Saturday, April 30, 2011

Syrian Govt Killing Spree Expands with no US or UN Sanctions

My Salute to the "Consequentialist-In-Chief"

Friday Prayers caused another huge outpouring of protesters into the streets of Damascus and more importantly, Deraa, close to Djebel Druze in the Harran where disaffection with the central government has traditionally bubbled beneath the heterodox Druzi clans. But the Obama Administration to the mass murders, unlike Libya, has been characteristically limp-wristed:
The Obama administration hit three top Syrian officials as well as Syria's intelligence agency and Iran's Revolutionary Guard with sanctions over the crackdown.

Meanwhile, diplomats say the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency is setting the stage for potential U.N. Security Council action on Syria as it prepares a report assessing that a Syrian target bombed by Israeli warplanes in 2007 was likely a secretly built nuclear reactor meant to produce plutonium.

Also Friday, nations agreed to launch a U.N.-led investigation of Syria's crackdown, demanding that Damascus halt the violence, release political prisoners and lift media restrictions.

The Geneva-based Human Rights Council said it would ask the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to send a mission to investigate "all alleged violations of international human rights law and to establish the facts and circumstances of such violations and of the crimes perpetrated."

This debacle is the product of a NSC advisor named Donilon who is several rungs below average, a slacker and mental layabout along the lines of the execrable Clapper, feckless head of the super Intelligence Agency, a dude who sports a double-digit IQ and a tendency not to follow the news.
The ever lenient NYT explains for the umpteenth time, the hidden wisdom behind an Administration's foreign policy which another more critical observer has called Obama a "Consequentialist", really a code name for everything is done on a case-by-case basis with no underlying strategy or agenda. As Lizza says in his New Yorker piece:
Obama’s aides often insist that he is an anti-ideological politician interested only in what actually works. He is, one says, a “consequentialist.”

Lizza later adds:
Obama officials often expressed impatience with questions about theory or about the elusive quest for an Obama doctrine. One senior Administration official reminded me what the former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan said when asked what was likely to set the course of his government: “Events, dear boy, events.”
Obama has emphasized bureaucratic efficiency over ideology, and approached foreign policy as if it were case law, deciding his response to every threat or crisis on its own merits. “When you start applying blanket policies on the complexities and merits of the current world situation, you’re going to get yourself in trouble,” he said in a recent interview with NBC News.

The clueless doofus in the Oval Office is already in trouble, with the Arab Spring throwing another iron bar in his mental house-of-cards. The Council on Foreign Relations seems to agree somewhat that Obama is way beyond his skill-set community-organizer background:
However well-intentioned Obama’s ad hoc approach might be, it has, as Lizza shows, sown confusion among friends and foes alike. What exactly are we hoping to accomplish overseas? What are our priorities and what are we willing to sacrifice to achieve them? How do we avoid letting events turn American foreign policy into, to borrow George W. Bush’s words, a “cork in a current”? Much like the case with domestic issues, Obama lacks a clear foreign policy narrative that answers these fundamental questions and gives his decisions coherence.
None of this is to say that Obama needs the sort of grand strategy that makes academics swoon. It is to say that presidents who shun guiding principles and priorities in favor of taking things as they come can find it difficult to lead–-and make it harder for others to follow.

Take away his bullhorn and the Obungler on foreign policy is as feckless as he is on economics---just an exhaler of hot air.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Emperor [NYT] Has No Clothes and Somebody Noticed!!!

Henry Blodget at Business Insider has an interesting article.

Here's the article.
After a near-death experience in 2008, and thanks to sharp cost-cutting, the NYT company has returned to profitability. And thanks to frantic debt restructuring, the NYT has also removed its creditors' foot from its throat and bought several more years to figure out a long-term plan.
But this happy escape has not alleviated the company's long-term problem:
Its core business, the print newspaper, is shrinking, and its digital business, however successful, cannot replace the lost revenue and profitability of the print business.
The chart below lays out the problem: After a century of growth, the New York Times's news business peaked earlier this decade with just over $3 billion in revenue and $500 million of operating profit. In the years since, however, the company's revenue and operating profit have begun to shrink.
And despite the enormous cost cuts the company has made since the early 2000s, its operating profit--even in a recovery year like 2010--doesn't approach the fat years of a decade ago.
Unless the New York Times Company can figure out a way to turn around the print newspaper circulation revenue (highly unlikely), this shrinkage will continue. Even if the online paywall is wildly successful, it will not replace the circulation and ad revenue the company will lose as print subscribers cancel. And as the print business shrinks, the print cost structure that supports it will have to shrink, too.

Ed Driscoll riffs on the NYT's rigid libtard strait-jacket and how it uses Gramscian tactics [and an Alinsky strategy] to keep the majority of conservatives [vis-a-vis the 20% libtard minority] from exerting its throw-weight politically and ideologically.

A couple of interesting comments:
The internet undoubtedly has impacted their revenues, but its also the case that the NYT decided some time ago to forgo journalism and join the opinion news party that the rest of the media outlets attend. This self-undermining has meant that they are no longer the paper of record, just the paper of opinion and we literally have thousands of alternate choices for that.

nailed it on Apr 27, 10:40 AM said:
@Paul: You nailed it.

I remember when media was a leftist cartel. Then this one fat guy showed up with a right wing talk show and the whole talk radio phenomenon exploded into a major "news" competitor. Talk about suppressed demand. Murdoch saw it and set up an actual right wing news channel. At the time he noted that it was curious that while half the population considered themselves conservatives, only 3% of newscasters did so. And what do you know? The channel shot straight to the top of the ratings chart.

That killed the cartel. Then the internet came along and buried it.

Bottom line: the New York Times model, i.e. shovelling leftist opinion under cover of news to a captive audience, has collapsed. Short of shutting down the internet, talk radio and News Corp there's no going back to the days of a captive audience.

The leftists populating old media have a simple choice; either find a leftist rag where you can be a leftist (i.e. a wannabe saint desperate to order people around) or learn to do your job and report in an unbiased manner.

Powerline notes William McGowan's Grey Lady Down: What the Decline and Fall of the New York Times Means to America has gone unreviewed by Sam Tanenhaus, who told us in 2009 that Obama's election meant the end of conservatism in America.

Finally, the culprit for resuscitating the moribund Times might be Carlos Slim. I wonder what the hidden residuals that the RICO maestro Pinch Sulzberger has pledged to Carlos for that "one-off" infusion of life-saving cash?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wikileaks: 35 Guantanamo Inmates Recruited by British-based Mullahs

Al Qaeda's largest single base of recruitment of English-speaking terrorists was inFinsbury Park Mosque, long a source of complaints by those fighting terrorism and now discovered by a massive Wikileaks dump to be even more of a hub of recruitment and coordination against those doughty conservatives who fight the British nanny-state's coddling of terrorist Mullahs. It seems that the Wikileaks revealing British incompetence and feckless insoucience are so numerous as to make WhiteHall and MI6 the laughingstock of diplomatic and intelligence activities in Europe. Maybe the US should take the French approach and use more tough love, or even forget about the "love" part. There follows a whole string of embarassments that the feckless Brits will not live down for a long time. It's worthy of note that the Daily Telegraph has the journalistic integrity to publish these self-condemning documents, while the Guardian, the BBC, and other corrupt terrorist collaborators deflect the total cock-ups into a diatribe against the US in Guantanamo in general.

The Daily Telegraph has a whole page of articles linked to Wikileaks highly-classified US cables describing methods and results of extensive interrogations over several years at Gitmo.

Shaker Aamer is a case particularly embarassing to the Brit conservative government since the Foreign Secretary Hague has been waging a high-level campaign to get Aamer released for family and humanitarian reasons, only to have the Wikileaks reveal damning information on this specially-recruited personal translator for Osama bin Laden who has pledged to give his life for the cause. Fuck the wife and kids, I wanna die a glorious martyrdom...!!!

Even more embarassing to the Brits was the revelation by the classified documents that their chief Afghan political ally
Mullan Haji Rohullah, who was subsequently transported to Guantánamo, was paid more than £300,000 of British taxpayers’ money to eradicate his poppy crops. But he instead allegedly supported al-Qaeda and helped terrorists escape allied forces — while continuing to act as a major drugs trafficker.
The revelation raises new questions over the payment and monitoring of international aid in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the invasion in 2001.
The international development budget, which has recently been embroiled in controversy over the appropriateness of some expenditure, is one of the only areas of the British public sector which is not facing cuts under the Coalition.
Farming poppies for opium was a major source of income to the Taliban, with heroin being trafficked around the world. Rohullah, who was based in Konar province, met the British ambassador in Afghanistan to discuss the eradication scheme and agreed that farmers in the area would receive $250 (£152) an acre to stop growing poppies.
Rohullah is also linked to British intelligence services in the Guantánamo files.

Sloppy MI6 and Military Intelligence can't explain how $500 million in pounds was sent to one of Al Qaeda's chief collaborators and the fact that Mulan Haji Rohullah was both the major player to eradicate poppy crops, but clandestinely was running an immense drug selling operation right under the Brits' noses.
...according to the documents, “it appears detainee [Rohullah] was not only receiving money from selling poppies when he claimed he was prohibiting them from being grown in Konar province, but he was also receiving financial aid from the British”.
Using development funding, the British apparently gave $6 million (£3.6  million) to a close associate of Rohullah, of which $3.5 million was distributed to tribal leaders.
Rohullah, who was arrested in 2002 but has since been released, was also allegedly “linked to plots to kill leaders within the interim Afghanistan government”.
The files alleged that the “detainee had a tremendous negative impact on the people of the Kunar province”.
The “important politician” had previously travelled to Britain and met Abu Qatada, the radical cleric.
After Rohullah, 49, was arrested, his supporters held meetings to plan attacks on Americans.
The supporters discussed either suicide attacks against the US or capturing Americans “to hold as hostages for use in bartering” for Rohullah’s release.

Mullan Haji Rohullah was a focal point in the different approaches that the Brits and Americans took to stop the drug exports:
According to the US WikiLeaks documents, Rohullah “had dealings with the United Kingdom and the Pakistani ISID [Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate].”
“He supposedly was in support of the Afghan Interim Administration,” state the files, but allegedly he was "really conducting operations that undermined the transition process.”
The payments to Afghan farmers to stop growing poppies for the production of heroin have been a controversial part of the overseas development funding since 2001.
The British supported payments to farmers to destroy the crops, whereas the US preferred to encourage them to grow other crops.
The British Government spent more than £290 million on a three-year-programme of eradication, support for farmers and pursuit of drug barons and traffickers.

Lockerbie is the source of still another embarassing revelation concerning the release of the sole convicted terrorist in the Lockerbie terror-bombing.
The cable states: "The [US] Deputy said the UK government needed to understand the sensitivities in this case, and noted he was acutely aware of the concerns of Lockerbie victim's groups from his previous time in government."
Mr Megrahi was controversially released on compassionate grounds seven months later after being diagnosed with cancer.
Last night the victim's families were furious that British diplomats actively lobbied to stop the US intervening in Megrahi's release.
Kathleen Flynn, whose son John Patrick died in the bombing, said: "It is disgraceful that the British were complicit in his release. This man was a killer who took 270 innocent lives but was allowed go free and live the life of riley in Tripoli."
Sir Nigel Sheinwald also reportedly gave Gaddafi's son, Saif, help with his PhD thesis. The doctorate awarded him by the London School of Economics was already thought suspect because he followed it with a £1.5 million donation. Mr Sheinwald denied the allegation, saying he met Saif Gaddafi while he was writing his thesis but had not helped him.
In February the Daily Telegraph revealed how the British government secretly advised Gaddafi's Libyan regime on how to secure the early release of the Lockerbie bomber.
According to a diplomatic cable a foreign office minister sent Libyan officials detailed legal advice on how to use Al-Megrahi's cancer diagnosis to ensure he was freed from a Scottish prison.
A week later David Cameron released a cache of Cabinet Office documents relating to the release which confirmed that the then Labour government did "all it could" to make sure al-Megrahi was released from jail.
Senior Labour Cabinet ministers always denied being involved in any backstairs deals over the release in August 2009, yet a secret Foreign Office memo referred to a "game plan" to facilitate Megrahi's move to Libya.
Sir Gus O'Donnell, the cabinet secretary, said in an analysis of the papers: "Once Megrahi had been diagnosed with terminal cancer in September 2008, (government) policy was based upon an assessment that UK interests would be damaged if Megrahi were to die in a UK jail."
A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We do not comment on leaked documents."

