Sunday, June 28, 2009

Pinky and the Brain Plot To Take Over The World

A reader of this blog asks if Ronbo has a sense of humor. The writer states in his Email, "Ronbo, your blog is all about doom and gloom. This would be bad enough with what is really going on in the world, but now you would have have us serious readers believe that you and Jack Idema are actually plotting to overthrow the USA government and then go on to conquer the world. What nonsense! If you are going to do humor at least label it as such."

I have known Ronbo all my life and can say without fear of contradiction that he has an above average feel for the absurd in life as witness his love for this old cartoon series, "Pinky and the Brain" in which two lab rats plot to take over the world. How absurd and funny is the very idea! Why it's almost as absurd and funny as a couple of real live lab rats Super Patriots called Ronbo and Jack Idema plotting to overthrow the government of the United States!

The VERY IDEA! Hahahahahahaha!

I bet the Leftards are laughing about this absurd and funny coup by the military and its allies that recently overthrew a North American government for ELECTION FRAUD. However, such a putsch could never happen in the United States of America! This country is above that sort of thing even though a case could be made that Obama and the Democrat Party stole the election of 2008 by massive ACORN directed voter fraud.

Pinky and the Brain
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Pinky and the Brain are cartoon characters who have starred in the American animated television series Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, and Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain.

Pinky and the Brain first appeared in 1993 as a recurring segment on the show Animaniacs. From 1995 to 1998, Pinky and the Brain were spun-off into their own Emmy-award-winning show on The WB Television Network, Steven Spielberg Presents Pinky and the Brain, with 65 episodes produced by Steven Spielberg and Warner Bros. Animation. Later, they appeared in the unsuccessful series, Steven Spielberg Presents Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain.

Pinky and Brain are genetically enhanced laboratory mice who reside in a cage in the Acme Labs research facility. In each episode, Brain devises a new plan for the two mice (led by Brain) to take over the world, which ultimately ends in failure. In common with many other Animaniacs shorts, many episodes are in some way a parody of something else, usually a film or novel. The cartoon's tagline is:

Pinky: "Gee Brain, what do you want to do tonight?"

The Brain: "The same thing we do every night, Pinky—try to take over the world."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

George Bush Was Right

A few commentators have claimed that the uprising in Iran is an example of the "Obama effect"—a supposed result of his appeasing "outreach" to the Islamic world in his Cairo speech. This has been offered without any evidence to support it, and it has been thoroughly debunked by Caroline Glick.

There is an Obama effect at work in precipitating the crisis in Iran—but it has worked in the opposite direction. Obama's attempt to reverse America's foreign policy did not embolden the Iranian people to protest against a rigged election. It emboldened the regime to rig that election in the first place.

The Washington Times reports that in early May the Obama administration sent a letter to Iran's head dictator, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, making a groveling plea for "cooperation in regional and bilateral relations." The Iranians got the message: that the US was no longer likely to take any action to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. So Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared that the nuclear issue was "closed forever"—and the Ahmadinejad-Khamenei faction was encouraged to believe they could get away with rigging the presidential election.

Note that they didn't just rig the election to ensure Ahmadinejad would win; they rigged it to give him a landslide. The apparent intent was not just to keep Ahmadinejad in office but to provide an excuse to push aside moderates and political opponents within the regime. It is reasonable to assume that this was meant to clear the way for a final push toward a nuclear bomb—and to prepare for greater Iranian aggression once they could claim to be a nuclear power.

In short, the real "Obama effect" is that the Iranian regime sensed American weakness and was winding up to deliver a punch against the West. But they didn't count on one thing. They didn't realize that they were much, much weaker than us. And there is growing evidence that the Iranian theocracy was weakened because of a blow America had already delivered against Iran—a blow much more potent than anyone realized.

The nature of the Iranian regime's weakness is obvious: it has lost moral legitimacy in the eyes of the people it rules over. Specifically, as Fareed Zakaria argues, the election protests represent a widespread rejection of the central ideological doctrine of the regime: the divine and unquestionable authority of the supreme religious leader. When Ali Khamenei proclaims that Ahmadinejad's supposed election victory was divinely ordained, and everyone still rejects it, that means he is no longer accepted as a moral or religious authority.

What is less obvious is that this loss of legitimacy was already an established fact before the election. The surge of support behind the candidacy of Mir Hossein Mousavi when he became the stealth candidate of the liberals and reformers, as well as the immediacy with which protests broke out after the government announcement that Mousavi had supposedly lost—all of this indicates the rigged vote did not cause the loss of the regime's moral authority; it merely brought it out into the open, causing Iranians to realize exactly how many of them shared a contempt for their leaders.

As for the earlier and underlying cause of the rejection of the Iranian regime, here there is big news. Multiple sources have been reporting about behind-the-scenes machinations among the clerics who elect the Supreme Leader—and who are now considering replacing Khamenei, possibly with a diluted collective leadership. The AP covers this story, and so does the Washington Post's David Ignatius, while apparently Al-Arabiya is saying that Ayatollah Rafsanjani has already lined up enough votes to replace Khamenei.

But what really caught my attention was the news, via ThreatWatch's Steve Schippert, that these meetings have included "a representative of Iraq's Ayatollah Ali Sistani." Why is this important? Sistani, like the dissident Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, is of the old Shiite "quietist" school which believes religious leaders should not directly involve themselves in politics. Sistani rejects the Khomeinist doctrine of rule by a supreme religious authority, and therefore he has played a crucial role as an advocate for free elections in Iraq and against sectarian violence. You may recall that he played a particularly crucial role in giving religious sanction to the Iraqi government's dismantling of the Mahdi Army, the leading force attempting to impose an Iranian-style theocracy in Iraq.

Schippert also recalls to our attention a story I linked to back in 2007 about how Sistani was gaining a growing following in Iran. It's well worth following the link to read the whole report, but the most important passage is this one:

In Tehran's storied central bazaar, an increasing number of merchants are sending their religious donations, a 20 percent tithe expected from all who can spare it, to Iraq's most senior Shiite cleric—rather than to clerics closer to Iran's state power structure, said Jawad al-Ghaie, 48, a wholesaler of false eyelashes and nail extensions and a respected lay donor.

Speaking carefully to avoid directly challenging the Iranian government, he and several fellow merchants suggested that Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani holds more spiritual sway because of his lifelong commitment to quietism. That is the school of thought that says Shiite leaders should stay out of government….

"Any time religion is imposed by the gove

rnment," Ghaie added, "there is a bad reaction."…

The report concludes:

The war in Iraq has failed to produce the democracy domino effect that its US advocates contended would crack open calcified regimes across the Middle East…. But ever since US-sponsored elections brought the Shiite majority to power, Iraq's imperfect liberation has quietly influenced the debate among religious Shiites about the role of religion in government.

For five years, from 2003 through 2008, Iran tried to conquer Iraq for its political system, using Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia to push for an Iranian-style theocracy. Now Iraq is returning the favor by invading Iran with the example of its political system of representative government and political freedom. Sistani's involvement in the internal debate within the Iranian establishment provides direct evidence of this influence.

In short, it is starting to look like the "democracy domino effect" is finally working. Or to put it in more controversial and surprising terms: George Bush was right.

No one is saying it yet, but the unrest in Iran is providing evidence that vindicates the case for the Iraq war and the Forward Strategy of Freedom. Helping to create a relatively free society in Iraq did help to inspire a push for regime change from within in Iran. By contrast, if we had abandoned Iraq to al-Qaeda and the Mahdi Army in 2006, as our domestic defeatists demanded, we would have vindicated and empowered Iran's theocracy.

No, I do not think that the success of the new Iranian revolution is assured—the latest news indicates a more severe crackdown by the regime, but also new support for the uprising from Iran's labor unions and from the Grand Ayatollah Montazeri. But the mere fact that this uprising has occurred provides evidence that the Forward Strategy of Freedom does work, that defending and promoting freedom overseas promotes America's interests.

