“Don’t Do Stupid Stuff”…Really!…So Stop Doing Stupid Stuff.

by Hal Gershowitz and Stephen Porter on August 16, 2014


Actually, President Obama didn’t say “stuff” he really said – well, you know. Nonetheless, conflating bumper sticker drivel with policy (foreign or domestic) has never been a good idea, and we thank Hillary Clinton for saying what so many democratic pros have known, but have been reluctant to express publicly.

We suppose every White House has done its share of stupid stuff. FDR tried to stack the Supreme Court. Harry Truman (in our view, one of our greatest presidents) issued his infamous” Executive Order 9835, which established “loyalty boards” throughout the land that could, and did, investigate every federal applicant, and whose findings were not subject to appeal. Under Dwight Eisenhower the ill-fated Bay of Pigs was planned and under John Kennedy it was executed. Lyndon Johnson parlayed “an incident” in the Golf of Tonkin (which seems never to have quite happened) into a massive escalation in Viet Nam. Richard Nixon, oh why go there. Then there’s Jerry Ford’s famous and incomprehensible “there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford Administration’. Jimmy Carter’s stupid stuff still plague us to this day, but our least harmful favorite was his nationally televised admonition during the height of the energy crisis;  “(we must keep) our thermostats…at 65 degrees in the daytime and 55 degrees at night…(to save) half the current shortage of natural gas.” Ronald Reagan suffered Iran-Contra, unbeknownst to him, right under his nose, and Bush (41) invited the nation to read my lips when pledging to the Republican National Convention with forked tongue that there would be no new taxes. Bill Clinton could have spared the country a linguistics lesson on what the meaning of “is” is, and George Bush dragged America into Iraq simply because he was certain the world would be much better off without Saddam Hussein (with or without WMD).

All of which brings us to President Barrack Obama and his ill-advised definition of government policy – “don’t do stupid sh…stuff.”  The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a very astute and erudite American knew and (so advised) that passing transformative legislation on a purely partisan basis was, well, doing stupid stuff. But President Obama did just that with Obamacare, and, indeed, as our readers know, we think that was pretty stupid stuff.

He alone decided to tell the nation during a televised address before Congress, the members of which he had to convince to vote for his Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, that “if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor and if you like your health insurance plan you can keep your plan...period.” Now, we know that he knew that wasn’t true.  In fact, his staff urged him not to say that, because they knew it was blatantly false, but he overrode them and stepped right into the stupid stuff.  An NBC investigation found that the Obama administration knew that between 40% and 67% of individual policyholders would lose their coverage under the law’s new requirements. But doing stupid stuff worked, so he kept doing it. He promised that during his first term the cost of insurance premiums would decrease $2400 per family. No one believed that was possible, and it wasn’t.  Actually, the average cost of insurance increased about $3500 per family. Making that promise was stupid stuff too. Perhaps, the deepest stupid stuff was when President Obama told the nation that if Obamacare increased the deficit by one dime he would veto it. Now, everyone in the Administration knew (and we mean everyone) that that was patently false. Even the Congressional budget Office has acknowledged that the deficit, because of Obamacare, will exceed $1trillion during the first decade of its passage. Now, this is deep, deep stupid stuff.

Then again, the stupid stuff just seems to be everywhere. IRS targeting of conservative message groups applying for tax-exempt status was really doing stupid stuff.  And the loss of the hard drives of everyone of interest in the Congressional investigation – more stupid stuff – or, depending on who wrote what on those hard drives, maybe not so stupid.

In the area of foreign affairs the stupid stuff has also been piling up.  Scrapping (in order to curry favor with Putin) the missile defense treaty that was carefully crafted with Czechoslovakia and Poland by his predecessor was, well, stupid stuff.

 President Obama sent Secretary of State Clinton to Russia to offer Putin (literally) a “reset” button to symbolize our “strategy” of improved relations. But Putin really wasn’t buying what Obama was selling. Putin was eying the re-creation of some semblance of the old Russian Empire.  Okay, let’s give the President credit for trying.  But the Obama Administration had no strategy to fall back on in the case of Putin ignoring the reset button.  So we, essentially, stood by and watched as Putin unwound a feeble democracy in Russia, swallowed Crimea and sponsored a bloody separatist movement in Ukraine. We stood there, knee deep in stupid stuff.

Announcing, far in advance, the dates by which we would pull all troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan was also, we believe, doing pretty stupid stuff. Not supporting the truly moderate Arab factions who had taken the fight to Bashar Assad in Syria was stupid stuff. Without western support the Islamic radicals quickly filled the void, and they have morphed into the barbaric Islamic State (or ISIS).

