Sunday, July 31, 2011

Rebel Syrian General Announces Free Syrian Army

Within the last two days, a group of seven officers have announced the formation of a Free Syrian Army, with the announcment made by Major General Riad El As'ad in a video posted on youtube.  Arutz Sheva (Israeli National News) picks up the story, and it has been passed here by web log on Gateway Pundit.
As'ad accused the Assad regime [no relation] of crimes against the Syrian people and called on the officers and soldiers in the Syrian army not to aim their weapons at the people.  He further called on them to join the Free Syrian Army.
The major-general warned that the Free Army will eliminate any soldier who acts to harm his own people.  The present army commanders do not represent the army, he continued, they are acting for the criminal gang that controls the media and prevents the people from obtaining truthful information on what is happening.

 Jim Holt of Gateway Pundit frames it nicely for us:
After years of killing, tyranny, and oppression, the kingdom of silence is silent no more.

And where has our president been?  Silent.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Marine to be Awarded the Medal of Honor

It has been announced that former Sgt Dakota Meyer, USMC of Austin, Texas and Greensburg, Kentucky will be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Ganjgal, Afghanistan in September 2009.  Then-Cpl Meyer was part of III MEF Embedded Training Team 2-8 during a movement to a meeting with tribal elders in an area known to be active with Taliban.  He was part of a 13-man US detachment of Marines along with soldiers from 10th Mountain Division, as well as some soldiers of the Afghan army.

The US element was ambushed and taken under heavy fire by some 50 Taliban fighters.  Four members of the Marine team were immediately cut off and the rest of the convoy lost contact with them.  Meyer manned a machine gun in a humvee driven by SSgt Juan Rodriguez-Chavez while they drove into the kill zone three times to cover the withdrawal of US and Afghan forces.  During this action, Meyer was wounded in the arm by shrapnel, but despite his wound, Meyer charged back into the kill zone on foot to establish contact with the separated element.  Unfortunately, all had been killed.  Helicopter support was called for during the battle and to later retrieve the bodies, but was refused due to the intense fire.  Meyer then helped carry them from the kill zone under fire.

At the same time, then-1st Lt Ademola Fabayo was also trying to establish contact with the lost element on foot, engaging the enemy at close range with his M-4, and carried one of the wounded for several hundred yards.  He later returned in a vehicle with Army CPT Will Swenson in an attempt to fight through.

Meyer, Fabayo, Rodriguez, and Swenson then entered the kill zone again in vehicles to finish retrieving the bodies, using the vehicles to shield them while still under fire

Both Fabayo and Rodriguez were later awarded the Navy Cross for their actions.

The KIA that Meyer retrieved were:  GySgt Edwin Johnson, 1st Lt Michael Johnson, GySgt Aaron Kenefick, and HM3 James Layton.  Also killed in the action were an Afghan interpreter and at least eight Afghan soldiers.  Army SFC Kenneth Westbrook, rescued by Fabayo and Swenson, later died of complications from wounds sustained in the ambush.

The action became controversial as a result of an investigation into refusals of repeated pleas for artillery support from higher authority at FOB Joyce, along with its failure to report the action further up the chain of command.  At least two Army officers received letters of reprimand as a result of the investigation.

Meyer becomes the first living Marine recipient of the Medal of Honor since the Viet Nam War, and one of only three living recipients of the war in Afghanistan, along with Army SPC Salvatore Giunta and SFC Leroy Petry.

Update:  Meyer has now received the medal, and there is further details of the action, but his comments reveal more about him, including "I didn't think I was going to die.  I knew I was going to die."  But there is another too, referring to the men he was unable to save:
The men Meyer wants the world to remember are Lt. Michael Johnson, Staff Sgt. Aaron Kenefick, Gunnery Sgt Edwin Johnson and Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class James Layton. 
"Those guys gave their lives so you have to remind (the public) everyday.  You know, that's the least you can do,” said Meyer, who killed eight Taliban fighters, some at close range. 
Meyer is cited for returning to the kill zone of the ambush, against orders, five times, and is mainly responsible for the rescue of 36 US and Afghan soldiers.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Breivik Does Not Speak For Us

I have been absent recently with a sojourn to the mountains and now a recovery from a one-way conversation with an oral surgeon, so allow me to catch up with an excellent piece from last Monday by Ron Radosh of Pajamas Media, which takes to task the New York Times and its characteristic and anticipated analysis of the mass murder in Norway by Anders Breivik, specifically in an editorial masquerading as a news article written by Scott Shane.  Shane launches immediately into his genesis for the atrocity: “The man accused of the killing spree in Norway was deeply influenced by a small group of American bloggers and writers who have warned for years about the threat from Islam, lacing his 1,500-page manifesto with quotations from them, as well as copying multiple passages from the tract of the Unabomber.”

Shane’s article continues in the same vein, holding forth with the notion that Breivik was somehow driven to this act as if mesmerised by the controlling influence of those who have correctly pointed out the pervasive political impact of Islamisation on the accommodating left-wing political parties of Europe.  Radosh explains:
Shane singles out – by virtue of Breivik having cited his writing 64 times in his manifesto – the writings of Robert Spencer at the website Jihad Watch, part of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, as well the work of “other Western writers who shared his view that Muslim immigrants pose a grave danger to Western culture.”
That sentence says it all: Unassimilated Muslim immigrants in Europe, people who do not accept the laws and standards of the nations to which they have immigrated and who consider themselves proponents of both jihad and sharia law, are not a danger.  Instead, the danger comes from those who point out the uncomfortable truths that many dare not face.
The Times article is part and parcel with the opinions that sprang forth immediately after the shooting of Rep. Giffords last January by Jared Loughner.  The New York Times, Paul Krugman, Keith Olbermann and others promptly cited the ‘climate of hate’ generated by talk radio, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, et al as the focus of Loughner’s murderous rage.  When it was discovered that Loughner was mostly apolitical, or even favoured left-wing ideas, they became silent, though never acknowledged their . . . hmm, error.

