November 6, 2011
By Jan LaRue
“I think I have an ongoing conversation with God. Throughout the day I’m constantly asking myself questions about what I’m doing, why I am doing it.” –Barack Obama
Christine Falsani of the Chicago Sun Times interviewed then-U.S. Senate candidate Barack Obama in 2004 about his religious beliefs. According to Falsani:
Obama reads the Bible, though not as regularly as he’d like given the ever-increasing demands on his time that political life has brought. But he does find time to pray. “It’s not formal, me getting on my knees,” he says. “I think I have an ongoing conversation with God. Throughout the day I’m constantly asking myself questions about what I’m doing, why I am doing it. … And so the biggest challenge, I think, is always maintaining your moral compass. Those are the conversations I’m having with God internally. I’m measuring my actions against that inner voice that, for me at least, is audible, is active. It tells me where I think I’m on track and where I’m off track. … He uses prayer as a litmus test for altruism? ‘Yeah, something like that,’ he says, smiling sheepishly. ‘The most powerful political moments for me come when I feel like my actions are aligned with a certain truth. I can feel it. When I’m talking to a group and I’m saying something truthful, I can feel a power that comes out of those statements that is different than when I’m just being glib or clever.'”
On the subject of governing, Obama told Falsani:
“I think there is an enormous danger on the part of public figures to rationalize or justify their actions by claiming God’s mandate.”
As President, Obama has repeatedly ignored his own ominous warning.
Before an audience of construction workers with the backdrop of the Key Bridge connecting Washington, D.C. with Virginia, Obama on Wednesday pushed for passage of a $60 billion jobs bill that he claimed “will help private sector companies put hundreds of thousands of construction workers back on the job rebuilding our roads, our airports, our bridges and our transit systems.”
Obama chided the House of Representatives for not passing his jobs bill while spending time passing “legislation reaffirming that “In God We Trust” is our motto.
“That’s not putting people back to work. I trust in God, but God wants to see us help ourselves by putting people back to work.” Obama added.
Despite House passage of at least 15 jobs bills by the House, once again, it was Senate Democrats who failed by nine votes on Thursday to end a filibuster and have an up or down vote on the bill.
At CNN’s “Compassion Forum” on April 13, 2008, Obama said that those in the public square shouldn’t claim a “direct line to God”:
“And the biggest danger, I think, for those of us of religious faith when we’re in the public sphere is a certain self-righteousness, where we start thinking that, ‘Well, you know, I’ve got a direct line to God.’ You know, that is incompatible with democracy. You may have a direct line to God. But, you know, that is not — the public square is not the place for us to empower ourselves in that way.”
Again on the subject of making public policy, it was Obama who said [at 42 seconds on the tape]: “So before we get carried away, let’s read our Bibles now. Folks haven’t been reading their Bible.”
Nonetheless, Obama claimed a direct link to God as His “partner” in passing “ObamaCare.” Obama made a clergy call in Aug. 2009, urging Jewish and Christian clergy to push health care reform from the pulpit, “We are God’s partners in matters of life and death” Obama told rabbis in an earlier call Wednesday, according to Ben Smith at Politico.com.
Obama needs to explain why, contrary to God’s expressed will for marriage, he is pushing repeal of the “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) and has ordered the Justice Department to stop defending it in court. Except for “gay wedding” planners and “gay divorce” lawyers, this creates jobs how?
In a 2006 speech in Washington, D.C., Obama said his support of state-sanctioned legal rights for homosexual unions comes from the “Sermon on the Mount.” He finds it “more central than “an obscure passage in Romans,” according to Daniel Burke, writing for Christianity Today, April. 4, 2009.
So far, Obama hasn’t attempted to wrap the Sermon on the Mount around his zealous support of abortion, which includes denying basic medical care to a baby who survives an abortion. There is no partnering with God here “on matters of life and death.”
But then, contradicting Christ on the subject of salvation and Hell, as Falsani correctly noted in her interview of Obama, Obama has already made the “Mount” into a political mole hill.
As to passage of the “In God We Trust” resolution, that took about 35 minutes. The House sensed the need to reaffirm the nation’s national motto for several reasons, including addressing Obama’s misstatement about our national motto during a speech at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta, Indonesia, Nov. 10, 2010, which is posted on the White House web site. Obama told the audience that our national motto is “E pluribus unum — out of many, one.”
Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), a co-sponsor of the bi-partisan Resolution, explains that, in addition to addressing Obama’s mistake, the Resolution is necessary because of misunderstandings about the “separation of church and state,” “inaccuracies and omissions in the half-billion-dollar Capitol Visitor Center, and “efforts to remove God from the public domain by unelected bureaucrats,” which includes a lot of help from Obama’s friends at the ACLU.
Contrary to Obama’s prophecy in yet another campaign speech that “If we lose in 2012, government will tell people ‘you’re on your own,’ most Americans will continue trusting God and rejoicing from on high.
Obama would be wise to check the Bible on which he swore his oath of office when having his “ongoing conversations with God.” That is, if he cares whether his inner voice” is God’s or his own. There really is “an enormous danger” in mistaking the two.
Invoking the Almighty in support of a political agenda comes with caveats, especially when the agenda contradicts the Bible or the Bible is silent on the subject:
“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.” Proverbs 30: 5, 6
“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me'” John 14: 23, 24
It’s a lot like interpreting the Constitution — Without text in context, it’s pretext.
