Saturday, December 31, 2011

How Not to Go Crazy in 2012

By Alan Caruba

Election years tend to create a level of frenzy concerning the selection of the nominees and the outcome. The media feed this in order to keep readers reading and viewers viewing. The history of American elections has always been one of vituperation between the parties, so there is nothing new about this. Indeed, since so much depends on it, the political free-for-all is a healthy exercise.

It can, however, make for a difficult environment in which to go about one’s life; the air filled with charge and counter-charge, polls going up and down, and a general sense that something is very wrong with the way the government functions.

On the bright side, a gridlocked Congress may bring a measure of relief to everyone. Writing about gridlock in January 2011, Marcus E. Ethridge, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin, noted that “By fostering gridlock, the U.S. Constitution increases the likelihood that policies will reflect broad, unorganized interests instead of the interests of narrow, organized groups.” In 2011, we saw what happens when advocates of “renewable energy”, wind and solar power, or electric cars, get priority over the needs of most Americans for reliable energy and transportation.

At the heart of the 2012 election will be the recognition that the economy is still not recovering, that government is seeking to extend and expand its control over our lives, and, even among former supporters of Barack Obama, that he has been a failure of historic proportions.

A Friday Rasmussen Reports said that “Voters right now give the edge to Republicans when asked which political party is likely to win the White House and control both the House of Representatives and the Senate in next November’s election”, adding that “a lot of voters are undecided.” Those voters may actually wait until entering the polls to cast their vote.

Another bad piece of news for President Obama is a new comparative analysis of current voter registration data in key electoral states of Nevada and North Carolina. According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, there has been “a drastic drop from 2008 levels when a record-high proportion of young Americans turned out overwhelmingly to cast their votes to elect Barack Obama as President.” This is significant because more than two-thirds of young voters supported the Obama/Biden ticket in 2008.

The President had a low moment following the passage of Obamacare that transformed itself into the Tea Party movement and an even worse one in 2010 when it propelled a large number of Republicans into the House of Representatives, causing its control to change hands. He has had, in fact, only one truly high moment and that occurred when he announced the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011. At the time, he typically took complete credit. In a speech at Fort Bragg to returning troops from Iraq, the word “victory” was never spoken.

Americans are not unmindful that the downgrade of the rating of the nation’s sovereign debt, the first in the nation’s history, was announced on Obama’s watch. The rate of "official" unemployment has receded to 8.6% but most Americans are well aware that it is far closer to 11% or more. America continues to experience that longest period of long-term unemployment since the 1930s.

For these and a myriad of other reasons, there is little reason to conclude that President Obama has any chance whatever of being reelected. The widespread contempt for Congress is also a hopeful sign for change. These are reasons to remain calm amidst the din of electioneering in the months ahead.

There is, however, all manner of troubles brewing in the world. Europe will have to find a solution to what will happen if its southern tier of nations elects to default on their sovereign debt. Cracks in the European Union are evident. If it falls apart, it will be very messy, but Europe existed before the EU and would if it disbands.

The Middle East is in the midst of a huge struggle between its fanatical Muslim faction and a population unhappy enough with former dictators to have forced out several in 2011 with the prospect that Syria’s Bashar Assad will fall in 2012.

Iran remains the wild card and its nuclear dreams will likely end with a well-timed and well-executed attack by Israel. Israel saved the world from a nuclear Iraq in 1981 and a nuclear Syria in 2007. An attack on Iranian nuclear and military facilities could trigger an internal movement to overthrow the mullahs.

There are other wild cards in the Middle East. The Palestinians show no indication of giving up their dream of destroying Israel. That will not happen. Without Iranian support, both Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza will be set adrift. Muslim atrocities in nations such as Nigeria where Christian churches were bombed on Christmas Day will contribute to a growing movement against Islamic terrorism. It will not happen overnight, but it will happen.

Even the Russians show signs of tiring of their post-Soviet ruling class led by Vladimir Putin.

America faces a long period of restructuring the socialist programs that began in the 1930s and reached their peak in the 1960s. Should the GOP gain control of Congress and Obama is defeated, real change will occur.

Two other factors signal better times ahead. They are the failure of the global warming hoax and the disdain the “Occupy” movement engendered.

In 2012 Americans will take steps to end the scandals and deprecations of the Obama administration.

We shall ignore the anticipated shouts of racism.

We shall see the Supreme Court disembowel Obamacare or set in motion its repeal by a GOP controlled Congress.

We will select a President and a Congress to put things right.

© Alan Caruba, 2012

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Grand Panjandrum of Pundits

By Alan Caruba

It’s a little known event, perhaps because its participants want it that way, but as the new year is poised to begin, the Grand Panjandrum of Pundits gathered at an undisclosed location for their annual review of all the predictions they made regarding things that did not occur, all the events that did occur—taking them by complete surprise, and to exchange notes on their thoughts regarding 2012.

The philosopher Aristotle had it right when he said “Stuff happens.”

This particularly applied to the third year of Barack Hussein Obama’s extended vacation as President of the United States of America. He ended the year comparing himself to previous presidents whose shoes he is not fit to shine and whose bathwater he is ill equipped to draw.

On January 2, 2010, I wrote that I thought Obama’s life, at least in the chronology and facts that were presented to the public, was a pure fiction, make believe.  By then Americans had experienced a year’s worth of ineptitude that left anyone paying any attention astonished. It was just one blunder after another.

Even more astonishing is that no court, no one in Congress, and no one in the Republican Party has dared to say that the man was and remains ineligible to be President. Plenty of other people have said it. My friend, Dr. Jerome Corsi, wrote a whole book about it; two in fact.

The glaring truth that no one wants to address is the fact that his father was a citizen of Kenya and, as such, the terms of the U.S. Constitution which require that only “natural born” citizens—those whose both parents are U.S. citizens—can hold the office of President.

When you add in the serious doubts over the authenticity of his birth certificate—declared a fake by document experts and the dubious authenticity of his Social Security number, issued in Connecticut where he never worked a day in his life, and you have enough evidence to send him packing in less than 24-hours.

Even so, the Democratic Party will put him on the ballot again to run for office in 2012. The legality of this is no more likely to be challenged than it was in 2008, though some are trying. The Grand Panjandrum of Pundits was left to scratch their heads and mumble about the strangeness of this.

There was one thing they agreed upon. Barack Hussein Obama is the worst President the nation has ever had to endure.

No other president even comes close. He is the first to preside over the first U.S. sovereign debt downgrade in American history.

He has been responsible for the highest level of federal spending (25% of GDP) since World War Two and, in a comparable fashion, the highest level of federal debt (67% of GDP) since then as well.

Employment is the lowest since 1983 and long-term unemployment (45.9%) is the highest since the 1930s, the years of the Great Depression.

The rate of home ownership (59.7%) is the lowest since 1965 and the percentage of taxpayers paying income tax is the lowest in the modern era. At the same time, the level of government dependency (47%), those persons receiving one ore more federal benefit payments, is the highest in American history.

Obama and his economic advisors have achieved this in just three years while others in his administration were authorizing millions in loan guarantees to “Green” companies going bankrupt with alarming predictability or producing heavily subsidized products that no one wanted to purchase. Others we’re told were unaware of a Department of Justice program to run guns to drug cartels in Mexico. Plans to shut down Gitmo were quietly shelved. The Bush-Cheney policies were quietly extended.

Within twenty-four hours of the final withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, Baghdad was besieged by bombings while the prime minister was busy trying to arrest and indict the vice president. You cannot make up stuff like this.

We are now mere months away from the Supreme Court hearing a case regarding the constitutionality of Obamacare. It is normal for judges who have had any previous involvement in a case or those close to it to recuse themselves from participating, but the Obama administration is so marked by a lack of ethics that his former Solicitor General Elena Kagan, now an Associate Justice, has still not announced her decision.

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Obamacare, the federal government can require you to spend your money on things you do not want and may not need.

This is why the Grand Panjandrum of Pundits ended in a state of mass confusion and despair. Just like it did in 2010.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Magical Mental Exercise Called Reading

By Alan Caruba

In 1942 my parents purchased a home in a picture-postcard suburban New Jersey community and the first improvement they made was to have bookshelves installed on the rear wall of the living room along with more in one corner. They had brought a lot of books with them and anticipated reading many more.

