Monday, February 28, 2011

WFB: Three years ago today


Three years ago on February 27th we lost William F. Buckley Jr., a man so bright in the intellectual firmament that we had come to think of him as a permanent fixture in the heavens of American political thought. Three years gone by and the conservative movement remains an experiment in constant motion, all of its tethers to thoughts leaders of the past mostly undone. That does not mean it will fail to rise again; on the contrary, there are reasons to believe that the American public is trying to resuscitate ties to traditional values.
But this is a hard battle. Entrenched interests in government, unions and big corporations are powerful and hard to dislodge. The individual who still seeks to stand as an individual is a dying breed, and one who embraces his or her individuality does so at great personal and financial cost given the natural tendency of power to devour anyone who does not conform.
Still, we hope. We see the courage of those in the Middle East trying to throw off the shackles of tyranny and we pray they are not going to trade in one type of oppression for another. We see the frenetic energy of the tea party, and the counter strikes in Wisconsin, and we wait to see the outcome with a sense of concern for the ability to see it through.
We know this and Bill Buckley reminded us of it both in his life and in his writings – that to enslave future generations to massive debt is an immoral act. It is larceny on a massive, almost unimaginable, scale. To ask the young and the yet to be born to pay for our indulgences – social, financial, environmental – is an act of selfishness that belies any responsible understanding of stewardship or decent self government.
Bill spent a lifetime teaching us that being part of the responsible right also carried with it the burden of doing what is right. At the very least, we know that his wisdom and his example remain within our reach and smalls acts of thoughtful dialogue and debate might yet bring our nation back from the brink.

George Shadroui has been published in more than two dozen newspapers and magazines, including National Review and Frontpagemag.com.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Thoughts on the Oscars

I was sorely tempted not to tune into the Oscars this year but against my better judgment I succumbed to said temptations.

While I still would rather look at Anne Hathaway than Alec Baldwin she and James Franco were lacklustre as co-hosts. There were several presenters who I thought would be better suited in the role of master of ceremonies. Jude Law, Robert Downey, Jr and Kevin Spacey (who did a great Fred Astaire impersonation) would have made the proceedings far more interesting. I wouldn't mind seeing Hugh Jackman get another chance to host. But, of course, there's no Oscar host like Billy Crystal who made a surprise appearance with a tribute to Bob Hope.

Kirk Douglas was in no hurry to present the Best Supporting Actress award. Perhaps if he had taken more time Melissa Leo might not have dropped that f-bomb.

The King's Speech took away four Oscars including Best Picture, Best Actor for Colin Firth, Best Original Screenplay for David Siedler and Best Director for Tom Hooper. I liked Hooper's acceptance speech in which he thanked his mother for recommending he make the film after she saw The King's Speech mounted as a play in London a number of years ago. Hooper said, "The moral of the story is listen to your mother."

I have to admit the children at P.S. 122 in Staten Island did a nice job with their rendition of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow."

Duke Snider, 1926-2011. R.I.P.

I had just tuned into a spring training game between the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Los Angeles Dodgers when Dodgers broadcaster Charley Steiner announced that Dodgers legend Duke Snider had passed away at the age of 84. He apparently died of natural causes.

In the 1950s, Snider was part of the triumvirate of centerfielders who shared the stage in New York along with Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. Now we're talkin' baseball with Willie, Mickey and The Duke.

While Snider was overshadowed by Mays and Mantle, Snider had quite a run with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He hit more homeruns in the 1950s that any other player. Snider hit at least 40 homeruns every season between 1953 and 1957. Unlike Mays and Mantle, Snider never won an MVP but came very close to winning the NL MVP in 1955 when he was narrowly beaten out by teammate Roy Campanella. That was the same year the Dodgers won their only World Series in Brooklyn.

Snider's numbers began to decline once the Dodgers went out to Los Angeles. He would return to New York as a Met in 1963 before finishing his career back out west with the San Francisco Giants in 1964. Snider's career totals are as follows: a .295 lifetime batting average, 2,116 hits, 407 homeruns and 1,333 RBIs along with eight NL All-Star appearances. He would be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980.

Yet when I think of Snider I think of the man who did color commentary alongside Dave Van Horne for Montreal Expos games on the CBC. Snider and Van Horne may have been the most underrated baseball broadcasting duo ever. I hope Van Horne will give a kind word for The Duke when he receives the Ford C. Frick Award at the Hall of Fame ceremonies in Cooperstown next July.

Here's The Duke making an appearance on What's My Line? in 1958 shortly after the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Discord Over DOMA

It would appear there is not much I can say that will assuage Quin Hillyer over the Obama Administration's decision not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in federal court as evidenced by his most recent response to my previous rejoinder.

As such I will not dwell on our discord over DOMA except to make this observation. Given the vigor with which Hillyer has denounced my views on the subject (the original title of his previous post was "Is Goldstein Dishonest, or Obtuse?") I cannot help but wonder if he is more concerned about gay marriage being imposed by judicial fiat on all 50 states rather than President Obama's decision not to defend DOMA. I am not saying Hillyer isn't concerned about the constitutional implications of Obama's actions. Yet I am curious as to how he would react if Jeffrey Lord's scenario of President Sarah Palin instructing Attorney General Mark Levin not to defend Roe v. Wade and abortion rights in federal court came to pass.

With that let me turn to the more general subject of what happens when conservatives disagree with each other in public. Having read the feedback for both my posts and Hillyer's posts on DOMA there are some who think such discussion should be kept behind closed doors while others think we need to have it out in the open. It should come as no surprise that I am in agreement with the latter sentiment.

Disagreement over public matters is inevitable, unavoidable and not undesirable. Even amongst those who would under normal circumstances agree with one another on most public matters will sooner or later disagree on something. To not permit disagreement to come to the fore is fundamentally unnatural and is the first step towards totalitarianism. Conservatives engaging in debate and discussion is a good thing.

Of course, I am mindful of the fact that debate and discussion can (and often does) degenerate and deteriorate into an unhealthy game of one upmanship. Yet this should be used as a rationale to encourage rather than discourage debate and discussion. So when conservatives do feel the need to air their differences in public they should do so in the spirit of mutual respect and an openness to consider the other person's opinion. This doesn't mean minds will necessarily be changed but it can allow for an opportunity to view things in a different light.

As someone who has on more than one occasion found himself expressing a minority opinion amongst my fellow conservatives I do so with the understanding that they will find a way express their disagreement with me and I hope they will continue to do so. In that spirit I will endeavor to listen to their point of view. Hopefully, they will be prepared to hear me out as well. And if we can only agree to disagree then so be it.

Besides life would be pretty damn boring if all conservatives thought in exactly the same way.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Queen Qadaffi

Muammar Qadaffi is likening himself to Queen Elizabeth II.

The Libyan dictator said, "Queen Elizabeth has ruled longer than I have and nothing has happened to her, no one has bothered her."

Um, except that the Queen hasn't ordered the bombing of airplanes over Scotland or German discotheques let alone hired mercenaries to shoot her subjects in Trafalgar Square.

Nor would I exactly describe Libya as a constitutional monarchy. In fact, it was a monarchy that Qadaffi overthrew back in 1969.

Perhaps tomorrow Qadaffi will compare himself to the Dalai Lama.

The Not-So-Mighty Quin

To say that Quin Hillyer disliked my article on concurring with the Obama Administration's decision to discontinue defending the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court would be an understatement.

In fact, Hillyer e-mailed me beforehand to demand that I "correct/withdraw/amend it so as not to cause any more embarrassment." The embarrassment is his alone. Needless to say, I declined to do so. Besides Ross Kaminsky, another regular American Spectator contributor, liked the article. One article. Two opinions. Isn't America great?

Clearly, my article hit a raw nerve with Hillyer. Yet if you strip away all the sound and fury there is little in the way of substance to his objections. For instance, Hillyer writes, "Obama's decision ONLY affects Section 3 of DOMA. That's it." Yet consider what I wrote at the beginning of the article:

To be precise, Attorney General Eric Holder advised Congress that the Department of Justice will not defend Section 3 of DOMA, which defines marriage as "a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife."

