Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Observations: The QandO Podcast for 13 Feb 11

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the situation in Egypt, and CPAC.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

[ad#Banner]

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Egypt – Remember when the military taking over, dissolving Parliament and suspending the Constitution was a bad thing?

Just sayin’.  Because to hear some in this country, that’s the best thing that’s happened since sliced bread.  Yes, the euphoria over what is happening in Egypt that has gripped an element of the fairly naïve here in this country has been truly breathtaking to behold.

Don’t get me wrong – I’d like as much as anyone to see “democracy flower” and everyone live happily ever after as true statesmen come to the fore and deliver Egypt from the tyranny of dictators and forever ensure one man, one vote, representative government and government of, for and by the people.

I just don’t live in moon pony land.  That’s not to say it couldn’t happen, but it is to say that’s very unlikely to happen. 

Why?

Well let’s consider the facts concerning this benevolent military takeover.  It hasn’t taken over anything.  The military has been in defacto charge of the country since Nasser.

Yes, Mubarak is gone.  So what?  Who replaced him?  Omar Suleiman.  He’s a product of the military, Egypt’s intelligence chief and named in a 2007 diplomatic cable found in WikiLeaks as Mubarak’s “consigliore”.  He’s been in that position in 17 years and has been the main means of the Mubarak regime’s ability to oppress opposition.  He’s now serving on the “Armed Forces Supreme Council “.

And speaking of the Armed Forces Supreme Council, others who serve on it are Defense Minister (and Lt. General) Anan and the new Prime Minister (and Air Marshal) Shafiz – both very stalwart supporters of Hosni Mubarak.

This 18 member body has dissolved the Parliament, suspended the constitution and banned labor strikes.  And although it has promised elections in 6 months, well, that’s 6 months away, isn’t it?  We really have no idea if that Council really means to actually hold the election or will find ruling the state to be much more to their taste than turning it over to the rabble.

The military  – of all institutions – played this whole thing very well.  It was in charge but it pretended it wasn’t.  It took the side of the protesters, nominally, and removed one of its own to be replaced by 18 of its own.  What has happened is a very well done defusing of a volatile situation while in reality nothing much has changed in terms of who is in charge of government.

That’s not to say some things aren’t different – for instance, that well-known “secular” organization (according to our chief of intelligence) the Muslim Brotherhood (yup, real secular name there, skippy) is attempting to take advantage of the situation as well and has applied for status as a political party.

And it appears, despite reassurances to the contrary, that the MB is setting itself up to be another in a long line of theocratic parties that use elections (at least once) to legitimize their rule.   Read these two paragraphs carefully:

The Brotherhood’s charter calls for creation of an Islamic state in Egypt, and Mubarak’s regime depicted the Brotherhood as aiming to take over the country, launching fierce crackdowns on the group. Some Egyptians remain deeply suspicious of the secretive organization, fearing it will exploit the current turmoil to vault to power.

But others – including the secular, liberal youth activists who launched the anti-Mubarak uprising – say the Brotherhood has to be allowed freedom to compete in a democracy alongside everyone else. Support by young cadres in the Brotherhood was key to the protests’ success, providing manpower and organization, though they never came to form a majority in the wave of demonstrations.

The question is, once it has competed in “a democracy” and won, does it ever plan to compete again?  Nothing has changed in the MB’s charter.  And having watched other “Islamic states” come into existence, democracy is not one of their foundations – although it would certainly be useful in a peaceful takeover vs. having to do so through violence.   Bottom line, though, the end state is the same.   See any number of authoritarian regimes (such as Venezuela or Iran) which began with “free and open elections”.

To answer the question on the minds of some reading this, no, I don’t consider myself cynical about this, I instead see my pessimism grounded in observing the experiences of like states and the results that’ve unfortunately resulted.  I consider my take to be quite realistic.  And that’s a pity as I’d like nothing more than to see a magic flowering of democracy in Egypt. 

The irony of course is the same people who said a democracy could never be established in Iraq are now saying democracy is spontaneously establishing itself in Egypt.  Of course democracy in Iraq has been established, however tenuously, by the presence of the US military.  However, in Egypt, those now ruling the country are from the military.  I’d appreciate someone – anyone – pointing out why Egypt, without a US military presence or the presence of any other entity capable of forcing the country down the road to democracy will suddenly become a democracy? 

