Thursday, August 28, 2008

Obama's Friends Tend to Be a Bit Passionate

William Ayers and Barak Obama are the type of "associates" who do each other favours. That is simply how things are done among men of blood, so to speak.
In February 1970, my father, a New York State Supreme Court justice, was presiding over the trial of the so-called “Panther 21,” members of the Black Panther Party indicted in a plot to bomb New York landmarks and department stores. Early on the morning of February 21, as my family slept, three gasoline-filled firebombs exploded at our home on the northern tip of Manhattan, two at the front door and the third tucked neatly under the gas tank of the family car. (Today, of course, we’d call that a car bomb.) A neighbor heard the first two blasts and, with the remains of a snowman I had built a few days earlier, managed to douse the flames beneath the car. That was an act whose courage I fully appreciated only as an adult, an act that doubtless saved multiple lives that night.

I still recall, as though it were a dream, thinking that someone was lifting and dropping my bed as the explosions jolted me awake, and I remember my mother’s pulling me from the tangle of sheets and running to the kitchen where my father stood. Through the large windows overlooking the yard, all we could see was the bright glow of flames below. We didn’t leave our burning house for fear of who might be waiting outside. The same night, bombs were thrown at a police car in Manhattan and two military recruiting stations in Brooklyn. Sunlight, the next morning, revealed three sentences of blood-red graffiti on our sidewalk: FREE THE PANTHER 21; THE VIET CONG HAVE WON; KILL THE PIGS.

For the next 18 months, I went to school in an unmarked police car. My mother, a schoolteacher, had plainclothes detectives waiting in the faculty lounge all day. My brother saved a few bucks because he didn’t have to rent a limo for the senior prom: the NYPD did the driving. We all made the best of the odd new life that had been thrust upon us, but for years, the sound of a fire truck’s siren made my stomach knot and my heart race. In many ways, the enormity of the attempt to kill my entire family didn’t fully hit me until years later, when, a father myself, I was tucking my own nine-year-old John Murtagh into bed.

Though no one was ever caught or tried for the attempt on my family’s life, there was never any doubt who was behind it. Only a few weeks after the attack, the New York contingent of the Weathermen blew themselves up making more bombs in a Greenwich Village townhouse. The same cell had bombed my house, writes Ron Jacobs in The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground. And in late November that year, a letter to the Associated Press signed by Bernardine Dohrn, Ayers’s wife, promised more bombings.

As the association between Obama and Ayers came to light, it would have helped the senator a little if his friend had at least shown some remorse. But listen to Ayers interviewed in the New York Times on September 11, 2001, of all days: “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough.” Translation: “We meant to kill that judge and his family, not just damage the porch.” When asked by the Times if he would do it all again, Ayers responded: “I don’t want to discount the possibility.”

Though never a supporter of Obama, I admired him for a time for his ability to engage our imaginations, and especially for his ability to inspire the young once again to embrace the political system. Yet his myopia in the last few months has cast a new light on his “politics of change.” Nobody should hold the junior senator from Illinois responsible for his friends’ and supporters’ violent terrorist acts. But it is fair to hold him responsible for a startling lack of judgment in his choice of mentors, associates, and friends, and for showing a callous disregard for the lives they damaged and the hatred they have demonstrated for this country. It is fair, too, to ask what those choices say about Obama’s own beliefs, his philosophy, and the direction he would take our nation. _City-Journal
Obama has never worked an honest day in his entire life. Yet he has had plenty of time to make some very interesting friends along the radical path. Being a messiah means never having to say you are sorry. For yourself, for your friends, for anything at all.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Foolish and Forever Barbarians, Russia: Who Will Mourn Your Passing?

