Monday, July 27, 2009

Will Israel Attack Iran?

In a recent meeting with the US, Israel reaffirmed that “no option should be ruled out” when dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat. The meeting between US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and his Israeli counterpart, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, reconfirms the tensions created by the Iranian quest for nuclear weaponry.

Given Iran’s historical belligerence towards Israel, the tiny nation is correct to view Ahmadinejad and his cronies as an existential threat. The Iranian despot has repeatedly called for the destruction of the Jewish state. The achievement of an Iranian nuke would be the harbinger of the death of Israel. However, it is unlikely that Israel would allow the Iranian nuclear program to reach this terminal stage. Well before such a point, Israel would most certainly launch an attack on the Persian state. Such an attack would have profound effects on Israel and the entire Middle East.

An Israeli attack would lead to a heavy handed Iranian reprisal that would quickly embroil the Middle East into a regional war— which quite possibly could spread into a broader conflagration. Israel of course knows this and logically wants to avoid such a destabilizing act. However, the choice is clear when given an option between annihilation and fighting to prevent destruction. Barak stated, “We are not blind. We know everything we do has implications on our neighbors, we take this into account, but ultimately we are committed to Israel's security interests."

The crucial question is: ‘When do the Israelis feel they have reached the point-of-no-return?’ The Iranian nuclear program is far more complex than the Iraqi program which Israel successfully ended with the bombing of Osirak in 1981. A single surgical strike would be unable to end the Iranian program. This implies that upon deciding to attack Iran, Israel would have to use a considerable amount of force. Such a need of force will certainly delay an Israeli strike; however, only to a certain point. If Israeli intelligence indicates that a nuclear Iran is imminent, the country will strike.

All of this heightens the need for America, and the world community, to increase pressure on Iran. The Iranian nuclear program needs to be halted immediately. However, the Obama administration’s insistence on making nice with our enemies and bullying our friends is counterproductive to this aim. The administration’s warped view of foreign policy, as successfully slammed in The Wall Street Journal, is not only unwise but downright foolish. Obama continues to push Israel and court Iran. Ultimately, this will increase Israel’s insecurity and accelerate the ‘point-of-no-return’. After nearly eight months in office, it is time that Obama realizes his foreign policy is leading the world down a dangerous path. Hopefully, he will change his tune before a disastrous war in the Middle East forces him to.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hearts vs. Heads: Time for Some Brains in the GOP

Recently The Economist wrote:
Many Americans want as president someone who is exceptionally well informed about public policy, who surrounds himself with experts, who weights the evidence and then does what is best for the country. But few people are policy experts, so they often follow their hearts rather than their heads when deciding whom to vote for.

Stated in a discussion regarding Sarah Palin, The Economist brought forward a poignant issue plaguing both America and the Republican Party. The past election was rife with populism and anti-intellectualism- two closely related problems that only serve to degrade policy and hinder the growth of America.

From the support of Obama based on the rejection of Bush to the selection of Palin as running mate, the election was won and lost by the hearts, not the minds. This trend unfortunately still continues. The Republican Party, which made a disastrous choice with the populist, philistine Palin, continues to seep deeper into the brackish backwaters of anti-intellectualism.

The problems with populism and anti-intellectualism are twofold. First of all, it is quite easy for such leaders to appear narrow minded and possibly downright stupid. While, as The Economist article pointed out, some people may gain comfort in voting for someone ‘just like them’, the risks of turning everyone else off to such a politician are extremely high. Sarah Palin, for one, is either loved or hated. To those who champion her she is the ‘gal next door’; to those who ridicule her she is a redneck idiot. However, this polarizing persona is not a viable route for a party that aims to run a diverse country.

Secondly, and more importantly, populism and anti-intellectualism do much harm for developing strong policy. While many people may vote with their hearts, there are ways of communicating ideas and concepts that even non-policy experts can understand. At the end of the day, it is smart policy and smart discussion that will make our country better. This can only be achieved through continued discourse of ideas, by promoting thinking, and offering new ideas and solutions.