In fact it seems the fox is guarding the hen house in Egypt.  There’ll be a lot of busy work in the interim -  a new or at least amended constitution (who is going to pass it or debate it with Parliament dissolved?  The military council?  The people?), the organization of political parties and elections, etc.   All the while, I expect the military to quietly consolidate its power over the next 6 months while others are buzzing around doing the busy work that will keep them out of the streets.

Will the military willingly turn over its power to a president elected by the people?  If I knew that I could probably make a fortune.   Let me just say it like this – if the winner of the election is a candidate that is acceptable to the military (say some military officer from “the club’’), then probably “yes”.  Accepting such a candidate would most likely keep the military’s grip on government in place, just with a new (and somewhat more benevolent) face.

If the winner isn’t acceptable to the military (such as a theocrat from the MB – one of the reasons they play this “we’re secular” game is an attempt to head off those sorts of charges.)  I expect to hear charges of vote fraud, illegal activities and arrests to ensue, along with a declared “state of emergency” after which the military will retain control and begin the inevitable crack-down on dissent.  It will also claim to want to hold new elections at some time in the unspecified future – to keep the West off its back and the people at home.

Not a rosy picture, that’s for sure – and I could be completely wrong.  But unfortunately, I just don’t think so.

Call it wisdom – intuition, experience and observation combined to come to a conclusion.  And it isn’t necessarily a pretty one.

~McQ

[ad#Banner]

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Budget buzz–Obama’s effort seems to be unpopular on both sides of the political spectrum (update)

All sorts of coverage on the Obama budget, most of it negative.  While the White House spin machine works overtime to attempt to fashion a message saying the effort confronts the harsh fiscal reality we’re faced with and makes tough cuts and decisions, that’s not the way others are interpreting it.

Andrew Sullivan figured out Obama’s budget is a very political one:

But the core challenge of this time is not the cost of discretionary spending. Obama knows this; everyone knows this. The crisis is the cost of future entitlements and defense, about which Obama proposes nothing. Yes, there’s some blather. But Obama will not risk in any way any vulnerability on taxes to his right or entitlement spending to his left. He convened a deficit commission in order to throw it in the trash. If I were Alan Simpson or Erskine Bowles, I’d feel duped. And they were duped. All of us who took Obama’s pitch as fiscally responsible were duped.

Uh, yeah.  And it only took 3 years for Andy to figure it out. Speaking of the Simpson Bowles commission, Sullivan cites a David Brooks column where Brooks talks about a group of Senators who are taking the lead in writing up the recommendations of the commission for implementation. Says Sullivan of the effort:

They have to lead, because this president is too weak, too cautious, too beholden to politics over policy to lead. In this budget, in his refusal to do anything concrete to tackle the looming entitlement debt, in his failure to address the generational injustice, in his blithe indifference to the increasing danger of default, he has betrayed those of us who took him to be a serious president prepared to put the good of the country before his short term political interests. Like his State of the Union, this budget is good short term politics but such a massive pile of fiscal bullshit it makes it perfectly clear that Obama is kicking this vital issue down the road.

Lovely to see someone else finally realize that leadership is something this president knows nothing about, never has exercised and wouldn’t know how to do with a self-help book in front of him.  And, as Sullivan correctly surmises, this atrocity of a budget is firm proof of that (and no that doesn’t mean I endorse the Simpson Bowles commission – the point is about leadership).  Sullivan also finally ferrets out that the commission was nothing more than an artifice the president used to cover his rear and make it appear like he was focused on doing something about the fiscal shape of the UFederalSpending0471.002-thumb-440x330S government.  Instead we get exactly what those of us who’ve been on to this president’s act all along expected – pure politics.

John Hinderaker at Powerline gives graphic proof (left) that the media water carriers who are parroting the White House line about the President’s budget containing “steep” or “painful cuts” aren’t fooling anyone.  As you can see the only steep incline over the next few years is up.  There is nothing significant about any “cuts” or “savings” the Obama budget puts forward on the overall level of government spending except to keep the slope headed in a direction we can’t afford.

