March 2009


 By Thomas Joscelyn

The U.S. Justice Department has decided to release another detainee from Guantanamo, a Yemeni named Ayman Saeed Abdullah Batarfi. It is not entirely clear why Batarfi has been cleared for release. But we can be reasonably sure, based on Batarfi’s own freely given testimony, that he was no innocent swept up in the post-9/11 chaos of Afghanistan, as his lawyers claim.

Batarfi first traveled to Afghanistan in 1988 to fight the Soviets. The government claims he was trained at the Khalden camp, which graduated hundreds of al Qaeda members, but Batarfi denies this. Batarfi has admitted to participating in at least one nighttime raid against Soviet forces. This is important because it shows that he was willing to participate in hostilities from a young age–and was not merely a humanitarian adventure seeker in Afghanistan.

Batarfi then went to Pakistan, where he became an orthopedic surgeon. From there, things get really interesting.

There are at least three aspects of Batarfi’s testimony given before his administrative review board hearings at Gitmo that are noteworthy. Keep in mind that these hearings were not interrogations, and the detainees had the option of not participating, or simply issuing blanket denials, as some detainees did.

First, Batarfi admitted that he was an employee of al Wafa, a charity that has been designated a terrorist organization. Al Wafa is discussed in brief in the 9/11 Commission’s report as an al Qaeda front. The unclassified documents released from Guantanamo are littered with references to the organization. It is clear that al Wafa actively supported al Qaeda and the Taliban in a variety of ways–from transporting jihadists to Afghanistan (often through Iran) to purchasing sophisticated weaponry. Al Wafa was not a real charity–it was a terrorist front group, and Batarfi admitted to working for the group for several months in 2001. He says he left the organization after it was designated as a terror-supporter, but this was most likely just Batarfi’s way of trying to explain away his al Wafa ties. As we will see below, he was at Tora Bora after the designation on al Wafa came down.

Second, Batarfi admitted that he met with a “Malaysian microbiologist” and authorized the purchase of medical equipment for this individual. As I have written previously, this microbiologist is most certainly Yazid Sufaat. Batarfi denies knowing that Sufaat was working on anthrax when they met in 2001. Over and over again, Batarfi claimed that he just happened to run into and consort with terrorists without knowing who they were.

Third, the best example of this last point is Batarfi’s admitted ties to Osama bin Laden. Batarfi admitted that he met with bin Laden in the Tora Bora Mountains in November 2001. But he claimed that he sent a letter to someone (he does not say whom) asking to meet with the “head of the mountain” and, somewhat magically, he just happened to get a face-to-face sit down with the world’s most wanted terrorist…at Tora Bora…in November of 2001…you know, when the whole world was looking for him. This was the second time Batarfi claims to have accidentally met bin Laden. The first time came at a funeral in Kabul when, again, bin Laden just happened upon the scene.

Batarfi and his attorneys have apparently been able to sell this story to the DOJ. On its face, it does not make any sense. And there is much more to Batarfi’s story and the unclassified files on him. He admitted he purchased cyanide, but claims it was for dental fillings. He admitted he stayed at various al Qaeda and Taliban guesthouses, but says he didn’t realize they were facilities associated with Osama bin Laden at the time. Batarfi met the Taliban’s health minister in 2001 because, well, that’s just the sort of thing an al Wafa employee would do.

Remember, all of the above comes from his hearings at Guantanamo, not his interrogations. He could have just said, “I deny everything.” But he didn’t. He came up with not-so creative excuses instead. (For an analysis of excerpts from his hearings, go here.)

Batarfi has been cleared for release even though the Obama administration is not sure where to send him. They are still looking for a host country. This is eerily similar to the president’s ordering Guantanamo shuttered by January of 2010 before his administration had even reviewed any of the detainees’ files. That is, the president and his staff were not even sure who is down at Guantanamo when the president ordered the facility closed.

Batarfi’s case was reportedly reviewed by a DOJ board that is going through all of those files. I think it is safe to say the board is off to an inauspicious start.

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When not pretending to plant arugila in the White House organic victory garden, Michelle Obama, the bow-legged-under-bight-from-hell-first-she’s-no-lady apparently needs a staff of eight to tend to her other needs. Like combing her hair. Not to be outdone by her POS commie husband, Barack Hussein travels with a special friend because he likes to shoot hoops when not busy destroying capitalist pig America.

I’m keeping my money and guns, the leftist fucks can keep the "change". Just sayin’ is all.

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Via Daily Mail here’s what the Obama’s arrived at the G20 with:

  • 1 chef
  • 1 ‘friend’ to play basketball with
  • 4 speechwriters
  • 8 First Lady assistants – including a hairdresser and secretary
  • 12 teleprompters
  • 35 vehicles – including the £300,000 ‘Obamobile’, a customised Cadillac limousine
  • 200 Secret Service agents
  • 300 state department heads and assistants
  • He will have an air quality tester, who will ensure that no harmful bacteria is allowed to pollute the presidential air.

 ———–

WASHINGTON–First Lady Michelle Obama tapped Johnny Wright to be her exclusive hair dresser, the Washington Post reports Thursday in a Style section front headlined "He Dresses Michelle’s Tresses."

The subhead: "Chicagoan shapes First Lady’s hair–and keeps the details to himself."

Wright grew up on Edbrooke Ave. on the South Side and a few years ago moved to Los Angeles. He coifed Mrs. Obama during the campaign and moved to Washington a few weeks ago. [Source]

By Melanie Phillips

As London locks down in feverish anticipation of the arrival of The One,Commentary publishes an important essay by John Bolton on an academic paper articulating what he correctly perceives to be the underlying rationale for Obama’s foreign policy – nothing less than the ending of American sovereignty.

