Saturday, March 14, 2009

Illegals To Get "Stimulus" Jobs?

Left Cannot Survive E-Verify Sell-Out Of Unemployed Americans

By Patrick J. Buchanan
March 12, 2009

By the choices we make we define ourselves. We reveal our biases and beliefs. And so, too, do our institutions.

In writing the $789 billion stimulus bill, Congress revealed that, for all its "Buy American" blather, it does not truly put America first. It does not believe that 10 million jobless Americans, in the country their fathers built, should receive any preference in hiring 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens who broke into this country and owe her no loyalty, allegiance or love.

Is this a slur on the patriotism of some of our congressmen? You betcha.

What other conclusion can one reach after Congress refused to require that employers on construction projects, paid for by U.S. tax dollars in the stimulus bill, verify that their workers are Americans?

For that is precisely what Congress did.

The first paragraph of the front-page story in USA Today says it all. "Los Angeles—Tens of thousands of jobs created by the economic stimulus law could end up filled by illegal immigrants, particularly in big states like California where undocumented workers are heavily represented in construction, experts on both sides of the issue say." [Illegal immigrants might get stimulus jobs, experts say, By William M. Welch, March 10, 2009]

According to the Center for Immigration Studies, illegal aliens will take 300,000 of the 2 million construction jobs to be created by the stimulus bill. The CIS figure is based on Census Bureau estimates that 15 percent of all construction workers are illegal aliens or immigrants who are not authorized to work in the United States.

Robert Rector of Heritage Foundation concurs with the figures on the number of jobs Congress just voted to give to non-Americans.

"Without specific mechanisms to ensure that workers are U.S. citizens or legally authorized to work, it is likely that 15 percent of these workers, or 300,000, would be illegal immigrants." [Senate Stimulus Bill Would Provide 300,000 Jobs for Illegal Immigrants, February 4, 2009]

Other experts put the figure far higher than 15 percent, and certainly higher in California and other Southwestern states, where illegals tend to congregate.

In taking these jobs, illegals will be shouldering aside unemployed Americans. Yet Congress could have, with one vote, guaranteed that virtually every job paid for by U.S. taxpayers would go to U.S. workers.

How? By mandating that all beneficiaries of stimulus money use the E-Verify program of the Department of Homeland Security, which lets employers check the validity of the Social Security number of all new hires. E-Verify is available on a voluntary basis. It is simple, swift and easy to use.
Indeed, E-Verify is becoming standard operating procedure for U.S. businesses that wish to obey the law. According to NumbersUSA, U.S. businesses have used E-Verify in 3 million inquiries this year alone. That is almost half the total of 6.6 million inquiries for all of 2008 and five times the rate of use in 2007.

E-Verify is a smashing success with an accuracy rate of over 99 percent that holds out promise of a day when every employer in America will be able to ensure that every employee is an American or someone authorized to work here. At its rising rate of use, one-fourth to one-third of all new hires could soon be checked by E-Verify.

Isn't this what we all want, what we have all sought—an easy, verifiable, non-intrusive, inexpensive way for businesses to assure that those they hire are in our country legally?

No, it is not. For Tuesday night, the Senate voted to strip away this protection of American workers from the unfair competition of illegal aliens.

The Senate voted 50 to 47 to end E-Verify in six months, when current funding runs out. Sen. Jeff Sessions' proposal to give this successful program five more years was rejected 50 to 47.

Republicans and seven Democrats voted to save E-Verify. But only Democrats voted to kill it.

How did Harry Reid kill the E-Verify provision that was in the House version of the stimulus package? The Senate was not even allowed to vote on it. And when the two bills were reconciled in the Pelosi-Reid conference, E-Verify disappeared.

This was a huge victory for La Raza and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, whose lobbyists have labored long to ensure that their member companies pay no price for dumping U.S. workers and hiring illegal aliens.

Yet, this battle is not over. If Americans understand that the Pelosi-Reid Democrats have no problem with illegal aliens taking jobs from unemployed Americans, that party can be made to pay a price in 2010.

As of today, there exists a Republican-Blue Dog Democrat coalition in both houses that is serious about putting our country and countrymen first, be it on spending bills or trade measures. This is a foundation to build on.

E-Verify is not dead. For the Reid-Pelosi-Obama Left cannot survive the perception that it is aiding and abetting illegal aliens in taking the jobs of unemployed Americans.


- 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 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.

Welcome, kids, to the Brokest Generation

The young aren't to blame for this mess, but they'll be paying for it.

Mark Steyn
Orange County Register
Friday, March 13, 2009

Just between you, me, and the old, the late middle-aged and the early middle-aged: Isn't it terrific to be able to stick it to the young? I mean, imagine how bad all this economic-type stuff would be if our kids and grandkids hadn't offered to pick up the tab.

Well, OK, they didn't exactly "offer" but they did stand around behind Barack Obama at all those campaign rallies helping him look dynamic and telegenic and earnestly chanting hopey-hopey-changey-changey. And "Yes, we can!"

Which is a pretty open-ended commitment.

Are you sure you young folks will be able to pay off this massive Mount Spendmore of multitrillion-dollar debts we've piled up on you?

"Yes, we can!"

We thought you'd say that! God bless the youth of America! We of the Greatest Generation, the Boomers and Generation X salute you, the plucky members of the Brokest Generation, the Gloomers and Generation Y, as in "Why the hell did you old coots do this to us?"

Because, as politicians like to say, it's about "the future of all our children." And the future of all our children is that they'll be paying off the past of all their grandparents. At 12 percent of GDP, this year's deficit is the highest since the Second World War, and prioritizes not economic vitality but massive expansion of government. But hey, it's not our problem. As Lord Keynes observed, "In the long run we're all dead." Well, most of us will be. But not you youngsters, not for a while. So we've figured it out: You're the ultimate credit market, and the rest of us are all preapproved!

The Bailout and the TARP and the Stimulus and the Multi-Trillion Budget and TARP 2 and Stimulus 2 and TARP And Stimulus Meet Frankenstein And The Wolf Man are like the old Saturday-morning cliffhanger serials your grandpa used to enjoy. But now he doesn't have to grab his walker and totter down to the Rialto, because he can just switch on the news and every week there's his plucky little hero Big Government facing the same old crisis: Why, there's yet another exciting spending bill with 12 zeros on the end, but unfortunately there seems to be some question about whether they have the votes to pass it. Oh, no! And then, just as the fate of another gazillion dollars of pork and waste hangs in the balance, Arlen Specter or one of those lady senators from Maine dashes to the cliff edge and gives a helping hand, and phew, this week's spendapalooza sails through. But don't worry, there'll be another exciting episode of "Trillion-Buck Rogers Of The 21st Century" next week!

This is the biggest generational transfer of wealth in the history of the world. If you're an 18-year-old middle-class hopeychanger, look at the way your parents and grandparents live: It's not going to be like that for you. You're going to have a smaller house, and a smaller car – if not a basement flat and a bus ticket. You didn't get us into this catastrophe. But you're going to be stuck with the tab, just like the Germans got stuck with paying reparations for the catastrophe of the First World War. True, the Germans were actually in the war, whereas in the current crisis you guys were just goofing around at school, dozing through Diversity Studies and hoping to ace Anger Management class. But tough. That's the way it goes.

I had the pleasure of talking to the students of Hillsdale College last week, and I endeavored to explain what it is they're being lined up for in a 21st century America of more government, more regulation, less opportunity and less prosperity: When you come to take your seat at the American table (to use another phrase politicians are fond of), you'll find the geezers, boomers and X-ers have all gone to the men's room, and you're the only one sitting there when the waiter presents the check. That's you: Generation Checks.

The Teleprompter Kid says not to worry: His budget numbers are based on projections that the economy will decline 1.2 percent this year and then grow 4 percent every year thereafter. Do you believe that? In fact, does he believe that? This is the guy who keeps telling us this is the worst economic crisis in 70 years, and it turns out it's just a 1-percent decline for a couple more months, and then party time resumes? And, come to that, wasn't there a (notably unprojected) 6.2 percent drop in GDP just in the last quarter of 2008?

Whatever. Growth may be lower than projected, but who's to say all those new programs, agencies, entitlements and other boondoggles won't also turn out to cost less than anticipated? Might as well be optimistic, right?

