Friday, September 30, 2011

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Lawyers Rule

By Alan Caruba

If one looks back over the history of the members of Congress, the occupation that dominates is lawyers. It is reasonable to assume that those in charge of making laws would attract those who practice it to public office.

I got to thinking about this while considering the current 112th Congress, one that has imposed Obamacare on an unwilling majority of the population with former Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, telling us that Congress had to pass this abomination in order to find out what was in it.

President Obama is a former lawyer with zero experience in the world of business and commerce. His current obsession is with “millionaires and billionaires.”

According to data from the Congressional Research Service, the dominant profession of Senators is law, followed by politics—also called “public service.” In the House, most members come from business, followed by public service, then law.

In the Senate, 49 had previous service in the House. In the House and Senate, 81 members were educators. There are two medical doctors in the Senate while the House has 15, plus two dentists, one veterinarian, one ophthalmologist, and one psychiatrist.

In the entire Congress, there is only one physicist, one chemist, six engineers, and one microbiologist.

Given the appalling financial condition of the nation, there are only seven accountants in the House and two in the Senate.

There are only five current members of Congress who served in the military Reserves, three in the House and two in the Senate. Four are current members in the National Guard; three in the House and one in the Senate. Four Representatives and one Senator are graduates of the U.S. Military Academy. Two Senators and one Representative are graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy.

In the 112th Congress, the Senate has a former comedian.

The 112th Congress has tossed aside its primary function to address the financial stability of the nation by authorizing a “super committee”, equally divided between Republicans and Democrats despite the fact that Republicans control the House where the authorization of all funding is a Constitutional mandate and the Democrats control the Senate by a bare majority of one vote.

There is extreme partisanship in both houses of Congress because the nation is sharply divided along liberal and conservative political preferences regarding its proper governance.

The 2010 elections moved the House in the direction of conservatism. For forty years Democrats controlled the Congress until the 1994 elections gave power to Republicans. It has seesawed back and forth since then, but both parties did little to address the issue of “entitlements”, Social Security and Medicare, or the looming housing mortgage crisis that imploded in 2008.

The 2008 election gave the nation its first president who, despite flowing rhetoric about bringing together the opposing factions in Congress, has not served from a center-left position, but has plunged totally into a far Left takeover of large portions of the nation’s economy from health to auto manufacturing to financial services.

For those who despair of the present and future, it is worth noting that the Founding Fathers created a Constitution that was designed to deliberately slow down the process of legislation with checks and balances that included presidential veto powers and a Supreme Court to determine issues of constitutionality.

The last time the nation was this divided, it fought a Civil War over the issues of slavery and states rights. This time, Americans are patiently waiting for the 2012 national elections to vote in a new president and rearrange the seating charts in Congress to favor conservative legislators. Who says so? All the polls.

The Tea Party movement was the direct result of the rejection of Obamacare which has been repealed in the House and is headed to the Supreme Court. The uncertainty surrounding it continues to have a profound and negative affect on the economy.

Like moths to a candle, the power vested in Congress has drawn lawyers as the group most interested in holding high office. That remains the case today and raises the question of how a group of men and women trained to lie on behalf of their clients can be trusted to make informed and intelligent decisions about the conduct of the nation’s affairs.

“It has been said that Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried”, said Winston Churchill. In a private moment, he is quoted as having said, “Americans can always be relied upon to do the right thing — after they have exhausted all other remedies.”

We have been exhausted by the socialism of past Congresses and the remedies that President Obama has tried to impose on an unwilling nation. It is time to do the right thing.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Disarming America's Military

By Alan Caruba

In the preamble of the Constitution, the founding fathers made clear their priorities and among them was “provide for the common defense” to “secure the blessings of liberty.”

Ramping up an army and navy was an early priority of the nation’s first presidents because, then as now, the United States had real enemies.

The congressional “super committee” charged with finding cuts in the budget is testimony to the failure of Congress to attend to one of its primary duties and to the gridlock of partisanship. The notion of an automatic across-the-boards budget cut of $1.5 trillion is aimed at the growth in spending over the next decade, not a reduction in those programs that are responsible for an unsustainable debt.

A Rasmussen Reports survey released on September 28 revealed that “Americans think that tax hikes are more likely than spending cuts in any deficit reduction deal that comes out of Congress and are more convinced than ever that any new tax monies will be spent on new government programs.”

Nearly two-thirds of American adults, 62%, have no confidence in Congress’s ability to actually reduce spending for the purpose of reducing the federal deficit. The latest poll on this topic represented an increase of four points over the previous one in February.

In an article posted on, a September 26 report released by the House Armed Services Committee warned that $465 billion in cuts to the defense budget over ten years would “transform a Superpower into a Regional Power” and return the military to funding levels of “the post-Vietnam Carter era of the late 1970s.”

The report contemplated cuts that would “eliminate 60 ships, two carrier battle groups, and over 200,000 troops through 2021. The Army would lose ground combat vehicles. The Navy would suffer cuts in ship building and replacements for older ships. The Air Force would likely lose the next generation bombers and aerial refueling tanker aircraft. The Marine Corps would lose personnel carriers and indefinitely postpone replacements for new amphibious assault vehicles and ships.

Michael M. Dunn, president of the Air Force Association, in a memo to its members, referred to the cuts as draconian, noting that “It would gut many programs, throw tens of thousands of troops out of work, cause major force reductions, and necessitate closing bases. Our allies would begin to question our commitments in both conventional and extended deterrence realms.”

The budget and debt problems the nation faces are based in large part on our so-called “entitlement” programs that are hugely wasteful and in need of reform. There are entire federal departments such as Education that could be eliminated to the benefit of the nation, returning this function to the states instead.

Lost in the current debate is the fact that it is Congress that authorizes the funding of the many programs that waste millions on a weekly basis. An across the boards cut ignores priorities and, among them all, defense is the most essential.

Lost, too, is the realization that the U.S. has entered into an entirely new era of warfare. In a speech in June to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, William J. Lyon, Deputy Secretary of Defense, noted that “For centuries, the most economically developed nations wielded the most lethal military power”, but not anymore.

How has war changed? Think about this, “Our deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan have now lasted longer than the U.S. participation in World War I and World War II combined,” said Lyon. “We must sustain long-term commitments for a range of plausible conflicts.” Moreover, today’s military must be ready for both high-end and low-end (insurgencies) threats." And the newest threat, cyberwarfare.

No one suggests that the Defense Department is a paragon or that it does not need to review issues such as its pension programs that begin at age 38 when retired personnel have twenty more years of productivity left. Even with aspects of the military that need revision, a United States of America with a military expected to fight with the weapons of the Vietnam era is an invitation to the nation’s enemies.

A look back over the era since the end of World War Two in 1945 demonstrates that the world has been a far safer place precisely because America has been a military superpower.

As China builds its military, non-state combatants challenge nations around the world, and the proliferation of nuclear weapons continues apace, this is no time to undermine a military that has answered the nation’s call to arms with courage and distinction.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The World is Having a Nervous Breakdown

By Alan Caruba

If one has been in the habit of reading history then the events of the past and of the present inform each other. For this reason, it occurred to me that the world is once again having a nervous breakdown.

It’s not just about money, though surely the nations of Europe along with the U.S. have spent themselves into the poorhouse in ways that defy the imagination. If it weren’t so serious, it would be comical to see the desperation that has led our Federal Reserve to print money backed by nothing and to watch the central bankers of Europe move gobs of euros around between the new mother church, Germany, and the banks of Greece, Spain, Ireland, and Italy so that they can pay their bills.

They’re all broke. We have individual States that have a higher GDP than Greece that have balanced their budgets. Those are usually the States whose constitutions require they balance their budget. The rest are run by governors torn between taking the federal largess intended to deprive them of more sovereignty and hoping that the next natural disaster hits the State above or below them instead.

Few arrive at a nervous breakdown overnight. It takes time and a variety of bad decisions or bad luck or both. After blaming George W. Bush and Republicans for his problems, Obama has taken to blaming bad luck. Does he even know that people have concluded the economy is now officially and completely his fault?

