Monthly Archives: March 2011

The Education Celebrity

Diane Ravitch says it all about Michelle Rhee and the “free-market” school reform community:

…The corporate education reform movement has had no more visible star than Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools. After she left office last fall, she formed a new political organization to raise $1 billion to advocate for the changes she believes in. She has been advising some of the nation’s most conservative governors to fight the teachers’ unions and rely on standardized tests to fire or reward teachers.

Her credibility was her alleged success in lifting up test scores in the low-performing public schools of the nation’s capitol during her nearly four years in charge.

Now, however, that credibility has been directly challenged by revelations of possible widespread test fraud in the D.C. schools while she was in charge. An article in USA Today reveals that more than half the public schools in D.C. were found to have an unusual number of erasures on standardized tests of reading and math.

The school at the center of the investigation is the Crosby S. Noyes Education Campus, which saw spectacular score gains during Rhee’s tenure. Rhee held up the school as a model because the percentage of students who reached proficient on D.C. tests soared from 10 percent to 58 percent in a two-year period. The school was her example of what could happen as a result of her policies. In its recruitment advertisements, the District school system identified the school’s principal, Wayne Ryan, as one of its “shining stars.” Rhee twice showered bonuses on the school’s staff, with $10,000 for the principal and $8,000 for each teacher.

A computer analysis of erasures found a dramatic pattern of changing answers from wrong to right at Noyes. In one seventh grade classroom, students averaged 12.7 wrong-to-right erasures on the reading test, as compared to a district-wide average of less than 1…

What will this revelation mean for Rhee’s campaign to promote her test-driven reforms? Her theory seemed to be that if she pushed incentives and sanctions hard enough, the scores would rise. Her theory was right, the scores did rise, but they didn’t represent genuine learning. She incentivized desperate behavior by principals and teachers trying to save their jobs and meet their targets and comply with their boss’ demands…

Almost from the day she arrived in her job in D.C., Rhee has been a magnet for publicity and controversy. She has been on the cover of Time and Newsweek, has appeared innumerable times on national television, and was one of the stars of the pro-privatization film Waiting for Superman. She is truly an education celebrity.

Her celebrity is not built on her success in D.C., however, which now appears to be a chimera.

Her celebrity results from the fact that she has emerged as the national spokesman for the effort to subject public education to free-market forces, including competition, decision by data, and consumer choice. All of this sounds very appealing when your goal is to buy a pound of butter or a pair of shoes, but it is not a sensible or wise approach to creating good education. What it produces, predictably, is cheating, teaching to bad tests, institutionalized fraud, dumbing down of tests, and a narrowed curriculum.

This formula, which will be a tragedy for our nation and for an entire generation of children, is now immensely popular in the states and the Congress. Most governors embrace it. The big foundations endorse it. The think tanks of D.C., right-wing and left-wing, support it. Rhee helped to make it fashionable. If she doesn’t pause to consider the damage she is doing, shame on her. If our policymakers don’t stop to reflect on the damage they are doing to public education and to any concept of a good education, then our nation is in deep trouble.

And Melanie Phillips reveals that the same credulousness of the useful idiots who believe in mountebanks like Michelle Rhee is operative in Obama and Hillary and other Western “leaders” who believe in the “Arab spring.”

Beware The Magicians of Education

Without doubt, the biggest scam artists in American life are the so-called education reformers. The latest in the line of these “miracle workers,” it now turns out, is former Washington, D.C. schools head Michelle Rhee whom pious liberals and “free market” conservatives both have proclaimed a martyr sacrificed to the power of the evil teachers’ union.

Now, not surprisingly, a story in USA Today, reveals that Rhee’s shining achievements were either downright fraudulent or, like the liberal pieties being asserted about the “Arab spring,” wishful thinking:

In just two years, Crosby S. Noyes Education Campus went from a school deemed in need of improvement to a place that the District of Columbia Public Schools called one of its “shining stars.”

Standardized test scores improved dramatically. In 2006, only 10% of Noyes’ students scored “proficient” or “advanced” in math on the standardized tests required by the federal No Child Left Behind law. Two years later, 58% achieved that level. The school showed similar gains in reading.

Because of the remarkable turnaround, the U.S. Department of Education named the school in northeast Washington a National Blue Ribbon School. Noyes was one of 264 public schools nationwide given that award in 2009.

Michelle Rhee, then chancellor of D.C. schools, took a special interest in Noyes. She touted the school, which now serves preschoolers through eighth-graders, as an example of how the sweeping changes she championed could transform even the lowest-performing Washington schools. Twice in three years, she rewarded Noyes’ staff for boosting scores: In 2008 and again in 2010, each teacher won an $8,000 bonus, and the principal won $10,000.

A closer look at Noyes, however, raises questions about its test scores from 2006 to 2010. Its proficiency rates rose at a much faster rate than the average for D.C. schools. Then, in 2010, when scores dipped for most of the district’s elementary schools, Noyes’ proficiency rates fell further than average.

A USA TODAY investigation, based on documents and data secured under D.C.’s Freedom of Information Act, found that for the past three school years most of Noyes’ classrooms had extraordinarily high numbers of erasures on standardized tests. The consistent pattern was that wrong answers were erased and changed to right ones…

Several teachers at Noyes also were dubious about the legitimacy of test scores, describing what one called “a disconnect” between the high scores and how their students performed in class.

Ernestine Allen, a former teacher who taught pre-K as well as second- and fourth-grades for five years at Noyes, says it was hard to trust the scores of some students entering her classes. Their scores showed they were doing well when, she says, they were still struggling with reading.

“You wonder, how is it that this student got such a high score?” Allen says. She says teachers talked about the problem among themselves. But, she says, “Who do you tell?”…

I urge you to read the entire report. And be wary of educational magicians regardless of how attractive and well-meaning they appear.

Supporting The “Neighborhood Bully”

Bound for Israel

In an article on folk music icon Pete Seeger’s anti-Israel stance, Ron Radosh mentions musicians who follow and those who refuse to follow the leftist line:

…Seeger joins the likes of Elvis Costello, Tom Morello, The Pixies, Gil Scott-Heron, Carlos Santana, and most recently, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd. All these singers have made clear their hatred of Israel, and have not said one word about the murder of Israelis in recent days.