The living room was a library. An indelible memory of mine was of both parents reading. My father was a graduate of New York University, having worked his way through while attending night school. Mother occasionally lamented not having attended college, but Mother also taught in the adult school of the community for three decades and authored two books in addition to many magazine columns.

An authority on haute cuisine and wine, she garnered honors from the British and French Sommelier Societies, as well as from Germany. She was profiled in The New York Times. The word for a person like Mother is autodidact; a fancy way of saying self-taught.

Earlier and well into the 1930s through the 1950s Americans devoured books and often spent precious dollars to purchase sets of the Harvard Classics—we had them—and either the Encyclopedia Britannica or Americana—we had the latter. The Book of the Month Club was very successful as was a magazine called Reader’s Digest.

I was reminded of this by a very entertaining new book, “Blue Collar Intellectuals: When the Enlightened and the Everyman Elevated America”, authored by Daniel J. Flynn. The introduction begins with a reflection on popular culture, “Stupid is the new smart.”

This isn’t, however, just another lament about the sad state of present-day education or popular culture. Instead, it is a look back at America in the pre-World War Two era up to and beyond when television began to occupy the time many used to devote to reading books. Ironically, Flynn notes that television played a powerful role in popularizing several of the people he identifies as intellectual icons.

“For much of the twentieth century,” wrote Flynn, “there was a concerted effort among intellectuals to spread knowledge and wisdom far and wide. Correspondingly, many regular people took full advantage of the great educational effort. The idea was that America depended on having a well-rounded, educated citizenry.” This was not a new idea because from its earliest years Americans valued knowledge for its own sake.

“Twentieth-century America witnessed a democratization of education, unparalleled in human history,”says Flynn. I mentioned that my Mother taught gourmet cooking in adult schools. This was a phenomenon that began after World War Two. In addition to the GI bill that encouraged returning servicemen, mostly still young, to attend college, adult schools sprang up in communities as a way to quench the thirst for knowledge among the parents of those in college who, because of the Depression and the war, had not had the opportunity to acquire a higher level of education.

Common among the intellectual icons that Flynn identifies as having made learning popular was that all of them came from humble, often hardscrabble beginnings. They were not the children of wealth and privilege. They were people who knew what it meant to work for meager wages, but yearn for great achievement. All were denizens of local libraries and veracious readers. Of those who became members of the faculties of distinguished institutions, their roots gave them a unique advantage whether the topic was history, economics, or literature. They had lived in the real world.

The “blue collar intellectuals” included Will and Ariel Durant, co-authors of “The Story of Civilization” that included eleven-volumes by the time they were completed. Another was Mortimer Adler who authored “The Story of Philosophy” and, in 1940, “How to Read a Book” which became the second best-selling book of that year.

Milton Friedman transformed economics while teaching at the University of Chicago for thirty years starting in 1946. He would win a Nobel Prize. “Friedman understood that economics wasn’t merely about numbers. It was about people.” His book, “Capitalism and Freedom”, challenged many of the New Deal liberal policies when published in 1962. As Flynn put it, the book “highlighted the disconnect between the intentions of do-gooders and the atrocious results of their deeds.”

I can still recall reading Eric Hoffer’s “The True Believer” some years after it was first published in 1951. Working as a longshoreman, a strike in 1946 gave Hoffer the time to begin writing the book and another in 1948 gave him the time to finish it. It has never gone out of print and it took the reclusive Hoffer from a modest life he greatly preferred to meeting with presidents. The book was about mass movements and was his response to the two worst of the last century, Communism and Nazism. His own lifetime of reading is reflected in this and other books he subsequently wrote.

Flynn ends with a look at Ray Bradbury, best remembered as a science-fiction writer, but like the others of a humble origin, beginning in Waukegan, Illinois in 1920. His books, “Fahrenheit 451”, “Something Wicked Comes This Way”, and “The Martian Chronicles” cemented his reputation. Flynn says that “the threat to the life of the mind comes not as much from people who burn books as from people who don’t read them.”

So, when you’re commuting to work, on a lunch break, or when a hundred or more television channels offer you nothing worth watching keep a book at hand. Some of them will become lifelong companions.

Editor’s note: To keep up with the latest in non-fiction and fiction, visit Caruba’s monthly report at
© Alan Caruba, 2011

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Media Whips Up Phony Iowa Primary Frenzy

By Alan Caruba

We are, once again, witnessing what the media does best, whipping up a public frenzy over an event or, in the present case, the primary elections they are seeking to influence.

The most current example is the forthcoming Iowa caucuses and, as Michael Barone noted in a December 27 Wall Street Journal commentary, Iowa is hardly a bellwether predicting who will be the Republican nominee to oppose Barack Obama.

In “As Iowa Goes, So Goes Iowa” Barone, a respected political analyst, noted that “the Hawkeye State has voted for the eventual Republican candidate only twice—in 1996 for Bob Dole, in 2000 for George W. Bush—and only once was the Iowa winner elected president.”

You would not know that from the 24/7 election coverage of the cable news channels, nor the print media coverage. For Republicans, the greatest concern is that a literal handful of Iowans might vote for Rep. Ron Paul who is to the left of Barack Obama on most issues.

For my part I have tried to ignore Ron Paul as much as possible, but he is getting the full media treatment, including an appearance on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show. The views he expresses are pure lunacy. He supports legalizing drugs, shrinking the military, isolationism, and all manner of policies that would incalculably harm the nation.

The whole primary process, along with the many debates, is intended to winnow out the weakest candidates. Tim Pawlenty and Herman Cain are already gone. After the Iowa caucuses, no doubt Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman will cease to be serious contenders. Rick Perry has proven himself to be a good governor, but a poor national candidate. Newt Gingrich is waning under close examination.

Mitt Romney is beginning to look like a paragon of experience and rationality.

Insofar as the national media catapulted Barack Obama into the White House, we need to be especially wary of the media’s enthusiasms for one candidate or the other and, at this stage, its “horse race” mentality.

Elections are a study of mass movements, the gathering of supporters coalescing around a particular candidate, and they say much about the national mood.

If the polls are any indication, Obama’s consistently falling approval numbers, despite the occasional blip, suggest that most voters with the exception of diehard liberals are deserting him after three years of crippling national debt, continued high unemployment, flatlining housing prices, his war on energy and the states struggling to deal with illegal immigration. Even liberal news media are pulling back from the adoring coverage he once generated.

Years ago in the 1950s a blue collar philosopher, Eric Hoffer, penned a book, “The True Believer”, that became a national bestseller. Hoffer had devoured the works of great thinkers as he rode the rails during the Depression years, worked in the fields, and became a longshoreman.

Hoffer’s book, still in print, had some insights regarding mass movements that are well worth revisiting. It was written in response to the likes of Hitler and Stalin, but it holds true for the current enthusiasms of Ron Paul’s supporters and those who cling to Obama’s myths.

Well before Obama’s vacuous offer of “hope and change”, Hoffer wrote, “For the hopeful can draw strength from the most ridiculous sources of power—a slogan, a word, a button. No faith is potent unless it is also faith in the future; unless it has a millennial component”, i.e., a hoped-for period of happiness, peace, prosperity, and justice. Obama has not delivered on any of these.

“Every established mass movement has its distant hope, its brand of dope to dull the impatience of the masses and reconcile them with their lot in life.” Americans, however, may be the most impatient people on Earth.

The utter failure of the Obama administration and the wreckage it has left in its path quickly mobilized a leaderless movement called the Tea Party. Its rejection of Obamacare and other administration policies and programs is the background music to the battle in Congress between those advocating the failed programs of the Democratic Party and the large contingent of newly-minted Tea Party-supported Republicans is evidence of a mass movement that the media continues to disparage.

Even those who do not identify themselves as Tea Party patriots will play an important role in the 2012 elections. Their power is revealed in the Democratic Party’s announcement that it will not seek votes from white, middle class working people, but concentrate instead on those on the government dole, union members, and those who want the status quo.