When he proposed Obamacare, a million Americans showed up in Washington, D.C. to tell them not to do it. He should have listened to them. Now we call them the Tea Party.

Obama cannot explain away having increased government spending by 50% between 2008 and 2010 while calling for higher taxes on everyone at the same time there are an estimated 14 million Americans out of work, stopped looking for work, or can’t get a job because Obamacare has so screwed up the near future that businesses are reluctant to hire anyone.

The 2008 financial crisis was 100% a government creation dating back to the establishment of Fannie Mae in 1938 to purchase mortgages from banks in order to encourage more lending, more home building, more home ownership. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it ignored the timeless role of greed in banking.

Rule Number One: Almost everything the government touches, it ruins in some fashion. At the very least, it increases its cost of operation.

Rule Number Two: The government’s primary function is the defense of the nation against attack. As Ronald Reagan said, “Nobody ever started a war with us because we were too strong.”

Rule Number Three: Government exists due to its ability to tax and spend other people’s money. Spending always needs to be restrained.

Rule Number Four. Government will always produce more laws and regulations than are needed. It should be restrained. (See the U.S. Constitution).

Globally, we are just emerging from a bout of total insanity called “global warming.” This was a theory that said that something that represented 0.038% of the Earth’s atmosphere was trapping all the heat and would kill us unless massively reduced. That “something” is carbon dioxide, a gas on which—along with oxygen—all life depends. It is plant food; the less carbon dioxide, the less vegetation. Herbivores eat vegetation and carnivores eat herbivores. Humans, being omnivores, eat both.

The other craziness afflicting the planet is “radical” Islam. The truth is that it has been just plain old Islam for about 1400 years. There are a billion Muslims, most located in the Middle East, Africa, India, and Indonesia. Wherever they are, their non-Muslim neighbors cordially hate them because Islam teaches that all other religions are false and that those who believe them—infidels—can be killed for not being Muslims. The strange part of this is, depending on whether you’re a Shiite or Sunni, it is perfectly okay to kill other Muslims, too. Christianity went through this during the Reformation, 1517 to 1648.

When I was a child, the world went crazy and held a great big war. It involved Germany, Japan, and Italy as the “Axis” powers and just about everyone else did their best to destroy their military in every way possible. The Axis was defeated first and then, still holding out, the Empire of Japan had not one, but two, atomic bombs dropped on them before they quit.

World War Two was the direct result of Europe’s World War One. The surrender terms were so awful the Germans embraced a lunatic called Hitler and the Italians fell in love with Mussolini.

The Soviet Union came out of World War One when the Germans permitted Vladimir Lenin, a Communist, into Russia. He started a revolution and the Russians swapped a czar for a new dictator. Stalin took over from Lenin, but because communism has never worked anywhere it was tried, the Soviet Union eventually fell apart in 1991. Now a republic, the new dictator is named Vladimir Putin.

As the French say, “Plus les choses changent, ils plus elles restent les memes.” The more things change, they more they stay the same.

The world is having a nervous breakdown because institutions, religions, and political ideologies are having difficulty adjusting to the migration and growth of populations. Modern communications technologies are playing a role as well.

The chimera haunting everyone is the military capacity to inflict massive devastation and death has increased beyond the confidence of governments and people that it can be controlled without having to kill a lot of people, i.e., Iranians, in the process..

Capitalism, despite an abundance of communism still around, has triumphed, but like any system, has been subjected to a great deal of abuse, rocking the economies of the U.S., Europe, and making most other nations nervous, too.

And, finally, there are six-going-on-seven billion people on a planet that is probably not intended to have that many. It puts intense strain on everything from water to food to the sources of energy that fuel modern and developing nations.

So everyone’s on edge. Nations and continents are on edge. The world is having a nervous breakdown.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

Racism? Depends Who's Talking About It

By Alan Caruba

Recently I stopped by the home of a friend of some forty years to wish him happy birthday. He is a PhD with a long career in the field of human relations. And he is an African-American. As we sat together discussing our lives and current events, I was surprised to hear his wife declare that the only reason everyone is criticizing President Obama was “racism.”

I suggested that even the Congressional Black Caucus was criticizing the President. She dismissed that. Perhaps it has to do with his handling of the economy? No, it was racism, she said. I had to wonder how many other black Americans felt that way and, frankly, I do not have the answer to that question.

In sharp contrast, the news on Saturday, September 24, was that Herman Cain, a candidate for the Republican nomination, had won a straw vote at CPAC Florida, scoring 37.1% over distant runners-up, Rick Perry at 15.4# and Mitt Romney at 14%. Did I mention that Cain is the only black man running against eight white candidates? Or that Florida elected Allen West to the House from a district that is predominantly white?

So, someone, please tell me where is this racism that my friend’s wife perceived? And has President Obama’s race been a help or hindrance? When he was elected the 44th President of the United States in 2008, Adam Nagourney of The New York Times wrote that his election swept away “the last racial barrier in American politics with ease…” At the time, Nagourney noted that “Initial signs were that Mr. Obama benefited from a large turnout of voters, but particularly among blacks.”

By September 2011, it was a very different story. CNSnews reporting an August Gallup poll of 15,343 Americans noted that “only 41 percent said they approved, giving Obama the lowest monthly approval rating of his presidency.” Moreover, “Obama hit his lowest monthly approval among Hispanics during August and tied his lowest monthly approval among blacks.”

“In June 2009 during his first year in office, Obama had 95 percent approval among blacks, 78 percent approval among Hispanics, and 53 percent approval among whites. Since then, his monthly approval has dropped 11 points among blacks, 30 points among Hispanics, and 20 points among whites.”

ABC News reported similar results. In an interview with Andy Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center that had published similar approval ratings he said “Obama is not being judged through the prism of race by white voters. It’s because ‘Hey, I don’t like what he’s doing.’”

It is perfectly understandable that black Americans would want to support the President, but is there a blind spot regarding why his approval ratings are dropping even among blacks? In an interview on CNN with Piers Morgan, the Oscar-winning actor, Morgan Freeman, was asked if Obama had helped the process of eradicating racism or had he made it worse. “Made it worse,” replied Freeman who blamed the “Tea Partiers”, calling Obama’s present problems “a racist thing.”

If that were true, why in late August did an article in Politico report that “prominent black leaders…have turned up the heat on the nation’s first African-American president”? He is widely seen as indifferent to black concerns, but their concern is also about the black voter turnout in 2012.

The Black Congressional Caucus has been increasingly vocal regarding their unhappiness with President Obama. In remarks at its annual Phoenix Awards dinner on September 24, the President said, “I expect all of you to march with me and press on. Take off your slippers, put on your marching shoes. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, (and) stop crying.” It is hard to imagine a white President saying such things as Obama strove to rally his audience.

For anyone familiar with the history of race and politics in America, the loyalty of black Americans to the Democratic Party is astonishing. During the years of FDR’s New Deal, civil rights for blacks were not on the agenda. Even the years following World War Two when two million blacks served in a segregated military, the Democratic Party—especially in the “solid South”—opposed any civil rights legislation. It took the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963 to finally get a bill passed.

For my part, I think Obama has done incalculable harm to any current or future black candidate for the presidency. He had an opportunity to address the nation’s problems of unemployment and debt, and he gave all Americans, black, Hispanic, and white, more unemployment and debt. It’s unfair, but black candidates will likely have to work twice as hard to overcome his legacy.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Negotiating with Hostage Takers and Murderers

By Alan Caruba

We’re all happy to see the return of Americans, Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal after two years captivity in Iran. While hiking in the Kurdish region of Iraq, they, along with Sarah Shourd, were captured by soldiers at gunpoint, detained, tried, and imprisoned for espionage. Ms. Shourd was released a year ago.

Iran has been taking Americans and others hostage for a very long time, either directly or through proxy terrorist groups. They have created a new paradigm of war-without-war in which troops do not take to the field of battle against Iran, but rather diplomats who must negotiate the release of whomever the hostages might be.

