College for sale — rich conservative sought

If you’ve got a few million lying around, have I got a deal for you:

Antioch College, the little liberal Ohio school that has fallen on hard times, is for sale for $12.2 million, a spokeswoman said Sunday.

The 156-year-old private college — which counts civil rights activist Coretta Scott King, writer Rod Serling, actor Cliff Robertson and evolutionary scientist Stephen Jay Gould among its long list of notable graduates — was put up for sale after its parent organization, Antioch University, was unable to finalize an agreement with a group of alumni and former trustees that was interested in taking it over, the Dayton Daily News reported.

The negotiations with the alumni group ended Friday when university officials turned down its “best and final” offer to pay half of the $12.2 million over five years.

Antioch University spokeswoman Lynda Sirk said any potential buyer — including the alumni group — must provide full payment up front.

Without a sale, Antioch College plans to close June 30 and reopen in 2012 after reorganizing, university administrators have said.

The college, whose first president was Horace Mann, has about 200 students, down from about 2,000 in the 1970s. Antioch historically offered no class grades, encouraged students to develop their own study plans and incorporated off-campus learning experiences.

Perhaps last year, and perhaps in the Atlantic, or maybe City Journal, I read a long, sad article about the way in which Antioch went from being a respected liberal arts college to becoming a hippie dippy joke, with a drugged out student population.  Wouldn’t it be lovely if the place could be turned into another Hillsdale or other quality classic liberal arts college?

Hat tip:  R”G”N

The seeds of hatred

The accepted wisdom is that the intense hatred the Palestinians feel for Jews is a direct result of Jewish annexation of the West Bank and Gaza after the 1967 War. Of course, as with most propaganda, this is false. Aside from conveniently ignoring the 1956 and 1948 Wars, not to mention the Koran itself, this view ignores the fact that it was a Nazi/Arab alliance that helped fuel the virulence of modern Arab antisemitism. Indeed, it was this alliance, as much as the oil in Arab lands, that caused the British, who had been fairly philosemitic since Cromwell’s days because of their commitment to the Old Testament, to swing around and become extremely hostile to the movement for a Jewish state. (As to the long-dead philosemitism, I highly recommend Barbara Tuchman’s Bible and Sword: England and Palestine from the Bronze Age to Balfour .)

Mike Devx was kind enough to send me to a great video illustrating the tight ties the Nazis forged with the Arabs as part of their assault on British interests in the Middle East (for British interests, read “oil” and if you’re really interested in how the need to control oil was a driving force in WWII, read Daniel Yergin’s exellent The Prize : The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power.)

More on un-freedom of speech *UPDATE*

Do you recall that, on the day I posted the Fitna video, I wrote the following?

LiveLeak explains why it is showing this video, despite the fact that some at LiveLeak strongly disagree with its content. I note two things. First, LiveLeak understands free speech. Second, the LifeLeak discussion about its decision to show the video is based upon disagreeing with the content, not upon fearing the dangerous results of publishing such content. I find that interesting. Even though this type of speech, in Europe, sparked dangerous riots and enormous numbers of death threats, that’s simply not a concern LiveLeak voices. Is this the difference between America and Europe, or are the LifeLeak people just exceptionally brave?

Well, it turns out that, while they spoke in terms of free speech, the threats have begun and free speech has already gone out the window:

Following threats to our staff of a very serious nature, and some ill informed reports from certain corners of the British media that could directly lead to the harm of some of our staff, has been left with no other choice but to remove Fitna from our servers. This is a sad day for freedom of speech on the net but we have to place the safety and well being of our staff above all else. We would like to thank the thousands of people, from all backgrounds and religions, who gave us their support. They realised is a vehicle for many opinions and not just for the support of one. Perhaps there is still hope that this situation may produce a discussion that could benefit and educate all of us as to how we can accept one anothers culture.

We stood for what we believe in, the ability to be heard, but in the end the price was too high. (Emphasis mine.)

And there you see the victory of the violent, and the dhimmitude of the rest of us.

You can still see the video here. Keep in mind as you watch it that the Islamists are stopping a presentation of their own words and acts. Fortunately, the nature of the internet is that, no matter the threats, once information is out there, it’s hard to stop.

UPDATE: Hurrah! LiveLeak has upgraded its security and restored Fitna. I applaud their principled bravery:

On the 28th of March was left with no other choice but to remove the film “fitna” from our servers following serious threats to our staff and their families. Since that time we have worked constantly on upgrading all security measures thus offering better protection for our staff and families. With these measures in place we have decided to once more make this video live on our site. We will not be pressured into censoring material which is legal and within our rules. We apologise for the removal and the delay in getting it back, but when you run a website you don’t consider that some people would be insecure enough to threaten our lives simply because they do not like the content of a video we neither produced nor endorsed but merely hosted.

Incidentally, when it first ran Fitna, LiveLeak noted that some on its staff disgreed with its contents, but agreed to free speech (good for them).  I wonder if those same people, having been on the receiving end of the behavior described in the video, have changed their point of view about Fitna‘s merits?


Homebody:  a person who prefers pleasures and activities that center around the home; stay-at-home.

I’m back, and so glad too.  It was a very pleasant weekend up in what my kids still call “the snowy mountains,” but I’m a homebody and I’m so glad to be home.  I’m getting the kids packed up for school now, and I have some household chores to do (including buying a new car), but I’ll be blogging today.

Blog free day . . . sigh

I love blogging.  So, on days like this when I’m hitting the road for an out-of-town weekend, I feel somewhat bereft that I won’t get the chance to sit down and opine to my heart’s content.  But that’s the way it’s got to be.

Whether I blog over Saturday and Sunday depends on internet access, which is an unknown right now.  In any event, over the weekend, you guys will all be out having fun, so you’re not going to be checking in much regardless, right?

And the winners are….

Watcher’s results are in, and this time I’m on top of things.

