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Archive for July, 2011

Random Thoughts on the Norwegian Terror Attacks

July 27, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: War on Terror

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Random thoughts and observations on last week’s terror attacks in Norway (per Thomas Sowell):

Just when the mainstream media was finally starting to learn that virtually every ideologically motivated mass murder attempted in the past 30 years has been committed by an Islamic extremist, some anti-immigration nut in Norway has to go and spoil it.  It’ll take us 30 years to retrain them.

The mass shooting perpetrated by Anders Behring Breivik that left scores dead at a children’s day camp at Utoya Island “puts the spotlight on right-wing extremism in Europe,” as the New York Times helpfully noted, and “typifies a new breed of conservative extremists,” in the Financial Timeswords.  Yet the 9/11 attacks, the London bombing attacks, the Spain bombing attacks, the Mumbai bombing attacks, and eight million other blatant, graphic examples of Islamist-fueled mass murder somehow never seem to “put the spotlight on Muslim extremism” worldwide.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg mistakenly predicted that failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad was “[h]omegrown, maybe a mentally deranged person or someone with a political agenda that doesn’t like the health care bill…”  Attorney General Eric Holder urged us not to jump to conclusions about the ideological motivations of Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hassan, who delivered a PowerPoint presentation to doctors on slaughtering infidels and roared “Allahu Akbar!” before his murderous rampage.  The Council on American-Islamic Relations sniffed that Washington, D.C. sniper John Allen Muhammad had no Muslim connection and was most likely a right-wing redneck.  But one loon in a Scandinavian village-state shoots up an island, and suddenly conservatism is on trial worldwide.

Some news outlets initially attributed the violence in Oslo to Islamic terrorists.  One such outlet was Al Jazeera.

A group called Helpers of the Global Jihad, which initially assumed the shooting had been committed by Islamic terrorists, immediately announced their support for the perpetrators of the attack before later renouncing it.

Some honest liberals are admitting that the World of Warcraft-loving, Dexter-watching, Unabomber manifesto-reading Breivik is not a stand-in for conservative thought, anti-Islamist concern, or worry about mass immigration accompanied by lack of cultural assimilation.  Froma Harrop, for example, writes, “What Breivik is not is a ‘right-winger’ in any conventional sense of the term.  Calling this crackpot such puts him on a political spectrum occupied by people arguing about real things in the current century.  Even ‘right-wing extremist’ is pushing it.  Once you place the likes of Breivik in the political debate, you distort the views of others concerned with similar-sounding issues.”

Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, to whom the Norwegian shooter has been compared, was revealed to have had Muslim conspirators, including accomplice Hussain Al-Hussaini.  Clinton’s Justice Department inexcusably declined to follow up on leads linking McVeigh to Al-Hussaini.  Perhaps it would be prudent to wait a bit to see just who or what turns up in Breivik’s checkered past.

In the last two years, the media have jumped to the following conclusions: Jarred Lee Loughner, who shot Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords, was a Tea Party fanatic; James von Brunn, who opened fire in D.C.’s Holocaust Museum, was a conservative racist; Andrew Joseph Stack, who crashed his plane into an IRS building, was an anti-federal government conservative; James Lee, who tried to blow up a Discovery building, was an anti-government militia member; John Patrick Bedell, who fired on police in the Pentagon, was an anti-Obama zealot; and Michael Enright, who stabbed a Muslim cabdriver in lower Manhattan, was a bigoted Ground Zero Mosque opponent.  In fact, these kooks turned out to be leftists (Loughner), Bush-haters (von Brunn), anti-corporatists (Stack), environmentalists (Lee), 9/11 truthers (Bedell), and Ground Zero Mosque supporters (Enright).  Given the media’s track record on predicting the ideological leanings of would-be mass murderers, it’s odd there are so few reporters humble enough to wait and find out the full story about Breivik’s motives and associates before branding him a “radical right-winger.”

No anti-terror groups are likely to propose building an anti-Islamic monument on Utoya Island.

It will be interesting to learn why “right-winger” Breivik blew up Oslo’s Oil Ministry and not, say, the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion.

The Oslo attacks were swiftly condemned by the Islamic Council of Norway, a lovely, state-supported organization that favors the death penalty for homosexuals.

The entire Oslo police helicopter crew inexplicably went on vacation days before the shooting at Utoya Island, an arrangement that prevented police from getting to the shooter until 90 minutes after the shooting began.  It’s not unreasonable to suspect that the serial killer timed his attack to coincide with the helicopter crew’s vacation.

Norwegian police typically don’t patrol the streets armed with guns—or any weapons, for that matter.  It seems unlikely that Breivik would have carried out his attack with such abandon in a better-patrolled area, say, Central Park.

