Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Obama's Muslim Problem . . . And Ours

The Obama Administration insists that the ongoing demonstrations outside our embassies in Muslim nations constitute a reaction to a trailer posted on You Tube of a yet unreleased dramatization of the life of Mohammed.   This is partially true. The Obama Administration sees it as the complete truth, however, because to do otherwise would admit the failure of "A New Beginning"  announced at Cairo University on June 4, 2009 and question the wisdom of its support of the so-called "Arab Spring."


Aside from the President's claim to have acquired special insight from growing up in a Muslim country and community organizing among Muslims in Chicago, the Cairo speech was not that bad. It did contain, however, one glaring error:



"I've come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition.  Instead, they overlap, and share common principles -- principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings."


The President elaborated later in his speech:


"But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things:  the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose.  These are not just American ideas; they are human rights.  And that is why we will support them everywhere."


Obama's problem is that tolerance and human rights are not really part of what we might call the"public philosophy" of Muslim countries. Their public philosophy might best be articulated as "There is no God but Allah and Mohammad is his prophet." Political implications based upon that statement do not leave much room for human rights. Merely setting up a procedural democracy in such countries guarantees neither a government respectful of  human rights nor a government friendly to the United States.

In contrast, our public philosophy as articulated in the Declaration of Independence centers on equality, natural rights, and government by consent. The procedural democracy set up by our Constitution rests upon that public philosophy and respects those rights.

Obama's problem, however, is our problem as well. For Obama's approach to the Muslim world is pretty much Bush III and reflects the view of most establishment Republicans. Remember all the hand-holding and lip-smacking that Bush engaged in with members of the Saudi ruling family? Remember Bush's description of Islam as a religion of peace? And remember that Bush also sought to establish procedural democracies in the Muslim world in Afghanistan, Iraq, and in the Palestinian National Authority? The elections in Palestine resulted in the victory  of Hamas and the subsequent fighting between Hamas and Fatah in Palestine. The governments in Afghanistan and Iraq will collapse after we leave.

The fact that many conservatives share Obama's presuppositions about the Muslim world has not stopped them from engaging in both criticism and rank hypocrisy. Jon Stewart (not really my favorite)  recently drew attention to such hypocrisy recently on his show.






Apparently some conservatives embrace the spread of democracy as part of our mission as long as we spread it through warfare by Republican administrations. Not so if Muslims overthrow despotic regimes on their own.

Maybe we need to focus more on simply protecting the national security of the United States instead of bringing regime change to nations that do not share our cultural history or public philosophy. John Stuart Mill's reflection from over one hundred years ago on whether democracy is appropriate for subjects of British imperialism seems more prescient than ever:


“Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, provided the end be their improvement.”



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Hooray for Hollywood

As the fervor spreads in the Middle East outside several American embassies, the Obama Administration continues to insist that both the demonstrations in Cairo and the attack in Benghazi were spontaneous reactions to a trailer on You Tube for an anti-Islamic movie that has yet to be released.








The characterization might be somehwat accurate for Cairo, although it does not take much to assemble a crowd to torch some American flags,  shake impotent fists at the sky, and shout out well-wishes in the name of Allah. It appears pretty clear to common sense, however, that "spontaneous" does not accurately describe an attack with assault rifles and grenade launchers.

(Meanwhile, Egypt exercising its Islamic sovereignty over the United States, has charged eight Americans associated with the video with religious crimes.)

Interestingly, while our Secretary of State and the embassies in Cairo and Pakistan have condemned the video,  Hollywood continues production of a movie entitled Zero Dark Thirty. The movie dramatizes Operation Neptune Spear, the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The movie received some unexpected publicity a few month back when Judicial Watch learned that the Obama Administration leaked classified information to the movie director and gave privileged access to the the CIA installation where some of the planning for the raid took place.

The producers plan to release the movie--no surprise here--a few weeks before the November election.


The movie could provoke a whole new series of demonstrations.


Will the Obama Administration will condemn THAT movie as well?

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Couple of Anniversaries

As many news media outlets noted, today marks the first anniversary of the OWS Movement.

As I predicted last year, the movement has amounted to nothing. Unlike the Tea Party Movement, the OWS Movement never followed up public protests with political mobilization. Meanwhile, local Tea Party groups continue to meet and plan for local, state, and national elections.

As many news media outlets forgot, today also marks the 225th anniversary of the United States Constitution.




Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pandemic of Paranoia in the Middle East

The on-going insanity in the Middle East allegedly inspired by a yet unreleased movie bings back memories of similar mad behavior over the Geert Wilders film, FITNA.  Wilders, you may remember, did not produce a "dramatic presentation" of the life and times of the prophet Mohammed. He merely quoted passages from the Quran accompanied by the chief contemporary contributions of Islam's true believers  to modern civilization.









Below is British observer Pat Condell's assessment the threats of violence in response to FITNA and the weakness shown by the governments of Eurabia.





Wednesday, September 12, 2012

9/11 Eleven Years Later: Cowardice, Confusion, and Capitulation

The somber reflections during the  eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks now have been overshadowed by acts of cowardice, confusion, and capitulation.

First, Muslim cowards armed with machine guns and rocket propelled grenades attacked an unfortified embassy in Benghazi, burned it to the ground, and killed at least three Americans. The victims included Ambassador Christopher Stevens. That same day another mob of cowards attacked the American embassy in Egypt, pulling down an American flag and hoisting a black Islamic banner in its stead.

Their inspiration? At least some of them viewed an anti-Islamic film on You Tube. Interestingly, every time Westerners produce a movie or cartoon depicting Islam as an intolerant and violent religion, Muslims react in intolerant and violent ways--proving exactly the point of these Western critics. For others, the movie served as a pretense for a well-planned assault.

Second, the embassy in Cairo released an cowardly apologetic and capitulating statement about the film before the crowds acutally breached the compound.

The State Department subsequently walked back these comments, showing the confusion over the proper response to these events.  In a press conference President Obama gave a thoughtful tribute to Christopher Stevens and all our diplomats abroad. He clearly condemned the violence  and promised to bring the perpetrators to justice. Then he offered this caveat:

"While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants."

Actually, the denigration of other people's religious beliefs is an American tradition. In fact, in our competitive free market approach to religion, American Christians are most adept at eviscerating the religious dogmas of their denominational competition.

Finally, and perhaps the biggest act of cowardice of all, is that the producer of the film that sparked the violence has gone into hiding. He made the movie for who knows what reason. We already know everything he probably has to say.

Yes, we know Islam is an intolerant and violent religion.

Yes, we have the right to assert that claim in a movie.

Yes, while other lost their lives, you Sam Bacile, according to media reports,  have gone into hiding.

What a f****** coward.






Saturday, September 8, 2012

Obamarama



Well, the Charlotte, North Carolina Obamarama finally ended . . . not with a bang but a whimper.


The convention featured speaker after speaker devoted to attacking the Romney-Ryan ticket as if THEY were the incumbents. The Social Democrats have no record of achievement about which they can boast. And after rousing speeches by Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, and Bill Clinton, President Obama brought let the house down.

Even the Washington Post wrote of the speech's “hazy agenda” for the possible second term.





 

Obama opened the speech with an allusion to the theme of his first speech before the Democratic National Convention back in 2004 and one he campaigned on in 2008--hope and change.

Now, the first time I addressed this convention in 2004, I was a younger man; a Senate candidate from Illinois who spoke about hope, not blind optimism or wishful thinking, but hope in the face of difficulty; hope in the face of uncertainty; that dogged faith in the future which has pushed this nation forward, even when the odds are great; even when the road is long.

Eight years later, that hope has been tested, by the cost of war; by one of the worst economic crises in history; and by political gridlock that’s left us wondering whether it’s still even possible to tackle the challenges of our time.”


Although Obama never tires of reminding us that he inherited the war and the economic crisis, the gridlock was his own doing. Instead of tackling the unemployment problem, the Obama administration turned stimulus packages into benefits programs for political supporters and turned health insurance reform into the greatest assertion of federal power since the New Deal. The voters reacted to this overreach in the midterm elections of 2010.


Obama then hammered on the theme of all previous speakers: this election is about choice. (And which election isn't?)

And on every issue, the choice you face won’t be just between two candidates or two parties.

It will be a choice between two different paths for America.

A choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future.

But when all is said and done, when you pick up that ballot to vote, you will face the clearest choice of any time in a generation. Over the next few years, big decisions will be made in Washington, on jobs, the economy; taxes and deficits; energy, education; war and peace, decisions that will have a huge impact on our lives and our children’s lives for decades to come.

And on every issue, the choice you face won’t be just between two candidates or two parties.

It will be a choice between two different paths for America.

A choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future.”


This could be the theme of the Republican Party convention . . . and it was!

Then he laid out the vague but ambitious agenda for the next for years on jobs, trade, energy, environment, education, foreign affairs, and even deficit reduction.

Though he reminded party members to “remember that not every problem can be remedied with another government program or dictate from Washington,” He promised to remedy every problem with another government program.