In domestic situations like that Americans are accustomed to seeing SWAT teams used when all else fails and one might compare the SEAL team assassination of Osama bin Laden to the conclusion of the military attack we now call 9/11.

Iran, however, has committed criminal acts that break every international law and yet its president is still welcomed to take the podium of the United Nations. More on his most recent speech, the seventh year he has spewed his insane mixture of threats and a bizarre Islamic interpretation of Armageddon below.

Diplomats are understood to be protected against the usual acts of war in order that they may facilitate a solution. When that doesn’t occur, they are allowed to leave the hostile nation, but on November 4, 1979 Iranian “students” seized control of the American embassy in Tehran and took 52 Americans hostage for 444 days until January 20, 1980.

It ended Jimmy Carter’s one term presidency. An aborted military action was made to secure their release.

American reluctance to even threaten war has left the impression of impotence. When Iran announces it has developed its own nuclear weapons, it will put the whole world at risk. They won’t need ballistic missiles to deliver them. Just a freighter with such a weapon in any U.S. port.

With astonishing impunity, the Iranians have seized British citizens as well; four young crew members of a racing yacht off the coast of Bahrain, along with a radio announcer along for the ride. In March 2007 they took fifteen Royal Navy personnel hostage and held them for thirteen days, claiming they had been in Iranian waters; a typical lie.

Israeli Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, ended his speech to the UN General Assembly by reminding its members that Gilad Shalit, a member of its Defense force, had been held hostage in Gaza by Iran’s proxy, Hamas, after having been captured on June 26, 2005. He has been refused visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Shalit holds dual French and Israel citizenship.

Iran is led by gangsters who murder and kidnap people with utter disregard for any laws. Its own population is held hostage by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the machinery of terror that control their lives.

When Iranians took to the streets to protest the election of Ahmadinejad, they were gunned down in the streets of Tehran while others were imprisoned. President Obama’s response at the time was that the U.S. should not “meddle” in Iranian affairs, though he would earlier call for the overthrow of Egypt’s Mubarack and later seek to engage NATO in the overthrow of Libya’s dictator.

On September 23, Ahmadinejad took the podium of the United Nations, beginning his speech by giving thanks to “Almighty Allah” who, he said, urged Muslims to show “compassion to others, generosity, justice-seeking, and having integrity both in words and deeds.”

After giving an account of the ills of the world, he then proceeded to list a litany of crimes against humanity by the West in general and the United States and Israel in particular, citing the dropping of atomic bombs to end World War Two’s conflict with Japan and Israel’s more than sixty years of existence, to name just a few. He neglected to mention any of Iran’s crimes.

As he had in the past, Ahmadinejad closed his speech referencing an Iranian belief in the return of the Twelfth Imam, without mentioning the belief that his return can only be brought about by an Iranian Islamic belief in a worldwide Armageddon of death and destruction in “a future that will be built when humanity initiates to tread the path of the divine prophets and the righteous under the leadership of Imam al-Mahdi, the Ultimate Savior of mankind and the inheritor of all divine messengers and leaders and to the pure generations of the Great Prophet.”

“He will come alongside with Jesus Christ to lead the freedom and justice lovers to eradicate tyranny and discrimination, and promote knowledge, peace, justice, freedom, and love across the world. He will present to every single individual all the beauties of the world and all good things which bring happiness for humankind.”

Meanwhile, the world stands by and stands back as the Iranian fanatically religious oligarchy pursues the acquisition of nuclear weapons with which to bring about the return of Imam al-Mahdi.

Just as one cannot negotiate with kidnappers and murderers, the world cannot negotiate with Iran’s leaders, gangsters driven by a mad dream of an Islamic savior.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Financial Advice of Experts, Then and Now

By Alan Caruba

“I see nothing in the present situation that is either menacing or warrants pessimism…I have every confidence that there will be a revival of activity in the spring, and that during the coming year, the country will make steady progress.” That’s what William Mellon, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, had to say on December 31, 1929. The Great Depression would last until 1941 when the U.S. entered World War Two.

“Could we have a crash a la 1929? The flat answer is no.” So said Dr. Pierre A. Rinfret, a noted economist, writing in Time magazine on October 5, 1987 and, on October 19, 1987—instantly dubbed “Black Monday”—the Dow Jones average plunged 508 points.

Despite the pronouncements of Presidents and pundits, it was the December 30, 1929 edition of Variety, a newspaper for the entertainment industry, that got it right. The day after the crash its headline read, “Wall Street Lays an Egg.”

All through history, the opinions of “experts” have been subject to revision and derision. The Internet has simply multiplied our access to a multitude of opinions. It behooves us all to pick our experts very carefully. A good track record is always a good sign, along with a healthy measure of common sense.

As the economies of the U.S. and several European nations totter on default it is essential to draw on lessons from the past. The most obvious lesson is that the governments of the U.S. and the Europeans have been spending far more than they can tax or borrow.

All have spent decades since the 1980s wasting billions on “alternative” sources of energy in the name of global warming or climate change. All have stayed busy before and since the end of World War Two consolidating power in the U.S. federal government and more recently in the European Union.

Herbert Hoover on whose watch Wall Street crashed in 1929 generally gets the blame, but five years earlier in an address to the annual meeting of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Hoover said, “The test of our whole economic and social system is its capacity to cure its own abuses,” warning that, “If we are to be wholly dependent upon government to cure these abuses, we shall by this very method have created an enlarged and deadening abuse through the extension of bureaucracy and the clumsy and incapable handling of delicate economic forces.”

“The clumsy and incapable handling of delicate economic forces.” Spoken nearly 90 years ago!

What a perfect phrase to describe what the nation has been passing through as Congress during the last days of the Bush administration and the past two and a half years of the Obama administration has demonstrated.

The financial crisis of late 2008 was the result of government “entities”, Fannie Mae, created in 1938, and Freddie Mac, created in 1970, both intended to stimulate the housing market by securing the loans made by banks for the purpose of giving everyone, including those who could least afford it, the opportunity to own a house. By the time the crisis hit, they jointly owned more than 50% of all U.S. mortgages.

The failure of communism in the former Soviet Union (1922-1991) should be proof enough that government ownership of property and the means of production is one of the all-time bad ideas of the last century. A modified version exists in China with other versions existing from North Korea to Cuba. All depend on oppression and coercion.

The irony, of course, is that the Great Depression was extended by Hoover’s successor, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who believed that expanding the role of government was the best way to bring the Depression to an end. Instead, the Depression, experienced as well by European nations in the wake of World War One, gave rise to totalitarian governments and World War Two.

There is a reason that President Obama’s approval ratings, along with those of Congress, are at record lows. Most astonishing is the fact that, when Obama took office, the Democrats controlled both houses of the legislature, the Senate and the House. Even more astonishing, Obama pursued the same failed programs of FDR, most famously sponsoring a multi-billion dollar “stimulus” bill, along with taking over General Motors and Chrysler, ginning up a Cash-4-Clunkers program, and discovering belatedly that there were few “shovel ready” infrastructure projects.

By 2010, the voters returned political power in the House of Representatives to the Republican Party, largely on the basis on newly minted “Tea Party” candidates. Obama’s Congress had rejected his proposed budget and the nation has been operating with “continuing resolutions” to fund its activities and a massive battle over raising the debt ceiling for the same purpose. A farcical congressional “super committee” has been told to cut a trillion and a half dollars out of government spending.

The economic advisers that Obama brought into the White House have all departed with the exception of the Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner. The various government departments continue to spend millions authorized by the Congress every week or engage in dubious “loan guarantees” which give every indication of being a series of Solyndra scandals.

Despite the increasingly absurd assertions of the President, it’s not just corporations, large and small, making decisions about the current and near-term future of the economy. It is the vast body of Americans who are deciding what to purchase, whether to expand their business by hiring or not, whether to invest in stocks or gold, and thousands of individual decisions by which the real economy is shaped.

It is their decisions that determine how long the recession lasts, not the official pronouncements about when the last one “ended” or a new one begins. Economists of a conservative point of view know what must be done and should be listened to, but they are not advising this President, nor guiding the government’s decisions.