But now there comes an opportunity to drag out the canard that Breivik was somehow driven to a heinous crime that he otherwise wouldn’t have committed, but for the fact that he was “deeply influenced” to do so by the usual suspects.
So, Shane continues, authorities and others now “have focused new attention around the world on the subculture of anti-Muslim bloggers and right-wing activists and renewed a debate over the focus of counterterrorism efforts.”  We should be looking not at radical Islam . . .  but at its opponents, all “right-wing activists” who, as we all know, are the only real enemies out there.
And of course Shane points out that “critics have asserted that the intense spotlight on the threat from Islamic militants has unfairly vilified Muslim Americans while dangerously playing down the threat of attacks from other domestic radicals.”  In fact, Muslim Americans have never been vilified.  What those critics have actually said – the responsible ones and not those like the crazed publicity-seeking pastor in Florida – is that there are real dangers of jihad from some advocates of radical Islam.
Does Shane not remember that had not a street vendor noticed a truck parked in the Times Square area, an American jihadist would have caused a catastrophe as deadly as the one in Norway?  Does he not know of the acclaimed Muslim businessman who owned a TV station in upstate New York who beheaded his wife for offending him according to Sharia law?  This man was interviewed as an example of a moderate American Muslim and an example of how Muslims in America have acculturated and played a positive role in our society.  And what about the radical Sami al-Arian, who pleaded guilty to support of terrorism, and whom many American academics defended as a victim of a witch-hunt when he was removed from his teaching job in Florida?
Not to mention, among others, the Somali-born immigrant raised in Oregon that tried to blow up Pioneer Square in Portland during a Christmas-tree lighting celebration.

Radosh includes arguments in the Wall Street Journal op-ed by Bruce Bawer, “Surveys show that an unsettling percentage of Muslims in Europe reject Western values, despise the countries they live in, support the execution of homosexuals, and want to replace democracy with Shariah law.”  Radosh goes on to draw comparisons to the days of Joe McCarthy and the actual presence of Communists in the government; the press treatment of the ‘Reverend’ Jim Jones and Charles Manson; and quotes from an actual op-ed (labeled as such) by Ross Douhat in the Times, which makes the point that Breivik is in fact a right-winger, but:
. . . [T]his doesn’t mean that conservatives need to surrender their convictions.  The horror in Norway no more discredits [German Chancellor] Merkel’s views on Muslim assimilation [along with Britain’s Cameron, and France’s Sarkozy] than Ted Kaczynski’s bombs discredited Al Gore’s views on the dark side of industrialization.  On the big picture, Europe’s cultural conservatives are right: Mass immigration really has left the Continent more divided than enriched, Islam and liberal democracy have not yet proven natural bedfellows and the dream of a post-national, post-patriotic European Union governed by a benevolent ruling elite looks more like a folly every day. . . .
Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic have an obligation to acknowledge that Anders Behring Breivik is a distinctively right-wing kind of monster.  But they also have an obligation to the realities that this monster’s terrible atrocity threatens to obscure.
There are strong and legitimate concerns about the growing influence of a culture that is inimical to western values and refuses to be assimilated into the society of the countries where they live and from whence they draw such benefits.  The same applies to those harsh critics of whatever background, of the culture here in the US (I have often said in riposte: “America!  Even the people who hate it still want to live here!”)  We should not be side-lined from the discussion in fear of being shouted down by those who want to paint us with the broad brush of lunatics like Breivik.  Radosh and others here have done a good job of setting the right tone.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fast and Furious Unravels Still Further

The Fast and Furious gun-smuggling controversy (my last post is here) has included within the story the death of US Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.  Forensic examination of the weapons found at the scene showed that some of them were from those smuggled during the ATF-led operation gone awry, but senior ATF officials have maintained that the one used to kill Terry was not among them.  This was based, they said, on a report from the FBI.

Now we find that the FBI report did not, in fact, rule out the possibility that Terry had been killed by one of those weapons.

We also discover, by way of testimony from the ATF Special Agent in Charge (SAIC) of the Phoenix office, that he had been in contact with an official of the National Security Council at the White House.  The contact between the two was as early as September 2010, and includes an e-mail from the SAIC that begins with "you didn't get this from me".  The ATF official stated that the information was sought out by his friend in the White House.

The White House continues to deny that it had any knowledge of the operation.

This is a story that just won't go away.

This Budget Battle Defines the Future

Read, if you can obtain it, Arthur Brooks' latest article in the Wall Street Journal - "The Debt Ceiling and the Pursuit of Happiness".  Example:
. . . [B]udget reformers need to remember three things. First, this is not a political fight between Republicans and Democrats; it is a fight against 50-year trends toward statism. Second, it is a moral fight, not an economic one. Third, this is not a fight that anyone can win in the 15 months from now to the presidential election. It will take hard work for at least a decade.

Consider a few facts. The Bureau of Economic Analysis tells us that total government spending at all levels has risen to 37% of gross domestic product today from 27% in 1960—and is set to reach 50% by 2038. The Tax Foundation reports that between 1986 and 2008, the share of federal income taxes paid by the top 5% of earners has risen to 59% from 43%. Between 1986 and 2009, the percentage of Americans who pay zero or negative federal income taxes has increased to 51% from 18.5%. And all this is accompanied by an increase in our national debt to 100% of GDP today from 42% in 1980. . . .

