Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 4, 2011

Obama, the Tea Party, and the Incivility of Race Politics

Earlier this week, in the context of Mike Huckabee’s comments about Barack Obama’s being raised in Kenya, I wrote that while tough, and at times even fierce, criticism in politics was fine, demonization is not. “If we get to the point where we assume that our political differences can be explained only by some deeper, hidden evil in our opponents, then self-government itself is in trouble.”

I recount this because the point applies both ways. For example, reporter Kenneth Walsh has written a new book, Family of Freedom: Presidents and African Americans in the White House, in which he says: “But Obama, in his most candid moments, acknowledged that race was still a problem. In May 2010, he told guests at a private White House dinner that race was probably a key component in the rising opposition to his presidency from conservatives, especially right-wing activists in the anti-incumbent ‘Tea Party’ movement that was then surging across the country. … A guest suggested that when Tea Party activists said they wanted to ‘take back’ their country, their real motivation was to stir up anger and anxiety at having a black president, and Obama didn’t dispute the idea. He agreed that there was a ‘subterranean agenda’ in the anti-Obama movement—a racially biased one—that was unfortunate.”

Walsh’s account rings true, in part because Obama himself has said a more anodyne version of this in public. In a 2010 Rolling Stone interview, for example, the president was asked about the Tea Party and the people behind it. In describing the different strands of it, he said, “there are probably some aspects of the Tea Party that are a little darker, that have to do with anti-immigrant sentiment or are troubled by what I represent as president.” Read More

Earlier this week, in the context of Mike Huckabee’s comments about Barack Obama’s being raised in Kenya, I wrote that while tough, and at times even fierce, criticism in politics was fine, demonization is not. “If we get to the point where we assume that our political differences can be explained only by some deeper, hidden evil in our opponents, then self-government itself is in trouble.”

I recount this because the point applies both ways. For example, reporter Kenneth Walsh has written a new book, Family of Freedom: Presidents and African Americans in the White House, in which he says: “But Obama, in his most candid moments, acknowledged that race was still a problem. In May 2010, he told guests at a private White House dinner that race was probably a key component in the rising opposition to his presidency from conservatives, especially right-wing activists in the anti-incumbent ‘Tea Party’ movement that was then surging across the country. … A guest suggested that when Tea Party activists said they wanted to ‘take back’ their country, their real motivation was to stir up anger and anxiety at having a black president, and Obama didn’t dispute the idea. He agreed that there was a ‘subterranean agenda’ in the anti-Obama movement—a racially biased one—that was unfortunate.”

Walsh’s account rings true, in part because Obama himself has said a more anodyne version of this in public. In a 2010 Rolling Stone interview, for example, the president was asked about the Tea Party and the people behind it. In describing the different strands of it, he said, “there are probably some aspects of the Tea Party that are a little darker, that have to do with anti-immigrant sentiment or are troubled by what I represent as president.”

A few things need to be said about this. The first is that I’m sure the Tea Party Movement includes disreputable people, as any political movement does (see the Scott Walker = Adolf Hitler labor-union members in Wisconsin). But to believe that racism is a key component of the Tea Party Movement is an invention. Now it may well be that Obama’s self-regard is so great that he believes that only malevolent motivations and benighted people can oppose his agenda, that it’s simply inconceivable that his critics might be honorable people who have substantive differences with the president. But whether or not Obama can accept this, it happens to be true. And for the president to believe that racism is an animating force of the Tea Party Movement, and conservatism more broadly, is dangerous and ugly stuff.

The president, more than any other figure, is responsible for unifying our country, for ensuring that he doesn’t turn political opponents into political enemies and poison the well of our politics. As a candidate, Barack Obama gave voice to this belief as well as anyone. As president, he has fallen short time and time again. The gap between what he says and how he acts is enormous — and eventually, things like this catch up with a person and a president.

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State Department to Meet with NIAC, Oil and Gas Companies About Iranian Sanctions?

Three State Department officials have been invited to attend a seminar on Iranian sanctions sponsored by a lobby that has supported the Iranian regime and several companies that could profit significantly from the sanctions being lifted, according to the group hosting the event.

The U.S. has imposed trade and economic sanctions against Iran since 1984. The severity and  enforcement of these sanctions have drastically increased in recent years impacting both Government and ordinary citizens.