Fortunately, Bob Geldof so far is standing firm in his decision to go to Israel to accept an honorary award from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Elton John has performed in Israel, as have Leonard Cohen and others. Just a day ago, Gene Simmons of Kiss did not mince words when he called artists who boycott Israel “idiots.” Born Chaim Witz in Israel, Simmons told the Israeli press that “The countries they should be boycotting are the same countries that the populations are rebelling…People long to be free … And they sure as hell don’t want somebody who’s a ruler who hasn’t been elected by them.”

If Seeger thinks Geldof and Simmons are artists he knows little about and is not familiar with their music, he might take the measure of one singer he knows very well and who has not made any political statement, but who has spoken through his action. In a busy non-stop European tour in June, Bob Dylan has added one stop to sing in Tel Aviv on June 20th, squeezing it in between London and Milan. Some years ago Dylan wrote a song that could have been written today, “Neighborhood Bully.” Please, go to the link and read the powerful lyrics. And mail them to Pete Seeger, who regularly says how much he loves Dylan. Maybe at 91, he’ll learn something.

Pete Seeger took fifty years to openly condemn Stalin — he was fifty years too late. He may not be a fan of Stalin any more, but he still supports the enemies of the West and the United States, those who are this new century’s totalitarians and monsters. Pete won’t be around in fifty years, so we cannot wait for him to learn. He should rethink the forces of hatred that he has opted to join and endorse. At least, now that he has shown where he stands, one must hope our country see no more honors bestowed upon a man who sadly remains a useful idiot.

I wonder how much Dylan “loves” Pete Seeger. It was Seeger, after all, who led those who wanted Dylan to remain a Woody Guthrie imitator (like Seeger) rather than deepen and expand his musical interests. It was Seeger who, at the ’65 Newport Folk Festival, tried to cut the power to Dylan’s amplifiers. Seeger is just one in a long line of Communist apparatchiks who did everything they could to get artists to slavishly follow the Party line.

Making The World Safe For Islamism

One of the New York Times's Useful Idiots

Uber-Useful Idiot Nicholas Kristof, of the New York Times, hugs the Libyan “freedom fighters”:

…I opposed the 2003 Iraq invasion because my reporting convinced me that most Iraqis hated Saddam Hussein but didn’t want American forces intruding on their soil. This time my reporting persuades me that most Libyans welcome outside intervention.

“Opinion was unanimous,” Michel Gabaudan, the president of Refugees International, told me on Wednesday after a visit to Libya. Mr. Gabaudan said that every Libyan he spoke to agreed that the military strikes had averted “a major humanitarian disaster.”

“Men, women and children, they are ecstatic about the role of the coalition but worried that it may not continue,” he said…

David Warren expresses the more sober view of the reality-based community:

As the days pass, and the intervention in Libya grows longer, my alarm also grows. The West digs itself into a position that is contrary to western interests, and can only advance the interests of our worst enemies in the Middle East. If I were to characterize the effect of the intervention – the actual as opposed to the stated effect – it would be, “Making the world safe for Islamism.”…

This is another liberal, push-button war, from the Bill Clinton era; one intended to produce very few allied casualties. Twelve years ago I described the NATO attack on Serbia as a form of “experimental bombing.” See what the techies can come up with, working from satellite photos. Hit anything that looks mean on the other side, and spare the rest of the landscape. Just “tilt that playing field” against Milosevic, or whichever nearly defenceless dictator we have decided to seriously dislike.

Note that liberal wars are never conducted against our more lethal enemies. Every argument for going into Libya counts 10 times for going into Iran, the one place where the opposition is secular and pro-Western. But it is taken for granted that we can’t “do” Iran, because the ayatollahs might already have serious weapons up their sleeves. And besides the humanitarian crisis there has been going on for decades; the Iranian demonstrations are no longer “breaking news.”

An air force isn’t a “touchy-feely” thing. Contemporary weapons systems allow much greater precision than in the past (at a price: cruise missile barrages at more than $1 million a pop). But without matching accuracy in live-time intelligence, we still cannot know what we are hitting. And intelligence out of Libya is almost a contradiction in terms.

Russia and China waived their vetoes on the Security Council, granting us permission to score an own goal, then immediately launched their rhetorical opposition. The Arab League has said it never approved of bombing, just “no fly.” And throughout the Arab world, we find that Gadhafi had friends. Also in Tripoli, surprise. And among terrorist cells in Europe.

But it is Gadhafi’s enemies that disturb me more. As Niall Ferguson points out, when the allied intervention was announced, it was proclaimed from the minarets of Benghazi. And the cry throughout the city was not “God bless America,” but rather, “Allahu Akhbar!” Our media insist on spotlighting a small unrepresentative minority of Westernized, middle-class people with cellphones and Facebook accounts, when the primary, organized opposition to the Arab world’s autocrats are Islamist imams.

In Afghanistan, it was fairly argued, by opponents of the Bush invasion, that the CIA and our rich Saudi friends had sponsored the Taliban, to resist the previous Soviet occupation. We helped create the lethal enemy we were facing. As 9/11 showed, our former allies of convenience retained no sentimental feelings of obligation towards the West.

The history of CIA and other semi-secret Western support for the Muslim Brotherhood and similar Islamist factions – as allies against a common Soviet enemy – goes back to the early years of the Eisenhower administration. It was even understandable in the context of the Cold War. The enemy of my enemy is my friend; and after all, we once supported Stalin, against Hitler.

But now we are doing something more profoundly senseless. In the name of a “humanitarianism” that is not thought through, we are subtly joining forces with so-called “moderate” Islamists against isolated secular tyrants. We have foreign services sending feelers out to Islamist opponents of every Arab regime, in the name of “democracy” and “inclusivity.”