The progressive classes in Britain and Europe have signed up to this idea for years. Dubbed ‘transnational progressivism’, it is based on the belief that the nation state is in and of itself the cause of all the ills of the world, from prejudice to war. Nations cause nationalism; nationalism causes conflict; abolish nations and you abolish conflict and usher in the brotherhood of man. War is replaced by diplomacy, and transnational institutions and values trump national ones. It’s the rationale behind the European Union; it accounts for the near religious veneration of the UN as the supreme global arbiter of international legitimacy and ethics; it explains the enthusiasm for supra-national institutions such as the International Criminal Court, the obeisance to ‘international law’ and the supremacy of ‘universal’ human rights law.

Unfortunately, this latest formula for Utopia is wholly inimical to democracy, actively undermines or prevents countries from acting in their own national self-interest to defend their own citizens, institutionalises deliberately mediated injustice and even terror through appeasement policies instead of ‘just wars’ against tyranny and aggression, and is a recipe for more conflict rather than less as the people progressively rise up against this erosion of their powers of representative self-government.

 A large part of Obama’s appeal to the intelligentsia in Britain and Europe is precisely the understanding that he stands for the repudiation of American exceptionalism and the so-much resented swaggering imposition of American values (aka freedom and diplomacy) through military might abroad in favour of a Europeanised, multilateral diplomacy-based approach. Bolton points out that this approach has its distinct limitations, over and above eroding sovereignty by subordinating it to other people’s interests:

The difference arises in the consideration of a tiny number of cases—cases that prove entirely resistant to diplomatic efforts, in which divergent national interests prove implacably resistant to reconciliation. If diplomacy does not and cannot work, the continued application of it to a problematic situation is akin to subjecting a cancer patient to a regimen of chemotherapy that shows no results whatever. The result may look like treatment, but it is, in fact, only making the patient sicker and offering no possibility of improvement.

Time is one of the most important variables in a diplomatic dance, because it often imposes a cost on one side and a benefit to its adversary. Nations can use the time granted by a diplomatic process to obscure their objectives, build alliances, prepare operationally for war, and, especially today, accelerate their efforts to build weapons of mass destruction and the ballistic missiles that might carry them.

He’s talking about Iran.

Meanwhile, Obama has picked for a high-ranking post in his administration yet another official who appears to embody values antithetical to American interests –including American sovereignty. The New York Post reports that he has nominated Harold Koh, until recently Dean of Yale Law School, to be the State Department’s legal adviser – in which role he would  forge a wide range of international agreements and help represent the US in such places as the United Nations and the International Court of Justice:

It’s a job where you want a strong defender of America’s sovereignty. But that’s not Koh. He’s a fan of ‘transnational legal process,’ arguing that the distinctions between US and international law should vanish.

…The primacy of international legal ‘norms’ applies even to treaties we reject. For example, Koh believes that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child — a problematic document that we haven’t ratified — should dictate the age at which individual US states can execute criminals. Got that? On issues ranging from affirmative action to the interrogation of terrorists, what the rest of the world says, goes.

Including, apparently, the world of radical imams. A New York lawyer, Steven Stein, says that, in addressing the Yale Club of Greenwich in 2007, Koh claimed that ‘in an appropriate case, he didn’t see any reason why sharia law would not be applied to govern a case in the United States.’

A spokeswoman for Koh said she couldn’t confirm the incident, responding: ‘I had heard that some guy . . . had asked a question about sharia law, and that Dean Koh had said something about that while there are obvious differences among the many different legal systems, they also share some common legal concepts.’

… Koh has called America’s focus on the War on Terror ‘obsessive.’ In 2004, he listed countries that flagrantly disregard international law – ‘most prominently, North Korea, Iraq, and our own country, the United States of America,’ which he branded ‘the axis of disobedience.’

Get that – the man Obama wants to be a top law officer has equated the US with North Korea and Iraq as flouters of international law, and sees no problem in sharia being used to settle American law suits.

The destruction of US sovereignty and legal and cultural integrity at home and the appeasement of tyrants abroad by a President who holds his own nation in such contempt that he wants to emasculate its powers of self-government and grovel to its mortal enemies – it’s certainly change, all right, but whether such a national suicide programme is one that Americans can actually believe in is quite another matter.

By Robert Maginnis

Soon North Korea will have nuclear-armed ballistic missiles with which to threaten its neighbors and the United States. President Obama must either accept the pariah state as an atomic power or stop that regime before it fully develops its nuclear arsenal.

Still lacking is a long-range ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead as far as America. Later this week, North Korea is expected to test such a missile.

North Korea has announced it will attempt to put a communications satellite into orbit between April 4 and 8. That effort is widely viewed as a thinly veiled pretext for testing its intercontinental ballistic missile, the Taepodong-2. Dennis Blair, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, told a Senate committee the three-stage Taepodong-2 has the potential to strike the continental U.S.

Another challenge for Pyongyang is the mating of an atomic warhead to a missile. Recently, however, Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, testified North Korea “…may be able to successfully mate a nuclear warhead to a ballistic missile.”

The last critical component is an effective atomic warhead. In 2006, North Korea exploded a small nuclear device and now claims it has “weaponized” enough of its plutonium stockpile to build four or five bombs. Theodore Postol, a professor of science, technology and national defense policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, believes the North Koreans already have a small nuclear warhead that could be mounted on a medium range No-dong missile that would make a nuclear strike on Tokyo possible.

