Thursday, February 15, 2007

21st Century Socialism Takes Hold

With much fawning admiration from European and American leftists, Hugo Chavez has spent the last five years turning Venezuela into a model of "21st century socialism." To no one's surprise, Chavez's brand of socialism looks very much like that 'ol 20th century socialism. As usual, it started with the "nationalization" of various industries, imposition of price controls, and attempts at central economic planning. To these "innovations" Chaves promptly added rule by decree, supression of dissent, the closing of newspapers, the harassment of opposition leaders, much bellicose rhetoric againts the US and the West, and generous support to other beleaguered dictators and autocratic governments including Cuba, Zimbabwe and Iran (financed by the people of Venezuela, of course - like all other socialists, Chavez excels at dispensing other people's money).

Buoyed for several years by sharp increases in the price of oil, Chavez has been able to hide the inevitable economic consequences of his policies, but socialism's economic failure can never be hidden for long.

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez has threatened to nationalise stores that sell meat above a government-set price.

The government says supermarkets have been artificially boosting prices of basic foods by manipulating stockpiles.

But critics blame regular food shortages on prices imposed four years ago, forcing shops to sell at a loss.

Many privately-owned supermarkets have suspended sales of beef, milk and sugar after one chain was temporarily closed for pricing meat above allowed levels.

The government has already seized goods that it says are being hoarded to drive up prices.

The products have been sold at government-run Mercal supermarkets, which sell staple foods at discount prices in poor areas, and at makeshift distribution centres.

Chavez thrives on economic misery, which he creates and then spins into an excuse to sieze even more power for himself. Just like that 'ol 20th century socialism.

President Chavez told a gathering of pensioners in the capital, Caracas, that he was waiting for the "first excuse" to take over privately-owned outlets that manipulate prices.

"If they insist on violating the interests of the people, the constitution and laws, I will take away the warehouses, the shops, I will take away the supermarkets and I'll nationalise them," he warned.

He has stepped up his nationalisation programme since winning re-election in December.

In recent weeks, he has bought stakes in electricity and television companies from US firms.

Anyone who defies Chavez is acting against "the interest of the people," and deserves to have his or her property siezed. Chavez, you see, is the people. Just like Castro, Stalin, Mao, etc. Does anyone in Latin America ever get tired of this crap? Apparently not, since we seem to cycle through leftist revolutions and counter-revolutions there every few decades, always with the same results.

Venezuela's inflation rate rose to a two-year high in January, with consumer prices rising 18.4% in 12 months.

Earlier this week, the government raised the prices it sets on staple foods, but retailers said they had not gone high enough to take account of their increased costs.

Some private companies are also concerned about President Chavez's intention to make them allow their employees time during the working day to study socialism.

Perhaps he plans to distribute his own "Little Red Book" whose lines those happy, happy workers of Venezuela can memorize whilst they starve.

Everything old is new again, it seems, in Caracas. But like a rerun of a syndicated TV show, the ending is always the same.

Bush's Reckless War Planning

By this point, it's clear to almost everyone but the neocon die-hard true believers that the Iraq invasion is a disaster, consuming with insatiable hunger American blood, money and credibility. The false premises (democracy is the cure for Islamic terror) and delusional understanding of human nature (all people want freedom) and Middle Eastern culture (Arabs are just like people in Minneapolis, just swarthier) that underpinned the war remain unchallenged in the President's mind, but their dubious validity are increasingly clear even to many former true believers whose eyes have been partially forced open by the bloody carnage (though many still cling to hope that "victory" can ultimately be achieved - and their own credibility salvaged). Still it is useful to see just how the bad ideas that led to the war were translated into the war planning itself. Thanks to the National Security Archive, a think tank at George Washington University, which obtained declassified copies of the U.S. invasion plans, the breath-taking recklessness and monumental misunderstanding of the true situation in Iraq are now all too clear.

The US invasion plan for Iraq envisaged that only 5,000 US troops would remain in Iraq by December 2006, declassified Central Command documents show.

The material also shows that the US military projected a stable, pro-US and democratic Iraq by that time.

The August 2002 material was obtained by the National Security Archive (NSA). Its officials said the plans were based on delusional assumptions.

The US currently has some 132,000 troops in the violence-torn state.

The documents - in the former of PowerPoint slides - were prepared by the now-retired Gen Tommy Franks and other top commanders at the time.

The documents were presented at a briefing in August 2002 - less than a year before the US invasion of Iraq in April 2003.

The commanders predicted that after the fighting was over there would be a two- to three-month "stabilisation" phase, followed by an 18- to 24-month "recovery" stage.

They projected that the US forces would be almost completely "re-deployed" out of Iraq at the end of the "transition" phase - within 45 months of invasion.

"Completely unrealistic assumptions about a post-Saddam Iraq permeate these war plans," NSA executive director Thomas Blanton said in a statement posted on the organisation's website.

