Wednesday, August 31, 2011

UK: Is everything is a political win or loss in the US?

PJ: After Hurricane Irene had her way with the eastern seaboard, political pundits, presidential candidates and elected officials across the country were weighing in on the 'political' impact of the storm. While regular Americans were mourning, clearing, and bailing, politicos took the opportunity to judge the President's response. Can Americans put aside their political differences to pull together for anything anymore?

The Economist

Premature evaluations

NO SOONER had rebel forces advanced on Tripoli than the political scorekeeping began in Washington. Was this a victory for Barack Obama, to go along with the fall of other Arab dictators and the killing of Osama bin Laden? Will Mitt Romney give Mr Obama any credit for his policy, or will he continue to criticise the president but cheer the intervention? What of Michele Bachmann's opposition to America's involvement? Did John McCain and Lindsey Graham shortchange America in their declaration of victory? The “thank America last” crowd, Steve Benen calls it. I like that.

But all of this talk of winners and losers seems ridiculously premature, and embarrassingly insular, to your blogger (apologies to my colleague). While recent events appear to augur a promising future for Libya, it is way too soon to tell. "At such moments, any temptations toward euphoria have to be restrained by a recognition that future developments are unpredictable and potentially unpleasant," says a very reasonable Jeff Weintraub. "Overthrowing oppressive and tyrannical regimes is often hard, but successfully reconstructing the societies that they've damaged, distorted, and poisoned by their rule is usually even harder." And yet we get headlines like this from Steve Clemons: "Huge Win for Libyans, A Win for Obama, Challenges Next". Challenges next? By that logic, Iraq was a win for George Bush, and we'll consider those pesky challenges that followed separately. In reality, though, you cannot separate the aftermath from the overthrow. They are a result of the same policy, put in place to deal with a situation that in this case is not yet settled.

Still, Mr Weintraub says "a certain degree of satisfaction is appropriate". And, of course, this is true. Muammar Qaddafi was a vile dictator unseated by a rebel movement fueled by popular discontent. Well done. But as Stephen Walt counsels, let's avoid a "Mission Accomplished" moment. "The leaders I’ve talked to do not have a clear understanding how this will all play out," says a "senior American military officer" quoted in the New York Times. Neither do us pundits, so perhaps we can postpone the declarations of political victories in America for the time being.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

UK: US electorate basking in the warmth of celebrity politics

Oxford University Press

Nary a “philosopher king”: The long road from Plato to American politics
By Louis René Beres

In Plato’s Republic, a canonic centerpiece of all Western thought, we first read of the “philosopher king,” a visionary leader who would impressively combine deep learning with effective governance. Today, almost 2400 years later, such leadership is nowhere to be found, either in Washington, or in any other major world capital. Here in the United States, we seemingly remain content with criteria of presidential selection that emphasize anything but cultivated insights or real wisdom. To the contrary, and despite an endless litany of past failures, we still measure our candidates according to their abundantly vague promises, and embarrassingly empty witticisms.

The “Plato problem” exists in all spheres of American electoral politics, not “only” at the level of the presidency. Stubbornly, we the people are willing to reduce all serious political judgments to a crass assortment of numbing clichés and visceral ideologies.

The story is told of an admiring friend who charms a young mother, “My, that’s a beautiful baby you have there.” The mother replies, “Oh, that’s nothing — you should see his photograph.” In this obviously weird colloquy lies a sorely bitter truth.

Routinely, in all politics, we Americans are presented not with authentic individuals, but with choreographed reproductions. Inevitably, to our chagrin, we discover that these carefully touched up images disguise a multitude of virulent pathologies. In a stunning, if unwitting, misunderstanding of Plato’s thought, which explicitly emphasizes the core reality of ideas, most Americans now fully accept this very odd substitution of image for reality.

Everywhere, even in politics, fame can be concocted or synthetic. Typically, in politics, it matters little if a particular candidate has any notably intrinsic worth or genuine promise. What really counts, over time, is simply that the public will be impressed by this aspirant because he or she is suitably recognizable. Again and again, in a plainly perverse tribute to the corollary power of the image-makers, even the most blatant nincompoop has been transformed into a viable candidate.

In American politics, no one any longer expects what Ralph Waldo Emerson had once called “high thinking.” Rather, the celebrity politician draws huge audiences (and donors) although very few would ever expect to hear anything of substance. In our national politics of veneered truths, whenever a candidate’s spoken words seethe with vacant allusions and blatant equivocations, the crowd nods approvingly, and leaps with satisfaction.

It is comforting enough for these audiences to bask in the warmth of someone “famous.” In the absurd theatre of American politics, the key protagonists continue to play their stock parts with contrived zeal and ambition, but also without any true capacity. As for the chorus, we have rehearsed our lines just as well, but we now utter them viscerally, as if by rote. Understandably, our exuberant shouts of approbation lack credibility. After all, they have been reduced to ritual incantations.

The historian Daniel J. Boorstin once wrote knowingly of the “celebrity,” of the person or product that is known for well‑knownness. Offered as a commodity, the object of celebrity triumphs only because the pervasive alchemy of “public relations.” It matters not at all that a public figure may be manifestly without intellect, courage or integrity. This deficiency is literally of no consequence.

Many of our national heroes were once created by commendable achievement. Today, the successful politician is fashioned by a system that is refractory to all wisdom, a system that is sustained by banality, empty chatter, and half knowledge. Now, at a time when leadership incapability could pave the way to bioterrorism, “dirty bombs,” or even outright nuclear attack, our relentless transformations of politics into amusement has become far more than a mere matter of foolishness or bad taste.

When will we learn to look behind the news, to acknowledge that our fragile political world has been constructed upon ashes? The answer: Not until we learn to take ourselves seriously as persons; not until we begin to read and think with sincerity; not until we stop amusing ourselves to death; not until we seek rapport with genuine feeling; and not until we rediscover the dignified grace of real learning.

As Americans, there can never be any primary salvation for us in politics. Largely because of our disfigured criteria of selection, the American president and other elected high officials, Democrat or Republican, can never be expected to lead. This will change only after core personal meanings in America are finally detached from frenetic marketing, and after we recognize that we are held captive within a demeaning world of manufactured promises and empty appearances. Hopefully, of course, it will change before such time, as H.L. Mencken once observed, when a distinctly higher authority, “tired of the farce at last, obliterates the entire race with one great, final blast of fire, mustard gas and streptococci.”

Plato’s “philosopher king” may not be a practicable standard for American electoral politics, but it surely can’t hurt to keep such a potentially enviable measure somewhere in mind. At a minimum, such a recollection could remind us of how far we have already strayed.

Louis René Beres was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and is Professor of Political Science at Purdue University. He is author of many books and articles dealing with international relations and international law. Read his previous OUPblog posts here.

UK: The permanent US election cycle

PJ: Never ending US elections must be worth trillions to the national economy. When you consider all the money spent to run for office across the country the dollar value is staggering. And to think, regardless of political ideology... regardless of republican, democrat, or libertarian...all the money used is not earned by the sale of a product, the invention of a useful tool or even payment for certain needed expertise. Each and every candidate runs their operation by begging for other people's money.

The Economist

The endless campaign
More-or-less permanent races may be good for America’s democracy

BARACK OBAMA, as many an indignant talk-show host is eager to remind his audience, is loafing by the seaside in the millionaires’ playground of Martha’s Vineyard. Congress has been in recess for weeks. Millions of humbler Americans are spending a few days fishing, camping or lounging on less exclusive beaches. But the dogged crew competing to become the Republican Party’s nominee for president is hard at work, pressing the flesh in states with early primaries. With the first of those scarcely five months away, and the general election only nine months after that, they have no time for leisure.

Presidential campaigns are nigh on interminable. This year’s officially began in January, almost 22 months before the election. That was considered sluggish by recent standards: several of those hoping to be elected president in 2008 formally entered the race in 2006. Anyone jumping in less than 18 months ahead of election day in early November is thought to be cutting things dangerously fine. Yet not that long ago the norm was closer to a year. Bill Clinton signed on for the election of 1992 in October 1991. Richard Nixon did not show his hand until February 1968, a mere nine months before the vote. And back in the halcyon days before 1896, when William Jennings Bryan decided it might help his chances to tour the country giving speeches (it didn’t), most candidates considered it undignified to go on the stump at all.

For many—and not just the patrons of the coffee shops and veterans’ posts currently under siege by glad-handing candidates—the ineluctable expansion of the campaign is a source of distress. The media are constantly (and hypocritically, given their enthusiastic coverage of every cough and stumble) moaning about it. The candidates themselves sometimes join in, too. Earlier this month Jon Huntsman, one of the current crop, admitted that “running for president is a gruelling, never-ending exercise.” Even Karl Rove, the mastermind of George Bush junior’s two presidential campaigns, thinks the process is too drawn-out.

Moreover, the endless presidential campaign is just one element of America’s ever more intensive politicking. The entire House of Representatives faces the voters every two years. Then there are places like Wisconsin, which held a hard-fought judicial election just five months after last year’s general election, and a series of even more bitterly contested recall elections within the following four months. Opponents of the state’s governor, Scott Walker, are hoping to put him to a recall vote early next year. That will leave only a couple of months’ breathing room before next year’s general election, in November, when the victors of this year’s recall elections, among others, will be on the ballot again.

