Thursday, December 3, 2009

Our Suicidal Impulses

Is American-born Jewish liberalism pushing us, lemming-like, into the morally opaque sea of self-defeating multiculturalism? This may be the defining question for contemporary American Jewry. That over 75% of Jews voted for Obama, and that in the past the Democratic party generally garnered 70% of the Jewish vote or higher, is no accident. The reasons, however, are many - as well as counter-intuitive.

With Abraham, the first Jewish conservative came into being; his belief-bound pragmatism and his quest for the survival of his (newly born) people became basic conservative seeds. In Pharaoh's Egypt, Jews developed a profound appreciation for freedom and a passion for their homeland, Israel - a passion both amplified and tested by the delayed gratification of 40 wandering years in the desert. There followed a thousand years of Hebrew kingdoms, the codifying of the laws, the writing of the Old Testament and its commentary, the Talmud, the integration of the world's first monotheism into everyday life. During this period, the Jews seemingly fought everyone (sometimes unsuccessfully) to maintain their independence; the Persians followed the Babylonians, then the Greeks moved in, and of course the Romans burned the Second Temple to the ground and banished most of the Judeans to the four corners of the Diaspora.

Thus, for some 2000 years following Abraham, Jews were intimately tied to conservative ideals, coexisting where possible but ultimately dedicated to preserving their heritage and people-hood for future generations. What's more, the Jews simultaneously developed the most comprehensive and advanced system of laws and ethics the world had yet witnessed, establishing standards and rules designed to help maintain social stability and morality as well as codify man's relationship with God.

Then came another 2000 years in exile where anti-Semitism and cruelty were the norm. Herded into ghettos and classified as transient, second-class citizens, Jews learned to practice the arts of invisibility, co-existence among strangers, and pragmatic survival. There was no place, no opportunity for liberalism in these tenuous times. Forbidden from owning land, Jews were forced to be money lenders and petty traders, occupying the lowest rungs of the then agrarian-based economic structures. Universities were forbidden, music and the art excluded. Politics, verboten. So Jews focused inward - on their religion, their culture and their families, always turning towards Jerusalem with hope and undimmed memories.

With the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, modernity arrived with emancipation and enlightenment for Europe's Jews. No longer endemically repressed or barred from science, the arts, politics, and big business, Jews flourished, with many taking nationalism's assimilationist bait wholeheartedly, relegating culture and religion to the back-burner. The best of Europe's Jews began to disproportionately fill the ranks of Nobel Prize winners, and the world opened up as never before. Sigmund Freud, Felix Mendelson, Albert Einstein, Marc Chagall, Karl Marx, Franz Kafka, Benjamin Disraeli, Leon Trotsky, and so on.

While Hitler and the Holocaust utterly and tragically destroyed the enlightened argument for Jewish assimilation into the nation-states of Europe, liberalism remained a potent force among Jews in the American diaspora.

In the United States - the Goldene Medina - many Jews opted to throw off the yoke of repression and history and determined to reinvent God, religion and culture, dumping intolerance, racism, aggression, selective rights and injustices into the dustbin of history for all time. They wanted distance from the past, and focused on a new future in a new world, born of optimism, hope and ultimately, fantasy. In the effervescence of their new and limitless freedom, these Jews found new religion in every form (including sexual) of expression and in an embrace of multiculturalism, where every people, every culture, and every religion was equal and must be similarly tolerated, irrespective of its tenets or its apparent dangers. In the post-war period, this near-absolute tolerance for all, for everything, infused the universities, the arts and the left-wing of the Democratic party - often with American Jews leading the charge.

As a result, many of us Jews have recreated an image of mankind without our invaluable lessons of human history, forgetting man's fickle bloodlust and his inconsistence justice. We aspire to "world citizenry" and view our national and religious traditions as backwards and tribal. Our bonds to Israel, at the forefront of a struggle against the antithesis of liberalism, become loosened in our over-riding desire to understand and appease the other. Negotiation with and unbridled tolerance towards those who hate us, who wish us ill, is now the sine qua non of much of our most educated set.

This naïve fantasy not only stands in contrast to Jewish history and our current realities; it is also highly dangerous. It risks our ability to save family, country, culture, religion and ultimately Western civilization from the vicissitudes of a venal and jealous world waiting to wrest from us our latest multicolored coat, our inheritance from Joseph. Has the natural evolution of Europe's old world ghetto conservatism progressed far too deep, far too wide, making our sincere, humanistic and tolerant liberalism incapable of protecting our country, our freedom and our future?

It seems the voting record of America's Jews, overwhelmingly liberal, deeply myopic, still has a ways to go.
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Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Overactive Ahmadinejad

We do believe that if war is waged in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is because of Zionists' provocation. If Sudan is suppressed it is because of Zionists' temptations. Zionists are behind all the conspiracies of the arrogance and colonialism. They do not allow the main factor of excuses for Palestine occupation to be examined and surveyed. The pretext for establishing the Zionist regime is a lie - a lie which relies on an unreliable claim, a mythical claim, and the occupation of Palestine has nothing to do with the Holocaust.
- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, during Iran's annual al Quds (Jerusalem) Day ceremony, repeating the baseless accusation that all of the problems in the Arab world are due to the existence of the Jewish State of Israel. (MEMRI, Sep. 18)

Iran president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's world view - albeit ludicrous - is actually a fascinating study in imaginative paranoia and anti-Semitism. In particular, his views on Zionism make for an entertaining (if infuriating) read. According to Ahmadinejad, it was in fact the Zionists who installed Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the Taliban-Al Qaeda nexus in Afghanistan. They then engineered both Saddam's intransigence and Al-Qaeda's terrorism (including, of course, 9/11), allowing America - always the Zionist lackey - to invent the reasons for asserting their hegemony in the Muslim world. Thus, tiny Israel wags the super-power America, who sacrifices thousands of soldiers and a trillion dollars to facilitate Zionism's nefarious conspiracies in Iraq and Afghanistan and maintain Jewish dominance of Muslim holy land.

Perhaps Hitler was also a Zionist conspiracy, wiping out a third of world Jewry purely in order to generate enough world sympathy to ensure a UN mandate for the establishment of Israel in 1948. Clearly there is no end to the fiendish exploits of these ultra-powerful Jews. Somehow Zionists also found succor in arranging for Arab North Sudan to massacre 500,000 African (Christian) fellow citizens in Southern Sudan.

And since biblical Judea, Jerusalem and Israel were likewise fantastical myths (Jewish-controlled Hollywood would be proud), it is not entirely clear who the Babylonians, the Greeks and then the Romans conquered in Judea, why their writings and artifacts confirm the same, and exactly which temples were put to flames in 586 BC and 70 AD. Are a billion Christians misguided to believe Jesus was a Judean Jew, born in Bethlehem and crucified in Jerusalem? Was he rather a Muslim forbearer and the Romans occupied a Muslim Jerusalem over which Herod (another confused Jew) reigned? Apparently, the Jewish Old Testament, seeded in the Exodus from Egypt and the revelation at Sinai, evolved for a thousand years in Judea, codified in Babylon after the destruction of the First Temple, then finally institutionalized in Judea during the Roman occupation, is likewise a convoluted Jewish conspiracy. Christianity must similarly be a fantasy as without the crucifixion, without the Old Testament, without a Jewish Jerusalem on which to base its essence, it must rank as the preeminent hoax of the millennia.