From Obama down through the liberal intelligentsia we have blather about how the Muslim Brotherhood is “evolving” – as it embraces the tactical devices of modern Western political parties, from women’s groups and youth clubs to electronic media and studied efforts by spokesmen to appear “cool.” Yet all this remains in the service of a political ideology that is unambiguously committed to the spread of Shariah, and the destruction of us.

This is a very old story: the ability of the liberal mind to delude itself by confusing appearances with realities; by embracing the comfortably plausible in preference to the uncomfortably true. And finally, expressing genuine surprise when the whole effort blows up in our faces.

Yes, Virginia, There Are Bad People

Mark Steyn identifies “one of the great delusions of our age,” that there are only bad governments, not bad people:

…one of the great delusions of our age — that there are bad governments but no bad peoples. “Not all Germans were Nazis” — but enough were and enough of the rest strung along that the qualification is irrelevant. Not all Afghans are Taliban — but the real problem in that wretched land is not “the Afghan government” but the Afghan people. A dozen pages of a Flashman yarn has a sounder grasp of the Afghan psyche than nine years of multilateral “nation-building.” Which is why we’re going round and round in circles in an almighty Groundhogistan where a man gets sentenced to death for converting to Christianity under a court system created, funded, and protected by us.

In the Middle East, likewise: There are bad governments but no bad peoples. One hopes that in his involuntary retirement the unlovely Mubarak, who sold himself to successive U.S. administrations as a restraint on the darker impulses of his citizenry, retains enough of a sense of humor to appreciate posterity’s little jest. Even as one of their own (Lara Logan of CBS) was sexually assaulted by a gang of 200 in Tahrir Square in the very hour of the tyrant’s fall, the Western media assured us that this was “the Facebook revolution.” Ninety-one percent of Egyptian women have undergone female genital mutilation. Not a lot of that on Facebook.

Under the veneer of “stability,” the Arab world’s bad governments and their peoples diverged. The U.N. declared the PLO “the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people,” but the Palestinian people begged to differ: In the end, Mahmoud Abbas doesn’t represent anything other than his Swiss bank account. Hamas, on the other hand, represents something all too real. A secular kleptocrat ruling over a re-Islamized populace was never a good long-term bet: Even bad governments can’t get too out of sync with their peoples. A similar realignment is now under way elsewhere. Mubarak, in the old CIA formulation, may have been a sonofabitch but he was our sonofabitch. In Tunis, Ben Ali was France’s sonofabitch. The Bahraini monarchy was Britain’s sonofabitch. As one reader wrote to me, the successor regimes are more likely to be the Muslim Brotherhood’s SOBs and Iran’s SOBs. Revolutions are not always democratic but they are, broadly, demographic.

In Japan, a confident victor transformed a deeply ingrained national culture: The Japanese people beat their swords into karaoke machines — to the point where…[it’s politically incorrect] to suggest we ever had any quarrel with them. That’s the luxury of victory. It’s a bigger gamble when you haven’t won yet.

And a report in today’s Wall Street Journal reveals that the enthusiasm for Egypt’s “facebook revolution” may have been wishful thinking:

Egyptians’ embrace of a set of proposed constitutional amendments in this weekend’s referendum is the clearest sign yet that leadership of the country’s revolution may be passing from youthful activists to Islamist religious leaders, according to analysts.

More than 70 percent of Egyptians vote yes to constitutional reforms in first free referendum in 30 years. Video and image courtesy of Reuters.

Electoral officials said 77% of Egyptians voted to accept a set of proposed amendments to Egypt’s constitution that will, among other changes, limit the presidency to two four-year terms and ease restrictions on independent political participation, according to results announced Sunday.

The proposed changes were opposed by protest leaders and by presidential front-runners Mohammed El Baradei and Amr Moussa. Both men urged Egyptians to reject the amendments, written by lawyers and judges nominated by Egypt’s military. Protest leaders and opposition politicians instead pushed for an entirely new constitution that would limit expansive presidential powers.

The results from Saturday’s referendum signal a shift in Egypt’s continuing revolution: The protest leaders, once celebrated as heroes and martyrs, are no longer the leading voice in Egypt’s transition to democracy.

In their place are popular religious leaders, whose strong backing of the amendments held sway. These leaders see approval of the amendments as an avenue to political power and a means of preserving the country’s Islamic identity…

And Caroline Glick:

…Since taking office, Obama has made clear that he views the US as an imperialist power on the world stage. As a result, the overarching goal of Obama’s foreign policy has been to end US global hegemony.

Obama looks to the UN as a vehicle for tethering the US superpower. He views US allies in the Middle East and around the world with suspicion because he feels that as US allies, they are complicit with US imperialism.

Given his view, Obama’s instincts dictate that he do nothing to advance the US’s core interests in the Middle East. Consider his policies towards Iran. The Iranian regime threatens all of the US’s core regional interests.

And yet, Obama has refused to lift a finger against the mullahs.

Operating under the assumption that US enemies are right to hate America due to its global hegemony, when the mullahs stole the 2009 presidential elections for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and then violently repressed the pro-Western opposition Green Movement, Obama sided with the mullahs.

Aside from its imperative to lash out at Israel, Obama’s ideological predisposition would permit him to happily sit on the sidelines and do nothing against US foe or friend alike. But given Obama’s basic suspicion of US allies, to the extent he has bowed to pressure to take action in the Middle East, he has always done so to the detriment of US allies.

Obama’s treatment of ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak is case in point.

When the Muslim Brotherhood-backed opposition protests began in late January, Obama was perfectly happy to do nothing despite the US’s overwhelming national interest in preserving Mubarak in power. But when faced with domestic pressure to intervene against Mubarak, he did so with a vengeance.

Not only did Obama force Mubarak to resign. He prevented Mubarak from resigning in September and so ensured that the Brotherhood would dominate the transition period to the new regime.

Obama’s most outspoken opponents in the US foreign policy debate are the neoconservatives.

Like Obama, the neoconservatives are not motivated to act by concern for the US’s core regional interests. What motivates them is their belief that the US must always oppose tyranny.

