Sunday, September 08, 2013
The Australian election
Conservatives have just had a huge win in Australia's Federal election. Romney would have had a similar win but for the rusted-on vote of America's two big minorities. There are no such big minorities in Australia.
The picture below shows voting in Australia. Australians just use pencil and paper in temporary carboard cubicles. No voting machines so no hanging chads, no accusations of the machines being "fixed" and easy recounts. And results were known within a couple of hours of the polls closing.
Elections in Australia are also less hectic. They are on Saturdays when most people are not working. And if you turn up to vote mid-morning there are usually no lines of people waiting to vote. I had no wait at all.
Why America Is Saying 'No'
Peggy Noonan is pretty right below but at the same time I don't think it would go amiss to drop a large bomb on Bashir Assad's Presidential Palace
It is hard, if you've got a head and a heart, to come down against a strong U.S. response to Syria's use of chemical weapons against its civilian population. This is especially so if you believe that humanity stands at a door that leads only to darkness. Those who say, “But Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons—the taboo was broken long ago,” are missing the point. When Saddam used gas against the Kurds it was not immediately known to all the world. It was not common knowledge. The world rued it in retrospect. Syria is different: It is the first obvious, undeniable, real-time, YouTubed use of chemical weapons. The whole world knew of it the morning after it happened, through horrified, first-person accounts, from videos of hospital workers and victims' families.
The world this time cannot “not know,” or claim not to know. And though Bashar Assad has made his pro forma denials, it does not seem believable that this was not a government operation. Assad's foes may or may not be wicked enough to use such weapons, but it is hard to believe they are capable.
When something like this happens and the world knows and does not respond, you won't get less of it in the future, you'll get more. And the weapons will not only be chemical.
So the question: What to do?
After 10 days of debate in Europe and America, the wisest words on a path forward have come from the Pope. Francis wrote this week to Vladimir Putin, as the host of the G-20. He damned “the senseless massacre” unfolding in Syria and pleaded with the leaders gathered in St. Petersburg not to “remain indifferent”—remain—to the “dramatic situation.” He asked the governments of the world “to do everything possible to assure humanitarian assistance” within and without Syria's borders.
But, he said, a “military solution” is a “futile pursuit.”
And he is right. The only strong response is not a military response.
The world must think—and speak—with stature and seriousness, of the moment we're in and the darkness on the other side of the door. It must rebuke those who used the weapons, condemn their use, and shun the users. It must do more, in concert—surely we can agree on this—to help Syria's refugees. It must stand up for civilization.
But a military strike is not the way, and not the way for America.
Francis was speaking, as popes do, on the moral aspects of the situation. In America, practical and political aspects have emerged, and they are pretty clear.
The American people do not support military action. A Reuters-Ipsos poll had support for military action at 20%, Pew at 29%. Members of Congress have been struck, in some cases shocked, by the depth of opposition from their constituents. A great nation cannot go to war—and that's what a strike on Syria, a sovereign nation, is, an act of war—without some rough unity as to the rightness of the decision. Widespread public opposition is in itself reason not to go forward.
Can the president change minds? Yes, and he'll try. But it hasn't worked so far. This thing has jelled earlier than anyone thought. More on that further down.
What are the American people thinking? Probably some variation of: Wrong time, wrong place, wrong plan, wrong man.
Twelve years of war. A sense that we're snakebit in the Mideast. Iraq and Afghanistan didn't go well, Libya is lawless. In Egypt we threw over a friend of 30 years to embrace the future. The future held the Muslim Brotherhood, unrest and a military coup. Americans have grown more hard-eyed—more bottom-line and realistic, less romantic about foreign endeavors, and more concerned about an America whose culture and infrastructure seem to be crumbling around them.
The administration has no discernible strategy. A small, limited strike will look merely symbolic, a face-saving measure. A strong, broad strike opens the possibility of civil war, and a victory for those as bad as or worse than Assad. And time has already passed. Assad has had a chance to plan his response, and do us the kind of damage to which we would have to respond.
There is the issue of U.S. credibility. We speak of this constantly and in public, which has the effect of reducing its power. If we bomb Syria, will the world say, “Oh, how credible America is!” or will they say, “They just bombed people because they think they have to prove they're credible”?
We are, and everyone knows we are, the most militarily powerful and technologically able nation on earth. And at the end of the day America is America. We don't have to bow to the claim that if we don't attack Syria we are over as a great power.
Are North Korea and Iran watching? Sure. They'll always be watching. And no, they won't say, “Huh, that settles it, if America didn't move against Syria they'll never move against us. All our worries are over.” In fact their worries, and ours, will continue.
Sometimes it shows strength to hold your fire. All my life people have been saying we've got to demonstrate our credibility—that if we, and the world, don't know we are powerful by now we, and they, will never know.
But a Syria strike may become full-scale war. Is Barack Obama a war president? On Syria he has done nothing to inspire confidence. Up to the moment of decision, and even past it, he has seemed ambivalent, confused, unaware of the implications of his words and stands. From the “red line” comment to the “shot across the bow,” from the White House leaks about the nature and limits of a planned strike to the president's recent, desperate inclusion of Congress, he has seemed consistently over his head.