On the Council side, first place went to Done With Mirrors for the best post I’ve seen about the media’s “Grim Milestone” watch:  Get Your Grim Milestone Today?  Second place was for my post, “What Would You Do?,” which asked what you would do if you were an African-American and if everything Wright said about America as relates to blacks was actually true (because most people challenged his perception of the truth).  And do you think it’s a coincidence that the two winning posts have questions in their title?  Just asking.

On the non-Council side, first place went to Michael Yon’s “Stake Through Their Hearts,” another stunningly good post about Iraq.  Clearly, Yon is doing the war reporting so that the MSM won’t have to (especially since it’s decided to stop reporting on the war now that the US is not manifestly losing).  Second place was for the Investigative Project on Terrorism’s “CAIR exposed:  Part I,” an article with a self-explanatory title, and one that deserves to be read (again, because the MSM is not doing its job).

Once a Marine

I loved this short, but true, story:

A teenager learned it is not a good idea to try to rob a former U.S. Marine at knifepoint, no matter how old he is.

Santa Rosa police Sgt. Steve Bair said an 84-year-old man was walking on Fourth Street with a grocery bag in each arm when the boy approached him with a large knife at about 2 p.m. Wednesday.

“Old man, give me your wallet or I’ll cut you,” the boy said.

The man said he was a former Marine who fought in three wars and had been threatened with knives and bayonets before.

The 84-year-old put his bags on the ground and told the boy that if he stepped closer he would be sorry. When the boy stepped closer, the man kicked him in the groin, knocking the youth to the sidewalk.

The ex-Marine picked up his grocery bags and walked home, leaving the teen doubled over.

Can’t you just see it in your mind — some weeny little punk approaching an apparently frail little old man, only to be completely destroyed?

Fitna is here *UPDATED*

Geert Wilders’ 15 minute film about Islam is available now. While the Dutch government is afraid to show it, bloggers are not.

Those who are anti-American, those who hate Israel, those who are completely invested in multiculturalism, try to downplay the conservatives’ concern about Muslim violence by analogizing conservatives to the Nazis, who scapegoated the Jews. That is, just as the Nazis dealt with their internal failures by dehumanizing the Jews, so too are we “making up” things about Muslims to remove the focus from our Western/Zionist depredations around the world.What these blind monkeys miss is that the Nazis could demonize the Jews only by pointing to nebulous conspiracies, utterly unrelated to Jewish words and deeds. Here, as the video dramatically demonstrates the Islamists loudly and proudly convict themselves out of their own mouths. They pray publicly and repeatedly for our death and destruction, they boast that they will be the vehicle of that prayed for end, and they put their prayers into words by tens of thousands of acts of violence around the world. We don’t need to demonize them; they do it themselves.

Please publicize this video as much as you can. It needs to be seen, if only to put the lie to those we accuse concerned Westerners of “making things up.”

UPDATE: LiveLeak explains why it is showing this video, despite the fact that some at LiveLeak strongly disagree with its content. I note two things. First, LiveLeak understands free speech. Second, the LifeLeak discussion about its decision to show the video is based upon disagreeing with the content, not upon fearing the dangerous results of publishing such content.  I find that interesting. Even though this type of speech, in Europe, sparked dangerous riots and enormous numbers of death threats, that’s simply not a concern LiveLeak voices. Is this the difference between America and Europe, or are the LifeLeak people just exceptionally brave?

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury update

Bangladesh, having done the wrong thing when it arrested Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury and threatened him with death for having the temerity to suggest that Israel ought to be allowed to live in peace and for pointing out the Islamist threat in Bangladesh, is now trying to prove that, if two wrongs don’t make a right, at least they should manage to silence dissent:

On March 18, more than a dozen members of the government’s Rapid Action Battalion stormed Mr. Choudhury’s newspaper offices in Dhaka at gunpoint. After “discovering” illegal drugs in Mr. Choudhury’s desk drawer, the RAB blindfolded Mr. Choudhury and a colleague and carted them to headquarters. There, Mr. Choudhury tells us, his interrogators accused him of being a “Zionist spy” and beat his colleague, Mahboob Ar Rahman, a 57-year-old man who had to seek medical treatment. The pair were released after midnight.

The Bangladeshi thugs, however, seem to have chosen the wrong man to threaten:

The world can’t afford for Bangladesh’s transition to democracy to fail, and Mr. Choudhury’s case is one test of the government’s commitment to keeping the influence of Islamists in check. Mr. Choudhury, for his part, is undeterred. When we spoke to him yesterday he was preparing to publish the newspaper’s next issue. For his country’s sake, he should be allowed to do so unmolested. (Emphasis mine.)

I am awed by Mr. Choudhury’s integrity and bravery. When I see the ridiculous posturing on the American Left, with its street theater and it’s whining about “speaking truth to power,” I wonder how many of them even know of Mr. Choudhury’s plight. Even worse, even if they knew, I wonder if they would care.

And speaking of those on the Left who don’t care, let me remind you that of Congress people on both sides of the aisle, the only one who didn’t care was the smooth talking Barack Obama, the most liberal member of Congress.

Reality check for the economic equivalence argument

In today’s Guardian, there is a glowing review of Ron Paul, particularly with regard to Paul’s stance on American support for Israel:

If that weren’t enough, when the House of Representatives was recently passing another denunciation of Palestinian violence, Paul refused to support it. He abhorred all attacks on civilians, he said – but on Palestinians by Israelis as much as on Israelis by Palestinians.

“It is our continued involvement and intervention – particularly when it appears to be one-sided – that reduces the incentive for opposing sides to reach a lasting peace agreement,” he said. “We must cease making proclamations involving conflicts that have nothing to do with the United States. We incur the wrath of those who feel slighted while doing very little to slow or stop the violence.” It says something about US politics today that words as sane and humane as those come from an “extremist”.

