Saturday, February 07, 2009
By Walid Phares
The Washington Times
Friday, February 6, 2009
The Guantanamo Bay detention center has been ordered to be shut down within a year. Unfortunately, jihadism as an ideology does not respond to the political culture of democracy nor are the indoctrinated jihadists impacted by the moral and legal debate within what they see as the sphere of the infidels.
In this March 2002 photo, a detainee is escorted by U.S. military guards in the temporary detention facility Camp X-Ray at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Associated Press)
Two men released from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have appeared in a video posted on a jihadi site. The most notorious of the two, a Saudi man identified as Abu Sufyan al-Azdi al-Shahri, or prisoner number 372, has been "elevated to the senior ranks of al-Qaeda in Yemen," a U.S. counterterrorism official said. The other man on the video is Abu al-Hareth Muhammad al-Oufi, identified as an al-Qaeda commander. He was prisoner number 333.
Reviewing the video provided by the Laura Mansfield monitoring group, I analyzed the statements made by al-Shahri and al-Oufi in original Arabic. On the video, al-Shihri is seen sitting with three other men under a flag of the "Islamic State of Iraq," Al-Qaeda's regional command in Mesopotamia. The other two jihadists in the video were identified as Abu Baseer al-Wahayshi and Abu Hureira Qasm al-Rimi (aka Abu Hureira al-Sana'ani). Al-Shihri was transferred from Guantanamo to Saudi Arabia in 2007, six years after his capture in Pakistan, for "rehabilitation" by the Saudi government. But this week a statement posted on the site declared he is now the top deputy in "al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula," the regional command for bin Laden's organization operating from Yemen with cells across the peninsula. The terror group has been responsible for attacks on the U.S. embassy in Yemen's capital Sana.
"Al-Shihri allegedly traveled to Afghanistan two weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, provided money to other fighters and trained in urban warfare at a camp north of Kabul, Afghanistan," according to sources. But more troubling is the fact that al-Shihri was a contact person between al-Qaeda and Iran. As reported by AP, he was "an alleged travel coordinator for al-Qaida who was accused of meeting extremists in Mashad, Iran, and briefing them on how to enter Afghanistan." Such a person - operating in the most strategic area of jihadism, the most dangerous bridge of (potential) cooperation between al-Qaeda and the Khomeinist regime - was released from Guantanamo on the basis that he said "bin Laden had no business representing Islam, denied any links to terrorism and expressed interest in rejoining his family in Saudi Arabia."
Is this for real? Had these facts not been cited from official U.S. documents and had I and many colleagues not viewed the video personally, it would have been hard to believe that the Guantanamo release of jihadists was that tragic for national security and for the future of U.S. and allied efforts in the confrontation with terrorist forces. Al-Qaeda's tactics raise unavoidable questions regarding Guantanamo or any other detention center and bring about sobering conclusions:
1) Former inmates, in this case al-Shahri (Prisoner 372) and al-Oufi (Prisoner 333), are being elevated to the senior ranks of Al-Qaeda. The release of jihadi terrorists to their countries or other countries in the region didn't transform them into ordinary citizens but reinserted them in al-Qaeda's network. Furthermore, Salafi Jihadi chat rooms are mentioning the video and propagating the argument that those released from Guantanamo are going to be not only well received and made into heroes but will become the leaders of the jihad (al-Qaeda and others) against the United States, the West and moderates in the region.
2) On what ground were they released? This is an important question to be raised because it would help project what will happen when the other Gitmo detainees will be released. What measurement have U.S. authorities adopted to release al-Qaeda members from Guantanamo? Was it statements the jihadists made about their forthcoming life? All al-Shahri had to do was criticize bin Laden and pledge to return to a normal life? How did experts and psychologists guide the government in terms of concluding that indeed the terrorists have reformed?
3) How come these released detainees to Yemen (or other countries) were able to reemerge as al-Qaeda leaders there? How come they were able to travel across the region and reorganize? What would this tell us about our "partners" in the so-called War Against Terror?
4) How come U.S. intelligence wasn't able to predict that these detainees would reinsert in al-Qaeda after being released? Or did U.S. intelligence predict the outcome but policy makers still decided to release them?
5) Shutting down Guantanamo may be a decision based on "political, moral and strategic communications" considerations. This debate is not over, apparently. But this latest video brings hard evidence that the issue isn't about a camp to be shut down but about an ideology to be countered. For according to al-Qaeda's manuals, the jihadists are trained for when they are in detention and are prepared for all other scenarios: facing all sorts of courts, becoming martyrs, or being released to perform jihad again.
Al Qaeda has detention tactics and a post-detention strategy. The United States must catch up with the terrorist forces. It should have developed counter strategies for both stages, with or without Guantanamo. Unless proven wrong, facts show a failure in both stages.
Walid Phares is the Director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the author of "The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad."
February 07, 2009
NEW YORK -- Twenty-five years ago, when more than 100,000 soldiers of the Red Army were trying to gain control of Afghanistan, I spent most of a day at the Afghan Surgical Hospital on the Pakistan side of the Khyber Pass, listening to stories about Soviet atrocities.
The place was run, probably with American money, by the most fundamentalist of Pakistan's many religious parties, Jamaat-i-Islami, the spiritual (and often literal) fathers of the Taliban. I wrote this at the time:
"I was not allowed to leave without going from bed to bed. Forty beds. At each one, stumps of arms or legs would be thrust at me, or dressings would be lifted away to show a red hole that had been a face. A young man, what was left of him, held my eyes with his until I cried as the blankets were pulled from his wasting body, most of it scar tissue from burns. ... An older man named Abdul Kareem, who said he was a farmer at a place called Baghlan, north of Kabul, proudly showed me the foot-long stumps of his legs."
"Abdul Kareem said, through a translator, that a Russian had thrown a grenade into his house and killed three of his children. "'How do you know it was a Russian?'" I asked.
"'I know Russians,' he said. 'They have red faces. They look like monkeys.'
"The maimed men around me burst into laughter. They were broken only in body -- and many of their bodies were being patched up so they could fight another day."
Someone else said something and they laughed again. I didn't need a translator to know what he had said. "They look like you!"
Most of the fighters I talked with there and in travels through the tribal lands on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border saw little difference between Russians and Americans, except at that time we were paying them to kill Russians. Communists, democrats, we all represented modernity to them. We wanted to give them -- or force on them -- new laws, new freedoms, a new culture. Most of all, both communists and democrats wanted to educate women.
We want them to be like us. That is not going to happen.
They beat the Soviets, as they beat the British of Kipling's time, the time he wrote "A Soldier of the Queen," ending:
"When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
"And the women come out to cut up what remains,
"Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
"An' go to your Gawd like a soldier."
And they will defeat us. They have been there for centuries, and they will be there for centuries more. They have no place else to go. We do and we will. As early as 2006, Field Marshal Sir Peter Inge, the former head of Great Britain's armed forces, warned his country and countrymen that they were risking another defeat in Afghanistan, which is more a name than a nation.
Which brings me to President Obama's warnings and pledges about winning in Afghanistan. He had to sound tough about something after he courageously and correctly opposed our invasion of Iraq. That's how American politics works. And American presidents, the good ones, change their focus and strategies as times and events redirect them. Now he is running the government, and he should break those promises, the sooner the better, before more of our men -- and the men of our NATO allies -- are left on Afghanistan's plains.
"We did not finish the job against al-Qaida in Afghanistan. We did not develop new capabilities to defeat a new enemy, or launch a comprehensive strategy to dry up the terrorists' base of support," Obama said during the campaign. We tried but failed. That's too bad, but the growth of terrorism and a multiplication of terrorist havens have made the job more complex and Afghanistan irrelevant.
We have been on the plains and in the mountains for seven years now, almost as long as the Soviets were there. We went to punish Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida for the bombing of the World Trade Center -- and we have certainly had some success diminishing that organization, even as others are arising, some because we are engaged in that part of the world. It is worth remembering that bin Laden and his people are not Afghans; they are Saudi Arabians and Egyptians.
So the relevant questions now are: Who are we fighting? Why?
By Mark Steyn
Orange County Register
Friday, February 6, 2009
In The Washington Post, E.J. Dionne tried to break it gently to us:
"No occupant of the White House has ever been able to walk on water."
Yeah, sure, no previous occupant of the White House has been able to walk on water – your Eisenhowers and Roosevelts, your Chester Arthurs and Grover Clevelands and whatnot. But Barack didn't run as just another of those squaresville losers. He was gonna heal the planet and lower the oceans. So, even if he couldn't walk on water, he should at least be able to paddle in it. "He is a community organizer like Jesus was," said Susan Sarandon, "and now we're a community, and he can organize us."