Unfortunately, the Republican Party is in a downward spiral away from the light and into a new dark age. Rather than learn the lesson of the Palin failure, the party elite has jumped on the narrow-minded bandwagon. Fresh ideas have so far been thoroughly rejected. While there are some shining lights, the Party as a whole is struggling to find its intellectual position.

The anti-intellectual, populist movement that has bound the Republican Party will prevent it from rising to its true conservative potential. It may appeal to a narrow, but vocal, minority in the hardcore base. Those that are well convicted in their ideology or simply too ignorant to think of voting for anyone but a Republican will be unlikely to leave the base. However, the rest of America – the ones that any party has to convince to win elections – will not be impressed.

In order to advance the party, the GOP must reevaluate its position. With Palin fortunately out of the way, concrete steps need to be taken to minimize the role outspoken sensationalist Republicans play as the de facto leaders of the party. While many of these talking-heads are right-on in policy they are ultimately entertainers that are performing for a specific audience. They are phenomenal at what they do, but are ill prepared to serve as national voices of the party. In their stead we need fresh ideas and new leaders to offer them. The Republican Party has the perfect opportunity to offer sound, well thought out ideas to America. As Obama continues to prove that he is unable to lead America and is devoid of a basic understanding of how so many things work the Republicans have the opportunity to steal the show. America has realized that being lead by its heart was foolish. It is calling for ideas. It is high time the GOP realizes this too.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Obama's "Stupid" Comment

Obama ate his words yesterday after issuing an apology to Cambridge’s Sergeant Crowley. Previously, Obama had maligned Sergeant Crowley and the Cambridge police for their arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. by stating that they had acted “stupidly”. Unsurprisingly, Obama’s ill informed statements added fuel to the fire. An editorial in the Wall Street Journal stated:
Mr. Obama’s broadside against local cops sends the wrong message to Americans of every race about how to respond to misunderstandings with police. His comments may also do more to aggravate than alleviate tensions between police officers and the minority communities they serve.
Obama’s commentary was out of line. While some, such as Karl DeVries at Reality Checkpoints, attempt to minimize Obama’s statement, it is clear that Obama’s behavior was anything but minimal. His un-presidential behavior raises a couple of pertinent issues.

Firstly, Obama implicitly assumed that racial profiling occurred. Without knowing the facts and admitting a pro-Gates bias (they are friends), Obama slammed the police for an act they did not commit. As argued in the prior post and supported by Officer Crowley’s account of the arrest, there were no racially motivated behaviors on the part of the police. (In fact, Officer Crowley is responsible for teaching fellow police officers about racial profiling.) Gates was the one who brought race into the picture.

This unfair and heinous assumption is quite harmful. While not fair to declare it as a black militant worldview, as some might, it speaks volumes about our President’s perspective. Up until this point, Obama should have been rightfully commended. He handled the race issue with tact and poise. He refused to be sucked into petty racial quarrels or speak the langue of backwards leaders such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Obama’s gaffe shows a first crack in his otherwise perfect veneer. While it is certainly laudable that he apologized (I always respect a man for admitting he is wrong), the slip-up has done damage to the post-racial worldview that Obama could have helped bring to America.

Secondly, this ties in with a much deeper issue; that of a titan struggle between those who accept and reject a post-racial America. Leaders such as Gates, Sharpton, and Jackson willingly or unwittingly need to maintain a worldview where American racism and oppression exist. Sharpton, for one, is adept at creating racial tensions where they didn’t exist before. On the other side stand the likes of Bill Cosby; leaders who recognize a history of racism, but also acknowledge times have changed and there are other factors that contribute to the plight of the black community.

While understanding the history of black oppression is essential and necessary, the past needs to be separated from the present. Gates falls into the common trap of seeing today’s events through a 1950s lens. While racial tensions certainly and unfortunately do still exist in America, they no longer predominate the interactions between whites and blacks. American leaders have a responsibility to ease these tensions and bridge the gap. However, Obama’s “stupid” comment only demonstrates another issue where the supposed uniting, bipartisan President has become a divider. His comment allied himself with the outmoded old guard of black leadership– a political mistake on one hand, but a historic mistake that will handicap his ability to change the racial dialogue in America.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Gates Plays the Race Card at Harvard

The race baiting prompted and promoted by Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. is a repugnant display of an outdated and backwards way of thinking. As has been continuously reported over the past few days, Professor Gates was arrested after cops responded to a break-in call. The most unfortunate aspect of the situation is that, lead by Gates himself, the matter has devolved into a race issue.