Youth is wasted on the young, said Bernard Shaw. So the geezers appropriated it. We love the youthful sense of living in the moment, without a care, without the burdens of responsibility – free to go wild and crazy and splash out for Tony Danza in dinner theatre in Florida where we bought the condo we couldn't afford. But we also love the idealism of youth: We want to help the sick and heal the planet by voting for massive unsustainable government programs. Like the young, we're still finding ourselves, but when we find ourselves stuck with a medical bill or a foreclosure notice it's great to be able to call home and say, "Whoops, I got into a bit of a hole this month. Do you think you could advance me a couple of trillion just to tide me over?" And if there's no one at home but a couple of second-graders, who cares? In supporting the political class in its present behavior, America has gone to the bank and given its kids a massive breach-of-trust fund.

I mentioned a few weeks ago the calamitous reality of the U.S. auto industry. General Motors has 96,000 employees but provides health benefits to over a million people. They can never sell enough cars to make that math add up. In fact, selling cars doesn't help, as they lose money on each model. GM is a welfare project masquerading as economic activity. And, after the Obama transformation, America will be, too. The young need to recognize that this is their fight. They need to stop chanting along with the hopeychangey dirges and do something more effective, like form the anti-AARP: The association of Americans who'll never be able to retire.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Today's Tune: Jay and the Americans - Come a Little Bit Closer

(Click on title to play video)

The inescapable apocalypse has been seriously underestimated

By Melanie Phillips
March 12, 2009

The atmosphere is cooling, the ice is expanding, the seas are not rising -- even though carbon emissions are increasing. The evidence is now crystal clear to anyone with an unwashed brain that man-made global warming theory is sheer unadulterated bunkum. So how do the warmers react to the ever more embarrassing evidence that they have hitched their reputations to the biggest anti-scientific scam in history? By ratcheting up the hysteria to fever pitch and shrieking that their predictions about the impending irreversible environmental apocalypse have grievously underestimated the catastrophe which is going to be far, far worse.

At the international climate change conference in Copenhagen this week, we were told that the seas would rise by as much as a metre by 2100, that they would turn into acid, and that even the rainforests would be felled not by the loggers’ chainsaws but by the greatest pollutant in the history of the universe, carbon dioxide.

Read these reports carefully and you can see the scam at work. All of these hysterical predictions revolve around a massive ‘if’. They are all based on the assumption that rising carbon dioxide levels produce runaway global warming and inevitable ecological catastrophe. Ignoring the self-evident fact that this theory has already been proved false – as CO2 levels have risen, the climate has stayed pretty flat and in recent years has even cooled -- they then apply this bogus premise to topics not previously covered – the acidity of seas, rainforests – and hey presto, a fresh range of even greater catastrophes is conjured up from their crystal, computer models.

The Independent reported:

Sea levels are predicted to rise twice as fast as was forecast by the United Nations only two years ago, threatening hundreds of millions of people with catastrophe, scientists said yesterday in a dramatic new warning about climate change. Rapidly melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are likely to push up sea levels by a metre or more by 2100, swamping coastal cities and obliterating the living space of 600 million people who live in deltas, low-lying areas and small island states.... The Greenland ice sheet, in particular, is not simply melting but melting ‘dynamically’ - that is, it is collapsing in parts as meltwater seeps down through crevices and speeds up its disintegration.

Well that’s mighty strange, because here’s an article in Science last January, drawing upon a meeting of the American Geophysical Union the previous month, which said the precise opposite:

So much for Greenland ice’s Armageddon. ‘It has come to an end,’ glaciologist Tavi Murray of Swansea University in the United Kingdom said during a session at the meeting. ‘There seems to have been a synchronous switch-off ‘ of the speed-up, she said. Nearly everywhere around southeast Greenland, outlet glacier flows have returned to the levels of 2000. An increasingly warmer climate will no doubt eat away at the Greenland ice sheet for centuries, glaciologists say, but no one should be extrapolating the ice’s recent wild behavior into the future.

News of a broad slowdown comes from a wide-ranging survey of glacier conditions across southeastern Greenland. Researchers reported in 2007 that two of the area's major outlet glaciers--Helheim and Kangerdlugssuaq--had slowed by the previous summer. But at the meeting, Murray and 10 of her Swansea colleagues reported results from their 2007 and 2008 surveys of the shape and appearance of the 14 largest outlet glaciers of southeast Greenland.
When glaciers speed up, they thin, and their lower, leading edge that floats on the sea retreats. So the Swansea researchers flew laser altimeters over the glaciers to estimate their changing volumes and, indirectly, their changing velocities. They also studied satellite images and aerial photographs in order to track the movements of natural markings on the ice.

Taken together, the data show ‘there's a pattern of speeding up to maximum velocity and then slowing down since 2005,’ Murray said. ‘It's amazing; they sped up and slowed down together. They're not in runaway acceleration. Something happened that has switched off’ the acceleration event of 2003 to 2005.

Now look at what another expert said at Copenhagen:

Jonathan Bamber, an ice sheet expert at the University of Bristol, told the conference that previous studies had misjudged the so-called Greenland tipping point, at which the ice sheet is certain to melt completely. ’We're talking about the point at which it is 100% doomed. It seems quite an important number to get right.’

It certainly does.

‘We found that the threshold is about double what was previously published’, said Bamber. It would take an average global temperature rise of 6C to push Greenland into irreversible melting, the new study found. Previous estimates, including those in the recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said the critical threshold was about 3C - which many climate scientists expect to be reached in the coming decades. ‘The threshold temperature has been substantially underestimated in previous studies. Our results have profound implications for predictions of sea level rise from Greenland over the coming century,’ the scientists said.

Profound implications indeed – the first being that Greenland’s melting ice sheets are probably not going to drown the world after all, and the second being that once again the IPCC got the science wrong.

And now look at something else Bamber told the conference:

He said evidence from past climates confirmed that Greenland should be able to survive temperature rises higher than 3C. An ice sheet about half the size is known to have persisted there during the Eemian period, about 125,000 years ago, when temperatures were about 5C higher than today.

Greenland was 5 degrees warmer 125,000 years ago than it is today, eh? Must’ve been all those motor cars and coal fired power stations and industrialisation. And it wasn’t the end of the world either. Fancy!

Professor Nils-Axel Mörner is the former head of the Paleogeophysics and Geodynamics department at Stockholm University in Sweden. He is past president of the INQUA Commission on Sea Level Changes and Coastal Evolution, and leader of the Maldives Sea Level Project. He is probably the foremost expert in the world on the subject of sea-level rise. This is what he said in 2007 about the alleged sea level rise at that point. There was no evidence of sea level rise anywhere. None. There was no trend to report. Sea level rise was a myth. Prof Mörner was an expert reviewer for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This is what he said about the process which led the IPCC to make its predictions of alarming (if subsequently reduced) sea level rise:

Then, in 2003, the same data set, which in their [IPCC’s] publications, in their website, was a straight line—suddenly it changed, and showed a very strong line of uplift, 2.3 mm per year, the same as from the tide gauge. And that didn’t look so nice. It looked as though they had recorded something; but they hadn’t recorded anything. It was the original one which they had suddenly twisted up, because they entered a ‘correction factor,’ which they took from the tide gauge. So it was not a measured thing, but a figure introduced from outside. I accused them of this at the Academy of Sciences in Moscow— I said you have introduced factors from outside; it’s not a measurement. It looks like it is measured from the satellite, but you don’t say what really happened. And they answered, that we had to do it, because otherwise we would not have gotten any trend!

That is terrible! As a matter of fact, it is a falsification of the data set. Why? Because they know the answer. And there you come to the point: They ‘know’ the answer; the rest of us, we are searching for the answer. Because we are field geologists; they are computer scientists. So all this talk that sea level is rising, this stems from the computer modeling, not from observations. The observations don’t find it!

I have been the expert reviewer for the IPCC, both in 2000 and last year. The first time I read it, I was exceptionally surprised. First of all, it had 22 authors, but none of them— none—were sea-level specialists. They were given this mission, because they promised to answer the right thing.

For this heresy, Prof Mörner is undoubtedly to be damned along with the rest of us for being a global warming ‘denier’ (or even more dementedly, a ‘climate change creationist’ -- yes, I know, I know, but when did elementary logic ever make an appearance in such circles?).

Unfortunately for the warmers, more and more such distinguished scientists are now openly denouncing the scam – and such sceptics now have the wind in their sails. Virtually unreported this week, a parallel international conference on climate change was taking place in New York. This conference attracted no fewer than 800 scientists and others to discuss ‘Global warming: was it ever a crisis?’ The BBC, whose Today programme yesterday devoted its prime 0810 slot to unchallenged ‘melting ice/rising seas/we are all doomed’ propaganda, has not even mentioned the New York conference. And as far as I can see, of the British papers only the Guardian attended it – not to report the proceedings, but to sneer. Thus Suzanne Goldenberg wrote:

It would be easy to dismiss this gathering as a pity party for people on the fringes of modern thought

which of course she proceeded to do. The attendees were

almost entirely white males, and many, if not most, are past retirement age

and worse still, other than the academics,

they are affiliated with rightwing thinktanks.