Anyone who seeks to provide serious political leadership today - those elected in 2010 or who seek national office in 2012 - owe Americans a plan to escape having to make this choice [between becoming an econmy like Sweden or one like Greece].  We need tectonic changes, not minor fiddling. 
Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI), budget plan is the kind of model necessary.  But structural change will only suceed if it's accompanied by a moral argument - an unabashed cultural defense of the free enterprise system that helps Americans remember why they love their country and its exceptional culture.
This is more than a political tussle between two parties over how the budget should be crafted to prevent a short-term problem.  It is a battle that cannot be put off any longer; the 'chickens have come home to roost', to put it in the words of Obama's favourite pastor.

Defense Budget Debate: Dempsey Warns That Cuts Are Too Deep

It’s refreshing to hear of someone who is willing to fight back against the cut in the defense budget, particularly to make up for the profligate spending of the administration elsewhere.

General Martin Dempsey, recently named as the Army Chief of Staff and now nominated to be the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that current plans for deep spending cuts to reduce the overall federal debt (currently debated as up to $1 trillion over ten years) would leave the military “unable to perform essential tasks”.

He further disagreed with the current Chairman, JCS, Admiral Mike Mullen.  Mullen has often said that the federal debt is the greatest threat to national security.  Dempsey, however, stated that military and diplomatic strength must be part of the equation, in addition to economic power. 

Politico reports on the hearings:

The Pentagon is expected to take a significant hit in any resolution of the debt crisis. Obama has called for a $400 billion reduction in security spending over 12 years – the bulk of it from the military – and various other plans call for reductions of up to $800 billion or $1 trillion.

“I believe $800 [billion] would be extraordinarily difficult and very high risk,” Dempsey told the panel, saying at that point the military would be unable to carry out the current strategy for protecting U.S. interests and would need to develop another in line with fiscal realities. . . .

“What makes this period different is we’re doing all this while we’re still actively engaged in conflict,” Dempsey said. “That adds a degree of difficulty that we can’t discount.” . . .

John McCain of Arizona . . . acknowledged that Americans are “deeply frustrated by the enormous debt,” but said Pentagon spending is “not the cause of the economic dilemma we find ourselves in today.”  
Later, General Philip Breedlove, Vice Chief of the Air Force, said that even the proposed $400 billion cut-back “would force us to constrict our force”. 

With Republicans trying to hold the line against further tax hikes, and Democrats protecting entitlements, the only real place (and the usual target) is discretionary spending, of which the defense budget comprises about half.  This targeting of the defense budget is not helped by apocryphal stories about $600 toilet seats (not the seat but an entire assembly, unique items for specific aircraft, including R&D costs) or $435 hammers (actually $15, the story chalked up to sloppy accounting by the opposition, but just too juicy to have the truth stand in the way).  It is true that DoD has plenty to answer for in terms of cutting costs here and there, but the general assumption in the public mind is that the troops are given whatever supplies they need without regard to cost.  That is simply not true.  A commanding officer has a budget just like any other organization, and I had to account for the impact on my budget or why I would need items in excess of my allotment. 

As long as the Democrats have a say in it, it is the military, still expected to hold forth in a dangerous world and responsible for major fighting (whether labeled with the euphemism ‘kinetic military action’ or not), that will suffer disproportionally in the budget cutbacks.

And if you think that is just mere speculation:
“I think what's absolutely true is that core commitments that we make to the most vulnerable have to be maintained,” Obama said. “A lot of the spending cuts that we're making should be around areas like defense spending as opposed to food stamps.”  

Monday, July 25, 2011

Updated: Anders Breivik and the Atrocity in Norway

I have returned from the mountaintop (no phone, no internet, no news, no contact beyond my campfire and trail) to find the world turned upside down in respect to the attacks in Norway, the horror of which was just unfolding as I was fading into the wilderness.

The early speculation of the source of these attacks was spread by the reportage of the press, partially fueled by the celebratory claims of some Jihadi groups.  (I often prefer the more accurate yet less wieldy term ‘Islamic Supremacists’, but ‘Jihadi’ will do.)  My first thoughts upon hearing the news in Norway was of the ghastly assault in Mumbai in 2008 that murdered 165 (tauntingly mimicked two weeks ago by three bomb blasts which have now killed 24 more).  The written speculation, of course, included my own.  Was my conclusion invalid?  No, it was based on Mumbai, and Bali, and Madrid, and London, and Fort Hood, &c, &c, in addition to the threats that preceded it and the claims that sought responsibility for it.

Nevertheless, the perpetrator of this heinous crime is in fact a native Norwegian (at the moment, the consensus is that he acted alone – doubtful in my mind due to the logistics if nothing else, but possible though very difficult).  Anders Breivik was caught at the scene of the slaughter on Utoya island and confessed, stating there and through his 1500-page ‘manifesto’ that his purpose was to start a revolution in Europe against Islamisation and those who allow it, hence the attack on the Norwegian government offices in Oslo and the Labour Party youth camp on Utoya.  I was stunned to hear that the death toll has risen to 94 (though a report a few minutes ago said the toll has dropped to 76, so far).

There are already stories about him that describe him as a right-wing, Christian fundamentalist, and lest that be insufficient, the AP descibes him as both blond-haired and blue-eyed.  It’s intriguing that these sources are ones that will go to ludicrous lengths to avoid descriptions of young Arab male terrorists as exactly who they are.  Reuters is famous for its policy that “one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom-fighter”, and thus refuses to label any of the Jihadis in these situations as terrorists, though today it posts a story which quotes others uncritically as labeling Breivik as “crazy” and a “terrorist”.  I doubt that we will see any pundits asking us to ponder why Breivik hates us, or asking that we consider how poverty might have driven him to this.

