September 2009 Archives

THE "OBAMA DOCTRINE" -- TRUE AND TERRIFYING

What are we to make of President Obama's decision to scrap the Iranian missile shields in Poland and the Czech Republic? Frank Gaffney sums it up well:

With his capitulation to Russia, Barack Obama has just affirmed what I call the Obama Doctrine: Undermining our friends, emboldening our enemies and diminishing our country.

Read it all.

ISRAEL, AMERICA'S "EXCEPTIONAL ALLY"

Caroline Glick is brilliant again, as always.

America's exceptional ally

Sep. 11, 2009
Caroline Glick , THE JERUSALEM POST

There has been much talk in recent months about the prospect of Syria bolting the Iranian axis and becoming magically transformed into an ally of the West. Although Syria's President-for-life Bashar Assad's daily demonstrations of fealty to his murderous friends has exposed this talk as nothing more than fantasy, it continues to dominate the international discourse on Syria.

In the meantime, Syria's ongoing real transformation, from a more or less functioning state into an impoverished wasteland, has been ignored.

Today, the country faces the greatest economic catastrophe in its history. The crisis is causing massive malnutrition and displacement for hundreds of thousands of Syrians. These Syrians - some 250,000 mainly Kurdish farmers - have been forced off their farms over the past two years because their lands were reclaimed by the desert.

Today shantytowns have sprung up around major cities such as Damascus. They are filled with internally displaced refugees. Through a cataclysmic combination of irrational agricultural policies embraced by the Ba'athist Assad dynasty for the past 45 years that have eroded the soil, and massive digging of some 420,000 unauthorized wells that have dried out the groundwater aquifiers, Syria's regime has done everything in its power to dry up the country. The effects of these demented policies have been exacerbated in recent years by Turkey's diversion of Syria's main water source, the Euphrates River, through the construction of dams upstream, and by two years of unrelenting drought. Today, much of Syria's previously fertile farmland has become wasteland. Former farmers are now destitute day laborers with few prospects for economic recovery.

Imagine if in his country's moment of peril, instead of clinging to his alliance with Iran, Hizbullah, al-Qaida, and Hamas, Assad were to turn to Israel to help him out of this crisis?

Israel is a world leader in water desalination and recycling. The largest desalination plant in the world is located in Ashkelon. Israeli technology and engineers could help Syria rebuild its water supply.

Israel could also help Syria use whatever water it still has, or is able to produce through desalination and recycling more wisely through drip irrigation - which was invented in Israel. Israel today supplies 50 percent of the international market for drip irrigation. In places like Syria and southern Iraq that are now being dried out by the Turkish dams, irrigation is primitive - often involving nothing more than water trucks pumping water out of the Euphrates and driving it over to fields that are often less than a kilometer away.

Then there are Syria's dwindling oil reserves. No doubt, Israeli engineers and seismologists would be able to increase the efficiency and productivity of existing wells and so increase their output. It is certainly not beyond the realm of possibility that Israeli scientists and engineers could even discover new, untapped oil reserves.

BUT, OF COURSE, Syria isn't interested in Israel's help. Syria wants to have its enemy and eat it too. As Assad has made clear repeatedly, what he wants is to receive the Golan Heights - and through it Israel's fresh water supply - for nothing. He wants Israel to surrender the Golan Heights, plus some Israeli land Syria illegally occupied from 1948 until1967, in exchange for a meaningless piece of paper.

In this demand, Assad is supported by none other than Turkish Prime Minister Recip Erdogan, whose country is drying Syria out. It is Erdogan after all, who mediated talks aimed at convincing then-prime minister Ehud Olmert to give up the Golan Heights and it is Erdogan today who is encouraging the Obama administration to pressure Israel to surrender its water to Syria.

Beyond demanding that Israel give him the Golan Heights, Assad is happy associating with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hassan Nasrallah, Khaled Mashaal and various and sundry al-Qaida leaders who move freely through his territory. Hanging out with these murderers affords him the opportunity to feel like a real man - a master of the universe who can kill Israelis, Iraqis and Americans and terrorize the Lebanese into submission.

As for his problems at home, Assad imprisons any Syrian engineer with the temerity to point out that by exporting cotton Syria is effectively exporting water. Assad doesn't fear that his regime will collapse under the weight of five decades of Ba'athist economic imbecility. He is banking on the US and Europe saving him from the consequences of his own incompetence through economic handouts; by turning a blind eye to his continued economic exploitation of Lebanon; and perhaps by coercing Israel into surrendering the Golan Heights.

THE SAME, of course, can be said of the Palestinians. Actually, the case of the Palestinians is even more extraordinary. From 1967 through 1987 - when through their violent uprising they decided to cut their economy off from Israel's - Palestinian economic growth in Gaza, Judea and Samaria rose by double digits every year. Indeed, while linked to Israel's, the Palestinian economy was the fourth fastest growing economy in the world. But since 1994, when the PLO took over, although the Palestinians have become the largest per capita foreign aid recipients in recorded history, the Palestinian economy has contracted on a per capita basis.