NIPOC [Network of Iranian-American Professionals of Orange County] is hosting a seminar with 3 invited representatives from the U.S. State Department focusing on the implication of these sanctions on Iranian Americans.

The seminar is being sponsored by the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a lobby founded by Trita Parsi, which has been an advocate for the lifting of U.S. sanctions against Iran since its inception. Other sponsors include Etap, IBS Electronics, and IQA Solutions — all companies that specialize in the oil and gas industries, power generation, or military equipment.

A group called the Iran Information Project has sent a letter to Congress asking that the State Department not participate in the event:

A large and diverse group of representative Iranian-Americans has asked that we write to the members of the United States House of Representatives and the Senate to request that the State Department be advised not to participate at this event. As Americans, we ask the same. For the honor of decent Iranians suffering in Iran and in honor of our fallen soldiers, we ask this. Parsi and NIAC not only do not represent Iranians in any country, but what they stand for, by supporting the regime, is morally reprehensible.

NIAC has kept a low profile since late 2009, when the Washington Times published documents indicating that the group had violated lobbying rules. Before that, NIAC had a fairly close relationship with the State Department. Parsi met with State Department representatives in Saudi Arabia last October, and if officials do end up attending this seminar, it would be yet another sign that the State Department is interested in reaching out to the lobby group.

Three State Department officials have been invited to attend a seminar on Iranian sanctions sponsored by a lobby that has supported the Iranian regime and several companies that could profit significantly from the sanctions being lifted, according to the group hosting the event.

The U.S. has imposed trade and economic sanctions against Iran since 1984. The severity and  enforcement of these sanctions have drastically increased in recent years impacting both Government and ordinary citizens.

NIPOC [Network of Iranian-American Professionals of Orange County] is hosting a seminar with 3 invited representatives from the U.S. State Department focusing on the implication of these sanctions on Iranian Americans.

The seminar is being sponsored by the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a lobby founded by Trita Parsi, which has been an advocate for the lifting of U.S. sanctions against Iran since its inception. Other sponsors include Etap, IBS Electronics, and IQA Solutions — all companies that specialize in the oil and gas industries, power generation, or military equipment.

A group called the Iran Information Project has sent a letter to Congress asking that the State Department not participate in the event:

A large and diverse group of representative Iranian-Americans has asked that we write to the members of the United States House of Representatives and the Senate to request that the State Department be advised not to participate at this event. As Americans, we ask the same. For the honor of decent Iranians suffering in Iran and in honor of our fallen soldiers, we ask this. Parsi and NIAC not only do not represent Iranians in any country, but what they stand for, by supporting the regime, is morally reprehensible.

NIAC has kept a low profile since late 2009, when the Washington Times published documents indicating that the group had violated lobbying rules. Before that, NIAC had a fairly close relationship with the State Department. Parsi met with State Department representatives in Saudi Arabia last October, and if officials do end up attending this seminar, it would be yet another sign that the State Department is interested in reaching out to the lobby group.

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Add Another $7.5 Million to the Wisconsin Protesters’ Tab

Only a few days into the Wisconsin protests, there were reports that it had already set taxpayers back around $9 million. And according to a local FOX affiliate in Wisconsin, add at least another $7.5 million to that number, because that’s apparently how much it’s going to cost the government to clean up the mountains of litter left by protesters at the scene:

It could cost as much as $7.5 million to repair damage protesters have done to the Capitol Building marble say officials in Madison. Fixing posters to the marble with tape and glue appears to have done the bulk of the damage.

During testimony Thursday, a representative from the Attorney General’s office said a contractor estimated it would cost $500,000 to remove all of the posters and garbage. He says it would cost $6 million to restore the marble inside of the Capitol building and another $1 million to touch up the marble outside of the building.

At Townhall, Katie Pavlich asks us to “Imagine how many teacher positions, textbooks and new computers the state could buy with $7.5 million.” Good point.

Not to mention the general thoughtlessness of the whole situation. Progressives like to see themselves as exceptionally altruistic compared with the rest of the population, but the protesters clearly weren’t concerned about who would have to clean up their mess after they left.

Only a few days into the Wisconsin protests, there were reports that it had already set taxpayers back around $9 million. And according to a local FOX affiliate in Wisconsin, add at least another $7.5 million to that number, because that’s apparently how much it’s going to cost the government to clean up the mountains of litter left by protesters at the scene:

It could cost as much as $7.5 million to repair damage protesters have done to the Capitol Building marble say officials in Madison. Fixing posters to the marble with tape and glue appears to have done the bulk of the damage.

