, and when he actually takes military action against Muslims of any sort overseas, he does so in what Shepard Smith of Fox News calls "not-wars." Worst of all, the American Commander-in-Chief is ready, willing and able to subvert American sovereignty, cripple American military power, and subordinate American leadership to part-time warriors like NATO and worthless warriors like the United Nations.

Obama can't blame the report on others. It was issued over his signature, and presented to the public as if it were holy writ. I suggest that he change the title to "Whistling Past the Graveyard."
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Suckers For Chris Christie

Christ Christie is reconsidering whether or not to run for the Presidency. Ok. I don’t think the Democrats will give him the nod over Obama, but he’s entitled to try. Wait, he’s thinking about running as a Republican? And there are conservatives pushing him? Grrr.

Rick Perry is flaming out. After Perry’s horrible debate performance, Herman Cain cleaned his clock in the Florida straw poll (37% Cain, 15% Perry) and Romney took him out in Michigan (51% Romney, 17% Perry). This has created an opening if someone else with strong name recognition wants to jump in. And to some people that means Christie.

Apparently, several big money types, including Rupert Murdoch and the billionaire Koch brothers have spoken to Christie about running. A group of 50 business leaders including Ken Langone, Jack Welch, Charles Schwab and Mort Zuckerman appealed to him in person. Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal has been pimping him as well. So has The Weekly Standard and Bill Kristol. Even Ann Coulter, normally a thoughtful conservative, is a fan of Chris Christie and encouraged him to run as recently as this summer.

Mitch Daniels, who is generally conservative, has been agitating for someone new to jump into the race as well, and he just had a private meeting with Christie. Said Daniels of Christie, “he’s different, right?” Yes he is, but not in a good way.

Listen conservative suckers, this has to stop. Christie is barely even a RINO, much less a conservative. They think he’s a pro-life conservative who appeals to conservatives, moderates and liberals because he has Tea Party ideas, but isn’t ideological and won’t “demagogue” on issues like abortion or immigration. But that's not true. Consider these FACTS (read: not delusions) about Christie:
● Christie has been a tax raiser. His first budget included $250 million in new taxes and eliminated $1.3 billion in property tax refunds.

● Christie has been a big spender. Christie claims he cut spending by 9% ($2.56 billion), but spending actually increased by 6%. And even that relies on gimmicks like delaying $3 billion in payments a couple weeks into the next budget and forcing $1.2 billion in spending down to the local level through unfunded mandates.

● Christie took $1 billion in stimulus money, after promising he wouldn’t. And he borrowed $750 million to build schools in Democratic districts, after promising he would never borrow money.

● Christie took on the unions right? Wrong. There don’t appear to have been any job cuts and salaries went up 7% per year.

● He believes in global warming. In the past, he claimed he wasn’t sure, but now he claims he’s always been sure:
“In the past I’ve always said that climate change is real and it’s impacting our state. (lie) There’s undeniable data that CO2 levels and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere are increasing. (wrong) This decade, average temperatures have been rising. (wrong) Temperature changes are affecting weather patterns and our climate. (wrong) . . . When you have over 90 percent of the world’s scientists who have studied this stating that climate change is occurring and that humans play a contributing role, it’s time to defer to the experts. (false logic)”
● Christie favors unspecified gun control because he “wants to make sure that we don’t have an abundance of guns out there.”

● Christie favors amnesty for illegal aliens:
“Being in this country without proper documentation is not a crime. The whole phrase of ‘illegal immigrant’ connotes that the person, by just being here, is committing a crime. . . It is not.”

* * *

“What I support is making sure that the federal government plays each and every one of its roles: Securing the border, enforcing immigration laws, and having an orderly process — whatever that process is — for people to gain citizenship. It’s a very easy issue to demagogue and I’m just not going to participate in that.”
● He appointed liberals to all of his key positions. He appointed liberal Democrat Paula Dow as Attorney General of New Jersey. He appointed a global warming enthusiast as Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection. He appointed an ObamaCare supporter as Commissioner of the Department of Health and Senior Services.

● He tried to appoint a Kinseyan (sexual perversion advocacy, masquerading as science) as Director of the Department of Children and Families.

● He fired the only conservative in his cabinet (Brett Schundler, his Commissioner of Education) for failing to grab Stimulus money which Christie had previously promised he would not accept.
So how is he different than Obama?

Let me say this to the conservative glitterati: do your damn research! Stop falling for soundbites and false images. Politicians have records and you need to examine them. If you don’t, then you end up choosing the wrong people, people who will destroy and discredit conservatism. . . people like your latest crush, Chris Christie.

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Planned Parenthood A Pelosi Quandary

It's Sunday, and for once I'm going to do my religious duty and rest. But not before I throw out a topic for you readers to kick around and bring me up to speed on your thinking. We're once again up against a Congressional deadline for passing a budget, or passing a continuing resolution, or shutting down non-vital government functions until one of the previous two is accomplished.

