» 2011 » January

The PJ Tatler

… in which I get contrary.

Monday, January 31st, 2011 - by Charlie Martin

There’s been a little bit of kerfluffle recently, since Paul Mirengoff left Power Line. His withdrawal from Power Line was, um, less than informative:

I have made the decision to discontinue blogging at this time. I thank John and Scott for bringing me along on this ride and I thank our readers as well. I couldn’t have hoped for better writing partners or for better readers. Best regards to all.

It was left to others to infer the reasons, and infer they have.  It turns out that Mirengoff had posted a response to the Obama “memorial” in Tucson that said in part:

As for the “ugly,” I’m afraid I must cite the opening “prayer” by Native American Carlos Gonzales. It was apparently was some sort of Yaqui Indian tribal thing, with lots of references to “the creator” but no mention of God. Several of the victims were, as I understand it, quite religious in that quaint Christian kind of way (none, to my knowledge, was a Yaqui). They (and their families) likely would have appreciated a prayer more closely aligned with their religious beliefs.

Apparently, Mirengoff’s firm, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld, which has a pretty substantial legal and lobbying practice dealing with American Indian issues, felt this was less than appropriate.  Mirengoff removed the post and apologized, and not long after left Power Line.

Steam is now coming out of Prof William Jacobson’s ears: “The criticism by Meggesto and Akin Gump was disingenuous at best.  There was nothing in Mirengoff’s post which was a ‘criticism of the use of the Yacqui [sic] prayer’; Mirengoff was making a point about the absence of a Christian prayer at a memorial service for religious Christian victims.”

Which is now where I get contrary.  I’m a Choctaw, and normally find the complaints of professional Indians like my erstwhile colleague Ward Churchill just as annoying as anyone, if not more so.  I also thought it was a tad goofy that the only preacher at the “service” was a Yaqui supposed shaman.  But the notion that Mirengoff didn’t criticize the use of the Yaqui prayer is ridiculous.  I know I was offended enough at the time that I sent Paul a sharp little email. (Under my own name and not to his firm, by the way.)

Stacy McCain has some more details:

[T]here’s a lot more to this story than political correctness run amok.

The lawyer who denounced Mirengoff, James Meggesto, is a member of the Onondago Nation of New York who was hired by Akin Gump in February 2007 – i.e., right after Nancy Pelosi’s Democrats took over Congress. Megesto was one of three lawyers, including Vanessa Ray-Hodge and Madeline Soboleff Levy, hired by the firm at that time as part of an expansion of Akin Gump’s “American Indian law and policy practice”according to a Feb. 23, 2007, press release. …

So in criticizing that Yaqui prayer at the Tucson memorial, Paul Mirengoff wasn’t just being politically incorrect, he was also offending a lucrative segment of Akin Gump’s lobbying clientele, whom the firm had recently hired three lawyers to service. Small wonder that Mirengoff was likely forced to choose: Quit blogging at Power Line or quit working at Akin Gump. [Emphasis in original.]

This is what Granddaddy used to call “pissing in the soup,” and I’m not a little bit surprised, nor particularly disturbed that Mirengoff’s firm would prefer he either not piss in the soup or get the hell out of the kitchen.  And frankly, I don’t agree with either McCain or Jacobson: I think a liberal blogger who offended a big client would have something large fall from a great height upon his head.

There’s one more point, though.  As one of the differently-religioned (I’m a Buddhist, and my mother, also a Choctaw, converted to Judaism some years ago — when I say “differently-religioned” I ain’t just messing around) I may be more sensitive than some others to the general religious assumptions we make socially. On the other hand, sometimes I wonder if people pay attention to what’s being said.  Consider, for example, if we translate this by substituting references to other religions and, well, tribes:

As for the “ugly,” I’m afraid I must cite the opening “prayer” by Rabbi Schmuel Greenblatt. It was apparently was some sort of Hebrew tribal thing, with lots of references to “the Creator” but no mention of God. Several of the victims were, as I understand it, quite religious in that quaint Christian kind of way (none, to my knowledge, was a Jew). They (and their families) likely would have appreciated a prayer more closely aligned with their religious beliefs.

I don’t mean to excuse the organizers of this debacle; it would have been appropriate to have had a Pastor, and a Priest, and a Rabbi, and hell, an Imam and whatever, if they were going to have a Yaqui shaman. (What makes this even harder is that ever since Carlos Casteñeda, every half-pint poseur has talked about learning from the Yaqui; who the hell knows if Gonzales had any better claim to be a medicine man than I do?)