Meanwhile, Abdel0Basset al Megrahi's illness turned out to be a ruse and he walks around a healthy man today despite perfidious Albion and her sister stupid Scotland's insistence that the terrorist was at death's door two years ago.

And poor John Patrick Flynn is still dead.

BBC Covert Ties to Al Qaeda Uncovered by Wikileaks

The Daily Telegraph was passed some documents from Wikileaks:
The files, obtained by the WikiLeaks website and passed to The Daily Telegraph, disclose that a phone number of someone at the BBC was found in the phone books and phones of a number of extremists seized by US forces.
A detainee assessment, dated 21 April 2007, states: "The London, United Kingdom (UK), phone number 0044 207 XXX XXXX was discovered in numerous seized phone books and phones associated with extremist-linked individuals.
“The number is associated with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).” Analysis by The Daily Telegraph suggests the number is one for Bush House, home of the BBC World Service.
The assessment continues that US forces uncovered many “extremist links” to this number, suggesting that extremists could have made contact with BBC employees who were sympathetic to extremists or had information on “ACM [anti-Coalition Militia] operations”.
It says: “(Analyst Note: Numerous extremist links to this BBC number indicates a possible propaganda media network connection. Network analysis might provide leads to individuals with either sympathetic ties to extremists or possibly possessing information on ACM operations.)”

As an almost daily viewer of BBC for the United States, which is broadcast on PBS every day at 5:30 PM & midnight, I can only say one thing: Duh. Anyone who follows the Middle East and watches BBC is struck by the extremely radical take this state-owned agitprop organization propagates on behalf of the Arabs, no matter whom, and against Israel, no matter what the objective matters of the case. I notice that several reporters distort their presentation and Robert Fisk, a notorious useful idiot and fellow traveller for terrorist organizations so radical that years ago Andrew Sullivan invented the term "Fisking" to denote complete distortion of the news to fit a radical pattern, is presented as an awesome oracle of objectivity whenever he comments on BBC TV news.
The Daily Telegraph rang the phone number on Monday. A single tone on the line suggested that it had been disconnected, or was no longer in use.
The possible link between extremism and staff at the BBC will anger the national broadcaster, which prides itself on its impartiality.
The BBC number was given in the file of Turki Mish’awi Za’id Alj-Amri, a Saudi who was “assessed to be a member of al-Qaeda, who travelled to Afghanistan to participate in Jihad”.
The file claims that Alj-Amri had “stayed at al-Qaeda facilities, received training at an al-Qaeda camp, and served under al-Qaida leadership in Tora Bora, AF. “Detainee's pocket litter links him to significant Anti-Coalition Militia (ACM) personnel and groups.”
It says: “Many of the telephone numbers in his pocket litter have been associated with multiple ACM personnel, indicating he may have played a greater role in multiple activities than previously assessed.”
Alj-Amri was repatriated to Saudi Arabia from the detention camp seven months later on 9 November 2007, along with 13 other men.
In February 2009 the Saudi Government published a list of the 85 most wanted suspected terrorists, which included an individual named Turki Mashawi Al Aseery.

The Saudi record for "rehabilitation" is spotty to say the very least. Of the 14 repatriated in Sept. 2007 from Guantanamo to Saudi, after subjection to tough love and New Age "attititude-modifying" ministrations over a six-month period, the repatriated Fourteen, with a couple of exceptions, promptly returned to their underground insidious terrorist activities. They became the nucleus of AQAP and are now headquartered in Yemen, presumably along with Al-Amriki, the notorious US-born fugitive whose recordings have recruited such terrorists as the lovelorn Major Hasan, who killed 13 of his fellow soldiers because he wasn't getting any, and the crotch bomber, who flew from Sana'a with magic underwear and passed through a transfer at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam only to see the bomb malfunction on Dec. 24th, 2009 as the plane circled into a descent over Detroit. Other Saudi "repatriates" have been detected plotting against the Saudi Royal Family and trying to repatriate Saudi land seized early last century back under Yemeni control. "Turki Mashawi Al Aseery" mentioned above is of Asiri descent and of Yemeni ethnic lineage and heritage, as is his doppelganger Alj-Amri, whose pocket-litter contained the incriminating BBC phone numbers. Who in the BBC is the "unofficial" liaison with Al-Qaeda.

The BBC has been accused so frequently of being a nest of terrorist-accomplices or wannabees that:
In September 2006 the BBC’s then-chairman Michael Grade organised an “impartiality summit”, hosted by veteran broadcaster Sue Lawley, to assess whether there was a left-leaning bias at the broadcaster.
An account of the meeting, leaked to a Sunday newspaper the following month, showed that that executives accepted they would broadcast an interview with al-Qaeda mastermind Osama Bin Laden, if they were given the opportunity.
In a debate on whether the BBC should interview Bin Laden if he approached them, it was decided the al-Qaeda leader would be given a platform to explain his views.
Andrew Marr later told the newspaper: “The BBC is not impartial or neutral. It’s a publicly funded, urban organisation with an abnormally large number of young people, ethnic minorities and gay people.
“It has a liberal bias not so much a party-political bias. It is better expressed as a cultural liberal bias.”
A BBC spokesperson said: "Independence and impartiality are at the heart of all BBC World Service output. The service has interviewed representatives of organisations from all sides involved in the Afghan conflict so it would not be surprising that a number believed to relate to the BBC Pashto service was in circulation."

But why would repatriated Saudis want to contact the Pashto language service, unless they were fluent in the language from service in Afghanistan or else were aware that the covert BBC mole was located in the Pashto service?

The BBC has a lot of explaining to do and I'll be watching their daily broadcasts to see if they have the journalistic integrity to even bring up these issues. I'm not holding my breath.
UPDATE:Here's a link from the Guardian with the usual leftist rubbish which takes the Wikileaks and tries to turn them into an anti-US rodomontade. The Guardian trash was obtained by the NYT, which no longer looks for reasons to hunt or prevent terrorists from attacking the US---indeed, quite the opposite.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Syria Next Stop on the Insurrection Freedom RR in the Middle East

MAP of Syrian Protests in MARCH! Now the sites have INCREASED AND MULTIPLIED as the murderous dictator kills without restraint.

Article first published as Syria's Insurrection Cycle on Blogcritics.

Fouad Ajami writes in the Wall Street Journal about the latest iteration of the "Arab Spring" that was started when a college grad fruit & veggie vendor in a small town in Tunisia incinerated himself after local bureaucratic thugs took away his license and confiscated his entire inventory.

After regimes tumbled in Tunis, Cairo, and wobbled in Manama and Sana'a---Libya is now in a full-scale civil war with NATO helping the [relatively] unarmed civilized Eastern half centered on Benghazi. Strangely for those who are close to Middle East politics [I was a State Dept Arabist, a political officer in Beirut and Saudi Arabia, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Middle East Institute after I retired], the US and Egyptian Armed Forces have staged a biennial exercise in the Egyptian Western Desert close to the Libyan border called "Bright Star" for decades and could reactivate quickly---unless political unrest in Misr continues to froth and bubble. But the hesitant Obungler and a timid JCofS make any actual use of US military on-the-ground unlikely. But here's my former tenant [I was his landlord for a year when he first fetched up at SAIS] Fouad expatiating on the ongoing drama in Syria, the latest and very deserving candidate for violent overthrow of a hated regime:
Hama was one of the principal cities of the Syrian plains. With a history of tumult and disputation, this Muslim Sunni stronghold rose against the military rule of Hafez Assad in 1982. The regime was at stake, and the drab, merciless ruler at its helm fought back and threw everything he had into the fight.

A good deal of the center of the inner city was demolished, no quarter was given. There are estimates that 20,000 people were killed.

After Hama, Hafez Assad would rule uncontested for two more decades. Prior to his ascendancy, 14 rulers came and went in a quarter-century. Many perished in prison or exile or fell to assassins. Not so with that man of stealth. He died in 2000, and in a most astonishing twist, he bequeathed power to his son Bashar, a young man not yet 35 years of age and an ophthalmologist at that.

Side note: when I was PolMil Officer in Saudi Arabia, our USIA chief in the Embassy was Isa Sabbagh, who was Kissinger's favorite translator and who went along on the famous "shuttle diplomacy" charades of the mid-70s. Sabbagh [and later, another colleague Skip Gnehm, who was stationed in Damascus at the time] told me that Kissinger frequently confided with him that Hafez al-Assad was his favorite Middle East leader, now that Golda Meir was going downhill, because he was super-intelligent and one could count on him to keep the animals in his cage under control. And according to Sabbagh, the first half-hour of every session between Henry the K and Assad was relegated to hilarious jokes about how pig-headed the Israelis were [Kissinger] and how stupid the Arabs were [Hafez Assad]. Sabbagh would repeat some of the best, provided they were "not for attribution." And they were hilarious. But more on the serious disease Syria suffers from:
By then Syrians had fled into the privacy of their homes, eager to escape the ruler's whip and gaze. Rule became a matter of the barracks, the ruling caste hunkered down, and the once-feisty republic become a dynastic possession. Assad senior had come from crushing rural poverty, but the House of Assad became a huge financial and criminal enterprise.

Around Bashar Assad were siblings, cruel and entitled. At the commanding heights of the economy were the Assad in-laws, choking off the life of commerce, reducing the trading families of yesteryear to marginality and dependence. And there was the great sectarian truth of this country: The Alawis, a mountainous community of Shiite schismatics, for centuries cut off from wealth and power, comprising somewhere between 10% and 12% of the population, had hoarded for themselves supreme political power. The intelligence barons were drawn from the Alawis, as were the elite brigades entrusted with the defense of the regime.

When I had a one-to-one meeting with the Syrian Oil Minister in 1995 [while I was Entry Strategy/Risk Analyst for Amoco Corp], he turned up the TV set to keep the bugs in the office out-of-synch and whispered to me that there were five intelligence agencies who were so ubiquitous and well-known that one could tell from their license plates which of the five were in the vehicle following me. He gave me the codes on the plates which I wrote down for future reference. This is the sort of "respect" that disaffected Syrians, including at the Ministerial level, afford the despised Alawi ascendancy & the Al-Assad dictatorship. It was in the false dawn of Yitzhak Rabin's opening to the Arab World and the minister confided to me that Damascus merchants were snapping up the plots of land alongside the road between Damascus and the Israeli border in anticipation of an open border. Sadly, three months later, Rabin was assassinated by a right-wing Israeli fanatic and the dream died. But more historical background from the magisterial Ajami, a refugee from that troubled country of Lebanon, in which the Syrians have been manipulating and assassinating political actors for more than three decades.
For the rulers, this sectarian truth was a great taboo, for Damascus had historically been a great city of Sunni urban Islam. That chasm between state and society, between ruler and ruled, that we can see in practically all Arab lands under rebellion was most stark in Syria. It is unlikely that the Gadhafis and Mubaraks and the ruler of Yemen could have entertained thoughts of succession for their sons had they not seen the ease with which Syria became that odd creature—a republican monarchy.

