Monday, April 21, 2008

Solution to Pricey Fuel? Burn the Food!

Solution to Pricey Fuel? Burn the Food!

In an era of incredibly wrongheaded government actions, from McCain Feingold to capitulation to the Global Warming hoax, the ethanol donnybrook takes the cake. Not only is ethanol a bad answer, really no answer at all, to the supposed shortage of petroleum, the government mandated production of massive quantities of it is already causing worldwide food shortages, and we are just getting started.

Can we agree that there is an axiom that government is incapable of choosing winning technologies? The Soviet Union proved it, to those who were paying attention, but now the U.S. government has put it beyond the pale. Burning food in a recession year? How foolish can you get. If congressmen were capable of seeing themselves, they would be ashamed, but they are not.

A fair reading of where we are in this food burning fetish is available here, but there are many places one can go for the facts. In a sop to corn farmers congress made ethanol a requirement in motor fuel. Now there is a worldwide shortage of corn and wheat as a result. Meanwhile oil is well over one hundred dollars per barrel, and OPEC will not even discuss any relief. So both our side and the other side agree that oil must go even higher. In an election year, no less. If the times are not a-changin yet, they might begin to soon.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Politics of Gesture

The Politics of Gesture

Hillary Clinton's new proposal to create a "Cabinet level Department of Poverty" with the mission to end poverty, once and for all, would be funny if it were not so dangerous. Before anyone tries to deny that this is her intent you need to read her own words:
“I believe we should appoint a cabinet level position that will be solely and fully devoted to ending poverty as we know it in America,” she solemnly intoned. “A position that will focus the attention of our nation on the issue and never let it go. A person who I could see being asked by the president every single day what have you done to end poverty in America? No more excuses. No more whining, but instead a concerted effort.”
No room for ambiguity there. After almost fifty years of Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty" we have just as many Americans who are counted in the ranks of those who live their lives in poverty as we had when we started, in 1964. Granted that our poor often have their own homes and cars, and even cell phones and designer jeans, they are still listed as being under "the poverty line."

Politicians always want to be seen as the source of the cure to all our ills, or as Michael Medved puts it:
The entire proposal highlights the Democratic Party’s current addiction to the politics of gesture dictated by the “Do Something Disease.” Under the grip of that dread malady, public figures feel the compulsion to stage a response to any perceived problem – even if that reaction accomplishes nothing in terms of meaningful solutions.

The Do Something Disease compels posturing that shows off the compassion of politicos, rather than policies that actually improve the lives of afflicted citizens. Results don’t matter, as long as the leader manages to demonstrate concern. Good intentions—feelings-- count for everything, with no consideration of real world consequences.
This proposal of Hillary's is another example of the intellectual bankruptcy of the liberal left in this country. Do something, and we can feel good about it. Results may be unattainable, but we can congratulate ourselves for the effort. Oh, and give Hillary the credit. In fact give her credit for intending to put forth the effort by voting for her today.

That is the dirty game electoral politics has become - promise anything, with little or no regard for results. Give her an "A" for effort, and elect her to the most powerful electoral position available. After all, no pols are ever held to making their promises come true, are they? Is Obama being held to his promise to utilize public campaign financing? No, of course not, since he now sees an advantage in changing his mind. He made a pledge, which, for a politician, is no more than a feeling. After all, don't they all do it?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Caught in the Act

Caught in the Act

This kerfluffle over Obama's remarks in San Francisco is a very big deal. It may signal the end of Obama's candidacy as a viable chance for the first Black man to be nominated to be president. It has assured that he will never be President. For the record, his remarks were:

"You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them," Obama said. "And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate, and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or antitrade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

This is a classic instance where a candidate does what they all do - tailor their message to a single audience. Clearly Obama was feeling safe in the bosom of one of America's wealthiest households. But one of the attendees had the temerity to make a tape of his remarks, and then the gall to release it to the public.

Wake up Obama, this is the new world, the you-tube world, where you can no longer assume that you have any privacy at all. Now blue-collar, working class whites, a group you despise, one you feel completely separate from, but need for election, has heard you, in your own voice admit that you have no respect for them. They now know that you will be no champion for issues they can relate to. Obama, you work in the house now, and have turned your back on the field workers. But turnabout is fair play. They can not be counted upon to support you now.