Instead it is more of the same simply couched in the same old obfuscating rhetoric that calls spending “investment” and taxation “savings”.  Someone needs to get the point across to Obama that the smoke and mirrors company in which he’s so heavily invested isn’t working for him anymore.

In fact, just to make the point even more evident, take a look at this chart by Doug Ross.  The yellow line you see (right) are the “steep” and “painful cuts” the president and some of the media are trying to pretend his budget is making.   Tough stuff, no?  No.  His steep and painful cuts are a veritable drop in the bucket and really do nothing structurally to actually cut spending to affordable and sustainable levels.  As Rep. Paul Ryan has said, Obama “punted” with this budget.110214-budget

Megan McArdle thinks, given this budget by the president, that it may finally be time to panic.

I was a laconic hawk when the deficits shot up in 2008, 2009, 2010.  A few years of deficits in an unprecedented crisis weren’t going to kill us; we had time to get them under control.

But I’m starting to think that it’s time to panic.  This deficit is $700 billion higher than the CBO projected in August 2009, of which $500 billion is lower tax revenues, and $200 billion is new spending.  It’s also $500 billion less revenue and $100 billion more spending than the CBO was expecting as late as August of last year, thanks to the extension of the Bush tax cuts.  For all that I keep hearing about deficit reduction and PAYGO rules, somehow those "fiscally responsible" Democrats have given us the largest peacetime deficit in history, one that keeps growing beyond all expectations–and for all their alleged worries about the budget deficit, so the Republican role in all of this has been to goad Democrats into cutting taxes even further, so that the wealthiest earners could enjoy their fair share of our collective fiscal insanity.

I know the arguments for stimulus, but at this point, I don’t think we can afford the luxury of a more stimulating economy.  Our politicians can’t be trusted to do the right thing later; we need to make them do it now.

I can’t emphasize that last sentence more.  If ever there was a time to do what is necessary to take a knife to the bloated government budget, it is now.   The public is as much on board as it will ever be and while it may whine and even scream and holler about some thing’s, most of the voters in this country know something pretty drastic must be done and done soon.

Even “Johnny one-note” Paul Krugman isn’t happy – for the usual reasons:

Andrew Leonard is right: the Obama budget isn’t going to happen, so in a sense it’s irrelevant. But it still has symbolic meaning. What is Obama saying here?

The important thing, I think, is that he has effectively given up on the idea that the government can do anything to create jobs in a depressed economy. In effect, although without saying so explicitly, the Obama administration has accepted the Republican claim that stimulus failed, and should never be tried again.

My favorite line in the Krugman piece was this:

What’s extraordinary about all this is that stimulus can’t have failed, because it never happened. Once you take state and local cutbacks into account, there was no surge of government spending.

Remember, what was spent was about $300 billion more than Krugman recommended.  But if it never happened I assume Krugman will now quit attempting to say that the trillion dollars which was thrown out there to stop the fall and stimulate growth did it’s job, right?  That was his previous stance and all that was needed was more spending to have an even greater effect.  Correct?   Now he’s in the middle of rewriting history:

Yes, I know, it’s argued that Obama couldn’t have gotten anything more. I don’t really want to revisit all of that; my point here is simply that everyone is drawing the wrong lesson. Fiscal policy didn’t fail; it wasn’t tried.

MIA – a trillion dollars.  Yeah, it “wasn’t tried”, was it?  About the nicest thing Krugman can muster to say about the Obama budget (in another article) is it isn’t the Republican budget:

It’s much less awful than the Republican proposal, but it moves in the same direction: listening to the administration, you’d think that discretionary spending, not health care, is at the heart of our long-run deficit problems — and you’d also think that the job of rescuing the economy was done, with unemployment still at 9 percent.

It could be worse — the GOP proposal is — but it’s hardly something to cheer about.

Well, we’ll see how much either is to cheer about when we take a look at the Republican budget.

Finally, to inject a little humor into a basically humorless debate – even if the humor is unintentional – read Jonathan Chait’s piece in The New Republic.  You get the idea he was on his third or fourth scotch and up late when he wrote it.  It is the journalistic equivalent of trying to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse and coming up with an ugly fuzzy pouch that smells like bacon.  Even his title points to a very tentative approval, something he had to talk himself into in order to make the attempt:  “Why Obama’s Budget Is OK”.   And while some of his points are valid (the president’s budget is a political document) how he got from some of his observations to some of his conclusions can only be explained by booze and sleep depravation.