But if anyone has trouble understanding why someone might be offended, go back and read the parallel universe excoriation of poor Rabbi Greenblatt’s little prayer.

Read bullet | Comments »

Judge Vinson’s Decision Has NOT Been Stayed;Obamacare “Dead in its Tracks”

Monday, January 31st, 2011 - by Clarice Feldman

Cato Institute’s Ilya Shapiro has a discussion on the Vinson ruling which deals with its impact. I agree with this analysis:

In short, if I read the opinion (plus this final judgment) correctly — quite apart from both the lofty philosophical principles I applaud Judge Vinson for adopting and the nitty-gritty technical details of his individual mandate analysis — Obamacare is dead in its tracks. [Emphasis Supplied] Now, Judge Vinson himself or the Eleventh Circuit (or even the Supreme Court) may issue an emergency stay of this or any other part of the ruling, but as of right now, the federal government must stop implementing Obamacare.

NB: The New York Times and Washington Post report that Judge Vinson has already stayed his own ruling pending appeal, but this is an incorrect reading of the opinion, for the reasons stated above.  Moreover, the court’s docket, which is now closed for the day, contains no such stay — nor has plaintiffs’ counsel received notice of one.

Read bullet | Comments »

Breast science

Monday, January 31st, 2011 - by Charlie Martin

Statistics can be difficult things to explain, and they are awfully easy to misuse, especially when talking about people’s health. This isn’t helped at all by the fact that most reporters have the mathematical sophistication of a Great Dane. Add to that less than perfectly ethical personal injury lawyers, neo-Luddite “public interest groups”, and the perpetual desire to have a catchy headline, and suddenly, a very small correlation becomes a public health crisis. (Cf. the vaccine-thimerosol-autism controversy.)

Before the vaccine furor, there were several years of reporting on a supposed connection between silicone breast implants and auto-immune diseases. Eventually, the FDA concluded that yes, silicone breast implants were relatively safe, except possibly to easily distractible males.

Just in time for this ABC News story, that suggested the FDA was saying breast implants cause a particular rare kind of breast cancer, anaplastic large cell lymphoma.  David Gorski at Science-Based Medicine discusses this in a post today. I recommend the whole article, but here’s the long and short of it: there are only about three cases of ALCL of the breast per hundred million women per year in the US.  It’s very very difficult, statistically, to make any clear inferences about an event that is that rare.

The FDA in their preliminary report take great care to report that there is only a very slight indication of any influence; there are only 60 cases of breast ALCL in the whole study.  This means that there’s a pretty good chance the relationship is nothing more than a statistical cluster; it turns out, sort of counter-intuitively, that if you have several instances of some rare event, it’s much more likely they will appear close together than more or less evenly spread out.  (This is also why it seems light bulbs burn out in groups: the least likely thing is for the bulbs to burn out with about the same number of hours between failures.)  That sounds pretty scary put that way: Sixty cases of cancer, the C-word.

It sounds a lot less scary when we say “sixty cases of this particular cancer among 10 million women with breast implants.”

Read bullet | Comments »

Google sets up speak-to-tweet service for Egyptian protests

Monday, January 31st, 2011 - by The Tatler

Interesting.  And possibly precedent setting.

Designed specifically for those on the ground in Egypt unable to communicate via the Internet with the outside world, Speak to Tweet allows anyone with a voice connection to dial three international numbers and have their voice messages sent out as tweets with the #egypt hash tag added to those links. “We hope that this will go some way to helping people in Egypt stay connected at this very difficult time,” wrote Ujjwal Singh, co-founder of SayNow and AbdelKarim Mardini, product manager, Middle East & North Africa at Google, in a blog post.

The numbers are +16504194196 or +390662207294 or +97316199855 and no Internet connection is required. There are already dozens of messages on the Twitter profile.

Read bullet | Comments »

Super Bowl in Dallas: Tough week to be a Cowboys fan

Monday, January 31st, 2011 - by Bryan Preston

Two of the most hated teams in ‘Boys lore are in town to play in the Super Bowl that Jerry Jones all but promised that the Cowboys would win.  What else should we expect from the man who put a Sooner coach atop the Cowboys, and then brought the most arrogant WR of all time to the team?

The Packers and Steelers, who meet in next Sunday’s Super Bowl XLV, have combined to deliver four of the most devastatingly memorable season-ending defeats in Cowboys history.

The Packers defeated the Cowboys in the two gut-wrenching NFL championship games leading to the first two Super Bowls. Twice, the Steelers defeated the Cowboys in Super Bowls to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy, so named for the Packers coach who won those first two Super Bowls.