In a column titled “Breivik and His Enablers,” New York Times op-ed contributor Roger Cohen writes that a good way to honor the death of recently deceased “Jewish girl” Amy Winehouse is “to confront the latest iteration of a European bigotry that kills.”  And Times editors wonder why no one reads their paper anymore.

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Moody’s: “Don’t Call Our Bluff!”

July 20, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Economy

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Last week Moody’s Investors Service threatened to downgrade the U.S.’s Aaa credit rating if the nation fails to raise its $14.3 trillion debt ceiling before August 2.  On Monday the agency counseled the U.S. to scrap its debt ceiling altogether.

Standard & Poors (S&P) and Fitch, the other two major credit rating agencies, recently echoed Moody’s warning.

Democrats pounced on Moody’s pronouncement as ammunition in Congressional budget talks, citing Moody’s as an unimpeachable source on what to do with our debt ceiling.

Why is anyone listening to what Moody’s has to say about the economy?

Moody’s, S&P, and Fitch are the same credit rating agencies that helped precipitate the subprime lending crisis of 2008.  These bureaus continued to give large financial institutions their highest ratings until the last minute, despite the flimsy cores of these firms’ collateralized debt obligations and mortgage-backed securities.  Moody’s and company thought the Democrats’ Community Reinvestment Act was a splendid idea, with the result that millions of investors lost billions of dollars and the international market collapsed.

Credit rating agencies work to offer valid, objective, neutral assessments of companies and sovereign states’ creditworthiness by systematically reducing outside influence and making their ratings as independently as possible.  However, if they hold invalid ideas about how governmental policy and economic principles interact, their predictions will be as shoddy as Paul Krugman’s.

Ratings agencies are subject to the same biases that businessmen, Wall Street investors, banks, and homeowners are.  Moody’s eight-member Board of Directors, for example, includes the following advisors: one director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, one member of The Federal Reserve Bank of New York Financial Advisory Roundtable, one director of Freddie Mac, and one director of the Dutch National Bank.  So 50% of Moody’s Board of Directors includes members who are heavily involved in central banking.

As one disillusioned former Moody’s VP lamented at Congressional hearings on the subprime lending crisis, “I had this somewhat naive idea when I joined Moody’s that it was a particular quality Moody’s was offering, and that was something that the company was going to seek to defend over time.”  Not quite.

In contrast to Moody’s and spend-happy Democrats, Republicans have been insisting that the nation has more than enough revenue to cover interest on our debt, military pay, Social Security, and other high-priority items for months without raising our debt ceiling.  There is literally no risk of the U.S. Treasury defaulting on our debt, unless petulant Democrats sabotage the process.

Because Moody’s admits it will downgrade the U.S. only if a default happens, not if we fail to raise our debt ceiling, there should be no need for a downgrade.  The U.S. failed to raise its debt ceiling on nine occasions in the past, from 1973 to 2007, with no concomitant default or credit rating downgrade.

There hasn’t been a looming catastrophe this overblown since Y2K.

The debt ceiling scenario is analogous to a hypothetical credit card holder who gets to arbitrarily raise his credit limit as often as he wants.  On August 2, the cardholder runs out of money to borrow.  He has more than enough income to pay the interest on his card and meet his basic living expenses.  Republicans are arguing that because he’s raised his limit so many times and is spiraling into a sinkhole of debt, he should cut up his card, rework his budget, and pay the card off.  Democrats are arguing that he should raise his credit limit again and charge the interest payments to his card, in case the credit card company is worried that he’ll fail to make them—as he always has before—and blow the money on a trip to Bermuda.

Can someone explain to me how the Democrats’ plan is more financially responsible and reassuring to bondholders?

Moody’s also argues that because the U.S. is one of the few nations that self-imposes a debt ceiling, yet has continually voted to raise it, this creates periodic uncertainty regarding whether the U.S. can service its debt; hence, the ceiling should be eliminated.

A debt ceiling is certainly not an essential aspect of governing a sovereign state.  But in this era of trillion-dollar deficits, doesn’t it serve the purpose of holding our politicians in check and sending the populace periodic wake-up alarms?  Shouldn’t a debt ceiling, however imperfectly administered, be recognized as a good-faith attempt to control a nation’s debt?

True, the debt limit has been raised many times in the past.  But in a limited government whose constitution is suffused with checks and balances and limits on rule, is it so foolish to have one at all?

If debt limits are such a poor idea, why do credit card companies impose them on cardholders?

The problem isn’t that debt limits are bad, as Moody’s implies, but that the U.S. government has been borrowing so much for so long that it thinks it has none.

