Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Solyndra Fraud

The solar-energy company was a con game.

By Andrew C. McCarthy
September 17, 2011

The Solyndra debacle is not just Obama-style crony socialism as usual. It is a criminal fraud. That is the theory that would be guiding any competent prosecutor’s office in the investigation of a scheme that cost victims — in this case, American taxpayers — a fortune.
Fraud against the United States is one of the most serious felony offenses in the federal penal law. It is even more serious than another apparent Solyndra violation that has captured congressional attention: the Obama administration’s flouting of a statute designed to protect taxpayers.

Homing in on one of the several shocking aspects of the Solyndra scandal, lawmakers noted that, a few months before the “clean energy” enterprise went belly-up last week, the Obama Energy Department signed off on a sweetheart deal. In the event of bankruptcy — the destination to which it was screamingly obvious Solyndra was headed despite the president’s injection of $535 million in federal loans — the cozily connected private investors would be given priority over American taxpayers. In other words, when the busted company’s assets were sold off, Obama pals would recoup some of their losses, while you would be left holding the half-billion-dollar bag.

As Andrew Stiles reported here at NRO, Republicans on the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee say this arrangement ran afoul of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. This law — compassionate conservatism in green bunting — is a monstrosity, under which Leviathan, which can’t run a post office, uses your money to pick winners and losers in the economy’s energy sector. The idea is cockamamie, but Congress did at least write in a mandate that taxpayers who fund these “investments” must be prioritized over other stakeholders. The idea is to prevent cronies from pushing ahead of the public if things go awry — as they are wont to do when pols fancy themselves venture capitalists.

On the Energy Policy Act, the administration’s malfeasance is significant, but secondary. That’s because the act is not a penal statute. It tells the cabinet officials how to structure these “innovative technology” loans, but it provides no remedy if Congress’s directives are ignored.

The criminal law, by contrast, is not content to assume the good faith of government officials. It targets anyone — from low-level swindlers to top elective officeholders — who attempts to influence the issuance of government loans by making false statements; who engages in schemes to defraud the United States; or who conspires “to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof, in any manner or for any purpose.” The penalties are steep: Fraud in connection with government loans, for example, can be punished by up to 30 years in the slammer.

Although Solyndra was a private company, moreover, it was using its government loans as a springboard to go public. When the sale of securities is involved, federal law criminalizes fraudulent schemes, false statements of material fact, and statements that omit any “material fact necessary in order to make the statements made . . . not misleading.” And we’re not just talking about statements made in required SEC filings. Any statement made to deceive the market can be actionable. In 2003, for example, the Justice Department famously charged Martha Stewart with securities fraud. Among other allegations, prosecutors cited public statements she had made in press releases and at a conference for securities analysts — statements in which she withheld damaging information in an effort to inflate the value of her corporation and its stock.

That’s exactly what President Obama did on May 26, 2010, with his Solyndra friends about to launch their initial public offering of stock. The solar-panel company’s California factory was selected as the fitting site for a presidential speech on the virtues of confiscating taxpayer billions to prop up pie-in-the-sky clean-energy businesses.

By then, the con game was already well under way. Solyndra had first tried to get Energy Act funding during the Bush administration, but had been rebuffed shortly before President Bush left office. Small wonder: Solyndra, as former hedge-fund manager Bruce Krasting concluded, was “an absolute complete disaster.” Its operating expenses, including supply costs, nearly doubled its revenue in 2009 — and that’s without factoring in capital expenditures and other costs in what, Krasting observes, is a “low margin” industry. The chance that Solyndra would ever become profitable was essentially nonexistent, particularly given that solar-panel competitors backed by China produce energy at drastically lower prices.

Yet, as Stiles reports, within six days of Obama’s taking office, an Energy Department official acknowledged that the Solyndra “approval process” was suddenly being considered anew. Eventually, the administration made Solyndra the very first recipient of a public loan guarantee when the Energy Act program was beefed up in 2009 — just part of nearly a trillion dollars burned through under the Obama stimulus.

For a while after Solyndra tanked, the administration stonewalled the House subcommittee’s investigation, but we now know that minions in the Energy Department and the Office of Management and Budget had enormous qualms about the Solyndra loan. They realized that the company was hemorrhaging money and, even with the loan, would lack the necessary working capital to turn that equation around. Yet they caved under White House pressure to sign off in time for Vice President Joe Biden to make a ballyhooed announcement of the loan in September 2009. An OMB e-mail laments that the timing of the loan approval was driven by the politics of the announcement “rather than the other way around.”

Why so much pressure to give half a billion dollars to a doomed venture? The administration insists it had nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that Solyndra’s big backers include the George Kaiser Family Foundation. No, of course not. George Kaiser, an Oklahoma oil magnate, just happens to be a major Obama fundraiser who bundled oodles in contributions for the president’s 2008 campaign. Solyndra officers and investors are said to have visited the White House no fewer than 20 times while the loan guarantee was being considered and, later, revised. Kaiser, too, made several visits — but not to worry: Both he and administration officials deny any impropriety. You’re to believe that the White House was just turning up the heat on OMB and DOE because Solyndra seemed like such a swell investment.

Except it didn’t seem so swell to people who knew how to add and subtract, and those people weren’t all at OMB and DOE. Flush with confidence that their mega-loan from Uncle Sam would make the company attractive to private investors, Solyndra’s backers prepared to take the company public. Unfortunately, SEC rules for an initial public offering of stock require the disclosure of more than Obama speeches glowing with solar power. Companies that want access to the market have to reveal their financial condition.

In Solyndra’s case, outside auditors from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) found that condition to be dire. “The company has suffered recurring losses from operations, negative cash flows since inception, and has a net stockholders’ deficit,” the PWC accountants concluded. Even with the gigantic Obama loan, Solyndra was such a basket case that PWC found “substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern.”

The “going concern” language is not boilerplate. As Townhall finance maven John Ransom explains, it is a term of art to which auditors resort when there is an extraordinary need to protect themselves and the company from legal liability. Angry investors who’ve lost their shirts tend to scapegoat the loser company’s accountants. In truth, even if the accountants affixed a neon “going concern” sign to the company’s financial statements, investors would have no one but themselves to blame. But it is unusual: The language is absent from the statements of many companies that actually end up going bankrupt. Auditors reserve it for the hopeless causes — like Solyndra.

With no alternative if they wanted to make a play for market financing, Solyndra’s backers disclosed the auditors’ bleak diagnosis in March 2010. The government had thus been aware of it for two months when President Obama made his May 26 Solyndra speech — the speech Solyndra backers were clearly hoping would mitigate the damage.

As president, Obama had a fiduciary responsibility to be forthright about Solyndra’s grim prospects — in speaking to the American taxpayers whose money he had redistributed, and to the American investors who were about to be solicited for even more funding. Instead, he pulled a Martha Stewart.
The president looked us in the eye and averred that, when it came to channeling public funds into private hands, “We can see the positive impacts right here at Solyndra.” He bragged that the $535 billion loan had enabled the company to build the state-of-the-art factory in which he was then speaking. He said nothing about how Solyndra was continuing to lose money — public money — at a catastrophic pace. Instead, he painted the brightest of pictures: 3,000 construction workers to build the thriving plant; manufacturers in 22 states building an endless stream of supplies; technicians in a dozen states constructing the advanced equipment that would make the factory hum; and Solyndra fully “expect[ing] to hire a thousand workers to manufacture solar panels and sell them across America and around the world.”

Not content with that rosy portrait, the president further predicted a “ripple effect”: Solyndra would “generate business for companies throughout our country who will create jobs supplying this factory with parts and materials.” Sure it would. The auditors had scrutinized Solyndra and found it to have, from its inception, a fatally flawed business model that was hurtling toward collapse. Obama touted it as a redistribution success story that would be rippling jobs, growth, and spectacular success for the foreseeable future.

It was a breathtaking misrepresentation. Happily, it proved insufficient to dupe investors who, unlike taxpayers, get to choose where their money goes. They stacked what the administration was saying against what the PWC auditors were saying and wisely went with PWC. Solyndra had to pull its initial public offering due to lack of interest.