All four games were decided by a touchdown or less. All four went down to the wire. All four were chock full of Cowboys would’ves, could’ves and should’ves.

It could be worse.  At least the Eagles and their Obama-approved quarterback didn’t make the big game.  As for me, I’m a cheesehead for a week.

Read bullet | Comments »

Headlines, Jan 31

Monday, January 31st, 2011 - by The Tatler

US Ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman has resigned to run for president in 2012.

All Senate Republicans are now co-sponsors of the ObamaCare repeal bill.

Big law firm takes down big conservative blogger.

The RNC is $21 million in debt.

ObamaCare judge used candidate Obama’s words against President Obama in ruling.

Read bullet | Comments »

China’s communist regime restricting news of Egypt unrest

Monday, January 31st, 2011 - by Bryan Preston

Shocking! Or, least surprising news of the day.

Keyword searches on the protests returned no results Monday on microblogs and reader discussion of news reports about Egypt was disabled on major portals as China’s pervasive censorship apparatus swung into full gear.

News coverage of the demonstrations against the 30-year rule of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was limited to sparse accounts that largely glossed over the underlying political factors and calls for democracy.

Coverage instead stressed Cairo’s lawlessness and the need for order — echoing calls by China’s foreign ministry — and the government’s plan to send two chartered jets to Cairo to bring home more than 500 stranded Chinese.

Photos from Egypt were conspicuously absent from major Chinese newspapers, while Monday’s state news broadcast omitted footage of protests, instead showing Mubarak meeting top officials.

Read bullet | Comments »

Reuters spins Judge Vinson to the left

Monday, January 31st, 2011 - by Stephen Green

Reuters (from the Latin for “disdain”) isn’t exactly holding its cards close to its chest. Here’s the second graf from Tom Brown’s write-up on today’s ObamaCare strikedown:

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson, appointed to the bench by Republican President Ronald Reagan, ruled that the reform law’s so-called individual mandate went too far in requiring that Americans start buying health insurance in 2014 or pay a penalty.

“So-called” by everyone from the President on down, so Brown could probably safely drop the scare quotes. And you know what he means by mentioning Reagan: “Appointed by Reagan? That judge must be ancient! And a conservative! Eeeeeeeeyyyyyyaaaaaah!” Also, was Reagan’s party affiliation ever in doubt? And is the President who appointed Vinson 20-plus years ago really rank as second-graf important?

Now the fourth graf:

Referring to a key provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, he sided with governors and attorneys general from 26 U.S. states, almost all of whom are Republicans, in declaring it unconstitutional.

Eeeeeeevil Republican attorneys general, trying to take away you “Patient Protection and Affordable Care” Act. (Hey, I can use scare quotes almost as well as Reuters.) What Brown is implying here, of course, is that trying to roll back ObamaCare is the height of partisanship. What Brown doesn’t feel necessary to mention is that the bill passed on an entirely partisan Democratic vote in both houses, and even then required legal trickery to get the job done.

Remember when Reuters used to do this kind of smear with subtlety? Yeah, me neither.

Read bullet | Comments »

Man arrested trying to blow up Michigan mosque

Monday, January 31st, 2011 - by The Tatler

And another liberal meme bites the dust.

Read bullet | Comments »

Video: Bush-era diplomat lauds ElBaradei

Monday, January 31st, 2011 - by Bryan Preston

Nicholas Burns served in the Bush administration’s Department of State, rising to Undersecretary of State during Secretary of State Condolezza Rice’s tenure.  On Fox today, Shep Smith interviewed Burns about the unrest in Egypt, and asked him for his sense of Mohamed ElBaradei.  Burns actually lauds ElBaradei as “bright,” “very intelligent,” “serious,” and “forward thinking,” adding that he could become the “face of the opposition” in Egypt.

YouTube Preview Image

ElBaradei’s tenure at the IAEA, in which he thwarted US policy against Iran, went unmentioned.  If Burns is as good as we can get from the US diplomatic corps, well, God help us.  There seems to be an establishment consensus that ElBaradei is a viable alternative to Mubarak.  That’s only true if you don’t mind the Muslim Brotherhood with which ElBaradei is allied taking over the Arab world’s most important country, controlling the Suez Canal, and going eyeball to eyeball with the Israelis.

Read bullet | Comments »

Catholic Schools Week and concertina wire

Monday, January 31st, 2011 - by Christian Adams

The hostility of the government run school bureaucracy to parental options is notorious.  The Washington Post has a story today about one Maryland school system’s flippant rejection of a charter school.  There are few bigger enemies of parental choice than the Montgomery County School Board and Maryland laws are some of the worst in the nation for the establishment of alternatives to the government run schools.

