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Archive for September, 2011

A Conservative Who Can Talk

September 28, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2012

Christie

FiveThirtyEight whiz Nate Silver recently asked whether Chris Christie is the anti-Romney or the anti-Perry.

The answer is yes.

Christie is the anti-Romney, because he genuinely and unapologetically embraces and enacts conservative policies, at least on fiscal matters—in particular entitlement reform, the most important policy realm our nation currently faces.

Critics charge that he’s not consistently conservative on issues such as global warming and gun control.  Yet Rick Perry critics complain that he’s not consistently conservative on issues such as immigration and the HPV vaccine, and most people wouldn’t call Perry a liberal.

Christie is the anti-Perry, because he knows how to identify, articulate, and justify his positions, using fiery, uncompromising rhetoric that doesn’t sound rehearsed, and isn’t afraid to say things that tick off hallowed interest groups.

Critics charge that he’s arrogant, has a temper, and insults people.  Yet his style has proven wildly popular with voters who are fed up with politicians who can’t or won’t stand up to bullying public employee unions that are bankrupting the nation’s most populous states.

If Mitt Romney held more consistently conservative positions on the major issues of the day, he’d be able to articulate them to voters.  But he doesn’t.

If Rick Perry were more articulate and had a better understanding of the issues, his positions would be conservative enough for most Republicans.  But he isn’t.

The other candidates still in the running all have their weaknesses, with most embodying one of the fatal flaws represented by frontrunners Romney and Perry.

Ron Paul is blisteringly conservative on economic issues but crazily isolationist on foreign policy, to the extent that he thinks Iran should be allowed to build nuclear weapons to defend themselves against the U.S., and to the degree that he approvingly quotes Osama bin Laden’s reasons for attacking us on 9/11.  Newt Gingrich led the Republican Revolution of 1995 and enacted welfare reform, but is prone to making insane statements such as claiming that repealing ObamaCare involves as much abridgment of people’s liberty as enacting it.

Michele Bachmann is a solid conservative, but is prone to gaffes and sloppy slips of the tongue such as her mindboggling insinuation that the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation.  Herman Cain is a successful former businessman with sensible ideas about the economy but a stunning, blissful ignorance about foreign policy.

Michael Barone correctly notes that just about the only remaining feasible Republican presidential candidates who both are conservative enough and know how to speak without sounding like idiots are Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan, and Chris Christie.  Daniels is concerned about his family’s privacy and has decided not to run; Ryan is young, early on in his career, and clearly has no intention of running in 2012.

That leaves Christie, who has certainly denied numerous times that he is running, but whose supporters and staffers seem to be leaking rumors that he may change his mind.  Christie has spent the past few months jetting around the country speaking at high-profile Republican fundraisers, giving speeches at prominent venues such as the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, and meeting with potential donors.

Elsewhere I have written at length about why we should encourage Christie in particular to run, including the fact that Republican candidates for governor did well in 2010 in part by emulating his substance and style; that he knows how to take the fight to his opponents; that his popularity among Republican voters is underreported; and that his electability among independents and Democrats is underappreciated.

Christie’s not perfect.  But where is the glaring RomneyCare albatross–whose defense Romney cheekily deleted from the paperback version of his book No Apology—in Christie’s past that will come back to haunt him in the general election, when voters are focused perhaps foremost on repealing ObamaCare?

Christie’s not perfect.  But where are the embarrassing misstatements—like Perry’s lame, botched attack on Romney’s flip-flopping in last week’s debate in Orlando—that lead us to fear Christie will flounder in debates with the supposedly golden-voiced Obama?

Contrast Christie, if you will, with the Republicans’ 2008 nominee, John McCain, who combined the worst aspects of Romney and Perry: liberal policies and inarticulateness.  Republicans should never again have to suffer the ignominy of a nominee who differs only a little bit from the Democratic candidate—or who can’t convincingly explain why he’s to the right of Barack Obama.

The conservative establishment prefers Romney to Perry because they believe him to be more electable.  Some commentators, such as columnist Sandy Rios, believe Republicans will break for Perry over Romney because people “prefer an honest hesitator over a slickster with all the answers.”

But why should Republicans have to choose between a conservative and someone who can talk?

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They’re Giving Out Statehood Like Lollipops These Days!

