Thursday, January 27, 2011

Anyone Remember the Iranian Revolution?

I couldn't believe the National Review Online editorial today supporting the overthrow of Mubarak in Egypt, just "not yet." Unbelievable.

Does anyone there remember how the Iranian Revolutions progressed from 1979 onwards? Khomeni waited in the wings while "progressive" forces squabbled and fell. All he had to do--much like Lenin--was pick up the pieces, then brutally crush any opposition.

To me, the return of El Baradei to Egypt, no doubt with Western support, sounds very much like Carter administration praise for Bani Sadr around the fall of the Shah. The US and western European powers were looking for a mythical "third way."

Did that work out well for the US? Think carefully...

Now the Muslim Brotherhood is coming out of the shadows in Egypt, the Islamists are flexing their muscles in Tunisia, Lebanon has come under the sway of Hezbollah.

American moves to bolster the Muslim Brotherhood are coming to fruition. How this is supposed to bring about world peace is beyond me.

If Mubarak doesn't crack down hard, he won't be around much longer in Egypt--and neither will the USA, IMHO.

In that case, Obama would go down in history as a worse US President than Jimmy Carter, if that's possible...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sincere Sympathies to our Russian Readers...

News reports of a suicide bomber attack in Moscow are deeply upsetting. My sincere sympathies to our Russian readers.

I only hope this might lead the US, UK and EU to stop their support of Chechen and Islamist guerrilla fighters in Russia, the former USSR, and around the world.

Unless and until the US fully cooperates with Russia and China to entirely stamp out Islamism, just as the Allies stamped out Nazism--including ending overt and covert Western support for Chechen and Uighur terrorism--IMHO, Islamism will remain a serious threat to world peace...

Friday, January 21, 2011

Republican Plan to Cut USAID Funding Would Hurt Taliban--IMHO, a Very Good Thing

According to The Hill blog, the Republican Study Committee has proposed cutting funding for the US Agency for International Development. I think that this is a very important step towards beating the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. It has been reported that the "hearts and minds" campaign run by NGOs and USAID since 9/11 has funneled billions of dollars to the Taliban and allies of Al Qaeda--no doubt some of it ending up in the hands of Osama Bin Laden, despite denials, since dollars are fungible (as proven in the NEA and PBS debates of the 1990s).

For example, Jean MacKenzie has covered this problem for years in the Global Post. Her conclusion is that the Taliban is a business partner for USAID that cannot be dumped.
If major donors cannot hope to control their partners even in Kabul, they have very little possibility of being able to do much in war zones.

No matter how unpalatable the Talban’s more repressive practices might be to most Afghans, they are a reality that must be dealt with. A weak, corrupt government and a foreign presence whose commitment seems to be waning precipitously cannot provide much of a defense against an insurgency that shows few signs of flagging.

I wrote a series of pieces on Taliban funding a little over a year ago, and for a while I became a favorite interlocutor for USAID officials, Congressional staffers, and others involved in the process. With something close to desperation, they would all ask the same question: how can this be stopped?

I was unable to provide an answer.

We cannot expect those who risk their lives to bring development projects to some of the most insecure areas of the country to forego the small measure of safety they try to purchase by negotiating with the Taliban. Nor can we hope to catch it all — there are simply too many bureaucratic nooks and crannies where payments to the Taliban can be hidden.

One sure way to defund the Taliban, given the failure of USAID to stop paying protection or bribes to the enemy would be for Congress to defund USAID. Shut down the NGOs in Afghanistan who support them. End America's failed "hearts and minds" campaign, and its subsidies to Islamists, terrorists, mafias, warlords and Al Qaeda sympathizers, as well as misguided American charity workers.

If the US military wants to pay off a warlord, it will be their call, not disguised as a "humanitarian mission" -- IMHO, USAID has given humanitarian intervention a bad name in any case.

Ending funding for USAID may not win the war, but at least it would end a US taxpayer subsidy to our enemies. That alone would be a step in the right direction.

Al-Arabiya's Guide to Tunisian Islamist Parties

Here's a link to the useful guide to different Islamist groups now surfacing in Tunisia, compiled by Farrag Ismail:
The lid is now open for Islamic parties and movements to gain political legitimacy in Tunis after squashing it for decades by the toppled “Ataturk-style” regime in the North African country.

The ousting of the Tunisian President Zine El Abdine Ben Ali brought to the limelight all opposition parties that have been outlawed by the former regime including the Islamists.

The most prominent of all Tunisia’s Islamic parties is the Renaissance Party or al-Nahda, under the leadership of Sheikh Rached Ghannouchi.

Ghannouchi's media appearance denouncing Ben Ali’s regime after the “Jasmine Revolution” heralds a new sense of plurality which can include the joining of Islamic parties in forming a new Tunisian government...
Sounds like Tunisia may be following the Iranian script from 1979...in which case Barack Obama would likely become a one-term President. So, it's probably in President Obama's political interest to prevent an Islamist takeover of Tunisia--by any means necessary (as H. Rap Brown used to say). On the other hand, it is in Iran's interest that the Islamists succeed.

So, stay tuned.