A point on how quickly public opinion has jelled. There is something going on here, a new distance between Washington and America that the Syria debate has forced into focus. The Syria debate isn't, really, a struggle between libertarians and neoconservatives, or left and right, or Democrats and Republicans. That's not its shape. It looks more like a fight between the country and Washington, between the broad American public and Washington's central governing assumptions.
I've been thinking of the “wise men,” the foreign policy mandarins of the 1950s and '60s, who so often and frustratingly counseled moderation, while a more passionate public, on right and left, was looking for action. “Ban the Bomb!” “Get Castro Out of Cuba.”
In the Syria argument, the moderating influence is the public, which doesn't seem to have even basic confidence in Washington's higher wisdom.
That would be a comment on more than Iraq. That would be a comment on the past five years, too.
Rachel Maddow Lies Again
Lies are stock in trade for Leftists
I don't watch Rachel Maddow much, but when I do, I am always amazed at how few minutes it takes before I hear her make a baldfaced lie.
Today I heard her say this on her August 16, 2013 broadcast (text from MSNBC transcript, with spelling corrected):
This is Viviette Applewhite. She was 92 years old when she started fighting the state of Pennsylvania for her right to vote. Republicans in that state passed a new law last year that would block you from voting unless you showed documentation that you've never had to show before and that hundreds of thousands of legal voters in the state do not have, including Viviette Applewhite.
Tell it to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Rachel, which accompanied Mrs. Applewhite exactly one year to the day before your broadcast, and watched Mrs. Applewhite apply for and easily and immediately receive the required Pennsylvania ID.
The Inquirer further reported that there was no indication the Pennsylvania state employees had any idea Mrs. Applewhite was a plaintiff in an ACLU lawsuit claiming she cannot get an ID, saying, "an Inquirer reporter who accompanied Applewhite to the PennDot center on Cheltenham Avenue in [Philadelphia]'s West Oak Lane section saw no sign that the clerk recognized her or realized she was a major figure in the battle over the law."
In the August 16, 2013 broadcast, Maddow crowed about Applewhite's "victory" in the lawsuit, about which which the Inquirer described in 2012: "[it] claims the law would bar [Applewhite] from exercising the voting rights she's enjoyed for more than half a century…"
But, as the Inquirer pointed out in 2012, the ease with which Mrs. Applewhite got an ID made the need for a lawsuit, even then, questionable.
By the time of Maddow's August 2013 broadcast, it was even more questionable, as Mrs. Applewhite had had her photo ID for a full year by then. Despite what Rachel Maddow told her audience.
Jobs Recovery Bummer
At first blush, today’s jobs report once again seems to contain good news: 169,000 jobs added and unemployment dropping a tenth of a point to 7.3%, the lowest since December 2008. But beware what we call the “headline” numbers. The Leftmedia employes them to bolster the sorry record of their man in the White House.
Digging deeper, we find trouble quickly. July numbers were revised down from 162,000 to just 104,000, and June was revised down for the second time. The unemployment rate fell once again only because so many people are giving up looking for work—312,000, or nearly twice the number who found work—and they aren’t counted in the report. The labor participation rate fell to 63.2%, the lowest since Jimmy Carter’s malaise days of August 1978. If labor participation remained at the same level it was in January 2009, the headline unemployment rate would be 10.8%. It would be 7.7% if participation was the same as just one year ago.
As for the U-6 fuller measure, Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey observes that it “dropped from 14.0% to 13.7%, its lowest level in five years.” But, he warns, “[T]hat has to do with the shrinking workforce, too. In order to be counted in U-6, workers have to be at least marginally attached to the labor force. That’s defined as ‘those who currently are neither working nor looking for work but indicate that they want and are available for a job and have looked for work sometime in the past 12 months.’”
Meanwhile, Barack Obama and his crack shot economic team promised that if we just passed the “stimulus” unemployment would be 5% by now.
Al Qaeda-Linked Rebels Attack Christian Village Where Aramaic--Language of Christ--Still Spoken
The sound of artillery reverberated Thursday through a predominantly Christian village north of Damascus as government troops and al-Qaida-linked rebels battled for control of the mountainside sanctuary.
The hit-and-run attacks on the ancient village of Maaloula, one of the few places in the world where residents still speak Aramaic, highlighted fears among Syria's religious minorities about the growing role of extremists among those fighting in the civil war to topple President Bashar Assad's regime.
The fighting came as President Barack Obama's administration pressed the U.S. Congress for its authorization of a military strike against the Assad regime, while the president arrived at a G-20 summit in Russia expected to be overshadowed by Syria.
The fighting in Maaloula, a scenic village of about 3,300 perched high in the mountains, began early Wednesday when militants from Jabhat al-Nusra stormed in after a suicide bomber struck an army checkpoint guarding the entrance.
The group - listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department - is one of the most effective fighting forces among Syrian rebels. The suicide attack triggered battles that terrorized residents in the village, famous for two of the oldest surviving monasteries in Syria - Mar Sarkis and Mar Takla.
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Posted by JR at 12:36 AM