And if the courageous Iranian protesters succeed in toppling the regime, imagine the further "domino effect" that could follow. Iran's terrorist allies in Syria and Lebanon are already getting nervous, and authoritarian Arab states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia are looking on the Iranian revolution with mixed feelings: they would welcome a weakening of the Shiite threat from Persia, but they also fear the example of a popular uprising against an oppressive government. And the government of China is fervently hoping that the Iranian revolution would just go away.

While I backed the basic idea behind the Forward Strategy of Freedom, I was very critical of its implementation, which I thought was too slow and hesitant, too influenced by a woozy, subjectivist concept of "democracy" (which led to disasters like the Hamas election victory in 2006), and too slow to work in time to prevent threats such as an Iranian nuclear bomb.

Yet it is beginning to look like we will get very lucky. President Bush may have done just enough to precipitate a really significant, central victory in the war, even despite his successor's collapse into appeasement.

And so, just as the Iranian revolution was preparing to strike a new blow against the West, it may fall to the blow America dealt to tyranny by fighting and winning the war in Iraq.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Second Iranian Revolution At The Tipping Point

Charles Krauthammer has the best explanation I have seen so far of why this story is so supremely important to America's interests. Krauthammer asks us to imagine the impact if the Iranian regime is overthrown.

Imagine the repercussions. It would mark a decisive blow to Islamist radicalism, of which Iran today is not just standard-bearer and model, but financier and arms supplier. It would do to Islamism what the collapse of the Soviet Union did to communism—leave it forever spent and discredited.

In the region, it would launch a second Arab spring. The first in 2005—the expulsion of Syria from Lebanon, first elections in Iraq and early liberalization in the Gulf states and Egypt—was aborted by a fierce counterattack from the forces of repression and reaction, led and funded by Iran.

Now, with Hezbollah having lost elections in Lebanon and Iraq establishing institutions of a young democracy, the fall of the Islamist dictatorship in Iran would have an electric and contagious effect.

The exception—Iraq and Lebanon—becomes the rule. Democracy becomes the wave. Syria becomes isolated; Hezbollah and Hamas, patronless. The entire trajectory of the region is reversed.

All hangs in the balance.

This makes the reaction of President Obama totally inexcusable. As Krauthammer puts it, "And what side is the Obama administration taking? None."

Ralph Peters describes the administration's reaction as a "Green Light for a Crackdown." And the crackdown is coming. The Guardian provides an overview:

Iran's government sought today to decapitate the opposition movement by rounding up ­hundreds of activists, journalists and intellectuals.

A total of 500 were reported to have been detained across the country, including well-known political figures from the 1979 Islamic revolution. The mass detentions combined with paramilitary raids on university campuses appeared to be part of a determined and sustained backlash on the part of a government that initially appeared to have been taken by surprise by the scale of the protests after the declaration that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won Friday's presidential poll.

The authorities also launched what appeared to be a concerted campaign to link the protests with foreign intervention, calling in the US and British ambassadors to complain about what Tehran called "intolerable" meddling in Iran's internal affairs.

So much for Obama not wanting America "to be seen to be meddling." We're going to be accused of meddling no matter what we do.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has a pretty good report on the role of the Shiite clergy, a significant number of whom might come out on the side of the protesters.

"If the clergy become Khamenei's enemy, just think about it," Mr. Kholdi said. "The shah made Qum [the main center of the Shiite clergy] his enemy, and they did not cease to plot against him until he was overthrown."…

The risk for the supreme leader and Mr. Ahmadinejad if the mullahs shift away from them is that the idea that the government carries an Islamic stamp of approval will be undermined.

"The ranks of the government supporters will dwindle and the government claim that endorsing the results is a religious duty will collapse," said Abbas Milani, author of the book "Eminent Persians" and chairman of Stanford University's Iranian studies program.

It's hard to have a theocracy when it's opposed by the leading religious authorities.

It will be very difficult to tell what is happening in Iran, but not as difficult as it used to be. The New York Times describes how, with foreign journalists being ejected from Iran, YouTube and Twitter have become highly effective windows that shows the world what is going on. This may or may not be the "Twitter Revolution," as some are calling it; I doubt more than a small percentage of Iranians are actually using Twitter to communicate with each another. But those who can do so are using these communications services to communicate with the outside world. So this definitely is the Twitter Revolution from our perspective.

What we do know is that there was another round of huge protests on Thursday:

Starting about 4 pm, thousands of people began gathering in Imam Khomeini Square in Tehran. The crowd quickly grew to hundreds of thousands, stretching beyond the borders of the square, one of the city's largest, and filling the surrounding streets, witnesses said.

The protest seemed to grow larger than demonstrations on previous days. But it was not as big as Monday's rally; that outpouring involved three million people, Tehran's mayor said Thursday, making it the largest protest since the Islamic Revolution in 1979…. [An earlier version of this story indicated that Thursday's rally was bigger than Monday's.—RWT]

As on previous days, the police kept to the sidelines. Although vigilante forces appeared, there were no immediate reports of clashes.

This same New York Times report indicates how high the stakes are getting. The only way out for the mullahs now is to launch a bloody Tiananmen-style massacre—but they are afraid of the consequences of such an open and bloody repression.

The path to resolution is so cloudy because Iran's political system is not based on coalitions or compromise. It has evolved into a winner-take-all contest, with each side holding competing views of what kind of country Iran should be: one in continuing opposition to the West, where individual freedoms are tightly restricted, or one more open to engagement with the world and greater civil liberties.

The Guardian also reports that the protest movement is not limited to Tehran: "Pro-Mousavi protests have also been reported in the cities of Isfahan, Rasht, Orumiyeh, Zanjan and Zahedan."

The real "must read," however, is a series of statements from protesters sent to a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. Definitely read the whole thing, but here are a few highlights.

"Alireza"—last names have been withheld for obvious reasons—says:

At Ahmadinejad's "victory" ceremony, government buses transported all his supporters from nearby cities. There was full TV coverage of that ceremony, where fruit juice and cake were plentiful. At most, 100,000 gathered to hear his speech, including all the militiamen and soldiers.

We reformists have no radio, no newspaper, and no television. All our Internet sites are filtered, as well as social networks such as Facebook. Text messaging and mobile communication were also cut off during the demonstrations. And yet we had hundreds of thousands, if not millions….

Democracy is a long way ahead. I may not be alive to see that day. With eyes full of tears in these early hours of June 16, I glorify the courage of those who have already been killed. I hope that the blood of these martyrs will make every one of us more committed to freedom, to democracy and to human rights.

"Negin" specifically addresses what the Iranians want from the rest of the world:

People want to be heard and supported by the rest of the world. They were sending messages to the West with their cameras. They were calling on Obama and Sarkozy to demand that the Free World not recognize this government. I saw a few women shouting: "Now it's your turn to support democracy and human rights."

"The fear is gone. Nothing seems to be an obstacle anymore. They can filter all the Web sites and shut down the Internet, SMS [text messaging] service, and mobile phones, but they cannot shut our mouths." This is what I hear all the time.

Note also in photos of the protest how many of the signs are in English, not Persian. This is an indication of how important the support of the English-speaking West is.

All of this is creating increased pressure on Obama to back the protesters more forcefully. The New York Times reports that Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton are urging a stronger stance. The story also contains this gem:

Mr. Obama also drew criticism from politically neutral observers when he said in an interview on Tuesday with The New York Times and CNBC that from an American national security perspective, there was not much difference between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mir Hussein Moussavi, his closest competitor in the election.
"Either way," Mr. Obama said, the United States is "going to be dealing with an Iranian regime that has historically been hostile to the United States, that has caused some problems in the neighborhood and is pursuing nuclear weapons."

So in contrast to Obama, what should we be doing?

President Obama has less backbone than the French, for crying out loud: Nicolas Sarkozy has said, "These elections are an atrocity." Aside from general statements of moral support, there is a lot we can do specifically. We can highlight the fates of specific people who have been targeted and imprisoned by the regime, as we did with Soviet dissidents like Andrei Sakharov and Nathan Scharansky during the 1970s and 1980s. And we can help the protesters materially, providing them with communications technology that will help them circumvent the restrictions imposed by the regime.