No doubt this excellent man’s bid for the Republican nomination was by way of being a romantic gesture. But what about Ron Paul for secretary of state?

Frankly, I’ve considered Paul such a crackpot in so many ways that I never seriously considered the idiocy in this statement, now embraced by Geoffrey Wheatley, a Guardian columnist (or something).

It’s that bit about “our continued involvement and intervention — particularly when it appears to be one-sided…” that got me. I did some digging. According to one site, US aid to Israel in 2006 broke down to about $2.4 billion dollars.  I’ll accept that as true.

But is that really one sided? How about if we look at US aid to Israeli’s opponents, the Palestinians. And, if we’re counting outside help from other parties, how about aid from the rest of the world, including the UN, to the Palestinians. Here’s the aid information for 2006, when there was an ostensible embargo on Palestinian aid after Palestinians elected a government that boasted about its intention to destroy a UN member and commit genocide against its people (that would be Hamas):

Despite the international embargo on aid to the Palestinian Authority since Hamas came to power a year ago, significantly more aid was delivered to the Palestinians in 2006 than in 2005, according to official figures from the United Nations, United States, European Union and International Monetary Fund.

Finance Minister Salam Fayyad estimates that the Palestinian Authority received more than twice the amount of budget support in 2006 than in 2005.

Instead of going to the Palestinian Authority, much of the money was given directly to individuals or through independent agencies like the World Food Program.

The International Monetary Fund and the United Nations say the Palestinians received $1.2 billion in aid and budgetary support in 2006, about $300 per capita, compared with $1 billion in 2005.

While the United States and the European Union have led the boycott, they, too, provided more aid to the Palestinians in 2006 than 2005. Washington increased its aid to $468 million in 2006, from $400 million in 2005.

As for European giving in 2006:

In 2006, Ms. Udwin said, the European Union and its states spent $916 million on the Palestinians, not including United Nations contributions.

Even UN employees note the overwhelming outpouring of world money into Palestinian hands, as well as the deleterious effects of that money:

In 2007, the United Nations began a humanitarian appeal for the Palestinians of more than $450 million, twice the 2006 appeal, the third largest United Nations request, after Sudan and Congo, ahead of 18 other disasters.

“These numbers are quite stunning,” said Alexander Costy, head of coordination for Álvaro de Soto, the United Nations special Middle East envoy, “given the relatively small size of the population of the Palestinian territory.”

He added: “What we do know for sure is that Palestinians, and their economy and society, are becoming increasingly dependent on humanitarian handouts, and this dependency is growing fast. For a state in the making, I think this was a step backwards in 2006 and a cause for alarm.”

What’s amazing is that even the above, from the International Monetary Fund, from the UN, from the Americans, and from the Europeans, is not all that the Palestinians received during an embargo year:

But Salam Fayyad, the finance minister in the new Palestinian unity government, thinks the Palestinians received at least 250 percent more than that in direct support when cash from Iran and Arab nations is counted, as well as the amount smuggled in by Hamas officials after trips abroad.

“I say the minimum for direct budgetary support was $880 million in 2006 compared to about $350 million the year before,” Mr. Fayyad said. He estimates total aid in 2006 was closer to $1.35 billion.

Please keep in mind a few things:  (a) this was money during an alleged embargo on money and (b) most of this money goes directly into the hands of the terrorists, either as graft with which they enrich themselves (remember Arafat’s $10 billion estate) or to fund weapons.  Further the story above just looks at cash handouts.  It doesn’t calculate the massive amounts of military aid sent to Palestinians from Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt.

The above report also doesn’t take into consideration the fact that Palestine’s have created for themselves just one enemy — Israel, which is a reactive enemy only, in that it simply seeks to take out weapons aimed at it, and terrorists handling those weapons.  Israel, on the other hand, faces active hostility from Lebanon, Syria, the Palestinians, and Iran.  (And let’s not forget that Hussein funded terrorism against Israel when he was alive and operating.)

All of which means that it’s nonsensical for Paul and his followers to pretend that America has been giving Israel an unfair advantage by giving her money.  America has, instead, been giving Israel a clearer path to a level playing field.  If Paul and his fellow-travelers truly wants funding in that region to stop, before they pull the plug on Israel, they’d better be damned sure to pull the plug on all funds flowing to the Palestinians as well — and they should stop funding nations that fund the Palestinians, such as Egypt.

I’m sure Israel would love to see the cash flow to Palestinians stop, because the latter might then be forced to turn their energies to creating an economy, instead of just to creating ever increasing numbers of zombies, trained only to kill.  Indeed, I’m willing to be that if the world promised to stop funding Palestinians, Israel might be happy, in exchange, to subsist on its own thriving economy.

A scathing indictment of modern liberalism

Writing at the American Thinker, J.R. Dunn has a scathing indictment of modern liberalism, starting with the 1968 Democratic convention. I think the whole article is worth reading, especially the bit about the Clinton-esque corruption of Governors Spitzer, McCreevy and Paterson, but I was especially taken with this run-down, which describes the liberalism in which I grew up believing, until even I figured out it was an elaborate shell game:

The Democrats’ 1968 Chicago convention marked the end of classical liberalism. Media coverage revealed American liberals as incapable of controlling their own constituency, much less directing a country. As delegates cowered within the convention center, Movement rioters ran wild throughout the downtown area, fighting knock-down, drag-out battles with the police. Not a single liberal figure made any serious attempt to confront, control, or even communicate with the rioters. Little more than a decade after declaring itself the “American civic creed”, liberalism was on the ropes.
Instead of joining the Whigs and Know-Nothings in historical oblivion, liberalism surrendered to its internal rebels, the Democratic Party’s left wing, indistinguishable in beliefs and intent from any hardcore socialist party on the international scene. In 1972, they ran one of their own, George McGovern who in 1948 had served as delegate for communist front-man Henry Wallace) for the presidency.