On Wednesday, Republican House Speaker Boehner lost a vote on his proposed continuing resolution (they're not even close on an actual budget). Conservative Republicans joined Democrats in defeating the bill 230 to 195. Whatever one may think of their reasoning and their votes, the basic problem was that the conservatives thought the resolution didn't make enough deep cuts and wanted FEMA disaster funding handled separately. Democrats wanted to keep FEMA in the formula in order to demagogue Republican heartlessness. They also wanted some offsetting new taxes to balance the cuts ("revenue enhancement" in Democrat parlance means "higher taxes").

In fact, there was a more complicated reason for why the Republicans seemed to be susceptible to the claim of being heartless. They actually originally wanted to keep FEMA disaster funding and named the figure of $1.5 billion. But to keep that funding, they wanted an equal cut in funding for the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loans Program. In other words, the Democrats would rather kill funding for FEMA disaster relief than to allow cuts in their precious experimental toy cars program.

Former House Speaker and now very-minority Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday did her usual incoherent discussion of the impasse, blaming recalcitrant Republicans for just about everything except the extinction of the passenger pigeon. Subtly admitting that she simply doesn't like cuts in federal programs that produce Democrat voters and ever-larger deficits, Pelosi said she was opposed to cuts in any programs in order to protect the FEMA disaster funding.

Says San Fran Nan: "Let's hope they're [Republicans] not playing games with us--and now we are getting into games. Why don't we just come back and have another press conference after they say what they're are going to do. Because it's a waste of your time and my time to speculate on the horrors that they could come up with--because we know they are endless and we could be here a long time." Pelosi is much more concerned with what she calls "games" (others call it hardball politics) and news conferences than she is with admitting that cuts have to be made and that the nation can't afford to keep all the Democratic pie-in-the-sky, something-for-nothing programs.

Given her tendency to hyperventilate over any proposal to downsize the federal government giveaway programs, her reaction was not exactly unexpected. Her failure to propose an alternative that the nation could afford was likewise not a surprise. And her incoherence was simply standard Pelosi. But that's not what I'm hoping you will edify me and enlighten me about.

Pelosi was sure that she would advocate against and vote to reject any Republican proposal that funds necessary government functions by cutting Democratic pork and wasteful government programs. She was in a quandary about only one thing (surprisingly). When asked directly if some government programs in a continuing resolution could be funded by de-funding Planned Parenthood, Pelosi said she wouldn't speculate on what she would if that proposal were made.

So there it is. I have no idea why Pelosi would have any hesitation about preserving the funding for the abortion mill that she has so often and strongly supported. I would have expected her to give up all funding for the Defense Department or fetal stem cell research before even considering cutting or de-funding Planned Parenthood. So what do you think? Should she be in a quandary about Planned Parenthood? Is she really in a quandary, or is she simply stalling for time until she can think of an answer favorable to Planned Parenthood? And finally, if everything else could be worked out, do you think Pelosi would fight a continuing resolution solely on the basis of de-funding Planned Parenthood?
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The Great (film) Debates vol. 8

Maybe there's something wrong with our species, but we seem to prefer villains to heroes. So let's go with that:

Who is your favorite film villain?

Click Here To Read Article/Comments at CommentaramaFilms [+]

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Murderer Executed Unjustly? Lies Persist.

Recently, we were treated to breathless "news" reports about the pending execution of convicted murderer Troy Anthony Davis. After multiple appeals, including a last-minute unsuccessful appeal to the US Supreme Court, the State of Georgia was finally allowed to perform its duty and sent Davis off to his final reward with a lethal injection.

Death penalty opponents and far too many news reporters used the argument that Davis was convicted and sentenced to death based solely on eyewitness testimony that later proved to be faulty. Any lawyer will tell you that eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable, and counting on that and the public's ignorance of the actual facts of the case, Davis supporters created and then perpetuated a complete lie. First, he was not convicted solely on faulty eyewitness testimony. Second, the revisions, recantations and contradictions of the eyewitneses on which Davis supporters rely were neither substantial nor timely, let alone credible.

Let me establish before proceeding that this is not a discussion of the rightness or wrongness of the death penalty. I personally support the death penalty, and believe the circumstances which trigger capital punishment should be expanded rather than contracted. But as the DA played by Sam Waterston who supported the death penalty on Law and Order said: "One can believe in the death penalty without being sanguine about it." Moreover, I disagree with, but have great respect for those who argue against the death penalty on deep moral or religious grounds. But that has very little to do with the Troy Davis case.

Davis supporters say that seven of the nine civilian witnesses who testified that they saw Troy Davis cold-bloodedly shoot and kill police officer Mark MacPhail have recanted or modified their eyewitness testimony. This is largely untrue, and where it is true, it is misleading and generally irrelevant. In fact, none of the "recanting" eyewitnesses actually rejected their testimony concerning MacPhail's murder. Instead, those who say that they "didn't say that" at the time of the investigation are claiming that the investigating police officers typed up their statements and interviews and presented them to the eyewitnesses for signature. In a murder case, we're supposed to believe that eyewitnesses didn't read the statements they signed.

Even if that were true, they must have read the statements some time, since they testified to exactly the same facts and identification at trial and in front of the jury. The eyewitnesses were neither actors memorizing lines, nor were they trained professional witnesses. Yet each testified in open court to what they had seen, and with no hint of memorization, what they testified to was absolutely consistent with their written statements.If they had doubts, why didn't they express them much earlier, since the trial occurred two years after the statements were signed and further interviews conducted? They were specifically asked by the prosecutor at trial if they had read their statements and if they were accurate, and in each case the answer was "yes."