Making campaigns shorter and less frequent, proponents say, would have many advantages. Politicians could spend less time feigning admiration for babies and more time governing. They would also not need to raise so much money, with all the pitfalls that entails. In between the caustic campaigns, there would be time for constructive dialogue in Washington. Above all, voters would be less bored and alienated, and thus make wiser choices.

Yet voters in Wisconsin, at any rate, do not seem at all bored or alienated. Turnout at both the judicial and recall elections this year was far above the usual level. Republicans and Democrats in the state agree on almost nothing about the past year’s continuous campaigning except that it has helped to energise voters and invigorate local politics. At the polling booths, most Wisconsinites seemed to welcome the chance to pass judgment on their elected officials early and often. Throughout America, even as presidential campaigns have been getting longer in recent years, turnout has risen, points out Christopher Achen of Princeton University—although the two phenomena do not necessarily have anything to do with each other.

What is more, regardless of when campaigns formally start or finish, politicians always have their eye on the next election. Mitt Romney, a candidate for the Republican nomination last time round and one of the front-runners in this cycle, never really stopped campaigning after 2008. Judging by Mr Obama’s continuing tendency to burst into soaring rhetoric, neither has he.

The constant self-promotion has not prevented Mr Obama from trying to get things done, however, since having notched up a few achievements is usually seen as a prerequisite for re-election. Indeed, it is only as the next election has approached that the president has moved to the centre and attempted to strike deals with his Republican adversaries, doubtless in an effort to curry favour with all-important independent voters. And were it not for the abrupt reassessment prompted by the Democrats’ drubbing in the mid-term elections last year, he might never have grasped just how disenchanted the electorate had become.

Building character

Campaigns are becoming more expensive these days, as well as longer. But the two factors are not always linked. Presidential bids have become dearer in part because the primary season is much more compressed than it used to be, with the bulk of contests clumped together over a couple of weeks. That makes pricey television advertising the only plausible means to reach voters. A more diffuse schedule would allow poorer candidates more time to make an impression on the cheap, at the hustings.

That would not make presidential campaigns any less gruelling—but that is the best thing about them, according to John Geer of Vanderbilt University. The more battle-tested future presidents are, the better, he argues. The job, after all, can be even more wearing than the campaign. Mr Obama is not getting any tougher playing golf in the sunshine. Having to bow and scrape before the citizens of Iowa and New Hampshire for months on end, in contrast, is bound to build character.

Monday, August 29, 2011

US: The terrifying course of the republican party

PJ: Presidential contender Michelle Bachmann recently made Krugman's point by claiming that Hurricane Irene was God's way of addressing the US political debate ( She and others in her party seem to believe that God is a member of the Tea Party and is concentrating all attention on events in the US as the only country deserving of God's love.

No doubt this opinion piece will also be printed in the international press since it mirrors the concerns of the world community.

The New York Times

Republicans Against Science
Published: August 28, 2011

Jon Huntsman Jr., a former Utah governor and ambassador to China, isn’t a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination. And that’s too bad, because Mr. Hunstman has been willing to say the unsayable about the G.O.P. — namely, that it is becoming the “anti-science party.” This is an enormously important development. And it should terrify us.

To see what Mr. Huntsman means, consider recent statements by the two men who actually are serious contenders for the G.O.P. nomination: Rick Perry and Mitt Romney.

Mr. Perry, the governor of Texas, recently made headlines by dismissing evolution as “just a theory,” one that has “got some gaps in it” — an observation that will come as news to the vast majority of biologists. But what really got peoples’ attention was what he said about climate change: “I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. And I think we are seeing almost weekly, or even daily, scientists are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change.”

That’s a remarkable statement — or maybe the right adjective is “vile.”

The second part of Mr. Perry’s statement is, as it happens, just false: the scientific consensus about man-made global warming — which includes 97 percent to 98 percent of researchers in the field, according to the National Academy of Sciences — is getting stronger, not weaker, as the evidence for climate change just keeps mounting.

In fact, if you follow climate science at all you know that the main development over the past few years has been growing concern that projections of future climate are underestimating the likely amount of warming. Warnings that we may face civilization-threatening temperature change by the end of the century, once considered outlandish, are now coming out of mainstream research groups.

But never mind that, Mr. Perry suggests; those scientists are just in it for the money, “manipulating data” to create a fake threat. In his book “Fed Up,” he dismissed climate science as a “contrived phony mess that is falling apart.”

I could point out that Mr. Perry is buying into a truly crazy conspiracy theory, which asserts that thousands of scientists all around the world are on the take, with not one willing to break the code of silence. I could also point out that multiple investigations into charges of intellectual malpractice on the part of climate scientists have ended up exonerating the accused researchers of all accusations. But never mind: Mr. Perry and those who think like him know what they want to believe, and their response to anyone who contradicts them is to start a witch hunt.

So how has Mr. Romney, the other leading contender for the G.O.P. nomination, responded to Mr. Perry’s challenge? In trademark fashion: By running away. In the past, Mr. Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, has strongly endorsed the notion that man-made climate change is a real concern. But, last week, he softened that to a statement that he thinks the world is getting hotter, but “I don’t know that” and “I don’t know if it’s mostly caused by humans.” Moral courage!

Of course, we know what’s motivating Mr. Romney’s sudden lack of conviction. According to Public Policy Polling, only 21 percent of Republican voters in Iowa believe in global warming (and only 35 percent believe in evolution). Within the G.O.P., willful ignorance has become a litmus test for candidates, one that Mr. Romney is determined to pass at all costs.

So it’s now highly likely that the presidential candidate of one of our two major political parties will either be a man who believes what he wants to believe, even in the teeth of scientific evidence, or a man who pretends to believe whatever he thinks the party’s base wants him to believe.

And the deepening anti-intellectualism of the political right, both within and beyond the G.O.P., extends far beyond the issue of climate change.

Lately, for example, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page has gone beyond its long-term preference for the economic ideas of “charlatans and cranks” — as one of former President George W. Bush’s chief economic advisers famously put it — to a general denigration of hard thinking about matters economic. Pay no attention to “fancy theories” that conflict with “common sense,” the Journal tells us. Because why should anyone imagine that you need more than gut feelings to analyze things like financial crises and recessions?

Now, we don’t know who will win next year’s presidential election. But the odds are that one of these years the world’s greatest nation will find itself ruled by a party that is aggressively anti-science, indeed anti-knowledge. And, in a time of severe challenges — environmental, economic, and more — that’s a terrifying prospect.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

UK: The premature declaration of political winners and losers in Libya

The Economist

Premature evaluations

NO SOONER had rebel forces advanced on Tripoli than the political scorekeeping began in Washington. Was this a victory for Barack Obama, to go along with the fall of other Arab dictators and the killing of Osama bin Laden? Will Mitt Romney give Mr Obama any credit for his policy, or will he continue to criticise the president but cheer the intervention? What of Michele Bachmann's opposition to America's involvement? Did John McCain and Lindsey Graham shortchange America in their declaration of victory? The “thank America last” crowd, Steve Benen calls it. I like that.

But all of this talk of winners and losers seems ridiculously premature, and embarrassingly insular, to your blogger (apologies to my colleague). While recent events appear to augur a promising future for Libya, it is way too soon to tell. "At such moments, any temptations toward euphoria have to be restrained by a recognition that future developments are unpredictable and potentially unpleasant," says a very reasonable Jeff Weintraub. "Overthrowing oppressive and tyrannical regimes is often hard, but successfully reconstructing the societies that they've damaged, distorted, and poisoned by their rule is usually even harder." And yet we get headlines like this from Steve Clemons: "Huge Win for Libyans, A Win for Obama, Challenges Next". Challenges next? By that logic, Iraq was a win for George Bush, and we'll consider those pesky challenges that followed separately. In reality, though, you cannot separate the aftermath from the overthrow. They are a result of the same policy, put in place to deal with a situation that in this case is not yet settled.

Still, Mr Weintraub says "a certain degree of satisfaction is appropriate". And, of course, this is true. Muammar Qaddafi was a vile dictator unseated by a rebel movement fueled by popular discontent. Well done. But as Stephen Walt counsels, let's avoid a "Mission Accomplished" moment. "The leaders I’ve talked to do not have a clear understanding how this will all play out," says a "senior American military officer" quoted in the New York Times. Neither do us pundits, so perhaps we can postpone the declarations of political victories in America for the time being.

UK: US Right Wing Fox pundits refuse to credit Obama

PJ: I was reminded of a little joke I heard during the first year of President Obama's administration: "If a republican looked out of the window and saw Obama walking across the water of the Potomac River they would shake their head and proclaim: see the guy can't even swim!"

The Guardian

The Right Word: Obama gets B grade on Libya

Fox News' armchair generals award Obama a grudging pass on the Libyan intervention, but Michael Savage is incensed
By Sadhbh Walshe

Sean Hannity was never happy about the US involvement in the Libyan conflict, because he believed that the president displayed weakness by not leading the charge and that he was wrong to drag America into what could end up being another intractable conflict in the first place. Now that, a tidy five months later, a brutal dictator has been overthrown, paving the way for Libyans to get a shot, at least, at democracy, Hannity's focus of discontent has shifted to the fact that President Obama has not yet presented a plan for how a post-Gaddafi Libya should be governed. He discussed what he perceives as yet another example of the president's failure of leadership with Colonel Oliver North (view clip).