Ironically - and obviously - all this hogwash calls into question the validity of Islam itself, the remaining elephant in the room. Isn't Islam in fact based on the Old Testament and a so-called refinement of the Jewish experience over the previous centuries in Judea? It all gets very confusing, so much so that I await Ahmadinejad's creative eloquence on the origins of his Shia Islam traditions. How exactly does he tie in thousands of years of Jewish persecution, the crusades and the Spanish Inquisition, the Holocaust and the decades-long attacks on the state of Israel - are all these somehow hidden advantages the Zionists have cleverly conspired to create? Is there no end to the invisible web Jews spin? If so, I would venture a guess that the Zionists would gladly stop spinning for a few years of peace and quiet. And that's the last thing Ahmadinejad wants to see.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Capitalist Truths & Capitalist Labels

It is unfortunate that in media saturated America - with its sound bite obsessed spin-meisters and its attention deficit consumers - the truth behind our ever-present labels is everywhere perverted. "Capitalism," for example, is condemned by (self-described) socialist-leaning leftists. Yet many on the American left have little in common with authentic Marxism or European Socialism. In fact, like the media buffoon Michael Moore, they are often closet capitalists who make a fortune out of exposing selective ills of the society and system from which they benefit. "Capitalism" has been twisted and turned by more prosaic figures as well, first by the Wandering Republicans and now by the Sputtering Democrats. A basic tenet of a mature and evolved capitalism is that the pricing of goods is not artificial and that it incorporates the true costs of production, use and disposal, as well as the true demand for and costs/benefits of their use. In our allegedly hyper-capitalist country, however, subsidies for farmers, trade union pressures for increased salary and benefits, and arbitrary import taxes - among other politically-driven distortions - are all designed explicitly to exaggerate or undercut prices.

More egregious examples come from our (ever-shrinking) energy pot. We charge less than $3 per gallon of gasoline while Europe charges more than double that (around $7). Why? While the Europeans themselves may be motivated by funds for their bloated bureaucracies, in fact their pricing of oil reveals a stronger dose of reality than our "free-er" economy. We spend hundreds of billions of dollars protecting the supply of oil in Iraq, in the wider Middle East and in large swathes of the world. We do not spend the billions needed to reverse and compensate for the often hidden environmental (and thus also social) costs arising out of the production, shipping, processing and use of oil. Either way, these costs need to be factored into the price of gas in order for the price to be authentically capitalist; a capitalism that is defined not by its generally rapacious origins, but rather by its emphasis on cost-driven prices and market solutions to social problems. As in the energy market, we fool ourselves with unrealistically low cost consumables from China, where proliferating pollution is often ignored and the health of the population and environment is deteriorating at an irresponsible rate. China's "capitalist" coffers are overflowing whilst its peoples are accruing birth defects and terminal diseases, suffering from dying rivers and the most rancid urban air in the world. America by contrast has the opportunity to show the world what a mature and civilized capitalism could look like.

In the same vein of this cost-focused capitalism, every citizen should accept his or her responsibilities vis-à-vis society, achieving a balance between limited government and a participatory society and, importantly, helping to achieve an equality of opportunity. Currently, America is in the midst of acquiring the socialized opposite thereof, as our politicians shape a bastardized capitalism where every person has seemingly boundless rights to share in the largess of big bureaucratic government without any corresponding obligations to give back to society. We are mostly about what society owes us by virtue of merely being born, and very little about what we need to give to our future, to our children and their enduring freedom.

Is it conceivable that a compulsory (with reasonable exceptions) national service be implemented after high school or university, whereby every young citizen gives a year of service to his or her country? Potential sectors include health care, education, philanthropy, substance abuse rehabilitation, family and children's services, geriatric support, and support for military, police, and fire forces. Capitalism need not be incompatible with acknowledging a higher order, a deeper meaningfulness about life. Freedom and democracy come at a price. We pay taxes - we need also to give time; and time is of the essence, it is the ultimate service as our soldiers keep proving again and again. In fact, perhaps we can substitute one for the other, leading to better outcomes for all. Call this commitment "big community." In return, the government should reduce "big government:" reduce taxes and other barriers to entrepreneurship, and reduce any undue restrictions on personal freedom and focus its largesse on the ill, the young and the old. A fair exchange.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Absolutism and Good Intentions

As a youth, I was infatuated with ideas, the power of the word, the magic of conceptual brilliance. I believed that the purity of my soul and the strength of my convictions would light the path before us and open even the most hardened of hearts. Ideas - my first love: they were so convincing, so true, so complete, so self-validating and right. I vested them with sacredness and held them close to my heart. Of course, very few loves - and even fewer ideas - are in fact sacred.

Now, in my sixth decade of trial and error, of the testing of these ideas, I am increasingly aware of the psychological cover-ups, the social make-overs, the media spin that underlie the (diverse) range of idea-based claims to moral and intellectual superiority.

Egocentric, selfish, and controlling individuals consistently layer their self-seeking motivations with an array of good intentions. The claim to know what is best for mankind is the perfect "feel good" ointment for what is essentially selfishness and narrowness. More dangerously, this approach often grants its propagators the self-righteous high ground from which to impose one’s world view on others. If you have seen the light, and it feels good, and it covers all your insecurities, ambivalences, with vanities (or its corollary, self-loathings), then clearly you are required to enlighten, by persecution or even force if necessary, those less fortunate, less educated, and less informed.

Thus, the Saudi mullahs’ modern day Fatwas, directives from the Spanish Inquisition in 15th century Spain, or the emergence of aggressively proselytizing movements in any setting conspicuously share the sincerity of holy 'good intentions'.

Thus, the tasks of Hitler, Mussolini, Idi Amin, the messianic Khomeini, the trumpeting Chavez and all those who know, without error or doubt, the absolution society craves, are all facilitated by the wondrous music of their good promises, their purity of intentions.

The head-strong scientists who banned the use of DDT in Africa and spurred a malaria driven holocaust as a result, the green fundamentalists who would risk poverty, disease and famine to advance an uncomprising agenda of a carbon free atmosphere - these groups also lay claim to the absolution of pure idealism. They have also spurned democracy and would happily and unilaterally impose their superior understanding on the rest of us.

Previously enthralled with ideas, I am now convinced that people should do more and theorize less; politicians should care more about providing choice than imposing ideals. Every person, from the mother in India saving to buy a sewing machine to the farmer in Idaho tilling his soil, has the inalienable right to their own version of freedom, not your version, or mine. And the sooner our ideologues respect and honor that, the sooner we will face down the scars of war and poverty.

Indeed, the clash between freedom and absolutism speaks to one of the quintessential questions our time. How do free, tolerant societies pragmatically develop the requisite intolerance to the near-fascistic, aggressively evangelical approach of other cultures, religions and systems that wish to impose their views, beliefs and behaviors on us? More specifically, can such societies defend themselves and their freedoms when doing so may require the use of overpowering military force or the uncomfortable limitation of rights for those who use our generosity, our legal protections and our charity to pursue their radical and totalitarian goals? In short, can we protect and maintain free societies at the same time?

I am reminded often enough that war is never the answer. Exactly, I reply - except when one party unilaterally starts the war. Or that violent preemption is also never the answer, never legal. Precisely, I concur - except when the other side is actively, passionately and irredeemably planning terrorism. Nuclear disarmament is desirable, of course - except when the only parties verifiably disarming are democratic countries.

Now seven decades old, Churchill’s advice about the unfortunate habit of civilized society to sleep until danger nearly overtakes them silently echoes in the background of our current scenario. “[For] want of foresight, the unwillingness to act when action will be simple and effective, the lack of clear thinking, the confusion of counsel until emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong.”

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Time for Choosing

According to the intellectual class, Bill Clinton was a political genius - and therefore could do no wrong. By stark contrast, Ronald Reagan was castigated as a dummy, and could do no right - never mind delivering a speech of great courage and foresight.