But fraud doesn’t have to be fully successful to be a fraud, and this one still had another chapter to go. As the IPO failed and the company inevitably sank in a sea of red ink, Solyndra’s panicked backers pleaded with the administration to restructure the loan terms — to insulate them from their poor business judgment, allowing them to recoup some of their investment while the public took the fall.
It should go without saying that the duty of soi-disant public servants is to serve the public. In this instance, the proper course was clear. As structured, the loan gave the public first dibs on Solyndra’s assets if it collapsed, and, as we’ve seen, the law requires it. There was no good reason to contemplate a change.

In addition, as Andrew Stiles relates, OMB had figured out that there was no economic sense in restructuring: Solyndra was heading for bankruptcy anyway, and an immediate liquidation would net the government a better deal — about $170 million better. The case for leaving things where they stood was so palpable that OMB openly feared “questions will be asked” if DOE proceeded with an unjustifiable restructuring. So, with numbing predictability, the Obama administration proceeded with an unjustifiable restructuring. In exchange for lending some of their own money and thus buying more time, Solyndra officials were given priority over taxpayers with respect to the first $75 million in the event of a bankruptcy — the event all the insiders and government officials could see coming from the start, and that hit the rest of us like a $535 billion thunderbolt last week.

The administration’s rationalization is priceless. According to DOE officials, the restructuring was necessary “to create a situation whereby investors felt there was a value in their investment.” Of course, the value in an investment is the value created by the business in which the investment is made. Here, Solyndra had no value. Investors could be enticed only by an invalid arrangement to recoup some of their losses — by a scheme to make the public an even bigger sap.

The word for such schemes is fraud.

Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.

Obama's magical thinking on green jobs

By Mark Steyn
The Orange County Register
September 16, 2011

The president has taken to the campaign trail to promote his American Jobs Act. That’s a good name for it: an act. “Pass this bill now!” he declared 24 times at a stop in in Raleigh, North Carolina, and another 18 in Columbus, Ohio, and the act is sufficiently effective that, three years into the Vapidity of Hope, the president can still find crowds of true believers willing to chant along with him: “Pass this bill now!”

Not all supporters are content merely to singalong with the prompter-in-chief. In North Carolina, a still-devoted hopeychanger cried out, “I love you!”

“I love you, too,” said the president. “But… .”

Oh, no, here it comes: conditional love. “But, if you love me, you’ve got to help me pass this bill!” You’d be surprised how effective this line is: I tried it on Darlene in the back of my Ford Edsel when I was 17, and we didn’t get home till two in the morning.

Pass this bill now, or I’ll say “Pass this bill now!” another two dozen times! With this latest inspiration, Obama has taken the post-modern phase of democratic politics to a whole new level. “Pass this jobs bill”? Simply as a matter of humdrum reality, there is no bill, it won’t “create” any jobs, and it will be paid for with money we don’t have. But the smartest president in history has calculated that, if he says the same four monosyllables over and over, a nonexistent bill to create nonexistent jobs with nonexistent money will be yet another legislative triumph in the grand tradition of his first stimulus (the original Dumb And Dumber to the sequel’s Stimulus And Stimulusser).

The estimated cost of the non-bill is just shy of half a trillion dollars. Gosh, it seems like only yesterday that Washington was in the grip of a white-knuckle, clenched-teeth showdown over whether a debt ceiling deal could be reached before the allegedly looming deadline. When the deal was triumphantly unveiled at the eleventh hour, it was revealed that our sober, prudent, fiscally responsible masters had gotten control of the runaway spending and had carved (according to the most optimistic analysis) a whole $7 billion of savings out of the 2012 budget. The president then airily breezes into Congress and in 20 minutes adds another $447 billion to the tab. That’s what meaningful course correction in Washington boils down to: seven billion steps forward, 447 billion steps back.

This $447 billion does not exist, and even foreigners don’t want to lend it to us. A majority of it will be “electronically created” by the Federal Reserve buying U.S. Treasury debt. Don’t worry, it’s not like “printing money”: we leave that to primitive basket-cases like Zimbabwe. This is more like one of those Nigerian email schemes, in which a prominent public official promises you a large sum of money in return for your bank account details. In the case of Ben Bernanke and Timothy Geithner, one prominent public official is promising to wire a large sum of money into the account of another prominent public official, which is a wrinkle even the Nigerians might have difficulty selling.

But not to worry. On Thursday night, the president told a Democratic fundraiser in Washington that the Pass My Jobs Bill bill would create 1.9 million new jobs. What kind of jobs are created by this kind of magical thinking? Well, they’re “green jobs” – and, if we know anything about “green jobs,” it’s that they take a lot of green. German taxpayers subsidize “green jobs” in their wind-power industry to the tune of a quarter of a million dollars per worker per year: $250,000 per “green job” would pay for a lot of real jobs, even in the European Union. Last year, it was revealed that the Spanish government paid $800,000 for every “green job” on a solar panel assembly line. I had assumed carelessly that this must be a world record in terms of taxpayer subsidy per fraudulent “green job.” But it turns out those cheapskate Spaniards with their lousy nickel-and-dime “green jobs” subsidy just weren’t thinking big. The Obama administration’s $38.6 billion “clean technology” program was supposed to “create or save” 65,000 jobs. Half the money has been spent – $17.2 billion – and we have 3,545 jobs to show for it. That works out to an impressive $4,851,904.09 per “green job.” A world record! Take that, you loser Spaniards! USA! USA!

So, based on previous form, Obama’s prediction of 1.9 million new jobs will result in the creation of 92,000 new jobs, mostly in the Federal Department of Green Jobs Grant Applications.

Just to put it in perspective, the breezy $447 billion price tag for the Pass My Jobs Bill jobs bill is about 20 times higher than the most recent Greek government deficit currently threatening the stability of the entire Eurozone. Indeed, Greece’s projected 2011 deficit – $24 billion at last count – is little more than half of just one of Obama’s boutique, niche “green jobs” programs. As Churchill almost said, never in the field of human con tricks has so much been owed by so many to so little effect.

Fortunately, there is no “American Jobs Act”. Indeed, the other day, tired of waiting for Obama to turn his telepromptered pseudo-bill into a typewritten actual bill, the Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert waggishly introduced an “American Jobs Act” all of his own. But back on the campaign trail the chanting goes on, last week’s election results in Nevada and New York notwithstanding. America has the lowest employment since the early Eighties, the lowest property ownership since the mid-Sixties, the highest deficit-to-GDP ratio since the Second World War, the worst long-term unemployment since the Great Depression, the highest government dependency rate of all time, and the biggest debt mountain in the history of the planet. And the president has just announced to the world that he’s checked the more-of-the-above box. The Pass My Jobs Bill jobs bill proclaims that this is all he knows and all he wants to know.

In my new book, I point out that Big Government leaves everything else smaller – and, when it’s bigger than anything ever attempted, the everything else is going to be way smaller. Maybe if you’re a “public service” worker or a tenured professor at Berkeley or a green-jobs racketeer or a New York Times columnist married to an heiress, you can afford Obama. But, if you’re not, look at your home, look at your savings, and figure out what’ll be left after another four years of “stimulus.”

“I love you!” squeals the Obammybopper in North Carolina. “I love you, too,” says Obama. “But… .”

But: You gotta take this half-trillion dollar bill, and the next one, and the one after that. Like Al Gore says in “Love Story,” love means never having to say you’re sorry.


Friday, September 16, 2011


Steyn on People
Wednesday, 14 September 2011

September 15th marks the fifth anniversary of the death of Oriana Fallaci. She was a fearless woman and a beautiful writer - and vice-versa, come to that. I disagreed with her on any number of things, but I miss her enormously, and I cannot read a sentence of hers without reflecting on the absurdity of having to defend her work to obtuse, talentless hacks. This is what I wrote about her in The Atlantic Monthly:

“You go fuck yourself,” said Oriana Fallaci to no one in particular in a recent New Yorker profile. “I say what I want.”

