“Because We Can”

Christopher Hitchens:

Why do we fail to detect or defeat the guilty, and why do we do so well at collective punishment of the innocent? The answer to the first question is: Because we can’t—or won’t. The answer to the second question is: Because we can. The fault here is not just with our endlessly incompetent security services, who give the benefit of the doubt to people who should have been arrested long ago or at least had their visas and travel rights revoked. It is also with a public opinion that sheepishly bleats to be made to “feel safe.” The demand to satisfy that sad illusion can be met with relative ease if you pay enough people to stand around and stare significantly at the citizens’ toothpaste. My impression as a frequent traveler is that intelligent Americans fail to protest at this inanity in case it is they who attract attention and end up on a no-fly list instead. Perfect.

It will continue until we demand our rights again. And unfortunately, this is a bi-partisan problem. This idiotic philosophy applied in the last administration as well. It’s a natural tendency of bureaucrats of any stripe.

Also, I was listening to some talk radio today in the car (Prager) and it occurred to me that people have this strange notion that “safe” is a binary condition. Something is safe or it is not. But it’s not. As I’ve said in other contexts (what a mess the human spaceflight program is), there is no safety this side of the dirt. Every decision you make, every action you take, carries some level of risk. Each one must be balanced against the expected benefit. When someone asks the president if it’s “safe to fly,” he should use it as a teachable moment. But he won’t.

Laugh

…so you don’t cry. Dave Barry reviews the year:

It was a year of Hope — at first in the sense of “I feel hopeful!” and later in the sense of “I hope this year ends soon!”

It was also a year of Change, especially in Washington, where the tired old hacks of yesteryear finally yielded the reins of power to a group of fresh, young, idealistic, new-idea outsiders such as Nancy Pelosi. As a result Washington, rejecting “business as usual,” finally stopped trying to solve every problem by throwing billions of taxpayer dollars at it and instead started trying to solve every problem by throwing trillions of taxpayer dollars at it.

He goes through it month by month.

Cross The River

burn the bridge:

We were told we had to do it because of the however many millions of uninsured, yet this bill will leave some 25 million Americans uninsured. On the other hand, millions of young fit healthy Americans in their first jobs who currently take the entirely reasonable view that they do not require health insurance at this stage in their lives will be forced to pay for coverage they neither want nor need. On the other other hand, those Americans who’ve done the boring responsible grown-up thing and have health plans Harry Reid determines to be excessively “generous” will be subject to punitive taxes up to 40 percent. On the other other other hand, if you’re the member of a union which enjoys privileged relations with Commissar Reid you’ll be exempt from that 40 percent shakedown. On the other other other other hand, if you’re already enjoying government health care, well, you’re 83 years old and, let’s face it, it’s hardly worth us giving you that surgery for the minimal contribution you make to society, so in the cause of extending government health care to millions of people who don’t currently get it we’re going to ration it for those currently entitled to it.

Looking at the millions of Americans it leaves uninsured, and the millions it leaves with worse treatment and reduced access, and the millions it makes pay significantly more for their current health care, one can only marvel at Harry Reid’s genius: government health care turns out to be all government and no health care. Adding up the zillions of new taxes and bureaucracies and regulations it imposes on the citizenry, one might almost think that was the only point of the exercise.

Uncharacteristically, I think that Mark Steyn is too optimistic.

The Folly Continues

Andy McCarthy:

…no thanks to the government, the plane was not destroyed, and we won’t get to the bottom of the larger conspiracy (enabling the likes of Napolitano to say there’s no indication of a larger plot — much less one launched by an international jihadist enterprise) because the guy got to lawyer up rather than be treated like a combatant and subjected to lengthy interrogation. But the terrorist will be convicted at trial (this “case” tees up like a slam-dunk), so the administration will put it in the books as a success … just like the Clinton folks did after the ’93 WTC bombers and the embassy bombers were convicted. In their minds, litigation success equals national security success.

Stooge Gibbs said today that the administration takes the war seriously, but you wouldn’t know it by their behavior. Attempting to blow up a civilian airliner while being Muslim is not a civilian crime — it is an act of war, by an illegal combatant.

[Update a few minutes later]

More thoughts from Victor Davis Hanson:

I think the year-long mantra of “Bush destroyed the Constitution” is now almost over, and we will begin again worrying about our collective safety rather than scoring partisan points by citing supposed excesses in our anti-terrorism efforts. With the delay in closing Guantanamo (from the promised shuttering on Jan. 20, 2010 to . . . sometime in 2011?), Obama’s quiet copy-catting of Bush security protocols (such as wiretaps, intercepts, tribunals, and renditions), and the popular outcry against the upcoming show trial of KSM in New York, a public consensus is growing that radical Muslims like Hasan and Mutallab will continue to attempt to kill Americans. Citizens increasingly understand that the last eight years of relative safety following 9/11 were due only to heightened security at home and proactive use of force abroad, that we should cease trying to appease radical Islam by dreaming up new euphemisms (“overseas contingency operations,” “man made disasters,” etc.), and that it is time to stop the apologetics and kowtowing, and grudgingly accept that thousands of radical Islamic fundamentalists worldwide want to kill Americans — and dozens of governments, at least on the sly, hope that they do. Such venom has nothing to do with past American behavior or George Bush’s strut, nor can it be ameliorated on the cheap by Barack Obama’s Nobel Prize, middle name, or reset-button diplomacy.

Even if he starts now, though, people will remember the naivety of the first year of office, and the left will remain angry at him that he’s acting just like the BusHitler. He’s in a no-win situation, politically. And I have no sympathy. He asked for the job, and lied his way into it.

Low Bar

Let me just say, for one, that I have absolutely no less confidence in Janet Napolitano after her performance today than I did the day she was nominated, or confirmed. In fact, I’ll go farther and say exactly the same thing about the president. Unlike some, my respect for his ability, experience, integrity or viewpoints has not diminished in any way since his election. Neither of them has disappointed me in any way whatsoever.

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