Saturday, May 30, 2009

Film Reviews: "Up"

UP, UP & HOORAY!

PIXAR'S EXCITING, AFFECTING 'UP' IS OUT OF THIS WORLD

By Lou Lumenick
New York Post
http://www.nypost.com/
May 29, 2009

PIXAR extends the longest winning streak in Hollywood history with "Up," an exquisite work of cinematic art that also happens to be the funniest, most touching, most exciting and most entertaining movie released so far this year.

The animation studio's latest instant classic -- and its first offered in 3-D in many theaters -- is also the best directed and written film I've seen thus far in 2009, and quite possibly this century.

Yes, that is an unqualified endorsement -- and the point where I say I'd really prefer you stop reading and go enjoy this movie without a lot of advance information.

This is a hugely imaginative and magical fantasy adventure that explores issues such as loss and dreams deferred with such a light and universal touch that it will appeal to an extremely broad audience.

Directors Pete Docter ("Monsters, Inc.") and Bob Peterson and their co-screenwriter Tom McCarthy brilliantly draw on such cinematic touchstones as "It's a Wonderful Life" and "The Wizard of Oz." They're also inspired by less likely sources such as "Fitzcarraldo," "The Red Balloon" and Jules Verne's "The Lost World" -- not to mention Warner Bros.' animated Road Runner and even the logo of its archrival, DreamWorks Animation.

All of this is deftly wrapped in a deceptively simple story. The main protagonist, Carl Fredricksen, is first seen as a youngster in a wondrous prologue watching a newsreel in which his hero, adventurer Charles Muntz, is accused of fabricating a giant bird skeleton he claims to have brought back from South America.

Carl's faith is unshaken, and he finds a kindred spirit in young Ellie -- whom he eventually marries when they grow up. For years they dream of visiting Paradise Falls, the site of Muntz's supposed discovery, but this never happens for a variety of reasons culminating in Ellie's death many decades later.

In the film proper, Carl (voiced by Ed Asner) is a grumpy 78-year-old who greatly resembles Spencer Tracy toward the end of his career. Carl has shut himself in the home he shared with Ellie and is defying efforts by a real-estate developer to relocate him to a retirement community.

When matters come to a head, Carl comes up with an ingenious -- and quite magical -- way to stay in the house: thousands of balloons he uses to lift it off its foundations and on its way to Paradise Falls.

Turns out he has a stowaway: Russell (Jordan Nagai), an 8-year-old Junior Wilderness Explorer who Carl finds endlessly annoying -- but who turns out to be an asset on his improbable journey.

There are more surprises when they get to South America, including the brilliantly colored bird that Muntz claimed to discover, whom Russell nicknames Kevin, and a pack of dogs with electronic collars that translate their thoughts into words.

There are plenty of laughs and action sequences -- including chases and a sword fight -- that will delight the kids, punctuated with poignant moments of yearning.

I saw "Up" projected in 3-D, expertly deployed to draw the audience into the film's elaborate textures and stunning backgrounds, which include mountains over which Carl and Russell drag the house on ropes.

But this film is so eye-popping -- the colors and images are so vivid -- that this is the rare 3-D movie you can see in 2-D without feeling the least bit cheated.

"Up," which packs a dozen good films' worth of fun, wisdom and artistry into 89 minutes with a minimum of dialogue, is as satisfying an experience as I've had in a movie theater in years.

lou.lumenick@nypost.com

Up

Two cranks and a plucky kidin an Up-lifting aerial tale

by Roger Ebert
Chicago Sun-Times
May 27, 2009
http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/

"Up" is a wonderful film, with characters who are as believable as any characters can be who spend much of their time floating above the rain forests of Venezuela. They have tempers, problems and obsessions. They are cute and goofy, but they aren't cute in the treacly way of little cartoon animals. They're cute in the human way of the animation master Hayao Miyazaki. Two of the three central characters are cranky old men, which is a wonder in this youth-obsessed era. "Up" doesn't think all heroes must be young or sweet, although the third important character is a nervy kid.

This is another masterwork from Pixar, which is leading the charge in modern animation. The movie was directed by Pete Docter, who also directed "Monsters, Inc.," wrote "Toy Story" and was a co-writer on "WALL-E" before leaving to devote full time to this project. So Docter's one of the leading artists of this latest renaissance of animation.

The movie will be shown in 3-D in some theaters, about which I will say nothing, except to advise you to save the extra money and see it in 2-D. One of the film's qualities that is likely to be diminished by 3-D is its subtle and beautiful color palette. "Up," like "Finding Nemo," "Toy Story," "Shrek" and "The Lion King," uses colors in a way particularly suited to its content.

"Up" tells a story as tickling to the imagination as the magical animated films of my childhood, when I naively thought that because their colors were brighter, their character outlines more defined and their plots simpler, they were actually more realistic than regular films.

It begins with a romance as sweet and lovely as any I can recall in feature animation. Two children named Carl and Ellie meet and discover they share the same dream of someday being explorers. In newsreels, they see the exploits of a daring adventurer named Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer), who uses his gigantic airship to explore a lost world on a plateau in Venezuela and then bring back the bones of fantastic creatures previously unknown to man. When his discoveries are accused of being faked, he flies off enraged to South America again, vowing to bring back living creatures to prove his claims.

Nothing is heard from him for years. Ellie and Carl (Edward Asner) grow up, have a courtship, marry, buy a ramshackle house and turn it into their dream home, are happy together and grow old. This process is silent, except for music (the elder Ellie doesn't even have a voice credit). It's shown by Docter in a lovely sequence, without dialogue, that deals with the life experience in a way that is almost never found in family animation. The lovebirds save their loose change in a gallon jug intended to finance their trip to the legendary Paradise Falls, but real life gets in the way: flat tires, home repairs, medical bills. Then they make a heartbreaking discovery. This interlude is poetic and touching.

The focus of the film is on Carl's life after Ellie. He becomes a recluse, holds out against the world, keeps his home as a memorial, talks to the absent Ellie. One day he decides to pack up and fly away -- literally. Having worked all his life as a balloon man, he has the equipment on hand to suspend the house from countless helium-filled balloons and fulfill his dream of seeking Paradise Falls. What he wasn't counting on was an inadvertent stowaway, Russell (Jordan Nagai), a dutiful Wilderness Explorer Scout, who looks Asian American.

What they find at Paradise Falls and what happens there I will not say. But I will describe Charles Muntz's gigantic airship that is hovering there. It's a triumph of design, and perhaps owes its inspiration, though not its appearance, to Miyazaki's "Castle in the Sky." The exterior is nothing special: a really big zeppelin. But the interior is one of those movie spaces you have the feeling you'll remember.

With vast inside spaces, the airship is outfitted like a great ocean liner from the golden age, with a stately dining room, long corridors, a display space rivaling the Natural History Museum and an attic spacious enough to harbor fighter planes. Muntz, who must be a centenarian by now, is hale, hearty and mean, his solitary life shared only by robotic dogs.

The adventures on the jungle plateau are satisfying in a Mummy/ Tomb Raider/Indiana Jones sort of way. But they aren't the whole point of the film. This isn't a movie like "Monsters vs. Aliens," which is mostly just frenetic action. There are stakes here, and personalities involved, and two old men battling for meaning in their lives. And a kid who, for once, isn't smarter than all the adults. And a loyal dog. And an animal sidekick. And always that house and those balloons.

A longer version is here:http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2009/05/up_up_and_away_in_my_beautiful.html
Cast & Credits
With the voices of:
Carl- Edward Asner
Russell- Jordan Nagai
Muntz- Christopher Plummer
Dug- Bob Peterson
Beta- Delroy Lindo
Gamma- Jerome Raft
Tom- John Ratzenberger

Disney/Pixar presents a film directed by Pete Docter. Written by Bob Peterson. Running time: 96 minutes. Rated PG (for some peril and action).

copyright 2005, rogerebert.com


Up and Away

The latest Pixar film impresses, as expected.

By Frederica Mathewes-Green
http://www.nationalreview.com/
May 29, 2009

I knew Up was one of those rare first-rate movies when I found myself really yearning to see it for a second time. Actually, that wouldn’t have been so unusual, except that I was still sitting in the theater and had only gotten through 20 minutes of seeing it for the first time. It’s that good.

And that in itself isn’t so unusual, considering that this is a film from Pixar Studios, whose previous films (Wall-E, Ratatouille, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc., Toy Story) have been not only excellent, but also original. Leave it to the other animation studios to crank out films in which bland themes (like “Follow Your Dreams”) provide vehicles for pop-culture references and gross-out jokes. In recent years, Pixar gave us a robot cleaning up an abandoned planet Earth, a rat who wants to be a French chef, superheroes chafing under forced retirement, and the courageous monsters who must inhabit children’s closets. Imagination still exists, in some quarters.

The central image of Up is of an elderly man towing a house. He’s pulling it along by means of a garden hose connected to a low faucet, and the building is held aloft by masses of helium balloons, though it sinks a little lower every day. The man is crossing a flat, dark-gray landscape interrupted by pillars of rocks stacked in inscrutable patterns. (You can say, “Yeah, yeah, the old ‘man-towing-a-house’ story,” but I promise this one’s different.)

