December 24, 2010
Merry Christmas to All of My Readers
Thank you to everyone who's reading this. Whether you agree with me completely, partially, or not at all, I want to wish you and your family a very merry Christmas and best wishes for the new year.
In the meantime, let us remember what this holiday of Christmas is all about. The Christmas story is told in two of the four gospels; Matthew and Luke. Mark and John are silent on the matter, starting off with Jesus' baptism by John (John the Baptist, not the apostle John).
Without further ado, the Christmas story:
The Gospel of Matthew
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about[d]: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[e] did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[f] because he will save his people from their sins."
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"[g] (which means "God with us").
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
The Gospel of Luke
1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[e] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 "Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
Note that while the text says that Jesus was born in a manger, it does not say he was born in a barn, shed, or any other structure, for that matter. A "manger" is not a structure but a feeding trough for animals. Given the lack of trees in the area the most likely material that the manger was made of was... stone. Here is a picture of a manger that I took while in Israel a few years ago:
If you're wondering about the Magi, or "Wise Men," they didn't come along until a few years later. Long story short, they lived in a different nation some distance to the east of Bethlehem, and couldn't just hop on a plane straight away after they saw the star. Current scholarship says that Jesus was between two and five years of age when they arrived. Further, there is no mention of how many of them there were. That they brought three gifts doesn't necessarily mean there were three of them. Finally, the Magi were not kings. So Christmas scenes which include "three kings" are generally considered to be inaccurate, though it's not something anyone should really get bent out of shape over. Following is their story. I'm going to leave in the subtitles, though they're not part of the original text:
The Magi Visit the Messiah
1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[h] from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him."
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written:
6 "'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.'[i]"
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him."
9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
The Escape to Egypt
13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him."
14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son."[j]
16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
18 "A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more."[k]
The Return to Nazareth
19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead."
21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.
December 22, 2010
Our Lame Duck Congress
For the first 140 or so years after ratification of the Constitution, the the new President and Congress took their offices March 4 after the elections in November. Without going into detail, although the date of March 4 was not explicitly spelled out, that's what the 12th Amendment of 1804, and custom, added up to.
Given travel difficulties of the 18th and 19th centuries, it took a lot of time to assemble a new government, and travel to and from one's home state to Washington DC. By the 20th century travel time had been reduced, and everyone could see that it would only get faster. As such, the 20th Amendment to the Constitution stipulated that the President and new Congress would take office in January. Relevant are sections one and two of the amendment:
Section 1. The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.
Section 2. The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall begin at noon on the 3d day of January, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.
The issues, however, go beyond travel. The writer of this Wikipedia article on the 20th Amendment spells it out:
From the early 19th century onward, it also meant that the lame duck Congress and/or Presidential administration could, as in the case of the Congress, convene or fail to convene. In the case of the administration, to act or to fail to act, or to meet significant national crises in a timely manner. Each institution could do this on the theory that at best, a lame duck Congress or administration had neither the time nor the mandate to tackle problems. Where as the incoming administration or Congress would have both the time, and a fresh electoral mandate, to examine and address the problems that the nation faced. These problems very likely would have been at the center of the debate of the just completed election cycle.
Take it for what it's worth. But the issue of mandate is an interesting one, given how active our current lame-duck Congress has been:
Tax Cuts - Passed - Interestingly, both the extreme right and extreme left didn't like the deal Obama worked out with Republican leaders. I'd have held my nose and voted for it as the best of a series of bad choices.
Omnibus Budget - Failed - Fortunately, Republicans were able to stop the Democrats from digging us further into debt by forcing a continuing resolution instead of a full scale budget for next year. You don't have to look far to find the usual tales of woe in the liberal press about how government agencies will be starved of funds for "vital" upgrades. Sure. It was worth it to stop funding for ObamaCare and the usual pork programs.
Gays in the Military - Passed - The debate about gay marriage in the civilian world is about a lot of things, but marriage isn't one of them. Likewise, the issue is not whether gays can serve without disrupting military readiness. Progressives couldn't care less about the military or marriage. What they want is to force the acceptance of the gay lifestyle as equal to hetrosexuals. They want to forbid discussion of these issues, and shut down businesses and churches that refuse to play ball.
New START - Passed - Irrelevant at best, harmful at worst, the main purpose of this treaty is to make it look like Obama has achieved something. We're assured by the striped-pants set that the treaty is good for us, and you little people should just do as your told. They also assure us that the preamble to the treaty does not inhibit U.S. missile defense systems, but the Russians say otherwise.
DREAM Act - Failed - Otherwise known as the "let's create more Democrat voters bill," yet another attempt to pass what amounts to mass amnesty for illegal aliens was thwarted.
Food Safety Modernization Act - Pending - I haven't really followed this one, but it basically gives the FDA power to regulate "all foods sold, distributed, or imported within the US."
Net Neutrality - Pending - The issue is complicated, but the guiding principle of how government regulation should work isn't: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." The Internet works just fine, and giving the FCC additional power is asking for trouble down the road. My general guideline to the FCC would be something like "make sure radio station signals don't overlap, and after that you're done." The FCC has no business telling broadband companies how to handle their traffic.
The Progressive Plan
Progresssives realize that their large majorities in the 111th Congress, coupled with the administration of Barack Obama, present the best chance of getting their agenda enacted into law that they'll ever probably see in their lifetimes. It's now or never.
Further, they realize that an law, once enacted, is hard to completely repeal. They know that once the cat is out of the bag on things such as universal health care, or gays in the military, its hard to stuff it back in. And once an illegal alien has been made a citizen, and thus a Democrat voter, you can't take that citizenship away.
