Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Sad State of the Union

The Sad State of the Union
Saturday, December 31,
by Burt Prelutsky

Recently, a reader wrote to ask me why anyone would spend a million dollars to become a member of Congress, a job that pays less than $200,000 a year. I explained that there were several reasons. One, they seek fame. Celebrity is a major goal for a large number of people, and not just kids who are dying to switch places with rock stars and fashion models

Two, they want to oversee fiefdoms that would have been the envy of English royals. You often see the likes of Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner striding down congressional corridors, dozens of attendants in their wake. They don’t have anywhere in particular to rush off to, they just enjoy leading parades. Too bad they can’t twirl a baton.

Three, the cost doesn’t really concern them because they’re usually spending other people’s money when they run for office. Come to think of it, that’s really all they do once they get elected. Four, thanks to insider trading, grateful lobbyists and big fat pensions, they will leave office -- if they ever do -- far wealthier than when they arrived.

Finally, five, they just want to do good. Whenever possible, I like to end with a joke.

If I had my way, being a congressman would be a part-time job, and it would be conducted using modern technology, conference calls and the like. The main reason they convene in Washington, D.C., is for the convenience of lobbyists. Think of it as one-stop shopping.

In his recent book, After America, Mark Steyn observed that America has been busy exporting its unskilled jobs while, at the same time, through encouraging invasion by illegal aliens, importing unskilled workers. As a result, America is being bled to death providing schooling, health care, food stamps and prisons, for millions of non-citizens. And those who balk at providing the uninvited with all these goodies are labeled racists. Then, to compound the problem, we have a Republican candidate for president talk about amnesty for those who have been here for 25 years. Or it might be 20 years, or maybe only five years. Or perhaps it will be a week and a half by the time President Gingrich gets around to dictating a piece of legislation.

Between the influx of illiterates and our sub-standard public schools, it seems that the collective IQ of America is declining at an alarming rate, perhaps as much as a point a year. Still, when I first heard that half of high school seniors couldn’t identify George Washington, I was shocked. Then, after a moment or two, I was shocked that I’d been shocked. After all, one merely had to see the teachers in Wisconsin using phony medical excuses in order to play hooky from the classroom and riot over their pensions to understand why I and others hold the teachers unions in such contempt. If you recall, the hypocrites in Madison even had the gall to carry signs suggesting they were doing it for the kids. I suppose if drug dealers belonged to a union, they could carry those same placards.

Speaking of hypocrites, I see that Obama, who’s planning to campaign against a do-nothing Congress, intends to take a 17-day vacation in Hawaii!

Back in 2008, when Obama said he’d never, in 20 years of church attendance, ever heard Rev. Jeremiah Wright say anything offensive, we naturally assumed he was lying. After all, by that time we had seen the obscene videos of Wright’s ranting against America, against the white race and against the Jews in Israel.

But, after Obama’s first three years in the White House, I think we may have leapt to the wrong conclusion. I suspect now that he wasn’t lying. After all, when a person is in complete agreement with a psychotic racist like Rev. Wright, there’s no reason he’d find those demonic sermons the least bit offensive. Wright, I’m afraid, was merely giving voice to what Obama, in his heart, already believed.

It works the same way when liberals listen to left-wing bilge spewed by the likes of Bill Maher, Joy Behar, Rachel Maddow, Alan Colmes and Ed Schultz.

On the other hand, if these lunkheads weren’t gainfully employed in the media, they would probably be dues-paying members of some teachers union, devoting their time to turning your kids into George Soros’ brand of hand puppets.

To read another article by Burt Prelutsky, click here.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Blind to their Liberal Biases

Blind to their Liberal Biases
By David Limbaugh

I think it's very difficult for any of us to be objective about any subject, especially something we care deeply about, but my objective observation is that liberals tend to be less aware of and less willing to admit their biases.

We see this often, which I'll get to, but first, let me relate how this phenomenon most recently came to my attention.

In a conversation with a saleswoman for online college courses, I expressed my disappointment that the professor of a religion course I was considering for purchase is an avowed atheist. I said that if I were going to spend time studying the subject, I'd prefer the professor share my Christian worldview.

Don't misunderstand. I think it can be profitable to learn what nonbelieving "scholars" teach about the Bible, but the point I want to discuss here is the woman's response.

She maintained that it is preferable, for this largely secular course on the Bible, to have a professor who can approach the subject from an objective, critical and historical perspective, as if a believing professor would be incapable of that approach. But is that true?

Her error is assuming that nonbelief equates to objectivity. In fact, every human being -- and thus every professor -- has a worldview, and that worldview will inevitably influence his perception of the material. Every professor will have made critical intellectual decisions on a multitude of issues in the material, all of which will be influenced by his worldview.

For example, if you don't believe in miracles, you'd be more inclined to discount those verses of Scripture describing miraculous events, from the Virgin Birth to Jesus' converting water into wine to the bedrock Christian belief: the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Nonbelievers might be more receptive to "higher criticism" and the "documentary hypothesis" and thus less skeptical of the theory that Moses didn't write the first five books of the Old Testament. They might be quicker to focus on apparent contradictions in Scripture that critical examination often reveals are not contradictions at all.

A believer in the divine inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture will certainly bring his biases into biblical exegesis, but so will a nonbeliever. We cannot escape our biases.

But the woman insisted the secular professor is only interested in presenting the material from a critical and historical perspective. A noble aspiration, I concede, should the professor actually possess it, but nevertheless unattainable. Historians and critical readers have biases, too. They can't help it.

It's just wrong to assume that a nonbelieving worldview is more objective than a believing one. We are all blessed (or burdened) with our presuppositions, and they accompany us wherever we go.

It occurred to me that the woman's argument is analogous to the political liberals' legendary denial of bias. Indeed, many liberals don't even view themselves as liberals. Rather, they are reality- and fact-based creatures. Only conservatives allow their biases to taint their objectivity. Liberals will admit that some conservatives are rational, but to be both rational and conservative, they must be evil. They know the policies they support are wrong, objectively, but they choose to do so anyway -- or something like that.

Evidence abounds: Scholarly studies show that mainstream journalists are overwhelmingly liberal, yet many deny it, and many honestly don't even see the biases they bring to their selection and reporting of the "news." ABC's Christiane Amanpour, for example, denies her liberal biases, saying she "remains in the realm of fact." The Bush haters who deceived themselves about Bush's alleged WMD lies claimed they were reality-based when in "reality" their hatred made them stark-raving mad on the subject. A liberal college professor touting open academic inquiry banned "conservative" materials from class because she refused "to tolerate the intolerable." Members of the man-made global warming cult dogmatically proclaim a consensus despite strong dissent. Environmentalists extrapolate this mindset in their approach to scores of issues, traveling utterly quixotic paths and pursuing devastatingly expensive larks while dismissing skeptics as flat-earthers. Obama constantly refers to his ideas as self-evidently reasonable and Republicans' as driven solely by partisanship, because how could they possibly oppose his reality-based proposals?

As a conservative, I believe that many liberals proceed from good intentions, though I think their consistently horrendous results entitle us to some skepticism after a while even as to their intentions -- or at least to their ability to see past their oppressive biases. I don't believe, for example, that they are racists because their policies harm minorities, though they often do. I don't believe they automatically lack compassion just because their policies spread misery.

Yet many liberals do believe that conservatives are evil, uncompassionate racists because our policies don't fit their self-serving, narrow, shallow parameters of "good intentions." Many leftists are so possessed by a need to be morally superior that they can't abide the possibility that conservatives also have noble intentions. So it is that many who believe they are objective, fair and reality-based are far less so than the objects of their scorn.

To read another article by David Limbaugh, click here.

Obama's Foreign Policy Spin

Obama's Foreign Policy Spin
By Caroline Glick

In recent months, a curious argument has surfaced in favor of US President Barack Obama. His supporters argue that Obama's foreign policy has been a massive success. If he had as much freedom of action in domestic affairs as he has in foreign affairs, they say, his achievements in all areas would be without peer.

Expressing this view, Karen Finney, a former Democratic spokeswoman who often defends the party in the US media, told The Huffington Post, "Look at the progress the president can make when he doesn't have Republicans obstructing him."

According to a Gallup poll from early November, the US public also believes that Obama's foreign policy has been successful. Whereas 67 percent of Americans disapproved of Obama's handling of the economy and the federal budget deficit, 63% of Americans approved of his terrorism strategy. So, too, 52% approved of his decision to remove US forces from Iraq. In general, 49% of Americans approved of Obama's handling of foreign affairs while 44% disapproved.

