Free Markets, Free People

Foreign Affairs

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How not to fight the problem of ISIS

If, in fact, you believe that Marie Harf was winging it and stating her own opinion about Islamic extremists (oh, wait, “frustrated job seekers”) needing jobs, etc., get a load of Sec. of State John Kerry:

“Why do people make what to many of us would seem to be an utterly wrongheaded choice and become the kind of terrorists that we’re seeing?” he asked. “It’s a question that we need to approach with humility, but also with determination, because you cannot defeat what you don’t understand.”

“Certainly, there is no single answer,” Kerry continued. “In our era, poisonous ideas can come from almost anywhere – from parents, teachers, friends, preachers, politicians – from the pretty woman on a radical website who lures people or the man in the next cell who proselytizes while in prison.

“They might grow from pictures seen on the nightly news or from acts of discrimination or repression that you don’t think much about on the day of occurrence, but which come back to haunt. It could come from the desire to avenge the death of a loved one,” he said.

“In some cases, they may come from a lost job or from the contrast between one family’s empty dinner plate and a fancy restaurant’s lavish menu. The poison might even come from within, in the form of rebellion against anonymity, the desire to belong to a group, people who want a moment of visibility and identity, or the hunger for black-and-white answers to problems that are very complex in a remarkably more complicated world.”

In general, he has a point. Depending on the problem, people are motivated by all sorts of things to become part of that problem.  And it makes sense to remove that motivation.  Figuring that out is how you put a strategy to defeat the problem.

Specifically, however, it isn’t at all hard to figure out what motivates ISIS and THAT is the problem we face today.

The motivator? Islam.  The “holy texts”.  The desire for the Caliphate set up under precise rules set out by Islam’s founder.  That is why they fight.  That’s why they do what they do.

Sometimes you just have to apply Occam’s razor for heaven sake.

So, to recap: what motivates those who proclaim ISIS and the Caliphate is their religion.  That’s it.  How they were “radicalized” is less important than the fact that they were and are now a threat.  And understanding what motivates that threat is how you put together a strategy to defeat them.

Instead we get this institutional load of liberal angst that, for the most part, is nonsense.  Why can’t they bring themselves to face and name the problem? They don’t have any problem in identifying “right-wing domestic terrorists”  Why not religious terrorists?

As I said, it certainly makes sense to remove the “underlying cause” of the problem … if that’s possible.  But if we think we can somehow be a credible force in doing that, we’re wrong.  We – the US, Europe, the West – aren’t in any position to do that since we are identified as the enemy of everything they hold dear.  More importantly, it has nothing to do with jobs or dinner plates.  It is a religious movement.

So when you finally realize that attacking the “underlying causes” of something like ISIS is a fool’s errand, what should you do?

Well, this will be unpalatable to some out there who have been raised in the “precious princess” society we’ve enabled, but you have to “go medieval” on them.  You have to obliterate them.  You have to make it not worth pursuing their fantasy and something that those who might choose it decide to reject.

Jobs won’t do that.  Dropping packages of money on them won’t do that.  They have the job they want and they’re the richest terror organization going.

What we have to do is systematically and completely destroy them – root and branch – by using everything reasonable at our disposal.  Now, I understand that’s sort of difficult with a religious death cult, but I’d bet, once the reversals started and the ISIS death toll rose, the marginal jihadis would think twice about joining up.  Right now, there’s little downside.

Bottom line? If you want to stop the “pretty woman on the radical website” from having an impact,  destroy her story so thoroughly that she can’t spin her web of lies credibly anymore – and then take down her freakin’ website.

But as long as we try to avoid naming the problem and take half-measures while wringing our hands like a bunch of old women, the problem will both persist and get worse.

And trying to lay the load of “nuanced” crap Kerry pushed out there on the problem of ISIS avoids naming the problem and thus identifying a workable strategy which certainly guarantees it will persist.

Anyone who is surprised by that simply hasn’t been paying attention.  After all, look who is in charge.