So how's that going? Jesus took a handful of loaves and two fish and fed 5,000 people. Barack wants to take a trillion pieces of pork and feed it to a handful of Democratic Party interest groups. Jesus picked twelve disciples. Barack seems to have gone more for one of those "Dirty Dozen" caper-movie lineups, where the mission is so perilous and so audacious that only the scuzziest lowlifes recruited from every waterfront dive have any chance of pulling it off. The ends justify the mean SOBs: "Indispensable Tim" Geithner, wanted in 12 jurisdictions for claiming his kid's summer camp as a business expense, is the only guy with the savvy to crack the code of the U.S. economy. Tom "Home, James!" Daschle is the ruthless backseat driver who can figure out how to steer the rusting gurney of U.S. health care through the corridors of power. Charles Bronson is the hardbitten psycho ex-con who can't go straight but knows how to turn around the Department of the Interior.
And, of course, there's the lovable dough-faced shnook in the front office, Robert "Fall Guy" Gibbs. He didn't do nuthin' wrong, but, when seven nominees die in a grisly shootout with a Taxable Benefit Swat Team in the alley behind the Senate, he makes the mistake of looking sweaty and shifty answering routine questions.
A president doesn't have to be able to walk on water. But he does have to choose the right crew for the ship, especially if he's planning on spending most of his time at the captain's table, schmoozing the celebrity guests with a lot of deep thoughts about "hope" and "change." Far worse than his Cabinet picks was President Obama's decision to make the "stimulus" racket the all-but-sole-priority of his first month and then outsource the project to Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank and Harry Reid.
Appearing on "The Rush Limbaugh Show" last week, I got a little muddled over two adjoining newspaper clippings – one on the stimulus, the other on those octuplets in California – and for a brief moment the two stories converged. Everyone's hammering that mom – she's divorced, unemployed, living in a small house with parents who have a million bucks' worth of debt, and she's already got six kids. So she has in vitro fertilization to have eight more. But isn't that exactly what the Feds have done? Last fall, they gave birth to $850 billion of bailout they couldn't afford and didn't have enough time to keep an eye on, and now, four months later, they're going to do it all over again, but this time they want trillionuplets. Barney and Nancy represent the in vitro fertilization of the federal budget. And it's the taxpayers who'll get stuck with the diapers.
Those supporters who were wary of touting Obama as the walk-on-water Messiah did their best to lower expectations by hailing him merely as the new FDR. You remember the old FDR – "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." Ha! With the new New Deal, we have everything to fear. As President Obama warned Tuesday, "A failure to act, and act now, will turn crisis into a catastrophe." If you're of those moonstruck Obammysoxers still driving around with the "HOPE, NOT FEAR" bumper stickers, please note that, due to an unfortunate proofreading error at the printing plant, certain nouns in that phrase may have become accidentally transposed.
As it happens, the best way to ensure catastrophe is to "act now." It would be nice if the world could all prance along in regimented unison like the Radio City Changettes. But, alas, the foreigners made the mistake of actually reading the "stimulus" bill, and the protectionist measures buried on page 739 subsection XII(d) ended, instantly, the Obama honeymoon overseas. The European Union has threatened a trade war. Up in Canada, provincial premiers called it "a march to insanity." Wait a minute, I thought the Obama era was meant to be the retreat from insanity, a blessed return to multilateral transnational harmony.
As longtime readers will know, I'm all in favor of flipping the bird to the global community. But at least, when Rummy was doing his shtick about "Old Europe," he did it intentionally. To cheese off the foreigners entirely accidentally before you've even had your first black-tie banquet is quite an accomplishment. Protectionism is serious business to the Continentals. Oh, to be sure, if the swaggering unilateralist Yank cowboy invades some Third World basket-case they'll seize on it as an opportunity for some cheap moral posturing. But in the end they don't much care one way or the other. Plunging the planet into global depression, on the other hand, is an entirely different matter.
The bloated nonstimulus and the undertaxed nominees are part of the same story. I'm with Tom Daschle: I understand why he had no desire to toss another six-figure sum into the great sucking maw of the federal Treasury. Who knows better than a senator who's voted for every tax increase to cross his desk that all this dough is entirely wasted? Tom and Tim Geithner and Charlie Rangel and all the rest are right: They can do more good with the money than the United States government can. I only wish they followed the logic of their behavior and recognized that what works for them would also work for every other citizen. Instead, they insist that the sole solution to our woes is a record-setting wasteful government spending spree.
Maybe it's time for President Obama to come out and give one of his big hopey-changey speeches. It's been a few weeks now, and I kinda miss them. You know – "We are the change we've been waiting for." "We have nothing to hope for but hope itself." "Ask not what your hope can change for you, ask what you can hope for your change." Etc.
But I wonder if the old songs from last month's hit parade would play as well today. On Wednesday, Salon headlined a story on Obama: "The New Great Communicator … Isn't." Oh, dear. It's early days yet, but the gulf between the rhetoric and the reality, between the audacity of hope and the reality of pork, yawns ever wider. Right now, it's the Obama mythology that urgently needs some stimulus. Some of us never expected him to walk on water. But we didn't think he'd be all at sea taking on quite so much of it after a mere two weeks.
February 6, 2009
I knocked on the office door, and the old man answered. He was hunched over, with sunken eyes and brown skin that looked weathered. He wore a blue Members Only jacket, denim jeans and white Reebok sneakers. When he walked, his feet shuffled, reminding me of my 83-year-old grandmother making her way through her Florida assisted living community.
Walter Payton rushed for 16,726 yards and 110 touchdowns in his 13-year career with the Chicago Bears.
Walter Iooss Jr./SI
The date was Feb. 15, 1999, and I was visiting a suburban Chicago office complex to meet Walter Payton, the Bears' Hall of Fame running back who had recently announced that he was suffering from primary sclerosing chonlangitis, a rare (and deadly) liver disease. I was assigned the piece by Sports Illustrated, which wanted to report the details of Payton's illness.
"Excuse me," I said to the senior citizen. "Is Wal--"
Then, in a moment of horror, I stopped speaking.
Staring deeper into the man's face, beneath his yellow jaundiced eyes and saddened expression, I came to a crushing realization: This was Walter Payton. And he was dying.
Now, some 10 years after Payton's death at age 45, hindsight provides a certain perspective and understanding. I was a New York City resident on September 11. I was the first to arrive when my Grandma Marta died of a heart attack. A close friend is struggling with multiple sclerosis.
When I visited Payton, however, I was 26 and cocooned from the harsh reality that, for all of us, life ends. My general day-to-day concerns befitted my age -- I wanted to move up the masthead at SI; I wanted a steady girlfriend; a nice apartment; good times at the nearby pub. Dying? Who worried about dying?
So there I stood, face to face with a man I had never before met; a man I had long considered to be indestructible. Throughout his 13-year NFL career, which lasted from 1975 through 1987, Payton established himself not merely as the league's all-time rushing leader with 16,726 yards, but as the embodiment of what it meant to be a professional athlete. He was a 5-foot-10, 202-pound graceful sledgehammer; a balletic runner who often seemed to hover through defenses, but who also went out of his way to seek linebackers to decapitate.
"In Chicago's Super Bowl year  we played them at Lambeau," recalled Brian Noble, a former Packers linebacker. "Walter came right at me with the ball ... and I hit that man as hard as I hit anyone in my career. I knocked him back about four yards, but he stayed up and just kept going. Touchdown. I was devastated. [Afterward] my teammate put his arm around me and said, 'Believe me, that's not the first time and it won't be the last time that Walter Payton breaks a tackle like that.'"
As opposed to nowadays, where so many so-called "standout" backs couldn't block an oncoming two-legged cat, Payton left behind a long, bloodied list of flattened would-be pass rushers. He pulverized Minnesota's Joey Browner, destroyed Tampa Bay's Hugh Green, flattened Washington's Dexter Manley. "How many times did he save my butt by picking up a blitz before I was blown up?" said Jim McMahon, the former Bears quarterback. "A lot." Best of all, Payton never -- never -- celebrated the aftermaths. (I can only imagine what he would have to say of Terrell Owens.)
Yet for all the brilliance, it was Payton's away-from-the-field philosophy that elevated him beyond the ordinariness of "great pro athlete." Unlike 99.9 percent of his professional peers, he didn't view his job as anything particularly special. Sure, he loved to compete and run the football. But once practices and games came to an end, Payton -- who could never sit still for more than two or three minutes -- was itching for new, non-football adventures.
He collected antique cars and dove from airplanes and fished and hunted and pursued his helicopter pilot's license. He once beat Artis Gilmore one-on-one in hoops, and another time danced his rear off on an episode of Soul Train. He tried his hand at becoming an IndyCar racer, and later bought his own CART team. He co-hosted Saturday Night Live with Joe Montana, cooked gourmet meals for friends, played a mean game of chess and was the best rapper in the Super Bowl Shuffle.