This is one of the suggestions Caroline Glick makes for Israel, describing this event as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Israel to forge an alliance with the people of a country that has been its worst enemy for decades. If this sounds far-fetched, consider this passage from a report in the Jerusalem Post, beginning with a quote from one of the Iranian protesters:

"The most important thing that I believe people outside of Iran should be aware of," the young man went on, "is the participation of Palestinian forces in these riots."
Another protester, who spoke as he carried a kitchen knife in one hand and a stone in the other, also cited the presence of Hamas in Teheran.

On Monday, he said, "my brother had his ribs beaten in by those Palestinian animals. Taking our people's money is not enough, they are thirsty for our blood too." It was ironic, this man said, that the victorious Ahmadinejad "tells us to pray for the young Palestinians, suffering at the hands of Israel." His hope, he added, was that Israel would "come to its senses" and ruthlessly deal with the Palestinians.

This reminds me of similar things I heard in Iraq, where Saddam Hussein also used the Palestinians as imported mercenaries in his war against his own people.

More will be happening in the next few days. Supreme Leader and chief theocrat Ali Khamenei is giving the main sermon at Friday prayers in Tehran, where he is expected to unveil a threat against the protesters. He is also claiming that the attendance at his sermon will show the Iranian people's support—so the opposition is, of course, calling for a boycott. By contrast, on Saturday, a rally has been called by a group of reformist, relatively pro-liberty clerics. Wait and see the contrasting responses to these two events.

As Krauthammer reminds us, "all hangs in the balance."

Obama's Agenda Quickly Unraveling?

The Democrats have, according to the state-run media, a wildly popular president in the White House, a large majority in the House of Representatives, and an almost filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. So why does it seem like Obama’s agenda is quickly unraveling?

I have contented for a while now that Obama is trying to do too much, too fast. One theory is that he has been trying to push his agenda through quickly because of his high popularity, and because liberalism as an ideology is not all that popular with the American people. Obama has been trying to push as much liberal policy through at once, and because he lacks real experience, has really no concept of the slow-moving mechanism of the 100 egos in the Senate, not to mention the House. Obama is drawing from the experience of the only legislative success of his young Presidency, the Porkulus, and is assuming that everything will go that easily and that quickly. Unfortunately, he is now learning that Congress is not there simply to do his bidding, and his major initiatives are in danger of stalling.

Currently, Obama is attempting to push through a massive socialization of our nation’s Health Care system, “climate change” cap-and-trade legislation, amnesty for illegal immigrants, and now the most massive overhaul of financial regulations since the Great Depression. This says nothing of his non-legislative initiatives, such as the restructuring of the automobile industry, the closing of Guantanamo Bay, and the establishment of dozens of Czars to try to make an end-run around the Legislature. The problem Obama is now having is that by focusing on many large initiatives at once, it is difficult to focus a PR strategy to get the American people to buy in.

It doesn’t help that Obama’s proposals have many provisions that aren’t popular, such as his $1.6 trillion health care plan’s public option, and that his priorities do not line up with those of the American people. Recent polling by multiple outlets has shown that the American people are concerned about the economy, as well as the massive increase in the Federal Deficit over the past nine months. While they still blame Bush for these things, they are wary of any new spending initiatives that may come along, and most of Obama’s proposals will bloat the federal deficit to unprecedented levels. People are also unhappy with the near double-digit unemployment, and want Obama to focus on that rather than health care. Most people don’t buy the argument that Obama is trying to make that the economy can be fixed by fixing health care. All of this contributes to Obama’s health care initiative now being on life support.

All of this presents a window for the Republicans. By harnessing public opinion, they can halt or significantly water down much of the Democrat agenda. By pealing away Democrats from purple states who face re-election in 2010, the GOP has a shot at killing some of the more egregious aspects of Obama’s agenda. The opportunity is now here to do serious damage to Obama’s agenda, and we’ll be better off as a nation the more of Obama’s agenda we can stop or water down.

Rush Limbaugh: The Destruction of The American Economy

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Book Title Says It All About Obama: CATASTROPHE!

If you are mad as hell about how Obama, Pelosi, and the Washington Democrats are sabotaging America, you must read Dick Morris' new book:

It's called "Catastrophe: How Obama, Congress and the Special Interests are transforming a slump into a crash, freedom into socialism, and a disaster into CATASTROPHE . . . and how to fight back!"

With co-author Eileen McGann, Dick Morris says: "IT'S TIME TO TAKE BACK OUR COUNTRY."

Now. It's that simple. It's that urgent.

So begins Dick Morris and Eileen McGann's latest and most important book.

They say that we must act before President Barack Obama fully implements his radical political agenda.

Right now Obama is waging a war on prosperity while canceling the war on terror.

Time is running out — if we don't act soon it may be too late to regain our liberty or our security.

The country faces a nightmare: A doctrinaire socialist leads the nation and wants to use the economic crisis to put the government in charge of the economy.

He wants European socialism here in the United States . . . cars, banks . . . what's next?

He wants Washington to run businesses and even control your salary.


Dick Morris and Eileen McGann saw the meltdown coming.

In their book "Outrage," they called out the house of cards that was Fannie Mae.

In "Fleeced," they went after the credit card companies, the subprime mortgage lenders, and the hedge fund billionaires who conspired to wreck the economy.

They even exposed Barack Obama, whose policies, they predicted last summer, would "trigger a stock market crash."

Now, in Catastrophe, Morris and McGann take a hard look at America in free fall — and at how Obama is transforming a vulnerable America into a socialist state.

They tell the truth about Obama and his radical policies:

He will destroy our healthcare system so that no one gets adequate care.

He designed his bank rescue plan to pave the way for nationalization of the banks and socialization of the economy.

He firmly believes in government control of our major industries: he's already commandeered the banks and the automobile industry.

He plans to reshape the political landscape to keep the left in power for decades by cooking the census, enfranchising illegal immigrants, muzzling talk radio, and coercing workers into unions.

He is attacking those who fight terrorism while letting the terrorists go free.

He gives aid to Hamas while Shariah law threatens to take over America.

He has repealed the Declaration of Independence and put us under a worldwide, European-dominated financial regulatory system.

"This is no time for apathy or alienation or hopelessness," Morris and McGann remind us. "It's a time for action."

In Catastrophe they lay out a clear plan of action — A SECOND AMERICAN REVOLUTION -one Americans like you must begin now — before it's too late!

Why The Leftards Hate Their Betters...

“I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative.” – John Stuart Mill

“Pick the Target. Freeze it. Personalize it. Polarize it”. – Saul Alinsky.

Supported by innumerable others like them, those quotes remind us of what our experience confirms: The sliming of opponents has always come naturally to liberals.

But there should be no surprise because humans arrogant enough to make a religion of politics and gods of politicians are arrogant enough to find it impossible to resist the temptation of denigrating “heretics” as stupid Know-Nothing yahoos.

That’s why during every presidential election for the past 100 years, liberals have coalesced into a cloud of obnoxiously droning locusts to din our ears and minds with insufferable, pride-bloated protestations of the intellectual superiority of the Democratic candidate.

And that’s why liberals have become so good at teaching by example that liberal high school students have learned to use “conservative” to mean “a war-mongering reactionary who is anti-science, anti-art, anti-minority, anti-immigrant, anti-female, anti-poor, and anti-peace — in truth, anti everything good.”

This contemptible (and eminently stupid) behavior is on my mind these days because liberals — especially those who write “all the [opinion] fit to print” — are using murders committed by a few madmen to depict conservatives as vile hate mongers, puffing this opinion with their usual amnesia unashamedly and outrageously on display.

Following are some particularly disgusting examples.

Yes, the worst terrorist attack in our history was perpetrated by a foreign conspiracy. But the second worst, the Oklahoma City bombing, was perpetrated by an all-American lunatic. Politicians and media organizations [read “conservatives and Fox News”] wind up such people at their, and our, peril. (Paul Krugman, “The Big Hate.”)