So I'm not sure why Hillyer is slagging me over Section 3 of DOMA when I fact mentioned it. Perhaps he didn't get past reading the first sentence of my article. How else do you explain the following passage:

Secondly, as for the rest of DOMA, which is NOT at issue in the president's decision yesterday, it absolutely does leave the definition of marriage to the state and local level for purposes of state and local law, despite your ignorant claims to the contrary. What DOMA does is say that a state that does NOT wish to recognize a homosexual marriage of ANOTHER state, for purposes of its own state laws, is free not to do so. DOMA therefore PROTECTS state and local decision-making, rather than abuses it. This isn't a matter of opinion; it's fact. That's what the law does. You have utterly mis-described it. Your argument on grounds of federalism is therefore ass-backwards.

Well, I guess I can be grateful that Hillyer for his selective use of block letters. Yet I don't see how anything I've written warrants such vitriol. I simply asked why the federal government is in the business of defending marriage when it is a matter best settled at the state level whether through the legislative process (as is currently happening in Maryland) or through referenda (as was the case in Maine in November 2009). I simply don't see the need for federal involvement. Washington just gets in the way. So I reject Hillyer's assertion that "DOMA protects state and local decision-making" is a matter of fact rather than opinion and so does Bob Barr who calls DOMA a case of "one-way federalism":

It protects only those states that don't want to accept a same-sex marriage granted by another state. Moreover, the heterosexual definition of marriage for purposes of federal laws - including, immigration, Social Security survivor rights and veteran's benefits - has become a de facto club used to limit, if not thwart, the ability of a state to choose to recognize same-sex unions.

Let us not forget that Barr authored DOMA and has now come to regret what his creation unleashed. It's not everyday that a politician publicly repudiates his own legislation.

As for President Obama, one can certainly fault him for his decision especially in view of the fact his Administration spent the first half of his term defending DOMA. Yet this is certainly not the first time the Executive Branch has declined to defend a law in federal court. Back in November 1992 the first Bush Administration announced it wouldn't defend lawsuits brought against the federal government by cable operators against the "must-carry" regulation requiring cable operators to carry local programming. It is worth noting that the 41st President opposed the regulation and had vetoed the law enacting it but the veto was overturned by a Democratic controlled Congress. The Clinton Administration reversed the decision and would prevail in the Supreme Court against the cable operators. I don't deny that President Obama's decision with regard to DOMA is both highly unusual and was made for dubious reasons but he has precedent on his side.

In the final analysis, it is worth reminding Hillyer this isn't the end of the world. The Obama Administration's decision doesn't guarantee DOMA will be either repealed or struck down. But if it is repealed or struck down then look for a movement in Congress to either reintroduce DOMA under a different name or for renewed efforts in support of a constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage. Of course, if DOMA does outlast the Obama Administration then there's a good chance a Republican Administration will undo this measure. Life will go on.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Bloody Double Standard

At a rally in support of Wisconsin public sector unions in Boston Common yesterday, Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Michael Capuano told union supporters, "Every once in a while you need to get out on the streets and get a little bloody when necessary."

Now Capuano has since walked back his remarks. O.K. Fine. Yet this is the same Capuano who recently said, "Nothing wrong with throwing a coffee cup at someone if you're doing it for human rights." Ah yes, the ends justifies the means.

Of course, could you imagine the holy hell that would have been unleashed if Capuano had been a Republican Congressman who had told a Tea Party rally they needed to get out on the streets and get a little bloody? Capuano would have got the Paul Krugman treatment a la Michele Bachmann. Such treatment would have consisted of not placing Bachmann's "armed and dangerous" remarks in their proper context. But therein lies the difference between a Minnesota Republican and a Massachusetts Democrat.

It should be noted Capuano, who was bested by Martha Coakley for the Democratic Senate nomination last year, is being touted as a possible opponent for Scott Brown in 2012. It could get bloody interesting.

Nicholas Kristof's Curious Questions to Bahrain's King

Yesterday, Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times wrote a dispatch from Bahrain in which he posed these two questions to King Hamad:

Why is it any more appropriate for a minority Sunni population to rule over majority Shia than it was in South Africa for a minority white population to rule over a majority black population? What exactly is the difference?

Now I don't know what kind of fellow King Hamad is. But if I were wearing his robes I might reply to Kristof with a couple of questions of my own, "Why is it any more appropriate for a minority Sunni population to rule over majority Shia in Saddam Hussein's Iraq than it is in Bahrain? What exactly is the difference?"

Somehow I don't seem to recall Kristof ever likening minority Sunni rule in Saddam's Iraq to Apartheid-era South Africa. Frankly, the only difference I see between Bahrain and Iraq under Saddam Hussein was that the Bush Administration wasn't trying to oust the Khalifas. Yet I suspect if the Bush Administration had backed regime change in Bahrain, Kristof's support for Shiite majority rule would go out the window. Indeed, after U.S. and Coalition forces drove Saddam from power, Kristof was not so fond of Shiite majority rule in Iraq. In June 2003, Kristof warned, "An iron curtain of fundamentalism risks falling over Iraq."

Is Kristof unconcerned about an iron curtain of fundamentalism falling over Bahrain?

Lawyers: Don't get in trouble for using social media, take my CLE tomorrow

Read how lawyers have gotten into trouble using social media here. There are all kinds of ethical pitfalls for lawyers who delve into social media due to ethics rules.

Should you facebook friend a judge?

Can you blog about your clients if you disguise their names?

Can you add an opposing party or a potential juror as a friend on facebook in order to spy on them?

Can you solicit clients on Twitter?

Does your blog need advertising disclaimers?

If you answer a question on a social networking site that someone from another state asked, does that constitute the unauthorized practice of law if you are not licensed to practice law there?


Attend my seminar tomorrow to find out the answers to these and other ethical dilemmas.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Goldstein & Guardiano Unite Against Schlussel

Over the past several months, John Guardiano and I have had substantial disagreements over the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell as well as the political upheaval in Egypt.

Under normal circumstances, Guardiano and I would probably disagree on the time of day or if the sun was shining.

Then without warning came a Debbie Schlussel who has united us into the temporary, if awkward position of agreement. Last Thursday, Schlussel lambasted The American Spectator specifically over John's blog posts on the Lara Logan attack. But she also took me to task for a position that doesn't represent my point of view. Schlussel asserted that I made the claim that the thugs who attacked Logan were somehow linked to Mubarak. I have made no such claim and, in fact, it is yet another thing over which Guardiano and I have been in disagreement. Yet Schlussel's ignorance did not stop her from describing me as "a Kapo token Spectator Jew."

The following day I responded to Schlussel and said she ought to have the courtesy to actually read my posts before likening me to the Jews who were given administrative positions in Nazi concentration camps. I also indicated that I trusted she would correct the record. (As of this writing she has not done so.)

Yesterday Guardiano put forth his reply. Guardiano aptly titles his post, "Who is Debbie Schlussel?"

I am sure Guardiano and I will soon spar over something else. But it's nice to agree on something for a change.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Egypt to Allow Iranian War Ships to Cross Suez

To read this blog post please check out the AmSpec Blog.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Many Faces of Scott Walker

In the wake of his battle with public sector unions, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is now emerging as a national political figure.

So I guess the days of him being mistaken for the former NHL player who broke the hearts of Boston Bruins fans a couple of years ago or the man who sang lead on "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore" are now over.

Schlussel Jumps the Gun

Yesterday, Debbie Schlussel took The American Spectator to task for jumping the shark.

The focus of most of Schlussel's criticism was John Guardiano particularly with regard to his claim that 60 Minutes correspondent Lara Logan was sexually assaulted by "pro-Mubarak thugs."

Schlussel might be of the opinion that The American Spectator has jumped the shark. But then Schlussel proceeds to jump the gun when she sets her sights on yours truly:

As his proof that the 200 Muslims who attacked Logan were operatives of Mubarak, Guardiano cites some Kapo token Spectator Jew, Aaron Goldstein. Goldstein's "proof" that the attackers were Mubarak "thugs masquerading as protesters"? Well, he links to the terse CBS statement announcing the assault-a statement which says no such thing, doesn't mention Mubarak, and says absolutely nothing he claims.

If Ms. Schlussel is going to refer to me as "some Kapo token Spectator Jew" then she should do me the courtesy of actually reading what I have written. Not only have I not asserted that the thugs who attacked Logan were pro-Mubarak but I criticized Guardiano when he claimed they were. I also criticized Guardiano when he suggested pro-Mubarak forces produced anti-Semitic signs seen during the protests.