With some sentimental stories of people who gave him hope, he finally concluded:

America, I never said this journey would be easy, and I won’t promise that now. Yes, our path is harder, but it leads to a better place. Yes our road is longer, but we travel it together. We don’t turn back. We leave no one behind. We pull each other up. We draw strength from our victories, and we learn from our mistakes, but we keep our eyes fixed on that distant horizon, knowing that Providence is with us, and that we are surely blessed to be citizens of the greatest nation on Earth.”


It is difficult to imagine a more damning indictment of the Obama administration than his acknowledgement that after four years, the road is harder and the journey longer than when we began it four years ago.
 
 




Sorry, Mr. President, that is not forward.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Clinton's Call for Bush IV


Bill Clinton gave the speech officially putting Barack Obama's name into nomination for the Presidency. Judging from the initial reaction to the speech, a host of observers experienced something akin that that "leg tingle" Chris Matthews described in the early days of Obamamania. Although full of rhetoric, it was empty on reality.








Clinton opened with more allusions to Obama's personal adversity that he implicitly linked to the adversity faced by Americans in our tough economic times. Obama, too, feels our pain.


"I want to nominate a man whose own life has known its fair share of adversity and uncertainty.

He made the first of several counterfactual arguments, unsupported by any evidence,  of what might have happened if not for Obama.

 "A man who ran for President to change the course of an already weak economy and then just six weeks before the election, saw it suffer the biggest collapse since the Great Depression. A man who stopped the slide into depression and put us on the long road to recovery, knowing all the while that no matter how many jobs were created and saved, there were still millions more waiting, trying to feed their children and keep their hopes alive."

He offered up the obligatory charge that the uncompromising spirit of the Tea Party has made things even more difficult for Obama to do even more.

"Unfortunately, the faction that now dominates the Republican Party doesn't see it that way. They think government is the enemy, and compromise is weakness."

Aside from Obama's unwillingness to compromise or even seek input from the Republicans, the time for compromise has passed. A couple of decades of compromises between the Social Democrat and Republican members of the political class is exactly what got us into the current situation.

He attacked and mocked the Republican  message given in Tampa:

"In Tampa, the Republican argument against the President's re-election was pretty simple: we left him a total mess, he hasn't cleaned it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in.

I like the argument for President Obama's re-election a lot better. He inherited a deeply damaged economy, put a floor under the crash, began the long hard road to recovery, and laid the foundation for a modern, more well-balanced economy that will produce millions of good new jobs, vibrant new businesses, and lots of new wealth for the innovators."


Then he went through a list of Obama accomplishments:


Recovery act
Automobile bailouts.

Health care overhaul.

College loan bailout.
Some critics have described the Clinton's speech as an attempt to tie the Obama administration to the success of the Clinton years. But Clinton's list of so-called accomplishments sounds like he is arguing for another term for Bush. After all, hasn't Obama I pretty much been Bush III?
Yes. Yes. Yes. We know Obama inherited a mess. As suggested above, however, it was inherited only in the sense that George Bush happened to sit in the White House at the time of the collapse. The failure was a "team effort" of both Republicans and Social Democrats--including the financial deregulation that took place under YOUR administration.
He closed on the same note as all other speakers of both conventions--the future.
"I love our country – and I know we're coming back. For more than 200 years, through every crisis, we've always come out stronger than we went in. And we will again as long as we do it together. We champion the cause for which our founders pledged their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor – to form a more perfect union."
But that is a problem. We always come back stronger, but so does the government. It grows exponentially through crises: Civil War, WWI, Great Depression, WWII, Cold War,  the 2008 Wall Street collapse, and the imaginary health care crisis.
And after the crises pass, government never returns to previous levels.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Milchelle Obama's Pillow Talk


Michelle Obama gave her version of the spousal speech to humanize her husband.

Reaction from the “mainstream media” was hardly muted.

History changing. . . passionate . . . impassioned . . . she connected with the audience . . . she owned the audience . . . she captured her audience . . . .
 
 
 

She opened with her account of life before her husband became The One.

Our life before moving to Washington was filled with simple joys...Saturdays at soccer games, Sundays at grandma's house...and a date night for Barack and me was either dinner or a movie, because as an exhausted mom, I couldn't stay awake for both.

And the truth is, I loved the life we had built for our girls...I deeply loved the man I had built that life with...and I didn't want that to change if he became President.

I loved Barack just the way he was.”


Then she made her entry into what Britt Hume at FOX called the “deprivation derby”--all these wealthy political elites like the Romneys and the Obamas sharing how they were once like us.