In the midst of this latest of many financial crisises at home and abroad, the campaign for the next presidential election has begun. Much depends on who John Q. Public elects to the office. Much depends on the long, hard slog to reduce the size and grasp of the federal government.

Will the wisdom of “the crowd” prevail over the present “experts” affecting the economy?

Stay tuned.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Friday, September 23, 2011

Thursday, September 22, 2011

President Cliche

By Alan Caruba

“Peace is more than just the absence of war.”

“So let there be no doubt…”

“We stand at a crossroads of history.”

“There is no excuse for inaction.”

Fewer people at home and around the world are paying any attention when Barack Obama speaks. He has become President Cliché. We were all told what a great speech-maker he was and now nobody wants to listen anymore.

Ironically, in his speech to the United Nations on Wednesday, September 21, he actually said some interesting things. Too bad none of the other leaders of nations care what he has to say. At home, his popularity and approval ratings in the polls continue to plummet to new depths and to set new records for the lack thereof.

In truth, this is not good for the world or the nation. The job of President is all about leadership coupled to effective policies that address problems. In fairness, Obama arrived in the Oval Office with some of the worst problems any president has faced in the modern era. Like his predecessor, on whom he blamed everything, he continued to throw money at the financial crisis, managing to run up the nation’s debt to a historic level. Obama's economic advisors dusted off the failed policies of the New Deal and tried again. They have not worked.

The problems not only did not go away, they got worse.

The Middle East has seen the “Arab spring” in which a number of dictators were overthrown and that seems hopeful except for the fact that radical Islam is the solution that many of those same nations are likely to embrace. It doesn’t help that the U.S. President has famously demonstrated a “tilt” toward Islam as it continues to foment conflict.

The United Nations speech was a long wish list, pasted together with a lot of platitudes about how the UN has played a role in warding off World War Three. That was largely avoided because the U.S. has a couple of warehouses full of nuclear weapons and had maintained the greatest military the world had ever seen. We’re still here. The Soviet Union isn’t. Most U.S. presidents since the end of World War Two wanted to see the world abandon nuclear weapons. It didn’t. The club just kept getting bigger with China, North Korea, Pakistan, and India. Now Iran wants them as well.

The Soviet leaders weren't crazy. The Iranian ayatollahs and mullahs are.

Obama cited the UN founding Charter that called on nations to “unite our strength to maintain international peace and security.” In reality, it has always been the United States who did the heavy lifting. We fought the North Koreans and Chinese to protect South Korea. We sent arms to Israel when it was repeatedly attacked. We detoured into Vietnam and took a shellacking. After 9/11 we drove the Taliban and al Qaeda out of Afghanistan and we organized allies to remove Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein. Most recently, we got NATO to put an end to Gaddaffi’s reign of terror.

The problem Obama has discovered is that the United Nations is composed of many of the worst dictatorships and oppressive regimes on Earth. It is an utterly corrupt institution. It will not prevent World War Three if the U.S. leaves and a large number of Americans want us to leave.

“Peace is hard. Peace is hard. Progress can be reversed. Prosperity comes slowly. Societies can split apart.” Aside from the yawning banality of this pronouncement, the President’s learning curve about the reality of life on planet Earth has been a tough one. Still, he did condemn Syria’s dictator who has been killing that nation’s people, but could not resist showing off his Islamic credentials by saying many of the victims occurred "during the holy time of Ramadan.”

Obama has discovered what presidents since the days of Harry Truman have discovered. That Palestine is not a nation and the Palestinians are a horrid group of people who refuse to live in peace with Israel. “The Palestinian people deserve a state of their own,” said the President. Guess what? The Israelis agree, but cannot get their Mamoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority to actually agree that Israel has a right to exist. Or Hamas to stop lobbing rockets into southern Israel.

In case anyone was actually listening, Obama repeated what every prior President has said, “America’s commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. Our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring”. After spending the last two and a half years demonstrating his contempt for Israel, this comes as a real surprise and further proof that Obama will say anything to get reelected.

And then he ruined it all by saying, “To preserve our planet, we must not put off action that climate change demands. We have to tap the power of science to save those resources that are scarce. And together we must continue our work to build on the progress made in Copenhagen and Cancun.”

The major fuels of the modern world are not scarce. We live above an ocean of oil. There is enough coal in America alone to keep the lights on here for centuries. Tapping the sun and wind has proved to be a huge waste of money for two of the least productive ways to provide energy. Copenhagen and Cancun, the site of two UN climate change conferences were total failures.

President Cliché closed out saying—again—“Peace is hard, but we know it is possible. So, together, let us be resolved to see that it is defined by our hopes and not our fears.”

Our fears are what sustain peace. It is why every nation is armed to the teeth.

Obama is a national embarrassment. And he wants four more years in office.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Pakistan Conundrum

By Alan Caruba

The answer to whether Pakistan is our friend is “It depends.”

That’s an apt description of U.S.-Pakistani relations over the years, but one thing is sure, Pakistan believes it is surrounded by enemies in general and fears India in particular. With a mindset like that, friendship is not a priority, but survival—even if it just means muddling through another day—most surely is.

I have read several books about Pakistan in order to understand this odd nation that was peeled off from India in 1947 when the British left. Divided between eastern and western sections, even Bangladesh, formerly East Bengal, separated from its western cousin, declaring its independence in 1971. In the ensuing civil war, a million died and ten million fled to India.

In “The Unraveling: Pakistan in the Age of Jihad” by John R. Schmidt, a former State Department diplomat for three decades, reflects on his years in Islamabad in the years leading up to 9/11. He is a sharp observer of Pakistan and provides a lively history while unraveling the complexities of its various tribal groups, who the Taliban were and are, and how Al Qaeda established itself there.

To understand Pakistan is to understand how very different it is from America. It is a feudal society from top to bottom and it came about because its founding father, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, a Bombay lawyer, envisioned a nation separate from India because he feared that Muslims would become a political underclass in a unified India dominated by Hindus.

Fully one-third of India’s Muslim population numbering 35 million people remained behind in India. In Pakistan, it took until 1956 to come up with a constitution, a decade after independence.

A feudal society relies on patronage to function. Thus, whoever holds power at any level in Pakistan is focused on looking out for his own patronage network and not for the general welfare of the nation.

As Schmidt explains, “It requires little imagination to see where such policies lead. They lead to the poorhouse. Nations whose economics are uncompetitive in the global marketplace yet dependent on imported fuel and other vital commodities, and whose governments pay out more than they take in, are bound to be chronically broke.” As a result, a third of the Pakistani federal budget is consumed by servicing its international debt.

Typical of the Muslim outlook, if you are not a Muslim you are simply the enemy. It doesn’t matter if you are Hindu, Christian, Jewish, or any other faith. The problem is exacerbated because of the divisions within Islam, primarily Sunni and Shiite, have little love for one another.

Based on its fear and loathing for India, Pakistan’s various leaders concluded they needed to be a nuclear power as a deterrent. That makes Pakistan a major concern for everyone around them, the world in general, and the U.S. in particular. “If jihadists succeed in seizing power in Islamabad,” notes Schmidt, “they will inherit an arsenal that today numbers approximately one hundred nuclear warheads.”

Pinioned between India on the south and Afghanistan to the north, Pakistan’s leaders, as often as not its army generals who seized control, have only their grievances and themselves to blame for troubles with India and the rise of the Taliban who threaten the government. This explains in part why its military has always been the most stable factor throughout its relatively brief history. Based on merit, it is also represents the best leaders the nation can produce.

Even so, the decision to use proxy jihadist fighters to influence who controlled Afghanistan turned out to be a very bad one. Schmidt believes that “Pakistan seems ill-equipped to deal with this rapidly metastasizing radical Islamic threat.” Can there be a more ironic fate for a nation founded to provide a home to Muslims? The threat the Islamic radicals represent is particularly painful in a nation, the majority of whose population, are more tolerant and moderate followers of Sufi Islam.

The U.S. was none too happy to discover that Pakistan had become a nuclear power. When 9/11 occurred, its leaders were told that their cooperation was required to facilitate the attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan. It was told to break off relations with the Taliban and close its borders to Al Qaeda.