The house, you see, is a Valentine. Seventy years before, Carl Frederickson met his bride, Ellie, in this house. At the time it was broken-down and abandoned, but when they married they bought it and fixed it up. From childhood Carl and Ellie had cherished a dream of emulating their hero, intrepid explorer Charles Muntz, and the whimsical expression of this dream was a childish crayon sketch of their home at the edge of South America’s Paradise Falls. (The film’s crew journeyed to Venezuela’s Tabletop Mountains for inspiration.) Now Ellie has died, every other structure around the home has been bulldozed, and since the couple was childless, Carl’s life seems pointless and empty. So he’s going to put that house at the edge of Paradise Falls, if — as he says, and as seems likely — “it kills me.”

But that isn’t what kids are going to like, or even notice, about this movie. For them, it’s mostly about Dug the talking dog, and Russell, Carl’s chubby eight-year-old sidekick, and Kevin, a glorious, 13-foot-tall iridescent bird. This is a really hilarious movie, and there are plenty of chases and action sequences, too (this is only the second Pixar film to have a PG rating, in this case for “peril”). But, as in other Pixar films, there is an intriguing theme underneath all the fun; here, as before, the theme has to do with the goodness of marriage and family life, and the self-sacrificing love a parent (or parent-figure) has for a child.

In a way, Up is a variation on It’s a Wonderful Life. Carl regrets that he was never able to bring Ellie to Paradise Falls, but he comes to see that their ordinary hometown life was a sweet and significant adventure in itself, one that gave Ellie joy. Russell finds that the wilderness is “more wild” than he expected, and “not like they say in books,” and that what he misses is eating ice cream and counting cars with his dad: “It might sound boring, but I think the boring stuff is what I remember most.”

We also see that someone who looks like a grumpy old man can be instead an interesting old man, courageous and inventive. He’s not “grumpy” on general principles, but for the very good reason that he has lost the love of his life. We see that there is such a thing as love for a lifetime, and that love between people who have grown old together is beautiful. And we see Carl register it as a real tragedy when he learns that Russell’s dad has gone on to a new wife, one who tells Russell “not to phone and bug him so much.”

Up is remarkable for other reasons: It is the first animated film to open the Cannes Film Festival, and the first 3-D movie from Pixar. The 3-D effects are used as artistic elements to support the story, rather than just calling attention to themselves. For example, 3-D is used to shorten the perspective and induce a confined feeling as we see Carl spending lonely days in the house after Ellie has gone. In a typically clever shot, Carl chugs slowly across the screen on his stair-glide, to the sultry strains of the “Havanaise” from Carmen.

The most eye-popping use of 3-D actually comes in the Disney and Pixar logos, before the movie itself begins. After the logos fade, we see something that looks familiar: rows of heads before us in a theater, watching a movie. That film turns out to be a 1930s-era newsreel of the dashing explorer Charles Muntz, and we step into the story as we see Carl as a child, watching along with us. Pretty nifty.

The one thing I disliked was that once the characters are all in place, the film becomes simply a series of action sequences. (I had the same criticism of Finding Nemo.) It’s as if the plot pauses, and we just keep re-running the loop of danger, chase, battle, escape, in different settings. We don’t learn anything new about the characters, because the last chase sequence already demonstrated that they are either courageous (good guys) or nefarious (bad guys). For me, this phase of the movie just drags, though of course for many audience members the action scenes will be the best part.

The filmmakers do deserve kudos for making the extra effort of rendering such scenes true-to-life in terms of weight, texture, and impact; it isn’t simply as big and loud as possible. This goes for the whole film. You’ve probably never seen a house held up by helium balloons, but it just feels right — you will believe a house can fly. The structure creaks and leans the way you think it would, and when Carl cuts a few balloon strings to lower it a bit, they ping the way they ought to. Early on the house sails into a lightning storm, and it feels like the real thing (this might be the scariest part of the film for little ones).

I was also impressed that, having given us the house as a symbol of Carl and Ellie’s love, the filmmakers allow it to be bashed and damaged on its dangerous journey. The cost of this adventure is real, but it’s worth it — a lesson Russell, along with all the kids watching, will find useful when he himself is 78.

Frederica Mathewes-Green writes regularly for Beliefnet.com, Christianity Today, and other publications. She is the author of Gender: Men, Women, Sex and Feminism, among other books.

Friday, May 29, 2009

North Korea provokes with impunity

A rogue nuclear test staged on the day to honor American war dead is greeted with only half-hearted diplomatese from Washington.

By MARK STEYN
Syndicated columnist
Orange County Register
http://www.ocregister.com/opinion
Friday, May 29, 2009

What does a nuclear madman have to do to get America's attention? On Memorial Day, the North Koreans detonated "an underground atomic device many times more powerful than the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki," as my old colleagues at The Irish Times put it. You'd think that'd rate something higher than "World News In Brief," see foot of page 37. But instead Washington was consumed by the Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, who apparently has a "compelling personal story."

Doesn't Kim Jong-il have a compelling personal story? Like Sonia, he grew up in a poor neighborhood (North Korea), yet he's managed to become a nuclear power, shattering the glass ceiling to take his seat at the old nuclear boys' club. Isn't that an inspiring narrative? Once upon a time you had to be a great power, one of the Big Five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, to sit at the nuclear table: America, Britain, France, Russia, China, the old sons of power and privilege. But now the mentally unstable scion of an impoverished no-account backwater with a GDP lower than Zimbabwe has joined their ranks: Celebrate diversity!

Evidently, some compelling personal stories are more compelling than others. In The Washington Post, Stephen Stromberg argued that Kim's decision to drop the Big One on a three-day weekend was evidence of his appalling news judgment. Other blasé observers shrug that it's now an American holiday tradition. It began when Pyongyang staged the first of its holiday provocations on Fourth of July 2006, and, amidst all the other fireworks displays, America barely noticed. No doubt there'll be another Hiroshima on Labor Day or Thanksgiving. Geez, doesn't the hick in the presidential palace get it? There's no point launching nukes when everyone's barbecuing chicken or watching football.

Well, you never know: Maybe we're the ones being parochial. If you're American, it's natural to assume that the North Korean problem is about North Korea, just like the Iraq war is about Iraq. But they're not. If you're starving to death in Pyongyang, North Korea is about North Korea. For everyone else, North Korea and Iraq, and Afghanistan and Iran, are about America: American will, American purpose, American credibility. The rest of the world doesn't observe Memorial Day. But it understands the crude symbolism of a rogue nuclear test staged on the day to honor American war dead and greeted with only half-hearted pro forma diplomatese from Washington. Pyongyang's actions were "a matter of …" Drumroll, please! "…grave concern," declared the president. Furthermore, if North Korea carries on like this, it will – wait for it – "not find international acceptance." As the comedian Andy Borowitz put it, "President Obama said that the United States was prepared to respond to the threat with 'the strongest possible adjectives.' Later in the day, Defense Secretary Robert Gates called the North Korean nuclear test 'supercilious and jejune.'"

The president's general line on the geopolitical big picture is: I don't need this in my life right now. He's a domestic transformationalist, working overtime – via the banks, the automobile industry, health care, etc. – to advance statism's death grip on American dynamism. His principal interest in the rest of the world is that he doesn't want anyone nuking America before he's finished turning it into a socialist basket case. This isn't simply a matter of priorities. A United States government currently borrowing 50 cents for every dollar it spends cannot afford its global role, and thus the Obama cuts to missile defense and other programs have a kind of logic: You can't be Scandinavia writ large with a U.S.-sized military.

Out there in the chancelleries and presidential palaces, they're beginning to get the message. The regime in Pyongyang is not merely trying to "provoke" America but is demonstrating to potential clients that you can do so with impunity. A black-market economy reliant on exports of heroin, sex slaves and knock-off Viagra is attempting to supersize its business model and turn itself into a nuclear Wal-Mart. Among the distinguished guests present for North Korea's October 2006 test were representatives of the Iranian government. President George W. Bush was much mocked for yoking the two nations together in his now all but forgotten "axis of evil" speech, but the Swiss newspaper Neue Zuercher Zeitung reported a few weeks ago that the North Korean-built (and Israeli-bombed) plutonium production facility in Syria was paid for by Tehran. How many other Iranian clients are getting nuclear subsidies? It would be interesting to learn who was on the observation deck for the Memorial Day Hiroshima re-enactment, but North Korea is one of the most closed societies on the face of the Earth, certainly when compared with the more closely scrutinized corners of the Middle East. In other words, it's the perfect partner for any state that wants to pursue certain projects under the Western radar screen.

It is remarkable in just five years how the world has adjusted to the inevitability of a nuclear North Korea and a nuclear Iran. Nudge it on another half-decade: Whose nuclear ambitions will be unstoppable by 2015? Syria's? Sudan's? Selected fiefdoms in Somalia?

Barack Obama came to power pledging to talk to America's enemies anywhere, anytime. Alas for America's speak-softly-and-carry-a-big-teleprompter diplomacy, there are no takers for his photo-ops. In the ever more pitiful straw-clutching of the State Department, America is said to be banking on a post-Kim era. He's apparently had a bad stroke and might be dead within a decade or three. So what? It's a safe bet that whoever emerges from a power struggle between the family, the party and the military is committed to nuclearization as the principal rationale of the state. Likewise in Iran's imminent election, both "extremists" and "moderates" are pro-nuke. You want an Iranian moderate? Here's Hashemi Rafsanjani, the moderate guy who lost to that crazy Ahmadinejad last time round: He called Israel "the most hideous occurrence in history," which the Muslim world "will vomit out from its midst" with "a single atomic bomb." Nuking the Zionist Entity is as bipartisan as motherhood and apple pie.

