Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Removal of A Cross Atop A Public Building Was An Act of Cowardice

As promised, I am posting an update on the cross atop a former Catholic hospital acquired by a public school district. In an a cowardly act to avoid a public vote, the Reading School District removed the cross atop the proposed “Citadel” school in order to avoid a public vote, despite the postponement of the vote to keep it in place in order to give two newly elected members an opportunity to study the facts. The removal of the nearly 140-year-old cross and replacement with a finial at taxpayer expense damaged the roof of the structure it has sat upon since 1873.

The objection I raised to its removal on my last day in office as a Reading School Director on December 7 for historical, architectural and financial reasons I explained in my earlier post (Merry Christmas; I Am Grateful a Cross Remains Atop a Public Building Through My Efforts), temporarily delayed this action and enabled a public debate. However, the School Board escaped a recorded vote on whether to keep it by violating the will of a majority of its members to vote on it by exercising an informed choice. The excuse the District used that it had no choice but to remove the cross because its removal was in the original plans ignores three facts: 1) its removal was never discussed specifically in the first place, 2) there are only three School Directors still serving who voted on those plans out of the current nine members of the Board, and 3) the Board makes changes to the plans every month, which refutes the suggestion that they cannot be changed.

The motion to table the motion to keep the cross in place should have been restated by the Board President as a motion to postpone the motion to keep the cross to a definite time because the intent of the motion to table was not to kill the underlying motion, but only to postpone its consideration. Thus, the will of the majority to debate and vote on the question was usurped by the unilateral actions of the School District's administration and the Board President.

The cross symbolizes the Crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus is a religious figure not only for Christians, but for members of several other faiths, as well. Although a cross may be a religious symbol, it may also be interpreted as a historical symbol of the most influential human in history, one who influenced Western Civilization's ideas of liberty and equality. Like terrorists, those who object to public acknowledgement of Jesus intimidate others to give into their demands that no government agency acknowledge the Creator, from Whom Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence our rights as human beings come. The only difference is in the strategy of lawsuits instead of attacks on innocent civilians, but the intent is the same: the denial of liberty. In the case in Reading, no one even threatened a lawsuit, one that could have been defended under the Pennsylvania Constitution because of the unique historical, architectural and financial arguments. Indeed, its removal arguably violated that document's prohibition against requiring citizens to support a ministry financially by advancing the religion of secular humanism at taxpayer expense. Letting the cross in place would not have forced anyone to support a ministry through taxpayer funds.

No one has yet responded to my point that there are also crosses on the Gothic Revival-style Reading High School, with which the Citadel School is intended to correspond. Although they are less prominent than the large Latin cross removed from the three-story Chapel, I am consoled that there remain other crosses on the Citadel.

Our liberty depends upon the belief in the American creed that our rights come from our Creator, which makes it the duty of public officials to acknowledge Him, not to eschew His acknowledgement. The controversy over the cross atop the Citadel was not the first time I fulfilled my duty. I hope my example inspires other public officials, whom I call upon to acknowledge God as the source of our rights. May God bless Pennsylvania and America.

The 2000s: A Decade of Prosperity and Perseverance

The new decade begins at the start of 2011 because the first decade A.D. was from the Year One to the Year 10, the second from 11-20, and so on. However, in common parlance it makes sense in the nomenclature of decades to count them differently. For example, although the last decade of the Twentieth Century was from 1991-2000, a reference to the decade of the “Nineties” means 1990-1999.

The first decade of the Twenty-First Century is called “the 2000s” (the “Two Thousands”), just as the first decade of the Twentieth Century is called the “1900s” (the “Nineteen Hundreds”). The second decade will be the 2010s (the “Two Thousand Teens”), just as the 1910s are called the “Nineteen Teens.”

I do not prefer retrospectives of arbitrary periods, but in order to make the point about the true start of decades and their nomenclature, I am taking this opportunity to post about “the 2000s,” which is why I included the term in the title.

It is necessary to refute those historical revisionists who have quickly forgotten the prosperity of just a few years ago by putting the 2000s in proper perspective. An economic downturn began in 2000, after the bursting of the “tech bubble of the 1990s,” but it began to ease after United States President George W. Bush’s tax cuts in 2001, until the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks. The economy gradually rebounded from that blow. It prospered from 2003-2008 – one of the longest periods of economic growth in American history – with strong, steady increases in the gross domestic product, with low interest rates, low unemployment and low inflation. Amazingly, inflation remained tame even after the sharp spike in oil prices in 2005. In contrast to the stagflation typical of the 1970s to the early 1980s, inflation has been low since 1981.