One reassuring alternative to the government education monopoly is the continuing strength and success of Catholic Schools.  This is Catholic Schools Week and the theme this year touches on the important role they play in our nation.  “A+ for America” is the theme.  It promotes the contribution to America made by Catholic schools through high academic standards and daily emphasis on strong moral values. 

Catholic schools are particularly important in urban areas where the government schools have become little more than epicenters of drugs and violence, where dropouts outnumber graduates.  I am reminded of election coverage in Philadelphia that I did while at the U.S. Department of Justice.  All day long, I was in some of the roughest schools in the city because that’s where the polling locations are.  Concertina wire, graffiti, litter and decay were what I remember about these Philadelphia public schools.  At some point I took a break and stopped into the St. Peter the Apostle Church in the very same rough neighborhood.   There was a Catholic school next to the church.   Inside, you could see neat, orderly and clean classrooms, nothing like the mayhem I had been in all day.  In the basement of St. Peter the Apostle Church is the shrine to St. John Neumann where his body lies.  Neumann was the father of American Catholic schools, and this week celebrates why all Americans should be thankful for his work, both Catholic and non-Catholic.

Read bullet | Comments »

Chuckles Schumer, Constitutional geeenius

Monday, January 31st, 2011 - by Bryan Preston

I’d say that the state of the union is quite uncertain, when a leader of one of our major political parties doesn’t even know what the three branches of government are.

you know, we have three branches of government: we have a House, the Senate, we have a President, and all three of us are going to have to come together and give some.

According to the Constitution, the three branches of government are the executive, the legislative and the judicial.  There was a time when every gradeschool kid in America knew this. Schumer splits one into two and omits the third entirely.  But hey, it’s all good.  Chuckles and his ilk are the smart ones and Sarah Palin is still Caribou Barbie the Alaskan hayseed.

Read bullet | Comments »

BREAKING: Federal Judge in Fla declares ObamaCare void and unconstitutional

Monday, January 31st, 2011 - by Roger L Simon

A federal judge in Florida has struck down parts of the new healthcare bill as unconstitutional. Declares bill void:

The full text of the decision from Federal Judge Roger Vinson is not available yet, but according to reporters who’ve seen the decision, he’s ruled the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. The ruling favors of the 26 state attorney generals challenging the law. The judge ruled the individual mandate that requires all Americans to purchase health insurance invalid and, according to the decision, “because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void.”

Text of  opinion online here.

UPDATE: Does Vinson’s ruling impede implementation of the act? Competing bloggers at the WaPo see it differently. Ezra Klein (not a lawyer) says it won’t. Jennifer Rubin (a lawyer) had the brains to get a second opinion:

I read the section on “Injunction” and could scarely believe my eyes. Was the judge ordering the government not to enforce ObamaCare in all 26 states. Oh, yes, indeed.

Robert Alt of the Heritage Institute e-mailed me, “The judge noted that declaratory relief is the functional equivalent of an injunction, and applied the long-standing presumption ‘that officials of the Executive Branch will adhere to the law as declared by the court.’ So in the case, the judge asserted that the declaratory relief should bind the parties. If the Obama administration wishes to impose the requirements of Obamacare upon the states, it will need to seek a stay of the opinion either from the judge, or from the 11th Circuit.”

“Developing,” as Matt Drudge would say.

Read bullet | Comments »

ObamaCare’s individual mandate struck down

Monday, January 31st, 2011 - by Stephen Green

“The entire act must be declared void.”

That’s the ruling out of Florida just now on Obamacare.

Links and discussion to follow shortly, I’m sure.

Read bullet | Comments »

MEMO TO GOP: Don’t Forget The Tea Party

Monday, January 31st, 2011 - by Owen Brennan

GALLUP Reports: “About 7 in 10 national adults, including 88% of Republicans, say it is important that Republican leaders in Congress take the Tea Party movement’s positions and objectives into account as they address the nation’s problems. Among Republicans, 53% rate this “very important.” Full report here.

Read bullet | Comments »

Today’s press briefing: Gibbs calls for ‘orderly transition’ in Egypt

Monday, January 31st, 2011 - by The Tatler

WH spokesman Robert Gibbs today called for an “orderly transition” in Egypt, and “meaningful negotiations” with a broad swath of the Egyptian people “including the opposition.”  Gibbs also touted Obama’s Cairo speech.  He also called for “free and fair elections” and stated that the United States does not determine who’s on the ballot. Gibbs also said the people around the world need to see “action” from the Egyptian government.