This explains why Pakistan has cooperated with the U.S. in the capture of top Al Qaeda leaders such Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, but professed to be ignorant of the fact that Osama bin Laden was living in Abbotabad, a short drive from Islamabad. Indeed, for the Pakistanis, the news came as a shock and his assassination a cause for much chagrin.

In a similar fashion, the attack on Mumbai, India, by a radical Islamic group ended promising peace talks with India over Kashmir and left Pakistan’s international reputation in tatters.

As is the case in one Muslim nation after another, the central problem to their governance and international relations is radical Islam. Some nations like Indonesia have cracked down on it. Others like Yemen have been over-run by it.

Radical Islam, unless addressed by Muslims will remain a threat. It explains why U.S. troops will likely migrate in and out of Middle Eastern nations for years to come, shooting as many jihadists as possible, taking casualties, angering the local population, and confounding the public at home trying to understand why we’re there.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What Debt? Obama's Insane Spending Binge!

By Alan Caruba

There’s a reason that President Obama wants to increase taxes. His administration cannot spend your money fast enough.

A visit on Tuesday morning to the websites of various federal departments reveals that this administration can find an excuse to spend millions on anything. Here’s a quick tour.

In the wake of the Solyndra scandal in which taxpayers were, in the words of Investor Business Daily, “put on the hook for at least the first $75 million if the company should default and with “a minimum of five green firms going bankrupt” the U.S. Department of Energy, on September 13, announced a $1.2 billion loan guarantee to Mojave Solar LLC for the development of the Mojave Solar Project.

On the same day, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a $32.5 million grant “to finalize expansion plan of Boston’s South Station” for the purpose of expanding and enhancing the historic station on the grounds that it estimates a “50 percent increase in high-speed intercity passenger rail travel in the coming years.” And we all know how accurate estimates are, eh?

Three days later, the DOT provided $22 million to the Maryland Department of Transportation for a study of replacement options for the Susquehanna River Bridge on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor from Boston to Washington, D.C. Why not spend the money on actually replacing the bridge? On September 19, DOT awarded $25 million to the city of Charlotte, N.C. for a streetcar line “to improve access to jobs, housing, and schools.” Why money from other States should gift Charlotte with a streetcar line when the nation has a $14 trillion debt might have something to do with the fact that the Democratic Party National Convention will be held there in 2012.

In the midst of a recession that officially does not exist, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Affairs (HUD), on September 15, announced $93 million in grants to 39 local projects “to conduct a wide range of activities intended to protect children and families from potentially dangerous lead-based paint and other home health and safety hazards.” HUD estimates there are “nearly 7,000 high-risk homes” because “providing healthy and safe homes for families and children is a priority.” Keep in mind that lead-based paint was banned for residential use in 1978, more than three decades ago.

On September 15, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services announced awards totaling $10 million “to aid 129 organizations across the country that would like to become community health centers. The funds came from the Affordable Care Act, but at the same time Obamacare cuts billions from Medicare, reducing payments to hospitals and to individual physicians providing care to America’s growing population of the elderly. Go figure.

At the Department of Commerce, on August 30, they were celebrating a $2.9 million “investment to expand access to capital for area small businesses and entrepreneurs.” One of them was a new $75.6 million Convention Complex in Cedar Rapids, Iowa that broke ground that day and we all know how many conventions Cedar Rapids hosts.

On September 14, the Department of Agriculture announced that taxpayers are now on the hook for loans to 27 rural electric cooperative utilities. DOA made $603 million in loans to help electric utilities "upgrade, expand, maintain and replace rural America’s electric infrastructure."

This is the same administration whose Environmental Protection Agency is waging war on coal-fired utilities and mining (coal provides 50% of all electricity in America). On September 16, USDA announced funding for more than 500 projects to boost renewable energy production (wind and solar) despite the fact that this represents just over 2% of all the electricity produced and companies producing solar panels are declaring bankruptcy on a weekly basis these days.

Secretary Tom Vilsack also noted that USDA Rural Development “is providing $35 million to finance smart grid technologies such as advanced metering infrastructure.” The problem with smart grids is that, if the utility thinks you’re using too much electricity to cool your home or business in the heat of summer, it can reduce the amount you receive. Same goes for warming it in the winter.

Not to be outdone, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced in late August that it was making more than $53 million in grants to 17 states “to support conservation planning and acquisition of vital habitat for threatened and endangered fish, wildlife, and plants.” The Endangered Species Act has been one of the greatest failures in U.S. history and responsible for thwarting billions in development. This money is intended to remove yet more landmass from development, all in the name of obscure species and plants.

On September 14 the Department of Justice announced grants totaling $118.4 million to “enhance public safety in Indian Country.” The money went to tribal governments. Apparently the Apaches are on the warpath again. Over the last two years, DOJ spent $121 million on conferences.

This doesn’t even take into consideration the money flowing from the Departments of Defense, Education, Veteran Affairs, and Homeland Security. It is in fact just a quick overview of the funding the Obama administration is spending while 14 million Americans are trying to find a job and others struggle to pay their mortgage or put their children through college.

It is a look at a government grown so large and so profligate that its credit rating was recently reduced and our President is on the campaign trail telling Americans they must pay more taxes despite the fact that 40% pay no taxes and “millionaires and billionaires” pay 70% of taxes collected. It’s the same government that wants to impose a 1% tax on all banking transactions, the deposits and withdrawals of your money!

Tea Party, anyone?

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

China is Blocking America's Economic Recovery

By Alan Caruba

Americans of the generation that fought World War II and lived through the next fifty years of the Cold War never lost sight of the fact that the Soviet Union was Communist and therefore lacking anything resembling the moral values of our nation or the West. Why then do a more recent generations ignore the fact that Red China is Communist and operates in the same predatory fashion?

One of the major reasons why there is no new job creation in America is tied directly to its policies toward Red China. Both the Bush and Obama administrations were reluctant to challenge China’s deliberate strategy of not just destroying America’s manufacturing base, but all other nations, making itself the center for manufacturing.

A new book, “Death by China: Confronting the Dragon—A Global Call to Action”, by Peter Navarro and Greg Autry spells out the threat and explains why letting China be America’s biggest lender, while luring more and more corporations to set up shop there is destroying the nation’s ability to recover.

There are, of course, other factors affecting recovery, not the least of which is Big Government with its massive regulatory stranglehold and the need to reform America’s tax policies, but beyond that is the growing threat of a China that is deliberately breaking all the international rules of trade and getting away with it.

China’s “industrial policy (is) aimed at nothing shore of the total domination of world manufacturing, the total penetration of global markets, and the economic subjection of the Western World.” That may sound like hyperbole, but the authors back it up in a book filled with frightening details and data.

One area that remains largely a mystery to most Americans is addressed in its chapter, “Death by Currency Manipulation.” The authors say “If money is the root of all evil, then China’s manipulation of its currency, the yuan, is the tap root of everything wrong with the U.S.-China trade relationship. China has dramatically slowed America’s economic growth rate and spiked our unemployment rate.”

“China manipulates its currency by artificially ‘pegging’ the Chinese yuan to the U.S. dollar at a grossly undervalued fixed exchange rate.”

The U.S. trade deficit with China is appalling. “In terms of absolute size, America imports almost $1 billion a day more than it exports from China every business day of the year. That’s not a typo: it’s billion, not million.”

“America’s trade imbalance,” the authors point out, “could never persist in a world of free trade where China allowed its currency to float freely alongside other floating currencies around the world like the euro, Japanese yen, Swiss France, Brazilian real, Indian rupee, and the U.S. dollar.”

“It is precisely China’s massive accumulation of dollar-denominated foreign reserves that now allows the Chinese Communist Party to credibly threaten to nuke our financial system.” Beyond the U.S. it threatens “the entire global economic fabric and free trade framework.”

