Free Markets, Free People


Has the world fallen out of love with Obama?

Mort Zuckerman, editor-in-chief of US News and World report writes a blistering piece that certainly seems to indicate that’s the case. Zuckerman says the world sees Obama as “incompetent and amateur” and that on the world stage he is “well-intentioned but can’t walk the walk”. That’s a nice way to say he’s a lightweight in an arena where only seasoned heavyweights prosper.

Zuckerman’s opinion is not one to be taken lightly. He was a huge Obama backer. He voted for him. His newspaper, the NY Daily News, endorsed him and was enthusiastic in his support of the Obama candidacy.

Now, 16 months into his presidency, he’s obviously very disappointed in his choice. And, it would appear, has come to understand that which he didn’t know or didn’t bother to find out about Obama at the time – that he has no leadership skills or abilities and is, in fact, more of an academic than a Commander-in-Chief.

Zuckerman is a keen and long time observer of American foreign policy, and as such he has the ability to compare and contrast what American foreign policy has seemed like under different presidents and under this one. He begins his critique of Obama by saying he actually inherited a “great foreign policy legacy enjoyed by every recent US president.”

Of course to hear Obama talk about it you’d think he’d been handed the worst mess in the world. But even assuming that, what has Obama done? Not much – and that’s beginning to become evident to the rest of the world. Says Zuckerman:

Yet, the Iraq war lingers; Afghanistan continues to be immersed in an endless cycle of tribalism, corruption, and Islamist resurgence; Guantánamo remains open; Iran sees how North Korea toys with Obama and continues its programs to develop nuclear weapons and missiles; Cuba spurns America’s offers of a greater opening; and the Palestinians and Israelis find that it is U.S. policy positions that defer serious negotiations, the direct opposite of what the Obama administration hoped for.

So success in the field that is exclusively the President’s has been elusive. Then there’s Obama the “leader”:

The reviews of Obama’s performance have been disappointing. He has seemed uncomfortable in the role of leading other nations, and often seems to suggest there is nothing special about America’s role in the world. The global community was puzzled over the pictures of Obama bowing to some of the world’s leaders and surprised by his gratuitous criticisms of and apologies for America’s foreign policy under the previous administration of George W. Bush. One Middle East authority, Fouad Ajami, pointed out that Obama seems unaware that it is bad form and even a great moral lapse to speak ill of one’s own tribe while in the lands of others.

Seems to be common sense to the rest of us, yet it is hard for anyone, even his most ardent supporters, to deny he’s engaged in more of that than any useful diplomacy.

Zuckerman also notes something I commented on months ago. He has no personal relationship with any of the world’s leaders. And that is critical to success in foreign diplomacy:

In his Cairo speech about America and the Muslim world, Obama managed to sway Arab public opinion but was unable to budge any Arab leader. Even the king of Saudi Arabia, a country that depends on America for its survival, reacted with disappointment and dismay. Obama’s meeting with the king was widely described as a disaster. This is but one example of an absence of the personal chemistry that characterized the relationships that Presidents Clinton and Bush had with world leaders. This is a serious matter because foreign policy entails an understanding of the personal and political circumstances of the leaders as well as the cultural and historical factors of the countries we deal with.

His meeting China was also a disaster and he was treated almost disrespectfully there. And he’s all but deep sixed our “special relationship” with the UK and certainly isn’t much loved by Sarkozy of France. Don’t even begin to talk about Israel.

These sorts of problems and perceptions have an effect in international affairs. A perfect example?

Recent U.S. attempts to introduce more meaningful sanctions against Iran produced a U.N. resolution that is way less than the “crippling” sanctions the administration promised. The United States even failed to achieve the political benefit of a unanimous Security Council vote. Turkey, the Muslim anchor of NATO for almost 60 years, and Brazil, our largest ally in Latin America, voted against our resolution. Could it be that these long-standing U.S. allies, who gave cover to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran’s nuclear ambitions, have decided that there is no cost in lining up with America’s most serious enemies and no gain in lining up with this administration?

So they go their own way in the absence of US leadership. This week, Russia’s President Medvedev criticized the US for placing additional sanctions on Iran, above and beyond the UN’s rather pitiful ones.

Obama has been a foreign affairs disaster to this point, and as Zuckerman points out, this has sent a very clear message to many of those out there who wish us ill as well as those who count themselves as allies:

America right now appears to be unreliable to traditional friends, compliant to rivals, and weak to enemies. One renowned Asian leader stated recently at a private dinner in the United States, “We in Asia are convinced that Obama is not strong enough to confront his opponents, but we fear that he is not strong enough to support his friends.”