~McQ

Doubling down on stupid

That’s what Ms. Harf did yesterday (see below), after she caught flak all over the place for her absolutely clueless argument concerning ISIS and … jobs.  Appearing with Wolf Blitzer, here’s how it went down:

When Wolf Blitzer observed that the poverty-breeds-terrorism theory is hopelessly flawed and that high-profile attackers like Osama bin Laden and Mohamed Atta were relatively comfortable and privileged, Harf declined to acknowledge his point. Though she issued an emphatic “absolutely” so as to convey that she was, in fact, listening to Blitzer and understood the words that were coming out of his mouth, she instead plunged into a pre-canned attempt at damage control as her response:

“If we looked around the world and say long-term we cannot kill every terrorist around the world nor should we try, how do you get at the root causes of this?” she asked. “Look, it might be too nuanced of an argument for some like I’ve seen over the past 24 hours some of the commentary out but it’s really the smart way for Democrats, for Republicans, military commanders, our partners in the Arab world think we need to combat it.”

There’s really no other way to interpret that. If you don’t think that statements like “we can’t kill our way out of this war” and asserting that ISIS militants “lack opportunity for jobs” oversimplifies the crisis in the Middle East, Harf does not believe that you are her intellectual equal.

Good lord, Ms. Harf – sometimes it is better to remain silent and be perceived a fool instead of opening your mouth and removing all doubt.  Nuanced?  Nuanced?!

It is a stupid and uninformed argument.

Stupid!  Uninformed!

Sorry, I’m not feeling a “nuanced” rebuttal is warranted.

As Noah Rothman concludes:

That she would flatter herself into believing that she had spoken over the nation’s heads reflects the hubris that explains her insultingly naïve belief that this abhorrent ideology can only be defeated by an army of career counselors.

Indeed.

~McQ

ISIS doesn’t need killing. They need jobs!

To describe our State Department (and it’s spokes person) as boneheaded is an insult to boneheaded people.  Here’s State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf and, of all people, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: How do we stop this? I don’t see it. I see the Shia militias coming out of Baghdad who are all Shia. The Sunnis hate them. The Sunnis are loyal to ISIS rather than going in with the Shia. You’ve got the Kurds, the Jordanian air force and now the Egyptian air force. But i don’t see any — If i were ISIS, I wouldn’t be afraid right now. I can figure there is no existential threat to these people. They can keep finding places where they can hold executions and putting the camera work together, getting their props ready and killing people for show. And nothing we do right now seems to be directed at stopping this.

HARF: Well, I think there’s a few stages here. Right now what we’re doing is trying to take their leaders and their fighters off the battlefield in Iraq and Syria. That’s really where they flourish.

MATTHEWS: Are we killing enough of them?

HARF: We’re killing a lot of them and we’re going to keep killing more of them. So are the Egyptians, so are the Jordanians. They’re in this fight with us. But we cannot win this war by killing them. We cannot kill our way out of this war. We need in the medium to longer term to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups, whether it’s lack of opportunity for jobs, whether —

MATTHEWS: We’re not going to be able to stop that in our lifetime or fifty lifetimes. There’s always going to be poor people. There’s always going to be poor muslims, and as long as there are poor Muslims, the trumpet’s blowing and they’ll join. We can’t stop that, can we?

HARF: We can work with countries around the world to help improve their governance. We can help them build their economies so they can have job opportunities for these people…

Good grief, these people don’t want better “governance” and they’ve got the job they want … building the Caliphate.  For heaven sake when are these ass-clowns going to wake up?

I’m again going to recommend an article that does the best analysis and explanation of ISIS that you’re going to find.  It is very clear that those who rally to the ISIS banner think they’re building a righteous future with the Caliphate and that what they’re doing is preordained by their religion.

But the fools who run this country and our foreign policy – that would be the White House and State Department – are terrified of facing the threat and calling it what it is.  It’s absurd and cowardly.  It makes them come up with the sorts of pitiful nonsense that Harf is told to go out and spread.

This is a religious movement which is based, at its very core, on Islam.  It is as religious a movement as you can get.  In fact, as explained in the Atlantic article I’ve pointed you too, it is based in a literal interpretation of Islam’s holy book and its history.  Let me hit you with that one particular quote again:

The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.

Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal.

Note what the author points out – that “pretending it isn’t actually religious … has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it.”

See above!  Harf is just a symptom of the idiocy and cowardice that infests our highest levels of government.  When you refuse to actually identify the enemy and his motivation, you cannot hope to devise and develop a plan to counter his threat.  History is littered with the failure such nonsense brings.  Chamberlin thought Hitler could be reasoned with and would keep his word.  He was clueless.  And, as such, he developed a “strategy” that was an abject failure and, in fact, played right into Hitler’s hands.