UPDATE: Steve Eggleston has a good post up full of charts that makes the point with the government’s own numbers that Paul Ryan was right yesterday – “doing nothing would be better than passing [Obama’s] budget”.

~McQ

[ad#Banner]

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

New Media feudalism?

Huffington Post was just sold to AOL for $315 million.  Good stuff.  An online media effort makes big bucks.

But David Carr throws out some interesting commentary about that and the online culture that does cause me to pause and think  about it.  The paragraphs that grabbed my attention were:

It will be interesting to see how the legions of unpaid bloggers at The Huffington Post react to the merger with AOL. Typing away for an upstart blog — founded by the lefty pundit Arianna Huffington and the technology executive Kenneth Lerer — would seem to be a little different from cranking copy for AOL, a large American media company with a market capitalization of $2.2 billion.

[…]

Perhaps content will remain bifurcated into professional and amateur streams, but as social networks eat away at media mindshare and the advertising base, I’m not so sure. If it happens, I’ll have no one but myself to blame. Last time I checked, I had written or shared over 11,000 items on Twitter. It’s a nice collection of short-form work, and I’ve been rewarded with lot of followers … and exactly no money. If and when the folks at Twitter cash out, some tiny fraction of that value will have been created by me.

He has a point.  Maybe not the one he thinks he has, but there is a point to be made here.  It’s one thing to labor away at a blog like QandO which is a personal decision and a labor of love.  I don’t do it for money nor do I expect to earn a living doing it here. If someone were to come along and offer a pile of money for the place, I’d take it, but it would be money I and the other bloggers earned by developing the place and writing here.

But what about those sites which encourage community, give bloggers access and then use the demographics (which bloggers helped create) to actively sell advertising and raise revenue?  And, like HuffPo, what if they sell?

Well, without out legal agreement that your participation is worth x amount in either area (advertising or a sale) you haven’t a leg to stand on.  You agreed to whatever stipulations they had in place when you entered your first post, if there even were any.

So what happens now with HuffPo?  The paid bloggers/journalists will most likely continue to be paid.  But what about the bulk of bloggers/diarists/citizen journalists there?  Will they continue to write?

I mean that’s a big change.  Those that have helped build that sites reputation now know what their work built.

So will they be willing to continue on adding to its value without compensation?  Or will they demand a piece of the pie or withhold their content?

And if they do withhold their content, will others be willing to step forward and take their place.

HuffPo also has the argument that all of the value isn’t to be found in the contributions of the bloggers/diarists/citizen journalists there.  And that’s probably true – but HuffPo (and now AOL) can’t deny part of the value must be contributed to them.

The point of all of this is it changes, fairly dramatically, the thinking of many who participate online in a “free” capacity helping build a brand.  HuffPo definitely has a brand.  

You have to ask then, what are AOL’s expectations for non-paid bloggers?  And, on the other side, are non-paid bloggers willing to continue working for nothing but adding value to AOL’s brand?

Interesting questions, interesting times.  For whatever reason I keep hearing the “echo” of “union” floating around.  Hopefully bloggers will avoid anything like that – a loose federation or association would serve as well, but I have to say, if bloggers are adding value to a site such that a 2 million dollar investment can grow to 315 million, they ought to have an understanding going in that they get a share in compensation for their contribution – or not.  Their choice.  But there should be a choice.  And a smart entrepreneur is going to attract the brightest and best by providing one.  And such a site or sites would keep the “feudal” sites from becoming more prevalent than they are today.

~McQ

[ad#Banner]

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

It is budget day in Washington DC

Today is the day President Obama’s budget is published.  It promises “cuts” and “savings”.  Before we venture too far in our analysis of the budget, let’s be clear on what those two words usually mean in Washington.  A “cut” in spending usually means that whoever is saying it is talking about not spending as much as originally planned.  And neither have a thing to do with debt reduction.   What they actually mean is they’re still going to spend buckets of money we don’t have – they’re just not going to spend “buckets and buckets” of it.