These atomic arsenal components — atomic weapons, the know-how to mate a warhead to a missile and a nuclear capable ballistic missile — constitute a serious warning for the U.S. and its Northeast Asian allies.

President Obama has three options to address North Korea’s atomic ambitions.

First, Obama could accept Pyongyang as an atomic power and deal with the potentially dire consequences.

There is, of course, the possibility that North Korea will change its behavior and become a responsible nation state. But that’s wishful thinking at best. It’s far more likely Pyongyang will continue its old ways of intimidation reinforced with deliverable nukes.

An almost certain consequence is a Northeast Asian arms race. There will be irresistible pressure for non-nuclear neighbors — Japan and South Korea — to acquire atomic weapons. China, which already has a large nuclear program, will likely grow its arsenal to off-set the rising threat from Asian rival Japan.

Most worrisome is the likelihood Pyongyang will add nuclear weapons to its catalog of items for sale to the developing world. It is already the biggest supplier of missiles to the third world, and recent activities suggest it has been a source for nuclear technologies.

In 2007, Israeli fighters destroyed a plutonium reactor reportedly built by North Korea in Syria’s eastern desert. There could be other North Korean-built reactors in the Middle East or elsewhere.

Obama’s second option could be to use diplomacy and the threat of sanctions. Candidate Obama advocated “…direct and aggressive diplomacy with North Korea that can yield results, while not ceding our leverage in negotiations unless it is clear that North Korea is living up to its obligations.”

Since the Clinton administration, North Korea has used the threat of nuclear-weapons development to extract concessions — food, fuel and security guarantees — from the U.S. and its Asian partners. A successful Taepodong-2 test would present a new danger — a nuclear tipped rocket that can reach the U.S.

Will “direct and aggressive diplomacy” stop Pyongyang’s atomic program? “Most of the world understands the game they [the North Koreans] are playing,” director Blair testified. “I think they’re risking international opprobrium [disgrace] and hopefully worse if they successfully launch it.”

Blair’s remarks suggest that efforts to restart talks which collapsed in December 2008 and were aimed at convincing North Korea to abandon its atomic weapons program may be fruitless. But not everyone in the Obama administration agrees.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton apparently hasn’t given up on diplomacy and sanctions. She warned “[t]here will be consequences” if North Korea goes forward with the launch. ”They have sought help for fuel and food. It would be difficult to provide those necessities” if the missile is launched.

North Korea labeled any action to punish them with more sanctions a “hostile act,” and Pyongyang cautioned that if its missile is shot down, an idea Clinton rejects, it will “mean a war.”

Apparently, Clinton believes “[t]he leaders of North Korea are not madmen,” an argument made by Cha Du-Hyeogn, a government defense analyst in Seoul. “They want attention, and they want rewards for not using these weapons,” Du-Hyeogn said.

Clinton must be open to this international extortion because she wants to “…get back to the kind of talks that led to the initial steps in their de-nuclearization.” But when she offered to send her special envoy to Pyongyang, “They didn’t want him to come,” Clinton said.

So how does Obama conduct “aggressive diplomacy” with Pyongyang when the communists won’t talk and sanctions don’t work? And how can Obama deal with a regime that insists it won’t give up atomic weapons unless “all other nuclear weapons states” disarm as well?

Obama’s third and only remaining option — if he doesn’t want a nuclear armed North Korea and doubts diplomacy and sanctions can halt Pyongyang’s atomic lust — must be force.

The president could order the interception of Pyongyang’s test missile. The head of the U.S. Pacific Command, Adm. Timothy Keating, said his command will “be ready to respond.”

U.S. and Japanese Aegis-equipped destroyers with Standard Missile-3 interceptors are now in the Sea of Japan. Japan has relocated ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptors to Northern Japan, near the missile’s anticipated flight path. Both anti-missile systems could destroy the North Korean rocket.

It appears, however, that the U.S. systems will not be used. Asked about the possible launch on Fox News Sunday, Defense Secretary Gates said, “I would say we’re not prepared to do anything about it.”

Intercepting the missile — if we’d chosen to do so — could have been just the beginning. The U.S. and its allies should then have been prepared and willing to escalate the use of force based upon North Korea’s response.

In 2007, former Clinton defense secretary William Perry proposed the U.S. should consider military action against North Korea if that nation refuses to end its nuclear weapons program.

“Clearly, this is a dangerous alternative,” Perry testified. “If China and South Korea do not agree to applying coercion, the United States may be forced to take military action which, while it certainly would be successful, could lead to dangerous unintended consequences.”

If Obama follows the diplomacy route with Pyongyang as expected, he must avoid the Bush administration’s mistakes. In June 2008, the North Koreans promised to stop producing plutonium. In exchange, the Bush administration naively took Pyongyang off the State Sponsors of Terrorism list and removed restrictions related to the Trading with the Enemy Act.

Bush’s deal also ignored critical North Korean atomic activities such as its uranium enrichment program and Pyongyang’s proliferation efforts. Bush failed to account for the North’s atomic arsenal as well.

Obama’s duty is to choose the course of action that keeps America safe. In the end, given the three painful options, the use of force to deny Pyongyang atomic weapons may be his best alternative. His propensity to go the diplomatic route despite its history of failure is, I suspect, the path he will take.

Steyn on America

Back during the election campaign, I was on the radio and a caller demanded to know what I made of the persistent rumor that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. “I doubt it,” I said. “It’s perfectly obvious he was born in Stockholm. Okay, maybe Brussels or Strasbourg.” And the host gave an appreciative titter, and I made a mental note to start working up a little “Barack Obama, the first European Prime Minister to be elected President of the United States” shtick for maybe a year into the first term.