Thus their method of ramming as much legislation through as possible while they're still in office.
The Republican Response
There's not much we can do now. Contrary to the dreams of some Tea Party and conservative extremists, we're never going to have anything but a spectrum of Republicans in Congress that run from moderate-liberal to hard right. We're paying the price for screwing up in the early part of this decade.
Once the new 112th Congress is seated we can get to work. We can't repeal ObamaCare, but we can starve it of funds, and refuse to pass any enabling legislation.
What Can Be Done?
It may well be time to revise the 20th Amendment. This Congress has been rejected by the American people, and they have no business passing anything but emergency legislation. If Republicans did this in the past then shame on them, and two wrongs don't make a right.
But given the herculean task of passing an amendment to the Constitution, the 112th Congress would do well to concentrate on practical matters of reducing government spending and rolling back ObamaCare. If they can simply prevent the progressives from doing any more damage I'll be happy. Let's set ourselves up for a bigger victory in 2012, and then we can really set about the true business of reform.
Update - Additional Research
The Heritage Foundation has a paper on treaty ratification during lame duck sessions of Congress that sheds some additional light on the matter:
While recognizing that such sessions were necessary under extraordinary circumstances, proponents of the (20th) Amendment argued that laws made by lame duck sessions were less democratically legitimate because those laws were promulgated by individuals different from those chosen by a popular election immediately preceding the session. In cases where there were changes in the control of Congress or the presidency, significant binding actions--such as the ratification of treaties--may violate the principle of the consent of the governed.
There have only been 18 lame duck sessions since 1933, out of a possible 38. That is, there have been 38 elections since 1933, and Congress has only met after the election and before the new Congress was seated 18 times. Six of those took place from 1940 to 1954, mostly to pass emergency World War II and Cold War legislation. There were only four lame duck sessions from 1956 to 1994, but eight since then, including the current one.
Several observations flow from this.
One, Lame duck sessions during World War II and the early days of the Cold War could be justified by military necessity. That rationale has mostly not existed since then.
Two, lame duck Congresses are somewhat of a bipartisan phenomenon. Two wrongs never make a right.
Three, this current lame duck Congress has been unusual in the number and type of bills it has passed. There has been nothing like it since the 1940s. The conclusion of the Heritage paper:
The Senate date of treaty ratification cross-checked with the dates of each lame duck session of Congress confirms the general assertion that no major treaty has ever been ratified by the Senate during a lame duck session of Congress. ...
The recent midterm elections created significant ramifications for passing New START during the lame duck session. The ratification of New START by a lame duck Senate would not only ignore the message sent by voters in November but also break a significant precedent, consistent with the principle of consent, maintained by Presidents and Congresses since the passage of the Twentieth Amendment in 1933.
December 18, 2010
Terrorism Promoted in Swedish Mosque?
Do you think I exaggerate when I write about the threat of Islamic jihadism? When I write that although the absolute number of Muslim terrorists may be low, the number of Muslim enablers is disturbingly high? And that problem in Europe is just about out of control? I suspect some of my liberal readers do.
Worse, my guess is that while the average person has heard about problems with Muslim extremism in the UK or France, they don't think about it when it comes to the Scandinavian countries. The truth is just about the opposite; while the problem is bad in places like the UK and France, it is at crisis levels in Sweden. To make matters worse, Sweden is the home of left-wing political correctness in a continent infected with it, so they're basically blind to the problem.
I can't say if this man's charges are true, but the police certainly should conduct their own undercover operations to find out. After all, if such charges were made about any church I'd certainly support a police operation to find out.
But don't worry, I'm sure it'll all be dismissed as right-wing paranoia. Nothing to see here folks, move along....
December 17, 2010
Shariah: The Threat to America
An Exercise in Competitive Analysis: The Report of Team B II
Part 5 - Shariah's Security-Relevant Attributes
This is the fifth in a series of posts summarizing the findings in Shariah: The Threat to America, An Exercise in Competitive Analysis, The Report of Team B II, a report by the Center for Security Policy, a conservative think tank. The purpose of the publication was to present an alternative analysis and set of recommendations to the official position, currently of the Obama Administration, but really of the Bush43 Administration as well. Links to parts 1 - 4 are at the bottom of this post.
Before we get going with part 5, let's review the definition of shariah from the report:
Translated as "the path," shariah is a comprehensive legal and political framework. Though it certainly has spiritual elements, it would be a mistake to think of shariah as a "religious" code in the Western sense because it seeks to regulate all manner of behavior in the secular sphere - economic, social, military, legal and political.
Let's also deal with the objection that "very few Muslims are radicals"
Too many Muslims, to borrow a metaphor from Mao, provide the sea in which the jihadis swim. By offering little meaningful opposition to the jihadist agenda and by meekly submitting to it, a large number of Muslim communities and nations generally project a tacit agreement with jihadis' ends, if not with their means. At the very least, they exhibit an unwillingness to face the consequences of standing up to shariah's enforcers within Islam. Such consequences include the distinct possibility of being denounced as an apostate, a capital offense under shariah.
Part 5: Shariah's Security-Relevant Attributes
It is important to note that Shariah, then, is not just a code for daily living, but includes instructions on how to deal with non-believers, or infidels. More specifically, on how to subvert their societies.