During testimony Thursday, a representative from the Attorney General’s office said a contractor estimated it would cost $500,000 to remove all of the posters and garbage. He says it would cost $6 million to restore the marble inside of the Capitol building and another $1 million to touch up the marble outside of the building.

At Townhall, Katie Pavlich asks us to “Imagine how many teacher positions, textbooks and new computers the state could buy with $7.5 million.” Good point.

Not to mention the general thoughtlessness of the whole situation. Progressives like to see themselves as exceptionally altruistic compared with the rest of the population, but the protesters clearly weren’t concerned about who would have to clean up their mess after they left.

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The Dictators We Forgot

In the face of the Middle East’s revolutions, it’s easy to believe that the world’s dictators are comprised of autocrats we worked with (Mubarak), dictators we were trying to work with (Qaddafi), and dangerous regimes that won’t play ball (Iran). If only. The biggest category of all is the dictators we forgot.

Sudan has been in the news recently, where the bargain is clear: independence for southern Sudan, respectability for Khartoum. There is a cold-hearted logic inherent in working in Khartoum, which certainly had the power to disrupt the recent referendum on southern independence and (mostly) chose not to use it. But as Ambassador Richard Williamson recently emphasized at the Heritage Foundation, the slaughter in Darfur has not stopped. On the contrary: it has accelerated. In retrospect, the clownish Scott Gration had a strategy, and it worked: make the world forget about Darfur so it could focus on “winning” in southern Sudan. But the fact remains: a regime that could kill in Darfur is a regime that no one can trust, and should never be part of that fantasy known as the “international community.” And yet that is the prize we are giving it.

The list is endless. We’re wracked with guilt (or not) about the U.S.’s alliance with Mubarak. But who remembers Mugabe, a far worse villain? I agree that Qaddafi was almost uniquely oppressive ; Michael Totten, who has had plenty of opportunities to compare dictatorships, found Libya remarkably tyrannical. But Mubarak was no worse than a lot of sub-Saharan Africa’s dictators: Cameroon’s Paul Biya, for example, who has been in office since 1982 and whose regime features just as much thuggery, corruption, and violence as Mubarak’s did. Read More

In the face of the Middle East’s revolutions, it’s easy to believe that the world’s dictators are comprised of autocrats we worked with (Mubarak), dictators we were trying to work with (Qaddafi), and dangerous regimes that won’t play ball (Iran). If only. The biggest category of all is the dictators we forgot.

Sudan has been in the news recently, where the bargain is clear: independence for southern Sudan, respectability for Khartoum. There is a cold-hearted logic inherent in working in Khartoum, which certainly had the power to disrupt the recent referendum on southern independence and (mostly) chose not to use it. But as Ambassador Richard Williamson recently emphasized at the Heritage Foundation, the slaughter in Darfur has not stopped. On the contrary: it has accelerated. In retrospect, the clownish Scott Gration had a strategy, and it worked: make the world forget about Darfur so it could focus on “winning” in southern Sudan. But the fact remains: a regime that could kill in Darfur is a regime that no one can trust, and should never be part of that fantasy known as the “international community.” And yet that is the prize we are giving it.

The list is endless. We’re wracked with guilt (or not) about the U.S.’s alliance with Mubarak. But who remembers Mugabe, a far worse villain? I agree that Qaddafi was almost uniquely oppressive ; Michael Totten, who has had plenty of opportunities to compare dictatorships, found Libya remarkably tyrannical. But Mubarak was no worse than a lot of sub-Saharan Africa’s dictators: Cameroon’s Paul Biya, for example, who has been in office since 1982 and whose regime features just as much thuggery, corruption, and violence as Mubarak’s did.

Mubarak was certainly no worse than Castro, yet the fact that El Presidente has run an island prison for over 50 years hasn’t stopped the Obama administration from trying to sidle up to him. On the lighter side, there’s Vogue magazine, which, as Alana noted recently, chose this month to run a glowing portrait of Asam al-Assad, the wife of Syria’s dictator. She claims that her mission is to promote “empowerment in civil society.” She’s obviously not very good at her job: Freedom House bluntly notes that, in Syria, “Freedom of expression is heavily restricted.” Of course, that has not stopped this administration from announcing that the U.S. is going to send an ambassador to Syria. The only difference between Mubarak and Assad is that the latter is even better at oppression.