I think at this point, that’s a perfectly defensible and accurate assessment. This is why I continue to say that there are some pretty heavy storm clouds brewing on the international horizon. US leadership is seen as missing or weak – a perfect time for those who take advantage of power vacuums to step forward and make their particular grabs for power.

Don’t be surprised to see it happen soon.


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Is The No-Fly List Unconstitutional?

I have an article up at The Washington Examiner that explores whether or not the rights of Yahya Wehelie are being violated. Mr. Wehelie has essentially been deported from the U.S. without any charges being brought against him, nor any due process whatsoever:

Yahya Wehelie, 26, said Wednesday that after landing at the airport in Cairo in early May, he was told he would not be able to board his connection to New York and would have to go to the U.S. Embassy for an explanation. Embassy officials later told Wehelie and a younger brother with whom he was traveling that they would have to wait for FBI agents to arrive from Washington.


Wehelie, who was born in the United States to Somali immigrants, said U.S. officials took his old passport and issued him a new one that was good only for a one-way trip to the United States. But, he said, he was also informed by an FBI agent that he cannot board any plane scheduled to enter U.S. or Canadian airspace, leaving him in a kind of limbo.

You can read my take at The Washington Examiner.

As an aside, is there any doubt that if this had happened during the Bush administration that the hue and cry from the MSM would have been deafening?

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Donkey, symbol of Democratic Party, blown up in Gaza

Hey, it got your attention, didn’t it?

And yes a donkey did get blown up in Gaza and no, it wasn’t the doing of the Republicans (well, not that we know of). They’d most likely have blown themselves up.


A small Syrian-backed terrorist group in Gaza said its activists blew up a donkey cart laden with explosives close to the border with Israel on Tuesday, killing the animal but causing no human casualties.

Abu Ghassan, spokesman for the terrorist group, said more than 200 kilograms of dynamite were heaped on the animal-drawn cart. He added that the explosives were detonated 60 meters from the concrete security barrier that separates the territory from Israel.

Is anyone else noticing how inept most of these terror attempts are becoming?  The Christmas Day bomber burns his own crotch out but fails to blow up the airplane he’s on.  The Times Square bomber fails in his attempt to explode a propane bomb in the city as planned.

And now we have the donkey bombers.  200 kg’s of explosives, laboriously smuggled into Gaza, rigged for explosion and they kill … a donkey.

They ought to stick with what they do best, for heaven sake – like torching UN run summer camps for children. They seem to be quite good at that. Maybe it’s the lack of armed opposition they find invigorating. Or terrifying children. Who knows?

The one thing I do know is threatening and terrifying children and blowing up donkeys will not be a topic of conversation among the useful idiots at the next “Free Palestine” meeting on a campus near you soon.


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Why is Janet Napalitano still Secretary of DHS?

Tim Cavanaugh wonders if her latest utterances (not much different than her previous ones) are enough to finally get her fired?  I don’t know, but to say I have no confidence in her abilities would be an understatement.  Every time she has opened her mouth to comment on a security situation, she’s been wrong.  As Cavanaugh notes, that’s a reason to be concerned:

But it’s more than a joke because not all the people making those wildly wrong claims about Shahzad’s background and motivation were pundits or minor potentates like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The “one-off” attack line came from the highest official in the American government charged with preventing attacks exactly like Shahzad’s: Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

It was her department which released the confidential memo, essentially a republishing of the scare-mongering Southern Poverty Law Center’s dubious assessment of supposed right-wing hate groups, in which DHS warned against “returning veterans” being a threat.  It has appeared, at least to many, that she is more concerned about the possibility of a domestic, right-wing problem than facing the facts that the recent threats and failed bombing attempts have all come from international Islamic terrorists.

This is an obvious politicization of her office. (Napolitano’s favored targets — health care protesters and disgruntled veterans — are distinguished not by their propensity toward violence but by their opposition to the administration.) But if you believe in the necessity of a Department of Homeland Security, every day Napolitano is in charge of it creates an actual risk to life and property. Napolitano has a positive burden of proof: She needs to demonstrate some understanding of how to do her job, or she needs to be fired, for the security of the United States and the safety of the American people.