The "recantations" began concurrently with the filing of the first appeal and after pressure from defense counsel, starting nearly three years after the conviction by a jury of his peers. We must now believe that the eyewitnesses didn't know what they were saying during the investigation, two years later at trial, and for three years thereafter until the defense/appellate attorneys and the anti-capital punishment advocates got hold of them.

Having discussed the seven non-police witnesses "recanting" their testimony, what about the remaining two? Well, they both stick adamantly to their original statements and testimony. One of the two (a man named Coles) was rewarded for this by being accused by the defense attorneys of being the actual murderer. MacPhail was shot in the face and the stomach from in front. All the eyewitnesses, including those allegedly recanting, testified that Coles was standing behind MacPhail when the shooting took place. None of them have changed their version of that testimony.

So unless Coles borrowed the magic bullet from the Kennedy assassination, it would have been impossible for Coles to have shot officer MacPhail. Coles was a known associate of Davis's, and possibly a partner-in-crime with him. But unless Coles was also capable of being in two places at the same time, all testimony, including the "recantations" place him where he could not possibly have shot MacPhail.

Coles initially fled from the crime scene on foot, but as soon as the police arrived, he quickly returned to give officers his version of what happened. This included his seeing Davis shoot officer MacPhail, which was, and still is, consistent with the statements and testimony of the other eight eyewitnesses. If he was protecting himself from prosecution for murder, it's a bit more than coincidental that eight other people also said Coles was behind the police officer, on the spot, in the heat of the moment, and without any coaching or threats from Coles. Eyewitness identity testimony becomes more reliable when multiple eyewitnesses tell nearly identical versions of the incident and when several personally knew the accused murderer from a time prior to the murder.

All of the appellate courts, including the Supreme Court, ultimately held that the prosecution had acted properly, the witnesses were reliable, and the jury acted properly by determining that Davis was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Whether one agrees or not, the legal and constitutional issues were litigated at length, and Davis lost.

Now you're saying to yourself, "but that still indicates that there was no physical evidence of Davis's guilt." Not correct. There was no physical evidence that the trial jury saw. But there was plenty of conclusive evidence that they didn't see. The over-used and dubious "exclusionary rule" came into effect prior to trial. All the damning hard physical evidence that proved Davis's guilt was excluded from the trial, and the jury never heard it. Police officers allegedly did not obtain the proper search warrants before seizing the physical evidence which conclusively tied Davis to the murder and as the murderer.

Coles's testimony becomes more believable when you know that Davis went to Coles's house after the murder, and exchanged his bloody shirt before fleeing to Atlanta. Davis also left behind a gun he had used to shoot another man earlier on the day of the MacPhail murder. Ballistics tests absolutely confirmed that the bullets removed from officer MacPhail and the victim of the earlier shooting matched each other, and came from Davis's gun, which the officers had seized. But the police did not obtain search warrants for either the gun or the bloody shirt (clear blood-spatter evidence) before seizing them, so the jury never saw or heard about them.

One can argue that the jury reached its verdict improperly on mere eyewitness testimony, and that therefore his execution was unjustified. The Supreme Court and the Georgia Pardons and Parole Board found otherwise (multiple times), but opinions can still come down on either side. However, anyone who continues to advocate that Davis was innocent is either delusional or simply lying to support a cause. Even if one argues that the law was violated or the Constitution misinterpreted, it is morally irresponsible and factually insane to continue to argue that Davis was not a murderer. A murderer whom I believe received both his legal punishment and his just reward.

There is one further pro-Davis argument that is easily dismissed: Davis was tried and convicted by a jury that was consistent with Georgia's alleged white prejudices against black defendants. Well, the jury was comprised of seven whites and five blacks. This fact is also bolstered by the other fact that the race-baiters don't want you to know. The large majority of convicts on Georgia's death row are white males, and the only female convict on death row is also white. Quod erat demonstrandum.
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Friday, September 23, 2011

Film Friday: ???? (2010)

I don’t often call for the brutal murder of an entire film crew. . .Click Here To Read Article/Comments at CommentaramaFilms [+] Read More...

Last Night At The Debate

Last night saw yet another Republican debate. Who won? Who lost? Who should quit now? And a couple surprise thoughts! All this and more will be yours in this very special episode of Last Night At The Debate.

Winner: Romney came across as confident and conservative. He ran to the right of Perry on immigration and states rights. He had a solid control of the facts and some seriously pithy moments. For example, he latched onto one of Perry’s backtracks and said: “there’s a Rick Perry out there saying [the opposite of what you just said,] you better find that Rick Perry and get him to stop saying that.” Everyone laughed and Perry had no idea how to respond. Romney won a lot of people last night.