Jan LaRue is senior legal analyst with the American Civil Rights Union.
Posted: 15 May 2011 06:51 PM PDT
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By Barry Rubin
“Please release me let me go
for I don’t love you anymore
To waste our lives would be a sin
Release me and let me love again.”
–“Please Release Me Let Me Go”
By Barry Rubin
Perhaps the most important policymaking development of the last month has been President Barack Obama’s increasingly visible loss of a lot of the foreign policy elite, including considerable segments of the State and Defense departments. Why this is happening is one of the most interested—and highly neglected—stories of this period.
Consider the factors involved:
–Most of the foreign policy elite is liberal and for this reason they were enthusiastic about Obama and contemptuous of his predecessor, George W. Bush. You already know a lot of this story. Obama combined several irresistible qualities for them including being apparently polished, cosmopolitan, and “smart.”
Of special importance, Bush had embarrassed them in front of the foreigners they dealt with. They were ashamed of his policies. If America was unpopular, they were unpopular. That’s why the idea that Obama would make foreigners love America again was of such huge importance for them.
But now Obama is embarrassing them because while Bush was disliked as a reckless cowboy, now Obama is seen as something just as bad: a naïve amateur.
–There is something of huge importance that few people understand in the distinction between those who focus on domestic policy and those who deal professionally with international affairs. Domestic policy elite members can be liberal or leftist to an unlimited extent. Since all of the factors are within the American system, they can believe that everything is controllable and everything is doable. They can also identify the “enemy” as political opponents within the system, meaning those who are rich, corporations, etc.
To be part of the foreign policy elite, however, is very different.
First, one must possess an element of realism. You cannot, in contrast to domestic staff or experts, merely imagine the ideal health policy according to your theories or believe that spending can be unlimited. Instead, you must deal with existing situations in which information, control of events, and resources are limited.
Idealism, at least openly expressed, is not respected. Someone who insists that solutions are painless and cheap is more likely to be sneered at than cheered at. At some point the facts smash down the door.
Second, it is much harder to cover up mistakes for very long because they are just too visible and undeniable. Consider the Egyptian revolution. One might have insisted that it was wonderful in February but not possible to do so in May. You can maintain that revolutionary Islamism is not a real threat before September 11 but it is harder to do so afterward.
Professionals have to deal with the uses of power and violence—which is why the left’s answer to a serious study of international affairs is the joke subject of “conflict resolution—of containment, credibility, and commitment.
S. Powers may sit in the White House and talk about protecting foreign civilians as the highest priority of U.S. policy but those who have to deal with such issues must ask the question: How do we decide where that applies? And they might also remember little examples of that philosophy like Somalia.
Can the foreign policy elite so easily forget the importance of maintaining allies and the fundamental principle of helping your friends and hurting your enemies? They loved Obama for stressing multilateralism—a large part of their job is building such links—but are starting to be cross with him for abandoning American leadership and sabotaging the relationships they have spent lifetimes building.
Or, to put it in a single sentence, it is far easier—and more rewarding career-wise—to be pragmatic and moderately liberal rather than starry-eyed and too far to the left. Where a domestic affairs Obama groupie may get a thrill up his leg from the president, American allies and hence large elements of the foreign policy elite gets the feeling of a noose around their necks.
Third, some specific aspects of international affairs contribute further to the need to be realistic and tough-minded. There are quite a few academics who hate America but are teaching about international affairs and various parts of the world. Yet off-campus and in the actual world a certain element of patriotism is hard to ignore. The enemies are more likely to be external, foes of America, and the priorities are supposed to relate to strategic and economic interests.
There was a British joke -that shows us the key point here: We have the agriculture ministry for the farmers, the labor ministry for the unions, and the Foreign Ministry for the foreigners. Ah, but which foreigners?
Here is where the concept of “clientitis” comes in. Professionals tend to become advocates for those they deal with. That’s why Middle East experts, for example, are generally “pro-Arab” and “anti-Israel.” These people have based their entire strategy on building alliances with more moderate Arab regimes, namely Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the smaller emirates, and so on.
They don’t like revolutionary Islamists because they want to overthrow their friends and change the societies where they feel comfortable, aside from the threats to U.S. interests. Islamists have in the past targeted them for murder.
And so when their own government starts being nice to radical Islamists and overthrow—or abandons—their friends it makes them angry. The Saudis, for example, scream at them privately that the U.S. government has taken leave of its senses. Why is Washington dumping them in favor of Iran or Syria? Why should we pay you lobbyists, do deals with American companies, be nice to you diplomats and officers if Obama shows such disrespect for us?
Indeed, policies can make one’s work harder and put one’s life at risk. That’s a big reason why a lot of foreign policy elite people hated Bush: their European contacts mocked America; their Muslim ones got angrier at America.
Let’s say, for example, that people working in the armed forces and Department of Defense started concluding that the war in Libya made their job impossible because they can’t fight three wars with the existing resources. Or that administration grandstanding to win reelection placed counterterrorism forces and intelligence-fathering at risk because it released too much information.
At that moment the member of the foreign policy elite starts rethinking his previous views of the president. People who deal with Central Europe hear complaints about Obama and Russia; those in Africa hear about this unfathomable neglect by the first “African-American” president; in Latin America they speak of Venezuela and in Asia of China.