Well, say no more.

Even Goldenberg, however, could hardly dismiss as some maverick nutter one of the speakers, the eminent meteorologist Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT. Having crisply observed that most scientists are unaware that doubling or even tripling CO2 would have only a marginal impact on global temperature, Lindzen explained why so many scientists have gone along with the man-made global warming scam:

Most funding that goes to global warming would not be provided were it not for the climate scare. It has therefore become standard to include in any research proposal the effect of presumed AGW on your topic, quite irrespective of whether it has any real relevance or not. Lindzen asserted that it boils down to a matter of scientific logic against authority. The global warming movement has skilfully co-opted sources of authority, such as the IPCC and various scientific academies... the pro-alarm policy statements that are issued by various professional societies express the views of only the activist few, who often control the governing Council.

But it was the Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus, who knows a thing or two about totalitarian ideologies, who summed up the phenomenon:

He likened the situation to his former experience under communist government, where arguing against the dominant viewpoint falls into emptiness. No matter how high the quality of the arguments and evidence that you advance against the dangerous warming idea, nobody listens, and by even advancing skeptical arguments you are dismissed as a naïve and uninformed person. The environmentalists say that the planet must be saved, but from whom and from what? ‘In reality’, the President commented, ‘we have to save it, and us, from them’.


Obama's 'Science' Fiction

By Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
Friday, March 13, 2009; A17

Last week, the White House invited me to a signing ceremony overturning the Bush (43) executive order on stem cell research. I assume this was because I have long argued in these columns and during my five years on the President's Council on Bioethics that, contrary to the Bush policy, federal funding should be extended to research on embryonic stem cell lines derived from discarded embryos in fertility clinics.

I declined to attend. Once you show your face at these things you become a tacit endorser of whatever they spring. My caution was vindicated.

President Bush had restricted federal funding for embryonic stem cell research to cells derived from embryos that had already been destroyed (as of his speech of Aug. 9, 2001). While I favor moving that moral line to additionally permit the use of spare fertility clinic embryos, President Obama replaced it with no line at all. He pointedly left open the creation of cloned -- and noncloned sperm-and-egg-derived -- human embryos solely for the purpose of dismemberment and use for parts.

I am not religious. I do not believe that personhood is conferred upon conception. But I also do not believe that a human embryo is the moral equivalent of a hangnail and deserves no more respect than an appendix. Moreover, given the protean power of embryonic manipulation, the temptation it presents to science and the well-recorded human propensity for evil even in the pursuit of good, lines must be drawn. I suggested the bright line prohibiting the deliberate creation of human embryos solely for the instrumental purpose of research -- a clear violation of the categorical imperative not to make a human life (even if only a potential human life) a means rather than an end.

On this, Obama has nothing to say. He leaves it entirely to the scientists. This is more than moral abdication. It is acquiescence to the mystique of "science" and its inherent moral benevolence. How anyone as sophisticated as Obama can believe this within living memory of Mengele and Tuskegee and the fake (and coercive) South Korean stem cell research is hard to fathom.

That part of the ceremony, watched from the safe distance of my office, made me uneasy. The other part -- the ostentatious issuance of a memorandum on "restoring scientific integrity to government decision-making" -- would have made me walk out.

Restoring? The implication, of course, is that while Obama is guided solely by science, Bush was driven by dogma, ideology and politics.

What an outrage. Bush's nationally televised stem cell speech was the most morally serious address on medical ethics ever given by an American president. It was so scrupulous in presenting the best case for both his view and the contrary view that until the last few minutes, the listener had no idea where Bush would come out.

Obama's address was morally unserious in the extreme. It was populated, as his didactic discourses always are, with a forest of straw men. Such as his admonition that we must resist the "false choice between sound science and moral values." Yet, exactly 2 minutes and 12 seconds later he went on to declare that he would never open the door to the "use of cloning for human reproduction."

Does he not think that a cloned human would be of extraordinary scientific interest? And yet he banned it.

Is he so obtuse as not to see that he had just made a choice of ethics over science? Yet, unlike Bush, who painstakingly explained the balance of ethical and scientific goods he was trying to achieve, Obama did not even pretend to make the case why some practices are morally permissible and others not.

This is not just intellectual laziness. It is the moral arrogance of a man who continuously dismisses his critics as ideological while he is guided exclusively by pragmatism (in economics, social policy, foreign policy) and science in medical ethics.

Science has everything to say about what is possible. Science has nothing to say about what is permissible. Obama's pretense that he will "restore science to its rightful place" and make science, not ideology, dispositive in moral debates is yet more rhetorical sleight of hand -- this time to abdicate decision-making and color his own ideological preferences as authentically "scientific."

Dr. James Thomson, the pioneer of embryonic stem cells, said "if human embryonic stem cell research does not make you at least a little bit uncomfortable, you have not thought about it enough." Obama clearly has not.

Jihad, K–12

When it comes to Islamic Saudi Academy textbooks, forget trust — just verify.

By Nina Shea
March 13, 2009, 4:00 a.m.

For years, the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, the Institute for Gulf Affairs, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and various Washington Post journalists have been documenting the fact that the Islamic Saudi Academy (ISA) in northern Virginia — a school founded, funded, and controlled by the Saudi embassy — was teaching religious hatred and violence. More precisely, the Saudi Academy used Saudi Ministry of Education textbooks that sanction what is known in the United States as murder against Jews, adulterers, homosexuals, and converts from Islam, and that encourage Muslims to break various other American laws. The Saudi Academy is now putting out the word that its textbooks have been “revised.” Should we declare victory and move on? Not so fast.

The Associated Press, which ran a story this week headlined “Saudi Academy in Virginia Revises Islamic History Books,” relies on quotes from three individuals who give the academys new textbooks a Good Housekeeping seal of approval: Academy director Abdulrahman Alghofaili, Brown University visiting fellow Eleanor Doumato, and University of North Carolina anthropology professor Gregory Starrett. As AP makes clear, all three were paid by the Islamic Saudi Academy to review the textbooks.

A fourth commentator quoted in the AP report, Ali Ahmed, who is the president of the Gulf Institute and who is not funded by the Saudis, gives a somewhat different assessment. As the AP reporter paraphrases, “The revised texts now being used at ISA make some small improvements in tone. But he said it’s clear from the books that the core ideology behind them — a puritanical strain of Islam known as Wahhabism that is dominant within Saudi Arabia — remains intact.”

Ever since September 11, 2001, there has been a highly funded publicity campaign by the Saudi embassy to persuade Americans that the Academy’s textbooks have been completely revised. Saudi ads in American political magazines, speeches by various Saudi ambassadors and foreign ministers before the Council on Foreign Relations, a national speaking tour by the Saudi ambassador — all have spoken along the lines one of those ambassadors, Turki al-Faisal, took when he told a Town Hall meeting in Los Angeles in 2006: “The Kingdom has reviewed all of its education practices and materials, and has removed any element that is inconsistent with the needs of a modern education. Not only have we eliminated what might be perceived as intolerance from old textbooks that were in our system, we have implemented a comprehensive internal revision and modernization plan.” A number of prominent Americans — Charles Freeman, for example — have repeated such claims, despite our annual reports that show this is far from true.

At this point, forget trust; we must verify.

The AP story reports that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, a large regional educational accrediting agency, was conducting a review of the Saudi Academy curriculum. Unfortunately the Association may not be up to the task. In 2005, it accredited the Academy, not knowing — since it did not have the capacity to translate the texts from Arabic — that the school countenanced religiously motivated killing. Although the accrediting association now says it has improved its procedures, it still relies on volunteers to do its inspections.

The State Department, which had been requested to sponsor a textbook review by Rep. Frank Wolf (R., Va.), the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, which oversees its budget, refused to get involved.

In the light of these institutional failures, the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, Mr. Ahmed, and outside expert translators are currently working on a thorough, independent review of the Academy’s new textbooks, which will be released later this spring.

Readers may recall [“Teaching Terror”] that the Saudi curriculum has been blamed — including by a growing number of Saudi commentators — for helping to form the ideology underlying such jihadi terrorists as Osama bin Laden, the 11 Saudi members of the 9/11 hijacking team, the Saudi Gitmo detainees (who formed the largest contingent there, after persons from Afghanistan), the Saudi suicide bombers in Iraq (who formed the largest such foreign contingent), the Pakistani Islamist militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba and its network of radical schools that trained the Mumbai terrorists [“Tread Softly”], and even a former valedictorian of the Saudi Academy itself, to name but a few.