French Newspaper Says US Military Dumped Tunisian President

According to Frenchtribune.com, the US military persuaded the Tunisian generals to dump Ben Ali--without telling the French:
Le Canard Enchainé has alleged that the US generals convinced their Tunisian counterparts to take a stand against Ben Ali. He is the leader of Tunisia who flees from the country after losing the elections.

The French authorities, who were not expecting anything like this, were caught off guard leading to a diplomatic faux pas. France's Foreign Minister, Alliot-Marie, had said that it was US that took control of the situation. But Le Canard Enchainé claimed that in private Alliot had admitted that the American generals had put pressure on Tunisian generals to take a stand against Ben Ali.

He further added that it seems to be the reason for Ali to leave the country in a hurry. All this left French secret service and the diplomats in confusion since they did not know what was happening.

He also said that it was shame to know about the happenings from radio and newspapers. In reality, French authorities handled Tunisian affair very badly. Considering the fact that both the countries shared close relationship, this was a very bad move. Something more proactive should have been done.
File under: "Interesting, if true."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Iran Says Tunisia Now On Course to Islamism

From Jihad Watch:
As I explained here. "Tunisia on the way to Islamic rule," from Sapa-AFP, January 19:

Tunisians are on the path to establishing Islamic rule in their country after having toppled a Western-backed dictator, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday.
"It is very clear that the nation of Tunisia rose up against a Western-backed dictator using Islamic, humane, monotheistic and justice-seeking slogans," he told a cheering crowd in the central city of Yazd.

"In one word, the Tunisians are after establishing Islamic law and rules," the hardliner said in a speech broadcast live on state television....

Monday, January 17, 2011

Christopher Hitchens on the Tunisia Crisis

From Slate:
I was interested to see an interview last week with a young female protester who described herself and her friends as "children of Bourguiba." The first president of the country, and the tenacious leader of its independence movement, Habib Bourguiba, was strongly influenced by the ideas of the French Enlightenment. His contribution was to cement, in many minds, secularism as a part of self-government. He publicly broke the Ramadan fast, saying that such a long religious holiday was debilitating to the aspirations of a modern economy. He referred with contempt to face-covering and sponsored a series of laws entrenching the rights of women. During the 1967 war, he took a firm position preventing reprisals against the country's Jewish community, avoiding the disgraceful scenes that took place that year in other Arab capitals. Long before many other Arab regimes, Tunisia took an active interest in a serious peace agreement with Israel (as well as playing host to the PLO after its expulsion from Beirut in 1982).

Not to idealize Bourguiba overmuch—he became what is sometimes called "erratic," and at one point proposed an ill-advised "union" of Tunisia with Libya—but he did help to ensure that Tunisia's secularism and the emancipation of its women was its own work, so to speak, rather than something undertaken to please Western donors. It will be highly interesting in the next few weeks to see how this achievement holds up after the Perón-style tawdriness of the Ben Ali regime has potentially discredited it.

During my stay, I visited the University of Tunis, attached to the "Zitouna" or "olive tree" mosque, to talk to a female professor of theology named Mongia Souahi. She is the author of a serious scholarly work explaining why the veil has no authority in the Quran. One response had come from an exiled Tunisian Islamist named Rachid al-Ghannouchi, who declared her to be a kuffar, or unbeliever. This, as everybody knows, is the prelude to declaring her life to be forfeit as an apostate. I was slightly alarmed to see Ghannouchi and his organization, Hizb al-Nahda, described in Sunday's New York Times as "progressive," and to learn that he is on his way home from London. The revolt until now has been noticeably free of theocratic tinges, but when I was talking to Edward Said, the name of "al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb" was still unknown, and atrocities like the attack on Djerba were still in the future. We should fervently hope that the Tunisian revolution turns out to transcend and improve upon the legacy of Bourguiba, not to negate it.

Russian Analyst: America's Marxist Approach to Tunisian Crisis

Dmitry Kosyrev warns against Marxist attitudes towards democracy that he sees reflected in the American media:
The current events in Tunisia are being forced into the neo-Marxian framework of the people's struggle for democracy (Barack Obama's recent statement fits the mold), and this tells us something about the mentality of American and other journalists working today.

Obviously, the U.S. authorities did not order The Washington Post to write the article; rather, I see it as a journalistic reflex. All the same, the resulting article will no doubt influence the thinking and guide the actions of the general public and people in positions of power.

Violence used to disperse demonstrators in downtown Tunis has been automatically denounced as crimes against a democratic movement, even though a mob is always a mob.

"The United States stands with the entire international community in bearing witness to this brave and determined struggle for the universal rights that we must all uphold," Obama said in a statement released by the White House.

Revolts are often stirred up by an inspired intellectual who wants a better life for the people. Next thing you know someone starts breaking shop windows. Then the police step in because looting and violence cannot be tolerated, be it in Tunisia or in Moscow's Manezh Square just outside the Kremlin walls, where ultranationalists attacked ethnic minorities on December 11.

So what is happening in Tunisia? The best answer is, "I don't know, I need more time to analyze the situation."

According to The Washington Post, "The simmering discontent erupted into the open Dec. 17 in the inland city of Sidi Bouzid after an unlicensed fruit vendor identified as Mohammed Bouazzi set himself afire. Bouazzi acted after a policeman confiscated the wares off his cart and, according to news reports, after he was slapped by a female city hall employee to whom he had turned to complain."