The one sure-fire path to economic growth and prosperity is for the Palestinians to reintegrate their economy with Israel's. But to do this, they must first end their involvement in terrorism and open their economy to free market forces and the transparency and rule of law and protection for property rights that form the foundations of those forces. The very notion of doing so, however, is considered so radical that supposedly moderate, pro-peace and free market friendly Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayad rejected the economic peace plan put forward by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu out of hand. After all, how can the Palestinians accept free market forces when it means that - horror of horrors - Jews might buy and sell land and other resources?

The Palestinians and the Syrians are not alone. From Egypt to Saudi Arabia to Pakistan and Indonesia, the Arab and Muslim world has preferred poverty and economic backwardness to the prosperity that would come from engaging Israel. They prefer their staunch rejection of Israel and hatred of Jews and the economic stagnation this involves to the prosperity and political freedom and stability that would come from an acceptance of Israel.

AS AMERICAN economic and technology guru George Gilder puts it in his new book The Israel Test, "The test of a culture is what it accomplishes in advancing the human cause - what it creates rather than what it claims."

Gilder's book is a unique and necessary contribution to the current international debate about the Middle East. Rather than concentrate solely on Arab claims from Israel as most writers do, Gilder turns his attention to what the nations of the region create. Specifically, he shows that only Israel creates wealth through creativity and innovation and that today Israel is contributing more to the human cause through its scientific, technological and financial advances than any other country in the world except the US.

The Israel Test describes in riveting detail both the massive contributions of mainly Diaspora Jews to the US victories in World War II and the Cold War and to the scientific revolutions of the 20th century that set the foundations for the computer age, and the massive contributions of Israeli Jews to the digital revolution that defines and shapes our economic realities today.

But before Gilder begins to describe these great Jewish contributions to the global economy and the general well-being of people around the world, he asserts that the future of the world will be determined by its treatment of Israel. As he puts it, "The central issue in international politics, dividing the world into two fractious armies, is the tiny state of Israel."

In his view, "Israel defines a line of demarcation," between those who pass and those who fail what he refers to as "the Israel test."

Gilder poses the test to his readers by asking them a few questions: "What is your attitude toward people who excel you in the creation of wealth or in other accomplishment? Do you aspire to their excellence, or do you seethe at it? Do you admire and celebrate exceptional achievement or do you impugn it and seek to tear it down?"

By his telling, the future of civilization will be determined by how the nations of the world - and particularly, how the American people - answer these questions.

Gilder's book is valuable on its own accord. I personally learned an enormous amount about Israel's pioneering role in the information economy. Beyond that, it provides a stunning rebuttal to the central arguments of the other major book that has been written about Israel and the Arabs in the US in recent years.

Steve Walt and John Mearshimer's The Israel Lobby has two central arguments. First, they argue that Israel has little value as an ally to the US. Second, they assert that given Israel's worthlessness to the US, the only reasonable explanation of why Americans overwhelmingly support Israel is that they have been manipulated by a conspiracy of Jewish organizations and Jewish-owned and controlled media and financial outlets. In their view, the nefarious Jewish-controlled forces have bamboozled the American people into believing that Israel is important to them and even a kindred nation to the US.

Gilder blows both arguments out of the water without even directly engaging them or noting Israel's singular contributions to US intelligence and military prowess. Instead, he demonstrates that Israel is an indispensable motor for the US economy, which in turn is the principal driver of US power globally. Much of Silicon Valley's economic prowess is founded on technologies made in Israel. Everything from the microchip to the cellphone has either been made in Israel or by Israelis in Silicon Valley.

It is Gilder's own admiration for Israel's exceptional achievements that puts paid Walt and Mearshimer's second argument. There is something distinctively American in his enthusiasm for Israel's innovative genius. From America's earliest beginnings, the American character has been imbued with an admiration for achievement. As a nation, Americans have always passed Gilder's Israel test.

Taken together with the other reasons for American support for Israel - particularly religious affinity for the people of the Bible - Gilder's book shows that the American and Israeli people are indeed natural friends and allies bound together by their exceptionalism that motivates them to strive for excellence and progress to the benefit of all mankind.

Today Americans commemorate the eighth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Those attacks were the greatest confrontation to date between American exceptionalism and Islamist nihilism. On this day, Gilder's book serves as a reminder of what makes the US and its exceptional ally Israel worth defending at all costs. The Israel Test also teaches us that so long as we keep faith with ourselves, we will not be alone in our fight against barbarism and hatred, and inevitably, we will emerge the victors in this bitter fight.