And she did. Latterly, she said what she wanted about Islam, on which subject most of us feel constrained to be more, ah, circumspect. And what she wanted to say to Islam boiled down pretty much to: go fuck yourself. She scorned Muslims for their habits of reproduction, of evacuation, of female genital mutilation. She developed obsessions both arcane – who really invented sherbet (the ancient Romans, not the “sons of Allah”) – and unhealthy, if not psychologically then certainly actuarially: what’s the deal with Mohammed’s nine-year old wife? who sodomized whom at Mehmet II’s big knees-up to mark the fall of Constantinople in 1453? These are areas in which more discreet scholars prefer to draw a veil if not the full burqa. In The Rage And The Pride she dwelt upon the hitherto neglected topic of micturition among Somali immigrants in Florence’s Cathedral Square, whom she accused of leaving “yellow streaks of urine that profaned the millenary marbles of the Baptistery
“Good Heavens! They really take long shots, these sons of Allah! How could they succeed in hitting so well that target protected by a balcony and more than two yards distant from their urinary apparatus?”
Rendered in what she called “the oddities of Fallaci’s English”, this is splendidly offensive and gloriously rude. But it is also, as my colleague Christopher Hitchens dismissed Signora Fallaci in these pages, “a sort of primer in how not to write about Islam”. One sees his point. Long before the first Muslim convenience store opened in a British city, the “gents” in every rural pub had a streaked wall over the urinals boasting unfeasibly high-tide marks crayoned on the plaster, at impressive distance from the “urinary apparatus”. A few years back, during a long bus trip for major-league baseball owners, the driver was obliged to make a roadside stop for Gene Autry to relieve himself: as he reboarded, George W Bush congratulated the old singing cowboy on his “great spray”. If anything, Muslim men seem to be somewhat more fastidious in this area than your average beery Brit or Frenchman: In his will, Mohammed Atta left instructions for any woman examining his corpse in that particular neighborhood to wear gloves because he didn’t want the old twig-and-berries to have been contaminated by unclean infidel-whore morticians when he got to paradise and hit the old virgin jackpot. The “long shots” of the sons of Allah is not the firmest ground on which to defend western civilization.

Nevertheless, and with respect to Mr Hitchens, if there is a primer in how to write about Islam, that doesn’t seem to be getting us very far either. Who ya gonna believe? The President’s sappy “religion of peace” speeches or your lyin’ eyes? La Fallaci (as she styled herself) disdained what the French philosopher Alain Finkelkraut calls the west’s “penitential narcissism” and, in an age of absurd abasement, found many takers for her bravura rejection thereof. After all, if Muslims are so ready to take offence, you might as well give ’em some. The problem, after all, is not that the sons of Allah are “long shots” but that they’re certainties: every Continental under the age of 40 – okay, make that 60, if not 75 – is all but guaranteed to end his days living in an Islamified Eurabia. That being so, why not have some gleeful sport along the road to servitude?

Oriana Fallaci was, on the one hand, an unlikely Crusader. Petite physically if in no other sense, she was a feminist, a secularist, a leftist. On the other hand, who has most to lose? At a time when uncovered women are jeered at and intimidated when they walk through certain suburbs of Continental cities, La Fallaci might have expected the other divas to rally to the cause. Instead, such feminist warhorses as Germaine Greer managed to give the impression they found Islam a bit of a turn-on: here’s the patriarchal society they’ve been pining for all along. As for the secular elites of the west, insofar as there is a theocratic menace, it’s not the Wahhabis but Bush and the evangelicals with a bit of help from (as Harold Pinter put it) “Tony Blair as a hired Christian thug”. So the lioness in winter roused herself and sallied forth to save post-Christian Europe from itself.

She was, like the book title says, full of rage and passion. “Passion” is a diminished word these days, routinely appended by politicians to dreary boilerplate about prescription drugs for seniors or some such. But La Fallaci was bursting with it. Fiercely beautiful well into her cancer-ravaged old age, she had that careless sensuality that anglophone womanhood can rarely carry off. She didn’t subscribe to the old aphrodisiac-of-power clichés: on the contrary, she often found alpha males one big zzzzzzzz, and great men had the vague sensation their “apparatus” was withering under her gaze. Castro was smelly and Arafat was a blowsy old queen – “a massive trunk, huge hips… red and fleshy lips”. Still, she regarded an interview as “coitus”, and she didn’t always mean it metaphorically. Two days after interviewing Alekos Panagoulis, a briefly fashionable revolutionary who’d attempted to assassinate the Greek leader Papadopoulos, Oriana became his lover. When their turbulent relationship ended with his death in a car crash, rumored to have been politically engineered, Oriana wrote a book – Un uomo (A man) – that few other credible journalists could have gotten away with.

One would have been only mildly surprised had her interview with Ayatollah Khomeini followed the same trajectory. After traveling to Qom and kicking her heels for ten days waiting for him to agree to see her, she was ushered – barefoot and wearing a chador - into his presence and found what she subsequently described as the most handsome old man she’d ever met. In his own way, he must have dug the crazy Italian chick: The meeting was terminated when she tore off “this stupid medieval rag” and hurled her chador to the floor. But he agreed to return a day or two later to finish the interview.

It seems a fantastical encounter now: a man who’d just shoveled every female in supposedly the most modernized of Middle Eastern nations back into “medieval rags” versus the apotheosis of the ballbusting western career woman. The phrase “personality interviewer” is grossly devalued these days: look at Mike Wallace’s cringe-making oleaginous encounter with today’s Iranian must-get, President Ahmadinejad. Indeed, Wallace seems to have found Ahmadinejad more attractive (“very smart, savvy, self-assured, good looking in a strange way”) than Fallaci found Khomeini. She was by that stage “the greatest political interviewer of modern times” (Rolling Stone), and yet unlike so many of the bland bigshots jetting from foreign ministry to presidential palace she gravitated to power mainly for the opportunities it afforded to knee it in the crotch. She asked the Ayatollah indignant questions about the executions of prostitutes and homosexuals and he sneered at women like her for going around uncovered “dragging behind them a tail of men”. It wasn’t all rage and passion; she did brusque and off-hand pretty lethally, too: “Don’t you find,” she asked Henry Kissinger during Vietnam, fighting vainly the old ennui, “that it’s been a useless war?” “On this, I can agree,” said the Secretary of State.

Her interviews and war reporting made her a wealthy woman, with homes in Florence, the Tuscan countryside and Manhattan. Not bad for a girl from a working-class family, a child of anti-Mussolini Communist partisans who turned to journalism at 16 only as a means of paying her way to medical school. By the time the cancer was diagnosed, the chain-smoking dynamo had done everything her profession could offer. Then came September 11th. And Corriere Della Sera very deftly tempted her out of semi-official retirement to unburden herself of her thoughts on the, er, unfortunate events. Even then, even in those first weeks, the “cicadas” (as she called them) of cultural relativism were chirruping their pneumatic songs of eternal evasion. In her bestselling post-9/11 improvised aria, La Fallaci was certainly shrill but perhaps not as shrill as those who in the face of a mountain of evidence insist from every university, every interior ministry, every Anglican pulpit that there’s nothing to see here, nothing to ask, nothing to ponder, no great questions over Europe’s future.

She had never lacked bravery. Indeed, she was almost insanely brave. But this wasn’t like flipping the bird to some strutting generalissimo. She must have been surprised by how organized the Muslim opposition was: the Islamic Centre of Berne, the Somali Association of Geneva, the SOS Racism of Lausanne, and a group of Muslim immigrants in Neuchatel, just to name a random sampling of Swiss plaintiffs. What would not have surprised her was the weirdly masochistic pleasure the European judiciary derived from facilitating their attempts to silence her. The Federal Office of Justice in Berne asked the Italian government to extradite her so she could be charged under Article 261b of the Swiss Criminal Code – or, as she called it, the “He-didn’t-chase-me-because-I’m-a-thief-but-because-I’m-a-Muslim” clause. She was sued in France, where suits against writers are routine now. An Italian magistrate indicted her and, because of the European Arrest Warrant, which includes charges of “xenophobia” as grounds for extradition from one EU nation to another, most of the Continent became unsafe for her to set foot in. Only in the last ten days, when she knew she would not live to make her first court date, did she return from political exile to die in a home town defiled less by immigrant urine than by the watery emissions of incontinent fainthearts and appeasers.