More to the point, the feeble bleatings from the State Department that there may be internal change down the road emphasize the central feature of the present scene: the absence of meaningful American power. While America laughed at North Korea, Iran used it as a stalking horse, a useful guide as to the parameters of belligerence and quiescence a nuclearizing rogue state could operate within. In what Caroline Glick of The Jerusalem Post calls "the post-American world," other nations will follow that model. We are building a world in which the wealthiest nations on the planet, from Norway to New Zealand, are all but defenseless, while bankrupt dysfunctional squats go nuclear. Even with inevitable and generous submissions to nuclear blackmail, how long do you think that arrangement will last? In the formulation of Janet Napolitano, we are on the brink of "man-caused disaster."

©MARK STEYN

Today's Tune: Alphaville - Forever Young



(Click on title to play video)

Israel and the Axis of Evil

By Caroline Glick
The Jerusalem Post
http://www.jpost.com/
May 28, 2009

North Korea is half a world away from Israel. Yet the nuclear test it conducted on Monday has the Israeli defense establishment up in arms and its Iranian nemesis smiling like the Cheshire Cat. Understanding why this is the case is key to understanding the danger posed by what someone once impolitely referred to as the Axis of Evil.

Less than two years ago, on September 6, 2007, the IAF destroyed a North Korean-built plutonium production facility at Kibar, Syria. The destroyed installation was a virtual clone of North Korea's Yongbyon plutonium production facility.

This past March the Swiss daily Neue Zuercher Zeitung reported that Iranian defector Ali Reza Asghari, who before his March 2007 defection to the US served as a general in Iran's Revolutionary Guards and as deputy defense minister, divulged that Iran paid for the North Korean facility. Teheran viewed the installation in Syria as an extension of its own nuclear program. According to Israeli estimates, Teheran spent between $1 billion and $2b. for the project.

It can be assumed that Iranian personnel were present in North Korea during Monday's test. Over the past several years, Iranian nuclear officials have been on hand for all of North Korea's major tests including its first nuclear test and its intercontinental ballistic missile test in 2006.

Moreover, it wouldn't be far-fetched to think that North Korea conducted some level of coordination with Iran regarding the timing of its nuclear bomb and ballistic missile tests this week. It is hard to imagine that it is mere coincidence that North Korea's actions came just a week after Iran tested its solid fuel Sejil-2 missile with a range of 2,000 kilometers.

Aside from their chronological proximity, the main reason it makes sense to assume that Iran and North Korea coordinated their tests is because North Korea has played a central role in Iran's missile program. Although Western observers claim that Iran's Sejil-2 is based on Chinese technology transferred to Iran through Pakistan, the fact is that Iran owes much of its ballistic missile capacity to North Korea. The Shihab-3 missile, for instance, which forms the backbone of Iran's strategic arm threatening to Israel and its Arab neighbors, is simply an Iranian adaptation of North Korea's Nodong missile technology. Since at least the early 1990s, North Korea has been only too happy to proliferate that technology to whoever wants it. Like Iran, Syria owes much of its own massive missile arsenal to North Korean proliferation.

Responding Monday to North Korea's nuclear test, US President Barack Obama said, "North Korea's behavior increases tensions and undermines stability in Northeast Asia."

While true, North Korea's intimate ties with Iran and Syria show that North Korea's nuclear program, with its warhead, missile and technological components, is not a distant threat, limited in scope to faraway East Asia. It is a multilateral program shared on various levels with Iran and Syria. Consequently, it endangers not just the likes of Japan and South Korea, but all nations whose territory and interests are within range of Iranian and Syrian missiles.

Beyond its impact on Iran's technological and hardware capabilities, North Korea's nuclear program has had a singular influence on Iran's political strategy for advancing its nuclear program diplomatically. North Korea has been a trailblazer in its utilization of a mix of diplomatic aggression and seeming accommodation to alternately intimidate and persuade its enemies to take no action against its nuclear program. Iran has followed Pyongyang's model assiduously. Moreover, Iran has used the international - and particularly the American - response to various North Korean provocations over the years to determine how to position itself at any given moment in order to advance its nuclear program.

For instance, when the US reacted to North Korea's 2006 nuclear and ICBM tests by reinstating the six-party talks in the hopes of appeasing Pyongyang, Iran learned that by exhibiting an interest in engaging the US on its uranium enrichment program it could gain valuable time. Just as North Korea was able to dissipate Washington's resolve to act against it while buying time to advance its program still further through the six-party talks, so Iran, by seemingly agreeing to a framework for discussing its uranium enrichment program, has been able to keep the US and Europe at bay for the past several years.

THE OBAMA administration's impotent response to Pyongyang's ICBM test last month and its similarly stuttering reaction to North Korea's nuclear test on Monday have shown Teheran that it no longer needs to even pretend to have an interest in negotiating aspects of its nuclear program with Washington or its European counterparts. Whereas appearing interested in reaching an accommodation with Washington made sense during the Bush presidency, when hawks and doves were competing for the president's ear, today, with the Obama administration populated solely by doves, Iran, like North Korea, believes it has nothing to gain by pretending to care about accommodating Washington.

This point was brought home clearly by both Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's immediate verbal response to the North Korean nuclear test on Monday and by Iran's provocative launch of warships in the Gulf of Aden the same day. As Ahmadinejad said, as far the Iranian regime is concerned, "Iran's nuclear issue is over."

There is no reason to talk anymore. Just as Obama made clear that he intends to do nothing in response to North Korea's nuclear test, so Iran believes that the president will do nothing to impede its nuclear program.

Of course it is not simply the administration's policy toward North Korea that is signaling to Iran that it has no reason to be concerned that the US will challenge its nuclear aspirations. The US's general Middle East policy, which conditions US action against Iran's nuclear weapons program on the prior implementation of an impossible-to-achieve Israel-Palestinian peace agreement makes it obvious to Teheran that the US will take no action whatsoever to prevent it from following in North Korea's footsteps and becoming a nuclear power.

During his press briefing with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu last Monday, Obama said the US would reassess its commitment to appeasing Iran at year's end. And early this week it was reported that Obama has instructed the Defense Department to prepare plans for attacking Iran. Moreover, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, has made several recent statements warning of the danger a nuclear-armed Iran will pose to global security - and by extension, to US national security.

On the surface, all of this seems to indicate that the Obama administration may be willing to actually do something to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Unfortunately, though, due to the timeline Obama has set, it is clear that before he will be ready to lift a finger against Iran, the mullocracy will have already become a nuclear power.

Israel assesses that Iran will have a sufficient quantity of enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb by the end of the year. The US believes that it could take until mid-2010. At his press briefing last week Obama said that if the negotiations are deemed a failure, the next step for the US will be to expand international sanctions against Iran. It can be assumed that here, too, Obama will allow this policy to continue for at least six months before he will be willing to reconsider it. By that point, in all likelihood, Iran will already be in possession of a nuclear arsenal.

Beyond Obama's timeline, over the past week, two other developments made it apparent that regardless of what Iran does, the Obama administration will not revise its policy of placing its Middle East emphasis on weakening Israel rather than on stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. First, last Friday, Yediot Aharonot reported that at a recent lecture in Washington, US Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton, who is responsible for training Palestinian military forces in Jordan, indicated that if Israel does not surrender Judea and Samaria within two years, the Palestinian forces he and his fellow American officers are now training at a cost of more than $300 million could begin killing Israelis.

Assuming the veracity of Yediot's report, even more unsettling than Dayton's certainty that within a short period of time these US-trained forces could commence murdering Israelis, is his seeming equanimity in the face of the known consequences of his actions. The prospect of US-trained Palestinian military forces slaughtering Jews does not cause Dayton to have a second thought about the wisdom of the US's commitment to building and training a Palestinian army.

Dayton's statement laid bare the disturbing fact even though the administration is fully aware of the costs of its approach to the Palestinian conflict with Israel, it is still unwilling to reconsider it. Defense Secretary Robert Gates just extended Dayton's tour of duty for an additional two years and gave him the added responsibility of serving as Obama's Middle East mediator George Mitchell's deputy.

FOUR DAYS after Dayton's remarks were published, senior American and Israeli officials met in London. The reported purpose of the high-level meeting was to discuss how Israel will abide by the administration's demand that it prohibit all construction inside Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria.

What was most notable about the meeting was its timing. By holding the meeting the day after North Korea tested its bomb and after Iran's announcement that it rejects the US's offer to negotiate about its nuclear program, the administration demonstrated that regardless of what Iran does, Washington's commitment to putting the screws on Israel is not subject to change.

All of this of course is music to the mullahs' ears. Between America's impotence against their North Korean allies and its unshakable commitment to keeping Israel on the hot seat, the Iranians know that they have no reason to worry about Uncle Sam.

As for Israel, it is a good thing that the IDF has scheduled the largest civil defense drill in the country's history for next week. Between North Korea's nuclear test, Iran's brazen bellicosity and America's betrayal, it is clear that the government can do nothing to impact Washington's policies toward Iran. No destruction of Jewish communities will convince Obama to act against Iran.