Gibbs said that an orderly transition must include a process of negotiations including political opposition, it would have to address the freedoms that the people of Egypt seek, and “many of the things that we’ve outlined over the past few days need to be addressed.”  He said “this is not about appointments, it is about actions,” suggesting that Mubarak’s moves over the weekend to install a new parliament and a vice president were not enough.

The Tatler fears that this White House is considering a tilt toward Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate, to have a major role in this “orderly transition.”  That would be grave error.  Yasser Arafat was also a Nobel laureate, along with his lifetime career as one of the world’s most successful terrorist leaders.

Read bullet | Comments »

Egyptian Army just handed Mubarak his hat and coat

Monday, January 31st, 2011 - by Stephen Green

Via OTB comes a Sky News report that the Egyptian Army has said it will not use force against protestors. Read:

The Egyptian army has said it will not use force against protesters calling for the removal of President Hosni Mubarak ahead of a “million people” march.

The military said it considers the people’s demands “legitimate”.

In other words: “Hey, Hosni? It’s late, we have a big mess to clean up, and everyone else has gone home already. Party’s over, OK?”

Read bullet | Comments »

Can we have a president with a felony conviction?

Monday, January 31st, 2011 - by Bob Owens

I only ask because it appears that New York Mayor, Billionaire and possible Presidential contender Michael Bloomberg may be working on one… or more.

Read bullet | Comments »

Napolitano: ‘So today I say to the cartels: Don’t even think about bringing your violence and tactics across this border.’

Monday, January 31st, 2011 - by Bryan Preston

So said the Homeland Security chief during a speech in El Paso, Texas. But let’s not be too hard on her. She’s only two years late.

Read bullet | Comments »

Obama AWOL on Egypt

Monday, January 31st, 2011 - by Stephen Green

I have a question, and for this once I need something more than a snarky answer: Does President Obama have an Egypt policy?

Read bullet | Comments »

ObamaCare ruling expected shortly

Monday, January 31st, 2011 - by The Tatler

A ruling in the Florida case against ObamaCare’s constitutionality is expected shortly.  Watch the Tatler for more.

Read bullet | Comments »

Egypt: It’s time for the US to get ahead of events

Monday, January 31st, 2011 - by Bryan Preston

I don’t get the sense from anything they’re saying or doing, or have done in the past, that the current administration has any idea what to do about Egypt.  This is a PR administration that came to power on lofty rhetoric meant to mask a hard edged domestic agenda, and a “not Bush” foreign policy agenda.  That obviously isn’t much of an actual foreign policy agenda at all, and as if to unintentionally underscore his own unseriousness on foreign affairs, President Obama can’t even keep the big wars straight in his own head.

Meanwhile, SecState Clinton seems to be in panic mode, calling a mass meeting of US ambassadors that begins today in Washington.  Great.  The 3 AM call is here, and she’s speed-dialing the entire diplomatic corps. Maybe some of the Foggy Bottom lifers will have some ideas for the First Lady turned carpetbagging senator turned head of US diplomacy.

It’s time to get ahead of events and influence where they lead. Here’s a suggestion.  Since it’s clear that Mubarak’s days are numbered one way or the other — either by riots or by his age — and since we’re the scapegoats for providing aid to Egypt over the years, we do a few things.  First, we work behind the scenes with the army and the secular intelligentsia to ensure stability and block the radicals, including ElBaradei, from power.  Priority one has to be securing an Egyptian future that is as free of Islamists as possible. Second, we increase the public pressure on Mubarak to step aside, and cut off aid at an opportune time.  Third, while all of this is going on, we’re working behind the scenes to discredit the Muslim Brotherhood as much as possible.  Egypt’s protesters are mostly apolitical; the Brotherhood stands every chance of capturing enough of them for enough time to gain power, even in a one man, one vote, one time scenario.  They are the independent voters in the situation. If we have to cut Mubarak loose to gain their trust or at least weaken the radicals’ hand, then that’s what we have to do. We have to prevent a radical takeover for the good of the Egyptian people, who would be trading one form of tyranny for a worse form of tyranny, and for the good of the world.

How do we discredit the radicals?  I’ll leave that to the spooks.  Now isn’t a time for playing nice.  Perhaps a WikiLeak is in order.  I do know that several years ago, I ran across a gray world tech firm specializing in digital animation that made Pixar look like pikers.  I wonder whatever became of that technology.

Read bullet | Comments »

Clueless Israel wakes up on PR (sort of)

Monday, January 31st, 2011 - by Roger L Simon

Israel has long been a disaster when it comes to public relations, but Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (of all people) is trying to change that by hiring PR firms in Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and the Czech Republic to improve the image of Israel in those countries.