In some cases, like Iran and Iraq, the neoconservatives’ view was in consonance with US strategic interests and so their policy recommendation of siding with regime opponents against the regimes was rational.

The problem with the neoconservative position is that it makes no distinction between liberal regime opponents and illiberal regime opponents. It can see no difference between pro-US despots and anti-US despots.

If there is noticeable opposition to tyrants, then the US must support that opposition.

This view is what informed the neoconservative bid to oust Mubarak last month and Gaddafi this month.

The fracture between the Obama camp and the neoconservative camp came to a head with Libya. Obama wished to sit on the sidelines and the neoconservatives pushed for intervention.

To an even greater degree than in Egypt, the debate was settled by the third US foreign policy camp – the opportunists. Led today by Clinton, the opportunist camp supports whoever they believe is going to make them most popular with the media and Europe.

In the case of Libya, the opportunist interests dictated military intervention against Gaddafi. Europe opposes Gaddafi because the French and the British bet early on that his opponents were winning. France recognized the opposition as the legitimate government two weeks ago.

Once Gaddafi’s counteroffensive began, France and Britain realized they would be harmed politically and economically if Gaddafi maintained power so they began calling for military strikes to overthrow him.

As for the media, they were quick to romanticize the amorphous “opposition” as freedom fighters.

Seeing the direction of the wind, Clinton jumped on the European-media bandwagon and forced Obama to agree to a military operation whose goal no one can define.

What the US foreign policy fights regarding Egypt and Libya indicate is that currently, a discussion about how events impact core US regional interests is completely absent from the discussion. Consequently, it should surprise no one that none of the policies the US is implementing in the region advance those core interests in any way. Indeed, they are being severely damaged.

Under Mubarak, Egypt advanced US interests in two main ways. First, by waging war against the Muslim Brotherhood and opposing the rise of Iranian power in the region, Mubarak weakened the regional forces that most threatened US interests. Second, by managing the Suez Canal in conformance with international maritime law, Egypt facilitated the smooth transport of petroleum products to global markets and prevented Iran from operating in the Mediterranean Sea.

Since Mubarak was ousted, the ruling military junta has taken actions that signal that Egypt is no longer interested in behaving in a manner that advances US interests.

Domestically, the junta has embarked on a course that all but guarantees the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power in the fall.

Saturday’s referendum on constitutional amendments was a huge victory for the Brotherhood on two counts. First, it cemented Islamic law as the primary source of legislation and so paved the way for the Brotherhood’s transformation of Egypt into an Islamic state. Under Mubarak, that constitutional article meant nothing. Under the Brotherhood, it means everything.

Second, it set the date for parliamentary elections for September. Only the Brotherhood, and remnants of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party will be ready to stand for election so soon. The liberals have no chance of mounting a coherent campaign in just six months.

In anticipation of the Brotherhood’s rise to power, the military has begun realigning Egypt into the Iranian camp. This realignment is seen most openly in Egypt’s new support for Hamas. Mubarak opposed Hamas because it is part of the Brotherhood.

The junta supports it for the same reason. Newly appointed Foreign Minister Nabil el-Araby has already called for the opening of Egypt’s border with Hamasruled Gaza.

There can be little doubt Hamas’s massive rocket barrage against Israel on Saturday was the product of its sense that Egypt is now on its side.

As for the Suez Canal, the junta’s behavior so far is a cause for alarm. Binding UN Security Council Resolution 1747 from 2007 bars Iran from shipping arms. Yet last month the junta thumbed its nose at international law and permitted two Iranian naval ships to traverse the canal without being inspected.

According to military sources, one of the ships carried advanced armaments. These were illicitly transferred to the German merchant ship Victoria at Syria’s Latakia port. Last week, IDF naval commandos interdicted the Victoria with its Iranian weaponry en route to Gaza via Alexandria.

Add to that Egypt’s decision to abrogate its contractual obligation to supply Israel with natural gas and we see that the junta is willing to suspend its commitment to international law in order to realign its foreign policy with Iran.

On every level, a post-Mubarak Egypt threatens the US core interests that Mubarak advanced.

Then there is Libya. One of the most astounding aspects of the US debate on Libya in recent weeks has been the scant attention paid to the nature of the rebels.

The rebels are reportedly represented by the so-called National Transitional Council led by several of Gaddafi’s former ministers.

But while these men – who are themselves competing for the leadership mantle – are the face of the NTC, it is unclear who stands behind them. Only nine of the NTC’s 31 members have been identified.

Unfortunately, available data suggest that the rebels championed as freedom fighters by the neoconservatives, the opportunists, the Europeans and the Western media alike are not exactly liberal democrats. Indeed, the data indicate that Gaddafi’s opponents are more aligned with al-Qaida than with the US.

Under jihadist commander Abu Yahya Al- Libi, Libyan jihadists staged anti-regime uprisings in the mid-1990s. Like today, those uprisings’ central hubs were Benghazi and Darnah.

In 2007 Al-Libi merged his forces into al- Qaida. On March 18, while denouncing the US, France and Britain, Al-Libi called on his forces to overthrow Gaddafi.

A 2007 US Military Academy study of information on al-Qaida forces in Iraq indicate that by far, Eastern Libya made the largest per capita contribution to al-Qaida forces in Iraq.

None of this proves that the US is now assisting an al-Qaida takeover of Libya. But it certainly indicates that the forces being assisted by the US in Libya are probably no more sympathetic to US interests than Gaddafi is. At a minimum, the data indicate the US has no compelling national interest in helping the rebels in overthrow Gaddafi.

The significance of the US’s descent into strategic irrationality bodes ill not just for US allies, but for America itself. Until the US foreign policy community is again able to recognize and work to advance the US’s core interests in the Middle East, America’s policies will threaten both its allies and itself.

The New Thugs, Worse Than The Old Thugs?

As usual, Canadian columnist David Warren gets the new Libyan adventure quite right:

Does anyone remember the Powell doctrine? A relic of Colin Powell’s days in the Pentagon, this held that any U.S. military incursion into a foreign country must meet three criteria of success. It must enjoy broad international support, employ overwhelming force, and deploy a clear exit strategy.