I hope it’s obvious here that my point is not to apologize for Mubarak. It’s to say that the extent to which we are morally agonized about dictatorial rule is strongly shaped — too strongly shaped, in my view — by the extent to which we believe we were involved in enabling it, or to the extent it openly threatens us. If we were serious about human rights, we would be at least as exercised about dictatorships where we have nothing much at stake — and whom we could therefore oppose diplomatically free of cost — as we are about the ones where we do have interests to protect.

Instead, what we have are long periods of almost complete unconcern — during which lots of people who claim to be serving light and truth spend their days cashing the checks — punctuated by moments of moral panic when we realize whom we’re working with. Perhaps that just reflects the fact that, most of the time, foreign affairs don’t register on the public’s radar. But it’s shameful nonetheless.

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More Allegations of Prison Abuse for Manning

Just hours after Bradley Manning was hit with aiding-the-enemy charges, his lawyer is claiming that the Army private was stripped naked and forced to sit in a freezing prison cell:

A lawyer for Pfc. Bradley Manning, the Army intelligence analyst accused of leaking secret government files toWikiLeaks, has complained that his client was stripped and left naked in his cell for seven hours on Wednesday. …

The soldier’s clothing was returned to him Thursday morning, after he was required to stand naked outside his cell during an inspection, Mr. Coombs said in a posting on his Web site.

First, Lt. Brian Villiard, a Marine spokesman, confirmed that Manning’s clothes were taken from him, though he didn’t give many details of the incident, except to say that it wasn’t done for punitive reasons.

“It would be inappropriate for me to explain it,” Villiard told the New York Times. “I can confirm that it did happen, but I can’t explain it to you without violating the detainee’s privacy.”

This isn’t the first time that Manning’s lawyer has asserted that the private suffered abuse in prison, and it likely won’t be the last. It’s typical of attorneys to claim that their clients are mistreated in prison, and in a case like Manning’s, these types of allegations will be eaten up by his supporters.

But based on Villiard’s statement, and the timeline of the incident, it sounds like Manning’s clothes may have been taken from him owing to suicide concerns. The Army private was previously put on suicide watch in prison. His reaction to the new charges against him could have military officials apprehensive about his mental state.

Just hours after Bradley Manning was hit with aiding-the-enemy charges, his lawyer is claiming that the Army private was stripped naked and forced to sit in a freezing prison cell:

A lawyer for Pfc. Bradley Manning, the Army intelligence analyst accused of leaking secret government files toWikiLeaks, has complained that his client was stripped and left naked in his cell for seven hours on Wednesday. …

The soldier’s clothing was returned to him Thursday morning, after he was required to stand naked outside his cell during an inspection, Mr. Coombs said in a posting on his Web site.

First, Lt. Brian Villiard, a Marine spokesman, confirmed that Manning’s clothes were taken from him, though he didn’t give many details of the incident, except to say that it wasn’t done for punitive reasons.

“It would be inappropriate for me to explain it,” Villiard told the New York Times. “I can confirm that it did happen, but I can’t explain it to you without violating the detainee’s privacy.”

This isn’t the first time that Manning’s lawyer has asserted that the private suffered abuse in prison, and it likely won’t be the last. It’s typical of attorneys to claim that their clients are mistreated in prison, and in a case like Manning’s, these types of allegations will be eaten up by his supporters.

But based on Villiard’s statement, and the timeline of the incident, it sounds like Manning’s clothes may have been taken from him owing to suicide concerns. The Army private was previously put on suicide watch in prison. His reaction to the new charges against him could have military officials apprehensive about his mental state.

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On That Controversial J Street Video

This video – a compilation of interviews with some very left-wing, very anti-Israel attendees at the recent J Street conference in Washington, D.C. – gives an idea of what the atmosphere at the confab was like:

The video also created a bit of an uproar after Jewish Federation official William Daroff posted it on Twitter. Activists have begun accusing Daroff of joining in on conservative attacks against J Street, and Daroff has responded by saying that “to ignore that such views exist in the Jewish community (thankfully by a very small minority) does a great disservice to figuring out how we move the pro-Israel agenda forward.”

Daroff’s whole response is worth reading, and it can be found in the above link, at Washington Jewish Week (in the Comments section).