If Schlussel read The American Spectator with a little more diligence she would know that Guardiano and I have had quite a disagreement over what has transpired in Egypt. Guardiano has also been at odds with the likes of Ben Stein, Jed Babbin and Jim Antle here at The American Spectator as well.

As for me, if Schlussel so chooses she can find all my blog posts on Egypt here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here plus my posts concerning Logan here, here, here and here. And while she's at it she can also read my last three weekly articles here, here and here. Schlussel should then come to the unmistakable conclusion that I am not one who lectures his readers "from the Koran and the writings of Nicholas Kristof and Thomas Friedman."

And with that I trust Schlussel will correct the record.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Egypt, Islam, Barbarism & Democracy

What can I make of John Guardiano's latest salvo? Allow me to illustrate:

So it is simply inaccurate to try and indict Muslims and Islam for the attack on, and abuse of, Logan. Indeed, if Logan's assailants were "Muslims," then the Nazis were "Christians."

Nonetheless, Goldstein is determined, it seems, to find fault with the Egyptian people and with Islam. Thus he complains that I offer "no evidence" to show that the (sic) Egypt's pro-democracy protesters were, in fact, peaceful.

First, the idea that I am trying and indicting Muslims and Islam for the attack on Lara Logan is just daft. The religious background of Logan's assailants wasn't an issue until Guardiano made it one. My only response to his assertion was if Logan's assailants weren't Muslim one could also argue the people responsible for the September 11th attacks weren't Muslim either and indeed some people have.

Second, Guardiano asserts that I complain that he offered "no evidence to show that the (sic) Egypt pro-democracy protesters were, in fact, peaceful." I made no such argument. What I objected to was Guardiano not offering evidence to support his assertion that pro-Mubarak forces supplied anti-Semitic signs and were responsible for the attack on Logan. Guardiano can hide behind The New York Times to his heart's content. But neither Nick Kristoff nor Tom Friedman has claimed the anti-Semitic signs were produced and disseminated by pro-Mubarak forces as Guardiano has suggested. And at this point there's simply no evidence to support Guardiano's claim pro-Mubarak forces attacked Logan. I just wish Guardiano would refrain from making outrageous claims he either cannot or will not back up.

Third, at the risk of stating the obvious, Guardiano and I simply view the events in Egypt differently. Indeed, Guardiano has also taken Jim Antle, Jed Babbin and Ben Stein to task for their views on Egypt as well. Guardiano clearly views the events in Egypt as a watershed moment in Middle East history and no doubt they are. After all, if anyone had said on January 1, 2011 that Hosni Mubarak would be out of office in six weeks we would have looked at that person with a rather quizzical look. The difference is that Guardiano sees Egypt turning over a new leaf while I and others look at things more skeptically:

In short, liberal democracy gives people the opportunity to expose and discredit anti-Semitism and other bigotry. So although Egypt and the Middle East may be regressive in key respects now, they need not remain regressive forever and ever. Social progress, in fact, is a hallmark of liberal democracy.

Yet what does a secular liberal like Ayman Nour chose to talk about following his announcement that he will run for the Egyptian presidency? That the Camp David Accords with Israel are dead. If anti-Semitism isn't a strong force in Egyptian society then why would Nour bother raising Camp David in the first place? Because it will get him votes and in the grand scheme of things getting votes is more important to Nour than utilizing democracy to expose and discredit anti-Semitism and other bigotry. But if a secular liberal like Nour won't avail himself of the opportunity democracy gives to expose and discredit anti-Semitism and other bigotry then who will? Surely not the Muslim Brotherhood.

But let me put the possibility of Egypt rescinding the peace treaty with Israeland going to war with the Jewish State to the side for now. A few years ago, I criticized Dinesh D'Souza for calling Hamas and Hezbollah "champions of democracy." Well, it's easy to be in favor of democracy when you win an election or otherwise gain power. But it's not so easy to be in favor of democracy when you lose an election or otherwise lose power. One of the hallmarks of democracy is the peaceful transition of power from one party to another. Can anyone see the Muslim Brotherhood willingly relinquish power especially to a Coptic, secular or female head of state?

Clearly, Hosni Mubarak wore out his welcome with the Egyptian people. His time has come and gone. But it is far from a foregone conclusion things will get better for the Egyptian people. It would also be foolish for me and others to ignore the broader implications a post-Mubarak Egypt could have for the Middle East region and, of course, the national security of the United States. It will likely be years before we have a clear picture of life under a post-Mubarak Egypt. While future events in Egypt could persuade me to view things in a different light at the moment I am simply not encouraged by what has thus far transpired.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Who Attacked Lara Logan? Presbyterians?

In the headline of his most recent blog post at the AmSpec Blog, John Guardiano claims Lara Logan was attacked by "Pro-Mubarak Barbarians, Not Egyptian Muslims."

It should be noted that Guardiano previously asserted it was pro-Mubarak thugs who produced and carried anti-Semitic signs depicting Mubarak with a Star of David scrawled on his forehead without a shred of evidence to back it up.

As with his earlier accusation, Guardiano offers no evidence in support of his latest assertion. Sure, he offers us quotes from Nick Kristof and Tom Friedman from The New York Times as he has done previously but offers us nothing substantive arising from the actual incident in question.

Now if credible evidence does come to light that pro-Mubarak people were behind the attack on Lara Logan then so be it. I don't care if the people who attacked Logan are pro-Mubarak or anti-Mubarak. They're thugs all the same and they must pay for their crime.

Which brings me to the other half of Guardiano's headline. Now I did not comment on the religious background of Logan's attackers in either of my posts on the subject. In fact, I identify them as "Egyptian protesters". Nevertheless, Guardiano makes a point of stating Egyptian Muslims were not involved in the attack on Logan. When I read that my first thought was, "So who does Guardiano think attacked Lara Logan? Presbyterians?" But then I read this passage:

And these were not Muslims who did this (chapter 5, verse 2 of the Qur'an says: "do not let your hatred of a people incite you to aggression"). These were barbarians.

So by that logic one could argue that Muslims were not involved in the attacks of September 11, 2001. In fact, this sort of rubbish was advanced in the wake of 9/11. Consider the words of Egyptian born writer Nonie Darwish:

When I learned later that the leader of the 19 terrorists was Mohammed Atta, from a middle-class family from Cairo, I was devastated. I called my friends in Egypt. They all said: "Don't you know this is a Jewish conspiracy?" I could not believe the denial. For how long are we, the Arab people, going to accuse the Jewish people of everything we do wrong?

If Guardiano wants to stick up for Egyptian Muslims that is his business. But he sure isn't doing them any favors.

Egyptian Protesters Called Logan "Jew! Jew!"

When I wrote about the heinous sexual assault on Lara Logan yesterday I was not aware that her attackers were calling her "Jew! Jew!"

The fact that Logan is not Jewish only reinforces how deeply saturated anti-Semitism is in Egypt but demonstrates how little it takes for this ancient hatred to show its face even in the midst of jubilation. There are those who are content to downplay the manifestations of this behavior or dismiss its prevalence in Egyptian society. So be it. I cannot stop people from putting their heads in the sand.

As I have written here previously anti-Semitism was a part of Egyptian life under Mubarak and his regime most certainly tolerated it. But with Mubarak gone I think we will see anti-Semitism take a far more violent form as was the case with Logan. And with even Egyptian liberals like Ayman Nour calling for an end to the peace treaty with Israel he has effectively given the broadest possible legitimacy to these acts of barbarism. I'm afraid this is only the beginning.

Bieber Calls U.S. Health Care System "Evil"

Over at National Review Online, a couple of the bloggers on The Corner are going gaga over Justin Bieber.

First, it was Daniel Foster praising Bieber for his impersonation of President Obama on Conan last night. Truth be told it was pretty good.

Then a few hours later, Kathryn Jean Lopez got downright dreamy over Bieber because he told Rolling Stone, "I really don't believe in abortion."

However, in that same interview, the Canadian born teen idol who now resides in Atlanta was asked if he plans to become an American citizen. Bieber quipped, "You guys are evil," in reference to the health care system in the United States. He went to state:

We go to the doctor and we don't need to worry about paying him, but here, your whole life, you're broke because of medical bills. My bodyguard's baby was premature, and now he has to pay for it. In Canada, if you're baby is premature, he stays in the hospital as long as he needs to, and then you go home.

The Huffington Post praised the 16-year-old singer for making "a surprisingly astute observation." Quel surprise.