I never really thought cancer would get Oriana Fallaci. She seemed so full of fire in the last few years that one felt certain any tumor would shrivel to ash inside her. But the legal harassment from her enemies and their appeasers must have taken their toll. The books were huge sellers but old friends kept their distance. As for those on the left who acknowledged the threat, she parted company there, too. This year, a dozen intellectuals, including Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Salman Rushdie, published a manifesto against Islamism and in defense of “secular values for all”. All are doughty warriors and important allies in Europe’s present struggle. But La Fallaci, a lifelong atheist, had come to the conclusion that secular humanism was an insufficient rallying cry, that it had in some sense led to the gaping nullity of contemporary European identity which Islam had simply steamrollered. By the end, she was if not a Christian then, as she formulated it, a “Christian atheist”. In 2005 she was granted a private audience with Pope Benedict on the understanding that she would never divulge what was discussed. It would be interesting to know, but it’s safe to say that for once it wasn’t “Go fuck yourself. I say what I want."

At the height of her fame thirty years ago Oriana Fallaci seemed to embody the triumph of the post-Christian west. The apotheosis of the independent emancipated woman, she lived long enough to understand that its hyper-rationalism was, in point of fact, wholly irrational, and she was big enough to change her mind on that without changing her glorious voice. She was a beautiful writer. If her sin is that she went too far, in a craven culture that recoils even from first steps that is not the worst.

Brava, la Fallaci.

Obama Wants Fairness More than Jobs

By Karin McQuillan
September 16, 2011

Surely Obama has noticed that his stimulus policies have not created jobs. The assumption by his economic advisors that spending a trillion dollars automatically creates 2.5 million jobs has not worked out for him -- or us. Unemployment and poverty are at record levels and the federal government is insolvent. Thanks to Obama's belief in stimulus spending, our debt will be 100% of our GDP by 2014 -- Greek territory.

Conservatives debate why Obama doesn't do a Clinton, move to the middle, become more effective, and give himself a shot at a second term. Instead, stimulus II, which calls for another half a trillion in government largess, seems to be doubling down on failure. Why doesn't Obama learn from his mistakes? Is his problem incompetence or ideology? conservatives wonder. Others suggest that it is pure politics, with Obama's focus groups telling him that voters respond to his tax the rich rhetoric, and will blame Republicans for our economic woes. Yet surely Obama's advisors have crunched the numbers, and know that even taxing the rich 100% of their income will pay for only a tiny fraction of Obama's annual spending.

There is another factor at play. Our president has made it completely clear that for him, making America a more fair country trumps mundane economic considerations. As it turns out, every time he acts for fairness, he is also rewarding his political base and holding onto power. So our president keeps hoping that by doing good, he will do himself good -- as he defines good. Those who disagree with him are not just wrong; they are selfish and unfair -- in a word, Republicans. His Democrat base agrees and eggs him on. So our president doesn't focus on the suffering of the unemployed, now 50% among young blacks. He doesn't admit to himself that he is clawing middle-class families down into poverty. He applauds himself for working on fairness.

In a debate with Hillary, Obama explained that even if raising taxes on the rich brought in lower revenues -- as it usually does -- he would prefer it to more revenue because it is "fair." To Joe the Plumber Obama explained that "spreading the wealth around" was the reason to raise taxes on a hardworking plumber. Joe was building up a quarter-million-dollar-a-year small plumbing business -- Obama's definition of the selfish rich.

To the rest of us, it is obvious that Joe's business would help others become prosperous by creating jobs, as well as providing a valuable plumbing service. Our president doesn't see it that way. Our president told Joe that the higher taxes on him would be given to other people "behind him" so they'd have "a chance for success, too." Obama's frequent accusations that the rich aren't paying their fair share implies that Joe's twelve-hour days and years of self-sacrifice are bringing him unfair prosperity. According to our president, money should be taken from Joe and given to the less fortunate.

Obama's latest jobs idea is to take more money from the "rich" earning more than $200,000 a year and sending it to favored recipients to spend. In the case of stimulus I and II, 80% of the 800 billion federal dollars went to unionized teachers. Obama lost our country's credit rating by subsidizing unsustainable teacher benefit packages for a single year. His policy meant that teachers lost their jobs, as school districts faced bankruptcy: the moment the stimulus funds ran out, they began to fire young teachers. The result is net job loss, but in Obama's mind, giving money to unions is automatically virtuous. Unions are Good, since workers are the exploited underdogs. Coincidentally, teachers are the biggest single source of contributions and of campaign workers for the Democratic Party. In putting union teachers above job-creators like Joe, Obama is helping himself. For him, it is a policy that enhances his virtue and power -- spending most of the stimulus on teachers was good for Obama, even if bad for our economy, and he plans to do more.

Following his ideas of fairness is more important to our law lecturer president than rule of law. We see this over and over. He suspended normal bankruptcy laws and awarded the major part of General Motors assets to the union instead of to the stockholders who legally own the company. He was rewarding the underdog, punishing the fat cats, and cultivating his union base. Rule of law is essential to economic growth based on private enterprise, but that is not as important to Obama as favoring his privileged category, the unions.

No matter that 100 million Americans own stock, relying on their investments to put their kids through college and pay for a comfortable retirement. Obama noticed that the public has no sympathy for stockholders. Obama doesn't know about markets and business realities, nor does he care to know. He cares about rewarding the virtuous (his supporters) and punishing the enemy (investors). If GM went bankrupt and sold its assets to other companies, more workers might retain jobs in the long run working for profitable new owners, but they would have lost their union deals. Better for stockholders and taxpayers to take the economic hit and keep the unions going. It works for Obama, morally and politically. He sees it as a win, even if it harms our economy and our system of laws.

Obama would not learn from it as a mistake even if a business he poured money into were to go belly-up after consuming millions of taxpayer dollars. How do we know this? Obama's response to solar company Solyndra's bankruptcy -- 500 million taxpayer dollars down a black hole -- was more Obama promises of "investment" in green jobs. Better for the government to pick business winners based on how much their products please Democrat voters than the marketplace picking winners based on consumer demand. So what if no jobs are actually created -- better green poverty than oil wealth for our country.

And so it goes. Our president is upset that the economy hasn't recovered under his treatment. Since he has no interest, no understanding, and no sympathy for how capitalism works, he thought he could verbally attack and raise taxes on "the rich," increase health care costs for employees, and multiply regulations on their businesses, and the golden goose of the free enterprise system would keep on giving. It hasn't turned out that way for him, and he is angry and frustrated. So are we all.

This president is not going to change course and take the obvious steps that work, the steps that are creating jobs in Wisconsin and Texas and North Dakota even in the midst of economic meltdown. He is not going to balance the government budget. He is not going to allow the private sector breathing room as Republican governors have done. Obama knows better: government helps people and business is selfish.

He is not going to lighten the regulatory harassment of businesses and citizens by bureaucrats -- we belong under government control. Bonus to Obama: government workers heavily vote Democrat. He is not going to rein in lawsuits that harass legitimate business -- trial lawyers fill his campaign coffers. Obama is not going to unleash our vast oil, coal, and gas wealth -- we have greater reserves than Saudi Arabia, China, and Iran combined. Development of our fossil fuel resources could be creating a million high-paying jobs, but Democrats vote for green candidates. He is not going to limit public unions' abuse of power, their ruinous benefits that are bankrupting cities and states -- the unions provide his army of campaign workers. He is not going to rationalize and lower our tax rates to bring in more revenues and stimulate the economy, not if it benefits "the rich."

Our President would rather America be Virtuous than Rich, and we are all going down with him. But oh, how pleasantly sanctimonious Democrats can feel that they are against the selfish and for the needy. America may not have an economy anymore, but hey, we have only half as many millionaires. Doesn't that make you feel better? Money isn't everything -- not to our fair-minded president.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Our floundering ‘federal family’

By George Will
The Washington Post
September 14, 2011

In societies governed by persuasion, politics is mostly talk, so liberals’ impoverishment of their vocabulary matters. Having damaged liberalism’s reputation, they call themselves progressives. Having made the federal government’s pretensions absurd, they have resurrected a supposed synonym for the government, the “federal family.” Having made federal spending suspect, they advocate “investments” — for “job creation,” a euphemism for stimulus, another word they have made toxic.

Barack Obama, a pitilessly rhetorical president, continues to grab the nation by its lapels, demanding its attention, and is paying the price: The nation is no longer listening. This matters because ominous portents are multiplying.

Bank of America, which reported an $8.8 billion loss last quarter, plans to lay off 30,000 out of a workforce of nearly 300,000. The Postal Service hopes to shed 120,000 of its 653,000 jobs (down from almost 900,000 a decade ago). Such churning of the labor market would free people for new, more productive jobs — except that to reduce unemployment, the economy needs an approximately 3 percent growth rate, triple today’s rate.

