Sunday, May 09, 2010

Obama's good luck terrorism strategy

Politically correct security policies increase risk of attack

Responding to Republican charges that Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad's plot failed only because of luck, Rep. Ike Skelton, Missouri Democrat, said, "What's wrong with being lucky?"

Nothing at all - until the luck runs out.

Two potentially devastating terror attacks in five months failed only because of terrorist incompetence. Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was unable to ignite his suicide bomb, sparing the lives of passengers on Northwest Airlines Flight 253. Had Mr. Shahzad's car bomb been assembled with greater care, hundreds of people at Times Square might have been killed or wounded. They were lucky, indeed.

There was only bad luck for the victims of Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan. Luck also ran out for the victims of Arkansas recruiting station shooter Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad. Each of these recent incidents reminds us that policies pursued by the Obama administration have made the United States measurably less safe from terrorist attacks.

Consider the contribution administration policies may have made to the near success of Mr. Shahzad's attack. It was reported last week that Mr. Shahzad was on the Department of Homeland Security's Traveler Enforcement Compliance System list as late as 2008. The Obama administration removed him from that list. He also was under scrutiny of the national Joint Terrorism Task Force until the Obama administration waved it off the case.

Mr. Shahzad was being watched for very good reasons. Like Maj. Hasan and Mr. Abdulmutallab, he had ties to American-born Muslim radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. He had family connections to the Mehsud clan, which plays a leading role in the Pakistan Taliban. He traveled regularly to the Pakistani frontier area, which is the epicenter of violent religious extremism in that country. None of these things automatically made him a terrorist, but they did provide a rational basis for keeping a close watch on Mr. Shahzad. The Obama administration disagrees with the rationale, apparently obsessed with downplaying the possibility that any Muslim could ever be a domestic terrorist. It is the Obama team's perverse twist on racial and ethnic profiling.

These disturbing revelations about the case of Mr. Shahzad raise pertinent questions regarding U.S. domestic security. Who gave the order to shut down surveillance of Mr. Shahzad? Who removed him from the Traveler Enforcement Compliance System list? Who else has been removed from this and other lists and why? Were they removed simply because they were Muslims and the administration believed that ipso facto they were being persecuted unfairly ? What have they been up to since being freed of government scrutiny?

A top-to-bottom review of all such actions taken by the Obama administration is in order. The public deserves to know whether policy directives given since Mr. Obama took office materially contributed to the near success of Mr. Shahzad's terror plot. There is nothing wrong with luck. With this president, America needs all the luck it can get.


Why Many Western Intellectuals Hate Their Own Countries, Want to Change a Successful System, and Idealize Third World Tyrannies

By Barry Rubin

George Orwell wrote prophetically in 1943:
“In the last twenty years Western civilization has given the intellectual security without responsibility….It has educated him in skepticism while anchoring him almost immovably in the privileged class. He has been in the position of a young man living on an allowance from father whom he hates. The result is a deep feeling of guilt and resentment, not combined with any genuine desire to escape. But some psychological escape, some form of self-justification there must be....These creeds have the advantage that they aim at the impossible and therefore in effect demand very little….The life of an English gentleman and the moral attitudes of a saint can be enjoyed simultaneously….

“The fact that the eastern nations have shown themselves at least as warlike and bloodthirsty as the western ones, that so far from rejecting industrialism, the East is adopting it as swiftly as it can—this is irrelevant, since what is wanted is the mythos of the peaceful, religious and patriarchal East to set against the greedy and materialistic West….We shall be hearing a lot about the superiority of eastern civilization in the next few years.”

In the first paragraph, Orwell was focusing on how intellectuals transfer their allegiance to their country's enemies. At the time, he was talking about the Communist USSR and Nazi Germany. But he might just as well have been talking about their resentment of the existing system. It's interesting to approach this issue from a traditional kind of socialist or even Marxist approach:

Large sectors of Western intellectuals, culture producers, and unproductive segments of the upper middle class (the kind of people who work in higher-paid government jobs and non-profit organizations included) have long been deeply resentful of the capitalist ruling class. But rather than join with the toiling masses in an alliance (the historic Marxist view), they see the masses in their own country--the contemporary working class, small businesspeople, white-collar workers, and farmers--as reactionary materialists.