Ideas have consequences. Bad ideas lead to bad results. A war based on intellectually vacuous multiculturalist-universalist ideas which say that all people are basically the same, want the same thing and that two millenia of cultural development (or stagnation) can be set aside and radically transformed in three years of military occupation, was doomed to fail from the start. Of course, trying to do it on the cheap with a fraction of the troops strenght needed to maintain security in the occupied nation only made matters worse. But so much easier to villify anyone who questioned the President's Panglossian visions than ask hard questions about the validity of neocon ideology. We are all paying the price, and will continue to do so for years.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Other Shoe Finally Drops

Having made a horrible, bloody mess of Iraq, damaged America's strategic interests in the Middle East, trashed our alliances overseas, and dangerously overstretched the U.S. military, President Bush takes the final step toward making Iraq the perfect disaster.

The Bush administration plans to allow about 7,000 Iraqi refugees to settle in the United States over the next year, a huge expansion at a time of mounting international pressure to help millions who have fled their homes in the nearly four-year-old war.

The United States has allowed only 463 Iraq refugees into the country since the war began in March 2003, even though some 3.8 million have been uprooted. A senior State Department official described the expanded program on condition of anonymity ahead of a formal announcement later Wednesday.

The U.S. finds itself confronted by a wave of Muslim terrorism directed against its citizens, homeland and interests abroad. So what is the absolute last thing the U.S. should do: invite more Muslims to its homeland. But that is exactly what President Bush wants to do. He is now going to invite thousands of Arabs - mostly Muslim, though possibly also some fleeing Christians, since Iraq's ancient Christian community has been totally destroyed by the war - whose homes and families have been destroyed by the U.S. invasion to come and settle in a country totally alien to their culture, ethnicity and customs. Brilliant. Europe did this in the 1960's. Now Paris burns nightly, Londoners live in fear of subway bombings and Berliners read of honor killings in the morning newspapers.

This gives the lie (yet again) to President Bush's ridiculous claim that he was fighting the terrorists in Iraq so we wouldn't have to fight them here. If the object is not to fight them here, then you don't import the very population from whence the terrorists come. Not all Muslim turn to terror, of course. But we can't tell which Muslim will heed the call for jihad. They don't come sprouting horns or with sporting tails. We do know that all jihadis come from Muslim communities. Thus, if you want to avoid Muslim terrorists, keep Muslims far, far away.

Of course, the President has long given the lie to the above-mentioned argument since he leaves the borders of the U.S. wide open, easily penetrable by anyone with the will to make the crossing. Muslim terrorists aren't stupid. They know how to wage a multi-front conflict. If they wish to come to the U.S., President Bush has gone out of his way to make it easy for them to do so. Now, he's actually inviting potential terrorist recruits to come and live in America.

The U.S. doubtless has a special responsibility to help those displaced by President Bush's foolish war. But inviting them to live in the U.S. isn't part of that responsibility. It is yet another reckless act committed by an administration wholly disconnected from reality. Returning to Salon after a long absence, Camille Paglia neatly and efficiently eviscerates the administration, easily capturing the glaring intellectual deficit and cognitive delusion that marks the Bush presidency, while demanding the immediate end to the farce.

Let's cut to the chase. I am as adamantly opposed to the American invasion and occupation of Iraq as I was before it happened, when the mainstream press abandoned its watchdog role and servilely capitulated to administration propaganda. The thinness of the American case for war was on blatant display in Colin Powell's February 2003 speech to the United Nations Security Council, which I saw on live TV and scorned as a series of slick rhetorical gimmicks and preposterously unpersuasive photos.

I want American troops out now -- not next year but tomorrow. Support of the troops means not subjecting them to an unsustainable and ultimately unwinnable mission, cooked up by armchair cowboys who see the world in simplistic cartoon terms ("good guys" vs. "bad guys"). The provincial philistines of the Bush administration blundered into the Mideast with little more than superficial knowledge of its tangled history and ancient culture. And they have colossally wasted American blood and treasure on a project that had only a tangential relation to the atrocity of 9/11.

The waste of American blood and treasure, and the sullying of America's good name, won't end any time soon. Bush will remain in office until January 2009, and there is no sign apparent that he will suddenly develop the intellectual capacity to grasp the reality which has eluded him for so very long.

It will only get worse from here.

Surprise, Surprise... Again

It appears that the young man who went on a shooting spree in a Utah shopping mall, killing five and wound four, was in fact, a Muslim.

The 18-year-old man who shot and killed at least five people Monday night has been identified as Sulejmen Talovic, a Bosnian refugee who lived in Salt Lake City.

Little additional information was released about Talovic.

The Bosnian community, which numbers about 3,000 in Utah, planned a news conference later this afternoon.

Talovic parked his car in the west parking lot and walked into the mall, encountering two people, whom he shot. Then he walked further into the mall and shot a woman, said Police Chief Chris Burbank.

Utah police say they have no idea what motivated Talovic's shooting spree, but witnesses claim he moved about the mall in a calm, methodical manner, shooting anyone unlucky enough to find themselves in his line of fire. Thus, Talovic becomes one of a growing number of Muslims living in America who attack innocent people apparently without any discernable motive. These cases seem to truly baffle police, although apparently not enough to prevent them from first saying, almost reflexively that terrorism surely wasn't the motive. They don't have a clue what the motive was, you see, but it just couldn't have been terrorism. No. Perish the though.