But here we are 20 minutes in, and full-scale Europeanization is already under way:  Europeanized health care, Europeanized daycare, Europeanized college education, Europeanized climate-change policy…  Obama’s pseudo-SOTU speech was America’s first State of the European Union address, in which the president deftly yoked the language of American exceptionalism to the cause of European statism. Apparently, nothing testifies to the American virtues of self-reliance, entrepreneurial energy and the can-do spirit like joining the vast army of robotic extras droning in unison, “The government needs to do more for me…” For the moment, Washington is offering Euro-sized government with Euro-sized economic intervention, Euro-sized social programs and Euro-sized regulation. But apparently not Euro-sized taxation.

Hmm. Even the Europeans haven’t attempted that trick. But don’t worry, if that pledge not to increase taxes on families earning under $250,000 doesn’t have quite the Continental sophistication you’re looking for in your federal government, I doubt it will be operative very long.

Most Americans don’t yet grasp the scale of the Obama project. The naysayers complain, oh, it’s another Jimmy Carter, or it’s the new New Deal, or it’s LBJ’s Great Society applied to health care… You should be so lucky. Forget these parochial nickel’n’dime comparisons. It’s all those multiplied a gazillionfold and nuclearized – or Europeanized, which is less dramatic but ultimately more lethal. For a distressing number of American liberals, the natural condition of an advanced, progressive western democracy is Scandinavia, and the US has just been taking a wee bit longer to get there. You’ve probably heard academics talking about “the Swedish model”, and carelessly assumed they were referring to the Britt Ekland retrospective on AMC. If only. And, incidentally, fond though I am of Britt, the fact that I can think of no Swedish dolly bird of the last 30 years with which to update that gag is itself a telling part of the problem. Anyway, under the Swedish model, state spending accounts for 54 per cent of GDP. In the US, it’s about 40 per cent. Ten years ago, it was 34 per cent. So we’re trending Stockholmwards. And why stop there? In Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, government spending accounts for between 72 and 78 per cent of the economy, which is about the best a “free” society can hope to attain this side of complete Sovietization. Fortunately for what’s left of America’s private sector, “the Welsh model” doesn’t have quite the same beguiling euphony as “the Swedish model”. But, even so, if Scandinavia really is the natural condition of an advanced democracy, then we’re all doomed. And by “doomed” I’m not merely making the usual overheated rhetorical flourish in an attempt to persuade you to stick through the rather dry statistics in the next paragraph, but rather projecting total societal collapse and global conflagration, and all sooner than you think.

There are two basic objections to the wholesale Europeanization of America. The easy one is the economic argument. The short version of late 20th century history is that Continental Europe entirely missed out on the Eighties boom and its Nineties echo. A couple of weeks back, the evening news shows breathlessly announced that US unemployment had risen to seven per cent, the highest in a decade and a half. Yet the worst American unemployment rate is still better than the best French unemployment rate for that same period. Indeed, for much of the 1990s the EU as a whole averaged an unemployment rate twice that of the US and got used to double-digit unemployment as a routine and semi-permanent feature of life. Germany, the economic powerhouse of Europe in the Sixties and Seventies, is now a country whose annual growth rate has averaged 1.1 per cent since the mid-Nineties; where every indicator – home ownership, new car registrations – is heading down; and in which government agencies have to budget for such novel expenditures as narrowing the sewer lines in economically moribund, fast depopulating municipalities because the existing pipes are too wide to, ah, expedite the reduced flow. Even flushing yourself down the toilet of history is trickier than it looks.

Of course, if you’re one of the seemingly endless supply of Americans willing to turn up at the president’s ersatz “town meetings” to petition the seigneur to take care of your medical bills and your mortgage and the gas in your tank, the Euro-deal looks pretty sweet. When they deign to work, even the French can match the Americans in hourly productivity. Unfortunately for boring things like GDP, the Euro-week has far fewer hours. There are government-mandated maximum 35-hour work weeks, six weeks of paid vacation, more public holidays, and, in the event that, after all that, some unfortunate clerical error still shows the calendar with an occasional five-day week, you can always strike. The upshot is that, while a working American puts in an average 1,800 hours a year, a working German puts in 1,350 hours a year – or 25 per cent less.

It’s tempting to assume these are deeply ingrained cultural differences. “It’s The Good Life, full of fun, seems to be the ideal,” as the Gallic crooner Sacha Distel smoothly observed. But, in fact, until the Seventies Americans and Europeans put in more or less identical work hours. What happened is that the Protobamas of the Continental political class legislated sloth, and, as is the way, the citizenry got used to it. Indeed, the proposed European Constitution enshrines leisure as a constitutional right. Article II-31: “Every worker has the right to limitation of maximum working hours, to daily and weekly rest periods and to an annual period of paid holiday.” There’s no First Amendment or Second Amendment, but who needs free speech or guns when life is one gentle swing in the government hammock?

When American commentators notice these numbers, it’s usually to crank out a why-oh-why-can’t-we-be-as-enlightened? op-ed. A couple of years back Paul Krugman wrote a column asserting that, while parochial American conservatives drone on about “family values”, the Europeans live it, enacting policies that are more “family friendly”. On the Continent, claims the professor, “government regulations actually allow people to make a desirable tradeoff – to modestly lower income in return for more time with friends and family.”