They see their chosen allies instead as those who are expected to be discontented with the system: the poor (who Marxists contemptuously called the lumpenproletariat), the young, racial minorities within the country, and a huge pool of new immigrants, legal or otherwise. There are also sympathies with radical regimes or revolutionary movements (today, often radical Islamist ones) abroad. That is not to say whether or not this alliance makes sense or can work. There are many weaknesses in this conception but this discussion will be left for another time.

By the way, one interesting feature here is the dropping of women's liberation issues, which is a subject that could also be analyzed at length. It is a return of the old left and radical nationalist practice of subordinating women's interests to a "larger" cause. One aspect that is important is that issues involving women's equality in Muslim-majority states or communities can thus be ignored.

Today, the basic strategy of this movement is a statist policy to gain control of society through bureaucratic power rather than revolution. Having already seized the commanding heights of idea production (culture, education, media), they would become an effective ruling class by centralizing power in a government (or European Union bureaucracy) that provides massive employment for them (directly and through grants or payments) and governs on the basis of regulations they produce. Who needs control of the means of production directly when one has control of a government body that regulates the means of production or huge amounts of capital?

Incidentally, Orwell dealt with this issue also in an essay. See how what he says corresponds to what's going on now, most clearly through the European Union which is replacing elected governments in its control over society:
"Laissez-faire capitalism gives way to planning and state interference, the mere owner loses power as against the technician and the bureaucrat, but Socialism--that is to say, what used to be called Socialism--shows no sign of emerging." Orwell viewed this system as an enemy of democratic socialism--as he did Stalinist Communism--since it is designed to benefit a new ruling class rather than the majority of the people.

A major tenet of this strategy is to gain popular support by offering "free" tax-funded benefits to supporters funneled through the government. But the main "redistribution of wealth" is not to promote some socialist-style equality but merely a way of buying votes and ensuring the new ruling class's power.

Orwell writes: "Power can sometimes be won or maintained without violence, but never without fraud because it is necessary to make use of the masses and the masses are led on by vague dreams of human brotherhood...."

Today, this how "social justice," "multiculturalism," and "political correctness" function as slogans used by the would-be new ruling class to mobilize popular support against the old ruling class. Lenin bragged that he would get the capitalists to sell him the rope by which to hang them. Today, the equivalent goes much further: persuading the capitalists (or their offspring) that they have to give up power because they want to be good, moral, fashionable, progressive people.

Of course, the result can be seen today in countries like Greece. As the economy's unproductive sector grows, luxury policies (including excessive environmental regulations) and pay-outs become too burdensome; business is strangled and over-taxed and society inevitably heads into a downward spiral. Escape is nearly impossible because those receiving massive benefits rebel against the cuts needed to save the country, while politicians are too fearful to take the required measures.

Conservative and right-wing groups that portray these people and their strategies as socialist and Marxist--much less liberals--are missing the point, using ideas decades out of date. One result of making this mistake is that their opponents can persuasively ridicule them as inaccurate and make appeals for support to large numbers of liberals and centrists who might otherwise be horrified by what's going on.

(Here's a simple proof: If the goal was redistribution of wealth, a very large portion of the Stimulus and other money would be going for projects to rebuild inner cities, provide jobs for poor people, and train them for productive employment and to open small businesses. Why is the Stimulus and the "jobs' bill" that followed doing so much less for working people and the poorer of society than the New Deal (which provided massive employment far more effectively on far less money) and President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty campaign? True the Stimulus was designed to deal with the economic downturn but if the administration was so ideologically bent in the direction its critics think, wouldn't that have affected its design?)