Obama and Kerry are no different.  They refuse to face the reality of the threat.  That’s why we have no strategy, or at least no strategy (patience?  really?) that will counter the threat.  What they are doing is cowardly and reprehensible, not to mention being derelict in their sworn duties.  This is unacceptable, but then neither Obama nor Kerry have ever been mistaken as leaders.

And when you elect or appoint people with no leadership experience and no real world experience, you get this.  Something 50% of the idiots who live in this country approve of (sorry, I’m a little grumpy today).

~McQ

 

Stray voltage

More subjects than one can conveniently throw a stick at … so we’ll throw several sticks.

Have you seen the latest Brookings Institute poll on Obama’s “greatness” as a President?  It is interesting.  They decided to poll the American Political Science Association.  Their “consensus”?

First, President Obama ranks 18th overall, but beneath the surface of the aggregate figures lurks evidence of significant ambivalence. For example, those who view Obama as one of the worst American presidents outnumber those who view him as one of the best by nearly a 3-1 margin. Similarly, nearly twice as many respondents view Obama as over-rated than do those who consider him under-rated.

Well there you go.  Even a liberal leaning think tank polling liberal leaning academics can’t manage to put lipstick on a pig.  18th overall?  Hilarious.

Remember we were told that Iraq was “poorly thought out” and that “armed intervention” was a mistake?

Wouldn’t it be interesting if someone applied the same standard to Libya?  Yesterday we got to see what some of the result of that awful decision when 21 Coptic Christians were beheaded by ISIS.  And the White House reaction?

The United States condemns the despicable and cowardly murder of twenty-one Egyptian citizens in Libya by ISIL-affiliated terrorists.

Can’t even get up the gumption to identify who the “Egyptians citizens” were.  They weren’t beheaded for being Egyptians, folks.

We call on all Libyans to strongly reject this and all acts of terrorism and to unite in the face of this shared and growing threat.  We continue to strongly support the efforts of the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General Bernardino Leon to facilitate formation of a national unity government and help foster a political solution in Libya.

Because, you know, Obama and the boys kind of broke the last government.

Meanwhile in Oregon, the Democratic governor resigns in disgrace, a victim of corruption in the “green energy” field.

It is a safe bet that Kitzhaber’s implosion has sent the rest of the nation’s Democratic governors, and even a few officeholders in Washington, scrambling to review their affairs. It is the very nature of green energy that its unprofitability ensures that it is only viable in the marketplace if it is subsidized at taxpayer expense. The political class’ favorability toward clean energy and the media’s deference to the project of green technology have created the perfect conditions where corruption can thrive.

Leftist billionaire Tom Steyer is deeply implicated in all of this.  I wonder if he’ll get the “Koch brothers” treatment by the media.

You can read on when you stop laughing hysterically.

Oh, and here’s another in a long line of damning reports about ObamaCare.

On another subject, I’m old enough to remember friends crippled by polio and the “iron lung”:

“We are at a stage where people have no memory of just how dangerous pathogens used to be. There is no visceral fear of viruses and bacteria. Children in wheelchairs as a result of polio are a thing of the past because the United States has been polio free since 1979 as a result of vaccines. The only people I’ve ever met who were hobbled by damage from polio were older than me. . . . I do not expect an innumerate and unscientific public to become more trusting of medical organizations that support vaccination. In some communities herd immunity has already been lost and it will be lost in more other communities. This trend will continue until an old disease comes sweeping thru and racks up lots of damage and fatalities.”

On the other hand, the government has reported for 40 years that cholesterol was going to kill us and then, recently said, “never mind”.  But they still want us to believe their science about “global warming”.  That said, one small pox plague and I’d bet everything would change.  Its hard to be fearful when you’ve never had to live with the results of awful afflictions like polio.   I remember that being the greatest fear of many parents.  Now, well, now they don’t even give it a second thought.  That’s because of a vaccination, for heaven sake.  Same with small pox.  But then anti-vaxxers are using the same sort of science that warming alarmists do, so you shouldn’t be particularly surprised.

Meanwhile in Wisconsin (not surprisingly, Madison, WI) 30 homes were spray painted with anti-Semitic graffiti.  My guess is the White House would characterize the act as “a random act by some juvenile delinquents”.  I’m still in awe of the spineless characterization of the victims in the Kosher Deli in Paris as some “folks” in a random incident.  But then, this is the same administration that for years characterized the Ft. Hood shootings as “workplace violence”, so it really isn’t a big surprise.  Back in Madison, don’t even begin to believe that the vandalism will ever be classified as a hate crime.  That is reserved for favored minorities only.