What the Islamic Saudi Academy teaches is important. This Saudi government entity in our midst is now educating some 1,000 students and has said that its mission is to be “the premier educational institution” for the American Muslim community.

No less than our national security and way of life are at stake.

— Nina Shea is the director of the Center for Religious Freedom of the Hudson Institute.

A Murder Revisited

By John Perazzo
Friday, March 13, 2009

Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn— "then and now'' -- from a 2001 feature on the Sixties radicals reprised in Chicago magazine.

Today Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn are hailed by the Left as “respected” university professors—Ayers in the University of Illinois’ education department, and Dohrn at Northwestern University’s School of Law. In the mid-1990s, both were instrumental in helping to launch 34-year-old Barack Obama’s political career in Chicago. Ayers in particular would go on to cultivate a close working relationship with Obama, serving as a fellow board member at the Woods Fund of Chicago and appointing Obama to chair the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, which funneled money to a host of far-left causes such as ACORN and an organization run by Communist Party leader Mike Klonsky. On Thursday, March 12, the National Press Club will host an event where several key speakers will urge federal authorities to reopen an investigation into the role that Ayers and Dohrn—both of whom are former leaders of the notorious terror group Weather Underground—may have played in the February 16, 1970 murder of Sergeant Brian McDonnell at Park Station police headquarters in San Francisco.

Ayers and Dohrn have always denied any personal involvement with the Weather Underground bomb blast that killed McDonnell. In fact, their consistent refrain has been that none of the thirty bombs which their organization detonated ever harmed anyone other than three fellow Underground members who were killed in March 1970, when a bomb they were constructing—and were planning to detonate at a Fort Dix, New Jersey dance attended by Army soldiers—exploded unexpectedly in their lab. But one of the individuals slated to speak at the National Press Club, Larry Grathwohl—a former FBI informant who actually joined the Weather Underground and held private meetings and conversations with Ayers—contends that Ayers confided to him that Dohrn had planted the bomb that took Sergeant McDonnell’s life.

Thus we see a remarkable scenario taking shape: On Thursday, Grathwohl and his fellow speakers—retired San Francisco policeman (and McDonnell colleague) Jim Pera, veteran congressional investigator Herbert Romerstein, and the renowned researcher into extremist movements Trevor Loudon—will urge the Obama Justice Department to investigate the very people, Ayers and Dohrn, who first helped Obama gain a foothold in politics. How will this play with an Obama Justice Department headed by none other than Eric Holder, who in 1999 worked doggedly to secure the release of 16 incarcerated Marxist-Leninist terrorists belonging to the FALN?

To put this story more fully in perspective, some further background about Ayers and Dohrn is in order. Their Weather Underground emerged in 1969 as “Weatherman,” a Communist-driven splinter faction of Students for a Democratic Society. Characterizing Weatherman as “an American Red Army,” Ayers summed up the organization’s ideology as follows:

“Kill all the rich people. Break up their cars and apartments. Bring the revolution home, Kill your parents.”

The fledgling Weatherman issued a “manifesto” eschewing nonviolence and calling instead for armed opposition to U.S. policies; advocating the overthrow of capitalism; exhorting white radicals to trigger a worldwide revolution by fighting in the streets of the “mother country”; and proclaiming that the time had come to launch a race war against the “white” United States on behalf of the non-white Third World. Weatherman leaders traveled illegally to Castro’s Cuba, where they were taught Marxist philosophy and urban warfare at terrorist-training camps established by the Soviet KGB.

At a 1969 “War Council” in Flint, Michigan, Bernardine Dohrn delivered a signature speech wherein she praised the bloody murders recently committed by the Manson Family, stating: “Dig it! First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them. They even shoved a fork into the victim’s stomach! Wild!” The War Council ended with a formal declaration of war against “AmeriKKKa,” always spelled with three K’s to signify the United States’ allegedly ineradicable white racism. From that point onward, Weatherman was transformed into the even more radical “Weather Underground” cult.

Ayers and Dohrn spent the 1970s as fugitives running from the FBI. In 1974 they co-authored—along with Jeff Jones and Celia Sojourn—a book titled Prairie Fire: The Politics of Revolutionary Anti-Imperialism. The title was an allusion to Mao Zedong’s observation that “a single spark can start a prairie fire.” Dedicated to a bevy of violent, America-hating revolutionaries, including Sirhan Sirhan (assassin of Robert F. Kennedy), this book contained the following statements:

* "We are a guerrilla organization. We are communist women and men ... deeply affected by the historic events of our time in the struggle against U.S. imperialism."

* "Our intention is to disrupt the empire, to incapacitate it, to put pressure on the cracks, to make it hard to carry out its bloody functioning against the people of the world, to join the world struggle, to attack from the inside."

* "The only path to the final defeat of imperialism and the building of socialism is revolutionary war."

* "Revolutionary war will be complicated and protracted. It includes mass struggle and clandestine struggle, peaceful and violent, political and economic, cultural and military, where all forms are developed in harmony with the armed struggle."

* "Without mass struggle there can be no revolution. Without armed struggle there can be no victory."

* "We need a revolutionary communist party in order to lead the struggle, give coherence and direction to the fight, seize power and build the new society."

* "Our job is to tap the discontent seething in many sectors of the population, to find allies everywhere people are hungry or angry, to mobilize poor and working people against imperialism."

* "Socialism is the total opposite of capitalism/imperialism. It is the rejection of empire and white supremacy. Socialism is the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie, the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the eradication of the social system based on profit."

In 1980 Ayers and Dohrn surrendered to law-enforcement authorities, but all charges against them were later dropped due to a technicality—government authorities had failed to get a warrant for some of their surveillance. Ayers’ sardonic comment about this fortuitous turn of events, as reported by Peter Collier and David Horowitz in their book Destructive Generation, was this: “Guilty as sin, free as a bird, America is a great country.”

In a 2001 interview, Ayers gave expression to his enduring hatred of the United States: “What a country. It makes me want to puke.” Published that same year was Ayers’ book Fugitive Days, wherein he recounts his life as a Sixties radical and boasts that he “participated in the bombings of New York City Police Headquarters in 1970, of the Capitol building in 1971, and the Pentagon in 1972.” Of the day he bombed the Pentagon, Ayers writes: “Everything was absolutely ideal.... The sky was blue. The birds were singing. And the bastards were finally going to get what was coming to them.”

All told, Ayers and Weatherman were responsible for 30 bombings aimed at destroying the defense and security infrastructures of the U.S. “I don’t regret setting bombs,” said Ayers in 2001, “I feel we didn’t do enough.” In Fugitive Days, Ayers reflects on whether or not he might use bombs against the U.S. in the future: “I can’t imagine entirely dismissing the possibility,” he writes.

That is because Ayers views himself not as a terrorist but rather as a freedom-fighter struggling to overthrow an evil American “Empire” characterized by “a kind of rising incipient … form of fascism” as embodied in those who do not share his revolutionary Marxist ideals. Neither does Bernardine Dohrn consider herself a terrorist. Of her Weather Underground past, she says: “We rejected terrorism. We were careful not to hurt anybody.”

But that assertion is patently untrue.

In a Weatherman riot that erupted during the Chicago “Days of Rage” in October 1969, for instance, a local district attorney named Richard Elrod suffered injuries that rendered him paralyzed for life. Dohrn later led a celebration of Elrod's paralysis by leading her comrades in a parody of a Bob Dylan song, “Lay, Elrod, Lay.”

Brian McDonnell was another casualty of the violence practiced by Ayers, Dohrn, and their comrades. Hopefully a measure of justice can finally be delivered to those responsible for his death. And if that happens, maybe someone in the media will have the backbone to ask Barack Obama why he chose to hitch his political star to people like Ayers and Dohrn.

John Perazzo is the Managing Editor of DiscoverTheNetworks and is the author of The Myths That Divide Us: How Lies Have Poisoned American Race Relations. For more information on his book, click here. E-mail him at

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Gregory the Great's Dilemma
March 12, 2009

RUBENS, The Ecstasy of St. Gregory, 1608, Musee des Beaux Arts, Grenoble. (Click to enlarge)

Today in both Eastern and Western churches is the commemoration of Gregory the Great, or as he is known in the East, Gregory the Dialogist, Bishop of Rome. In the West he is one of the four greatest "Doctors of the Church" (along with Augustine, Jerome, and Ambrose). He is credited as the author of the Presanctified Liturgy served in Lent on weekdays in the Eastern churches.

He was Pope for about 14 years (590-604). Like many of the best men in the church who assumed "high office," the last thing in the world he wanted was high office. Until about age fifty, he had been "simple" monk, who was highly regarded for his Christian virtues in following Christ. He was elected abbot.