These support levels tell us a great deal about the insularity of the American public. For when one assesses the impact to date of Obama's foreign policy it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that if the US public was more aware of the actual consequences of his policies, his approval rating in foreign affairs would be even lower than his approval rating in domestic policy.

Indeed, a cursory examination of the impact so far of Obama's foreign policies in country after country and region after region indicates that his policies have been more damaging to US national interests than those of any president since Jimmy Carter. And unlike Obama, Americans widely recognized that Carter's foreign policies were failed and dangerous.

The failure of Obama's foreign policies has been nowhere more evident than in the Middle East.

Take Iraq for instance. Obama and his supporters claim that the withdrawal of all US forces from Iraq is one of his great accomplishments. By pulling out, Obama kept his promise to voters to end the war in "a responsible manner." And as the polling data indicate, most Americans are willing to give him credit for the move.

But the situation on the ground is dangerous and getting worse every day. Earlier this month, just ahead of the departure of the last US forces from Iraq, Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited with Obama at the White House. Immediately after he returned home, the Shi'ite premier began a ruthless campaign against his Sunni coalition partners in a no-holds barred bid to transform the Iraqi government and armed forces into partisan institutions controlled by his Dawa Party.

Forces commanded by Maliki's son arrested and allegedly tortured several of the Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi's bodyguards. They forced the guards to implicate Hashimi in terror plots. Maliki subsequently issued an arrest warrant for Hashimi. So, too, he issued an arrest warrant for the Sunni Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlak and fired him without permission from the Iraqi parliament.

Hashimi and Mutlak are now in hiding in Erbil. Maliki is demanding that the Kurdish regional government extradite them to Baghdad for trial.

Maliki's actions have driven Sunni leaders in the Sunni provinces of Diyala, Anbar and Salahadin to demand autonomy under Iraq's federal system. He has responded by deploying loyal forces to the provinces to fight the local militias.

The situation is so explosive that three prominent Sunni leaders, former prime minister Ayad Allawi, who heads the Iraqiya party, Parliament Speaker Osama Nujaifi and Finance Minister Rafe al-Essawi published an op-ed in The New York Times on Tuesday begging Obama to rein in Maliki in order to prevent Iraq from plunging into civil war.

THEN THERE is Egypt. Obama's decision in February to abandon then-president Hosni Mubarak, the US's most dependable ally in the Arab world, in favor of the protesters in Tahrir Square was hailed by Obama's supporters as a victory for democracy and freedom against tyranny. By supporting the protesters against the US ally, Obama argued that he was advancing US interests by showing the Muslim world the US favored the people over their leaders.

Ten months later, the Egyptian people has responded to this populist policy by giving jihadist parties a two-thirds majority in parliamentary elections. For the first time in 30 years, the strategic anchor of US power in the Arab world - the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty - is in danger. Indeed, there is no reason to believe it will survive.

According to the Gallup poll, 48% of Americans approve of Obama's handling of the war in Afghanistan and 44% disapprove. Here, too, it is far from clear what there is to approve of. Against the public entreaties of the US commanders on the ground, Obama is carrying through on his pledge to withdraw all US surge troops from Afghanistan before the US presidential election in November. In the meantime, the US is engaged in negotiations with the Taliban. The purpose of these negotiations is to reach a political agreement that would set the conditions for the Taliban to return to power after a US pullout. That is, the purpose of the talks is to set the conditions for a US defeat in Afghanistan.

The administration hails its success in overthrowing Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi without sacrificing a single US soldier. And certainly, this was a success. However, Gaddafi's opponents, who are now taking charge of the country, are arguably worse for the US than Gaddafi was. They include a significant number of al-Qaida terrorists and are dominated by jihadist forces. Attempts by the NATO-backed provisional government to convince them to disarm have failed completely.

Since Gaddafi was overthrown, large quantities of advanced weapons from his arsenal - allegedly including stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction - have gone missing. Significant quantities of Libyan shoulder-to-air missiles have made their way to Gaza since Gaddafi's overthrow.

In Syria, while the administration insists that dictator Bashar Assad's days in power are numbered, it is doing essentially nothing to support the opposition. Fearing the instability that would ensue if a civil war were to break out in Iran's Arab protectorate, the US has chosen to effectively sit on its hands and so cancel any leverage it ought to wield over the shape of things to come.

AS FOR Iran, Obama's policies have brought about a situation where the regime in Tehran does not fear a US military strike on its nuclear installations. Obama's open opposition to the prospect of an Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear installations has similarly convinced the regime that it can proceed without fear in its nuclear project.

Iran's threat this week to close the Straits of Hormuz in the event that the US imposes an embargo on Iranian oil exports is being widely characterized by the US media as a sign of desperation on the part of the regime. But it is hard to see how this characterization aligns with reality. It is far more appropriate to view Iran's easy threats as a sign of contempt for Obama and for US power projection under his leadership.

If Iran's ambitions to acquire nuclear weapons are thwarted, it will be despite Obama, not because of him.

Then there is the so-called peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Due to Obama's unbridled hostility towards Israel, there is no chance whatsoever that Israel and the PLO will reach a peace deal for the foreseeable future. Instead, Fatah and Hamas have agreed to unify their forces. The only thing standing in the way of a Hamas takeover of the PLO is Congress's threat to cut off US aid to the Palestinian Authority. For his part, Obama has gone out of his way to discredit the congressional threat by serving as an indefatigable lobbyist for maintaining US financial support for the PA.

Of course, the Middle East is not the only region where the deleterious consequences of Obama's foreign policy are being felt. From Europe to Africa, from Asia to Latin America, Obama's determination to embrace US adversaries such as Vladimir Putin and Hugo Chavez has weakened pro-US forces and strengthened US foes.

So how is that that while Carter was perceived by the majority of the American public as a foreign policy failure, a large plurality of Americans views Obama's foreign policy as a success?

Obama's success in hiding his failures from the American public owes to two related factors. First, to date the US has not been forced to contend directly with the consequences of his failures.

Carter's failures were impossible to ignore because the blowback from them was immediate, unmistakable and harsh. His betrayal of the shah of Iran led directly to the takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran and the hostage crisis. Carter could not spin to his advantage the daily stories about the hostages. He could not influence CBS Evening News anchor Walter Cronkite's decision to end every broadcast by reminding viewers how many days the hostages had been in captivity.

So, too, the consequences of Carter's weakness in confronting the Soviet Union were impossible to ignore or minimize with images of Soviet tank columns invading Afghanistan dominating the news.

To date, Obama's foreign policy failures have yet to explode in a manner that can make the average American aware of them.

Then, too, Obama and his advisers have been extremely adept in presenting his tactical achievements as strategic victories. So it is that the administration has successfully cast the killing of Osama bin Laden as a strategic victory in the war on terror. Obama has upheld the mission, as well as the killing of al- Qaida leader Anwar al-Awlaki, as proof of his competence in securing US interests. And to a large degree, the US public has accepted his claims.

Because it is impossible to know when Obama's failures will begin to directly impact the America people, it is possible that he will not pay a political price for them in the 2012 election. Be that as it may, the Republican presidential contenders would provide an invaluable service to both themselves and the American public as a whole if they made exposing Obama's disastrous stewardship of US foreign policy a central plank of their campaigns.

At a minimum, forewarned is forearmed. And the dimensions of Obama's failures are so enormous, that it is clear that the American people will suffer their consequences for years to come.

To read another article by Caroline Glick, click here.

Iran and Al-Qaeda

Iran and Al-Qaeda
By Cliff May

Late last week, the State Department announced a $10 million reward for information leading to the capture of Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil, A.K.A. Yasin al-Suri – Yasin the Syrian. Serious students of terrorism and counterterrorism saw this as big news for two reasons.

The first is tactical: Never before has a reward been offered for the capture of a terrorist financier. But the money men are vital links in the terrorist chain so targeting them makes sense. Also unusual is the amount: Only Ayman al-Zawahiri, who has been trying to fill Osama bin Laden’s shoes at al Qaeda’ main office, commands a larger bounty ($25 million).

The second reason is strategic: al-Suri is an al Qaeda operative who, since 2005, has been living in Iran, working in collaboration with the theocratic regime, according to U.S. officials. “Under an agreement between al Qaeda and the Government of Iran, Yasin al-Suri has helped move money and recruits through Iran to al Qaeda leaders in neighboring countries in the region," Robert Hartung, State Department Assistant Director for Threat Investigations and Analysis, told reporters. “He is a dedicated terrorist working in support of al Qaeda with the support of the Government of Iran, which the Department of State has designated a state sponsor of terrorism.”