American corporations have been lured to China with the illusion of 1.3 billion consumers there, but the vast bulk of China’s population has yet to have achieved a middle class status with the money to spend on our goods. In the meantime, companies like General Electric are transferring entire elements of their assets to China in order to have them manufactured there for less. With those assets, however, go the technological and intellectual property they possess.

This is a violation of World Trade Organization rules, but there is ample evidence that WTO rules are routinely violated by China and only the most desultory efforts are made by WTO member nations to protest.

“Since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 and falsely promised to end its mercantilist and protectionist practices, America’s apparel, textile, and wood furniture industries have shrunk to half their size—with textile jobs alone beaten down by 70%. Other critical industries like chemicals, paper, steel, and tires are under similar siege, while employment in our high-tech computer and electronics manufacturing industries has plummeted by more than 40%.”

These days, I look at the packaging of everything I purchase to determine if it is “Made in China” because, if it is, there is a strong likelihood that it poses a real danger. “Chinese entrepreneurs are flooding world markets with a range of bone-crushing, cancer-causing, flammable, poisonous, and otherwise lethal products, foods, and drugs,” the authors warn.

Eating food produced in China poses a very real threat because of the immense levels of pollution in its environment and the fact that there are ample examples of food producers deliberately adulterating their products.

Thus, America’s economic recovery is directly related to its trade practices with China and its financial system is now mortgaged to China. We must disenthrall and disengage ourselves from China if we are to survive, let along remedy our growing legion of unemployed.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Jobs Bill Forces States to Surrender Sovereignty!

Here's the truth about Obama's "jobs bill".

The Jobs Bill is not about creating jobs, but surrendering States' Sovereignty.

Under Sec.376, States receiving any Federal funding whether Medicaid, Medicare, Tuition, FEMA, etc. will now surrender its Sovereignty under this new Jobs Bill.

Surrendering Sovereign Immunity allows states to be sued by anyone recognized by the Federal Government.

Interesting that Hilda Solis has been advocating the rights of illegals and now this Jobs plan forces states to yield its sovereignty to be sued. It is also likely Labor Unions could invoke this requirement to supersede Right to Work and force unionization of state agencies and businesses.

Is this a Jobs Bill or a bill to expand Federal power via DOJ, DOL, and others members of the Federal Family?


(a) Abrogation of State Immunity- A State shall not be immune under the 11th Amendment to the Constitution from a suit brought in a Federal court of competent jurisdiction for a violation of this Act.

(b) Waiver of State Immunity-


(A) WAIVER- A State's receipt or use of Federal financial assistance for any program or activity of a State shall constitute a waiver of sovereign immunity, under the 11th Amendment to the Constitution or otherwise, to a suit brought by (123) an employee or applicant for employment of that program or activity under this Act for a remedy authorized under Section 375(c) of this Act.

The Jobs Bill pdf can be read here.

Write your Senator and Representative. Remind them that the U.S. is a republic composed of sovereign and independent republics. It's called "United" States for a reason. Send this bill to the shredder.

Cheating Students of an Education

By Alan Caruba

It says something about the dreadful state of American education when “bullying” has become the greatest issue of the day.

As millions of American youngsters return to school, they continue to be indoctrinated with programs designed to teach that homosexuality is okay, that sex education is more important than history or math, and that they should care less about individuality than the group.

This is straight out of former Soviet-style education than an educational system that previously turned out generations who fought and won World War Two, contributed to a thriving economy, put men on the Moon, and were focused on achieving competence in reading, writing, and arithmetic. In 2001 I wrote a four-part series noting that the rot in our school system is not new. It dates back to the 1960s and earlier.

I got to thinking about this when I read a September 15th Wall Street Journal article, “SAT Reading, Writing Scores Hit Low” by Stephanie Banchero. “SAT scores for the high-school graduating class of 2011 fell in all three subjects areas, and the average reading and writing scores were the lowest ever recorded, according to data released Wednesday.”

In 2008, a Washington Times commentary by Dan Lips, an education analyst at the Heritage Foundation, noted that “Spending from all levels of government has soared. Today, the average student in American public schools can expect more than $9,200 to be spent on his or her behalf this year by taxpayers—a real increase of 69 percent over 1980 per-pupil spending. Yet this additional spending hasn’t meaningfully changed student outcomes.”

Lips warned that “it has become painfully clear that the federal government can’t solve the problems in America’s public schools”, but it is precisely the federal government’s takeover of the nation’s educational system that is the reason for the continual decline. It is yet another failed legacy of the Carter years, signed into law as a cabinet-level department in 1979, it began operation in 1980.

The statistics all reveal a long period of educational decline and the SAT scores are just one more example, but there are other indices, not the least of which is a huge dropout rate that has left countless Americans ill-prepared for any meaningful employment.

Meanwhile, there has been a relentless effort to infuse textbooks with a national curriculum as the result of the concentration by the “big four” textbook publishers. It has produced a one-size-fits-all approach to education nationwide, mostly geared to the dictates of only three states, California, Texas, and Florida because they represent about 30 percent of the K-12 market.

In 2001 the trend was already noticeable. “The result is an increasing trend toward texts that are long on visual gimmicks, short on factual information, and homogenized in content,” said that president of the Center for Education Reform, Jeanne Allen.

The introduction of “No Child Left Behind” that George W. Bush signed into law on January 8, 2002 has proved to be yet another top-down mandate that relied heavily on testing, testing and testing. Rapidly, teachers began to “teach to the test” in order to avoid the loss of funding to their schools.

Simply put, the federal government should get out of the business of education.

The regressive role of teacher’s unions was spotlighted when the then-new Governor of New Jersey took them on, insisting that teacher’s pay more for their pension and health benefits. The unionizing of teachers is as responsible as the federal takeover of education in America for the decline.

Recently, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said, “I’m tired of giving out fake diplomas” when he introduced a slate of education reforms of his state. The SAT scores underwrite his view that students are graduating from high school without the education they need to move onto colleges and universities.

Gov. Christie wants to focus on individual schools rather than districts as a measurable unit of success or failure. He wants to emphasize “outcomes” such as graduation rates, achievement gains. He wants to measure success by high standards that directly correlate to college and career readiness. He wants considerably less bureaucratic paperwork that requires more administrators than teachers. And he wants a clearly defined schedule for intervention in schools that are experiencing persistent education failure.

Something is amiss when students entering kindergarten are expected to have mastered reading skills that are supposed to be taught in the next grades. When did it become the job of parents to deliver five-year-olds to the local school with skills already in place that are the job of the school to teach? Why do these same children graduate from high school with horrid reading and writing SAT scores?

The education of today’s students has to be returned to the control of local school boards and those boards have to be freed from the demands of teachers’ unions that are interested solely in health and pension benefits, and the salaries of administrators and teachers.

Failing that and America will continue to have another generation of students that, since the 1960s, have literally been cheated of a proper education, no matter how much money is thrown at it.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Five Wars, 63 Years of Terrorism, and Israel Survives

By Alan Caruba

The people who have given us bagels and lox, potato latkes, and chicken soup, in addition to the Old Testament, Albert Einstein, and a list of Nobel Prize winners as long as your arm, are in for yet another interesting week.

Last week, Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas announced that the Palestinian Authority would not make a bid for statehood at the United Nations. That may have had something to do with massive pressure from the United States, Europe, and Saudi Arabia.

You can always trust a Palestinian’s word, right? Wrong. The next day, September 15, Abbas said the PA had changed its mind and would go to the UN Security Council to ask that it grant statehood to Palestine, admitting it as a full-fledged member.

He must have gotten a call from Turkey’s Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogen, who has been spoiling for a war with Israel and has been urging the Arab League to join in. It might have something to do with Erdogen’s beef with Greece that announced that it will begin drilling for natural gas on Monday, September 19, in Cyprus’s offshore Aphrodite field. The Turkish air force has been watching the rig, owned by Houston-based Noble Energy, move from Israel to Cyprus.

This is probably as good a way to start World War Three as any. It has nothing to do with Israel and everything to do with the decades of bad blood between Greece and Turkey that includes a divided Cyprus.

Israel, founded in 1948, has been through five wars with its “neighbors”, endless terrorism and rocketing, and has been openly threatened with nuclear destruction by Iran.