"He was a real person," said former Bears coach Mike Ditka. "There was no phoniness about him."
After inviting me in, Payton and I sat down in a small room. This wasn't a time to talk about Super Bowl XX or Jim Brown or George Halas. Payton made no effort to conceal his plight or offer up false hope.
Though there was seemingly little to gain in speaking to a scrub reporter, Payton wanted to get the word out about organ donations. Not for himself -- surely, he had begun to realize it was probably too late. But for all the others. The battered. The wounded. The kids.
"Everybody has to die," Payton told me, sitting upright in a chair behind his desk. "I'm not afraid of dying. But I'm afraid I'm not going to be here to see the things I feel I have the right to see: my son playing college football, my daughter graduating from college, my kids having kids."
He reached for a piece of notebook paper -- one of the approximately 10,000 letters he had received since announcing his illness. This one was from a 9-year-old boy who was battling cirrhosis of the liver.
"Christopher says I shouldn't be scared," he said. "God will take care of me."
Walter Payton died at his home on November 1, 1999, surrounded by his wife, Connie, and his two children.
God, I hope, is taking care of him.
Send a comment to Jeff Pearlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, February 06, 2009
February 05, 2009
Actress Ashley Judd has finally earned her Hollywood stripes and provided award-winning comic relief. With Washington poised to shove a trillion-dollar "stimulus" pork pie down our throats, we need all the distractions we can get. I give Judd's unintentionally entertaining performance in a new Sarah Palin-bashing animal rights ad two diversionary thumbs up.
Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images
The Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund sponsored the YouTube video starring Judd. They've dubbed their campaign, launched this week, "Eye on Palin." With all the serious, socially responsible celebrity earnestness she could muster, Judd decried the aerial hunting of wolves in Alaska, the GOP governor's state. "It is time to stop Sarah Palin and stop this senseless savagery," Judd intoned.
Casting herself as an environmental expert, Judd attacked Palin for "casting aside science and championing the slaughter of wildlife." The video shows a wolf being shot, writhing in pain, with an ominous soundtrack throbbing and menacing photos of Palin flashing across the screen. "Riddled with gunshots, biting at their backs in agony, they die (pause for quiver) a brutal death," Judd enunciates slowly as wolf squeals punctuate the video. Defenders of Wildlife assails Gov. Palin for proposing a $150 bounty for every wolf killed by aerial hunters. She's cruel and bloodthirsty, and she must be stopped!
It's a compelling black-and-white storyline. But like the world Judd inhabits, this plot is make-believe.
Fact is, the policy is intended to protect other animals—moose and caribou—from overpopulation of wolves. Alaskans rely on caribou and moose for food. Not all Americans care to live on environmentally correct starlet diets of tofu salad and Pinkberry yogurt.
Neither Palin nor the aerial hunters in those scary low-flying planes that have Judd quivering promote the program out of malice and animal insensitivity. On the contrary, they are the true compassionate conservationists. The bounty helped state biologists collecting wolf age data and provided incentives to reduce the wolf population when wildlife management efforts had fallen behind. This is about predator control. But to liberal, gun-control zealots thousands of miles away, it's all heartless murder.
Federal law makes specific exceptions to aerial hunting for the protection of "land, water, wildlife, livestock, domesticated animals, human life or crops." Targets are not limited to wolves. And, as Alaska wildlife officials note, the process is tightly controlled and "designed to sustain wolf populations in the future."
No matter. As Judd proclaimed, "It is time to stop Sarah Palin." That is the true aim of left-wing lobbying groups and their allies in Hollywood. Palin is a threat not to Alaska's wolves, but to the liberal establishment's wolves. Defenders of Wildlife isn't targeting the ads in states affected by these policies. They're running the Judd-fronted ads across battleground states. It's about electoral interests, not wildlife interests. The eco-Kabuki theater is just plain laughable.
On a deadly serious note, Judd's selective concern for savagery is not lost on longtime observers of the activist entertainer's political forays. A militant, pro-choice feminist, Judd lashed out at the Republican ticket during the campaign: "[A] woman voting for McCain and Palin is like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders." Yet, not a peep has been heard from Judd about the serial predators of Planned Parenthood who have been caught on tape urging young girls to cover up statutory rape to facilitate abortion procedures. And she won't be starring in any YouTube ads decrying grisly late-term abortion procedures.
In a starlet's world, "senseless savagery" only applies to the poster pet of the month.
COPYRIGHT CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
- Michelle Malkin [email her] is author of Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores. Click here for Peter Brimelow’s review. Click here for Michelle Malkin's website. Michelle Malkin's latest book is Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild.
By Jonah Goldberg
February 06, 2009, 0:00 a.m.
The stimulus bill has failed. Barack Obama has failed. The Trojan Horse of Hope and Change crashed into the guardrail of reality, revealing an army of ideologues and activists inside.
Now, before I continue, let me say that Barack Obama will still be popular, he will still get things done, and he will declare victory after signing a stimulus bill.
But Obama’s moment is gone, and politics is about nothing if not moments.
The stimulus bill was a bridge too far, an overplayed hand, ten pounds of manure in a five-pound bag. The legislation’s primary duty was never to stimulate the economy, but to stimulate the growth of government, the scope of the state.
By spending hundreds of billions on things that have absolutely nothing to do with providing an immediate stimulus for the economy, Democrats hoped to make a down payment on their dream government. The billions for student aid, expanded welfare and health-care benefits, and bailouts for profligate state governments; the hundreds of millions for better museums and prettier government buildings; and the millions for smoking-cessation programs and bee insurance aren’t just items on crapulent Democrats’ wish list. The budget bloating was deliberate.
Remember what passes for a “cut” in Washington. Any decrease in the rate of increase counts as reduced spending. If you spend 20 percent more this year than you did last year, that’s a spending increase. But next year, that additional 20 percent is part of the baseline. And if your budget grows by “only” an additional ten percent, you’ve just "drastically cut" spending!
The stimulus bill was designed to give Democrats maximum maneuvering room. It would increase non-defense discretionary spending by more than 80 percent in a single year, in a single bill! Moving forward, they could grow government by smaller percentages while seeming to be responsible budget balancers. By putting chips on every square of social spending, they could let it ride for years to come.
Of course, this was more than a budgetary ploy. Democrats had good reason to believe that this was their moment. For the first time in a generation, they truly own the political commanding heights. They’ve won a string of elections, including the momentous presidential contest in which their candidate never really ran to the center the way Democrats normally do. He stayed on the liberal left all the way through Election Day, so liberals figured voters knew what they were getting with Obama. Indeed, that’s why the president keeps saying “I won,” as if that settles the issue. Funny how that argument didn’t work for the last president when he tried to reform Social Security.
Moreover, many actually believed Obama’s own hype. This was the moment for this, that and the other thing. This was the time when we, as Americans, were going to have our cake and eat it too. Future generations were going to look back and remember how Republicans and Democrats, cats and dogs, Klingons and Romulans came together and marched to the sunny uplands of history, where shopping carts have no wobbly wheels; airplane food is free, delicious, and filling; and we get all of our energy from 100 percent renewable Loch Ness Monster poop.
Throw in the media’s shock-and-awe campaign—which has been softening enemy positions with obsequious coverage of Obama as Franklin Delano Lincoln, the Jedi-Lightworking-Messiah community organizer from the south side of Krypton, combined with near-daily autopsies of conservatism and the Republican party (cue Richard Dreyfuss: “This was no voting accident!”)—and it’s no wonder liberals thought they had an open field in front of them.
The economic crisis was almost too good to be true. Like FDR and Lyndon Johnson, Obama was poised to act on Rahm’s Rule of Crisis Exploitation in a way that would not only guarantee a newer New Deal and an even greater Great Society, but would also receive bipartisan approval. That’s why Obama wanted so much GOP support—so as to ratify the left turn to European-style social democracy, particularly when voters cottoned on to the con.
But that didn’t happen. Obama and his party were undone by their hubris. There was just too much muchness in the bill. The once impressive support from conservative economists evaporated. Right-wing radio has been having one long tailgate party celebrating Obama’s overreach. According to the polls, voters are souring on the whole thing. Republicans finally discovered testicular fortitude—and they seem to like it.
There is still probably bipartisan support for a stimulus bill, but only for a measure intended to stimulate our market-based economy rather than one that hastens its Swedenization.
Again, Obama’s presidency has many victories ahead of it, and Democrats still run the show. But the perfect storm of liberalism has dissipated to mere scattered showers.
— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and the author of Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning.
© 2009 Tribune Media Services, Inc.
The Washington Post
February 06, 2009; Page A17
"A failure to act, and act now, will turn crisis into a catastrophe."
-- President Obama, Feb. 4.