Those are stunning words. Within the foreign policy establishment the prevailing orthodoxy has long maintained that Iran’s Shia rulers despise the Sunnis of al Qaeda; that the enmity is mutual; and that operational cooperation between them is therefore inconceivable. It also has been a longstanding article of faith that the terrorist groups threatening America are “non-state” actors, groups limited in their capabilities because they do not enjoy the support of national rulers with all the resources those rulers can bring to the table.

Dissenting from that paradigm have been such analysts as Michael Ledeen and Thomas Joscelyn of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard. They have argued that Iran and al Qaeda collaborate despite theological/ideological differences; that many, if not most, of the Islamist groups waging war against the West are linked like strands of a spider’s web; and that Iran is the “terrorist master.”

Ties between Iran and al-Qaeda trace back to the early 1990's when Hasan Al-Turabi, the leader of Sudan's National Islamic Front, made it his mission to encourage Sunni-Shia reconciliation. Al-Turabi facilitated a series of meeting between bin Laden, then living in Khartoum, and envoys from Tehran. It did not take long for Iran and al-Qaeda to reach an informal agreement: Iran would provide training, intelligence and explosives. Al Qaeda would make good use of these services and products against common enemies.

The 9/11 Commission Report has a section titled: “Assistance from Hezbollah and Iran to Al Qaeda.” It notes that what began in Sudan continued: "Intelligence indicates the persistence of contacts between Iranian security officials and senior Al-Qaeda figures after Bin Laden's return to Afghanistan… Iran made a concerted effort to strengthen relations with Al Qaeda after the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole …”

The report also found “strong evidence that Iran facilitated the transit of Al Qaeda members into and out of Afghanistan before 9/11, and that some of these were future 9/11 hijackers.” And there is reason to believe that Imad Mugniyah, who was both the military chief of Hezbollah and an agent for Iran (until he was killed in 2008), helped with preparations for the 9/11 attacks. In May of this year, The New York Times reported that two defectors from Iran's intelligence service “testified that Iranian officials had ‘foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks’” and that one of them “claimed that Iran was involved in planning the attacks.”

There’s more. A year ago, Hayes and Joscelyn wrote: “Nearly a decade after the 9/11 attacks, not only do we have abundant evidence that Iran, the world’s foremost state sponsor of terror, supports al Qaeda. We also have evidence that Iran actively assists terrorists and insurgents targeting our soldiers and diplomats” in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

In November, a Washington, D.C. district court concluded that “the government of Iran aided, abetted and conspired with Hezbollah, Osama bin Laden, and al Qaeda to launch large-scale bombing attacks” against two American embassies in Africa in 1998. That should have come as no surprise: In 1998, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York unsealed an indictment of bin Laden. It included the charge that al-Qaeda had “allied itself with Sudan, Iran, and Hezbollah."

The conclusion to which all this leads is that Iran and al-Qaeda, despite their differences, can and do cooperate to wage what they see as a Great Jihad against America and its allies. They are not enemies. Rather, they are rivals who work together when it suits their common interests.

It would be an historic abdication of responsibility if American and other Western leaders, ignoring these facts, were to allow Iran’s rulers to acquire nuclear weapons that, odds are, sooner or later, they would use – or give to al Qaeda, Hezbollah or other terrorist groups to use.

In an interview last week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that if Iranian rulers “proceed and we get intelligence that they are proceeding with developing a nuclear weapon then we will take whatever steps necessary to stop it.” Was he bluffing? Or has there been a paradigm shift -- a fundamental change in how senior members of the Obama administration understand who America’s enemies are and how they operate? Or is this still an on-going debate within the administration? I suspect we’ll find out sometime in the New Year.

To read another article by Cliff May, click here.

Norman Lear's Left-Wing Paranoia About 'The Right'

Norman Lear's Left-Wing Paranoia About 'The Right'
By Larry Elder

They're coming for your children! They're coming for the womenfolk! Then they're coming after you! Norman Lear, the famous television show producer, offered this hysterically paranoid assessment of the allegedly growing and presumably insidious power of "the right":

"I want to suggest that we lefties start laying claim to what we see as 'sacred' and serve it up proudly to the religious right -- to the James Dobson, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Karl Rove ... hatemongers, sheathed in sanctity, and to the Koch brothers, the types that fund them and use them so effectively for their own political power-grabbing purposes. Over the past several decades, the power-grabbing right has built a powerful infrastructure -- radio and TV stations and networks. They've built think tanks, colleges and law schools."

How accurate is Lear's assessment of the supposed power and influence of the right? Is the right steadily forming a formidable alliance of academics, media outlets, websites, etc., that serve as a fourth column for the "right wing"? Even if this were true, what about the power of the left?

Let's look at the mainscream media. In "Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind," UCLA economist and political science professor Dr. Tim Groseclose uses three different methods to determine the SQ -- or slant quotient -- of the major media outlets. Of the 20 most prominent news outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, "Good Morning America" and Time magazine, he found only two that leaned to the right: The Washington Times and Fox News.

True, the network evening news shows no longer hold the market share of years past, but nearly 25 million Americans still turn to Diane Sawyer, Brian Williams and Scott Pelley each night. That means eight times as many viewers watch ABC/NBC/CBS as watch "The O'Reilly Factor," the top-rated cable news/talk program.

When people like Lear speak of the growing power of the right-wing cabal, they believe Fox leads the charge. And Bill O'Reilly is clearly the face of the Fox News network. But as hated as O'Reilly is by the left, how legitimate is their description of O'Reilly as a right-wing ideologue?

O'Reilly is not even a Republican. He is registered as an independent and opposes the death penalty. He supported -- at least initially -- the Senate's so-called "amnesty bill." His opposition to ObamaCare is based on cost rather than the Constitution. He believes that in "a system where everybody is guaranteed the same health care ... whether you have a lot of money or no money, you're gonna get the same health care. Now, in theory, that sounds good ... but in practice, we got a $14 trillion debt that we can't pay off, and this is gonna add to it, big-time." He wondered how a man can raise a family of four on minimum wage. In a recent interview with former President Bill Clinton, O'Reilly said, "I think I am paying my fair share (of taxes). Now, I didn't mind paying what you had me at. I didn't mind paying you that." Somewhere, anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist is having heartburn.

Now let's look at academia. Given the dominance of left-wingers in academia, that Lear can even say this with a straight face is astonishing. Let's look at who is teaching our college-level students. The American Enterprise Institute's magazine examined the political registrations of professors at 20 colleges and universities, representing a cross section of higher education -- public and private, big and small, in the North, South, East and West. The study divided the registrations into those belonging to a "party of the left" -- Democrats, Greens or some other liberal political party -- or a "party of the right" -- either Republican or Libertarian. Overwhelmingly, by a more than 13-1 margin, the profs were registered with a party of the left. Many departments had no professors from a right-wing party.

Let's look at Hollywood. Ben Shapiro, a recent Harvard Law School grad, wrote a book called "Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV." He interviewed, on the record, over 100 industry bigwigs, including David Shore ("House"), Fred Silverman (former CBS programming vice president, ABC Entertainment president, and NBC president and CEO), Marta Kauffman ("Friends"), Larry Gelbart ("M-A-S-H") and Mark Burnett ("Survivor"). When asked whether there is a prevailing pro-left ideology, if not a left-wing agenda, several major players admitted that of course Hollywood leans left. Others bluntly bragged about their bias against conservatives and the extent of the left-wing messages inserted into their comedies and dramas.

Perhaps Lear might consider the advice the late Andy Rooney once offered to a CBS colleague: "There is just no question that I, among others, have a liberal bias. I mean, I'm consistently liberal in my opinions. And I think ... Dan (Rather) is transparently liberal. Now, he may not like to hear me say that. I always agree with him, too, but I think he should be more careful."

Given the left's dominance in the major media, academia and Hollywood, it is beyond insulting to hear influential Hollywood lefties like Mr. Lear whine about the supposed power of the right. Makes them sound like a, well, "Meathead."

To read another article by Larry Elder, click here.