When the Arab revolutions hit Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, Bashar Assad claimed that his country would be bypassed because it was the quintessential "frontline" state in the Arab confrontation with Israel. Let them eat anti-Zionism, the regime had long thought of its subjects. Tell them that their desire for freedom and bread and opportunities, their taste for the new world beyond the walls of the big Assad prison, would have to wait until the Syrian banners are raised over the Golan Heights.

But the Syrians who conquered fear and doubt, who were willing to put the searing memory of Hama behind them, were reading from a new script. Bashar could neither hear, nor fully understand, this rebellion.

He sacked a subservient cabinet and replaced it with an equally servile one. He would end the state of emergency, he promised—though a state of emergency that lasts nearly half-a-century is a way of life.

Fouad is right, of course, and speaks of the Sunnis with respect despite the fact that he comes from a Shi'ite background in S. Lebanon and that the Alawis are much closer to the Shi'ite version of Islam than the Sunni---hence the rapport and even covert cooperation between the Alawite regime and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Fouad sees a big reason to think that this time a true thawra, or revolution [ironically the name of the toadying Syrian official newspaper is Thawra] is at the door. This comes ironically after a fashion hyena queen named Wintour put Assad's comely wife on the cover of Vogue, or was it Cosmopolitan? The vicious Assad regime has truly wormed its way into the hearts of libtard gray matter, including that of the First Bungler and his insufferable Secretary of State, Hillarious.
But a new country is emerging from hibernation. When the Assads came into their dominion nearly 40 years ago, Syria was a largely rural society with six million people. The country has been remade: It has been urbanized. Some 15 million people have known no other rule than that of the Assads and their feared mukhabarat, the secret police. From smaller provincial towns, protests spread to the principal cities. The cult of the ruler—and hovering over him the gaze of his dead father—had cracked.

In the regime's arsenal, there is the ultimate threat that this upheaval would become a sectarian war between the Alawites and the Sunni majority. Syria is riven by sectarian differences—there are substantial Druze and Kurdish and Christian communities—and in the playbook of the regime those communities would be enlisted to keep the vast Sunni majority at bay. This is the true meaning of the refrain by Bashar and his loyalists that Syria is not Egypt or Tunisia—that it would be shades of Libya and worse.

Syria is a terrorist state and has harbored many terrorist organizations in the past---its own mukhabbaraat has a history of organizing and participating in covert acts of terror:
Terrorism has always been part of the Assad regime's arsenal. It killed and conquered its way into Lebanon over three decades starting in the late 1970s. It fought and bloodied American purposes in Iraq by facilitating the entry of jihadists who came to war against the Americans and the Shiites. And in the standoff between the Persian theocracy and its rivals in the region, the Syrians had long cast their fate with the Iranians.

Under Bashar, the Syrians slipped into a relationship of some subservience to the Iranians—yet other nations were always sure that Syria could be "peeled off" from Iran, that a bargain with Damascus was always a day, or a diplomatic mission, away. It had worked this way for Assad senior, as American statesmen including Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton were confident that they could bring that man, at once an arsonist and a fireman in his region, into the fold.

The son learned the father's tricks. There is a litter of promises, predictions by outsiders that Bashar Assad is, at heart, a reformer. In 2000, our emissary to his father's funeral and to his own inauguration, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, praised him in such terms. He was part of the Internet generation, she said.

Sadly, the US has had imbeciles like Albright, who believed North Korea was actually following through on its promises to close nuke uranium-enriching operations and that Assad was at heart, a "reformer." Her two successors were Colin Powell and Condi Rice [Condi was ingenuous enough to "persuade" Israel and the PLO to allow Hamas to participate in the 2006 elections for the Palestinian Authority---generating ANOTHER radical Islamofascist regime in Gaza]. Hillarious is still goggle-eyed and believes that Assad is an exception to the rule---instead of being "arsonist and fireman" in one person, as Fouad aptly puts it.
But Bashar is both this system's jailer and its captive. The years he spent in London, the polish of his foreign education, are on the margin of things. He and the clans—and the intelligence warlords and business/extortion syndicates around him—know no other system, no other way.

"We need our second independence in Syria," an astute dissident, Radwan Ziadeh, recently observed. "The first was the freedom from the French and the second will be from the Assad dynasty." Would that the second push for freedom be as easy and bloodless as the first.

One of my most bizarre experiences in the wonderful city of Damascus [if you are a well-off western tourist with a diplomat-in-residence as your personal tour guide] was a visit to the National Museum, which back when I first visited one of the oldest cities in the world still extant, had a big exhibition of the takeover from the French---which gave the United States of America full credit for arranging Syria's independence without bloodshed or retribution from the French. I was told by local Syrians I met through the Embassy that, yes, unlike our experience in Vietnam with the French, we were able to winkle them out of Syria, partly by increasing their pouvoir in neighboring Lebanon by a wink and a nod. So in a bizarre sense, the Syrians are not hostile to the US to their marrow, unlike Iran, which blames the US for the Mossadegh imbroglio in 1953 [although I had Kermit Roosevelt's son as a houseguest in my home in Jidda, and he gave me a different account of the events that eventuated in the return of a pusallanimous, vainglorious, silly Shah easily manipulated by his own belief in his mystic ties with the Iranian people and Persian history.]

More to the point, Bashar is a victim of the labyrinthine asylum his father set up to control the custodians of the family-owned member of the United Nations, and simply not smart enough to keep the thugs in line or keep all those balls in the air at the same time. Bashar is at heart an opthamologist and not a power-mad dictator, which is why he got the job as figurehead-in-chief in the first place---his own greedy extended family of Alawites and in-law criminals [remember Hafez's brother and Bashar's full-brother Rifaat had a home in McLean, Virginia that burned to the ground when he got too close to trying to succeed his wimpy stick-insect nephew---Bashar was "forcibly cajoled" into succeeding his father, as one of my Middle East friends memorably described it.

Instead of jumping up and down and holding his breath while making smoke come out of his ears, Obungler should consider using some very tough love on his wayward go-between who keeps saying that Syria can handle those Iranian hotheads. Israel is not going to have anything to do with Bashar, especially since former PM Barak just got bounced from Netanyahu's coalition for saying he was certain that Syria was NOT opposed to a settlement favorable to Israel. Like Albright, Rice, and Hillarious, is there something in the water Barak is drinking, or is he mesmerized somehow by Syrian Sufi voodoo of some sort? Netanyahu ain't buying it and Barak had to go, seriously affecting the balance in the Labor/Likud coalition which had the appearance of an unnatural coupling to begin with. So for the time, Israel is content, if that is the word, to sit on the sidelines.

It is hard enough for this strange POTUS Obama to get enough gumption to take on Qaddafi, a certified mass murderer and a terrorist in attacking his own people. Can he in any shape or manner see fit to get involved in another clear case of taking on a regime, even though the Syrian regime is closer to the socialist nonsense Obungler is trying dishonestly to foist on the US of A?

The Good Friday murders by this stick insect are enough reason to get more involved in effecting a transition to a non-terrorist regime. Let's hope our own narcissistic self-serving political hack in the Oval Office starts to grow a pair instead of attacking US patriots who assert American ideals in foreign countries. Something to hope for.

WSJ Reveals How Obama is Going to Subvert the Supreme Court


DISCLOSE is the euphemism this fraud of a cheat of a POTUS uses when he aims to subvert the Constitution. His running dogs Schumer and Reid support him in this institutionalized TREASON. Here's the WSJ says:
Here's another reason to think the 2012 campaign is underway with a vengeance: If a company wants a federal government contract, from now on it will first have to disclose if the company or its executives gave more than $5,000 in political donations.

This latest federal rule comes courtesy of a new executive order now being drafted in the White House. The order would implement parts of last year's Disclose Act, which failed to pass Congress but was a favorite of Democrats because it would deter political contributions by business after last year's Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision. White House press secretary Jay Carney confirmed last week that the order is in the works after former Federal Election Commission official Hans von Spakovsky obtained a copy of the draft.

The draft of the executive order describes the rule's purpose as a way to ensure the federal contracting system is free from the influence of "political activity or political favoritism." Hmmm. Last we checked, government contractors were already required to disclose contributions to candidates. The new twist here is the disclosure of donations to independent groups, a category in which conservatives outspent liberals for the first time in the last election cycle.

And what do you know? The draft order doesn't cover federal employee labor unions, the Democratic allies whose free speech rights were recognized alongside corporations in Citizens United. Nor do the disclosure requirements extend to recipients of federal grants, which often run into the millions of dollars. These donees are usually Democrats too.

Federal contracts are supposed to go to the lowest bidder, so it's hard to see how disclosure of political contributions would help contract decisions. Mandatory disclosure would impose politics on federal procurement choices as never before.

Even GOP strongman Tom DeLay never tried this one during his K Street heyday, though you can imagine the howls if he had. The closest we can come to something comparable is former Nixon henchman John Dean's memo during the Watergate era that the point of keeping an "enemies list" was to "determine what sorts of dealings these individuals have with the Federal Government and how we can best screw them (e.g., grant availability, federal contracts, litigation prosecution, etc.)."

These days the White House proxies on the political left will do the enemy listing. Disclosure may sound nice, but the real point is to put companies on notice that their political contributions will have, well, consequences. When the Disclose Act was before Congress, New York Democrat and co-sponsor Chuck Schumer made clear the bill was designed to "embarrass companies" out of exercising the rights recognized in Citizens United. "The deterrent effect should not be underestimated," he said.

Exhibit A was last year's campaign against Target Corp. When the retailer donated $150,000 to an independent group running ads in the Minnesota governor's race, smeared the company as antigay, threatened a boycott, and said Target needed to be made an example of or such donations could be "the tip of the iceberg." Target stopped donating to that group.

The executive order is only the latest Democratic effort to intimidate business donors. Last month, the liberal Media Access Project asked the Federal Communications Commission to begin requiring groups that run political ads to disclose their major donors on the air, a wacky interpretation of the 1934 Communications Act. Last week, Maryland Democrat Chis van Hollen sued the FEC to demand donor disclosure.

The point of all this is to discourage political speech by certain speakers. Citizens United was a landmark victory for liberty because it blew a huge hole in the architecture of campaign finance limits that had increasingly restricted political speech. Having failed to overrule Citizens United in Congress, Democrats now want to do it via executive diktat. Remember when Barack Obama campaigned as a postpartisan who'd stop all that Washington nastiness?

Yes, we remember way back then.

Now the POS is a traitor to the American Constitution, wanting to overthrow the First Amendment any way he can.

Friday, April 22, 2011

What we Should All Be Afraid of

W. Cleon Skousen has been boosted by Glenn Beck recently and if you look at Skousen's The Naked Communist, you will see why Glenn is so roundly despised by traitors and libtard degenerates.

Mary Grabar has an update on the progression of numbers 17 and 23 on Skousen's list of the takeover targets of Communism/Socialism and their plan to push frauds like Obama, a "low-level socialist agitator" as Cong. Allen West describes him, onto the national scene.
The political objectives could not be missed in the panel, “Barack, Bush, and Beck (Oh, My?): Political Ideological Discourse Theories,” which attracted about 50 participants, more than five times as many as most. Chair Greg Wilson’s (Iowa State University) salvo of his “hope that you brought righteous indignation” brought some chortling and eye-rolling.