Back to Orwell. Note particularly the last sentence of Orwell's first paragraph: "The life of an English gentleman and the moral attitudes of a saint can be enjoyed simultaneously."

So you can drive your SUV and save the earth; enjoy a high living standard while telling average Americans and Chinese or Indians that they cannot morally have the same thing; cheer on totalitarian regimes and movements to oppress others (it's their culture to have dictators and torture dissidents, you see [sarcasm]) while yourself enjoying freedom. Even better, you can look down on those "uneducated," "backward," and "primitive" people with whom you have to co-exist who don't recognize that you know everything and they know nothing. And given that situation, there is no reason to listen to those people at all, even to take seriously and honestly rebut their arguments.

Regarding Orwell's second paragraph, imagine the stir if Orwell made such a remark today. Yet we are indeed living in a time when the West has rejected dictatorship, intolerance, and imperialism, though we hear endlessly about its real or alleged past history as defined by such categories. Meanwhile, elements of the Third World have adapted these same things. Imperialism is now operating in a reverse geographical direction. On the basis of past misdeeds, which have been corrected, the West is asked to countenance current misdeeds which endanger its survival.

An example that bears keeping in mind is as follows. Britain and France treated Germany terribly in the immediate aftermath of World War One, demanding it admit war guilt and pay huge reparations. Yet using these past sins as a rationale for giving concessions to Germany in the 1930s, a decade later, led to disaster. The situation, to put it mildly, had changed.

On the question of industrialization, I was taught this point almost forty years ago, on my first visit to China, when a Chinese worker explained to me that the dream of everyone in that country was to have a car, a big house, and other luxuries that people enjoyed in the West. And why shouldn't they have that dream if they are willing to work to fulfill it?

Here, though, are a couple of ideas that should be at the center of serious debate today but aren't:

--The true nature of the ideology and movement currently enjoying hegemony in Europe and North America, and why has it turned against the interests of the great majority of its own people, including the working class.

Someone should do a serious study of how the views of the 1960s-1970s radicals--not Marxism but rather new working class theory, viewing the American masses as benefitting from imperialism, and revolutionary youth movement ideas--are embodied in the current ideology.

--How the West has abandoned imperialism, hatred of other groups, chauvinistic nationalism, and aggression while elements in the Third World have taken on these characteristics, using them against the West and other Third World peoples.


Six months old and a baby can tell good from evil

This confirms much previous research suggesting that some ideas of right and wrong are genetically encoded. For a philosphically-grounded discussion of the matter, see here

Mothers and fathers might think they have few higher duties than teaching a sense of right and wrong to their children. But research suggests that their offspring may already be a step ahead of them.

Scientists have discovered that babies can start to make moral judgments by the age of six months and may be born with the ability to tell good from bad hard-wired into their brains.

Infants can even act as judge and jury in the nursery. Researchers who asked one-year-old babies to take away treats from a “naughty” puppet found they were sometimes also leaning over and smacking the figure on the head.

The research is being pioneered by a team of psychologists at the infant cognition centre at Yale University in Connecticut. Their findings go against the received wisdom that humans begin life with a moral “blank slate” and are shaped by their parents and social environment.

In their research, the scientists used the ability to tell helpful from unhelpful behaviour as an indication of moral judgment. In one experiment, they tested infants less than a year old playing with cuddly animals and puppets. Babies are unable to press buttons or pull levers to show their preferences so the scientists measured the amount of time a child was gazing at one object. Typically they stare longer at things that please them.

In one test, groups of babies aged between six months and a year watched an animated film of simple geometric shapes. A red ball with eyes tries to climb a hill. At different times, a yellow square gets behind it to help push it up the hill and a green triangle forces it back down again.

The babies watched it between six and 14 times, depending on their powers of concentration. They were then asked to “choose” between the “good guy” square, and the “bad guy” triangle. In 80% of cases the infants chose the helpful character against the unhelpful one.