It’s about time, but the problem is Israel is allocating a paltry $3.26 million to the project (not enough to build a junior high school these days) when $3.2 billion would be more like it. The Palestinians (with the help of Saudi deep pockets, a complaisant media and others) have completely dominated European PR to the extent that anti-Semitism is becoming the lingua franca of the continent. Wake up, Israel. (You wouldn’t know that Jews invented public relations. Of course that was American Jews.)

Read bullet | Comments »

Geraldo hearts ElBaradei too

Monday, January 31st, 2011 - by Alan Smithee

Is Geraldo senile? It’s hard to tell how old he is with the gobs of hair dye he wears for his Fox show, but he sure sounded out of it over the weekend, showering Mohamed ElBaradei with praise as if he were the second coming and mentioning the N-word (Nobel Prize) any time he could. When one of his guests uttered the slightest criticism of the onetime UN diplomat who most of us know did his best to cover up for the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions, Geraldo looked astonished that such a thing could be possible. It was also news to him that ElBaradei was a longtime ally of the jihadist Muslim Brotherhood.

(NOTE to Roger Ailes: enough already)

Read bullet | Comments »

Global warming started Egypt’s riots!

Monday, January 31st, 2011 - by Bryan Preston

So say the folks at Climate Progress, who see global warming, climate change, what have you, as the unseen hand behind everything, everywhere.  In the case of Egypt and Tunisia, they see “extreme weather” pushing food prices higher, leading to the riots.  But hey, if they’re right, it’s one more reason to drop ethanol subsidies, no?

Read bullet | Comments »

Now Assad is talking ‘reform’

Monday, January 31st, 2011 - by Bryan Preston

But he doesn’t sound nearly worried enough.

Read bullet | Comments »

Mike Lupica hearts Mohamed ElBaradei

Monday, January 31st, 2011 - by The Tatler

Another dopey sports writer wades into politics, and demonstrates his total cluelessness.

Read bullet | Comments »

Hey, at least I will be in the region

Monday, January 31st, 2011 - by Passaconaway

This week I’m heading to the Middle East, where I hope to do some on the ground reporting.

That’s more than most of the talking heads in our 24/7 all opinion coverage of the Egyptian uprising can say.  I hope that everyone takes these “experts” with a grain of salt.   Most of these former govt. officials have no more access to what’s happening than we all do.  They get their “briefing” sitting in the makeup chair in the green room just prior to their next segment.  Some are so ubiquitous they have not even had time to read the morning newspapers, never mind check with any current news sites.  As the events unfold, keep all this in mind.  The news clips showing the same frames over and over and the non-stop talking is no substitute for doing your own research and making up your own mind.  Remember, in most cases you have access to the same information as the person talking on the tube does.

Read bullet | Comments »

Report from Afghanistan on Egyptian Turmoil

Sunday, January 30th, 2011 - by Clarice Feldman

A friend stationed  in Afghanistan writes:

[E]verything we are witnessing is prelude to the big prize: KSA[Kingdom of Saudi Arabia]. But KSA isn’t the real point of all this.

While the Muslim Brotherhood has the street riled up, this isn’t their doing. It appears to me to be Iran/Syria/Hezbollah taking advantage of local gripes, in this case with MB, in other places though plain old destabilization. The desired end state is to isolate pro-western Arab states and surround Israel with enemies.

If this really is Iran/Syria/Hezbollah at work, it satisfies any number of their shared goals, not the least of which is to set up a pan-Islamic push on Israel. Twelver Persian, Baathist Syrian, permanently aggrieved Lebanese and Pali, Islamist MB…all brought together for the elimination of Israel under a single banner with the combined national means of all of the states they control (including imported Nork missile and nuke tech). It’s like multi-culti Nasserism. And these people know that they have essentially two years in which the US is unlikely to react with much vigor to any single country falling.

Oddly, the last dominoes to fall will be places like KSA, Kuwait, The Emirates and Iraq - countries either controlling or adjacent to the sacred Arabian Peninsula Al Qaeda (an offshoot of MB) makes such a big deal about. But they don’t have to fall in order to move on the Little Satan and mess with US oil supply. They just have to be isolated. SO it’s really a question of long term priorities and I’d be willing to bet there aren’t many Administration juiceboxers who have played this thing out more than to maybe the next move.

We are IMO, no shit, watching the opening shots on a Cold War type of struggle with the Axis of Evil + Venezuela, that will play out across everywhere we have a national interest. I guess I have job security for a while.

Let me just say it again for the record: Iraq was never about Iraq.