Winner: The Hermanator was brilliant. He’s got a strong set of ideas and a compelling personality. His 9/9/9 plan is so well designed from a marketing perspective that it’s the only plan anyone remembers. His discussion of his cancer truly personalized why ObamaCare needs to go. His attack on the EPA “regulating dust” was one of the best received moments all night. And he offered a strong, clear and moral foreign policy. He not only had a command of the issues, he had a commanding presence. Cain should leapfrog Bachmann and maybe Perry if Perry falls as far as seems likely.

Toast: Put a fork in Rick Perry, he’s done. Seriously. . . he’s the Hindenburg of candidates. Perry came across like he was drugged. He looked intimidated and sleepy. He sounded pissy. He never answered a single question, choosing instead to make whining attacks on Romney. All that was missing was Nixonian sweat to make the total implosion complete. I honestly expect this debate finished him. Consider these self-inflicted wounds:
● He stands by giving illegal aliens instate college rates. Perry tried to argue these people would be an economic burden unless they got education. Then Santorum slapped him down by pointing out that Perry was subsidizing illegals at rates people in the other 56 states can’t get. Zap.

● Perry tried to claim opponents of subsidizing illegal aliens “have no heart.” Well, f@#$ you, sir. Frank Lutz’s focus group HATED that.

● Perry had a couple good attacks on Romney but they fell flat because he kept tripping over his words. All night, he sounded a lot like Bush when Bush got into trouble in debates.

● Perry’s attempt to dodge his horrid answer on Social Security was a disaster. Now he claims he was only talking about creating state programs for government workers rather than privatizing the whole system. . . which Romney pointed out isn’t what Perry said in his book.
Loser: Fox News. The acoustics were horrible, like the debate was held in a cave. Everything echoed and was hard to hear. Their format was horrible and created a dull, disjointed debate: (1) they asked individual questions of candidates, which prevented any sort of back and forth, and (2) they took so long getting to each you all but forgot about people. And they wasted time on stupid and confusing Google promotions. CNN made Fox look like amateurs.

Toast: Michele Bachmann all but vanished last night, and she had problems. In particular, they re-opened the vaccine wound by questioning her story about the Gardasil vaccine causing retardation in a 12 year old. She tried to distance herself from that by claiming she was just repeating what she had been told -- not a good answer. She was also asked why she avoided answering a question at the last debate about how much of a person’s income they should be allowed to keep. She responded first by saying she wanted to answer and her answer would have been “all of it” (implying a 0% tax rate). Then she immediately said that “of course” some of it is needed to run the government. . . and then she dodged the question a second time.

Winner/Loser: Gary Johnson had a couple good moments, including the best line of the night: “my neighbor’s dog has produced more shovel-ready jobs than this administration.” BUT he came across as highly uncomfortable and he said he would cut the military budget by 43%, which probably kills him. He’s like a less refined, less smooth version of Ron Paul.

Winner: Ron Paul not only gave some brilliant answers (and some paranoid ones), but he easily fended off the possibility that Johnson would replace him with the Paul crowd. The USS Ron Paul sails on.

Winner: Newt continues to impress. His answers are smart and workable. He reminded people that he balanced the budget and millions of jobs were created when he was Speaker. He’s pushing states’ rights strongly and he focuses on Obama.

Winner: Joe Sixpack. Once again, the questions from the audience were great (except for one whiner from Michigan). I love Americans.

Loser: Santorum collapsed on the don’t ask don’t tell repeal. Not only did he seem scared to even talk about gays, but he ended up suggesting the policy had to be put back in place to protect the military. . . except he would allow those currently in the military to stay. Huh? Basically, he lost both sides.

Winner: Bev. Bev nominated herself for Vice President and that seems to have gone over well with Commentarama fans.

Interesting Thought: At one point, Romney seemed to flirt with Cain. . . no, not in that way. This raises the suggestion of a Romney/Cain ticket. That might be enough to win over conservatives to Romney. Let’s see if there are any signs of a follow up.

Thoughts? Predictions?

P.S. Thanks to T-Rav and everyone else who participated last night. You all made a rather dull debate much more entertaining.

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"Birds Do It, Bees Do It . . . "

“Even educated stoners do it. Let’s do it. Let’s get IDs.” IDs sufficient to identify a legitimate voter, at least. Apologies to Cole Porter for torturing his lyrics. Several states have found themselves in the midst of a heated debate concerning pending or existing legislation which requires that a voter have valid photo ID in order to register to vote and/or cast a ballot.

Republican primary candidate Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, largely because of his high profile, is among those in the line of fire, but he has plenty of company. It seems that requiring a valid photo ID is a racist plot to prevent black and Hispanic folks from casting a ballot (for the Democrats). Before these laws were passed, all a voter had to do was show a utility bill, bank statement, paycheck stub or something like that. And clearly those things are absolute proof that the person submitting them is the actual person named in the documents. It’s also clear proof that they are non-felons, legal citizens, and over the voting age. Isn’t it?

This is such patent nonsense that it has stirred Democrats and “civil rights advocates” to new heights of hysteria. Clearly, the legislation is designed to protect the integrity of the ballot box, and to prevent non-citizens and those otherwise ineligible to vote from affecting the outcome of an election. It’s even meant to keep long-dead citizens of Chicago away from the voting booths. That doesn’t deter the "one man-several votes" crowd from pulling out all the stops to prevent such sensible measures.