I'm concerned. Because if you remember during the Arab spring, which, by the way, is responsible for our economic collapse in the country according to the Obama administration, but all the predictions were: this new democracy is emerging, and it seems that as bad as Mubarak was, that it seems things are going to get rather worse. So, the question is obvious right now, you know: what are the president's plans? He did not lay out an economic plan. What are the plans for the short term, what are his plans for the long term?

North agreed that the whole thing was yet another case of "irrational exuberance". He didn't think it was a bad thing to see the back of Gaddafi, but we still don't know where the fallen dictator is (though he's clearly not running Libya any longer), and he is pretty sure that there are months of chaos ahead and that it may well become a "Somalia with oil, with tribal warlords and, of course, piracy". Hannity shared North's lack of faith in the ability of the Transitional National Council (TNC) to bring democracy to Libya and was particularly worried by the draft constitutional charter they recently issued, which he discussed on a subsequent segment with Ambassador John Bolton (view clip).

What's interesting if you read this constitution – and you and I actually had a private discussion about this last night – I mean it talks about freedoms, it talks about freedoms of the press, of assembly, all these freedoms. They're all words, and then it goes into the sharia law aspect of it – and I think we have a pretty good idea of what would emerge if, in fact, as they say here, Islam is the religion of the state and the source of their legislation is Islamic jurisprudence, sharia law.

It is true that the constitution says "Islam is the religion of the state", but this is not a new departure as Islam was also the religion of the state under Gadaffi. It remains to be seen whether his concerns about Islamic jurisprudence being the "principal source of legislation" are justified. In the meantime, Hannity fears that even though the only reason President Obama managed to orchestrate Gaddafi's overthrow, which everyone is cheering about, is that he embraced the pre-emptive policies of his predecessor, George W Bush, once again, as happened with the assassination of Osama bin Laden, it is the presiding president and not the retired one, who is getting all the credit.

Bill O'Reilly has been relentless in his criticism of President Obama ever since the Tea Party victory in the debt ceiling debate gave him hope that an even bigger victory may be within reach in 2012. When it comes to the Libya action, however, O'Reilly was prepared to give Obama credit for a job reasonably well done (view clip.

He discussed the issue with former Bush adviser Karl Rove, who did not share his assessment that, by partnering with our allies in Britain and France and enabling the Libyans to fight their own battles, the president at the very least didn't make any new enemies. Rove felt that if the president hadn't been so reluctant to implement the full force of America's military might, we could have been out of the Libyan quagmire in two months, instead of five; but O'Reilly set him straight.

It's a little bit more than that. Here's the box score. No Americans killed, costs kept down. If the full brunt of American airpower in the Mediterranean had been unleashed, you would have had a lot of civilian casualties. Very difficult to do the bombing that they did. The bottom line is: Gaddafi's gone after six months not to come back again. No American dead.

Rove persisted in arguing that if there had been boots on the ground, the whole matter could have been resolved in six to eight weeks, but nevertheless awarded the president a B grade for his handling of the situation. The president fared better on a later segment with Lt Col Ralph Peters, who actually awarded him an A – while making it clear that he was still "the worst president since James Buchanan" and that he was "not a fan of the guy". These caveats aside, Peters did feel compelled to point out that arming and training the rebels and turning them from a disorganised mob into a group of skilled fighters, capable of pulling off their own coup, without shedding a drop of American blood, "is about as good as war gets".
Michael Savage
Michael Savage

Michael Savage was never a fan of the Libya intervention – and is even less so now that Gaddafi has been more or less disposed of, because he does not believe that what is ahead for Libyans will be any better than what they have put behind them (listen to clip).

"It's a sad day for me, in a way, because no one's listening to the news. I mean, Obama has overthrown Gaddafi – and now what? He talks about it as though this is a good thing. He has overthrown Gaddafi. Are you listening to me out there? Who do you think is more dangerous, Gaddafi or those who will replace him?"

There are, of course, legitimate concerns about the transition to democratic rule, but the rebels have beaten the odds so far, and the fact that they managed to maintain some semblance of order throughout the months of conflict, issued a draft constitutional charter and are open to cooperating with the international community at least bodes well. Savage is more concerned, however, that President Obama seems to be more supportive of the Libyan rebels than he is of the Tea Party protesters in America, which he put down to the fact that the Tea Party is "composed of tax payers and not tax takers". This reminded him of the president's recent failed attempt to roll back the tax cuts for the super-rich in America, which he compares to Lenin's treatment of peasant farmers in Russia (the Kulaks), whose grain was confiscated and many of whom were "eliminated" when they resisted giving up their farms to collectivisation.

He [Obama] wants to take away every dollar of every taxpayer if he can. Now, of course, he wouldn't do that but that's his goal; he would love to do that. That's the protocols of Leninism, which is to tax the Kulaks and if the Kulaks refuse to hand over their farms, what you do is you put the Kulaks in the archipelagos. The Gulag archipelagos are Obama's manifestation of the federal homeland security act.

Though Savage's fear of a Bolshevik revolution in America may be overstated, the threat that his taxes may one day increase continues to torment him; and he seems to connect this threat with President Obama's support for the democratic uprisings in the Middle East or what Savage dismisses as "Arab Spring garbage".

The man [Obama] has destroyed the world, wrecked the economy, wrecked the peace of the … look, I mean, the world was already in trouble, the man has wrecked everything; wherever there was peace, he made war; wherever there should have been war, he made peace. Instead of going to war against Syria, instead of going to war against Iranian mullahs, he goes to war against a little tin pot dictator like Gaddafi!

And in doing so, the allegedly weak president has added another string to his Osama bin Laden bow. No wonder Savage is depressed.

To view the clips referenced in this article, please go to:

Israel: Don't come back Beck


Glenn Beck, don't come back
Rabbis, settlers and others are cooperating with the former Fox TV personality's belief that most Jews will die in Armageddon so that Jesus can rise from the dead.
By Yossi Sarid

With backing like Beck's you can't go far, but you can go too far. Barring last-minute delays, you can go with him all the way to perdition, via Armageddon. The chafing Zionist-Christians and evangelists no longer have patience to wait for doomsday.

This is the day, according to their faith, we shall happily perish in; most of the Jews will die in Armageddon - the final battle of between good and evil - against them, just so that Jesus, their savior, may finally rise from the dead. And the handful of us who survive will carry out the thousand-year vision by accepting the rule of another God. This is the vision that rabbis, settlers and other sorts of nationalist zealots are cooperating with and spreading a red carpet at the messiah's feet.

Glenn's wandering circus came to town - to Jerusalem - on Wednesday, after a performance tour. The former D.J. took over Caesarea as well, to the envy of local stand-up artists. But Wednesday night's rally was the peak, when the charlatan-entertainer-mediaman's band saluted his and new-star Danny Danon's Israel. Even the chief rabbis - considerable nationalists in their own right - said a preventive prayer for fear his missionary messages would be too blatant. Glenn promised to soften them.

It was meant to be the mother of all rallies, yet it was clouded by a light shadow of orphanhood. The Republican candidates for the U.S. presidency all played hookey at the last minute.

Tea Party Congress members stayed home to have a cuppa and make fools of themselves. The well-known movie actors disappeared, leaving only Jon Voight, who would no longer be remembered had he not been Angelina's dad. The American Jewish community was prominent in its absence. All it needs is to be associated with Beck.

Even in normal America - there is still such a nature reserve - the born-again Mormon is seen as a problematic figure who taints anything he touches. Even the rightist-conservative Fox News channel fired him two months ago for making obscene statements. He called Obama a "racist" who has a problem with whites and made Holocaust slurs, diminishing its memory and meaning. A poisoned bird is whispering that this second Joe McCarthy only came to Jerusalem to rehabilitate his collapsing status in Washington.

"Haaretz" correspondent Natasha Mozgovaya gathered selected tidbits from Beck's doctrine. But Bibi, who welcomed him like royalty, has not yet understood that a man is known by his friends as well, and support from Beck is a sign of loneliness and weakness.

The notorious commentator accused the victims of September 11, 2001 of "whining." He compared Reform rabbis to radical Islamists, saying they are "less about religion than about politics." The Norway-camp teenagers, 68 of whom were murdered, remind him of Hitler Youth. He also had something to say about the tent protest in Israel. He finds its slogans similar to communist propaganda.

It's not only Beck and his utterances. His partners are also an indication of what he is. First and foremost Pastor John Hagee, who was the keynote speaker on Tuesday in the Caesarea amphitheater and was applauded like the evangelist preachers in their trance churches.

Beck, Hagee and their swarm are anti-Semites, who are not even aware of their anti-Semitism and the extent of its ugliness. Or maybe they are. In recent years this anti-Semitism has not been directed mainly against Jews, for they have found the Arab substitute for it. Now they are using the Arabs to scare Israel and the Muslims to scare the world. And the white, Aryan lion will devour them and their undercover envoys such as Barack Hussein.