Read bullet | Comments »

Today’s moment of Tech Support Zen

Sunday, January 30th, 2011 - by Charlie Martin

Bob Cringely, noted tech journalist, recounting a session with  Network Solutions tech support:

I have all my mail since 1992, I explained, and there isn’t a Saturday in that entire time when I received less than 80 messages. Today I got only four.

“Maybe they are stuck on the server,” the tech suggested. So she rebooted the server. No luck.

“Maybe your mail is being rejected as spam,” she suggested. “Send us copies of all messages you didn’t receive including their IP addresses.”

Read bullet | Comments »

Egypt’s Islamist wolf in secular clothing

Sunday, January 30th, 2011 - by Bryan Preston

There’s talk of a “unity” government to replace Egypt’s Mubarak regime, with the Muslim Brotherhood and Mohamed ElBaradei at its head.  If this comes about, it will be a disaster for US influence in the Middle East, and for all of our allies there, and for the world.

Not only is ElBaradei a willing tool of the Iranians, as Anne reported earlier, he is openly hostile to Israel and supportive of the Palestinian terror campaign against them.  Hosni Mubarak is a thuggish anti-democrat, but ElBaradei and the Muslim Brotherhood would be worse both for the region and for the Egyptian people, who would be trading one form of repression for another.  They might also be trading a cold peace with Israel for a hot war: Egypt’s peace accord with Israel may well be that “unity” government’s first casualty.

The Obama administration has to find a way to influence events so that Mubarak goes peacefully, and a government without both ElBaradei and the Muslim Brotherhood takes his place. I’m not suggesting that this is an easy task.  Egypt’s crisis is the 3 AM phone call that became a 2008 campaign issue.  It is the “international test” that even Biden feared.  Unfortunately, so far no one in the administration, neither the inexperienced president nor his vice president nor his top rival turned secretary of state who first brought up the issue up during the election, have shown that they were prepared to pick up.

Read bullet | Comments »

Jimmy Carter Weighs In

Sunday, January 30th, 2011 - by Richard Fernandez

Jimmy Carter, reacting to events in Egypt, said recent developments were an “earth-shaking event” and that Hosni Mubarak “will have to leave.” He also claimed the Muslim Brotherhood “has stayed out of it”.

Carter’s remarks came at Maranatha Baptist Church, where he regularly teaches a Sunday School class to visitors from across the country and globe. …

“This is the most profound situation in the Middle East since I left office,” Carter said Sunday to the nearly 300 people packed into the small sanctuary about a half mile from downtown Plains. …

Carter described his relationship with Mubarak, whom protesters want ousted from power.

“I know Mubarak quite well,” Carter said. “If Sadat had a message, he would send Mubarak.” …

As the unrest raged and escalated, Mubarak appointed Omar Suleiman, the country’s intelligence chief, as vice president.

“He’s an intelligent man whom I like very much,” Carter said.

Carter has maintained a relationship with Suleiman over the years.

“In the last four or five years when I go to Egypt, I don’t go to talk to Mubarak, who talks like a politician,” Carter said. “If I want to know what is going on in the Middle East, I talk to Suleiman. And as far as I know, he has always told me the truth.”

The former president, who performs work throughout the world for fair elections through The Carter Center in Atlanta, said this was not a revolution “orchestrated by extremists Muslims.

“The Muslim brotherhood has stayed out it,” Carter said.

Well that’s good to know. Things were worrying for a time. It’s interesting to speculate how much of Carter’s thinking reflects the appreciation within the Obama Administration. But although Carter may prove right about the non-involvement of the Muslim Brotherhood in the biggest political opportunity since Jimmy left office, would it be wise to bet the farm on it? What does this mean about the urgency of securing intelligence assets that may fall into the hands of the successor regime? Or is it wiser to transfer the assets and start building relationships with whoever comes after?

Read bullet | Comments »

Mohammed El Baradei – The Iranian Frontman

Sunday, January 30th, 2011 - by Anne Bayefsky

Mohammed El Baradei — self-annointed “leader of the Egyptian opposition” — has more in common with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than anything remotely resembling democracy. He had a 12-year run, ending in 2009, as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) where his primary legacy was to bring Iran to the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons.  He ran defense for Iran all those years, doing everything in his power to delay and delay and divert attention from the Iranian nuclear weapons program.  Here is an example of El Baradei’s UN handiwork, after one more occasion when he helped push the issue off the Security Council table:  “I am encouraged that the issue has not been referred to the Security Council, precisely to give time for diplomacy and negotiation.”… “…time is still available for diplomacy to resolve outstanding issues, for Iran to build confidence, and that the question of reporting to the Security Council could only be discussed at a later date.” (Sept. 24, 2005)

The following story appeared last September, claiming that El Baradei is financially backed by Iran. There is speculation that he was on the take from the Iranian regime before he stepped down as IAEA Director-General, as well as after.