McGovern’s defeat at the hands of Richard M. Nixon represented no real setback for the new ideology. American leftists commenced their “Long march through the institutions” using techniques developed by Marxist theoretician Antonio Gramsci to take over the media, academia, and much of the bureaucracy. Political liberalism, due in large part to its control over massive urban machines, many of then going back to the days of Tammany, continued as a kind of husk animated by the new leftist persona. But liberalism in the classic sense existed only in the minds of the naive, the ill-informed, and terminally nostalgic.
Followers of the mutant ideology were in no way open with their agenda. Instead they operated under the cover of two pretenses — superior governance and high morality. Liberals presented themselves as technocrats with a clearer understanding of policy and governance than the opposition. Pragmatism was their creed, results their only criteria. Utilizing the old gimmicks of constituent services and favors and the new ones of planning and centralization, liberalism was able to maintain its dominance in backward and desperate areas of the country such as the Northeast and Upper Midwest.
The claim to higher morality was more inchoate, a kind of luminous abstraction beyond the grasp of money-grubbing Republicans, clearly understandable only by liberals themselves. Liberals claimed a monopoly on compassion, decency, and social justice (as defined by themselves), posing as the sole defenders of civic virtue against a horde of backwoodsmen, racists, and religious fanatics.
This elaborate double imposture served to keep liberalism alive for over three decades in the absence of ideas, doctrine, and serious accomplishments. But 2008 has brought the charade to an end. Events this year have exposed, once and for all, in a way that cannot be denied, elided, or spun, Democratic liberals as the party of abject incompetence and institutionalized corruption.

To me, the above is a good example of good writing and good thinking.  You can read the rest here and see how neatly Obama and Clinton fit into the modern liberal package.

I believe them, but….

Here’s the story:

Saddam Hussein’s intelligence agency secretly financed a trip to Iraq for three U.S. lawmakers during the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

The three anti-war Democrats made the trip in October 2002, while the Bush administration was trying to persuade Congress to authorize military action against Iraq. While traveling, they called for a diplomatic solution.

Prosecutors say that trip was arranged by Muthanna Al-Hanooti, a Michigan charity official, who was charged Wednesday with setting up the junket at the behest of Saddam’s regime. Iraqi intelligence officials allegedly paid for the trip through an intermediary and rewarded Al-Hanooti with 2 million barrels of Iraqi oil.

The lawmakers are not named in the indictment but the dates correspond to a trip by Democratic Reps. Jim McDermott of Washington, David Bonior of Michigan and Mike Thompson of California. None was charged and Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said investigators “have no information whatsoever” any of them knew the trip was underwritten by Saddam.

“Obviously, we didn’t know it at the time,” McDermott spokesman Michael DeCesare said Wednesday. “The trip was to see the plight of the Iraqi children. That’s the only reason we went.”

Both McDermott and Thompson are popular among liberal voters in their reliably Democratic districts for their anti-war views. Bonior is no longer in Congress.

Thompson released a statement Wednesday saying the trip was approved by the State Department.

“Obviously, had there been any question at all regarding the sponsor of the trip or the funding, I would not have participated,” he said.

During the trip, the lawmakers expressed skepticism about the Bush administration’s claims that Saddam was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. Though such weapons ultimately were never found, the lawmakers drew criticism for their trip at the time.

I actually believe Thompson and McDermott when they say that they didn’t know that Saddam was the direct backer of their trip.  Given the run-up to the war, I don’t think even anti-War Dems would have been foolish enough to take money from Saddam and go on an official Iraqi sponsored trip.  At the very least, they’d have known that to have done so would have cast doubts on any findings they made, just as no one believes reports that come back from official visitors to North Korea.

What makes the story interesting isn’t that three Congressmen got snookered.  What makes it interesting is that Saddam Hussein was using local affiliates to affect the American political process.  Only the most naive would believe that this was a unique incident, or that Saddam Hussein was/is the only one doing it.  The covert aspects of this story are disturbing, and have a distinct Cold War odor in the middle of the hot war that’s currently preoccupying us.  As those of us who lived through the Cold War know, disinformation is as potent a weapon as a bomb, and the ease with which Hussein manipulated American politicians is disturbing.

Server problems

Hey, everyone!  Welcome back and thank you for your patience yesterday.  The server that hosts my web has been dying slowly, and yesterday was a bad day.  A new server is going into effect over the next two weeks (these things take time), but the transition should be fairly seamless.  If you try to log in and can’t find me, just wait a few minutes and try again.

As for me, the irony of yesterday’s outage was that I was going to put post up a post yesterday saying that I wasn’t going to post.  A cold that’s been dogging me the last 3 weeks suddenly got worse yesterday, so I hied myself off to the doctor and learned that it’s probably morphed into a sinus infection.  I’m on antibiotics now and am hoping I’ll feel better soon.  I certainly feel better today than I did yesterday, since he got me on a better cough medicine and decongestant.

Anyway, check this space in an hour or two, because I definitely feel like blogging today.

The myth of the “Cycle of Violence”

In the Leftist world of moral equivalence, there is no right or wrong, there are just cycles, with everything being a meaningless tit-for-tat.  In this world, you simply assign blame, not by conduct and intent, but by Leftist assigned “level of oppression.”  HonestReporting has a good little video exposing the dishonesty behind this world view.

The Messiah-Shtick

I wrote it for American Thinker, where you can read it, or you can read it here:

Messiah:  “One who is anticipated as, regarded as, or professes to be a savior or liberator.”  American Heritage Dictionary
Schtick: “Yiddish slang meaning “gimmick” that has come to mean “someone’s signature behavior.”