After congratulating attendees for their intelligence proven by their contempt for Glenn Beck, Drew Loewe, from St. Edwards’ University, launched into what he saw as Beck’s misuse and misrepresentation of the word, “Constitution” (“’Constitution’ as Ideograph: What Hundreds of Glenn Beck Transcripts Can Teach Us”). Loewe’s study revealed that the word “Constitution” appears most often and functions thereby as a populist “ideograph,” a “wellspring for group consensus,” and therefore a building block for a certain ideology--in Beck’s case, “reactionary.” Even the historical and legal scholars on Beck’s program have nothing of substance to say about the Constitution, Loewe maintained.

A similar attack came from Greg Wilson from Iowa State as he claimed that George W. Bush made no legitimate claim that harsh interrogation techniques against terrorists produced useful intelligence (“Bush Administration Torture Discourse: Unpacking the Ideology and Justifications Using Articulation Theory”). But these assertions about ideology as the real motivator behind Bush’s torture policy (articulated in his speeches) were not backed up by any evidence from Wilson himself.

Joseph Telegen of Western Carolina University, conversely, claimed that Barack Obama, whose “contemplative nature” made him a welcome alternative to Bush, brilliantly and innovatively aims his rhetoric at a mysterious “’Fourth Locale’” (somehow beyond the three locales of appeals to the left, right, or middle that less gifted orators use). “A More Perfect Union” speech “interrogated” (a well-worn postmodern cultword) “racial extremity” without denouncing Jeremiah Wright, thus returning to shared core principles. Telegen, in his teaching, advocates these Obamian communicative strategies, on which he wrote his thesis.

A q&a session followed
Focusing on Beck’s “in-group” strategy, Loewe’s claim that Beck of course would have “zero chance” of being invited to this conference was met with knowing laughter. ......My own work duties as an instructor of composition forced me to miss a paper on “Tea Party Rage” on Thursday afternoon. But after sleeping off the headache induced by all the drumming, I was at the Atlanta Marriott to attend the Friday 8:00 a.m. session “’Unrelated Kin’: Building Kin Relationships with Critical Race Theory and Out-Loud Public Literacies in Rhetoric-Composition Studies.” Here again a presumed “critical thinking” was applied against the teacher’s political enemy to engage students in protest “action.” Panelist Jody Ludlow advocated using “critical race theory” to expose what she claims is the promotion of “white privilege under the false veil of fairness,” in the language of Nebraska’s Initiative 424 against affirmative action. But through the example of Ludlow and approximately 95 percent of conference participants, it became clear that one must condemn one’s own “white privilege” to be allowed a place at the CCCC table.

Yes, I'm sure Glenn is sulking that he'd be banished forever from colloquiums like these dialogues of the fevered left. You have to read Dr. Grabar's entire article to see how the Atlanta meeting serves as some sort of anarchists' Black Sabbath Mass.

Ryan New GOP Party Chief, Whether He Wants or Knows It

Charles Krauthammer wants the GOP to rustle up a posse and haul in Paul Ryan to do his constitutional responsibilty to run for President, now that he's effortlessly become its de-facto leader.
A remarkable class of young up-and-comers includes Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Nikki Haley. All impressive, all new to the national stage, all with bright futures. 2012, however, is too early — except possibly for Ryan, who last week became de facto leader of the Republican Party. For months, he will be going head-to-head with President Obama on the budget, which is a surrogate for the central issue of 2012: the proper role of government. If Ryan acquits himself well, by summer’s end he could emerge as a formidable anti-Obama.

One problem: Ryan has zero inclination to run. Wants to continue what he’s doing right now. Would have to be drafted. That would require persuasion. Can anyone rustle up a posse?

Chris Christie has an embarassing cap-and-trade blot in his copybook. Romney's elephant-in-the-parlor is RomneyCare in MA, Gingrich is a non-stop chatterbox who can't or won't shut up and has personal baggage that he doesn't shut up about.

Bachmann, Pawlenty, Daniels, Barbour are all doomed unless Obungler stumbles badly or falls under a bus. Palin & Huckabee are hopefully too smart and Trump too nauseating to really run. [Trump can convince himself of anything, though, as long as it aggrandizes his immense ego.]

How to detach Paul Ryan, the one truly competent possibility with an apparent superiority over Obungler across the board, from his professional pride in doing the budget job the way it needs to be done? If Cantor weren't Jewish, he'd be a candidate, but he's ruffled a few too many feathers. Still, somebody has got to cross that bridge and become the first non-Christian POTUS candidate.

Krauthammer is so superior to all other Post correspondents except occasionally David Ignatius and Anne Applebaum, that he's the only reason I still even look at that rag. CK is also superior to all and every NYT writer/correspondent as well[---not that that's saying much.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Obama's Likeability Gap

Dan Henninger of the Wall Street Journal points out something that the MSM lamestream print and electronic media, not even Fox News to a great extent, have even noticed on their fever charts when it comes to the 2012 election. Likeability as one projects on the big-TV screen is now perhaps one of the chief stylistic measurement tools of the electiblility of a candidate. And Obama is beginning to show major cracks in his facade of no-drama cool he's been trying to project during the various crises besetting his administration.
If it is true, as Michelle Obama said in February, that her husband isn't smoking anymore, maybe he'd better start mellowing out with the cigs again before it costs him the presidency.

The Barack Obama we've been seeing lately is a different personality than the one that made a miracle run to the White House in 2008.

Obama.2008 was engaging, patient, open, optimistic and a self-identified conciliator.

Obama.2011 has been something else—testy, petulant, impatient, arrogant and increasingly a divider.

Never forget: That historic 2008 victory came with 52.9% of the total vote and 52% of independent voters. David Axelrod recently noted "how small the margin for error is."

Presidential personality is well inside the margin of error for 2012, but the one on display recently has not been attractive. And it's happening a lot.

This Monday, after wrapping up a White House interview with a Dallas TV reporter, the station reported that Mr. Obama said: "Let me finish my answers the next time we do an interview, alright?"

This self-referencing, snappish tone tracks with the president's "open mic" comments last week at a Chicago fund-raiser. Dismissing the GOP as "nickel and diming" him on budget negotiations, he asked, "You think we're stupid?" White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the president wasn't embarrassed. But he should be. Not because his comments were caught, but because suddenly he's sounding more like Travis Bickle ("You talkin' to me?") than the president of the United States.

Travis Bickel in De Niro's unforgettable personification of the world's nastiest cab driver is an appropriate metaphor for this increasingly nasty piece-of-work in the Oval Office. The no-drama man is turning into an authoritarian with his refusal to accept Congressional restrictions on funding his unaccountable "czars" and his apparent imminent presidential executive order that would implement portions of the "DISCLOSE Act." His invitation to Paul Ryan to sit in the front row of his budget response to Ryan's proposals might be an indicator of what Henninger notices is a Mr. Hyde version of the Won:
Now he's deconstructing himself into another Obama. The latest Obama, which seems genuine, routinely ridicules and mocks his opposition. He mocks pretty much anyone who disagrees with him about anything.

Last week, official Washington gathered at George Washington University to hear the president make his contribution to the fiscal-policy debate. What they got was something else (just as the members of the Supreme Court got something else at last year's State of the Union speech). The person who said memorably in 2008 that there were no red states or blue states gave a speech essentially reading the Republicans out of the American political system. "This is not a vision of the America I know."

The political left lapped it up. Finally, wrote the progressive punditariat, Barack Obama was acting like their guy, willing to get in the face of the American right. At last, an American president was calling out conservatism as nothing less than a violation of "the basic social compact in America."

This is strong stuff, which implies that opposition to his convoluted health and other plans is somehow an assault on the values that make America the country conservatives love and also implies that political opposition is somehow not legitimate when it comes to confronting Obama's entire kaleidoscopic inchoate and protean series of big government aggrandizement on entire new areas of the American economy.
Gallup just reported that the Obama approval rate among independent voters stands at 35%. The conventional reply to this is that the American people fundamentally "like" Barack Obama, or that the GOP candidate will make the election an unlikability Olympics.

What voters like is the memory of the historic Obama they voted into the office of the presidency. The person they voted for in 2008 is different than the person who kicked off his presidential campaign last week by personally stomping his opposition.

Somehow voters are apparently expected to "like" whichever version Mr. Obama chooses to give them. It is asking a lot. By definition, this is a gap, and it's looking like it could be a dangerous one for the incumbent.

I'm old enough to remember how suddent the ground disappeared from under the feet of Jimmy Carter back in the '79-80 run-up to his re-election. Suddenly, the MSM lamestream began to notice some of Carter's missteps that had previously been brushed off as mere peccadillos and called him out on the double-digit interest rates, mortgage rates, unemployment rates and inflation rate. Suddenly it became VERY apparent that Carter's incompetence across the political, economic and foreign policy board was a feature, not a bug.

And Reagan waltzed to a resounding victory.

Where is Ronnie Reagan or someone like him when we need him.

Chris Christie isn't the "answer," nor is Marco Rubio, but either would be preferable to the second-raters now leaning towards entering the GOP ring. Obama proved that a long CV is not a prerequisite to sudden elevation to eminence in American politics.

David Brooks: Brilliant if Maddeningly Nonspecific

David Brooks continues to serve the role of something Europeans treasure and Americans instinctively suspect---that of "public intellectual." The French are notoriously guilty of elevating brilliant, but sometimes self-promoting philosophes whose pronouncements on just about everything are often as opinionated and sometimes as ridiculously shallow and self-serving as, say, Donald Trump about ten times a day on almost any subject.

Trolling through David's blogs [using the fishing analogy, not the Nordic legend bridge-haunting metaphor], I find subjects of excellent quality and superb variety. Ever since I read E. O. Wilson's Sociobiology in the late '70s, I've had an abiding interest in just how social interrelationships contribute to the welfare of society. This goes beyond politics and the day-to-day water-cooler gossip curiosity about how people interact. Brooks is superb in this respect, and always piques my curiosity when I pick up his books like the one I read decades ago on the suburbs as some sort of New Babylon.

Here's one of David's recent selections from his insatiable curious miscellany:
It’s well known from the work of Arthur Brooks and others that conservatives give much more to charity than liberals, especially charities meant to alleviate poverty. That makes sense. Liberals believe in government provisions more and conservatives believe in private provisions more. James Lindgren of Northwestern University recently published a Northwestern Law and Economics Research Paper in which he compared attitudes about income redistribution and other beliefs.

He relied on data from the General Social Surveys conducted by the National Opinion Research Center between 1980s and 2004. He found that people who express traditionally racist views (on interracial marriage and such) tend to oppose free market capitalism. Those who express less tolerance toward a variety of minority groups also are more hostile to capitalism.

Though these results describe the section of the population that openly expresses racist or intolerant views, Lindgren’s really interesting results concern the relationship between attitudes toward income distribution and other mental and emotional traits. For example, he writes:

“Compared to anti-redistributionists, strong redistributionists have about two or three times higher odds of reporting that in the prior seven days that they were angry, mad at someone, outraged, sad, lonely, and had trouble shaking the blues. Similarly, anti-redistributionists had about two to four times higher odds of reporting being happy or at ease. Not only do redistributionists report more anger, but they report that their anger lasts longer. When asked about the last time they were angry, strong redistribuitonists were more than twice as likely as strong opponents of leveling to admit that they responded to their anger by plotting revenge. Last, both redistributionists and anti-capitalists expressed lower overall happiness, less happy marriages and lower satisfaction with their financial situations and with their jobs or housework. ”

People who oppose redistributionist policies were also more likely to report altruistric behavior and were more likely to donate to charities. One exception: redistributionists were more likely to give to homeless people on the street.

The crucial issue here, obviously, is the role of income. People with more education and higher incomes are more skeptical of redistributionist policies. Do all the positive psychological results they describe derive from simply being wealthier, leaving their attitudes about redistribution as an appendage that is unrelated to their overall happiness, or are their attitudes about personal responsibility themselves responsible for the relative success. Perhaps there is a positive feedback loop at work? Discuss amongst yourselves.