The visit ended yesterday, the circus is folding its tent and moving elsewhere. Let's pray it will not return soon. Mr. Beck, don't come back. We're not short of dangerous wackos here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Israel: What Beck's intentions really are


With friends like Glenn Beck...
Glenn Beck has used his media platforms to promote secular anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists and evangelical end-times prophets. What these two groups have in common is an obsession with Jews and the belief that Jews control and manipulate the lives and destiny of non-Jews.
By Rachel Tabachnick

Israel's international standing and relationship with Jewish-Americans is threatened as Israel is increasingly linked to right-wing political agendas in the United States. This situation has been exacerbated as controversial American broadcaster Glenn Beck has tried to remake himself into Israel's champion. Beck, who is currently in Israel to lead his "Restoring Courage" rally in Jerusalem, has become a marginal and toxic figure in the United States. So much so that Fox News ended his daily show earlier this year.

Beck has used his media platforms to promote secular anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists and evangelical end-times prophets. What these two groups have in common is an obsession with Jews and the belief that Jews control and manipulate the lives and destiny of non-Jews.

Although Beck is a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormonism ), he has developed close ties with a group of evangelicals who are career Christian Zionists. Beck headlined this year's conference of Christians United for Israel (CUFI ), founded by televangelist John Hagee. Hagee had appeared several times on Beck's show, including one where they speculated the earth as we know it would end within 20 years.

Beck's embrace by Israeli leaders is further indication to Americans that support for Israel is becoming linked to an extreme political agenda in the United States. This threatens to alienate Jews and Christians, Democrats and Republicans.

Ironically, this alienation of Israel is seen by Christian Zionists as fulfilling end-times prophecy, which, they claim, requires a second Jewish holocaust before Jesus returns. Surviving Jews must accept Jesus before a 1000-year Christian utopia, ruled from Jerusalem, can begin.

Beck's cultivation of Israeli leaders follows, step by step, the instructions Christian Zionists have used to gain access to Jewish communities and leaders. One of the most popular of these manuals is the 2001 book, "Your People Shall Be My People," by Don Finto. Finto's network of evangelists is encouraging churches around the world to "bless Israel" by supporting Messianic Jewish ministries and proselytizing Jews. His book has been promoted internationally, including by directors of Hagee's CUFI.

Finto's book provides instructions to: 1 ) avoid overt proselytizing, 2 ) vocally repent of the Holocaust, 3 ) tell Jews that Christian Zionist support is modeled after the biblical story of Ruth with no strings attached, and 4 ) emphasize that Christian Zionists are Israel's only friends in an increasingly hostile world.

Simultaneously these evangelists help to foment hostility toward Jews by teaching a narrative in which Jews hold power over the future of Gentiles.

One week before announcing his candidacy for president, Texas Governor Rick Perry led an all-day prayer rally in a stadium in Houston. Don Finto led the prayer for Israel and openly called for Israelis and all Jews to accept Jesus in order to bring "a great revival to the entire world."

Fortunately, most Christians today do not accept this interpretation of the bible and do not believe they must convert Jews or promote the evangelization of Israel in order to bring about a Christian utopia on earth. Unfortunately, some Jewish leaders are determined to help Glenn Beck and Christian Zionists camouflage their attack on Jews and Judaism, apparently believing that this is in Israel's best interest.

Judging from the warm reception Beck received at the Knesset last month, many Israeli public figures are unaware of just how problematic he is. If many of them decide to participate in his Jerusalem rally, they risk identifying Israel with all he represents. Israel's relationship with mainstream Jewish-Americans will suffer immense damage, as will its international image.

The writer is an independent researcher specializing in Christian Zionism in the United States.

Israel: Groups who normally oppose each other join together to protest Glenn Beck


Left and right join forces against Glenn Beck's Western Wall rally
The rally, entitled 'Restoring Courage', is expected to include nationalistic Israeli sentiments as well as Christian content.
By Oz Rosenberg

Conservative commentator Glenn Beck is scheduled to hold a widely advertised rally Wednesday at 5 P.M. near the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Beck, a former commentator for Fox News, expresses resounding support for Israel at all times, and the rally, entitled "Restoring Courage," is expected to include nationalistic Israeli sentiments as well as Christian content.

The combination of Israeli nationalism and Christian subject matter has led to a surprising alliance against Beck. His critics include Israelis who normally oppose each other, including religious figures and political personalities from both ends of the spectrum.

"We all have the same reasons for opposing Glenn Beck," said Etai Mizrav of Peace Now. "This is a person who seems to support Israel, but he is a fanatic. I don't know how the right wing intends to protest, but if they want to join us they are welcome," he told Haaretz. Supporters of Peace Now wrote a letter to the cantorial star Dudu Fisher urging him to cancel his performance at Beck's rally Wednesday night. "The area near the Western Wall is no place for a political event. We call on you not to lend your rare voice to such an unclean event."

Peace Now activists are expected to hold a protest during the rally outside the Dung Gate, which is near the Southern Wall Archaeological Park, where the rally is being held.

"The demonstration is against the Israelis who are embracing him there, [Likud MK] Danny Danon and others like him," Mizrav said.

Left-wing Knesset members are also expected to take part in the protest - among them, Ilan Ghilon (Meretz ) and former Meretz MK Mossi Raz.

Beck's opponents in Israel also include radical Likud member Moshe Feiglin, who has on more than one occasion said Beck is leading "a modern-day crusade." Rabbi Dov Lior, chief rabbi of Hebron; Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, leader of the Lithuanian stream of ultra-Orthodoxy; and Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger also oppose Beck.

Metzger was invited to the rally but declined after Elyashiv came out against the American pundit, and the cantorial choir of the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem canceled its participation in the rally for the same reason.

Former Jerusalem City Councilwoman Mina Fenton, another Beck opponent, said, "Anything good said about Israel is good for all of us. But my sensitivity and that of others like me leads me to ask what the motives are that lead to such sympathies. ... The event is a clearly Christian event. Glenn Beck says so himself. And now he is giving the Southern Wall [Archaeological Park] Christian significance? That is unacceptable to Jews."

The Jerusalem Municipality is supporting Beck by allowing him use of Safra Square in front of City Hall, so that people who were were unable to get a ticket to see Beck in person at the Southern Wall Archaeological Park will be able to watch him live on a giant screen.

Fenton's sharply worded letter to Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat over Beck's appearance - in which Fenton decried "desertion of the walls" - went unanswered, she said.

Peace Now activists said Beck's activities will cause foment in Jerusalem. However, the public relations firm representing Beck in Jerusalem described this evening's rally as "a non-political event."

Israel: Beware the extremism of Glenn Beck


U.S. Jews warn Israel not to get too cozy with Glenn Beck
Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, says Beck is very extreme and controversial even among right-wing groups in the United States.
By Shlomo Shamir

NEW YORK - The warm welcome extreme right-wing media personality Glenn Beck has receiving in Israel has led to criticism of the American pundit by Jewish leaders in New York.

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, told Haaretz he believed that Beck was very extreme and controversial even among right-wing groups in the United States. Yoffie pointed to the Fox News television network, which had canceled Beck's show and distanced itself from him.

Yoffie said that Beck had mocked the distress of hundreds of thousands of protesters in Israel, referring to the right-wing pundit's comments about the tent protests in Israel earlier this month when he compared protesters' calls for increased social benefits to those of the former Soviet Union.

According to Yoffie, Beck's comments on the protest in Israel are a slap in the face to hundreds of thousands of protesters, and expressed dismay that such a man is holding events in Israel with the participation of cheering masses.

Yoffie, who said he prefered not to speak about Beck and lend him undue prominence, said the pundit had expressed himself hatefully and rudely against President Obama, who is Israel's important and faithful ally.

Seymour Reich, former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations and a leading New York attorney, said Tuesday that he believed Beck was taking rude advantage of Israel in order to rehabilitate his television career and reputation.

Reich said he believed Israeli and Jews everywhere should be careful about embracing an extreme right-winger like Beck, who shows sympathy for Israel in order to hide his extreme-right ideology.

In contrast, Abe Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said Tuesday that Beck had come to Israel to show support and solidarity with Israel and he should be welcomed as a friend.

Foxman also said the fact that Beck expressed views people did not agree with was no reason to ostracize him.

Monday, August 22, 2011

UK: A job well done Mr. President

PJ: As Libyans exhibit a poster titled "The Fantastic 4" ( pictures and thanks President Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and U.S. Ambassador the U.N. Susan Rice for their support, the US GOP finds fault with their President for...whatever...and the American news media seems to love to give them voice regardless of being called the 'lamestream' media by the far right.

When I read the US news I see so much criticism about Mr. Obama from the right that I really don't know how the republicans can label the mainstream media as liberal. People in the rest of the world have grown to appreciate the fresh new style with which Mr. Obama brought to international relations. The growing international respect for the US can be directly credited to the Obama'd think that American citizens would be proud.

The Economist

A score for Obama

Aug 22nd 2011, 15:26 by Lexington

I AM on holiday for three weeks in a faraway corner of Cornwall, but the momentous news from Libya has reached even here. Barack Obama received a lot of stick for his cautious approach to the uprising in Libya. Liberals traumatised by Iraq could not believe he had started another war. Republicans mocked him for "leading from behind". But with the collapse of Muammar Qaddafi's regime now in prospect, his critics ought to eat at least some of their words.

Like many others, I had strong misgivings (see here), for example, but the president remained supremely calm throughout and the speech he made in March (which we analysed here) looks pretty good in light of what has now happened. The intervention (Mr Obama notoriously refused to call it a war) could not have taken place without America's technological help; it was conducted mainly by allies; it had the blessing of the UN Security Council and the Arab League; and for those reasons it has generated almost no blowback from the Arab world. In short, a job well done - though I don't expect his Republican critics to be willing to admit this.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

UK: Is there no longer room for anyone within the republican party who is not of the far right?