The prosperity of the 2000s is hardly diminished by the Panic of 2008, which has led to a severe recession, just as the Roaring Twenties are remembered as a decade of prosperity, despite the crash of the stock market in 1929 that triggered the Great Depression. Unlike then, when protectionism reduced trade through higher tariffs, the dramatic increase in trade in the 2000s will help lead to economic recovery. Indeed, the end of the 2000s may well be remembered as a time when a depression was averted more so than for the recession that did happen.

Like the 1980s and 1990s, the 2000s reflect a smoothing out of the natural business cycle of boom and bust. The “Reagan boom” was aided by lower tax rates, increased trade, better efficiency and productivity. The same recent recession that reminds us that the cyclical nature of the economy has not been broken will yield to recovery and prosperity, barring significant natural or man-made disasters, that is, unless government policy continues to distort the market. In other words, the current recession reminds us that it is difficult for the economy to remain permanently in a state of equilibrium, of growth without inflation, but it likely would return to it without artificial interference.

It is worth stating the truism that the reason the current recession has caused unemployment to reach levels not seen since 1982 is because the U.S. has been prosperous during that time. The historical revisionists seem to have forgotten that long periods of economic growth – especially without inflation – are extraordinary. Instead of being grateful for the prosperity, a period they should have used to prepare for harder times, they are whining about the recession, which, despite the difficulties it causes, they ought to regard as presenting new economic opportunities.

The prosperity of the Bush era is reflective of the perseverance Americans demonstrated after September 11. I mean that not only did the American people defeat al-Qaeda after September 11 by following the Bush Administration’s advice to continue to shop and to fly on airplanes, and not only by continuing to travel and attending public events, but by refusing to be intimidated into giving in to the terrorists’ demands. Americans also defeated terrorists in many battlefields, militarily and by other means, around the world during the 2000s, which also liberated millions of people from tyranny. The 2000s may be remembered as the time of the turning point of the latest phase of the war of militant Muslims against the world, as long as the United States maintains its resolve to resist its enemies effectively.

Conservatives should not allow liberals to mischaracterize the 2000s by focusing only on the negative for political purposes. Instead, let us remind everyone that although the 2000s were a challenging decade, like most others, they proved the strength of America and the character of her people.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Day Terrorist Attack Was A Successful, Not An Attempted or Failed, Attack

The media is reporting the Christmas Day terrorist attack by a Nigerian with links to al-Qaeda in Yemen on board a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit as an “attempted” or “failed” attack. The Obama Administration has also used similar language. Some in the media have even called it a “foiled” attack. However, the incident was a successful terrorist attack.

Although the attack did not succeed in destroying or crashing the aircraft, the explosive device did detonate and burn, which caused injuries and a fire which had to be extinguished. The fire caused some damage to the airplane. Therefore, the attack was not an “attempt,” because it was carried out and even caused injuries and damage, regardless of whether the terrorists fell short of accomplishing their goal of destroying the plane. In other words, the attack was an attempt to destroy the plane, but not an attempted attack.

Moreover, as I have noted in earlier posts, the purpose of terrorism is to intimidate the populace into giving into the demands of the terrorists. The Christmas Day attack succeeded in terrorizing not only the innocent civilians aboard the airplane, but the general public, as well. In other words, although the incident was not successful in destroying the airplane, it was nonetheless a successful attack. Thus, the incident meets the definition of a terrorist attack, not an attempted, failed or foiled attack.

In addition to undermining confidence further in both the media and the Obama Administration, the mislabeling of this terrorist attack as something less than what it was minimizes its significance, which is that al-Qaeda and other militant Muslims remain determined and capable of carrying out their strategy of terrorism, which the West ignores at its peril.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

More Language for Conservatives to Avoid

For my 150th post to my blog, I am continuing this series I began in late 2008, shortly after I launched this blog.

Federal Elections

There are no such thing as “federal elections,” except in the federal District of Columbia. There are elections for federal offices, but these are state elections. As noted in earlier posts in this series, there is no such thing as a “presidential election,” only elections for presidential and vice presidential electors, and there are no such things as “national elections,” as the United States is neither a nation, nor a nation-state, but a union of states.

Referring to American States as Political “Subdivisions”

The several American States created the union of states known as the United States of America. The U.S. did not create the states as “subdivisions,” as if they are its provinces. States are sovereign, independent entities.

Clinton-Gore Administration, Bush-Cheney Administration, etc.