Treaties and Truces
If they were strong enough, the instructions of Allah are to destroy the countries of the non-believers by violent jihad. But Muhammed was realistic enough to know that was not always possible because at times Muslims would be weaker than the non-believers. As such, shariah contains specific rules for how to achieve their goals when they are militarily weaker. They are instructed to refrain from violent attack during this time, as doing so would be counterproductive. This is called "transgressing the limits," which comes from Quranic verse Q 2:190 "Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors."
In face, Osama bin Laden was criticized by some jihadists after his 9-11 attack not because they disagreed with his objective but because they thought the time was premature. Specifically, they were afraid that the American reaction would set their cause back. From the report:
It is important for national security leadership to pay attention when prominent Islamic entities or individuals, especially Salafis, appear to condemn the killing of non-Muslims in non-Muslim lands to determine whether the condemnation was made in an unqualified and outright manner or whether it was in some way associated with downstream acts that merely caused "mischief" to be brought down upon Muslim lands.
In other words, often when Muslims condemn terror they are not condemning it as such, but are rather upset that we would see the light and react in a manner that would hurt the cause of Islam.
As such, the shariah instructs Muslims to strategically use treaties and truces when they are weak to gain time and to lul their enemies into a false sense of complacency.
The report cites an example of just this from recent history:
Yasser Arafat's repeated references to the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah following his signature of the Oslo Accords in 1993 on behalf of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) is a good example in modern times of Muslim awareness of the Quranic position on entering into truces with the enemy. Arafat was careful to reassure his followers (in Arabic) that his commitment at Camp David was nothing more than a temporary hiatus in jihad (a hudna) at a time of PLO weakness vis-à-vis the Israelis - and entirely in keeping with shariah. Similarly, in 2006, the leadership of Hamas offered Israel a ten-year truce to break the deadlock over its refusal to recognize the Jewish State. At the time, few in the West seemed to realize that Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh was in perfect accord with the example of Mohammed and would predictably break any such hudna the moment it proved advantageous for the Muslim side to do so.
The concept of "sacred space" in Islam is pretty simple; lands that Islam once ruled, no matter for how brief a period of time, are permanently Islamic and must never be given up. Thus, the fact that the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) was ruled by Muslims from (roughly) the 8th century to the 15th centuries means that the peninsula still rightfully belongs to Muslims today. Ditto with Chechnya, the entire Indian subcontinent, and, of course, modern Israel.
Stated another way; "what we once ruled is ours, and what you ruled in history we'll also take from you." You don't have to be a security genius to see the implications of this.
To declare their victory, and to make them symbolically important, Muslims immediately construct a Mosque in areas they have conquered, preferably on top of the religious buildings of those they have conquered.
Examples of this practice include:the great Hagia Sophia mosque in Istanbul (formerly the Cathedral of St. Sophia in Constantinople); the al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock Mosque, both built on Jerusalem's Temple Mount, directly above the remnants of the Jewish Second Temple; and the Cordoba mosque complex - the third largest in the world - which transformed a Christian cathedral in the capital city of the Moorish kingdom. The city was conquered in the 8th Century and was the headquarters of what came to be known as the "Cordoba Caliphate" for the next 500 years.
Most recently, plans were announced to construct a $100 million, 13-story Islamic center and mega-mosque complex two blocks from Ground Zero in New York City, the site of the World Trade Center, which was destroyed in jihadi attacks on September 11, 2001. The name of the organization leading the Ground Zero mosque project is likewise revealing of Islamic traditions: it is called the "Cordoba Initiative."
The rule in shariah for anyone who leaves the faith is pretty simple; they are to be killed. There are no "other interpretations" or wiggle room.
Where is gets tricky is when when one person or group interprets the faith in a way that is different than another group. How much do they have to stray before they become apostates (heretics)?
In the final analysis, defining elements of shariah are intolerant of any deviation. There is freedom of belief in Islam only to the extent that matters of individual conscience do not threaten the ummah, whose cohesion and public appearance of rigid compliance with shariah is paramount and takes precedence over any individual's personal preferences.
This is what allows the radicals to kill other Muslims that do not share their worldview.
While Muslims are generally( there are exceptions) forbidden to lie to or deceive other Muslims, the same rules do not apply when dealing with unbelievers:
It is imperative that national security professionals with responsibility for defending the U.S. Constitution from encroachment by shariah understand that, under Islamic law, lying is not only permissible, but obligatory for Muslims in some situations. This complicates efforts to understand the true nature of the threat - and to have confidence in those Muslims at home and abroad with whom the government hopes to make common cause in countering that threat.
Muslims, then, are allowed to lie and deceive unbelievers when they are are in situations where they must live under their rule and cannot achieve their goals through violent jihad.
All of this reminds me of what Lenin said about the difference between bourgeois and communist morality:
We say that our morality is entirely subordinated to the interests of the proletariat's class struggle. Our morality stems from the interests of the class struggle of the proletariat.
In other words, something is moral if it advances the revolution; it is immoral if it does not.
Taqiyya is closely related to the concept of permissible lying discussed above. From the report
...taqiyya, which is generally described as lying for the sake of Islam. Taqiyya is a concept in Islamic law that translates as "deceit or dissimulation," particularly towards infidels. It is based on Quran 3:28 and 16:106 as well as hadiths, tafsir literature, and judicial commentaries that permit and encourage precautionar dissimulation as a means for hiding true faith in times of persecution or deception when penetrating the enemy camp.
The difference, if I have it right, between permissible lying and taqiyya is the dual messaging of the latter. A Muslim practicing taqiyya says one thing to unbelievers about a particular subject and another to Muslims on the same subject.