Now I know Bieber was using the term "evil" in a flippant, tongue-in-cheek manner. However, things aren't quite that simple. There is no free lunch. Now a patient might not directly pay a phyisician at the doctor's office but Canadian doctors are most certainly compensated for their services through the health care plans in the province in which they practice. For instance, a doctor who practices in Bieber's hometown of Stratford, Ontario is compensated by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) funded by the taxpayers in Ontario and by transfers from the Government of Canada. Of course, not all medical services are covered by OHIP. Thus health care in Canada is rationed.

Now as someone who lived in Canada for more than a quarter century, I can state unequivocally that the Canadian health care system has its virtues. But I can also unequivocally state the Canadian health care system has its shortcomings. One of the most significant problems are the waiting lists. They are a fact of life whether its in the emergency room, diagnostic procedures or for surgery.

So heaven forbid a premature infant should require paediatric heart surgery. And if that child lived in Stratford, he or she would have to wait 107 days for the procedure to be performed at the Stratford General Hospital. But what if that child can't wait 107 days? If the procedure could be performed in Detroit, Cleveland or Buffalo immediately you can bet that child's parents would move heaven and earth to get their child off Canadian soil. For all the U.S. health care system's faults, under those circumstances, I would hesitate to call it "evil."

But if Mr. Bieber considers the U.S. health care system so evil why doesn't he (or whoever handles his business affairs) provide his employees with health insurance?

Nour: Camp David is Dead

Ayman Nour, who has just declared his candidacy for the Egyptian presidency, went on Lebanese TV yesterday to declare the Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel are over. (H/T to John McCormack of The Weekly Standard.)

Oh goody!!!

Consider what I wrote a couple of weeks ago in my article "Why Israel Worries About a Post-Mubarak Egypt?":

Of course, there are the likes of Stephen Walt, the noted anti-Israel academic, who naturally downplays the adverse consequences of a sudden change of government in Egypt for Israel:

For starters, a post-Mubarak government is unlikely to tear up the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, because such a move would put it immediately at odds with the United States and Europe and bring Cairo few tangible benefits. Although ordinary Egyptians do feel strong sympathy for the Palestinians, the primary concern of those now marching in the streets is domestic affairs, not foreign policy.

I am not sure what makes Walt think a post-Mubarak Egypt, especially one where the Muslim Brotherhood plays a role, will give a damn about what the Obama Administration or the EU might think of its actions any more than Iran does. Besides, what happens if a new regime in Egypt, whether led by ElBaradei or someone else, cannot redress the primary concerns of those now marching in the streets any better than Mubarak? By Walt's own admission, ordinary Egyptians do feel strong sympathy for the Palestinians. Should a new Egyptian government be unable to address the domestic concerns of it populace, what card is it likely to play? Well, Muhammad Ghannem, a leading spokesperson for the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.K., says the people of Egypt "should be prepared for war against Israel."

Well, the post-Mubarak Egypt has begun and it doesn't even look like Nour is going to even try to solve its economic woes. Keep in mind that Nour is probably the closest thing Egypt has to a Western liberal. But if Nour thinks that talk about tearing up Camp David as the surest path to Egypt's presidency then heaven help us all.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Egyptian Constitutional Panel Excludes Copts & Women

Egypt's military has struck a committee to write a new constitution. The exercise is expected to complete in ten days and brought before the Egyptian people for a vote in two months.

While the panel includes a member of the Muslim Brotherhood there are scarcely any Coptic Christians on the committee while women have been left off the committee altogether.

The exclusion of Coptic Christians is particularly galling when one considers the New Year's Massacre of Copts in Alexandria which resulted in the deaths of 21 people. It seems the Egyptian military and the Muslim Brotherhood are determined to keep Coptic Christians even more marginalized in a post-Mubarak Egypt.

As to the exclusion of women, one must ask if the Muslim Brotherhood would have participated in the committee had a woman been named to it.

To paraphrase George Orwell it appears that some people are more equal than others in the post-Mubarak Egypt.

Logan Sexually Assaulted by Egyptian Protesters

This is just awful.

During the euphoria that followed the news of Hosni Mubarak's resignation last Friday, a bunch of thugs masquerading as protesters savagely beat and sexually assaulted 60 Minutes correspondent Lara Logan.

Logan was saved by a group of female protesters and Egyptian soldiers. Unfortunately, the damage was done. Logan has returned to the United States and as of this writing remains hospitalized. I wish her a speedy recovery.

Now I realize that most Egyptian protesters behaved in a peaceful manner but this simply cannot stand. The people who attacked Logan must be brought to justice and punished severely. If this fails to happen it will be a stain on the Egyptian protests.

Obama Needs to Shift Further on Iran

John Tabin at The American Spectator has praised President Obama for his newfound willingness to criticize the regime in Iran.

Like Tabin, I too wrote that President Obama could not "sit on the sidelines and let members of his Cabinet do the talking." Well, President Obama has talked about Iran and I will say that his remarks at today's White House Press Conference are an improvement over declaring he didn't want to be seen as "meddling" in Iran's affairs. But as I have also noted President Obama made three statements concerning Egypt in a period of fifteen days.

So will this be all President Obama has to say about Iran? Or will he continue to speak out if matters should escalate as they did in Egypt? And if matters do escalate will he call for free and fair elections which result in a government guided by democratic principles which responds to the aspirations of the Iranian people?

The bottom line is that while Obama questioned the legitimacy of Egypt's authoritarian regime he hasn't questioned the legitimacy of Iran's totalitarian regime. And until Obama does question the legitimacy of the Mullahs and Ahmadinejad's rule the jury will be out on Obama from where the Iranian people stand. Either Obama stands with Iran's people or he stands with Iran's regime. He cannot stand behind both. Obama must take sides and I am not completely confident he will take the right one.

Musial is Still "The Man"

I am glad Kristen Byrne over at The American Spectator reminded us that St. Louis Cardinals legend Stan "The Man" Musial is being bestowed with the Presidential Medal of Freedom this afternoon.

Every once in a great while, President Obama gets it right. Musial befits the term icon and is a true gentleman. He should have been so honored long ago. To give you an idea of the respect in which Musial is held, Cardinals superstar Albert Pujols agreed to extend his deadline for a contract extension by twenty-four hours. Pujols might be the best player in Major League Baseball but even in St. Louis King Albert takes a back seat to The Man.

Last November, Musial turned 90. In honor of Musial please check out what I wrote about my Dad's chance encounter with The Man at the Polo Grounds in 1955.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Few Words for Justin Bieber

So Justin Bieber is "upset" and "disappointed" that he did not win a Grammy last night.

Well, from one Canadian to another, I've got a few words for young Mr. Bieber.

I think you sent the wrong message to your fans because a bunch of them hacked Esperanza Spalding's Wikipedia page after she shockingly won the Grammy for Best New Artist. OK, I had never heard of Esperanza Spalding either. But surely you can't be cool with your fans dissing her. The very least you could do is to tell your fans to lighten up, give her a chance and listen to her music. That would be the gentlemanly thing to do.

You should also bear in mind that you're only sixteen. Chances are good that you will one day win a Grammy. But if you don't it won't be the end of the world. The Who, Led Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd are amongst the legendary rock n' roll acts who were never bestowed with a Grammy. That means you're in some pretty fine company.

Look kid. You're sixteen, the most popular person in the entire world, possibly the entire galaxy and you have an eighteen year-old girlfriend. You would be hard pressed to find a sixteen-year old boy on the planet who wouldn't trade places. So the next time you perform in concert before your screaming fans you should give a shout out to Joe Walsh and tell everyone, "Life's Been Good."

Learn how to make your article the #1 Google News result for that topic

Within a few minutes after I posted an article I wrote about the Patriot Act on my website, it showed up as the #1 result in a Google News search for "Patriot Act." How did I do this? Part of my social media secret is including a photo next to the article; Google News likes photos. Learn inside secrets like these you won't get anywhere else by registering for my social media seminar on Feb. 24th (or watch the video online later).


Happy Valentine's Day!




















Sunday, February 13, 2011

An Afternoon with Bernie Sanders

This afternoon I attended a talk given by Bernie Sanders, the socialist Senator from Vermont. Sanders was in the Boston area promoting his new book The Speech. The book mostly consists of the remarks Sanders made on the Senate floor last December during his filibuster against the tax cut compromise made by President Obama and the incoming Republican Congressional leadership. Sanders' address was essentially a condensed version of the filibuster.