This video – a compilation of interviews with some very left-wing, very anti-Israel attendees at the recent J Street conference in Washington, D.C. – gives an idea of what the atmosphere at the confab was like:

The video also created a bit of an uproar after Jewish Federation official William Daroff posted it on Twitter. Activists have begun accusing Daroff of joining in on conservative attacks against J Street, and Daroff has responded by saying that “to ignore that such views exist in the Jewish community (thankfully by a very small minority) does a great disservice to figuring out how we move the pro-Israel agenda forward.”

Daroff’s whole response is worth reading, and it can be found in the above link, at Washington Jewish Week (in the Comments section).

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Jobs Report — Strange Once Again

So the new jobs report has the unemployment rate below 9 percent for the first time in two years, with 220,000 new private-sector jobs having been created (since 30,000 public-sector positions have been cut, the overall number is around 190,000). That sounds good, and there are certainly positive details within the report — especially the fact that private-sector job growth was revised upward by 18,000 from last month’s original estimate of 50K. Two consecutive up months with a revision is a strong suggestion of overall improvement.

But as is now sadly usual, the overall employment number makes no sense. It’s down nearly 10 percent from November’s 9.8 percent, which is amazing — but over the course of those months, only 300,000 new jobs have been created, which shouldn’t have been enough on its own to shrink the employment rate at all. Indeed, as Jim Pethokoukis, the great economics columnist for Reuters (and COMMENTARY contributor), mentioned on Twitter this morning: “The labor force participation rate went nowhere — unchanged. So we are still dealing with a shrunken jobs market.” In other words, the percentage of able-bodied Americans of working age who are actually working did not improve at all.

There are two possible explanations. The first is that the unemployment rate comes from one survey and the jobs-creation rate comes from another, and they’re not in alignment. Of course, the fact that they’re not in alignment means that either one of them is untrustworthy or they both are, in which case we shouldn’t be discussing them at all (except that the markets study them carefully, and so they have an effect on the economy even if they’re garbage). Since the unemployment rate is determined through survey data — essentially, a poll, though a very large one — it is worrisome to note that yesterday, Gallup’s poll indicated an unemployment rate over 10 percent, which was a significant increase over its finding from the previous month. Read More

So the new jobs report has the unemployment rate below 9 percent for the first time in two years, with 220,000 new private-sector jobs having been created (since 30,000 public-sector positions have been cut, the overall number is around 190,000). That sounds good, and there are certainly positive details within the report — especially the fact that private-sector job growth was revised upward by 18,000 from last month’s original estimate of 50K. Two consecutive up months with a revision is a strong suggestion of overall improvement.

But as is now sadly usual, the overall employment number makes no sense. It’s down nearly 10 percent from November’s 9.8 percent, which is amazing — but over the course of those months, only 300,000 new jobs have been created, which shouldn’t have been enough on its own to shrink the employment rate at all. Indeed, as Jim Pethokoukis, the great economics columnist for Reuters (and COMMENTARY contributor), mentioned on Twitter this morning: “The labor force participation rate went nowhere — unchanged. So we are still dealing with a shrunken jobs market.” In other words, the percentage of able-bodied Americans of working age who are actually working did not improve at all.

There are two possible explanations. The first is that the unemployment rate comes from one survey and the jobs-creation rate comes from another, and they’re not in alignment. Of course, the fact that they’re not in alignment means that either one of them is untrustworthy or they both are, in which case we shouldn’t be discussing them at all (except that the markets study them carefully, and so they have an effect on the economy even if they’re garbage). Since the unemployment rate is determined through survey data — essentially, a poll, though a very large one — it is worrisome to note that yesterday, Gallup’s poll indicated an unemployment rate over 10 percent, which was a significant increase over its finding from the previous month.

The other explanation is that we are yet again showing the effects of long-term unemployment, with people simply dropping off the job map altogether. That shrinks the number of Americans the government survey says are out of work, because the number of Americans actively looking for work has declined. The pool shrinks, and so does the unemployment number. But in that case, except for allowing for some feel-good spin, that 8.9 percent number is meaningless — it does not capture the true unemployment picture, and politicians who believe it does are liable to make mistakes if they think the trend lines are uniformly positive.