The Economist

The Republican nomination
The party after Tim leaves


WELL, let's see, what happened during the two weeks I spent away from my desk, defending—successfully, as it turned out—my title as Worst Fisherman on the East Coast and Possibly Planet Earth. America raised the debt ceiling. America was downgraded. And America gained one presidential candidate and lost another. I'd like to discuss that final development, not least because in those long gone days of early summer, I said on the record that Tim Pawlenty would eventually win the Republican nomination (and if you think you're getting a hyperlink to that ignominious prediction, my friends, think again).

Mr Pawlenty announced his departure from the race on Sunday morning, following a dismal third-place finish in the Ames straw poll. As my colleague wrote, it wasn't that he finished third of ten; it was that he finished a distant third after campaigning furiously, and desperately needing a win. In retrospect, it is easy to see what Mr Pawlenty did wrong: he ran at Michele Bachmann and the social conservatives rather than going after Mitt Romney and the business types. Now, obviously whoever wins the nomination will have to appeal to both wings of voters. Mr Romney will have to kiss the rings of the James Dobson-types, while Ms Bachmann will have to convince Wall Street and Chamber-of-Commerce Republicans that she is more than just a charming, Bible-thumping ideologue. She has a harder row to hoe than he does. After all, Mr Romney at least has a record of achievement and pragmatism, even if he is running away from it.

Mrs Bachmann, by contrast, has little to show for all her bluster, as Mr Pawlenty pointed out during last week's debate. "Leading and failing is not the objective," he told Mrs Bachmann. I thought it was a hit, a very palpable hit, but what if he's wrong. Not wrong that Republicans want to fail; of course they do not. But wrong in the broader sense, that in this particular race, among these particular candidates, it is more important to say and believe the right things than it is to have governed well. That this Republican primary is shaping up to be not a test to see who would make the best overall president, but a test to see who would make the best executive while also hewing to Republican orthodoxy. In that sense, Mr Romney's record of expanding health care and upgrading his state's credit while governing Massachusetts is not something to be proud of, but something to downplay—after all, his health-care plan included an individual insurance mandate, and he raised taxes (or at least hiked some fees and closed some loopholes, leading to increased revenue). And Mr Pawlenty's record as governor? A 75-cent fee hike on cigarettes and the slippery imputation that he was an inadequately strong foe of abortion made it all moot.

Need one elaborate on what a shame that is? Politics is not religion, principle is not dogma and Moses did not descend from the mountaintop with "Thou shalt not raise taxes" carved onto a third tablet. As soon as Mr Pawlenty raised his hand along with the rest of the crowd when asked whether they would accept a budget deal with a dollar in revenue increases for every ten dollars in spending cuts, he was toast. No sane governing Republican would turn that deal down. Mr Romney, sitting in the catbird seat atop the polls and the money race, could afford to pander; Mr Pawlenty could not. He may not have won had he stood up for pragmatism, but he would have done the race—and the country—a lot of good. Mr Pawlenty had a successful record of good governance and social-conservative bonafides; he chose to run on the latter and away from the former. You can bet that Mr Perry, who also has both, will not make the same mistake.

UK: Playing to the fringe

PJ: Playing to the base to win a primary election is nothing new in US politics. But when that base has slipped further away from the middle and into the fringes of the party, will playing to the most extreme ideology suit the general electorate and indeed benefit the country as a whole?

The Guardian

Rick Perry: a candidate for whom 'unpresidential' is a virtue

Texas governor's stance on economy and global warming may play well with the US right, but it turns off independents
By Chris McGreal

There are not many contenders to be president of the United States who consider it an asset to be called unpresidential.

But then Rick Perry is not looking for the support of those seeking a president like any other. At least not for now.

The Texas governor entered the race for the Republican presidential nomination less than a week ago and he has already drawn stinging criticism for calling the head of the US central bank a traitor, for describing evolution as "a theory that's out there" and for once again questioning the existence of global warming.

His views have drawn a barrage of derision and condemnation, and raised questions as to whether he has blown his shot as a likely Republican frontrunner before his candidacy has even got off the ground.

Perry, who portrays the government in Washington as an anti-American conspiracy and has promised to make it mostly "inconsequential" to people's lives, even drew criticism from within his own party after he suggested that Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, was a traitor for flooding the economy with trillions of dollars in stimulus money.

Karl Rove, the Republican strategist who set Perry on his path to the Texas governor's office and who put George Bush in the White House, derided the comments as "not a presidential statement".

But Perry didn't back down; instead, the very next day, he called on the Federal Reserve to open its books to prove it hasn't been up to no good.

It's a stance that delights the crowd Perry is playing to – fiscal conservatives and the anti-government evangelical right who are dedicated Republican primary voters. But it may be a harder sell to those Republicans who are more interested in a candidate who can beat an increasingly vulnerable looking Barack Obama and who fear that Perry only alienates more moderate and independent voters.
'Pile of Bad News Bears-esque misfits'

Within days of announcing his run for president, Perry moved rapidly to the front of the Republican pack, pushing ahead of the former leader, Mitt Romney, and a rival for the affections of Tea Party supporters, Michele Bachmann.

The Rasmussen poll released on Tuesday gave Perry 29% of support among Republicans to 18% for Romney and 13% for Bachmann. At least one other poll has also seen Perry leap to the front of the race.

It's a position likely to have been strengthened, not damaged, by the uproar over Perry's recent comments.

Harold Cook, a Democratic party strategist and trenchant observer of Perry on his Letters from Texas blog, says that criticism by Rove and other Republicans plays into the Texas governor's hands.

"Don't you imagine that all those wing nuts whose support Perry is after like that there is now a candidate in the race who is 'un-Presidential'? They believe that people being 'Presidential', ironically including George W Bush, is what got us in this mess to begin with," wrote Cook. "The fact that those who intend to be unflattering to Governor Perry are calling him precisely what best positions him in this whacked-out race for the Republican nomination only helps propel him to the top of this pile of Bad News Bears-esque misfits running for the Republican Presidential nomination."

That's a view shared by other critics of Perry, who say that Tea Party supporters and others on the right likely to support him dismiss the criticism as driven by the liberal media or Washington insiders.

But while Perry is hitting all the right buttons on the Republican right, he may at the same time be alienating more moderate voters.

"Obviously there are some things that will not hurt him in a Republican primary that will be very detrimental in a general election," said Chris Bell, a former congressman who ran against Perry for governor five years ago. "What wins elections in this day and age, whether you're talking about Texas or the race for the presidency, is not only being able to get the base of your own party excited but also draw those people in who see themselves as moderates and independents. I think those are the folks who, if they take a close look at Rick Perry, will not like what they see."

With Barack Obama's approval rating for his handling of the economy sinking to a new low of 26%, Perry is seeking to build his campaign on his oversight of what he describes as his state's relative prosperity.

He makes much of the fact that Texas added more jobs last year than any other state and, depending on who is doing the calculating, can claim to have created about 40% of all new jobs in the US over the past two years.

Perry attributes that to minimal regulation and lower taxes which plays to his broader claims about the iniquities of the federal government and the need to shift control back to individual states. It is also the platform on which he is constructing opposition to Obama's economic stimulus programme.

All of which goes down very well with many Republicans but on closer scrutiny, it may not play so well with mainstream voters.
Jobs narrative has 'ginormous' holes

Texas's unemployment rate is still above 8%, which means that half the other states in the US have lower unemployment. A high number of the new jobs Perry boasts about are minimum wage. One of the consequences of that is that Texas has the highest proportion of people in any state without health insurance – one in four – while "liberal, tax and spend" Massachusetts has both lower unemployment and near universal healthcare.

Texas is also an oil state, which helped it ride out much of the recession on the back of high petroleum prices. Perry's critics say that offers no lessons for dealing with the US economy as a whole.

"Perry's narrative about jobs in Texas looks great at first blush, but it has ginormous holes upon closer scrutiny," Cook said. "Yup, Texas has jobs. Texas is a pro-business state. So what? Texas has always been pro-business, and we've almost always been near the top of the heap in job growth, and were long before Perry was around to take credit for it. And under his 'leadership', those jobs he brags about are crappy jobs – we have twice as many minimum wage jobs as anybody else in the country."

Texas also has one of the worst education systems in the country and a notorious environmental record while Perry continues to say that there is not sufficient scientific evidence to prove the existence of global warming and promises to scrap much of the US's environmental legislation including regulation of pollutants.

The challenge facing Perry in winning over independents and even moderate Republicans to beat Obama was on display as he campaigned in New Hampshire this week. A nine-year-old boy was put up by his mother to ask the Texas governor whether he believes in evolution.

"It's a theory that's out there, and it's got some gaps in it," said Perry.

A few hours later, another Republican presidential contender, Jon Huntsman, took a pot shot at Perry on Twitter: "To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me Crazy," he wrote.

Perry also suggested this week that Texas schools teach creationism, a move which would be illegal under the constitutional separation of church and state. That legal obstacle is got around by the state requiring the teaching of "intelligent design", which does not go so far as to say a Christian God created the universe.

Many ordinary Americans, whatever their religious views, firmly back the separation of church and state, and Perry's suggestion that creationism has a place in the classroom will jar with many independent voters.