My only comment will be that I've often noticed that redistributionists do have emotions that appear to exceed their rational grasp of the subject matter before them. They are especially prone to accept fixed ideas and received opinions, frequently from those "public intellectuals" I mentioned at the top of this piece, as not requiring further elucidation and debate.

To take a situation that frequently presents itself, climate change and redistributionists' adamant insistence that the world is heating up SOLELY because of human economic and other activities, including raising livestock, is just one example of this tendency. When alternative hypotheses are brought forward, such as the well-documented correlation of sunspots with long-term weather changes on our lovely home planet, they scoff and frequently resort to ad hominem attacks on the intelligence of the antagonist.

Finally, the Lingren paper might have hit a key sweet spot in proving the major fallacy of the Democrats' "class warfare" social and political arguments with the sentence "people with more education and higher incomes are more skeptical of redistributionist policies."

Of course, the immediate redistributionist response is some sort of marxist rictus citing the exploitation of the working class. Lingren's research also shows that underlying this might be an insecurity that lies in the redistributionists' reluctance to take risks---and their deep envy and even jealousy of those who make investments in time and sweat equity that pay off handsomely in the long run. And what this portends is an inescapable slide toward a nanny-state, as more of the public school students are brainwashed into accepting the Standard Model of redistributionism.

BTW, if you want a good chuckle, read the many comments enraged NYT readers sent to David Brooks' site on this article ranging from the University of Chicago and Northwestern are careless in using "self-selecting" persons polled, i.e., they cooperate to expressing total outright obloquy hardly worthy of an esteemed newspaper of the Times' pretensions.

BTW, one more time. Elsewhere, David mentions that the Pareto Principle is now becoming widely considered as an alternative statistical tool to measure human intelligence and intention. In replacing the Bell Curve, which puts the emphasis on those in the middle of so-called "average" IQ and capabilities, the Pareto Principle stresses that a tiny minority of hyper-motivated and talented individuals are responsible for most of the breakthroughs in human development---a sort of Atlas Shrugged of social and biological psychology. I wonder what career contrarian Richard Dawkins and others of that ilk will do to uphold the Darwinian version of the Spanish Inquisition they utilize when confronted with annoying alternative views of reality.

Did Cubs Throw the 1918 Series BEFORE the 1919 Black Sox Scandal???

ESPN has a fascinating article on the evidence that recently resurfaced when the Chicago History Museum recently paid $100,000 for a document and some other artifacts at an auction. The document was a 1920 court deposition [presumably under oath] of Eddie Cicotte concerning the infamous Black Sox scandal. In Eddie's words:
"the boys on the club" talked about how a Cub or a number of Cubs were offered $10,000 to throw the 1918 Series they lost 4-2 to the Boston Red Sox.

Chicago has some of the most rabid fans in the baseball world, despite a lackluster history---especially with the luckless Cubs.
Cicotte is as vague as vague can be, failing to name any names or provide any details about how the players might have done it or even if he believes the Cubs threw the Series. But if what he suggests is true it means that when it came to fixing ball games in the early 20th century, Chicago was nobody's Second City.

"It is interesting to me as a Cubs fan and a historian of Chicago that both teams could be involved in back-to-back years," said Peter Alter, an archivist at the museum....

In those days before Ruth and other superstars, the
[p]layers commonly groused about being underpaid and there wasn't anyone in the majors who didn't hear rumors about fixes. It was impossible not to see the gamblers at the games, the lobbies of the hotels where they stayed or in the taverns where they drank.

And they talked about such rumors all the time, including, Cicotte said, on a long train ride from Chicago to the East Coast.

"The ball players were talking about somebody trying to fix the National League ball players or something like that," Cicotte is quoted as saying in the deposition.

"Well anyway there was some talk about them offering $10,000 or something to throw the Cubs in the Boston Series," he said. "Somebody made a crack about getting money, if we got into the Series, to throw the Series."

Cicotte apparently likes the sound of $10,000 because that is what he said somebody left in his hotel room for his role in the fix of the 1919 Series. He died in 1969.

The baseball season and the World Series that year was curtailed because of the First World War with many players serving in the Armed Forces. Attendance was also down, as I recall, because of the Spanish Flu outbreak which was just beginning to break out in unprecedented fury. Also, Babe Ruth famously pitched a shutout the first game and was unscored upon until the eighth inning of the fourth game, when he gave up two runs. That ran his World Series scoreless innings record to 29, a record that lasted for more than fifty years. However, he redeemed himself [under suspicious circumstances] when he blasted a triple that scored the go-ahead run to win the game. A Sporting News reporter expatiates:
Whether any of this is true is unknown, but an author who wrote about the 1918 Series after examining the deposition and other material said not only was such a fix possible, it was understandable.

"They didn't make much money," said Sean Deveney, a reporter with The Sporting News whose book, "The Original Curse," said a fix by the Cubs was likely. "They had the incentive to do something like that."

Both the Cubs and the Red Sox were upset that the teams' owners were not paying their fair share of the World Series receipts, Deveney said. Before one Series game in Boston, the two squads refused to come on the field until the owners paid them what they were promised.

"The owners said no," Deveney said.

Deveney said the players quickly understood that they could not win a public relations battle by refusing to play a game during World War I, not in a ball park filled with soldiers. So they played.

So did the Cubs throw the Series? No great hitter suddenly forgot how to hit, and the Cubs pitchers were terrific, finishing the Series with an astonishing 1.04 ERA.

Still, "there were definitely some suspicious plays," Deveney said, and most of them involved outfielder Max Flack.

In the fourth game, Flack was picked off not once, but twice. Flack turned a catchable fly ball in the sixth and final game into an error that allowed two runs to score in the Red Sox's 2-1 win.

And there was the time Babe Ruth came to the plate for the Red Sox -- a pitcher at the time, but emerging as one of the game's best hitters -- and the Cubs' pitcher, Lefty Tyler, saw that Flack was not playing deep enough in right field.

"He waved him back and Flack just stood there," Deveney said. "Sure enough, Babe hit one over his head" for a triple that scored two runs.

Later in the game, Cubs pitcher Phil Douglas came in the game long enough to field a grounder and throw the ball over the first baseman's head, allowing the decisive run to score in the Red Sox's 3-2 win.

A few years later, Douglas was banned from baseball for what the papers called "treachery" after proposing that another team in the pennant race pay him to leave the team and "go fishing."

All six games in the 1918 Cubs-Red Sox Series were close -- Boston never won a game by more than a run -- and it would only take a dropped ball here or a badly thrown ball there to turn victory into defeat.

"It didn't take much to throw a game," Deveney said. "It really didn't."

If there is a record of a baseball official asking Cicotte a single question about the 1918 World Series, Deveney doesn't know about it.

"Baseball didn't want to investigate," he said. "They wanted to make it all about the Black Sox and say, 'OK, gambling's gone."

Museum curator Alter notes that Cubs fans wouldn't have been affected all that much.
...what if the Cubs -- a team that hasn't won a World Series in 103 years, blaming the curse of a goat and the glove of a fan named Steve Bartman along the way -- had actually beaten Boston back in 1918?

"It would have bumped the curse up a decade," joked Alter. "We could be looking at a century [without winning a World Series] seven years from now."

But the alternative curse scenario is overlooked, perhaps. What if the Cubs woes aren't because of the billy-goat curse or other superstitious plagues? Perhaps because Flack and Douglas were never hauled off and rebuked for putative throwing of the Series, some New Age karmic curse is at work---dooming the Cubs to endless frustration as they never quite seem to expiate their karmic crimes?

As the story puts it, as far as fixing ball games in the early 20th century, Chicago was nobody's Second City.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

When He's not Being Stupid, Obama Lies

Obama is a dishonest person who is also ignorant of American history. Add to that he is as prissy and afraid of tough questions as Jimmy Carter was, and you can call Barack-O the second worst President in American history after the ineffable dolt from Plains, Georgia.

Now as you can see in the link above, Obama blames high oil prices on "speculators."
"It is true that a lot of what's driving oil prices up right now is not the lack of supply. There's enough supply. There's enough oil out there for world demand," Obama said at a campaign-style event not far from Washington.
"The problem is, is that oil is sold on these world markets, and speculators and people make various bets, and they say, 'you know what, we think that maybe there's a 20 percent chance that something might happen in the Middle East that might disrupt oil supply,'" he said.
"'So we're going to bet that oil is going to go up real high.' And that spikes up prices significantly," said the president, who recently launched his reelection campaign.

Here he is being simply dishonest, as AFP notes in the last line of its short article:
Obama's Republicans foes have pounded him over the rise in fuel prices, accusing him of putting on hold new oil drilling that could eventually lead to lower prices.

And rightly so, as the imbecilic moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico keeps speculators from factoring the onset of additional US crude into the world oil supply---a major factor in price calculations and future supply/demand situations.

History is not Obama's strong suit, and he told reporters a big dodo tale recently:
n an interview Monday with reporter Brad Watson of WFAA-TV of Dallas, Obama seemed to confuse the state’s current political history with its Democrat past.

“Texas has always been a pretty Republican state,” Obama said, when asked why the President was so unpopular in Texas.

In fact, since the Civil War and until 1980, the Lone Star state swung toward the Democratic candidate in 23 of 27 presidential elections.

The Minnesota State News goes on to note that Minnesota Congresswoman was fiercely criticized for misstating in Concord, NH, that she was standing where the first shots of the American Revolution were fired.
Strange, isn't it, that Obama's silly mistake wasn't even MENTIONED in the national press, whereas Bachmann's booboo was roundly shouted from every print and electronic media for days, with morons like Bill Maher and imbeciles like David Letterman calling her names, including in Maher's case a "tw*t" [obscene word for female genitalia].

How can one call Obama dishonest and stupid while still being civil? One can't, but the Demonrats stopped their civility facade weeks ago and yesterday Paul Krugman of the New York Times urged Demonrats to encourage the media to stop mollycoddling the GOP.

If the Demonrats didn't have double standards, they'd have no standards at all.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Max Schoetz article in the Marquette Law Review

Max Schoetz married to my mother's godmother. I found this article in The Marquette Law Review and made the comment below.

Max Schoetz was married to my mother's godmother, Aunt Molly, who was born Amelia Molly Knoernschild and who outlived her very young [early forties at his death] husband Max by fifty-two years & died in Milwaukee in 1979. Max died next to my Great Grandfather Charles William Knoernschild, born in Darmstadt & migrated to Milwaukee at the age of one. Entirely a self-made man, Charles was President of the Vliet Street Bank & very wealthy at his death at age 71, being CEO of four other firms in the Milwaukee area and having achieved this entirely on his own without capital or inheritance. He did not live to see the Depression, which had deleterious effects on all the Knoernschild family businesses. Charles founded the St. Charles Boys Home, which exists today as a school for orphaned and other stressed youth.

As a minor correction, Max was not killed in a streetcar accident, but at the junction of Watertown Plank Road & Hwy 100 at the train tracks. Both died soon after the train hit the automobile and a large bridge, still standing today, was built to carry traffic over the bridge. Max was so highly regarded, family tradition has it, that he was a prospect for political office had the tragic accident not cut him off in his prime.

President Whatever Loses Popularity and His Way [Mind?]

Michael Barone notices the blase cool-as-a-cucumber insoucient Obama and casts him as President
Whatever. In the long run the big things would work out his way.

Except right now they aren't. And his partisan and petulant speech last Wednesday is unlikely to move things in the direction he wants.

Even as he was speaking, Congress was moving toward passing the fiscal 2011 appropriations agreed to by congressional negotiators with only occasional input from the White House. The deal will substantially reduce spending below levels that he and leading Democrats used to call unacceptable.