Really this was a relic of the Vietnam War, and America’s horrible national experience of bleeding to no purpose. Powell was never the president, however, and his doctrine was never official policy. It merely looked like a policy, in the absence of any articulate contradiction.

Had it been in force, the U.S. could never have entered the First World War, the Second World War, or Korea. It would also have obviated the American Revolution. It was about right for the Kuwait intervention in 1991, however.

This Powell doctrine was a curious echo of the shopping list that came down to us, from the Middle Ages, as “bellum iustum,” or “just war theory.” According to the Catholic Church, whose reasoning still underpins much of the West’s default public thinking, we may go to war when the enemy is not only an aggressor, but doing grave and lasting damage on an ambitious scale. Every alternative to war must be shown to have failed, or have no chance of success. A realistic prospect of victory must also be established. And it must be achievable without imposing disproportionate evils in turn…

Prudence, in the higher moral sense, cannot be reduced to a formula, yet the attempt by such great minds as those of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas to think through the requirements of prudence in war cast much light on our quandaries. Into sin we may fall, but we must try to live justly.

In a way almost touching, the Bush administration tried to meet all the criteria of a just war, when invading Afghanistan, then Iraq. They tried to meet the Powell maxims, too. They went to elaborate and exhausting lengths to leave “democratic” and constitutional regimes, in a most unfavourable region. For this, especially, they endured the contempt of the world’s most aggressively self-righteous people.

Who, in turn, seem to be rallying behind the Security Council resolution of Thursday night, which “authorizes” the enforcement not only of no-fly zones over Libya, but any other uses to which military forces may be put, short of a decisive ground invasion.

The very fact that Russia and China failed to veto this resolution, speaks against it. That it fails not on one, but on every single criterion of a just war, should be noted. That it fails the Powell test is a matter of course.

The resolution was brought as temporary common ground between an American administration that is internally “divided” (the most flattering way to describe a president, and secretaries of state and defence who contradict each other when not contradicting themselves); and several but not all of the European Union states (Germany notably excepted); and a few members of the Arab League who will be seeking favours.

As Britain and France (remember Suez?) have not the ability to project serious military force into the theatre at short notice, the resolution depends for action upon their least willing partner. The U.S. is as ever expected to carry the ball most of the way to an unspecified end zone; after Robert Gates and arguably Barack Obama have gone on record opposing any such scheme.

Sarkozy’s France has, without consulting her European allies, already recognized the rebels in apparent control of Benghazi as an alternative government. No one else knows whom they are supporting, and in point of fact, the most promising internal opponents of Gadhafi’s regime are thuggish tribal chiefs and Islamist ideologues we have no reason to prefer to the monster with whom we are over-familiar…

We don’t know what we are doing. We only know that we have moral support for it on paper, from an international organization that is utterly corrupt, wherein members who do not wish us well are pleased to grant us permission to blunder…

Genocide’s Fellow Travelers

Once again,Melanie Phillips sweeps away the cant effused by the West’s pious liberals:

…This amoral response by the west [to the Itamar atrocity] is simply devastating. It means that it no longer possesses the capacity even to acknowledge Jewish victimisation at the hands of the Arabs – the actual cause of this nine-decade long conflict. Instead, Israelis have become literally dehumanised in the eyes of these British and American commentators. The murder of Israeli children is simply airbrushed out of the western media and political picture as just too inconvenient, because it gets in the way of what they have all persuaded themselves is an axiomatic fact: that this is merely a dispute over land between two rival peoples, and it is all Israel’s fault that it still isn’t resolved.

Indeed, some of the media couldn’t even bring themselves to call this atrocity an act of terrorism. But even ‘terrorism’ doesn’t accurately convey what happened in Itamar. Terrorism is when people murder the innocent to achieve a political end. Heaven knows, that’s bad enough. But this goes much further even than that. The Arabs who broke into the Fogels’ house and went from room to room murdering the family, slitting their throats while they slept, did so because they reach a psychotic state of ecstasy from murdering Jews.

We know that because the Arabs in Gaza handed out sweets and rejoiced at the slaughter. We know it because we have seen it before many times: Arab hands being dipped exultantly in the blood of the Israeli victims they have butchered. We know it because the Palestinian Authority-controlled media, mosques and educational materials tell their children that it is the greatest glory and a religious duty to kill Jews. We know it because the Palestinian Authority names squares and streets after such genocidal murders in order to honour their deeds.

This is not merely terrorism. This is a depraved death cult — one adopted by the direct heirs to the Arabs of inter-war Palestine who formed Hitler’s Middle East legion. And their present-day descendants use the very same Nazi motifs and tactics of psychopathic dehumanisation of the Jews to incite their murder.

In other words, the Arab war against the Jews of Israel can be seen as the unfinished business of World War Two. The awful difference is that, whereas then it was ordinary Germans who looked the other way while the Jews were slaughtered, now it is ordinary Britons and other westerners who look the other way when a Jewish family is butchered – averting their gaze in order not to have to confront the terribly inconvenient fact that the genocide of the Jews, which they wish to obliterate from the collective western psyche, is still an active project.

So they tell themselves that the reason people slit the throats of children as they sleep is because Jews are building houses. Wickedly, these western fellow-travellers of genocide fail even to acknowledge publicly the open incitement to hatred and murder of Jews and Israelis that pours out of the Arab world and the Palestinian Authority (and that’s without even considering Hamas, whose genocidal aims are written for all to see.) Indeed, how can the west draw attention to this incitement: they help fund it.

Not only do they persist in this farcical analysis, not only do they then build upon this grotesque misrepresentation of the conflict to force Israel to compromise its security to these fanatics, but they also refuse to acknowledge the full depravity of what happened in Itamar because this shows up only too clearly the wicked falsehood of their assertion that it is Israel’s ‘settlements’ that prevent peace in the Middle East. And so, obscenely, they twist the presentation of this massacre to blame those who have been murdered for causing their own destruction.