WASHINGTON -- Catastrophe, mind you. So much for the president who in his inaugural address two weeks earlier declared "we have chosen hope over fear." Until, that is, you need fear to pass a bill.
And so much for the promise to banish the money changers and influence peddlers from the temple. An ostentatious executive order banning lobbyists was immediately followed by the nomination of at least a dozen current or former lobbyists to high position. Followed by a Treasury secretary who allegedly couldn't understand the payroll tax provisions in his 1040. Followed by Tom Daschle, who had to fall on his sword according to the new Washington rule that no Cabinet can have more than one tax delinquent.
The Daschle affair was more serious because his offense involved more than taxes. As Michael Kinsley once observed, in Washington the real scandal isn't what's illegal, but what's legal. Not paying taxes is one thing. But what made this case intolerable was the perfectly legal dealings that amassed Daschle $5.2 million in just two years.
He'd been getting $1 million per year from a law firm. But he's not a lawyer, nor a registered lobbyist. You don't get paid this kind of money to instruct partners on the Senate markup process. You get it for picking up the phone and peddling influence.
At least Tim Geithner, the tax-challenged Treasury secretary, had been working for years as a humble international civil servant earning non-stratospheric wages. Daschle, who had made another cool million a year (plus chauffeur and Caddy) for unspecified services to a pal's private equity firm, represented everything Obama said he'd come to Washington to upend.
And yet more damaging to Obama's image than all the hypocrisies in the appointment process is his signature bill: the stimulus package. He inexplicably delegated the writing to Nancy Pelosi and the barons of the House. The product, which inevitably carries Obama's name, was not just bad, not just flawed, but a legislative abomination.
It's not just pages and pages of special-interest tax breaks, giveaways and protections, one of which would set off a ruinous Smoot-Hawley trade war. It's not just the waste, such as the $88.6 million for new construction for Milwaukee Public Schools, which, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, have shrinking enrollment, 15 vacant schools and, quite logically, no plans for new construction.
It's the essential fraud of rushing through a bill in which the normal rules (committee hearings, finding revenue to pay for the programs) are suspended on the grounds that a national emergency requires an immediate job-creating stimulus -- and then throwing into it hundreds of billions that have nothing to do with stimulus, that Congress' own budget office says won't be spent until 2011 and beyond, and that are little more than the back-scratching, special-interest, lobby-driven parochialism that Obama came to Washington to abolish. He said.
Not just to abolish but to create something new -- a new politics where the moneyed pork-barreling and corrupt logrolling of the past would give way to a bottom-up, grass-roots participatory democracy. That is what made Obama so dazzling and new. Turns out the "fierce urgency of now" includes $150 million for livestock insurance.
The Age of Obama begins with perhaps the greatest frenzy of old-politics influence peddling ever seen in Washington. By the time the stimulus bill reached the Senate, reports The Wall Street Journal, pharmaceutical and high-tech companies were lobbying furiously for a new plan to repatriate overseas profits that would yield major tax savings. California wine growers and Florida citrus producers were fighting to change a single phrase in one provision. Substituting "planted" for "ready to market" would mean a windfall garnered from a new "bonus depreciation" incentive.
After Obama's miraculous 2008 presidential campaign, it was clear that at some point the magical mystery tour would have to end. The nation would rub its eyes and begin to emerge from its reverie. The hallucinatory Obama would give way to the mere mortal. The great ethical transformations promised would be seen as a fairy tale that all presidents tell -- and that this president told better than anyone.
I thought the awakening would take six months. It took two and a half weeks.
Thursday, February 05, 2009
by P.J. O'Rourke
The Weekly Standard
02/09/2009, Volume 014, Issue 19
The killjoys are back in charge--the mopes, the fusstails, the glum pots. Their wet blanket has been thrown over the White House and Congress. They're worrying up a storm. (Good thing that George W. Bush is no longer in charge of the weather and FEMA the way he was during Hurricane Katrina.) America is experiencing a polar ice cap and financial meltdown, causing sea levels to rise and sending cold water flooding into Wall Street where the rapidly acidifying ocean is corroding our 401(k)s and releasing mortgage securities full of hot air into the atmosphere until our every breath is full of CO2 especially when we exhale, which should be banned when children are present lest their uninsured health care be harmed by second-hand greenhouse gases that are causing endangerment of plant and animal species (Republicans are extinct already), leading to a shortage of green, leafy vegetables vital to the fight against America's growing epidemics of obese hunger and housing foreclosures on the homeless.
You remember the killjoys. They've been all over liberal Democratic politics like ugly on an ape since the Carter adminis-tration. They are the people who conceived the late, little-mourned, double-nickel speed limit, which is doubtless now rising undead from its grave to turn us all into road zombies dragging ourselves down I‑70 numbed to a state of murderous catatonia by our 55-mile-per-hour rate of travel.
The killjoys initiated automobile crash standards so rigorous that we can't buy a car that hasn't been dropped from the top of a phone pole with our whole family strapped inside. (Click It or Ticket!) And they wrote the infant car seat regulations that require devices so complex, with such arcane rules for use, that each car seat now comes from the manufacturer with its own mechanical engineer and each infant comes from the maternity ward with its own lawyer.
Nor is the kid exempt from legislative backseat driving just because she (the pronoun that every publication with a Second Class mailing permit is federally mandated to use in alternate sentences) has emerged from the car. Children must now wear helmets to bike, ski, rollerblade, or skateboard and wear an additional helmet--in case they collide with hard porcelain and injure their tailbones--on their butts when they go to the toilet. The only time children are allowed to remove their safety helmets is when they catch a parent smoking cigarettes. In that case they can doff protective headgear to better reveal facial expressions of shock, horror, shame, and disappointment. (Barack, you stand warned.) Children learn these facial expressions in the 1,000 hours of compulsory anti-tobacco education that America's public schools have made time for by eliminating the minute of silence in the morning (courtesy of the ACLU) and also reading and math.
The only way I can sneak a smoke nowadays is to borrow a buddy's hunting cabin in the Maine backwoods, lock myself in the bathroom, and stand in the shower stall with the curtain pulled tight and the water running. You'd think this would extinguish my Marlboro Light. However, thanks to low-flow shower heads required by federal law to conserve a precious resource that I thought we were about to have too much of due to the melting of polar ice, I can smoke in the shower with the faucets on full blast and stay bone dry. (Flushing the filter tip down the water-conserving john is another matter.)
Sucking the fun out of life has always been a key component of political science. The inventors of modern politics, the English Puritans, are rightly a byword for buzz-kill and gloomocracy. The Puritans banned all theatrical performances because of the dangers of . . . mmmmm . . . they'd think of something . . . actors playing Mercutio and Tybalt having a sword fight in Romeo and Juliet without wearing bike helmets.
Creating alarms about trans fats or energy sustainability expands the purview of government almost as well as war, without all the patriarchal, exclusionist, sexist heroism and hurtful, insensitive, patriotic language. Gas prices frighteningly high? Declare a moral equivalent of Nagasaki. Arteries clogged? Pass a law requiring the chicken nugget fry-basket to be dunked in boiling mint tea.
Raining on parades requires no skill or effort on the part of a politician. This is what draws people--and Democrats--into politics. All a Democrat needs is the upper-story window of public attention and the chamber pot of rhetoric. How else to explain Joe Biden's rise as a flannel-mouthed, four-flushing, limelight-stealing head louse?
Being a poke-nose, a nanny-pants, and a wowser satisfies the pathetic need of the political class to feel self-important and powerful. Banning paper and plastic and making shoppers carry their groceries home in their mouths like dogs is just the thing to make a little tin humanist in the Obama West Wing think he's admiral of the Uzbek Navy.
Not that Pecksniff Buttinskiism is a strictly partisan matter. Long-lipped howler Republican Drys teamed up with spigot-bigot William Jennings Bryan to enact Prohibition. The GOP is home to blue noses of a size as if room had been made on Mt. Rushmore for a bust of Andrew Volstead. Meanwhile Democrats do have their pleasures--drinking bong water at gay weddings and so forth. Plus there is the Kennedy family to be considered, with their penchant for exciting risk--skiing into trees, sleeping with the babysitter, and claiming entitlement to New York Senate seats.
Republicans stick their schnozollas into other people's underpants and stashes (but not gun cabinets). In the matter of scolding foreigners and muscling in on the governance of lesser breeds without the law, Republicans are a regular pain in the atlas. But it is the Democrats who've learned to make political honey out of minding other people's beeswax. Not satisfied with mere bossy irritation of the public, Democrats have created whole branches of government--the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Education, the Department of Tofu and Sprouts. Democrats have opened barrels of (USDA inspected!) pork sufficient to feed all of their high-binding and wire-pulling friends, relatives, cronies, and the state government of Illinois. Democratic wisenheimers have managed to get themselves elected Big Chief Itch-and-Rub of every worry and to be appointed Pharaoh of Fret for every concern. They are the Party of Eliot Spitzer. And we the citizenry are Eliot Spitzer's wife.