According to all parties, the police officer responded to a neighbor’s call regarding a break-in attempt at Gates’s house. As it turned out the purported burglars were Gates and his driver. Rather than thanking the officer for a speedy response and for potentially saving his property Gates, by his own admission, immediately blew up. He stated that his initial reaction was, “[that a]ll the hairs stood up on the back of my neck, and I realized that I was in danger. And I said to him no, out of instinct. I said, ‘No, I will not.” He immediately refused to cooperate and questioned the officer’s intent, stating “Why, because I'm a black man in America?”

This is the crux of the problem. Gates’s immediate, knee-jerk reaction was to assume that the officer’s behavior was racially motivated. Such a thought process most definitely comes from his intense intellectual focus on black issues. Gates has mired himself in a narrow-minded and outdated way of thinking, where the predominant argument revolves around supposed black oppression.

The logical and unbiased response to the situation would not have been to immediately assume racism. From the accounts given by both sides, it is easy to see how the neighbor could have perceived the situation as a burglary. The police, operating only on the fact that a witness allegedly saw a burglary in action, arrived to investigate the situation. The officer’s job is to investigate and ensure that the citizen’s property (and possibly life) is protected. Any citizen not preprogrammed to scream racism would recognize this on its face. A natural reaction would be to cooperate with the officer, immediately try to clear up the misunderstanding, and thank him for his service and desire to protect one’s property.

However, Gates was unable to do any of this. Instead Gates resorted to berating the officer, refusing to cooperate, and escalating the situation. He continually challenged the officer and pushed the race issue— well before he was arrested. As the police report indicates, the officer was merely doing his job and was surprised and confused by Gates’s aggressive racial charges. Only after Gates continued his verbal assault was he arrested for disorderly conduct. This was a direct result of his aggressive behavior— NOT the color of his skin.

Ultimately, this is a problem that occurs far too often in America. There is no indication in either side’s story that there was an issue of racism except in Gates’s head. It is unnecessary for every instance that involves a black citizen and white cop (although as pictures indicate there were black cops present as well) to devolve into calls of racism. The problem is not one of racist cops, but of a worldview that insists on viewing white America as racist and refuses to embrace a post-racial America. Gates admits his disdain for post-racialism in his interview with The Root. This obsession with fighting non-existent white racism only serves to concoct racial tensions where they did not exist before.

This is the real underlying problem. It needs to be corrected in order for America as a whole and the black community in particular to fully accept the successes of the Civil Rights movement and move on to tackle real issues. Gates should be ashamed of his tantrum and the harm he has done to quest to end racial issues in America.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Obama on the Attack and the Destruction of Healthcare

Obama’s artifice and politically motivated smears in his recent comments regarding healthcare are despicable. The President is not only putting undue pressure on an already delicate issue, but using scare tactics for political expediency. His attempts to cram through ‘reform’ and socialize America’s healthcare system are terrifying to say the least.

In remarks given Monday, he launched an all out partisan attack on Republicans. He preyed on emotional fears of a failing healthcare system and attempted to portray the respectably cautious Republicans as pawns of vested interest and the status quo. Obama continued his misguidance on Tuesday, again attempting to portray Republicans as the bad guys.

This is not only unfair, but patently disingenuous. As Obama points out, everyone acknowledges the system is in need of overhaul. However, the current Democrat-led plans are disastrous. Republicans, such as Bobby Jindal, are proposing alternative and better solutions which the Democrats wish to ignore.

The bottom line is that, as discussed here before, the public option is an utter sham. While Obama’s claim that “[i]f you like your current plan, you will be able to keep it. Let me repeat that: If you like your plan, you'll be able to keep it,” might be technically true, it glosses over the economics of the public option. Because a public option ultimately rests on the shoulders of the taxpayers, it can (and will) operate in a grossly inefficient fashion.