Of course, if the economy is really growing, eventually the employment picture will improve, because American businesses will have more customers with more disposable income and more fellow businesses that need to produce more goods for export. That’s why Dave Kansas of the Wall Street Journal is particularly bullish on today’s report. But then what to make of the fact that last year’s fourth-quarter GDP number was revised downward this week, to 2.8 percent from 3.2 percent? To be sure, that’s still growth, but it means that these February figures might indicate an economy that is only now reaching the growth point we thought it had reached at the beginning of the year.

It’s all very confusing; the one takeaway is that America’s economic condition at the present moment is ambiguous. We’re growing, but not much, and the workforce is shrinking.

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Bill Gates on Government Budget Gimmicks: ‘Enron Would Blush’

I have been arguing for quite some time (at least since I first wrote Hamilton’s Blessing, a short history of the national debt, in 1997 — when the debt was only a third of what it is today) that as long as governments can keep their books as they please, there will be no solution to the problem of chronic government budget deficits. Accounting causes near instant MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over) in most people — and in the entire political press corps — so unless governments are constrained by law, politicians know that they can get away, in the short term, with budget gimmicks to hide deficits. And of course, in the long term, it will be someone else’s problem. Budget gimmicks are easy, saying no to political allies is difficult, so budget gimmicks it will be until fiscal disaster looms.

Frankly, it’s been a lonely position to take. I can’t remember reading a single editorial or hearing a single sound bite calling for honest accounting by governments. Until yesterday. That’s when Bill Gates spoke out on the issue.

“It’s riddled with gimmicks,” Mr. Gates said of the “tricks” states use to balance their budgets. Citing moves such as selling state assets and deferring payments, he said some methods are “so blatant and extreme,” that “Enron would blush,” referring to the energy company that collapsed a decade ago amid an accounting scandal.

Gates thinks that governments “need more scrutiny and should follow more-transparent accounting principles, such as those used by Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp.” In other words, governments, like every corporation in the country, should be required to keep their books according to the governmental equivalent of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and to have their books certified by an independent, politically insulated body that has a mandate to ensure honest accounting.

Politicians will hate the idea and can, undoubtedly, depend on their water bearers in the press to run interference for them. Corporate management hated the idea when Wall Street forced it on them over a century ago. But they learned to live with it, to the infinite benefit of the American economy, and so will the politicians, also to the infinite benefit of the American economy.

I have been arguing for quite some time (at least since I first wrote Hamilton’s Blessing, a short history of the national debt, in 1997 — when the debt was only a third of what it is today) that as long as governments can keep their books as they please, there will be no solution to the problem of chronic government budget deficits. Accounting causes near instant MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over) in most people — and in the entire political press corps — so unless governments are constrained by law, politicians know that they can get away, in the short term, with budget gimmicks to hide deficits. And of course, in the long term, it will be someone else’s problem. Budget gimmicks are easy, saying no to political allies is difficult, so budget gimmicks it will be until fiscal disaster looms.

Frankly, it’s been a lonely position to take. I can’t remember reading a single editorial or hearing a single sound bite calling for honest accounting by governments. Until yesterday. That’s when Bill Gates spoke out on the issue.

“It’s riddled with gimmicks,” Mr. Gates said of the “tricks” states use to balance their budgets. Citing moves such as selling state assets and deferring payments, he said some methods are “so blatant and extreme,” that “Enron would blush,” referring to the energy company that collapsed a decade ago amid an accounting scandal.

Gates thinks that governments “need more scrutiny and should follow more-transparent accounting principles, such as those used by Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp.” In other words, governments, like every corporation in the country, should be required to keep their books according to the governmental equivalent of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and to have their books certified by an independent, politically insulated body that has a mandate to ensure honest accounting.

Politicians will hate the idea and can, undoubtedly, depend on their water bearers in the press to run interference for them. Corporate management hated the idea when Wall Street forced it on them over a century ago. But they learned to live with it, to the infinite benefit of the American economy, and so will the politicians, also to the infinite benefit of the American economy.

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Arming the Rebels Without Flooding the Black Market with Libyan Arms

C.J. Chivers of the New York Times has an article today on the dangers of Libyan arms winding up on the black market, where they could make their way to terrorist groups. On the surface this might seem to be an argument against arming rebel groups fighting Qaddafi’s cruel rule. In actuality, it is the opposite.