But isn't that too simplistic? Where is the nuance? The complexity?

Tunisia has always been a shining example of economic success, with economic growth averaging 5% a year for the past decade, much of it due to the tourism industry. The Tunisian government wisely invested in education in those prosperous years, devoting 7% or 8% of the budget to it.

But it is growing prosperity not desperate poverty that is politically volatile. We have seen this again and again since Tiananmen Square.

The upheaval in Tunisia can be traced back to two factors. First, as many as 70,000 educated young people enter the job market there every year. This is the raw material needed for a modern middle class. But unfortunately, many of the young graduates could not get a job.
Second, the global food crisis - although overshadowed by the financial and economic crisis - has continued to cause food prices to rise.

The food crisis, which is almost a taboo topic, is complex. Part of the problem is the "supermarket revolution" - a change in the consumption model that has been underway in developing countries since the early 1990s. This is more dangerous than a simple rise in flour prices, which has led to unrest in Egypt.

Is this the real explanation? Or is it only another wrong turn in the maze? Back in December, it was thought that Tunisians were simply protesting rising food prices. Now the Tunisians have been unwittingly enlisted in the fight for democracy.

Happy Martin Luther King Day!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Brent Bozell: Blame Hollywood for Jared Lee Loughner

From his online column:
It took 72 hours for Loughner's entertainment appetites to enter the media mainstream. On Jan. 11, the Washington Post noted that on the shooter's YouTube channel, a lone video is listed as a favorite. J. Freedom du Lac reported on the rock band Drowning Pool: "As a hooded figure wearing a garbage bag for pants limps across the desert to set fire to an American flag, a howling heavy-metal song called 'Bodies' serves as the video's relentless soundtrack."

The lyrics are screamed: "Let the bodies hit the floor! Let the bodies hit the floor! Let the bodies hit the floor!" in an obvious echo of a shooting rampage like Loughner's. This isn't the first time this music was associated with a murder. In the northern Virginia suburb of Oakton in 2003, du Lac added, "then-19-year-old Joshua Cooke cranked the throbbing tune on his headphones, walked out of his bedroom holding a 12-gauge shotgun and killed his parents."

I think we can agree that this is a more provocative ode to violence than Sarah Palin's map with targets on a piece of congressional geography. Even the name of the band implies death.

In a statement posted Jan. 10, the band said they were "devastated" by the news from Tucson "and that our music has been misinterpreted, again." They claimed the song was written about "the brotherhood of the mosh pit and the respect people have for each other in the pit. If you push others down, you have to pick them back up. It was never about violence. It's about a certain amount of respect and a code."

The words "mosh pit" are nowhere in the lyrics. But this line is: "Push me again / This is the end."

The closest reference to being in a rock-concert crowd is this: "Skin against skin, blood and bone / You're all by yourself, but you're not alone / You wanted in, now you're here / Driven by hate, consumed by fear." But these words depict "a certain amount of respect and a code"?

The wire services added that Loughner liked government-conspiracy documentaries like the 9/11-truther films "Loose Change" and "Zeitgeist," and bizarre cult films like "Donnie Darko," a 2001 movie summarized as "A troubled teenager is plagued by visions of a large bunny rabbit that manipulates him to commit a series of crimes."

As he's told the world will end in 28 days, Donnie Darko (played by actor Jake Gyllenhaal) floods the school, steals his father's gun and burns the home of a motivational speaker, where firemen uncover a "kiddie porn dungeon." The film ends with Donnie laughing in bed as a falling jet engine crashes into his bedroom.

No network news anchor was blaming Richard Kelly, the cult film's writer and director, for filling Loughner's disturbed mind with more apocalyptic visions. That would be unfair. That would be oppressing an artist with a "chilling effect." But blaming a Palin map with targets on congressional districts (or TV and radio talk shows that Loughner never watched or heard) isn't just fair game. It's an urgent national priority.

I don't know if Loughner is deranged or the epitome of evil. If you want to look at the dark influences, however, be honest and report the evidence as it exists. Fox News had nothing to do with this. Nor did Rush, Beck, Palin or any other conservative. Angry heavy-metal bands and cult-movie directors shouldn't be charged with crimes, either. But to what extent did their "entertainment" poison this man's mind? Let the discussion go there.

Conrad Black: Tucson Killing Response Reveals Bankruptcy of US Political Class

From National Revew Online:
But Krugman has, obviously without knowing it, stumbled into a true and worrisome fact of contemporary American life: There are more frequent threats on the persons of public officials than in earlier times. The reason for this is not the one adduced in Krugman’s demented partisan explanation, but rather the fact that the political class in general is serving the country so poorly. As I have written in this space before, it has failed on almost every major issue of the last 20 years except welfare reform and, up to a point, counterterrorism. This is not a partisan or ideological matter; it is not regional, and certainly is not sectarian. The political class outsourced scores of millions of jobs while admitting 15 or more million unskilled, under-documented foreigners and ignored the implications of this conduct. It allowed the country to rack up $800 billion annual current-account deficits for years with no end nor any remedial action in sight. It urged, legislated, and ordered the issuance of trillions of dollars of worthless debt, supposedly to promote family homeownership — though the real beneficiaries were less frequent subjects of Norman Rockwell illustrations — and the political class floundered badly and waffles yet, over what to do about it.