He later served as a secretary to Pope Pelagius, who died during a plague epidemic. Gregory called for people to repent, they apparently did, and the plague stopped. Eschewing honors awaiting him for this spiritual leadership, he hid in a cave, but he was discovered and brought back to Rome and consecrated Pope, against his will on September 3, 590.

It said that he replied to congratulations on his election with tears, "With the office of bishop, you see me bound to the world more closely than I was as a layman. I have lost the deep of my rest; it is externally, an elevation, but internally it is a fall." He excelled as Pope.

Each day he received twelve of the poor at his table, washing their hands. In his letters he used only the title, "Servant of the Servants of God." He sent the Augustinian mission to the pagan parts of England in 597. He is known for "Gregorian chant." And so much more.

He seems to have solved the dilemma of being in high church office by holding it in the way Christ instructed the men whom he called Apostles and appointed to be foundational witnesses to His mission: as servants, not lording it over others, using their unique authority to build up others in Christ.

Posted by James M. Kushiner at 10:17 AM Permalink Comments (1) TrackBack (0)

How Soccer is Ruining America: A Jeremiad

How Soccer is Ruining America: A Jeremiad
By Stephen H. Webb
Thursday, March 5, 2009, 12:00 AM

Soccer is running America into the ground, and there is very little anyone can do about it. Social critics have long observed that we live in a therapeutic society that treats young people as if they can do no wrong. Every kid is a winner, and nobody is ever left behind, no matter how many times they watch the ball going the other way. Whether the dumbing down of America or soccer came first is hard to say, but soccer is clearly an important means by which American energy, drive, and competitiveness is being undermined to the point of no return.

What other game, to put it bluntly, is so boring to watch? (Bowling and golf come to mind, but the sound of crashing pins and the sight of the well-attired strolling on perfectly kept greens are at least inherently pleasurable activities.) The linear, two-dimensional action of soccer is like the rocking of a boat but without any storm and while the boat has not even left the dock. Think of two posses pursuing their prey in opposite directions without any bullets in their guns. Soccer is the fluoridation of the American sporting scene.

For those who think I jest, let me put forth four points, which is more points than most fans will see in a week of games—and more points than most soccer players have scored since their pee-wee days.

1) Any sport that limits you to using your feet, with the occasional bang of the head, has something very wrong with it. Indeed, soccer is a liberal’s dream of tragedy: It creates an egalitarian playing field by rigorously enforcing a uniform disability. Anthropologists commonly define man according to his use of hands. We have the thumb, an opposable digit that God gave us to distinguish us from animals that walk on all fours. The thumb lets us do things like throw baseballs and fold our hands in prayer. We can even talk with our hands. Have you ever seen a deaf person trying to talk with their feet? When you are really angry and acting like an animal, you kick out with your feet. Only fools punch a wall with their hands. The Iraqi who threw his shoes at President Bush was following his primordial instincts. Showing someone your feet, or sticking your shoes in someone’s face, is the ultimate sign of disrespect. Do kids ever say, “Trick or Treat, smell my hands”? Did Jesus wash his disciples’ hands at the Last Supper? No, hands are divine (they are one of the body parts most frequently attributed to God), while feet are in need of redemption. In all the portraits of God’s wrath, never once is he pictured as wanting to step on us or kick us; he does not stoop that low.

2) Sporting should be about breaking kids down before you start building them up. Take baseball, for example. When I was a kid, baseball was the most popular sport precisely because it was so demanding. Even its language was intimidating, with bases, bats, strikes, and outs. Striding up to the plate gave each of us a chance to act like we were starring in a Western movie, and tapping the bat to the plate gave us our first experience with inventing self-indulgent personal rituals. The boy chosen to be the pitcher was inevitably the first kid on the team to reach puberty, and he threw a hard ball right at you.

Thus, you had to face the fear of disfigurement as well as the statistical probability of striking out. The spectacle of your failure was so public that it was like having all of your friends invited to your home to watch your dad forcing you to eat your vegetables. We also spent a lot of time in the outfield chanting, “Hey batter batter!” as if we were Buddhist monks on steroids. Our chanting was compensatory behavior, a way of making the time go by, which is surely why at soccer games today it is the parents who do all of the yelling.

3) Everyone knows that soccer is a foreign invasion, but few people know exactly what is wrong with that. More than having to do with its origin, soccer is a European sport because it is all about death and despair. Americans would never invent a sport where the better you get the less you score. Even the way most games end, in sudden death, suggests something of an old-fashioned duel. How could anyone enjoy a game where so much energy results in so little advantage, and which typically ends with a penalty kick out, as if it is the audience that needs to be put out of its misery. Shootouts are such an anticlimax to the game and are so unpredictable that the teams might as well flip a coin to see who wins—indeed, they might as well flip the coin before the game, and not play at all.

4) And then there is the question of gender. I know my daughter will kick me when she reads this, but soccer is a game for girls. Girls are too smart to waste an entire day playing baseball, and they do not have the bloodlust for football. Soccer penalizes shoving and burns countless calories, and the margins of victory are almost always too narrow to afford any gloating. As a display of nearly death-defying stamina, soccer mimics the paradigmatic feminine experience of childbirth more than the masculine business of destroying your opponent with insurmountable power.

Let me conclude on a note of despair appropriate to my topic. There is no way to run away from soccer, if only because it is a sport all about running. It is as relentless as it is easy, and it is as tiring to play as it is tedious to watch. The real tragedy is that soccer is a foreign invasion, but it is not a plot to overthrow America. For those inclined toward paranoia, it would be easy to blame soccer’s success on the political left, which, after all, worked for years to bring European decadence and despair to America. The left tried to make existentialism, Marxism, post-structuralism, and deconstructionism fashionable in order to weaken the clarity, pragmatism, and drive of American culture. What the left could not accomplish through these intellectual fads, one might suspect, they are trying to accomplish through sport.

Yet this suspicion would be mistaken. Soccer is of foreign origin, that is certainly true, but its promotion and implementation are thoroughly domestic. Soccer is a self-inflicted wound. Americans have nobody to blame but themselves. Conservative suburban families, the backbone of America, have turned to soccer in droves. Baseball is too intimidating, football too brutal, and basketball takes too much time to develop the required skills. American parents in the past several decades are overworked and exhausted, but their children are overweight and neglected. Soccer is the perfect antidote to television and video games. It forces kids to run and run, and everyone can play their role, no matter how minor or irrelevant to the game. Soccer and relevision are the peanut butter and jelly of parenting.

I should know. I am an overworked teacher, with books to read and books to write, and before I put in a video for the kids to watch while I work in the evenings, they need to have spent some of their energy. Otherwise, they want to play with me! Last year all three of my kids were on three different soccer teams at the same time. My daughter is on a traveling team, and she is quite good. I had to sign a form that said, among other things, I would not do anything embarrassing to her or the team during the game. I told the coach I could not sign it. She was perplexed and worried. “Why not,” she asked? “Are you one of those parents who yells at their kids? “Not at all,” I replied, “I read books on the sidelines during the game, and this embarrasses my daughter to no end.” That is my one way of protesting the rise of this pitiful sport. Nonetheless, I must say that my kids and I come home from a soccer game a very happy family.

Stephen H. Webb is a professor of religion and philosophy at Wabash College. His recent books include American Providence and Taking Religion to School.

No Surrender--At Least Not Yet

A review of U2: No Line On The Horizon.

by Victorino Matus
03/12/2009 12:00:00 AM

There's nothing worse than a music review written by a devotee of the band being reviewed. The result is invariably an excess of name-dropping and obscure references, all for the sake of proving one's street cred. By the end of the review, the critic has become a brainless fan declaring to the world, "This album rocks!"

This may happen here.

There was a moment, twenty years ago, when U2 could have ended things. Rattle and Hum (both movie and record) had been released, and the Lovetown Tour was wrapping up in Dublin. On the last night of the tour, Bono said to the crowd, "We've had a lot of fun over the last few months, just getting to know some of the music which we didn't know so much about--and still don't know very much about, but it was fun.... This is just the end of something for U2 . It's no big deal, it's just--we have to go away and ... and dream it all up again."

This naturally sparked rumors that Ireland's most famous rockers were about to break up. And though that was not their intention, the band did reach a critical juncture while recording their next album in Berlin. Things were not coming together and there was the thought that maybe they should just scrap everything--that is, until "One," which led to the dark masterpiece Achtung Baby. By this time, U2 had been in existence for 14 years, 4 years longer than the Beatles.