The primary danger Chivers warns about is the proliferation of “manpads” — man-portable surface-to-air missiles like the Soviet-made SA-7 that at least one Libyan rebel was seen carrying in a photo. But no one proposes supplying the Libyan rebels with Stingers or the like. Clearly, that would be a very dangerous thing to do, and it would not be necessary if we were to impose a no-fly zone.

If we or our allies do supply any arms to the rebels surely it would be infantry weapons like assault-rifles and machine guns, which are in any case freely available all over their world. Their sale even into the wrong hands probably would not appreciably change the terrorist threat to the U.S. and our allies one way or the other. But if they tip the balance of the fighting in favor of the rebels, such arms could end the civil war faster — and thereby bring closer the day when central authority can be reestablished in Libya.

That is the only way we are going to prevent looting of Libya’s weapons stockpiles, which reportedly include chemical weapons. Those are definitely weapons we don’t want to fall into the wrong hands. And the best way to avert that outcome is to hasten Qaddafi’s long-overdue departure from power.

C.J. Chivers of the New York Times has an article today on the dangers of Libyan arms winding up on the black market, where they could make their way to terrorist groups. On the surface this might seem to be an argument against arming rebel groups fighting Qaddafi’s cruel rule. In actuality, it is the opposite.

The primary danger Chivers warns about is the proliferation of “manpads” — man-portable surface-to-air missiles like the Soviet-made SA-7 that at least one Libyan rebel was seen carrying in a photo. But no one proposes supplying the Libyan rebels with Stingers or the like. Clearly, that would be a very dangerous thing to do, and it would not be necessary if we were to impose a no-fly zone.

If we or our allies do supply any arms to the rebels surely it would be infantry weapons like assault-rifles and machine guns, which are in any case freely available all over their world. Their sale even into the wrong hands probably would not appreciably change the terrorist threat to the U.S. and our allies one way or the other. But if they tip the balance of the fighting in favor of the rebels, such arms could end the civil war faster — and thereby bring closer the day when central authority can be reestablished in Libya.

That is the only way we are going to prevent looting of Libya’s weapons stockpiles, which reportedly include chemical weapons. Those are definitely weapons we don’t want to fall into the wrong hands. And the best way to avert that outcome is to hasten Qaddafi’s long-overdue departure from power.

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London School of Economics’s Ties to Libya the Tip of the Iceberg for Academia

The Director of the London School of Economics, Sir Howard Davies, has resigned after fresh revelations of LSE ties to Libya emerged on Thursday morning. The LSE was already under intense fire for taking a donation of 1.5 million pounds from Qaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam, who studied at LSE and — it appears — may also have plagiarized his thesis. The straw that broke the LSE’s recalcitrant back was a WikiLeaks cable that revealed that U.S. diplomats were told by Libya’s “National Economic Development Board” that it was cooperating with “the UK government and the London School of Economics, among other UK institutions, on an exchange program to send 400 ‘future leaders’ of Libya for leadership and management training.”

First, the obvious point: this is disgusting, but the close links between Libya and the LSE were no secret. They should have been shocking — heck, they should never have been made — long before Qaddafi started killing civilians and importing mercenaries to keep his hold on power. This is the kind of moral quagmire that practicing a policy of “engagement” lands you in — even if, in reality, it came down to nothing more than LSE’s wanting the money. The next time someone starts telling me about the moral superiority of academia, I know exactly what I am going to say. Read More

The Director of the London School of Economics, Sir Howard Davies, has resigned after fresh revelations of LSE ties to Libya emerged on Thursday morning. The LSE was already under intense fire for taking a donation of 1.5 million pounds from Qaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam, who studied at LSE and — it appears — may also have plagiarized his thesis. The straw that broke the LSE’s recalcitrant back was a WikiLeaks cable that revealed that U.S. diplomats were told by Libya’s “National Economic Development Board” that it was cooperating with “the UK government and the London School of Economics, among other UK institutions, on an exchange program to send 400 ‘future leaders’ of Libya for leadership and management training.”

First, the obvious point: this is disgusting, but the close links between Libya and the LSE were no secret. They should have been shocking — heck, they should never have been made — long before Qaddafi started killing civilians and importing mercenaries to keep his hold on power. This is the kind of moral quagmire that practicing a policy of “engagement” lands you in — even if, in reality, it came down to nothing more than LSE’s wanting the money. The next time someone starts telling me about the moral superiority of academia, I know exactly what I am going to say.