To listen to these people, conservatives and Republicans want to bring back the days of voting tests, poll taxes, and property-ownership requirements (not a bad idea by the way, but that’s a whole other story). Their argument is also stealthy [reverse] racism. According to their thinking, even stoners will give up the munchies long enough to go and get a valid ID, but blacks and Hispanics just don’t have the time, energy, will, money, or smarts to go and get a free state-issued photo ID. Most states will waive the fee for an ID if the registrant is financially incapable of paying it. And there are plenty of volunteers to pick the registrants up and take them to the proper issuing office. ACORN got beaucoup federal and state bucks for doing just that.

It’s really quite simple. The Democrats rely heavily on voters whose only stake in the Republic is what freebies they can get. Although percentage-wise, blacks and Hispanics fit into this category more heavily than other racial and ethnic groups, the largest hard number of people who fit is poor whites. But regardless of who does or does not fit into the category of freeloaders, official state ID’s are available easily and if necessary, for free. While protecting their right to have anybody, no matter what, cast a Democratic ballot, the “No ID” crowd is actually insulting responsible blacks and Hispanics while encouraging illegal and/or multiple voting.

I see much the same problem with the constant easing of restrictions on voting by mail (or worse, by the internet). Voting is a vital civic responsibility, not for the lazy or uncaring. It requires constant monitoring to maintain the integrity of the ballot box, and it should require expending the minimal amount of energy necessary to get one's butt out of the chair, off the sofa, and down to the polling precinct. But that is also a topic fit for another full article at a later date.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

T-Rav's Sockpuppet Theater Presents: The Debate

Welcome to tonight's debate thread. . .

For those who haven't heard. Thaddeus McCotter has dropped out and is endorsing Mitt Romney. Darrell Issa is also endorsing Mitt Romney. Commentarama is considering endorsing Barry Goldwater.

Please feel free to join along! :)

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Like Father, Like Son

For a couple of decades now, we’ve been subjected to the entertaining but left-skewed works of film director Oliver Stone. The torch is being passed to a new generation in the form of Stone’s son, Sean. Sean Stone has accompanied his father on grand visits to such fine people as Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, and supports them as enthusiastically as his father. Sean has inherited his father’s taste for dictators and mass-murderers.

Sean is not exactly a big-time legendary actor, having appeared in small parts in his father’s movies such as The Doors, Natural Born Killers, Any Given Sunday, and most notably (or ignobly) Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. We’re supposed to believe that his acting career and his father’s tutelage will make him a great director. That may be true, but like his father, it may also make him a big-time nutcase propagandist.

Sean was returning from the Toronto Film Festival when he got cornered by reporters with nothing better to do. So they asked him about his plans to become a director in light of his recent favorable remarks about Iran and its apocalyptic leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The younger Stone bypassed arguments that Iran’s current nuclear development is all about energy-production, and went straight to defending Iran’s right to have nuclear weapons. Says Sean: “Israel has nuclear weapons, Iran has the right to them. Every nation has the right to self-determination for defense.”

Even Ahmadinejad doesn’t go so far as to admit that Iran’s nuclear facilities are going to be used for the production of nuclear weapons. He still spouts the pretense that only the production of energy is involved in those facilities, despite the fact that his nation is sitting on an ocean of oil. But like young Sean, Ahmadinejad will, if pushed, loudly and clearly proclaim Iran’s right to have nuclear arms to defend against nuclear Israel.

So, let’s count the number of times that Israel has been the aggressor in Middle East Wars. Um, zero. But it has been attacked by its Muslim neighbors many times, always to the dismay of the members of the People’s Republic of Jihadistan who lose wars like I lose car keys. Iran is about the only nearby Muslim neighbor that hasn’t attacked Israel. But a nuke or two might just make the odds more attractive. Only the blind, the stupid, and Sean Stone could believe for a minute that the weapons would be for self-defense.

Iran must be wiped off the face of the map. No, wait. It’s Israel that must be wiped off the face of the map, or so says Ahmadinejad. In a war that Iran will initiate in self-defense, no doubt. Stone doesn’t say the magic Jew words of Ahmadinejad, he merely defends them. A-Jad denies the Holocaust, says unreservedly that 9/11 was an inside job executed by the loathsome US/Israel alliance to stir up aniti-Muslim hatred, and categorically proposes that both World Wars were started by Zionists to increase their wealth and create the State of Israel.

Does Stone outright defend these vile libels? No. After all, he’s a big intellectual who is far more nuanced. Stone tosses out his defense of Ahmadinejad in a different way: “He did come to America to extend a hand. And there’s a lot of mistranslation, literally, I’ve seen it. Ahmadinejad will say something and it will be mistranslated. A lot of this is bullshit, mistranslation. It’s an aggressive attitude on both parts, mostly on the American side.”

Now how one “mistranslates” something like “Israel must be wiped off the face of the map” is entirely beyond me. But what do I know? I’m not a film maven. From daddy Oliver’s love for Castro, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, and Chavez, it’s only one small step for son Sean to tout Ahmadinejad and Iran. Sean even makes sure you understand how well he knows Iran and its regime by stating “Iran is ruled by law.” Yep, Sharia law. You know, the law that would wipe out most of his potential stars because of homosexuality, lack of Islamic devotion, and general all-around immorality since Iranian Sharia requires death for each of those offenses.