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Casey Anthony’s New Tattoo: “The System Worked!”

July 13, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Crime/Ethics

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Casey Anthony is set to be released from jail on Sunday after being found not guilty of first-degree murder, aggravated manslaughter, and aggravated child abuse, and guilty only of providing false information to police.

What was astonishing about the public reaction to the verdict last week was not that ordinary citizens were outraged, wondered whether prosecutors and jurors had done their jobs, or asked whether there were still some way to serve justice to the acquitted murderess.

What was astonishing was the instant, instinctive chorus of chronic felon-defenders everywhere that “the system worked.”

Harvard law professor and O.J. Simpson-defender Alan Dershowitz decided that this travesty of justice would be the perfect opportunity to lecture Americans, Janet Napolitano-style, that “the system worked.”  (Liberals’ sense of irony is even less developed than their sense of humor.)

Dershowitz wrote, “[A] criminal trial is not a search for truth.  Scientists search for truth…  A criminal trial searches for only one result: proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”  I suppose the hours of scientific testimony by forensic experts at the Anthony trial were provided for mere entertainment value.

Commentators everywhere chided the masses for swelling in anger over the “not guilty” verdict and portrayed them as overemotional, unthinking rubes with no respect for our legal system and a hankering for the days of vigilante justice.

In fact, a truly open-minded, thoughtful person would at least consider whether the district attorneys had failed to live up to their responsibilities, whether the twelve Floridians saddled with the responsibility of life-or-death decisions had failed to do their jobs, and whether these jurors had any biases or ulterior motives for returning a “not guilty” decision the very morning after the Byzantine, two-month trial had ended.

This supposedly objective, death penalty-qualified jury included:

  • Two jurors who opposed or were ambivalent about the death penalty
  • A family man raised by a single mother “like Casey” (in his words) who admitted to attorneys that although he thought Casey was guilty, “[I]f I had to return a verdict right now, I would say not guilty”
  • A dishwasher salesman who repeatedly fell asleep during the presentation of scientific evidence
  • A fervently religious woman who didn’t want to be on the jury because “I don’t like to judge people,” and whom Anthony’s defense lawyers fought rabidly to keep over the prosecutors’ objections

In any other area of life, a reasonable person would say, “Well, wait—we’re 99% sure that x is true, yet this body of individuals decided the opposite.  Is there even a faint possibility that these individuals didn’t do their job properly?  Is it possible that there were any flaws in the decision-making process?”

A broadminded assessment of the case would consider alternative options for pursuing a satisfactory resolution, such as a civil defamation suit against the fictional maid whose real-life counterpart Anthony besmirched (already in the works), a civil suit by the private search agency that spent thousands of dollars helping conduct a futile search for Caylee Anthony (also in the works), a civil suit against Anthony by the estate of her daughter, a boycott of publishing houses and television studios that offer the defendant money for her story, and a general banishment of Anthony from decent society like the one Simpson experienced after his verdict.  Victims’ rights advocates have also proposed Casey’s Law, which would make it a felony for a parent to fail to report the disappearance of her child in a timely manner.

But no—by mindlessly, repetitively, robotically focusing on the glory of “the system,” leftist commentators unwittingly reveal that they are concerned, not with justice, but with procedure.

Most everyday citizens were quoted by the media saying things like, “This is a terrible injustice.  I guess we have to accept the verdict, but I hope this woman pays in some way for what she did.”

Most left-wing elitists were quoted saying things like, “The system worked.  It doesn’t matter whether she’s guilty.  The jurors did their job.”  Which group of commentators sees the big picture?

Repeating “The system worked” ad nauseam after the Casey Anthony verdict is like adding 2 and 2 on a calculator and getting 5 and repeating “The calculator worked.”

Dershowitz is wrong that the purpose of the legal system is not justice but procedure.  The purpose of the legal system is justice through procedure.  If procedure yields horrific injustice, people have a right to ask whether the procedure failed or should be reexamined.  If the calculator fails, the user has a right to ask whether the battery should be changed.

Dershowitz admits that jurors are “human” and may have made a mistake in this case—but because of his belief that the jury system is sacrosanct, he considers it tacky and unenlightened for us everyday folks to question the rules of the system or the actions of these particular jurors.  We’re not supposed to care, for example, that the jury reportedly was split 6-6 on the manslaughter charge as late as Tuesday morning, mere hours before the verdict was rendered, and that the 6 “not guilty” voters—who, in the words of Juror #2, “had decided not to convict Casey Anthony of any charge in the girl’s death”—shouted down the 6 “guilty” voters.

The jurors did their duty.  Move along—nothing to see here!