Graeme Wood (read the whole thing) lays the wood to the cowardly among us who can’t find it in themselves to identify the enemy and the enemy’s foundation:

The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.

Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal.

Meanwhile, at the State Department and White House …

~McQ

If you’re a pacifist, it helps if everyone else is too

That’s the hard lesson Japan’s Prime Minister is learning:

When Islamic State militants posted a video over the weekend showing the grisly killing of a Japanese journalist, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reacted with outrage, promising “to make the terrorists pay the price.”

Such vows of retribution may be common in the West when leaders face extremist violence, but they have been unheard of in confrontation-averse Japan — until now. The prime minister’s call for revenge after the killings of the journalist, Kenji Goto, and another hostage, Haruna Yukawa, raised eyebrows even in the military establishment, adding to a growing awareness here that the crisis could be a watershed for this long pacifist country.

“Japan has not seen this Western-style expression in its diplomacy before,” Akihisa Nagashima, a former vice minister of defense, wrote on Twitter. “Does he intend to give Japan the capability to back up his words?”

Japan has been a pacifist country by declaration, pretty much forced into that position by the United States after WWII.  But Japan, if its history is any indication, isn’t a pacifist country by tradition.

And, of course, it is easier to be a “pacifist” nation when you’re essentially protected by GreatPower.  Japan has enjoyed that luxury for almost 70 years.

That’s enough time to begin to believe you can be a pacifist nation and survive.  But, as the title indicates, that’s a dream reality won’t support unless certain unlikely conditions are sought.  It’s a bit like demanding that guns be banned with the belief that if law abiding citizens are prohibited from carrying weapons, criminals too will refrain from using them.   Or unilateral nuclear disarmament.  If you destroy your nukes, well, the other guy has an huge bit of leverage hasn’t he?

No country today can afford to be “pacifist” in this world.  Those organizations and countries like ISIS would love that.  It would be like a homeowner putting a sign in their window that says “this is a gun free house”.  Why not send an engraved invitation to those who look for situations like that to criminally exploit?

Like most ideals, while nice to contemplate and certainly wonderful to wish for, reality simply doesn’t look kindly on unrealistic ideals nor does it deal gently with those who try to practice them foolishly.

Japan is emerging from a long sleep in which they were able to indulge themselves in their dream.  But with China rattling sabers and looking at least regionally expansionist, North Korea in the hands of a mad man and the US showing little or no leadership nor inclination to back Japan like it has in the past — dreamtime is over.

It’s time for them to embrace the suck and do what is necessary to survive and thrive in it.

~McQ

The sad state of the union

Richard Epstein analyzes the performance of Barack Obama as President of the United States, and unsurprisingly, finds it wanting.

In working with matters overseas, the President must lead.  The most that one can expect of Congress is to authorize or ratify the actions that the President must implement. Presidential leadership, announced in a single and decisive voice, is essential, for no one can expect a deliberative body to take the lead in foreign statecraft. On domestic affairs, the opposite stance is appropriate. It is wise in general to look to the Congress to take some leadership in setting basic social and economic policies. But the President gets this division of labor exactly backwards. He is far too passive on foreign affairs and far too meddlesome on domestic ones, which is why his policies in both domains have failed.

A very succinct statement of Obama’s failure.  That leadership thing again … he isn’t one.  And he has no idea how to deal within the political reality of a 3 branch government … even though he was, allegedly, a legislator and Constitutional scholar.  He’s spineless when it comes to the part of the governmental pie that is his pretty exclusively (i.e. foreign policy) and a petulant child in matters concerning domestic affairs using his “pen and phone” to accomplish his goals (goals that are likely to be dismantled at the first opportunity a new president has) rather than working in the prescribed system.

Epstein goes on:

Starting on the foreign policy side, Obama’s policies are driven by the flawed proposition that “smarter” leadership lies in building coalitions that “combine military power with strong diplomacy.” This position, he said in his State of the Union, pays concrete dividends: “In Iraq and Syria, American leadership—including our military power—is stopping ISIL’s advance. Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group.” 