Stone also supports the right of benign leaders like Ahmadinejad to maintain law and order against pesky dissidents. When challenged about Ahmadinejad’s brutal suppression of the growing freedom movement in Iran, Stone shot back: “People don’t like Ahmadinejad, but that doesn’t warrant a war or an uprising.” Stone has previously supported exactly that in several nations during the “Arab Spring.” But a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, and Sean has no doubt that his mind is big enough to pick and choose which rebellions to support.

Iran has arrested or banned all Iranian film-makers who have dared to utter a word of criticism against the current regime. In this, A-Jad has had the active assistance of the ayatollahs. But there probably won’t be the same enmity toward Stone, who apparently knows more about the lack of repression in Iran than actual Iranians and sees the actions of the regime as simply avoiding civil unrest. If an American cop looks the wrong way at a property-damaging anti-government rioter, Stone goes off the cliff in his condemnation of brutal, fascist American tactics. But in Iran, where enforcement of civil order includes government-sanctioned rape and summary execution, well, we just don’t understand Iran as well as he does.

So what is Stone actually planning—film-wise? He says he wants to introduce Persian culture and civilization to the West in his upcoming films. He had better introduce them to the Ahmandinejad regime first, since anything that doesn’t comport with the ayatollahs’ primitive form of Islam is ruthlessly suppressed. Omar Khayyam would have been hanged from the mosque minaret if only for his admiration of “comely youths.” Any culture that was uniquely Persian prior to its Islamization has been wiped from the official registry of Iranian culture.

Knowing that Stone will be welcomed with open arms and open wallets by the Hollywood crowd, I want to cash in on his future fame. I am writing a movie script for him in which it is revealed that a Jew who hated the ayatollahs conspired with the Mafia and the CIA to assassinate John Kennedy by using a Kaballah-blessed magic bullet. It should be a big hit, and Sean can pride himself on the fact that he discovered the true conspiracy that his father missed when making JFK. Maybe I’m a film maven after all. Anyone have a suggestion for a working title?

EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT! At 7 PM (Eastern/Blogger Time), 4 PM (Pacific Time) The T-Rav Sockpuppet Theater will live blog the Republican debates and at the same time give you plenty of time to make pre-debate predictions. Come early, stay late.

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That's (Republican) Debatable! With 12% More Players!

There’s another Republican debate tonight. If we ask nicely, perhaps T-Rav, Emperor of Sockpuppets, will do a play by play? If not, we’ll mock him mercilessly. Anyhoo, this debate will be in Florida, and given the outcry surrounding Rick Perry’s description of Social Security as a “Ponzi Scheme,” expect that to be a big issue. Also, welcome a new player! Here's what you need to know.

First, the race has turned into a two man race: Perry and Romney. The others are still technically in it, but the polls are beginning to coalesce around these two: Perry holds a 28% to 24% lead over Romney, with no one else in double digits. That’s not surprising, as that happens once front-runners emerge. What is surprising is that Romney is catching up. Perry's 11% lead is down to 4%.

More surprising, Tea Party people in South Carolina apparently are shifting away from Perry toward Romney. I think there are two primary reasons for this. First, Romney has done an effective job of defusing the RomneyCare issue. Whether his defense is true or not, he presented what sounds like a very credible distinction between RomneyCare and ObamaCare. That makes him less toxic, especially as he promises to repeal ObamaCare.

Secondly, Perry is suffering from an unending assault over cronyism -- and has yet to do a good job explaining this away. Cronyism is an issue that sticks in the craws of most Tea Party people. And with Warren Buffett, Solyndra and LightSquared dominating the right-wing blogosphere, cronyism remains a hot button issue. This hurts Perry, especially as no one has made a cronyism charge against Romney.

Does this mean Perry is finished? Hardly. It means Romney will be a stronger competitor than expected and rather than watching Perry run away with the nomination, either one can win this thing. Romney needs to pound away at the crony issue if he wants to win. Perry needs to disarm that issue and find a way to point out that Romney isn't really proposing conservatism.

The other candidates are probably done at this point unless Romney or Perry slips up and falls out. Alternatively, they need to find a way to shock everyone to such a degree they become “buzz-worthy.” Newt is planning to give the intellectual speech to end all speeches. . . but we’ll see. It’s hard to get traction when people assume you can’t win.

One guy who actually has an outside chance tonight is Gary Johnson. He’s the libertarian-leaning former governor of New Mexico. He will be allowed to participate because he cleared the 1% hurdle in the polls (McCotter didn’t). If he comes across as a sane version of Ron Paul or simply as a genuine conservative, he could literally surge into the race as voters still don’t seem happy with Perry or Romney.

The other issue that is hurting Perry is his description of Social Security as a Ponzi Scheme. It is a Ponzi Scheme, but you can’t say that. Even Mitch Daniels, who is known for being truthful and breaking bad news to the public, described this as “too truthful.” A Ponzi Scheme (named after Charles Ponzi) is a fraud that takes the form of an investment that promises each investor more money than they put in, but which doesn’t earn enough money to pay what it promises. So long as enough new people get suckered in, the fraudster is able to pay what he promised to those already in the investment. But once the flow of new people slows, the whole thing collapses.