“Savings” is normally used in about the same way.  I call it wife math (my apologies to the ladies, but come on, admit it, you’ve used it).  Wife math announces, “I saw this scarf on sale for $75.  It is normally $100.  I "saved" $25.”   Of course what she really did was spend $75 that perhaps the family didn’t have or couldn’t afford.

So when you see or hear the words “cuts” and “savings” in discussions of the budget this year, please understand the context of the words when used in those discussions.  “Cuts” mean they don’t plan spending as much as they originally planned to spend.  In the case “cut”, not a single dollar has yet been spent, but they’re going to try to convince you that those “cuts” translate into “savings”.  For most of us “savings” means we have spent less money on necessities (by being frugal)  and the money we’ve saved (i.e. actual money in hand – not borrowed, but earned) can be applied to paying down something else– such as credit card debt or something.  Yeah, it’s real money we have in hand, not spending we “cut” from something we didn’t have the money for to begin with.

Not so with double talking Washington – “savings” in their jargon means not spending as much.  It is slightly different than “cut” in that “savings” are usually “realized” from a proposed program of spending while “cuts” usually come from an existing program of spending.   In the case of “savings” what is “saved” can’t be applied anywhere because we’re in a cycle of deficit spending.  It isn’t revenue they’re talking about that they can spend elsewhere to reduce the debt, it is borrowed money of which they don’t plan on borrowing as much.

This year alone we’re looking at a record deficit of 1.6 trillion dollars.  What they’re talking about “saving” over the next 10 years (1.1 trillion – or 110 billion a year – chicken feed in 3.x trillion dollar budgets) is simply proposed reductions on what they had planned to borrow.  Meanwhile the debt continues to climb.

Keep in mind that we’re looking a 4 years worth of budgets from the administration with over a trillion dollars in deficit spending.  What they’re trying to do is soften that with is 1.1 trillion in “cuts” and “savings” over 10 years that will help “reduce the deficit”.  I’m sure you’re able to do the math and realize total debt keeps climbing.  But also remember that “cuts” and “savings” are what are going to be trumpeted, not the truth:

An administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity before the budget was released, said one-third of the $1.1 trillion in deficit reduction the administration is projecting over the next decade would come from additional revenue with the bulk of that reflecting the limitations on tax deductions by the wealthy.

So not only are they “cutting” money they don’t have or haven’t spent, they’re “saving” money that will trim the deficit (while the debt still goes up) by assuming revenue not in hand.

The point?  Well, when you see things like this from AP Economics Writer Martin Crutsinger …

“Two-thirds of [the budget’s] savings [of $1.1 trillion over 10 years] would come from spending reductions including $400 billion in savings from a five year freeze on spending in many domestic government agencies. The other one-third of savings would come from tax increases. The biggest tax hike would come from a proposal to trim the deductions the wealthiest Americans can claim for charitable contributions, mortgage interest and state and local tax payments. The administration proposed this tax hike last year but it never advanced because of widespread congressional opposition."

… You’ll now know how to translate it. 

I mean where else would you find a line like “the other one-third of savings would come from tax increases” than in a Washington DC budget discussion?

Confused?

Well join the club … and it will get worse.

~McQ

[ad#Banner]

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

CPAC–Days 3 and 4

Well today’s a travel day and so I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts about the last two days before I hit the road.

A) I enjoyed it.   Quite lively and quite a different experience.  Apparently this was their largest attendance ever.  Got to speak to  a lot of people about a lot of subjects near and dear to my heart. 

B) Great networking – met a great number of bloggers who I’ve read and admired over the years.  Also met a number of media types which was cool as well. 

C) The two people who literally packed the huge ballroom with thousands were Ron Paul, which came as no surprise, and Ann Coulter.   Coulter was sharp and funny.  She was asked afterwards during the Q&A who she favored in the 2012 race and she blurted out that the GOP needed to nominate Chris Christie or Romney would win it and the Republicans would lose.  Frankly, that’s the scenario I see developing (Romney gets the nomination), but whether the GOP loses probably depends more on the economy’s state than whether it is Romney or not.    Ron Paul won the straw poll which is essentially a throw-out and it’s the second place guy you look at.  Romney took that with 23% and then it drops to about 6% apiece for all the other candidates (to include Newt Gingrich).