I have to agree – at every opportunity she’s downplayed the real and emphasized that which hasn’t materialized yet. She seems, like much of the left, to be obsessed with the possibility of domestic right-wing violence with little or no evidence of its existence.  That speaks to me as politicizing the problem based on an agenda.  We don’t need a politically driven hack in the highest domestic security position in the nation.  Perhaps it’s time for President Obama to say “heckofa job, Nappy” and help her transition into a less demanding profession – that of a retired politician, or perhaps a political science professor at a backwoods college somewhere in the NorthEast.


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Quote of the Day – The Taliban did it edition

Apparently – even after the Taliban of Pakistan claimed responsibility in a video recorded before the bombing attempt in Times Square – the US finally believes they were involved:

“We’ve now developed evidence that shows that the Pakistani Taliban was behind the attack,” [Attorney General Eric] Holder said during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.”


“We know that they helped facilitate it,” the attorney general said. “We know that they probably helped finance it. And that he was working at their direction.”

Well there you go.  We also know that they’re either lousy bomb makers or lousy teachers or both, as well — thank goodness.   The other thing to remember is this attempt wasn’t thwarted – it failed.

Just like the “underpants bomber”.


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Why is it so important that we believe the Times Square bomber acted alone?

Or perhaps a more precise questions is, “why does it appear the government would prefer we believe the Times Square bomber acted alone?”

Does it somehow make this all much less threatening? Frankly, if true, it makes it even more threatening to me. Or is it because if they deny connections to other terrorists and insist on the “lone wolf” scenario (see Ft. Hood, see Arkansas, etc) they can deny “global terrorism” and not have to face questions about Islmaic jihad?

On the one hand we have:

No credible evidence has been found so far that the Pakistani-American man accused in the Times Square bombing plot received any serious terrorist training from the Pakistani Taliban or another radical Islamic group, six U.S. officials said Thursday.

“There is nothing that confirms that any groups have been found involved in this for certain,” one U.S. official told McClatchy. “It’s a lot of speculation at this point.”

Faisal Shahzad may have, at the most, had “incidental contact” with a terrorist organization, and he may have been encouraged to act, said one of the officials, who declined to elaborate further.

So he went broke here, let his house go into foreclosure, rounded up the family and headed back to Pakistan where he stayed 5 months, came back loaded with money and decided, on a whim to blow up Times Square. But we’re pretty sure that when this guy was hanging out in an area of Pakistan infested with Taliban and other terrorists, he had, at best “incidental contact” with a terrorist organization.

Now to be fair, the bomb he built says if he did indeed get training, whoever trained him wasn’t so great or he was one hell of a bad student – or both. But why did he come back alone and how did he make all that money it is reported he had?

And what about this report?

Investigators of the failed car bombing in Times Square are looking for a money courier they say helped funnel cash from overseas to finance a Pakistani-American’s preparations to blow up the crude gasoline-and-propane bomb in the heart of New York, a law-enforcement official told the Associated Press.

Investigators have the name of the courier who they believe helped Faisal Shahzad pay for the used sport utility vehicle and other materials to rig up a car bomb that would have caused a huge fireball in Times Square if it had gone off, the official told the AP. The official didn’t know how much money may have changed hands.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation.

So if he acted alone, is a “lone wolf” and only had “incidental contact” with a terrorist organization, whose name to investigators have and why are they trying to find him?

If you’re getting the feeling you’re not getting the whole picture (and there may be security reasons for that – we may be seeing a little disinformation going on here while they pursue other links. Or maybe not and what you’re seeing is how authorities would prefer to have it all spun) you’re probably right.


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Three reactions in the Arab press to the Times Square bombing attempt

First from “our friend” Egypt’s Al-Masaa which is the evening edition of the Egyptian government Al-Gumhouriyya.  They want to know what all the fuss is about:

“The huge fuss that the U.S. has been making since it announced the exposure of the attempted car bombing in Times Square… is truly outrageous. The U.S. has brought many charges against [the suspected perpetrator], including [involvement in] global terrorism and use of weapons of mass destruction.

“The U.S. seems to have forgotten that it is the world’s number one terrorist. If a couple of propane tanks, some fertilizer, and some fireworks count as WMDs, what do we call the terrible weapons employed by the U.S. in its attacks on the peoples of the world? …Since the Americans occupied the Iraqi city of Falluja in 2004 using phosphorus and depleted uranium bombs, there have been frequent cases of [women who] miscarry [because] their baby is  deformed…”

Yeah, so there, we deserve it, by George.  And by the way:

“And of course it was some country other [than the U.S.] that used WMDs against the Vietnamese people during the years of [its] occupation [there]. Three million Vietnamese are still suffering from the effects of those weapons, and deformed children are still being born there…”

Of course.  As an aside, Arab journalism isn’t noted particularly for having any foundation in truth telling, but it sure can be inflammatory.  Suffice it to say, though, this “journalist” is a bit obsessed with deformed babies and children.  Unless, of course, they might be walking through Times Square at the wrong time.  Then – no biggie.