You see, even though back then Barack was a Senator and a presidential candidate...to me, he was still the guy who'd picked me up for our dates in a car that was so rusted out, I could actually see the pavement going by through a hole in the passenger side door...he was the guy whose proudest possession was a coffee table he'd found in a dumpster, and whose only pair of decent shoes was half a size too small.”

She summed up his first term:

He's thinking about the pride that comes from a hard day's work.

That's why he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to help women get equal pay for equal work.

That's why he cut taxes for working families and small businesses and fought to get the auto industry back on its feet.

That's how he brought our economy from the brink of collapse to creating jobs again – jobs you can raise a family on, good jobs right here in the United States of America.

When it comes to the health of our families, Barack refused to listen to all those folks who told him to leave health reform for another day, another president.

He didn't care whether it was the easy thing to do politically – that's not how he was raised – he cared that it was the right thing to do.

He did it because he believes that here in America, our grandparents should be able to afford their medicine...our kids should be able to see a doctor when they're sick...and no one in this country should ever go broke because of an accident or illness.

And he believes that women are more than capable of making our own choices about our bodies and our health care...that's what my husband stands for.

When it comes to giving our kids the education they deserve, Barack knows that like me and like so many of you, he never could've attended college without financial aid.as”

And of course, one more dip into deprivation:

And believe it or not, when we were first married, our combined monthly student loan bills were actually higher than our mortgage.”

I am not sure that is something to brag about. Living beyond our means is exactly what politicians of both parties have been doing for a couple of decades now. That is why we are in such a mess.

Barack Obama, however, does not realize the mess we are in. For he is still the same man she married:

So when people ask me whether being in the White House has changed my husband, I can honestly say that when it comes to his character, and his convictions, and his heart, Barack Obama is still the same man I fell in love with all those years ago”

She concluded with her aspirations for the future of her nation and its children, at least the ones that made it out of the womb:

Because today, I know from experience that if I truly want to leave a better world for my daughters, and all our sons and daughters...if we want to give all our children a foundation for their dreams and opportunities worthy of their promise...if we want to give them that sense of limitless possibility – that belief that here in America, there is always something better out there if you're willing to work for it...then we must work like never before...and we must once again come together and stand together for the man we can trust to keep moving this great country forward...my husband, our President, President Barack Obama.”

Wow.

History changing. . . passionate . . . impassioned . . . she connected with the audience . . . she owned the audience . . . she captured her audience . . . .
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Mitt's Message



Mitt Romney gave a sound, if not particularly inspiring, speech accepting the Republican Party nomination as President. It consisted of a mixture of allusions to his business success, his political experience as governor of Massachussetts, several sentimental reflections about his personal life, some policy presciptions, and few somewhat clumsy appeals to immigrant and women voters. Romney's strongest feature of his speech was the way he linked all of his themes to the everyday lives and experiences of the average American. Whether this helps him “connect” with voters remains to be seen.
 
 
 
 






He opened his speech recalling the last Presidential election:


Four years ago, I know that many Americans felt a fresh excitement about the possibilities of a new president. That president was not the choice of our party but Americans always come together after elections. We are a good and generous people who are united by so much more than what divides us.

When that hard fought election was over, when the yard signs came down and the television commercials finally came off the air, Americans were eager to go back to work, to live our lives the way Americans always have – optimistic and positive and confident in the future.”



This is good description of what the average Americans did after the election. Most of us, even the political junkies, do not wake up or drift off asleep thinking about politics. The Obama administration, of course, immediately went to work to fundamentally transforming the United States of America.


And what is the result?

But today, four years from the excitement of the last election, for the first time, the majority of Americans now doubt that our children will have a better future. It is not what we were promised.”

He continued the theme developed by Paul Ryan the night before regarding the incompetence of the Obama administration and the “we can do this” spirit of Romney-Ryan ticket.

I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed. But his promises gave way to disappointment and division. This isn't something we have to accept. Now is the moment when we CAN do something. With your help we will do something.

Now is the moment when we can stand up and say, “I’m an American. I make my destiny. And we deserve better! My children deserve better! My family deserves better. My country deserves better!”

In one of the few attempts of humorous sarcasm, Romney tried to contrast the simplicity of his ambitions with those of our current President:

He promised to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.”


Finally, Romney laid out a five point basic agenda for his administration. Although he will find them elusive goals, they provide his audience at least with some perspective of where he is coming from and what he believes is important:


First, by 2020, North America will be energy independent by taking full advantage of our oil and coal and gas and nuclear and renewables.