It is all wishful thinking. Militarily, it is never enough to stop an advance if it allows the enemy to use the breathing space to entrench itself further in the places that are under occupation. Obama’s word choice of “ultimately” allows for endless equivocation and delay. The odds of putting together an effective coalition without demonstrable leadership are slim to none, for the President’s only firm commitment—not to use ground troops ever against ISIL—signals to our allies that they too can discharge their obligations by flying the occasional sortie against ISIL positions.

The President may think that it has been an accomplishment to reduce over the past six years the number of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan from close to 180,000 to under 15,000. But to everyone else, the civil disorder attributable to American disengagement signals that America is not an ally to be trusted.

The President therefore grossly miscalculates when he concludes that “The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.” Unfortunately, the facts on the ground show the opposite. Right now the President is bogged down in negotiations with the Iranians over their deployment of nuclear weapons. Little visible progress has been made to date.

And there’s very little incentive for the Iranians to actually cooperate.  It’s all about stalling and buying time.  Meanwhile, Russia and Iran have signed a military pact.  Any guess who has already lost to Iran and just doesn’t know it yet?  It appears at least Congress does and is trying to do something about it (and yes, it’s supposedly outside the scope of their charter, however, Mr. Pen and Phone has declared how he plans to operate … why not Congress.  As someone said, ‘it’s like there are no rules anymore’).

Originally, the President supported at most a six-month moratorium on sanctions in order to lead the Iranians to the bargaining table. Yet when faced with their stalling tactics, he has pleaded for additional time, thus backing away from his explicit promise to keep a firm deadline for making a deal and vowing to veto any legislation that tries to firm up the initial position. Congress may well intervene to keep him to his original word. Generally, this kind of interference is most unwise, but the bipartisan unhappiness on the Iran problem reveals a complete and bipartisan breakdown in trust between Congress and the President.

That’s probably as interesting as anything – even Democrats in Congress have had their fill of Obama’s foreign policy incompetence.  Bottom line?

The President, through his foreign policy, has lost the confidence of his allies across the globe and has emboldened the aggressive behavior of our enemies. Lacking confidence in the United States, our allies will have to fend for themselves, which helps explain the hopeless impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and the recent coup in Yemen, to which a few drone attacks are no response. There is also the strong likelihood that Afghanistan will lapse into further violence. It boggles the mind that the President can gloss over such massive failures with empty platitudes.

Indeed. But then “empty platitudes” are one of his few “strengths”.  Naturally, he’s full of them.

Domestically:

The situation on the domestic front is different. On these issues, the President knows that none of his short-term proposals are likely to get through a Republican Congress that is set against further tax increases and government transfer payments. But he nonetheless charges forward in an effort to build a populist political base that will perhaps in time enact most of his program.

But politics aside, the President wholly fails to understand the importance of economic growth in his relentless attack on economic inequality. The difference between these two programs is striking. A growth-program seeks to expand the size of the overall pie, trusting that the able and hardworking people whom the President lauds will be able to garner their share of the pie. The key point here is that gains from growth are sustainable because no firm has any incentive to back away from employment contracts that work to its own advantage. The hands-off policy thus improves economic incentives and reduces administrative overhead at the same time.

None of this makes the slightest impression on the President, who has concluded that his own brand of “middle-class economics works.” At one level, he is surely correct to insist that everyone “gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.” But it hardly follows that the way to make “working class families feel more secure” is to ply them with a set of educational, housing, and health care subsidies, all of which have to be paid for by someone else, whose life is made less secure by the constant threat of ad hoc government intervention.

This is the cognitive dissonance we often note with leftists in power.  They may be quite bright intellectually, but economically, most are illiterate.  Nothing is “free” … someone pays for it.  And 90% of the time those paying for it are in the middle class.

Then there are the big lies they push in an effort to make themselves look better in the eyes of the public, even though fact don’t support their claims.  Not that it stops them from continuing to claim success.  For instance:

He speaks about the 11 million jobs created since the depths of the last recession. But his claim is full of holes. Right now, the total number of employed individuals in the United States is about what it was six years ago, notwithstanding a population gain of over 15 million people. Worse still, virtually all the gain in employment has come from part-time employment, which is encouraged in part by the Obamacare mandate that stipulates that employers must provide health care insurance for those who work 30-hours a week or more—a topic on which the President was mysteriously silent in his State of the Union address.