On the historical eve of the passing of the Russian people through demographic disappearance, Vladimir Putin is sewing the seeds for lasting blood feuds against Russia, among its neighbors. Putin's foolhardy invasion of Georgia, and the subsequent brutal occupation and ethnic cleansing by Russian soldiers and their paramilitary/terrorist allies, seals the fate of the eternally barbarian people from Rus.
Russia’s invasion of Georgia has unleashed a refugee crisis all over the country and especially in its capital. Every school here in Tbilisi is jammed with civilians who fled aerial bombardment and shootings by the Russian military—or massacres, looting, and arson by irregular Cossack paramilitary units swarming across the border. Russia has seized and effectively annexed two breakaway Georgian provinces, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It has also invaded the region of Gori, which unlike them had been under Georgia’s control. Gori is in the center of the country, just an hour’s drive from Tbilisi; 90 percent of its citizens have fled, and the tiny remainder live amid a violent mayhem overseen by Russian occupation forces that, despite Moscow’s claims to the contrary, are not yet withdrawing.

...“They came and asked us for wine, but first we had to drink it ourselves to show that it was not poisoned. Then they drank the wine themselves. And then they said to leave this place as soon as possible; otherwise they would kill us. The Russians were looking for anyone who had soldiers in their home. If anyone had a Georgian soldier at home they burned the houses immediately.” _MichaelTotten/CityJournal
The US is establishing a permanent military presence inside Georgia, with likely airfields for fighter aircraft to be built soon. American destroyer ships have entered the Black Sea to assure Georgian control of Georgian seaports. Russia has created the perfect pretext for permanent US military bases in Georgia--which coincidentally will have the effect of further tightening a noose around Iran.
On Saturday the US ambassador to Georgia said they had decided to continue training the Georgian army in a full-time programme.US 'security guarantee'

During the Soviet era, Krtsanisi military base outside Tbilisi was home to the Red Army. Now it is US soldiers who are in charge and, according to the US Ambassador in Tbilisi Richard Miles, they are in Georgia to stay. _BBC_via_MSimon
Russia is losing half its population every 40 to 50 years. There will be no Russia by the end of this century, for it is certain that more prolific neighbors from Muslim central Asia will claim whatever they wish, and a resurgent China will lay claim to huge portions of Eastern Siberia for its oil wealth.

After "claiming" the entire Arctic for mineral exploration, Russia will be lucky to actually control as much as one fourth of its current land area after another 60 years. And who will mourn for lost Russia, after its renewed barbarian behaviour? Habits of conquest and pillage developed over hundreds of years will apparently never be put aside peacefully. It is coming down to selecting the best way to limit the losses when Russia does finally disintegrate.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Russia Now Holds Europe by the Short Hairs

Russian has plowed through Georgia, destroying bridges, burning crops, and ethnically cleansing Georgians from their land. But besides an attempt to depose the Georgian president, Putin's goal was to produce schock, awe, and eternal energy dependency in the minds of European countries. The energy pipelines through Georgia are now within reach of Russian-sponsored terrorists, which means that Russia can shut down most of Europe's energy on a whim. Europe needs to come up with alternatives quickly, if it does not wish to become an energy thrall to the new Russian tsar.
Thanks to Russia's invasion of Georgia on Aug. 8, Georgia's role as a secure energy transit point to Europe has been shattered. Russia has made clear it can make Georgia a puppet state if it wishes, and will almost certainly recognize the independence of the breakaway region of South Ossetia. Suddenly the risk premiums on oil and gas pipelines that pass through Georgian soil went through the roof. Some analysts are already predicting the death of the Nabucco project, whose construction was to begin in 2010.

So much for Europe's energy diversification plans. New, independent pipelines from Central Asia seem like a lost cause. With Georgia reined in, Moscow's grip on energy supplies to Europe must be close to complete. You have to wonder whether a Kremlin filing cabinet contains a plan that had laid out this very scenario a decade ago.

What is Europe to do? Time for Diversification Plan B. A big part of the plan would have to see Europe turning the Mediterranean into mare nostrum - our sea - as the Romans called it in the empire years. The North African countries of Libya and Algeria, and Syria in the Eastern Med to a lesser extent, have vast, undeveloped oil and gas fields.