A national election is an exercise in propaganda, but Hoffer noted that “The truth seems to be that
propaganda on its own cannot force its way into unwilling minds; neither can it inculcate something wholly new; nor can it keep people persuaded once they have ceased to believe.” That is Obama’s dilemma and downfall. His endless speeches fall on deaf ears these days and will in 2012.

The 2012 elections will not be decided, nor even influenced by the outcome of the Iowa caucuses. For that we need to watch New Hampshire on January 10, South Carolina on January 21, and most especially, Florida on January 31.

We need more faith in a future without Barack Obama; one that is barely a year away.

We need more faith in the U.S. Constitution and continue to demand that it be obeyed.

We need more faith in our communal past. Hoffer wrote, “It was not the irony of history that the undesired in the countries of Europe should have crossed an ocean to build a new world on this continent. Only they could do it.” America continues to be a work in progress.

Pay no heed to the media’s arrogance, wedded to failed socialist programs. Pay no heed to Ron Paul’s lunacy. Pay no heed to Obama’s lies. We shall win through to a restored America.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

2012's State of the World

By Alan Caruba

"Only the Dead have seen the End of War" – Plato

For myself and a lot of other Americans, the killing of Osama bin Laden was the highpoint of 2011. A decade has passed since nearly 3,000 Americans were killed on September 11, 2001. He was found in an army town in Pakistan.

Meanwhile the war in Afghanistan grinds on for no explicable reason, but the war in Iraq was declared ended for U.S. troops on December 15. Within twenty-four hours of the last troops departure bombings occurred in Baghdad and the nation began to come apart. The single unifying force in Iraq had been—you guessed it—the U.S. military.

Evil men met their end in 2011, but surely not enough of them. Gone now are Libya’s Colonel Gadhafi, North Korea’s Kim Jung Il. Classic dictators, it is likely that Syria’s Bashar Assad will be overthrown in 2012. The year began when Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the nation he had controlled for four decades. In February Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak was forced to resign.

The “Arab Spring” was declared. It was and is an illusion. In terms of its lack of democracy, the Middle East, the seat of Islam, remains a rebuke to the modern world.

In 1979, the Iranians overthrew the dictatorship of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah, and replaced him with the even worse dictatorship of Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini. His passing put Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in charge and bogus elections have made Mamoud Ahmadinejad president. The balance of power in the Middle East will shift dramatically if Iran achieves nuclear weapons.

As regions go, Africa just barely managed to retain a few democratic nations while others remain in the grip of dictators of varying degrees of evil. The northern tier, known as the Maghreb, had been the spark of revolutions from Tunisia to Libya to Egypt. One sign of hope was the succession of South Sudan in July. In Africa, too, the emnity of Muslims toward its growing Christian population continues to spark unrest. In Nigeria, Muslim terrorists bombed churches on Christmas Day. How great an outrage is that?

Not all killer events in 2011 were wars and revolutions. In March, a 9.1 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami struck eastern Japan killing nearly 16,000 and leaving nearly 4,000 missing. Four nuclear power plants were shut down after technical failures created widespread zones of radiation.

The European Union which was created in the wake of two wars on that continent remains in turmoil after several member nations posed a threat of financial default due to the socialist mismanagement of their economies. Its fate remains unknown, but it well could deconstruct itself in favor of a return to individual sovereignties.

In October, Israel---reviled by most of the world for having the temerity to exist--- returned 1,077 Palestinian terrorists to Hamas in exchange—are you ready for this—for a single Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, who had been kidnapped and held prisoner since 2006. Though not a sovereign nation, Palestine was admitted as a member by UNESCO, an agency of the United Nations, on October 31. Ever since 1948 when the Israelis defeated an attack by five Arab nations the UN has maintained an agency, UNRWA, whose sole purpose is to service Palestinians.

A former Prime Minister of Israel, Golda Mier, said it best. “We shall have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.” She could have been speaking of America as well because we are high on the list of Arab hatreds.

As 2011 came to an end, Americans were pleased to see their troops come home from combat in Iraq and would feel the same about Afghanistan. The two wars fought in Iraq have been sobering experiences, reminders of the role of the U.S. as the world’s policeman. 

We fight now with a volunteer military and one whose equipment from aircraft to ships to combat vehicles is growing old or being retired at a rate that raises serious questions about our ability to defend the homeland or wage war abroad.

The enduring truth of any year of recorded history has been that tribes, religions, and nations go to war with one another. It is naïve to believe that another war is not just around the corner, most likely in the Middle East and mostly likely with Iran. Israel has been in a state of war, hot or cold, with all its “neighbors” in the Middle East since its founding in 1948. It is being inexorably forced to the decision to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Leadership is a critical factor when war threatens. The nation is in great need of it, but there are few signs it exists in the White House and among the political class in Congress these days.

I began with a quote from Plato. I will end with one from Marcus Tullious Cicero:

“A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist.”

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The 2012 Check List for America's Survival

By Alan Caruba

Many people make resolutions to start the year, but I think a list of things that must be done to protect and preserve the Republic should be tallied.

1. President Obama must be defeated in 2012 and the obstructionist Democratic Party must lose power in the Senate to ensure both houses of Congress will be Republican and in a position to initiate real change.

2. The Environmental Protection Agency must be reined in with increased Congressional oversight and legislative limits on its rule-making capacity. Having fulfilled its 1970 mandate to clean the nation’s air and water, it should be scaled back to the maintenance of these functions.

3. Americans, despite the administration’s efforts to redefine and distract us, must keep clearly in mind the threat of Islam to the nation and the world. A Middle East in turmoil lays ahead for 2012.

4. To jump-start the economy, taxes and spending must be reduced across the board. A tax on consumption, rather than income would be a good start. Only 49% of Americans currently pay income taxes, the lowest in decades.

5. Obamacare must be repealed should the Supreme Court fail to rule that the Commerce Clause takes precedence over its requirement that Americans must purchase health insurance or be fined for not doing so.

6. A serious restructuring of Social Security and Medicare must be undertaken. Older Americans who have paid into the system—it is involuntary—must be ensured their benefits will be paid, but younger citizens should have the freedom and responsibility to structure their own retirement and health plans.

7. Access to the nation’s vast reserves of coal, natural gas, and oil should be increased and encouraged. Oil companies should be encouraged to build more refineries via tax credits and removal of “environmental” obstacles.

8. Congress needs to identify and fund the repair to the nation’s aging infrastructure.

9. Utilities should be encouraged via tax credits and other incentives to expand the national “grid” for the distribution of electricity.

10. Term limits for Senators and Representatives should be added to the U.S. Constitution in the same fashion the presidency is limited. Salaries, pensions, and perks should be capped. A permanent political class is a danger to citizens.

11. The Federal government should be downsized with the elimination of the Departments of Education, Labor, and Energy, along with the Environmental Protection Agency. These powers should be returned to the individual States. (10th Amendment)

12. The nation’s military which has been significantly reduced in size and structure should be expanded with attention to the upgrade and increase of its naval fleet and aircraft.

13. Congress should reject and rescind all legislation based on “global warming” or “climate change” as the former has been demonstrated to be a hoax and the latter is meaningless insofar as the climate is beyond the control of humans.

14. The United States should significantly reduce its contribution to the United Nations and refuse to ratify any of its treaties.

15. Tort reform should be instituted to reduce the costs of health care.

16. The corporate tax rate should be significantly reduced from its present rate, one of the highest in the world, to increase expansion, new jobs, and competitiveness.

17. Public service unions should be illegal. The federal government does not permit such unionization and neither should states.

18. National Public Radio should no longer be funded. The “government entities” of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should be eliminated.

19. The federal government should be restricted or significantly limited from the acquisition of more of the nation’s landmass.

20. Strenuous efforts must be undertaken to reduce the national debt and deficit. A devalued dollar impoverishes everyone.

These are just a few changes which, if implemented, would go a long way to reducing the ills associated with a federal government grown too large, subject to crony capitalism, and corruption.

As John Adams said, "Let us disappoint the men who are raising themselves upon the ruin of this Country."