That’s exactly how Social Security works -- it pays people more than they paid in and it makes no money on its own. That was fine for decades, but when the baby boomers didn’t have enough kids, they triggered its collapse. Now we face a series of bad choices: cut the promised benefits, raise taxes, add more taxpaying workers (i.e. immigration), or let the system collapse. Unfortunately, voters are unwilling to accept any pain in finding a solution to this pending disaster. That hurts anyone who raises this issue, i.e. Perry.

But the real problem for Perry came when he proposed handing Social Security off to the states. Not only does this set off alarm bells for people who think they are going to get their benefits cut, but it sounds like an accounting gimmick that will crush state budgets. Romney is already pounding away at Perry on it. Indeed, Romney has asked Perry six questions, including how a state-run program would be administered or funded and how people could move from state to state under his plan. Look for this to come up a lot tonight (as the average age in Florida is 107).

Finally, I suspect you'll hear a lot about Israel as well, with Obama making such a mess of it, with Rick Perry using that issue to discuss foreign policy, and with Florida being heavily Jewish. Also, expect Perry to play to Hispanics tonight, who dominate parts of Florida. Perry did a fundraiser with Hispanic businessmen this week and is actively courting them. Other than that, expect a LOT of Bernanke bashing after he broke the stock market yesterday.

Bring your popcorn!

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Do Fans Have Rights In Films?

Who really owns a film? The legal rights are clear: the producer of the film owns the legal rights and can do anything they want with it. They can show it, sell it, change it, colorize it, or even destroy it. . . legally. But do the fans have rights in it too?

Click Here To Read Article/Comments at CommentaramaFilms [+]

I've Already Paid My Fair Share. . . Jerk

“This is not class warfare, this is math,” said Obama about his latest attack on the rich. And in so saying, Obama proved to us that not only is he a horrible president, but he’s bad at math too. Let’s see who really pays what in the way of taxes.

President Fail and his winged monkeys keep saying the rich need to “pay their fair share.” Chief winged monkey is the Crony Cornhusker Warren Buffett. Buffett, for those who don’t know, is a disaster profiteer, having made several billion during the financial crisis by loaning money to Goldman Sachs and General Electric (both of whom are heavily connected to the White House). Those loans, by the way, were guaranteed by we peons with TARP funds.

To thank Obama for adding to his $50 billion fortune, Buffett is now running around asking that his taxes be raised. And to back up his demand, he’s claiming that his middle class secretary pays a higher tax rate than he does. Clearly, a billionaire should not be paying a lower tax rate than someone in the middle class right? Hence, we need a tax on everyone making more than $250,000 a year. . . I’ll leave you to figure out how $250,000 equates to being a billionaire.

But is what Buffett says true?

Buffett claims he only pays 17% in taxes, which he implies is typical for millionaires and billionaires. But according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center (using IRS data), millionaires and billionaires actually pay on average 29% of their income as federal taxes. By comparison, middle class earners ($50,000 - $75,000) pay on average 15%, and the lowest income earners ($20,000 to $30,000) pay on average 5.7%.

So Buffett isn’t typical. In fact, he’s underpaying the average by 43%. Which means he shouldn’t be complaining about tax rates, he should be complaining about all those great deductions he’s using to keep his taxes low. According to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, there are about one trillion dollars in deductions, exemptions and credits taken each year. No doubt, Warren uses a lot of those. He also probably lowers his rate by keeping much of his money overseas. Why don’t we eliminate those things first before we start attacking “the rich” (i.e. anyone earning $250,000 a year). Want to bet that Warren would squeal like a stuck pig if we did that?

And while we’re at it, what is a “fair share” anyway? 236,000 Americans made more than $1 million in income last year. As a group, they paid 20% of all federal income taxes. Is that fair? Is it fair that 46% of Americans pay NO federal income tax? Is it fair that 52% of Americans receive a check from the government? Not in my book.

Maybe the “fair” thing to do would be to pay back what each of us took from the federal government. All I’ve really gotten is military protection and crappy roads. So in my book, I’ve already more than covered my tab. I doubt Obama or Buffett can say the same.

But let’s put some perspective on this. Where did all the money go?

Obama spent it.

In 2007, the federal government took in $2.568 trillion and spent $2.728 trillion, giving us a deficit of $160 billion. In 2011, the federal government will take in $2.23 trillion and will spend $3.629 trillion, giving us a deficit of $1.4 trillion -- 8.75 times the deficit we had just four years before.

What caused this?

Social Security and Medicare went up $162 billion and $119 billion. Lost tax revenues cost another $338 billion. But that’s only $619 billion. Where did the other $621 billion come from? That’s spending.

That’s the remnants of Obama’s stimulus bill, which is still wreaking havoc in the system. Says former CBO chief Douglas Holtz-Eakin, “it was essentially a down payment on the Obama domestic agenda. . . it’s spread all through the budget.” Essentially, it raised baselines and kicked off new spending that now continues unabated. That’s Obama’s legacy. Over ten years he’ll cost us $6.2 trillion in new spending. . . double that once you factor in the automatic increases. That’s why we’re broke. And that’s why anyone who tells you we’ve started an “austerity program” is lying.