In a second study, a toy dog tries to open a box. One teddy bear helps him but another sits on it to stop him getting inside. After watching it at least six times, the babies were asked to choose which bear they liked. Most opted for the friendly bear.

Paul Bloom, professor of psychology who heads the study team, said the research flew in the face of psychologists such as Sigmund Freud who believed humans began life as “amoral animals” and William James who described a baby’s mental life as “one great, blooming, buzzing confusion”.

“There is a growing body of scientific evidence that supports the idea that perhaps some sense of good and evil is bred in the bone,” Bloom said.

To establish whether babies were really responding to niceness and naughtiness the scientists devised another test in which a toy cat plays with a ball while a cuddly rabbit puppet stands on either side. When the cat loses the ball, the rabbit on the right side returns it to him but if the ball rolls the other way the rabbit on the left side picks it up and runs away with it. This time, one-year-old babies were asked to take a treat away from one puppet. Most took it from the pile of the naughty rabbit, who also ended up with a smack on the head for his bad behaviour.

Kiley Hamlin, author of the team’s Infant Morality report, said: “We spend a lot of time worrying about teaching the difference between good guys and bad guys in the world but this might be something that infants come to the world with.”

However, Nadja Reissland, a behavioural psychologist at Durham University, cautioned that adult assumptions may have coloured how a child’s actions were interpreted by the researchers. “Everything hinges on who decides what is moral,” said Reissland. “By saying pushing the ball up the hill is helpful, the researchers are making a moral judgment. The babies might just prefer to see things go up rather than down.

“In the other test, perhaps the bear closes the box to prevent the dog from getting in there because there is something dangerous inside. It is like a mother keeping children out of an area where there is something harmful.”

Reissland added that children started being socialised into knowing good from bad as soon as they were born.

Peter Willatts, a senior lecturer in psychology at Dundee University, said: “You cannot get inside the mind of the baby. You cannot ask them. You have to go on what most attracts their attention. “We now know that in the first six months babies learn things much quicker than we thought possible. What they are born with and what they learn is difficult to divide.”


Australia treats adult video gamers like children

THE head of one of the world's largest computer game publishers has accused Australia of censoring video games.

Frank Gibeau, the head of interactive powerhouse EA Games, weighed into the debate on whether games in Australia should be granted an R18+ rating by writing an open letter to the Government criticising its lack of support for the adult rating.

Mr Gibeau's comments come on the eve of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, which begins today and is expected to address the R18+ Rating proposal.

Australia is one of the few Western nations in the world which doesn't have an adult rating for games and it will take a unanimous verdict by all seven state representatives to change the classification.

More than 90,000 signatures have been collected in a petition calling for an R18+ rating by game retailers EB Games, GAME and review website PAL GN and delivered to each state's Attorney-General.

Mr Gibeau said the current policy forcing developers to rewrite game code was "censorship". "Government policies that don't allow for the rating of mature content in video games effectively censor entertainment choices for adults," he said. "These policies show a poor understanding of today's video gaming audience.

"Existing legislation in Australia that limits age ratings of games to 16 demonstrates a distance between those policies and the reality of the video game industry and the people that play interactive games in Australia today."

Mr Gibeau said adult consumers were entitled to be responsible for their own entertainment choices and the classification system for films had done a good job protecting children from inappropriate content. "The spectrum of gamers is as wide as the viewership of television, movies, theatre, and the readers of books," he said.

"Governments don't insist that all books be written for children, or that all television shows be cartoons. "Adult gamers want their governments to treat them with the same respect they get as movie-goers and book readers. "Adult Australians should be allowed to choose the games they play, including those with mature themes."

Mr Gibeau also warns the existing Australian policy towards gaming classification could also have a negative financial impact on the many talented local developers. "Policy makers should consider the environment they create for game makers," he said. "Governments that design policies hostile to game developers and their creative medium will struggle to attract investment from the global industry."



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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