The Texas governor may be vulnerable on closer scrutiny of other issues. Questions are still swirling around about his unusual decision to require all 12-year-old girls in Texas to be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV). That decision flew in the face of Perry's professed opposition to governments telling citizens how to live their lives.

Surprise turned to scepticism when it was revealed that Perry's former chief of staff was the lobbyist for the firm making the drug.
'Gay marriage is not fine with me'

Perry also makes much of his attachment to what he describes as "American Values". He often wears a Boy Scout pin in his lapel and has written a book, On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For, which is mostly an attack on secular liberalism and attempts to force the Boy Scout movement in the US to accept openly gay members.

That is a sensitive issue for the Texas governor.

After New York state legalised gay marriage, Perry said: "That's New York, and that's their business, and that's fine with me."

Some misunderstood that to mean that Perry was comfortable with gay marriage when his view was actually a reiteration of the right of individual states, not the government in Washington, to decide such matters. He quickly clarified the matter.

"I probably needed to add a few words after that 'it's fine with me', and that it's fine with me that a state is using their sovereign rights to decide an issue. Obviously gay marriage is not fine with me. My stance hasn't changed," he said.

Perhaps not, but it may be an issue that comes to haunt him in other ways.

The Perry campaign has prepared for the re-airing of rumours about his private life that have been doing the rounds for years; at one point, they grew so pervasive he was forced to address them publicly. One is that Perry is a closet homosexual.

In 2004, the Texas governor was so concerned that he told the American-Statesman newspaper that they were an "obvious, orchestrated effort" by political opponents.

Politico reports that the Perry campaign expects the issue to re-emerge.

"This kind of nameless, faceless smear campaign is run against the Perry family in seemingly every campaign, with no basis, truth or success," a top Perry strategist, Dave Carney, told Politico. "Texas politics is a full contact sport, live hand grenades and all; unfortunately there are always going to be some people who feel the need to spread false and misleading rumours to advance their own political agenda."

The Perry campaign's concern is not misplaced.

A Republican activist who backs another primary candidate and anti-government libertarian, Ron Paul, has picked up on swirling rumours about Perry by placing an advertisement in a Texas newspaper that asks: "Have you ever had sex with Rick Perry?"

"Are you a stripper, an escort, or just a 'young hottie' impressed by an arrogant, entitled governor of Texas?" it says. "We will help you publicize your direct dealings with a Christian-buzzwords-spouting, 'family values' hypocrite and fraud."

The advert was placed by Robert Morrow, the man behind the Committee Against Sexual Hypocrisy. The last line of the advert says: "Note to gay people: If you know the truth about Rick, please QUIT covering for him."

Friday, August 19, 2011

UK: Bachmann is no Palin-lite

PJ: Unlike Palin, Bachmann does not hide from the media and does not toy with her supporters in an endless 'will she or won't she run' game. She has demonstrated a much thicker skin than Palin could ever have conceived of, having answered tough questions from nearly every news agency and brushed off criticism instead of playing victim of the media, which Palin has made into an art form with her constant (and tiresome) reference to the 'lamestream media'. While both women represent the extreme right wing of their party and both believe in Dominionism (which is frightening for someone who wants to the be the leader of the free world), she should no longer be considered a poor man's Palin.

The Economist

Being Michele Bachmann
The terrifying truthfulness of the victor of the Ames straw poll

PRESUMABLY because both are attractive women, and she the lesser-known, the media used to disparage Michele Bachmann, who won the Ames straw poll on August 13th, as “Palin-lite”. That was always upside down. Whereas Sarah Palin was once flummoxed when invited to name the newspapers—any newspaper—she read, Mrs Bachmann, the third-term congresswoman from Minnesota, told the Wall Street Journal earlier this year that her favourite beachside reading included the work of Ludwig von Mises, a towering economist of the Austrian school. This column is even more impressed by her mastery of the 3.8m or so words of the ludicrous federal tax code. A lawyer who spent five years working for the Internal Revenue Service is not to be trifled with. When she says that the tax code is “a weapon of mass destruction”, she knows whereof she speaks.

If Mrs Bachmann’s cleverness was ever in question, the doubt should have been dispelled by her performance since confirming in June that she was running for the Republican presidential nomination. Before that she had attracted rather little national attention beyond the rapt circles of the tea-party movement. Her signature legislation, a light-bulb freedom of choice act, designed to protect the God-given right of every American to waste as much electricity as he pleases, had attracted more mirth than votes. In January she irritated the Republican leadership by insisting on delivering her own rebuttal, as creator and leader of the tea-party caucus in the House of Representatives, to Barack Obama’s state-of-the-union speech. It was an amateurish affair, in which she appeared to stare throughout at the wrong camera.

But how the lady has turned. Since joining the race for president she has exhibited a flair for organisation and a political cunning above the ordinary. If her victory in Ames was no great surprise—an evangelical Christian with hard-boiled pro-life, anti-gay-marriage credentials was always likely to prosper in the God-fearing cornfields of Iowa—her disciplined comportment as a campaigner has been. When, before Ames, Chris Wallace of Fox News asked her outright whether she was a “flake”, she refused to be baited, maintained an icy insouciance and, later, received a grovelling apology. A Newsweek cover picturing her with crazed eyes as “The Queen of Rage” probably did more damage to Tina Brown, the would-be saviour of that troubled publication, than to the would-be saviour of America, who affected to pay it no attention. Under attack in the debate at Ames, she coolly disposed of one of her main challengers, Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota.

Still, there is a reason why that “flake” question was posed. Mrs Bachmann has a record of making factual mistakes, repeating untruths and adopting preposterous stances. Though some of the mistakes have been mere slips, they were slips of a sort that a candidate who claims a close familiarity with America’s founding ought never to have made. At one point she said that the “shot heard round the world” had been fired in Lexington, New Hampshire (it was Lexington, Massachusetts); at another that the Founding Fathers “worked tirelessly until slavery was no more” (wrong by almost a century). She claimed in 2008 that Mr Obama held “anti-American” views, and last year that his visit to India would cost taxpayers $200m a day, a fantastic number apparently plucked, unchecked, from Indian newspapers. She continues to maintain, preposterously, that Standard & Poor’s downgraded America’s credit because Congress raised the debt ceiling. The opposite is true: the agency wanted more deficit reduction but expressed alarm at the spectacle of politicians like Mrs Bachmann turning the debt ceiling into a political bargaining chip.

Judgmental, moi?

Now that she is running for president, Mrs Bachmann is choosing her words more cautiously, especially on social issues. But she has had to resort to credulity-stretching gymnastics to explain past utterances. Did she become a tax lawyer against her own will because, as she once argued, it was a wife’s duty (see the fifth chapter of Ephesians) to be “submissive” to her husband, who thought it was a good idea? No, she says now, in an assertion that would dumbfound a lexicographer: to “submit” means to “respect”. Why in 2004 did she equate homosexuality to “personal enslavement”? “I am running for the presidency of the United States. I am not running to be anyone’s judge.” Such evasions are less than convincing. As a Minnesota state senator a decade ago, Mrs Bachmann made her opposition to gay marriage into a crusade that helped to build her political career. The clinic she set up with her husband Marcus (which she cites as evidence of her understanding of job creation) offered to make gays straight via the agency of prayer. Judgmental, moi?

Her liberal critics make rich fun of all this. But exaggeration, inexactitude and mendacity are the currency of politics. The voter who grumbles about these things is like the farmer who grumbles about the weather. If Mrs Bachmann is guilty of such sins, she is hardly alone. Indeed, her most potent weapon might, paradoxically, be the fundamental honesty that undergirds her positions. That is to say, people can tell that, unlike most candidates, what you see is what you would get: a strongly religious person; a moraliser; a diminutive figure who really does appear to have, as she boasts, a “titanium spine”; a conviction politician in an age when many convictions are feigned. A Midwestern Margaret Thatcher with added divinity, she stands primed to reverse the monstrous growth of the entitlement state, convinced that whatever short-term suffering this causes will nonetheless restore the moral fibre of America. Many Americans would no doubt vote for her if she made it through the primaries. But far more are likely to be frightened, which is why she probably won’t.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

UK: What happens when someone goes against the Murdoch empire

PJ: Is phone hacking by Murdoch papers simply the tip of the iceberg?

The Guardian

A life unravelled … whistleblower who incurred wrath of the Murdoch empire

Relentless legal pursuit of ex-News Corp employee likened to 'Rambo tactics'

By Ed Pilkington

Five years ago Robert Emmel was enjoying the American dream. He lived in a detached house in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, drove a BMW, and earned $140,000 a year as an accounts director in a highly successful advertising company called News America Marketing.

Today, Emmel is described by his lawyers as destitute. Jobless and in debt, he was discharged from bankruptcy last year. He does occasional consultancy work that last month brought in $500, and this month, court documents show, will probably produce nothing. His wife's earnings raise monthly household income to about $3,000 – half their outgoings.

This is a cautionary tale about what can happen to someone who dares to become a corporate whistleblower. Or, more specifically, someone who incurs the wrath of News Corporation, the media empire owned by Rupert Murdoch, of which News America forms a part.