There is no such thing as the “Clinton-Gore Administration,” the “Bush-Cheney Administration,” the “Obama-Biden Administration,” etc. These terms refer to the supposed administration of the president and vice president of the United States. However, the vice president is not a part of the Executive Branch. As President of the Senate, he is a member of the Legislative Branch. In the post-war period (since the National Security Act of 1947, which made the Vice President a member of the National Security Council) and in recent practice, especially since the presidency and vice presidency of Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale, respectively, vice presidents have taken an increased role in executive matters, not only in terms of giving advice, but of carrying out various tasks assigned by the president. Only in this strict sense can it be said that there is such a thing approaching a co-presidency that these terms suggest. But it is better not to use such terms that inaccurately suggest that the U.S. Constitution makes the vice president a member of the Executive Branch, instead of making him independent of the president. Indeed, until the Twelfth Amendment, the vice president was the one who received the second-highest number of electoral votes, as if it represented a power-sharing arrangement with the main leader of the loyal opposition. Vice presidents are elected separately by the electors on separate ballots. They are not appointees like Cabinet members, who serve only at the pleasure of the president, but are elected to four-year terms and are thus accountable directly to the people. Even if the vice president is of the same party as the president, he can be an intra-party check on the president when it is necessary for him to exercise his limited power of casting tie-breaking votes in the Senate, instead of feeling as if he is a servant of the president.

Similarly, conservatives should avoid referring to the vice president as the “second-in-command,” or to the president as the “vice president’s boss.”

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas; I Am Grateful A Cross Remains on a Public Building Through My Efforts

I wish all of my readers a Blessed Christmas 2009.

I am particularly grateful that partially through my efforts, the cross atop the former St. Joseph Hospital in Reading, a former Catholic facility dating back to the 19th Century that is being renovated for use as a public school by the Reading School District, remains in place, despite the District's original plans to remove it. I had written the acting Superintendent on December 7 outlining the historical, architectural (as I noted the campus is intended to correspond to Reading High School, which is in the Gothic Revival style, a Christian style that includes dozens of quadrifoils, which are Greek crosses with rounded ends), financial and legal reasons for keeping the cross in place the day that my term ended as Reading School Director, which successfully resulted in delaying its removal as the renovation has neared completion. One of the remaining Directors subsequently moved the question at a meeting, which was tabled until the newly sworn-in members could decide the issue. Although the issue remains undecided by the Board of Directors, at least it discussed it for the first time. Thus, not only is the public debating the issue, with the overwhelming majority opposing its removal, but the Board finally began publicly debating the question, with members going on record with their positions at least to some degree. The Administration nevertheless had planned to remove the cross despite the tabling, but other factors have apparently delayed any such action.

I shall post updates about this unique issue, as well as other observations of my tenure in public service as a School Director in future posts, as I continue to tie up loose ends. For now, I appreciate that my prayer for the cross to remain in place through Christmas has been answered favorably.

I am pleased that I have been able to post to my blog more frequently now that my service as an elected official has ended, even though I have been preparing for Christmas.

I wish a Merry Christmas especially to all United States servicemen, and peace to all those of good will.

The Commerce Clause Limits Federal Power to Mandate the Purchase of Private Health Insurance

A constitutional question regarding the federal power to mandate the purchase of private health insurance has arisen during the recent debate over the Congressional liberal Democrats’ proposal supported by United States President Barak Obama to federalize health insurance.

Several liberal Democratic members of Congress have cited the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution as authority for this unprecedented requirement to purchase something as a condition of residence in the United States. However, the Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3) does not grant the federal government any such authority. In fact, it expressly denies the federal government that authority.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), for example, recently stated that she assumes that the Commerce Clause grants the federal government unlimited power to mandate residents to purchase private health insurance. However, the Commerce Clause limits federal power. It is not an unlimited power: it only allows the federal government to regulate interstate commerce and commerce with the Indian tribes, not all commerce, such as that conducted within a state (intrastate commerce).

Regardless, as others have noted, the proposed federal mandate to purchase health insurance is not a regulation of commerce, but a requirement to engage in commerce. Even if it were commerce, it is not interstate commerce, as federal law bans the purchase of health insurance from out of state, meaning that all health insurance is intrastate commerce. Therefore, the federal government has no constitutional authority to regulate health insurance currently at all, let alone to mandate its purchase.

Some of the liberal supporters of federalizing health insurance have argued that requiring the purchase of health insurance is like requiring the purchase of car insurance, but their argument only undermines their claim of constitutional authority. As others have noted, it is states, not the federal government, that mandate the purchase of car insurance. Furthermore, they only require the purchase of car insurance for those who exercise the privilege of driving – on public roads – out of concern for the health and safety of their citizens, as well as the protection of their property. The analogy between health insurance and car insurance thus easily fails.

Liberals have violated the Constitution by diluting the Commerce Clause and claiming federal power to regulate all economic activity so much and for so long that they have finally overreached in their proposal to mandate the purchase of private health insurance to such an obvious degree that the constitutionality of such a requirement would be challenged in federal court.