So what happens when you begin to believe your own lies?  You make stupid decisions or you back stupid policies:

Unfortunately, the President has already proposed an increase in the capital gains tax to 28 percent for people who earn more than $500,000 in order to fund a variety of educational programs, chiefly by offering a free ride to students who attend community colleges and maintain a 2.5 average, which he hopes would hone skills needed for middle class jobs, but which is more likely to lead to grade inflation. But the argument is wrong on both sides. Proprietary schools are more likely to train people for jobs than community colleges, because they face market responses when they don’t perform. The President’s program thus increases government subsidies without any promise or expectation of improved performance.

Yet the increase in the capital gains tax creates a double whammy. The first point is that the reduction in capital investment that this tax promises will make it more difficult for wages to rise. The simple proposition here is that capital and labor are complementary goods, so that higher wages depend on the better facilities and equipment that makes labor more productive. The second point is that the increase in capital gains rates is likely to translate into a reduction of taxable income. Unlike income from earnings, the capital gains tax is only triggered by a sale or other disposition of property. The high tax results in a reduction of the number of sales. That in turn not only decreases tax revenues, but also the efficiency of the capital markets, because it is more costly for people to switch their investments from inefficient to efficient firms.

And that’s why this man should be no where near the White House.

But we told you all that before he ever ran.

~McQ

Clint Eastwood nailed it when he portrayed Obama as an empty chair

I’ve said for 6+ years that the man in the White House was not a leader.  He’s never been a leader.  And this weekend he again demonstrated to the world that leadership is not something of which he has even an inkling of understanding.  This weekend, at a gathering of 3 million in the French capital, 40 leaders of various countries stood with those people and symbolically said “no” to terrorism, intimidation and murder and “yes” to free speech.  They demonstrated leadership.   They demonstrated political courage.  They did what leaders do.

And where was our President?  Or Vice President?  At home with nothing on their schedules … that’s where.  Showing up in Europe and doing what leadership demands was apparently something they couldn’t figure out.

Leadership takes, no, requires courage.  This weekend we saw a display of diplomatic and political cowardice (and I don’t buy the “threat was too great” – apparently it was acceptable to the Israeli PM).

Oh, we’ll see them scramble now to try to turn this around and to their advantage, but it is clear to those of us who’ve actually been leaders that we lack one in the White House.  It’s a pitiful but representative example of why this man should never have been elected to the Illinois Senate much less to the presidency of the United States.

He voted “present” as a state senator and this weekend he voted “present” as the President of the United States.

Shameful.

~McQ

Meanwhile in Africa

Ebola continues to ravage the western part of the continent:

Yet another set of ominous projections about the Ebola epidemic in West Africa was released Tuesday, in a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that gave worst- and best-case estimates for Liberia and Sierra Leone based on computer modeling.

In the worst-case scenario, Liberia and Sierra Leone could have 21,000 cases of Ebola by Sept. 30 and 1.4 million cases by Jan. 20 if the disease keeps spreading without effective methods to contain it. These figures take into account the fact that many cases go undetected, and estimate that there are actually 2.5 times as many as reported.

If that’s the case, then containment would seem all but impossible.

However, if it is able to be contained and everything goes to plan, there is a “best case” scenario:

In the best-case model — which assumes that the dead are buried safely and that 70 percent of patients are treated in settings that reduce the risk of transmission — the epidemic in both countries would be “almost ended” by Jan. 20, the report said. It showed the proportion of patients now in such settings as about 18 percent in Liberia and 40 percent in Sierra Leone.

Unfortunately, best case scenarios rarely if ever come to pass.  They assume too much goes well with “the plan”, communication, cooperation, behavior and many other human activities, and rule out people acting on misinformation and self-interest contrary to the “best case” scenario’s plan.  That’s not to say epidemic can’t eventually be contained … or burn itself out.  It’s to say betting on the “best case” scenario puts you at odds with human nature.

There’s another reason not to expect the “best case” scenario.  The agencies who are spouting all the stats really don’t know the actual extent of the outbreak:

The World Health Organization acknowledged weeks ago that despite its efforts to tally the thousands of cases in the region, the official statistics probably “vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak.”

And:

The report does not include figures for Guinea because case counts there have gone up and down in ways that cannot be reliably modeled.