President Obama says the decision to pull all of our troops out of Iraq wasn’t his call. The Iraqis made him do it, he now says, because they wouldn’t agree on the terms of our continued presence there. Really? Jackson Diehl Deputy editorial page Editor of the liberal-leaning Washington Post is astonished.

“That Obama is somehow not responsible for the Iraq pullout would be news to anyone who remembers his announcement of it when he bragged of fulfilling his “promise” to end “America’s war in Iraq”; or his subsequent election campaign, in which he tirelessly proclaimed that the tide of war is receding. The sudden disclaimer certainly raised eyebrows among the numerous senior officials who have said both on and off the record, that Obama resisted leaving behind a stay-on force, slashed its size far below that proposed by military commanders and expressed relief when a legal snag provided him a pretext to pull the plug on Iraq altogether.”  ISIS running rampant over much of Iraq is the consequence of the vacuum we left behind. More stupid stuff.

What’s most disturbing about Obama’s current position, Diehl writes, is that his retreat in Iraq and passivity in Syria did much to create the ugly monster the United States now faces in the Islamic State, an organization that is more powerful, more vicious and more ambitious than al-Qaeda prior to Sept, 11, 2001.

The criticism of Obama’s precipitous pullout of Iraq far transcends the usual cast of Republican or neo-conservative naysayers. It has now been voiced by former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, by the Democratic chairmen of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees, by four former ambassadors to Iraq and by Obama’s own former Ambassador to Syria.

Then there is Iran, which insists that it will not agree to give up its right to enrich Uranium nor, it appears, have they agreed to disassemble any of their far-too-many centrifuges. Exactly what we have accomplished in our on-going negotiations with Iran is a bit of a mystery. With nothing concrete apparently accomplished, we have agreed to a four-month extension of the talks, and, in return, to unfreeze $2.8 billion in Iranian assets that have been frozen in the United States. If, at the end of the day, all we are left with is an unverifiable promise by Iran not to weaponize their nuclear capability we will have spent a lot of time and provided a lot of sanctions relief to Iran for little in return. Now, that too would constitute doing a lot of stupid stuff.


Heirs of Eden available at Amazon.com, Ingram Books and on Kindle, Nook and Apple e-books.






The New Barbarians

by Hal Gershowitz and Stephen Porter on August 10, 2014


 Charles Martel, the father of Charlemagne, halted the advance of radical Islam into Europe at the battle of Poitiers in 732.  It took another 700 years before the last remnants of Islam, as a ruling class, were to be pushed from the Iberian Peninsula.  As we have written in recent essays, radical Islam is on the move again, and it is uncompromising, primitive, and, well, barbaric.

We had best get used to it.  Old-fashioned barbarism is back and, if not checked, will surely spread like a bacillus or virus with an insatiable appetite for the conquest of non-conforming peoples within (or adjacent to) the lands within its grip.  The winds of conflict blowing westward from this Islamist movement are probably not controllable other than by countervailing winds from within Islam.  We in the West cannot successfully wage war against the chaos wrought by such militant religious fanaticism, no matter how repulsive such movements may be to western culture and values. This is a struggle that, ultimately, must be waged within Islam.

While we do not consider ourselves to be alarmists, we, nonetheless, find certain hard realities to be alarming.  Leading opinion research organizations including Pew Research, Gallop Organization, Zogby International and others have, in recent years, conducted many surveys of public opinion within the Muslim world.   We can conclude that only about 10% to 15% of Muslims worldwide consider themselves to aligned with radical Islam, but that still represents a pool of between 130 million and 200 million Muslims from which radical Islam can attempt, and is attempting, to recruit Jihadists.  Of equal concern, a substantial chunk of the world’s Muslims who consider themselves to be moderate Muslims are sympathetic to much of the agenda of the Islamist movement.

For example, with respect to suicide bombing of civilians, 68 percent of Palestinian Muslims said suicide bombings of civilians were justifiable; 51 percent of Shiite Lebanese Muslims said suicide bombings of civilians were justifiable and 43 percent of Nigerian Muslims said suicide bombings of civilians were justifiable.  What about freedom to choose ones religious preference? Eighty-six percent of Jordanians support death for anyone who leaves Islam. 84 percent of Egyptians support death for anyone who leaves Islam. 76 percent of Pakistanis support death for anyone who leaves Islam.  What about personal intimate behavior? Eighty two percent of Egyptians support stoning for adultery; 82 percent of Pakistanis support stoning for adultery and 70 percent of Jordanians support stoning for adultery.  Our point is, of course, that culture matters and the cultural-religious divide between western society and Islamic society is immense, and with respect to the radical Islamists it is a deadly serious divide.