How interesting Mr. Krugman doesn’t denounce unrepentant former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers as “an all-American lunatic” while condemning the American left for “winding up such people.”

However, it is not just Krugman who is conveniently selective; for there is not a liberal to be found who will denounce Barack Obama as (at the very least) a dense, dangerous Pollyanna for considering it no big deal to associate himself with a former bomber and self-described “small ‘c’ communist” who teaches teachers to instruct inner city children not in the Three R’s but in the principles of leftist community organizing.

But there are legions of liberals prepared to lavish praise upon Ayers as a “Distinguished Professor” and “Senior University Scholar” at the University of Illinois, never mentioning that he conducts his research not in Urbana-Champaign but at a satellite campus where he can take full advantage of the resources provided by The Chicago Political Machine — an institution every liberal praises as an exquisite exemplar of empathy, morality, and intellectuality.

Let’s now move over to Frank Rich, who alleged that a former Michigan GOP chairman suggested Republicans stop associating the term “socialism” with Obama to tar him instead with the more effective “fascism.” Then, Rich wrote this:

He didn’t seem to grasp that “fascism” is nonsensical as a description of the Obama administration or that there might be a risk in slurring a president with a word that most find “bad” because it evokes a mass-murderer like Hitler. (“The Obama Haters’ Silent Enablers.”)

Now, how could a Harvard educated former drama critic forget these words spoken by Emilia in Shakespeare’s Othello:

Then let them use us well: else let them know,
The ills we do, their ills instruct us so.

Poor Frank Rich. He can’t remember the passage any more than he can recall that Senator Abraham Ribicoff (D-CT) kicked off the liberal tradition of invoking “a mass-murderer like Hitler” to attack opponents when at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, he veered from his script to slime the Chicago police as follows:

If George McGovern were president, we wouldn't have these Gestapo tactics...

Poor Frank, indeed; for he can’t remember that if he had a dollar for every “fascist” liberals have used to smear conservatives or conservatives policies since ’68, he wouldn’t lose even a nanosecond of sleep over the fact that his employer’s payroll account may soon be drier than the raisin in Lorraine Hansberry’s most famous play.

The venomous personal attacks on Sotomayor have little to do with the 3000-plus cases she’s adjudicated in nearly 17 years on the bench. (Rich, “Silent Enablers.”)

Venom? Directed at Judge Sotomayor? If there is so much of it, why couldn't Frank Rich come up with at least one example?

But with respect to real “venomous personal attacks” that have nothing to do with one’s service as a judge, this one totally slipped Frank’s memory.

Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, school children could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is — and is often the only — protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy... (Senator Ted Kennedy, speaking on the floor of the U.S. Senate.)

Ah, how beautiful is amnesia regarding hateful speech — but only when the venom flows from the mouth of one whom the left lionizes as, well, a lion of American politics.

This kind of rhetoric, with its pseudo-Scriptural call to action, is toxic. It is getting louder each day of the Obama presidency. No one, not even Fox News viewers, can say they weren’t warned. (Rich, “Silent Enablers.”)

Actor Jon Voight’s purely political, entirely democratic call to “bring an end to this false prophet Obama” so exercised Frank Rich that he condemned it as “toxic” and implied that conservatives who fail to speak against it will be responsible for its poisonous consequences.

Fear and loathing of the term “false prophet” in a political context?

You would think, then, that if a person — for example, an editor of Newsweek, who by extension represents the entirety of the Obama worshipping, Obama soft-balling, Obama thrill-enveloped liberal media — infinitely upped the “pseudo-Scriptural” ante by calling a merely human president “God,” Mr. Rich would explode in a volcanic fit of apoplexy.

But he didn’t because another fundamental principle of liberalism is the relativity of truth.

Or, to put it another way, a liberal’s first and most enduring obligation is never to betray The Revolution, the consequences of a rank hypocrisy be damned.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A New Sycophantic Media Low

The report below is from the somewhat sensationalizing Drudge Report, but if it is only half true, it constitutes a new low in the mainstream media's sycophantic support for President Obama: a series of ABC News shows to be broadcast from within the White House, present the Obama administration's plan for socialized medicine.

There has been some talk recently about newspapers and other mainstream media outlets seeking their own bailouts from the government. Perhaps ABC News is auditioning for the role of America's state-owned media.

"ABC Turns Programming over to Obama; News to be Anchored from Inside the White House," Drudge Report, June 16 On the night of June 24, the media and government become one, when ABC turns its programming over to President Obama and White House officials to push government run health care—a move that has ignited an ethical firestorm!

Highlights on the agenda:

ABCNEWS anchor Charlie Gibson will deliver "World News" from the Blue Room of the White House.

The network plans a primetime special—"Prescription for America"—originating from the East Room, exclude[ing] opposing voices on the debate.

The Director of Communications at the White House Office of Health Reform is Linda Douglass, who worked as a reporter for ABC News from 1998–2006.

The Collapse of The Iranian Dictatorship?

Given the way the Cold War ended, I have long thought that one of the crucial questions we must ask in international affairs is: how do dictatorships collapse? But these days, I'm starting to think a better question might be: why don't they collapse more often?

The rioting over the rigged election in Iran hasn't yet led to a collapse of the Iranian theocracy, and it may not do so, at least not immediately. But it has certainly reminded us what a brittle, dangerously unstable thing dictatorship is. Far from being the ruthless imposition of order and discipline, a dictatorship is a chaotic war of all against all, with the barely concealed hostilities ready to break out into a society-wide conflagration at any moment.

That is what the conflict in Iran is revealing: not just in the conflict between young, urban, middle-class liberals and the regime, but in the many fissures within the regime that are breaking apart.

It's important to notice that this whole election conflict began with a fight between two factions within Iran's religious establishment: the Rafsanjani faction versus the Ahmadinejad faction. Hashemi Rafsanjani is a cleric and former president—and a man who has turned the Iranian Revolution into a cash cow, exploiting the government's control over the economy to establish a vast, corrupt financial empire. He is widely believed to be the main financial supporter of the candidacy of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the main opposition candidate in last Friday's election. Rafsanjani wanted to unseat the incumbent because his political power, and his vested interests, have been threatened by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's attempt to promote his own power base, the basij militia and the Revolutionary Guards, and take over the Iranian establishment. So on one level, this is a conflict between two factions of looters, fighting over who controls a vast network of patronage and corruption.

A battle over how to divide the loot is a conflict that is inherent in every dictatorship. But there is another angle to this conflict that is unique to a theocratic dictatorship. Ahmadinejad is not a cleric, and while he is supported by radical religious zealots, his main power base is among the military, especially the Revolutionary Guards. That's why his rigging of this election has been described by some as a kind of "military coup" against the existing political system. Iran is supposed to be a theocracy in which power is held by the religious establishment—but now Ahmadinejad has been bringing a kind of paramilitary establishment into power.

This reminds me of my least favorite argument for religious freedom, which is that freedom is necessary, not just to protect the state from religion, but to protect religion from the state. While there are a number of things wrong with this argument, there is nevertheless an important element of truth to it. When a religious establishment gains political power, religion becomes a pawn of secular power struggles. This is why theocracy is inherently unstable and tends to give way to what is called "caesaro-papism"—i.e., Caesar appointing himself as the Pope, the secular dictator asserting control over the religious establishment. That's part of what's happening in Iran: the broader Shiite clerical establishment faces the prospect of being suppressed by an alliance between a religious sub-clique led by Supreme Leader Khamenei and a military clique led by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

To this, Jack Idema adds a somewhat chilling speculation:

"Did Rafsanjani back Mousavi in an attempt to restore Iran's cleric-controlled 'elected' government? Did he do it to restore corrupt patronage interests (e.g., his family's Pistachio monopoly)? Did the effort backfire when the most liberal elements got behind Mousavi's candidacy to oppose tyrannical domestic policy generally?

"Is Ahmedinejad's electoral victory (totally faked or otherwise)—which the ruling elite will now attempt to enforce by police power—a coup against Rafsanjani's older, more indirect, more corrupt method of obtaining false legitimacy for the government?