Even in Western Europe, where Obama’s snob appeal was highest, there are now once again sneers about an inept American president who is so frustrating because he is, in his own way, another provincial American.
Of course, the military and those around it tend to be more conservative from the start. Yet much of the military and strategic foreign policy elite resented Bush’s Iraq war as either unnecessary or wrongly conducted.
Now they deal with a president who has involved them in a new, ill-defined war that literally not a single Pentagon official wants. He is unsympathetic to their culture and is now forcing them to spend as much time on sensitivity to gays as they have for life-and-death skills. The last Quadrennial Review—the Pentagon’s most important planning document—spent a lot more time on fuel efficiency and “green energy” than on terrorism. Many of them are starting to think that the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable and not worth pursuing.
Has anyone really thought through the implications of Leon Panetta being named as secretary of defense? Obama has already put in a colorless, inexperienced political hack as national security advisor (sorry to be mean but a lot of lives are at stake here). Here is the account of his hometown newspaper, the Monterey County Herald, about Panetta’s background:
“Panetta served eight terms in Congress, representing the Monterey area. In Washington, D.C., he earned a reputation as a budget hawk, working on budgetary matters, environmental causes and civil rights issues. He also repeatedly voted against President Ronald Reagan’s military initiatives, particularly the administration’s program of aiding Contra rebels in Nicaragua.
“He led an unsuccessful effort to convince the military to keep Fort Ord open, then presided over early reuse planning for the base. He also wrote legislation creating the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.”
In other words, someone who has no real background or knowledge on defense issues; a budget-cutter (good in principle but won’t endear him at the Pentagon); historically focused on environmental and civil rights issues; and no friend of the armed forces except when it comes–hypocritically–to wasting money for his own district.
Oh, that’s going to work out real well!
This is only the beginning of discontent. Obama simply isn’t the inspiring leader on international affairs that they expected. And this unhappiness spills over into the media. If you want to see a prime example of this phenomenon, read Michael Gerson’s Washington Post article entitled, “Obama’s serial indecision on the Middle East.”
It is devastating for anyone—and that means everyone—used to the idea that the media is in love with Obama and he can do no wrong in their eyes. Here’s a sample quotation
“It is no longer credible to blame these failures on inexperience – an argument that years of experience tends to undermine. A novice can learn from his mistakes. Obama apparently doesn’t view these outcomes as mistaken.”
Once the foreign policy elite concludes a president cannot learn then they cannot enthusiastically support him. That doesn’t mean they will act politically against him. But their options are limited to: trying to mitigate the damage he’s doing, resign if they are appointees, or seek an alternative president if a better option seems available. And, of course, leak their discontent to journalists whenever possible to make it clear that the mess isn’t their fault.
The honeymoon is over. Divorce proceedings are beginning.
April 21, 2011
Iran, Nukes, and China’s Inroads to the Middle East: What’s Next Mr. President?
By Reza KahliliWith the Middle East in an uproar, the roles being played by Iran and China are of utmost importance to our national security, economy, and global stability. It is imperative that Americans grasp the significance of this.President Obama’s simple approach to dealing with the Iranian nuclear bomb program was to extend a hand toward the radical mullahs ruling Iran hoping to appease them. Clearly, he thought an apology for what America stands for would motivate the Iranian leaders to change their behavior and find a resolution that would solve our differences. He turned his back on millions of Iranians who took to the streets in protest, legitimizing this very barbaric regime — a regime that has raped, tortured, and executed tens of thousands of brave Iranians and deprived them of their aspirations for freedom and democracy.The Iranians instead, once again, outmaneuvered and deceived the Obama administration by promising cooperation. Instead, they bought time to continue their nuclear enrichment to where they now have over 8000 pounds of enriched uranium — enough for three nuclear bombs.Today it is quite clear that President Obama’s policies vis-à-vis Iran’s nuclear program have failed. The negotiations have not worked and the sanctions have proven to be a dismal disaster.As a result of Obama’s obvious weakness, many countries such as Germany, India, Venezuela, China, and others are openly collaborating with the regime by providing backdoor financial channels, arms, and even nuclear material.The Iranian leaders have detected total confusion, weakness, and incompetence from the White House and have picked up their activities. Iranian agents, who have long infiltrated the region, are helping to incite uprisings in Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, and other countries in the Middle East. As I revealed recently, there is a secret documentary, “The Coming is Upon Us,” which will be distributed shortly in the Middle East among the Muslim population, that is calling for the unification of Arabs, the overthrow of U.S.-backed governments, and promising the destruction of Israel and the demise of the U.S.Just in the last couple of months, many shipments of arms and explosives have been confiscated by authorities in Turkey, Israel, and others destined for Syria, Hezb’allah, Hamas, Taliban, and North Africa. Also several ships containing nuclear material destined for Iran have been confiscated in South Korea, Singapore, and Malaysia, where two containers were confiscated carrying material used for weapons of mass destruction and nuclear armaments. Interestingly, the parts were labeled as boiler parts and loaded in those containers at a port in China!China, also sensing the weakness of the Obama administration, is helping Iran with its nuclear program exactly as they did with Pakistan with their nuclear bomb. Pakistan recently announced that with the help of China, they were building more nuclear plants, making them the fourth largest nuclear state by the end of this decade.Reports indicate that the Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov has warned that the recent China and Pakistan strategic agreements are a signal to China’s ambitions regarding the vital energy resources of the Middle East. This new strategic agreement between the two allows China access to the Karakoram Highway and therefore its reach to the Arabian Sea. Other reports indicate that even Saudi Arabia and some other Gulf countries have turned to China because of Obama’s apparent confusion in dealing with the current crisis in the Middle East.While China and Iran share a common goal, which is the demise of America’s supremacy in the region, they differ on the outcome. China believes, for the first time in a long time, it has been provided a grand opportunity to access the Middle East, secure its energy source, and become the next superpower of the world.However, the Iranian leaders, who say the destruction of America and the West is at hand, are quite excited about the recent events in the Middle East and believe that the overthrow of U.S.-backed governments are just around the corner. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stated just days ago: “Expect more events in the region soon,” and on the nuclear issue he went on to say, “And now, after eight years of pressure, the Islamic Iran has won out.”The Iranian leaders today, more than any time in the past, believe that the conditions are prime for the End of Times as predicted in the centuries-old Hadith; that the last Messiah, the Shiites’ 12th Imam, Imam Mahdi, will return as promised opening the way for Islam’s conquest throughout the world. But, they also fervently believe that in order for that to happen, Israel must be wiped off the face of the earth.It is quite clear that we live in very dangerous times and unless and until our leaders grasp the reality of the events taking place in the Middle East and the world, U.S. supremacy and superiority will be lost for decades to come, perhaps never to recover. Millions of lives could be lost and the world could suffer destruction and depression worse than anything in recent memory!