So that when talking about peace between Palestinians and Israelis, Yassir Arafat was all peace, love, and understanding when talking to the Western press. He also spoke to them in English. But when they were gone, he would speak words of fire and brimstone to his fellow Muslims. And he would speak to them in Arabic. Specifically, he would talk in English to Westerners about how he wanted peace with the Israelis, then in Arabic to Muslims he would say that he wanted nothing less than the destruction of Israel.
This practice extends to explaining the nature of Islam as well:
...what Muslim audiences are required to know about Islam is not the same thing as what non-Muslim Western audiences are allowed to know - or encouraged to think - by Islamic authorities. Taqiyya provides the legal basis under shariah for this sort of deceptive dual messaging.
The Western concept of slander and libel is pretty straightforward; saying or writing false things about someone. They have quite a different meaning under Islam.
In Islam, "Slander (ghiba) means to mention anything concerning a person that he would dislike." With "that person" being a Muslim.
So that when Muslims accuse others of slandering their religion, they are not saying that they are speaking falsehoods, but rather that they are saying things Muslims just don't like. And they don't like them not because they are false but because they are uncomfortable truths that reveal the true nature of Islam and the goals of the jihad.
...it is easy to understand how self-identified "moderate" Muslims can insist that acts of terrorism undertaken by "extremists" had nothing to do with Islam - even in cases where the perpetrators and their supporters explicitly claim Islam as the motivation, often on television broadcasts receiving rapturous applause from other Muslims.
... because the acts of terror make Islam look bad.
In Islam, it is impermissible for unbelievers to say anything that insults their religion. The Western concept of "free speech" is simply not part of their worldview.
The first and most obvious implication is that directly poking fun at Muhammed or any part of Islam is forbidden. We've all seen a zillion examples of Muslims around the world reacting violently to even the slightest perceived insult. And the reaction of all too many Westerners is to self-censor.
But beyond direct insults is that unbelievers are forbidden to explain the truth about sharia and jihad. It is one thing when newspaper editors refuse to carry stories or editorials critical of Islam, quite another when a government cannot bring itself to accurately describe the ideology of those behind acts of terror.
Such policies are systematically corroding the U.S. government's situational awareness by effectively imposing, via explicit or implicit gag orders, a system of self-censorship. The practical effect is that the truth about shariah and its adherents is suppressed, as is informed deliberation about appropriate responses to the threats it poses. This amounts to a collective act of submission to shariah by the national leadership of the U.S. that emboldens our enemies even as it disables our defenses against them.
Next Up: The Muslim Brotherhood: The Threat Doctrine Operationalized
December 16, 2010
Don't Run, Michael, Don't Run
While I am not surprised, I am disappointed that RNC Chair Michael Steele has decided to run for re-election.
I supported Steele in his bid to become chairman. I thought he did reasonably well in his 2006 senate race. That he lost was more due to running in a bad year, and in the liberal state of Maryland at that, than anything he did wrong.
But Steele has been nothing but a disappointment as RNC chair. Right out of the gate he committed a series of gaffes, and rather than learn from his mistakes he has kept right on sticking his foot in his mouth with disturbing regularity. Between that and financial mismanagement, he does not deserve re-election.
The things Steele has done wrong are many, but it all comes down the fact that the majority of Republicans and conservatives have lost confidence in him. When a leader has lost the confidence of his constituency it is usually time for him to go. I therefore do not believe that he should seek re-election.
All this said, I wish Steele well in future endeavors, for there is most certainly a place for him at the Republican table, and an important role for him to play. It's just not as chairman of the RNC.
Finally, let's note that resignation due to loss of confidence does not apply to elected officials. It would be foolish to call for Obama to resign, or for that matter Bush41 or Bush43 when their popularity fell.
December 14, 2010
Smack Down! Condolezza Rice Educates Katie Couric on Why We Invaded Iraq
Left-wing journalist Katie Couric gets smacked down by former Secretary of State Condolezza Rice in this interview. Couric, who incredibly is the anchor and managing editor of the CBS Evening News, trots out all the standard lies about our decision to go to war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq. I don't watch TV, so don't have much perspective on her, but hopefully Couric was just having a bad day, because she comes across as a complete dope. Here's the opening:
Couric: On Iraq books have been written, as you know, many, many books, documentaries that have been made about how intelligence was incorrectly analyzed, cherry picked, to build an argument for war, and memos from that time do suggest that officials knew there was a small chance of actually finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq... there are some things that seem to suggest that in the build up to the actual war, that there was some doubt about that, wouldn't you say?
Rice: incredulous laugh No, I don't agree with that at all.
Rice goes on to hand Couric her head. Couric comes across as at best just dumb and at worst someone who just parrots what she reads on bad left-wing web sites. Rice comes across as smart, well spoken, and knowledgeable. Or, as John Hinderaker of Powerline put it, Rice "provides a refreshingly adult take on the subject."
December 13, 2010
Liberal Heads Explode as Virginia Judge Rules Individual Mandate Unconstitutional
Good news today; Judge Henry E. Hudson of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia has ruled that the individual mandate part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; what is commonly called ObamaCare, is unconstitutional.
That's worth at least a hip, hip, hooray! in my book.
Responding to the ruling is the man who brought the lawsuit, the Attorney General of Virginia, Republican Ken Cucinelli:
More from the AG at his Stop the Mandate website.
Of course, the Obama Administration will appeal the decision to the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, though no matter what they decide it will eventually go to the Supreme Court. Using just this reasoning AG Cuccinelli has even offered to bypass the appeals court and take it straight to the SOCUS.