"Are Khamenei and the IRGC trying to use Ahmedinejad as a means for imposing a direct dictatorship of the Islamic fanatics that cannot be challenged by any other faction of Iranian society? In sharing power with the revolutionary faction of the Army, is Khamenei's clerical faction becoming militarized, too? Are they trying to set up a military-style dictatorship?

"And if they are, why?

"Are Khamenei and the IRGC working together to consolidate a war government?"

What Jack is implying is that the fanatics may be trying to wipe out all political opposition—not just by liberals, but opposition within the establishment—so that they will have a free hand to start a war in the Middle East. Are they consolidating power in preparation, say, for an attack on Israel?

But this is not just a cynical struggle for power between theocratic factions. There is also a genuine conflict between dictatorship and liberalism—and that is also a conflict that is reflected within the religious establishment.

A recent report from Tehran Bureau—a pro-liberal site run by Iranian exiles in Los Angeles—cites a movement by dissident clerics to condemn the rigging of the election and support popular resistance to the regime.

Mir Hossein Mousavi's, the main reformist rival to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, letter to the important ayatollahs in the holy city of Qom, asking them to protest the fraud and declare it against Islam, has sparked protests by the ayatollahs and clerics as well.

The Association of Combatant Clerics, which consists of moderate and leftist clerics and includes such important figures as former president Mohammad Khatami, Ayatollah Mohammad Mousavi Khoiniha, and Grand Ayatollah Abdolkarim Mousavi Ardabili, issued a strongly-worded statement, calling the results of the election invalid.

Grand Ayatollah Saafi Golpaygaani, an important cleric with a large number of followers, warned about the election results and the importance that elections in Iran retain their integrity.

Grand Ayatollah Yousef Saanei, a progressive cleric and a confidante of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, has declared that Mr. Ahmadinejad is not the legitimate president and cooperation with him, as well as working for him, are haraam (against Islam and a great sin). He has also declared that any changes in the votes by unlawful means are also haraam. Several credible reports indicate that he has traveled to Tehran in order to participate in nationwide protests…. It is said that he has planned a sit-in in some public place, in order to further protest election fraud….

The nation is waiting to hear the views of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the most important ayatollah living in Iran and the strongest clerical critic of the conservatives. He has been asked to issue a clear statement, explaining his views about the election fraud.

Grand Ayatollah Montazeri has just done so, issuing a statement that "a government not respecting people's vote has no religious or political legitimacy" and specifically calling on the police and the army—the men with guns—"not to 'sell their religion,' and beware that receiving orders will not excuse them before god."

This is a reminder that there is a long Shiite tradition of "quietism"—not a principled belief in separation of church and state, but at least a belief that it is inappropriate for the clergy to become actively involved in politics and therefore a respect for secular government and representative government. The Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Iranian theocracy, was actually a kind of theological rebel against that tradition, but the old quietists still have many advocates. The Ayatollah Sistani in Iraq is one of them, and so is Grand Ayatollah Montazeri.

But if this all were just about a power struggle within the Iranian establishment—even one based on theological principles about the relationship between religion and the state—then it would not be the big news that it is. There is also a much broader conflict between the people of Iran and a state that refuses to submit to the consent of the governed.

There have been a few Western commentators who have tried to convince us that Ahmadinejad legitimately won the election. See here, and more obnoxiously here. These arguments are dripping with contempt for "Iran experts"—put in scare quotes—who are supposedly just mimicking the views of a small number of English-speaking, middle-class liberals in wealthy North Tehran, but who are out of touch with the views of the Iranian people, who support their theocratic masters. Never mind that many of these Iran experts are, in fact, actual Iranians and not just credulous Westerner observers (see a round-up of the consensus among Iran experts). Note also that the main evidence cited by those who say Ahmadinejad won the election fairly is a telephone poll taken weeks before the election in which Ahmadinajad had the support of only 34% of the people—and 52% of voters were uncommitted, a sign of real discontent with the regime. This poll was taken before Mousavi emerged as the stealth reformist candidate, making him the figurehead for opposition to the regime.

And there is a lot of evidence that the opposition to the regime is, in fact, widespread, with large public protests containing people "young and old, dressed in traditional Islamic gowns and the latest Western fashions" and with shops across Tehran being closed in an unofficial general strike in support of the protesters.

But I should also note that, from the standpoint of political science, the exact ratio of supporters and opponents of the regime is not the only important issue. Submitting to the consent of the governed is not just about securing the approval of the majority that wins a particular election; it is also about securing the acquiescence of the minority that loses the election. If the losing side is confident that the vote was open and objective, they will recognize that the resulting government has some basic legitimacy. In fact, as the American example shows, the losers will generally spend the next year analyzing what they did wrong and excoriating themselves for their failure to persuade their fellow voters. If you have been to a meeting of Republicans lately, you know what I mean.

In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville observed this effect and contrasted it to the dangerous form political opposition takes in a monarchy or dictatorship. In America, he observed, political opposition was peaceful because it has the prospect of gaining power by persuading the public. In France, by contrast, political opposition had traditionally been seditious, since it saw no prospect for gaining power except by erecting barricades in the streets and trying to overthrow the government. The same applies to Iran. In a sense, it doesn't matter whether the opponents of the regime are two-thirds of the people or only one-third. They know they have no way of seeking redress for their grievances except through mass protests in the streets—or more extreme measures.

Jack Idema notes that, after a massive march of 500,000 people in Tehran on Monday to protest the election result,

Seven protesters were shot dead by IRGC "militia" members when, as the evening hours began, hundreds attacked a "military" office with firebombs and set parts of the facility ablaze. (CNN footage clearly shows Molotov cocktails being thrown at a gated office building and the grounds and parts of the first floor of the building on fire.) The government claimed (probably correctly) that a faction with the much larger protest was attempting to seize small arms kept at the building, in order to arm themselves. This tiny attempt at an armed rebellion was stopped when basij militia thugs repelled the attack with rifle fire, hitting 28 people, killing 8.
Short of armed insurrection, what the Iranians need is a "man on the tank" moment—as in Russia in 1991, when Boris Yeltsin rallied the support of the very soldiers sent to suppress opposition to a coup by Soviet hardliners. Or they need something like the moment in 2004 when Ukrainian security officials met with leaders of the "Orange Revolution" and publicly announced that they would protect the protesters against a violent crackdown. What they need is for some significant faction of the men with guns to flip to the side of the protesters. We may know soon if this is possible.

In Iran, one of the factors holding the country back from armed conflict is the attention of the rest of the world, by way of the foreign media. Jack notes:

"Seeking the support of the English-speaking Western world, 'Where is my vote?' signs printed in English were held high by thousands of urban middle class protesters. Right now the protesters are partially protected by the cameras of the British press and, through them, by the hundreds of millions of eyes that will witness serious crimes broadcast around the world. But their visas—issued for news coverage of the election—will expire this week."

When the foreign reporters are gone, Iran's dictators are hoping that there will be no one left to restrain them. And our president has told them, in effect, that they are right. President Obama admitted to being "worried" and "concerned" about the vote in Iran and the suppression of political opposition—but he also made it clear that he does not want the US to be seen to "meddle" in Iranian affairs. As his speech in Cairo warned us, he is so fixated on America's alleged sins that he believes we have no moral authority to assert our interests or support our friends abroad.

Earlier, I said that two crucial questions are "how do dictatorships collapse?" and "why don't they collapse more often?" The point of asking those question is to ask: how can we help them to collapse, and what are we doing to prop them up? Obama's appeasement and passivity provides an answer to that second question.

With America placed on the sidelines by our own leader, it is up to the Iranian people now. As Jack concludes:

"Reform of Iran's Islamist dictatorship will be won either by national collapse—suddenly due to foreign military intervention or slowly by economic and social decay—or by civil war."

Either way, chaos, internal turmoil, and civil war are the inevitable results of dictatorship. This is the great advantage that free nations enjoy, and it is what has made it possible (so far) for us to survive the fecklessness of our leaders. Our enemies may threaten to destroy us—but they are always on the verge of destroying themselves.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Second Iranian Revolution?