Posted: 16 Apr 2011 08:48 AM PDT
This article is published on PajamasMedia. The text is provided here for your convenience.
By Barry Rubin
How would you explain the Middle East to President Obama in one sentence? Here’s my take:
Arabic-speaking Middle Eastern societies are stuck between tradition and modernity, barraged by decades of hate speech, extremist ideologies, scapegoating, and statism depriving people of freedom and so, as a consequence, it’s not surprising they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them–America, the West, Israel–and blame them for all problems.
The words in bold are from Obama’s fund-raising speech in San Francisco during the last election, applied to Americans who live in small towns and weren’t going to vote for him.
And now how would you explain to him in one sentence what he should do about the Middle East:
Your job is to protect the United States and its friends from extremism–not apologize, appease, or try to win over your enemies–and help to break this closed circle of radicalism rather than become its codependent, enabler, or–worst of all–join in with its fantasies and misunderstandings of reality.
Posted: 15 Apr 2011 12:15 PM PDT
This article is published in PajamasMedia. The text is presented here for your convenience.
By Barry Rubin
An Australian reporter writes the following from Libya:
“Gaddafi’s forces have had the upper hand in the desert battle that has raged for more than a month.
“Rebels say this is because of black magic. They invoke Satan. `These are magic papers,’ said mobile phone dealer turned rebel Ashraf al Houmi, 25. The papers-185 pages of writing, symbols and numbers-were found near abandoned government tanks.
“`This is the Israeli Star of David and this is some of the Koran backwards. The Koran reversed is Satan,’ explained Khaled el Faitouri, 27. “`We know they can do black magic with these drawings.'”
Now I wouldn’t have bothered with this except for one thing: the amazing disconnect between being a mobile phone dealer and believing in this kind of thing. Possibly al-Houmi also repairs phones.
Westerners assume that technology and thinking precisely the way they do goes together. Not so. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini pioneered in using tape cassettes for spreading Islamist revolution. Back in 1979 that was the equivalent of using social media. Revolutionary Islamists have used the Internet far more effectively than democratic reformers in the Middle East. Technology does not necessarily mean moderation or democracy.
Then there’s Mr. el Faitouri (I’m not responsible for the bad transliteration). He equates “the Israeli Star of David” with demonic powers, taking us back to the Middle Ages. By the way, by saying “Israeli Star of David,” makes him an “anti-Zionist” while if he had said “Jewish Star of David” that would supposedly make him an antisemite. Such is the sophistication of the Western intellectual debate on such issues today. But never mind.
The truth is that in the Arabic-speaking and Muslim-majority worlds the attitudes of even educated people toward Jews and Israel are often quite bizarre, a fact usually concealed by mainstream media.
Have no doubt: this kind of thing finds its way into political decisionmaking and public opinion. Reading revolutionary Islamist materials–say, from Hamas, Hizballah, Iran, and the Muslim Brotherhood–is often like reading something from the Spanish Inquisition or Medeival times. Unfortunately, this is the doctrine guiding a steadily advancing doctrine which all too many people in the West believes can be made moderate or is even already moderate.
I remember the first time I experienced this when in university. A very Westernized, cosmopolitan Egyptian student explained that Israel and Idi Amin conspired to create the Israeli rescue at Entebbe Airport of hostages held by airplane-hijacking terrorists in order to make Israel look good. These crazy conspiracy theories and bizarre worldviews are not merely amusing sideshow acts, they are the foundations of people’s thinking.
The gap between Mr. el Faitouri, whose cause is now being aided by NATO forces, and Mr.Ahmadinejad,who will soon have nuclear weapons, is not very wide at all.
April 07, 2011
Gaddafi writes ‘Dear Son’ letter to Obama
Libya’s Mu’aumer Qaddaffi sent President Barack Obama (D) a letter asking
Our dear son, Excellency, Baraka Hussein Abu oumama, your intervention is the name of the U.S.A. is a must, so that Nato would withdraw finally from the Libyan affair. Libya should be left to Libyans within the African union frame.