Energy companies with an appetite for political risk have been pouring billions into these countries. One of them is Petro-Canada, which is already hauling 50,000 barrels of oil a day out of Libya and has targeted the country for significant growth. Algeria's gas reserves are mammoth. Last year, Italy and Algeria agreed to construct a 900-kilometre pipeline to take Algerian gas to Sardinia, then on to the Italian mainland. Other pipelines will have to be built. Speed is of the essence, because Gazprom's ambitions are boundless. Last month it offered to buy all of Libya's gas exports.

Mediterranean gas cannot be the entire solution. Europe will have to rethink its nuclear strategy. Germany and Spain have committed to phase out nuclear power. Surely, that strategy will have to be reversed. Italy has no nuclear power plants. That will have to change, too.

A few nuclear plants are under construction in Europe after a moratorium that began with the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. The number will have to soar if Europe is to take energy diversification seriously.

Coal might make a big comeback, too.....
None of this energy blackmail would be possible, if not for Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer's eternal crusade against American energy production. The insanity of the US Democratic Party's approach to energy, combined with an out-of-control faux-environmental and trial lawyer gang, have made the western world relatively easy to blackmail. If not for the military might of the US and a president willing to use it to secure energy supplies, every tinpot dictator with oil underground would be blackmailing the energy consumers of the developed world--not just Russia, Iran, and Venezuela.

Russia Makes More Enemies Just When it Needs to be Making More Friends

Russia's blundering invasion of Georgia has exposed Moscow's leadership for neo-imperialists and thugs. The good thing about Putin's miscalculation is how well it exposed the EU's "soft diplomacy" for the idiocy that it is. Putin respects the EU's soft diplomace as much as he respects doormats and toilet paper. But he would have been much more clever to make the EU think otherwise for a while longer.
The price that Russia is paying for the invasion of Georgia is increased isolation. The major regional powers of the modern world are the US, China, the EU, Russia, India and Japan. Since the Georgian invasion, Russia has had strained relations with the US and Europe, and no major friends. Russia is a large Asian power, stretching to the Pacific Ocean, but the three most important Asian powers, China, India and Japan, do not have close or trusting relations with it.

Of the six world powers, or groups of powers, Russia is seen as the least reliable, the least friendly.....Russia is increasingly isolated from its “near abroad”. To Georgians, Ukrainians or citizens of the Baltic states, Mr Putin's Russia appears to be following a “bad neighbour policy”. For the Russian voter, Putinism may appear to be reasserting Russia's position in the world; to its neighbours, Russia is now an ugly threat....

Russia has essential interests in common with the West. Global trade, a stable European market for oil and gas, resistance to Islamic terrorism, avoidance of military conflict, investment in modernisation. It was hoped that Russia and the West could build on these interests to cement good relations and strengthen the global economy.

The first European reactions to the invasion of Georgia showed that Europe hoped to protect this co-operative policy. Had Russia limited the Georgian operation to the protection of South Ossetian refugees, but kept troops out of Georgia proper, a co-operative policy might have been maintained. Instead, there has been broad Russian aggression against Georgian territory.

The delay in the ceasefire and the extension of the invasion far beyond the boundary of South Ossetia has created a very different climate, made worse by threats to target nuclear weapons against Poland and, it appears, Ukraine as well.

In a world of global trade, Russia cannot afford to be isolated. No doubt the Kremlin hawks are riding high now. Yet as Sir Robert Walpole said of a mid 18th-century war: “They now ring the bells, but they will soon wring their hands.” _Timesonline
Of course Putin is slicing off his own nose to spite his face. He is adding miscalculation to miscalculation. Is anyone in a position of leadership within Russia capable of recognising the increasingly suicidal course that Putin has set for the country? If so, they are afraid for their lives, so they remain silent.