In 1964, Reagan irrevocably established himself as a political force when he made such a speech - entitled A Time for Choosing - during Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign. Goldwater's bid was an abysmal failure, yet much of Reagan's speech was prescient; indeed, his confident and powerful words are just as relevant today. Once again, we face a choice between freedom and big government; between retaining control of each our fates and giving up too much of that control to intellectual elites ensconced in our capital; between appeasement and strength. For Reagan, there was no left or right, just up and down - fulfillment of our American ideals or surrender to fear, insecurity and domination. It seems that the more things change in our frenetic politics, the more they stay the same.

A video of the speech can be viewed
here and below is the transcript of the speech.

A Time for Choosing
by Ronald Reagan
October 27, 1964

Thank you very much. Thank you and good evening. The sponsor has been identified, but unlike most television programs, the performer hasn't been provided with a script. As a matter of fact, I have been permitted to choose my own ideas regarding the choice that we face in the next few weeks.

I have spent most of my life as a Democrat. I recently have seen fit to follow another course. I believe that the issues confronting us cross party lines. Now, one side in this campaign has been telling us that the issues of this election are the maintenance of peace and prosperity. The line has been used "We've never had it so good."

But I have an uncomfortable feeling that this prosperity isn't something on which we can base our hopes for the future. No nation in history has ever survived a tax burden that reached a third of its national income. Today, 37 cents of every dollar earned in this country is the tax collector's share, and yet our government continues to spend $17 million a day more than the government takes in. We haven't balanced our budget 28 out of the last 34 years. We have raised our debt limit three times in the last twelve months, and now our national debt is one and a half times bigger than all the combined debts of all the nations in the world. We have $15 billion in gold in our treasury - we don't own an ounce. Foreign dollar claims are $27.3 billion, and we have just had announced that the dollar of 1939 will now purchase 45 cents in its total value.

As for the peace that we would preserve, I wonder who among us would like to approach the wife or mother whose husband or son has died in South Vietnam and ask them if they think this is a peace that should be maintained indefinitely. Do they mean peace, or do they mean we just want to be left in peace? There can be no real peace while one American is dying some place in the world for the rest of us. We are at war with the most dangerous enemy that has ever faced mankind in his long climb from the swamp to the stars, and it has been said if we lose that war, and in doing so lose this way of freedom of ours, history will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent its happening. Well, I think it's time we ask ourselves if we still know the freedoms that were intended for us by the Founding Fathers.

Not too long ago two friends of mine were talking to a Cuban refugee, a businessman who had escaped from Castro, and in the midst of his story one of my friends turned to the other and said, "We don't know how lucky we are." And the Cuban stopped and said, "How lucky you are! I had someplace to escape to." In that sentence he told us the entire story. If we lose freedom here, there is no place to escape to. This is the last stand on Earth. And this idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except to sovereign people, is still the newest and most unique idea in all the long history of man's relation to man. This is the issue of this election. Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.

You and I are told increasingly that we have to choose between a left or right, but I would like to suggest that there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down - up to a man's age-old dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order - or down to the ant heap totalitarianism, and regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course.

In this vote-harvesting time, they use terms like the "Great Society," or as we were told a few days ago by the President, we must accept a "greater government activity in the affairs of the people." But they have been a little more explicit in the past and among themselves - and all of the things that I now will quote have appeared in print. These are not Republican accusations. For example, they have voices that say "the cold war will end through acceptance of a not undemocratic socialism." Another voice says that the profit motive has become outmoded, it must be replaced by the incentives of the welfare state; or our traditional system of individual freedom is incapable of solving the complex problems of the 20th century. Senator Fullbright has said at Stanford University that the Constitution is outmoded. He referred to the president as our moral teacher and our leader, and he said he is hobbled in his task by the restrictions in power imposed on him by this antiquated document. He must be freed so that he can do for us what he knows is best. And Senator Clark of Pennsylvania, another articulate spokesman, defines liberalism as "meeting the material needs of the masses through the full power of centralized government." Well, I for one resent it when a representative of the people refers to you and me - the free man and woman of this country - as "the masses." This is a term we haven't applied to ourselves in America. But beyond that, "the full power of centralized government" - this was the very thing the Founding Fathers sought to minimize. They knew that governments don't control things. A government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they know when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. They also knew, those Founding Fathers, that outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy.

Now, we have no better example of this than the government's involvement in the farm economy over the last 30 years. Since 1955, the cost of this program has nearly doubled. One-fourth of farming in America is responsible for 85% of the farm surplus. Three-fourths of farming is out on the free market and has known a 21% increase in the per capita consumption of all its produce. You see, that one-fourth of farming is regulated and controlled by the federal government. In the last three years we have spent $43 in feed grain program for every bushel of corn we don't grow.

Senator Humphrey last week charged that Barry Goldwater as President would seek to eliminate farmers. He should do his homework a little better, because he will find out that we have had a decline of 5 million in the farm population under these government programs. He will also find that the Democratic administration has sought to get from Congress an extension of the farm program to include that three-fourths that is now free. He will find that they have also asked for the right to imprison farmers who wouldn't keep books as prescribed by the federal government. The Secretary of Agriculture asked for the right to seize farms through condemnation and resell them to other individuals. And contained in that same program was a provision that would have allowed the federal government to remove 2 million farmers from the soil.

At the same time, there has been an increase in the Department of Agriculture employees. There is now one for every 30 farms in the United States, and still they can't tell us how 66 shiploads of grain headed for Austria disappeared without a trace and Billie Sol Estes never left shore.

Every responsible farmer and farm organization has repeatedly asked the government to free the farm economy, but who are farmers to know what is best for them? The wheat farmers voted against a wheat program. The government passed it anyway. Now the price of bread goes up; the price of wheat to the farmer goes down.

Meanwhile, back in the city, under urban renewal the assault on freedom carries on. Private property rights are so diluted that public interest is almost anything that a few government planners decide it should be. In a program that takes for the needy and gives to the greedy, we see such spectacles as in Cleveland, Ohio, a million-and-a-half-dollar building completed only three years ago must be destroyed to make way for what government officials call a "more compatible use of the land." The President tells us he is now going to start building public housing units in the thousands where heretofore we have only built them in the hundreds. But FHA and the Veterans Administration tell us that they have 120,000 housing units they've taken back through mortgage foreclosures. For three decades, we have sought to solve the problems of unemployment through government planning, and the more the plans fail, the more the planners plan. The latest is the Area Redevelopment Agency. They have just declared Rice County, Kansas, a depressed area. Rice County, Kansas, has two hundred oil wells, and the 14,000 people there have over $30 million on deposit in personal savings in their banks. When the government tells you you're depressed, lie down and be depressed.

We have so many people who can't see a fat man standing beside a thin one without coming to the conclusion that the fat man got that way by taking advantage of the thin one. So they are going to solve all the problems of human misery through government and government planning. Well, now, if government planning and welfare had the answer and they've had almost 30 years of it, shouldn't we expect government to almost read the score to us once in a while? Shouldn't they be telling us about the decline each year in the number of people needing help? The reduction in the need for public housing?

But the reverse is true. Each year the need grows greater, the program grows greater. We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry each night. Well, that was probably true. They were all on a diet. But now we are told that 9.3 million families in this country are poverty-stricken on the basis of earning less than $3,000 a year. Welfare spending is 10 times greater than in the dark depths of the Depression. We are spending $45 billion on welfare. Now do a little arithmetic, and you will find that if we divided the $45 billion up equally among those 9 million poor families, we would be able to give each family $4,600 a year, and this added to their present income should eliminate poverty! Direct aid to the poor, however, is running only about $600 per family. It would seem that someplace there must be some overhead.