A few legal details from Daniel Foster at NRO:
The ruling by District Judge Henry Hudson says the law "exceeds the constitutional boundaries of congressional power" by requiring individuals to purchase health care coverage under the "individual mandate." It is the first federal ruling against the law.
"Neither the Supreme Court nor any federal circuit court of appeals has extended Commerce Clause powers to compel an individual to involuntarily enter the stream of commerce by purchasing a commodity in the private market," Hudson wrote. "In doing so, enactment of the [individual mandate] exceeds the Commerce Clause powers vested in Congress under Article I ."
Crucially, however, Hudson refused to issue an injunction preventing the implementation of the law, and ruled that the unconstitutional parts of it could be severed from the whole.
Bty, spare me the "so isn't this the sort of judicial activism you conservatives deplore?" What we don't like is judges pushing their social or economic agendas at us and twisting the Constitution in the process.
But What Do the People Want?
Is AG Cuccinelli and all of the other attorneys general who have filed lawsuits against ObamaCare trying to thwart the will of the people? Will the rascally Republicans take away what he people want?
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 60% of Likely U.S. Voters at least somewhat favor repeal of the health care law while 34% are opposed. As has been the case since the law was first passed, those who favor repeal feel more passionately than those who want to keep the law--46% Strongly Favor repeal while just 23% who are Strongly Opposed.
I suppose die-hard liberals will say this is due to "misinformation" spread by Fox News, but given that they've got CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, heaven knows PBS, The New York Times, Washington Post, etc in their corner, not to mention that President Obama has talked his head off about the subject, that's not tenable.
As I said earlier, the case will of course be appealed, and I am not optimistic about the Supreme Court ruling that the individual mandate is unconstitutional as did Judge Hudson. As such, in the end the whole thing will be decided in Congress; either the Republicans will repeal and replace ObamaCare or they won't.
Jonathan H. Adler, again at NRO (which seems to have the best analysis, at least that I can find quickly) points out that
Today's district court ruling invalidating the individual mandate has tremendous significance. Among other things, it will make it much more difficult for defenders of the law to treat arguments that the mandate is unconstitutional as frivolous or extreme, as a federal court has now concluded otherwise. Given that federal judges are generally reluctant to strike down federal laws (as they should be), this decision could also give other judges considering parallel suits more confidence in their convictions.
They're spinning like tops over at the Daily Kooks, downplaying the ruling as much as possible. But I think that the political winds are blowing in the right direction, and that if things continue as they are the days of Obama Care are numbered.
December 10, 2010
Let's Be More Like Europe!
It seems a cliche to say it but it's true that Democrats and liberals think we should be more like Europe, with a larger government and more entitlements. And indeed ObamaCare is the culmination of that thinking.
The result of government benefits is that those who receive them start to think of them as something that they have an inviolable right to, which is why I think the liberals termed them "entitlements" in the first place. Once it is established that someone has an absolute right to something, they will not want to give it up no matter what the circumstances.
We're seeing the results of the entitlement mentality most clearly in Europe today. Earlier this year Greeks rioted when their broke government announced salary cuts, pension freezes, a hiring moratorium, and tax hikes. Tough medicine to be sure, but anyone with an ounce of sense should have seen the financial crisis coming a decade ago. France saw a series of urban riots/demonstrations when people took to the streets to protest the announcement to raise the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62.
And to top it all off, just yesterday student protesters attacked a car carrying Prince Charles and Camilla:
The London paper The Sun has the story, and follow the link to their site for some pretty awful photos:
THE Duchess of Cornwall was physically attacked through an open car window by a rioting thug in central London, it was claimed today.
Reports say a protester managed to push a stick through an open window of the limousine and jab it into her ribs.
Camilla's frightening experience came as a baying mob surrounded her and Prince Charles as they rode through the protests last night.
And reports today claimed armed officers were just seconds from drawing their guns but the police driver managed to accelerate out of trouble.
Scotland Yard chief Sir Paul Stephenson said this morning that the armed royal protection officers showed "enormous restraint".
And this AolNews story puts the lie to any claims that the only a few folks were rioting
The premier also shrugged off claims that violence was limited to a small minority of protesters, saying "there were quite a number of people who clearly were there wanting to pursue violence and destroy property."
And what was all the rioting about? A fascist military takeover of the government,? A shutdown of newspapers? And end to trial by jury? Nope:
British Parliament approves tuition hike despite widespread student protests
By Anthony Faiola
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, December 9, 2010; 8:59 PM
LONDON - British lawmakers pushed through a controversial hike in university tuition fees on Thursday, even as tens of thousands of angry students took to the streets of London and across the nation in protest.
The decision ensures that the cap on subsidized university fees will jump from $4,800 to $14,500 a year, infuriating students who have seized on the hikes to launch a wave of protests against the government's historic move to slash the budget deficit through drastic cuts in public spending.
On Thursday, thousands marched in the shadow of Parliament's Big Ben in demonstrations against the measure, chanting slogans aimed in large part against the Liberal Democrats, who, before joining with the Conservatives, had vowed to fight any tuition hikes.
Clusters of protesters set a bonfire and threw pool balls, firecrackers and paint bombs at mounted police, bringing parts of central London to a standstill. At least three protesters were arrested and 19 were injured; eight officers were being treated for injuries.