Holder's Race-Baiting is about Obama's Re-Election, Not Voting Rights

Holder's Race-Baiting is about Obama's Re-Election, Not Voting Rights
By Ken Blackwell

Editor's Note: This column was co-authored by Ken Klukowski

Eric Holder’s Department of Justice (DOJ) has launched an all-out war on voter-ID laws and other measures to safeguard to the electoral process. Although Holder’s actions are purportedly to prevent African-Americans from being disenfranchised, the reality is that they serve the crass political purpose of ensuring that Holder’s boss gets reelected next year.

In the past several years states have increasingly focused on measures to protect the vote. After years of the federal government loosening voting regulations, such as through the Motor Voter Act and HAVA (Help America Vote Act), the pendulum started swinging back at the state level.

The clearest example of this trend is through voter-ID laws. In 2008 the Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s landmark law requiring citizens to show that they are the person they claim to be by showing government-issued ID before casting a ballot. But to ensure that those without driver’s licenses or passports are not disenfranchised, Indiana provides free ID’s to everyone who applies for one. The Court upheld this law, with the primary opinion written by no one less than liberal lion Justice John Paul Stevens.

Such laws combat voter fraud that we see on Election Day, especially in certain parts of the nation. In Washington State, King County suddenly “discovered” enough previously “unnoticed” votes for Democrat Christine Gregoire to edge out Republican Dino Rossi for Washington’s governorship in 2004. There are also examples from Wisconsin, Missouri, and other states.

Yet Holder has blocked South Carolina’s voter-ID law. DOJ argues that this law is different from Indiana’s because South Carolina is subject to additional federal oversight under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. (This is especially important because there are several federal cases challenging the constitutionality of Section 5.)

But the reality is that DOJ’s actions are not focused on protecting voting rights. They are instead intended to make sure that Barack Obama wins reelection.

It’s not cynical to say this. The twelve or so battleground states that will decide the 2012 presidential election suggest Obama’s reelection strategy. These states include Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Missouri. All these states have large African-American populations.

The African-American community has a staggeringly-high unemployment rate under President Obama. So Black Americans will not vote for this president because of any prosperity he’s brought to that community. Instead, he has to gin up their votes by painting a picture of racial conflict in which he—and the governmental agency dealsing with such things, DOJ—is their champion.

This is also seen in Holder’s incessant playing of the race card. First he says we’re a nation of cowards about race. Now that he’s on the ropes for DOJ’s scandalous Operation Fast and Furious gun-running scandal into Mexico, he has the audacity to say that he and President Obama are being attacked in part because they’re both African-Americans.

Voting is a fundamental right. It is the means by which “We the People” consent to be governed for a fixed period of time by certain individuals, by electing them as stewards of governmental power. They wield this power to secure our rights as set forth in the U.S. Constitution and (for state officials) the constitutions of the fifty states.

But there is another voting right. It is the right not to have your legal vote diluted by fraudulent votes. As we explain in our Yale Law & Policy Review article “The Other Voting Right,” every invalid vote cancels out one valid vote. Each such cancellation undermines our democratic republic and reduces the legitimacy of election results.

Voting is also unique in that it might be the only right that is also a duty. It’s not too much to ask for citizens to exert a minimal amount of effort to fulfill reasonable regulations to protect the integrity of the electoral process.

Every eligible citizen has a duty to vote. But as we explain in our book Resurgent: How Constitutional Conservatism Can Save America, it is a duty to cast an informed vote. Although there are only so many hours in the day, we each need to make an effort to gather enough information to understand the major issues facing our nation, state, and community, and to carefully vote for candidates who offer the best solutions for our long-term safety and prosperity.

Because voting is a duty, and also because every voter has the right to ensure their valid vote is not diluted by fraudulent votes, citizens can be expected to fulfill certain requirements that would not be justified when exercising other rights, such as free speech or the free exercise of religion. Measures such as showing up at the correct place on the correct day to cast a ballot under the watchful eyes of trained precinct personnel are examples of fulfilling our duty, as is showing valid ID to prove that you are the person listed on that precinct’s voter rolls.

These measures are essential to our self-governing republic. As examples the world over show, losing the integrity of the electoral process is a mistake a free people often get to make only once.

To read another article by Ken Blackwell, click here.

To read another article about democrats cheating, click here.

Do You Remember?

Do You Remember?

1. In 1968, Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed by a Muslim male extremist.

2. In 1972 at the Munich Olympics, Athletes were kidnapped and massacred by Muslim male extremists.

3. In 1979, the US embassy In Iran was taken over by Muslim male extremists.

4. During the 1980's a number of Americans were kidnapped in Lebanon by Muslim male extremists.

5. In 1983, the US Marine barracks In Beirut was blown up By Muslim male extremists.

6. In 1985, the cruise ship Achille Lauro was hijacked And a 70 year old American passenger was murdered And thrown overboard in his wheelchair By Muslim male extremists.

7. In 1985, TWA flight 847 was hijacked at Athens , And a US Navy diver trying to rescue Passengers was murdered By Muslim male extremists.

8. In 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was bombed By Muslim male extremists.

9. In 1993, the World Trade Center Was bombed the first time By Muslim male extremists.

10. In 1998, the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed by Muslim male extremists.

11. On 9/11/01, four airliners were hijacked; Two were used as missiles to take down The World Trade Centers and of the remaining two, one crashed into the US Pentagon And the other was diverted and crashed By the passengers. Thousands of people were killed by Muslim male extremists.

12. In 2002, the United States fought a war in Afghanistan against Muslim male extremists.

13. In 2002, reporter Daniel Pearl Was kidnapped and murdered by--- You guessed it---Muslim male extremists.

No, I really don'tSee a pattern here to justify profiling, do you? So, to ensure we Americans never offend anyone, particularly fanatics intent on killing us, airport security screeners will no longer be allowed to profile certain people... Absolutely No Profiling!

They must conduct random searches of 80-year-old women, little kids, airline pilots with proper identification, secret agents who are members of the President's Security detail, 85-year old Congressmen with metal hips, and Medal of Honor winner and former Governor Joe Foss, but leave Muslim Males alone lest they be guilty of profiling.

Have the American people completely lost their minds, or just their power of reason?

2011: You Can't Win For Losing

2011: You Can't Win For Losing
By Jonah Goldberg

Charlie Sheen was clearly the man of the year.

You'll recall that 2011 began with the oafish actor celebrating his own narcotic and sexual crapulence like a victorious gladiator working the crowds. He was egged on by a media with as much decency as the cons on the top tiers of the prison who chant "fresh fish" as the new inmates walk into general pop, their eyes stinging from delousing powder.

Sheen succeeded at turning his own debasement into a national pseudo-event by calling the very definition of losing "winning."

And that's what 2011 was all about: pretending to be winning while really losing. Sheen's Hollywood compatriots played the same game. Kim Kardashian, fresh from the "success" of her sex tape, parlayed her celebrity into a "classy" wedding that netted her millions and 72 days of marital bliss. Poor Lindsay Lohan, meanwhile, merely found victories in reduced jail time.

Speaking of jail time, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich started the year by trying to translate his crimes into a lucrative career as a reality-show star and ended it with a prison sentence.

In January, a deranged madman killed a bunch of people in Arizona and horribly wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. It was a true tragedy, disgustingly exploited by liberals who saw it as the perfect opportunity to demonize political opponents. Against the weight of logic, facts and decency, allegedly serious people claimed that a map on Sarah Palin's Facebook page inspired the shooter.

The Tucson tragedy also let Barack Obama deliver perhaps the best speech of his presidency -- on the need to tone down the extreme rhetoric on both sides. Alas, when liberals lecture "both sides," they mean, "Everyone who disagrees with me should shut up."

By summer, Democratic operatives and liberal New York Times columnists alike (a subtle distinction, I know) were decrying Republicans as "hostage takers" (Obama) and "terrorists" (Joe Biden) and the Tea Party as "the Hezbollah faction" of the GOP (NYT columnist Tom Friedman) with nary a peep of protest from the champions of civility.

Speaking of protest, consider the Occupy Wall Street movement. Not since the Hebrews killed themselves at Masada has there been a group that more obviously won by losing. Of course, the Jews at Masada were freedom fighters battling Roman imperialism. The Occupy Wall Streeters think they're fighting imperialism when they throw a tantrum about having to pay their debts.

The Occupy movement's meager tangible accomplishments (We recycled our own urine!) are inversely correlated with their lavish press coverage. The protesters were named Time magazine's person of the year. Though in fairness, Time diluted its sycophancy by including the Arab Spring protesters who've (so far) ushered in a glorious new era of Islamism in places like Egypt. Winning!