Emmel's lawyer, Philip Hilder, has had a ringside seat at the gradual unravelling of his client's life. A former federal prosecutor based in Houston, Texas, Hilder is well versed in whistleblower cases having represented Sherron Watkins, who helped uncover the Enron scandal. Hilder said: "News America has engaged in Rambo litigation tactics. They have a scorched earth policy, and it's taken a huge toll on him."

News Corp has devoted the efforts of up to 29 lawyers to pursuing Emmel personally, at a cost estimated at more than $2m. Emmel, by contrast, has relied on two lawyers, Hilder and Marc Garber in Atlanta, working for no pay since January 2009.

Attention has been focused on News Corporation's activities in the UK, where the News of the World phone-hacking scandal has led to the arrest of 10 people associated with the company. In the US, oversight of News Corp is gathering pace with the department of justice and the FBI looking into the company, while senators are considering launching committee hearings into News Corp practices.

One incident that US investigators are exploring is the hacking of a website run by one of News America's rivals, an instore advertising business called Floorgraphics. The firm discovered that its password-protected site had been breached from an IP address at News America's offices in Connecticut. News America has condemned the breach as a "violation of the standards of our company" but says it does not know how it happened.

Emmel was one of the main witnesses for Floorgraphics at a subsequent trial against his old company. He worked for News America for seven years from 1999 to 2006, turning whistleblower in his final year there. The company is the leading US provider of in-store advertising services, helping to bring products from firms such as Coca-Cola, Kraft and Nabisco to the attention of supermarket shoppers. Headed by Paul Carlucci, who now publishes Murdoch's tabloid the New York Post, it enjoys annual revenues of more than $1bn and has a 90% stranglehold on the market. News America also has a record of legal disputes with its commercial rivals, three of whom have launched lawsuits against it in recent years accusing the firm of using unlawful practices.

All three lawsuits – including the Floorgraphics one and cases initiated by Valassis and Insignia – were eventually settled, but not before News America agreed to pay an astounding $655m to end the disputes. Emmel acted as a whistleblower in all three cases. He gave two days of evidence in the Floorgraphics trial after which News America rapidly settled, and was also named in the Valassis and Insignia cases.

By 2006 Emmel said he was increasingly concerned about what he alleged were improper practices on the part of his employers. He alleged that News America was engaging in "criminal conduct against competitors" and using "deceptive and illegal business practices" to defraud its retailer customers out of money owed. He claimed he had "substantial oral and documentary evidence" to support his allegation that the company had defrauded its own customers, used anti-competitive techniques against rival companies, and fraudulently inflated its reported earnings unbeknown to its shareholders.

News America denies the allegations. In a statement, it said: "There have been three very public lawsuits about these matters and at no time during any of these legal proceedings was any evidence produced to support Mr Emmel's claims."

For a year before he was sacked in November 2006, Emmel began compiling documentary evidence that he suggested backed up the allegations, and posted it to public bodies and individuals including the US securities and exchange commission, two senators, two Senate committees and the New York attorney general.

It is not known what happened to Emmel's allegations within the regulatory bodies he approached. He posted one set of 55 pages of documents on 20 December 2006, shortly after he had been fired and a day before he signed a non-disclosure agreement with News America.

That set of documents went to Nicholas Podsiadly, an official in Washington then working as an investigative counsel at the Senate finance committee. At one point, court documents show, Podsiadly said the committee was considering referring the allegations to the justice department and the federal trade commission.

Podsiadly did not reply to a request for information. A spokeswoman for the finance committee said nothing would be done with any documents sent by Emmel until the litigation over them had ended.

Emmel today remains under a court-imposed injunction that forbids him from disclosing anything from these documents. "I cannot comment," he said.

News America learned of Emmel's whistleblowing activities after it had sacked him in a dispute over his timekeeping. It then unleashed its legal armoury against him. In April 2007 it filed a lawsuit accusing him of six violations relating to his disclosure of confidential information, pressing its case with more than 300 pleadings to the Georgia courts. The company said Emmel refused to return "tens of thousands of stolen documents" and added: "Initiating legal action was News America Marketing's only recourse to protect the company's private information."

Despite the tenacity with which it has pursued Emmel, News America has had very little satisfaction through the courts. In March 2009 the district court in Georgia threw out all of its claims against him, bar one – a claim of breach of contract relating to his posting of the 55 pages of documents the day before he signed a non-disclosure agreement. Even that count, however, has been overturned by the US appeal court, which ruled in Emmel's favour in June, although the court kept the non-disclosure injunction in place noting that a significant proportion of Emmel's legal fees had been paid by News America's competitors.

In 2009 the company made clear that it intended to go to trial to ask for $425,000 from Emmel to cover legal costs incurred in the breach of contract element of the lawsuit, as it was entitled to dothough the sum was way beyond his ability to pay. Emmel's lawyers say the move forced him into bankruptcy. News America then insisted on a deposition to extract financial information out of Emmel, a move that is allowable under the law but that astonished Emmel's bankruptcy lawyer, Danny Coleman, because he says there had been no suggestion from the authorities that anything about the bankruptcy was out of order. "In my view, that was an abuse of the legal system," he said. "They took the law to its extreme and they used it to harass my client and prolong his agony.

After months of work on the deposition, nothing irregular was found. Hilder said he was struck by an irony in the Emmel case. "Here is a company, News Corp, that is in the business of disseminating information to the public, and yet its subsidiary does everything in its power to silence him."

News America denies engaging in inappropriate litigation and insists that it only wants to protect commercially confidential information, adding that Emmel's lawyers were "once again attempting to distort the facts in this case". The company added it had "vigorously defended itself against Mr Emmel's charges against the company, all of which were dismissed by the court". It says the injunction does not prevent him from co-operating with any formal investigation into News America.

The idea that Emmel had been driven into destitution was "preposterous", it said, "given his legal fees – to the tune of $750,000 – were paid by two competitors to News America". Emmel's lawyers do not dispute that until 2009 he received legal fees from Floorgraphics and Insignia, but say that was consistent with his role as a whistleblower against his old company.

While legal proceedings continue, the injunction preventing Emmel from approaching corporate regulators remains in place. But the appeal court in June made one important proviso. Nothing in the injunction, it ruled, "prevents Emmel from complying with grand jury or court-issued subpoenas or from co-operating with law enforcement authorities in any formal investigations of News America".

Who exactly makes up the Tea Party?

PJ: A lot has been written about America's Tea Party with little explanation about who makes up their ranks. This is an excellent overview of their popularity--or actually according to polls their unpopularity--and the beliefs of the people who consider themselves members. It's not a pretty picture.

New York Times

Crashing the Tea Party
Published: August 16, 2011

GIVEN how much sway the Tea Party has among Republicans in Congress and those seeking the Republican presidential nomination, one might think the Tea Party is redefining mainstream American politics.

But in fact the Tea Party is increasingly swimming against the tide of public opinion: among most Americans, even before the furor over the debt limit, its brand was becoming toxic. To embrace the Tea Party carries great political risk for Republicans, but perhaps not for the reason you might think.

Polls show that disapproval of the Tea Party is climbing. In April 2010, a New York Times/CBS News survey found that 18 percent of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of it, 21 percent had a favorable opinion and 46 percent had not heard enough. Now, 14 months later, Tea Party supporters have slipped to 20 percent, while their opponents have more than doubled, to 40 percent.

Of course, politicians of all stripes are not faring well among the public these days. But in data we have recently collected, the Tea Party ranks lower than any of the 23 other groups we asked about — lower than both Republicans and Democrats. It is even less popular than much maligned groups like “atheists” and “Muslims.” Interestingly, one group that approaches it in unpopularity is the Christian Right.

The strange thing is that over the last five years, Americans have moved in an economically conservative direction: they are more likely to favor smaller government, to oppose redistribution of income and to favor private charities over government to aid the poor. While none of these opinions are held by a majority of Americans, the trends would seem to favor the Tea Party. So why are its negatives so high? To find out, we need to examine what kinds of people actually support it.

Beginning in 2006 we interviewed a representative sample of 3,000 Americans as part of our continuing research into national political attitudes, and we returned to interview many of the same people again this summer. As a result, we can look at what people told us, long before there was a Tea Party, to predict who would become a Tea Party supporter five years later. We can also account for multiple influences simultaneously — isolating the impact of one factor while holding others constant.

Our analysis casts doubt on the Tea Party’s “origin story.” Early on, Tea Partiers were often described as nonpartisan political neophytes. Actually, the Tea Party’s supporters today were highly partisan Republicans long before the Tea Party was born, and were more likely than others to have contacted government officials. In fact, past Republican affiliation is the single strongest predictor of Tea Party support today.

What’s more, contrary to some accounts, the Tea Party is not a creature of the Great Recession. Many Americans have suffered in the last four years, but they are no more likely than anyone else to support the Tea Party. And while the public image of the Tea Party focuses on a desire to shrink government, concern over big government is hardly the only or even the most important predictor of Tea Party support among voters.

So what do Tea Partiers have in common? They are overwhelmingly white, but even compared to other white Republicans, they had a low regard for immigrants and blacks long before Barack Obama was president, and they still do.

More important, they were disproportionately social conservatives in 2006 — opposing abortion, for example — and still are today. Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics. And Tea Partiers continue to hold these views: they seek “deeply religious” elected officials, approve of religious leaders’ engaging in politics and want religion brought into political debates. The Tea Party’s generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government.