As Newt Gingrich has noted elsewhere:
If you go to the most expensive private school in Hawaii and then move on to Colombia University and Harvard Law School, you may not understand normal Americans -- that's the impression created by Senator Barack Obama's recent comments.

For Obama, it seems, the beliefs of normal Americans are so alien to his leftwing viewpoint that he has to seek some psychological explanation for what he thinks are weird ideas. They can't really believe in the right to bear arms. They can't really believe in traditional marriage. They can't really believe in their faith in God. They can't really want to enforce the law on immigration. And because ordinary Americans can't really believe these things, they must just be bitter and frustrated.

This is the closest Senator Obama has come to openly sharing his wife's view that "America is a mean country." Not since 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Mike Dukakis have we seen anyone so out of touch with normal Americans. It makes perfect sense that it was at a fundraiser in San Francisco that he would have shared the views he has so carefully kept hidden for the entire campaign.

Obama has not done well with blue-collars against Hillary before. He will look back at those poor showings wistfully when he sees how badly he does in Pennsylvania.

He may have managed to lose Pennsylvania with this one. He may even have done the impossible - let the nomination get away.

He has assured himself that he can never win the general election. And it will be HIS racism, not ours, that brings him down.



We are witnessing the end of what used to be called Liberalism. As Pat Caddell, democratic strategist said during the attempted takeover of the U.S. government by Algore in 2000, the party of his grandfather was taken over by gangsters. They just want power. And current democrats have continued the tradition, as they have moved liberalism over into territory previously occupied by fascism.

Current liberals are the heirs to Fascism, as they exhibit these traits:

1. Intolerance to any opposition to the Party line.

2. Destruction of the free market.

3. Nationalization of all industry, as well as;

4. Government regulation on businesses.

5. Free health care.

Throw in a smattering of good old Nazi Socialism: organic farming, anti-smoking, pro high minimum wage, abortion, euthanasia, gun control, speech codes, racial quotas, animal rights - (Yup, the Nazis were all those), and Voila!

You have the Western Liberal.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Obama's Pastor Disaster

Obama's Pastor Disaster

[When I find stuff this good, I just have to reprint it. This guest post, by Mark Steyn, syndicated columnist of renown, now fallen on hard times by a ludicrous law suit, is a classic, and at only three weeks old, that's near-record time for attainment of classic status.]

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright thinks that, given their treatment by white America, black Americans have no reason to sing "God Bless America." "The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America.' No, no, no, God damn America," he told his congregation. "God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human."

I'm not a believer in guilt by association, or the campaign vaudeville of rival politicians insisting this or that candidate dissociate himself from remarks by some fellow he had a 30-second grip'n'greet with a decade ago. But Jeremiah Wright is not exactly peripheral to Barack Obama's life. He married the Obamas and baptized their children. Those of us who made the mistake of buying the senator's latest book, "The Audacity Of Hope," and assumed the title was an ingeniously parodic distillation of the great sonorous banality of an entire genre of blandly uplifting political writing discovered circa page 127 that in fact the phrase comes from one of the Rev. Wright's sermons. Jeremiah Wright has been Barack Obama's pastor for 20 years – in other words, pretty much the senator's entire adult life. Did Obama consider "God Damn America" as a title for his book but it didn't focus-group so well?

Ah, well, no, the senator told ABC News. The Rev. Wright is like "an old uncle who says things I don't always agree with." So did he agree with goofy old Uncle Jeremiah on Sept. 16, 2001? That Sunday morning, Uncle told his congregation that the United States brought the death and destruction of 9/11 on itself. "We nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye," said the Rev. Wright. "We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards."

Is that one of those "things I don't always agree with"? Well, Sen. Obama isn't saying, responding merely that he wasn't in church that morning. OK, fair enough, but what would he have done had he happened to have shown up on Sept. 16? Cried "Shame on you!" and stormed out? Or, if that's a little dramatic, whispered to Michelle that he didn't want their daughters hearing this kind of drivel while rescue workers were still sifting through the rubble and risen from his pew in a dignified manner and led his family to the exit? Or would he have just sat there with an inscrutable look on his face as those around him nodded?

All Sen. Obama will say is that "I don't think my church is actually particularly controversial." And in that he may be correct. There are many preachers who would be happy to tell their congregations "God damn America." But Barack Obama is not supposed to be the candidate of the America-damners: He's not the Rev. Al Sharpton or the Rev. Jesse Jackson or the rest of the racial grievance-mongers. Obama is meant to be the man who transcends the divisions of race, the candidate who doesn't damn America but "heals" it – if you believe, as many Democrats do, that America needs healing.