He presents as a fairly nice-looking guy with a slightly dorky quality (I think it’s the Bing Crosby ears); who is a smooth, albeit soporific, speaker; who boasts an Ivy League background sullied by the suspicion that he benefited as much from affirmative action as from his own virtues; and who demonstrates a sound grasp of shady Chicago style politics, including, during a remarkably short and generally undistinguished career, some pretty vicious and opportunistic conduct.  I am talking, of course, about Barack Obama, a man who has shot from relative obscurity to the forefront of American politics.

To those who worship at his shrine, though, there is nothing ordinary about him.  To them, he is the embodiment of all virtues.  If you are doodling around with Google and type in the phrase “Obama articulate,” you’ll get about 277,000 results.  It’s even more fun to type in “Obama handsome.”  Then you get about 330,000 results.
That’s just word play, though.  The real fawning comes in the way people describe their emotional reactions to this former unknown from Illinois.  Take the example of Chris Matthews, an MSNBC talking head whom one might naively credit with a little bit of professional objectivity.  After hearing one of Obama’s speeches, Matthews giddily said “My, I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean, I don’t have that too often.”  One is afraid to ask what other experiences have occasioned Matthews’ exciting little leg vibration.
And then there’s the fainting:  At speech after speech, it seems, ladies swoon merely from being in his presence.  There hasn’t been this orgy of public fainting since Frank Sinatra or, perhaps, the Beatles.  The fact that this whole thing may be the work of one or two determined fans, doesn’t seem to affect some people’s belief that it is right and appropriate that women are literally knocked flat on their butts by his aura.
One might dismiss all of this as the ravings of a celebrity culture, trained to become hysterical in the presence of fame, were it not for the vaguely religious note that keeps appearing when political commentators start writing about him.  Andrew Sullivan, a devout Obama supporter, after admitting that Obama has little going for him in terms of such practical matters as experience or knowledge, nevertheless describes the meaning of his candidacy in shamanistic tones.
Sullivan notes that timing is everything, with Obama coming along at a time when people are sick and tired of the old Baby Boomer politics and weary of the culture wars.  It is in this context, says Sullivan, that “Obama’s candidacy in this sense is a potentially transformational one.”  In other words, despite his admittedly tired old Leftist politics, Obama, just by being himself, will miraculously bind us all together.
Sullivan is not alone.  Last week, when Bill Richardson ditched his former pal Hillary to endorse Obama, he used almost precisely the same idea to describe Obama’s candidacy.  Richardson stepped to the podium and boldly announced that Obama is

“the kind of once-in-a-lifetime leader that can bring our nation together and restore America’s moral leadership in the world.”

Richardson’s stated reason for believing Obama holds this power lies, not in what Obama has done (which is pretty much nothing), but in the fact, says Richardson, that he is a “new generation” who “touched” Richardson with his speech on race.  (More on that speech later.)   I assume that, for the average Obama groupie, those two concepts sound like good reasons to elect a political neophyte as President during a time of war and economic uncertainty.  It’s the “Wow!” factor.
This kind of soft, worshipful rhetoric is typical for those endorsing Obama.  Deprived of a candidate who has actual done anything or even stood for anything, they fall back on emotion-laden platitudes that place Obama on a level above that of ordinary mortals.  Already a year ago David Ehrenstein was assuring all of us that Obama can be seen as the “magic negro,” capable of functioning as a benign black figure who will make whites feel good about themselves.
Given how rich white liberals have flocked to Obama’s banner, it’s clear that Ehrenstein was on to something there.  It’s too bad that Obama’s benignity was shot to pieces with the revelation that his “spiritual mentor,” long-term pastor and political advisor, Jeremiah Wright, was a racist crackpot, whom Obama revered, ignored or tolerated, depending on which version of the truth Obama feels like spreading around on any given day.
Even the iconography surrounding Barack Obama has a different feel from that typical for a political campaign.  In recent years, the usual political poster simply has the candidate’s name in patriotic colors, as well as some nice adjectives testifying to his leadership abilities and experience.  Here’s a good example:

Sometimes the campaign posters have the candidate’s picture, which is invariably a color photograph of the candidate looking either firm or friendly.  This is an example from the Clinton campaign, with Clinton valiantly smiling past her ice maiden reputation:
Hillary Button

Things are a bit different when it comes to the Obama material.  The Obama Online store, which is an official arm of the Obama campaign, tagged Shepard Fairey to create a limited edition poster for the Obama presidential campaign.  This poster transcends the usual sign aimed at allowing supporters to make their feelings known, while ensuring that the general public gets a surfeit of the candidates’ names and faces.  Here, look:
Change Obama

As you see, Obama is no longer an ordinary mortal.  Instead, he has been elevated to a symbolic level, where his name is unnecessary (we all know it, don’t we?), his goal is unmentioned (I think he’s above petty politics), and his qualifications are irrelevant (good thing, too, since he doesn’t have any).  Instead, all that’s left is his almost superhuman visage, which is allied with one magical word:  “change.”  The political poster has been transformed from advertisement to iconography.
For many months now, I’ve been inclined to slough all of this messiah-shtick stuff off, attributing it to those liberal fans who operate from a strong emotional base that manages to side step reason.  Reason, of course, would point out that his politics are indistinguishable from other ultra liberal Democrats and his experience minimal.  As Geraldine Ferraro was tacky enough to point out — how un-Democratic of her — the only pragmatic advantage he has over other like-minded candidates is his skin color.
Obama’s recent race speech, however, indicates that Obama is beginning to believe his own publicity.  As everyone now knows, Obama opened by speaking accurately, and movingly, about the way in America’s promised freedom was compromised from its inception by the taint of slavery, a taint that he sees as unrelieved by the hundreds of thousands of lives lost in the Civil War, the remarkable courage of the Civil Rights movement, and the mass re-education of American attitudes in the 40 plus years since the Civil Rights movement.  The Wright experience, of course, has shown us that Obama is not alone in this jaundiced view of America’s progress regarding race.
What makes Obama different from other African Americans, who do not find any cause for celebration in America’s racial progress, is the way in which he sees himself as a necessary fulfillment of the Civil Rights movement.  Thus, immediately after referring with great brevity to both the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement, Obama put his own candidacy front and center:

“This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign — to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together — unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction — towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.”