As befits a distinguished economist, Professor Krugman failed to notice, that for a continent of “family friendly” policies, Europe is remarkably short of families. While America’s fertility rate is more or less at replacement level – 2.1 – seventeen European nations are at what demographers call “lowest-low” fertility – 1.3 or less – a rate from which no society in human history has ever recovered. Germans, Spaniards, Italians and Greek have upside-down family trees: four grandparents have two children and one grandchild. The numbers are grim, and getting grimmer. The EU began the century with four workers for every retiree. By 2050, Germany will have 1.1 workers for every retiree. At Oktoberfest a decade or three hence, that fetching young lad in the lederhosen serving you your foaming stein will be singlehandedly propping up entire old folks’ homes. Except he won’t. He’ll have scrammed and headed off to Australia in search of a livelier youth scene, or at any rate a livelier late-middle-aged scene. And the guy taking his place in the beer garden won’t be wearing lederhosen because he’ll be Muslim and they don’t like to expose their knees. And, come to think of it, he’s unlikely to be serving beer, either. The EU would need at least another 50 million immigrants – working immigrants, that is (they’re not always, especially with Euro-welfare) – to keep wrinkly old Gerhard and Jean-Claude in the social programs to which they’ve become accustomed.

To run the numbers is to render them absurd: It’s not about economic performance, public pensions liabilities, entitlement reform. Something more profound is at work. Europe has entered a long dark Oktoberfest of the soul, drinking to oblivion in the autumn of the year, as les feuilles mortes pile up all around.

Let’s take the second part of Paul Krugman’s assertion: These “family-friendly” policies certainly give you “more time”. For what? High-school soccer and 4-H at the county fair? No. As we’ve seen, kids not called Mohammed are thin on the ground. God? No. When you worship the state-as-church, you don’t need to bother showing up to Mass anymore. Civic volunteerism? No. All but extinct on the Continent. So what do Europeans do with all that time? Do they paint, write, make movies? Not so’s you’d notice.  Not compared to 40 years ago. Never mind Bach or even Offenbach, these days the French can’t produce a Sacha Distel or the Germans a Bert Kaempfert, the boffo Teuton bandleader who somewhat improbably managed to play a critical role in the careers of the three biggest Anglophone pop acts of the 20th century – he wrote “Strangers In The Night” for Sinatra, “Wooden Heart” for Elvis, and produced the Beatles’ first recording session. If that sounds like a “Trivial Pursuit” answer, it’s not. Eutopia turned out to be the trivial pursuit; to produce a Bert Kaempfert figure right now would be a major accomplishment Europe can’t quite muster the energy for. “Give people plenty and security, and they will fall into spiritual torpor,” wrote Charles Murray in In Our Hands. “When life becomes an extended picnic, with nothing of importance to do, ideas of greatness become an irritant. Such is the nature of the Europe syndrome.”

The key word here is “give”. When the state “gives” you plenty – when it takes care of your health, takes cares of your kids, takes care of your elderly parents, takes care of every primary responsibility of adulthood – it’s not surprising that the citizenry cease to function as adults: Life becomes a kind of extended adolescence – literally so for those Germans who’ve mastered the knack of staying in education till they’re 34 and taking early retirement at 42 (which sounds a lot like where Obama’s college-for-all plans will lead).

Genteel decline can be very agreeable – initially: You still have terrific restaurants, beautiful buildings, a great opera house. And once the pressure’s off it’s nice to linger at the sidewalk table, have a second café au lait and a pain au chocolat, and watch the world go by. At the Munich Security Conference in February, President Sarkozy demanded of his fellow Continentals, “Does Europe want peace, or do we want to be left in peace?” To pose the question is to answer it. Alas, it only works for a generation or two, and then, as the gay bar owners are discovering in a fast Islamifying Amsterdam, reality reasserts itself.

In 2003, the IMF conducted a study of Eurosclerosis and examined the impact on chronic unemployment and other woes if the Eurozone labor market were to be Americanized – that’s to say, increase participation in the work force, reduce taxes and job-for-life security, etc. The changes would be tough, but over the long-term beneficial. But it’s too late for that: What’s “changed” is the disposition of the people: If it’s unsustainable, who cares? As long as they can sustain it till I’m dead. That’s the second and most critical objection to Europeanization: It corrodes self-reliance very quickly, to the point where even basic survival instincts can be bred out of society in a generation or two. In America Alone, I cited a headline that seemed almost too perfect a summation of a Continent where entitlement addiction trumps demographic reality: “Frenchman Lived With Dead Mother To Keep Pension.” She was 94 when she croaked, so she’d presumably been getting the government check for a good three decades, but hey it’s 700 euros a month. He kept her corpse under a pile of newspapers in the living room for five years, and put on a woman’s voice whenever the benefits office called. Since my book came out, readers send me similar stories on a regular basis: “An Austrian woman lived with the mummified remains of her aunt for a year, Vienna police said Wednesday.” In Europe, nothing is certain except death and welfare, and why let the former get in the way of the latter?

It’s interesting that it never occurred to the IMF that anyone would be loopy enough to try their study the other way around – to examine the impact on America of Europeanization. For that, we had to wait for the election of Barack Obama. Which brings us to the third problem of Europeanization: What are the consequences for the world if the hyperpower embarks on the same form of assisted suicide as the rest of the west? In quite the wackiest essay Foreign Policy has ever published, Parag Khanna of the Brookings Institution argued that the European Union was now “the world’s first metrosexual superpower”. And he meant it as a compliment. Mr Khanna’s thesis is that, unlike the insecure American cowboy, Europe is secure enough in its hard power to know when to deploy a little sweet-smelling soft power. Seriously:

The EU has become more effective—and more attractive—than the United States on the catwalk of diplomatic clout… Metrosexuals always know how to dress for the occasion (or mission)… but it’s best done by donning Armani pinstripes rather than U.S. Army fatigues… Even Turkey is freshening up with eau d’Europe… Stripping off stale national sovereignty (that’s so last century), Europeans now parade their ‘pooled power,’ the new look for this geopolitical season… 

Brand Europe is taking over… Europe’s flashy new symbol of power, the Airbus 380, will soon strut on runways all over Asia…But don’t be deceived by the metrosexual superpower’s pleatless pants—Europe hasn’t lost touch with its hard assets…Europe’s 60,000-troop Rapid Reaction Force will soon be ready to deploy around the world… Just as metrosexuals are redefining masculinity, Europe is redefining old notions of power and influence. Expect Bend It Like Brussels to play soon in capital cities worldwide.