So now we declare "war on poverty," or "you, too, can be a Bobby Baker!" Now, do they honestly expect us to believe that if we add $1 billion to the $45 million we are more program to the 30-odd we have - and remember, this new program doesn't replace any, it just duplicates existing programs - do they believe that poverty is suddenly going to disappear by magic? Well, in all fairness I should explain that there is one part of the new program that isn't duplicated. This is the youth feature. We are now going to solve the dropout problem, juvenile delinquency, by reinstituting something like the old CCC camps, and we are going to put our young people in camps, but again we do some arithmetic, and we find that we are going to spend each year just on room and board for each young person that we help $4,700 a year! We can send them to Harvard for $2,700! Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that Harvard is the answer to juvenile delinquency.

But seriously, what are we doing to those we seek to help? Not too long ago, a judge called me here in Los Angeles. He told me of a young woman who had come before him for a divorce. She had six children, was pregnant with her seventh. Under his questioning, she revealed her husband was a laborer earning $250 a month. She wanted a divorce so that she could get an $80 raise. She is eligible for $330 a month in the Aid to Dependent Children Program. She got the idea from two women in her neighborhood who had already done that very thing.

Yet anytime you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we are denounced as being against their humanitarian goals. They say we are always "against" things, never "for" anything. Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they are ignorant, but that they know so much that isn't so. We are for a provision that destitution should not follow unemployment by reason of old age, and to that end we have accepted Social Security as a step toward meeting the problem.

But we are against those entrusted with this program when they practice deception regarding its fiscal shortcomings, when they charge that any criticism of the program means that we want to end payments to those who depend on them for livelihood. They have called it insurance to us in a hundred million pieces of literature. But then they appeared before the Supreme Court and they testified that it was a welfare program. They only use the term "insurance" to sell it to the people. And they said Social Security dues are a tax for the general use of the government, and the government has used that tax. There is no fund, because Robert Byers, the actuarial head, appeared before a congressional committee and admitted that Social Security as of this moment is $298 billion in the hole. But he said there should be no cause for worry because as long as they have the power to tax, they could always take away from the people whatever they needed to bail them out of trouble! And they are doing just that.

A young man, 21 years of age, working at an average salary...his Social Security contribution would, in the open market, buy him an insurance policy that would guarantee $220 a month at age 65. The government promises $127. He could live it up until he is 31 and then take out a policy that would pay more than Social Security. Now, are we so lacking in business sense that we can't put this program on a sound basis so that people who do require those payments will find that they can get them when they are due...that the cupboard isn't bare? Barry Goldwater thinks we can.

At the same time, can't we introduce voluntary features that would permit a citizen who can do better on his own to be excused upon presentation of evidence that he had made provisions for the non-earning years? Should we allow a widow with children to work, and not lose the benefits supposedly paid for by her deceased husband? Shouldn't you and I be allowed to declare who our beneficiaries will be under these programs, which we cannot do? I think we are for telling our senior citizens that no one in this country should be denied medical care because of a lack of funds. But I think we are against forcing all citizens, regardless of need, into a compulsory government program, especially when we have such examples, as announced last week, when France admitted that their Medicare program was now bankrupt. They've come to the end of the road.

In addition, was Barry Goldwater so irresponsible when he suggested that our government give up its program of deliberate planned inflation so that when you do get your Social Security pension, a dollar will buy a dollar's worth, and not 45 cents' worth?

I think we are for an international organization, where the nations of the world can seek peace. But I think we are against subordinating American interests to an organization that has become so structurally unsound that today you can muster a two-thirds vote on the floor of the General Assembly among the nations that represent less than 10 percent of the world's population. I think we are against the hypocrisy of assailing our allies because here and there they cling to a colony, while we engage in a conspiracy of silence and never open our mouths about the millions of people enslaved in Soviet colonies in the satellite nation.

I think we are for aiding our allies by sharing of our material blessings with those nations which share in our fundamental beliefs, but we are against doling out money government to government, creating bureaucracy, if not socialism, all over the world. We set out to help 19 countries. We are helping 107. We spent $146 billion. With that money, we bought a $2 million yacht for Haile Selassie. We bought dress suits for Greek undertakers, extra wives for Kenyan government officials. We bought a thousand TV sets for a place where they have no electricity. In the last six years, 52 nations have bought $7 billion worth of our gold, and all 52 are receiving foreign aid from this country.

No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this Earth. Federal employees number 2.5 million, and federal, state, and local, one out of six of the nation's work force is employed by the government. These proliferating bureaus with their thousands of regulations have cost us many of our constitutional safeguards. How many of us realize that today federal agents can invade a man's property without a warrant? They can impose a fine without a formal hearing, let alone a trial by jury, and they can seize and sell his property in auction to enforce the payment of that fine. In Chico County, Arkansas, James Wier overplanted his rice allotment. The government obtained a $17,000 judgment, and a U.S. marshal sold his 950-acre farm at auction. The government said it was necessary as a warning to others to make the system work. Last February 19 at the University of Minnesota, Norman Thomas, six-time candidate for President on the Socialist Party ticket, said, "If Barry Goldwater became President, he would stop the advance of socialism in the United States." I think that's exactly what he will do.

As a former Democrat, I can tell you Norman Thomas isn't the only man who has drawn this parallel to socialism with the present administration. Back in 1936, Mr. Democrat himself, Al Smith, the great American, came before the American people and charged that the leadership of his party was taking the part of Jefferson, Jackson, and Cleveland down the road under the banners of Marx, Lenin, and Stalin. And he walked away from his party, and he never returned to the day he died, because to this day, the leadership of that party has been taking that party, that honorable party, down the road in the image of the labor socialist party of England. Now it doesn't require expropriation or confiscation of private property or business to impose socialism on a people. What does it mean whether you hold the deed or the title to your business or property if the government holds the power of life and death over that business or property? Such machinery already exists. The government can find some charge to bring against any concern it chooses to prosecute. Every businessman has his own tale of harassment. Somewhere a perversion has taken place. Our natural, inalienable rights are now considered to be a dispensation of government, and freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp as it is at this moment. Our Democratic opponents seem unwilling to debate these issues. They want to make you and I believe that this is a contest between two men...that we are to choose just between two personalities.

Well, what of this man that they would destroy? And in destroying, they would destroy that which he represents, the ideas that you and I hold dear. Is he the brash and shallow and trigger-happy man they say he is? Well, I have been privileged to know him "when." I knew him long before he ever dreamed of trying for high office, and I can tell you personally I have never known a man in my life I believe so incapable of doing a dishonest or dishonorable thing.

This is a man who in his own business, before he entered politics, instituted a profit-sharing plan, before unions had ever thought of it. He put in health and medical insurance for all his employees. He took 50 percent of the profits before taxes and set up a retirement program, a pension plan for all his employees. He sent checks for life to an employee who was ill and couldn't work. He provided nursing care for the children of mothers who work in the stores. When Mexico was ravaged by floods from the Rio Grande, he climbed in his airplane and flew medicine and supplies down there.

An ex-GI told me how he met him. It was the week before Christmas during the Korean War, and he was at the Los Angeles airport trying to get a ride home to Arizona for Christmas, and he said that there were a lot of servicemen there and no seats available on the planes. Then a voice came over the loudspeaker and said, "Any men in uniform wanting a ride to Arizona, go to runway such-and-such," and they went down there, and there was this fellow named Barry Goldwater sitting in his plane. Every day in the weeks before Christmas, all day long, he would load up the plane, fly to Arizona, fly them to their homes, then fly back over to get another load.