To be sure, the hikes are steep, no doubt about it. But they're really more the result of having up this off for too many years than anything else. It's like a credit card; you can rack up huge bills each month, only pay the minimum each month, and live fine for awhile. But the longer you put off dealing with that debt the worse it will be when you finally have to face the music.
Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch
Over the past two years here in the United States we've been protesting over government plans to expand benefits. Here are some of my photos from the Tea Party rally on September 12, 2009 that I attended:
Here's a crowd shot that I got from a news source, I forget which one
I like the United States better. It's an expansion of liberty when government cuts back it's so-called benefits programs, and a reduction of them when government expands.
December 7, 2010
The Tax Deal is a Good Deal
President Obama and Congressional Republicans reached a deal which will extend the Bush-era tax cuts at all income levels while also extending unemployment benefits. There were spending reductions to match the tax cuts, and there is no plan to pay for the unemployment benefits:
* Extends unemployment insurance for 13 months. Two million workers in December, and 7 million over the next year, would have lost benefits otherwise.
* Provides a one-year, 2% reduction in employees' Social Security payroll taxes, lowering the rate from 6.2% to 4.2%, at a cost of $120 billion.
* Keeps the Earned Income Tax Credit and American Opportunity Tax Credit increases from last year's economic stimulus law, for another $40 billion in tax cuts for families and students.
* Allows business to write off 100% of their capital purchases next year.
* Sets the estate tax at 35% for two years, with a $5 million asset limit that's higher than last year's $3.5 million.
Economically, the tax cuts will help the economy, or at least not extending them would certainly hurt it. At (I think) 99 weeks unemployment benefits are too long anyway, and at that point I think all they do is reduce the incentive to find work.
Contrary to what some knee-jerk supply siders say, tax cuts do not always pay for themselves. In the long run sometimes they do, but not always, because it depends where you are on the Phillips Curve.
Politically, you don't have to go far to see that most Republicans and conservatives generally like the compromise, while Democrats and the liberal base hate it. Much, much, more importantly, Obama doesn't seem to like it.
That alone tells me it was a good deal!
Obama's Base Seems to Hate the Deal
Powerline reports that
A poll conducted by Survey USA provides a sense of the left's dismay at the tax deal President Obama agreed to. Survey USA polled 1,000 people who contributed time or money to the Obama presidential campaign. 74 percent strongly oppose the deal and 57 percent say they are less likely to contribute in 2012 to Democrats who support it.
President Obama Gets Angry!
I haven't found a video that I can post here, but I will post excerpts of the transcript of his press conference on the deal. Various news reports describe the president as "visibly angry." I have underlined the most interesting parts, where Obama describes Republicans as hostage takers and bomb throwers and says that he is itching for a fight:
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. Before I answer a few questions, I just wanted to say a few words about the agreement we've reached on tax cuts.
My number one priority is to do what's right for the American people, for jobs, and for economic growth. I'm focused on making sure that tens of millions of hardworking Americans are not seeing their paychecks shrink on January 1st just because the folks here in Washington are busy trying to score political points.
Q (Chuck Todd) Mr. President, what do you say to Democrats who say you're rewarding Republican obstruction here? You yourself used in your opening statement they were unwilling to budge on this. A lot of progressive Democrats are saying they're unwilling to budge, and you're asking them to get off the fence and budge. Why should they be rewarding Republican obstruction?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me use a couple of analogies. I've said before that I felt that the middle-class tax cuts were being held hostage to the high-end tax cuts. I think it's tempting not to negotiate with hostage-takers, unless the hostage gets harmed. Then people will question the wisdom of that strategy. In this case, the hostage was the American people and I was not willing to see them get harmed.
Q Tell that to the left -- they weren't happy --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, but that's my point. My point is I don't make judgments based on what the conventional wisdom is at any given time. I make my judgments based on what I think is right for the country and for the American people right now.
And I will be happy to see the Republicans test whether or not I'm itching for a fight on a whole range of issues. I suspect they will find I am. And I think the American people will be on my side on a whole bunch of these fights. But right now I want to make sure that the American people aren't hurt because we're having a political fight, and I think that this agreement accomplishes that.
Q (Marc Ambinder)Just in the sense that they'll say essentially we're not going to raise the -- we're not going to agree to it unless the White House is able to or willing to agree to significant spending cuts across the board that probably go deeper and further than what you're willing to do. I mean, what leverage would you have --
THE PRESIDENT: Look, here's my expectation -- and I'll take John Boehner at his word -- that nobody, Democrat or Republican, is willing to see the full faith and credit of the United States government collapse, that that would not be a good thing to happen. And so I think that there will be significant discussions about the debt limit vote. That's something that nobody ever likes to vote on. But once John Boehner is sworn in as Speaker, then he's going to have responsibilities to govern. You can't just stand on the sidelines and be a bomb thrower.
What language! How angry! How... prickly.
The Root of Obama's Problem
Barack Obama never had any difficult election races, and is used to people adoring him. No, he's used to them fawning over him. So when the going gets tough, he has no idea what to do. He's not used to having to negotiate from a position of relative weakness and doesn't know how to do it.
Most conservatives and happy with the deal and most liberals are angry because, as Ezra Klein points out, Republicans got that the things that "they really, really wanted," wheras liberals are angry because "Obama and the Democrats didn't fight" for what they gave up but simply caved at the first opportunity. Klein tries to put a happy face on the whole thing, but he's not convincing.
Will Congress Support The Deal?
In the end the leadership of both sides can make any deal they want, but if the rank and file won't support it the whole thing collapses. I don't think we have a solid feel for where this is going, but my guess is it'll probably pass, though it may get changed a bit.