For more of the Leader of the Revolution’s thoughts, read the whole thing.
Posted: 13 Mar 2011 06:28 PM PDT
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By Barry Rubin
I just don’t get it. The more degrees from famous universities U.S. leaders have, the less they seem to know, especially about history.
Consider this in light of their inability to understand that not only al-Qaida but also Syria, Hamas, Hizballah, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the AKP government in Turkey, as well as Iran’s regime and other Islamists are dangerous, anti-democratic forces.
1. In 1920, Vladimir Lenin, leader of the new Soviet Union and of the world Communist movement, wrote “`Left-Wing’” Communism: An Infantile Disorder.” Lenin ridiculed small, radical groups that believed only instant insurrection could bring revolution. He explained that Communists needed to maneuver, to use all sorts of tactics, sometimes to advance and sometimes to retreat.
In our time, al-Qaida is the equivalent of the groups about which Lenin was writing. It knows only one thing: terrorism. In contrast, the West’s really important enemies are the present-day parallels to the smarter Communist movement.
It knew how to do social welfare work, set up front groups, propagandize to hide its own nature, participate in elections, make and change alliances. That is how one goes beyond individual acts of terrorism or insurrection to seize control of whole countries and gain power over the lives of millions of people.
If the Obama Administration had been around in 1920, it would be explaining to us that while the little anarchist and extremist Marxist-Leninist sects were evil, the Bolsheviks and their Communist parties were good. They just needed to be in power in Russia for a while and would then become moderate. It sort of worked, didn’t it? But it just took almost 75 years and mountains of dead bodies.
2. At no time in the last two centuries has it been clearer that socialism—depending on how you want to put it—either failed or served its purpose. Personally, I’ll go with the latter response.
Yet why is the idea of socialism having a resurgence after Communism’s miserable failure and the obvious fact that while democratic socialist parties helped create better Western societies historically they now are only piling up entitlements, out-of-control spending, and oversized governments that diminish both freedom and economic success? How can Americans watch what’s happening in Europe–notably Greece–and then advocate precisely the same policies that created those disasters?
3. The lessons of the Cold War, appeasement, and of the World War (Two)—in fact the basic lessons of the twentieth century–have been thrown into the garbage can by much of the current political elite. The fact that President Obama thought celebrations on the anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s fall not worth attending is most significant. The idea that the main enemy of freedom today is not some nineteenth-century caricature of a bloated capitalist in a top-hat but totalitarian radical ideologies, most notably Islamism and Communism (in all of its permutations), seems simply not to have been taught to young people in the West.
4. Just as the left mistook many dictators of the past and present for heroes—you can make your own list—it is now glorifying the dictators and dictatorial regimes of the future. Why? Because these regimes promise dramatic change, a comprehensive organization of society from the top down, and oppose their own Western societies which they hate and think are evil.
But the problem is that in doing so, in helping revolutionary Islamists and extolling other radicals—Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, for example—they are going to create major headaches for their own countries and terrible oppressive regimes for those doomed to live under them.
In modern history the West’s leaders made mistakes leading to World War One, then World War Two, and then the Cold War. Today, we are seeing a repetition of that tragic pattern. But this time the outcome is—or perhaps I should say “was”—easier to avoid. This is a disaster not of necessity or even, by this point, of excusable error but of choice.
Barry Rubin is Director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His books include Islamic Fundamentalists in Egyptian Politics and The Muslim Brotherhood (Palgrave-Macmillan); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East, a study of Arab reform movements (Wiley). GLORIA Center site: http://www.gloria-center.org His blog, Rubin Reports, http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.
Posted: 13 Mar 2011 04:12 PM PDT
By Barry Rubin
There’s nothing to worry about, we are told, of course Egypt wants to get the money from gas shipments, right? Ideology and politics are not important, we are told, but are always trumped by material considerations.
Well, it looks as if Egypt has stopped gas exports to Israel, just about their only trade link. The company that supplies 45% of the gas needed to produce Israel’s electricity, has missed several promised deadlines to restore service since the pipeline was damaged in a terrorist explosion February 5.
The Egyptian government is pretending that there are technical problems but that’s nonsense. Either there will never be any gas shipments at all or Egypt will demand such a steep increase in price that this will be designed more to end the deal rather than to increase their revenue.
So Israel’s Electric Company is asking the Environmental Protection Ministry to switch to diesel and fuel oil. One day, Israel will have its own gas supply but it will take at least until 2013 to build the infrastructure to support this changeover.
We should wait to see whether there are real technical problems or this is just an excuse to take a popular step of ending the supply–both because most Egyptians view Israel as an evil enemy and also because the agreed price is lower than today’s market value.
Question: Will the Obama Administration pressure the new Egyptian government to renew shipments? What do you think?
Contracts are important because if one side feels free to break a deal when it wants to, or the government changes, that regime cannot be trusted. Today the gas deal, tomorrow the peace treaty?