We are starting to see references to Breivik’s influences, drawing a guilt by association, in the usual suspects such as the New York Times, the Huffington Post, and others such as thisCNN equates him with McVeigh and says this is on a par with the thousands of major and lesser (one cannot say 'minor' here) attacks of the Islamic Supremacists.  Breivik has called himself a Christian ('fundamentalist' is used in these stories as in others with its political definition, not its religious one), though his definition defies logic and simple Christian theology, and he is no more a Christian in his bombs and shooting innocent children than was John Brown in his hacking his opponents to death with broadswords.  Besides the over-arching atrocity of his rampage, others who attack our way of life from within will use this to score cheap political points.

Anyone, from whatever background, who commits such an act as Breivik must be condemned by civilised people, and I do not mean only verbally.  Yes, of course, I expect that Norwegian jurisprudence, like ours, holds that one is innocent until proven guilty, but that is in a court of law (though he was caught literally red-handed, and confessed on the spot).  That same Norwegian law, though, like most in Europe now, holds itself to be enlightened and foreswears capital punishment. In fact, it is possible that he may only serve a 21-year sentence -- the maximum.  Outside of being a juror at his trial, though, I am entitled to my opinion (fortified by a backround in the law and corrections), and Breivik should be literally condemned and suffer the ultimate consequence of his actions.  Otherwise, we hold the lives of his victims too cheaply, and express a lethal naïveté about the safety of our own people

Is it too much to wish besides, that all terrorists who commit atrocities such as these receive equal treatment by the Anointed?

Update:  Mark Steyn always explains it well.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Islamic Supemacist Attacks in Norway

Norway has been one of the more accommodating countries to the Islamic Supremacist crowd, much like Sweden and the Netherlands have been.  It is no wonder in my mind, then that Norway was the subject of a terrorist attack today, in the form of a blast of "one or more bombs" in the midst of government offices in Oslo, and an attack by a gunman on a youth camp on Utoya island northwest of the capitol.  The story is still developing, but early accounts place the death toll at seven in Oslo, and as high as 20 to 25 at Utoya.  (All reports are being updated.)

As far as my posts are concerned, I am travelling and will be restricted due to lack of available communications, but the information so far on this attack is that several Islamic sources are claiming responsibility, reasons including Norwegian support of NATO efforts in Afghanistan, and:
Today's attack takes place just nine days after Norwegian prosecutors filed charges against Mullah Krekar, a radical Islamist cleric who founded the al Qaeda-linked, Iraq based Ansar al Islam. Krakar threatened to carry out attacks against government officials if he was deported from Norway.
Other sources are weighing in as well.

The Norwegian Labour government has been highly accommodating to the jihadist elements in the country.  I will lay aside, for example, the new reports of the gunman on Utoya being "a Norwegian citizen" until I have more information, since he could be a naturalised citizen from the Middle East (earlier examples of 'political-speak' there drive me to that pause).

Maybe the attackers are trying for the same effect they achieved with the Madrid bombings in 2004, when they panicked the Spanish populace into electing the left-wing Zapatero in lieu of Aznar.

Update:  The horror of the attacks is far more apparent now, and I have reached better conclusions with more accurate information.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Business Leaders Take On Obama

IBD: What's the single biggest impediment to job growth today?
Marcus: The U.S. government.  Having built a small business into a big one, I can tell you that today the impediments that the government imposes are impossible to deal with.  Home Depot would never have succeeded if we'd tried to start it today.  Every day you see rules and regulations from a group of Washington bureaucrats who know nothing about running a business.  And I mean every day.  It's become stifling.
If you're a small businessman, the only way to deal with it is to work harder, put in more hours, and let people go.  When you consider that something like 70% of the American people work for small businesses, you are talking about a big economic impact.
IBD: President Obama has promised to streamline and eliminate regulations.  What's your take?
Marcus: His speeches are wonderful.  His output is absolutely, incredibly bad.  As he speaks about cutting out regulations, they are now producing thousands of pages of new ones.  With just ObamaCare by itself, you have a 2,000 page bill that's probably going end up being 150,000 pages of regulations.
IBD: If you could sit down with Obama and talk to him about job creation, what would you say?
Marcus: I'm not sure Obama would understand anything that I'd say, because he's never really worked a day outside the political or legal area.  He doesn't know how to make a payroll, he doesn't understand the problems businesses face.  I would try to explain that the plight of the businessman is very reactive to Washington.  As Washington piles on regulations and mandates, the impact is tremendous.  I don't think he's a bad guy.  I just think he has no knowledge of this.
This is after Steve Wynn, CEO of Wynn Resorts, went on a tirade a few days ago in Business Insider:
And I'm saying it bluntly, that this administration is the greatest wet blanket to business, and progress and job creation in my lifetime.  And I can prove it and I could spend the next 3 hours giving you examples of all of us in this market place that are frightened to death about all the new regulations, our healthcare costs escalate, regulations coming from left and right.  A President that seems, that keeps using that word redistribution.  Well, my customers and the companies that provide the vitality for the hospitality and restaurant industry, in the United States of America, they are frightened of this administrationAnd it makes you slow down and not invest your money.  Everybody complains about how much money is on the side in America. . . .
The guy keeps making speeches about redistribution and maybe we ought to do something to businesses that don't invest, their holding too much money.  We haven't heard that kind of talk except from pure socialists.  Everybody's afraid of the government and there's no need soft peddling it, it's the truth.  It is the truth.  And that's true of Democratic businessman and Republican businessman, and I am a Democratic businessman and I support Harry Reid.  I support Democrats and Republicans.  And I'm telling you that the business community in this company is frightened to death of the weird political philosophy of the President of the United States.  And until he's gone, everybody's going to be sitting on their thumbs.
One can but hope that we are seeing a trend.