Today Israel stands alone against the mullahs and their bomb. And this, like the US's decision to stand down against the Axis of Evil, is not subject to change.


caroline@carolineglick.com

Derrick Rose and the ripple effect

Think it doesn't matter? Consider UCLA, Gillispie as fraud victims

BY RICK TELANDER
Chicago Sun-Times Columnist
http://www.suntimes.com/sports/index.html
May 29, 2009

Let's say you're of the cynical, entertain-me-now school of fandom.

You don't care a wit that young Bulls star Derrick Rose has been implicated as the beneficiary of some serious academic cheating at both his alma maters -- Simeon High School and the University of Memphis.


Derrick Rose and John Calipari in 2008

According to NCAA allegations first reported by the Memphis Commercial-Appeal and Chicago high school sources informing the Sun-Times, some person other than Rose allegedly took his college-entrance SAT, and someone with access to Rose's Simeon transcripts changed one of his grades from a D to a C just as Rose was applying to colleges.

So what, you say. He's a pro now. He was always gonna be a baller. Go, Bulls!

That's fine.

Live in your world of beer-can-on-the-belly sports relativism.

But just ponder the ripple effect and the hypocrisy revealed by the academic fraud before you lumber to the fridge for another cold one.

First off, Rose might never have gotten into a powerhouse hoops college like Memphis without the cheating. He might have had to spend time at a junior college or even go overseas to play. Had he not gone to Memphis, the Tigers almost certainly would not have made it to the 2008 NCAA championship game.

Think that matters to UCLA, which lost to Memphis in the semis?

Rose was clearly a one-and-done mercenary, something head coach John Calipari always new full well.

Partly because Rose went to Memphis, Calipari, then making $2.35 million a year and with four years left on his contract, abruptly bolted for Kentucky this April, becoming the nation's highest-paid college basketball coach in the process. His new deal? Eight years at $4.1 million per.

Gillispie topples

Think former Wildcats coach Billy Gillispie -- canned in March with five years left on his deal -- liked that? Not much. Gillispie just filed a $6 million lawsuit against Kentucky claiming breach of contract and fraud.

Oh, and here's a nice tidbit. ESPN.com, citing inside sources, stated in late March that, ''with a strong recruiting class coming in and a tradition already established at Memphis, Calipari wouldn't leave if the UK job was offered.''

Ha!

He was gone in an eye blink.

And, of course, so was Rose.

Off to the NBA, where, based largely on his display while at Memphis, and to a lesser degree at Simeon, where he led his team to back-to-back state championships, he was taken No. 1 in the 2008 NBA draft. Think that was worth a little money?

And how much was it worth to other parties, such as Rose's constantly pressuring, Svengali-like older brother Reggie?

As Rose's former club basketball team coach, Luther Topps, said of the NCAA investigation, ''Reggie moved me and [Simeon head coach Robert Smith] out of the way long before that, as soon as the money got involved.''

And, of course, partly because of where he was drafted and the role expected of him with the rebuilding Bulls, Rose flourished and was named NBA rookie of the year.

That, too, is both an honor and money in the bank.

Sanctimony minus standards

Let's think about the NBA itself for a moment.

This kind of manipulative fraud is precisely what commissioner David Stern almost guaranteed would blossom to new levels after he sanctimoniously declared that nobody could play in the NBA until at least one year after high school.

No more Kevin Garnetts or Kobe Bryants.

It's not that Stern and his league care about education -- the NBA has no diploma standards or even literacy standards whatsoever. What the NBA wants is the orderly entrance of older players who are a little more -- shall we say, polished? -- than post-adolescents.

We all know the phoniness involved in big-time athletes going to institutions of higher learning when those athletes have no academic mission, and when the schools have interest in the athletes only as stadium-fillers.

But when the hypocrisy becomes public like this, it indicts a lot more than just phonies like Calipari (Oh, and it's for sure the coach knew nothing!)

Consider the Chicago Public School system. Somebody can change a transcript grade -- as was done on the Simeon computer -- and the CPS investigators discipline ... no one?

Who took Rose's SAT?

That's not easy to do, what with IDs and signatures and the like.

If this were done for a non-athletic kid who desperately wanted to go to college to better himself or herself, to learn -- and then that student flourished academically -- you could even justify such an opportunity given.

But this was done in the name of let's-rob-the-bank.

Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson is a straight arrow who agonizes over character.

Would he have taken Rose if he knew the kid had allegedly cheated this way?

Yes, this was all stuff done back in the ''amateur'' days. But you know something? Those days weren't so long ago. And they don't vanish under the weight of cash.

Derrick Rose has been a likable point guard in his one pro season.

But how do you explain the lesson here to, say, Chicago school children?

Practice your crossover, kids. As you know, schoolwork's for dummies.

Burke and Obama

Edmund Burke (1729–1797) had a lot to say about the Obama administration.

By Thomas Sowell
http://www.nationalreview.com/
May 29, 2009, 0:00 a.m.
http://www.tsowell.com/

The other day I sought a respite from current events by rereading some of the writings of the 18th-century British statesman Edmund Burke. But it was not nearly as big an escape as I had thought it would be.



Statue of Eedmund Burke in Bristol, England (w/ bullet holes in the head and forearm).

When Burke wrote of his apprehension about “new power in new persons,” I could not help thinking of the new powers that have been created by which a new president of the United States — a man with zero experience in business — can fire the head of General Motors and tell banks how to run their businesses.

Not only is Barack Obama new to the presidency, he is new to running any organization. One of Burke’s fears was that “we may place our confidence in the virtue of those who have never been tried.”

Neither eloquence nor zeal is a substitute for experience, according to Burke. He said, “eloquence may exist without a proportionate degree of wisdom.” As for zeal, Burke said: “It is no excuse for presumptuous ignorance that it is directed by insolent passion.”

The Obama administration’s back-and-forth on the question whether American intelligence agents who forced information out of captured terrorist leaders will be subject to legal jeopardy — even though they were told at the time that what they were doing was not only legal but a service to the nation — came to mind when reading Burke’s warning about the dangers of continuing to change the rules and values by which people lived. Burke asked how we could expect a sense of honor to exist when “no man could know what would be the test of honour in a nation, continually varying the standard of its coin”?

The current drive to take from “the rich” for the benefit of others came to mind when reading Burke’s warning against creating a situation where “any one description of citizens should be brought to regard any of the others as their proper prey.” He also warned that “those who attempt to level, never equalise.” What they end up doing is concentrating power in their own hands — and Burke saw such new powers as dangerous, even if they were used only sparingly at first.

He said, “the true danger is, when liberty is nibbled away, for expedients and by parts.” He also said: “It is by lying dormant a long time, or being at first very rarely exercised, that arbitrary power steals upon a people.”

People who don't like “the rich” or “big business” or the banks may be happy that President Obama is sticking it to them. But such arbitrary powers can be turned on anybody. As John Donne said: “Send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” There is a lot of wisdom in those words.

The Constitution of the United States set out to limit the powers of the federal government, but judges have greatly eroded those limitations over the years, and the dispensing of bailout money has allowed the Obama administration to exercise powers that the Constitution never bestowed.

Edmund Burke understood that, no matter what form of government you have, in the end the character of those who wield the powers of government is crucial. He said: “Constitute government how you please, infinitely the greater part of it must depend upon the exercise of the powers which are left at large to the prudence and uprightness of ministers of state.”

He also said, “of all things, we ought to be the most concerned who and what sort of men they are that hold the trust of everything that is dear to us.” He feared particularly the kind of man “whose whole importance has begun with his office, and is sure to end with it” — the kind of man “who before he comes into power has no friends, or who coming into power is obliged to desert his friends.” Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, and others come to mind.

The biggest challenge to America — and to the world — today is the danger of Iran with nuclear weapons. President Obama is acting as if this is something he can finesse with talks or deals. Worse yet, he may think it is something we can live with.

Burke had something to say about things like that as well: “There is no safety for honest men, but by believing all possible evil of evil men, and by acting with promptitude, decision, and steadiness on that belief.” Acting — not talking.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

Jail Time for Jihadists

By Robert Spencer
http://www.frontpagemag.com/
Friday, May 29, 2009

In a major blow to terrorism financing on American soil, the founders of the Holy Land Foundation, once the nation’s largest Muslim charity, were both sentenced this week to sixty-five years in prison for funneling at least $12.4 million in charitable contributions to the terrorist group Hamas. The decision, which can still be challenged by appeal, also has important implications for the nation’s most prominent Islamic organization, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, as well as for American Muslims in general.


Left, Irwin Thompson/The Dallas Morning News, via Associated Press; Right, Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters

Ghassan Elashi, left, and Shukri Abu-Baker, two of the five leaders of the Holy Land Foundation convicted in 2008 of aiding a terrorist organization, tax fraud and money laundering.


The HLF founders, Shukri Abu Baker and Ghassan Elashi, were convicted in November 2008 of aiding a terrorist organization by sending money to Hamas. The two were also convicted of tax fraud and money laundering.