The only thing I can guarantee you is that Israel will be blamed for whatever happens.

This week is also the occasion for the United Nations celebration of “Durban III.” It is an anti-Semitic, anti-Israel hate fest in which every other nation in the world that practices racism is ignored and Israel is identified as the lone offender; largely because the Palestinians have refused every offer of peace and statehood made to them.

To demonstrate what an obscenity the event is, one of the keynote speakers will be Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s president and longtime Holocaust denier. A number of nations, including U.S., Canada and Great Britain, have already made it known they will not sit through another Ahmadinejad vituperation. Israel’s PM, Bibi Netanyahu, will be on hand to offer a response.

Anyone who still thinks the United Nations is about peace needs to pay closer attention. It is about being a global central power with authority over all the nations of the world.

Durban III is about “racism.” So how does that square with a statement by Maen Arewikat, the PA Ambassador to the United States, who last week said that an independent Palestinian state would take steps to force Jews living in the West Bank to leave. In an interview with USA Today, he said it would be in the best interest of Israelis and Palestinians to “be separated.” The Nazis had a word for this, “Judenrein.”

Elliot Abrams, a former U.S. National Security Council officer, told USA Today that “No civilized country would act like this.”

The United States has already made it clear that it will veto a resolution for Palestinian statehood in the UN Security Council. So far the Palestinians have rejected the Oslo Accords and every other laborious diplomatic effort to get them to settle for peaceful coexistence. They could have had statehood after the UN partitioned the former British mandate that led to Israel’s establishment, but they rejected that option in favor of trying to drive the newly minted Israelis out of their ancestral homeland.

Jordan was among those nations that lost the 1967 war. The Israelis occupied the West Bank, a name Jordan gave to the ancient Israeli provinces of Judea and Samaria. The only reason Israel has not annexed the West Bank is that asserting such a claim would add a million Arabs to its population, none of whom have any love for Israel. Meanwhile, over the years, Israeli “settlements” have grown up on the West Bank.

President Obama has made it clear that he wants Israel to return to its 1967 borders. Netanyahu has made it clear that they are indefensible.

The turmoil of the “Arab spring” has altered the cold peace that had existed between Egypt and Israel. The Israeli embassy in Cairo was attacked last week and the Israelis withdrew its staff. How many times do the Egyptians have to be defeated in war before they conclude it’s a bad idea?

The Palestinian demands have Jordon on alert as well. Jordan doesn’t want to have to absorb more Palestinian refugees into its population, thus making them a majority of the Hashemite kingdom created by the British after World War One. They tried to overthrow the former king once and he drove them into Lebanon.

The Syrian despot is busy crushing a revolution. Lebanon which used to belong to the Lebanese is now controlled by Hezbollah, a Palestinian organization backed by Iran and sworn enemies of Israel.

And how do the Palestinians have a state when the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, an Iranian-backed group located in Gaza, are at each other’s throat? If it is possible, Hamas hates Israel more than the PA.

The Palestinian dilemma is that they cannot get along with each other and no other nation in the region wants to have anything to do with them.

What will happen at the United Nations this week?

What will happen if Turkey decides to attack the oil rig off the Grecian part of Cyprus?

What will happen when the Israelis who have a defense pact with the Greeks respond?

How does NATO deal with two of its member nations going to war? What affect will this have on its role in the liberation of Libya?

It’s tough enough for the Israelis and Jews around the world to deal with the growing anti-Semitism that has been spread and nurtured by Muslims, but this irrational hatred, the well spring of the Holocaust, could set off a series of events initiated by such hatred.

Having destroyed the World Trade Center towers ten years ago, World War Three would be Islam’s gift to the world.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Friday, September 16, 2011

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Jimmy Carter Redux

By Alan Caruba

I actually remember watching and listening to Jimmy Carter’s “malaise” speech given 32 years ago on July 15, 1979. It marked a distinct turning point for the president because it addressed the already large loss of confidence in his leadership and judgment. It confirmed most voters judgment.

The address to the nation has since been called his “crisis of confidence” speech. It was, like most of Carter’s policies, a massive failure, and I had the same feeling when I listened to President Obama’s recent speech to the joint session of Congress, an occasion usually reserved for the State of the Union or a declaration of war.

And yet, and yet, we are living with many of former President Carter’s policies that were so wrong then and are so wrong now. If you were around then, I recommend you read the speech and, if you were born since then, it will amaze you how many really bad ideas Carter put forth that you are still hearing today from President Obama.

Jimmy Carter, a largely unknown Democrat former Governor of Georgia was swept into office on a wave of revulsion against the Nixon administration’s Watergate scandal. Had that not occurred it is likely he would not have had much of a chance despite his toothy smile and grab-bag of loony liberal ideas. Four years later, voters voted for a conservative former Governor of California, Ronald Reagan. They kept him around for a second term throughout the 1980s.

On that long ago evening Jimmy Carter thought the best way to address the nation’s mounting economic and energy problems was to blame the voters. It wasn’t his fault. It was ours.

But it was his fault.

As Seldon B. Graham, Jr., the author of “Why Your Gasoline Prices Are High”, an oil industry engineer and lawyer, put it, “Globalist Jimmy Carter harmed the USA with a domestic oil windfall profits tax (in 1980), causing a severe recession, (and) loss of half a million jobs…” The windfall profits tax caused US-based oil companies to look elsewhere for oil and to lay off petroleum industry workers here.

Carter, just as Obama, did not understand that profits are what all businesses require in order to expand and invest in their future. It is the same misguided thinking that has Obama saying that “loopholes” in the tax code that encourage oil exploration and extraction should be closed. They are not “loopholes.” They are the same kind of tax policies that are extended to countless businesses.

If we fast-forward to today, we would understand that oil companies annually pay more than $30 billion per year to federal, state, and local governments in order to produce energy in the U.S. Contrast this with the more than a half-billion dollars taxpayers lost when the Obama administration backed a loan to the now bankrupt “green” energy, solar panel firm, Solyndra.

The fact is that America is home to more than 160 billion barrels of recoverable oil. The US is the third largest producer of oil in the world. We are the Saudi Arabia of coal with several centuries’ worth to be mined. The amount of natural gas that can be accessed by fracking technology is incalculable. And the Obama administration can’t even make up its mind about a new oil pipeline from Canada, an economic partner from whom we import a considerable amount of oil already!

We should be energy independent, but Jimmy Carter in 1979 and Barack Obama in 2011 are still blathering away about solar energy. What did Carter want back then?

“I will soon submit legislation to Congress calling for the creation of the nation’s first solar bank, which will help us achieve the crucial goal of 20 percent of our energy coming from solar power by the year 2000.” Carter installed solar panels on the roof of the White House. Reagan removed them. Obama has promised to do the same, but hasn’t.

Carter said, “when this nation critically needs a refinery or a pipeline, we will build it.” We’re still waiting.

In a nation that was the world’s leader in the manufacture of automobiles, Carter proposed “an extra $10 billion over the next decade to strengthen our public transportation systems.” Obama talks about high speed trains that no one wants or needs in the era of airline travel. Created in 1970, Amtrak has never made a profit.

In 1979 Carter said, “For the first time in the history of our country a majority of people believe that the next five years will be worse than the past five years.”

A September 14th Rasmussen poll asking if the nation was going in the right or wrong direction yielded the following analysis: “Seventy-five percent (75%) of voters say the country is heading down the wrong track, showing little change from last week. Since January 2009, voter pessimism had ranged from a low of 57% to a high of 80%. This time last year, 65% said the U.S. was heading down the wrong path.”

If Obama wasn’t a far-Left liberal, wasn’t getting some extraordinarily bad advice from those he brought into the White House, and wasn’t a raving egomaniac, he might pause and stop playing political games to blame Congress and Republicans for the present economic crisis. If in the name of “social justice” the federal government--Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac--wasn’t in the mortgage business, there would not have been a crisis.