The constitutional question of whether the federal government is limited by the Constitution, the language of which reflects the intent of its Framers, or can do whatever federal politicians want to do without amending it by citing that very document as providing their unlimited authority to act is of greater significance than the particular problems presented by the proposed federalization of health insurance itself. In addition to the truth, at stake is the principle of limited government (i.e. the principles of subsidiarity and federalism) versus the centralization of power, and the liberty of the States and the people.

War on Terrorism Report Card Notes Successful Bush Tactics Obama Is Following

A recent federal study of the War on Terrorism noted the successof two tactics of the Bush Administration that are being continued by the Obama Administration. The tactics have contributed to a decrease in attacks by al-Qaeda from the previous year.

The first tactic is the use of armed unmanned drones. The Bush Administration had developed a plan by the day before September 11, 2001 and was able to put it into use quickly in the War on Terrorism, taking out al-Qaeda's third in command, Muhammad Atef, who was in charge of military operations, early in the war. The Bush Administration deployed the drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as in Yemen and Somalia. The Obama Administration has continued to use the drones in those same places, recently taking out the imam who had inspired the Ft. Hood shooter in Yemen. It has stepped up the number of drone attacks in Pakistan.

The second tactic is the Bush Administration's highly praised efforts to freeze terrorist funding. For example, within a few years after September 11, the United States had succeeded in freezing over $100 million in al-Qaeda funding, despite the challenges of identifying the funds. Indeed, this tactic has been one of the most effective in the War on Terrorism.

The report, however, noted an increase in overall terrorist attacks from the previous year. The published reports did not elaborate on the definition of terrorism used for the report. For example, attacks on the U.S. and coalition military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are not terrorist attacks, as terrorism is the targeting of innocent civilians. In previous years, attacks outside of these fronts in the War on Terrorism have declined, with deaths for Americans being rare (e.g. in one recent extraordinary calendar year, there were no American fatalities from terrorism).

Nevertheless, if attacks committed by terrorists other than al-Qaeda increased last year, then the danger from terrorism overall is underscored. As I have noted in earlier posts, it is called the “War on Terrorism,” not the “War on al-Qaeda” for good reason: there are many militant Muslim jihadis around the world, in addition to other terrorists like various Communists, who continue to represent a threat to Americans and other free peoples. This point is important to understand for several reasons: 1) the U.S. counterterrorism strategy must be focused on all threats, not just al-Qaeda, and not just from Muslims, 2) those who sponsor terrorism financially or by providing safe haven to terrorists like al-Qaeda, such as the Taliban, must also be defeated, and 3) eliminating state sponsors of other terrorists, like Iraq's Saddam Hussein, or getting them to renounce terrorism, as Libya did, is imperative.

U.S. President George W. Bush's comprehensive counterterrorism strategy has been successful against al-Qaeda. It also produced a number of spectacular results against other terrorist threats, in addition to Iraq and Libya, such as the breakup of the Pakistani nuclear smuggling ring, the international interdiction against North Korean arms proliferation, and Columbia's increased success against its Marxist narco-terrorists because of better American aid.

That President Barak Obama has been continuing some of Bush's most successful policies is a testimony to their effectiveness, despite Obama's often wreckless rhetoric and occasional backsliding towards September 10 policies that treat terrorism as a criminal matter, instead of an act of war. Conservatives must continue to urge the Obama Administration to focus on all terrorist threats and to take all of the necessary measures to safeguard American soldiers and civilians at home and abroad.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Pope’s Declaration of Pius XII’s Heroic Virtue Debunks a Liberal Myth

Pope Benedict XVI is expected soon to declare that his predecessor, Pope Pius XII, lived a life of “heroic virtue.” The declaration is the first step in the canonization process, i.e. “listing” among the Saints.

After the Second World War and through his death in 1958, Jews and others hailed Pius XII as a hero for resisting the Holocaust, despite the difficulties he faced. However, by the 1960s, leftists began to slander this righteous man, first suggesting in a fictional play that he had collaborated with the Nazis, then actually accusing him of having participated in the Holocaust by not speaking out enough against the Nazis. By the 2000s, an author of a widely reviewed book accused Pius XII of being “Hitler’s Pope,” yet he could only find the Pontiff guilty of one alleged error: failing to support adequately a Christian Democratic party in Germany before the Nazi Party (National German Socialist Party) won the election, even though liberals usually object to any interference in politics by the Church.

Pius XII’s critics seek not only to discredit him and the Catholic Church, but all Christianity, especially all Christian conservatives. They imply that Fascism and Nazism is an outgrowth of Christianity because they accuse Christians of anti-Semitism. These liberals wish to cover up the left-wing origins of the totalitarian ideologies of Fascism and Nazism that elevate the State above all, including the Church. Instead, the left tries to discredit Christian conservatives by associating their beliefs with those that led to the Holocaust.