The political class has done nothing to alleviate a dependence on foreign oil that makes the U.S. a co-combatant on each side of the War on Terror because of its contribution to the wealth of petroleum-exporting states that finance Muslim extremism. The political class has mired almost the entire conventional-ground-forces military capability of the United States in an unremitting area among ungrateful people for almost a decade at a cost of trillions of dollars, over 5,000 American servicemen’s lives, and tens of thousands of American casualties. The political class has presided over a shocking deterioration of the education standards of the country, done nothing to address the excessive cost and uneven availability of medical care, and the descent of the justice system into a racket in which the whole system of checks and balances is threatened by a rogue prosecutocracy that mindlessly or maliciously prosecutes whomever it wishes and has so deformed the Bill of Rights that it is successful 95 percent of the time. (There are 47 million Americans with a criminal record, and the U.S. has six to twelve times as many incarcerated people as other prosperous and advanced democracies such as Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom.) The decline of the influence and prestige and economic and moral strength of the United States in the world in the last 20 years has been precipitous. The politicians have failed, the system is failing, the people don’t like it, and, at some point, some of the crazy ones become violent.

The Democrats, presumably including the omni-whining Krugman, are right to denounce the reading of the Constitution in the House of Representatives as juvenile theatrics, because most legislators of both parties and all levels of government have allowed the Constitution to be deformed and abused. The answer to misgovernment is not violence and all responsible people should do everything possible to discourage any consideration of violence. But the political class has failed, and abrupt tidal changes of office-holders — 1992, 1994, 2002, 2008, and probably 2010 – aren’t improving standards of public service. If the system isn’t working changing the rhetoric won’t help, any more than dismissing Krugman as a Times columnist would. The rate of violent crime is generally declining. Deranged people need treatment, and the whole country needs better government. It’s conceptually quite simple.

Ann Althouse on President Obama's Tucson Speech

Ann Althouse's blog deconstructs President Obama's divisive rhetoric in Tucson:
Following the advice in the Shaker hymn that followed the President's speech last night, I kept it simple. I highlighted the passage in the speech about how we should take "a good dose of humility" and not "use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another." But I'm not a Shaker, and I'm a little wary when the most powerful man in the world advises the masses to be humble and come together as one. So I want to look at what he said just before that:

Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, "when I looked for light, then came darkness." Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.


But "there is evil in the world" is a simple explanation!

For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack.

How about: Jared Loughner is a lunatic? Okay, Obama said "exactly." Yes, I agree with his very minor point that we cannot know the precise content and etiology of Loughner's madness. But as we try to understand the political landscape of the real world where non-insane people live, those details don't matter. We have a simple explanation and it's a damned good one. Yet the President tells me I ought to "guard against" thinking in such simple terms. Why? Sometimes it is simple! Jared Loughner is a lone crazy guy. There is evil in the world and it burst forth last Saturday. It's not like labeling al Qaeda "evil" and moving on, because Loughner wasn't part of a web of activity. I think what we need to "guard against" is using Loughner as an example of some larger problem that we need to solve.

Obama continued:

None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man's mind.


True. We can't know with certainty what his mental processes were, but we are justified in taking it as our working theory that the man was crazy in a way that doesn't relate to the real-world political issues that are worth putting our energy into trying to figure out — other than the real-world issue of identifying and restraining dangerously psychotic persons.

So yes, we must examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of violence in the future.


That's what Obama said just before the passage I highlighted in last night. He goes on to push back those who've used the massacre as an occasion to make partisan political arguments — something he's strongly correct about. All right, then. What are we supposed to examine? We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of violence in the future. Does he mean old assumptions about the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill? Does he mean gun control? Does he mean limits on free speech? Now, there are some details we need to hear about and debate. If freedom of speech is the "old assumption" we should be "willing to challenge," I'm going to fight.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Sarah Palin is Right about the Democrats' "Blood Libel"

From today's Wall Street Journal:
Murder is humanity's most severe sin, and it is trivialized when an innocent party is accused of the crime—especially when that party is a collective too numerous to be defended individually. If Jews have learned anything in their long history, it is that a false indictment of murder against any group threatens every group. As Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Indeed, the belief that the concept of blood libel applies only to Jews is itself a form of reverse discrimination that should be dismissed.

Judaism rejects the idea of collective responsibility for murder, as the Hebrew Bible condemns accusations of collective guilt against Jew and non-Jew alike. "The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him" (Ezekiel 18).

How unfortunate that some have chosen to compound a national tragedy by politicizing the murder of six innocent lives and the attempted assassination of a congresswoman.