Nevertheless, the defendants maintained that the HLF was really a charity organization. So far from funding terrorism, they were distributing urgent financial aid to needy individuals and orphans in the West Bank and Gaza – a claim that reprised the now-defunct HLF’s purported mission of aiding “human suffering through humanitarian programs that impact the lives of the disadvantaged.”

This week’s sentencing was the strongest rejection to date of the HLF defendants’ “humanitarian” cover story. As David Kris, assistant attorney general for national security, put it, “These sentences should serve as a strong warning to anyone who knowingly provides financial support to terrorists under the guise of humanitarian relief.”

It’s not clear, however, that some Muslims close to the case have gotten the message. Instead of reacting with revulsion at the idea of a Muslim charity aiding a group that glories in the murder of Israeli civilians, they have tried to portray the defendants as the real victims.

Abu Baker’s daughter, Zaira Abu Baker, sounded the notes of victimization that Islamic jihadists and their allies invariably sound when found guilty of aiding the spread of jihad and Islamic supremacism. “I’ve been with my dad 100 percent of the way,” she said. “I saw the work he did. He devoted his life to helping needy children. But after 9/11, I guess, there’s hysteria. They pick and choose people, and unfortunately it’s us.”

Another defendant, Mufid Abdulqader, who received a twenty-year sentence, also claimed victim status. “I never imagined,” he complained, “I’d be put in jail for taking people out of their jail of poverty and starvation.”

Still other defendants, in an appeal for leniency, told their life stories before their sentences were handed down.

However, if their intention was to distract the focus from their involvement in financing terrorism, they did not succeed. U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis would have none of it. “You weren’t convicted of singing,” he told Abdulqader. “You weren’t convicted of freedom of expression. You were convicted of supporting Hamas.”

This week’s sentencing also draws attention to several other Islamic organizations associated with the HLF defendants. Besides working with the HLF, Ghassan Elashi was the founder of the Texas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. His HLF conviction is his third: In July 2004 Elashi was convicted of shipping computers illegally to two state-sponsors of terrorism, Libya and Syria. Then, in April 2005, he was convicted of knowingly doing business with Mousa Abu Marzook, the senior Hamas leader who founded the Islamic Association for Palestine, CAIR’s parent group. In that case, Elashi was convicted on a number of charges, including conspiracy and money laundering.

So, how has CAIR explained its ties to Elashi? It hasn’t. Instead, it has tried to claim that any attempt to connect the group with its prominent former member is guilt by association. Thus, CAIR claims that it has “hundreds of board members and employees and some 50,000 members. It would be illogical and unfair to hold CAIR responsible for the personal activities of all these people. The fact that Elashi was once associated with one of our more than thirty regional chapters has no legal significance to our corporation given the fact that any actions taken by him were outside the scope and chronology of his association with one of our chapters.”

This wording is interesting. It seems that Elashi’s association with CAIR has no “legal significance” for the organization, “given the fact that any actions taken by him were outside the scope and chronology of his association with one of our chapters.” This seems to be a way of saying that CAIR bears no legal responsibility for Elashi’s activities and cannot be included in his prosecution.

That is fair enough. But conspicuously unstated is any condemnation of Elashi’s actions in support of Hamas, or of the philosophy underlying those actions. And since Elashi was doing business with Marzook, who founded IAP, CAIR’s parent organization, it is in no sense wild speculation to consider the possibility that Elashi’s actions were consistent with, rather than contradictory to, CAIR’s actual purposes in the United States.

CAIR’s strangely worded disavowal of Elashi only raises more questions. Will CAIR clear up those questions in the wake of the stiff sentences Elashi and his colleagues have now received? More broadly, will Muslims in America finally begin to back up their condemnations of terrorism with actual deeds, working to teach against the jihadist doctrines that led the HLF to fund Hamas in the first place, and to make sure that existing Islamic charities are free of the slightest taint of connection to jihad terrorist groups or allegiance to their ideology? This week’s sentencing decisively settled any lingering questions about the HLF defendants’ guilt. But for now, these broader questions remain unanswered.

- Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of eight books, eleven monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including the New York Times Bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book, Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs, is available now from Regnery Publishing.

What the "Silent Pope" Said

By Dimitri Cavalli
http://www.frontpagemag.com/
Tuesday, May 26, 2009


It was inevitable that the controversy over Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) surfaced during Pope Benedict XVI's trip to Israel. Some Jewish leaders and Israeli officials thought Pope Benedict should have finally apologized for Pius XII's "silence" during the Holocaust. What they and other Vatican critics always fail to do is consider what the "silent" pope actually said, and, more importantly, how his statements were interpreted at the time.


Pius XII

For example, on October 27, 1939, Pius XII issued his first encyclical, Summi Pontificatus. On November 1, the Palestine Post, a Jewish newspaper in Jerusalem, described the encyclical as "an oblique condemnation of the spirit of ruthless aggression dear to Nazism," and expressed outrage that it was censored in Germany. In his memoirs, Francios Charles-Roux, the French Republic's Ambassador to the Vatican from 1932 to 1940, recalled that the encyclical condemned "exacerbated nationalism, the idolatry of the state, totalitarianism, racism, the cult of brutal force, contempt of international agreements... all the characteristics of Hitler's political system."

In his 1939 Christmas message, the pope said, "Atrocities and the illegal use of the means of destruction, even against non-combatants... cry for the vengeance of God..." In the same speech, the pope also articulated his conditions for a "just and honorable peace," which included the right to life and independence for all nations, disarmament, the rebuilding of international institutions, recognition of "divine law," and the protection of all racial minorities. In his diary, Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister, wrote that the pope's speech was "full of bitter, covert attacks against us, against the Reich and National Socialism. All the forces of internationalism are against us. We must break them."

On March 24, 1940, Pius XII observed that during the war, "the laws which bind civilized people together have been violated; most lamentably, undefended cities, country towns and villages, have been terrorized by bombing, destroyed by fire, and thrown down in ruins. Unarmed citizens, even sickness, helpless old age, and innocent childhood have been turned out of their homes, and often visited with death." In his 1941 Easter message, the pope called on the belligerent powers to respect the rights of all civilians.

On December 25, 1942, the pope condemned the treatment of "hundreds of thousands who without any fault of their own, sometimes only by reason of their nationality or race, are marked down for death or progressive extinction." Both sides understood what the pope was talking about. In his January 20, 1943, letter to Msgr. Arthur Hughes, the apostolic delegate in Egypt, Chaim Barlas, the representative of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, wrote, "The highly humanitarian attitude of His Saintety [sic] expressing His indignation against racial persecutions was a source of moral comfort for our brethren." Two days later, a report by Germany's Reich Central Security Office complained: "In a manner never known before, the Pope has repudiated the National Socialist New European Order.... Here he is virtually accusing the German people of injustice towards the Jews, and makes himself the mouthpiece of the Jewish war criminals." If Pius XII was "silent" in the literal sense of the word, then how did Barlas and the Reich Central Security Office reach these conclusions?


Eugenio Pacelli, later Pope Pius XII, signs the "Reichskonkordat" with the national socialist government under Adolf Hitler on July 20, 1933.

Besides speaking out, Pope Pius XII also took direct action. In 1940, he acted as an intermediary between a group of German generals who wanted to overthrow Adolf Hitler and the British government. In a surprise move in 1941, he allowed American Catholics to support the extension of military aid to the Soviet Union. On the pope's orders, the Vatican's diplomatic representatives in many Nazi-occupied and Axis countries frequently assisted many endangered Jews. In Rome, Vatican protests stopped the Nazi roundup of Jews in October 1943, and thousands of Jews found shelter in Catholic institutions and the Vatican itself.

In the last decade, Pope Pius XII's reputation has been undergoing a serious rehabilitation. In Europe, many scholars have published books that affirm that he opposed the Nazis and helped many Jews and other Nazi victims. Jewish scholars such as Rabbi Dalin and Sir Martin Gilbert, the official biographer of Winston Churchill, have also defended him. By contrast, John Cornwell, the British author of the over-hyped book Hitler's Pope (1999), has withdrawn some of his more extreme charges against Pius XII and now admits that Vatican-sponsored initiatives saved many Jews. Although anti-Catholics and Catholic dissidents will no doubt continue to repeat the false allegations against Pius XII in order to discredit the Catholic Church, many people of different faiths have gradually rediscovered that Pope Pius XII was an extraordinary leader who publicly upheld human rights for all people in the face of great evil and put basic Christian principles into practice by helping to alleviate the suffering of many innocent people.


Dimitri Cavalli is a freelance writer from New York City. He is planning to write a book on Pope Pius XII.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Today's Tune: Eurythmics - Love Is A Stranger



(Click on title to play video)

I FEEL YOUR PAIN. NOT THEIRS. YOURS.

By Ann Coulter
http://www.anncoulter.com/
May 27, 2009

God save us from liberal "empathy." After President Barack Obama announced his empathetic Supreme Court nominee this week, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, we found out that some people are more deserving of empathy than others.

For example, Judge Sotomayor apparently "empathized" more with New Haven, Conn., government officials than with white and Hispanic firefighters who were denied promotions by the city on the basis of their race.

Let's hope she's as empathetic to New Haven residents who die in fires fought by inferior firefighters as a result of her decision.

In the now-famous firefighters' case, Ricci v. DeStefano, the New Haven Fire Department administered a civil service exam to choose a new batch of lieutenants and captains. The city went so far as to hire an outside consultant to design the test in order to ensure that it was job-related and not racially biased. (You know, just like all written tests were pre-screened for racial bias back when we were in school.)