Second, and slightly less obviously, the U.S. is implicated too. The Guardian reports that Michigan State is home to a similar, if smaller, program of training future “Libyan leaders.” Musa Kusa, Libya’s foreign minister and the second most powerful man in Libya after the Qaddafi family, got his master’s degree in sociology from MSU in 1978, which is probably no coincidence. But apparently, MSU is not the only American university specializing in the instruction of future oppressors: the Guardian claims that other schools are also involved. I hope some enterprising journalists get their shoes on.

Third, this is only the tip of a massive iceberg. My friend Robin Simcox at the Centre for Social Cohesion in London has done stalwart work unearthing the extent of foreign funding in British academia. Not surprisingly, funding from the Middle East and China — especially the latter — dominates his work. But the amount of money in Britain is nothing compared with the funds sloshing around in the American academy from dictatorial regimes in the Middle East and elsewhere. Georgetown’s reliance on Saudi money is notorious, but it’s simply one of the crowd. I would love to be a fly on the wall at any elite U.S. university with a Middle Eastern Studies program now: administrators across the country know that what happened at LSE could happen here. And it should.

Of course, it’s not always about the money. As Michael Rubin has noted, Yale has clamped down on free speech thanks, in part, to fear of reprisals from Islamists. Sometimes, though, the problem is even more subtle. One of Yale’s 2010 World Fellows — its pallid imitation of the Rhodes Fellowship — was Lumumba Di-Aping. He had, at least in Yale’s eyes, the merits of having served his country as a diplomat at the Copenhagen climate-change conference. But his country is Sudan, a terrorist, genocidal state. Another Fellow was May Tony Akl, from Lebanon — she’s a leading figure in a party allied with Hezbollah.

They are that “next generation of global leaders” — to quote my alma mater — that sunk Sir Howard’s career. Didn’t anyone, at any of these universities, feel any disgust when they toadied up to these terrorists, dictators, murderers, and servants of criminal regimes? Apparently not. Well, now it’s time for them to reap what they have sowed.

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ROTC Returns to Harvard but Still Missing from Some Ivy League Campuses

The lifting of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has already paid one major dividend: Harvard has now agreed to a return of ROTC on campus after more than 40 years. The move is mainly symbolic, since ROTC cadets at Harvard will continue having to go to MIT to train, but its significance is hard to overstate. It is a small but important step to bridge the widening chasm that has grown up since the Vietnam War between the military and the citizens it protects — especially the elites who run our country but who seldom have served in uniform. (A failing to which I plead guilty as well.)

Now it is high time for other elite institutions that have been dragging their feet — that means you, Columbia; you too, Stanford — to invite ROTC back on campus. And it is equally important for the armed forces to accept the invitation.

You would think the military would be eager for entree to our best campuses, but not so. Military recruiters know that their best bets are at large public universities in the South and Midwest; they will attract comparatively few recruits in the Ivy Leagues while having to commit scarce resources to the effort. This is the reason why the Army, for instance, has said it will not send ROTC back to Columbia even if invited to do so and why so far Naval ROTC is the only program being established at Harvard. I can understand the viewpoint of the services but believe they are being parochial. The symbolic importance of reestablishing a connection with our top-tier universities should outweigh the cost of the commitment.

The lifting of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has already paid one major dividend: Harvard has now agreed to a return of ROTC on campus after more than 40 years. The move is mainly symbolic, since ROTC cadets at Harvard will continue having to go to MIT to train, but its significance is hard to overstate. It is a small but important step to bridge the widening chasm that has grown up since the Vietnam War between the military and the citizens it protects — especially the elites who run our country but who seldom have served in uniform. (A failing to which I plead guilty as well.)

Now it is high time for other elite institutions that have been dragging their feet — that means you, Columbia; you too, Stanford — to invite ROTC back on campus. And it is equally important for the armed forces to accept the invitation.

You would think the military would be eager for entree to our best campuses, but not so. Military recruiters know that their best bets are at large public universities in the South and Midwest; they will attract comparatively few recruits in the Ivy Leagues while having to commit scarce resources to the effort. This is the reason why the Army, for instance, has said it will not send ROTC back to Columbia even if invited to do so and why so far Naval ROTC is the only program being established at Harvard. I can understand the viewpoint of the services but believe they are being parochial. The symbolic importance of reestablishing a connection with our top-tier universities should outweigh the cost of the commitment.

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