And on and on, like one of those pieces an editor runs when he wants to get fired and go to Tuscany to write a novel. The Airbus 380 is a classic stillborn Eurostatist money pit, the Rapid Reaction Force can’t deploy anywhere beyond a Europe Day parade down the Champs Elysee, and given that the governing Socialist caucus on the Brussels city council already has a Muslim majority I doubt they’ll be bending it themselves that much longer. This is the logical reductio of the Robert Kagan thesis that Americans are from Mars, Europeans are from Venus. It’s truer to say that Europeans are from Pluto, which was recently downgraded to “dwarf planet” status. A dwarf superpower doesn’t have policies, it has attitudes – in part, because that’s all it can afford. An America that attempts Euro-scale social programs would have to reel in its military expenditures. After all, Europe could only introduce socialized health care and all the rest because the despised cowboy across the ocean was picking up the tab for the continent’s defense. So for America to follow the EU down the same social path would have huge strategic implications for everyone else, not least Europe. We would be joining the Continentals in prancing around in Armani pinstripes and eau d’Europe as the bottom dropped out of our hard assets. And Putin, Kim Jong-il, the mullahs et al might not find the perfume as heady as Mr Khanna does.

Even in its heyday – the Sixties and Seventies – the good times in Europe were underwritten by the American security guarantee: The only reason why France could get away with being France, Belgium with being Belgium, Sweden with being Sweden is because America was America. Kagan’s thesis – Americans are from Mars, Europeans are from Venus – will look like paradise lost when the last conventional “great power” of western civilization embraces the death-cult narcissism of its transatlantic confreres in the full knowledge of where that leads. Why would you do anything so crazy? Ah, but these are crazy times: Europeans are from Pluto, Americans are from Goofy.

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Via FOX:

Reigning Miss Universe Dayana Mendoza caused more than a few jaws to drop when she described her recent tour of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as "a lot of fun" and a "relaxing, calm, beautiful place," Reuters reported Tuesday.

The Venezuelan 22-year-old visited the U.S. naval facility, where approximately 240 detainees are held, from March 20-25 with Miss USA Crystle Stewart, 27.

After her USO-organized tour of the prison camp for foreign terrorists, Dayana wrote in a blog entry posted on the Miss Universe Web site that she had an "incredible experience."

"It was a loooot of fun!" Mendoza wrote of her time at the camp, a prison surrounded by barbed-wire fence and minefields. She wrote that she went to a bar on the naval base and visited the "unbelievable" beach, Reuters reported.

President Obama set a one-year deadline for shutting the prison, which has been embroiled in accusations of torture and prisoner abuse.

"We visited the Detainees camps and we saw the jails, where they shower, how the(y) recreate themselves with movies, classes of art, books. It was very interesting," Mendoza wrote of Gitmo. "I didn’t want to leave, it was such a relaxing place, so calm and beautiful."

The USO had billed Mendoza’s and Stewart’s trip as a deployment to Guantanamo where they would boost U.S. troops’ morale.

By Debbie Schlussel

Think Barack Hussein Obama’s insistence that GM fire Rick Wagoner was bad?

You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

House Financial Services Committee Chairman and former gay brothel landlord Barney Frank and the Democrat leadership in Congress are pushing through a tough measure, which allows the government to set pay of any and all employees at any company receiving any money from the federal government. It echoes Soviet-style economic policy.

The bill is set to be voted on by the entire House, next week.

Yes, America, you’ve regressed a long way, baby.

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In a little-noticed move, the House Financial Services Committee, led by chairman Barney Frank, has approved a measure that would, in some key ways, go beyond the most draconian features of the original AIG bill. The new legislation, the "Pay for Performance Act of 2009," would impose government controls on the pay of all employees — not just top executives — of companies that have received a capital investment from the U.S. government. It would, like the tax measure, be retroactive, changing the terms of compensation agreements already in place. And it would give Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner extraordinary power to determine the pay of thousands of employees of American companies.

The purpose of the legislation is to "prohibit unreasonable and excessive compensation and compensation not based on performance standards," according to the bill’s language. That includes regular pay, bonuses — everything — paid to employees of companies in whom the government has a capital stake, including those that have received funds through the Troubled Assets Relief Program, or TARP, as well as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The measure is not limited just to those firms that received the largest sums of money, or just to the top 25 or 50 executives of those companies. It applies to all employees of all companies involved, for as long as the government is invested. And it would not only apply going forward, but also retroactively to existing contracts and pay arrangements of institutions that have already received funds.

In addition, the bill gives Geithner the authority to decide what pay is "unreasonable" or "excessive." And it directs the Treasury Department to come up with a method to evaluate "the performance of the individual executive or employee to whom the payment relates."

The bill passed the Financial Services Committee last week, 38 to 22, on a nearly party-line vote. (All Democrats voted for it, and all Republicans, with the exception of Reps. Ed Royce of California and Walter Jones of North Carolina, voted against it.)