Second, we will give our fellow citizens the skills they need for the jobs of today and the careers of tomorrow. When it comes to the school your child will attend, every parent should have a choice, and every child should have a chance.

Third, we will make trade work for America by forging new trade agreements. And when nations cheat in trade, there will be unmistakable consequences.

Fourth, to assure every entrepreneur and every job creator that their investments in America will not vanish as have those in Greece, we will cut the deficit and put America on track to a balanced budget.

And fifth, we will champion SMALL businesses, America’s engine of job growth. That means reducing taxes on business, not raising them. It means simplifying and modernizing the regulations that hurt small business the most. And it means that we must rein in the skyrocketing cost of healthcare by repealing and replacing Obamacare.”



He concluded, like every candidate, with a promise to take us back to the future.

“If I am elected President of these United States, I will work with all my energy and soul to restore that America, to lift our eyes to a better future. That future is our destiny. That future is out there. It is waiting for us. Our children deserve it, our nation depends upon it, the peace and freedom of the world require it. And with your help we will deliver it. Let us begin that future together tonight.”

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Flyin' with Ryan


Paul Ryan delivered a soaring  speech at the Republican Convention that clearly defined the issues and the differences between the Republicans and Social Democrats in this election.







His opening remarks established the themes of his talk:

I accept the duty to help lead our nation out of a jobs crisis and back to prosperity – and I know we can do this.

I accept the calling of my generation to give our children the America that was given to us, with opportunity for the young and security for the old – and I know that we are ready.

They've run out of ideas. Their moment came and went. Fear and division are all they've got left.”









The first statement introduced the idea of competence—that we can do this. Ryan later developed this claim that the Obama administration amounts to a colossal failure that needs to be replaced. He detailed the scope of the failure:


Right now, 23 million men and women are struggling to find work. Twenty-three million people, unemployed or underemployed. Nearly one in six Americans is living in poverty. Millions of young Americans have graduated from college during the Obama presidency, ready to use their gifts and get moving in life. Half of them can't find the work they studied for, or any work at all.”


The financial packages that supposedly were aimed at getting people back to work seemed more about rewarding political supporters:


It was President Obama's first and best shot at fixing the economy, at a time when he got everything he wanted under one-party rule. It cost $831 billion – the largest one-time expenditure ever by our federal government. It went to companies like Solyndra, with their gold-plated connections, subsidized jobs, and make-believe markets. The stimulus was a case of political patronage, corporate welfare, and cronyism at their worst. You, the working men and women of this country, were cut out of the deal.”


The second statement in his opening remarks appealed to a new generation of voters not only experiencing the loss of career opportunities, but also open to the bold reforms needed to bring entitlement expenses under control. (It also implied a nice contrast between Ryan the younger reformer and Joe Biden, his “liberal establishment” Social Democrat counterpart.)


College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life. Everyone who feels stuck in the Obama economy is right to focus on the here and now. And I hope you understand this too, if you're feeling left out or passed by: You have not failed, your leaders have failed you.”


The third statement suggested that “hope and change” really amounted to a massive expansion of traditional entitlements that already were bankrupting the national treasury. Moreover, it came as a result of astonishingly misplaced priorities:


Here we were, faced with a massive job crisis – so deep that if everyone out of work stood in single file, that unemployment line would stretch the length of the entire American continent. You would think that any president, whatever his party, would make job creation, and nothing else, his first order of economic business. But this president didn't do that. Instead, we got a long, divisive, all-or-nothing attempt to put the federal government in charge of health care.”


Ryan summarized things concisely:


It began with a financial crisis; it ends with a job crisis.

It began with a housing crisis they alone didn't cause; it ends with a housing crisis they didn't correct.

It began with a perfect Triple-A credit rating for the United States; it ends with a downgraded America.


It all started off with stirring speeches, Greek columns, the thrill of something new. Now all that's left is a presidency adrift, surviving on slogans that already seem tired, grasping at a moment that has already passed, like a ship trying to sail on yesterday's wind.”


Closing, Ryan again raised the issue of competence and the "can do" spirit:


We will not spend four years blaming others, we will take responsibility.

We will not try to replace our founding principles, we will reapply our founding principles.

The work ahead will be hard. These times demand the best of us – all of us, but we can do this. Together, we can do this.

We can get this country working again. We can get this economy growing again. We can make the safety net safe again. We can do this.

Whatever your political party, let's come together for the sake of our country. Join Mitt Romney and me. Let's give this effort everything we have. Let's see this through all the way. Let's get this done.

Thank you, and God bless.”