Consumers of modest means are so strapped that Wal-Mart is reviving layaway purchases for the Christmas season. The Wall Street Journal reports that Procter & Gamble, which claims to have at least one product in 98 percent of American households, expects hard times for a long time: It is putting new emphasis on lower-priced products for low-income shoppers.

Just as Obama administration policies have delayed the housing market reaching a salutary bottom, Europe’s policies designed to delay Greece’s default on its debt are probably making that inevitability worse. If the contagion reaches Italy or Spain (“Too big to fail and too big to bail”), we shall learn how hollow Europe’s banks are, and how much U.S. banks are entangled with them.

During the debt-ceiling debate, the New York Times, liberalism’s bulletin board, was aghast that Republicans risked causing the nation to default on its debt. Now two Times columnists endorse slow-motion default through inflation: The Federal Reserve should have “the deliberate goal of generating higher inflation to help alleviate debt problems” (Paul Krugman) and “sometimes we need inflation, and now is such a time” (Floyd Norris).

Ken Rogoff, a Harvard economist, suggests “trying to achieve some modest deleveraging through moderate inflation of, say, 4 to 6 percent for several years.” This is an antiseptic way of saying we should reduce the weight of our indebtedness by reducing the value of the dollars in which it is denominated. But does the nation need more uncertainty? And note Rogoff’s serene confidence in government’s ability to control such things — inflation will be fine-tuned within a narrow band, switched on for just a few years, then off, like a government-approved light bulb.

It is a wonder, this faith-based (and often campus-based) conviction that the government that brought us the ethanol program can be trusted to precisely execute wise policies that will render the world predictable and progressive.

For two years, there has been one constant: As events have refuted the Obama administration’s certitudes, the administration has retained its insufferable knowingness. It knew that the stimulus would hold unemployment below 8 percent. Oops. Unemployment has been at least 9 percent in 26 of the 30 months since the stimulus was passed. Michael Boskin of Stanford says that, even if one charitably accepts the administration’s self-serving estimate of jobs “created or saved” by the stimulus, each job cost $280,000 — five times America’s median pay.

And research by Garett Jones and Daniel M. Rothschild of George Mason University’s Mercatus Center indicates that just 42.1 percent of workers hired by entities receiving stimulus funds were unemployed at the time. More (47.3 percent) were poached from other organizations, and 10.6 percent came directly from school or outside the labor force.

Obama’s administration, which is largely innocent of business experience, knew its experts would be wizards at investing taxpayers’ dollars. Oops. After receiving more than half a billion stimulus dollars in loan guarantees, bankrupt solar-panel maker Solyndra has shed nearly all of its more than 1,100 workers.

The economic policy the “federal family” should adopt can be expressed in five one-syllable words: Get. Out. Of. The. Way. Instead, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, whose department has become a venture capital firm for crony capitalism and costly flops at creating “green jobs,” praises the policy of essentially banishing the incandescent light bulb as “taking away a choice that continues to let people waste their own money.” Better to let the experts in his department and the rest of the federal family waste other people’s money.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Roots of Israel’s Existential Crisis: Sol Stern Provides the Ammunition we Need To Defend Israel

September 13, 2011 - 2:09 pm - by Ron Radosh

Israel is under siege, facing what many people believe is the most serious crisis facing it since the day it first existed, over sixty years ago. Today, two op-eds were published that address this issue.

The first is by Bret Stephens, and appears in The Wall Street Journal. It just might be the single most important column he has written. He starts stating the obvious, and then listing precisely what Israel’s predicament is:
It is surrounded on nearly all sides by enemies who are aggressively committed to its destruction. And too many people who call themselves its friends are only ambivalently committed to its security.
No one, in a short article, has accomplished the job of showing how the would-be friends of Israel help its enemies by continually putting the blame for Israel’s troubles on the one democracy in the Middle East that has succeeded, and way beyond its founders’ dreams, and hence is put on perpetual trial. It is Israel’s very existence, and its success, that leads to the hateful attempts of its enemies to try to destroy the Jewish state.

Some, on the Left especially, always blame Israel. They say “if only Netanyahu was not prime minister; if only there were no Russian-born Jews exerting influence on the political scene; if only they lived up to the promise of their Labor Zionist socialist founders; if only they had given the Arabs real reasons to stop hating them,” etc., etc., etc. It’s all Israel’s and Bibi’s fault. As noted here the other day, a former head of the New Israel Fund revealed privately what she never could say publicly to her own community: “The disappearance of a Jewish state would not be the tragedy that Israelis fear since it would become more democratic.” Yes, and the remaining Jews would all be dead. This is the true face of the supposedly pro-Israeli Left.

One should heed Stephens’ final paragraph if one really cares about Israel’s survival:
No democracy in the world today lies under a darker shadow of existential dread than Israel. And the events of the past month ought to demonstrate that Israel’s dread is not of shadows only. Israel’s efforts to allay the enmity of its enemies or mollify the scorn of its critics have failed. But is it too much to ask its friends for support — this time, for once, without cavil or reservation?
In a similar fashion, David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, writes that the “strategic challenges” facing Israel continue to exist and are “hardly likely to end tomorrow.” He discounts from the start those he calls the ABJ Jews — “‘Anyone But Jews’ Jews” — who will help anyone except their fellow Jews. He also does not care about those he calls the “IOI crowd,” those who believe “‘If Only Israel’ did this or that, all would be solved,” as if Israel alone is the guilty party that has failed to stop the attacks on the Jewish state.

Harris is more concerned with those who understand there are no easy answers, but who recognize the burden put on Israel — whom they know seeks peace and is not being treated fairly. Like Stephens, he outlines what faces Israel in the present, pointing to the new threats from Iran, Turkey, Syria, Hezbollah, and, of course, Hamas — whose charter he says should rightfully be required reading. He calls it: “Bone-chilling, classic anti-Semitism.”

He may discard talking to the IOI crowd, but he answers them nevertheless. He notes that the Palestinian Authority has “spurned every offer for peace,” not just coming from Netanyahu today, but from left-of-center, right-of-center, and centrist Israeli governments, continually walking away “from the negotiating table” in favor of appeasement of Hamas. Harris, talking to the IOI types, writes the following:
There are those who say they’d get involved if only there were a different government in Jerusalem. They forget one basic fact: the battle is bigger than the government du jour; it’s really about Israel, no matter who is in power.

In 2000, an unprecedented wave of terror against Israel broke out with a left-of-center coalition in power and a sweeping two-state proposal on the table.

In 1996, when the dovish Shimon Peres was prime minister, he was defeated in an election because of a series of Palestinian terrorist attacks.

What to do?

Look at yourself in the mirror and ask whether this battle really is about someone else, or whether it’s also about you.
To understand the roots of the problem, remember that knowledge is power. And no one has gotten to the roots of the crisis better than Sol Stern, in his new Encounter Books Broadside: A Century of Palestinian Rejectionism and Jew Hatred. If you care about Israel and you are among those who want to give ammunition in the form of logic, facts and truth to your doubting friends, you should immediately order this booklet for them either online or in print, and spend the small amount necessary to give it to them as a gift.

In an interview with Stern appearing today at, Stern himself tells us what he out to prove in his article:
My broadside shows how the Palestinian campaign for statehood is based on a historical big lie. The lie is that the Palestinian people were dispossessed by the new state of Israel in 1948 and that the current Israeli government is still preventing the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. I show that from the beginning of the conflict almost a century ago it was the Jews who were willing to compromise, to accept the so called “two state” solution, while the Palestinian leadership refused to even consider a sovereign Jewish state in the Muslim Middle East. Moreover, this rejection, which was backed by violence at every turn, was driven by Islamic doctrines of Jew hatred.
It is, of course, easy for many of us to assert this truth. It is another thing to prove it, as powerfully and succinctly as Stern has done now.

One thing Stern shows is what a liar Mahmoud Abbas — the man who heads the Palestinian Authority and whom so many believe is a viable partner in a two-state solution — is. He takes apart a recent op-ed Abbas had published in the anti-Israeli New York Times, the source of authority for the hate-Israel, left-wing crowd. Recently, a little noticed item about Abbas appeared in a New York Times report from Israel written by Ethan Bronner, its top correspondent in the Middle East. It should have received major attention, but few outside of Stern — who called it to my attention — noticed it.