Saudi Arabia may surprise you just a little.  This is from an editorial the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh:

“Even if the investigations have not yet uncovered which [group] Shahzad, who tried to explode a car [bomb] in Times Square, belonged to, this New York incident is one instance of insane delirium. Even if the [police] never get a lead on this attack, its ramifications for the entire Muslim world are deadly. This is because we are incapable of restraining the emotion of the [Western] peoples when they see sights that harm them – even if the U.S. administration headed by [U.S. President Barack] Obama is closer and more open to the Muslim world [than the previous U.S. administration]. Moreover, this attack has become a motive for criticizing Obama for his efforts at rapprochement with the Muslims.

“Another problem is that the ramifications of this affair will ignite enmity towards the Muslims and Islam worldwide…

So Obama is our friend, Western people are reactionaries and stuff like this will “ignite enmity towards Muslims and Islam worldwide.”  Well duh.  How often do you have to be attacked by people of a particular religion who cite their religion as the reason for the attack (among others) before you begin holding a little enmity toward those who are a part of it?

The editorial then offers a little bit of reality for the terrorists:

“Terrorism will exist as long as it has repositories of human and material supplies, and as long as there are forces, and perhaps even countries and organizations, that support [it]. [These elements should know] that even if [their] adversary is harmed [by terrorists,] he is [still] stronger and has greater capabilities to hunt them down and to start a war [against them]. This happens whenever a superpower [targeted by terrorism] needs to defend its national security.”

And, of course, that will happen as long as terrorists continue to attack it and its interests.  Human Nature 101.  But nice to see the point acknowledged.  Then perhaps the best paragraph in the editorial:

The Muslim world, including all its governments, institutions, and regimes, must condemn this [Times Square] incident – not out of sycophancy towards the U.S., but because our religion vehemently opposes such actions. Furthermore, if we deal with these events wisely and in accordance with our own interests, in order to protect the reputation of our religion and our collective conduct, this will prove to others that we are a society that hunts down terrorism of any kind whatsoever. It is not enough to reject terror on the grounds that the terrorists harm more Muslims than non-Muslims – because the principle [of opposing terror] is the same, whether [the target is] a foreign country, an Islamic country, or members of other religions.


In order to persuade the other nations [not to equate] Islam with the actions of the terrorists, we must prove that we are share the responsibility [for fighting terrorism], along with all the countries of the world and their peoples.”

Well said – and a welcome change.

Meanwhile, perhaps the most strange of the three comes from an Iraqi columnist living in the US and writing for He explains that most Muslims in the US have no feeling of loyalty to it and actually harbor feelings of hostility toward it instead.  He makes the argument that the US is too easy on suspected and potential terrorists and that in order to avoid future attack, the US needs to do a little “infringing” on Muslim human rights:

“America is home to about seven million Muslims. Most of them, even if they are not terrorists, do harbor hostility towards the U.S. and feel no loyalty to it. As an Arab and Muslim, [I tell you] that it is difficult to find a Muslim who loves America; those [who do] constitute a tiny minority among all those millions.

“The rationale and need to defend American security and protect [American] lives make it necessary to make sacrifices and infringe on the [existing] laws and charters of human rights. The Muslims must be subjected to the principle of collective suspicion. Individuals whose presence [in the country] causes concern or who have a potential to cause problems must be monitored, pursued and placed in preventive detention, which is not subject to time restrictions or require [the presentation of] evidence. They must [even] be stripped of their citizenship and deported.

He obviously supports profiling and Joe Lieberman’s “strip them of their citizenship” approach.  I know a lot of folks that share his vision of how to treat those like himself.

So there it is – a look at how some Arabs in the press view the Times Square bombing – the good, the bad and the ugly.


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Quote of the Day – Dumb politician edition

Why is it some politicians seem driven to speculate out loud about things of which they’re obviously ignorant?

NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg:

“If I had to guess, twenty five cents, this would be exactly that,” Bloomberg said. “Homegrown maybe a mentally deranged person or someone with a political agenda that doesn’t like the health care bill or something. It could be anything.”