In the 18 years after Achtung Baby, which proved to critics that the band could reinvent itself, create new sounds, and remain prolific, the question has repeatedly come up: Can they do it again? Zooropa and Pop might have left some fans disconcerted, but All That You Can't Leave Behind and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb restored their faith (earning Grammys along the way). Still, the Edge had mentioned dissolving the band the moment they lost their originality--a notion that left the rest of us to wonder if that next album, whatever it is, would be the one to end it all.

Upon listening to No Line On The Horizon for the first time, the temptation is to say yes, this is it. They cannot possibly have more to sing about. They have run out of both ideas and melodies. It is Pop 2.0. Bono's voice is ragged (as in the opening verse of "Moment of Surrender," in which a screech ruins a fluid sound of bass, keyboards, and drums). There are more falsetto and conversational tones than soaring vocals. Another song, "FEZ-Being Born," might as well be "Miami" or that confused B-side of "The Fly," "Alex Descends Into Hell for a Bottle of Milk." "Breathe" is either "Acrobat" or "Please" (though the latter does have its merits, especially the live version that transitions to "Where the Streets Have No Name"). What did I say about obscure references?

But then I listened to it again. And again. Each time the songs seemed more nuanced, sophisticated, melodious, coherent. (This happens: Axl Rose and Slash supposedly cut class to hear Led Zeppelin's "D'yer Maker" for the first time, laughed hysterically at how stupid it sounded, and then fell in love with it. Besides, how many of you thought something was wrong with your speakers the first time you heard "Zoo Station"?) One of the reasons Joshua Tree worked so brilliantly was that one track seemed to effortlessly transition to the next. Bono had said as much about the album and how it wasn't meant to be split into two sides (back when it was on vinyl and cassette). "Running to Stand Still" should softly pick-up with "Red Hill Mining Town" like a sunrise over the desert. (No, I am not crying.) In any event, the same could be said, within limits, about No Line, which rises steadily and reaches its peak with "Get On Your Boots," before making a slow descent.

Musically, No Line is closely related to Achtung Baby, How to Dismantle, and, yes, Pop (not that there's anything wrong with that). A number of tracks feature a futuristic bass (critic J. Freedom du Lac compares it to a videogame sound) and the Edge's guitar is replete with reverb, as on the last album (fine: as on most albums). And while the guitarist may not be breaking new ground here, his restraint, such as in "Magnificent," is noteworthy. It builds and you expect the Edge to do more (aside from the standard solo), but he doesn't. In fact, you may be supplying missing notes of the phrase in your head. It leaves you wanting a bit more, resulting in a sort of delayed gratification. (Think back to the finale of "With or Without You," in which, only at the very end, do you hear the guitar break out into connected melodies, which could have gone on longer, but instead fades out. In the film Rattle and Hum, and in concert for a few years after, that end solo was fully realized, culminating in Bono's exclamation, "Yeah, we'll shine like stars in the summer night .")

As with any U2 album, Bono's lyrics will keep you guessing. Take, for instance, these lines from "Breathe": "Coming from a long line of traveling salespeople on my mother's side / I wasn't gonna buy just anyone's cockatoo." Suit yourself. In "One Tree Hill" on Joshua Tree, "Jara sang his song / a weapon / in the hands of love / you know his blood still cries from the ground." Who's Jara? Or from "Twilight": "My body grows and grows / It frightens me you know / An old man tried to walk me home / I thought he should know." Don't even think it.

And there are certain types of phrases Bono loves, such as "It's not if I believe in love / But if love believes in me" in "Moment of Surrender" from the current album, which is like "What you thought was freedom was just free." But it works as Bono soulfully pleads his case for, if I'm not mistaken, love. On the other hand, the curious incantations in "Unknown Caller" make me wonder if all four band members will have to provide that chorus in concert. And can one really keep a straight face while singing, "Force quit / And move to trash"?

Quibbles. By and large Bono knows not to take himself too seriously. In the upbeat "Stand Up Comedy," he sings, "Stand up to rock stars, Napoleon in high heels / Josephine, be careful of small men with big ideas." There is no greater taboo subject in the world of U2 than Bono's height--just check out his shoes in any photo. And while there are serious tracks like "White as Snow" (to the tune of "Oh Come, Oh Come, Emanuel") about the death of a soldier in Afghanistan, No Line is a mostly optimistic offering, with standouts like "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" and, of course, "Get On Your Boots" (one lyric: "I don't want to talk about the wars between nations / not right now"). The effort is there--clearly, while Bono has gone about saving the world, the Edge, Larry Mullen, and Adam Clayton have been busying themselves fine-tuning their instruments.

Fans can ultimately breathe a sigh of relief that No Line On The Horizon is not the end of that "musical journey" (yes, a movie line from Rattle and Hum). It is both hopeful and harmonious, which is more than you can ask from a band that is 33 years old. At some point, however, there will be an end--an Abbey Road, a Synchronicity. After all, by the time the band opens the tour in Spain this summer, Bono will be 49. (This is inevitably followed by the realization that I am no longer 14, listening to Joshua Tree on my Sony Walkman, looking for some deep revelation in "Exit.")

Oh, and in case I forgot to mention it, this album rocks.

Victorino Matus is assistant managing editor at THE WEEKLY STANDARD. Somewhere in his basement is a baseball cap bearing the words "Pop Mart."

Paved With Magnificent Intentions

By George Will
The Washington Post
March 12, 2009, Page A19

WASHINGTON -- Charles Dickens, who visited in 1842, described Washington as a "city of magnificent intentions" because of the incongruity between the city's grand aspirations and muddy, swampy actuality. Today Washington's discrepancy is not architectural but political. It is between the extraordinary powers and competences the administration claims it has, and the administration's inability to be clear or plausible about what it is doing.

President Obama at the White House's forum on health care this month. (By Chip Somodevilla -- Getty Images)

Improvisation is understandable when confronting the unprecedented, but protracted improvisation precludes a prerequisite for recovery -- investors' certainty about the relationship between the government and the economy. One year ago this weekend, that relationship began changing when the Bush administration decided that Bear Stearns, the nation's fifth largest investment bank, was too big, or too connected -- too something -- to be allowed to fail. Seven months later, with the financial system frozen, Congress passed the Troubled Asset Relief Program, fresh proof that the titles of legislation, like the titles of Marx Brothers movies ("Duck Soup"; "Horse Feathers"), are uninformative about the contents.

Quicker than you can say "toxic assets," which TARP was supposedly designed to quarantine, TARP was subsidizing the manufacture of automobiles partially designed by Washington. Which recent government adventure in enterprise justifies such government confidence? Fannie Mae? Freddie Mac? Amtrak? Ethanol? The government has subsidized ethanol, protected it with tariffs, mandated levels of production and authorized 10 percent ethanol in gasoline blends, and now the shrinking ethanol industry wants government to authorize 15 percent.

Five months after enactment of TARP, a plan for unfreezing the credit system remains, like Atlantis, rumored but unseen. Twelve months after the government brokered the marriage of Bear Stearns and JPMorgan Chase, the government is recapitalizing financial institutions that the market has said should be shuttered. Lawrence H. White, economics professor at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, denies that financial institutions ever were "unregulated." Hitherto, such institutions were "regulated by profit and loss":

"The failure of Lehman Brothers and the near-failure of Merrill Lynch raised the interest rate at which profit-seeking lenders were willing to lend to highly leveraged investment banks. The market thereby forced Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to change their business models drastically and to convert to commercial banks. If that isn't effective regulation, what is? Protecting firms from failure (Bear Stearns, AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Goldman Sachs, Citibank) and mitigating their losses with bailouts renders this most appropriate form of regulation much less effective."

The president's confidence in his capacities is undermining confidence in his judgment. His way of correcting what he called the Bush administration's "misplaced priorities" has been to have no priorities. Mature political leaders know that to govern is to choose -- to choose what to do and thereby to choose what cannot be done. The administration insists that it really does have a single priority: Everything depends on fixing the economy. But it also says that everything depends on everything: Economic revival requires enactment of the entire liberal wish list of recent decades.

The implausibility of this opportunistic hypothesis is deepened by Obama's rhetoric, which says "catastrophe" impends unless everything is done simultaneously. But his budget, in effect, says the danger will soon be gone and the new risk will be whiplash from the economy's sudden acceleration. Although only a small fraction of the supposedly countercyclical stimulus will be spent by the end of the year, the budget assumes that by then the economy will have perked up, and that it will grow robustly -- 3.2 percent, 4 percent and 4.6 percent -- in the next three years. Growth supposedly will cut the deficit in half -- growth and the $1.6 trillion "saved" by first assuming, and then "canceling," a 10-year continuation of the surge in Iraq. Why, one wonders, not "save" $5 trillion by proposing to spend that amount to cover the moon with yogurt, and then canceling the proposal?