The legislation is expected to come before the full House for a vote this week, and, just like the AIG bill, its scope and retroactivity trouble a number of Republicans.

What’s that I hear? The sound of Karl Marx’s ghost chuckling from his grave.

We’re from the government, and we’re here to screw, er . . . "help" you.

Exit Question: If Stephen Gobie was still operating his male "escort" service out of Barney Frank’s Capitol Hill apartment, would Timothy Geithner get to set the, um, "wages"?

After all, he was living there at Barney’s pleasure, so you could say there was the requisite "government" funding involved.

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By Claire Bates

A new Cold War appears to be brewing between Russian and U.S. astronauts in outer space – over a loo and an exercise bike.

The tricky issue of who uses whose lavatory on the International Space Station only came to light when a Russian cosmonaut complained he was no longer allowed to use a U.S. toilet and exercise bike.

Gennady Padalka aired his frustrations in an interview with a Russian newspaper before he headed off into space.

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All smiles: The current crew on the ISS. But cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, left, says splitting rules over loos, food and exercise bikes has lowered morale onboard. His U.S. colleague is in the back row, centre.

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American Michael Fincke and Russian Gennady Padalka have served together twice on the ISS. Fincke told Padalka: ‘There is no space in space for politics’

He blamed officious busybodies back down on Earth for the squabbles over how the international crew divided food, toilets and exercise facilities. And he said the lack of sharing was lowering morale.

‘What is going on has an adverse effect on our work,’ the 50-year-old said.

Before he and his crew blasted off for space last Thursday, Padalka told the Novaya Gazeta newspaper that in the past, they’d all shared food rations out in space which had helped with bonding. However, this was now frowned upon.

‘The general table always united crews,’ he said.

‘Cosmonauts found something new to eat, and sharing the tasty food improved our mood. Now we are told we should eat only the Russian products.

‘They also recommend us to only use national toilets.’

Padalka said before the mission he’d asked the Americans if he could use their gym to stay fit.

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Scene of strife: The crew on the ISS has risen from three to six

‘They told me: "Yes, you can." Then they said "No." Then they hold consultations and they approve it again,’ he said.

‘Then right before the flight, it turns out again that the answer is negative.’

Padalka conceded that compared to the Russians, the U.S. astronauts were living the high-life in space with access to a luxurious American astro-loo and ‘tastier’ food.

But he said he was embarrassed by the arguments.

‘Cosmonauts are above the ongoing squabble, no matter what officials decide,’ he said.

‘We are grown-up, well-educated and good-mannered people and can use our own brains to create normal relationship.

‘It’s politicians and bureaucrats who can’t reach agreement, not us, cosmonauts and astronauts.’

He added the ISS crew agreed with his sentiments and quoted a fellow American astronaut: ‘Michael Fincke said "There is no space in space for politics", and he is right,’ the Russian said.

However these niggly issues are unlikely to ease as before Saturday there were only three astronauts living on the ISS at any one time.

Now there are six, putting even more pressure on the limited resources.

So what dented the international harmony of space?

For seven years after his first space mission in 1998, Padalka said he and his U.S. astronauts had co-operated brilliantly.

But this changed apparently when missions were put on a commercial footing.

The argument dates back to 2003 after the Columbia shuttle disaster. Nasa shuttles were temporarily grounded, which left Russia shouldering the full burden of taking crews and supplies to the station.

By 2005, Russia was charging other space agencies for the resources used by their astronauts, who responded in kind.

However the experienced cosmonaut who has spent more than 386 days in space, also criticised the Russian portion of the station for being backwards.

‘It’s built on technologies dating back to the mid-1980s, at the very latest,’ he said.

Russian space agency spokesman Alexander Vorobyov said he would not comment until he had read the interview.

Russia’s space programme fell on hard times after the Soviet collapse and struggled to stay afloat by selling seats on its Soyuz spacecraft to well-heeled space tourists.

During the oil-fueled economic boom its budget increased, but it is again heading for tough times as Russia tries to weather its worst financial crisis since 1998.

How astronauts go to the toilet in zero gravity

Designed to be as much as possible like those on Earth, each space toilet – properly called a Waste Collection System – can be used by both men and women.

The units use flowing air instead of water to move waste through the system.

Solid wastes are compressed and stored onboard, and then removed after landing.

Wastewater is vented to space on the Space Shuttle, although future systems may recycle it, such as they do on the International Space Station.

The air is filtered to remove odour and bacteria and then returned to the cabin.

The Zvezda module toilet (circled), built by the Russians on the International Space Station - the Americans apparently have a deluxe astro-loo

The Zvezda module toilet (circled), built by the Russians on the International Space Station – the Americans apparently have a deluxe astro-loo

The space station’s Russian toilet uses fans and airflow in place of gravity to collect solid and liquid waste for disposal. The gas-liquid separator is part of the liquid waste system.

It weighs about 35lb and is about 1.5ft long and 8in wide and tall.

Technology has come a long way since 1961 when the very first space toilet was the simple ‘do it in your suit’ version.

By Judi McLeod

Uncle SAM-HSA Wants YouIf you are one of those unruly citizens who dares to be anxious or depressed about the dictatorial ObamaNation, Uncle SAMHSA.gov is here to look after you.

In the old days it was just Uncle Sam, who is now passe.  Uncle SAMHSA.gov (The Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration) is more tragically hip.

While President Barack Obama, his cast of 500-plus, his decoy aircraft and Teleprompter were getting ready to leave for London’s G20 summit, Uncle SAMHSA.gov was born.