Pope Benedict XVI has acted boldly by asserting the truth, that his predecessor as Bishop of Rome acted heroically in defiance of the Nazis, which did much to prevent the slaughter of even more Jews and resistors of the Nazis.

Before the War, Pope Pius XII spoke out in an encyclical against Statism, obviously condemning Nazism. Because the encyclical was banned in Nazi Germany, the Allies leafleted it out of airplanes over German skies as part of their propaganda campaign. Pius XII continued to criticize the Nazi regime during the war, despite the difficult position he was in as the head of state of a neutral country totally surrounded by the Axis Powers. The Pontiff had to be careful to avoid losing his neutral status, lest Adolph Hitler retaliate. The Nazis considered deporting the Pope and physically threatened him. Indeed, the Fascists even bombed Vatican City in 1943!

Jews and others, like the German clergy, urged Pius XII not to speak out openly against the Nazis out of fear of retaliation, which they knew from their own experience. The Pope was mindful of what had happened to the Dutch Bishops who had spoken out forcefully against the Nazis: Hitler retaliated against them by interring many Jewish converts to Catholicism in the Netherlands in concentration camps, some of whom were murdered. It is unlikely that the Nazis would have listened to the Pope’s pleas anyway.

Therefore, Pius XII did what he could, by acting more than speaking. Before he became Pope, as Vatican Secretary of State, he had established an organization that funded an airline for thousands of escaping Jews. As Pontiff, he offered the Nazis the Vatican’s gold as a ransom for the Jews. The Pope discretely urged the cloistered monasteries and convents to make the extraordinary step of throwing open their doors in order to take in Jews hiding from the Holocaust, at the risk of being executed by the Nazis. Tens of thousands of Jews, as well as resistance fighters and downed Allied pilots were saved in Italy alone, where the influence of the Catholic Church was strongest and Italians shared Pius XII’s belief that racism was contrary to Italian mores. Although 67% of Jews were killed in the Holocaust in other European countries, 85% of them were saved in Italy. The Nazis slaughtered hundreds of Italian civilians in retaliation.

Eugenio Pacelli, who became Pope Pius XII, is a hero whose Christian example debunks the liberal myth that Christian conservatism shares an origin with Fascism. Pope Benedict XVI has reaffirmed his predecessor’s example, thereby defending this holy man from calumny, and reminding everyone that the left’s association of Christian conservatism with Fascism and Nazism is based upon ignorance of the origin of its own ideology.

Overspending Busted the Budget, Not Tax Cuts

United States President Barak Obama recently blamed “budget-busting tax cuts” for the deficit. He was referring to the tax cuts signed into law by his immediate predecessor, George W. Bush. However, tax cuts do not cost the government anything.

A tax cut does not require an expenditure from the treasury. Only expenditures “cost” the government money. Therefore, tax cuts are not the reason for the deficit. The implication that tax cuts costing anything reflects the liberal Statist view that money belongs to government, to decide how it sees feet to distribute it.

Moreover, tax cuts do not even necessarily reduce revenue to the government. Tax cuts generate economic growth by allowing people to keep more of their money, which gives them more incentive to earn more and to invest more. In fact, tax cuts have historically been responsible for increases in revenue.

Sometimes, however, government uses the increased revenue it receives because of tax cuts to go on a spending spree. As a result, tax cuts are often blamed for budget deficits, even though they increase revenue. An example is the tax cuts signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. His tax cuts were partly responsible for unleashing a then-record-long period of economic growth, which nearly doubled federal revenue, but the federal government continued its long habit of deficit spending. Reagan’s tax cuts, like Bush’s after him, were blamed for the deficits.

The Bush tax cuts represented a refund to the taxpayers because of the budget surplus of the late 1990s-2000. A surplus occurs when more money is taxed from the people than the government needs. Refunding the surplus is the right thing to do, both morally and economically, as a large budget surplus is not only an embarrassment for overtaxing the people, but represents the removal of wealth from the economy, to its detriment. Therefore, eliminating the surplus is not “busting the budget,” but balancing the budget.

The Bush tax cuts did not cause the debt that substantively increased, despite the prosperity they are partly responsible for triggering from 2002-2007/8. Indeed, the U.S. government received an increased amount of revenue during the Bush prosperity. It was too much spending caused the return of annual budget deficits. But, as in the past, the federal government spent much more than it received. Some of it was understandable, such as for the War on Terrorism, but some was not. Regardless, the tax cuts were not to blame for the deficits. The deficits were caused by overspending.