The first president whose campaign was his qualification for office continues to campaign. And he is overexposed. His schedulers should remember what a contemporary said of Thomas Babington Macaulay, a prodigiously articulate but oppressively constant talker: "He has occasional flashes of silence that make his conversation perfectly delightful."

One afternoon last week, cable news viewers saw, at the top of their screens, the president launching yet another magnificent intention -- the disassembly and rearrangement of the 17 percent of the economy that is health care. The bottom of their screens showed the Dow plunging 281 points. Surely the top of the screen partially explained the bottom.


By Ann Coulter
March 11, 2009

Are you sitting down? Obama plans to pay for his $3.6 trillion-dollar spending bill by raising taxes on "the rich." I know, I know ... I was pretty shocked, too.

The bad news is, by hiking taxes in a recession, Obama will turn a disaster into a catastrophe. But there's good news, too. The "rich" include most of Obama's biggest supporters!

While liberals love being praised for their looks, their style, their brilliance and their courage, the one quality they don't want talked about is their money. To the contrary, Democrats are constantly boasting about how poor they are -- as if that's a virtue in a capitalist society with no class barriers.

No matter how much money they have, liberals will be damned if they're giving up the poor's mantle of angry self-righteousness. This is especially true if their wealth came by inheritance, marriage or the taxpayer, the preferred sources of income for Liberalus Americanus.

Democrats' claims of poverty merely serve to show how out of touch elected Democrats are with actual incomes in America.

At the Democratic National Convention, for example, there were heartfelt tributes to the daunting self-sacrifice of both Barack and Michelle Obama for passing up lucrative jobs to work in "public service" -- which apparently is now defined, such as in Michelle Obama's case, as "working as a 'diversity coordinator' at a big city hospital for $300,000 a year."

Seriously, even with a company car, full medical benefits and six weeks' paid vacation thrown in, how do people live on that?

Meanwhile, the average salary for a lawyer with 20 years or more experience in the U.S. is a little more than $100,000. If Michelle Obama doesn't lay off all this "giving back" stuff pretty soon, she's going to find herself in Warren Buffett's tax bracket.

During the campaign, Joe Biden was also praised by the Democrats for being the poorest U.S. senator -- as if that were a major accomplishment.

Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, touted Biden as "a good example of a working-class kid," adding that, to this day, Biden was "one of the least wealthy members of the U.S. Senate." Only a Democrat would list "never really made anything of myself" on his resume.

On the Huffington Post, operated by a woman who acquired her wealth by marrying a rich gay guy connected to Big Oil, liberal blogger Steven Clemons gloated that, unlike John McCain, Biden wouldn't "forget the number of houses he owns," adding that, in 2006, Biden was ranked the poorest U.S. senator.

And at his high school reunion Biden was voted "most likely to try to bum a ride off of somebody." Vote Biden!

According to tax returns for Biden and his public schoolteacher wife, in 2006, their total income was $248,459; in 2007, it was $319,853 -- putting the couple in the top 1 percent of all earners in the U..S.

This, my friends, is the face of poverty in America. At least in the Democratic Party. It's located just below that row of hair plugs. The Bidens are yet another heart-rending example of America's "hidden poor" -- desperately needy families hidden behind annual incomes of a quarter million dollars or more paid by the taxpayer. My fellow Americans, we can do better.

The national median household income was $48,201 in 2006 and $50,233 in 2007. Working for the government pays well.

If liberals are going to show how in touch they are with normal Americans by demanding a Marxist revolution against the rich every time they control the government, how about taking a peek at the charitable giving of these champions of the little guy?

According to their tax returns, in 2006 and 2007, the Obamas gave 5.8 percent and 6.1 percent of their income to charity. I guess Michelle Obama has to draw the line someplace with all this "giving back" stuff. The Bidens gave 0.15 percent and 0.31 percent of the income to charity.

No wonder Obama doesn't see what the big fuss is over his decision to limit tax deductions for charitable giving. At least that part of Obama's tax plan won't affect his supporters.

Meanwhile, in 1991, 1992 and 1993, George W. Bush had incomes of $179,591, $212,313 and $610,772. His charitable contributions those years were $28,236, $31,914 and $31,292. During his presidency, Bush gave away more than 10 percent of his income each year.

For purposes of comparison, in 2005, Barack Obama made $1.7 million -- more than twice President Bush's 2005 income of $735,180 -- but they both gave about the same amount to charity.

That same year, the heartless Halliburton employee Vice President Dick Cheney gave 77 percent of his income to charity. The following year, in 2006, Bush gave more to charity than Obama on an income one-third smaller than Obama's. Maybe when Obama talks about "change" he's referring to his charitable contributions.

Liberals have no intention of actually parting with any of their own wealth or lifting a finger to help the poor. That's for other people to do with what's left of their incomes after the government has taken its increasingly large cut.

As the great liberal intellectual Bertrand Russell explained while scoffing at the idea that he would give his money to charity: "I'm afraid you've got it wrong. (We) are socialists. We don't pretend to be Christians."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Today's Tune: Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers - King's Highway

(Click on title to play video)


Steyn on People
Tuesday, 10 March 2009

from National Review (March 9, 2009 issue)

The Times of London put it this way: “Arnie Schwarzenegger Joins the Ranks of Girlie Men.”

Quite. As is well known, the Terminator has been unable to terminate anything — not even the impact study group studying the impact of expanding the Department of Impact Studies. The man who walloped his predecessor for fiscal profligacy has managed to preside over a California budget that’s expanded 40 percent (so far) since the good old Gray days. Sacramento is piling on an extra million-and-three-quarter dollars of debt every hour, 24/7. The Golden State is a foldin’ state, going out of business — a far cry from when Ahnuld arrived as a penniless immigrant in a land of plenty. Now he’s an immigrant of plenty in a penniless land. Another Californian actor-governor famously observed that “we are a nation that has a government, not the other way around.” In Collyvornya, it’s the other way round. Doing your ’08 tax return? If you’re expecting a refund, Sacramento’s stopped the check: Instead you receive an IOU saying they’ll get around to it when they can. On the other hand, if you owe them money, don’t expect reciprocal treatment. As the governor’s celebrated catchphrase has it: “Ah’ll be back — for more of your money.”

Ah, well. I supported him at the time. Don’t know why. In a field of Arnie, Cruz Bustamante, Arianna Huffington, Larry Flynt, etc., etc., I should probably have plumped for Angelyne, the non-singing non-dancing non-acting “celebrity” famous for doing nothing except displaying her embonpoint on Los Angeles billboards. True, her cleavage isn’t as impressive as Ahnuld’s, but whose is? If I sound bitter, I shouldn’t be. Governor Schwarzenegger is merely the latest “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” mirage to dissolve from shimmering oasis to bottomless toxic swamp. Usually this beast roams the East Coast — see Christie Whitman, George Pataki, William Weld, and others you forgot to remember. I see the nice Maine ladies, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, were hailed for reaching across the aisle on the “stimulus” bill by William Cohen, who helpfully explained to The Washington Post that Pine Tree Staters are “liberal on social issues and conservative on fiscal matters.” And nothing says “fiscally conservative” like voting for a trillion dollars of pork after you’ve stayed up three nights in a row carefully weeding out the $473.84 that shouldn’t have been in there.

A “social liberal/fiscal conservative” is not necessarily a girly-man, more of a pre-op transsexual. It would be nice to be able to have it both ways, like that so-called “pregnant man” out on the West Coast — and, incidentally, didn’t Ahnuld play a pregnant man in some movie a decade or so back? Why, so he did: Junior. I remember the poster, the leading man with a swollen belly — like a girly-man governor about to give birth to a big bloated budget. The problem with being “socially liberal, fiscally conservative” is that most of the social liberalism comes with quite a price tag — just have a ten-minute riffle through the non-stimulus bill. We all want to move beyond “the standard left/right paradigm,” as Arianna liked to say in that gubernatorial race. If I had a pair o’ dime for every time a politician has said we need to move beyond the old paradigm, I could afford to live in Arnold’s California. But the reality is that almost every “socially liberal, fiscally conservative” politician turns out to be fiscally liberal — in the same way that, if you mix half a pint of vanilla ice cream with half a pint of horse manure, it’s not hard to figure which taste will predominate.