As it turns out, his guess wasn’t worth two cents.  And it doesn’t appear to be “anything” – it appears to be the same old thing.


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Closing in on the Times Square bomber? (UPDATED)

Via ABC:

Federal authorities are closing in on the man they say is a person of interest in the Times Square car bomb attempt this weekend, who is described as a naturalized American citizen who hails from Pakistan and just returned after spending five months there.

There is growing evidence the bomber did not act alone and had ties to radical elements overseas, with one senior official telling ABC News there are several individuals believed to be connected with the bombing and that at least one of them is a Pakistani-American.

Attorney General Eric Holder said today the investigators had made “substantial progress” in tracking the man who drove a Nissan Pathfinder into New York’s Times Square with a crude bomb that failed to detonate.


OK, so they really were closing in on someone. According to NBC:

Authorities arrested a suspect in the attempted weekend car bombing in Times Square, NBC News’ justice correspondent Pete Williams reported early Tuesday morning.

A U.S. citizen of Pakistani descent, Shahzad Faisal, was arrested Monday night on Long Island, Williams reported.

Earlier, an official told The Associated Press that the potential suspect recently traveled to Pakistan. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the case was at a sensitive stage.

He seems like a helpful, chap, though, assisting the FBI by apparently leaving an email trail.

The officials said the man was a Connecticut resident who paid cash weeks ago for the SUV parked in Times Square on Saturday and rigged with a crude propane-and-gasoline bomb.

NBC’s Williams reported the man’s name was on an e-mail that was sent to the seller of the car last month, as well as other evidence suggesting he had a role in the attempted bombing.

And while he pulled the VIN plaque off the dashboard, he didn’t go through the trouble of removing the embossed VINs from the engine or axle.

Apparently this rocket scientist–always assuming the FBI has the right guy, and not another Richard Jewel–couldn’t have made himself easier to find if he’d dropped a yellow dye marker, and powered up a rescue strobe and homing beacon.

Interestingly, he appears to have been born and raised in Connecticut, although he is a fellow of Middle Eastern ethnicity.

So is there a desire to pin the carbombing attempt on domestic terrorism?

That’s kind of the message I’m getting concerning the attempt Saturday to detonate a VBIED near Times Square in NYC.

Now, I’ve watched the video of the alleged suspect.  I’m having a tough time with a description of “furtive” to describe his activities.  Yes, he pulled a sweatshirt off and went with the T-shirt below, but he didn’t seem hurried, or “furtive”.  He could have been hot though.

And I don’t get this:

Mayor Bloomberg said the planned mayhem did not appear to be the work of al Qaeda or any other large terror network.

Really? Why’s that? Because the alleged perpetrator was a balding white guy? The mayor really ought to consider the term “outsourcing” and its implications.

The bomb certainly was crude. Bags of fertilizer, propane tanks, fireworks and gasoline. I know enough about fertilizer bombs to know that leaving it in the bag isn’t the way to make a bomb. However, had the propane gone off, it would have definitely had the potential to create a mass casualty situation.

Add to that the Taliban leader’s claim – in a video made before the attempt on Times Square – that he was responsible (that is to say he “commissioned” the job) and it is hard for me, at this early date to rule out “al Qaeda or any other large terror network”.

But authorities sure do seem intent on trying to do exactly that. Unless they know alot more than they’re saying, it isn’t clear to me at all that you can rule anyone or any organization out.

In fact, even more evidence turned up today suggesting that the Taliban are, in fact, involved in targeting US cities:

Two tapes were sent today to The Long War Journal by a group identifying itself as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. The same group sent a link earlier today to The Long War Journal to a YouTube video of Qari Hussain Mehsud claiming that the Taliban carried out the failed May 1 car bomb attack in New York City’s Times Square.

The two Hakeemullah tapes consist of a videotape of Hakeemullah flanked by two masked fighters, and an audiotape with images of Hakeemullah superimposed over a map of the US with explosions in the background. In both tapes, Hakeemullah claimed that the Taliban have infiltrated the US and that their operatives would launch attacks in American cities.

The videotape was produced on April 4, while the audiotape was produced on April 19, according to Hakeemullah.

While I think it is entirely possible that the man seen leaving the SUV on Saturday is indeed a “middle aged, balding white man”, I also think it is entirely possible that the Taliban claims of responsibility are real.

If so, watch for other attempts in other cities soon. As for the ostriches out there – pretend this isn’t a larger plot by international terrorist organizations at your own peril. Such thinking can blow up in your face fairly quickly – no pun intended.


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