The big story that broke over the weekend is the Iranian "election" and massive popular outrage at its rigged results. The leftist British newspaper The Guardian—proving that the left is still occasionally good for something—has been providing good coverage of this story and reported on Saturday:

Tonight riot police in Tehran confronted thousands of demonstrators shouting "death to dictatorship" amid shock and confusion after the official result backed Ahmadinejad's claim to have won, made barely an hour after polls closed last night.

The election was seemingly a false choice between establishment candidates, all of whom had to be cleared by Iran's theocratic "Guardian Council." But one of those candidates ended up broadening the election issue. Check out a London Times report on the campaign of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's leading opponent.

The symbol of the demand for reform is not so much Mir Hossein Mousavi, the 67-year-old main opposition candidate, who complained of election fraud yesterday, as his wife.

Mousavi, an architect and artist who was prime minister during the 1980s, is an uncharismatic figure. His wife, Zahra Rahnavard, is his secret weapon. Tiny and highly articulate, she was the first political wife to appear on the campaign trail with her husband, giving speeches and publicly holding hands….

"The government should not meddle in the issue of the hijab," she said….

"The hijab should not be forced on anybody. That is a private decision. They should leave young women alone. Our women are mature enough to decide for themselves."

[A]s a writer and academic, she said, "Most important to me is the freedom of expression, the freedom of the pen. We have lost four years of freedom of speech [under Ahmadinejad]."

She was prepared to take on Tehran's most feared force. "We will put an end to these moral police," she said. "We believe we should trust our youth."…

"Let's not forget that Iranians embraced the revolution because of its promises of freedom, welfare, and escaping the rule of the security forces," she said. "We say we want to rebuild Iran on those values, and the youth have flocked to us. Nobody expected this to happen."

In effect, Mousavi was a stealth candidate for opposition to the Iranian theocracy.

Add to that the blatant rigging of the election. Iran analyst Ali Alfoneh, by way of RealClearWorld, offers this overview of the vote count.

Elections in the Islamic Republic are neither fair nor free, but unlike Iraq under Saddam Hussein the Iranian leadership usually manages to manipulate the elections in a very sophisticated and elegant way in an attempt to portray itself as an Islamic democracy. The 2009 presidential election however was not an exercise in sophistication and elegance. The final election result—85 percent voter turnout and Ahmadinejad victory with 62.63 percent of the total vote and a modest 33.75 percent of the vote to the closest contender Mir-Hossein Mousavi—not to mention ridiculously low number of votes of Rezai and Karrubi—shows that the Iranian leadership couldn't be bothered to produce an elegant fraud. Unlike earlier elections there is still no detailed data on breakup of the vote in the provinces, but allegations of lack of voting forms in constituencies supporting Ahmadinejad's rivals, prohibitions against the presence of representatives of the rivals at many voting stations, and election results from native villages and towns of Mousavi, Karrubi, and Rezai [the opposition candidates] most surprisingly showing more than a 90 percent vote for Ahmadinejad, demonstrate rather clumsy rigging tactics.

The question is why all the clumsiness? Why the demonstrative fraud insulting the intelligence of the electorate? Why beat up elderly women and young students in Tehran demanding to know what has become of their vote? And why the brutal repression of dissent in front of the entire foreign press corps? The Islamic Republic may consider this sickening theater a demonstration of power, and the drama may reveal the new rules of the game in a regime changing very fast. Ahmadinejad is indeed a candidate of change and during his presidency the trend towards the militarization of Iran has grown faster. Once ruled by the clergy and guarded by the Revolutionary Guards, the Islamic Republic under Ahmadinejad is developing into a military regime, ruled and guarded by the Revolutionary Guards.

Another analyst echoes this analysis, describing the vote-rigging as a "military coup led by the office of supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei."

The latest report cites a leaked interior ministry document supposedly giving the real vote counts—and showing that Ahmadinejad came in third, with Mousavi getting 19.1 million votes and another "reformist" getting 13.4 million, while Mahmoud Ahmadinejad got only 5.7 million votes. It's impossible to say whether those figures are true or not, but that's the point: no one can know the genuine results of a rigged election in a rigged political system—and thus the Khamenei-Ahmadinejad regime cannot make a legitimate claim to power. They have to seize it by force.

Pajamas media has a running summary of reports on the crackdown in Iran. I'll just quote one item, which gives you a flavor for the revolutionary atmosphere of the whole thing.

Students from the Sharif Polytechnic University have organized a large protest on the university campus. As they tried to move the protest into the street, in order to march down the streets of Tehran, their exits and gates were blocked by the regime's security guards and they were blocked from leaving the university grounds; at this juncture the students began to chant loudly and when the sound of their chanting was heard by passersby on the street, they began to gather by the thousands at the other side of the university gates. As reported by the human rights and democracy activists in Iran, the entire area was surrounded by the regime's guards, who have begun to attack and beat the students and supporting demonstrators. Javan'eh Farda (Tomorrow's Youth) website reported that, in a statement, 125 members of the Sharif Polytechnic University faculty have condemned the attacks on the students and have jointly announced their resignations, stating that until the time the people's rights are given, they will neither appear in classes nor for any exams.

Michael Ledeen summarizes the state of the crackdown.

• Mousavi and Karrubi, the two "reformist" candidates in Friday's "elections" are under house arrest, along with dozens of their followers;
• "Reformist" journalists and activists have been rounded up and jailed;
• Cell phones (including, after a day's delay, international cell phones) have been blocked, access to internet has been filtered, Facebook is unreachable, and you can't tweet (can the silencing of Western reporters be far behind?);
• In Tehran, student dormitories are surrounded by security forces.
Ledeen then adds:

But even [the] Soviet Union eventually succumbed to the dissidents, and while the regime has most all of the guns, the chains, the clubs, the tear gas canisters, and the torture chambers, there are tens of millions of Iranians who hate the regime. The question is whether they are prepared to face down the Basij, the police, and the Revolutionary Guards. It is usually a matter of numbers in these cases: if a million people gather in front of the Supreme Leader's palace and demand freedom, while half that number make the same demand in front of the government buildings in Isfahan, Shiraz, Tabriz, and Mashad, they might win.

Michael Rubin gives what is, unfortunately, a more realistic prediction of what it would take for a new Iranian revolution to succeed: "If and when change comes in the Islamic Republic, it will come as it did in Ceausescu's Romania, when the security forces revolt." In other words, some of the guys with guns have to flip over to the side of the protesters.

For now, it looks like Iran's young advocates of liberty are "losing the brawl," as Jack Wakeland put it to me. We'll see what happens in the coming week.

In the analysis of this story—and of the vote against Hezbollah the week before in Beirut—only the New York Times's Tom Friedman has so far had the honesty to give some credit to President Bush and the war in Iraq.

There are a million things to hate about President Bush's costly and wrenching wars. But the fact is, in ousting Saddam in Iraq in 2003 and mobilizing the UN to push Syria out of Lebanon in 2005, he opened space for real democratic politics that had not existed in Iraq or Lebanon for decades. "Bush had a simple idea, that the Arabs could be democratic, and at that particular moment simple ideas were what was needed, even if he was disingenuous," said Michael Young, the opinion editor of The Beirut Daily Star. "It was bolstered by the presence of a US Army in the center of the Middle East. It created a sense that change was possible, that things did not always have to be as they were."

When I reported from Beirut in the 1970s and 1980s, I covered coups and wars. I never once stayed up late waiting for an election result….

[T]he Bush team opened a hole in the wall of Arab autocracy but did a poor job following through. In the vacuum, the parties most organized to seize power were the Islamists—Hezbollah in Lebanon; pro-Al Qaeda forces among Iraqi Sunnis, and the pro-Iranian Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and Mahdi Army among Iraqi Shiites; the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan; Hamas in Gaza.