But the deal has hidden codicils----
But the deal ... passed both houses by wide margins, and it contains some details that threaten to undermine the policies of the Obama Democrats in the future.

Most important, it requires the General Accountability Office to conduct an audit of the waivers from the Democrats' health care bill that are being issued in large numbers by the secretary of Health and Human Services Department.

This will raise an uncomfortable question. If Obamacare is so great, why are so many trying to get out from under it? And, more specifically, why are so many Democratic groups trying to get out from under it?

The fact is that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has granted more than 1,000 waivers from Obamacare. Many have been granted to labor unions. Some have been granted to giant corporations like McDonald's. One was granted to the entire state of Maine.

By what criteria is this relief being granted? That's unclear, and the GAO audit should produce some answers. But what it looks like to an outsider is that waivers are being granted to constituencies that have coughed up money (or in the case of Maine, four electoral votes) to the Democrats.

The Gangster-in-Chief continues to infect the Oval Office with his own brand of mold, or perhaps corrosive corruption---pick your trope.
The GAO has also been ordered to produce audits on the effect of Obamacare on health insurance premiums. This is likely to reveal that the president did not keep his promise that you could keep your current health insurance if you want to.

And there will be an audit of the comparative effectiveness bureaucracy established in the 2009 stimulus package. Comparative effectiveness is supposedly an objective study of which medical techniques are most effective. But anyone who looks closely finds that the experts are constantly changing their minds, which suggests that this is more alchemy than science -- and maybe political favoritism as well.

All of which tends to undercut the thrust of Obama's obviously-aimed-at-the-2012-campaign message: We can continue to fund Medicare and Medicaid indefinitely if we just tax rich people a little more. If so, what we're looking at is another example of gangster government in this administration. The law in its majesty applies to everyone except those who get special favors.

Steve Sailor described the whole process succinctly as "In short, the rich (“Heads we win; tails we’re too big to fail”) needed the poor (“Heads we win; tails we’ve got little to lose”) to swindle the middle class." Barone trudges on to an obvious conclusion:
Serious budget experts of all stripes know this is fantasy. Obama's fiscal commission, which issued its report last December, recognized this clearly, and recommended a package of spending cuts, program changes and tax increases to address the long-term fiscal dilemma.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, in his budget resolution that passed the House Friday, put forward a package of changes that included giving the states block grants for Medicaid and replacing the current Medicare fee-for-service with the kind of premium support recommended by the bipartisan Medicare commission more than a decade ago -- all without tax increases.

The voters, in current polls as well as in the elections last November, sent the policymakers down these paths. Obama on the one hand allows congressional Democrats to negotiate packages like the 2011 budget deal that go in that direction -- and at the same time says, incoherently and without detail, that we don't need to go there at all.

Meanwhile, the Gangster-in-Chief hits the links again for the 64th time, exceeding GWB's previous record set over eight years. And the GiC also gave a "Signing Notification" or whatever that he was not approving the defunding of the so-called "czars" [or perhaps "political hitmen"} which his amazing sleight-of-hand under the eyes of an approving lamestream MSM has allowed to go by without paying a political price.
In all this he is acting on the assumptions that Americans will accept a permanently enlarged and more expensive government and that the details don't much matter.

The 2010 elections refuted the first assumption. Now we'll see about the second.

I hope the American people begin to finally allow the scales to fall from their eyes and reconvert to sanity.

France, or rather Sarkozy, Emerging as Europe's Leader

Here's lookin' at you, mes amis

Roger Cohen isn't my fave NYT Op-Ed writer---that might be Douthat, if it's anyone at all [I'm disgusted with David Brooks' endless simpering and equivocations every Friday on PBS Lehrer News Hour which I watch to see Mark Shields sink into senility.]

But Cohen has a great article in Sunday's NYT, where Sarkozy is finally giving France back its pride after seven decades of shame due to its siding with the Nazis in 1940 after Churchill offered the French joint-citizenship with the British. The Popular Front & other decadents chose Hitler, since he must be invincible to have crushed the French so handily in SIX WEEKS. Despite De Gaulle's posturing and Mitterrand & Chirac's treasonous cowardice, France still has a backbone, as Sarkozy is beginning to demonstrate:
Only in recent weeks has the distance traveled come into focus: France, reintegrated in 2009 into the command structure of NATO, spearheading the United Nations-backed NATO military operation in Libya; providing armed muscle to the U.N. forces in Ivory Coast; and giving its pacifist-trending ally Germany a lesson in 21st-century Atlanticism.

Adenauer and de Gaulle must be turning in their graves. Here was Germany standing wobbly with Brazil, Russia, India and China — and against its closest allies, France and the United States — in the U.N. vote on Libyan military action. And here was France providing America’s most vigorous NATO support.

This was a dramatic inversion of postwar roles. It revealed the drift of a navel-gazing Germany unprepared to lead despite its power and impatient with Adenauer’s Western anchoring. It also demonstrated France’s break under Sarkozy from the posturing Gaullist notion of a French “counterweight” to America. These are seismic European shifts.

In Benghazi, the capital of free Libya, when they see a NATO aircraft they say, “There goes another Sarkozy.” After the French shame of Rwanda, a genocide where Mitterrand let time do its fullest work, that’s something.

Perhaps it’s only now with Sarkozy that another, deeper French shame is passing, one Mitterrand and Chirac knew: the “strange defeat” of 1940 with its paralyzing subsequent obfuscations.

And Nicolas turned around decades of the strange anti-American policies that crypto-Commies Mitterrand and the spectacularly Berlusconi-like Chirac [who took mountains of Napoleons d'Or from Saddam' half-brother UN Ambassador in Geneva, in diplomatic sacks marked for the Elysee Palace.] This happened when his first vacation as le President was in Lake Winnepesaukee in New Hampshire, a state that Mark Steyn also finds congenial to his Franco-Flemish tastes.
Sarkozy has intuited three things. First, the democratization of the Arab world is the most important European strategic challenge of the decade. Second, it was time “to take the training wheels off,” in the words of Constanze Stelzenmüller of the German Marshall Fund, and have Europe rather than an overextended America lead in Libya. Third, the U.N. cannot always be an umbrella that folds when it rains. If its “responsibility to protect” means anything, it must be when an Arab tyrant promises to slaughter his people.

While Britain remains staunchly in the US camp despite the bizarre Anglophobia of our present pseudo-POTUS whose daddy was a former Kenyan descended from Arab slavers, it is Germany where the beleaguered Angela Merkel flails after losing two important state elections in the last six months---seeking to find a mddle ground between her former reincarnation of Metternich as the New "Coachman of Europe" and just another minimalist participant in the EU descent into fiscal mediocrity.
We stand at a high point in French postwar diplomacy and a nadir in German. There were strong arguments on either side of a Libyan intervention, but with a massacre looming in Benghazi, Germany had to stand with its allies. Angela Merkel has proved herself more a maneuverer than a leader. Germany often conveys the sense that it now resents the agents of its postwar rehabilitation — the European Union and NATO.

I don’t think Germany believes its future lies with the BRIC countries, as the U.N. Libya vote suggested. I do think Germany has entered a new era of ambivalence and nationalist calculation.

That means several things. European integration is on hold, and as long it’s on hold the future of the euro is at risk. The German-French alliance will remain under strain. Obama should look to Sarkozy, not Merkel, for strategic support.

A last thought. This restless French leader is at his best with his back to the wall. He’s shown that. The same quality means it would be foolish to count him out next year
I'm hoping that Nicolas gets another six-year mandate to lead France out of the doldrums of 140 years of reaction to Prussian & Nazi militarism followed by relapse into a socialism which may be necessary in order to keep the country out of the grasp of the OPEC monsters [remember that Qaddafi was one of the original instigators of OPEC in 1971-2] with its nuclear and hydro alternatives to the fossil fuels the crazed petrostates control.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Obungler Throws Down Gauntlet to Ryan; Gets Hammered by Gallup

Barry Obama just got bitch-slapped by reality, as the latest numbers from Gallup show that his stupid rejoinder to Paul Ryan, the one that put Vice-Moron Biden to sleep, has not gone over well. Gallup is marginally an agent of the DNC, so it finished up with this "implications" paragraph:
President Obama is now as unpopular as he has been at any time since he became president. He faces difficult challenges ahead in trying to improve the economy and get the federal budget deficit under control, and must do so with Republicans in control of the House. His ability to navigate these challenges will help determine whether he will be elected to a second term as president. Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton all were similarly unpopular at this stage of their presidencies, but the last two were able to turn things around in time to win a second term in office.

They used to call such strange hopefulness "whistling past the graveyard."

I think Barry-boy is Carter Redux---he has that sort of deformed manic side to him that comes out at inopportune times. Like the Carter cuck00-cl0ck that just keeps making noise.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Obama Speech Dishonest and Gutter Politics

The Wall Street Journal doesn't pull any punches on the ridiculous partisan attack POTUS Obungler made in the guise of a "budget and deficit" speech.
Did someone move the 2012 election to June 1? We ask because President Obama's extraordinary response to Paul Ryan's budget yesterday—with its blistering partisanship and multiple distortions—was the kind Presidents usually outsource to some junior lieutenant. Mr. Obama's fundamentally political document would have been unusual even for a Vice President in the fervor of a campaign.

The immediate political goal was to inoculate the White House from criticism that it is not serious about the fiscal crisis, after ignoring its own deficit commission last year and tossing off a $3.73 trillion budget in February that increased spending amid a record deficit of $1.65 trillion. Mr. Obama was chased to George Washington University yesterday because Mr. Ryan and the Republicans outflanked him on fiscal discipline and are now setting the national political agenda.

Mr. Obama did not deign to propose an alternative to rival Mr. Ryan's plan, even as he categorically rejected all its reform ideas, repeatedly vilifying them as essentially un-American. "Their vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America," he said, supposedly pitting "children with autism or Down's syndrome" against "every millionaire and billionaire in our society." The President was not attempting to join the debate Mr. Ryan has started, but to close it off just as it begins and banish House GOP ideas to political Siberia.

Mr. Obama then packaged his poison in the rhetoric of bipartisanship—which "starts," he said, "by being honest about what's causing our deficit." The speech he chose to deliver was dishonest even by modern political standards.

Wow, that's strong stuff for the most influential newspaper in the United States, judging from paid circulation of over 2 million & RISING whereas the pretender imposter NYT has a paid circ of 800 thousand and hemorrhaging about 5% every SIX MONTHS.

It's obvious from his speech last night that Obungler doesn't have a clue on how to confront the Ryan challenge to get SERIOUS about reducing our mammoth gigantic deficits which in the month of February this year were greater than the entire year 2007 under GWB.

Obama's latest Gallup Poll numbers are below 50% approval even for his core constituents, and his flailing around last nite may be a sign of incipient panic---it's obvious that he's so used to getting his way that this confrontation is making him lose his cool.

Just like Jimmy Carter, another one-termer whose incompetence was only matched by his political tin ear.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Stanley Kurtz on Middle East Tribes and their Clannishness

Stanley Kurtz is a brilliant expositor of just about everything that is wrong with the world, and in particular, with Barack Obama.
Philip Carl Salzman's new book, Culture and Conflict in the Middle East (Humanity Books, 224 pages, $34.95) a major event: the most penetrating, reliable, systematic, and theoretically sophisticated effort yet made to understand the Islamist challenge the United States is facing in cultural terms. A professor of anthropology at Montreal's McGill University, Salzman specializes in the study of Middle Eastern nomads. He, too, is something of a last survivor of a once proud band. What Salzman has managed is to have preserved, nurtured, deepened, and applied to our current challenge a once-dominant anthropological perspective on tribal societies: the study of tribes organized into "segmentary lineages." It was one of the great achievements of modern anthropology. Yet, over the past 40 years, scholars have largely rejected and forgotten the study of segmentary lineage systems.