Religious fascism as thus displayed by Arabs from Ramallah to Gaza City is bad enough. But it is the evil that now consumes Britain and the west which so completely chills the heart and prompts a terrible despair. For such moral blindness and worse means that, facing the heirs of the Nazis, the Jews once again find themselves abandoned, their victimisation once again dismissed and themselves once again blamed for their own persecution. Listen to the BBC, read the British newspapers or the New York Times, read the vicious readers’ comments on so many websites (including this one) and you will see that the blind eye to deranged racism and totalitarian mass murder that paved the way for so much slaughter under Nazism and Stalinism is rampant once again, showing us once more that civilisation is merely a thin veneer for barbarism.

In the face of this crisis of western civilisation and its chilling implications for the Jewish people, Israel itself is worse than useless. This is because — contrary to the brutish power ascribed to it by its enemies — Israel is pathologically timid. And so, even when faced with the terrifying consequences for its own security from the moral inversion of the west, it has chosen to stay silent.

It does not say what it should be shouting from the rooftops, that it is being forced by Britain, America and Europe to cut its own throat and that it refuses to do so; that it stands for truth, justice and international law while Britain, America and the EU stand for their negation; that it is not Israel but these western powers that are the cause of the Middle East impasse, because from the get-go the more the Arabs massacred the Jews the more Britain and the west rewarded them and punished their Jewish victims, a pattern which continues to this day.

Israel doesn’t say any of this because it fears that unless it goes along with the farce of the ‘peace process’ it will become delegitimised by a world that will take its revenge and abandon it to its fate at the hands of the billions in the Arab and Muslim world who want it destroyed. Which all goes to show that you can take the Jew out of the ghetto, but it is far harder to take the ghetto out of the Jew. And now we can see what the result of Israel’s brilliant strategy has been – that it has indeed become delegitimised by the so-called civilised world, and that Britain, America and the EU are not just abandoning it to its fate but effectively giving it a choice – slit your own throat, or we will do it for you.

The question now has to be asked of every person in Britain and the west who promotes the boycott of Israel, or wears the keffiyeh in solidarity with the ‘Palestinians’, or so obsessively demonises the ‘settlers’ or ‘apartheid’ Israel, or makes vicious comments at the dinner tables of the elite about the bloody Jews and shitty Israel, why these ‘enlightened’ folk turn a blind eye to the slaughter of infants as they sleep, and assist Jew-hating fanatics in their racist aim of destroying Israel and denying to the Jews alone the right to live in their own historic country – and all because Israel is reluctant to reward these fanatics by giving them the territory from where they can finally achieve their murderous aims. These ‘progressives’ need to be outed for what they are – the fellow-travellers of psychotic religious fascism.

Israel is the signature moral issue of our time. Which side people choose to be on in the Arab and Muslim war against Israel tells us whether they are on the side of truth, justice and basic humanity – or the side of evil. The sickening response to the slaughter of the Fogel family shows us all too horrifyingly which side the west is on.

The LA Times In The Cesspool

The murder victims

The Los Angeles Times engages in moral equivalence, the oh-so-sophisticated rhetorical device of leftist Western intellectuals, to apologize for the Itamar murderers:

One of the most depressing characteristics of the dysfunctional Palestinian-Israeli relationship is the self-destructive tit-for-tat mentality that often seems designed to keep the conflict alive rather than to end it.

Anyone who follows the news is familiar with how this cycle works. It might begin with a Palestinian child dying while stopped at an Israeli army checkpoint on his way to the hospital. In response, an enraged Palestinian shoots into a crowd of Israeli soldiers at a bus stop. To show that it will not tolerate such behavior, an Israeli army helicopter then fires a missile into an apartment building in Gaza, targeting militants but killing civilians as well, after which outraged Palestinians fire a rocket into Israel, which in turn leads the Israelis to tighten whatever embargo or travel restrictions or security rules are in place at the moment. That increases Palestinian rage still further.

Needless to say, the cycle doesn’t end there but continues until, after a while, it becomes completely impossible to say with any authority who began the hostilities or to distinguish actions from reactions.

We’re currently witnessing the cycle in real time. On Saturday, five members of an Israeli family living in the West Bank settlement of Itamar, near the Palestinian city of Nablus, were killed, including an 11-year-old boy, a 4-year-old boy and an infant girl, presumably [emphasis added] by Palestinian militants.

Claire Berlinski writes:

We went yesterday to Itamar, the West Bank settlement where Udi and Ruth Fogel, and their children–Yoav, age 11, Elad, age 4, and Hadas, their 3-month-old daughter–were murdered. A detail that wasn’t widely reported, or reported anywhere that I’ve seen, is that their newborn baby was decapitated [emphasis added]…

One very quick point I’ll make is that this was clearly not a family above all of “settlers”–some alien species that exists primarily as a political bargaining point–but of human beings. In the home next door to the one that was invaded, kids’ clothing was hanging on the line next to a child’s bicycle. You simply cannot look at that and think, “This story is above all about land and politics.” This story is above all about murder. They were children and they were murdered. Two more children were orphaned. The children were targeted deliberately. This was a premeditated murder–not a crime of passion or self-defense–and it was a psychotically savage crime. Anyone who in any way tries to rationalize or minimize this or to suggest that this is a fitting punishment for anything needs to go out and look at a three-month-old baby and ask himself what it would take to climb over a fence, climb in a window, and cut off that child’s head. If that act seems an “understandable” reaction to a political grievance to him, I don’t think we can have much of a conversation…

And Bret Stephens on the moral depravity of the liberal elite:

…Unquestionably pleased are residents of the Palestinian town of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, who “hit the streets Saturday to celebrate the terror attack” and “handed out candy and sweets,” according to the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. The paper quoted one Rafah resident saying the massacre was “a natural response to the harm settlers inflict on the Palestinian residents in the West Bank.” Just what kind of society thinks it’s “natural” to slit the throats of children in their beds?

The answer: The same society that has named summer camps, soccer tournaments and a public square in Ramallah after Dalal Mughrabi, a Palestinian woman who in March 1978 killed an American photographer and hijacked a pair of Israeli buses, leading to the slaughter of 37 Israeli civilians, 13 children among them.

