I was on a national radio program earlier this afternoon that appears on NPR stations. The topic was the Occupy Wall Street Movement and its progeny, and the guest included Occupy protesters from Chapel Hill and Tulsa, a reporter from The Nation magazine, and a historian of social movements from Vanderbilt University.
Let’s just say my critique of the various Occupy movements was in the minority. (The host was fine and fair enough, though I suspect not terribly sympathetic to my views.)
Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has shown his true colors. A dozen visits by Arlen Specter, and repeated chats with John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi simply didn’t get him to see the light. Instead, he is currently slaughtering his own people–today reportedly has been the bloodiest day in recent weeks.
Yet, Western news anchors report about his growing isolation, symbolized most recently by Syria’s suspension from the Arab League. Still, Assad doesn’t seem to be getting the message he should step down. Perhaps he would have dragged his feet anyway, but there needs to be some serious introspection within the Obama administration: Defense Secretary Panetta removed pressure by ruling out any military force. Even if none was contemplated, there really was no reason to tell Assad that. More importantly, Assad knows he only has to wait another six weeks and then he’s home free. When the last American troops depart from Iraq, there will be little impediment to Iranian resupply of their beleaguered ally.
Alas, Obama’s triumph–the abandonment of Iraq, a country whose partnership he seems to dismiss because of latent Bush Derangement Syndrome–is already having a far greater effect than the White House or State Department are willing to admit.
Rick Perry’s poll numbers have been slipping by the day, so he needed a bold, last-ditch proposal to stay in the race. And during his “Uproot and Overhaul Washington” speech today, he laid out several:
Exactly two years after Seth Lipsky, author of The Citizen’s Constitution: An Annotated Guide, described the impending passage of Obamacare as a “constitutional moment,” the Supreme Court decided to review Obamacare’s constitutionality, allocating five and a half hours for oral argument — an indication of the seriousness of the moment.
At the time Lipsky made his observation – four months before Obamacare was enacted – many thought an enumerated powers challenge unlikely, given the Court’s expansive reading of the Commerce Clause since it acquiesced in FDR’s New Deal about 70 years ago. But six appellate courts have now struggled with the issue, producing conflicting opinions totaling 654 pages. The latest acknowledged a “troubling” fact: not only is the Obamacare mandate unprecedented, but if upheld there is no “limiting principle” (watch Elena Kagan try to address the “Broccoli” hypothetical here) that would preclude government-mandated purchases of things such as Obamacars, government bonds, etc.. As the D.C. Circuit noted:
With the collapse of faith in Herman Cain’s ability to serve as commander-in-chief rapidly spreading, those seeking a conservative alternative to Mitt Romney as the Republican presidential nominee are running out of options. Realists understand the Newt Gingrich boomlet will end the day the public starts taking the prospect of the former Speaker of the House seriously as a potential nominee, and that despite his financial resources, Rick Perry’s campaign is as dead in the water as that of Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum. That leaves Romney, the man many on the right despise as a RINO, in a strong position to cruise to a certain if not quite easy victory.
That leaves some of them not just grumpy but predicting defeat for Republicans if they succumb to the moderate temptation. As Thomas Sowell writes today on RealClearPolitics, a Romney nomination is a guarantee of Republican defeat in November 2012 in much the same way that Bob Dole and John McCain’s candidacies ensured Democratic wins in 1996 and 2008. But the assumption that Romney will duplicate those defeats may be off the mark.
The first sentence in a Wall Street Journal article published today on Israel’s efforts to deal with illegal immigration from Africa via its border with Egypt describes Israel as “a country established to absorb Jewish refugees after World War II.” In its small way, this phrase points to the essential problem of a century of Zionist advocacy in the United States.
This problem was evident in the career of Louis Brandeis, the first prominent American Jewish advocate for Zionism. Already a famous lawyer when he assumed leadership of the Zionist movement in the United States in 1914 (a reputation that would bring him to the Supreme Court in 1916), he gave the movement a tremendous boost in American renown and credibility.
Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee released some jaw-dropping emails this morning, which point to more shady dealings between the Obama administration and Solyndra. The golden quote from the email exchange is when one Solyndra adviser puzzles over why the Obama administration was so intent on the company postponing layoffs until after election day, 2010 – “They did push very hard for us to hold our announcement of the consolidation to employees and vendors to Nov. 3 – oddly they didn’t give a reason for that date,” the adviser wrote, in a message to a Solyndra investor.
On Nov. 3, 2010, Solyndra announced it would lay off 40 workers and 150 contractors and shut down its Fab 1 factory. The [Department of Energy] agreed to continue giving Solyndra installments of its federal loan despite the company’s failure to meet key terms of the loan, and in February restructured its loan to give investors a chance to recover $75 million in new money they put into the company before taxpayers would be repaid.