The article is ostensibly about the decision of Abbas to go on with his delusional bid for UN membership for the Palestinian Authority. It contained the following incredible yet revealing statement: Abbas was talking to 20 left-wing Israeli intellectuals. Evidently, like their anti-American counterparts in academia, Israel too has the center of anti-Israel sentiment in its universities.
Somehow, professors seem exempt to reality, perhaps because they continually live in a dream world.

He started by claiming he wanted negotiations, and informing his audience that he had met secretly with Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak, the private talks led nowhere, and he would therefore go to the UN. As usual, Abbas said direct talks with Israel could begin if only Israel carried out a short-term freeze in building settlements — which of course, they did before, with nothing coming of it. He added the talks had to accept the indefensible 1967 lines, and he refused to accept recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. All this we already know. And yes, Abbas claimed that he and the Palestinians want “to live in peace and security” with Israel, not delegitimize it, but only to legitimize a Palestinian state.
And of course, he and his chief negotiator Saeb Erekat say they want a two-state solution. But they always add they will never give up the “right of return,” which means, as everyone knows, they are not serious.

But the key sentence in the story, which should have been the page one headline, is the following. Abbas said:
We are going to complain that as Palestinians we have been under occupation for 63 years.
Look at that sentence carefully. Abbas is saying, not as is usually the case, that Israel is an occupying power not because it controls Gaza and the West Bank, but because it has occupied them from the beginning when it created a Jewish state!

In other words, it is not current policy of the Netanyahu government that has caused the failure of peace, but the very creation in May of 1948 of the state of Israel!

To Abbas and his cohorts, evidently all of Israel is occupied territory and is illegitimate. Israel, as the Left used to say, and as Noam Chomsky’s followers do today, is an imperialist-Zionist-colonialist entity, meant to rule over the Arab masses.

Speaking of the Left, Stone tackles one of the great myth-makers about Israel, a man whose writings had tremendous influence on the Left — the late I.F. Stone. As he says in his interview:
The lion of the old and new left, Izzy Stone, posthumously shows that the Palestinian nakba narrative is another big lie concocted to avoid having to own up to the failures and self-destructiveness of the Palestinians own leaders, from the days of Haj Amin al-Husseini to Mahmoud Abbas.
Present at the first war against Israel waged by invading Arab armies, Stone reported the Arab exodus as not being caused by Israeli aggression — as he later would argue — but by Palestinians running away to avoid the fighting.

Stern says he hopes his “little book helps readers see through the lies about the conflict told by the Palestinian leaders and their liberal allies in the West.” He has indeed done just that, and in fact better than any similar accounts published in the past by others. It is hard to get someone to read an entire large book, such as the many written by Alan Dershowitz in defense of Israel. But people will take out the time to peruse a brief account written in a lively fashion. Stern has, as he hoped, provided a “concise historical narrative” that “can help arm pro-Israel Americans with the facts and arguments they will need.”

So, I end with a plea. Buy Stern’s book, and send it to your friends and relatives!

Mariano Rivera's greatness incomparable as ageless Yankees closer gets 600th save

By Mike Lupica
The Daily News
September 14, 2011

SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 13: Closing pitcher Mariano Rivera(notes) #42 of the New York Yankees watches as Ichiro Suzuki(notes) #51 of the Seattle Mariners is thrown out stealing for the final out at Safeco Field on September 13, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. Rivera was credited with the save, the 41st of the season and 600th of his career. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

This is what the great W.C. Heinz wrote once about Sugar Ray Robinson, the one the old-timers all say was the greatest fighter, pound for pound, who ever lived:

"When the young assault me with their atomic miracles and reject my Crosby records and find comical the movies that once moved me, I shall entice them into talking about fighters. (Sugar Ray Robinson) will be a form of social security for me because they will have seen nothing like him, and I am convinced they never will."

Mo Rivera, who got to 600 saves Tuesday night, who got to his own magic number in the season of Derek Jeter getting to his own magic number on that 5-for-5 day against the Tampa Bay Rays, will be that kind of social security for us someday. Because after everything we have seen from the Yankees in this generation, all the winning they have done since the winning really started with Joe Torre's Yankees in 1996, Rivera has been the greatest of all of them.

Even now, as he gets to 600 and moves closer to the all-time record for saves, we know that nobody has ever seen anything like him. And those of us who have watched it all from Rivera, from the time he was the setup man to John Wetteland in 1996, are convinced that we never will.

He has lost something off his fastball. They all do eventually, even when they are the combination of grace and talent and excellence that Rivera has been for so long, over all the time when he has been the greatest money pitcher of them all, and the greatest Yankee pitcher, even pitching just the ninth inning.

You sit with him in front of his locker and ask him the difference now between his young self and his old self, and he smiles at you and points to his head and says, "Wisdom."

Most likely Jeter is the Yankee who will be remembered most for this time, because he has been the shortstop and the captain and the glamorous star of the team. And he sure did get all of his 3,000-plus hits for the Yankees. And he has been the face of the Yankees more than anybody else.

But you can see another Yankee getting to 3,000 someday, maybe even Robinson Cano. There will never be another Mariano Rivera, never be a power relief pitcher who goes for this long and this well, still pitching at the highest possible level as he approaches his 42nd birthday. There he was in Anaheim on Sunday afternoon, one more one-run game for him, coming in and getting the double play that ended the game and let the Yankees leave Southern California having gotten at least one game off the Angels.

He will turn 42 in November, the number on his back. He is the last active player in the big leagues wearing Jackie Robinson's number. When Rivera finally does retire, it will be one more number he takes with him.

You ask him about retirement, he gives you the same answer, every single time.

"No one will ever have to tell me when it is time to go," he says.

For now, he is not going anywhere. For now, he looks to be the Yankee closer who plays on six World Series champions, at least. One more time he wants to get the last out of a Series the way he did a couple of years ago when he got Shane Victorino on a ground ball and the Yankees beat the Phillies.

So many great players over the past 15years, starting with Jeter. So many famous names. We had the Core Four: Jeter, Rivera, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte. And A-Rod, bless his heart. The greatest of all of them is Rivera. He has been Babe Ruth doing his job out of the bullpen, but doing that job with DiMaggio's grace. Six hundred saves and counting. A magic number for Mo, to go with the magic he has always brought to the ninth inning with his fastballs and cut fastballs and control.

After all this time, and even at a ridiculous age for a closer, we are still shocked when he doesn't do the job.

"It's why people still remember the times you messed up like it was yesterday," he says. "But I've always understood that comes with the job, because with my job there is never much margin for error."

So, yeah, we still talk about the home run he gave up to Sandy Alomar Jr. in the first round of the playoffs in 1997, when the Yankees were four outs away from going to the American League Championship Series. We talk about the bottom of the ninth in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, when the Diamondbacks came back to beat the Yankees, finally winning the Series on that little bloop single from Luis Gonzalez. For me it is still the most dramatic ending of any World Series ever played, even more than the Game 7 that ended with Bill Mazeroski's home run in 1960.

It was the most dramatic ending because the Diamondbacks got Rivera, the way the Red Sox did when the Yankees were three outs away from sweeping the Red Sox in the ALCS of 2004. Say it again: On those rare occasions when he has failed, the Yankees don't win.

But mostly when the ball and the ninth inning have been in his hands, they have won, over all the years, that one year when he set up Wetteland and then when he became the greatest closer of all. He was that again Tuesday night. Six hundred saves for No. 42. Never another one like him, never in this world. There have been other forms of social security like this in sports. Mo is ours.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Today's Tune: Creedence Clearwater Revival - Born on the Bayou (Live)

Back to the Future?

Was President Obama’s jobs speech any different from what he’s said before?

By Thomas Sowell
September 13, 2011

Those who are impressed by words seem to think that Pres. Barack Obama made a great speech to Congress last week. But when you look beyond the rhetoric, what did he say that was fundamentally different from what he has been saying and doing all along?

Are we to continue doing the same kinds of things that have failed again and again, just because Obama uses clever words with style and energy?

Once we get past the glowing rhetoric, what is the president proposing? More spending! Only the words have changed — from “stimulus” to “jobs” and from “shovel-ready projects” to “jobs for construction workers.”