I have a feeling that years from now Palestinians will look back and wonder: How did we allow ourselves to become that? If and when that happens—though not until that happens—Palestinians and Israelis will at long last be able to live alongside each other in genuine peace and security.

But I also wonder whether a similar question will ever occur to the Palestinian movement’s legion of fellow travelers in the West. To wit, how did they become so infatuated with a cause that they were willing to ignore its crimes—or, if not quite ignore them, treat them as no more than a function of the supposedly infinitely greater crime of Israeli occupation?

That’s an important question because it forms part of the same pattern in which significant segments of Western opinion cheered Ho Chi Minh and Fidel Castro and Robert Mugabe and even Pol Pot. The cheering lasted just as long as was required to see the cause through to some iconic moment of triumph, and then it was on to the next struggle. It was left to others to pick up the pieces or take to the boats or die choking in their own blood…

The Moral Cesspool

Four year old Elad

Click here to see the work of Israel’s “peace partners.”

Here’s the Jerusalem Post’s report. The lede:

Udi, 36, his wife Ruth, 35, and their children Yoav, 11, Elad, 4 and Hadas, 3 months were all stabbed to death. Family survived by 3 additional children…

The funeral for the five members of the Fogel family, killed in a terror attack in the West Bank settlement of Itamar on Friday night was scheduled to take place in Jerusalem on Sunday.

The members of the family have been identified as Udi, 36, his wife Ruth, 35, and their children Yoav, 11, Elad, 4 and Hadas, 3 months. The family is survived by their three additional children.

And Melanie Phillips:

…True, the Japanese tsunami is driving out much other news. But there can be little doubt that the sluggish reaction is due in no small measure to the fact that the British media and intellectual class think – and sometimes even say – that the Israeli ‘settlers’ deserve what they get. Thus Israelis living on land to which they are legally entitled are dehumanised, and even their murders are shrugged off as of little account. Thus the moral cesspool into which Britain’s intellectual elite has sunk.

We don’t yet know who perpetrated this latest atrocity. What must be emphasised however is that, quite apart from the open calls to genocide of the Jews by Hamas, as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has said the ‘wild incitement’ by the Palestinian Authority against Israelis, perpetrated without remission through its educational materials, in its mosques and on PA-controlled TV, is directly to blame for creating the incendiary atmosphere of hysterical and fanatical hatred that gives rise to such savagery. Through these channels the PA indoctrinates its people into hatred of Jews and the glorification of mass murder of Israelis. As CAMERA has noted:

The brutal attack comes only days after a West Bank Palestinian youth center announced a soccer tournament named after Wafa Idris, the first female Palestinian suicide bomber, who killed an 81-year-old man and injured over 100 other Israelis… The killer undoubtedly internalized the message, reinforced time and time again, that it’s noble and heroic to kill Jews. The same goes for the person who planned the attack, and the one who transported the killer, and any other enablers.

In the light of this, the sickeningly ambiguous response by the Holocaust-denying PA ‘President’ Mahmoud Abbas was all too telling:

In a statement released by his office, Abbas ‘stressed his rejection and condemnation of all violence directed against civilians, regardless of who was behind it or the reason for it. Abbas added that ‘violence produces violence and what is needed is to speed up a just and comprehensive solution to the conflict.’ Earlier on Saturday, the Palestinian Authority said that there was no evidence of Palestinian involvement in the terror attack in Itamar.

Of course, a ‘just and comprehensive solution’ will only arrive when the Arabs stop promoting the genocidal murder of Israelis and the conquest of their country — and when we no longer see as a result nauseating scenes such as in the picture above, where Gazan Arabs celebrated the murder of the Fogel family by handing out sweets.

But responsibility for the evil atmosphere which incites such pogroms does not rest solely with the Arabs of the PA or Hamas. It must also be laid at the door of those left-wing Israeli and western journalists and intellectuals who are obsessively egging on these Jew-hating exterminators…

Honest Reporting does a good job on the left-wing media’s biased reporting on this story, particularly the odious British Broadcasting Company (BBC):

…The BBC has a well-staffed bureau in Jerusalem with the same access as other media outlets. Yet it chose not to publish any photos or specific details of the terror incident.

In the BBC’s world, it is all about the settlements. By politicizing such a heinous terrorist crime perpetrated against a baby, two small children and their parents, the BBC is as guilty as the perpetrators of dehumanizing innocent Israelis based on where they live. For the BBC, it seems that the location of the murders and the stress on how settlements “are held to be illegal under international law” is more important than the murders themselves.

If the BBC ever had any moral compass, it has demonstrated that it has completely lost it. In the BBC’s eyes, there is no moral difference between deliberately murdering innocent babies and the construction of homes in disputed territory. Indeed, for the BBC, the settlement issue at best allows one to “understand” why such an atrocity could take place and at worst, justifies it.

The BBC is by no means the only guilty party in creating an environment where Israeli Jews living in West Bank communities are dehumanized to the point that a three-month old is merely a “settler” – the Palestinian Authority’s continuous incitement in the Palestinian media and education system bear much responsibility. But the international media have bought into this narrative of demonization and helped to create such a toxic environment that the murder of innocents is deemed to be almost acceptable and the human story behind a tragedy is cynically removed.

Barry Was Born In Brussels

Daniel Hannan,writing in the Wall Street Journal, issues a clear warning to America and brilliantly describes who Obama really is:

…Is he a socialist? No, at least not in the sense of wanting the state to own key industries. Is he a straightforward New Deal big spender, in the model of FDR and LBJ? Not exactly.

My guess is that, if anything, Obama would verbalize his ideology using the same vocabulary that Eurocrats do. He would say he wants a fairer America, a more tolerant America, a less arrogant America, a more engaged America. When you prize away the cliché, what these phrases amount to are higher taxes, less patriotism, a bigger role for state bureaucracies, and a transfer of sovereignty to global institutions.