September 21, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Israel

Palestine

History has taught us that the farcical “peace process” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority breaks down every single time it is forcibly initiated by the West.  The routine disintegrates because it always unpeacefully proceeds in the following manner: Palestinians make demands, and Israel agrees to them; Palestinians smell blood in the water and up the stakes, and Israel necessarily balks; Palestinians attack Israel, and Israel counterattacks; the world condemns Israel for its “disproportionate” response, and Palestinians secretly celebrate Israel’s global denigration without shedding a tear over the deaths of its own civilians; and then the whole sordid cycle starts again.

The Palestinians’ latest gambit for feigning legitimacy in the eyes of free nations is for PA President Mahmoud Abbas to request a platform for better infiltrating, isolating, and attacking Israel—I mean, “statehood”—at the United Nations’ Security Council meeting this Friday.  This entreaty would require fulfilling President Obama’s outrageous demand earlier this year that Israel return to its undefendable, pre-1967 borders and cede east Jerusalem to the Palestinians.  A usefully idiotic coalition of Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, and Lutheran priests in Jerusalem have boosted the PA’s bid.

The PA’s move on Friday will almost certainly be blocked by the United States, which, as a core member of the Security Council, has veto power over any such bid.  If its statehood attempt fails, Abbas has implied that the PA will present its case to the U.N. General Assembly, whose peanut gallery of Third World dictatorships will likely approve an upgrade for the PA from “entity” to non-voting, non-member observer state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dismissed the PA’s bid for statehood as unhelpful posturing and insisted Palestinians earn concessions by returning to the peace process, not trying to circumvent it and gain statehood so they can strong-arm Israel via the U.N.

Palestinian leaders have threatened that if they don’t succeed at gaining statehood, there may be unpleasant consequences, i.e. more protests, violence, and attacks on Israel.

History has also taught us that—in addition to the peace process always failing—whenever Israel capitulates to the PA, Palestinians’ demands only escalate to unreasonable levels, and mayhem ensues over Israel’s failure to meet their impossible conditions.  In contrast, whenever Israel firmly rejects the PA’s ultimatums and warns that military force will be used against reprisal attacks, Palestinians back down.

In other words, people respond to threats.  Groups, organizations, and nations respond to threats.  Even animals are smart enough to respond to threats.  The Palestinians are no different.  If Israel resolutely rebuffs their ridiculous demands and issues threats against retaliation, the PA will surely back down as well.

Why is the PA’s bid for statehood, and the whole peace process, ridiculous?  Because only good-faith parties respond in a reasonable manner to the give-and-take process of negotiations, in which each party’s ongoing actions build up its reputation as either a credible partner or a backstabber.  The Palestinians always fail to live up to their end of the deal, yet keep getting a free pass to continue as an equal partner in the process.

Two parties cannot negotiate if one refuses to recognize the other’s right to exist, existence being an obvious precondition for negotiation.  How can the PA credibly claim to be negotiating with an entity it refuses to acknowledge as legitimate and has repeatedly stated it wishes to wipe off the map?  How can the PA purport to be acting in good faith when it maintains close ties with anti-Semitic terrorist group Hamas—whose charter calls for the expulsion of all Jews from Palestine—and refuses to denounce this organization’s tactics or even label it a terrorist group?

As Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman noted, Israel has previously “shown great generosity towards the Palestinians, but it did not bring us peace…  It’s been 18 years since the Oslo Accords and we’ve tried everything…  [Ehud] Barak, in Camp David, agreed to all [Palestinian] demands.  What did we get in return?  Another intifada and more bloodshed.”

The U.S. should forcefully reject the PA’s bid, vigorously protest its request for an upgrade to non-member status, and permanently withdraw the half a billion dollars in annual aid it gives to the Palestinians.  The latter measure, in addition to preventing funds from being diverted to a political entity with a history of sponsoring terror, will signal to the PA that it has no business trying to morph into a state of semi-authenticity under the cover of the scores of reprehensible prison states unconscionably given legitimacy at the despicable U.N.

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Social Security: Too Shady To Be Called a Ponzi Scheme

September 14, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Economy

Social Security Poster: old man

Image via Wikipedia

Recently Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney criticized fellow contender Rick Perry for labeling Social Security a Ponzi scheme.  Romney extolled the virtues of the soon-to-be-bankrupt program and vowed to support its continuance unconditionally if elected.