How are the Democrats going to demean and humiliate us next? What issue will the Democrats fasten upon as a threat to the commonweal and a hazard to the planet? What busybody ordinance and ass-and-elbows regulation will be put upon the books for our own good?
It's important to find out what type of private interest or kind of human enjoy-ment the Democrats are going to pass a law against. We could lobby to defeat it. (Although our best lobbyists are in jail.) We could brace ourselves to endure it. (Although our endurance--witness the paltry vote against Timothy "H&R Block" Geithner--is nearly exhausted.) Or we could plan strategies to resist the oppression. (Dig hole behind garage; buy enormous freezer; hide the red meat.)
There are several ways to make a prediction about what the Democrats will outlaw. We might calculate the greatest statistical danger to Americans. That would be death. According to The Statistical Abstract of the United States there is a 1:1 rate of occurrence. But it's hard to engage in an Obama-style "dialogue" with dead people, even though they do vote in Cook County. There is, in theory, a "death tax," but enforcement difficulties arise when the deceased don't pay it. Rahm Emanuel is, we are almost certain, a vampire. But whether this will give the Obama administration a pro- or anti-death tilt is unclear.
Another way to foretell proscription is to look at the most common or frequently occurring danger to Americans. What causes the most crime, violence, unemployment, divorce, disease, and mental illness? But that brings us back to Andrew Volstead, who was a Republican. Democrats will have to be satisfied with nibbling around the edges of this issue, providing additional funding for local enforcement efforts to curtail Managing a Hedge Fund While Impaired, etc. Also Democratic party loyalist trial lawyers can be given greater scope, allowing more bar and restaurant patrons to sue for being "Over-Served." Some friends of mine and I are bringing a class action suit against P.J. Clarke's in New York, where we met our first wives.
Or we could simply poll the nation and determine what the average American perceives as the greatest danger. Young black males in hoodies. But any action on this front would put the Obama administration in danger of support by Bill Cosby.
In fact, we'd be wrong to use any of the above methods to foresee what Democrats will attempt to constrain or forbid. A better way to approach the problem is to ask, "What would annoy the most people the most often?" That is the true test of government intervention in life. The Secular Grail of liberal Democrats is a program or policy that combines the intrusion of the census, the depredations of the income tax, the duress of school busing to achieve racial balance, the expense of Social Security, the nuisance of Medicare paperwork, the inconvenience of car registration, the pettiness of a congressional investigation, and the fine print on the label of flame-resistant children's pajamas.
My guess is that the next great government crusade will be against soap. The president will appoint a Blue Ribbon Commission, which will determine that soap releases polluting grime into the ecosystem, leads to aquifer depletion, and contains fatty acids that laboratory studies have shown to be acidic and not fat-free. Soap encourages teenage pregnancy as well as adult sexual activity with multiple partners, driving America's divorce rate higher, causing more children to live under the poverty line in single-parent households. Soap is a factor in many cases of child abuse, according to small boys in bathtubs. Soap bubbles may contain methane, especially if rising to the surface of bath water containing small boys. Soap marketing sends the wrong message about the Ivory trade and also about Irish Spring, which is being altered by climate change. Soap degrades the flame-resistant properties of children's pajamas. And soap makes whales foam when they spout.
Socialism--you can smell it coming.
P.J. O'Rourke is a contributing editor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD.
By Ralph R. Reiland on 2.5.09 @ 6:06AM
The American Spectator
The biodegradable celebratory balloons at the parties marking the election of the nation's first black (or half-black) president weren't even half-deflated before Robert Reich, economic adviser to Barack Obama, took a direct shot at white males and their allegedly overprivileged and overly snug and comfy position in the America economy.
More specifically, Reich took aim at "white male construction workers," warning that they might be positioned to be on the receiving end of a disproportionate share of the government's stimulus package and the ensuing jobs.
"I am concerned, as I'm sure many of you are, that these jobs not simply go to high-skilled people who are already professional or to white male construction workers," said Reich, labor secretary under Bill Clinton and currently a public policy professor at the University of California at Berkeley.
Saying he has "nothing against white male construction workers," Reich warned that "if construction jobs go mainly to white males who already dominate the construction trades, many people who need jobs the most -- women, minorities and the poor -- will be shut out."
Reich also expressed concern that spending in the stimulus package on the development of alternative energies and other high-end programs will just increase the paychecks of those who are already plenty comfortable.
"If there aren't enough skilled professionals to do the jobs involving new technologies," explained Reich, "the stimulus will just increase the wages of the professionals who already have the right skills rather than generate many new jobs in these fields."
So exactly what is Reich recommending?
Instead of getting our biggest bang for the buck as taxpayers when it comes to repairing the nation's infrastructure -- bridges, sewers, levees, ports, water pipes and highways -- our top priority should be gender-balancing the work, even if there aren't too many women around who majored in the engineering of sewage?
Is Reich saying that we should kick-start our rush to energy independence by way of geothermal, wind and solar research and the development of safe nukes and clean coal by hiring the less skilled and the disproportionately needy?
In fact, if Reich believes that the goal of stimulus spending is to create jobs for the needy, he should recommend a cut in spending in his own two areas, education and government, and push for a spending hike to create jobs for construction workers, regardless of pigmentation, since the unemployment rate in construction is currently running four times higher than the jobless rate in education and six times higher than the unemployment rate for government employees.
Instead, Reich appears to see no problem in more billions flowing to education and recommends that a numbers game be set up for those who labor in places other than academia, a quota system based on alleged victimhood, a top-down planning model designed to redistribute income rather than increase the productivity of labor or improve the level of American competitiveness or increase the efficiency of government spending.
To ensure that white male construction workers don't pocket a disproportionate amount of the bailout money, advises Reich, "Criteria can be set, so the money does go to others, the long-term unemployed, minorities, women." In other words, the long-term unemployed and government-defined perpetual victims will be up on the bridges and levees, patching and constructing, while the guys who know how to do the work will be sent off to join the ranks of the long-term unemployed, all for the purpose of leveling.
In Reich's worldview, it's groups that matter and individualism that's the enemy. "The American myth of the Triumphant Individual may have outlasted its time," Reich has explained. "The story of the little guy who works hard, takes risks, believes in himself and eventually earns wealth, fame and honor" is outmoded.
Instead, "we must begin to celebrate collective entrepreneurship," states Reich. In place of individuals who "buck the odds" with "drive and guts," Reich argues for a world where the central planners right the wrongs, determine the production, distribute the rewards in a "fair" manner, i.e., with "only modest differences in income," and knock the rough edges off anyone who doesn't demonstrate sufficient obedience to the collective.
"Success can be measured only in reference to collective results," Reich asserts, warning against an economic system that encourages "individualistic endeavor."
The correct ideology, according to Reich: "We need to honor our teams more, our aggressive and maverick geniuses less." In short, it's not unlike the Cuban model -- a nice photo of Fidel goes to the top cane-cutting team and any Bill Gates types are sent off on an inner tube to Key West.
Thursday, February 05, 2009
Former Vice President Al Gore testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on global climate change. (AP)
Al Gore has a new argument for why carbon dioxide is the global warming boogeyman – and it’s simply out of this world.
Testifying last week before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with yet another one of his infamous slide shows, Al Gore observed that the carbon dioxide (CO2) in Venus’ atmosphere supercharges the second-planet-from-the-sun’s greenhouse effect resulting in surface temperatures of about 870 degrees Fahrenheit. Gore added that it’s not Venus’ proximity to the Sun that makes the planet much warmer than the Earth because Mercury, which is even closer to the Sun, is cooler than Venus. Based on this rationale, then, Gore warned that we need to stop emitting CO2 into our own atmosphere.
Incredibly, not a Senator on the Committee questioned -- much less burst into outright laughter at -- Gore’s absurd point. In fact, each Senator who spoke at the hearing, including Republicans, offered little but fawning praise for Al Gore. It’s hard to know whether the hearing’s lovefest was simply an example of the Senate’s exaggerated sense of collegiality, appalling ignorance and gullibility about environmental science, or fear of appearing to be less green than Gore.
It is true that atmospheric CO2 warms both Venus and the Earth, but that’s about where the CO2 commonality between the two planets ends. While the Venusian atmosphere is 97 percent CO2 (970,000 parts per million), the Earth’s atmosphere is only 0.038 percent CO2 (380 parts per million). So the Venusian atmosphere’s CO2 level is more than 2,557 times greater than the Earth’s. And since the CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere is increasing by only about 2 parts per million annually, our planet is hardly being Venus-ized.