(Though perhaps not as clear cut a "win" as President Obama's decision to declare political victory and pull our troops out of Iraq prematurely, so we can lose a war we sacrificed so much to win.)

Back home, Tea Party politicians who truly won historic midterm election victories are cast as dangerous losers. The Occupiers lost their bongs and yurts to bulldozers in cities across America, but museums around the country are nonetheless desperate to acquire authentic Occupy movement artifacts to commemorate their glorious but unspecified successes. Unfortunately, the tea parties cannot work the refs of history this way, because they clean up their mess after they get together.

No word if the Smithsonian collected some genuine Occupier scat to be preserved next to the alleged specimens from the Yeti and Sasquatch. Lord knows they left enough behind for others to scoop.

And so it goes. The economy continued to languish while the president declared victory over a Depression that never was and touted himself as the most legislatively successful president ever -- with the "possible exceptions" of FDR, LBJ and Lincoln.

Meanwhile, we are approaching the third year of the long winter Obama once celebrated as a "recovery summer." Its chief selling points are an unemployment rate statistically lowered by more Americans giving up hope of finding a job, and the claim that millions of jobs have been "created or saved." This bogus locution allows Obama to claim every job he doesn't destroy as a win.

And let us not forget the Republicans, whose feckless squad of A-Team candidates stayed on the bench for fear of joining the mosh pit of cannibalism the primary has become, setting the stage for a potential loss in 2012 that not even Charlie Sheen will be able to spin as a victory.

To read another article by Jonah Goldberg, click here.

2012: A Tumultuous Year To Come

2012: A Tumultuous Year To Come
By Oliver North

GEORGETOWN, S.C. -- A year ago, this column questioned whether the 112th Congress -- with its new speaker of the House, John Boehner -- could "overcome the inane policies of its predecessors" and "mend Washington's free-spending ways." We all know how that turned out.

This week, as we prepare to ring out 2011 and welcome 2012, President Barack Obama asked for Congress to authorize yet another increase in our national debt -- the third such rise in less than 15 months. Housing prices continue to slide; more than 13 million Americans are unemployed; government spending continues unabated; and America's credit rating is at risk of another downgrade. In January, barring action by Congress and the White House, U.S. defense spending cuts totaling $1.1 trillion over the next four years will begin to take effect. Such an outcome in the midst of these perilous times ought to be unthinkable.

Instead of putting tens of thousands of Americans to work building new ships, submarines, aircraft and a missile shield to protect the American people from nuclear attack, the Obama administration wants the federal government to create temporary jobs repaving highways, painting bridges and re-roofing public schools. Rather than have unemployed construction workers build a petroleum pipeline from Canada (and improve U.S. energy security), the Obama White House wastes billions on phony "green jobs." The administration has to hope we all will forget the word "Solyndra."

In a burst of year-end euphoria, progressive politicians, pundits and government economists are predicting that the worst of the "Bush-era recession" is behind us and that good times are just ahead. They pin their economic hopes for 2012 less on American entrepreneurs than they do on German taxpayers.

The experts are praying Berlin will continue to bail out European PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain) and prevent an Old World financial collapse that would drag down the sale of U.S. goods and services on the Continent. Expect to see German Chancellor Angela Merkel feted at a White House state dinner early in the new year. A million or so American jobs could well depend on whether she likes the soup.

Jobs -- the word used most often by politicians running for office in 2012. Regardless of party, whether challenger or incumbent, every office seeker tells us he or she has a way of "creating," "protecting," "saving" or "improving" jobs for American workers. What few of our elected officials ever mention is how vulnerable these "well-paying" and "secure" jobs are to factors far more threatening than the European debt crisis. Here are the top three issues that should concern those who purport to care about our economic well-being in the year ahead:

1) An Iranian nuke. Just before Christmas, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told us Iran could have a workable nuclear weapon in 2012. He also knows -- but didn't say -- that the theocrats in Tehran already have the means of delivering it. Tel Aviv, Israel, is target No. 1. American civilians are No. 2 on the ayatollahs' hit parade. To Israelis, the expression "Never Again" isn't a political slogan. It's a way of life. They are not going to wait to be incinerated.

The Obama administration could stop the Iranians from building atomic weapons and perhaps even bring about regime change by forbidding any company doing any business in Iran from doing any business in the U.S. But unless the O-Team takes such a step, the Israelis will have to act pre-emptively to prevent annihilation. If you think the "2008-11 global recession" hurt, you don't want to contemplate what the world economy would be like after an attack on Iran's nuclear weapons sites.

2) The jihad. The "Arab Spring" -- once so proudly proclaimed to have been instigated by Obama's soaring rhetoric -- has become a nightmare for democratic aspirations in the Middle East. Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, Moammar Gadhafi and Anwar al-Awlaki are dead, but the jihad being waged by radical Islamists is stronger than ever. Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Sudan are headed for Shariah rather than secular governance in 2012. Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, Jordan, Nigeria and even Saudi Arabia could follow suit soon. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom forecasts that Christianity could be eradicated in these countries. The economic impact of such an upheaval is potentially catastrophic.

3) The collapse of Russian democracy. Vladimir Putin is presiding over a dying country -- and he knows it. Though Russian energy exports to Europe and China currently fill the coffers of Moscow's kleptocracy and help rebuild Soviet-era nuclear weapons, the future for the land of the czars is bleak. Russia's population -- now 141.7 million -- drops by nearly 1 million per year. With an average male life span of just 59 years, look for 2012 to be the year Putin and his cronies do all they can to line their pockets -- at our expense.

Note to all running for office in 2012: The word "entitlement" does not appear in the Constitution. The words "provide for the common defence" do. Happy new year.

To read another article by Oliver North, click here.

Top Hot Air posts in 2011: 1-10

Top Hot Air posts in 2011: 1-10, plus top 10 most commented posts of the year
posted at 3:45 pm on December 30, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

I decided to post this because of all the good links in contains.

We finally arrive at the top ten Hot Air posts for 2011 based on unique page views, and it’s a surprising mix of the tragic, absurd, and eclectic. If I had to guess what the most-viewed post of the year was going to be, the actual winner of that honor would never have occurred to me. We have only one true open thread, but it’s about the topic that seemed to be the hottest of our year, based on the top 50 list, and this time we have a Green Room post (not a post promoted to the front page) and a headline in the top 5:
10: Video: The greatest music video ever? – “American Pie” might not be the most hopeful of songs, but the good people of Grand Rapids put it to great use in a splendid show of civic pride.
9: Breaking: Congresswoman, five others shot in Tucson, AZ – An awful, awful day, which almost immediately got exploited awfully as well. But the real tragedy, we should recall, were the six people who lost their lives and the others — like Gabrielle Giffords, the elected Representative to Congress from the area — who were grievously wounded.
8: BREAKING: BIN LADEN DEAD – This was actually my guess for what the top post would have been. This may have been the top single news story of the year in general, and certainly our greatest victory this year in the war on terror.
7: Video: The bully body slam – Its tremendous popularity rests, I’m sure, in the vicarious thrill of revenge that we all wish we could have taken on our own childhood tormentors. The reaction to this clip was rather instructive, as people griped about the attack on the bully — and one Democrat in Congress wanted to make bullying a federal issue.
•6: New Obama metric: “Jobs supported” – I was a little surprised to see that this got so much traction, but it’s worth reading again — because you know Obama will roll this out during the campaign season next year.
5: Video: Marco Rubio vs. John Kerry on the debt crisis – I’ll just post what Allahpundit said about this, in its entirety: “A long clip but worth every minute. Trust me. Just watch it.” Think Tea-Party-meets-Washington-elitism, and yes, it’s as awesome as it sounds.
4: BREAKING: Obama’s Abu Ghraib: The Stuff Hits the Fan – In one sense, yes, it was Abu Ghraib — abuses by a handful of American soldiers, this time resulting in murders rather than just torture or humiliations. In another sense, no … since the American media seemed pretty uninterested in pursuing this story, unlike Abu Ghraib, which the Pentagon had already been probing for some time when the story broke.
3: Debbie Wasserman-Schultz: NY-9 is “a very difficult district for Democrats” – Our one Headline in the top 50, we also wrote about this on the front page, thanks to its value in absurdity. Dems last lost NY-09 in 1922. I’m a little surprised, however, that more of Debbie Downer’s pontifications didn’t make the top 50, as we all certainly benefited from her appointment as chair of the DNC. I’m looking forward to 2012.
2: Open thread: Wisconsin supreme court election results – By the metric of unique page views, the battles in Wisconsin are the topic of the year at Hot Air. They account for nine of our top 50 posts alone, although only one in the top 10, finishing with a silver medal.