A Ponzi scheme, so named after white-collar criminal Charles Ponzi, involves a huckster collecting money from numerous investors who are promised a high or reliable return on their investment, with payments being made by future investors lured in by similar promises of financial gain.  The scheme is unsustainable, because dividends received are not actually invested, and are not equaled by the dividends promised to investors.  Earlier investors fare better than later investors, who lose their money once the scheme collapses.

Sound familiar?

Social Security, signed into law by white-collar criminal Franklin Delano Roosevelt, involves the federal government collecting money from all working citizens, who are promised a reliable pension when they retire, with payments being made by subsequent generations who are dragged into the program.  The system is unsustainable because, due to slowing population increases and politicians raiding the Social Security Trust Fund, most payroll taxes received are not actually invested, and are not equaled by the payments promised to retirees.  Earlier generations fare better than later generations, who will not receive benefits once the system collapses.

The history of Social Security’s establishment and implementation reveal that Governor Perry is wrong about the program’s being a Ponzi scheme.  It is much worse.

Social Security is bigger, by many orders of magnitude, than any Ponzi scheme ever enacted in human history.  It is the largest government program in the world, and the biggest component of U.S. federal expenditures.  Social Security is to the average Ponzi scheme what the Great Pyramid of Giza is to a traffic cone.

Social Security is involuntary, whereas Ponzi schemes are at least voluntary.  Though applying for a Social Security number is not technically mandatory to live and work in the U.S., the Internal Revenue Service and other agencies require it, which forces everyone to participate in the program, or makes their lives very difficult if they don’t.

Social Security is better disguised than a Ponzi scheme, and thus more insidious.  Unlike a Ponzi scheme, the true nature of Social Security is hidden in broad daylight, which lulls ordinary citizens into thinking it couldn’t possibly be as fraudulent or unsustainable as it is.

Social Security is longer-lasting than any real-life Ponzi scheme.  Whereas most Ponzi schemes are lucky to survive a few months, Social Security has continued for over 75 years.

Social Security’s insolvency won’t affect young, naïve, retrainable investors, but rather elderly people at the potentially neediest and most vulnerable stage of their lives.

All of the above negative consequences of Social Security are a direct result of its being administered by the federal government.

Government has access to billions of participants, trillions of dollars in capital, and decades of time to continue the ruse.

Government forces all citizens to participate, even if they’d rather keep their money, invest as they choose, and take their chances later in life.

Government gives Social Security its imprimatur—whatever that’s worth these days.  Most members of both major political parties approve of continuing Social Security more or less as is.  The program is referred to as the “third rail” of politics, meaning that if you touch it, you die politically.  It is as though Bernard Madoff were a major donor to both parties, and Congress refused to question his investment strategies because Madoff were considered the “third rail” of politics.

Government designed Social Security to increase its ability to control the populace, by forcing them to pay in when they’re young and healthy and then meting out or scaling back benefits when they’re old and infirm.  (By “government,” of course, I mean Democrats.)  The Supreme Court actually ruled, in Flemming v. Nestor (1960), that the Social Security Administration is not legally required to pay benefits to retirees who have contributed to the system their whole lives, if it finds itself in a pinch: “To engraft upon the Social Security System a concept of ‘accrued property rights’ would deprive it of the flexibility and boldness in adjustment to ever-changing conditions which it demands…”  Would that everyday businesses were afforded the same “flexibility” and “boldness” to decide not to honor their contracts in order to better adjust to “ever-changing conditions.”

Supporters of Social Security only wish it had the air of respectability of a garden-variety Ponzi scheme.  Then we could send the fraudulent originators to jail, cut our losses, and start over.

Instead, we’re saddled for eternity with the mother of all entitlement programs, the granddaddy of confidence games, the oldest relic of the Seven Entitlement Wonders of the Modern World.  Even supposedly conservative presidential candidates—including, sadly, Rick Perry—are now duking it out to show how badly they want to preserve this fraud.

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Lessons We’ve Learned Since 9/11

September 07, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: War on Terror

towers

What have we learned in the 10 years since Islamic terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon?  Several lessons spring to mind:

1. There is nothing President George W. Bush could have done to prevent terrorist acts in his first eight months in office, of which his post-9/11 critics would have approved.  Even after 9/11, liberals have loudly disapproved of profiling at airports, surreptitiously monitoring terrorist communications, and fighting al-Qaeda militarily abroad.  Imagine how they would have reacted if Bush had attempted any of these strategies pre-9/11.