But why was a Bosnian refugee living in Utah? Why, indeed, are there 3,000 Bosnian refugees living there? Given bloody mess of seething ethnic and religious hatreds that is the Balkans (and has been for centuries), why were so many "refugees" granted access to our shores? Suffice it to say that had the US government not blithely admitted "refugees" from an alien and violent culture, whose ongoing tragedies have absolutely nothing to do with the U.S., the five people Talovic murdered would likely still be breathing. But then those who make such decisions in Washington have little regard for the best interests of the American people. A fact they have been demonstrating for at least forty years.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

You Couldn't Make This Stuff Up

Sometime you read the newspaper, and have to go back and re-read something several times, just to be sure you weren't imaging it. Occasionally, having read an article, you have to check the front page again to make sure you're not actually reading a printout of The Onion or that the editors aren't running an April Fool's joke. But sadly, the inanities coming out of Washington, and in particular, the Bush administration continue to nimbly exceed the stupidity of anything comedy writers could produce.

The State Department, concerned about a "nativist surge" in Western Europe, has created a position to coordinate efforts to reach out to European Muslims and help them better integrate into society, a senior official said yesterday.

Daniel Fried, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, said U.S. embassies and consulates in Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and other countries will decide what exactly they can do, instead of "Washington bureaucrats dreaming this up."

The growing Muslim presence in Europe is "a fascinating issue and one that the American government is just now trying to get its mind around," Mr. Fried told editors and reporters at The Washington Times. "It's a huge problem, we are thinking about it seriously, and we've tried to do some intellectual framing-up."

Farah Pandith, until recently a staffer on the National Security Council (NSC), moved to the State Department last week to head the new effort.

Unrest among Muslims in Europe, particularly those who have turned to extremist acts such as the 2005 London transit system bombings, has spurred a heated debate across the continent.

The French government, for example, now regrets having resettled North African immigrants in de facto ghettos, where unemployment and bad schooling led to desperation among young people, Paris' ambassador to Washington, Jean-David Levitte, told The Times last month.

"The unrest that existed in poor neighborhoods had nothing to do with jihad and much to do with social conditions," he said. "That's why we have to put the emphasis on improving the social conditions -- schools, jobs, better housing -- and hopefully all this will trigger better absorption in the social fabric of France of this minority."

Mr. Fried said that a "process of alienation" is occurring within Europe's Muslim communities, and that their host countries have "no sense of integration."

"Europe has to learn to do that," he said. "You have a weird nativist surge in Western Europe, and a kind of odd panic: Aliens are here, they don't accept our values, they are a threat to our way of life and turn to radicalism."

If you needed any further proof that Washington doesn't understand the nature of the problem facing the West vis-a-vis Islam, this article clearly provides it. The State Department, clearly taking its direction from the White House, assumes that all people are basically the same, no matter what their cultural or religious background. Thus, Muslims are just one more group of immigrants to be assimilated into happy little Westerners. Anyone who objects, or who points to implication of current demographic trends - which show that Europeans will be a minority in Europe in several generations - are "nativists," which is meant as a nice way of saying "racists" or "luddities."

From these false premises flows easily the State Department's incredibly wrong-headed and very dangerous push to help "integrate" Muslims into the population of Europe. Note how this position blithely, deliberately ignores the abundant evidence that Muslims don't want to assimilate or that Islamic culture and theology are incompatible with an naturally hostile to liberal, Western culture and custom. The evidence is self evident to anyone who has visited the Middle East, or much of Europe. The Muslims themselves understand it. But Western leaders cannot bring themselves to admit what everyone else intuitively grasps. Thus, a presumably educated adult like Mr. Fried can say, incredulously:

"You have a weird nativist surge in Western Europe, and a kind of odd panic: Aliens are here, they don't accept our values, they are a threat to our way of life and turn to radicalism."

What's odd about the panic that Europeans (and to a lesser extent Americans) are experiencing is that it took so long to manifest. Why shouldn't people panic if they discover that their government has foolishly imported millions of people from an alien culture, a significant minority of whom wish to use violence to impose that alien culture on them? It's a perfectly natural reaction. But Mr. Fried can't see it because he's bought so deeply into the multiculturalist theology that no amount of evidence can cause him to question his premises. He and those like him in Washinton, London, Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Madrid, Ottawa and Rome, resemble the geriatric members of the Politboro in the 80's. Communism was collapsing all around them, but they would have rather died than admit anything was wrong.

Washington shouldn't be helping European Muslims integrate - that will only weaken European societies and turn them more anti-American. Washtington should be forcing European leaders to recognize the mortal peril posed to their cultures by mass immigration from the Middle East, and finding ways to close off that immigration and persuade Muslims living in Europe to leave.

But no, Washington continues to slumber under Bush & Co.'s univeralist, multiculturalist delusion, while the Western world weakens and frays. It would be funny if it weren't for the disastrous consquences of their foolishness.