Since the Iranian regime has already declared that no one will dare use force to stop Tehran’s genocidal drive for nuclear weapons, presumably this spectacle was just organized for the sheer hateful fun of it. It’s the apocalyptic chanting that makes the stunt particularly delightful:
Hundreds of students on Tuesday formed a human chain around the uranium conversion plant in central Iran, in a demonstration staged by students to show that Iranians were ready to sacrifice their lives if the nuclear sites were attacked by Israel… After holding a noon prayer session in front of the plant’s main gate, students from Isfahan universities shouted “Death to Israel” and “Death to America.” They vowed to resist in the event of an attack.
President Obama has decided to go for the hat-trick.
In September, Obama told an interviewer Americans have “gotten a little soft.” That was followed by a fundraiser in San Francisco where Obama said that “we have lost our ambition, our imagination, and our willingness to do the things that built the Golden Gate Bridge.” And over the weekend at an APEC conference in Honolulu, speaking to CEOs, President Obama said this: “But you know we’ve been a little bit lazy I think over the last couple of decades. We’ve kind of taken it for granted – ‘Well, people will want to come here’ — and we’re not out there hungry selling America and trying to attract new businesses into America.”
As Occupy Wall Street protesters attempt to reclaim Zuccotti Park after it was cleared out by police yesterday, the radical magazine that first inspired the movement is recommending a way for Occupiers to save face while retreating (via Verum Serum):
STRATEGY #2: We declare “victory” and throw a party … a festival … a potlatch … a jubilee … a grand gesture to celebrate, commemorate, rejoice in how far we’ve come, the comrades we’ve made, the glorious days ahead. Imagine, on a Saturday yet to be announced, perhaps our movement’s three month anniversary on December 17, in every #OCCUPY in the world, we reclaim the streets for a weekend of triumphant hilarity and joyous revelry. …
Then we clean up, scale back and most of us go indoors while the die-hards hold the camps. We use the winter to brainstorm, network, build momentum so that we may emerge rejuvenated with fresh tactics, philosophies, and a myriad projects ready to rumble next spring.
Do Palestinians long for peace in the same way as Israelis? That’s an assumption many of those who blame Israel for the lack of a solution to the Middle East conflict consider to be self-evident. But while advocates for concessions to the Palestinians have always been a vocal part of Israel’s political culture, the absence of a “Peace Now” faction on the Palestinian side or even a more moderate faction that deplored terrorism has highlighted the difference between the two societies.
A recent feature in the Washington Post attempted to debunk this notion by pointing to a group of young Palestinians who offer an alternative to mainstream factions. But as Elliot Jager pointed out in an excellent piece in Jewish Ideas Daily, the idea that this is the start of a Palestinian “Peace Now” is way off the mark.
Finally, the Bloomberg administration moved in on the “Occupy Wall Street” encampment in Lower Manhattan. The response this morning has been nothing short of hilarious. The police made it clear what they were doing, told everybody what was happening, and were met with yells and heckles and some resistance. Dozens of arrests ensued, and one thing is for certain, which is that the cops devoutly hoped they could do this with as few arrests as possible, because arresting these protestors is a huge and pointless hassle for them. Journalists complained that, in the darkness of the night, the police weren’t providing them with proper freedom to cover the event. Yes, that is what happens when hundreds of cops have to enter an enclosed space and remove its inhabitants and their garbage when they won’t do it themselves, while attempting simultaneously to protect everybody around them from a potential riot and protecting themselves against attack. (One cop was injured when someone threw something at him. Because, you know, that cop is part of the 1 percent.)
Needless to say, in the finest tradition of New York leftism, Occupiers went judge-shopping—plaintiffs in New York city and state courtrooms have a wondrous ability to find themselves ideologically compatible judges—and found themselves a doozy to issue a temporary restraining order—which was sort of pointless, since the clearance of the park had already taken place and since the Bloomberg administration, playing a rare game of hardball, made it clear immediately afterward that they would simply keep the park empty if that was how the judge was going to play it. The judge’s name is Lucy Billings, and here is what she said of herself in 2009:
If your desire to be rescued depends on who is doing the rescuing, it’s fair to question how seriously you take your current predicament. Yet that is precisely the conundrum with which the Greek public is wrestling. With its economy failing, threatening to bring down the euro and trigger a cascade of failing European sovereign banks, Greece (egged on by a few neighbors) seems consumed with the specter of a rising Germany as the price of national solvency.
As GlobalPost reports (with the sensational headline “Is a German ‘Fourth Reich’ emerging?”), German Chancellor Angela Merkel is proposing that if the EU is going to bail out sinking economies, it should have an expanded role in individual European economic policymaking. Of course, when it comes to economic affairs these days, “EU” really means “Germany.” And that’s too much for Europeans with a long memory:
The following is from our November issue. Forty-one symposium contributors were asked to respond to the question: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about America’s future?
The big question is whether America can continue to lead the world.
If we can’t, our future looks awfully grim. Either the world slips into chaos or another country—China?—takes the lead. Imagine that within the next decade, North Korea threatens Japan or Iran gets set to attack Israel or Pakistan falls completely apart. Will the United States be able to decide what to do—and have the authority to do it, with or without a coalition of the willing?