He is not pursuing a set of random initiatives but a program of comprehensive Europeanization: European health care, European welfare, European carbon taxes, European day care, European college education, even a European foreign policy, based on engagement with supranational technocracies, nuclear disarmament and a reluctance to deploy forces overseas…

I don’t doubt the sincerity of those Americans who want to copy the European model. A few may be snobs who wear their euro-enthusiasm as a badge of sophistication. But most genuinely believe that making their country less American and more like the rest of the world would make it more comfortable and peaceable.

All right, growth would be slower, but the quality of life might improve. All right, taxes would be higher, but workers need no longer fear sickness or unemployment. All right, the U.S. would no longer be the world’s superpower, but perhaps that would make it more popular. Is a European future truly so terrible?

Yes. I have been an elected member of the European Parliament for 11 years. I have seen firsthand what the European political model means.

The critical difference between the American and European unions has to do with the location of power. The U.S. was founded on what we might loosely call the Jeffersonian ideal: the notion that decisions should be taken as closely as possible to the people they affect. The European Union was based on precisely the opposite ideal. Article One of its foundational treaty commits its nations to establish “an ever-closer union.”

From that distinction, much follows. The U.S. has evolved a series of unique institutions designed to limit the power of the state: recall mechanisms, ballot initiatives, balanced budget rules, open primaries, localism, states’ rights, term limits, the direct election of public officials from the sheriff to the school board. The EU places supreme power in the hands of 27 unelected Commissioners invulnerable to public opinion.

The will of the people is generally seen by Eurocrats as an obstacle to overcome, not a reason to change direction. When France, the Netherlands and Ireland voted against the European Constitution, the referendum results were swatted aside and the document adopted regardless. For, in Brussels, the ruling doctrine—that the nation-state must be transcended—is seen as more important than freedom, democracy or the rule of law.

This doctrine has had several malign consequences. For example, it has made the assimilation of immigrants far more difficult. Whereas the U.S. is based around the idea that anyone who buys into American values can become American, the EU clings to the notion that national identities are anachronistic and dangerous. Unsurprisingly, some newcomers, finding their adopted countries scorned, have turned to other, less apologetic identities.

The single worst aspect of Europeanization is its impact on the economy. Many Americans, and many Europeans, have a collective memory of how Europe managed to combine economic growth with social justice. Like most folk memories, the idea of a European economic miracle has some basis in fact. Between 1945 and 1974, Western Europe did outperform the U.S. Europe happened to enjoy perfect conditions for rapid growth. Infrastructure had been destroyed during the war, but an educated, industrious and disciplined work force remained.

Human nature being what it is, few European leaders attributed their success to the fact that they were recovering from an artificial low. They convinced themselves, rather, that they were responsible for their countries’ growth rates. Their genius, they thought, lay in having hit upon a European “third way” between the excesses of American capitalism and the totalitarianism of Soviet communism.

We can now see where that road leads: to burgeoning bureaucracy, more spending, higher taxes, slower growth and rising unemployment. But an entire political class has grown up believing not just in the economic superiority of euro-corporatism but in its moral superiority. After all, if the American system were better—if people could thrive without government supervision—there would be less need for politicians. As Upton Sinclair once observed, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it.”

Nonetheless, the economic data are pitilessly clear. For the past 40 years, Europeans have fallen further and further behind Americans in their standard of living. Europe also has become accustomed to a high level of structural unemployment. Only now, as the U.S. applies a European-style economic strategy based on fiscal stimulus, nationalization, bailouts, quantitative easing and the regulation of private-sector remuneration, has the rate of unemployment in the U.S. leaped to European levels.

Why is a European politician urging America to avoid Europeanization? As a Briton, I see the American republic as a repository of our traditional freedoms. The doctrines rooted in the common law, in the Magna Carta, and in the Bill of Rights found their fullest and most sublime expression in the old courthouse of Philadelphia. Britain, as a result of its unhappy membership in the European Union, has now surrendered a large part of its birthright. But our freedoms live on in America…

And speaking of European-style bureaucracy, Mark Steyn:

…How mean-spirited are House Republicans? So mean-spirited that they would end federally funded cowboy poetry! Tuesday, Harry Reid, the Majority Leader, took to the Senate floor to thunder that this town ain’t big enough for both him and the Mean-Spirited Kid (John Boehner).

“The mean-spirited bill, HR 1 … eliminates the National Endowment of the Humanities, National Endowment of the Arts,” said Sen. Reid. “These programs create jobs. The National Endowment of the Humanities is the reason we have in northern Nevada every January a cowboy poetry festival. Had that program not been around, the tens of thousands of people who come there every year would not exist.”

“Tens of thousands” would “not exist”? There can’t be that many cowboy poets, can there? Oh, c’mon, don’t be naïve. Where there are taxpayer-funded cowboy poets, there must surely be cowboy poetry festival administrators, and a Bureau of Cowboy Poetry Festival Licensing, and cowboy poetry festival administration grant-writers, and a Department of Cowboy Poetry Festival Administration Grant Application Processing, and Professors of Cowboy Poetry Festival Educational Workshop Management at dozens of American colleges credentialing thousands of cowboy poetry festival workshop co-coordinating majors every year. It all adds up. In Western railroad halts where the Last Chance Saloon shuttered in 1893, dusty one-horse towns are now glittering one-grant towns, where elderly hoochie-koochie dancers are being retrained to lead rewarding lives as inspectors from the Agency of Cowboy-Poetry Festival Handicapped-Access Compliance. Used to be a man could ride the range for days on end under lonesome skies with nuthin’ on the horizon ‘cept a withered mesquite and a clump of sagebrush, but now all you see are clouds of dust and all you hear’s the mighty roar of thundering hooves as every gnarled ol’ wrangler in the territory races for the last hitching post outside creative-writing class.

Well, it’s easy to mock, and in the hours after Sen. Reid’s effusions many of us on the Internet did. I liked Mary Katherine Ham’s channeling of Ted Kennedy: “John Boehner’s America is a land in which cowboys would be forced into back-alley poetry recitations.” Funny..