To be sure, America should embrace civil political discourse for its own sake, and no political faction should engage in demonizing rhetoric. But promoting this high principle by simultaneously violating it and engaging in a blood libel against innocent parties is both irresponsible and immoral.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Simon Johnson on Bill Daley's White House Appointment

From Baseline Scenario:
Bill Daley now controls how information is presented to and decisions are made by the president. Daley’s former boss, Jamie Dimon, is the most dangerous banker in America – presumably he now gets even greater access to the Oval Office. Daley is on the record as opposing strong consumer protection for financial products; Elizabeth Warren faces an even steeper uphill battle. Important regulatory appointments, such as the succession to Sheila Bair at the FDIC, are less likely to go to sensible people. And in all our interactions with other countries, for example around the G20 but also on a bilateral basis, we will pursue the resolutely pro-big finance views of the second Clinton administration.

Top executives at big U.S. banks want to be left alone during relatively good times – allowed to take whatever excessive risks they want, to juice their return on equity through massive leverage, to thus boost their pay and enhance their status around the world. But at a moment of severe financial crisis, they also want someone in the White House who will whisper at just the right moment: “Mr. President, if you let this bank fail, it will trigger a worldwide financial panic and another Great Depression. This will be worse than what happened after Lehman Brothers failed.”

Let’s be honest. With the appointment of Bill Daley, the big banks have won completely this round of boom-bust-bailout. The risk inherent to our financial system is now higher than it was in the early/mid-2000s. We are set up for another illusory financial expansion and another debilitating crisis.

Seeking Alpha: To Compete With China, Tax US Corporations

Marshall Auerback proposes an alternative to Tim Geithner's strong Yuan policy:
But the problem for U.S. industry is not just China. The country is now experiencing high wage inflation, and I think it is at the tipping point. Inflation erodes the real value of the currency, but this is not occurring with a sufficient degree of speed to reduce China’s massive trade surpluses, particularly with the U.S. It is possible, therefore, that Washington might ultimately contemplate the type of policy that it has hitherto not dared to consider ... namely, permanent taxes on corporations that produce abroad.

Outsourcing, after all, is the creeping source of unemployment and leads to the destruction of our industrial base. One policy response might be a substantial tariff on Chinese imports if Beijing refuses to contemplate a significant revaluation of the renminbi (RMB). (The RMB has actually been weakening again in the past few months, probably due to inflation problems.) The other possibility is a permanent tax on corporations that produce abroad. Since unemployment is the cause of the extended pay benefits provided by the government, it might consider permanently taxing the source of the unemployment: U.S. corporations producing abroad.

No Comment on President Obama's Tucson Speech

I didn't watch it.

I don't think it seems appropriate to exploit a tragedy for mere political advantage, while ignoring real problems posed by the dangerously mentally ill...

I believe Herbert Marcuse called this type of phenomenon "false consciousness."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Timothy Geithner, China, and Me...

This morning, thanks to a last-minute email invitation to Carey Business School faculty, I had the honor to listen to Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner speak about China at the Johns Hopkins University Nitze School of Advanced International Studies auditorium.

He has the personality of a foundation executive, so far as I could tell, especially when he answered a question from the audience as to the respective importance of purely economic versus political decisions with this statement:

"All economics is politics."

Really?

If the Republicans were on the ball, they'd make this statement into Geithner's resignation letter. He confessed he has no faith in actual economic forces that are separate from political considerations, an ends justifies the means approach which spells more trouble to come. But I wouldn't count on them to pick up on it...

Geithner ended his event with a quick pitch for government service, as a SAIS alumnus, saying it's a "cool" thing to do. Not exactly, "Ask what you can do for your country." It was, though, the second most important statement of this morning--it revealed that America's future is going to be government jobs.

Unfortunately for Geithner, America isn't China, and I don't believe this is going to work.

Meanwhile the media insists the takeaway is that the Yuan must rise in value (Geithner mentioned a 20 percent figure from last decade in the Q &A). It seemed to me that he was saying Americans want China to follow the US economic policy of the past few years: increased domestic consumption and reduced exports. That led to the recession of 2009, as Geithner called it today. He claimed this is in China's interest, but it didn't convince me. Especially since Geithner wants the US to follow China's policy of increased exports and reduced consumption, with a greater role for government in the economy. I didn't see how that was in China's interest, either.

A reporter for China Radio International, with whom I spoke after the talk, thought it was aimed at a domestic American audience, to show that the Obama administration was getting tough on China. She said that President Hu Jintao's visit is about North Korea, since there has been no agreement--the US wants sanctions, while China wants 6-party talks.

The actual demands made on China--increased Yuan valuation, intellectual property protection, opening of markets and investments--were the same ones the US has been making for years. She said that Chinese would find that Geithner made a tough speech, which is not polite on the eve of a summit conference. If the US wishes to make China lose face, in the hopes that China will back down over Korea, currency, trade, or other issues, I wouldn't bet on it working.

I don't believe Geithner is the best man to lead a winning through intimidation strategy. He's just too small and unimpressive.

How tall did he look? Between 5'7" and 5'9" (though The Daily Beast says he's 5'5")--not the midget he appears to be on television, but not a very inspiring speaker. He has practically no gravitas. He admitted that he was not very good at economics (in a jokey way, but still...). He used stale sports metaphors about "first quarters," "second innings," and "game." When he answered questions, it looked like he was scanning talking points in his head.