To be fair to Ahnuld, a lot of voters want it both ways, too. Which is why “fiscal” is not a useful word in this context. Big Government is not primarily a “fiscal” issue: These programs are not wrong because they’re unaffordable; they’re unaffordable because they’re wrong — they’re not the proper role of government, and if you pretend they are, then, as in California, you unbalance the relationship between the citizen and the state. But it’s not a green-eyeshade thing: They would be just as wrong, as I said a month or two back, if Bill Gates wrote a check to cover them every month. So when a politician tells you he’s “fiscally” conservative, it’s like Conan the Barbarian announcing he’ll bring his abacus to a sword fight.

That’s the missing element in the bailoutapalooza. For six months now, Paulson, Geithner, and the gang have talked about it as a kind of technical correction, a recalibration that will re-inflate the credit bubble and get us back to “normal.” But it’s not about the arithmetic, it’s about restoring the concept of “moral hazard” that is vital to any functioning market but which the “socially liberal/fiscally conservative” circle-squarers have all but rendered extinct. No government can guarantee universal homeownership, or absurd returns on mediocre assets as a permanent feature of life. And to attempt to do so is to strip language of meaning. You’re debauching the currency — not in the “fiscal” exchange-rate nickel-’n’-dime sense, but something more profound: the very currency of liberty — property, contract, citizenship, responsibility.

There was another muscle man who ran into trouble long ago: Antaeus. Big tough guy. No girly-man. Slew all comers — as long as his feet were planted firmly on the ground. But, as Hercules figured out, get him up in the air, unmoored, unrooted, and he turned into a big sack of nothing. There’s a lesson there, and not just for Conan in La-La Land.

The New Humanism

The Pursuit of Knowledge

By Roger Scruton on 3.10.09 @ 6:07AM
The American Spectator

The family in which I was raised was, in the matter of religion, typical of postwar England. There was no objection to the children receiving Christian instruction at school, and performing there a daily act of worship. There was no objection to chapel and Sunday school—indeed, provided these institutions were gloomy enough, my parents thought, their children could only be improved by them. But the home was a religion-free zone: no grace before meals, no prayers at bedtime, and the Bible wedged firmly on the shelf between the Oxford Dictionary and Winston Churchill's History of the Second World War. Our parents called themselves humanists. They had been raised as Christians, but had lived through the Second World War and lost faith in the God who permitted it. They regarded humanism as a residual option, once faith had dissolved. It was not something to make a song and dance about, still less something to impose on others, but simply the best they could manage in the absence of God.

All around me I encountered humanists of my parents' kind. I befriended them at school, and was taught by them at Cambridge. And whenever I lost the Christian faith which had first dawned on me in school assemblies I would be a humanist for a spell, and feel comforted that there existed this other and more tangled path to the goal of moral discipline. Looking back on it, I see the humanism of my parents as a kind of rearguard action on behalf of religious values. They, and their contemporaries, believed that man is the source of his own ideals and also the object of them. There is no need for God, they thought, in order to live with a vision of the higher life. All the values that had been appropriated by the Christian churches are available to the humanist too. Faith, hope, and charity can exist as human causes, and without the need for a heavenly focus; humanists can build their lives on the love of neighbor, can exercise the virtues and discipline their appetites so as to be just, prudent, temperate, and courageous, just as the Greeks had taught, long before the edict of the Church had fallen like a shadow across the human spirit. A humanist can be a patriot; he can believe with Jesus that "greater love hath no man than this, that he should lay down his life for his friend." He is the enemy of false sentiment and lax morals, and all the more vigilant on behalf of morality in that he believes it to be the thing by which humanity is exalted, and the proof that we can be the source of our own ideals.

That noble form of humanism has its roots in the Enlightenment, in Kant's defense of the moral law, and in the progressivism of well-meaning Victorian sages. And the memory of it leads me to take an interest in something that calls itself "humanism," and is now beginning to announce itself in Britain. This humanism is self-consciously "new," like New Labour; it has its own journal, the New Humanist, and its own sages, the most prominent of whom is Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene and vice-president of the British Humanist Association. It runs advertising campaigns and letter-writing campaigns and is militant in asserting the truth of its vision and its right to make converts. But the vision is not that of my parents. The new humanism spends little time exalting man as an ideal. It says nothing, or next to nothing, about faith, hope, and charity; is scathing about patriotism; and is dismissive of those rearguard actions in defense of the family, public spirit, and sexual restraint that animated my parents. Instead of idealizing man, the new humanism denigrates God and attacks the belief in God as a human weakness. My parents too thought belief in God to be a weakness. But they were reluctant to deprive other human beings of a moral prop that they seemed to need.

The British Humanist Association is currently running a campaign against religious faith. It has bought advertising space on our city buses, which now patrol the streets declaring that "There probably is no God; so stop worrying and enjoy life." My parents would have been appalled at such a declaration. From a true premise, they would have said, it derives a false and pernicious conclusion. Had they wished to announce their beliefs—and it was part of their humanism to think that you don't announce your beliefs but live them—they would have expressed them thus: "There probably is no God; so start worrying, and remember that self-discipline is up to you." The British Humanist Association sees nothing wrong with the reference to enjoyment; it seems to have no consciousness of what is clearly announced between the lines of the text, namely that there are no ideals higher than pleasure. Its publications imply that there is only one thing that stands between man and his happiness, and that is the belief in God. Take that belief away, and we can run out into the garden of permissions, picking the fruit that we wrongly thought to have been forbidden. The humanists I knew as a young man would have reacted with disgust at this hedonistic message, and at a philosophy that aims to dispense with God without also aiming to replace Him.

BUT THE BUS adverts fit the spirit of modern Britain, and not even the Muslims complain about them. One Christian bus driver has refused to drive his bus, and a few hundred people have written to the Advertising Standards Council, which has rejected their complaint, but that is as far as the protests have gone. When, in the light of this advertising campaign, I look back at the humanist movement that I encountered as an adolescent, one thing above all strikes me: that the old humanism was not about deconstructing God; it was about constructing man. It was a positive movement, devoted to seeking things worthy of emulation and sacrifice, even if there is no God to promote them. Its principal fear was that, deprived of religious belief, people would let go of their ideals. Hence it urgently sought a new basis for moral restraint in the idea of human dignity.

The old humanism was not a pleasure-seeking, still less a pleasure-loving philosophy. It took its inspiration from Enlightenment philosophers, from Milton, Blake, and D. H. Lawrence, and from the legacy of Western art. The humanist who most influenced me at Cambridge believed that in no works had humanity been more blessed by true ideals than in the St. Matthew Passion of Bach and the Tristan und Isolde of Wagner, the one a work of Christian devotion, the other a work that makes no mention of God or gods, but simply dwells on the exalted nature of erotic love when tied to mutual sacrifice. Although I was skeptical toward that kind of humanism, I never doubted its nobility of purpose. It was devoted to exalting the human person above the human animal, and moral discipline above random appetite. It saw art, music, and literature not simply as pleasures, but as sources of spiritual strength. And it took the same view of religion. Humanists of the old school were not believers. The ability to question, to doubt, to live in perpetual uncertainty, they thought, is one of the noble endowments of the human intellect. But they respected religion and studied it for the moral and spiritual truths that could outlive the God who once promoted them.

Observing the new humanism from my old perspective I am struck not only by its lack of positive belief, but also by its need to compensate for this lack by antagonism toward an imagined enemy. I say "imagined," since it is obvious that religion is a declining force in Britain. There is no need to consult the pronouncements of the Archbishop of Canterbury: the response to the bus campaign abundantly proves the point. But a weak enemy is precisely what these negative philosophies require. Like so many modern ideologies, the new humanism seeks to define itself through what it is against rather than what it is for. It is for nothing, or at any rate for nothing in particular. Ever since the Enlightenment there has been a tendency to adopt this negative approach to the human condition, rather than to live out the exacting demands of the Enlightenment morality, which tells us to take responsibility for ourselves and to cease our snivelling. Having shaken off their shackles and discovered that they have not obtained contentment, human beings have a lamentable tendency to believe that they are victims of some alien force, be it aristocracy, the bourgeoisie, capitalism, the priesthood, or simply the belief in God. And the feeling arises that they need only destroy this alien force, and happiness will be served up on a plate, in a garden of pleasures. That, in my view, is why the Enlightenment, which promised the reign of freedom and justice, issued in an unending series of wars.

I never thought, when I finally put the old humanism behind me, that I would ever feel nostalgia over its loss. But now I recognize that it was not only noble in itself, but was also a serious attempt to retain the belief in nobility without the theological vision on which that belief had once depended. It was, in effect, a proof of the ideal that it proposed: an example of how human beings can provide themselves with values, and then live up to them.

- Roger Scruton, the writer and philosopher, is most recently the author of Gentle Regrets: Thoughts From a Life (Continuum).