The point?  We’re going to hear a lot of happy talk about how the world’s effort is going to contain this outbreak and, at least for a while, they’re going to point toward the best case scenario as their goal.  And it is a worthy goal.  But you have to remember that as with many government or quasi-government bureaucracies, their worth is measured in how successful they are – or report they are.  It’s how they receive funds.  So the propensity is to “happy talk” and favorable stats.  And, as we’ve all learned with “climate change”, models can be monkeyed with.

As an example of why the best case scenario is unlikely, the plan for containment relies on “effective methods” to contain it – such as treatment centers  where patients go and allow the problem to be isolated.  But in reality, there aren’t enough beds to do that:

At least one aid group working in Liberia is already shifting its focus to teaching people about home care and providing materials to help. Ken Isaacs, a vice president of the aid group Samaritan’s Purse, said, “I believe inevitably this is going to move into people’s houses, and the notion of home-based care has to play a more prominent role.” He said there could be 100,000 or more cases by the end of 2014.

“Where are they going to go?” Mr. Isaacs asked. “It’s too late. Nobody’s going to build 100,000 beds.”

He’s right. And so isolation, a key portion of “the plan”, is put in severe jeopardy.

Key take away?  Beware of all the happy talk.  This isn’t a time for propaganda and misleading stats.  But we are dealing with bureaucracies, spokespersons and the like.  This is a time for honest, above-board information so the public can stay informed about something that could threaten their lives.

Let’s see what we actually get.

~McQ

The march of the mimes

Walter Russell Meade does a great job of summing up the impact of yesterday’s “March of the Usual Lefty Organizations” in the name of taxing us into poverty with a carbon tax:

Street marches today are to real politics what street mime is to Shakespeare. This was an ersatz event: no laws will change, no political balance will tip, no UN delegate will have a change of heart. The world will roll on as if this march had never happened. And the marchers would have emitted less carbon and done more good for the world if they had all stayed home and studied books on economics, politics, science, religion and law. Marches like this create an illusion of politics and an illusion of meaningful activity to fill the void of postmodern life; the tribal ritual matters more than the political result.

And he’s precisely right.  Besides being the usual collection of leftist professional protesters sprinkled with clueless pols and celebrities, nothing of note is going to change at the UN Climate Summit.  Nothing.  The outcome of that is, as they say, “already written in the books”.

The world’s largest emitters are declining to show up, even for appearances. The Chinese economy has been the No. 1 global producer of carbon dioxide since 2008, but President Xi Jinping won’t be gracing the U.N. with his presence. India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi (No. 3) will be in New York but is skipping the climate parley. Russian President Vladimir Putin (No. 4) has other priorities, while Japan (No. 5) is uncooperative after the Fukushima disaster that has damaged support for nuclear power. Saudi Arabia is dispatching its petroleum minister.

China, however, has found a wonderful new way to forever avoid any responsibility for reducing its output.  It has become the “champion” for the poor and underdeveloped countries of the world and is helping put forward their demands:

China led calls by emerging economies on Friday for the rich to raise financial aid to the poor as a precondition for a United Nations deal to combat global warming.  “When the financing is resolved, this will set a very good foundation to negotiate a good agreement,” China’s chief negotiator Xie Zhenhua told delegates from about 170 nations. Xie said developed nations, which have promised to raise aid to $100 billion a year by 2020, should have legally binding obligations to provide finance and technology to emerging economies, along with legally binding cuts in emissions.

Well of course the “rich nations” should … because that would have them pay China and India – two of the biggest carbon producers around.  So China has, in effect, made an offer they must refuse, because leaving out the two largest carbon producers is sort of self-defeating, isn’t it?  And anyway, we should pay for our “rich nation privilege”, shouldn’t we?

Meanwhile, Dr. Steven Koonin makes the point of saying what is clearly the truth in an op-ed in the WSJ – the science of climate change is not settled science.  In fact, it’s not even close.  Dr. Koonin, by the way, was the undersecretary for science in the Energy Department during Obama’s first term.  So this isn’t some right-wing ideologue spouting off, but a serious scientist.  Interestingly, he makes hash of the reliability of the climate models:

The models differ in their descriptions of the past century’s global average surface temperature by more than three times the entire warming recorded during that time. Such mismatches are also present in many other basic climate factors, including rainfall, which is fundamental to the atmosphere’s energy balance. As a result, the models give widely varying descriptions of the climate’s inner workings. Since they disagree so markedly, no more than one of them can be right.