Gore’s incorporation of Mercury in his argument is equally specious because Mercury doesn’t really have any greenhouse gases in its atmosphere that would capture the radiation it gets from the Sun. As a result, the daily temperature on Mercury varies from about 840 degrees Fahrenheit during the day to about -275 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Mercury’s daily temperature swing actually belies Gore’s unqualified demonization of greenhouse gases whose heat trapping characteristics tend to stabilize climate and prevent wild temperature fluctuations.
The significance of Gore’s testimony is that the Venus scenario seems to be his new basis for claiming that CO2 drives the Earth’s climate and, hence, his call that we must stop emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. At no time did he refer to his two An Inconvenient Truth-era arguments concerning the relationship between CO2 and global temperature – that is, the Antarctic ice core record that goes back 650,000 years and the 20th century temperature/CO2 record. There’s good reason for his apparent abandonment of these arguments -- presented fairly, both actually debunk global warming alarmism. (Note: This YouTube video that I produced explains this point.)
Gore seemed to “wow” the Senate Committee with images and projections of environmental and even political upheaval allegedly already caused and to be caused in the future by climate change, such as melting glaciers and the 2007 fires in Greece that, Gore says, almost brought down the government. Gore repeatedly said that global warming threatens the “future of human civilization” and could bring it to a “screeching halt” in this century. Gore said that we are on a fossil fuel “rollercoaster” that is headed for a “crash.” We are near a “tipping point,” he said, beyond which human civilization isn’t possible on this planet.
Such melodrama, of course, is necessary to conceal and distract from the fact that there is no scientific evidence indicating that manmade emissions of CO2 are having any detectable impact, much less any harm, on the Earth’s climate or its population. During his testimony, Gore invoked the specter of James Hansen, NASA’s global warming alarmist-in-chief, to bolster his climate claims. But like the ice core and 20th century temperature records, Hansen may soon have to be dropped from Gore’s presentations.
Hansen’s former NASA supervisor -- atmospheric scientist Dr. John S. Theon who recently announced that he is skeptical of global warming alarmism -- recently wrote to Senate Environment and Public Works Committee staffer Marc Morano that, “Hansen…violated NASA’s official agency position on climate forecasting (i.e., we did not know enough to forecast climate change or mankind’s effect on it)… [and] thus embarrassed NASA by coming out with his claims of global warming in 1988 in his testimony before Congress,” Theon wrote.
Commenting on another key deficiency in the manmade catastrophic global warming hypothesis, Theon also observed that “[climate] models do not realistically simulate the climate system… some scientists have manipulated the observed data to justify their model results… This is clearly contrary to how science should be done… Thus there is no rational justification for using climate model forecasts to determine public policy.” The same could be said for Al Gore and his slide shows.
Finally, it should be noted that the Senate Committee gave Al Gore a free pass on his glaring conflicts of interest. Gore is a partner in the U.S. venture capital firm of Kleiner Perkins and the U.K.-based investment outfit of Generation Investment Management -- both of which looking to make billions of dollars off global warming hysteria. Gore did not disclose these conflicts at the hearing and no senator questioned him about them. This is, of course, the same Senate Commitee that essentially virtually gave Hillary Clinton a free pass during her confirmation hearing despite the obvious potential conflict-of-interest between Hillary's position as Secretary of State and the Clinton Foundation which soaks up the largesse of foreign donors under dubious circumstances. Venus envy? Yeah, why not? There’s no Al Gore or Senate cronyism up there.
Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and is the author of the forthcoming book, “Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Ruin Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them.”
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
London Daily Mail
2 February 2009
So the deepest green of them all turns out to be not so much a friend of the earth as an enemy of the human race.
Jonathon Porritt, the Government’s ‘green’ adviser, has said that couples who have more than two children are being ‘irresponsible’ by creating an unbearable burden on the environment.
Curbing population growth through contraception and abortion must therefore be at the heart of policies to fight man-made global warming. Apparently this is all because people have to accept responsibility ‘for their total environmental footprint’.
That’s what having children amounts to, apparently, in his mind. The blessings of a large family and the contribution this makes to prosperity and progress don’t figure at all. Instead, children are to be measured solely by their burdensome impact on the planet.
What kind of sinister and dehumanised mindset is this? It is no coincidence that the country which comes nearest to Porritt’s ideal society is Communist China, which imposed a murderously cruel policy of restricting families to one child apiece. For the desire to reduce the number of children that parents produce is innately totalitarian.
Reproduction is humanity’s strongest instinct. To seek to curb it is to interfere with one of our most fundamental freedoms and desires. To do so on the basis that Jonathon Porritt possesses unique insight into the needs of our world which is denied to the lesser mortals who inhabit it is not just monumental arrogance — it is also the delusion of totalitarian tyrants from Stalin to Hitler to Mao.
But then the green movement is essentially totalitarian in outlook. It sees people as a nuisance which has to be controlled. Accordingly, green interference in our lives now stretches from turning the ordinary lightbulb into an endangered species, telling hospitals to stop serving meat on patients’ menus, and sending round the garbage police if someone commits the crime of putting a tin can or plastic bottle into the receptacle designated for paper.
Now, by pointing out what he says is the population ‘ghost at the table’, Porritt has blown environmentalism’s cover. For he is not some maverick sounding off. These views are mainstream within the green movement, and they are growing.
This month, an international campaign is being launched called ‘Global Population Speak Out’ to publicise the link between ‘the size and growth of the human population and environmental degradation’.
A green GP, Dr Pippa Hayes, says she will actually refuse to offer fertility treatment to women who want to have more than four children, because she believes that this places an ‘insupportable burden’ on the earth’s resources.
It is shocking that a GP should not only have such anti-human views, but seek to impose them upon her patients — refusing to act in their interests, which she subordinates to an ideology.
Doctors have a duty to support life. That’s why some doctors refuse to have anything to do with abortion. For a doctor to regard herself as a ‘conscientious objector’ for wanting to reduce human life is to turn not just medical ethics but also the foundation of our common humanity inside out.
It’s a short step from that to seeing human beings as some kind of disease.
Indeed, another prominent establishment green, the former diplomat Sir Crispin Tickell — who has said we should be pursuing policies that would reduce our population to 20 million, or one-third of its current level — remarked: ‘Someone has said that constantly increasing growth is the doctrine of the cancer cell. You just get out of control.’
From this revolting attitude it is again but a short step to seeing people as mere objects to be disposed of. When coupled with the unspoken but implicit subtext that the populations that need most to be controlled in the world are black and brown, it turns into outright racism.
Accordingly, it results in a blind eye to genocide. When mass slaughter took place in Rwanda in 1994 and the world stood by and did nothing, there was much talk about how this was inevitable because of the high population density that was causing land shortages and poverty. It was no accident that Hitler was a green.
There is in fact a direct line running between the modern environmental movement and the anti-human mindset of population control. Fundamental to green thinking is the belief that human consumption is innately bad.
Human life itself is seen as a pollutant, not merely by producing too much carbon and thus contributing to global warming but by generally consuming and producing
too much and thus eating up the planet like locusts.
The roots of this thinking go back to the 18th century, when it was first thought that population growth would outstrip the earth’s resources and would lead to famine, starvation and death.
Despite the fact that the world’s population massively increased and resources expanded to sustain it, the belief persisted in progressive circles and led to eugenics and thence to fascism.
Of course there are places in the world where people are starving. Yet that isn’t because natural resources have a limit but the result of the tyrannies, ignorance or cultural restrictions which prevent the poor of the world from harnessing the resources of the earth.
What’s more, Porritt’s two-child limit is particularly neuralgic when it comes to Britain, where many people are indeed having no more than one or two children — with the result that the indigenous population is not replicating itself.
The rise in Britain’s population is made up almost entirely of immigrants, at the cost of its identity.
The green movement has provided a respectable camouflage for the population control movement, which went underground after the Nazi era.
That’s why Porritt is a patron of the Optimum Population Trust, which moans that every baby born in Britain will burn carbon equivalent in quantity to an area of woodland the size of Trafalgar Square.
Another of the Trust’s patrons, the environmental guru Paul R. Ehrlich, predicted in his seminal 1968 book The Population Bomb that during the Seventies and Eighties hundreds of millions of people would starve to death — about 65 million of them in the U.S. — and that by the year 2000 ‘England will not exist’.
But then the whole man-made global warming theory has turned out to be just as absurd.
As Britain shivers in its harshest winter for 13 years, atmospheric data shows that the earth is getting colder, not hotter, the ice caps are increasing not disappearing and the rise in sea level has slowed and is nothing out of the ordinary.
Yet despite the patent absurdity of these predictions of environmental doom, this thinking now dominates political life.
The reason is undoubtedly the grip upon politics of those who want to control our lives in order to reshape society.