Sanders' remarks took me back to my days with the New Democratic Party (NDP) in my native Canada. His words weren't substantially different from the speeches given over the years by various NDP politicians at which I was present.

Chief amongst Sanders concerns was "the collapse of the middle-class." So what were the signs of this apocalypse in progress? Sanders said the signs were the necessity of two income households, inadequate child care, the highest child poverty rate (it wasn't clear if he was talking about industrialized democracies or the entire world), incarcerating more people in America than in China (I think people in America and China are imprisoned for very different reasons), the decline of the manufacturing sector, outsourcing and the growing gap between the rich and the poor.

Well, Heavens to Betsy!!! What are we to do? Rest assured Sanders had a solution. He said that we had "to demand corporate America reinvest in this country." And by reinvestment, Sanders means infrastructure. While I don't dispute that there is room for improvement of our physical infrastructure do we really want to saddle taxpayers with a thousand Big Digs?

Sanders also delivered his share of red meat. Of course, it wasn't exactly red meat. This was a latte crowd after all who drank it up when Sanders said the War in Iraq was fought for oil. Sanders also claimed that Republicans have moved to the extreme right. (Of course, the Left has been saying this in earnest since 1964.) Now no left-wing gathering is complete without a strong whif of condescension. Sanders stated that "working-people who are hurting and are told the enemy of everything is government are being brainwashed." In other words, working-people who listen to Rush Limbaugh are too stupid to figure things out on their own because of the "concentration of corporate media." So what's the remedy? Sanders thinks there should be "a dozen Rachel Maddows." I would suggest that one is plenty.

Yet Sanders did catch my attention when he described our current state of affairs as a "fairly dismal political situation." There wasn't exactly a lot of talk about hope and change in Sanders' speech. Although Sanders took the Senate floor because President Obama made a compromise with GOP leaders, he otherwise scarcely mentioned the President. This was question begging.

While I was unable to pose a question to Sanders during the Q&A, I did speak with him briefly after the conclusion of his remarks. Given Sanders' bleak assessment I asked him if he thought President Obama would face either a Democratic primary challenger or an independent challenger on the Left. Sanders replied, "I wouldn't be surprised." But then he quickly added, "But I don't have the answer to that."

I did see a couple of people wearing a "Draft Bernie" sticker. For his part, Sanders has said he doesn't plan to make a bid for the White House but will seek re-election to the Senate in 2012. But the fact that it would come as no surprise to Sanders that President Obama could face a challenger from the Left (possibly within the Democratic Party) indicates to me that Obama hasn't made peace with the Left. While Obama has time to rectify the situation if he doesn't it could prove fatal to his re-election campaign. Thus over the coming months, I think it is worth our while to keep our eye on how the Left behaves towards Obama.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

New gold standard monetary policy site




The Intellectual Conservative welcomes to the World Wide Web the best gold standard monetary policy site we've ever seen, http://thegoldstandardnow.org, sponsored by the Lehrman Institute, chaired by a Commissioner of the Reagan Gold Commission and iconic Reaganite and conservative philanthropist Lewis E. Lehrman.

It's just a great place to learn everything you always wanted to know about the gold standard but were afraid to ask.

And while you are there feel free to sign up for its free breaking news about the gold standard. The gold standard is an issue -- constitutional money -- becoming a hot topic among conservatives in Washington and Tea Partiers around the whole country.

Musharraf Wanted for Bhutto Assassination

A court in Pakistan has issued an arrest warrant for former President Pervez Musharraf in connection with the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Musharraf has been ordered to appear in a Pakistani court on February 19th. He is currently living in exile in London.

Now one can make the argument that this warrant is motivated solely by politics. After all, Musharraf kept Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan's current President and Bhutto's widower in jail for years. To say there is bad blood between the Bhuttos and Musharraf would be an understatement.

One can also make the argument that this warrant is also a response to Musharraf's recent formation of a new political party last October. Musharraf clearly wants to be President of Pakistan again and this could threaten Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani and the Pakistan People's Party's hold on power.

Nevertheless something has always bothered me about Musharraf's behavior following Bhutto's assassination in December 2007. Shortly after Bhutto was killed, Musharraf was interviewed by Lara Logan on 60 Minutes and said, "I think it was she to blame alone - nobody else. Responsibility is hers." So does Musharraf mean to tell us the 24 other people who were killed by the suicide bomb was detonated during Bhutto's assassination are solely responsible for their deaths as well?

The fact that Musharraf would absolve the people who intended to kill Bhutto is very disturbing indeed. How does one explain such callousness? There are several possibilities. It is possible that Musharraf simply did not care about Bhutto's fate. If she died then so be it. It is also possible that Musharraf wanted Bhutto killed. If that is the case then it is possible that Musharraf had planned to kill Bhutto, had knowledge of what was going to happen or had otherwise played an indirect role in facilitating her death (i.e. providing inadequate security for Bhutto or instructing security to not be at its most diligent in carrying out its duties.) Naturally, I am curious as to what evidence (if any) Pakistani authorities have with regard to Musharraf's involvement in Bhutto's assassination.

Now I don't think anything is going to happen anytime soon. Musharraf has indicated he plans to return to Pakistan for its next elections in 2013. We'll see if Musharraf is arrested when his plane lands on Pakistani soil.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Chuck Tanner, 1929-2011. R.I.P.

Longtime former major league manager Chuck Tanner has passed away at the age of 81.

Tanner is best known for guiding the Pittsburgh Pirates to their last World Series title in 1979. This was the "We Are Family" Pirates which included the likes of the late Willie Stargell, Dave Parker, Omar Moreno, Kent Tekulve and the Cooperstown bound Bert Blyleven.

The Pirates hired Tanner in a most unusual way. Prior to the 1977 season, Oakland A's owner Charlie Finley offered Tanner's services along with $100,000 to the Pirates in exchange for catcher Manny Sanguillen. Ironically, the A's would trade Sanguillen back to Pittsburgh the following season and would earn a World Series ring with the rest of the family in 1979.

Tanner would remain with the Bucs through the 1985 season although they never replicated their triumph of '79. He then managed the Atlanta Braves for three forgettable seasons. Prior to managing in Pittsburgh, Tanner had also managed the Chicago White Sox from 1970-1975 and the A's during the '76 season. In all, Tanner managed in the big leagues for nearly two decades. Tanner also played in the big leagues for eight seasons as an outfielder with the Milwaukee Braves, Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians and the Los Angeles Angels.

In more recent years, Tanner had worked in the front office of the Indians before returning to Pittsburgh in 2007 as a special advisor to Pirates GM Neal Huntington.

Tanner was held in high regard by his players. Former big league infielder Mike Andrews said of Tanner in a 2002 interview, "If you couldn't play for Chuck Tanner you couldn't play for anybody." Andrews, who now serves as the Chairman of the Jimmy Fund, also described Tanner as "the most positive person I have ever met."

As Ronald Reagan said, "Not bad. Not bad at all."

Mubarak Resigns; Leaves Cairo

It appears that Hosni Mubarak has resigned as President of Egypt as he has left Cairo.

When Mubarak announced on February 1st that he would not seek another term in office in September I asked, "Do you think Egyptians are prepared to put up with Mubarak for six more days much less six more months?"

O.K., it was ten days. But you get my point.

So now comes the $64.37 question. Will it be enough to mollify the people of Egypt until elections are held?

Does anyone think it's a bad omen Mubarak leaves office 32 years to the day the Shah of Iran left office?

Ahmadinejad Praises Egyptian Uprisings While Cracking Down on Iran's Opposition

Today, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad marked the 32nd anniversary of the Iranian Revolution by praising the uprisings in Egypt.

Of course, Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs have no such tolerance for demonstrations in their streets. Opposition leaders had requested permission to demonstrate on February 14th (ostensibly in support of Egyptian demonstrators). Not only has the opposition been denied their application but their leaders and key supporters have been placed under arrest as well as blocking their websites.

It should be noted that State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley did take Iran to task for their "hypocrisy" on this matter. Yet it must also be noted there is a hypocrisy within the Obama Administration on this matter. Why do they support regime change in Egypt but not in Iran?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Trump Card

Despite his appearance before CPAC today, I don't know if Donald Trump will throw his hat into the GOP Presidential race. No one will until June.

Of course, if he does it will make things very interesting. A Trump candidacy offers both advantages and disadvantages.