Unfortunately, Geithner seemed incapable of original thought, bereft of new ideas, and no match for the leadership of the most dynamic economic country on the globe--one which certainly must believe that it now has the "mandate of Heaven" to pay back the West for "100 years of humiliation."

Let's hope the Obama administration has a Plan B.

Dr. E. Fuller Torrey: Arizona Killings Caused by Politics...of De-Institutionalization

Writing in today's Wall Street Journal, Dr. E. Fuller Torrey explains how the Tucson killings are a predicable result of a generation of politically inspired de-institutionalization of the mentally ill:
Mr. Loughner's delusions fixated on Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, one of 12 seriously injured in the shooting. Some have speculated on the possible relationship of our acrimonious political climate to the incident. It is, however, unlikely that there is any such relationship, since similar tragedies occur in politically harmonious times as well.

The motivation for such killings is usually based on psychotic thinking, not political thinking. Dennis Sweeney killed Allard Lowenstein because he believed that Lowenstein had implanted a transmitter in his teeth that was sending messages to him. Russell Weston stormed the Capitol because he believed the government had hidden a machine there that could reverse time.

The solution to this situation is obvious—make sure individuals with serious mental illnesses are receiving treatment. The mistake was not in emptying the nation's hospitals but rather in ignoring the treatment needs of the patients being released. Many such patients will take medication voluntarily if it is made available to them. Others are unaware they are sick and should be required by law to receive assisted outpatient treatment, including medication and counseling, as is the case in New York under Kendra's Law. If they do not comply with the court-ordered treatment plan, they can and should be involuntarily admitted to a hospital. Arizona has such a provision in its laws, but it is almost never used.

Ultimately, it is important to hold state officials responsible for not providing sufficient resources to treat those who suffer from serious mental illnesses. For almost two centuries, it has been an accepted function of state government to protect disabled persons and to protect the public from individuals who are potentially dangerous. State governments have been very effective in emptying the hospitals in an effort to save money but remarkably ineffective in providing treatment for seriously mentally ill individuals living in the community.

My own view is that Dr. Torrey is correct.

Yet, one must admit there has been too much ugly rhetoric from the Republicans. I heard it with my own ears. To wit, remarks about watering the tree of liberty with blood, taken from Jefferson, by a member of the audience at a book talk by Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) at the National Press Club, a while back.

Of course, it should be toned down, but it was not related to this recent killing spree--which resulted in the death of federal judge John Roll (a Republican), the most serious crime committed that day--a murder which carries the death penalty upon conviction.

And it is no excuse for the even uglier rhetoric coming out of the mouths of Democrats, nor their dishonesty.

In fact, Judge Roll has become a non-person to the media, because he doesn't fit their political agenda items: Republican-bashing, Tea Party Bashing, Gun Control Advocacy, and Censorship. To use this tragedy for those purposes is beyond dishonest, and disgraceful--it is, as Sarah Palin charges, a "blood libel."

IMHO, Loughner's published statements about literacy and grammar as a motive for the armed attack (no matter how psychotic he may have been) are evidence that he's probably more of an intellectual disciple of Paulo Freire, than Rush Limbaugh...

If only John Boehner would quote Joseph Welch's question to Democrats and the media, next time they dare to make disgusting twisted charges against Republicans in this regard:

"Have you no decency?"

Monday, January 10, 2011

Ellen Weiss Controversy Exposes NPR Pay Scale

Conservative critic Tim Graham notes on the Media Research Center website that controversy over the firing of NPR executive Ellen Weiss has revealed some very high levels of compensation at "non-profit" NPR:
Who Knew NPR Execs Were So Well-Paid (Overpaid)?

Washington Post media reporter Paul Farhi was complete enough in his reporting on the internal NPR review of the Juan Williams firing on Saturday that he included financial numbers that NPR released on the bonuses of NPR CEO Vivian Schiller. The decision to cancel her bonus over that Fox-loathing fiasco was a six-figure decision:

According to tax records released by NPR on Friday, Schiller received a bonus of $112,500 in May 2010, about 17 months after she was hired by the Washington-based organization. This was in addition to a base salary of $450,000. The bonus was included in her hiring package, NPR said.

The preceding year, before Schiller's arrival, NPR paid out $1.22 million in salary, bonuses and deferred compensation to Schiller's predecessor, Kevin Klose, who retired that year. It paid another $1.22 million to Ken Stern, its president, who was forced out. Stern's compensation was swelled by a early buyout of his contract, according to NPR.

People at NPR said resigning may have preserved severance payments that [former senior VP Ellen] Weiss would have had to forgo had she been fired.


Farhi did not include an NPR critic from the left or right saying (as I would) "It's too bad NPR stations don't announce these salary and bonus figures when the less fortunate hand over 25 dollars to support their NPR station, only to give it to overcompensated executives the Democrats call 'the wealthy.'"

Washington Post: Turkish Intelligence Official Charges CIA Backs Fethullah Gulen Islamists

Why am I not surprised by this story in the Washington Post?
A memoir by a top former Turkish intelligence official claims that a worldwide moderate Islamic movement based in Pennsylvania has been providing cover for the CIA since the mid-1990s.