Russia is underpopulated for the size of its territory as it is, but considering Putin's ambitions--on top of the crashing demographic decrease of ethnic Russians--and Russia will simply be unable to defend its borders within a few decades.

If Russia were a friend to anyone in the world, perhaps it could rely on its neighbors for mutual aid and protection, like Canada does with the US. But almost all of Russia's neighbors have been turned into enemies, except perhaps China. And China is only biding its time until it can seize Russia's immense Siberian mineral wealth.

And so we see the mindlessly self-defeating nature of Putin's macho gesture against the Georgians. The fallout is just beginning.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Barak Obama Exposed By His Own History

The baby Senator from Illinois, Barak Obama, enjoys being something of a cypher. His soothing and hypnotic public voice as a presidential candidate is significantly at odds with his actions as community organizer and state legislator from South Side Chicago's mean streets. Obama would rather keep his legislative and activist record a secret--at least until after the election. Stanley Kurtz investigated Obama's record as public servant in Illinois, and his expose in The Weekly Standard is worth a read for anyone who wants to understand their choices for November.
...extensive and continuous coverage in both the Chicago Defender and the Hyde Park Herald presents a remarkable resource for understanding who Obama is. Reportage in these two papers is particularly significant because Obama's early political career-the time between his first campaign for the Illinois State Senate in 1995 and his race for U.S. Senate in 2004-can fairly be called the "lost years," the
period Obama seems least eager to talk about, in contrast to his formative years in Hawaii, California, and New York or his days as a community organizer, both of which are recounted in his memoir, Dreams from My Father. The pages of the Hyde Park Herald and the Chicago Defender thus offer entrée into Obama's heretofore hidden world.

What they portray is a Barack Obama sharply at variance with the image of the post-racial, post-ideological, bipartisan, culture-war-shunning politician familiar from current media coverage and purveyed by the Obama campaign. __WeeklyStandard
It is easier for me to understand now why Obama doesn't mind being perceived as a Rorschach ink blot--vague and shifting. In Obama's case, it is far better to be seen as ambiguous than to be known for what one actually is.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Can Obama Be a Messiah to Black Males?

There is a sense of optimism among many US blacks regarding the so-far successful candidacy of Barak Obama. This ecstatic burst of utopianism extends well beyond the US black community into Europe--even to Islamic terror organisations--but it is US blacks whose hopes are elevated to the most rapturous levels.

If Obama could do anything to help black males in the US, perhaps it would be worth it to elect him president just for that. What are the challenges?
In examining graduation rates, the report finds a national graduation rate for black males (47 percent) that is 28 percentage points lower than the graduation rate for white males (75 percent). In ten states, the difference in graduation rates for black males and white males is 30 percentage points or more...In addition to low graduation rates, black males also have "consistently low educational attainment levels, are more chronically unemployed and underemployed, are less healthy and have access to fewer health care resources, die much younger, and are many times more likely to be sent to jail for periods significantly longer than males of other racial/ethnic groups," according to the report. _Source_via_JoanneJacobs
As a group, black males are the chronic statistical laggards of US society. Can Barak Obama do anything at all to help them? The problem is vast and begins at a very early age.
In the country as a whole, the number of Black students in Special Education classes is disproportionately high and the number in Gifted/Talented programs is disproportionately low. The number of Black students, particularly Black male students, who receive out-of-school suspensions and are expelled is also disproportionately high. _Source_via_JoanneJacobs
A quick look at the chart above shows that as bad as young black males are doing in school, their sisters--born of the same parents, raised in the same homes, and eating the same foods--are actually doing fairly well.
Why are black girls doing reasonably well by comparison? Black girls, in contrast to the boys, get pretty good grades, go to college at decent rates and graduate from college at very good rates, earning degrees as twice the rate of men. _Source_via_JoanneJacobs
Black males are staggeringly over-represented in the prison population--44% of prisoners, and only 5% or so of the population (black males of prison age). The overall IQ average for American blacks is 85. That is 1 standard deviation below the overall mean of roughly 100. It very possible that the black male average IQ is even less than the overall US black average IQ, looking at comparative life success.