And now, the Number One Post of 2011 is …

1: Pelosi whines about Catholics having “this conscience thing” – Our top post was written by Tina Korbe? Hey, what’s up with that? First she gets engaged, then she wins the top spot. I’m going to demand some redistribution of page views, or something. Seriously, it’s a great post about an inexplicable gripe from a Catholic about having “a conscience thing.” As a Catholic myself, I could write reams about what’s wrong with this statement, but suffice it to say that most religions don’t consider a conscience to be a bad thing. Perhaps if Pelosi spent a little time learning about her faith rather than trumpeting it at the same time she opposes what it stands for, she wouldn’t make this kind of jaw-dropping gaffe.

There’s been a request or two for a list of the most commented posts of the year, which is a little harder to do. Our crack team has sent me the list, from which I have deleted the open threads and two of Allahpundit’s excellent Quotes of the Day, but be sure to check them out. With those gone, the top three are from breaking news stories, four about Sarah Palin, and another two about religion. About what you’d think, no?
10: Coulter on Palin: Let’s face it, she’s probably not electable – Ann Coulter’s consistent on electability; she’s backing Romney. 1,299 comments.
9: Surprise: Palin’s bus tour to roll into Iowa this week – This led to the predictable yes-she-will, no-she-won’t debate in the comments — all 1,318 of them.
8: Indiana Supreme Court rules Hoosiers have no right to resist unlawful entry of their homes by police – From our Green Room, courtesy of Bruce McQuain, a truly mind-boggling decision in Indiana got 1,354 comments.
7: Video: “Journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel” – Sarah Palin’s response to criticism for using the same kind of imagery as the DNC and language as the media in electioneering in the aftermath of the Tucson shooting — plus a defense from Alan Dershowitz — got 1,434 comments.
6: Palin readies national bus tour – Who was up for another Palin bus tour post? Readers left 1,613 comments.
5: Evolution, Creation and Politics – Jazz Shaw told the media to get a grip on a belief in Genesis, and got 1,653 responses.
4: Is “Tebowing” an attack on Christianity? – Howard Portnoy’s complaint about Tebowing got 1,826 comments, most of them critical, but that’s the fun, right?
3: Breaking: Wisconsin Senate GOP to split off collective bargaining bill from budget, pass it separately? – Also on our Top 50 list, this got 1,858 comments.
2: Breaking: Palin not running for president – This ended the will-she-or-won’t-she debate, but it got 2,165 comments anyway.
1: Breaking: Congresswoman, five others shot in Tucson, AZ – 2,791 comments, and many times more than that in prayers for all the victims.

Say, where are the Tim Pawlenty posts on these two lists? I know they have to be somewhere

To read another article by Ed Morrissey, click here.

Empowering American Families

Empowering American Families
Our most powerful social asset is the one we aren’t supposed to cultivate.
by John Hayward

Presidential candidate Rick Santorum​ is enjoying a bit of a surge in Iowa. He’s put a huge amount of work into the state, and could not possibly make a comparable effort in any other. He’s big in his home state of Pennsylvania, but their primary won’t be held until April 24. He’s facing pretty long odds against surviving in the race until then.

On the eve of what could, therefore, be either his big break or his swan song, Jim Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute took a look at Santorum’s detailed campaign platform. As with the other GOP candidates, he doesn’t talk about it enough when he has the attention of a national audience – it’s curious how they treat so many powerful, intriguing proposals as footnotes.

Santorum is better than average at tying the many elements (31, to be exact) of his platform into a unified theme, reflected in its title: “Made in America: Empowering American Families, Building Economic Freedom.” The economic freedom part comes from lowered and simplified tax rates, particularly on investment and manufacturing. One of those curiously underplayed ideas is what amounts to a flat income tax with only two rates, 10% and 28%.

Unlike some other tax reform proposals, Santorum’s keeps plenty of deduction incentives, compromising economic freedom in the service of a very specific goal: supporting American families. He offers tripled deductions for children, and eliminates marriage tax penalties. He would keep the deductions for charity, home mortgage interest, health care, and retirement savings, all of which are of keen interest to families.

Our media and political culture is rather hostile to the notion of deliberately supporting families through government policy. This is partly a result of the enormous energy deployed in the quest to re-define marriage – an effort premised on the notion that there is absolutely nothing special about the union of one man and one woman. Policies deliberately designed to cultivate traditional families are unhelpful to this effort, so they draw accusations of bigotry, theocracy, or at least hopelessly out-of-touch nostalgia. The defense of marriage and the family is dismissed as the province of unthinking religious zealots.

However, there are eminently practical reasons to support and nurture the traditional family, which have nothing to do with religion. For starters, there is the simple need to maintain population growth, which requires a large number of families to raise three or more children. It does not denigrate other family models to point out the simple truth that traditional families are particularly, perhaps uniquely, suited to this task. Remember, we’re talking about societal trends over a huge population, not asking whether a particular well-heeled single parent or same-sex couple could successfully raise three or four children.

Stable families are incredibly powerful social assets. They offer sound environments for growing children, provide adults with a way out of poverty, and naturally cultivate good citizenship. Comparing virtually any index of social dysfunction between intact and broken families is eye-opening, if not horrifying. Illegitimacy is often cited as a far more important indicator of economic and criminal difficulty than race or geography; it is the variable that changes most dramatically between American populations, to the sorrow of those who suffer from high rates of illegitimacy.

The strength of a family helps to build the independent character vital to a nation of free, and therefore responsible, men and women. We did not appreciate the social importance of family honor until it became a scarce resource.

Families build wealth by passing both tangible and intellectual assets forward through generations, and by forming bonds with one another. Wealth grows from transactions, a term that means far more than plunking down cash in exchange for merchandise. The connections and cooperative alliances that grow between families united by marriage are transactions, too. It’s great to have a father-in-law who can help you get a job, or a sister-in-law who help paint your house, isn’t it? We’ve become so focused on centralized planning and huge national agendas that we’ve forgotten just how valuable such connections are.

Our massive government and complex tax system are structured to favor all sorts of things the elites have decided are assets to society, or penalize what they consider poisonous. Why shouldn’t we explicitly encourage and support intact families, perhaps the most powerful asset in our inventory? We would want to encourage both their formation through marriage, and their endurance through healthy numbers of children. Far from being a peculiar obsession of religious traditionalists, it seems like an act of irrational prejudice not to weight the benefits of the family logically, and recognize they are far superior to many things the government compels us to spend titanic amounts of money subsidizing.

It’s fair enough to prefer dismantling the machinery of subsidies, penalties, deductions, and incentives shaping our lives entirely. But if we’re going to keep that machinery intact to some degree, and the government will go on making “investments,” why shouldn’t it make the investment with one of the highest rates of return?

To read another article by John Hayward, click here.

Ron Paul and the Straits of Hormuz

Ron Paul and the Straits of Hormuz
Foreign policy is rarely simple.
by John Hayward

Iran has been conducting naval exercises in the Straits of Hormuz, with plans on Saturday to test some long-range missiles. Several high Iranian officials have issued threats to blockade the Straits, prompting stern warnings from the U.S. Navy, in an exchange summarized by Haaretz as follows:

The spark for the row was a Tuesday remark by Iranian Vice President Mohammd-Reza Rahimi that, "if Western countries sanctioned Iranian oil, then Iran would not allow one drop of oil to cross the Strait of Hormuz."

Following his remarks, Iranian navy commander Admiral Habibollah Sayari said, although there was currently no necessity for Iran to close the strait, "it would be as easy as drinking a glass of water."

After the U.S. Navy said it would not accept any Iranian disruption of the free flow of goods through Hormuz, Iran continued the war of words with Revolutionary Guard deputy chief Hossein Salami saying that the U.S. was in no position to tell Iran what to do.

Salami also called the U.S. "an iceberg which is to be melted by the high degree of the Iranian revolution," and "a sparrow in the body of a dinosaur."

Presidential candidate and Texas congressman Ron Paul, noted for his belief that American policy is the cause of most foreign strife, responded to this news by agreeing with the Iranians that Western sanctions against Iran to thwart its nuclear ambitions would be an “act of war.” As reported by the L.A. Times:

Paul, one of the leading contenders to win next week's Iowa caucuses, said Iran would be justified in responding to the sanctions by blocking the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz. He compared the western sanctions to a hypothetical move by China to block the Gulf of Mexico, which Americans would consider an act of war.