If government spending were the answer, we would have a booming economy by now with plenty of jobs, after all the trillions of dollars that have been poured down a bottomless pit. Are we to keep on doing the same things, just because those things have been repackaged in different words?

Or just because Obama now assures us that “everything in this bill will be paid for”? This is the same man who told us that he could provide health insurance to millions more people without increasing the cost.

When it comes to specific proposals, President Obama repeats the same kinds of things that have marked his past policies — more government spending for the benefit of his political allies, the construction unions, the teachers’ unions, and “thousands of transportation projects.”

The fundamental fallacy in all of this is the notion that politicians can “grow the economy” by taking money out of the private sector and spending it wherever it is politically expedient to spend it — so long as they call spending “investment.”

Has Obama ever grown even a potted plant, much less a business, a bank, a hospital, or any of the numerous other institutions whose decisions he wants to control and override? But he can talk glibly about growing the economy.

Arrogance is no substitute for experience. That is why the country is in the mess it is in now.

Obama says he wants “federal housing agencies” to “help more people refinance their mortgages.” What does that amount to in practice, except having the taxpayers bail out people who bought homes they could not afford?

No doubt that is good politics, but it is lousy economics. When people pay the price of their own mistakes, that is when there is the greatest pressure to correct those mistakes. But when taxpayers who had nothing to do with those mistakes are forced to pay the costs, that is when those and other mistakes can continue to flourish — and to mess up the economy.

Whatever his deficiencies in economics, Barack Obama is a master of politics — including the great political game of “Heads I win, tails you lose.”

Any policy that shows any sign of achieving its goals will of course be trumpeted across the land as a success. But in the far more frequent cases in which the policy fails or turns out to be counterproductive, the political response is: “Things would have been even worse without this policy.”

It’s heads I win and tails you lose.

Thus, when unemployment went up after the massive spending that was supposed to bring it down, we were told that unemployment would have been far worse if it had not been for that spending.

Are we really supposed to fall for ploys like this? The answer is clearly “yes” as far as Obama and his allies in the media are concerned.

Our intelligence was insulted even further in President Obama’s speech to Congress, when he set up this straw man as to what his critics believe — that “the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everybody’s money, and let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they’re on their own.”

Have you heard anybody in any part of the political spectrum advocate that? If not, then why was the president of the United States saying such things, unless he thought we were fools enough to buy it — and that the media would never call him on it?

— Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. © 2011 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

A Model of Efficacy

The NYPD is our most effective counterterrorism agency.

By Daniel Pipes
September 13, 2011

U.S. law-enforcement agencies have generally responded to 9/11 with a pretend counterterrorism policy. They insist that calling the enemy “Islamism” causes terrorism, that Islamist violence is just one of many co-equal problems (along with neo-Nazis, racial supremacists, et al.), and that counterterrorism primarily involves feel-good steps, such as improving civil rights, passing anti-discrimination laws, and displaying goodwill to Islamists.

And then there is the New York Police Department, an institution uniquely spurred by 9/11 to abandon its former laxity and get serious. The department that had mishandled prior terrorist incidents (e.g., the assassination of Meir Kahane) quickly transformed itself into a serious counterterrorist agency under the remarkable leadership of Raymond Kelly. (Andrew McCarthy calls him “a godsend.”) Unlike other agencies, the NYPD names the enemy, acknowledges the predominant threat of Islamist violence, and has built a robust intelligence operation.

The public first saw hints of these changes in 2006 during the Shahawar Matin Siraj trial. The government obtained a conviction of Siraj, an illegal Pakistani immigrant intending to blow up a subway station, on the basis of information from two NYPD Muslim spies: a paid police informant, Osama Eldawoody, and a pseudonymous undercover detective, “Kamil Pasha.” The latter testified about his serving as a “walking camera” among Muslims living in Brooklyn — to “observe, be the ears and eyes” for the NYPD.

Christopher Dickey provided the fullest picture of the department’s achievement in a 2009 book, Securing the City: Inside America’s Best Counterterror Force — the NYPD. Now, just in time for the tenth anniversary of 9/11, the Associated Press has published a series of breathless investigations by Adam Goldman on the department’s methods, focusing on NYPD cooperation with the Central Intelligence Agency and bringing the department under intense and critical scrutiny.

Goldman reports that the department dispatched officers to Pakistani neighborhoods and “instructed them to look for reasons to stop cars: speeding, broken tail lights, running stop signs, whatever. The traffic stop gave police an opportunity to search for outstanding warrants or look for suspicious behavior. An arrest could be the leverage the police needed to persuade someone to become an informant.” It established the Terrorist Interdiction Unit to handle these informants, who included “mosque crawlers,” “café crawlers,” shopkeepers, and nosy neighbors.

It established the Special Services Unit to handle operations in areas outside New York City — despite the NYPD’s lack of jurisdiction — including several American states and eleven foreign countries. The effort has had its share of successes. For example, an Egyptian NYPD officer undercover in New Jersey had a major role in Operation Arabian Knight, the June 2010 arrest of two New Jersey Muslims who pled guilty to planning to join the Somali terrorist group al-Shabab and kill American troops.

It established the Demographics Unit to “map ethnic residential communities within the Tri-State area [New Jersey, Connecticut, New York State]” and to send undercover police officers, or rakers, to monitor Muslims in this region. Made up of 16 officers speaking among them Arabic, Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu, the unit lists 29 “ancestries of interest,” all of them predominantly Muslim, including one described as “American Black Muslim.” In all, the NYPD identified 263 “ethnic hot spots” in the city, plus 53 “mosques of concern.”

Rakers filed daily reports on life in New York’s Muslim neighborhoods. Goldman and co-author Matt Apuzzo note that they “visited Islamic bookstores and cafés, businesses and clubs. Police looked for businesses that attracted certain minorities, such as taxi companies hiring Pakistanis.” They got personal, Goldman goes on: “If a raker noticed a customer [in an ethnic bookstore] looking at radical literature, he might chat up the store owner and see what he could learn. The bookstore, or even the customer, might get further scrutiny.”

Goldman and the Associated Press clearly disdain NYPD tactics and hope to get them watered down. But these tactics have protected New York from 13 failed or thwarted terrorist plots, Commissioner Kelly stands by them, and they garner wide political support. New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg praised the NYPD for a “very good job,” and John Brennan, President Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, lauded its “heroic job.” U.S. representative Peter King (R., N.Y.) rightly commended its methods as a model for the federal government.

King is right: The methods adopted by the country’s most effective counterterrorism force should spread to every other Western law-enforcement agency.

Mr. Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum and the Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. © 2011 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserv

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Let's keep rolling

By Rick Reilly
September 6, 2011

Visitors left flowers at the Pennsylvania crash site of United Flight 93 the day Osama bin Laden was killed. Construction on the site began last year but a permanent memorial is years away. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

The first battle in the renewed war against terrorism wasn't waged in Fallujah or Kandahar or Tikrit. It was held 32,000 feet above Pittsburgh, on Sept. 11, 2001.

And it wasn't soldiers who led the battle.

It was four athletes, pushing a food cart.

United Flight 93 was supposed to go from Newark to San Francisco that Tuesday morning, but 31-year-old Jeremy Glick wasn't supposed to be on it.

He was supposed to go the day before, but a fire at Newark Airport forced him to re-book for the next day, one of the bloodiest in American history.

About 45 minutes into the flight, four radical Islamic terrorists stormed the cockpit, sliced the throats of the pilots and took charge. They told the 33 passengers and seven crew members they were hijacking the plane and returning to Newark.

Glick, a muscular 1993 national collegiate judo champion, scampered back to the second-to-last row and called his wife, Lyz. It wasn't long before he and the others -- talking to their families -- realized that nobody was going back to Newark. They were on board a 150,000-pound missile, bound for some unthinkable end. The World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon had already been hit. What was 93 aimed for?

"We're going to rush the hijackers," Glick told Lyz.

Horrified, she pictured the hijackers having machine guns.

"No," Jeremy said. "Box cutters."

And Lyz says, "I was thinking, 'OK, Jeremy can handle a man with a knife, no problem. With him being so strong, and with his experience in martial arts and judo, he's going to unleash some terrible force. That's no match for him.'"