The memoir, roughly rendered in English as “Witness to Revolution and Near Anarchy,” by retired Turkish intelligence official Osman Nuri Gundes, says the religious-tolerance movement, led by an influential former Turkish imam by the name of Fethullah Gulen, has 600 schools and 4 million followers around the world.

In the 1990s, Gundes alleges, the movement "sheltered 130 CIA agents" at its schools in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan alone, according to a report on his memoir Wednesday by the Paris-based Intelligence Online newsletter.

The book has caused a sensation in Turkey since it was published last month.
Someone in Congress should really look into these allegations of CIA support for Islamists. Obviously, it is not winning everyone's "hearts and minds" in Turkey.

IMHO, If it this program is still going on, it needs to be closed down immediately--if not sooner.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Document of the Week: Indictment of NY Times Reporter James Risen's CIA Source

The case is USA v. Jeffrey Alexander Sterling. (ht FAS Secrecy News) Secrecy News has published an interesting analysis of the document that points out that although not named in the indictment, it clearly alleges that Sterling was a source for New York Times reporter Risen. FAS Secrecy News also points out why Wikileaks is necessary (as were Jack Anderson, Drew Pearson, Woodward & Bernstein, Matt Drudge, Breitbart, Arianna Huffington, et al.):
“In or about early May 2003, senior management from Author A’s employer informed a senior United States government official that the newspaper article would not be published.” That is, the New York Times decided not to publish the classified information at issue after the U.S. government argued that its revelation would damage national security. But Mr. Risen reached a different conclusion and went on to write about the material in his 2006 book State of War. In a contest of this sort, the party that is willing to publish naturally determines the outcome.
Apparently Condoleeza Rice persuaded the NY Times to kill the story. Now Iran is on the verge of detonating its first A-Bomb. Who, exactly, harmed national security in this case? It would seem to me manifest that suppression of the original story helped enable Iran's A-Bomb program...

Where is the GAO's NPR Funding Audit?

Colorado Congressman Doug Lambron asked for the Government Accountability Office to audit NPR in December, 2010. So far, no results have been reported. I doubt any audit has taken place. Lamborn opposes federal funding for NPR, which may be why the GAO hasn't moved forward. However, given the recent resignation of Ellen Weiss, and disclosure of the $300,000 salary paid to NPR president Vivian Schiller (even without an unpaid bonus), clearly some sort of audit is needed, asap. NPR received $450 million dollars from the late Joan Kroc. It may not need federal money to keep going. And if it doesn't need it--why pay it?

The audit should also look into how much NPR paid its legal counsel for the recent report on the firing of Juan Williams--and whether severance may have been provided to Ellen Weiss as "hush money."

Meanwhile, here's Congressman Lamborn's press release from last year:
Lamborn Calls for Independent Audit of NPR Funds
12/08/10
Cites Concerns With 'Complicated Revenue Streams'

Congressman Doug Lamborn (CO-05) this week sent a letter to the Acting Comptroller General of the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Mr. Gene Dodaro, asking for a thorough audit of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and National Public Radio (NPR) so lawmakers can clearly identify NPR's use of federal dollars.

“In the era of trillion dollar annual deficits, we obviously must cut our federal spending. We no longer have the luxury of funding non-essential services, if we ever did. As we move forward with tough spending cuts, it is critical that we have the most accurate picture of government spending to ensure the cuts are made responsibly.”– Doug Lamborn (CO-05)

Below are excerpts from the letter:

“…it is imperative that an accurate and complete snapshot of CPB’s use of taxpayer funding be available to lawmakers and the public. Unfortunately, the charts, figures, statistics and documents posted on these entities’ websites—and often cited in the news media—do not sufficiently account for the complicated revenue streams between and within these entities. Efforts by Congressional staff, including the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, to contact CPB and NPR for clarification in this regard have been frustrating and limited in success.

“I ask that the GAO undertake an audit of CPB or otherwise conduct an investigation to assess its overall financial and fiduciary relationship with NPR and PBS, and present to Congress how all sources of federal funding are used within and among them. In regards to NPR specifically, I ask that GAO provide a breakdown of the following:

The originating governmental source and specific amount of federal funds given to the NPR organization
The originating governmental source and specific amount of federal funds given directly to local affiliate stations
The flow of these aforementioned federal funds from CPB to the NPR organization to local affiliate stations
The extent of the commercial relationship between the NPR organization and its local affiliate stations in the distribution and purchase of NPR programming, respectively
Whether any federal funding to NRP, either given directly or through CPB, is used for specific purposes beyond the development of content programming..."
Note:The last audit of the NPR spending by the GAO was in 1983.

Background

Lamborn's bill, H.R.6417, would prohibit federal dollars from going to NPR, through congressional appropriations and any of the various federal grants NPR now accesses. This is a more narrowly focused bill than H.R. 5538 that Lamborn introduced in June. H.R. 5538 would eliminate federal funding for NPR’s parent organization, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. H.R. 6417 would effectively eliminate NPR’s ability to access any federal tax dollars (CPB requested $136 million for FY 2013 on behalf of all NPR entities) and apply it toward reducing the national debt (currently at $13.8 trillion).