D) GOProud sort of crapped in their mess kit by doing a little name calling during the event.  They killed a lot of good will they had earned up to that point.  OTOH, those that boycotted were obviously not missed (see record attendance).  Both GOProud and the boycotters need to grow up.

E)  I wanted to say a public thank you to Tabitha Hale and Freedom Works for the outstanding job they did putting blogger’s row together.  Probably about 50 or so bloggers there.  Good libertarian contingent including Doug Mataconis from OTB who I finally got to meet.  Anyway, taking care of bloggers is akin to herding cats but Tabitha was up to the job and things went very well there.  It was a choice location with tables and power in a large room and a balcony a few steps away which overlooked the main floor of CPAC where bloggers could go out and listen to the speeches.

F) A good number of speakers and others came through blogger’s row and bloggers had an opportunity to interview and meet them.  Yesterday former LTC and now Congressman Allen West came though and spent about 10 minutes with bloggers before he gave the keynote speech of CPAC.  I like the guy (no Army prejudice or anything, heh).   Here’s a link to the entire 10 minute interview if you’re interested (video).

Back to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.

~McQ

[ad#Banner]

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

CPAC day 2

The first day was spent sort of getting the lay of the land, meeting and greeting (new acquaintances and old friends), the Rumsfeld lunch and a few speeches.

Listened to Donald Trump talk – entertaining anyway – and heard him tell the Ron Paul crowd “your guy doesn’t have a chance”.  The way he did it was a true laugh-out-loud moment.  He’s right, but speaking of not having a chance, well I don’t think “the Donald” has much of one at all.  But it was entertaining to see him stir up the Paul crowd.

Speaking of Paul’s, I listened to Rand Paul’s speech and was pretty pleased with what he had to say.  He says the cuts the GOP is putting forward are insignificant and unacceptable.  He mentioned that the amount is what government spends in 5 days.  He also pointed out that both parties have budget projections that add more than three trillion to the debt.   He said that must be cut and cut drastically.  100 billion of it, he claimed, could come from shutting down the Dept. of Education and returning schooling to where it belongs – with the states and local school boards.

That’s been a dream of the right for decades, in fact since the inception of the DoE.  I have no idea if there’s the will or the stomach within Congress to address that, but Paul is right – cuts must be much more significant than those proposed.   But given that after promising 100 billion they came up with 32 billion in cuts, I’m not that hopeful.

He also said, in so many words, that the GOP and Democrats are going to have to grow a pair and address entitlements, to include increasing the   retirement age for both SS and Medicare.  He was mostly greeted with enthusiastic applause from the crowd.  How enthusiastic they’ll be when it comes time to cut spending and move the retirement age remains to be seen (in theory it’s all important and the “right thing to do”, but in reality, people have a tendency to back off – especially if it effects them).

Another bit of entertainment occurred during the award ceremony for former SecDef Rumsfeld.   One of the surprise presenters was Dick Cheney who received a standing O from the audience as he came on the stage (and after a while finally took the mic and said “thank you, thank you, now sit down and shut up” – brought the house down).   As things quieted down someone  – exercising his right to free speech – shouted out, “you’re a war criminal”.  The crowd then exercised its’ right to free speech and, chanting “USA, USA” essentially drown the fellow out as he was escorted from the floor.  Cheney’ reaction was something along the lines of “I’m glad to see we’re still having spirited debate”.  Some have claimed the shouter was a Ron Paul supporter – I have no idea who he was.

Last night I attended a Freedom Works function where The Atlas Society introduced the independent film production of “Atlas Shrugged”.   We were privy to the first public viewing of scenes from the movie.  I thought, “ok, indie film, mega challenging book, this might not end well”.

I was very impressed with the production values I saw in the clips we viewed.  The acting was well done and while not name actors, are all people you’ve seen before in various supporting roles in movies and TV.  And frankly, the word that kept coming to mind was “lush” as in a lush production – very pleasing to the eye and in the clips we saw, faithful to Rand’s book.  Got to speak to both the executive director of the Atlas Society, David Kelly and Harmon Kaslow, the producer of the film.  They were obviously interested in our reaction.  You can find info about the movie here.   It is actually a 2 part movie and this is part 1.  It looks like an excellent attempt to bring Rand’s most famous book to life on the screen and will, I think, give a new generation – a video generation – a chance to experience the lessons taught by Rand in “Atlas”.  And none too soon.