© Alan Caruba, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Alan Caruba

Friday, December 23, 2011

Video - A Random Act of Culture

Cartoon Round Up

US Navy's Lesbian Kiss Makes Waves

By Alan Caruba

For generations of Americans, the most famous kiss between a Navy sailor and a nurse occurred during the celebration of V-J Day in New York’s Times Square on August 14, 1945.

The photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt was published in Life magazine a week later. It said everything you needed to know about the joy with which the nation responded to the end of World War Two and everything about the shared values of the nation.

So, when a photo of a homecoming kiss between Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta kissing her “partner”, Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell went public on December 22, it set gay and lesbian hearts atwitter. What the predominantly heterosexual population thought of it was unreported.

According to news reports, “Navy officials said it was the first time a same-sex couple was chosen to have the first kiss. The first-kiss is a Navy tradition for ships returning to port. David Bauer, the commanding officer of the Oak Hill, said the crew’s reaction was positive” and he informed the Associated Press “It’s going to happen and the crew’s going to enjoy it.”

Different times, different values. Perhaps.

But why? The answer is the way the U.S. military has been used by gay and lesbian advocacy groups as a petri dish to force social change. The other location for influencing such change is in our nation’s schools and manifests itself in charges of massive bullying and questionable sex education curriculums, many of which evoke outrage among today’s parents.

When then-candidate Barack Obama promised transformational change in America, it is doubtful that those who voted for him realized that part of that change was his advocacy of gay rights. In June, at a fund-raiser in New York composed of gay, lesbian, and transsexual supporters, Obama touted his efforts to advance gay rights and promised further progress. He stopped short of declaring support for legalizing same-sex marriage.

Earlier, however, in February the Obama administration said it would no longer oppose legal challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), just two months after Congress and the President agreed to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, the military’s ban on openly gay service members. Attorney General Eric Holder sent a letter to Congress saying that DOMA, passed in 1996, “discriminated” against gays.

Let that sink in. The Obama administration thinks that the defense of traditional marriage between a man and a woman is “discrimination.” Since the dawn of civilization, the union between a man and a woman has been the keystone of societies everywhere. Even the extension of “civil unions” with expanded rights for gay couples has not been enough for advocates of homosexuality.

Those with short memories may not recall that it was another Democrat President, Bill Clinton, who created an uproar within days of taking office when he let it be known in 1993 that he intended to repeal the ban on homosexuals serving in the U.S. military. At the time, a Pentagon study concluded that “homosexuality is incompatible with military service.” The study, however, also proposed a policy that came to be known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” preventing recruiters from screening or discouraging homosexuals from joining.

There were and are still good reasons for the military’s opposition to homosexuals serving. Let it be said that homosexuals have probably always served. When I was in the Army in the 1960s, I and others in my unit knew of gays serving along side us, but practiced a tolerance we took for granted by neither acknowledging it, nor engaging in any action based on it.

At the time, there was no such thing as “gay rights” and, were it not for the incessant demands for them, they would not exist today. Gays and lesbians play on the inherent sense of fairness and tolerance that is a hallmark of American society. The result is that homosexuality is now widely represented in popular culture to the point of being accepted as “normal.” It is not “normal.” It is a sexual aberration involving a very small portion of the overall population, perhaps no more than four percent. Always was, always will be.

The U.S. military is a unique element of our society. The 1993 Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law stated that “there is no constitutional right to serve” and pointed out that the military is a “specialized society” that is “fundamentally different from civilian life.” This was and is so self-evident that the present state of affairs is nothing less than astonishing. Homosexuality was deemed an “unacceptable risk” to good order, discipline, morale and unit cohesion—qualities essential for combat readiness.

Suffice to say Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell opened a Pandora’s box of difficulties for all the ranks. Its repeal has not made those difficulties magically disappear.

The photo of two Navy lesbians kissing represents the “progress” that a vocal minority has made, given the support of liberal politicians on both sides of the aisle working against the tide of resistance of majority Americans who are fighting the social implications of “gay rights”, the demands for “gay marriage”, and the influence over young minds passing through government school systems.

It says something about life in America today, one that is very different from America at the end of World War Two.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The UN's Global Warming Absurdity

By Alan Caruba

The 17th United Nations conference on climate change, i.e. global warming, has concluded in Durban, South Africa, coincidently the site of UN human rights conferences that were entirely devoted to attacking the right of Israel to exist. I am sure Durban is lovely place to visit, but the city fathers should consider withdrawing the welcome mat before it becomes inexorably identified with hoaxes and hatred.

Reams have been written about the Durban conference, among which is a report by Lord Christopher Monckton that identifies its various objectives, chief of which is to ensure that billions flow into the United Nations. Suffice to say it was a by-product of World War II in the same fashion that the League of Nations was a by-product of World War I. The latter failed and the former has metastasized into a monster sucking up billions from member nations without materially contributing to world peace or much else.

The Reformation came about in Europe when Luther and others had the temerity to point out that the Roman Catholic Church had become a sinkhole of corruption and immorality. The outcome for the church was a return to its original purpose of propagating Christianity and piety. The transition, however, took a couple of hundred years. One can only hope that it does not take that long to rid the world of the United Nations, a giant bureaucracy whose hypocrisy and lust of global power over sovereign nations knows no limits.

As I am want to say—repeatedly—there is NO global warming and carbon dioxide (CO2) poses NO threat to the planet’s climate, nor plays any significant role—if any—in its natural variability. Reducing CO2 is one of the all-time idiotic ideas and it is the key to the Kyoto Protocols promulgated in 1997. In all the UN climate conferences since then, the effort has been to enrich and empower the UN bureaucracy that keeps loudly saying we’re all doomed.

Lord Monckton points out that the planet has not been warming (it goes through cycles of warming and cooling) “for two decades”, adding that there has been “no recent sea-level rise, no new record Arctic ice-melt, fewer hurricanes than at almost any time in thirty years, (and) no Pacific atolls disappearing beneath the waves.”

The many UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports have been masterpieces of obfuscation and outright lies. As Peter C. Glover, a longtime observer of the IPCC and commentator on climate change claims, recently noted, “”Most damaging of all, the week before the summit, it was revealed that an upcoming UN IPCC report due in February would state ‘climate change signals are expected to be relatively small compared to natural climate variability’” He defined climate variability as “We haven’t a clue what the climate will do.” And rightfully so!

Recently, my friend Dr. William Gray, an esteemed meteorologist, and his colleague, Phil Klotzbach, went public saying that their efforts over the years to predict the number of hurricanes in the year ahead since 1992 was a complete bust. That kind of academic honesty is very commendable. And, in the case of the yelping pack of so-called global warming "scientists", very rare.

In October, the Science and Public Policy Institute published Dr. Gray’s report, “Gross Errors in the IPCC-AR4 Report Regarding Past & Future Changes in Global Tropical Cyclone Activity.” Suffice to say, it ripped the IPCC claims to shreds and is testimony to why the IPCC is an utterly corrupt generator of the global warming hoax.

At the conclusion of the recent IPCC Durban conference, Canada made it known it would no longer be a party to the Kyoto Protocols, while Russia and Japan made it known they will ignore any extension. China essentially said it intends to ignore them. The U.S. never was a party to the Protocols, the U.S. Senate having unanimously rejected them despite Al Gore’s protests. He was Vice President at the time.

The United Nations is the definition of corruption, of evil.

There are many reasons for the U.S. to stop its funding of the United Nations, but the enormous waste and harm done by its environmental program may well top the list.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Running the USA into the Ground

By Alan Caruba

I needed a mattress cover so I went over to the local dollar store today and discovered they have them in every size but twin. I returned home. I went online to Bed, Bath and beyond. With a few keystrokes I not only had the exact item I wanted, I also received an email confirmation of the sale and a notice that once shipped, I will be able to track its delivery from the warehouse to my front door.

If only the federal government operated with such efficiency. Instead, we have a government that has been operating on “continuing resolutions” for over a thousand days due to a lack of a budget. An essential job of the executive branch is to produce a budget, but if you don’t have one, you can egregiously waste billions.

Everybody else has a budget, but not the federal government.