But when the results came in, only whites and Hispanics scored high enough to earn promotions.

Such results never entice Democrats to reconsider their undying devotion to the teachers' unions that routinely produce students who can't read, write or do basic math. Obviously, disadvantaged children from single-parent homes suffer the most from inadequate public schools -- and their tragic outcome bedevils the entire society for the rest of the students' lives.

Instead, Democrats hide the failure of government schools by punishing the high-scoring whites, Asians and Hispanics, who presumably learned everything they know at home. (If only successfully applying a condom were relevant to firefighting, public school graduates raised in single-parent homes would crush the home-learners!)

So naturally, New Haven city officials decided to scrap the exam results and promote no one.

Seventeen of the high-scoring whites and one high-scoring Hispanic sued the mayor, John DeStefano, and other city officials for denying them promotions solely because of their race.

The district court ruled that there was no race discrimination because the low-scoring blacks were not given promotions either -- citing the landmark case, One Bad Apple v. The Rest of the Barrel. (That's the sort of sophistry we're taught in law school.)

Concerned that Sotomayor's famed "empathy" might not shine through in cases such as Ricci v. DeStefano, the Democrats are claiming -- as Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said on MSNBC -- that she was merely applying "precedent" to decide the case. You know, just like conservatives say judges should.

This was an interesting claim, in the sense that it was the exact polar opposite of the truth.

To be sure, there is "precedent" for racial discrimination by the government, but Plessy v. Ferguson was overturned in 1954 by Brown v. Board of Education. If Sotomayor had another case in mind, she wasn't telling: The lower court's dismissal of the firefighters' case was upheld by Sotomayor and two other judges in an unsigned, unpublished opinion, titled, "Talk to the Hand."

Not only that, but Sotomayor's fellow Clinton appointee, Jose Cabranes (who sounds like an "empathetic" fellow), issued a blistering dissent from the appellate court's denial of a rehearing specifically on the grounds that the case "raises important questions of first impression in our Circuit -- and indeed, in the nation."

A "case of first impression" means there's no precedent. If there were a precedent, it would be a case of, at least, "second impression."

If it were merely "empathy" that explained liberal judges' lawless opinions, one might expect some liberal judges to have empathy for the white and Hispanic firefighters being discriminated against today, and others to have empathy for the hypothetical black firefighters discriminated against in times past.

But all liberals only have empathy for the exact same victims -- always the ones that are represented by powerful liberal interest groups. As Joe Sobran says, it takes a lot of clout to be a victim.

Thus, the media and Democrats seem to find successful Hispanic attorney Sotomayor much more "empathetic" than successful Hispanic attorney Miguel Estrada.

After aggressively blocking Estrada's nomination to a federal appeals court during Bush's first term solely on the grounds that he is Hispanic and was likely headed for the Supreme Court -- according to Senate Democrat staff memos -- now Democrats have the audacity to rave that Sotomayor will be the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice!

If Sotomayor is not more empathetic than Estrada, liberals at least consider her more Hispanic -- an interesting conclusion inasmuch as Sotomayor was born in New York and Estrada was born in Honduras.

Forty-four of 48 Senate Democrats voted to filibuster Estrada's nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, with congressman and professional Hispanic Raul Grijalva assuring them that just because "he happens to be named 'Estrada' does not give him a free ride."

The truth is liberals couldn't care less about Sotomayor being Hispanic. Indeed, liberals often have trouble telling Hispanic people apart, as James Carville illustrated on "Good Morning America" Wednesday morning when he kept confusing Miguel Estrada with Alberto Gonzales.

"Empathy," in Liberalspeak, is nothing but raw political power.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

INSTANT JUSTICE

GITMO? NO, KILL THUGS ON SPOT

By Ralph Peters
New York Post
http://www.nypost.com/postopinion/postopinion.htm
May 26, 2009

WE made one great mistake regarding Guantanamo: No terrorist should have made it that far. All but a handful of those grotesquely romanticized prisoners should have been killed on the battlefield.

The few kept alive for their intelligence value should have been interrogated secretly, then executed.

Terrorists don't have legal rights or human rights. By committing or abetting acts of terror against the innocent, they place themselves outside of humanity's borders. They must be hunted as man-killing animals.

And, as a side benefit, dead terrorists don't pose legal quandaries.

Captured terrorists, on the other hand, are always a liability. Last week, President Obama revealed his utter failure to comprehend these butchers when he characterized Guantanamo as a terrorist recruiting tool.

Gitmo wasn't any such thing. Not the real Gitmo. The Guantanamo Obama believes in is a fiction of the global media. With rare, brief exceptions, Gitmo inmates have been treated far better than US citizens in our federal prisons.

But the reality of Gitmo was irrelevant -- the left needed us to be evil, to "reveal" ourselves as the moral equivalent of the terrorists. So they made up their Gitmo myths.

Now we're stuck with sub-human creatures who should be decomposing in unmarked graves in a distant desert. Before reality smacked him between the eyes, Obama made blithe campaign promises and quick-draw presidential pronouncements he's now unable to fulfill.

Everything's easier when you're campaigning and criticizing, but the Oval Office view is a different matter. And suddenly your old allies, who rhapsodized about the evils of Gitmo, no longer have your back.

Odious senators, such as John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, damned Gitmo to hell. But they don't want to damn the prisoners to Massachusetts (given that few al Qaeda members can swim, Cape Cod seems a splendid place for a prison). Don't the icons of ethics want to solve the problem?

Or should we send the Gitmo Gang to California's Eighth Congressional District, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's constituents could guarantee an end to waterboarding? The good voters of San Francisco could put up their new guests in a grand Nob Hill hotel and stage teach-ins to explain why America's so nasty.

Another option -- which would save taxpayers millions -- would be to encourage a coalition of MoveOn.org, Code Pink and ACORN to sponsor an "Adopt a Terrorist" program.

The only requirement would be that the terrorist has to live full-time with the sponsor's family so he'd always get plenty of hugs.

On a serious note, it's not just voter NIMBY-ism that makes this problem so difficult. The practical catches came home to me when last I visited Ft. Leavenworth, Kan.

The grounds of a massive federal penitentiary adjoin that venerable Army post. One Washington-isn't-thinking proposal would park the terrorists right there in the Big House. But here's the catch: Ft. Leavenworth's home to the Army's Command and General Staff College, attended each year by hundreds of elite foreign officers.

At CGSC, our officers build international relationships that benefit our country for decades to come, while allies and partners learn how to work together. But with Islamist terrorists confined next door -- hardly a mile as the crow flies from the Staff College -- Muslim countries would withdraw their students from the program under pressure from Islamist factions at home -- who'd claim that Ft. Leavenworth was the new Gitmo.

Do we really want to sacrifice our chance to educate officers from the troubled Muslim world? Do we want to destroy an educational program that's been of tremendous benefit? One that's advanced the rule of law and human rights?

Other proposed prison locations have their own challenges (although Cape Cod still looks pretty good to me). Meanwhile, our foreign "friends" who shuddered at the imaginary horrors of Gitmo are unwilling to share the burden.

Which brings us back to this column's opening credo: Terrorists are anathema to civilization and the human race. By their own choice, they've set themselves beyond the human collective. Better to eliminate them where you find them than to let them live to become a lunatic cause.

Telling them that we'll just lock them up and treat them really nice is a better terrorist recruiting tool than Gitmo ever was. Why not become a terrorist, if the punishment's three hots and a cot, along with better medical care than you've ever had in your life?

Plus, you get your own fan club.

Those who worry about the rights of terrorists ensure that these beasts will continue to slaughter the innocent. In your back yard.

Ralph Peters' latest book is "Looking for Trouble."

Identity Justice

Obama's Conventional Choice

By George F. Will
The Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Responding to early 19th-century rumors that they drank excessively, the Supreme Court justices decided to drink nothing on conference days -- unless it was raining. At the next conference, Chief Justice John Marshall asked Joseph Story to scan the sky for signs of rain.
When Story said he saw none, Marshall said: "Our jurisdiction extends over so large a territory that the doctrine of chances makes it certain that it must be raining somewhere -- let us refresh ourselves."

Americans have argued about the court's jurisdiction forever. They should not stop, especially now that the president has nominated U.S. Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

U.S. President Barack Obama arrives with Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor (R), his choice as the nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter, at an announcement event for Sotomayor in the East Room of the White House in Washington May 26, 2009.
REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES CRIME LAW POLITICS)


The 1987 fight over President Ronald Reagan's nomination of Robert Bork interred the tradition that the Senate, in evaluating judicial nominees, would not delve deeply into the nominee's jurisprudential thinking. Bork's defeat was unjust, but the new approach to confirmations was overdue, given the court's increasingly central role in American governance.

Before Sotomayor's confirmation hearings begin, the Supreme Court probably will overturn a ruling she supported on the 2nd Circuit -- the propriety of New Haven, Conn., canceling fire department promotions because there were no African Americans (although there was a Hispanic) among the 18 firemen the selection test made eligible for promotion. A three-judge panel of 2nd Circuit judges, including Sotomayor, affirmed a district court's dismissal of the firemen's complaint, doing so in a perfunctory and unpublished order that acknowledged none of the large constitutional questions involved.