Yet since his early twenties he's sat week after week, listening to the ravings of just another cookie-cutter race-huckster.

What is Barack Obama for? It's not his "policies," such as they are. Rather, Sen. Obama embodies an idea: He's a symbol of redemption and renewal, and a lot of other airy-fairy abstractions that don't boil down to much except making upscale white liberals feel good about themselves and get even more of a frisson out of white liberal guilt than they usually do. I assume that's what Geraldine Ferraro was getting at when she said Obama wouldn't be where he was today (i.e., leading the race for the Democratic nomination) if he was white. For her infelicity, the first woman on a presidential ticket got bounced from the Clinton campaign and denounced by MSNBC's Keith Olbermann for her "insidious racism" indistinguishable from "the vocabulary of David Duke."

Oh, for cryin' out loud. Enjoyable as it is to watch previously expert tossers of identity-politics hand grenades blow their own fingers off, if Geraldine Ferraro's an "insidious racist", who isn't?

The song the Rev. Wright won't sing is by Irving Berlin, a contemporary of Cole Porter, Ira Gershwin and Lorenz Hart, all the sophisticated rhymesters. But only Berlin could have written without embarrassment "God Bless America." He said it directly, unaffectedly, unashamedly – in seven words:

"God Bless America

Land that I love."

Berlin was a Jew, and he suffered slights: He grew up in the poverty of New York's Lower East Side. When he made his name and fortune, his marriage to a Park Avenue heiress resulted in her expulsion from the Social Register. In the Thirties, her sister moved in with a Nazi diplomat and proudly flaunted her diamond swastika to Irving. But Berlin spent his infancy in Temun, Siberia (until the Cossacks rode in and razed his village), and he understood the great gift he'd been given:

"God Bless America

Land that I love."

The Rev. Wright can't say those words. His shtick is:

"God damn America

Land that I loathe."

I understand the Ellis Island experience of Russian Jews was denied to blacks. But not to Obama. His experience surely isn't so different to Berlin's – except that Barack got to go to Harvard. Obama's father was a Kenyan, he spent his childhood in Indonesia, and he ought to thank his lucky stars that he's running for office in Washington rather than Nairobi or Jakarta.

Instead, his whiny wife, Michelle, says that her husband's election as president would be the first reason to have "pride" in America, and complains that this country is "downright mean" and that she's having difficulty finding money for their daughters' piano lessons and summer camp. Between them, Mr. and Mrs. Obama earn $480,000 a year (not including book royalties from "The Audacity Of Hype," but they're whining about how tough they have it to couples who earn 48 grand – or less. Yes, we can. But not on a lousy half-million bucks a year.

God has blessed America, and blessed the Obamas in America, and even blessed the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose bashing of his own country would be far less lucrative anywhere else on the planet. The "racist" here is not Geraldine Ferraro but the Rev. Wright, whose appeals to racial bitterness are supposed to be everything President Obama will transcend. Right now, it sounds more like the same-old same-old.

"God Bless America

Land that I love."

Take it away, Michelle.

Guest post, ©MARK STEYN

Let's 'Surge' Some More

Let's 'Surge' Some More

April 11, 2008

[Editor's note: I have been a fan of Michael Yon's battlefield writing for years, and he has been on my blogroll since 2004. Now that he has posted this essay on the wall Street journal Online, I feel that I must reprint it here.]

It is said that generals always fight the last war. But when David Petraeus came to town it was senators – on both sides of the aisle – who battled over the Iraq war of 2004-2006. That war has little in common with the war we are fighting today.

I may well have spent more time embedded with combat units in Iraq than any other journalist alive. I have seen this war – and our part in it – at its brutal worst. And I say the transformation over the last 14 months is little short of miraculous.

The change goes far beyond the statistical decline in casualties or incidents of violence. A young Iraqi translator, wounded in battle and fearing death, asked an American commander to bury his heart in America. Iraqi special forces units took to the streets to track down terrorists who killed American soldiers. The U.S. military is the most respected institution in Iraq, and many Iraqi boys dream of becoming American soldiers. Yes, young Iraqi boys know about ""

As the outrages of Abu Ghraib faded in memory – and paled in comparison to al Qaeda's brutalities – and our soldiers under the Petraeus strategy got off their big bases and out of their tanks and deeper into the neighborhoods, American values began to win the war.