He also said he would not respond militarily to keep the strait open—because he would not consider it an act of war against the U.S. But if he were president, he would report to Congress on the issue, leaving it up to lawmakers to declare war if they wanted.

"I think we're looking for trouble because we put these horrendous sanctions on Iran," Paul told a midday audience at the Hotel Pattee in Perry, Iowa. He said the Iranians are "planning to be bombed" and understandably would like to have a nuclear weapon, even though there is "no evidence whatsoever" that they have "enriched" uranium.

Apparently alluding to Israel and its nuclear-weapons arsenal, Paul said that "if I were an Iranian, I'd like to have a nuclear weapon, too, because you gain respect from them."

Paul went on to suggest, as he has done several times before, that forces within the American government are hungry for war with Iran. He pithily summarized his own approach as, “I think the solution is to do a lot less a lot sooner and mind our own business and then we would not have this threat of another war.”

Paul’s position could be fairly expressed without the paranoid rumblings about warmongers lurking in Washington. That’s a damning allegation to throw out broadly, and I notice Paul never specifies exactly who is supposed to be eagerly advancing their agenda with a massive war that would kill thousands of Americans, Iranians, and others. He’s fine with throwing blanket allegations like that at the United States, but never at Iran, an aggressor nation that has sent forces into Iraq for the purpose of killing American troops.

You’ll also notice that Iran was first, and loudest, to openly threaten warlike actions in the current Straits of Hormuz situation, using memorably colorful and belligerent language. The Americans are never the ones talking about melting icebergs and sparrows stuffed in the belly of a dinosaur, but supposedly we’re the ones goading other nations into violence.

Paul thinks we’re supposed to ignore saber-rattling from Iran, but that only invites more bullying, as well as increasing the chance that belligerent autocratic nations will make one of those grisly “miscalculations.” We’ve been told for years that one of the reasons Saddam Hussein​ invaded Kuwait is because American diplomats didn’t make it sufficiently clear to him that his aggression would not be tolerated. Silence in the face of belligerent threats to cut off a huge chunk of the world’s oil supply would factor into Iran’s calculations about whether or not to risk such a blockade. It would also be considered by other bad actors around the world. Every international conversation or dispute occurs in front of a very large audience.

Such decisions are not made lightly, even by the most aggressive dictatorships. Costs and benefits are weighed, although not according to the same formula that a democracy would use. Iran, for example, has a great deal to lose if it shuts down the Straits of Hormuz. Western sanctions might indeed alter their calculations, by giving them less to lose. The suspicion, or open declaration, that the U.S. Navy would not act against their blockade would also dramatically change their assessment of costs and benefits.

We might reach the point where only the presumption of peace-loving good faith on Iran’s part – a presumption Paul is expressly unwilling to extend to the government of his own country – argues against a blockade. The same man who is vocally willing to assume the best about totalitarian states with bloody hands is remarkably consistent about warning that America is an irrational, overbearing threat to global harmony, which only he can control.

The sanctions that Iran says would provoke it into blockading the Straits of Hormuz involve “a ban on imports of Iranian oil,” perhaps coupled with barring banks that facilitate the Iranian oil trade from doing business in the U.S. or Europe, as explained by a recent CNBC article. China is Iran’s biggest oil customer, and they would surely continue to buy oil from them, but the flood of embargoed Iranian oil would likely prompt them to demand a deep discount. They’re already haggling with Iran over the price of oil.

Is the corollary of Paul’s position therefore that America and Europe must continue to buy Iranian oil and provide the financial infrastructure for their exchanges with refineries, under all circumstances? A military blockade, involving violence against civilian vessels, is indeed a recognized act of war, but it is not the precise equivalent of an embargo.

The Heritage Foundation carefully modeled the effects of an Iranian blockade of the Straits of Hormuz a couple of years ago, and concluded that “if Iran succeeded in fully blockading the strait for up to one week, Americans would see a massive spike in oil prices, a one-quarter drop in GDP of $161 billion, the loss of one million jobs, and a drop of real disposable personal income costing more than $260 billion.”

Are we really supposed to believe that President Paul would respond to that by holding a press conference and telling the American people he completely understands the Iranian position, and thinks we should respect their desire to interfere with international maritime activity? Even the most ardent Paul supporter should understand that his Administration would be completely erased within three days of that announcement, and his party would probably die along with it.

Paul also says he would leave it up to Congress to decide if they felt like declaring war, and respect their decision. Presidents do not sit quietly on the sidelines and wait for Congress to make up its mind. One of the greatest assets of the White House is the bully pulpit, and Paul would be expected to use it to express the strength of his convictions. A President also has great leverage as the titular head of his party, and enjoys influence with its congressional delegation. The people who take Ron Paul’s foreign policy views seriously would regard him as craven for folding his hands and passively awaiting a response to Iranian aggression from Capitol Hill… which is very different from saying he would not use military force without obtaining Congressional authorization.

Foreign policy is complicated, not least because it relies upon the decisions of foreign governments that may not be responsive to the will of their own people, much less the influence of American diplomats. Conditions change, often quite suddenly. Our intelligence about closed societies often proves incorrect. That’s why the “easy answers” always turn out to be unsatisfying. They require us to assume the worst about ourselves, as a means of finding common ground with adversaries who already feel that way, and will not be much embarrassed on the day they fail to live up to the high expectations of isolationists.

To read another article by John Hayward, click here.

To read another article about Ron Paul, click here.

No Friend of the Middle Class

No Friend of the Middle Class
By Ross Kaminsky on 12.30.11 @ 6:10AM

By his reasoning, Obama needs to destroy the middle class in order to save it.

It's not surprising that President Obama's re-election strategy is to "cast himself as a middle class warrior." What is surprising is that he thinks he can get away with it. The fact that he actually might says less about Obama than about Americans' understanding of economics and the Republicans' particular skill at turning smart policy into stupid politics.

The obvious question when a politician wants to run as a champion of any particular group is "what has he done for that group?" So, let's think about what Obama has done for, or -- more precisely -- to, the middle class.

Unemployment, the single most important economic statistic for the middle class, spiked to over 10 percent before recently "improving" to 8.6 percent (with December data due out Friday, January 6). The last time unemployment was this high was in 1983, coming out of the Jimmy Carter recession. Under Reagan, the unemployment rate dropped 2.5 percent in one year from its peak and another full percent in the subsequent year. Under Obama, the rate has dropped only 1.5 percent in two years from its peak.

This is no accident. The slowest economic recovery in modern American history is a direct result of Obama's policies.

The administration's doomed-to-fail Keynesian economic approach is based on assuming that Americans, and especially entrepreneurs, are stupid. They trust that we don't realize that massive deficit spending now must translate into higher taxes later (and perhaps higher interest rates, though historically that connection is not as strong as one might expect).

By way of analogy: Imagine you don't have any cash, so you borrow $20 from your teenage son. You spend $10 on lunch and put the remaining $10 in your pocket. According to President Obama, you're $10 richer than you were before. And indeed you may be, but your family is $10 poorer.

Nevertheless, this is the exact sort of thinking that caused Obama and his economic team to tell us that if they were allowed to spend over a trillion dollars (including interest) of our children's future earnings, unemployment would not go over 8 percent. Instead, as Gene Epstein wrote for Barron's, "The recovery from the 2008-09 recession has been the slowest since any recession in the post-World War II era."

Epstein also notes that based on growth rates from prior severe recessions, "the recovery from the recent recession should have taken half as long" and that even calculating GDP without the impact of residential real estate (for those who want to say the real estate crash is the problem, and isn't Obama fault) this recovery "still comes up woefully short."

It's not just spending that would make the drunken sailor blush that has sapped the strength of the economic recovery. It is also every other important policy aspect of the Obama reign.

What could be worse for employment growth than health care "reform" that penalizes employers for reaching 50 employees? This is just one example of the anti-growth aspects of Obamacare, which in turn is just one, if the most important, of the job-crushing laws and regulations imposed by Obama and his radical environmentalist and union thug apparatchiks.

As investment bank UBS noted in a research report entitled "Great Suppression II: Revolt of the Employers," "Observers are gradually starting to recognize that the tax hikes and regulations emanating from Washington are frightening employers and discouraging hiring.… Rising taxes and the surge in regulation [are] suppressing what J.M. Keynes called 'animal spirits -- a spontaneous urge to action rather than inaction.' For corporations, a spate of new regulations raises the risk of investing in the U.S., delays projects that companies do wish to pursue, and raises the cost of labor relative to capital."