GUESS WHO IS "CHARLATAN-IN-CHIEF"?

Dr. Sowell has identified the core compentency of Barack Obama.

One of the secrets of being a glib talker is not getting hung up over whether what you are saying is true. You must give your full attention to what is required by the audience and the circumstances of the moment, without letting facts get in your way and cramp your style. Obama has mastered that art.


Charlatan-in-Chief

The core of Obama's medical-care plan is the promise of something for nothing.
September 11, 2009

By Thomas Sowell


'Hubris-laden charlatans" was the way a recent e-mail from a reader characterized the Obama administration. That phrase seems especially appropriate for the Charlatan-in-Chief, Barack Obama, whose speech to the joint session of Congress was both a masterpiece of rhetoric and a shameless fraud.

To tell us, with a straight face, that he can insure millions more people without adding to the already skyrocketing deficit is world-class chutzpah and an insult to anyone's intelligence. To do so after an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office has already showed this to be impossible reveals the depths of moral bankruptcy behind the glittering words.

Did we really need CBO experts to tell us that there is no free lunch? Some people probably did, and the true believers in the Obama cult may still believe the president, instead of believing either common sense or budget experts.

Even those who can believe that Obama can conjure up the money through eliminating "waste, fraud, and abuse" should ask themselves where he is going to conjure up the additional doctors, nurses, and hospitals needed to take care of millions more patients.

If he can't pull off that miracle, then government-run medical care in the United States can be expected to produce what government-run medical care in Canada, Britain, and other countries has produced -- delays of weeks or months to get many treatments, not to mention arbitrary rationing decisions by bureaucrats.

Obama can deny it in words, but what matters is deeds. And no one's words have been more repeatedly the direct opposite of his deeds -- whether the issue is how his election campaign would be financed, how he would not rush legislation through Congress, or how his administration was not going to go after CIA agents for their past efforts to extract information from captured terrorists.

President Obama has also declared emphatically that he will not interfere in the internal affairs of other nations -- while telling the Israelis where they can and cannot build settlements and telling the Hondurans whom they should and should not choose to be their president.

One of the secrets of being a glib talker is not getting hung up over whether what you are saying is true. You must give your full attention to what is required by the audience and the circumstances of the moment, without letting facts get in your way and cramp your style. Obama has mastered that art.

Con men understand that their job is not to use facts to convince skeptics but to use words to help the gullible believe what they want to believe. No message has been more welcomed by the gullible, in countries around the world, than the promise of something for nothing. That is the core of Barack Obama's medical-care plan.

President Obama tells us that he will impose various mandates on insurance companies but will not interfere with our free choice between being insured by these companies or by the government. But if he can drive up the cost of private insurance with mandates and subsidize government insurance with the taxpayers' money, how long do you think it will be before we have the "single payer" system that he has advocated in the past?

Mandates by politicians are what have driven up the cost of insurance already. Politicians love to play Santa Claus and leave it to others to raise prices to cover the inevitable costs.

Politicians have driven privately owned municipal transit systems out of business in many cities, simply by imposing costs and restricting the fare increases needed to cover those costs. The federal government can drive out private insurance the same way that local politicians have driven out private municipal transit and replaced it with government-run transit systems.

Barack Obama's insistence that various dangerous policies are not in the legislation he proposes sounds good but means nothing. Unbridled power is a blank check, no matter what its rationale may be. No law gave the president of the United States the power to fire the head of General Motors, but TARP money did.

When there are "advisory" panels on what treatments to approve and the White House's existing medical advisor has complained of Americans' "over-utilization" of medical care, what does it take to connect the dots?


-- Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

HEALTH CARE REFORM FOR SENSIBLE PEOPLE

Sound thinking on health care from Sarah Palin. Here's the health care plan for sensible Americans:

Instead of poll-driven "solutions," let's talk about real health-care reform: market-oriented, patient-centered, and result-driven. As the Cato Institute's Michael Cannon and others have argued, such policies include giving all individuals the same tax benefits received by those who get coverage through their employers; providing Medicare recipients with vouchers that allow them to purchase their own coverage; reforming tort laws to potentially save billions each year in wasteful spending; and changing costly state regulations to allow people to buy insurance across state lines. Rather than another top-down government plan, let's give Americans control over their own health care.

OPINION SEPTEMBER 9, 2009, WALL STREET JOURNAL


Obama and the Bureaucratization of Health Care

The president's proposals would give unelected officials life-and-death rationing powers.


By SARAH PALIN

Writing in the New York Times last month, President Barack Obama asked that Americans "talk with one another, and not over one another" as our health-care debate moves forward.

I couldn't agree more. Let's engage the other side's arguments, and let's allow Americans to decide for themselves whether the Democrats' health-care proposals should become governing law.