In all corners of everyday life, from state interference in parenting to telling people what to eat or what not to drink, from council snoopers to idiotic health and safety rules, the aim is to control and change the way we behave.
The green movement camouflages this sinister tendency under cover of the urgent necessity of saving the planet. But with people like Jonathon Porritt apparently believing that the only thing wrong with the planet is the human race, the big question must be just who he will be saving it for.
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
A teller at the Islamic sharia unit of state-controlled Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI) counts rupiah banknotes in Jakarta April 8, 2008. (Reuters)
Indonesian sukuk buyers may sink in the same ship with the dupes heeding Western headlines and Islamic gurus since the Bernard Madoff scandal broke last December. These financial product pushers have increasingly exaggerated the “safety” of Islamic finance securities to offset “the cancer of interest-bearing debt.” Investors are now snapping up three-year Indonesian bonds that will supposedly hold their full value and make money---an astronomical 12%---while paradoxically avoiding speculation, alcohol, gambling, interest, and other “haram” activities forbidden under shari'a law.
Granted, Bernie Madoff's “hedge fund” investors did not expect to be robbed blind. But they knowingly exchanged high risk for high returns. Indeed, alternative funds are so risky that U.S. securities laws limit their sale to investors with at least $2 million in financial assets---in other words, enough to protect them against being totally wiped out.
But even folks who should know better don't grasp the risks of Islamic finance. London's Financial Times, for example, touted the Amana Trust “Islamic” Income fund, based in Washington state, for “losing only 25.8 per cent” in 2008---“half [sic] the average 44% loss for US stock funds.” Likewise, an SEI Investments company analyst recommended Islamic mutual funds as protection from the stock and bond markets' “extreme ups and downs,” despite their substantial losses in the last quarter of 2008.
Odds are, the average Muslim “Mohammed Sixpack” doesn't understand the financial risks of 12% Indonesian sukuk bonds either. High yields---for example 12%, when the U.S. Federal Reserve lends “overnight” to banks at rates close to zero---are usually called “junk.”
Unfortunately, these bonds are also backed by “assets” carved up like pie and “securitized.” Meaning: they can head south in a hurry, just like the sub-prime mortgages that sank the U.S. economy, which were also also backed by assets and securitized, not to mention the mortgage-backed issues that unraveled dozens of huge bond, pension and public institutional funds in 1994. In 1637, Dutch tulip bulb contracts sold for over 20 times the annual wages of a skilled craftsman---until their “solid” value withered overnight in the first financial crash in recorded history. 
Islamic finance carries many other risks besides.
The Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich. in December sued former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and the Federal Reserve Board to stop $40 billion in U.S. bail out aid from reaching American International Group (AIG). The insurance giant devotes an entire division to shari'a finance products, which Thomas More considers unsafe, unconstitutional and anti-American.
The suit zeros in on statutes fundamental to shari'a law, such as funding jihad warfare. It also focuses on AIG's “supervisory committee” members---Bahraini Sheikh Nizam Yaquby, Saudi Mohammed Ali Elgari and Pakistani Muhammed Imran Ashraf Usmani, a “devoted disciple” of his father Mufti Taqi Usmani. The latter Shari'a-compliant finance authority directs Western Muslims to aggressively pursue violent jihad against the their governments.
AIG is not alone.
As I've often previously noted, the shari'a finance boards setting “Islamic banking” standards themselves employ highly objectionable “authorities.” Both the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) and Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB), for example, include many representatives of nations, banks, and organizations implicated in terror-funding.
Atlas Shrugs recently comprised a more inclusive list of hot shot shari'a personalities. Apart from Taqi Usmani---a Pakistani shari'a court justice since 1982, shari'a director of the Saudi Al Baraka Investment Corp. implicated in 9/11 financing and until recently an advisor to Dow Jones Islamic Indexes---shari'a boards include other graduates of the most radical Saudi and Pakistani Islamic universities and madrassas that duplicate Usmani's wish to impose shari'a law globally.
Shari'a finance still retains Western adherents. A Jan. 16, 2009 Hedge Funds Review article for example advises forlorn, out-of-work money managers, “Don't forget Islamic finance.”
Several readers disagree. “Forget Islamic finance.... It won't make it through the crisis,” a private equity venture capitalist comments. Islamic finance itself is “flawed in principle,” since “charging more than you loaned is called 'interest',” adds an investor relations man. As these Hedge Funds Review subscribers avow, the industry cannot possibly elude the financial risks that now face every other bank and investment house in the world.
Notably, Stern School economics professor and former Treasury Department and White House advisor Nouriel Roubini, the publisher of Roubini Global Economics Monitor (RGE Monitor), also considers Islamic finance to be risky. The Islamic finance reliance on debt issues backed by assets exposes the business and investors both to “devaluation” of underlying assets (hyperbolically speaking, like wilting tulips) and the overall freeze in normal capital flows, or liquidity. The level of new Islamic bond issues worldwide fell 60% from January through October 2008, to only $15.2 billion, against that of the first 10 months in 2007. Low oil prices and Middle East liquidity troubles could also hurt demand for shari'a finance instruments throughout 2009, Roubini posits, according to the Asian Energy blog.
Yet the greatest, albeit hidden, risks of shari'a finance are unseen by even the most astute economists. By investing alone, non-Muslims actively participate in what former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed calls “a jihad worth supporting,” namely an effort to impose “universal Islamic banking.” Islamic banking is not an ancient religious tradition, but a 20th century invention of the Muslim Brotherhood and their spiritual chief Yusuf Qaradawi. It was developed to subsume capitalism with Islamic finance---a prospect neither safe nor mere fantasy.
Furthermore, shari'a investors may also inadvertently support economic jihad, as mandated by Qur’an 49:15: “Strive with their wealth and their lives for the cause of Allah,” and reiterated in 61:10-11: “Shall I show you a commerce that will save you from a painful doom? ...strive for the cause of Allah with your wealth and your lives.”
Shari'a funds collect at least 2.5% of income, wealth and profits, plus arbitrarily determined “purification” levies on profits derived from those Islamically forbidden, or “haram,” activities. The Standard & Poor's Islamic indexes do list some companies that get revenues from “non-compliant activities” totaling under 5% of their gross corporate sales. In those instances, S&P applies what it calls a “dividend purification ratio,” dividing “non-compliant” revenues by the total revenues of the index. The thing is, S&P doesn't specify exactly what activities or other attributes constitute “non-compliant,” much less how or to whom it distributes zakat and purification levies. 
Flemming's Luxembourg-registered Oasis Fund, perhaps the only Islamic fund that has publicly divulged collection ratios, extracts roughly 2.3% annually from assets to cover its shari'a board, custody and audit charges, as well as an annual “purification allowance” to “purify” any inadvertent riba (interest) exposure. That astronomical tax, however, does not include additional unspecified weekly sums deducted for unspecified “un-Islamic activities,”---or portions of the 5% Oasis fee collected upon purchase or the and 0.5% fee collected on redemption. Overall, Oasis extracts an exorbitant 6% annually in “purification” costs from investors.
In addition to the potent above-noted risks, the Islamic banking industry incorporates a rigid 7th century philosophy, that remains intent upon depriving all non-Muslims of their wealth and worldly stature. Possessions confiscated from non-believers are “a way of exacting revenge,” writes 11th century jurist Abul Hasan al Mawardi (d.1058). As Qur'an 57:2 argues, “To Him belongs all dominions of the heavens and earth.” Echoes Qur’an 59:7: “That which Allah giveth as spoil [war booty] unto his Messenger...it is for Allah and His Messenger and for the near of kin.…”
Allah authorized the 2nd Islamic Caliph, Umar Ibn Khattab, to confiscate property in three ways, Mawardi writes---by fulfilling a trust to Islam, by force, or by ruling under Allah's law. Mawardi therefore concludes it is “just” to take anything from nonbelievers (The Laws of Islamic Governance, 1996 Ta-Ha edition, pp. 207-251).
Shari'a banking is but another effort to reclaim all territories that Islam ever controlled. Here's the Muslim Brotherhood view: Hamas seeks to conquer Rome, “the capital of the Catholics, or Crusader capital,” as Constantinople was once conquered, a Gaza “legislator” preached on Al-Aqsa TV on April 11, 2008.
 Robert J. Shiller, Irrational Exuberance (2005, 2nd ed., Princeton University Press). pp. 85, pp. 247-48.
 “S&P Shariah Indices: Index Methodology,” Standard and Poor's, November 2007.
Alyssa A. Lappen is a former Senior Fellow of the American Center for Democracy, former Senior Editor of Institutional Investor, Working Woman and Corporate Finance, and former Associate Editor of Forbes. Her website is www.AlyssaaLappen.org.