Any shortfall in profitability will be picked up by the taxpayer. This will allow the public option to avoid cost reduction. Managers of the public plan will be able to simultaneously undercut private insurers and avoid having to reduce costs. If America is concerned about inefficiencies in the private sector, just wait until the government gets into the business. Obama, with an unequivocal Freudian slip, admitted this: “The reforms we seek would bring greater competition, choice, savings, and inefficiencies [sic] to our health care system…”

It is unfortunate that the Democrats in Congress backed by the increasingly disingenuous Obama feel the need to cram a broken fix upon a broken system. It is even more frightening that they are attempting to cloud the scene with false economics and political sleights-of-hand. What we need is a well thought out, economically efficient plan, that corrects the flaws in the current system. Hopefully, America will wake up and halt the pending utter destruction of our healthcare system before it is too late.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Civil Union Between Gay Marriage and Republicans

One social area where the Republican Party needs to reevaluate its stance is the issue of gay marriage. For two major reasons, the GOP is facing a losing battle. For the sake of electoral success, the party needs to reevaluate its current position.

First and foremost, the party is fighting a losing battle. It is inevitable that the rights of gays will grow over time. Currently this is occurring across many states. The inevitability is easy to see if one studies American history. Over time, all minority groups have gained more rights and equal treatment. Even if at one point or another there have been set backs, the overall trend of history is constant. The simple logic behind this is that a minority has a lot to gain by fighting for his or her rights; while relatively speaking the majority does not have a lot to lose by granting those rights. The minority will be able to fight indefinitely; while the majority will eventually tire. Ultimately, the minority will win this war of attrition.

Because of this inevitability it is fruitless for the GOP to waste its time and energy. Not only does it divert resources from other issues and causes, but it puts the party on the losing side of history. This is a cost that is too high to pay. Despite the fact the fact that it was the Republicans that freed African-Americans from slavery, the party is portrayed as the loser in the culture wars and thus, at least for the foreseeable future, precluded from the African-American vote. By fighting gay marriage, the party only provides fodder to the left to incorrectly portray the Republicans as intolerant.

Secondly, the current party stance is inconsistent with the intellectual basis of American conservatism. Conservatives call for a limited government role in the individual’s life. The government should be small and efficient, staying out of the private lives of its citizens. Unlike liberals, conservatives argue that in regards to the vast majority of issues individuals are capable of making their own decisions and leading their own lives as they see fit. However, the current gay marriage platform flies in the face of this. It calls for immense government control over a major part of many American’s lives.

Social conservatives attempt to justify this by turning to their religion and emphasizing the alleged societal costs. The ‘family values’ viewpoint asserts that gay marriage is wrong (according to the Bible) and damaging to society. Accordingly, the standard, historical heterosexual family is the basis of society and needs to continue in order to preserve the integrity and sanctity of the country. However, a modified approach to gay marriage is in no way inconsistent with the strong family values held by the majority of America. Furthermore, a modified approach would be more intellectually consistent with limited government conservatism.

An easy solution would be for the Republican Party to separate the issue of marriage into its two natural components: ceremonial marriage and legal rights. One of the roots of the current problem is that these two issues are intermingled. A logical Republican alternative would be to remove the state from any sort of marriage. If marriage is truly a spiritual and community-based institution it should be left to the churches, mosques, synagogues, and other religious organizations to decide how it functions. What is left is the legal rights component; something that is naturally a function of the state.

Essentially, this allows the state to only play a role in determining the legal rights and obligations of an individual in regards to his or her partner. Everyone can get a civil union from the government- where they can choose one partner with whom they can file taxes, receive employment benefits, make health decisions and the like. The spiritual institution of marriage is then left for private communities and religious organizations to determine.

Critics will claim that this issue can’t be easily compartmentalized in this fashion. The strongest arguments point to supposed societal damages caused by gay partnership. Specifically, raising children is one main issue. However, there are two flaws with this argument. First, many of these rights are already given to gays. For instance, they can often adopt. We have yet to see a breakdown of society or a pervasion of the younger generations as a result. Secondly, there are much broader problems with the American family than sexual orientation. Divorce rates are astronomical and many parents do not have a clue how to raise children. Republicans and America are better served by focusing on educating individuals on how to responsibly build a strong, morally-upright family. Right now we spend far too little time learning about family, child rearing, and inter-spousal relationships – three of the most central facets of American life.