The problem for the rest of us is that Obama’s crisis is our crisis too as jobs melt away and businesses large and small wait to see how much more damage his proposals will do to the nation's economy. His solution was to throw a trillion-dollar “stimulus” at the problem in 2009. He has just proposed a half-trillion dollar solution.

Except for the usual percentage of liberals who think Obama will “stop the rise of the seas”, the rest of the nation is left to wait for next year’s elections. That’s our “solution.”

© Alan Caruba, 2011

The Chill Factor Versus Al Gore's Global Warming Talk-a-Thon

While Al Gore engages in a 24-hour talk-a-thon to convince Americans that "global warming" is real and a big threat that demands "green" energy, "alternative" energy, "conservation", et cetera, national weather services provide a different look, an accurate picture, of the chill factor that is the reality for September 15-16 in the USA.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

This Way to the Poorhouse

By Alan Caruba

On Tuesday, September 13, Reuters news service reported “Number of poor hit record 46 million in 2010.” Another new record set by the Obama administration and a President who has been out campaigning to “Pass this jobs bill now.”

“The number of poor Americans in 2010,” Reuters reported, “was the largest in the 52 years the Census Bureau has been publishing poverty estimates.” Obama has the great misfortune of presiding over a government, some of whose agencies report just how bad a job he’s doing. Last month, we were informed that zero new jobs were created in August.

On the same day of the Reuters article, Douglas W. Elmendorf, the Director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) was on Capitol Hill, advising the new deficit super-committee to whom Congress has punted the job of reducing the obscene amount of money the federal government wastes every day.

If they don’t come up with a plan, cuts kick in automatically. This basically means that they have to decide what agencies and departments get protected. Otherwise the federal government gets a one-size-fits-all budget cut. That is as dumb a way to run the nation as one can imagine.

There was some fairly desultory media coverage of Elmendorf’s presentation. For most reporters it was just more of the same, but for the rest of us, it was a reasoned description of the utter disaster that faces the nation if a truly massive effort isn’t undertaken to slash government spending.

Aside from spending, there’s the problem of all those old codgers like me. “If current policies are continued in coming years,” Elmendorf said, “the aging of the population and the rising cost of health care will boost federal spending, as a share of the economy, well above the amount of revenues that the federal government has collected in the past.”

Social Security and Medicare have to be significantly reformed. They are bankrupting the nation because, in the words of Margaret Thatcher, “Sooner or later you run out of other people’s money.”

Reform, however, of any part of the federal budget is complicated by “the weakness of the economy and the large numbers of unemployed workers, empty houses, and underused factories and offices.”

Or to put it another way, we’re broke. We are seriously broke. We are $14.3 trillion broke in terms of the national debt. That’s about the same amount of the entire gross domestic product for a year.

We are not only broke, Elmendorf told the committee, “the economic growth for the remainder of this year and next is likely to be weaker than the agency anticipated—with growth in the vicinity of 1 ½ percent this year and around 2 ½ percent next year.” We need at least 3 percent to just break even.

Since both the Democrats and Republicans got us into this jam, it is highly doubtful the super-committee will do anything but dawdle long enough to let the automatic cuts kick in.

Meanwhile, the rest of the federal government is hemorrhaging money.

As this is being written, I received a news release from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that it has awarded “nearly $100 million to promote jobs, self-sufficiency, independent living for HUD-assisted housing developments.”

Then the U.S. Treasury informed me that “two additional New Jersey community banks receive $22 million to help small businesses access capital, create new jobs.”

And something called the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee is set to “present eleven recommendations to promote U.S. exports of renewable and efficiency technologies to federal officials.”

Folks at the Department of Commerce will be told that green energy and clean energy is the wave of the future. Did anyone tell them that Solyndra, the solar panel company that received a U.S. government loan of more than $500 million just filed for bankruptcy? Or that General Electric builds its wind turbines in China? Or that it shut down the last factory in America that manufactured incandescent light bulbs?

A week ago, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) released a ten-point plan to create jobs that has nothing to do with shoveling gobs of taxpayer money out the door to banks, housing developments, or wasting time discussing renewable energy.

Among its recommendations were the repeal of the financial “reform” laws, Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes-Oxley. Bank of America isn’t planning to cut 30,000 jobs because it has too little regulation, but too much bad regulation.

CEI urged that proposed or recently finalized federal environmental regulations that will force the closing of power plants and energy-intensive industrial plants be put on hold. The Institute urged the federal government to expedite environmental permitting of natural resource projects (coal, oil, natural gas) projects on federal, state and private lands. Ending taxpayer subsidies for wasteful, inefficient “green” jobs was yet another recommendation.

It’s not that CEI and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, among other think tanks and trade associations haven’t been telling the Obama administration what needs to be done to energize the economy. It’s more like the administration either isn’t listening or doesn’t care or intends to deliberately put America further into bankruptcy.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Week of Horrid Headlines

By Alan Caruba

Journalism is often called “History written in a hurry.” If so, last week’s headlines from the front page of The Wall Street Journal reflected a period of our current history that will likely have future historians wondering how we made it through these times without completely losing our minds.

If fear sells newspapers, drives television news ratings, gets bad laws passed, and is useful for selling all manner of other goods and services, than last week must have been very good for business.

The weekend edition, Saturday/Sunday, September 3-4, began with “Job Growth Grinds to a Halt.” The sub-headline was “Lack of Hiring in August Roils Financial Markets; Gloom Ratchets Up Pressure on Obama.” The President would have to wait until the following Thursday to roll out his “Jobs” bill and to tell a joint session of Congress, “Pass this bill now!”

Reluctant to admit its role in the housing mortgage crisis that broke in late 2008 during the political campaign and largely due to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—both of whom own 50% of U.S. mortgages—the next article on page one was “U.S. Sues Big Banks Over Home Mortgages.”

Monday was Labor Day so there was no WSJ edition, but on Tuesday, September 6, the lead headline was “Europe Signals Global Gloom” with a sub-headline, “World Markets Fall as Continent’s Debt Crisis Fuels Worries of Lengthy Slowdown.” It reminded me of the cliché that, when the U.S. sneezes, the rest of the world gets pneumonia.” Under the lead story was a headline, “Voter Discontent Deepens Ahead of Obama Jobs Plan.”

By Wednesday, September 7, the headline was “Euro Woes Stir Currency Fears” with a sub-headline, “Older Americans Held Hostage by Mortgages.”

On Thursday, September 8, the headline was “Fed Prepares to Act” with a sub-headline, “Officials Consider Unusual Steps to Avert an Economic Stall.” The nation has been stalled since 2008 when gobs of taxpayer money was used to bailout banks, an insurance company, and two major auto manufacturers. Meanwhile, an accompanying headline said, “U.S. Hits Builders with Pay Probe” about a Labor Department investigation “of the top companies in home building, hitting them with a broad demand for records that has led to complaints of regulatory overreach.” You think?

By Friday, following Obama’s speech, the lead headline was “Obama’s Bid to Spur Growth." The sub-headline was “President Asks Congress for $447 Billion in Cuts, Spending; Tepid GOP Response.” With a $14 trillion national debt, I’d be tepid, too.

The proposed bill would be paid for with tax increases that would kick in after the next election in 2012. They are the same increases a Democrat-controlled Congress refused to authorize!

The Saturday weekend edition, led off with “Banker’s Exit Rattles Markets” and a sub-headline, “In Europe, Top ECB Economist Resigns, Seen as Policy Protest; Dow Industrials Fall 303.68 points.”

Obama speaks. The Dow tanks. Coincidence? I think not.

The other lead article headline was “Treasury Weighs New Tax Scheme.” It began “Treasury floats the notion of eliminating some, but not all taxes on overseas profits of U.S. multinational companies…”

Thus, the week’s WSJ headlines were a microcosm of the fears defining the economies of the U.S. and European nations whose socialist programs and massive over-spending had landed all of them in hot water.

We expect and we want government to exercise prudence in the management of public funds, but successive administrations and congresses did not, electing always to expand government. Let's hope the Fed does not want to print more money. It will cause a collapse of confidence.

It’s September 2011. Welcome to the 1930s.

© Alan Caruba, 2011