This inclination among the Tea Party faithful to mix religion and politics explains their support for Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. Their appeal to Tea Partiers lies less in what they say about the budget or taxes, and more in their overt use of religious language and imagery, including Mrs. Bachmann’s lengthy prayers at campaign stops and Mr. Perry’s prayer rally in Houston.

Yet it is precisely this infusion of religion into politics that most Americans increasingly oppose. While over the last five years Americans have become slightly more conservative economically, they have swung even further in opposition to mingling religion and politics. It thus makes sense that the Tea Party ranks alongside the Christian Right in unpopularity.

On everything but the size of government, Tea Party supporters are increasingly out of step with most Americans, even many Republicans. Indeed, at the opposite end of the ideological spectrum, today’s Tea Party parallels the anti-Vietnam War movement which rallied behind George S. McGovern in 1972. The McGovernite activists brought energy, but also stridency, to the Democratic Party — repelling moderate voters and damaging the Democratic brand for a generation. By embracing the Tea Party, Republicans risk repeating history.

David E. Campbell, an associate professor of political science at Notre Dame, and Robert D. Putnam, a professor of public policy at Harvard, are the authors of “American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Waking up from a political dream...or was it a nightmare?

PJ: More and more conservatives are waking up to the fact that their picture of Sarah Palin was a fraudulent image. When people write in praise of Palin they usually cite Matthew Scully's well-crafted speech recited by Palin at the Republican convention in 2008 as the biggest reason that they became fans (,8599,1838808,00.html). What they fail to acknowledge, given the numerous fumbles and missteps made by Palin in the last three years, is that while Palin deserved credit for a flawless delivery, she did not (in any way) deserve credit for the speech itself--a speech written weeks before she was even chosen as the running mate and tailored by Scully for Palin after her selection. Many even act surprised that during the rest of the election and the years that have followed, Mrs. Palin has not exhibited any of that same eloquence. Most have tirelessly defended her stumbles and fumbles and placed blame for her inadequacies at the feet of others--the media and the left as the favourite boogie men. Even when she delivered her garbled resignation as governor of Alaska in a speech written by her own hand, her defenders refused to accept that the woman who they believed in was really not the person who they wanted her to be.

These enablers helped to propel Mrs. Palin to heights that she did not deserve and are now paying the price for doing so. Unfortunately, the US faces serious challenges that may not be easily solved due, in part, to the rise of a faction of the electorate who have followed the uncompromising Tea Party model that Palin helped foster.

The Frum Forum

Why I’m Done With Sarah Palin
By Brad Schaeffer

UK: No Thanks to US style policing

The Guardian

US-style policing in the UK? No thanks

America is a much more violent place than the UK, and its law and order settlement is not one any sensible foreigner would want to embrace

I have some sympathy for anyone who happens to be prime minister when urban riots break out. But they're all volunteers, and David Cameron seems to be getting into a muddle over his handling of the police and the coalition's supposed "zero tolerance" policy response to lawlessness.

We'd better get this right or we risk lurching into an American view of policing – as a smart article predicts – which has the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world: more than 2 million people in prison, twice that number on probation or parole, at any one time. No thanks.

Listening to Cameron speak in his Witney constituency yesterday, I also noticed a significant omission. His list of problematic attitudes and behaviour in wider society, conduct that may help to explain last week's disorder, did not include the relentless pressure of commercial advertising – "buy our stuff!" – which hits the poor hardest.

He sometimes does (remember the policy aimed at combating the "sexualisation of children"?), but not yesterday. It did not fit the needs of a punitive response. We know voters want looters punished – I do myself – but appropriate punishment is only half the equation. Cameron sounded too much like Michael Howard, his old boss, did on the radio this morning.

But what about policing? Margaret Thatcher was always careful to keep them on side, one reason why their self-interested trade union habits were not assailed by her Chobham armour-plated handbag. Not even Howard made much progress against "canteen culture" in his Home Office days.

The coalition has both cut their budgets and promises elected police commissioners to supervise them, a policy Theresa May is saying today is more urgently needed than ever despite resistance in the Lords – not that you'd know it from the performance of the Met (indirectly run by an elected mayor) during the first half of the riots.

All that, and ministers got themselves into an unseemly row with senior officers over their own role in getting riot policy on an uneven keen after the initial operational stumble in Tottenham.

Sir Hugh Orde, a prime candidate for the Met job (he ran the police in Northern Ireland, quite a challenge) dares tick them off and tell them not to be so "thin-skinned".

Incidentally, I don't think anything like enough attention has been given to the Met's explanation for their inept start, given to MPs by Cameron on Wednesday.

It was that the police initially saw the riots as a public order issue, a form of political protest like last winter's student riots or the G20 protests. In consequence, they handled them warily, aware that they might be criticised for heavy-handedness, as they were – by the Guardian among others – on those occasions.

Only on Monday, too late, did they see that they were mostly dealing with opportunistic and apolitical looting.

Yet of all the acres of guff and wisdom I read about the riots this weekend, the article which stuck most firmly – and alarmingly – in the mind was by a clever American. What he said in effect was: "Say goodbye to your unarmed British bobby, you lot have opted for our version of liberty now and it will have to be policed much more robustly from here on."

Christopher Caldwell is a conservative who writes for the Weekly Standard, a highbrow Washington magazine. His FT analysis (subscription) was rather smarter than Fleet Street's home-grown end-of-civilisation hysterics (think David Starkey?) or foreigners like Rush Limbaugh, the mouthy US radio shock-jock.

Limbaugh called last week's Tottenham-led mayhem "the flower of socialism in full bloom", when any idiot with even half a brain should be able see it was as American as pecan pie in so many ways.

I'll come back to Caldwell. All this has a bearing on Cameron's decision to recruit William J "Bill" Bratton, the can-do cop with the "no tolerance/broken windows" theories, who ran the police departments in New York, LA and Boston, as an adviser, and possibly as head of the Metropolitan police force. Bratton seems quite taken with the idea.

Such talk is so daft and gimmicky that I can't quite credit it. The Guardian carried an interview with the almost 64 year-old-Bill yesterday where he set out his views.

I'm sure he did well in his time, but he's become a super-cop celeb and he'd spend most of his time at the Met unlearning his preconceptions about Britain's law and order culture and his inappropriate lessons from home. Fabio Capello, anyone? Sven-Göran Eriksson?

Cameron remains adamant that he's not going to back down on police budgets because they can make better use of the Labour-enhanced manpower they've already got. Too much bureaucracy, too much paperwork, he said.

That's probably a fair point, though it's interesting to see ministers torn between their "localism" rhetoric and the need to push policy reform forward from the centre, Tony Blair style.

Thus Strathclyde police's constructive anti-gang strategy needs to be adopted everywhere, not piecemeal, Iain Duncan Smith said quite unselfconsciously yesterday.

I'm sure he's right, but how does that fit with elected local police chiefs responding to community demands?

The coppers are already pushing back on community policing, promoted by ex-mayor Ken Livingstone, and ex-Met chief Sir Ian (no relation) Blair, who was putsched by Boris Johnson with Home Office connivance.

They blame its high demands on police time – visible bobbies on the beat – for undermining their anti-riot procedures, all of which sounds a bit convenient to me.

Remember, it was a squad from Scotland Yard – not Tottenham police – who shot Michael Duggan dead in circumstances that are getting no clearer. The Daily Mail has done its efficient best to paint him as a bad man – he certainly had some very unpleasant relatives, two arrested for looting in Manchester – but it can't quite make the gangster story stick.

Back to Caldwell. Actually his article wasn't the FT's only gloomy bit of punditry at the weekend. Gautam Malkani wrote a piece which invoked the prophetic quality of Anthony Burgess's 1962 novel, A Clockwork Orange, turned into a memorable film by Stanley Kubrick: demonic, recreational violence caused by boredom.

"In 2011 there is an additional consumer component and a self-destructive one. Self-destruction is more dystopian even that nihilism. Not only does it imply hopelessness, it suggests this week's rioters are cut off not just from society, but also from themselves," wrote Malkani, the author of the novel Londonistan.

That's bleak. Which makes Caldwell's conservative worldly wisdom even bleaker. British culture has always been individualistic, but has become radically anti-authoritarian and diverse over the last 50 years. The old consensus, which permitted gentle, unarmed policing, is one of the casualties of this change, he argues. Reformers have thrown out the baby of authority with the bathwater of privilege.

"And this is the tragedy. Britain has chosen a different kind of liberty, one that does not rest on shared values. That is, it has chosen a US-style liberty, and this will have to be safeguarded in an American way," he writes.

Americans fear their police – and with good reason – but have confidence in the efficacy. The fact that Duggan was carrying a gun when shot would have ended the debate about injustice in America, Caldwell claims. We are heading down that road, too.

I am not sure he's right about all of this, and pretty sure that ethnic minorities in the US – notably black and Hispanic – would agree with the posh white guy either. But it is a coherent point of view and a sharp reminder of the choices we face.

There far more people in prison in the US than in China, with four times the population, and gun violence is rampant – more than 12,000 gun-related homicides in 2007 alone. It's a wonderful country in all sorts of ways if you're not poor, very hard if you are.

But America's law and order settlement is not one any sensible foreigner would want to embrace. Sorry, Bill Bratton, I know you've done some good work and we're all keen to learn from each other. But you were starting from a very different and much, much more violent place. We don't need it here.