February 18, 2011
The Doomed President
By Bruce WalkerPundits muse how Obama can save his presidency. He cannot. Obama, politically, is doomed. Republicans do not have a Reagan waiting in the wings, but that will not matter in 2012. All Republicans are attempting to don the mantle of Reagan, who has thoroughly captured in death what he could not in life, the heart of the Republican Party. This grand and overriding figure, like FDR and Lincoln, will dominate the rhetoric and policies of the Republican Party. Republicans will not commit hara-kiri in 2012.So why is Obama certain to lose, even against very ordinary Republican nominees? Food, fuel and clothing are rising in price at dramatic rates. Food, especially, is critical. Every shopping cart in every grocery is pushed by an American who finds prices for ordinary things, like bread, milk, and cereal jumping higher and higher. At the checkout counter, the total keeps rising higher and higher. In the last six months, food prices have risen by over 27%. The size of the beef herds in America is at a fifty year low and the impact upon consumers will, inevitably, be sharp. Obama and his Kobe beef-eating friends, invariably rich, do not feel the pinch. All the rest of us do. Government could do a lot to lower food prices, from ending the Ethanol scam to overriding environmentalists who are turning some of the richest farmland on earth in California into a dust bowl.How expensive will food be in 20 months, when Obama seeks re-election? Fuel costs are rising, and that will push food prices higher no matter what else happens. Retailers who are currently restocking their food supplies will have to recover the higher costs they are paying now by passing that on to the consumer later. Environmental regulators are making policy each day that will have its sting to the consumer months or years later. If Obama acted now, he could slow the rise in food costs, but not before November 2012.Compounding the picture of Americans who get angrier with Obama each time they go shopping (or, for that matter, eat out at a fast food restaurant) is the fact that rising food costs are already creating turmoil in the rest of the world. A planet full of enraged people rioting for more food and for cheaper food creates a domino series of problems for Obama. Who do the unhappy people of the world blame for their problems? Us, no matter what, only this time these miserable folk will be partly right. Farmers, who along with oilmen are our most productive citizens, feed much of the planet. When the left acts on its fetish with ethanol and imposes environmentally caused droughts in California farmland, it hits our pockets, but in those parts of the world where malnutrition is reality, hunger turns to violence. Obama cannot quell this rage by symbolic gestures. The more he tries to finesse the real hunger of nations with conferences and rhetoric, the more the streets of these nations will turn against him.The flamboyant traveling of Obama and his wife will also be a counterpoint to the struggling of ordinary people. Once, many Americans indulgently absorbed his costly trips to fancy places as the giddy toys of a newly elected leader who grew up in uncertain conditions. Now each trip will remind Americans that he is feasted while they furtively seek the best prices for basic commodities at discount groceries — knowing that Obama himself is not pushing a shopping cart anywhere or paying any checkout clerk.Worse still, Michelle Obama has adopted as her signature program the obesity of our children and healthy diets for all Americans. This will make millions of Americans simmer. The overweight are not the rich of America, who can afford watercress sandwiches, organic arugula and then a deep massage. The poor and the middle class can only afford to buy cheap foods, the foods on which the economically pressed throughout human history have eaten of necessity. What are these foods? The food of poor folk consists of pasta, bread, potatoes and other starchy foods. The last thing that the mothers of poor and middle class America need, while rushing to fix dinner for their family, are lectures from someone who can have, literally, any meal she fancies prepared for her at the taxpayers’ expense instructing us on how to be better cooks.Barack Obama will be a one-term president, a failure along the lines of Jimmy Carter, and for the same general reason. Carter went on television, donned his Cardigan sweater and urged us to lower our expectations for the future: if you are cold, wear warmer clothes in the house; if you need to drive, get a smaller car. We all knew, of course, that Jimmy Carter turned the thermostat up as high as he wanted and that the limousines, which chauffeured him around, were spacious and elegant. These sorts of politicians have much more important things to think about than their constituents and the needs of our daily lives, and they show it.Bruce Walker is the author of a new book: Poor Lenin’s Almanac: Perverse Leftists Proverbs for Modern Life
Page Printed from: http://www.americanthinker.com/2011/02/the_doomed_president.html at February 19, 2011 – 10:44:25 AM CST
President Obama is planning to hand the U.S. Commerce Department authority over a forthcoming cybersecurity effort to create an Internet ID for Americans, a White House official said here today.
It’s “the absolute perfect spot in the U.S. government” to centralize efforts toward creating an “identity ecosystem” for the Internet, White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt said.
That news, first reported by CNET, effectively pushes the department to the forefront of the issue, beating out other potential candidates, including the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. The move also is likely to please privacy and civil-liberties groups that have raised concerns in the past over the dual roles of police and intelligence agencies.
The announcement came at an event today at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, where U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Schmidt spoke.
The Obama administration is currently drafting what it’s calling the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, which Locke said will be released by the president in the next few months. (An early version was publicly released last summer.)
“We are not talking about a national ID card,” Locke said at the Stanford event. “We are not talking about a government-controlled system. What we are talking about is enhancing online security and privacy, and reducing and perhaps even eliminating the need to memorize a dozen passwords, through creation and use of more trusted digital identities.”
The Commerce Department will be setting up a national program office to work on this project, Locke said.
Details about the “trusted identity” project are remarkably scarce. Last year’s announcement referenced a possible forthcoming smart card or digital certificate that would prove that online users are who they say they are. These digital IDs would be offered to consumers by online vendors for financial transactions.
Schmidt stressed today that anonymity and pseudonymity will remain possible on the Internet. “I don’t have to get a credential, if I don’t want to,” he said. There’s no chance that “a centralized database will emerge,” and “we need the private sector to lead the implementation of this,” he said.