During the hectic split-second timing of a campaign, this is a man who took time out to sit beside an old friend who was dying of cancer. His campaign managers were understandably impatient, but he said, "There aren't many left who care what happens to her. I'd like her to know I care." This is a man who said to his 19-year-old son, "There is no foundation like the rock of honesty and fairness, and when you begin to build your life upon that rock, with the cement of the faith in God that you have, then you have a real start." This is not a man who could carelessly send other people's sons to war. And that is the issue of this campaign that makes all of the other problems I have discussed academic, unless we realize that we are in a war that must be won.

Those who would trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state have told us that they have a utopian solution of peace without victory. They call their policy "accommodation." And they say if we only avoid any direct confrontation with the enemy, he will forget his evil ways and learn to love us. All who oppose them are indicted as warmongers. They say we offer simple answers to complex problems. Well, perhaps there is a simple answer - not an easy answer - but simple.

If you and I have the courage to tell our elected officials that we want our national policy based upon what we know in our hearts is morally right. We cannot buy our security, our freedom from the threat of the bomb by committing an immorality so great as saying to a billion now in slavery behind the Iron Curtain, "Give up your dreams of freedom because to save our own skin, we are willing to make a deal with your slave masters." Alexander Hamilton said, "A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one." Let's set the record straight. There is no argument over the choice between peace and war, but there is only one guaranteed way you can have peace - and you can have it in the next second - surrender.

Admittedly there is a risk in any course we follow other than this, but every lesson in history tells us that the greater risk lies in appeasement, and this is the specter our well-meaning liberal friends refuse to face - that their policy of accommodation is appeasement, and it gives no choice between peace and war, only between fight and surrender. If we continue to accommodate, continue to back and retreat, eventually we have to face the final demand - the ultimatum. And what then? When Nikita Khrushchev has told his people he knows what our answer will be? He has told them that we are retreating under the pressure of the Cold War, and someday when the time comes to deliver the ultimatum, our surrender will be voluntary because by that time we will have weakened from within spiritually, morally, and economically. He believes this because from our side he has heard voices pleading for "peace at any price" or "better Red than dead," or as one commentator put it, he would rather "live on his knees than die on his feet." And therein lies the road to war, because those voices don't speak for the rest of us. You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery. If nothing in life is worth dying for, when did this begin - just in the face of this enemy? Or should Moses have told the children of Israel to live in slavery under the pharaohs? Should Christ have refused the cross? Should the patriots at Concord Bridge have thrown down their guns and refused to fire the shot heard 'round the world? The martyrs of history were not fools, and our honored dead who gave their lives to stop the advance of the Nazis didn't die in vain. Where, then, is the road to peace? Well, it's a simple answer after all.

You and I have the courage to say to our enemies, "There is a price we will not pay." There is a point beyond which they must not advance. This is the meaning in the phrase of Barry Goldwater's "peace through strength." Winston Churchill said that "the destiny of man is not measured by material computation. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we are spirits - not animals." And he said, "There is something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty."

You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on Earth, or we will sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.

We will keep in mind and remember that Barry Goldwater has faith in us. He has faith that you and I have the ability and the dignity and the right to make our own decisions and determine our own destiny.

Thank you very much.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Did Obama Meet Chamberlain?

Neville Chamberlain was by all accounts a kind and clever man, an idealist with the best of intentions. Eminently civilized, he always took high tea at the prescribed time. A confident and highly experienced negotiator, he truly believed that he could successfully appease Hitler and Nazi Germany. His desire for peace was profound and authentic. And he was dead wrong.

Likewise, Barack Obama, has a seemingly limitless faith in his ability to negotiate with our avowed enemies, to prod and persuade the likes of Ahmadinejad, Assad, Chavez and Putin. He appears to believe that if we hedge our country's bets and keep our adversaries close to the vest, our enemies will be appeased and our friends will remain loyal - if insecure - partners in peace.

"Peace in our time," so declared Chamberlain after sacrificing Czechoslovakia to Hitler's Panzers in March 1939. This seminal event should have destroyed any rationale for appeasement - Czechoslovakia's fate preordained that of wider Europe.

Observing Obama and his non-interventionist acolytes, one wonders: has Obama met Chamberlain? Is he still convinced that Iran's nuclear ambitions are for ploughshares, that its leaders' eliminationist proclamations have nothing in common with those of Hitler, or Stalin, or Pol Pot?

If so, there is hope that all is not lost. Obama has shown focus and fortitude in Afghanistan, increasing troop strength and commitment. To his credit, he knows full well that a Taliban victory there would further destabilize an already unstable region - including nuclear Pakistan - with catastrophic results to follow.

Thus, the real question is not if Obama has met Chamberlain. Rather, it is what did he learn from him? While his multitudinous advisors and czars pull him to the left, he has shown a marked ability to learn on his feet, to assimilate changing political realities. His fate and the fate of our country depend, in large measure, on whether he successfully veers from his leftist origins toward the opposing trends of our time.

Dealing weakly with Nazi Germany's rise contributed mightily to the 50 million casualties of the Second World War. Will Obama's appeasement-laden overtures similarly result in unmitigated disasters over the next decade?

The jury is still out.

Image: Chamberlain meeting with Hitler, 1939

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Letter to The Economist

The following is my response to a special report on the Arab world in The Economist called "Waking from its sleep," published on July 23, 2009. The original article can be read at this link.


The Editor:

While generally objective and informative, your report suffers from a disconcerting and revealing inconsistency. On Page 4, you highlight "Israel's ruthless mini-wars in Lebanon in 2006 and in Gaza at the beginning of this year." In a contextual vacuum, I wonder about the motivation (and editorship) behind your word choice; in light of your subsequent (pg. 5) listing of death tolls from Arab-involved conflicts in Darfur (400,000), Algeria (150-200,000), and Iraq (101-109,000) - all well and gruesomely ahead of Gaza (1,400) and Lebanon (1,200) - that wonder evolves into outrage. Indeed, it is the intentional massacre of civilians in the non-Israeli conflicts that deserves the term 'ruthless.' The clear restraint (however flawed in execution) exercised by the region's most powerful army while fighting terrorist belligerents operating from civilian areas is quite the opposite.

Mr. Leslie J. Sacks
Los Angeles, CA

Monday, July 6, 2009

Is America Like Rome?

Rome was a great civilization, perhaps the greatest according to certain accounts. Its citizens - modern, wealthy, empowered - were the envy of the world. Content with their luxuries and successes, the Romans imported slaves until citizens were a de-facto minority. They stopped manufacturing and creating. Instead, Rome became the center of a vast bureaucracy, controlling and delegating while outsourcing actual production to their slaves and colonies.

Rome thus became lazy and fat, hedonistic and selfish, unwilling anymore to do the dirty work and make the sacrifices that earned its position atop the civilizational heap. They became utterly dependent on imported labor and imported products, hostage to their own egocentricities.

America cannot anymore produce preeminent cars; its industrial might - not to mention its massive debts - resides in the grasps of its fiercest competitors. America now wearies quickly of its own defense, its wars, its security needs. Its attention is sated by “American Idol” and “Dancing with the Stars,” giving short shrift to Iraq and Afghanistan, to females enslaved and children oppressed beyond our shores. Whereas Reagan’s America defeated Communism by sheer willpower, now the teleprompting Obama - facing radical Islam, Communism’s totalitarian successor - unclenches America’s vital fist.

Are we going the way of Rome - are we already too rich, too fat, too soft? Must we read Nero to our Congress? Have we still got what it takes not only to build the greatest civilization the world has ever seen, but also - and especially - to keep it?

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Monday, June 29, 2009


Transcript of a speech I delivered at the American Freedom Alliance and Council for Democracy and Tolerance annual "Heroes of Conscience" dinner on June 7, 2009. The event paid tribute to Geert Wilders, Dutch politician and leader of the Party for Freedom, and Alan Craig, London councilor and campaigner in opposition to the planned Olympic Mega Mosque, as well as honored Barak Lurie and myself, both of Los Angeles.