We know that executive function (EF) is more important than IQ for life success, although EF lacks a comparably accepted metric to IQ, so it is more difficult to compare EF statistics. EF can be improved by training (Posner, Rothbart), which should be done not much later than age 6. Even so, EF--like IQ--is highly heritable, so that there are limits to what training can do. Still, better trained than not.

Finally, if Barak Obama becomes US President next January, will the IQ's and EF's of black males magically and instantly normalise? Will we see abrupt drops in criminal and delinquent behaviour from black males? Will black males suddenly begin succeeding in school--from kindergarten through college? Will the exaggerated strut of young black males suddenly have a full complement of efficacy and competence backing it up?

Probably not. Not immediately, and not for a very long time. Then what will become of all of the magical expectations floating around the messianic candidacy of Barak Obama?

Obama has no substantive achievements, no particular experience or accomplishments to prepare him for the challenges he would face as chief executive of the world's only superpower. But never mind all that. Born of a white mother, raised largely by a white family, and only absorbing the victimist culture of black America secondhand--what has prepared Obama to pull black males out of the incredibly deep hole they are in?

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Booby-Trapped Highways in Iraq

Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) have been the main cause of death for coalition troops in Iraq. Multiple patrol and supply convoys are always traveling from place to place in Iraq, and no road can be assumed safe. What are the counter-measures?
...Up to 80 percent of US casualties during the past two years of the conflict had been caused by IED attacks. In 2006, some road patrol units in Anbar province were discovering or setting off up to 10 IEDs each night patrol while covering less than a mile of roadway...

[But] Investment in "alien-looking" mine-detection equipment by the U.S. military, combined with increased funding for Iraqi police and army units, has cut the number of improvised explosive attacks in the past year in the northern part of the country from 6,000 a month a year ago to less than 500 this month.

Fully 75 percent of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) emplaced in parts of Iraq are now being discovered before they explode, the US Army said.

...To combat the explosive tire, engineer battalions now use several pieces of newly developed equipment that have little use outside of bomb discovery. The first looks like a mating of an industrial road-grader and a pawn-shop robotic arm.

Called a 'Husky', the South African-made mine detector allows its single operator to control a 20-foot-long robotic arm with a camera and two-pronged claw at the end to find out what is inside an abandoned tire, all at a safe distance. The occupant of the Husky sits 12 feet above the ground in a blast-proof cab.

In this case, the tire was holding an anti-tank mine, probably Italian or Chinese-made, containing enough explosives to seriously damage a vehicle if it ran directly over it.

To destroy the tire bomb, the Army has come to depend on an even more outlandish, but highly effective piece of equipment – the Talon – a robotic remote-controlled tread vehicle with an on-board video camera to verify and then destroy the IED without putting humans in harm's way. The Talon can then use a small robotic arm to carry counter-charges, in this case, two sticks of C-4 explosive with a time-fuse. _LWJ
Militaries are typically unwieldy bureaucracies (like all government bureaucracies) that are slow to adjust to changing threats. When a threat becomes as large and enduring as IEDs became in Iraq, however, even the military had to respond. Whether the new anti-IED technologies are more responsible for safer roads than the improved living conditions in Iraq, can be debated. Both are important.

The threat of IEDs along roadsides is merely an extension of the roadside ambush that can be traced all the way back to the stalking of watering holes by predators, waiting for prey to come and drink. Primitive humans placed snares along known pathways and flightways of unwary birds and small mammals.

Every road on Earth is subject to IEDs and mines. Iraq is a world battlefield, where tactics from the world jihad are being pitted against counter tactics from civilised countries. Civilised countries do not always win such confrontations. Such running battles depend upon the willingness to strike while the iron is hot. Any civilisation that is too slow or reluctant to confront a ruthless enemy puts itself in needless danger.