Some 45 years ago Ronald Reagan said that "no one in this country should be denied medical care because of a lack of funds." Each of us knows that we have an obligation to care for the old, the young and the sick. We stand strongest when we stand with the weakest among us.

We also know that our current health-care system too often burdens individuals and businesses--particularly small businesses--with crippling expenses. And we know that allowing government health-care spending to continue at current rates will only add to our ever-expanding deficit.

How can we ensure that those who need medical care receive it while also reducing health-care costs? The answers offered by Democrats in Washington all rest on one principle: that increased government involvement can solve the problem. I fundamentally disagree.

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Associated Press
Common sense tells us that the government's attempts to solve large problems more often create new ones. Common sense also tells us that a top-down, one-size-fits-all plan will not improve the workings of a nationwide health-care system that accounts for one-sixth of our economy. And common sense tells us to be skeptical when President Obama promises that the Democrats' proposals "will provide more stability and security to every American."

With all due respect, Americans are used to this kind of sweeping promise from Washington. And we know from long experience that it's a promise Washington can't keep.

Let's talk about specifics. In his Times op-ed, the president argues that the Democrats' proposals "will finally bring skyrocketing health-care costs under control" by "cutting . . . waste and inefficiency in federal health programs like Medicare and Medicaid and in unwarranted subsidies to insurance companies . . . ."

First, ask yourself whether the government that brought us such "waste and inefficiency" and "unwarranted subsidies" in the first place can be believed when it says that this time it will get things right. The nonpartistan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) doesn't think so: Its director, Douglas Elmendorf, told the Senate Budget Committee in July that "in the legislation that has been reported we do not see the sort of fundamental changes that would be necessary to reduce the trajectory of federal health spending by a significant amount."

Now look at one way Mr. Obama wants to eliminate inefficiency and waste: He's asked Congress to create an Independent Medicare Advisory Council--an unelected, largely unaccountable group of experts charged with containing Medicare costs. In an interview with the New York Times in April, the president suggested that such a group, working outside of "normal political channels," should guide decisions regarding that "huge driver of cost . . . the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives . . . ."

Given such statements, is it any wonder that many of the sick and elderly are concerned that the Democrats' proposals will ultimately lead to rationing of their health care by--dare I say it--death panels? Establishment voices dismissed that phrase, but it rang true for many Americans. Working through "normal political channels," they made themselves heard, and as a result Congress will likely reject a wrong-headed proposal to authorize end-of-life counseling in this cost-cutting context. But the fact remains that the Democrats' proposals would still empower unelected bureaucrats to make decisions affecting life or death health-care matters. Such government overreaching is what we've come to expect from this administration.

Speaking of government overreaching, how will the Democrats' proposals affect the deficit? The CBO estimates that the current House proposal not only won't reduce the deficit but will actually increase it by $239 billion over 10 years. Only in Washington could a plan that adds hundreds of billions to the deficit be hailed as a cost-cutting measure.

The economic effects won't be limited to abstract deficit numbers; they'll reach the wallets of everyday Americans. Should the Democrats' proposals expand health-care coverage while failing to curb health-care inflation rates, smaller paychecks will result. A new study for Watson Wyatt Worldwide by Steven Nyce and Syl Schieber concludes that if the government expands health-care coverage while health-care inflation continues to rise "the higher costs would drive disposable wages downward across most of the earnings spectrum, although the declines would be steepest for lower-earning workers." Lower wages are the last thing Americans need in these difficult economic times.

Finally, President Obama argues in his op-ed that Democrats' proposals "will provide every American with some basic consumer protections that will finally hold insurance companies accountable." Of course consumer protection sounds like a good idea. And it's true that insurance companies can be unaccountable and unresponsive institutions--much like the federal government. That similarity makes this shift in focus seem like nothing more than an attempt to deflect attention away from the details of the Democrats' proposals--proposals that will increase our deficit, decrease our paychecks, and increase the power of unaccountable government technocrats.

Instead of poll-driven "solutions," let's talk about real health-care reform: market-oriented, patient-centered, and result-driven. As the Cato Institute's Michael Cannon and others have argued, such policies include giving all individuals the same tax benefits received by those who get coverage through their employers; providing Medicare recipients with vouchers that allow them to purchase their own coverage; reforming tort laws to potentially save billions each year in wasteful spending; and changing costly state regulations to allow people to buy insurance across state lines. Rather than another top-down government plan, let's give Americans control over their own health care.

Democrats have never seriously considered such ideas, instead rushing through their own controversial proposals. After all, they don't need Republicans to sign on: Democrats control the House, the Senate and the presidency. But if passed, the Democrats' proposals will significantly alter a large sector of our economy. They will not improve our health care. They will not save us money. And, despite what the president says, they will not "provide more stability and security to every American."

We often hear such overblown promises from Washington. With first principles in mind and with the facts in hand, tell them that this time we're not buying it.

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