As we head into an election year, even more political madness and maneuvering will ensue. As a Wednesday editorial in The Wall Street Journal said:

“The GOP leaders have somehow managed the remarkable feat of being blamed for opposing a one-year extension of a tax holiday that they are surely going to pass. This is no easy double play. Republicans have also achieved the small miracle of letting Mr. Obama position himself as an election-year tax cutter, although he's spent most of his Presidency promoting tax increases and he would hit the economy with one of the largest tax increases ever in 2013. This should be impossible.”

Serendipitously, the Journal also ran an opinion by Peter J. Wallison, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. “The Securities and Exchange Commission's lawsuits against six top executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, announced last week, are a seminal event. For the first time in a government report, the complaint has made it clear that the two government-sponsored enterprises played a major role in creating the demand for low-quality mortgages before the 2008 financial crisis.”

“More importantly, the SEC is saying that Fannie and Freddie—the largest buyers and securitizers of subprime and other low-quality mortgages—hid the size of their purchases from the market. Through these alleged acts of securities fraud, they did not just mislead investors; they deprived analysts, risk managers, rating agencies and even financial regulators of vital data about market risks that could have prevented the crisis.”

One member of Congress, among many who protected Fannie and Freddie, who will not be indicted, is Rep. Barney Frank who is retiring with full pension and benefits, no doubt more wealthy than he arrived.

A new book by Peter Schweizer, the William J. Casey Fellow at the Hoover Institute is titled, “Throw Them All Out: How Politicians and Their Friends Get Rich off Inside Stock tips, Land Deals, and Cronyism that would Send the Rest of Us to Prison.” At this point, the only bipartisan activity in Congress is the way, on both sides of the aisle our elected representatives increase their personal wealth. The book so rattled Congress it is now holding hearings on the extraordinary premise of requiring its members to obey the same laws as the rest of us!

A familiar theme of those of us that comment on government is its size, its waste of public funds, and its general inefficiency. It is a government that sends millions in checks to dead people. It is a government that has turned the process of flying anywhere into a nightmare because of its one-size-fits-all idiotic approach to getting on an airliner. The Israelis accomplish this with far less inconvenience to passengers and their system works.

My contention is that our metastasizing government has gotten progressively worse from the days of the Great Depression and now we learn—if we did not already know—that it was two “government sponsored enterprises” that brought about the mortgage crisis that plunged the nation into a pretty good imitation of the Great Depression.

Now we are forced to watch Congress play political gamesmanship while millions of Americans are out of work.

Now not a week goes by without another “green” enterprise going belly-up, taking our money with it or one of those wonderful electric cars has batteries that are likely to catch fire. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy just released a report that estimates that each of the Chevy Volt cars sold thus far has as much as $250,000 in state and federal dollars in incentives behind it—a total of $3 billion thus far. We never needed electric cars.

What kind of idiocy throws money away when the U.S. sits atop reserves of oil that are so vast they could end imports?

What kind of President refuses to permit Canada to ship its ample oil to Houston for refining?

Why are we holding our breath hoping that Congress will let us purchase Thomas Edison’s incandescent light bulbs, one of the greatest inventions of the modern era?

Little wonder that the polls demonstrate the record-setting low esteem in which Congress is held. It is running the nation into the ground. To the belated astonishment of everyone, the nation is led by the President whose greatest achievements have been to destroy jobs and plunge the nation into unimaginable debt.

November 6, 2012 cannot come soon enough.

A majority of the electorate wanted “change” in 2008. Let’s give it to Congress in 2012. Let’s support candidates who want to significantly reduce the size of the federal government, restructure the “entitlement” programs, and reduce the debt before it impoverishes the next generation and the one to follow.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pundits, Primaries and Polls

By Alan Caruba

In the event you did not read about it at the time, the Prohibition Party met in June 2011 and nominated Jack Fellure as their presidential candidate. The Socialist Party USA held their convention in October, nominating Stewart Alexander. The Constitution Party will meet in April and the Libertarian party will gather in May 2012. The Green National convention will not be held until July.

You are likely to hear a lot about the 2012 Republican national convention at the end of August in Tampa, Florida and the Democratic national convention in Charlotte, North Carolina in early September.

To save you any anxiety involved with the latter, Barack Hussein Obama will be the Democratic nominee unless someone checks the U.S. Constitution which specifically states that only a “natural born” (both parents must be citizens) American can run for or be President.

The nominees of the two major parties will be determined by state primaries and the one receiving the most attention at this point is Iowa’s on January 3, 2012. Why anyone takes this primary seriously defies the imagination. Iowa caucuses have selected the widely known choice of both major parties with few exceptions. It did surprise folks when Mike Huckabee won in 2008, but his run quickly faded. You have to go back to 1972 for the George McGovern choice that surprised voters.

As this is being written, there is an orgy of news coverage of various polls in which the candidates for nomination rise and fall like the tides. There is little substance to these polls that are the subject of intense news coverage.

It is naïve to think that the liberal mainstream media does not try to influence the outcome with its selective coverage. Recall that just a few weeks ago, Herman Cain was the choice and now they’re claiming Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul will run away with the Iowa vote.

President Obama’s poll numbers regarding his performance in office are so low that his prospects of reelection even at this date are doubtful. The economy, as always, will be the deciding factor and it will not significantly improve by Election Day.

Political operatives will pay far more attention to the New Hampshire primary on January 10, followed by the January 21 primary in South Carolina, and January 31 primary in Florida. Despite several dozen other state primaries, the party convention nominations will have largely been determined by the January primaries.

Politics in America is a blood sport. So much money depends on their outcomes that literally millions are spent to secure victory. The federal government has become a giant spigot of income redistribution. It is so over-leveraged that it must borrow forty cents of every dollar it spends. This year’s outlay of campaign dollars will no doubt top a billion dollars.

Self-interest will be the driving factor among the donors with ideology a close second. Despite being castigated by President Obama, Wall Street will predictably be a major donor to the Democratic Party. Rent-seeking corporations such as General Electric will not be far behind.

I would recommend that you not get caught up in the journalistic frenzy over the entire primary process. Obama will be the Democratic Party nominee and Mitt Romney is likely to be the Republican Party’s choice. It is a cliché, but true nonetheless, that in times of economic crisis, people vote their wallet

Suffice to say I will not be voting for the Prohibition, Green or Socialist Party candidates.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

No Newt, Now or Ever

By Alan Caruba

Back in March I wrote about “The Newt-ster” and ended by saying, “I like the Newt-ster. I just don’t want him to run.” I still don’t.

As Speaker of the House and since, Newt’s legislative record has been all over the political spectrum. He has long been known to have various enthusiasms that he later abandons.

Though Newt did get welfare reform, then-President Clinton played him like a fiddle, getting him blamed for shutting down the government. Then the House Democrats finished him off with a plethora of ethics charges, most of which were dismissed, but he ended up paying a fine for one and resigning.

He has been ethically challenged in both his political and personal life. That kind of behavior rarely changes.

His main claim to fame was engineering the return to power in Congress by Republicans after forty years of Democrat rule. He co-authored a Contract with America, organized the Republicans in Congress to get behind it, and power switched hands in 1994. President Reagan who held office throughout the 1980s demonstrated how much can be accomplished by real leadership even with a Democrat-controlled Congress.

I have a major warning to offer regarding Newt Gingrich and I say it as someone who has studied history and witnessed a big chunk of it. Whenever the U.S. has elected an intellectual, it has suffered.

The most notable example is Woodrow Wilson, a former New Jersey Governor and president of Princeton University. His legacy includes the implementation of the income tax and establishment of the Federal Reserve. He wanted the U.S. to ratify the League of Nations, but the Senate rejected it for the same reason it should have rejected the United Nations.

Before him, Teddy Roosevelt, a man of action as well as intellect, was a progressive whose own party would not nominate him and who formed a third party which the voters rejected. This is not to say men of superior intellect have not been President, but the office calls for both leadership and the pragmatic capacity to understand “the real world” as opposed to the world of the mind. It also requires real courage.

Throughout history, men of intellect have concocted some of the worst systems to control the human population which they generally regarded with contempt. Karl Marx comes to mind. Generally speaking, intellectuals distrust the common sense of a humanity unencumbered by idiotic laws. These days the process of control is referred to as “social engineering.”