I am humbled and gratified to be given this honor by the American Freedom Alliance, and somewhat overwhelmed by the recognition. For it is the AFA and like groups, institutions and charities at the cutting edge – on the front line, as it were – that are the real champions. Likewise, of course, all the troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israel, and the members of our various intelligence agencies. Everyone who sacrifices for our security and our freedoms, who puts their own safety on the line: they are the true heroes, and they are ultimately our salvation.

People like me are in fact the ones who should be grateful, because we are given an opportunity to support those in the front line, without risking our lives, or even our life style. Geert Wilders, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Irshad Manji, Wafa Sultan, Nonie Darwish, Zuhdi Jasser and countless others, moderate Muslims, Arab women, Marines, undercover agents -- they are the ones who deserve our everlasting gratefulness, our thanks and our generosity.

It usually goes without saying that we are living in important times. And yet, particularly at gatherings like these, it is important to re-affirm the critical nature of the task before us. Radical Islam, while battered and bruised, remains a ferocious opponent, the advocates of Shariah law a dangerous fifth column.

In the Muslim world, Radical Islam is encroaching on a dysfunctional and nuclear-armed state in Pakistan. It is resurgent in Afghanistan, awaiting our precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, and posing as the harbingers of a new, Judenrein regional order by way of the theocrats in Iran.

Here in the West – the primary concern, unabashedly, of those of us gathered here tonight – the threat is just as real, if not as immediate. The reach of Shariah extends even further into both the de facto and de jure reaches of North America and Europe, welcomed with all-too-open arms by the multi-culturalists and relativists who dominate our intellectual classes -- and even some Western governments.

As a result, beheadings, honor killings, draconian restrictions on women, even absurd aversions to pork — all are on the up-and-up. As for the victories of radical Islam in suppressing our precious freedoms of expression and of conscience, our civilization’s comparative advantage in inquiry and truth-telling…well, I will leave such things to the experts.

From where does this insidious commonality derive, between the extreme left and the fascist Jihadist movements like Hamas and Hezbollah? What are the origins of this red-green alliance?

Perhaps it is the fact that these coalescing extremes share one special ideological tenet – that of the certainty of their paths and their righteousness, and thus the obligation to impose these beliefs on society, removing choice – and ultimately the basis of freedom -- from the imperfect masses. From the rest of us.

This is finally the challenge of our times, whether Shariah from the right or relativistic, multicultural political correctness from the left.

But the point here is not to frighten, or to catalog our losses, or to express despair or remorse. No, no – quite the contrary. The point here is to remind ourselves that we have arrived at a critical juncture in our efforts to protect our unique freedoms, and to ensure the expansion of those freedoms to those who yearn to taste it, to our natural allies all over the world. And to remember that at times like these, those efforts become that much more urgent, that much more crucial.

Perhaps no recent event better captures the “fierce urgency of now” – to borrow a phrase from our new leader of the free world – than the recent on-goings in Geneva. There, we observed all the farcical and frightening idiocies of the United Nations, whose “human rights” commission convened a meeting on racism and discrimination attended by a litany of racists and discriminators to discuss a previously-endorsed racist and discriminatory document – a document that was produced by delegates to that infamously anti-Semitic Durban conference in South Africa in 2001. The bloodied hounds of the virtuous – Sudan, Iran, Syria, Libya – were everywhere present.

[As an aside, and as a South African who protested against the apartheid regime, the association of this international disgrace with the so-called “rainbow nation” of my youth carries a particularly sad irony.]

Returning to Geneva. It warrants mention that, this time around, the conference delegates – led, once again, by the paragons of human rights from the Organization of the Islamic Conference – that this time around these delegates managed to go even further down the path of absurdity. This time, the commission very nearly “banned” so-called religious defamation, attempting to classify critical media like the Danish cartoons or Mr. Wilders’ courageous film as criminal violations of human rights.

As a result, the UN’s official human rights body came bizarrely close to abrogating the fundamental rights to free expression and conscience as laid out in the UN’s own universal declaration of human rights. Orwell could not have written it better.

Indeed, I venture to say that even Orwell could not have foreseen this same “human rights” conference being addressed, by none other than Iran’s hate-spewing Islamist president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The world thus witnessed a man who mimics Hitler in both style and substance receiving ovations from a UN body not only for denying the consequences of the genocidal policies perpetrated by his tutor, but also for attacking the legitimacy of Israel, a UN member state that ranks among its few genuine democracies. And this while Holocaust survivors still bear witness.

What’s more, it was the horror of those very same policies that, in many ways, led to the creation of the United Nations itself, and it was the creation of the United Nations that helped bring Israel into existence. Perhaps Kafka is indeed the man to read.

And yet, to echo the theme above, all is not lost. For it is important to remember that the United States –even under our most multi-culturalist, internationalist, and arguably most appeasement-happy administration to date – these United States boycotted this absurd, disturbed, and thankfully non-binding conference. So did the Western outposts of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and of course so did Israel. Perhaps most importantly, Germany, Italy, Poland, and ultimately Czechoslovakia – four former epicenters of totalitarianism – also joined the boycott, along with Mr. Wilders’ own Holland.

In addition, the 24 remaining delegates from Europe walked out on the tyrant Ahmadinejad, that latter day Hamman, in an all-too-rare display of European unity in the face of aggressive anti-Semitism. And the disgraceful ‘religious defamation’ resolution was eventually dropped, for the time being, replaced by a watered-down version focused on the individual and not the faith.

Small victories in a purely symbolic setting, I do concede. I dare say that no-one who knows me or my writings would accuse me of dewy-eyed optimism. But I do believe that these events help point out the critical nature of the work being done by the American Freedom Alliance, and like-minded advocates of human freedom and opponents of fundamentalism and tyranny. By calling Radical Islam for what it truly is – a threat to Western values and civilization – we help draw the right lines in this battle of ideas. We encourage the unity of freedom-loving people and discourage weakness in the face of hatred and extremism. And we challenge the stranglehold of self-loathing, self-defeating cultural relativists on the terms of debate in the West. All these efforts help tip the balance in our favor, and in the favor of our children.

To continue down this path, we need to remind Americans that our country’s unrivaled success is not a reason for complacency, but rather for strident attention. America needs to focus on preserving its unique culture and character – its future ultimately depends not on security or military superiority, but rather on its citizens not going the way of Antwerp, Marseille and London’s Finsbury Park. It depends on preventing Sharia proponents from subverting – whether by legal, financial, or political means – our openness and our freedoms. It requires the recognition that our weaknesses lie within, not without: with our lack of love for, our lack of commitment to and belief in, the value of our heritage, our religions, and our unique Judeo-Christian civilization.

The consequences of these weaknesses are tragically apparent in Europe. To stem that tide of appeasement and prevent it from reaching our own shores, we must acknowledge and forcefully protect the strengths that define us: freedom, liberty, and the power of reason over fear.

We are, after all, living in important times.

Perhaps never more so.

Just last night I was fortunate to have dinner with Alan Craig and Geert Wilders during which time I first heard the auspicious news of Geert’s strong showing in the European Parliament elections in Holland. With good fortune he may be the next Prime Minister, he may indeed become the first force to roll back European Appeasement, the first leading politician to make a stand and say:



He has my congratulations.

Thank you.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Alcatraz or NIMBY

Nancy Pelosi - our water-boarding, flip-flopping Speaker of the House - needs to rise to the occasion of her own making and offer up Alcatraz Island as the new home for all 241 inmates in GuantanamoBay. If Sarah Palin can see Russia from her Alaskan front porch, why can't Pelosi enjoy her morning herbal tea whilst watching the mist waft in amongst the cells of some of the world's most dangerous terrorists and murderers?