Update:  Bryan Preston of Pajamas Media picks up on the same interviews, with added comments of his own, and also includes a report from the Heritage Foundation:
In March 2010, Congress passed President Obama’s health care reform legislation. . . . 
The law discourages employers from hiring in several ways:
  • Businesses with fewer than 50 workers have a strong incentive to maintain this size, which allows them to avoid the mandate to provide government-approved health coverage or face a penalty;
  • Businesses with more than 50 workers will see their costs for health coverage rise—they must purchase more expensive government-approved insurance or pay a penalty; and
  • Employers face considerable uncertainty about what constitutes qualifying health coverage and what it will cost. They also do not know what the health care market or their health care costs will look like in four years. This makes planning for the future difficult. . . .
The economy is experiencing an unusually slow recovery.  While the labor market improved steadily from January 2009 to April 2010, it suddenly stalled in May.  This coincided with the passage of President Obama’s health care overhaul, which significantly raised both the costs and uncertainty involved for businesses providing employer-sponsored health insurance.  Many businesses report that this legislation is holding back hiring.  The data suggest that these complaints are not idle.
Update:  And now Bryan Preston adds another hit (apparently by way of Andrew Breitbart), this time from Jonathan Chait of the left-wing New Republic, in an interview on the Hugh Hewitt radio show, in which Chait admits that "Obama hasn’t put any real spending cut proposals out for the public to digest".  Preston continues with:
[Chait] admits that Obama and the Democrats don’t want to cut a dime of spending next year.  They want to cut it “over the next ten years,” which is Washingtonspeak for “never,” but they won’t cut it when it counts -- right now, when they’re accountable.
Preston posts the actual interview for your listening pleasure.

Maybe that trend thing is working, and this time from the Left, no less.

Update: An IBD editorial a few days ago racks up a few more names along with Wynn:
3M's George Buckley: "We know what his instincts are," Buckley said. "We've got a real choice between manufacturing in Canada or Mexico -- which tends to be more pro-business -- and America," he told the Financial Times.
Boeing's Jim McNerney, who in the Wall Street Journal last May called Obama's handpicked National Labor Relations Board's suit against his company a "fundamental assault on the capitalist principles that have sustained America's competitiveness since it became the world's largest economy nearly 140 years ago."
Intel's Paul Otellini, who told CNET last August that the U.S. legal environment has become so hostile to business that there is likely to be "an inevitable erosion and shift of wealth, much like we're seeing today in Europe -- this is the bitter truth."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Post-War Libya: ‘Just Wing It’

You may remember that one of the many charges against George W Bush (charges that in most cases have been quietly replicated by the Obama administration) was that he did not adequately prepare for stabilizing post-war Iraq.  Is it any wonder then:
If NATO has a plan for achieving victory in Libya, it has been well disguised. Regardless, the world's most powerful military alliance will surely somehow, some day prevail over a besieged dictator with little support.  But is NATO prepared for what happens when they win?
Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen took to Twitter last week to proclaim, "Once political settlement is reached, I don't expect NATO to play leading role" and "Future to be shaped by Libyan people.  NATO will support international efforts if requested and needed."

 James Joyner of The Atlantic picks up on the otherwise stealth comparison:
The parallels with Iraq are eerie.  In his seminal work on that conflict, Fiasco, Thomas Ricks quotes Major Isaiah Wilson, the official Army historian of the spring 2003 invasion and later strategic planner in Iraq saying that there was "no single plan as of 1 May 2004 that described an executable approach to achieving the stated strategic endstate for war." Joint Staff officer Gregory Gardner explained why: "Politically, we'd made a decision that we'd turn it over to the Iraqis in June" 2003.  Additionally, an Army War College study found, what little planning there was for post-conflict stabilization was predicated on the unfounded assumption that "the international community would pick up the slack." . . .
Though NATO's intervention in Libya was authorized by UN Security Council Resolution 1973, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been virtually silent on the mission. . . .  If there's been any planning for post-conflict reconstruction, it has been quiet.
And of course, as a former participant in the charade of UN peacekeeping, I find this line almost poignant:
Peacekeeping, of course, requires that there be a peace to keep.

Australian SAS Trooper Awarded the Victoria Cross

An Australian soldier has been awarded the Victoria Cross for action in Afghanistan in June 2010.  Lance Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith, 32, received the highest award for valour for actions in the Shah Wali Kot area of north Kandahar.  This is in addition to a Medal of Gallantry received in 2006.

The actions for which Corporal Roberts-Smith earned his VC took place on June 11 last year after helicopters landed his troop near the village of Tizak in Afghanistan's Kandahar province to capture or kill a senior Taliban commander.
The VC citation states the unit was immediately pinned down by machine gun and rocket propelled grenade fire from elevated Taliban positions, and two soldiers were wounded. . . .
As Corporal Roberts-Smith headed toward a small building that provided some cover, he saw an insurgent ready to engage his patrol so instantly shot him dead at point-blank range.
He then showed his own position to the insurgent machine gunners to draw fire away from his patrol, enabling his patrol commander to throw a grenade and silence one of the guns.
"Seizing the advantage, and demonstrating extreme devotion to duty and the most conspicuous gallantry, Corporal Roberts-Smith, with a total disregard for his own safety, stormed the enemy position, killing the two remaining machine gunners," the citation reads.
Corporal Roberts-Smith went on to attack other positions and he and another patrol member killed more insurgents as his troop, no longer pinned down, cleared the village of Taliban. . . .
Corporal Roberts-Smith was awarded the Medal for Gallantry for bravery in June 2006 when his patrol was manning an observation post under insurgent attack near Afghanistan's Chora Pass.
At one point, while alone in an exposed position, he used his sniper rifle to stop the advance of 16 insurgents and held his position while under fire from other militia until air support arrived.
An earlier account provides some details that help one to better visualise the scene:
The sight of the 202cm [that works out to over 6’7”] Australian warrior coming at them must have shocked the bearded Afghans. . . .  During that fight, according to comrades, "RS" tore a Taliban fighter off his back like an insect, stood on his throat and shot him dead.
How fortunate we are that he is on our side.  Roberts-Smith becomes the most highly-decorated member of the Australian Defence Forces.