Stuart Taylor of the National Journal calls this "a process so peculiar as to fan suspicions that some or all of the judges were embarrassed by the ugliness of the actions that they were blessing and were trying to sweep the case quietly under the rug, perhaps to avoid Supreme Court review or public criticism, or both." Taylor says that when "the circuit's more conservative judges got wind of the case," they sought to have it reheard by the full 2nd Circuit. They failed but successfully argued that the Supreme Court should take the case.

Taylor has also noted this from a Sotomayor speech to a Hispanic group: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a white male who hasn't lived that life." Says Taylor, "Imagine the reaction if someone had unearthed in 2005 a speech in which then-Judge Samuel Alito had asserted, for example: 'I would hope that a white male with the richness of his traditional American values would reach a better conclusion than a Latina woman who hasn't lived that life' -- and had proceeded to speak of 'inherent physiological or cultural differences.' "

Her ethnicity aside, Sotomayor is a conventional choice. The court will remain composed entirely of former appellate court judges. And like conventional liberals, she embraces identity politics, including the idea of categorical representation: A person is what his or her race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual preference is, and members of a particular category can be represented -- understood, empathized with -- only by persons of the same identity.

Democrats compounded confusion by thinking of the court as a representative institution. Such personalization of the judicial function subverts the rule of law.

In the 1978 Bakke case involving racial preferences in admissions to a California medical school, the opinion written by Justice Lewis Powell said race can be a "plus" factor for certain government-preferred minorities. But according to Powell's biographer (John Jeffries of the University of Virginia Law School), when the justices conferred on the case and Thurgood Marshall said such preferences would be needed for another century, Powell was "speechless."
In 2003, affirming the constitutionality of racial preferences in university admissions, Sandra Day O'Connor, writing for the majority, said such preferences would be unnecessary in 25 years -- 19 years from now. How long does Sotomayor think they will be necessary? What are her criteria of necessity?

Perhaps Sotomayor subscribes to the Thurgood Marshall doctrine: "You do what you think is right and let the law catch up" (quoted in the Stanford Law Review, summer 1992). Does she think the figure of Justice should lift her blindfold, an emblem of impartiality, and be partial to certain categories of persons? A better jurisprudential doctrine was expressed by a certain Illinois state legislator in a 2001 radio interview: "The Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. . . . It says what the federal government can't do to you, but it doesn't say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf."

georgewill@washpost.com

Empathy vs. Impartiality

When they conflict, the Supreme Court must choose the latter.

By Jonah Goldberg
http://www.nationalreview.com/
May 27, 2009, 0:00 a.m.

Why make this complicated?

President Obama prefers Supreme Court justices who will violate their oath of office. And he hopes Sonia Sotomayor is the right Hispanic woman for the job. Here’s the oath Supreme Court justices must take:

“I, (name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as (title) under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God.”

President Barack Obama announces federal appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor, right, as his nominee for the Supreme Court, Tuesday, May 26, 2009, in an East Room ceremony of the White House in Washington.
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)


Contrast that with Obama’s insistence that the “quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people’s hopes and struggles” is the key qualification for a Supreme Court justice. According to White House talking points, Judge Sotomayor’s “American story” of humble origins — she was raised in the South Bronx — best prepares her for the high court because it shows “she understands that upholding the rule of law means going beyond legal theory to ensure consistent, fair, common-sense application of the law to real-world facts.”

Obama says law and precedent should determine rulings in “95 percent of the cases,” but in the really hard and important cases, justices should go with their heart. “In those cases, adherence to precedent and rules of construction and interpretation will only get you through the 25th mile of the marathon. That last mile can only be determined on the basis of one’s deepest values, one’s core concerns, one’s broader perspectives on how the world works, and the depth and breadth of one’s empathy.”

Now, keep in mind that 5 percent of Supreme Court cases isn’t everything, but it’s nearly 100 percent of what we argue about as a country. For the hard cases Americans care most about, Obama says empathy should rule.

So, what’s wrong with empathy?

Well, nothing. Empathy is a fine thing, and all decent people should employ it, including Supreme Court justices.

But Obama has something specific in mind when he talks about empathy. He wants the justice’s oath to in effect be rewritten. Judges must administer justice with respect to persons, they must be partial to the poor, and so on.

I don’t think this is open to much debate. When Obama voted against Chief Justice John Roberts’s confirmation, he said that Roberts didn’t have the “heart” to vote the right way in those 5 percent of cases. Rather than Roberts the Cruel, Obama explained, “we need somebody who’s got the heart — the empathy — to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old — and that’s the criteria by which I’ll be selecting my judges.” Cue Sotomayor the Empathic.

The reasoning here is a riot of dubious assumptions. Obama and Sotomayor both assume that a firsthand understanding of the plight of the poor or the African-American or the gay or the old will automatically result in justices voting a certain (liberal) way. “I would hope,” Sotomayor said in 2001, “that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” This is not only deeply offensive, it is also nonsense on stilts. Clarence Thomas understands what it is like to be poor and black better than any justice who has ever sat on the bench. How’s that working out for liberals?

Of course, liberals say that if you don’t agree with their policy prescriptions on, say, racial quotas or abortion, it’s because you don’t care as much as they do about minorities or women. Which is why they’ve demonized Thomas as a villainous race-traitor. This, too, is aggressively stupid. But even if it were true, why are we talking about policy preferences and the courts? Judges aren’t supposed to have policy preferences, despite Ms. Sotomayor’s insistence that the courts are “where policy is made.”

More important, who says conservatives are against judicial empathy? I, for one, am all for it. I’m for empathy for the party most deserving of justice before the Supreme Court, within the bounds of the law and Constitution. If that means siding with a poor black man, great. If that means siding with a rich white one, that’s great too. The same holds for gays and gun owners, single mothers and media conglomerates. We should all rejoice when justices fulfill their oaths and give everyone a fair hearing, even if that’s now out of fashion in the age of Obama.

— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and the author of Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning.

© 2009 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cheney Shows the Way

By Patrick J. Buchanan
http://www.vdare.com/
May 24, 2009

Dick Cheney is giving the Republican Party a demonstration of how to fight a popular president. Stake out defensible high ground, do not surrender an inch, then go onto the attack.

The ground on which Cheney has chosen to stand is the most defensible the Republicans have: homeland security. In seven-and-a-half years after 9-11, not one terrorist attack struck our country.


Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney speaks about national security at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington May 21, 2009. Cheney on Thursday sharply criticized President Barack Obama's handling of terrorism policy and defended harsh interrogation methods that Obama has labeled torture.
REUTERS/Joshua Roberts (UNITED STATES POLITICS)


And, unlike Obama's position, Cheney's is 100 percent reality based. He was there. He lived through this. He made the decisions to use the harsher techniques on the worst of the enemy who could yield the greatest intelligence to save American lives.

"The interrogations were used on hardened terrorists after other efforts failed. They were legal, essential, justified, successful and the right thing to do." And they "prevented the violent deaths of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of innocent people." [Text of Dick Cheney's National Security Speech at AEI]

Having defended every decision he took, Cheney then counterattacked. He charged The New York Times with virtual treason in exposing the program to intercept calls from al-Qaida and mocked its Pulitzer Prize. He accused liberals and Speaker Pelosi of "feigned outrage" and "phony moralizing," asserting they were fully briefed on "the program and the methods." He charged Obama with endangering national security by "triangulating," adopting a policy designed less to secure America than to unite and appease his political coalition.

"There is never a good time to compromise when the lives and safety of the American people are in the balance."

Cheney comes to this quarrel armed with credibility, certitude, consistency and conviction born of eight years of success. Listening to Obama's disquisition, one gets the sense his homeland security policy is the collective view of the editorial board of the Harvard Law Review, with a sign-off by the local chapter of the ACLU.

That Cheney is winning seems undeniable.

Not only has his approval rating risen to 37 percent, probably higher on national security, Obama's coalition is cracking apart.

Speaker Pelosi's credibility has been shredded over what she knew and when she knew it regarding waterboarding. Her comrades are all howling that the CIA lied, but no one wants an investigation.

The left wing of the party believes Obama double-crossed them when he refused to release the photos of abused prisoners, kept the military tribunals and sent 22,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

And Harry Reid and a Democratic Senate voted 90 to 6 to humiliate Obama by denying him the funds needed to close Guantanamo until he comes up with a plan to hold the 240 hard-core inmates somewhere other than in the United States.

Again, Cheney is winning because he has been there and his position is reality-based. For, while the use of harsh interrogation techniques is a legal question, it also presents a moral dilemma. A moral case can be made that, given the murderers we confronted, the prospect of more U.S. dead, the non-lethality of the techniques and the value of the intelligence acquired, it was the right thing to do.

And the Democrats are losing because, with few exceptions, they have been neither consistent nor honest.

Their key leaders were read in on the interrogation techniques. Few protested. They went along when America seemed in imminent peril. Recall: Democratic Sens. Dodd, Daschle, Edwards, Kerry, Reid and Clinton all voted to authorize war in Iraq.

But, by the time the primaries of 2008 came around, they had all moved -- some 180 degrees -- to get right with the Democratic base. And this is Obama's problem.