September 6, 2010

The Egyptian Newspaper Al Youm Al Sabeh reports: In a communication to the Attorney General of Egypt, Dr. Yasser Najib Abdel Mabboud, has accused Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, former Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency and a candidate in the Egyptian presidential elections, of receiving funds exceeding $7 million (US) from Iran’s leadership as support for ‘political reform in Egypt’.

Abdul Mabboud , a candidate of the National Party and who like El Baradei is also running for the Egyptian Presidential election, was informed of the Iranian leadership’s willingness to support ElBaradei financially via an Arab businessman living in Europe. The check in the amount of $ 7 million is said to be meant to cover the financial costs of the election campaign and the activities of the Front for Change.

There is more at the link.

Read bullet | Comments »

Iraq, Tunisia and Egypt:Paul Wolfowitz

Sunday, January 30th, 2011 - by Clarice Feldman

Commenting on the situation in the Middle East, Paul Wolfowitz speaks to the Spectator’s Daniel Korski :

DK: Many of the protesters in Tunis and Cairo – and more of their international supporters – are clear that today’s events are unrelated to the Iraq War and in fact represent a different paradigm, namely one of endogenous democratic change. But what in your view is the link between the invasion of Iraq and the events in the Middle East today?

PW: We did not go to war in Iraq or Afghanistan to promote democracy, but rather to remove regimes that were dangerous to us and to the world. Having done that, we have attempted to enable the Iraqi and Afghan people to enjoy the benefits of free and representative government. Those efforts have enjoyed mixed success, but we would have done worse – and been much more deserving of criticism – had we attempted to reimpose some new dictator. So far, Tunisia and Egypt seem to be following the paradigm of the long list of countries I mentioned earlier, from the Philippines and Chile to Indonesia and Georgia. They are proud, and rightly so, that they have had no help from the outside. Tragically, Tunisia probably enjoyed better conditions for a peaceful democratic transition than any other Arab country, but Bin Ali suppressed that possibility ruthlessly.  Hopefully now Tunisia will continue to demonstrate in a positive way that Arabs too can progress through democratic reform.

DK: The on-folding events in the Middle East would seem to suggest that the premise of your policies – that people in the region yearn for freedom – was right, but the means, military power, were costly, deadly and, some would say, wrong. Did you pick the right means and allies (including in Washington) to carry out the policy of promoting democracy in the region?

PW: It is wrong to say that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were fought to promote democracy. Whether right or wrong, they were fought to protect ourselves and others from dangerous regimes, but once those regimes were removed we could not reimpose dictators. At the same time, we did believe that peaceful democratic change, of the kind I’ve mentioned earlier, could help to change the conditions in the Middle East that were breeding terrorists and support for terrorism That is why President Bush spoke strongly, as for example in London in November 2003, that “Your nation and mine, in the past, have been willing to make a bargain, to tolerate oppression for the sake of stability. Yet this bargain did not bring stability or make us safe. It merely bought time, while problems festered and ideologies of violence took hold.” Unfortunately, in his second term President Bush seemed to retreat from pursuing his “freedom agenda” and President Obama has retreated further. But that earlier analysis of the false stability brought by tyranny seems even more accurate today.

Read bullet | Comments »

American exceptionalism and Egyptian turmoil

Sunday, January 30th, 2011 - by Christian Adams

The mess in Egypt demonstrates one of those exceptional characteristics about America and the Constitution.  I don’t profess to be a Mideast expert.  But, multiple elections that were neither fair, regular nor open have fueled the turmoil in Egypt.  Violent armed thugs stationed at the entrance to a poll is one of the most corrosive events in any election.  In the 2005 Egyptian elections, “Government security forces and gangs of thugs from the ruling National Democratic Party blockaded access to dozens of polling sites.”  The 2010 elections weren’t much better.

The Founders knew that regular, open and honest elections were an essential steam valve to political discontent and civil discord.  Every two years, Americans have the chance to jolt the direction of the government.  The same is true for state legislative elections.  Americans have a deep aversion to thugs at polling places with weapons.  Frankly, it is un-American, to borrow a term out of favor these days.  Americans are blessed with a Constitution that has regular elections.  We are a nation governed by law.  The free, fair and honest vote militates against the darker impulses of faction, and ultimately prevents unrest and turmoil.

Read bullet | Comments »