If those reflexively defending the system showed a smidgen of outrage over the verdict, contemplated the possibility that jurors might not have done their job, or expressed hope that Anthony would receive justice in some other way, their obsessive focus on the system might be understandable.

But no—in soft-on-crime leftists’ backwards view, a sociopath being found not guilty, despite overwhelming evidence against her, is ironclad proof that the system worked.

The reaction to the Anthony case reveals, not everyday citizens’ contempt for our legal system, but elitists’ callous, glib indifference to justice.

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Casey Anthony’s Defense: I Was “Trained to Lie”!

July 06, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Crime/Ethics

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The Casey Anthony murder trial is the most depressing case currently working its way through the American court system, not just for the shocking and horrifying actions alleged, but for the way in which it embodies the prevalent left-wing worldview of phony victimhood.

All evidence suggests that 22-year-old Florida mother Casey Anthony killed her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee Marie Anthony, so she could resume the hard-partying lifestyle she enjoyed before she accidentally got pregnant with and gave birth to Caylee.

According to prosecutors, Anthony coldly, methodically drugged her daughter with chloroform, covered her mouth with duct tape to asphyxiate her, stuffed her dead body in a plastic bag, stowed it in the trunk of her car, concocted an elaborate series of lies to tell authorities and family regarding Caylee’s absence, and later dumped her daughter’s body in a swamp.

Anthony’s attorneys’ brilliant defense against the mass of forensic evidence the prosecutors presented to support their case was that Caylee actually fell in the family’s above-ground swimming pool and drowned—a claim for which they offered not a drop of physical evidence.  The accident happened due to neglect from Anthony which, they argued, was justified because she had suffered sexual abuse at the hands of her father.

In fact, the claim of sexual abuse was betrayed by such a complete lack of evidence during the trial that the judge refused to even let the defense utter it again in their closing arguments.

Defense attorneys couldn’t explain why Anthony would cover up an accidental death rather than call 911, why Anthony’s father would help cover up the death of his beloved granddaughter, why Anthony’s car’s trunk had traces of chloroform in it, or why Caylee’s skull had rotting strips of duct tape over its mouth and nose.

The defense called Caylee’s death an “accident that snowballed out of control”—you know, like when the hundreds of children who drown every year are whisked away by their conspiratorial mothers and grandfathers, wrapped in duct tape to make their deaths look like homicides, crammed in a car trunk for two weeks, and plunked in a nearby swamp.  Those sorts of everyday out-of-control accidents.

Anthony refused to take the stand, no doubt because she knew prosecutors would tear her testimony to shreds.  Even defense attorneys conceded that this congenital liar’s credibility was moot, due to the complicated, detailed fabrications she had fed investigators and her parents for a month after Caylee’s death.  These lies included nonexistent friends, a phony job at Universal Studios, a fake Mexican nanny scapegoat named “Zanny” who supposedly kidnapped Caylee, and an imaginary father for her daughter.

Inspection of Anthony’s computer’s hard drive revealed that in the months leading up to Caylee’s death, someone had done internet searches on phrases such as “how to make chloroform,” “neck-breaking,” and “ruptured spleen and death.”

There hasn’t been a case this open-and-shut since the O.J. Simpson murder trial.

Naturally, where Simpson’s defense team argued that he was innocent because police who investigated the crime might have been racist, Anthony’s defense team argued that the outrageously suspicious actions Anthony performed after Caylee’s death were plausible because of the “abuse” Casey had experienced as a child.

Suppose even for a minute that you believed the defense’s crackpot theory about Anthony covering up an accidental death and making it look like a homicide because she “panicked.”  The victimhood excuse they offered for her actions reflects the trendy modern worldview that people are not responsible for their actions, but are rather the product of societal forces beyond their control that push them to and fro like trash on the beach.  Anthony’s defense attorneys argued that her elaborate lies were proof, not that she was a calculating liar who was responsible for the crime all evidence suggests she committed, but that she needed help and compassion because there was “something wrong with her.”  Is there any other era in American history in which attorneys would cast someone like Casey Anthony as the victim in this trial with a straight face?

Lead defense attorney Jose Baez argued that Anthony couldn’t help telling bald-faced lies about her daughter, because the sexual abuse from her father had “trained” her to lie about stressful events.  That’s funny—I don’t recall, say, concentration camp survivors becoming pathological liars who cover up every misstep in their lives because they were “trained” to lie about stressful events.

Even prosecutor Jeff Ashton succumbed to this passive, victim-oriented stance in the language of his closing arguments: “[T]he conflict between the life that she wanted and the life that was thrust upon her was simply irreconcilable.”

Thrust upon her?  There was only one act of thrusting in this sorry saga, and Casey Anthony was fully amenable to it.

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