Why would a social science like anthropology largely neglect and even forget an entire branch of lineage system studies?
The anthropological understanding of tribal social structures--especially in Africa and the Middle East--has been shunned for 40 years as exaggerating the violence and "primitivism" of non-Western cultures, discouraging efforts at modernization and democratization, and covertly justifying Western intervention abroad. Decades of postmodern and postcolonial studies have conspired against the appearance of books like Salzman's. That an academic, "on the inside," could have worked in relative concealment long enough to produce this book is testament to the possibility of cultural survival. Indeed, fully appreciating what Salzman has to teach us will first require us to dust off our records of his all-but-forgotten language, and trace the trajectory of its destruction.

Kurtz translates Salzman's excavation into the depths of classical anthropological skullduggery to emerge with this description of Salzman's discoveries:
As with other fundamental sociological terms like "state" or "class," it is difficult to provide a precise meaning for the word "tribe." Whatever their similarities, there are important differences between relatively small hunter-gatherer Indian bands in the California hills like the Yahi and large Middle Eastern tribes professing a world religion and interacting in complex ways with nearby states.

In the Islamic Near East, however, the term "tribe" has a fairly specific meaning. Middle Eastern tribes think of themselves as giant lineages, traced through the male line, from some eponymous ancestor. Each giant lineage divides into tribal segments, which subdivide into clans, which in turn divide into sub-clans, and so on, down to families, in which cousins may be pitted against cousins or, ultimately, brother against brother. Traditionally existing outside the police powers of the state, Middle Eastern tribes keep order through a complex balance of power between these ever fusing and segmenting ancestral groups. The central institution of segmentary tribes is the feud. Security depends on the willingness of every adult male in a given tribal segment to take up arms in its defense. An attack on a lineage-mate must be avenged by the entire group. Likewise, any lineage member is liable to be attacked in revenge for an offense committed by one of his relatives. One result of this system of collective responsibility is that members of Middle Eastern kin groups have a strong interest in policing the behavior of their lineage-mates, since the actions of any one person directly affect the reputation and safety of the entire group.

Universal male militarization, surprise attacks on apparent innocents based on a principle of collective guilt, and the careful group monitoring and control of personal behavior are just a few implications of a system that accounts for many aspects of Middle Eastern society without requiring any explanatory recourse to Islam. The religion itself is an overlay in partial tension with, and deeply stamped by, the dynamics of tribal life. In other words--and this is Salzman's central argument--the template of tribal life, with its violent and shifting balance of power between fusing and fissioning lineage segments, is the dominant theme of cultural life in the Arab Middle East (and shapes even many non-Arab Muslim populations). At its cultural core, says Salzman, even where tribal structures are attenuated, Middle Eastern society is tribal society.

Does this sound anything like the old Hobbesian dictum that in primitive societies, life is "nasty, brutish and short?"
In reviving and updating classic anthropological studies of tribal kinship, Salzman is implicitly raising one of the great unresolved problems of political philosophy--one whose implications in today's environment are anything but theoretical. When anthropologists first decoded the system by which lawless and stateless tribes used balance-of-power politics to keep order, they quickly recognized that their discovery cast new light on Thomas Hobbes's "state of nature" theory.

However, Salzman is a two-handed anthropologist and on his other hand:
From one perspective, Middle Eastern tribal structures completely contradict Hobbes's notion of what life in stateless societies must be like. Far from being "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short," life outside the state turns out to be collective, cohesive, and safe enough to generate a stable and successful world-conquering civilization. Man as such is not, therefore, inherently individualistic, as Hobbes, the founder of modern liberalism, presumed.

Yet scholars have noted continuities between Hobbes's account and the conditions of life in segmentary tribes. Edward Evans-Pritchard (1902-73), the anthropologist who first described these societies, called them systems of "ordered anarchy," implying that, kin-based organization notwithstanding, life in segmentary systems necessitates endemic, often preemptive, low-level violence and neverending mutual distrust: what Hobbes might have recognized as the state of nature's "perpetual and restless desire of power after power."

And despite collective guilt and powerful group-based pressures for conformity, anthropologists commonly characterize segmentary tribal systems as intensely individualist, egalitarian, and democratic. This is arguably the central paradox of Middle Eastern social life. Muslim tribal society is both fundamentally collectivist and profoundly individualist. In the absence of state power and formal political hierarchies, no man of the tribe can, by right, command another. All males are equal, free to dispose of their persons and property and to speak in councils that determine the fate of the group. This tribal tradition of equal and open consultation is singled out by those who argue that democracy is far from alien to Middle Eastern culture.

Back in grad school at the University of Michigan, I considered changing my major to a new science in its early stages of in utero development called Political Anthropology. Evans-Pritchard and his study of the Nuer in South Sudan, the new nation just voted into existence months ago, was one of the pillars of the methodology which would support the superstructure of intellectual scaffolding needed to construct this new edifice of knowledge. I even have a book named Political Anthropology which I borrowed from a visiting U. of Chicago professor and promised unfaithfully to return. It appears that what "political anthropologists" nowadays avoid is precisely any methodology which might cast the lineage and tribal affiliations in such a bad light that colonialism or merely outside intervention in feuds might seem to be justified.
So which is it? Are Near Eastern tribes laboratories of individualism and democracy or generators of kin-based loyalties that render the Middle East refractory to modern, liberal governance? Does life in stateless communal tribes represent a radical alternative to anything Hobbes might have imagined possible? Or does the bold and martial egalitarian individualism of tribal life actually confirm Hobbes, thereby encouraging hope for gradual, liberal cultural change?

Cast in such unequivocal terms, Kurtz [or rather Salzman] is blunt and straightforward:
It is difficult to answer such questions when the mere mention of the word "tribe" is now all but banished from public discourse. Contemporary anthropologists, especially those influenced by "postcolonial theory," have in many respects repudiated the culture concept. For these anthropologists, the very notion of a distinctive culture is held to entail excessive generalization and to subtly imply that non-Westerners lack rationality. The rebellion began in the late 1950s and early 1960s with the newly independent states of Africa. The last thing modernizing intellectuals and politicians in these countries wanted was to have their societies thought of as essentially tribal or connected in some fundamental sense with the "aboriginal" or the "primitive." Although by the 1960s anthropologists had come to look upon the subtleties of tribal social structure as anything but simplistic primitivism, in the public mind the word "tribe" remained an insult. So to respect the perspective of exasperated Third World intellectuals, why not buck up regional pride by studying a sophisticated modern metropolis or a brilliant Muslim philosophical text instead? Why must anthropologists actually highlight those "primordial" loyalties most likely to undermine the modern state? (Anthropologists must highlight them precisely because they cut against modernization, Salzman would reply.)

But the situation became even more tangled when a professor of Victorian music and literature at the University of Columbia became a born-again Palestinian:
On top of all this, decades before 9/11, the rise of terrorism as a tactic in the Palestinian struggle against Israel suggested embarrassing continuities between the endemic violence of traditional tribal life and the present. Edward Said's 1978 Orientalism was the key work in the rise of postcolonial theory, and Said, a savvy Palestinian academic and advocate, was particularly keen to keep the focus on American and Israeli policies that he claimed explained terrorism, rather than on any causes internal to Palestinian society. By attacking efforts to link terrorist violence to Middle Eastern culture as bigoted "Orientalism," Said and his followers gave a hard edge to already widespread Third World complaints about Western scholarship. That move, coupled with the growing number of faculty members entering American universities from outside the West, put paid to all but a remnant of the anthropological study of Middle Eastern tribes. The triumph of Said's perspective meant that by the post-9/11 era, when we'd need it most, the systematic understanding of Muslim tribal violence was largely lost.

Radicalized anthropologists not only stopped trying to make systematic sense of tribal social life, but many even worked to debunk segmentary lineage theory. The first and greatest critic was Emrys Peters (1916-87). Having done field research with one of the Bedouin tribes where segmentary lineage theory was first applied, Peters argued that feuding actually had little to do with who was descended from whom. According to the famous Arab saying, it was: "I against my brother; I and my brother against my cousin; I and my brother and my cousin against the world." Yet Peters claimed that the elegant tribal system of "balanced opposition" between small families nested in clans, nested in larger clans, and so on, was simply a bogus native "ideology," mistakenly taken for reality by credulous anthropologists. In truth, said Peters, other than a kaleidoscopic blur of secondary considerations, material interest was the only factor explaining tribal social structure.

The debunking of lineage, kinship, clannish and tribal affiliations had a convenient alternative to replace the mere recording of facts on the ground such as Evans-Pritchard and other painstaking anthropologists who actually lived among the tribal societies they then wrote about. Let's just see if all this fits into a paradigm which would avoid field trips and long sojourns in hot dusty hellholes by imposing a convenient template top-down onto the messy facts-on-the-ground:
With many anthropologists already drawn to Marxism in the 1970s, Peters's theory found a receptive audience. And when Marxism declined and postmodern anthropology took its place, it was actually Peters's notion of a kaleidoscopic blur that caught on. His careful fieldwork had indeed uncovered important exceptions to what the classic lineage model would have predicted. For example, he discovered that, when it comes to feuding over precious resources like water and pasturage, where you live often trumps whom you're related to. So having given up Marxist explanations, and drawn to Edward Said's radicalism, postmodern anthropologists seized upon Peters's exceptional cases as an excuse for further debunking the systematic study of tribal social structure. Exceptions were now considered the rule, and generalization became postmodern anthropology's bogeyman.

Yes, one size fits all and if the size is wrong, stop even thinking about tribes or any "primitive" groups at all---it's all about real estate, location, location, location, rather than age-old customs which in a transhumance society of nomadic goat and camel herders trumped where a given tribe might make its main spot of territory.
Salzman takes an opposite approach. In a 1978 article, "Does Complementary Opposition Exist?," in American Anthropologist, he defended and refined segmentary theory. If Peters found important exceptions to the classic pattern of alliance and feud along lines of male descent, Salzman showed there was a systematic explanation. He found that when erstwhile nomadic tribes settle down, a given clan's location and its immediate neighbors begin to trump the call of traditional kinship loyalties. Yet even settled tribes preserve the classic kin-based ideology of feuding and alliance, precisely because they might someday be forced by economic necessity--or by war with the state--to pick up and move. The further nomads are from the settled life of a state, the more they rely on kin-based, segmentary, balance-of-power principles to keep order. So even after settlement, Bedouin preserve classic segmentary kinship ideology as a kind of "social structure in reserve" for times of movement, crisis, and conflict.

It really all goes back to Ibn Khaldun, whose Muqaddimah is sitting on my shelf as I write this:
In the early 1980s, the brilliant social theorist Ernest Gellner resurrected the cyclical theory of tribe-state relations first suggested by the 14th-century Arab philosopher Ibn Khaldun. In Khaldun's theory, outlying tribes tied together by traditional kinship solidarities conquer, settle, and rule a state. In time kinship loyalties loosen, the rulers urbanize and grow effete, their state loses control over distant tribes, and the cycle begins again. The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan present variations on this theme, and it's clear now that in 1978 Salzman was one of the first to recognize an important piece of the cyclical puzzle. So it turns out that tribes aren't so simple after all. Nor is understanding them incompatible with a study of brilliant Muslim philosophical texts.

In Culture and Conflict in the Middle East, Salzman draws on his fieldwork with nomads of Iranian Baluchistan to show how the classic tribal ideology of patrilineal descent and revenge actually works on the ground. It makes for riveting reading. Walk with Salzman as he accompanies a war party of 100 fighters armed with clubs, axes, sickles, and brass knuckles to prosecute an escalating feud. The aggrieved lineage in this party, the Kamil Hanzai (who'd seen their women and older men dishonorably roughed up in an earlier clash), were accompanied by men of six closely related lineages, who'd united to fight a comparable kin-based coalition backing the offending lineage.