Advantage #1: Trump is already a household name and has been for at least a quarter century. He isn't someone like Tim Pawlenty who is still trying to build name recognition outside of Minnesota.

Advantage #2: When people think of Trump they think of a successful businessman. If the economy is still in the doldrums in 2012 his candidacy could prove to be an attractive one. Should Trump seek the GOP nomination he could potentially cancel out Mitt Romney. Unlike Romney, Trump didn't initiate mini-Obamacare and never said "mandates are good."

Advantage #3: Trump isn't a shrinking violet. He'll go toe to toe with Obama. The presidential debates could be a lot of fun. Trump plays for keeps. I'm not sure if someone like Mike Huckabee is willing to get down and dirty with Obama.

Advantage #4: Money!!! Even if Trump doesn't win the GOP nomination he has the resources to launch an independent run for President.

Disadvantage #1: One thing Trump has in common with Obama is they are both very thin skinned. When Trump gets challenged he can be quite unpleasant as he was with Bill O'Reilly during his feud with Rosie O'Donnell. That might not work so well in an interview with someone like Diane Sawyer or Katie Couric.

Disadvantage #2: The Donald isn't exactly likable. While President Obama's policies aren't popular the President still is. If in 18 months time, people are more at ease with Obama then Trump then Obama calls the White House home for another four years.

However, this isn't necessarily insurmountable. If Trump can convince people there is difference between being liked and being respected and that he wants the respect of the American people (and by extension greater respect for America from abroad) then he could overcome Obama's appeal.

Disadvantage #3: Can you see Trump trudging through the snows of Iowa and New Hampshire, eating in diners and sleeping in the homes of his supporters? I can't.

Disadvantage #4: Trump is more left-wing than Obama on foreign policy and defense. Let's not forget he was more pessimistic about the War in Iraq than Harry Reid and accused President Bush about lying about WMDs and "everything." This is also the same man who said, "Saddam Hussein will be a nice person compared to the person who takes over." Anyone who uses Saddam Hussein and nice person in the same sentence should give one pause.

If it's Trump vs. Obama (and that's a very big if) it will be a case of me casting a ballot against Obama rather than for Trump. I hope it's not a choice we have to face in November 2012.

A Clapper Caper

I am in agreement with Jeffrey Lord when he says James Clapper should resign as Director of National Intelligence.

The Muslim Brotherhood is "largely secular"?

Perhaps Clapper will soon declare that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad isn't anti-Semitic.

I can only imagine what Sgt. Joe Friday would have thought of the absurdity of it all.

Egyptian Tea & Kool-Aid

Yesterday, John Guardiano told us criticizing the Egyptian protesters for anti-Semitism was akin to accusing Tea Party activists of racism.

Today, Guardiano claims the origins of the anti-Semitic signs are in doubt:

Indeed, for all we know, these relatively few anti-Semitic signs were produced by pro-Mubarak thugs determined to discredit the protesters in the eyes of the Western media.

Evidence please.

In the meantime, I'm still waiting for Guardiano to answer Jim Antle's question to how the United States should support liberal democratic principles and modernizing institutions in Egypt.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Egyptian Tea?

Instead of answering Jim Antle's eminently reasonable question as to how the United States should support liberal democratic principles and modernizing institutions in Egypt, John Guardiano takes the easy way out.

Now it seems that criticizing anti-Semitic behavior of Egyptian protesters is akin to accusing Tea Party activists of racism. Guardiano writes:

Indeed, the Left discovers within the Tea Party movement a few wholly unrepresentative instances of questionable racial rhetoric and racially-tinged signs; and it declares that the Tea Party is racist and animated by a hatred of black people. This is not true, of course, as anyone familiar with the Tea Party movement knows.

Yet Guardiano seems to step back from his assertion scarcely three paragraphs later:

Now, the analogy is inexact because anti-Semitism is, in fact, widespread in Egypt and the Middle East. By contrast, in America -- and certainly within the Tea Party movement -- racism has been marginalized.

Not only is Guardiano's analogy inexact, it's downright specious. He's comparing apples with zucchini. As I have noted here previously, 95% of Egyptians questioned in a 2009 Pew Research Survey have a negative attitude towards Jews and Israel. Anti-Semitism is such a powerful force in Egyptian life (and indeed throughout much of the Arab and Muslim world) that it cannot be swept under the rug. Guardiano is more than welcome to check out its prevalence.

Let's put it this way. If one were to display an anti-Semitic sign in public in Egypt it would not be cause for ostracism. Rather it would be an expression of mainstream opinion. Yet if one were to display a racist sign in public in the United States that person is sure to be shunned and deservedly so. Outside of rape and murder, racism is the worst thing one can be accused of in the United States.

I don't deny for a moment that the Mubarak regime is authoritarian and does not have a great history of tolerating non-violent dissent. I don't deny for a moment that there are activists in Egypt who would like a Western style representative, secular democracy. But we also must not deny the Muslim Brotherhood is better organized than the secular forces in Egypt. And we also cannot deny that anti-Semitism is a significant force in Egypt and that force could be manifested into a regime prepared to find common cause with America's enemies (i.e. al Qaeda and Iran), end peace with Israel and go to war with the Jewish State. If the Obama Administration is hell bent on regime change in Egypt they had better damn well know what they will be getting after Mubarak is gone. Otherwise, America could pay a very heavy price.

It's all the more reason for John Guardiano to tell us how the United States can help Egyptian democracy activists not aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood to articulate liberal democratic principles and build modern institutions in their country. I am eager to hear his suggestions.

Jeff Jacoby Gets It Right on The Muslim Brotherhood

I would strongly recommend reading Jeff Jacoby's magnificent column in The Boston Globe today on The Muslim Brotherhood.

When you consider the effort being made to minimize the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt by the likes of Stephen Walt, Tariq Ramadan and, perhaps most notably, Mohammed ElBaradei; Jacoby's words shatter any illusion of moderation or prudence or efficacy for liberal democracy as we understand it on the part of the Muslim Brotherhood:

If Egypt is to have any hope of a transition to a genuine constitutional democracy, the Muslim Brotherhood must not be treated as a legitimate democratic partner. For more than 80 years, it has been a fervent exponent of Islamic, not secular, rule; of clerical, not democratic, sovereignty. Its credo could hardly be more explicit, or more antidemocratic: "Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Koran is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.''

The Muslim Brotherhood's supreme leader has publicly called for raising young "mujaheddin'' - holy warriors - "who love to die as much as others love to live and who can perform their duty towards their God, themselves and homeland.'' This week, senior Brotherhood figure Kamal al-Halbavi said his wish for Egypt is "a good government like the Iranian government, and a good president like Mr. Ahmadinejad, who is very brave.''

Democracy is flexible, but even in the best of circumstances it is incompatible with religious totalitarianism. What the Muslim Brotherhood seeks is the very antithesis of democratic pluralism and a free civil society. Egypt's friends must say so, clearly and emphatically.

For those of you who are eager to see Mubarak leave office immediately please be careful for what you wish because you just might get it.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Please See Iranium

Tonight I had the opportunity to see Iranium, a documentary about the Iranian regime and its apocalyptic intentions towards the United States, Israel and the entire world.

Should this documentary come to your community please take an hour out of your life to see it. If it doesn't come to your community then you can watch it online here for a limited time. You can also order the film on DVD. Iranium features amongst others former UN Ambassador John Bolton, Cliff May and Professor Bernard Lewis.

Make no mistake. This isn't light entertainment. It is very sobering. Yet it is a story that must be told. I get the sense that while many people understand the Iranian regime is brutal to its own people. However, I also get the sense a lot of people don't think Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs are actually prepared to use nuclear weapons against Israel, the United States or anyone else. If Iranium doesn't convince you of the evil the Iranian regime then nothing will.

For their part, the Iranian regime is spooked about this film. Last month, I wrote about how the Iranian regime tried to prevent Iranium from being shown in Canada. What the Iranians didn't count on was the intervention of James Moore, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, who ordered the National Library and Archives of Canada to show the film. While at tonight's screening I learned that Iranium was shown in Ottawa this past Sunday to a capacity crowd.

Following the screening, we heard from two Iranian exiles - Siavash Sartipi and Parya Ahangari. Both are involved with the Confederation of Iranian Students. During the Q&A, I asked Sartipi if he was perplexed and puzzled that the Obama Administration seems to want regime change in Egypt but not in Iran. Sartipi replied that he was perplexed and puzzled as to why Obama is not prepared to "meddle" in Iran but prepared to do so in Egypt. He certainly isn't the only one.