More to come from today.  I’m staying in Arlington and commuting so I probably won’t show up there until around 10 but won’t miss much.  Dressing for comfort today – hell, no one recognized me yesterday in a coat and tie.  As Stephan Kruiser said last night, we’re not social people and usually we do what we do in the privacy of our basements in various stages of undress.

~McQ

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Lunch with SecDef Rumsfeld

I have to admit that when I received an invitation  to have lunch with former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld while I was in town for CPAC,  I wasn’t sure what to expect.   As with most public figures I’d seen him from afar through both the lens and filter of the national media.  About 10 of us were invited in to meet and eat lunch with Sec. Rumsfeld and talk about his new book. 

It included a group of pretty heavy hitters in the conservative sphere, including Conn Carroll of the Heritage Foundation, John Noonan and Mary Katherine Ham of the Weekly Standard, Matt Lewis late of AOL and now with the Daily Caller, Ed Morrissey of Hot Air, John Hinderaker Rumsfeld2 of Powerline, Philip Klein of the American Spectator … and me (and yes, I was asking myself wtf am I doing here? The answer is a friend who managed to get me a seat at the table as a favor).

Sec. Rumsfeld arrived and immediately welcomed us and thanked us for joining him.  He was gracious, engaging, humorous and both forthright and informative.  The atmosphere was relaxed and convivial.   It was an hour or so that seemed to fly by.  Frankly I could have stayed there all day talking to the man – it was that enjoyable of a meeting.  And hearing the history of events I had observed and written about first hand from one of the decision makers was, well, an incredible opportunity.

He was hit with all the questions one could imagine in that short time, but perhaps the one that I most appreciated was related to his offering to resign twice and President Bush refusing to accept either (as we all know, he did, in fact, tender his resignation a third time and it was accepted). 

One of the resignations was offered after Abu Ghraib.  You could tell, even now, that Sec. Rumsfeld was still  both mad and upset about what had happened there, calling it “perverted”.  It had a very negative impact on the image of the military, even if the perception was wrong and he was bothered by that.

He said that after the investigation he looked for someone he could hang it on because he felt someone had to take responsibility for what happened.  But looking at the facts in the case there wasn’t really a single person in the chain of command he could validly point too and say “because of him or her, this happened”. He felt it left him no choice but to take responsibility himself.  He was in charge, it happened on his watch, the damage was extensive and he thought he should fall on the sword and resign his position.  President Bush refused to accept his resignation.

His point was about accountability, something he believes in strongly, but – as many of us have observed – no one seems to take very seriously anymore, especially in DC.  He felt then and still does that he should have been the one to be held accountable for the Abu Ghraib fiasco.  I thought that was pretty telling about the man and his sense of duty and honor. 

Rumsfeld1Ed Morrissey has  a lot more at Hot Air (Ed actually wrote his blog post as we sat there with Rumsfeld – Morrissey is a blogging machine) so be sure to give it a read.

After the meeting began breaking up (and I got my copy of his book signed), he spontaneously offered to take us around the office and show us the memorabilia he’d collected over the years.  It was an incredibly impressive tour (picture on the right of yours truly and Ed Morrissey hearing Rumsfeld tell us about each item).  This is a guy who has served numerous presidents in various capacities (to include two stints as SecDef) for decades.  Additionally, he served as a Navy pilot before getting into public life.

Anyway, one of the pieces of memorabilia that really struck a chord with me was a mangled piece of metal.  It was from the airliner that crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11.  Rumsfeld had picked that up that day as he toured the damage, had it mounted and hung it on the wall in his office at the Pentagon so he could see it every day and be reminded of the job they had to do (you can see it below on the left– sorry for the Rumsfeld3photo quality, but you get the idea).

And while the meeting had a purpose, to publicize his new book, “Known and Unknown”, it was an event I’ll certainly not forget anytime soon.  Later that day, Sec. Rumsfeld received the “Defender of the Constitution” award at CPAC.  I think he’s very deserving of the award. 