The San Francisco of Alice B. Toklas, Allen Ginsberg and Harvey Milk should seize the opportunity to blaze yet another "progressive" trail for the rest of the country. By putting their (substantial) monies where their (ever-moving) mouths are, Pelosi and her constituents can extend the city's famous embrace of 'alternative lifestyles' to the most nefarious enemies of our most precious union. Inmates' hatreds for Jews, gays, and infidels of all stripes could be soothed by a daily (and mandatory) regimen of yoga, taught by burka-clad instructors. Their bloodlust could be tackled by the unique prescriptions of homeopaths and the meditative effects of the latest in multi-cultural fusion, Koran chant.

Ponder for a moment history's mostly forgotten lessons. During the Second World War - aka the 'Good War' - we interned over 400,000 prisoners of war right here in the United States, with another 1.6 million housed elsewhere. Imagine a former-day Pelosi or the ACLU prevailing on the Senate, Congress and U.S. Court system to extend our substantial and just laws and protections to these two million POWs. Hitler and the Japanese might not have needed to prosecute the war after all: our justice system would have ground to a debilitating halt, and the costs would have put us in permanent penury. Habeas corpus and the (then) unavailability of significant evidence would have ensured most, if not all, a quick pass to "GO." Even if most were deported, imagine the self-destructive time bomb represented by the release of even a fraction of these two-million avowed Nazis and otherwise fascistic soldiers into the United States of America.

We are still fighting a vicious war - roughly 8,000 Americans have died, 3,000 on September 11th and 5,000 of our bravest since. Hitler's war ended when we bombed Dresden, invaded Germany and buried his totalitarian regime; the Japanese surrender required history's only use of a nuclear weapon. Unfortunately, Al Qaeda doesn't leave a return address and this war may drag on for years - even decades. History has shown us valid, reasonable and successful rules of engagement. We deny them at our peril.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009


Hindsight is great, especially when it comes to political expediency. President Obama and his surrogate, Attorney General Eric Holder, are in the process of determining how many good faith attorneys, operatives and advisors in the previous administration and the CIA will be held criminally liable for their interrogation activities and advice. Never mind that the activities and advice in question likely saved the lives of many US citizens and our soldiers on the frontline. Instead of being praised for successes and excused for excesses, these patriots have become the targets of a new witch hunt, set to be sacrificed at the altar of Obama's unrivalled public relations juggernaut.

Of course, Obama and his coterie hold no exclusive title to hindsight. And history often delivers far more powerful indictments than even the US Attorney General.

Consider an Obama administration that fails to reverse the recession and continues to court the tragic consequences of Iran's nuclear ambitions and suicidal Jihadism. An administration that insists on hampering and handicapping the CIA, the FBI and the military's ability to prosecute this war and achieve its intelligence requirements in the most pragmatic and effective manner, leading-most likely-to another wave of terrorist strikes. Such unfortunate events would not only obliterate the sycophantic love affair America now has with Obama and produce a likely change in government. They would also expose this administration to charges-if not legal, then certainly moral-of gross negligence and irresponsibility, of causing many American deaths and recklessly sacrificing national security as well.

Despite what your kids learn in university, hindsight can be 20/20 for Republicans as well. The past is not the only source of reckoning-the future counts as well. Eric Holder beware.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Emasculation of America

It's as though our modern liberal democracy is so porous and malleable, so rife with insecurity and uncertainty, that we aspire-perversely-to the fascist certainties of our Jihadist adversaries. The victim takes on the jailor's persona.

We worry more about sleep deprivation for the 241 hardened terrorists at Guantanamo than we do about the two million innocents butchered recently in the Congo. We rail against humiliating self-admitted murderers by-gasp!-handling Korans without gloves; by using loud noises, isolation or cramped confinement; and by holding faces immobile. In other words: by using the same intense interrogation techniques employed by our British and French (and certainly many other) allies without tortured (pun intended) public discussions.

We flagellate ourselves and prostrate ourselves before those who call for our destruction, apologizing for these indiscretions and justifying our own murder. We hold ourselves (but none others) to standards no civilization before us has considered even remotely possible.

We pledge to negotiate as equals with Iran and Syria, two medieval autocracies that stone women (Iran), incarcerate children (Iran and Syria) and eliminate opposition (Syria)--no Geneva Convention anywhere in sight. We bow before the Saudi king, whose regime allowed female students to burn to death rather than let them escape the flames inappropriately dressed, which beheads disbelievers and amputates the limbs of everyday thieves.

The world is rife with genocide, with indiscriminate torture of the innocent and the young.

Yet our human rights movements, women's rights movements, and our ACLUs spend their time and resources railing against every transgression by our military and those who make us safe-as imperfect as that process may be?

Why are we emasculating ourselves?

Do we believe that if we defang ourselves, make ourselves vulnerable, weak and fearful, we will engender understanding and support from those who wish us ill? Will emasculation reduce their jealousy and their hate? If we berate ourselves, humiliate our defenders publicly in court, weaken our defenses and our interrogation techniques, will we gain the love and the admiration of Ahmadinejad, of Al Qaeda, of the Taliban? If we continue to hate ourselves enough, to belittle our culture of freedom and individualism, will we sufficiently reduce our hard-won differences, our unique and ennobling values, to pacify the radical Islamists?

Such is our 21st century sociology of capitulation: we must beat our swords into ploughshares and validate Shariah law in every court before we can be prideful as Americans. Are we compulsive lemmings rushing leftwards into the suicidal sea? When will our emasculation end?

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Here is a succinct and eminently relevant review of a crucial issue of our day ~

"An End to Dependence on Middle East Oil" by Janet Levy

Over the last 40 years, the United States has become increasingly dependent on foreign oil and reluctant to develop domestic, fossil fuel resources. Today, America imports two-thirds of its oil at a cost of $300 billion per year, much of it from politically unstable, Middle East countries which control 45% of the world's oil, overall.

This is occurring despite the existence of bountiful, untapped oil resources within the United States. Developing these resources could free America from imports, create badly needed, oil-production jobs and meet U.S. energy demand for the next 200 years. With nearly three-fourths of Americans favoring increased energy exploration, the only obstacle standing in the way of our energy independence is a lack of political vision and will.

We need only look to our Canadian neighbors to realize how forging ahead politically to develop oil resources could help increase our energy supplies, boost our sagging economy and increase our tax base. Canada's experience could become our own, if we simply took the initiative and plunged ahead with proven technologies that could release not only oil from the ground, but our country from crippling, energy dependency.

Canada's Oil Sands

Canada supplies more oil to the United States than any other single country in the world. Canadian oil represents 21% of our imports, double that of Saudi Arabia, our nation's second largest oil supplier. But while Saudi Arabia has an estimated remaining 270 billion barrels of oil, Canada's total oil sands resources are placed as high as 2.6 trillion barrels, which includes the Athabasca Oil Sands Deposit in Alberta, the largest petroleum resource in the world.

The successful development of Canada's oil sands arose from a long-term, committed partnership between government and industry focusing together on economic, environmentally sound and technologically innovative methods of oil sand extraction and processing. For over 30 years, the Canadian government worked with the oil industry to conduct research and to foster a financial environment to help support the growth of its oil sands. Government tax incentives and infrastructure construction have significantly benefited the industry, helping transform Canada into an energy super power, creating tens of thousands of jobs and infusing billions of dollars into the economy.

Canadian oil sand production now stands at more than one million barrels per day and is expected to approach 2.5 million barrels per day by 2017. Meanwhile, production costs for Alberta's oil sands declined by as much as 80% between 1980 and 2003, according to the Oil and Gas Journal[1].