Tea Party Senator Jim DeMint opposes the deal, objecting that the unemployment benefits must be paid for, and that the tax cuts should be paid for.
But just as important, Rep. Ryan (R., Wis.), who is very influential in conservative-Tea Party circles, likes the deal, reasoning that "All things considered, I think it's the best deal we were going to get. It's clearly not a good as we would've wanted, but far better than the alternative route."
House Speaker and Minority-Leader to be Nancy Pelosi says she opposes the deal, saying that "the estate tax in the bill is a bridge too far."
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.) doesn't like it either: "I don't think it's a fair deal. I think a ransom was paid, and it was a very high price."
As for the rest of the Democrats, NRO reports that "Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.) tells reporters that the just-complete Democratic conference lunch with Vice President Biden was "difficult," but there is "no rebellion . . . not yet.""
I'm happier with the politics than the economics of the deal, although extending the tax cuts for all income earners will help the economy (or keep it from getting worse). The politics count, because getting that right paves the way to future victories.
Byron York explains how the Democrats were hoist by their own petard, having boxed themselves into this position by refusing to pass a budget this year. Essentially, they outsmarted themselves and are paying the price.
The Republicans look like they're in a better spot, but that will change if Boehner and McConnell can't keep their troops in order. But the leftist Obama base is angry, and that can only be a good thing.
December 6, 2010
The Wikileaks Scandal Shows the Obama Administration to be "Shallow, and "Amateurish'
In part of yesterday's post about the growing Wikileaks challenge I blogged about how Wikileaks leader Julian Assange had distributed a "poison pill" document across the Internet. Assange said he would release the key to what he implied were very sensitive documents if he was arrested or his website brought down.
In other words, he is blackmailing us. The thing about blackmailers, though, is that they keep upping the ante. Buying them off, then, only works in the short term.
And we're seeing today that short-term to Assange is about 24 hours. Today's news informs us that
(Dec. 6) -- WikiLeaks has released a list of "critical" industries and assets around the world, from vaccine factories in Belgium to oil pipelines in Georgia, that the U.S. considers vital to its national security...
"There are strong and valid reasons information is classified, including critical infrastructure and key resources that are vital to the national and economic security of any country," said Philip Crowley, assistant secretary of state, The Times of London reported. "[WikiLeaks founder] Julian Assange may be directing his efforts at the United States, but he is placing the interests of many countries and regions at risk. This is irresponsible."
No kidding. Now let's do something about it.
But because we have dallied and dithered, the wolves circle, baring their fangs. Imitators see that the United States can be bullied. This story from the New York Times is simply incredible:
Hundreds of WikiLeaks Mirror Sites Appear
Dec 5, 2010
By Ravi Somaiya
LONDON -- The battle lines between supporters of the whistle-blowing Web site WikiLeaks and its detractors began to form on Sunday, as supporters erected numerous copies of the site on the Internet and the United States put pressure on Switzerland not to offer a haven to the site's founder, Julian Assange.
Since several major Internet companies cut off services to WikiLeaks in recent days, activists have created hundreds of mirror sites, Web sites that host exact copies of another site's content, making censorship difficult.
The collective Anonymous, an informal but notorious group of hackers and activists, also declared war on Sunday against enemies of Mr. Assange, calling on supporters to attack sites companies that do not support WikiLeaks and to spread the leaked material online.
You Can't Make This Stuff Up
Topping even the above insanity is this from CBS News:
WikiLeaks' Assange Continues Assault on U.S. Officials
December 5, 2010
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange continued his assault on U.S. government officials, calling for President Obama to resign if it is proven that he approved of spying on UN officials by U.S. diplomats.
Assange told El Pais, "The whole chain of command who was aware of this order, and approved it, must resign if the US is to be seen to be a credible nation that obeys the rule of law. The order is so serious it may well have been put to the president for approval."
If Obama did in fact approve spying on the UN then I say give him a medal.
What's incredible is that Assange things that is a bad thing and that it's so terrible and or unusual or whatever.
I remember in 1979 after the Iranian "students" had seized our embassy, and they used as their justification that we had been using the embassy for spying. I remember thinking "yes, and your point is?"
The Obama Administration is "Naive" and Amateurish"
Say what you will about former Speaker Gingrich, in this case he nails it:
Gingrich: Leaks show Obama administration 'shallow,' 'amateurish'
By Shane D'Aprile
2/05/10 10:59 AM ET
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Sunday that President Obama and the White House deserve a large share of the blame for the massive amounts of classified information revealed through WikiLeaks.
Gingrich said the leaks are "a scandal of the first order" and that they demonstrate the Obama administration is "shallow" and "amateurish" when it comes to national security.
"You have a private first class who downloads a quarter million documents, and the system doesn't say, 'Oh, you may be over extended?' I mean, this is a system so stupid that it ought to be a scandal of the first order," Gingrich said. "This administration is so shallow and so amateurish about national security that it is painful and dangerous."
He also said the U.S needs to act fast in shutting down WikiLeaks and finding Julian Assange. "Information warfare is warfare, and Julian Assange is engaged in warfare. Information terrorism, which leads to people getting killed, is terrorism, and Julian Assange is engaged in terrorism," said Gingrich. "He should be treated as an enemy combatant."