Both the federal budget and the U.S. economy would benefit from spending and tax cuts, but Obama is proposing the opposite policy of dramatically increased spending and increased taxes on upper income earners and small businesses, which would harm the economy. Conservatives should continue to point out the benefits of spending and tax cuts, as well as the harm of unrestrained spending and over taxation, in order to urge Obama and Congressional liberal Democrats to change their fiscal policies soon.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Obama’s Change Represents Regression, not Progress

The kind of change represented by Obama’s spending spree (see my last post, Obama Set to Sign Another Budget-Busting Bill) represents regression, not progress, like his and Congressional liberal Democrats' opposition to reducing the price of oil by allowing more off-shore drilling. It seems that Obama and the Democrats misled voters concerned about the deficit and the high price of oil into voting for them, even though they support massive domestic spending and higher prices for oil.

Obama and Congressional liberal Democrats only oppose tax cuts and military spending, not reducing domestic spending, like welfare and pork.

They support higher oil prices in order to force more conservation, while opposing increased drilling for oil, clean coal, and nuclear energy. Indeed, Obama stated during the presidential campaign that the problem was not the higher oil prices, which if adjusted for inflation should have caused the price of gasoline to be over $3.00 per gallon, had risen too quickly, not that they had risen at all. Although he is right that Americans enjoyed decades of relatively low energy prices before the sudden sharp increase in 2005, his lack of opposition to higher energy prices is ideological, not economic, while he was content to allow his supporters to blame Bush falsely for the higher oil prices – as if it is the responsibility of the president to set the price of oil, if he even had the power to do so if he wished – in order to get elected to do the opposite of what the voters wanted. During the campaign, public opinion forced Congress to overturn the moratorium on drilling for off-shore oil, a measure which Bush signed into law, but the Obama Administration has demonstrated no enthusiasm for following through with allowing more drilling.

Liberal environmentalists who opposed Bush and supported Obama had blocked hundreds of licenses for oil-drilling in the area off Alaska that the Bush Administration had tried to open up to more drilling even before the end of the moratorium off the continental coast of the Lower 48 States. Oil prices would have probably risen even higher had Bush not succeeded in 2001 in expanding off-shore drilling in parts of the Gulf of Mexico, let alone being able to end the oil embargoes on Iraq and Libya as a result of his successful foreign policy, for which his critics absurdly blamed him for the opposite intent.

In other words, liberals blocked the increased oil drilling and then blamed Bush for the result of their actions – just like in another example, the mortgage fiasco, when Congressional liberal Democrats blocked adequate regulation repeatedly by the Bush Administration and Congressional Republicans of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two mortgage giants implicitly backed by the federal government that made bad loans as a result of the policies of former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, aided by liberal allies of Obama like ACORN. None of the policies of the Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats appear to demonstrate that they have learned this main lesson of the mortgage crisis about government distorting the free market unnecessarily that their policies helped to cause. They are still encouraging risky loans while rewarding even those who lied about their creditworthiness to escape from the consequences of their actions.

Change is good only if it represents reform, not just a change for the sake of change for political expedience. It is imperative that conservatives defend their record while exposing that of the liberals in order to implement policies in the best interests of the United States.

Obama Set to Sign Another Budget-Busting Bill

United States President Barak Obama is likely to sign a $1.1 trillion pork-laden spending bill with over 5,200 congressional earmarks. The omnibus spending bill was approved by both houses of Congress controlled by the Democratic majority. The bill includes appropriations for most federal agencies for the 2010 fiscal year, except the Department of Defense.

The spending bill also would require taxpayer funding of abortion and needle exchanges in the District of Columbia. Yet the big Congressional spenders pinched pennies by terminating the voucher program for the District’s parents, forcing their children to attend the failed public schools there.

Obama and other liberal Democrats had criticized the Republican Congress and President George W. Bush for deficit spending. However, the spending increased once the Democrats gained the majority of Congress in 2007 and since Obama was inaugurated president.

In my next post, I shall discuss this lack of the change Obama and his liberal supporters falsely promised.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Knox Convicted, Berlusconi Assaulted and Other Italian News

The recent guilty verdict and lengthy sentence in the murder case of American student Amanda Knox and her boyfriend in Perugia for the brutal murder of their British roommate has generated much international media attention, as well as controversy in the United States. Those sympathetic to the convicted murderess blame the Italian police for focusing their probe on Knox because of her immoral sexual behavior that led to the murder in the first place. As with other recent high-profile criminal cases, the accusation of bias is used in order to dismiss the considerable evidence of guilt. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has expressed an interest in ensuring that the American citizen is treated fairly, as is appropriate, but the Obama Administration would be wise to allow the appeals process to occur and not to be seen as trying to manipulate the result through diplomatic pressure of its Italian ally.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was injured in an assault today at a political rally in Milan, apparently by a man with mental illness. The man struck the Premier of Italy with a statue, breaking his nose and two teeth.