NPR receives taxpayer funding in two different ways. First, they receive direct government grants from various federal agencies, including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Education, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Over the past two years this direct funding has totaled approximately $9 million. Second, NPR also receives taxpayer funds indirectly through federal grants to local public radio stations. In 2010 those stations received a total of $65 million.

NPR claims that less than 2 percent of its total annual budget comes from the federal government. But when the indirect revenues NPR receives in licensing fees from the federally-funded local stations are included, that number jumps to an estimated 20 percent.

Flow of Federal Tax Dollars to National Public Radio:


NPR receives a significant amount of funding from private individuals and organizations through donations and sponsorships. For example in 2008, NPR listed over 32 separate private donors and sponsors who provided financial support in excess of half-a-million dollars that year. NPR officials have indicated that taxpayer funding makes up only a small portion of their overall budget. Therefore eliminating taxpayer support should not materially affect NPR’s ability to operate. It will, however, save taxpayers many millions of dollars each year.

###

Felix Salmon on Gene Sperling

From Seeking Alpha:
Finally there’s Sperling, who in some ways is the worst of the three [possible Summers replacements] when it comes to grubbing money from Wall Street. The other two have well-defined and easily-understood jobs; Sperling, by contrast, signed up with the Harry Walker Agency and started giving speeches to anybody with cash, including not only Citigroup (C) but even Allen Stanford. He also wrote a monthly 900-word column for Bloomberg for $137,500 a year, which works out to about $13 per word. Then he started “advising” Goldman Sachs (GS) on its charitable giving, which advice came very expensively indeed:

Goldman Sachs paid Sperling $887,727 for advice on its charitable giving. That made the bank his highest-paying employer. Even Geithner’s chief of staff Patterson, who was a full-time lobbyist at the firm, did not make as much as Sperling did on a part-time basis. Patterson reported earning $637,492 from Goldman Sachs [in 2008].

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Sophie Silfen, 97

Just came back from Sophie Silfen's funeral this morning. She was not only a friend to me after my father died, she was a remarkable person. There were over 250 mourners, in addition to the 5 rabbis on the bimah. Her flag-draped coffin was taken to Arlington for military burial after the eulogies.

Born on the Lower East Side of New York, Sophie had been a career WAC who served Generals MacArthur, Westmoreland, and President Eisenhower before she started teaching Hebrew school at my synagogue after retirement some 30 years ago. She had reached the rank of Master Sargeant, and I sometimes called her "Sarge," which made her smile. I remember that she told me that she thought President Truman made a mistake when he fired MacArthur. Her oral history of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam has been recorded by the Veteran's History Project of the Library of Congress.

She never had a television, even in her nursing home room. She never owned a car, either, preferring public transportation.

Sophie will be missed by an awful lot of people. I was lucky to have known her. Here is her Washington Post obituary:
SOPHIE SILFEN

On Sunday, December 26, 2010, Sophie Silfen of Washington, DC. Beloved sister of Celia Silfen; also survived by her nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews. Funeral service will be held at Adas Israel Congregation, 2850 Quebec Street, NW, Washington, DC on Wednesday, January 5, 2011 at 10 am. Interment private in Arlington National Cemetery. Contributions may be made to Sophie Silfen Shalom Tinok Fund c/o Adas Israel Congregation. Arrangements by Hines-Rinaldi Funeral Home, Inc. under Jewish Funeral Practices Committee of Greater Washington Contract.

Monday, January 03, 2011

John Boehner's Blog

The blog is called:GOP Leader.

Memo to John Boehner: Change it to "Speaker of the House" asap. Not only is it true, and traditional, it would boost your authority and credibility, as well...

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Polly King Evans, 1957-2010

From the Washington Post, an obituary of our dear friend:
POLLY KING EVANS

Polly King Evans, 53, died December 28, 2010 after a short illness. She was the devoted mother of Isabella Wagley and the late Louisa Caroline Wagley and wife of the late Huw Evans. Her enthusiasms, wit, creativity and zest for life will be missed but also cherished by her family and all her friends, not least her former colleagues at the Lisner-Louise-Dickson-Hurt Home and at Dumbarton Oaks. Polly's involvement in the Resident Art Program at the Lisner Home resulted in the Program taking on a new dimension with the creation of contemporary canvases, of which a documentary is in the works. At Dumbarton Oaks, she became a vital member of the Byzantine Department. Her many talents were most recently displayed at an exhibition of her artworks at the Arts Club on I Street. A gathering to celebrate her life is pending. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Lisner-Louise-Dickson-Hurt Home, 5425 Western Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20015, attn: Ward Orem; www.lldhhome.org, in memory of Polly King Evans. Arrangements by DeVOL.

20001-2010: America's Decade of Defeat

I'm glad 2011 marks the start of a new decade.

The last ten years have been the worst in my adult memory. Military defeats after 9/11, on George W. Bush's own terms of Osama Bin Laden "Dead or Alive." Political defeat after democracy discredited at home and around the world. Economic defeat after Wall Street's collapse. Moral defeat after criminals got away with massive swindles. Cultural defeat when intellectual class spilled more ink on food than philosophy. (Talk about "let them eat cake...")

Americans voted for change in 2008 but didn't get it. Americans voted again for change in 2010.

I hope we actually get it, this time.