I'll say it once more. Please see Iranium.

Egyptian Anti-Semitism

It seems that John Guardiano doesn't take kindly to me drawing attention to the anti-Semitic imagery being put to use by some of the protesters in Egypt:

Aaron Goldstein discovers some examples of anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli sentiment amid the hundreds of thousands of Egyptian protesters and declares that, voilĂ ! -- the protesters "hold Israel responsible for their lot in life under Mubarak."

Well, here's what I actually wrote, "If Egyptian protesters consider Mubarak a tool of Israel is it really a stretch that to think these protesters hold Israel responsible for their lot in life under Mubarak?"

I am simply asking a question. As someone who is vocally supporting this movement in Egypt, Guardiano should be all for asking questions. If some of the Egyptian protesters have no qualms about the use of anti-Semitic imagery then why is it so unreasonable to ask about the public manifestation of these attitudes? I don't know why Guardiano is so troubled by this question.

Alas, Guardiano is content to dismiss the anti-Semitism of some of the protesters. Why? Because The New York Times says so. OK, maybe Nicholas Kristof saw only one anti-Semitic sign. Well, he can take a look at these others. Somehow I find it hard to believe there aren't more where those came from.

There's More Than One Way to Sing Our National Anthem

I am glad Quin Hillyer drew our attention to Mark Corallo's column on Christina Aguilera and The Star Spangled Banner.

However, unlike Quin I did not find Corallo's words to be Ruthian in their proportion. While Babe Ruth may have hit 714 homeruns he also struck out 1,330 times in his career. In this instance, I think Corallo swung and missed:

So, with all the kindness I can muster, I give this one piece of advice to the next pop star who is asked to sing the national anthem at a sporting event: save the vocal gymnastics and the physical gyrations for your concerts. Just sing this song the way you were taught to sing it in kindergarten - straight up, no styling. Sing it with the constant awareness that there are soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines watching you from bases and outposts all over the world. Don't make them cringe with your self-centered ego gratification. Sing it as if you are standing before a row of 86-year-old WWII vets wearing their Purple Hearts, Silver Stars and flag pins on their cardigans and you want them to be proud of you for honoring them and the country they love - not because you want them to think you are a superstar musician. They could see that from the costumes, the makeup and the entourages.

But such an argument assumes that all Americans are taught the "Star Spangled Banner" in exactly the same way. As I pointed out here yesterday, Aguilera has been singing our national anthem at sporting events for two decades. Given that Aguilera essentially sings our anthem the same way at 30 as she did at 10 there is every reason to believe this is exactly how she was taught to sing it in kindergarten. Until Aguilera made her unfortunate gaffe at Super Bowl XLV I doubt any WWII veteran went to the trouble of complaining about how she interpreted the song.

Which brings me to this point. Corallo's argument also implies there is only one way to sing "The Star Spangled Banner" and that any deviation from said way is akin to defaming our men and women in uniform. Yet our veterans aren't a monolithic bloc. While our soldiers fight for a common cause it doesn't mean they always march to the same tune. Any true lover of music knows there is no one exact way to interpret a piece of music. Of course, the general public might accept one version of the same song over another. But to suggest that other interpretations of our national anthem are out of bounds is contrary to the nature of making music.

My favorite versions of "The Star Spangled Banner" are the ones done by artists who experimented with the arrangements. First and foremost, there was Jose Feliciano's performance prior to Game 5 of the 1968 World Series at Tiger Stadium. Feliciano recalled nearly forty years later how the anger at his performance damaged his music career. But it must have made an impression on Marvin Gaye. He had sung the anthem prior to the Game 3 of the '68 Series and had done it the "proper way." A year before his untimely death, Gaye sung a memorable version of "The Star Spangled Banner" prior to the 1983 NBA All-Star Game at The Forum in Inglewood, California. While Feliciano received a decidedly mixed reaction in Detroit, the audience in Southern California was clapping along with Gaye.

But perhaps my favorite of all was Smokey Robinson's rendition prior to Game 5 of the 1986 World Series at Boston's Fenway Park. Robinson beautifully and seamlessly incorporated "America The Beautiful" into the anthem. The idea that Jose Feliciano, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson or for that matter, Christina Aguilera set out to offend members of the U.S. military with their interpretation of "The Star Spangled Banner" is just plain silly.

Olbermann's Future at Current TV

Now that Keith Olbermann will become the face of Current TV what will become of his future?

Matthew Harrigan of Wunderlich Securities predicts a bright one for Olbermann stating his presence on the network (which was co-founded by former Vice-President Al Gore) could increase its ratings tenfold. But is that really saying very much? By Harrigan's own numbers, Current TV currently draws 20,000 to 30,000 viewers in primetime. So let's say Harrigan is correct and Olbermann boosts the network's ratings to 300,000 viewers. Well, Bill O'Reilly typically draws ten times as many viewers.

Olbermann will probably end up being to Current TV what Dan Rather is to HDNet. Both will toil in relative obscurity.

Well, at least, I can take solace that the onetime pre-game host for Fox Saturday Baseball won't be on the MLB Network.

I Hate to be Cavalier But....

Things aren't going so well for the Cleveland Cavaliers since King LeBron James left his court.

Less than two years removed from the NBA Final, the Cavaliers have amassed an NBA record 25 consecutive losses after falling 99-96 to the Dallas Mavericks last night.

The previous mark for consecutive losses was set during the 1981-82/1982-83 seasons by, you guessed it, the Cleveland Cavaliers who lost 24 consecutive games. The late Chuck Daly, who went to far greater success with the Detroit Pistons and the 1992 U.S. Olympic Dream Team, was the head coach for part of that losing streak.

You know things are bad in Cleveland when people starting looking forward to the Indians breaking camp for spring training. Well, sort of.

Monday, February 7, 2011

More Conservative Pessimism in Egypt

To read this post please check out the AmSpec Blog.

In Defense of Christina Aguilera

There's no denying that when one mangles up "The Star Spangled Banner" and does so in front of a worldwide audience you are going to draw attention to yourself for all the wrong reasons.

Yet I think it's grossly unfair to mention Christina Aguilera's flawed rendition of our national anthem in the same breath with Roseanne Barr who intentionally dissed Francis Scott Key in San Diego more than twenty years ago.

It is worth noting that Aguilera has sung "The Star Spangled Banner" on other occasions including Game 7 of the NBA Final without incident. In fact, she's been singing the national anthem at sporting events since she was 11-years old. So when Aguilera says she "lost her place" I believe her.

It's not unheard of for singers to forget the lyrics to their own songs. Paul McCartney admits as much. Indeed, when I saw McCartney perform in Boston in 2005 he forgot the lyrics to "I Will". He just stopped cold right in the middle of the song. But the former Beatle addressed the matter with good humor stating, "Well, at least you know it's live."

Granted, you can't do that with "The Star Spangled Banner." Aguilera had little other choice but to finish the song and apologize for it later. The best remedy would be if Aguilera gets a chance to sing the "Star Spangled Banner" at a big event as soon as possible (i.e. Opening Day at Fenway Park). Or perhaps she could redeem herself at Super Bowl XLVI.

In the meantime, let's cut Christina Aguilera some slack. Besides how many singers can hold their own with Tony Bennett?

Lupica Spouts Nonsense About Palin & Egypt

I have just read Mike Lupica's snarky column in the New York Daily News with regard to Sarah Palin's statements on the political situation in Egypt.

Lupica, who is best known as a baseball writer, lambasted Palin's interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network which is set to air on the 700 Club today. He writes, "So Palin showed up on CBN to weigh in on Egypt, maybe because she thought all the real news outlets were taken." Well, I guess this will earn Lupica a few more invitations from the limosuine liberal and champagne socialist set on the Upper West Side. But let's consider this sentence:

She also questions the motives of the people in the street, the ones whose courage will make Egypt a better place when this is all over, whoever is in charge next month, or next fall.

Suffice it to say, I think Lupica swings and misses on this point. How can Lupica say with absolute certainty that Egypt will be a better place when this is all over? How can Lupica say with absolute certainty that this will be over in a month or in nine months? And how can he assume with absolute certainty that Mubarak's successor will be an improvement? If anything Lupica reminds me of Andrew Young. When Young was our Ambassador to the United Nations he referred to the Ayatollah Khomeini as "some kind of saint." And then his regime took U.S. embassy personnel in Tehran hostage.