Review of 'Left Turn' by Tim Groseclose

Scott Johnson of Power Line has been posting a series about the new book written by Professor Tim Groseclose of UCLA (formerly of Stanford and Harvard) – Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind.  The preface outlines a key basis for the book:

In at least one important way journalists are very different from the rest of us – they are more liberal.  For instance, according to surveys, in a typical presidential election, Washington correspondents vote about 93-7 for the Democrat, while the rest of us vote about 50-50 for the two candidates.
As I demonstrate – using objective, social-scientific methods – the filtering [through liberal journalists] prevents us from seeing the world as it really is.  Instead, we only see a distorted version of it.  It is as if we see the world through a glass – a glass that magnifies the facts that liberals want us to see and shrinks the facts that conservatives want us to see.
This latest installment describes the impact on a story (in this case, the ‘flying imams’) of having a conservative reporter working in a liberal newsroom, namely Katherine Kersten at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
“With that story,” said Kersten, “the typical reporter would investigate a little and say, ‘Nope, nothing more there.’  But I did some research on those guys, and there was one, Omar Shahin, who had a very checkered background.  When I researched him, it took so much time.  I worked so many hours.  Yeah, my conservative perspective definitely contributed.  If you’re not interested, if you don’t see a story, you won’t do it.  To do these sorts of things, you need to have a sort of antenna up – that there may be something fishy about those guys.  Most reporters didn’t have that antenna.
I think I was the only one who actually read that whole court document,” she said.  “And then, there it was, in that one paragraph.  They were suing the ‘John Does’ on the flight.  I thought, ‘This is awful.’” . . .
Within hours after the Star Tribune published her article, Power Line, the web log that helped expose Dan Rather’s “Memogate,” reported a summary of the article.  That evening, John Gibson of Fox News reported the story.  The next morning, the Washington Times and the New York Sun reported it.  The Sun gave credit to Kersten and noted that it learned of the story through Power Line.  Several days later, Bill O’Reilly mentioned the story on his show, and soon after that, several newspapers – including the Boston Globe, USA Today, and New York Times – ran opinion pieces about it.
As Kersten hypothesized, all evidence suggests that she was the only reporter to read the entire court document.  First, the timing agrees with her hypothesis.  Before her article, several news stories mentioned the lawsuit against the airline, but none mentioned that the lawsuit targeted the passengers.  But then after Kersten wrote the article, many reporters mentioned the passengers-being-sued fact.  Second, some of the latter reporters gave credit to Kersten. Third, my research found no reporters claiming to have discovered the passengers-being-sued fact on their own.
I have been following the series and I am hooked.  This is a good exposition of the liberal impact not only on the news, but how Americans view political and social reality, which is precisely the intent of the liberal WeltanschauungProfessor Gloseclose's CV shows that his immersion in the liberal sanctuaries of academia makes it difficult for his critics to dismiss him as some conservative member of the Benighted.

Update:  Scott Johnson provides another installment, wherein the Democrats in the House seek to forestall an attempt to protect the passengers who reported the provocative actions of the fly imams from being named in the imams' lawsuit.  The motion to protect was filed by Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM):
Sadly, a lawsuit has been filed in Minnesota which named as defendants the Americans who were simply trying to protect themselves and their country.…
If we are serious about fighting terrorism, if we are serious about protecting Americans and asking them to help protect each other, then we must pass this motion.
If I leave my colleagues with one message about this motion, it is simply, no American should be sued for trying to stop terrorism.
The entry goes on to show the extraordinary lengths that the Democrats go to stifle the motion, and the result.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Balanced Budget Amendment: No

The budget battle today is marked by two plans being discussed by the Republicans: the ‘cut, cap and balance’ plan proffered by Speaker Boehner and Representative Cantor; the other is from Senate Minority Leader McConnell, which involves a trade-off between reducing spending and raising the debt limit.  President Obama and the Democrats, however, are offering . . . nothing.  Well, not since Obama offered his absurd budget proposal back in February, which was voted down in the Senate by an astoundingly bipartisan and overwhelming 97-0.  Congressional Democrats have not made a single budget proposal since 3 April 2009, over 27 months ago.

The Democrats are choosing to wait this one out in a sitzkrieg, other than lobbing in some political artillery with the press as forward observers.  The resulting Republican plans are being hammered out amongst themselves, but one part of the contending plans that stands out is the inclusion of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.  If you ask me, I say ‘no’, and Rich Lowery of National Review explains it well:
The Constitution is meant to set out the basic rules of the road for American governance.  It’s not an appropriate vehicle for enshrining transitory or controversial policy preferences.  This is what the 18th Amendment establishing Prohibition did, and so ensured widespread defiance of the nation’s foundational law. 
A balanced-budget amendment could befall the same fate at the hands of the fiscal bootleggers of Congress.  Even House Republicans voted for a budget that doesn’t balance the federal books until roughly 2030.  It’s easy to imagine Congress playing definitional games to evade the strictures of the amendment, inevitably inviting lawsuits. . . . 
The Republican amendment acknowledges there are circumstances when the budget shouldn’t necessarily be balanced.  It allows for a waiver in fiscal years in which a declaration of war against a nation-state is in effect. . . .  
We haven’t declared war on anyone since World War II.  The amendment’s exception wouldn’t have accounted for the Cold War or the War on Terror, neither of which entailed declarations of war on nation-states. 
Another provision allows three-fifths of Congress to waive the amendment for expenditures related to a military conflict “that causes an imminent and serious threat to national security.” If you believe the Cold War or the War on Terror qualifies, this could have led to constant exceptions from 1947 to 1991, and from 2001 to perhaps the present. 
A requirement to balance the budget does not mean lower budgets, only that we have to take in enough money to cover spending.  And just like supply and demand, it could mean lower spending or higher taxes.  As I explained before, Democrats will typically seek cost reduction by taking it out of the hide of the military.  The Pentagon has seen nothing of the stimulus spending spree, but the military will have to cut back drastically to compensate – a national security version of bait and switch.