Obamacare is an example of social engineering and all the wasted billions on Green or renewable energy is another. The pathetic efforts to stamp out the use of the word “terrorism” from government pronouncements as well as the idiotic “Fast and Furious” gun-running program to undermine the Second Amendment are two more. So far as the federal government is concerned, there is no aspect of our lives in which it does not want to interfere or require obedience. Incandescent light bulbs anyone? The volume of water in a toilet? Nutritional standards? It is endless!

Gingrich began his career as a professor of history and his present rhetoric reveals his penchant for lecturing audiences while demonstrating his intellectual prowess. He is an engaging speaker, but behind it is a life spent being on both sides of most issues and often on the wrong side. Since leaving Congress he has been a well-paid “consultant” to anyone seeking to eat from the federal trough.

A glaring example of his willingness to embrace really bad ideas was his book, “A Contract with the Earth” which espoused all the usual environmental claptrap that assists and underwrites the horrid Green legislative agenda to limit carbon dioxide emissions for the real purpose of harming economic growth.

A Wikipedia synopsis describes the book thusly: “’A Contract with the Earth’ is, broadly, a manifesto that challenges those on the right to provide a strategy for repairing the planet and calls on government to embrace the concept that a healthy environment is required for a healthy democracy and economy. This approach, alternately branded mainstream and entrepreneurial environmentalism by the authors, requires that companies should lead the way in environmental issues while governments provide them with incentives to reduce their carbon footprint.” (Emphasis added)

Carbon footprints are an absurd concept conjured up by the same crowd that tried to impose the Kyoto Protocols on nations in 1997. As of the recent UN conference on climate change, most nations have signaled they will, having signed on, ignore it, along with China which was exempted along with India. Canada will drop out. And the Protocols will be consigned to the dustbin of history along with “global warming.”

Newt has never found some absurd intellectual notion that he would not embrace, short of Communism. He was dismissive of the congressional Republican proposals to reduce spending as “right wing social engineering” when many understand that they represent the best way to extricate ourselves from the enormous debt the Obama administration has imposed on the nation and the necessity of restructuring Medicare.

In short, he could just as easily run as a Democrat as a Republican and, if nominated, would be utterly destroyed by Barack Obama and the Democrat machine in the same way Obama dismembered Hillary Clinton’s bid in 2008.

A December 15 poll by Rasmussen Reports found that Gingrich “now trails President Obama by double digits, his second straight weekly decline since becoming the GOP frontrunner.”

If, by now, you have concluded that I distrust intellectuals and most of the ivory tower academicians, you are right. Since the 1960s many of left-wing ideologues---protesters---found their way onto the faculties of the nation’s colleges and universities, and it is why the teacher’s unions have done everything in their power to eliminate the truth about American history from the curriculum.

No Newt now or ever is my slogan and I hope he is rejected by sensible Republicans in the forthcoming primaries.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Leaving Iraq

March 2003, Baghdad, Iraq, Shock and Awe
By Alan Caruba

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. - John Stuart Mill English economist & philosopher (1806 - 1873)

Among some foreign policy analysts, the popular conclusion regarding the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq is that the U.S. won the war…for Iran.

In practical terms, however, predicting anything about the future of the Middle East these days is likely to leave one looking foolish. Who thought Tunisians would toss out their dictator? Or that Egyptians would demand and get Mubarack to resign? Or that Syrians, after two generations of dictatorship, would turn on the Assad family? Revolution is in the air in the Middle East which is to say that change—rapid change—is the order of the day.

President Obama’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops entirely from Iraq is ignorant of history and dismissive of reality. When the Axis was defeated in World War Two, the U.S. retained troops in Europe to ensure a transition to democracy. Same with Japan. And later, the same with South Korea.

President Obama, so reluctant to admit that the U.S. has ever done anything right and ill-inclined to let it happen, has led to the full-scale withdrawal of U.S. troops and, I suggest, set up a situation in which a newly emerging democracy—a distinct rarity in the Middle East—could be deprived of the time to be fully and securely established.

There were real reasons for invading Iraq twice in recent times; first to force Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait and second to remove him as a dangerous, destabilizing force who threatened all the Gulf States.

Forgotten by most, Iraq under Saddam Hussein engaged Iran in war for eight years from 1979 to 1988. Inasmuch as Iran’s Islamic revolution had taken U.S. diplomats hostage in 1979 and held them for 444 days, the U.S. backed Saddam, though officially it took a neutral position.

U.S. policymakers in the administrations following the Carter years regarded Ayatollah Khomeini as a serious threat to the stability of the region and nothing has changed since them. His successors are nothing but trouble.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki found sanctuary in Iran to avoid being killed by Saddam. He is said to have strong ties to the current regime in Iran which is, after all, a very big neighbor with a long common border to the east of Iraq.

On the occasion of the official end of the war and the withdrawal of U.S. military, Maliki’s close ties to Iran were on display at the White House when he brought Iraqi Transportation Minister Hadi Farhan al-Amiri with him. Farhan had formerly been a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. The Guards are suspected by U.S. law enforcement of participating in the 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. servicemen billeted there.

Had the invasion of Iraq in 2003 been a limited mission, Saddam might have been toppled and the Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis would have been left to kill each other in the typical Arab fashion of resolving disputes. Also in the mix would have been the Kurds in northern Iraq whom Saddam persecuted and killed throughout his regime.

Eight years later, the tendency of the media has been to focus on U.S. and Iraqi war dead, but there is little mention of the earlier Iraq-Iran conflict with estimates between 500,000 and a million war dead, 1-2 million wounded, and more than 80,000 prisoners. In one 1985 battle alone when Iran launched an offensive to cut the main highway between Baghdad and Basra, it is estimated that the combined total of dead numbered 40,000.

The U.S. still does not have diplomatic relations with Iran, a situation in place since 1979. Iran has declared the U.S. to be its biggest enemy and makes no secret of its intention to destroy Israel. Much of the world is wondering when Israel will attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. The failure of the U.S. to support this would be a strategic mistake on the order of the British PM, Neville Chamberlain’s claim to have achieved “peace in our time” after negotiations with Adolf Hitler.

Obama’s “diplomatic” efforts with Iran have been a total failure. The latest embarrassment was his “request” for the return of the drone spycraft that the Iranians brought down, apparently without firing a shot. Obama has worried out loud that U.S. diplomats would be targeted for assassination in Iraq…after bargaining away force protection.

It is no stretch to say that President Obama has been a global diplomatic disaster, routinely offending and insulting other nations out of pure ignorance and indifference. His successors will be mending fences in the Middle East and elsewhere for decades.

In the course of three years in office, Obama has only succeeded in fleeing what he regarded as a “dumb” war. He was elected largely on his opposition to it.

A recent Wall Street Journal editorial warned that the failure of the Obama administration to consolidate an alliance with Iraq ignored the Middle East’s upheavals and, in particular, in Iran’s longtime ally, Syria. In the best of outcomes, Iraq could have become an outpost of stability in the Middle East, but Obama’s indifference may contribute to its falling “prey to Tehran’s encroachments.”

In an analysis by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, published in Beirut’s The Daily Star, he anticipates that most of the future violence in Iraq will be between “political factions, even those of the same ethnic and religious group.” The Sunnis are the predominant Islamic sect in most of the Middle East, but the Shiites are the largest sect in both Iraq and Iran.

Al-Maliki heads a loose confederation of many different political parties, but seems to have asserted a very strong level of control over government policies at this point. Ironically, both Saddam and now Al-Maliki must contend with a semi-autonomous Kurdish faction that is pushing for resolution of territorial boundaries, seeking to reverse changes made by Saddam in Arab-Kurdish areas.

Ultimately, everything in the Middle East involves who controls oil revenues.

Iraq’s 2005 constitution promised a hydrocarbon law that would settle issues related to who had the final say of various oil deals. No such law has been legislated to date and the Kurds have pretty much gone their own way. Al-Maliki’s government has declared Kurdish contracts with oil companies illegal, banning companies that have signed them from bidding on oil business in the rest of Iraq.