So under the circumstances I think Sarah Palin is being absolutely prudent when she states, "We want to be able to trust those who are screaming for democracy there in Egypt, that it is a true sincere desire for freedoms." Palin would like to hope that Egypt will be a better place than it is now but she cannot be certain it will turn out that way. Now there are certainly demonstrators who want a liberal, secular democracy in Egypt. But when you consider that the demonstrators are more apt to hold signs of Mubarak with a Star of David drawn on his forehead than build a replica of the Statue of Liberty it ought to make the Mike Lupicas of the world pause for thought.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Mr. Rodgers' Neighborhood

And the Cheeseheads are ecstatic.

Congratulations to the Green Bay Packers for winning their first Super Bowl in fourteen years with a 31-25 victory over the Pitttsburgh Steelers.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was named Super Bowl XLV MVP as he threw three touchdowns and passed for over 300 yards. Lambeau Field is now Mr. Rodgers' Neighborhood. I'm sure the Packers faithful are also asking, "Brett Who?"

Yet I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the performance of the Steelers. Despite being down 21-3 with 2:24 in the 2nd quarter, the Steelers fought back and were in the game until its final minute. They have nothing for which to be ashamed.

Of course, a lot of people watch the game for the commercials. My favorite? The Stella Artois commercial with Adrien Brody as a crooner. It had a European film noir art house quality to it.

Thoughts on Obama-O'Reilly Interview

I just watched Bill O'Reilly's interview with President Obama on the Superbowl pre-game show.

The only time O'Reilly really pressed Obama was on who he thought would win the Super Bowl. While O'Reilly did question Obama about Egypt and Obamacare, the President spun O'Reilly's questions like Ben Roethlisberger spirals a football. Obama stayed on message and O'Reilly did not challenge Obama's assertions such as when the President reiterated that "if you like your health care, you keep it." Tell that to employees of McDonald's.

While the interview was part of the Super Bowl pre-game show a more apt setting would have been before a softball game because O'Reilly most asked softball questions (i.e. What's the worst part of your job? What has surprised you most about the job? How have you changed as a person?). Katie Couric or Matt Lauer could have just as easily asked those questions. Now I'm not looking for O'Reilly to yell in Obama's face. I just wish he would have challenged Obama's talking points more assertively.

I should note that O'Reilly mentioned at the end of the interview that he would be asking the President more questions which will air tomorrow night on The O'Reilly Factor. Perhaps he'll be tougher in that segment but he certainly won't have the audience that he did this afternoon. I think President Obama got what he wanted out of this interview.

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Google Honors JFK, Snubs Reagan

On January 20th, Google marked the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's inauguration.

Today, on the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth, I looked at the Google front page and....nothing.

In the grand scheme of things you could say it's no big deal. But given Google's overarching presence on the web it does make one wonder about its selectivity in comemorating significant events in American history. Let's consider Google's criteria for its doodles:

Who chooses what doodles will be created and how do you decide which events will receive doodles?

A group of Googlers regularly get together to decide the events and holidays that will receive doodles. The ideas for the doodles themselves are gathered from numerous sources including Googlers and the general public. The doodle selection process aims to celebrate interesting events and anniversaries that reflect Google's personality and love for innovation. We are aware that the list of doodles is not exhaustive, but we try to select doodles that show creativity and innovation.

So the 50th anniversary of JFK's inauguration is an interesting event and anniversary that reflects Google's personality and love for innovation but the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth isn't?

Of course, Google would argue that they can't comemorate everything but it is quite curious that they would choose to pay homage to a beloved Democratic President but choose not to pay homage to a beloved Republican President a little over two weeks later.

Reagan & Baseball

Perhaps the most pivotal decision Ronald Reagan made as a young man was to heed Horace Greeley's advice to, "Go west, young man."

In 1937, at the age of 26, Reagan went to California with the goal of breaking into the motion picture business. Reagan achieved his goal when he signed a seven-year contract with Warner Brothers after an audition. Over the next four decades, this journey would take him from Hollywood to Sacramento and, of course, to the White House.

What is most notable about Reagan's life changing decision was that he didn't seek fame and fortune in California because he was down on his luck. Far from it. Reagan had made a name for himself in the Midwest in radio, most notably as a broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs. In fact, when Reagan went for his audition he was accompanying the team to spring training.

If Reagan hadn't secured a spot with Warner Brothers or any other studio it is quite possible he would have gone on to become one of the greatest baseball broadcasters of all time. Reagan's name would have been up there with Red Barber, Mel Allen, Ernie Harwell, Vin Scully and Harry Caray.

A few months before leaving office, Reagan was honored at Wrigley Field. After throwing out the ceremonial first pitch, Reagan joined Caray in the broadcast booth to cover the action between the Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates. (As you might expect, the Cubs lost 10-9.) Then after leaving White House, Reagan shared the broadcast booth with Scully for an inning during the 1989 All-Star Game in Anaheim. Reagan was on hand to call Kansas City Royals outfielder Bo Jackson golf a Rick Reuschel pitch for a monstrous homerun to straight away centerfield.

Here's something you should know about the early days of radio in baseball. There was a lot of resistance to it. Baseball owners thought that if games were broadcast on radio no one would actually come out to the ballpark to see the game. To give you an idea of how ambivalent baseball owners were about radio back then the broadcasters were not actually at the ballpark. Rather they would call the game from a remote location and rely on a ticker tape for the play by play. Color commentary was left to the imagination. Reagan was certainly no exception. He called Cubs games on WHO radio in Des Moines, Iowa.

Suffice it to say, the ticker tape didn't always work as it should and Reagan had to rely on his wit as was the case one afternoon when the Cubs were playing the archrival St. Louis Cardinals who had Dizzy Dean pitching and a unusually long at bat by Cubs shortstop Billy Jurges. Well, I'll let Reagan tell the story as he told it during a White House Luncheon for Members of the Baseball Hall of Fame on March 27, 1981:

What isn't in the record book is Billy Jurges staying at the plate, I think, the longest of any ballplayer in the history of the game. I was doing the games by telegraphic report, and the fellow on the other side of the window wa a little slit underneath, the headphones on, getting the dot-and-dash Morse code from the ballpark, would type out the play. And the paper would come through to me - it would say,"S1C." Well, you're not going to sell any Wheaties yelling "S1C!" (Laughter) So, I'd say, "And so-and-so comes out of the wind-up, here's the pitch, and it's called a strike, breaking over the outside corner to so-and-so, who'd rather have a ball someplace else and so forth and backed out there."

Well, I saw him start to type, and I started-Dizzy Dean was on the mound - and I started the ball on the way to the plate - or him in the wind-up and he, Curly, the fellow on the other side, was shaking his head, and I thought he just - maybe it was a miraculous play or something. But when the slip came through it said, "The wire's gone dead." Well, I had the ball on the way to the plate. (Laughter) And I figured out real quick, I could say we'll tell them what had happened and then play transcribed music. But in those days there were at least seven or eight other fellows that were doing the same ball game. I didn't want to lose the audience.

So, I thought real quick. "There's one thing that doesn't get in the score book," so I had Billy foul one off. And I looked at Curly, and Curly went just like this; so I had him foul another one. And I had foul one back third base and described the fight between the two kids that were trying to get the ball. (Laughter) Then I had him foul one that just missed being a home run, about a foot and a half. And I did set a world record for successive fouls or for someone standing there, except that no one keeps records of that kind. And I was beginning to sweat, when Curly sat up straight and started typing, and he was nodding his head, "Yes." And the slip came through the window, and I could hardly talk for laughing, because it said, "Jurges popped out on the first ball pitch." (Laughter)

Only three days after relaying this anecdote, Reagan took a bullet that just missed his heart. No doubt his good spirits which rested on a foundation of wonderful memories such as the one described contributed to his swift recovery.

There's no doubt in my mind that Reagan looked back on his broadcasting days with the Cubs with tremendous fondness and had he not made it in Hollywood he would have enjoyed a Hall of Fame career as the voice of the Cubs.

But then who would have assured us we have a rendezvous with destiny? Who would have dared called the Soviet Union an evil empire? And who would have told Mr. Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall?

On the 100th anniversary of his birth, I think it is safe to say that America is grateful he passed that audition.