And we’re still looking for that one model that is right … but remember, it is on the basis of those models that this entire “scare” or alarmism finds its roots. Make it a point to read the entire Koonin piece.

But never fear as our fearless leader will be in NY to address the UN summit (most likely a rushed speech between fund raisers and golf).  Not that it will have any effect or make any difference.  But in his mind, it will be “action”.  In reality, it’ll be another example of him again being outplayed on the world stage.

~McQ

Islam and the West: The problem in a nutshell

An interesting article I think you’ll want to read.  At least I found it interesting.  It discusses the foundations of Islam and why, essentially, it is really not a “religion of peace”.  In fact, as the author argues, as much as the West would like the name of the religion, Islam, to mean “peace”, in fact it means “submit”.  We’ve talked here before about the need of a reformation in Islam to reorient it away from violent jihad and to a religion that actually preaches and practices “peace”.  The outlook isn’t very promising.  Here’s one reason:

The Qur’an contains many peaceful and tolerant verses, and these could well be used to create a genuine reformation — something several genuine reformers have tried to do. But there is a catch. All these moderate verses were written in the early phase of Muhammad’s career, when he lived in Mecca and had apparently decided to allure people. When he moved to Medina in 622, everything changed. He was soon a religious, political and military leader. During the next ten years, as his religious overtures were sometimes not welcomed, the peaceful verses gave way to the jihad verses and the intolerant diatribes against Jews, Christians and pagans. Almost all books of tafsir take for granted that the later verses abrogate the early ones. This means that the verses preaching love for all are no longer applicable, except with regard to one’s fellow Muslims. The verses that teach jihad, submission and related doctrines still form the basis for the approach of many Muslims to non-believers.

One problem is that no one can change the Qur’an in any way. If the book contains the direct word of God, then the removal of even a tiny diacritical mark or a dot above or beneath a letter would be blasphemy of the most extreme kind.[2] Any change would suggest that the text on earth did not match the tablet in heaven — the “Mother of the Book,” much as Mary is the Mother of Christ — that is the eternal original of the Qur’an. If one dot could be moved, perhaps others could be moved, and before long words could be substituted for other words. The Qur’an itself condemns Jews and Christians for having tampered with their own holy books, so that neither the Torah nor the Gospels may be regarded as the word of God. The Qur’an traps us by its sheer unchangeability.

And, as he points out, the most “modern” interpretation does anything but put Islam in a “moderate” context:

Regrettably it is impossible to re-interpret the Qur’an in a “moderate” manner. The most famous modern tafsir, or interpretation, of the holy book is a multi-volume work entitled, In the Shade of the Qur’an. It was written by Sayyid Qutb (d. 1966), the Muslim Brotherhood ideologue often regarded as the father of modern radicalism. His interpretation leads the reader again and again into political territory, where jihad is at the root of action.

So that seems to be where we stand.  Here, however, is the problem that confronts the West:

The besetting sin of modern Western politicians, church leaders, and multiculturalists is their ready acceptance of ignorance and their promotion of their own ignorance to the rank of expertise. Islam is one of the most important topics in human history, but how many schoolchildren are given details such as the ones mentioned above in their history classes? How many textbooks paint an honest picture of how Islam began and how it continued as a background to how it continues today?

Furthermore, how many real experts are denied contact with government and politicians so that lies are not made the basis for governmental decisions in the West? How many times will truth be sacrificed to fable while Muslim extremists bomb and shoot and behead their way to power?

These facts do not come from modern Western accounts; they are there in the founding texts of Islam, in the histories of al-Waqidi and al-Tabari. No-one is making any of this up. Muslims who avoid their own history should be brought face to face with it in all future discussions.

But, of course, that isn’t what is happening is it?  We’re told over and over again that Islam is a religion of “peace” by those in the West who would rather believe that than confront the awful fact that its own founding documents portray anything but a peaceful religion — not to mention its history.  For instance, were you aware that it is estimated that “between sixty and eighty million Hindus may have been put to death during the centuries of invasions by Muslim armies from 1000 to 1525.”  That’s Stalin and Mao territory.

If you can’t or won’t deal truthfully with the problem, how can you ever expect to confront it successfully?  When you remain in denial and you let the practitioners of the religion also deny the truth, how does one “reform” anything? And what does the continuous denial portend for the West in the not to distant future?

~McQ

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