The Washington Post
Wednesday, February 4, 2009; E01
If you want to read that it's okay to take bong hits because you're 23 and the best swimmer in history, cast your eyes elsewhere, because that's not going to be the position taken here.
Michael Phelps, of his own free will, decided to trade on his image to the tune of $100 million or so, an image that surely doesn't include drunk driving and getting high. This isn't fine print; it's in big block letters: DON'T SCREW UP! This is what Phelps agreed to, implicitly, when he signed on with AT&T, Visa, Hilton Hotels, Kellogg's, Rosetta Stone, Speedo and Nestle, among others: to conduct himself without scandal . . . all the time.
It doesn't matter that "everybody else is doing it," because my bet is that everybody else smoking pot at that student party at the University of South Carolina doesn't have endorsement deals worth $100 million. They haven't courted the concept of being a role model and selling cellphones and cereal to mothers and grandmothers and little children. I'm annoyed over reading my friend Sally Jenkins's column justifying that Phelps "periodically needs to bust out of the confines of the pool and of his too-coy image," because he already busted out in 2004, when he was caught drinking and driving.
Phelps promised after that much more serious transgression that he wouldn't be guilty of such irresponsibility and inappropriate behavior again. Now, after stupidly taking a bong hit essentially in public, Phelps has issued a similar mea culpa, saying: "Despite the success I have had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner that people have come to expect of me. . . . I promise my fans and the public -- it will not happen again."
So how many times does Phelps get to act irresponsibly before Sally and a whole lot of other folk hold his feet to the fire a bit?
Three times? Five? Sally suggests in her column yesterday that people are holding Phelps to superhuman ideals if they don't accept his apology.
No, we're not. You want to get blatantly practical about this? If Michael Phelps wants to get high, then he should do it in the privacy of his own home, far away from cellphone cameras. At the very least, these incidents represent serious lapses in judgment.
I've never seen so many excuses for doing something so stupid, considering the stakes:
· Athletes have extreme training methods, extreme goals and therefore extreme rewards. As an example, Sally wrote that she "once watched Andre Agassi drink an entire bottle of Chianti -- at lunch." (Did he do it during Prohibition? If not, it wasn't illegal.)
· Phelps is driven by a case of boyhood ADHD.
· Everybody does it, so it must be okay. (No Sally, all of us haven't done it, and didn't do it in college, either.)
Stop it. People who stand to gain so much from their talent and image had better know by the age of 23 that a standard of behavior is expected of them that isn't expected of other people their age. Of course, it's a double standard, but Phelps is making $100 million for having to live through it every day.
Even people who don't have a squeaky-clean image have consequences to pay for certain acts. My dear friend Charles Barkley, as you might have noticed, has disappeared (I hope temporarily) from TNT after being arrested for drunk driving. I love Barkley. He's helped my career and bank account by making me editor of his last two books. I'd do almost anything for him. But he doesn't get a pass for drinking and driving.
There should be zero tolerance for that, and Phelps doesn't get a pass for that, nor for his bong hit. The latter, in and of itself, certainly isn't heinous. But it is stupid, given what's at stake. And everybody excusing it, Sally, doesn't help Phelps get the message that he'd better be careful and vigilant. Being granted a pass at every turn usually breeds a sense of being bulletproof, as we saw in the much more serious case of Michael Vick, who actually squandered $100 million or more. And Phelps isn't cast in the role of bad boy or tough guy. His marketing representatives have set him up to be the guy who walks the straight-and-narrow.
I have no idea if News of the World is a legit news organization or not, but the British tabloid also reported that Phelps's handlers offered all kinds of perks to the outlet if it didn't publish the photo of Phelps taking a bong hit. I wonder if Phelps's camp, in addition to all the sharpies, includes anybody with enough guts (and job security) to sit him down and get in his face, which is what most 23-year-olds need. Is there anybody in that camp who's going to tell Phelps that he's one more strike from ruining all the years of hard work? Are any of the embarrassed sponsors on Phelps's roster going to tell him, "Michael, this isn't the image we signed on for"?
Sally asks in the lead of her column if anybody is really surprised that Phelps dived headfirst into the bong water? I realize her tongue was firmly planted in cheek, but yes, I'm surprised. The kid I've observed is aware enough to know that he's different than other 23-year-olds, that he's more gifted, that the rewards and experiences have been greater for him than the average college kid, that his wealth and riches have to be protected, first and foremost, by exercising common sense. To do that, Phelps is going to have to keep his wits about him, and the best way to do that, whether anybody's watching or not, is to keep his face out of the bong water.
New York Daily News
Tuesday, February 3rd 2009, 9:25 PM
It should not be asked whether Joe Torre deserves plaque among Yankee greats, question is when will it get done.
The idea that there could be a new Yankee Stadium or any Yankee Stadium without Joe Torre being in it, without him having a plaque at Monument Park and without having his No. 6 retired is ridiculous. It is as ridiculous as the hysteria, especially the original hysteria, over Torre's new book.
The Yankees pride themselves on having the biggest name in sports, being the biggest in everything, in history and payroll and price of new stadiums and all the rest of it. When it came time to build themselves a baseball Versailles across 161st St. from the old Stadium, it had to be the biggest and gaudiest baseball stadium ever built. To treat Torre like some enemy of the state now would be incredibly small.
One of the reasons the business grew the way it did after 1996 was that Torre helped grow it, as the top top-manager in sports for most of that time. And that doesn't change because of this book.
They are going to have all their luxury suites at the new Stadium, and the most expensive tickets known to man, even though a lot of those aren't moving the way they wanted them to, believe me, or they wouldn't suddenly be offering 20- and 40-game plans all of a sudden. But how can you bring all that history across the street and not bring Torre with it?
Hal Steinbrenner is the one who ought to rise above all this, and start by reading "The Yankee Years," written by Torre and Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated. He doesn't have to give Joe Torre his day at the new Yankee Stadium this year, or even give an exact date when the Yankees plan to do that. He can say the Yankees are going to wait until Torre has retired from the Dodgers and retired from managing.
But you better believe Joe Torre better get a day.
It doesn't mean you have to love his book, or even love Torre. He isn't some kind of living saint because he won four World Series in five years out of the box here. It doesn't mean he is above criticism, even though you want to do better than somebody like Boomer Wells, who clearly still has the sensibilities of a bouncer.
Torre won three titles in a row - and four total - as Yankee skipper ...
But Torre is not less a Yankee because of this book, he has not somehow diminished his own Yankee legend, he hasn't changed his status as someone who became more the face of the New York Yankees than any manager in the history of the team.
There was a morning a few years ago when I sat with him in the visiting manager's office at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla., before a spring training game. He had been telling stories that day about Warren Spahn, and talking about a dinner he'd had the night before at a restaurant we both knew in Jupiter, called Carmine's.
That day the subject came back around to something people had said about Joe Torre for a long time, even after his team had stopped winning the World Series, about how he made it harder than it had ever been for people to be Yankee haters.
"I don't think it was just me," Torre said that day. "I think we made it harder for people to hate the Yankees."
... and the "The Yankee Years" doesn't change that.
Casey Stengel and Joe McCarthy won more World Series for the Yankees. Torre still goes right in there with them for winning four World Series in a time when you had to win three playoff series and 11 games in October to do that. Maybe there will be another baseball team to do that again someday, but the way the sport is balanced out now, you wonder how that can ever happen.
He wasn't perfect, and when things started to go wrong for the Yankees in October, he made his share of mistakes and when he did leave, it was probably time for him to go. He wasn't loved by everybody, and when the Yankees started to lose in the first round of the playoffs even with their annual $200 million payroll, Yankee fans started to love him a little less than they used to.
And yet for so much of Joe Torre's time in New York, he felt like the biggest guy in town, like somebody who could have run for mayor and won. And now he's supposed to be some kind of bum because he hurt Brian Cashman's feelings, or Randy Levine's, or Boomer Wells'? He's supposed to have burned the Willis Ave. Bridge because he offended Alex Rodriguez? Why, because A-Rod has done such a great job honoring the Yankee brand over the past five years?
Derek Jeter was the first of Torre's former players to say that maybe people ought to wait to read the book before they judge "Mr. Torre." Jorge Posada is in the Daily News now defending Torre.
And here is Jeter talking in "The Yankee Years":
"You know, we made it look easy. We knew it wasn't easy, but we made it look easy. And people automatically assume, 'Well, your payroll is this, and you've got this player and that player and this All-Star, that All-Star... you should win.' No, it just doesn't happen like that. You have to have a lot of things go right. We were in six World Series. It's not easy, you know what I mean? Nowadways? Six World Series in 12 years? That's tough to do, man."
They did make it look easy. The manager made it look easier than all of them, talking about it before the game, talking about it after the game, classing up the Yankees again. Give Joe Torre a day? Are you kidding? The Yankees could give him a week.