In other words, it is Obama himself who will bring to fruition Martin Luther King’s dream of a post-racial America.  To this end, Obama is not advancing himself as one who should be President because he’s the best man for the job, but as one who should become President because he, personally, by being some racial fulfillment incarnate, will save us from the last remaining “stains” that the Founders created.
Nor is this concept merely inept phrasing on Obama’s part (perish the thought), or hypercritical reading on my part.  Obama made precisely the same point a second time in his speech.  After establishing his racial bona fides by describing his mixed ancestry,* he again presented himself as the living embodiment of racial healing:

“Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.”

Thus, even as Obama said that it is a mistake to view his candidacy “through a purely racial lens,” he boasted that it was he who bound together the races.  This is also a “racial lens,” although a unifying one, not the divisive one the Wright shouted from his pulpit.
What is apparent is that, through these pronouncements about the transcendent meaning of his candidacy, Obama accepts Andrew Sullivan’s hagiographic conclusion that his candidacy is a “transformational one,” not because of what he brings to the table, but simply because of who he is.  He is the racial messiah, one who, simply by being, will save America from the stain on her soul.
It is, in its own way, a charming conceit.  Unfortunately, though, Obama’s presidency won’t end the moment he is sworn in, with an orgy of racial healing, followed by a fade-out to a glorious sunset.  Instead, as he’s made plain time and time again, including in his speech on race, once the orgasmic feeling of having elected “the One” passes away, Americans will awake to discover that, in fact, they have bedded down with the same old, same old.  This is messianic politics only if ones idea of salvation is the usual Democratic fare of big government, big taxes, and big denial when it comes to the realities of World War IV.
* Incidentally, one of the most pernicious legacies of slavery is the fact that most African-Americans are, in fact, of mixed race – a genetic reality that forced racist Americans to create the horrific “one drop rule” to distinguish themselves from their brothers and sisters of color.)

Let’s just examine one more thing

Much is being made of the fact that Michelle and Barack Obama, when they were earning a mere quarter million after tax dollars per year, were exceptionally stingy with their charitable donations. (See here and here, for example.) If that is the whole story of their charitable contributions, that’s pretty stingy and does not reflect well on them.

Before I jump on this bandwagon, though, I’d be interested to see if, during that period in their lives, they give of their time. That’s my way of giving. I like to hang on to my money (having inherited my parents’ fear of a penniless old age), but I’m pretty generous with my time. In the last few years, I’ve probably donated an average of 100 hours per year of my time to non-profit and not-for-profit groups in which I’m interested, which really isn’t chump change when one considers the other demands made on my time.

So, while my charitable cash outflow is low (although not non-existent), my charitable contributions are nevertheless still meaningful. I’d be interested to learn what charitable work the Obamas did when they were hanging onto their money.

Visiting the poor

Let’s just ignore the other problems

I grew up spending a large part of my life at Lake Tahoe. At that time, Tahoe was a brilliant blue and crystal clear. More than a decade ago, after a long hiatus, I returned to Tahoe. I was overwhelmed by the crowds, by the wall to wall houses, by the big green lawns everywhere (it is, after all, a high desert), and by the fact that the lake was swampy. When I visited a favorite lakeside beach from my childhood, I was shocked that the water was brown and had massive amounts of algae floating through it. The general consensus amongst Lake residents was the the problem stemmed from the vastly increased population and the lawns — the nitrogen in peoples’ fertilizer was flowing into the lake and providing a perfect breeding ground for algae.

I was therefore quite surprised to read that my perceptions were and are all wrong. According to scientists and the news there is no problem now — the lake is crystal clear, according to the following article — but that there will be a future problem from (you can all say it with me here) global warming:

A new study predicts water circulation in Lake Tahoe is being dramatically altered by global warming, threatening the lake’s delicate ecosystem and famed clear waters.

The University of California, Davis study said one likely consequence is warmer lake temperatures that will mean fewer cold-water native fish and more invasive species — like carp, large-mouth bass and bluegill.

“What we expect is that deep mixing of Lake Tahoe’s water layers will become less frequent, even nonexistent, depleting the bottom waters of oxygen,” said Geoffrey Schladow, director of the Tahoe Environmental Research Center at U.S. Davis.

Schladow, Associate Director John Reuter and postdoctoral researcher Goloka Sahoo presented the findings last week in Incline Village at a conference focusing on global warming and deep-water lakes.

The changes, the study concluded, could turn Tahoe’s famed cobalt-blue waters to a murky green in about a decade.

As I read this article, it is pretending that the problems of overpopulation, over-fertilization and excessive water use in a high desert don’t exist, and haven’t had any effect at all on the Lake for the past three decades. In their world, all problems start as of today, and all of them trace themselves to global warming.

I’ll be the first to admit that Lake Tahoe has a problem, but for those serious about preserving Tahoe’s clear, beautiful blue, the best and first line of attack would probably be lawns and fertilizers. Of course, given the Lake’s declining condition in the past 15 years or so, before global warming was more than a twinkle in Al Bore’s eye, it may be too late anyway.

A most amazing man

I read two articles today that dovetail beautifully, by showing words spewing meaninglessly into the ether and by showing words used bravely to make big changes.

As for the meaningless spew into the ether that is, of course, Barack Obama, he of the sonorous (or, to my mind, soporific) voice, the big, meaningless ideas, and the completely absence of action, if you don’t count advancing his own political career. Here is Dean Barnett:

IN HIS MANY MONTHS on the campaign trail, Barack Obama has distinguished himself as the finest orator in recent political memory. With such skills in this area, it’s little wonder that Obama and his campaign have put talking on a pedestal. When Obama talks, he does great. Even his detractors can’t deny it.