So before Obama starts whining about other people paying their fair share, maybe Obama and his friends better figure out some way to cover that tab themselves, because it's only fair that they pay that back. Maybe it’s time for a “union employee surcharge”? Maybe it’s time for a “green subsidies refund charge”? Maybe Team Obama better start washing the country's dishes.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Racial Worm Turns

If I said this, I know what the left would be calling me. But I didn't. The Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus did. And here it is: "If Barack Obama weren't the President, we'd probably be marching on the White House." Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-Missouri) was speaking about unemployment in general and black unemployment specifically.

As bad as the effects of Barack Obama's failure of leadership have been for all Americans, the effects have been far worse for black Americans. Cleaver went on to tell the Miami Herald "If former President Bill Clinton had been in the White House and had failed to address this problem, we probably would be marching." Cleaver and the Black Caucus have been pushing Obama for months to do more to address the needs of the black community. But rather than organize a Martin Luther King-type march on Washington and let the chips fall where they may, the CBC has held back public demonstrations which might hurt the President's personal popularity (or lack thereof).

Cleaver went on to say that "there is a less-volatile reaction in the CBC because nobody wants to do anything that would empower the people who hate the President." The implication is obviously that if you hate Obama, it's because you're a racist, and the CBC doesn't want to encourage racism--even if it means allowing a President to get away with utter failure on all fronts simply because he's black (partially).

Unemployment is bad. Black unemployment is staggering, reaching nearly 50% among black youth who wish to enter the labor market for the first time. Regardless of what reason any individual may ascribe to the high unemployment rate among blacks, it is clear even to doctrinaire Democrats that the President isn't doing anything much about it. Sure, there are racists who will blame blacks entirely for their own plight, or spout ignorant race theories about black inferiority. But they are a small, intransigent and largely unaffiliated group. But there are plenty of others who say that Obama has done little--good, bad or indifferent--to change the unemployment figures. That group includes old-time civil rights advocates like me.

Although he was talking about taxes, John Kennedy said "a rising tide raises all boats." And in the employment sector, that surely includes blacks. In his lack of action and constant speechifying about jobs, Obama has failed entirely to push those unemployment numbers down. He wants to raise taxes, but only on the rich "who can afford it." He supports temporary employment relief but at the same time perpetuates the uncertainty in the market (and for potential employers and business investors) that prevents positive long-term employment decisions. He throws billions in taxpayer dollars at "green projects" about which most blacks couldn't care less (along with most of their white counterparts), and which result in net losses in jobs.

Obama has supported and encouraged policies which by his own admission will dramatically raise energy costs. Blacks are particularly negatively impacted by such cost increases simply because they have the highest unemployment rates and the lowest income rates among all racial and ethnic groups. Says firebrand leftist race-baiter Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California): "We're supportive of the President, but we're getting tired, y'all. We want to give Obama every opportunity, but our people are hurting. The unemployment is unconscionable. We don't know what the strategy is." Even the Devil tells the truth occasionally when it suits his purposes. But it still doesn't explain why Waters is "supportive of the President." Or does it?

Rather than blame the President for his inaction and perpetual speech-making, many members of the CBC have aimed their blame at the Tea Party. Waters simply says it's the Tea Party's fault, and "they can go to hell." Fellow hell-raiser Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Florida) says that "the Tea Party is the real enemy which is holding Congress hostage." Though his hesitance to demonstrate against the President simply because he is black is not particularly commendable, Cleaver has at least admitted that Obama is a major part of the black unemployment problem.

Cleaver has identified Obama as a major cause of the stagnant employment numbers, and to his credit has convinced sole conservative Black Caucus member Allen West (R-Florida) not to leave the CBC. Cleaver did so even after West said he would leave the Caucus unless fellow CBC member Andre Carson (D-Indiana) withdrew and apologized for his remarks claiming that the Tea Party considers African-Americans "second-class citizens" and would be happy to see blacks "hanging from a tree."

Cleaver is never going to be a conservative, nor even a moderate. But he is, for the time being, the voice of reason within the CBC leadership. Rep. West says that Cleaver is willing to work with him to produce a plan which will confront the horrendous unemployment rate among blacks. Cleaver himself has said that some of the things being said by other CBC radicals are counterproductive and not in the interests of the agenda addressing black unemployment that he and West are working on.

Author's note: On Tuesday, O'Reilly touched on this subject. Unfortunately, he didn't cover it well because he once again made the mistake of having Columbia hip-hop professor of economics/urban studies/black studies/fill-in-the-blank studies Marc Lamont Hill as his guest on the subject. As usual, it produced more heat than light, and Hill kept talking about "the black agenda" but couldn't explain why there should even be a black agenda. It was the same obfuscation, distortion and double-talk that liberal elites use to keep blacks on the liberal reservation. And it didn't do anything to clarify the causes behind black poverty (other than white oppression) let alone the attempts of Reps. Cleaver and West to rectify systemic problems.
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