Jim Dempsey of the Center for Democracy and Technology, who spoke later at the event, said any Internet ID must be created by the private sector–and also voluntary and competitive.
“The government cannot create that identity infrastructure,” Dempsey said. “If it tried to, it wouldn’t be trusted.”
Inter-agency rivalries to claim authority over cybersecurity have existed ever since many responsibilities were centralized in the Department of Homeland Security as part of its creation nine years ago. Three years ago, proposals were circulating in Washington to transfer authority to the secretive NSA, which is part of the U.S. Defense Department.
In March 2009, Rod Beckström, director of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity Center, resigned through a letter that gave a rare public glimpse into the competition for budgetary dollars and cybersecurity authority. Beckstrom said at the time that the NSA “effectively controls DHS cyberefforts through detailees, technology insertions,” and has proposed moving some functions to the agency’s Fort Meade, Md., headquarters.
One of the NSA’s missions is, of course, information assurance. But its normally lustrous star in the political firmament has dimmed a bit due to Wikileaks-related revelations.
Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army private who is accused of liberating hundreds of thousands of confidential government documents from military networks and sending them to Wikileaks, apparently joked about the NSA’s incompetence in an online chat last spring.
“I even asked the NSA guy if he could find any suspicious activity coming out of local networks,” Manning reportedly said in a chat transcript provided by ex-hacker Adrian Lamo. “He shrugged and said, ‘It’s not a priority.'”
– Prophecy News Watch
THE EXPERTISE OF THE NOC HEADS
On May 22, President Obama signed an executive order approving the assembly of a seven-member team, the National Oil Commission (NOC), to investigate and make recommendations regarding the BP Horizon/Gulf Oil Spill disaster that began with an oil rig explosion in April. According to the NY Daily News, Barack Obama declared, “Because there has never been a leak this size at this depth, stopping it has tested the limits of human technology. That’s why just after the rig sank, I assembled a team of our nation’s best scientists and engineers to tackle this challenge.”
Oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico from April 20 to July 15, 2010. Perhaps the NOC team members could have been sent in scuba gear down to the wellhead with a two ton egg of silly putty. Perhaps Obama should have accepted the help of at least some of the 13 nations who offered immediate cleanup assistance so that oil would not ooze onto the shores of Louisiana. (The countries were Canada, Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom). Now that the well is capped, however, the NOC team members want to do their part for America’s future.
The National Oil Commission, co-chaired by former chief of the EPA William K. Reilly and former Florida Senator Bob Graham, follows the examples set by similar federal-appointed committees of the past, such as those assigned to report on the 9/11 and Challenger Space Shuttle tragedies. On July 12th and 13th, the commission held their first public meeting in New Orleans to discuss their objectives and to allow a public forum for business owners and concerned residents. The same week, the Obama administration offered a revised moratorium on deep oil drilling meant to replace earlier moratoriums that have been turned down by court rulings in the past six months. The current ban would lift November 30th of this year.
Media coverage and the public have voiced the same questions to the National Oil Commission: Do the Commission members have any qualifications for inspecting oil well operations? Do they have any expertise in the oil industry? And what will become of the unemployed workers and decimated industries of the Gulf?
The NOC Mission:
The NOC is charged with a three-fold mission, according to CNN, to: “determine why the oil rig exploded; make recommendations about preventing similar disasters; and determine whether offshore oil and gas drilling should continue.” With this intelligentsia team’s starting line-up, however, they seem much more qualified to analyze the impact of the leak rather than its causes, and are likely to heartily recommend shutting down the wells.
Andrea Tanteros of the New York Daily News expressed a common criticism of Obama’s oil-spill panel in her June 17th article, “Obama’s bogus blue-ribbon panel” when she wrote, “Relevant experience aside, how can we expect a fair reading of the facts when the seven wiseheads have a predetermined negative opinion on big oil – and will likely try to assign blanket wrong across the industry for the actions of one bad actor, BP?”
So, who made it onto the team?
The NOC Members:
The seven people appointed to the Oil Commission are definitely smart people with excellent credentials in a variety of areas.
William K. Reilly was Chief of the Environmental Protection Agency under George H. W. Bush and helped investigate and comment on the Exxon-Valdez oil spill. He has a BA in History from Yale, a law degree from Harvard, and a Master’s in urban planning from Columbia University. Among other accomplishments, he has served as the President of the Conservation Foundation and President of the World Wildlife Fund (both now merged under the WWF).
Bob Graham, Democrat from Florida, retired from the Senate in 2005 with an 83% approval rating. He has a Bachelor of Law from Harvard, and he was a finalist for running mate for John Kerry during the 2004 race. He is also current Chairman of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism. While on the Senate, he established the government-funded Save the Everglades program and helped the state to purchase thousands of acres of land for environmental protection purposes.
That’s all great stuff, but what does any of it have to do with stopping future oil spills?
Frances Beinecke of New York is president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. She earned a Master’s from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
Frances Ulmer was the first female Lieutenant Governer of Alaska and served as a Democratic governor for 18 years, and is now chancellor of the University of Alaska-Anchorage. She holds a JD from the University of Wisconsin Law School and has been a member of the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission, the Federal Communications Commission’s State and Local Advisory Committee, and the Federal Elections Commissions Committee. (Let’s repeat… commissions committees.)
Donald Boesch is a professor of Marine Science,Vice-Chancellor for Environmental Sustainability at the University of Maryland, and president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences, which advises public agencies and more on environmental matters.