But there’s a stark disconnect between the talking Obama and Obama the man of action. Or rather Obama the man of inaction. It says something rather profound about Obama that his most noteworthy campaign-related act to date has been to sit passively in a church pew for 20 years worth of Sundays.

As Jonathan V. Last has noted in these pages, there’s a hollowness to Obama’s rhetoric. When Obama delivered his famous (and effective) “just words” rejoinder to Hillary Clinton’s barbs, the speech inadvertently revealed the emptiness of Obama’s rhetoric. “All men are created equal” was indeed more than just words. It was more than “just words” because the men who signed the document that made that claim risked their lives to prove it. They backed their words up with war. In short, their accompanying actions are what made the phrase immortal. If the phrase had emanated from some effete intellectuals in a Boston drawing room who went back to being effete intellectuals after delivering their proclamation, guys like Barack Obama wouldn’t be quoting them today.

The question with Obama remains exactly what actions he’ll take to give real meaning to his fine speeches. Interestingly, it’s not just Obama’s right
wing critics who have complained about the emptiness of his rhetoric. Until the left finally circled its angry wagons around Obama over the last few weeks, you could find prominent left-wing bloggers complaining about Obama’s failure to embrace progressive plans on an almost daily basis.

The distillation of Barnett’s intelligent argument is simple: Obama is all talk and no action.

Now let’s head to Egypt, of all places, for someone who regularly takes his life in his hands to speak words that have a profound effect on his audience:

Though he is little known in the West, Coptic priest Zakaria Botros — named Islam’s “Public Enemy #1” by the Arabic newspaper, al-Insan al-Jadid — has been making waves in the Islamic world. Along with fellow missionaries — mostly Muslim converts — he appears frequently on the Arabic channel al-Hayat (i.e., “Life TV”). There, he addresses controversial topics of theological significance — free from the censorship imposed by Islamic authorities or self-imposed through fear of the zealous mobs who fulminated against the infamous cartoons of Mohammed. Botros’s excurses on little-known but embarrassing aspects of Islamic law and tradition have become a thorn in the side of Islamic leaders throughout the Middle East.


The result? Mass conversions to Christianity — if clandestine ones. The very public conversion of high-profile Italian journalist Magdi Allam — who was baptized by Pope Benedict in Rome on Saturday — is only the tip of the iceberg. Indeed, Islamic cleric Ahmad al-Qatani stated on al-Jazeera TV a while back that some six million Muslims convert to Christianity annually, many of them persuaded by Botros’s public ministry. More recently, al-Jazeera noted Life TV’s “unprecedented evangelical raid” on the Muslim world.

Father Botros uses what amounts to a Socratic technique to expose to viewers the weird and dangerous outcomes that come from both the Koran and interpretations of the Koran. A lovely example is the weird fatwa that had women breastfeeding strange men:

Botros spent three years bringing to broad public attention a scandalous — and authentic — hadith stating that women should “breastfeed” strange men with whom they must spend any amount of time. A leading hadith scholar, Abd al-Muhdi, was confronted with this issue on the live talk show of popular Arabic host Hala Sirhan. Opting to be truthful, al-Muhdi confirmed that going through the motions of breastfeeding adult males is, according to sharia, a legitimate way of making married women “forbidden” to the men with whom they are forced into contact — the logic being that, by being “breastfed,” the men become like “sons” to the women and therefore can no longer have sexual designs on them.

To make matters worse, Ezzat Atiyya, head of the Hadith department at al-Azhar University — Sunni Islam’s most authoritative institution — went so far as to issue a fatwa legitimatizing “Rida’ al-Kibir” (sharia’s term for “breastfeeding the adult”), which prompted such outrage in the Islamic world that it was subsequently recanted.

You can go here for more about what happens when the marketplace of ideas crashes headlong into Islamic ideology.  What I wish I could say to the Islamists is that, if you can defend yourself in the marketplace of ideas — something that may require reconsidering certain doctrines you’ve hitherto regarded as inviolate, you may find that your religion gains converts or keeps adherents, not because of a threat by the sword, but because of appeals to the heart and mind.  Certainly Father Botros is showing this to be true for reasoned challenges to Islam coupled  with equally reasoned supports for Christianity.

Crazy teachers at home and abroad

This morning we read about the Minneapolis high school that turned away the Vets for Freedom bus. It turns out that this attitude, in its most extreme form, is epidemic in England:

Teachers today vowed to oppose military recruitment campaigns in schools that are based on Ministry of Defence “propaganda”.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) voted to back any school staff who want to boycott Armed Forces recruitment campaigns.

Delegates at the union’s annual conference in Manchester lined up to condemn the tactics of the MoD in targeting teenagers with “misleading” information that they said glamorises war.

The union backed a motion committing the NUT to “support teachers and schools in opposing Ministry of Defence recruitment activities that are based upon misleading propaganda”.

Paul McGarr, a delegate from east London, told the conference: “Personally I find it difficult to imagine any recruitment material that is not misleading.”

He said: “Let’s just try and imagine what that recruitment material would have to say were it not to be misleading.

“We would have material from the MoD saying ‘Join the Army and we will send you to carry out the imperialist occupation of other people’s countries.

“‘Join the Army and we will send you to bomb, shoot and possibly torture fellow human beings in other countries.

“‘Join the Army and be sent, probably poorly equipped, into situations where people try and shoot you and kill you because you are occupying their countries.

“‘Join the Army and if you survive and come home, possibly injured and mentally damaged by the experience, you and your family will be shabbily treated.’

“When I see the MoD putting out recruitment material saying that, then maybe I won’t have a problem with using it in school.

“Until then, I think that all recruitment material is misleading and should be opposed.”

He added: “They want to recruit in our schools because they have got a problem.

“Young people, who have been at the forefront of campaigning against these illegal and immoral wars, are not signing up in sufficient numbers.