Fortunately, each one of these Islamist groups overplayed their hand by imposing religious lifestyles or by dragging their societies into confrontations the people didn't want. This alienated and frightened more secular, mainstream Arabs and Muslims and has triggered an "awakening" backlash among moderates from Lebanon to Pakistan to Iran. The [New York] Times's Robert Mackey reported that in Tehran "chants of 'Death to America'" at rallies for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last week were answered by chants of "Death to the Taliban—in Kabul and Tehran" at a rally for his opponent, Mir Hussein Moussavi.

Even if the pro-liberty faction in Iran is once again suppressed, we should take some comfort in the fact that this election result further weakens an already weak regime. Iranian exile Amir Taheri, for example, focuses his analysis on the conflict that it reveals between different wings of the Iranian establishment.

Ahmadinejad has won a massive victory over his rivals in the Establishment. But the Khomeinist regime remains deeply unpopular, especially among young Iranians, who account for two-thirds of the population. Yesterday Tehran and other cities witnessed anti-regime demonstrations, mostly young people shouting, "Shame on you Ahmadinejad! Quit the government!" Although small and isolated, these protests could in time grow into a mass movement. Iran is also heading for economic meltdown, with a daily loss of 1,000 jobs and inflation of more than 20%. Ahmadinejad's election slogan is "Ma mitavanim" (We can), like Obama's "Yes we can". Iran's leader has been true to his slogan by showing he can fix the election results to the last detail. But can he cope with a restive population, a divided establishment, and an economy heading for deep recession?

Max Boot puts it this way:

If the mullahs were really canny, they would have let Mousavi win. He would have presented a more reasonable face to the world without changing the grim underlying realities of Iran's regime–the oppression, the support for terrorism, the nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. He is the kind of "moderate" with whom the Obama administration could happily engage in endless negotiations which probably would not accomplish anything except to buy time for Iran to weaponize its fissile material….

With crazy Mahmoud in office–and his patron, Ayatollah Khamenei, looming in the background–it will be harder for Iranian apologists to deny the reality of this terrorist regime.

Ruling with the consent of the governed isn't just the right thing to do. It is also the practical thing to do. A government that cannot claim this source of moral legitimacy—or worse, a government that puts itself into power by openly spurning the consent of the governed—is inherently weak and will suffer through a period of chaos and confusion.

At minimum, the Iranian regime's punishment for political oppression is that it does not just have to live in fear of the United States or the West. It has to live in fear of its own citizens.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tom Paine And The Second American Revolution

Obama Hopenchange Program Day By Day


Comrade Obama Plunges USA Economy Into Depression

1. We knew this was coming. The federal government has now committed to so much spending that long-term interest rates are starting to increase, as investors start worrying that the government will inflate its way out of debt.

In only a few months, President Obama has managed to overdraw the accounts of the US government—and of the entire American economy.

"Spike in Interest Rates Could Choke Recovery," Neil Irwin, Washington Post, June 12 Rising long-term interest rates are making it more expensive for home buyers, corporations and the US government to borrow money, threatening to further stifle an already weak economy.

In just the past two weeks, the rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage has risen to 5.6 percent from 4.9 percent, ending a boom in refinancing and working against a budding recovery in the housing market. Rates on corporate borrowing have also risen, making it more expensive for companies to expand. And the government has been forced to pay more to finance its deficit….

Investors around the world are increasingly fearful that Congress and the Obama administration will be unwilling to bring taxes and spending in line in the years ahead. That makes the US government appear to be a riskier borrower, leading those who lend to it to demand higher interest payments.

The Federal Reserve now finds itself in a box. It could try to lower rates by buying government debt. It has already said it would buy $1.5 trillion in US Treasuries and mortgage-related securities this year to try to stimulate growth.

But doing so would likely only deepen fears that the Fed will print money to fund government deficits in the future. That possibility—while rejected by Fed officials and many mainstream economists—means that expanding purchases might not have the intended effect of lowering rates. It could even drive them up further.

2. Those who accuse the Democrats of a policy of "tax and spend" get it backward. The Democrats never figure out where the money is coming from before they spend it. They always spend it first, point to the resulting fiscal disaster, and then demand higher taxes to pay for the runaway spending.

In fact, the really crushing burden of government spending comes from a program created more than 70 years ago: Social Security. We're still raising taxes to pay for the spending commitments Congress made in 1935.

Here's the latest ominous news: increased chatter about piling a national sales tax on top of all of the existing taxes, as a way of paying for Obama's new socialized medicine scheme. No, I don't think we will see this national sales tax soon. Congress will spend the money first, and only then will they get around to figuring out new ways to tax us for it.

The worst part about a national sales tax, by the way, is not just the fact that it will funnel more private money into the gaping maw of the government. Consider also the sheer economic disruption of creating a totally new kind of tax, which will require individuals and businesses to rethink all of their economic plans. That's enough to create a recession all by itself.

"Once Considered Unthinkable, US Sales Tax Gets Fresh Look," Lori Montgomery, Washington Post, May 27 With budget deficits soaring and President Obama pushing a trillion-dollar-plus expansion of health coverage, some Washington policymakers are taking a fresh look at a money-making idea long considered politically taboo: a national sales tax.

Common around the world, including in Europe, such a tax—called a value-added tax, or VAT—has not been seriously considered in the United States. But advocates say few other options can generate the kind of money the nation will need to avert fiscal calamity.

At a White House conference earlier this year on the government's budget problems, a roomful of tax experts pleaded with Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner to consider a VAT. A recent flurry of books and papers on the subject is attracting genuine, if furtive, interest in Congress. And last month, after wrestling with the White House over the massive deficits projected under Obama's policies, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee declared that a VAT should be part of the debate.

"There is a growing awareness of the need for fundamental tax reform," Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said in an interview. "I think a VAT and a high-end income tax have got to be on the table."

A VAT is a tax on the transfer of goods and services that ultimately is borne by the consumer. Highly visible, it would increase the cost of just about everything, from a carton of eggs to a visit with a lawyer. It is also hugely regressive, falling heavily on the poor. But VAT advocates say those negatives could be offset by using the proceeds to pay for health care for every American—a tangible benefit that would be highly valuable to low-income families….

Obama wants to raise income taxes for high earners and impose new levies on business, but those moves would not generate enough cash to cover the cost of health care, much less balance the budget, and they have not been fully embraced by Congress…. And while it might pay for health care, it would barely dent deficits projected to total nearly $4 trillion over the next five years and to grow rapidly in the future, as baby boomers draw on Social Security and Medicare….

Most lawmakers are still looking for "a painless source of revenue" to overhaul the health-care system and dig the nation out of debt, Burman said. "Who knows?" he added. "Maybe the tooth fairy will bring that to them."

The Only Job Obama Really Cares About "Saving" I have commented before that Barack Obama is unusually grand and ambitious in his lies, even by the standards of a politician, because he has reason to believe that a compliant press corps will let him get away with it. Hence the Obama administration's claim that its stimulus plan "saved or created" 150,000 jobs—during a period in which ten times as many jobs were lost.

The article below points out that these claims about "saving" jobs are utterly arbitrary—that this statistic is impossible to measure and no one is even trying to measure it. And it takes the press to task for not eating the administration alive for offering up such an obviously manufactured, self-serving lie.

But what strikes me about this story is what it implies about Obama's attitude toward the economy. In basing his claims of success on a statistic that his administration cannot measure and therefore cannot objectively know, President Obama is letting us know that he does not actually care about the economy—not enough to demand hard and firm facts about the nation's actual economic state.

Or rather, it implies that there is only one job Obama really cares about "saving": his own.

"The Media Fall for Phony 'Jobs' Claims," William McGurn, Wall Street Journal, June 10 "Saved or created" has become the signature phrase for Barack Obama as he describes what his stimulus is doing for American jobs. His latest invocation came yesterday, when the president declared that the stimulus had already saved or created at least 150,000 American jobs—and announced he was ramping up some of the stimulus spending so he could "save or create" an additional 600,000 jobs this summer. These numbers come in the context of an earlier Obama promise that his recovery plan will "save or create three to four million jobs over the next two years."