Mark Bingham, 31, was back there with Glick. He'd won two national club rugby titles with Cal-Berkeley. He was huge, fierce, funny and, incidentally, gay. He once wrestled a gun from a mugger. A knife wasn't going to scare him.

"I remember Mark and his buddies got thrown off an entire island once," says his dad, Jerry. "He told me, 'Dad, we lost the match, but we won the fight.' I know how he was. He'd have been definitely been kickin' ass and takin' names."

The third was Oracle salesman Todd Beamer, 32, a former shortstop at Wheaton (Ill.) College, a basketball star, and a soccer player.

"I knew, when I saw what happened," says his dad, David, "that Todd would be part of that. Todd was not going to be sitting in his seat while somebody was trying to crash the plane."

The fourth was 38-year-old Tom Burnett, a former high school football star from Bloomington, Minn. These men became convinced that they had to stop the plane, even if they had to stop it with their lives.

"I know we're going to die," Burnett told his wife, Dina. "Some of us are going to do something about it."

There certainly were more passengers among the 33 on board who planned the insurrection and stormed the cockpit, but we know about these four. All of them jocks. All of them with the physical and mental training to rise up when all seems lost. This is the best guess of what they did:

"We're going to attack," Glick told Lyz. "I'm going to put the phone down. I love you. I'll be right back."

Lyz couldn't hold the line. What she was hearing was sending her body into convulsions. She handed the phone to her dad and walked into a different room.

Beamer revealed the same plan to the operator, Lisa Jefferson, who was sitting in a call center in Oakbrook, Ill. When it was time, he let the phone dangle so he could keep the line open in case he made it back alive. She heard Beamer say to the others, "Let's roll." It's a phrase that would later be stenciled on jet fighters, NASCAR rides and above locker room doors.

Using a food-service cart as a battering ram, the attackers raced up the aisle and smashed through the cockpit door. It was almost 10 a.m.

"My dad said first he heard a series of screams," Lyz recalls. "Then he heard another set of screams. Then it all sounded like a roller coaster, up and down. And then it just ... (pause) ... ended."

Officials believe that the terrorists, being buckled in, rocked the plane up and down violently, trying to fling the passengers against the ceiling. Excerpts of the cockpit voice recorder tape are chilling. (Words in parenthesis are translated from the Arabic.)

09:58:52 -- Stay back.

09:58:55 -- In the cockpit.

09:58:57 -- In the cockpit.

09:58:57 -- (They want to get in here. Hold, hold from the inside. Hold from the inside. Hold.)

09:59:04 -- Hold the door.

09:59:09 -- Stop him.

09:59:11 -- Sit down.

09:59:15 -- Sit down.

09:59:16 -- Unintelligible.

09:59:17 -- (What?)

09:59:18 -- (There are some guys. All those guys.)

09:59:20 -- Let's get them.

09:59:25 -- Sit down.

09:59:29 -- (What?)

09:59:36 -- Unintelligible.

09:59:42 -- (Trust in Allah, and in him.)

09:59:45 -- Sit down.

09:59:47 -- Unintelligible.

09:59:53 -- Ahh.

10:00:06 -- (There is nothing.)

10:00:07 -- (Is that it? Shall we finish it off?)

10:00:08 -- (No. Not yet.)

10:00:09 -- (When they all come, we finish it off.)

10:00:11 -- (There is nothing.)

10:00:13 -- Unintelligible.

10:00:14 -- Ahh.

10:00:15 -- I'm injured.

10:00:16 -- Unintelligible.

10:00:21 -- Ahh.

10:00:22 -- (Oh Allah. Oh Allah. Oh gracious.)

10:00:25 -- In the cockpit. If we don't, we'll die.

10:00:29 -- (Up, down. Up, down, in the) cockpit.

10:00:33 -- (The) cockpit.

10:00:37 -- (Up, down. Saeed, up, down.)

10:00:42 -- Roll it.

10:00:55 -- Unintelligible.

10:00:59 -- (Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest.)

10:01:01 -- Unintelligible.

10:01:08 -- (Is that it? I mean, shall we pull it down?)

10:01:09 -- (Yes, put it in it, and pull it down.)

10:01:11 -- (Saeed.)

10:01:12 -- ... engine ...

10:01:16 -- (Cut off the oxygen.)

10:01:18 -- (Cut off the oxygen. Cut off the oxygen. Cut off the oxygen.)

10:01:37 -- Unintelligible.

10:01:41 -- (Up, down. Up, down.)

10:01:41 -- (What?)

10:01:42 -- (Up, down.)

10:01:42 -- Ahh.

10:01:59 -- Shut them off.

10:02:03 -- Shut them off.

10:02:14 -- Go.

10:02:16 -- Move.

10:02:17 -- Turn it up.

10:02:18 -- (Down, down.)

10:02:23 -- (Pull it down. Pull it down.)

10:02:25 -- Down. Push, push, push, push, push.

10:02:33 -- (Hey. Hey. Give it to me. Give it to me.)

10:02:35 -- (Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me.)

10:02:40 -- Unintelligible.

United Flight 93 dove into a remote field in southwestern Pennsylvania, near Shanksville, killing all aboard. People 10 miles away said they felt the ground shake. It's believed the plane was headed for the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

"This was the first victory of the war," says David Beamer. "The Capitol dome still stands."

The hole left by the Boeing 757 was 24 feet wide and 18 feet deep. But the hole it put in those left behind sometimes feels even bigger.

This may be why Todd Beamer's wife, Lisa, does not talk about 9/11 or Shanksville or "Let's roll." She is raising her three kids -- 13, 11 and 9 -- alone. She didn't remarry.

In Church Hill, Tenn., Mark Bingham's dad doesn't need an anniversary to remember his son. He thinks about him every day.

"I haven't been right since," Jerry Bingham says, crying softly. "We work on it every day. You think you're gettin' through it, but you don't. You just don't. Not a day goes by that it's not on your mind, ever."

But not all his memories are painful. President Bush invited the Flight 93 families to the White House the week after 9/11. Afterward, the families were being escorted out the back way of the east wing. They were surprised to turn a corner and see that 150 to 200 White House workers had lined up on either side of them. They were applauding.

"The dishwashers, the cooks, the maids, the busboys," says Bingham. "They were clapping for us. They were thanking us. It just tore me up. And we were all crying and hugging each other. I'll never forget it."

Lyz Glick refuses to forget, too. She's turned Jeremy's heroics into Jeremy's Heroes, a non-profit organization that has helped thousands of young public school athletes who otherwise couldn't afford to train. "That's helped us to heal the most," she says.

What's also helped is something Jeremy said in her 27 minutes with him on that phone call. "Whatever decisions you make in your life," he said, "I need you to be happy and I will respect any decisions that you make.'"

Lyz was married to her grief for so long. She would continually call Jeremy's cell phone, just to hear his voice, over and over. Fold his clothes. Re-live the call and hope it was enough.

Finally, years later, she married Jeremy's best friend and best man, Jim Best. She has three kids -- one by Jeremy, age 10, and two with Jim, 4 and 2.

Many of the families of the Flight 93 victims have stayed close. So close, in fact, 24 of them will run in the New York City Marathon in November as a team, led by the sister, Kiki, of one of the slain pilots, Leroy Homer, a former high school track star.

You might recognize them. They'll probably be wearing T-shirts that read: They didn't quit. Neither will we.

Over 50,000 mementos, gifts and testimonials have been left at the battle site in Shanksville. Kids leave their favorite stuffed animals. People write long, emotional thanks on everything from granite stones to paper plates. One Vietnam vet left his purple heart.

Many of the families will be there Saturday, Sept. 10, for one final burial ceremony.

And yet 10 years later, the memorial that was promised these 40 people hasn't been delivered. The Flight 93 National Memorial is still $10 million short of completion. There is still no visitor's center to teach, no Tower of Voices to listen, and no 40 groves of trees to honor.

"I'm 69 years old," says David Beamer. "I'd like to see the thing get done in my lifetime. If you and everybody you know can make one little sacrifice -- one hour of your income -- we could get this done tomorrow."

I sent an hour's pay not just to honor the passengers of Flight 93 but also to thank them. My niece was working in the Capitol that day. This spring, she had her second baby.

To send your hour's pay, go to

The passengers aboard Flight 93 saved hundreds of lives -- if not thousands -- in 35 minutes. We've had 10 years.

It's a hole we need to fill.