“They have had a crisis in recruitment and by taking this step, by developing this campaign, we can add to that crisis, make it more difficult for this Government to launch an invasion alongside America of Iran and bring forward the day when we end the illegal occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq and bring all our troops home and safe to be back with their families and not in other people’s countries where they don’t belong.”

You can read the rest of the Left-wing lunacy here.  And do remember that these are the people teaching the up and coming generation of English students.  Please note, too, that these teachers are government employees, happy to take money from the same evil imperialist country they refuse to defend.

Destroying the “peace-loving” challenge to warfare

Anti-war people love to point out that most Iraqis are peace-loving, or that most Muslims are peace-loving. I’m sure they’re right. Walter Williams, however, points to the fallacy in this line of argument when you are a country under attack from the non-peace loving elements in a given community:

Horrible acts can be committed in countries where most of the people are peace-loving and simply want to be left alone to attend to their affairs. I imagine that described most of the people in the former Soviet Union. However, that did not stop the killing of an estimated 62 million people between 1917 and 1987.

The same can be said of the Chinese people, but it didn’t stop the killing of 35 million of their countrymen during MaoTse-tung’s reign.

Whether most people of a country are peace-loving or not is not nearly as important as who is calling the shots.

His other examples of aggressors calling the shots in otherwise peace loving countries are Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan (and just think of the Rape of Nanking if you’re otherwise okay with the Japanese attacks on the US and the entire Malaysian peninsula).  It’s a good article and deserves to be read, here.

The forgotten victims

Dennis Prager writes really movingly about the unfairness of a world that elevates Palestinians to “chief victims,” while ignoring the murderous horror that the Chinese have visited on the Tibetans.  I doubt we’ll see a principled stand that has the world boycott the Olympics, but we should.  I’m no fan of Jimmy Carter, but he did the right thing back in 1980.

Interesting editorial choice

As is the rest of the media, the Times is making much of the fact that 4,000 American troops have died during more than five years of war in Iraq. I won’t repeat here (or, at least, I won’t repeat at length) my oft-stated belief that, while each death is a personal tragedy, this is a volunteer military that has graciously and with extreme bravery stepped up to help defend all of us and that, thank God, it has been blessed by an extremely low casualty total compared to wars of similar scope and length. But I digress….

As always, I’m leery of MSM articles about the War dead, since I can’t escape the feeling that they’re written less to honor the dead than to score political points against the war. “See, you stupid chickenhawks — wars kill people, in case you haven’t figured that out yet.”

Still, the Times has done a nice job giving life to several men who died within the last year in Iraq. One of them, Daniel J. Agami, doesn’t sound at all like the typical liberal stereotype (one that is completely false) that sees American soldiers a naive minorities sneakily enticed into the military by bribes and promises so that corporations can get rich off their blood. Instead, he sounds like a real American — someone who is one in that rich blend that is the American melting pot, and who believes in what this country has to offer and willingly puts his life on the line to defend it:

Private Agami had time for everyone, and everyone had time for him. Affectionately called GI Jew, he held his religion up to the light. He used it to build tolerance among the troops and shatter stereotypes; few in his unit had ever met a Jew. He flew the Israeli flag over his cot in Adhamiya. He painted the words Hebrew Hammer onto his rifle. He even managed to keep kosher, a feat that required a steady diet of protein shakes and cereal.

He is a mensch, something that is also reflected in the letters and emails his family made available to the Times for this profile.

And yet, when it came to Army Specialist Agami, the Times made a rather unusual decision — it used his picture as the major photograph to illustrate the article. Choosing his picture would not be so unusual, of course, if it weren’t for the fact that the picture the Times chose has Agami sitting in front of a huge Israeli flag. Reading down into the article (way down, almost near the end), it makes sense why he would be photographed in front of this flag: “He flew the Israeli flag over his cot in Adhamiya.” Given that Agami willingly fought for and died for this country, I don’t see anyone having a problem with his choice of decor.

What is a problem is the fact that the Times uses this particular photograph to illustrate an article about American troops who have died in Iraq. One simply can’t escape the impression that the Times is trying to send the subliminal message — a very strong subliminal message — that Americans are fighting and dying for Israel, not for America.

It would be nice to believe that the Times highlighted this particular photograph because its editors wanted to make the point that ours is an exceptionally pluralist army, made up of Americans representing the vast tapestry of race and religion that enriches America. Given the Times‘ political biases, though, it’s very difficult to escape the conclusion that some editor couldn’t resist making a political point even as he followed a directive from on high to honor America’s war dead.

UPDATE:  The Times has changed the picture about which I blogged, but Atlas Shrugs captured it.

On a different point, as someone reminded me in a private email, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and one need not jump to any conclusions about the Times‘ motives — as I’ve tried not to, commenting only on the peculiar impression the chosen photo made.  My problem, of course, is that, while a cigar may just be a cigar, sometimes it matters whose cigar is at issue — and the Times has not shown itself to be friendly, or even neutral, towards either Israel or the U.S. military.

A true Obamination

I don’t believe in kicking someone when he’s down — or, at least, I don’t believe in launching the first kick once he’s already fallen. I say that because I hope all of you appreciate that I’ve disliked Obama from the get-go. If you check my categories on the side, and look at my Obama posts, you’ll see that I’ve been blogging against him consistently when he was a flash on the horizon and when he was touted as the second coming. I therefore feel completely comfortable in continuing my anti-Obama posts now that he’s starting to slide down popularity’s ladder.

Given my deep dislike for this man, I was only slightly surprised to read Richard Benkin’s long article detailing the fact that Obama, unlike every other Senator or House member that Benkin approached, men and women of all political stripes, was the only person who did not lift a political finger to help Bangladeshi dissident and free speech hero Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury in the fight for his life. This story, if nothing else, should irrevocably tarnish what little is left of Obama’s halo.