A combination of government civil unions, religious marriages, and increased education to establish strong family values will lead to a better Republican Party. With such a policy the GOP will be able to speak to a wide swath of America. Furthermore, it will maintain an intellectual consistency. Lastly, it will help develop a healthier America.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Palin Resigned to Fail?

Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin’s recent resignation is mind boggling to say the least. Every sign since she stumbled onto the national scene last fall indicated that she was gearing up for a 2012 presidential run. If there was a modern day political truism, it was that Sarah had her heart set on making Todd Palin the first ‘first gentleman’. Her resignation has thrown every understanding of her into a tailspin.

One possibility is that she is simply fed up. The daily stresses that she and her family go through could have reached a breaking point. Whether it was her ethics issues in Alaska, the constant haranguing from the media, her daughter’s pregnancy, or any other of the many issues, the private life may have simply become the priority. While this is seemingly the only ‘logical’ explanation it does not jive with her expressed and highly visible desire for the presidency. It also does not mesh with the fact that she refuses to rule out a presidential run.

However, the converse is equally implausible. If she does plan on running for president, resigning from the governorship is about the most bone-headed thing she can do. It is one thing to choose not to run for reelection in order to focus on an election campaign. Many governors, including Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty, have done this. It is quite another thing to quit a lame-duck position. The bottom line is that such a move is a surefire way to sink a potential campaign. It shows she lacks commitment and drive, and has her priorities out of sorts.

Regardless of what the motivation for her resignation was, it is reasonably safe to say that Palin’s political future looks dim. While we may not have seen the last of her, her position is severely diminished. This is a most fortunate event for the Republican Party. Palin was the biggest mistake of McCain’s campaign, ultimately costing him the election. While her anti-intellectualism and populism may stir a small, but vocal, part of the base; she is unappealing to many in the traditional Republican base [fiscal conservatives, security conservatives, etc.] and certainly to the independents that are needed to elect a Republican president.

The flirtation with the Palin wing of the party has done more than enough damage to the image and platform of the Republican Party. Her imminent demise is nothing short of a blessing to free us from her anti-intellectual shackles. Hopefully the GOP leadership will realize that the party must return to the big-tent party of Reagan. While many ‘Palinites’ talk in Reaganesque terms, the party is becoming the antithesis of what Reagan built. With Palin (hopefully) removed from the limelight, the party will be able to correct its image, develop new leadership, and reassert its position as the intellectual and policy leader of America.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Firemen-1; Sotomayor and Racism - 0

In its final decision of this session, the Supreme Court overturned Supreme Court nominee Sotomayor’s controversial ruling in the New Haven reverse racism case (See the opinion here: In a blow to racist preferential policies, the court ruled that basing employment decisions on skin color violates Title VII and is unacceptable.

While the decision did not go far enough in overturning outdated racial policies, it is a huge step in the right direction. It facilitates the creation of a truly color blind America. It also makes it more difficult for the word ‘racism’ to be misused as a proxy for preferential treatment. (See earlier discussion here:

The decision is also a blow to Sotomayor, who is looking to be confirmed in the near future. It further emphasizes how out of touch she is with the proper role of the judiciary. Her flippant approach to legislating from the bench and assertions regarding the supremacy of her female, Latina background are further highlighted by the Supreme Court’s decision. The ruling will serve as prime fodder in her confirmation hearings. She most definitely will, and should, be questioned in depth.

Hopefully this decision will lead to a general overhaul of the policies and thought-processes that outline race relations in America. As discussed earlier, (See here: ) it is high time America stops thinking in binary, divisive terms. Decisions based on the color of someone’s skin are racism, any way you cut it. With any luck, through this decision and with the upcoming grilling, Sotomayor will realize that it we are entering a post-racial time. Since she is most likely to be confirmed, one can only hope that she will step out of the 1960s and into modern America.