In this respect, this is much like the call for term limits on politicians: we already have term limits – it is called ‘get off your ass and vote’.  We do not need a balanced budget amendment to get our spending under control.  We need the political will to do so.

. . . we have been writing since at least the 1995 vote on a balanced budget amendment that we do not believe this mechanism can achieve its desired result.  Its effects may even prove perverse.  We see no reason to change that view now. . . .  
Nor is it clear that the amendment could avoid unintended consequences.  In the current fight over spending and the debt, the GOP Congressional leadership has worked well to protect the defense budget from a President who constantly cites the need to cut it.  But under a mandated need to balance spending, the inevitable horse-trading would likely default to cutting defense while ducking fights on domestic programs.
The Senate and House versions both contain waivers in times of military conflict, but these are fraught with problems.  The supermajority requirement for taxes is waived if a "declaration of war" is in effect, or if a majority votes to support spending for a conflict "which causes an imminent and serious military threat" as described in a joint resolution of Congress.  Sounds complicated.  Would Ronald Reagan's spending that did so much to end the Cold War have survived these hurdles? . . .
The BBA's [Balanced Budget Amendment] supporters are right that the U.S. is riding a runaway entitlement train.  That train, however, is the product of politics, and politics is the way it will have to be stopped.  The main political impact of the BBA, however, will be to give "moderate" Senate Democrats up for re-election next year a chance to enhance their prospects by voting "for" spending control they don't believe in.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Seven Errors in One NY Times Editorial

The Prima Donna of the MSM is the Grey Lady of the New York Times, whose motto is “All the News That’s Fit to Print”.  The term ‘news’ includes their editorial opinion, normally to be limited to the editorial pages but frankly found throughout the paper in several forms, not the least of which is the list of stories which they consider to be news – along with their particular slant – as well as the stories which remain unpublished.  This presupposes that the editorial board has the power to make such a judgment on the behalf of the ‘masses’, as they are affectionally known, or ‘low-sloping foreheads’.  But while they are entitled to their own opinion, they are not entitled to their own facts.

The idea of competition has largely vanished in print media, though there are some newer and quality examples of newspapers, such as the Washington Times, that take on the entrenched liberal print media.  There is also the blooming of web logs or ‘blogs’ that provide media that can “fact-check your ass” (in words apparently coined by Ken Layne), such as the famous example of the destruction of the fraudulent and forged story of the National Guard service of George W Bush, perpetrated by Dan Rather, Mary Mapes and others in the news section of CBS despite their attempt to stonewall the criticism with claims that their critics were not legitimate journalists, further focusing on the fact that the word 'journalist' has no meaning today beyond 'a person employed by a news outlet'.

Yesterday saw a good example of how the movement continues to hold the press accountable, in a posting by Benjamin Wittes of Lawfare, taking on an editorial in the pages of The New York Times Sunday Review in ‘Terrorism and the Law’.  To quote Wittes:
I am not sure how I stumbled into the role of unpaid fact-checker for the New York Times editorial page on matters of law and security.  But as long as the Times keeps publishing editorials like this one, there needs to be some correction mechanism somewhere.  And since the Times itself insists both on making serial factual errors and on not ever correcting any of them, the sad burden seems to fall on me.  The Times, of course, has policies about correcting factual errors – not to mention presumably about not publishing facts its writers know to be false.
Nice touch that.  A story that is false and known to be false by its teller is part of the definition of fraud.

Wittes takes apart the story, involving the detention and interrogation of Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, and nails the writers on seven factual errors contained in the article (he takes no stance on their opinion).  I won’t dilute the importance of the critique by trying to condense it, but I instead ask you to read the whole post.  (The AUMF referenced in the post is the Authorization for Use of Military Force of 18 September 2001.) Wittes concludes in part:
These sorts of mistakes are altogether avoidable.  There is nothing about the Times’ normative position against non-criminal detention that requires that it serially publish statements that are not true.  Plenty of detention foes manage to express their opposition to the practice without making up facts.  And the Times needn’t misinform its readers about basic facts either in order to argue its points.  But its editorial writers don’t seem remotely interested in exploring how they can make their points in a fashion consistent with the realities they are supposedly bound to report.
Read the whole thing.  The law is not what the New York Times wishes it to be, and Wittes does an admirable job of holding them to the truth of the law.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Political Correctness Further Entrenched in Academia

Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute writes of how political correctness is enshrined and protected in academia.  Despite cutbacks and downsizing across America during this economic crisis, so severe that even the public service sector is feeling the impact, you can rest assured that there are jobs that some dare not even contemplate touching.  And in the Liberal Progressive entrenched universities, such areas are actively protected, as she describes at the University of California system in ‘Less Academics, More Narcissism’:
Even as UC campuses jettison entire degree programs and lose faculty to competing universities, one fiefdom has remained virtually sacrosanct: the diversity machine.
Not only have diversity sinecures been protected from budget cuts, their numbers are actually growing. The University of California at San Diego, for example, is creating a new full-time “vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion.” This position would augment UC San Diego’s already massive diversity apparatus, which includes the Chancellor’s Diversity Office, the associate vice chancellor for faculty equity, the assistant vice chancellor for diversity, the faculty equity advisors, the graduate diversity coordinators, the staff diversity liaison, the undergraduate student diversity liaison, the graduate student diversity liaison, the chief diversity officer, the director of development for diversity initiatives, the Office of Academic Diversity and Equal Opportunity, the Committee on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Issues, the Committee on the Status of Women, the Campus Council on Climate, Culture and Inclusion, the Diversity Council, and the directors of the Cross-Cultural Center, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center, and the Women’s Center.
This is an excellent article (as is Ms MacDonald’s norm), and well deserving to be read by anyone interested in the decline of the American educational system.