The incident was probably isolated, but it occurs just a little over a week after the opposition staged demonstrations in several major Italian cities coinciding with a labor strike intended as a protest. The opposition accuses the billionaire media businessman Berlusconi of having supported laws that give him immunity from prosecution for various alleged financial misdeeds. The Prime Minister asserts that the laws were for the benefit of all Italians. The left accuses Berlusconi of having too much control over Italian media. He points to his high public approval rating. However, Berlusconi has not helped himself with his sexual indiscretions, which have led his wife to divorce him, as well as to a major scandal.

Despite the noise from the left, Berlusconi, backed by a stable coalition, continues to exhibit unusually strong leadership for an Italian premier. The government’s crackdown on the mafia has produced spectacular results; many of the most wanted have been captured, including the Number Two leader of the mob. Italian police have also been successful in retrieving thousands of archaeological artifacts stolen and removed from Italy. Berlusconi’s government has been successful in implementing better accountability for public servants in a land where government workers are not especially known for productivity; for example, turnstiles have been installed at government offices. Finally, the Italian government has announced that it will send 1,000 more troops and 200 more Carabinieri (the national gendarmerie) to Afghanistan, which would increase the current Italian contribution to the Afghan front of the War on Terrorism to 4,000.

A Comparison of the Iraqi and Afghan Troop Surges

As promised in my last post, Obama Vindicates Bush, McCain and Palin on Afghanistan, this post is a comparison of the Iraqi and Afghan troop surges, with some further analysis.

United States President Barak Obama probably is making the right decision to send more troops to Afghanistan, as his generals have recommended. He had already sent more troops earlier this year, after former U.S. President George W. Bush had begun a planned troop surge for that country while simultaneously drawing down American forces in Iraq.

I have long considered the battle for Afghanistan in the War on Terrorism a greater challenge than the battle of Iraq. Afghanistan’s mountainous terrain makes it more difficult than Iraq not only because of the difficulty of transporting personnel and equipment, but because of the defensive positions it affords, as well as the escape routes it provides. Indeed, the mountainous Afghan border with Pakistan has proven the greatest challenge to American led forces and their Afghan allies, as the Taliban and al-Qaeda escape across the border into Pakistan. There, they find safe haven in tribal areas where the Pakistani national government exerts little or no control.

Afghanistan is even more tribal than Iraq, with less ethnic cohesion. While Iraq has two main ethnic groups, Arabs and Kurds, Afghanistan is inhabited mainly by Pashtun, Tajiks, Hazara, and Uzbeks. There are small minorities of Turkmen in both states, especially the latter, but Afghanistan also has several other minorities, such as Baluchi and Nuristani. Both states are overwhelmingly Muslim, with both the Sunni and Shia branches represented, although Iraq has a small Christian minority (both Orthodox and Catholic). However, Iraq has two major languages, Arabic and Kurdish, while Afghanistan has several, as well as over 30 minority languages. These factors, combined with its mountainous terrain, make Afghanistan difficult to centrally administer.

Two other advantages that Iraq has over Afghanistan is its relative wealth compared to Afghanistan’s poverty. Iraq is rich in oil, but the land that contains ancient Mesopotamia is also the leading world producer of dates, for example. Afghanistan is only the leading world producer of opium, from which heroin is derived, a crop that must be eradicated. Iraq, as the Cradle of Civilization, is a potential tourist attraction. Afghanistan has little to draw tourism. In short, Iraq can be economically self-sufficient much sooner than Afghanistan.

I note how Afghanistan presents a more difficult challenge for the U.S. than Iraq because critics of the Liberation of Iraq exaggerated its difficulty, which they argued, suggested the war was imprudent, while they continued to cite the Liberation of Afghanistan as “the good war.” Despite having to defeat al-Qaeda in Iraq, in addition to the Baathists, the quick success of the surge in Iraq, in contrast to the protracted conflict in Afghanistan, refutes this argument.

As in Iraq, the Afghan troop surge will be only the military component of an overall counterterrorist strategy that includes the acceleration of the training of Afghan security forces (army and police), as well as various reconstruction and infrastructure projects to improve the lives of Afghans and strengthen state control – at least at the provincial level – after securing and holding areas cleared of the Taliban, al Qaeda and other terrorists. This strategy, although similar to the one that succeeded in Iraq, will have to be tailored to the particular challenges in Afghanistan.

Obama expressed that the focus of the troop surge will be on al-Qaeda. However there are few al-Qaeda left there. The danger is that their Taliban allies would once again take power and provide safe haven to the terrorist organization (See also my post Victory in Afghanistan is Critical). The primary focus must be on defeating the Taliban.