And think whatever you want of former Ambassador John Bolton too, but he gets to the heart of the problem with this administration:
WikiLeaks cables: Barack Obama is a bigger danger
by John Bolton
December 5, 2010
WikiLeaks has yet again flooded the internet with thousands of classified American documents, this time state department cables. More troubling than WikiLeaks' latest revelation of US secrets, however, is the Obama administration's weak, wrong-headed and erratic response. Unfortunately, the administration has acted consistently with its demonstrated unwillingness to assert and defend US interests across a wide range of threats, such as Iran and North Korea, which, ironically, the leaked cables amply document....
All of this underscores the real problem. It is not WikiLeaks that ultimately imperils our national security, but the failing Obama administration, which ignores the nature and extent of threats we face, and which is too often unwilling to act to thwart them. While our economic difficulties have dominated the national debate for two years, national security will inevitably again come to the fore, as Americans see the full extent of the devastation left by Obama's policies. That shift cannot come too soon.
No it cannot, Mr Bolton. And I will certainly be doing my part to ensure that the shift takes place.
December 5, 2010
The Wikileaks Insanity: Obama's Carter Moment?
It's become clear to me that the Obama Administration, and liberals in general, do not realize the danger posed by Julian Assange and his Wikileaks organization. What Wikileaks is doing is positively toxic unless stopped, and stopped in a (brutal) and ruthless manner.
This is so not so much for any specific information that they've revealed, for most of it is more diplomatically embarrassing than anything else.
It's like those situations on the playground when one kid starts to pick on another. The bullies watch to see how the one kid reacts; will he or won't he punch his aggressor? If so, then the bullies will leave him alone. If not, they, too, soon join in the "fun."
This is what is happening around the world. The bullies are watching how Obama is responding to things like the North Korean artillery attack and the constant releasing of our secrets by Wikileaks. If we respond weekly, the bullies will see it as a green light for them to move ahead with their nefarious agendas.
Given that the first Wikileaks release was over four months ago, they're starting to draw the conclusion that Barack Obama is another Jimmy Carter.
The time Obama has to change this growing perception is dangerously short.
As of this writing there have been absolutely no consequences to anyone involved with Wikileaks. The most our government can do is have State Dept Legal Advisor Harold Koh write what amounts to a "cease and desist" letter, which the Wikileaks people promptly denounced.
Professor William Jacobson describes some consequences of our inaction that will really end up being the least or our worries:
Whether or not someone gets killed as a direct result of a Wikileaks disclosure, the damage to our country is deep, as allies and sources among enemies will stop cooperating with us for fear of exposure, our diplomats will be hesitant to speak frankly with headquarters, and our intelligence on al-Qaeda and others will be compromised.
These are the sorts of things that each in and of itself won't make front-page news. To be sure, there is the danger of one of the rogue nations of the world; Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, etc, doing something dramatic, but just as bad in the long run is the slow, almost unnoticed on a daily basis, erosion of our ability to conduct foreign policy or have an influence in the world.
The worst-case scenario for the American administration would be if the violence in the Korean Peninsula escalated and it could not find an appropriate way to save face and de-escalate the confrontation. ...
This still outlines only the start of the potential ripple effect. The situation of several other American allies is already so bad that they hardly even need a Korean paradigm to despair. Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri, for example, just went hat-in-hand to Tehran and started a diatribe against Israel, in an apparent sign that he is ready to toe the Iranian line if that is what it will take to ensure his survival.
n Iraq, the Western-backed Iyad Allawi was elbowed out of forming a government by his Iran-backed Shi'ite rivals despite winning the popular election earlier this year. In Afghanistan, an already-alienated President Hamid Karzai is looking on as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization effort to prop him up continues. ... In Yemen, too, the government is getting desperate against al-Qaeda militants and Iran-backed Houtini rebels, and, according to some reports, is considering playing both sides.
The bully boys are licking their chops, and potential victims are looking for protection by anyone but the United States. The danger from the bully states is exacerbated by the Findlanization of the weaker ones.
The Latest Wikileaks Challenge
Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, has circulated across the internet an encrypted "poison pill" cache of uncensored documents suspected to include files on BP and Guantanamo Bay.
One of the files identified this weekend by The Sunday Times -- called the "insurance" file -- has been downloaded from the WikiLeaks website by tens of thousands of supporters, from America to Australia....
One of the key files available for download -- named insurance.aes256 -- appears to be encrypted with a 256-digit key. Experts said last week it was virtually unbreakable.
Assange has warned he can divulge the classified documents in the insurance file and similar backups if he is detained or the WikiLeaks website is permanently removed from the internet. He has suggested the contents are unredacted, posing a possible security risk for coalition partners around the world.
Assange is holding the United States, and indeed all civilized countries hostage; either we allow him the freedom to continue his activities or he will release damaging material.
How we respond is critical.
We Have No Choice
If we do nothing, Assange will continue to release documents. He might not release the worst, at least not now, but we must be under no illusion that we can buy long-term security by leaving him along. We would get a short term benefit, yes, in that the material would not be released.
If we act strongly to take him down and permanently ensure that the Wikileaks team is out of business, the contents of insurance.aes256 and no doubt other files will be released. This will be damaging to be sure.
But it will also show other would be Wikileaks imitators that there the cost to such activities is a lifetime in Supermax. It will also teach the bully nations that we are not to be trifled with and that they must keep their actions in check. The weaker nations will be reassured, and will look to the United States for guidance and protection.
Yes I aware the Wikileaks released it's first document in December of 2006, when George W. Bush was president. But if you look at their pre-2010 releases any but the most rabid pro-Obama partisan will have to agree that they did not really harm our national security. Their releases this year, however, have been exponentially more important and damaging.