I would quote the old fable about the frog and scorpion crossing the stream, but you get my drift.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Economy Continues to Slump; Obama's Expectations Increasingly Dour

James Pethokoukis of Reuters writes of the latest report from Goldman Sachs that he says is an “economic bomb on President Obama’s chances for re-election”.  He quotes from the report itself:

Following another week of weak economic data, we have cut our estimates for real GDP growth in the second and third quarter of 2011 to 1.5% and 2.5%, respectively, from 2% and 3.25%. Our forecasts for Q4 and 2012 are under review, but even excluding any further changes we now expect the unemployment rate to come down only modestly to 8.75% at the end of 2012. [emphasis his]
He continues with a contrast between what we are seeing now and the “astounding optimistic forecast” of the Obama White House, and concludes:
Goldman Sachs doesn’t have to tell you things are bad. . . .  Unemployment is at 9.2 percent (11.4 percent if the official labor force hadn’t collapsed since 2008 and 16.2 percent if you include discouraged and underemployed workers.)  Moreover, the economy grew at just 1.9 percent in the first quarter of this year and may have grown less than 2 percent in the second. Wages and income are going nowhere fast.
When will the White House signal a change of economic direction?  Will cutting tax rates and regulation ever make it on the agenda?  That may be the only way Obama can win another term.  And time is running short.
(H/T to Rick Moran, American Thinker Blog

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fast and Furious: Still Covering for the Cover-Up

Bob Owens of Pajamas Media has an excellent critique of a couple of fatuous articles about the Gunwalker or Operation Fast and Furious scandal, charging that these are just more examples of the MSM wishing that the problem would just go away.

The first, by CNN’s Ruben Navarrette Jr, claims that the administration’s attempt to create rifle reporting requirements for dealers in the southern border states is to track the bulk sale of automatic rifles (machine guns).  Owens responds:
Automatic weapons were not among those being trafficked from American gun shops to Mexican cartels.
Not a single one.
They have been heavily regulated since the National Firearms Act of 1934, and in the 77 years since that became the law of the land, machine guns like those you would find in a few specialized gun shops have been used in just two illegal homicides. [emphasis his]
As I've discussed before, (here, here, and here), military firearms used by the cartels tend to come from military sources; none have been found to have come from civilian arms dealers here in the US.

An unsigned editorial in the New York Times continues to repeat the canard that 70 per cent of the firearms recovered in Mexico come from the US (a “blatant fabrication” that has been refuted for some time now in a variety of places, including here).  Owens:
In actuality, 83 percent of guns used by the cartels come from somewhere other than the United States, and of the 17 percent traced to U.S. origins, roughly 8 percent were traced to U.S. gun shops.
Plus, we now know that a substantial portion of the weapons that transited gun shops did so as a direct result of federal law enforcement agencies telling dealers to make questionable sales to suspected cartel gun runners.
A fact the Times conveniently and purposefully ignores.
Owens brings up the continuing problem of the use of the term ‘assault weapon’, which in actuality is an automatic (fires more than one round with one pull of the trigger), individually-carried, military firearm, ergonomically designed to aid in the assault on the enemy or an objective.  This is opposed to the portrayal of an assault weapon by the anti-gun lobby and media (but I repeat myself) as any firearm which, well, looks cool.  In other words, if a rifle looks military to them, then it is an assault weapon, whether it functions that way or not.
The Times editors presumably know little of firearms from firsthand experience, but are certainly intelligent enough to know the practical and academic differences between a military or law enforcement machine gun and a civilian rifle.  They simply choose to conflate the two when it suits [them] . . . they’re more than willing to fabricate when fudging the truth won’t do. . . .
The public is too well-educated, the evidence of probable criminality too blatant and widespread.  The administration’s apparent plan to use gun violence to spur support for gun control efforts has become Watergate with a body count . . .

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Obama Party Plans

Have you asked yourself about this debt-limit ceiling established by Treasury Secretary Geithner?  Why 2 August?  Why not some other date, preferably further down the road?  After all, once you look into it, it would seem that the 2nd is an arbitrary and capricious date.

Well, now we know.  Obama doesn't want to miss that gala fund-raising blow-out in Chicago.  You might think that this would be bad optics (to use the current political vernacular), coming the day after the imminent collapse of the American economy.  One would assume that the press would be compliant or complicit in not drawing a connection.  Right?

Update:  Jeannie DeAngelis at American Thinker picks up on the party theme:

Barack's Birthday Bash has been scheduled for August 4th -- the day after the United States of America is due to officially downshift from the black into the red.  The festivities should be a pleasant albeit bizarre distraction from the weeping and gnashing of teeth taking place outside the walls of the concert hall, if the nation actually defaults.
And I always smile when I hear words such as these:
The news comes just days after Obama was lamenting the burden of having to keep "hundreds of thousands of [unnecessary] dollars in additional income." 
If Obama or anyone else finds themselves in the dilemma of having too much income which they feel should have been taxed, then all they have to do is make out a check to the US Treasury.  I remember that Virginia (under a Republican administration) recently wanted to 'call the bluff' of those who were actually saying that everyone else should be taxed at a higher rate, by adding a 'tax me more' block on the state income tax.  I believe that they reported an extra $117 that year.