Global leadership has two requirements: one moral, the other economic. On the moral side, America’s will to lead seems to be slipping away, with the growing attraction of isolationism (to both parties); and on the flip side of that coin, multilaterism for its own sake. The superficial success of the lead-from-behind strategy in Libya doesn’t help. Waiting for the Arab League or the United Nations to step out first could easily become American custom and policy, especially at a time when we’re so preoccupied with domestic economic matters. The moral requirement for leadership is, of course, a function of desire and priority in a nation’s leader. But the zeitgeist counts, and right now, it bodes ill.
Which brings me to the second requirement of leadership. Today’s moral and political atmosphere is heavily determined by the state of the economy, and, in the short term, the U.S. economy is lousy. Typically, the economy snaps back like a rubber band: bad recessions are followed by strong recoveries. That hasn’t happened. But even worse is the long-term picture. Economists forecast growth in the 2-to-2.5-percent range as far as the eye can see. That’s a full percentage point lower than the post–World War II average. Living standards will still rise, but at a snail’s pace. The danger is that we won’t have the wealth to lead or, worse, we won’t have the confidence, in a crisis, to believe that we should spend what we must now, with the certainty that we can pay for it later, as we did in World War II. Read More
The enthusiasm for Obama on college campuses has waned significantly since 2008, a fact that finally gets noticed by the New York Times. Polls have already been showing the decline, but the Times backs this up with interviews with students, who are now more concerned with finding jobs in the stagnant economy than with volunteering for Obama’s reelection campaign:
Ms. Guerrero said that she did not blame Mr. Obama for the 13.4 percent unemployment rate that has gripped this state, and that she was still likely to vote for him. But as she looks to graduation this June and her job hunt ahead, the emotion she feels is fear, and she cannot imagine having the time or spirit to work for Mr. Obama.
“I don’t think I could do it anymore,” she said. “That campaign was an amazing experience. But I don’t think I’m in the same mind-set anymore. He hasn’t really addressed the young people, and we helped him to get elected.”
Apologists for the Obama administration will spend the next year touting U.S.-Israel security cooperation in an effort to bolster the Democrat’s re-election chances. But a report in the Guardian this past weekend about the breakdown of communication between the two countries on the most important issue facing them undermines that talking point.
According to the Guardian, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak both refused to reassure Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that Israel would consult with the United States first before launching an attack on Iran’s nuclear sites. Panetta, who did the Iranians a favor last week by pouring cold water on the idea of a U.S. strike on their nukes, wanted a guarantee from the Israelis that they would ask America’s permission before acting. But though there was no confirmation such an Israeli campaign is being planned, Panetta did not get his guarantee. The reason for this is so clear that even Jeffrey Goldberg, who has served as one of the president’s chief cheerleaders on the question of his pro-Israel bona fides, understands what is going on: the Israelis simply don’t trust Obama.
Here’s a link to an interview with Herman Cain on Libya. It’s painful to watch –worse, in some respects, than Rick Perry’s “oops” moment in last week’s debate. There’s no need to pile on Cain, whose campaign is in the early stages of a collapse. Let me instead make a point about the importance of competence and professionalism in politics.
Let me rise in defense of the “establishment.”
The Obama administration has not exactly been a profile in courage when it comes to Syria. It took many months of protests before the administration shifted from viewing Bashar al-Assad as a force for stability and a negotiating partner to denouncing him as an illegitimate ruler. U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford has been courageously outspoken in denouncing Assad even while more senior administration figures have been cautious and generally quiet. But even with Ford withdrawn from Damascus because of death threats, the momentum of events continues to accelerate against Assad.
The Arab League’s decision to suspend Syria for its egregious human rights violations; Turkey’s increasingly anti-Assad stance; the statements of Jordan’s King Abdullah calling on Assad to step down; the European Union’s decision to levy fresh sanctions–all are tightening the pressure on Assad. And all the while, existing sanctions continue to bite deeper and deeper into the Syrian economy.
The death of Hassan Moqaddam in a blast at a military base in Iran last Saturday will continue to intrigue Western media.
Iran’s official version is that the IRGC top missile man died alongside 16 other soldiers due to an accidental explosion, as ammunition was being moved around. This may very well be – and speculation that Moqaddam was the victim of a hit job by some Western intelligence is, currently, just that: speculation. But the information about this incident, though scant, begs the question. If this was just a bunch of soldiers moving ammunition cases from point A to B, why was the explosion so powerful that it was heard all the way to Tehran? And, even more intriguingly, why would a senior commander and the IRGC top missile expert be doing that menial job along with conscripts?
Bloggers are already billing this as Herman Cain’s “oops” moment, but I’m not so sure. Yes, it’s bad – lots of long awkward pauses as Cain appears to frantically scour his brain for rehearsed lines on the topic. But to really be appalled by this you’d also have to take Cain seriously enough on foreign policy to find it surprising. To his credit, he is able to correctly identify Qaddafi as Libya’s former leader, and by the end he seems to recall that we’ve had a military intervention there. Expectations, met.
Beyond that, what made Rick Perry’s moment so awful was more the setting than the actual stumble. If you’re going to forget a point, you’re much better off doing it during an interview with a regional newspaper than in the middle of a nationally televised debate.