He ran to the left of Hillary and pledged to close Guantanamo, as the prison camp had come to be twinned, though unfairly, in the liberal mind and Muslim world with the sadistic abuses at Abu Ghraib.

Obama never thought through what he would do with the hard-core al-Qaida housed in Guantanamo.

This is a recurring problem of liberals. They are forever into posturing, assuming heroic moral stands, but rarely consider the consequences in the real world. It was brave to denounce the Shah, Anastasio Somoza and Ian Smith. But when they fell, we got the Ayatollah Khomeini, the Sandinistas and "Comrade Bob" Mugabe in Zimbabwe.

In his speeches, Obama is all abstractions. While listeners may say he speaks beautifully, 24 hours later, who remembers what he said? Cheney deals with the concrete. We remember that scene in the White House bunker, with that plane headed for the Capitol, and we remember Khalid Sheikh Mohammad saying he will talk after he gets to New York and sees his lawyer.
The Republican Party needs to get off the psychiatrist's couch, and stand up and fight for what it believes. You don't need a moderate with a pretty face to deliver a moderate message. The former vice president with the crocodile grin has just shown the way.

COPYRIGHT CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

Patrick J. Buchanan needs no introduction to VDARE.COM readers; his book State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, can be ordered from Amazon.com. His latest book is Churchill, Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War": How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, reviewed here by Paul Craig Roberts.

Tested

By: Ben Johnson
http://www.frontpagemag.com/
Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Early yesterday morning, North Korea detonated the inviting promises of appeasement with earth-shattering force.

On May 25, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea conducted an underground nuclear test, allegedly of a 10-to-20 kiloton warhead. The blast registered a 4.52 on the Richter scale, only slightly higher than the 4.1 registered by the test of a less-than-one-kiloton warhead in October 2006. South Korean forces expect the North to test fire ground-to-ship missiles today.

…And thus came to pass the prophecy of Joe Biden, who exhorted attendees of a Seattle fundraiser late last October, “Mark my words, it willnot be six months before the world tests Barack Obama…Remember I said it standing here, if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we’re gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy.”

His mettle proved all-too malleable. It was Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso who called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council, which pushed through a non-binding resolution and a pledge to meet again to draft a binding one. Obama’s first statement merely told the nation that still calls itself the “Hermit Kingdom” its “behavior…will only serve to deepen North Korea’s isolation. It will not find international acceptance.” Later that morning, he rushed out a second statement, claiming DPRK missiles “pose a grave threat to the peace and security of the world” and are “a blatant violation of international law.”

And then, according to the L.A. Times and the Drudge Report, he went golfing.

Meanwhile, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, on a tour of Shanghai at the time of the explosion, told her hosts they “must use their influence to help bring North Korea to the table for the six party talks” – the same talks whose failure allowed North Korea to cement its place as a nuclear power…and which broke down last year because the North rightly suspected it could get a better deal from the Obama administration.(Near the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Madam Speaker pressed China hard – for lower carbon emissions, on the grounds “protecting the environment is a human rights issue”)

Brinksmanship, Blackmail, Backtracking, and Betrayal

North Korea’s nuclear detonation was less a test of his mettle than an inevitable response to cultivated weakness. Over the course of three administrations, the DPRK has perfect the cycle of brinksmanship, blackmail, backtracking, and betrayal. Yet none of its negotiating partners, with the exception of Jimmy Carter, has been so eager to oblige its interests as Barack Obama.

When North Korea first announced its nuclear intentions in 1994, President Clinton signed the Agreed Framework negotiated, in freelance fashion, by Jimmy Carter. Clinton would 500,000 metric tons of oil, more than $100 million in food aid (which the government seized to feed its million-man army), and spent billions building two light-water nuclear reactors. Analysts warned Kim Jong-il could produce enough nuclear material for a handful of weapons within ten years by simply busting the caps on the U.S.-funded reactors, and evidence mounted Pyongyang used these reactors for military as well as civilian purposes. As Clinton stalled, Kim pressed on, lobbing a Taepodong-1 missile over Japan in 1998, then denying U.S. inspectors access to a nuclear facility producing illicit material. Clinton rewarded this defiance with an additional 1.1 million tons of food worth nearly $200 million. Even on his way out of office in December 2000, Clinton sought a new round of appeasement for the DPRK.

President Bush fared little better. Reviled for “going it alone,” he outsourced negotiations concerning the nuclear concern to the multilateral, six-party talks. Condoleeza Rice and others convinced Bush to jettison his original firm stance following the last underground detonation in 2006. After Pyongyang filed a late, fictitious report of its activities, Bush simply agreed to accept the lie as fact; he rewarded deception by granting generous aid, helping transfer funds formerly held up in overseas banks, and removing North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism and producers of narcotics – all despite the fact that the new agreement lacked verification.

Speak Softly and Carry a Big Carrot

However bad the situation had been, President Obama made matters materially worse. Republican criticism of offering talks without preconditions was not merely election rhetoric: preconditions are a two-way affair, and when one drops his own, gravity shifts toward fulfilling those of his enemy.

North Korea has already rejected two pre-emptive offers of direct, bilateral talks with the Obama administration, opting to school the appeaser-in-chief in the fine art of nuclear blackmail.

The Obama administration attempted to unveil the proverbial “reset button” with Pyongyang, as Hillary Clinton tried to coax Kim back to the six-party talks with the promise of a treaty and (more) aid. On the eve of her February visit to Seoul, the worker’s paradise threatened to test a Taepodong-2 missile and declared itself “fully ready for an all-out confrontation” with South Korea, yet Madam Secretary told the Asia Society:

If North Korea is genuinely prepared to completely and verifiably eliminate their nuclear weapons program, the Obama administration will be willing to normalize bilateral relations, replace the peninsula’s long-standing armistice agreements with a permanent peace treaty, and assist in meeting the energy and other economic needs of the North Korean people.

She helpfully suggested Kim Jong-il “avoid any provocative action or unhelpful rhetoric toward South Korea.” (Like Nancy Pelosi, she too wanted to renew military contacts with China but had tough rhetoric for Beijing on carbon emissions.)

The DPRK responded with harassment and missile fire. It arrested two American journalists, who face “trial” next month. More troubling to international security, the regime tested its long-range Taepodong-2 missile, again over Japanese airspace. That month in Prague, Obama asserted, “All nations must come together to build a stronger, global regime” to confront Pyongyang. However, the UN Security Council responded by passing a non-binding resolution calling on members to begin following the measures set out in Resolution 1718, passed nearly three years earlier, which members had ignored. (Eventually three companies faced sanctions.) Obama deemed this a “clear and united message.”

That it was.

According to the South Korean media, North Korea immediately began building or rebuilding nuclear sites. The North openly vowed it “will never again take part in such talks and will not be bound by any agreement reached at the talks.” Speaking before the Senate Appropriations Committee earlier this month, Hillary called the North’s return to the negotiating table “implausible.”

Obama hoped to make the implausible come to pass by offering bilateral talks in early May, which North Korea again rejected. Obama’s Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen W. Bosworth has made several entreaties for a tête-à-tête in Pyongyang, only to be refused. Earlier this month a bewildered Bosworth pleaded, “President Obama has stressed on numerous occasions that the door to dialogue remains open [and] that we are committed to resolving the problems that we face through negotiation and dialogue. So I don’t think that we can be interpreted as having a hostile policy.” Indeed, he does not have a hostile policy to nuclear blackmail, betrayal, and brinksmanship. That is the problem.

The inevitable response to American weakness came yesterday, and possibly today. The North is in its brinksmanship mode. It will likely return to blackmail, once succession issues are settled over Kim Jong-il’s dead or incapacitated body. However, all candidates to become the next Beloved Leader know the louder the saber-rattling, the more desperate the cries for silence – and the richer the benefits offered. If Obama will offer direct, bilateral talks without any prodding whatever, more plunder can be exacted in due time. The nuclear test also leaves the hermit kingdom more capable of selling its publicly tested wares on the black market to Syria, Iran, or other anti-American states.

As Obama struggles to cobble together a response – beyond “Fore!” – a dangerous world grows more deadly on his watch. Iran has sent six warships into international waters, and last week it completed a test of the Sejil-2 missile, which Defense Secretary Robert Gates verified as “successful.” The new generation missile, an improvement over its Shahab predecessors, has a range of 1,200-1,500 miles, putting Israel and U.S. bases in the Persian Gulf in range. Rather than take harsh measures against Tehran’s genocidal theocrats, Obama has given them one year to continue their nuclear program before any hint of a reckoning; coincidentally, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen told ABC’s This Week program on Sunday Iran could have a nuclear warhead within “one to three years.” Following North Korea’s nuclear test yesterday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejiad rejected a “freeze-for-freeze” offer, halting its nuclear program in return for an assurance the West will pursue no further sanctions. He responded, “The nuclear issue is finished for us,” adding, “countries like America are not able to manage the political atmosphere.”

In nuclear brinksmanship, North Korea has finally found an export industry. In the Obama administration, the two rogue states have found either a willing subsidizer or an oblivious enabler.

- Ben Johnson is Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine and co-author, with David Horowitz, of the book Party of Defeat. He is also the author of the books Teresa Heinz Kerry's Radical Gifts (2009) and 57 Varieties of Radical Causes: Teresa Heinz Kerry's Charitable Giving (2004).