Iraqis came to respect American soldiers as warriors who would protect them from terror gangs. But Iraqis also discovered that these great warriors are even happier helping rebuild a clinic, school or a neighborhood. They learned that the American soldier is not only the most dangerous enemy in the world, but one of the best friends a neighborhood can have.

Some people charge that we have merely "rented" the Sunni tribesmen, the former insurgents who now fight by our side. This implies that because we pay these people, their loyalty must be for sale to the highest bidder. But as Gen. Petraeus demonstrated in Nineveh province in 2003 to 2004, many of the Iraqis who filled the ranks of the Sunni insurgency from 2003 into 2007 could have been working with us all along, had we treated them intelligently and respectfully. In Nineveh in 2003, under then Maj. Gen. Petraeus's leadership, these men – many of them veterans of the Iraqi army – played a crucial role in restoring civil order. Yet due to excessive de-Baathification and the administration's attempt to marginalize powerful tribal sheiks in Anbar and other provinces – including men even Saddam dared not ignore – we transformed potential partners into dreaded enemies in less than a year.

Then al Qaeda in Iraq, which helped fund and tried to control the Sunni insurgency for its own ends, raped too many women and boys, cut off too many heads, and brought drugs into too many neighborhoods. By outraging the tribes, it gave birth to the Sunni "awakening." We – and Iraq – got a second chance. Powerful tribes in Anbar province cooperate with us now because they came to see al Qaeda for what it is – and to see Americans for what we truly are.

Soldiers everywhere are paid, and good generals know it is dangerous to mess with a soldier's money. The shoeless heroes who froze at Valley Forge were paid, and when their pay did not come they threatened to leave – and some did. Soldiers have families and will not fight for a nation that allows their families to starve. But to say that the tribes who fight with us are "rented" is perhaps as vile a slander as to say that George Washington's men would have left him if the British offered a better deal.

Equally misguided were some senators' attempts to use Gen. Petraeus's statement, that there could be no purely military solution in Iraq, to dismiss our soldiers' achievements as "merely" military. In a successful counterinsurgency it is impossible to separate military and political success. The Sunni "awakening" was not primarily a military event any more than it was "bribery." It was a political event with enormous military benefits.

The huge drop in roadside bombings is also a political success – because the bombings were political events. It is not possible to bury a tank-busting 1,500-pound bomb in a neighborhood street without the neighbors noticing. Since the military cannot watch every road during every hour of the day (that would be a purely military solution), whether the bomb kills soldiers depends on whether the neighbors warn the soldiers or cover for the terrorists. Once they mostly stood silent; today they tend to pick up their cell phones and call the Americans. Even in big "kinetic" military operations like the taking of Baqubah in June 2007, politics was crucial. Casualties were a fraction of what we expected because, block-by-block, the citizens told our guys where to find the bad guys. I was there; I saw it.

The Iraqi central government is unsatisfactory at best. But the grass-roots political progress of the past year has been extraordinary – and is directly measurable in the drop in casualties.

This leads us to the most out-of-date aspect of the Senate debate: the argument about the pace of troop withdrawals. Precisely because we have made so much political progress in the past year, rather than talking about force reduction, Congress should be figuring ways and means to increase troop levels. For all our successes, we still do not have enough troops. This makes the fight longer and more lethal for the troops who are fighting. To give one example, I just returned this week from Nineveh province, where I have spent probably eight months between 2005 to 2008, and it is clear that we remain stretched very thin from the Syrian border and through Mosul. Vast swaths of Nineveh are patrolled mostly by occasional overflights.

We know now that we can pull off a successful counterinsurgency in Iraq. We know that we are working with an increasingly willing citizenry. But counterinsurgency, like community policing, requires lots of boots on the ground. You can't do it from inside a jet or a tank.

Over the past 15 months, we have proved that we can win this war. We stand now at the moment of truth. Victory – and a democracy in the Arab world – is within our grasp. But it could yet slip away if our leaders remain transfixed by the war we almost lost, rather than focusing on the war we are winning today.

Mr. Yon is author of the just-published "Moment of Truth in Iraq" (Richard Vigilante Books). He has been reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan since December 2004.