Cherry Murray is Dean of the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and in 2002 made Discover Magazine’s “50 Most Important Women in Science.” She earned a PhD in physics from MIT. Among her specialties are experimentation with light scattering and photonic behavior.
Terry Garcia of Washington, DC, is the executive vice president for mission programs for the National Geographic Society. His father emigrated from Spain, and Garcia was raised in Florida. He helped to carry out the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Restoration Plan for Prince William Sound and Gulf of Alaska while with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (Finally, a bit of relevant experience!)
As NPR’s Greg Allen reported on July 13th, “[Louisiana Senator] Landrieu had been skeptical of the commission’s make up, because it included no one with hands-on oil and gas industry experience. Yesterday she said she was encouraged by the fact that it hired a former Shell VP as a key commission advisor.”
That former Shell VP is Richard Sears, a highly-revered geophysicist who for years was an offshore drilling expert and engineer for Royal Dutch Shell and has written and spoken widely on the subject of ultra-deepwater offshore drilling. He is now a visiting scientist at MIT and is affiliated with MIT Energy Initiative, the goal of which is to “help transform the global energy system to meet the needs of the future and to help build a bridge to that future by improving today’s energy systems.”
Still, Sears may not be the oil company’s best friend. His current area of interest is to focus on finding alternative, carbon-free energy sources. He says that oil’s use as an energy source peaked in 2007 and is now on a much-needed decline. He’s referred to as a “gamechanger” at LeadingEnergyNow, which helps businesses to retrofit fixtures to be more energy efficient and thus more eco-friendly. He’s spoken on “Planning for the End of Oil.”
Media critics underline that this exploratory and advisory committee seemingly contains no members who have expertise in building or operating oil rigs. President Obama claims that the purpose of the commission is to discover the cause of the leak and to stop and prevent such leaks in future; and therefore – it would seem – should have employed oil rig engineers and those who specialize in the actual physical construction of the rigs. His appointees are intelligent, well-qualified folks for environmental study. But, we already know the effect of spilled oil on the environment: disastrous and deadly. What we need to know is how it happened and how it could have been prevented.
Apparently President Obama wants to stop future leaks through the Richard Sears method, by de-carbonizing our energy systems and looking to alternative energy sources altogether.
• Oil Disaster Commission Faces Unique Challenges – CNN
• Obama Names Rest of Commission to Investigate Gulf Oil Disaster – CNN
• US Not Accepting Foreign Help on Oil Spill – Foreign Policy
• Science Advisor Joins National Oil Leak Commission – CNN
• National Oil Spill Commission Begins Two-Day Hearing In New Orleans – WWLTV
• Obama’s Bogus Blue-Ribbon Oil Spill Panel Has No Expertise – And Is Poised To Do His Bidding – New York Daily News
• Bye-bye BP? – New York Daily News
• Presidential Oil Spill Panel Holds First Hearing – NPR
• Richard Sears: Planning For The End Of Oil – TED
• Energy Wars: The Coming Crunch – Koinonia House
Posted: 07 Jul 2010 04:07 PM PDT
By Barry Rubin
It seems terribly symbolic that on a visit to the Middle East, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told al-Jazira that President Barack H. Obama gave him three directives when appointing him:
“One was that he wanted me to re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, that he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with predominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering.”
Might there not have been some priority about running a space program? Of course, Bolden is being polite to his hosts at al-Jazira television (you know, the one that supports Islamist groups, terrorism, and anti-Americanism), yet the priority on ego-soothing and image over getting things done seems typical.
Notice, too, that the question isn’t whether Muslim-majority nations actually did make much of a historic contribution to science, math, and engineering–in general, they didn’t–but that they should be flattered by pretending they did. But, and here’s something significant, too, if they can pretend they’ve already done these things then they don’t have to do them in practice. That is, if you are already so successful, why change anything?
As I noted here, this Obama approach is a formula for continued backwardness and stagnation in the Third World.
If these countries, especially the Muslim-majority ones, are ever going to succeed they will do so on the basis of recognizing their past failures. Things didn’t work with the existing intellectual, social, economic, and political system. That’s why you have to change it, right?
The irony is that Bolden makes that patronizing point clear in his tactless phrasing. Yet flattery–as Bolden himself pointed out hes speaking on the anniversary of Obama’s Cairo speech–has become one of the main principles of Obama foreign policy.
No wonder it doesnt work, especially to already cynical Middle Eastern ears.
And what better way to inspire (“re-inspire?” What’s that mean? Oh, I know–no kidding. To imply that they weren’t inspired before is not Politically Correct) children than by great achievements rather than slogans, commercials, and public relations’ programs that don’t seem to achieve anything? You see, the children, too, must be made to feel good about their historic contribution to science, mathematics, and engineering.
Alternatively, it is revealing in another way. If children were once inspired by such accomplishments as sending people into space and the moon, and spaceships to photograph remarkable things, now this will be done by pure exhortation. Yes, a fitting symbol indeed.
Space, the final frontier.
These are the policies of the administration Obama:
Its four-year mission,to explore new budget deficits,
to apologize to new life forms,
to go farther left where no presidency has gone before.
Ok, now just between you and me, don’t you think that Obama sounds a bit like Mr. Spock in his speech patterns and this is a subconscious factor affecting the Star Trek generation’s adulation for him?