Oil sands resources successfully compete with conventional fuels, achieving high recovery efficiencies, dependable production rates and uniform, high quality products. Federally mandated reclamation requirements have insured that development sites are returned to their natural state. New technologies could further reduce emissions and energy use for production, plus improve water management.

Alberta's oil sands development has demonstrated an effective balance between environmental protection, economic growth and energy security, according to the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI), a non-profit, energy think tank. Every dollar invested in oil sands creates $9 of economic activity, according to the CERI, which estimates the economic benefit of oil sands could reach $885 billion from 2000-2020.

U.S. Oil Shale Deposits

A similar resource exists within the southwestern United States. Oil shale deposits there have a commercial viability comparable and in sufficient magnitude to the Alberta oil sands. In comparison to Saudi Arabia's oil reserves, America's recoverable oil shale resources are nearly three times as large, according to a 2008 report by the Utah Mining Association[2]. That study affirmed that utilizing U.S. oil shale deposits could provide America with the "potential to be completely energy self-sufficient, with no demands on external energy sources."

Oil shale, a sedimentary rock, contains kerogen, a less evolved form of crude oil. With additional oil-extraction processing, kerogen can be used to produce jet fuel, diesel, gasoline and heating oil. The oil shale extraction process "results in products that are super clean -- even cleaner than super diesel (ultra low sulfur diesel)," according to Dan Kish, senior vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research.

The largest, richest and most concentrated deposits of kerogen are found in the Green River Formation in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. These states comprise respective percentages of 60%, 30% and 10% of the available resources, with sufficient oil shale to meet U.S. energy demand for the next 200 years.

Locked within these oil shale resources are approximately 2 trillion barrels of oil, according to a 2005 report[3] given to President Bush and the Congress, by the Task Force on Strategic Unconventional Fuels. Depending on technological developments and economic feasibility, an estimated 800 billion barrels of oil could be recovered, three times the proven oil reserves in Saudi Arabia.

Oil shale conversion is a proven technology that has been used in other parts of the world for over 50 years. Since the 1950s, Brazil has used oil shale to produce commercial fuel. Estonia currently derives 85% of its electricity from oil shale and China now produces 1.5 million barrels of shale oil per year. In the United States, shale oil technology has been developing for close to 30 years. It's an energy production process far ahead of techniques for renewables and biomass, with far greater potential to meet U.S. energy needs sooner.

Oil Shale Demonstration Projects

Several companies have experimented with extraction methods that could result in commercial production in the near term, with development price estimates of $30 to $55 per barrel of oil.

Utah-based Red Leaf Resources, which estimates a 100,000 barrel of oil yield per acre, uses an environmentally-sensitive proprietary technology to encapsulate the shale at depths of 60 to 90 feet in a lined capsule. Using natural gas heaters, Red Leaf heats the oil shale and extracts the oil. The depleted shale, an inert inorganic material classified as "non-hazardous" by the EPA, is thus contained in an impermeable shell. In other countries, spent shale has been used for cement manufacturing, construction materials and road base. Reclamation of the land occurs within weeks of completion of the extraction process. Red Leaf currently operates on School and Institutional Trust Lands for its demonstration project, but estimates it can move into limited commercial production within one year without access to federal land.

The Shell Oil Corporation has completed several research and demonstration projects within the Green River oil shale formation over more than 30 years. Shell utilizes a patented, in situ technology. Without mining the rock, Shell heats oil shale formations at depths of 1,000 feet to 650-700 degrees Fahrenheit for three to five years. Heating allows kerogen oil (2/3 of the volume) and gas (1/3) to be released from the shale and brought to the surface using traditional pumps. The process requires no open-pit or subsurface mining, avoids groundwater contamination and does not produce shale waste or other unwanted byproducts. Estimated oil yields using this technology in the kerogen-rich Green River formation are 1 million barrels per acre.

Political Landscape

A June 2008 Zogby poll found that 74% of American voters supported increased energy exploration. The federal government owns 80% of oil shale lands in the United States, the parcels with the richest kerogen deposits. Yet, despite the will of the American people to increase domestic energy supplies and take advantage of these vast resources, politicians have successfully thwarted these desires. Politics has trumped market forces and resource availability to actually decrease American-extracted oil supplies, especially under the new administration.

Championing environmental concerns ahead of economic and national security interests, politicians -- largely Democratic -- have advanced legislation that discourages new development, particularly in offshore areas and for unconventional sources, thereby increasing our dependency on foreign oil. Environmental groups have been allowed to sabotage government-issued leases for exploration. For example, in 2007, Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) added Section 526 to the Energy Independence and Security Act, a clause that banned the use of oil shale and other fossil fuel sources.

Previously, oil shale development seemed to be moving forward. Under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the Secretary of the Interior was directed to provide an environmental impact statement for a commercial oil shale leasing program on public lands. The Act authorized the acceleration of oil shale development in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming and set up a task force to study the fuel's potential. Following completion of the study, preparation of leasing regulations and the release of the environmental impact statement, six of 19 available leases were made available in November 2008. Bans on leases for oil shale research, development and demonstration projects were rescinded.

But, in February 2009, when Ken Salazar became Secretary of the Interior for the Obama administration, additional lease offers were withdrawn that would have made expansions of existing programs possible. Salazar also called for a reexamination of proposed royalty rates. Although he didn't cancel existing leases, Salazar's announcement appeared to signal that the pace of oil shale development in the United States would be slowed. A 90-day public comment period, followed by a four-month evaluation period prior to any new proposals for a second round of leasing arrangements is now in place.

The current, U.S. administration focus on renewable options, such as wind and solar -- which make up only 1% of current usage -- plus unproven alternatives, such as biomass, will lead to rising dependence on foreign oil and increased opportunity costs at home. Wind farms occupy thousands of acres to produce electricity at seven times the cost of an average, coal-fired plant. Solar cells take up several square miles of land to achieve a similar result. Both rely on unpredictable energy sources, the sun and the wind.

Similarly, an acre of corn yields only five barrels of corn ethanol with an energy yield of less than two-thirds of a gallon of oil. Cellulosic ethanol from grasses yields 800 barrels per acre which a seeming improvement until compared against the yield from oil shale of 100,000 to 1 million barrels per acre.

A report by U.S. Dept. of Energy's Office of Naval Petroleum and Oil Shale Reserves[4] suggest that the richness and magnitude of America's oil shale resources warrants management as a long-term strategic resource. However, long-term investments must have income flow to encourage investors and new capital. Economic incentives already exist in the free market that lend themselves to the development of resources like oil shale. Government should get out of the way and allow free enterprise to develop this ample resource so that America can achieve greater energy independence and not compromise our national security in the balance.

The cost of developing new technologies and sources needs to be weighed against the heavy cost of further reliance on imported oil. The "hidden cost" of defending oil supplies in the Persian Gulf alone is conservatively estimated at $305 billion annually.

Oil shale development would stimulate the economy with money that would otherwise be spent overseas. It would contribute to our national security and mean that the United States would not have to import hundreds of billions of barrels of oil from the Persian Gulf. With oil sands and oil shale resources , the combined U.S. and Canadian energy supplies would comprise the largest oil reserves in the world and make the United States independent of Persian Gulf oil.

[1] Oil and Gas Journal, July 14, v. 101.27.

[2] "Developing of Utah Oil Shale and Tar Sands Resources," Utah Mining Association, October 2008.

[3] "Development of America's Strategic Unconventional Fuels Resources," September 2006.

[4] "America' Oil Shale, A Roadmap for Federal Decision Making," December 2004

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