While there were some things I disagreed with him about during his tenure – and I’m certainly not here to pretend there weren’t problems during that time -I have to say my perception of the man changed significantly with this meeting.  While I’ve had the book for a couple of days I’ve not had the opportunity to read it in full – only selected parts I was interested in for this meeting.   And to all you folks who contributed questions, I apologize, I was only able to ask one and it concerned the “you go to war with the Army you have” comment and the fall out.  When I brought it up, he laughed, pointed at me and said, “you’d better not say that in public, you might get in trouble”.

I’m looking forward to reading the book … I feel in know the era and events pretty intimately from the time I spent studying and writing about them.  It’s going to be very interesting to read his version (with almost 100 pages of source notes) that was 4 years in the writing.  I’ll be sure to post a review here when I finish.

~McQ

[ad#Banner]

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Well, I’m here – at CPAC

Huge convention. Thus far I’ve seen few familiar faces. I’m mostly trying to get the lay of the land.

For those who submitted questions for former SecDef Rumsfeld, thank you and I’ll try. Well thought out for the most part and appreciated.

So? So off to find out what else is going on. Hot as hell in the blogger’s lounge. Mostly hot air I think – and I’m not talking about the blog. Just kidding.

~McQ

[ad#Banner]

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

The Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt

There are a whole lot of folks who have been flapping their gums and saying the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) should be welcomed into the “process” in Egypt.   Two things – right now the “process” is an active attempt to overthrow the government in place.   I’m not saying it shouldn’t go or that’s a bad thing.  I’m just saying let’s be cognizant of what the “process” is at the moment.

Two, as I’ve pointed out in the past and will continue to point out, the MB is a wolf is sheep’s clothing and quite content to say whatever the West wants to hear in order to be considered a legitimate organization bent on the democratic ideal of Western democracy.

To put it bluntly, that’s nonsense.  They are and always have been an Islamist organization, i.e. their ideology is rooted in Islam and their method of choice is violent “jihad”.   You simply have to look around the net and you can find countless examples of where their Arabic writings and speeches have been translated to understand the point.  Don’t look at their English language site – it is designed to placate you.  Root out what its leaders have been saying to, shall we say, more local audiences.  When they talk of “liberation” they’re not talking about the type of Western freedom you and I assume by the word.  They’re talking about something completely different. 

Here’s an example from a book by Mustafa Mashhur, entitled “Jihad is the Way”.  Mustafa Mashhur was the fifth General Guide, the official leader, of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt from 1996 until his death in 2002.  He makes no bones about the duty of all Muslims as far as he’s concerned – and he certainly would be seen to speak for the MB’s attitude given he was their leader for 6 years.

.

Jihad is the way. We need to be fully aware of this and to act and follow in its way. The faltering of faith has led the Muslims to their current state: one of laxity, disintegration, the dominion of Allah’s enemies over the Muslim’s resources, and the succumbing of some of them to abandoning their faith. The revival of the faith is the starting point for the revival and revitalization of the Islamic Ummah [nation], so that it can regain its power and be liberated and assume its rightful position which was intended by Allah, as the most exalted nation among men , as the leaders of humanity, and through this religion of truth they will deliver humanity from darkness unto light.

You can read the rest at the link, plus there is a link in the cite with the full pdf. Obviously, encapsulated in that paragraph are the fundamental religious beliefs of the MB as they apply to their politics. Notice how he uses the word "liberated".  You are “liberated” if you come under the power of Islam. It certainly refutes the claim of a willingness to establish a secular government as we understand it.

I’m simply saying don’t be fooled by this organization’s expressed willingness to establish a “secular democracy” in Egypt.  Like many organizations of its type, it is willing to say anything – and most likely do anything, at least for a while – to establish itself in power.   Once there it will justify its takeover in the name of Allah – all things being fair when establishing a theocracy, since all moves will have been ordained by the religion’s all powerful being.

Together with the power of faith, there is no escaping from the power of unity among the Muslims to unify efforts. Then comes the power of arms and weapons, when nothing else will suffice, and this is the role of Jihad. The Imam (Muslim religious leader) and Shahid (Martyr), Hassan al-Banna (founder of the Muslim Brotherhood) learned of the need for these three forces, from the biography of the Prophet [Muhammad], may Allah bless him and give him peace…

Fair warning – again.

~McQ

[ad#Banner]

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Buy Dale’s Books!