[Bush administration communications official Tony] Fratto sees a double standard at play. "We would never have used a formula like 'save or create,'" he tells me. "To begin with, the number is pure fiction—the administration has no way to measure how many jobs are actually being 'saved.' And if we had tried to use something this flimsy, the press would never have let us get away with it."

Of course, the inability to measure Mr. Obama's jobs formula is part of its attraction. Never mind that no one—not the Labor Department, not the Treasury, not the Bureau of Labor Statistics—actually measures "jobs saved." As the New York Times delicately reports, Mr. Obama's jobs claims are "based on macroeconomic estimates, not an actual counting of jobs." Nice work if you can get away with it….

In the months since Congress approved the stimulus, our economy has lost nearly 1.6 million jobs and unemployment has hit 9.4%. Invoke the magic words, however, and—presto!—you have the president claiming he has "saved or created" 150,000 jobs. It all makes for a much nicer spin, and helps you forget this is the same team that only a few months ago promised us that passing the stimulus would prevent unemployment from rising over 8%.

4. Get ready for the latest smear against the political right.

The left is trying to blame mainstream commentators on the right for a religious zealot's murder of abortion doctor George Tiller and for the recent shooting at the Holocaust museum by an anti-Semitic white supremacist. See the example below from the New York Times's insufferably pretentious "family" columnist Judith Warner, and an even more venemous column by Paul Krugman.

Blaming the right for Dr. Tiller's murder has at least has some grain of truth to it—the religious right has promoted the claim that abortion is murder, which does offer a moral justification for, in effect, murdering the murderers. And mainstream commentators like Bill O'Reilly have specifically condemned Dr. Tiller.

But what gives the real game away is the attempt to link the right to the Holocaust museum shooting. Anti-Semitism has no place in the contemporary right. In fact, anti-Semitism mostly comes from the left these days (see item #5 below), which is far more likely to condemn Israel—while the right is pretty much unanimous in supporting Israel.

The only way this character assassination of the right can be maintained is by classifying outright racists and white supremacists as the "extreme right-wing"—based on nothing but innuendo. Those who remember history might recall that in its heyday, the KKK was filled with Democrats—one of whom (West Virginia's Robert Byrd) still serves in the US Senate.

Meanwhile, notice who is missing from Warner's list of political murderers: Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, the Black Muslim convert who recently shot two soldiers at a military recruiting center, and who was apparently motivated by the anti-war ideas of the left. But as Michelle Malkin points out, this shooting—and its victims—has disappeared from the attention of the mainstream media.

"The Wages of Hate," Judith Warner, New York Times, June 11 It is all too familiar.

A lone gunman takes a life in a hate crime. Law enforcement officials describe him as acting alone.

But he's not alone—not in spirit, at least.

Like Scott Roeder, the man charged in the shooting of the Wichita, Kan., doctor George Tiller nearly two weeks ago, James von Brunn, the white supremacist charged with killing a guard in an attempted shooting rampage at the Holocaust museum in Washington on Wednesday, doesn't have any current, overt links to extremist groups. Yet his violent hatred—of Jews, blacks, the government—echoes throughout the universe of right-wing extremists, who just a few years ago hailed and revered him as a "White Racialist Treasure."…

And there's one additional, highly disturbing parallel between von Brunn's intended white supremacist shooting rampage and Scott Roeder's "pro-life" killing of George Tiller: In both cases, at least some of the core beliefs of extremists were echoed, albeit in more socially acceptable language, by right wing news commentators.

Bill O'Reilly had routinely talked in recent years about "Tiller the baby killer." Other right-wing talk show hosts like Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs and Rush Limbaugh have similarly tapped into—in somewhat coded form—some of the key concerns of extremist hate groups: that the economy has been destroyed by government-proffered "bad" loans to illegal immigrants, for example, or that FEMA may or may not—Beck equivocated for an awfully long time—be running "concentration camps" for US citizens, or that the Obama administration is declaring war on decent Americans by labeling them as "extremists."…

The result of this wink-wink anti-immigrant and anti-government rhetoric has been "a kind of mainstreaming of hate propaganda," Potok said.

"Them Jews" While the left tries to smear commentators on the right as racists and anti-Semites, along comes the Reverend Jeremiah Wright—Barack Obama's spiritual mentor until he became politically inconvenient—to remind us who are the real bigots.

In an unguarded moment, Wright blames "them Jews" for keeping Barack Obama away from him. He then invokes the now universal leftist conspiracy theory about how the "Jewish lobby" controls US foreign policy.

Note also Wright's repetition of his cynical assessment that Obama is just "doing what politicians do"—i.e., hiding his real convictions from the voters. Given Wright's close association with Obama over a period of decades, he's in a position to know what he's talking about.

"Rev. Jeremiah Wright Says "Jews" Are Keeping Him from President Obama," David Squires, (Hampton Roads, Virginia) Daily Press, June 10 In an exclusive interview at the 95th annual Hampton University Ministers' Conference, Wright told the Daily Press that he has not spoken to his former church member since Obama became president, and he implied that the White House won't allow Obama to talk to him.

"Them Jews ain't going to let him talk to me," Wright said. "I told my baby daughter that he'll talk to me in five years when he's a lame duck, or in eight years when he's out of office....

"They will not let him to talk to somebody who calls a spade what it is.... I said from the beginning: He's a politician; I'm a pastor. He's got to do what politicians do."

Wright also said Obama should have sent a US delegation to the World Conference on Racism held recently in Geneva, Switzerland, but that the president did not for fear of offending Jews and Israel. He specifically cited the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, an influential pro-Israel lobbying group.

6. I'm not the only one to describe President Obama's economic policies as "fascist," in the direct, literal sense of being characterized by nominal private ownership masking government control. What adds to the flavor of fascism is the direct role of the chief executive in issuing orders and dictating the terms under which large firms are to be restructured.

But what also gives the flavor of a nascent "soft dictatorship" is our leader's impertinent interest in managing every tiny little aspect of our lives. Barack Obama doesn't just want the power to dictate the salaries of bank executives. He wants the power to tell us whether we can smoke, what we can eat, how much we should be exercising, and so on.

That's the upshot of the article below, which describes how the administration plans to use a government takeover of the medical industry as the framework to turn the president into fitness-coach-in-chief, browbeating the nation over its dietary and exercise habits.

This may seem a small issue, but it is symptomatic of the biggest issue of all: that none of our political leaders seems to recognize that any aspect of life is off-limits to their meddling.

"Barack Obama Says Shape Up Now," Carrie Budoff Brown, The Politico, June 10 Obama and Congress are moving across several fronts to give government a central role in making America healthier—raising expectations among public health experts of a new era of activism unlike any before.

Any health care reform plan that Obama signs is almost certain to call for nutrition counseling, obesity screenings and wellness programs at workplaces and community centers. He wants more time in the school day for physical fitness, more nutritious school lunches and more bike paths, walking paths and grocery stores in underserved areas.

The president is filling top posts at Health and Human Services with officials who, in their previous jobs, outlawed trans fats, banned public smoking or required restaurants to provide a calorie count with that slice of banana cream pie.

Even Congress is getting into the act, giving serious consideration to taxing sugary drinks and alcohol to help pay for the overhaul….

The appointment last month of New York Public Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden as director of the CDC really made the libertarian-minded nervous.

Frieden is a big part of the reason New Yorkers no longer smoke in bars or eat trans fats at restaurants and find calorie counts on their menus. Frieden once said that when anyone in New York dies at an early age from a preventable disease, "it's my fault."

His groundbreaking approach to curbing chronic disease—heart disease, diabetes, cancer—has been mimicked in cities across the country, including Baltimore under Joshua Sharfstein, now the deputy commissioner at the Food and Drug Administration. (One example is Sharfstein inaugurating a Salt Task Force last year to study the "impact of excessive salt intake in the city.")

"Frieden's stick-over-carrot, for-your-own-good approach to public health is no longer confined to the Big Apple," the industry-backed Center for Consumer Freedom wrote on its blog. "Get ready, because the 'nanny state on steroids' is going national."