In the recent history of the Middle East, dating from the fall of the Ottoman Empire following World War I, its nations have been ruled by dictators and monarchs. Such “democracy” as exists is mostly one in which the ruling regime stuffs the ballot boxes and the military determines the winner. Egypt’s recent turmoil is an example. Syria’s ruthless suppression of its people is another. Iran remains a prison state intent on imposing its hegemony over the region.

Can Iraq sustain its fledgling democracy? Nobody knows. If history is any guide the prospect is not good. Only a strong America could have played a role and Obama has chosen to leave.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christianity's Triumph

By Alan Caruba

“By far the most important event in the entire rise of Christianity was the meeting in Jerusalem in around the year 50, when Paul was granted the authority to convert Gentiles without them also becoming observant Jews.”

So wrote Rodney Stark, the Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences and co-director of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University. His most recent book is “The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the World’s Largest Religion” ($27.99, HarperCollins).

For Christians in particular, I recommend it if only because so many have a tenuous grasp of Christianity’s real history, as opposed the versions that too often are casually accepted as truth.

The truth is that the rise of Christianity is one of the most extraordinary stories of the past two millennia. Stark not only has the knowledge of his vast subject, but he writes with such felicity that it is hard to put the 500-page book aside for both its revelations and its devotion to the facts.

Despite the fact we live in a society that has at most only 4% who self-describe themselves as atheists, the more active among them have the audacity to demand that Christmas be banished to the privacy of homes or the pews and pulpits of churches. They rebuke religion in general as the source of conflict and wars, but ignore the spiritual support and ethical lessons that Christianity provides along with its promise of salvation.

While Judaism was the bedrock of morality and faith that gave it birth, Christianity made it more accessible and significantly includes the Torah as part of its liturgy.

To ignore the rise of Christianity is to be ignorant of an essential element of Western history. Likewise, to ignore the threat of Islam whose beginning is usually dated around 622 CE and which exploded following Mohammad’s death in 632 CE is to ignore the greatest threat to civilization, past and present. Less a religion than a battle plan for world conquest, Islam preaches death to all “unbelievers.” Take heed!

Stark provides a summation to his book and, even so, I shall select only parts of it in the interest of brevity.

“The first generation of the Jesus Movement consisted of a tiny and fearful minority” of a religion, Judaism, that had already been around for a thousand years or more before the assertion was made that the messiah had come and was a crucified Galilean rabbi who mainly and briefly preached in that area of Israel.

“The mission to the Jews was quite successful: large numbers of Jews in the Diasporan communities outside of Palestine did convert to Christianity.” The Diaspora were the Jewish communities in the Middle East and throughout the Mediterranean nations, including Rome, living in places where pagan faiths were dominant.

“Christianity was not a religion based on the slaves and lowest classes of Romans, but was particularly attractive to the privileged.” Moreover, in its earliest years, women often played important roles. Contrary to popular belief, however, “Paganism was not quickly stamped out, but disappeared very slowly.” Paganism involved the worship of multiple gods as well as a belief in magic.

Despite impressive cathedrals, in medieval times church worship among Christians was largely ignored and, as often as not, the clergy were ill-informed about the faith and sometimes not even baptized.

Despite what is said of the Crusades, they were a campaign to reclaim the holy land from Muslims who had conquered it and they were led by men who knowingly bankrupted themselves and often died in this cause. Though Christianity had been widely observed in the East, the armies of Islam destroyed all but remnants, thus shifting its survival to Europe in the West.

“Science arose only in the West because efforts to formulate and discover laws of nature only made sense if one believed in a rational creator.” Even the misnamed “Dark Ages” were actually times of technological development. Likewise historians have determined that the Spanish Inquisition was “a quite temperate body that was responsible for very few deaths and saved a great many lives by opposing the witch hunts that swept through the rest of Europe.”

Perhaps the greatest surprise was the damage done by Constantine who, having made it the religion of his empire, gave rise to an indolent and hypocritical Church hierarchy initially composed of Roman aristocracy. It fostered a clergy who were ignorant of the faith and indifferent to its mission. Not until the Reformation was competition introduced, forcing the Church to return to piety, as various Protestant sects emerged, and energized Christianity in the process.

Stark concludes that “The claim that religion must soon disappear as the world becomes more modern is nothing but wishful thinking on the part of academic atheists. Religion is thriving, perhaps as never before. More than forty percent of the people on Earth today are Christians and their number is growing more rapidly than that of any other major faith.”

And that, as they say, is the good news.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas and Old Age

By Alan Caruba

The older I get, the less I like Christmas. It’s definitely an age thing.

I have sweet memories of waking early on Christmas day, tip-toeing passed my parent’s and older brother’s bedrooms, and down the stairs to see what bounty awaited in front of the fireplace. There were separate stockings, jammed with candies and collectibles, but it was the boxes, clearly marked for myself and my brother that held treasure.

It never occurred to me that older brother with seven years head-start on me was already too old to have the giddy glee that Christmas morning held for me. All this is to say that I really liked Christmas and for all the usual reasons.

As I got older, the magic began to disappear. One Christmas was spent on duty, manning a desk in the headquarters company of the Second Engineer Battalion, Second Infantry Division, accompanied only by a very unhappy Second Lieutenant who had pulled the holiday assignment.

I began to notice things like the sameness of the Thanksgiving Day parade and how commercial it was. One November in 1984 I put out a news release claiming that “The Boring Institute” had analyzed the parade and concluded “it was a ten-year-old video” being replayed with no one noticing.

Thus was born The Boring Institute and an unpaid career as the nation’s expert on all things boring. With a break after 9/11, the Institute has issued an annual list of The Most Boring Celebrities of the Year ever since and did again on December 5th.

Other rituals of Christmas became increasingly annoying, not the least of which was the replaying of certain films that I have long since seen too many times. “It’s a Wonderful Life” was released in 1947! It must, moreover, be said that newer “Christmas” films are often crass, vulgar, distasteful and disrespectful. I mostly hate them.

The lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree used to be good for a few minutes coverage on the news, but the 2011 ceremony became a two-hour television extravaganza. Just light the tree and shut up!

The really annoying aspect of Christmas in recent years are those self-righteous atheists and others who object to a crèche or a Christmas tree on public property and who go around insisting that we all say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Atheists constitute about 4 percent of the population and 98 percent of all the negativity at Christmas time. I cannot begin to tell you what I would like to do to these cretins and killjoys.

In my own hometown, the kids in our schools are literally forbidden from singing Christmas carols lest it “offend” someone. Like who? If Christmas offends you, I recommend you move to Baghdad, Tehran or Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where being found with a Bible is a criminal offence. In short, get out!

I used to love to send and receive Christmas cards. These days, the price of cards and postage at 44 cents is such that it seems a costly affront to the opportunity to say hello to friends and family. I tend to use email now.

Talking about email, the days following Thanksgiving have seen an avalanche of emails from various merchants and manufacturers, all offering great savings on things I neither need, nor want. I miss the good old days of Nigerian gangsters. Now I am deluged by emails in French, Spanish and languages I do not recognize. I spend my days clicking on “delete.”

I shall be happy to celebrate yet another Christmas, but parents are long gone and big brother is in God’s Waiting Room—Florida. Other family members will have to content themselves with a card, email or call. Single by choice, there are no children or grandchildren that need tending.

And, yes, it will be with great relief when Christmas is over for another year. It’s an age thing.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Original Tea Party - December 16, 1773

By Alan Caruba

The modern-day Tea Party is a loose amalgamation of people who came together in March 2009 to protest against passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act otherwise known as Obamacare. There was a large gathering in Washington, D.C. with estimates of several hundred thousand to a million participants.

There had been other events associated with the Tea Party movement and in the 2010 midterm elections the movement was credited with returning power to the Republican Party in the House of Representatives by supporting candidates that associated themselves with the movement. It is, however, not a political party in its own right.

The story of the original Tea Party that occurred on December 16, 1773 is told in a new book, “Ten Tea Parties: Patriotic Protests That History Forgot” (Quirk Books) by Joseph Cummins, a historian who quite coincidently lives in Maplewood, NJ, my home town for more than sixty years until I moved to an apartment complex one town over. Maplewood has a number of homes from the Revolutionary War era so a sense of history pervades the community. Just up the road is Morristown, the site of one of George Washington’s winter headquarters and Jockey Hollow where his soldiers were billeted.