It was imprudent for Obama to announce the beginning of the withdrawal of American forces by a date certain. His equivocation seems to send the message to American troops, U.S. allies and enemies alike that the Commander in Chief lacks the resolve to do what it takes to defend the United States. Obama avoided the temptation to state how many troops would withdraw or how long it would take for a phased withdrawal, declaring that decisions about the withdrawal would be based upon “conditions on the ground,” as Bush used to state.

Alas, Obama cannot bring himself to state victory as a goal, only “ending” the war successfully, which only further undermines American and Afghan morale, while bolstering that of the enemy. For now, however, after taking months to make his decision, Obama’s Afghan troop surge will have a favorable impact on morale. But Obama’s weakness reflected in his announcement of his intent to withdraw in a little over a year and his avoidance of the word victory, give the enemy enough hope that it is only necessary to kill enough Americans to make the war politically unpopular, so as to force an American withdrawal, as in Vietnam, Lebanon and, most relevantly, in Somalia.

Obama’s contention that the Liberation of Iraq distracted the U.S. from Afghanistan is only half right: it was a distraction, for al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda made a strategic mistake to send forces to Iraq, where they have been routed by the American-led “coalition of the willing,” together with its Iraqi allies. In addition, the Taliban were a spent force by 2007. The Taliban military offensive in Afghanistan was described by the liberal media as responsible for the deaths of thousands of Afghans, but the media failed to explain that it mostly the Taliban who were being killed. It is only since the jihadists have been defeated in Iraq that Afghanistan has flared up again. The other factor is the Pakistani government’s lack of the political wherewithal to defeat the Taliban in Pakistan and to deny them a safe haven there. Furthermore, the idea that the U.S. could not fight simultaneously on two fronts has been proven untrue.

One of the criticisms of the Liberation of Iraq was that the militant Muslims used it to perfect their insurgency tactics, which they can now apply to Afghanistan. Apparently, these critics could not see the opposite side of their argument: the Liberation of Iraq was an opportunity for the U.S. to perfect its counterinsurgency tactics, which it is now applying to Afghanistan.

The American people must support their Commander in Chief and the troops in the battle for Afghanistan, as well as their mission: to deny terrorists a safe haven in Afghanistan. The troop surge and counterterrorism strategy in Iraq is the model that suggests a similar strategy can succeed in Afghanistan, despite the challenges.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Obama Vindicates Bush, McCain and Palin on Afghanistan

Despite United States President Barak Obama’s policy of blaming every problem on former President George W. Bush, he has vindicated Bush – once again – by following his polices. Obama’s immediate processor as Commander in Chief had increased troops in Afghanistan and supported a troop surge and counterinsurgency strategy there similar to the one in Iraq.

Obama had predicted the Bush’s troop surge in Iraq would fail. When it became obvious that American policy in Iraq was achieving much success, he attributed these successes to other factors, which was a tacit acknowledgement that the pre-surge situation in Iraq was not nearly as bad as critics of the Liberation of Iraq, like Obama, had insisted. Nevertheless, Obama’s Afghan troop surge is another vindication by him of the President he succeeded.

Obama has also vindicated Republican presidential nominee John McCain, whom Obama defeated, who had long called for the surge for Iraq and had since also been calling for one for Afghanistan. Finally, Obama has vindicated GOP vice presidential nominee Governor Sara Palin of Alaska. During the vice presidential candidate debate, when Palin observed that a leading general had recommended a surge for Afghanistan similar to the one in Iraq, Democratic vice presidential nominee Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware insisted that he had not, even though Palin had made clear that the surge in Afghanistan would not be exactly the same as in Iraq, but tailored to reflect its differences. The liberal media, whose storyline by this point had become that Palin was ignorant because she had been unable to answer ABC news reporter Charles Gibson question that had mislabeled the Bush Doctrine, accepted Biden’s correction of Palin as fact. In fact, Palin was correct and Biden wrong, both in terms of the accuracy about the general’s statement and the merits of the request for more troops. Now Obama has rejected Biden’s opposition to a troop surge for Afghanistan.

During the presidential campaign, Obama painted himself into a corner by constantly contrasting Iraq and Afghanistan as the good war and the bad war, respectively, even though both removed militant Muslim regimes that sponsored terrorists who targeted and killed Americans. In addition to being necessary for American security in order to prevent the Taliban from retaking power in Afghanistan (See also my post, Victory in Afghanistan is Critical), Obama thus rhetorically obligated himself to fight the “good war.” The Commander in Chief is right to make the decision not only to continue the fight, but also to implement a troop surge and counterinsurgency strategy. Conservatives must continue to urge Obama, however, to fully commit to a policy of victory.

In my next post, I shall analyze Obama’s Afghan troop surge strategy and compare it to Bush’s troop surge in Iraq.