2. Poverty does not cause terrorism; it is both unnecessary and insufficient to the task.  Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up Northwest Flight 253, was the son of a wealthy Nigerian banker.  American Taliban John Walker Lindh went to high school at a “California Distinguished School” in SoCal.  In contrast, poor people the world over—rice farmers in China, untouchables in India—do not rise up en masse to wreak havoc in suicide bombings.  Modern-day terrorism is caused by individuals’ adherence to an ideology that encourages terrorist acts against innocent civilians—an ideology that usually happens to be Islamist.  Not all Muslims are terrorists, but almost all modern-day terrorists are Muslims.

3. Liberals have amassed a formidable glossary of imprecations they invoke whenever commentators scrutinize the radical nature of Islam: alienating Muslims, being at war with Islam, being Islamophobic, demonizing the other, engaging in inflammatory rhetoric, hijacking a peaceful religion, singling out people because of their religion.  None of these terms is objective enough to mean anything.

4. The criticism that the U.S. shouldn’t be vocal in our support of Israel is specious.  In supporting Israel, our anti-terror stance gains consistency and moral credence to reformists in hostile regimes who are potentially open to our ideas.  Israel is also the U.S.’s front line in the war on terror, and, if supported, may have the guts to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities if we don’t get around to doing it.

5. Announcing that we are at war with Islam does not constitute recruitment propaganda for the enemy.  Minnesota’s Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the U.S. House, declared, “I don’t want [al-Qaeda] to be able to stand up and claim… ‘America is at war with Islam.’  That’s one of their main recruiting arguments.”  Actually, one of al-Qaeda’s main recruiting arguments is, “The infidel is wicked, and his weakness and inability to stand up to us prove that our cause is just.”  An argument that would hurt recruiting would be, “America is at war with Islam, and you are going to get blown to smithereens if you fight for us.”

6. Waterboarding isn’t torture—it’s a resistance training technique routinely carried out on U.S. special operations forces, and leaves no permanent physical or psychological damage.  Waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques have been spectacularly successful in uncovering imminent terrorist plots and killing 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.

7. Troop surges are a winning strategy, as demonstrated in Iraq, Afghanistan, and even Libya.  As John McCain noted in his support for the second Afghanistan surge, half-measures in war “lead to failure over time and an erosion of American public support.”  We should never again fail to send an adequate number of troops to get the job done, as soon as they are needed.

8. Bush had to withhold from the public reams of documents about chilling terrorist threats we faced; when newly sworn-in President Obama was briefed on this intelligence, he suddenly did an about-face on almost every campaign promise he had made to reverse his predecessor’s policies.  In just his first 100 days in office, Obama implemented a surge in Afghanistan (followed by a larger surge later that year), asked Congress for $83 billion more for Iraq and Afghanistan without funding benchmarks, stepped up Predator drone attacks in Afghanistan, supported renewal of the Patriot Act, invoked the state secrets doctrine, reversed his opposition to rendition, rejected Democrats’ call for a Truth Commission, filed a brief claiming the U.S. can indefinitely hold anyone who supports Al-Qaeda or the Taliban, supported denial of habeas corpus to Bagram prisoners, revived military tribunals at Gitmo, opposed release of Abu Ghraib photos, and failed to do anything to close Gitmo.  It seems as though Commander-in-Chief Bush knew better than Alinskyite community organizer Obama did after all.

9. War is less expensive than Democrats’ wasteful domestic social programs.  Eight years of the Iraq War—including training and preparation for the 2003 invasion—cost less ($709 billion) than Obama’s useless stimulus bill ($787 billion).  U.S. involvement in the Libyan conflict cost the same ($1 billion) as the first 48 hours of Obama’s failed Cash-for-Clunkers program.  Defense spending constitutes 20% of the federal budget, and foreign aid just 1%, whereas entitlement spending on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid make up 43%.

10. Liberals have learned absolutely nothing since 9/11, except that Islam is much more peaceful, tolerant, and pro-U.S. than they’d ever dreamed; KSM should be tried in the same court as people who eat trans fats while drinking Four Loko and smoking in bars; and Muslims were the real victims of 9/11.

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