Cummins’ book is a useful and perhaps surprisingl reminder that Boston was not the only site where British tea was dumped overboard rather than pay even the threepense tax on it. There were in fact similar events in Philadelphia, Charleston, New York, and in the other colonies, Chesterown and Annapolis in Maryland; York, Maine; Edenton and Wilmington, North Carolina; and Greenwich, New Jersey.

The Boston event, however, was no small matter so far as the value of the tea destroyed was concerned. More than 92,000 pounds were tossed into the water. “Tall piles of the stuff floated like huge haystacks in the dim moonlight of the bay. And in the days that followed, many British observers wondered if the residents of Boston had gone insane.”

Tea was enormously popular, comparable to our love of a cup of coffee to start the day, and was part of the social life of the colonies. “One third of America’s three million inhabitants drank tea twice a day.” The colonists consumed between 1,200,000 and 2,000,000 pounds a year.

What is perhaps most telling about the Boston Tea Party was that it rapidly spread to other colonies where tea was boycotted or destroyed.

Cummins draws an interesting analogy between our times and then. “See if this story sounds familiar: During a severe financial recession, the government of the world’s most powerful country discovered that its largest corporation—let’s call it Corporation X—is rife with corruption, mired in debt, and facing financial collapse.”

In the case of Great Britain the corporation was the East India Company in 1773, a global commercial empire of its time that had been granted government permission “to mint money, acquire territory, maintain a standing army, enter into foreign wars, and make peace treaties.” The East India Company had shareholders who expected dividends and its fleets of armed merchants carried gold, silver, silk, cotton, spices, and opium across the oceans.

Tea represented a commodity that generated great wealth. Up to thirteen million tons of it was exported to England, largely from India, and by the mid-eighteenth century tea represented almost fifty percent of the company’s income. The import taxes collected by the British government “added up to a rather astonishing six percent of England’s national budget.”

For the first 150 years of the American colonies existence, the settlers were seldom taxed directly by the British crown, unlike the subjects of England and Ireland. As the result of conflicts such as the Seven Years War, the British treasury was low and Parliament decided to levy some taxes on the colonies. The Sugar Act of 1764 was the first. It severely impacted the molasses-rum trade, one of New England’s biggest businesses.

This was followed by the Stamp Act in 1765 that angered the colonists, but “Massachusetts was the first to erupt in angry protests.” Mobs are a useful instrument for a revolution and the men behind the war for independence knew it; in particular, Sam Adams and his co-conspirators that included John Adams, later to become the second President of the new nation. Much agitation for liberty preceded the Boston Tea Party.

The Boston Tea Party was carefully organized and the destruction of the tea from four ships, the Eleanor, Dartmouth, William and Beaver, was undertaken smoothly. What followed, as they say, is history.

The Revolution was a long affair, lasting from 1775 to 1783. Today’s Tea Parties are engaged in what is likely a long struggle to reduce the size of government and secure redress from the imposition of legislation such as Obamacare which will be on the docket of the Supreme Court as 26 States have joined in opposition based on its unconstitutionality.

If the Court should find it constitutional, we could well see a new American revolution as States evoke nullification and refuse to accept or honor the decision. Remember what the first tea partiers knew. They didn’t have, nor did they need “constitutional” rights. They already had “unalienable” rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Defining Journalism Downward

By Alan Caruba

New technologies drive out old ones, either eliminating, altering, or reducing their use. The traditional world of print journalism has felt this rather dramatically as subscriptions have fallen off, though often replaced by either free or paid access to their content.

It is their content, however, that has felt the brunt of change because bad or even false journalism is now subject to instant analysis and exposure. It is journalism’s failures or distortions that now are an increasing part of the news stream.

A recent tweet by a Washington Post reporter asking for some dirt on Newt Gingrich as well as earlier breeches of ethical behavior have taken this newspaper from the glory days of Watergate reporting to the most tawdry political intervention. The Post’s job is to observe and report, not to participate or, in this case, initiate. A reporter deliberately and openly seeking to destroy the reputation of a candidate should be fired. There’s a reason why editorials are restricted to the editorial page.

Rather than having to wait for the morning edition to arrive, people have access to 24/7 cable news channels and Internet sites that can update their content at will. There are the aggregators of news like The Drudge Report that shine a spotlight on news reports that might not ordinarily receive attention.

Many such sites have a distinct political orientation, so one can elect to receive either a liberal or a conservative flow of news.

Most certainly consumers of news have grown increasingly wary of its traditional providers—newspapers—who are seen to have agendas that are widely perceived, with notable exceptions, as liberal. Ditto news magazines. Ditto television network news. Ditto the likes of MSNBC. For those outlets suspected of poor journalism, the blowback is lost subcribers, viewers, and listeners. The marketplace rules!

Most certainly, it was journalists who betrayed the nation into electing a complete cipher, Barack Hussein Obama, to the highest office of the land. There will surely be books written about the way the mainstream news media covered the 2008 election, catapulting an unknown, first term Illinois Senator with a virtually invisible resume into the Oval Office. The coverage was egregious and fawning.

It wasn’t journalism. It was propaganda.

The coverage of “global warming” has further done great injury—and continues to do so—as email revelations in 2009 and again this year demonstrate that it was a concoction of the United Nations Environmental Program and, in particular, its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Simply put, it was a lie from start to finish, but it was a lie that was given substance and support from the domestic and international news media as governments became participants as well.

There has been an unspoken redefining of journalism from objective reporting to active participation, deliberately shaping public opinion whether the core of the content offered is true or not.

This has been particularly evident in the areas of science and business reporting. The recently published “The Bloomberg Way: A Guide to Reporters and Editors” notes that “Economies, markets, companies and industries are little understood, much less appreciated. The public—our readers, viewers and listeners—suffers the consequence of journalism’s traditional ignorance of these subjects and the arrogance of reporters and editors reveling in their ignorance.”

That is a fairly astonishing rebuke by its author Matthew Winkler, Bloomberg’s Editor-in-Chief, but it is also a very accurate one regarding what is surely the most important content any news outlet can offer.

Newspaper’s loss of revenue has reduced the maintenance of foreign bureaus and most such news these days is the product of news syndicates such as the Associated Press and Reuters. The AP has an egregious liberal orientation, harmful to its content.

The lost revenue has greatly reduced staffs in newsrooms. This puts increased pressure on reporters to produce more stories against the usual deadlines. It impacts the quality of the reporting, a process done on the fly in the best of times. Government and other spokespersons have a distinct advantage in shaping or shading the news of the day.

Politics is conducted in a non-stop spin zone. Historically in America, going back to the earliest elections, newspapers have always been enlisted by candidates or parties to advance their message.

Journalism in the broader sense of the word is changing and one of the most unique aspects is the rise of the blogger, often an expert on some aspect of the news such as science, military affairs, energy issues, or just local news. A recent court decision rejected the assertion that bloggers are journalists. Some are. Most are not.

I became a journalist shortly after discharge from the Army in the early-1960s. I went from a rookie reporter to the editor of a local weekly in just under six months because there was no one else to take over the job. I progressed from there to a daily newspaper. The typically low wages journalism provides propelled me into communications jobs for government agencies, a leading educational institution, and into fulltime PR.

I never stopped thinking of myself as a journalist because, ultimately, the only thing that matters is the truth, no matter whether you are providing it or reporting it.

Years later I have come full circle to journalism as a commentator. I still love newspapers, but I know they are dinosaurs, perhaps not doomed, but surely less dominant. Television news is most useful covering natural disasters, local crime, and providing weather reports, beyond that it is thin stuff most of the time.

Good journalism depends on good people, well educated, and skeptical, to report on a very complex world. It will require people with a mastery of specific aspects of that complexity who do not see themselves as “change agents”, but as true reporters.

Instead of pounding out a story on a Remington typewriter, they will so do on laptops and desktops, but real journalism, performed ethically, professionally, and with pride will still be just as exciting. It will still depend on the truth as its most precious commodity.

© Alan Caruba, 2011