The National Labor Relations Board, having been overtaken by Barack Obama's recess-appointed union attorneys, is using the Board's power to inspire fear in any company which would expand into a right-to-work state. And given recent extreme aggressiveness by unions (laid perfectly bare by Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa who, talking about Tea Party activists, said that union supporters should "take these son-of-a-bitches out"), who would want to expand a business anywhere but a right-to-work state?

With his tax policy, his "signature" legislation, and his regulatory apparatus, President Obama attacks would-be job creators at every turn. Is it any wonder that our economic recovery is so slow, with the main victims being the middle class?

But harming employment is not all Obama has done and will do to the middle class. A recent study by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) notes that Obamacare will "impose a cumulative cost of nearly $5,000 per family by 2020" through increased health insurance costs as well as "reduc[ing] private sector employment by 125,000 to 249,000 jobs in 2021, with 59 percent of those losses falling on small business."

A report by Oliver Wyman consulting says that Obamacare's costs "will increase premiums in fully insured coverage markets by an average of 1.9% to 2.3% in 2014. The impacts generally increase over time such that we estimate by 2023, the fees will ultimately increase premiums by an average of 2.8% to 3.7%. For small group coverage, this well on average increase the cost to cover an individual by about $2,800, and a family by about $6,800 over a 10-year period, beginning in 2014."

So while Obama is making it much harder for those middle class Americans, whom he claims to care so much about, to get a job, at least he's making it much more expensive to have health insurance.

BUT WAIT, there's more!

Just a week ago, the Environmental Protection (aka Employment Destruction) Agency released details of its Utility MACT rule which regulates mercury and other emissions from coal-fired power plants. According to the Republican Policy Committee of the U.S. Senate, this rule is "one of the most expensive rules in EPA's history," with the EPA's own estimates saying it will cost almost $10 billion per year. "When combined with the final Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), up to 183,000 jobs per year will likely be destroyed on account of these two rules from 2012-2020. By 2020, 1.4 million jobs could be lost on account of these rules."

But this isn't just a job killer. It's a middle class killer.

"According to EPA's Regulatory Impact Analysis, the final Utility MACT rule will increase electricity rates by up to 6 percent in some regions of the U.S. When combined with CSAPR, electricity rates are expected to increase by up to 23 percent in some areas. National Economic Research Associates projects that Utility MACT and other EPA regulations could increase electricity and other energy prices by $170 billion by 2020."

And while your electricity prices are rising, your electric system reliability will be falling: "[T]he North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) projects that up to 59 GW of power generation will be terminated by 2018 due to cumulative impacts Utility MACT, CSPAR (Cross-State Air Pollution Rule), coal ash reclassification, and new water intake rules. The NERC assessment predicts that eight regions -- home to 190 million Americans -- could drop below acceptable reserve margins by 2018 on account of EPA's actions."

It's not just individuals who should be frightened of the EPA's rule. In fact, most individuals have no idea it exists. But energy-intensive industries do. As the Ohio Manufacturers Association noted in a recent op-ed, "a preliminary analysis for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity projects that Utility MACT and CSAPR will result in 1.4 million lost jobs nationally over the next nine years, including 53,500 jobs in Ohio. And that's net job losses, because the research takes into account jobs created by the two new rules as well those that will be lost. Additionally, according to NERA, utilities' compliance costs for the two regulations would total $17 billion annually and electricity costs in Ohio would increase by about 13 percent."

It bears repeating: This is no accident. Barack Obama is on record supporting electricity prices that "necessarily skyrocket" due to his policies.

Meanwhile, as with the many Obamacare "waivers" designed to inoculate states, citizens, and politically-connected special interests from the disease the rest of us will be forced to contract in the economic equivalent of a Tuskegee experiment, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2681, co-authored by a Republican and Democrat, entitled the "Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act of 2011" which delays effectiveness of the EPA's rules for 15 months "for the Portland cement manufacturing industry and Portland cement plants subject to such rules." Anyone think a cement worker isn't "middle class"? And if cement needs to be protected from the Obama administration, what about steel, autos, chemicals, refineries, and other remaining areas of U.S. manufacturing?

Politicians of all stripes bemoan the loss of U.S. manufacturing (which is more of a myth than a fact if you measure in terms of our share of world manufacturing output), but if there's one thing a government can do to stick another nail in that coffin, it's to jack up energy prices. This is precisely what Obama's EPA is doing -- and precisely what he wants them to be doing.

The EPA claims its rule has health benefits, but detailed analysis shows its claims to be based on "co-benefits" of reducing air pollution -- something that could be done in a much simpler and less expensive way through existing rules. In fact, "monetized benefits" are estimated at reaching, at most, $6 million per year, less than 0.01% of the rule's total costs. Meanwhile the EPA argues -- I kid you not -- that the rule offers economic benefit by preventing an average loss of 0.002 IQ points in newly born children.

This is your champion of the middle class.

SO WHY DOES the president think he can get away with running as a fighter for the great middle of America? Two reasons: Americans are as economically stupid as he assumes, and Republicans routinely perform the equivalent of reverse political alchemy, turning what should be political gold into lead weights around their necks.

The payroll tax cut extension is a perfect example.

First, let's be clear on the economics: This is not a supply-side tax cut of the sort that Reagan or any wise economist would support. It is Keynesian, demand-side hokum, just more of the same "give them spending money and everything will be OK" thinking that has failed every time it's been tried, whether in recent or not-so-recent times, including with George W. Bush's misguided 2008 tax rebate plan.

The payroll tax cut, as currently implemented, offers a cut only on the employee side of the ledger; no cut to the employer. How exactly is this supposed to increase employment? In the Obama-Geithner-Sperling economic fantasy world, people will spend their extra $80 per month and create additional economic demand, causing companies to increase staffing to meet that demand. But this has not happened, and will not happen. First, some of the $80 will go toward debt reduction. Second, some will go to buying things where the producing industry already has excess capacity. Third, employers will find productivity gains instead of hiring more employees, not least because of the huge Obamacare penalty for small companies that expand to 50 employees.

Employment growth will only come from increased desire by entrepreneurs to take risk. And they will not do so when faced with a government that at every turn makes them out to be something between a parasite and a target for higher taxes should someone have the gall to be successful.

A two-month extension of the payroll tax cut is worse than no extension at all (and an extension of any length is worse than no extension at all until the cut is aimed at employers along with, or instead of, employees). Nobody can or will plan hiring (or spending) based on a two-month long policy. But beyond that, it reinforces the idea that this government will for the foreseeable future be incapable of implementing tax policy with a long enough time horizon that a business could trust it as a solid foundation on which to build.

The Republicans had a strong policy argument to make against the extension of the payroll tax cut, both on the two month duration and on the economic stupidity of its current design. But they managed to make a weak case on the former and no case on the latter, leaving Barack Obama free to tell Americans with little understanding of economics that he was right.

A Gallup poll released this week shows Americans having "slightly more confidence in President Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress (41%) than in the Republicans in Congress (34%) when it comes to the looming debate on what the government should do about a more permanent extension of payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits." How, during a time of extreme unemployment and weak economic growth, Republicans can allow the middle class-destroying president to get the political upper hand is a testament to the incompetence of GOP leadership and messaging -- but it doesn't mean that Obama is correct and certainly not that he is a champion for the majority of Americans.

The purported benefits of the payroll tax cut is one of many economic lies Obama tells, such as the Goebbels-scale whopper that upper income Americans are not "paying their fair share" -- when the top one percent of income earners pays close to 40 percent of all federal income taxes while making just over 20 percent of national income. The top one percent pays more in income taxes than the bottom 90 percent. No, that is not a typo. The top 5 percent pay nearly 60 percent of all federal personal income taxes. And the Republicans and Obama-invested media let the president and his econo-moron supporters and employees continue to get away with saying that the "rich" don't pay enough. (By the way, to be in the top 5% requires only $155,000 in family income.)

But this is not -- as Obama would have you believe -- about Republicans standing up for "millionaires and billionaires." It's about American politicians not standing up for America. It's about the Barack Obama's never-ending quest to divide and conquer this nation by pitting us against each other. The good news is that it's not working. The bad news is that it's not not-working by enough to allow one to feel comfortable that Americans will refuse to re-elect the greatest enemy of the middle class who has ever occupied the White House.

To read another article by Ross Kaminsky, click here.