SAMHSA.gov went online after midnight on Monday, the same day that Obama sent GM CEO Rick Wagoner packing.  But there is no connection and if you think that there is, you must be paranoid and a conspiracy theorist.

Uncle SAMHSA.gov can be described in short by the summation that if you do not agree with all of the things President Barack Hussein Obama is doing to your country, then you must be flat out crazy.

Just like some of those survivalist sites springing up all over the Internet, Uncle SAMHSA.gov is touted as “Getting Through Tough Economic Times”.

While the survivalist sites have something useful to say about stockpiling food and water against coming inflation, Uncle SAMHSA is sort of, well, flat.

Like every uncle, SAMHSA worries about the state of your health, including depression, anxiety–”compulsive behaviors (over-eating, excessive gambling, spending, etc.)

Don’t worry about falling apart in getting through those tough economic times, because SAMHSA has all the warning signs: “Persistent sadness/crying, Excessive Anxiety, Lack of Sleep/Constant Fatigue, Excessive Irritability/Anger, Increased drinking, Illicit drug use, including misuse of medication.

In the Getting Help Section, you no longer have to take an aspirin and get back to a physician in t he morning, because as Uncle SAMHSA is here to remind you, you can just let your fingers do the walking through “the government services of a phone book”.

Uncle SAMHSA seems to think that you need to be on the lookout “to be aware of trying to determine whether you or someone you care about could be at risk for suicide”.

“Acknowledge that economic downturns can be frightening to everyone but that there are ways of getting through them–from engaging in healthy activities, positive thinking, supportive relationships, to seeking help when needed from health professionals.”

SAMHSA likely sees engaging in healthy activities as distributing Dem literature, positive thinking as recognizing “The Messiah” and supportive relationships as cozying up to Chris Dodd or Barney Frank.

The SAMHSA/Suicide Prevention Resource Center, was brought to you with the assistance of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), The Department of Labor and the Department of the Treasury. 

All the more reason to tune in to Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levine, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham or to watch Glenn Beck on FOX.  When you cannot get any of the above, throw open the windows and hear the birdsong.  It’s Spring, President Everywhere notwithstanding.

By Matt Cover

(CNSNews.com) – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has introduced a bill that would enshrine tax increases sought by the Obama administration into law this year – one year ahead of schedule.
 
Baucus, the Senate Democrat who already is spearheading major liberal initiatives on health care and energy, said the effort would reassure tax-wary Americans that Congress is committed to keeping most of the Bush-era tax cuts in place.
 
“Today we’re offering a piece of certainty during an uncertain time for millions of hardworking, honest Americans,” Baucus said Thursday in a statement marking the bill’s introduction. “These measures are not excessive or outrageous, but timely and targeted, and will build on earlier efforts to stabilize the economy.”
 
Baucus’ bill would fulfill Obama’s campaign promise to both keep Bush’s tax rates in place for most Americans and raise both income taxes and capital gains taxes on top producers.
 
The Senate proposal would make permanent Bush’s tax cuts on those making less than $200,000 a year and raise taxes on those making above $200,000 in 2010. It also would make permanent the reductions in the capital gains tax rate for lower income brackets while raising them in 2010 for the two highest ones.
 
The measure makes permanent the 10-, 25-, and 28-percent tax rates enacted under President Bush while raising the 33- and 35-percent rates to 36 and 39.6 percent in 2010. The bill would mark the first time taxes have been deliberately raised since the 1990’s.
 
The bill would keep the issue of tax increases out of next year’s congressional election cycle, denying Republicans the opportunity to attack Democrats while many are campaigning for re-election.
 
Many thought the issue wouldn’t be taken up until next year when the lower Bush tax rates would have reverted to the higher rates the nation faced under President Bill Clinton; Baucus’ bill allows Congress to deal with the issue without the pressure of impending – and politically toxic – mass tax increases.
 
The income levels affected by Obama’s tax increases would be slightly less than the $250,000 the president has said. The 33 percent tax bracket applies to those couples with a taxable income between $208,000 and $372,950.
 
The 35-percent bracket applies to all families with taxable income above $372,950. Obama has said that he doesn’t want anyone with taxable income below $250,000 to face higher taxes.
 
On capital gains – money made from stock market investments – Baucus’ legislation would keep the 15-percent tax rate for taxpayers in the 25- and 28-percent income tax brackets and the zero percent rate for filers in the 10 and 15 percent income tax brackets.
 
Capital gains tax rates would rise to 20 percent in 2010 for filers in the 33- and 35-percent brackets and stock dividends would again be taxed as regular income. Currently, dividends are treated as capital gains for tax purposes, a policy that would end in 2010.
 
If passed, the bill would also enshrine other Bush-era tax policies voters have looked on favorably.
 
The child tax credit would be permanently set at $3,000, with up to a $6,000 credit for two children. The adoption credit would permanently set at a maximum of $10,000 per eligible child. The popular Earned Income Tax Credit would be permanently increased to 45 percent for filers with three or more children.
 
The toxic Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) would be permanently indexed for inflation, with exemptions permanently set at $46,700 for individuals and $70,950 for joint filers. 

The AMT provision is especially important because the tax – originally targeted only at the highest income earners – has gobbled up increasing numbers of middle class Americans as they have gotten wealthier, forcing them to pay significantly higher taxes.
 
Finally, the bill deals with the politically unpopular estate tax. Known as the death tax, the obscure provision often entangles families seeking to pass down family farms and businesses. Baucus’ bill would permanently tax estates valued below $3.5 million at 45 percent.

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