A long description of the internecine strife of some Baluchi groups is followed by Kurtz's summary of Salzman's own field work conclusions:
Knowingly or unknowingly, American liberals and conservatives highlight sections of the tribal template, though for their own preferred uses. The implicit dovish take on tribalism notes that our own use of force actually serves to unite the foe. By hitting back at terrorist-harboring states, doves remind us, we create the impression of an infidel war against Muslims, thus figuratively recruiting every Muslim lineage into bin Laden's civilizational war party. This danger is real, yet the doves omit the rest. Failure to strike back creates an impression of weakness that invites further attacks.

The effective use of force deters in other ways, too. As Salzman accompanied the 100-man war party, he noticed that allied lineage members, while perfectly willing to fight in solidarity with their aggrieved lineage brothers, lacked the passion of the Kamil Hanzai. These calmer, more distant allies--as well as lineage members related to opposing groups through ties of marriage--act as checks on hotheaded adventurism. So the successful use of force can split the opposing coalition and create pressure for settle-ment, even on disadvantageous terms. The West's doves see themselves acting as checks on our own hotheaded adventurism, but Islamists, with considerable justice, view the cooing of the doves as a sign that their feud against the West has successfully weakened and split our own coalition.

The most disturbing lesson of all is that, in the absence of fundamental cultural change, the feud between the Muslim world and the West is unlikely ever to end. Tribal feuds simmer on and off for generations, with negotiated settlements effecting only temporary respites. Among the tribes of Waziristan, the saying goes: "I took my revenge early. I waited only 100 years." The Western liberal template takes an experience of peace under the lawful authority of a state as the normal human condition. In this view, when peaceful equilibrium is disturbed, reasonable men reason together to restore normalcy.

I have my copy of Olaf Caroe's book The Pathans 550BC-AD1957 which the interested reader can find online on Googlebooks if he so wishes to delve into a deep study of Waziri tribes and customs by the last Political Agent the British had in the Northwest Frontier Provinces. Caroe was revered by the Paki ruling establishment as knowledgeable in tribal affairs in a much more detailed way than their own citified and educated governing elite in Peshawar. Honor is paramount in Pathan society, which is closely analogous to Arab norms in their shared nomadic tribal traditions.
Yet by themselves, harsh calculations of deterrence are insufficient to account for the dynamics of tribal violence. The pervasive quest for honor adds a critical aggressive charge to the politics of tribal life. How was Karim able to mobilize a war party so quickly in the wake of the theft of his palm trunks? Alone, he had no ability to compel support, nor did a state with the power to require military service stand behind him. Yet Karim had risked his own life on behalf of his lineage mates in the past, and he would be needed again in the future. In a stateless environment, with kin-based alliance the only defense, each individual has a strong sense of his dependence on relatives for safety in case of attack. Individuals are also intensely aware that their personal destinies depend upon the deterrent reputation of the group. At one level, then, a man's willingness to risk his life in battle on behalf of his lineage-mates is a form of self-interest--an entirely rational calculation in an environment of stateless semi-anarchy. Yet when it comes to risking your life in battle, a gap between the individual's short-term interest and the long-term interests of the group remains. How can it be self-interest to die for a relative's deed? Honor bridges that gap. A man's personal honor is a matter of the highest pragmatic import. A given individual may be free to refuse to help his lineage mates, but in that case not only will his group lose standing, but his personal reputation will suffer and others will refuse to aid him in the future.

Is the search for and maintenance of "honor" the glue which cements tribal coherence? Is the protection of the family's womenfolk's honor more important than an individual woman's life? Are "honor-killings" the most brutal oxymoron that can be employed to support the infrastructure of a brutal, nasty contrivance which assures self-defense at some higher level?
With so many strictly rational reasons to maintain it, the quest for honor takes on a life of its own. In a society without ascribed hierarchies, honor marks some as superior to others. Honor is easily challenged and easily lost. It is also increased by displays of aggressive courage and dominance. So over and above even the necessities of preemptive deterrence amidst "ordered anarchy," the neverending quest for honor encourages violent action. Salzman gives the example of a tribe that took up smuggling as a form of economic warfare against the Syrian state that had stamped out their ability to make war. This had material benefits, of course, but the danger involved was actually a positive inducement as well since it permitted tribesmen to display martial virtues essential in a competitive system of honor. Honor as an end in itself helps make sense of the not-so-pragmatic calculations underlying suicide bombing and again reveals the tribal template hidden beneath an overtly religious surface.

Although Salzman doesn't say it, I'd add that the dynamics of honor and collective responsibility help explain the particular resistance of Middle Eastern culture to change. Even when an individual is inclined toward modern attitudes, the need to protect the honor of the group draws him back to tradition. Salzman tells the story of a Druze serving in the Israeli army who shot and killed his sister to preserve family honor.

The young woman had lived in America for several years and returned to visit her family wearing Western garb. Her brother was inclined to ignore this, until his uncle's loud complaints about their endangered family honor were heard by the neighbors. Salzman's point here is that honor depends less on the action itself (e.g., wearing earrings) than on public knowledge and response. What's notable, however, is that the key characters in this honor killing are a relatively modernized young man and his sister. Experience in the Israeli army and time in America had worked a change on both. Yet the responsibility of each individual for the honor--and therefore the safety and prosperity--of the group as a whole makes it difficult to break away from tradition.

And Salzman generalizes by going from one instance and geographic location to another across the Arab world:
Salzman says that it is not the details of tribal kinship structure that pervade Arab culture but the underlying principles of "balanced opposition," in which collective responsibility, honor, and feuding shape every action and thought, often calling for quick shifts in loyalty. Unite with your erstwhile enemy in opposition to a more distant foe; treat all members of an enemy group as potential targets; demand honorable behavior from members of your own group; and maintain your own and your group's honor by a clear willingness to sacrifice for the collective good. Warring Sunni and Shiite sects from Beirut to Baghdad follow principles of balanced opposition. They may be at each other's throats, yet they'll unite in opposition to an outside threat, as when Shiite Iran harbors members of Sunni al Qaeda on the run from America. In a sense, Islam's founding triumph was to raise the stakes of balanced opposition by uniting all the Arab tribes in an ultimate feud against infidel outsiders.

Since Muslims treat the tribal era of Muhammad and his early successors as the golden age of Islam, the cultural influence of the tribal template remains pervasive. To prove it, Salzman takes us on a country by country tour of Middle Eastern tribalism, from Jordan, where Bedouin form the backbone of the army, to Iraq, where even towns are heavily tribal, to Kuwait, where the strongest parliamentary opposition to women's rights emerges from tribal MPs.

Writing in 2006, Salzman cites a news report of clashes between Hamas and a powerful clan in Gaza to show tribal themes enduring in towns and cities. By early 2007, when Salzman's book was in press, the Palestinian unity government had fallen apart and Gaza was in quasi-anarchy, with Fatah and Hamas too busy fighting each other to govern. Such order as existed was enforced by brutal, battling clans.

This is no isolated occurrence. We ought to understand the emergence of Gaza's feuding clans as the revelation of a bedrock of Middle Eastern social organization ever-present and ever-influential, beneath superficial layers of Islam and state. Salzman noted the phenomenon in Gaza well before it became obvious. And long before he could have known of the tribal-based Anbar Awakening of 2007, Salzman identified it in nucleus thanks to some throwaway news reports in 2005.

But the ancient Arab balance and opposition between the Haadar and the Bedu, The Settled and the Nomads, persists today and is a good example of the dynamics still at work in the Arab moieties whatever we want to call them---tribes, clans, Sufi sects, or simply nationalities.
I think we can also extend Salzman's case for the pervasiveness of balanced opposition even further. In treating towns and cities, Salzman focuses on settled populations of Bedouin who retain many features of tribal social life. Yet the massive slums of cities like Istanbul and Cairo clearly display many of the marks of balanced opposition. Salwa Ismail's 2006 book Political Life in Cairo's New Quarters describes life in Cairo's shantytowns. With their homes illegally built, largely off the government grid, and seldom reached by police, the residents of these quarters keep order through a combination of traditional kinship ties and local loyalties (much as do the partly-settled/partly-nomadic tribes studied by anthropologists).

When a quarrel breaks out in a Cairo shantytown, men line up according to alleyway prepared to fight. Neutral parties are then sent out to explore intention and arrange a settlement, just as in Mahmud Karim's quarrel over those desert palm trunks. In effect, then, the vast, unpoliced "new quarters" of Cairo are the modern equivalent of extra-state territories ruled on tribal principles. And in some of these new urban tribal lands, as in faraway Waziristan, Islamism has taken root.

But the underlying paternalistic tribalism lurks beneath every exterior manifestation of life in the Islamic world, including even forms of the religion itself:
The state, such as it is in the Middle East, offers but a thin alternative to "the war of all against all." Too weak to provide public utilities, policing, or impartial justice, most Middle Eastern states are just reincarnations of the predatory, winner-take-all tribal coalitions of old. Why exchange the protection of your family, tribe, or sect for submission to a weak or predatory state? Tribal society contains just enough order to make a bit of violent anarchy bearable, and just enough grasping anarchy to make a liberal social contract unreliable.

Some political scientists decry cultural explanations for failure of democracy in the Arab world. They argue that Arab dictators deliberately cultivate "primordial" tribal loyalties, so as to block the formation of the genuinely liberal political parties, labor unions, and voluntary associations that might bring an end to their unjust rule. Yet this begs the question of why family, tribe, and sect were available and powerful enough to be "exploited" by authoritarian leaders. We're looking at a vicious circle, in which primordial loyalties undermine the modern state, which in turn is forced to rely upon and reinforce primordial loyalties. This causal circle is an only slightly updated version of Ibn Khaldun's cyclical theory.

It won't be easy to weaken the circle of particularism--the self-reinforcing loyalties of extended family, tribe, and sect that dominate Arab countries at both the state and local levels. The British did something comparable in traditional India by creating a counter-system of liberal education and advancement through merit, rather than kin ties. But that took time, military control, and a favorable political environment. The road to genuine cultural change is long, and there are no easy shortcuts. On the other hand, the tribal template offers a ray of hope.

Since 9/11, we've understood Islam as the fundamental source of the cultural challenge coming from the Middle East. That has given rise to a strategy of direct assault--an almost Voltairean attempt to deflate religious pretensions in hopes of forcing a change. Islam itself may be a complex extension of tribal culture, yet technically, Islam is defined as something different from, and sometimes antagonistic to, pure tribalism. When Muslim immigrants in Europe debate amongst themselves female seclusion, cousin marriage, and honor killings, reformers argue that these are "cultural" rather than strictly "Islamic" practices. There is truth here and also an opening.

While tribalism is in one sense culturally pervasive in the Middle East, tribal practices are less swathed in sacredness than explicitly Koranic symbols and commandments--and are therefore more susceptible to criticism and debate. Even jihad and suicide bombing can be interpreted through a tribal lens. We've taught ourselves a good deal about Islam over the past seven years. Yet tribalism is at least half the cultural battle in the Middle East, and the West knows little about it. Learning how to understand and critique the Islamic Near East through a tribal lens will open up a new and smarter strategy for change. The way to begin is by picking up Salzman's Culture and Conflict in the Middle East.

I am going to order the Salzman book to see what I missed when I answered the State Department's call to join the Foreign Service and cut short my graduate studies in the end of the sixties. Political anthropology seemed a promising new perspective on societies in various stages of development, as even our western societies still seem to be in.