In Iraq and Syria a huge swath of both countries is in the hands of radical Islamists, who are shooting, beheading and enslaving people who have different religious beliefs, mostly Shiites, Christians and the ancient minority Yazidis.  This is raw, dark-age barbarity at the hands of 21st century Barbarians who now call themselves The Islamic State. They have threatened to overrun the key Kurdish city of Erbil, emptied Mosul of its entire Christian population and are now threatening to flood much of Iraq by destroying the huge Mosul dam.  Hundreds of thousands have fled their homes, fearing that the new Barbarians will kill or enslave them. Their fears are well founded.

Whether it is Boko Haram that kidnapped and enslaved 200 school girls last April in Nigeria, or The Islamic State (ISIS) that is machine gunning Christians and beheading Yazidis, or Hamas that has fired over 3200 rockets at Israeli cities, it is, by any other name, Barbarism.

The western world needs to understand that radical Islam’s hatred of the west actually has little to do with any current conflict.  While Israel or support of Israel, or the presence of one faction of Islam (or any non-Islamic religion) might infuriate Islamists, their hatred of “the other” especially the West, is almost inborn.  It is taught from the cradle.  It has nothing to do with who we support and everything to do with who we are.  To radical Islamists (Jihadists) we are simply unbelievers – infidels, and basic tenets of Islam, literally embraced, call for the conquering, subjugation or killing of infidels. That, in a nutshell, is what it means to be a Jihadi.
 Most Muslims no more embrace the most literal commandment to engage in Jihad than most Christians or Jews adhere to the most radical or extreme interpretations of their respective scripture. Radical Islamists, however, do embrace the most inflammatory writing in their scripture.  They have enemies against whom they must wage holy war. They embrace three major methods of achieving their ultimate objective, Jihad. The first is to fight the Near Enemy prior to fighting the Far Enemy. The Near Enemy is anyone inside Islamic lands, whether it is an occupier or someone who has taken away territory that used to be Islamic (beware Spain and Portugal). The second method is to fight the Greater Unbelief—the major enemy, which today is the United States—before the Lesser Unbelief. And the third method is to fight the Apostates (false Muslims) first, and then the other Unbelievers. It is tempting to delude ourselves into thinking of ISIS (the Islamic State) or other such gaggles of Islamic extremism as nightmarish apparitions and isolated islands of insanity, which represent no danger to the West in general, or the United States in particular.  That would be wrong – dead wrong.

Jihad means armed warfare on behalf of the greater glory of Islam. The Sufi interpretation of jihad is that Jihad is simply a spiritual struggle against temptation and other personal vices.  But the Sufis make up perhaps one percent of the Islamic world and are viewed as heretics. We, in the west are told that the Sufi interpretation is the real meaning of Jihad, but the authoritative Encyclopedia of Islam tells a different story.  It simply states, “The spread of Islam by arms is a religious duty upon Muslims in general. Jihad must continue to be done until the whole world is under the rule of Islam… Islam must completely be made over before the doctrine of jihad [warfare to spread Islam] can be eliminated.”

Most westward looking Muslims do not subscribe to this doctrine, but this is precisely the dogma that informs today’s radical Islamists.  Numerous sources have attempted to catalog the on-going instances of Islamic terror.  It is almost impossible to accurately pinpoint the number of attacks perpetrated by radical Islamists since 9/11, especially with the battles being waged by the likes of ISIS and other well-organized Islamist movements, mostly against other Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and Jews, but the consensus points to over 23,000 attacks by radical Islamists since 9/11.

The US State Department has identified scores separate Islamic terrorist groups worldwide. Collectively they represent an alphabet soup of terror and it appears that new and powerful groups spring up faster than our government can keep track of them.  For example the new, self-proclaimed caliphate of ISIS doesn’t appear on the government’s list at all.  Among those identified by the United states are: Abu Nidal Organization (ANO), Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (AAMB),
Ansar al-Islam (AAI),
Army of Islam (AOI),
Asbat al-Ansar (AAA),
Gama’a al-Islamiyya (IG)HamasHarakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami (HUJI)Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami/Bangladesh (HUJI-B)Harakat ul-Mujahideen (HUM)HizballahIndian Mujahideen (IM)Islamic Jihad Union (IJU)Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU)Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM)Jemaah Islamiya (JI), 
Lashkar e-Tayyiba (LT)Lashkar i Jhangvi (LJ),
Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG)Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM)Mujahadin-e Khalq Organization (MEK)National Liberation Army (ELN)Palestine Islamic Jihad – Shaqaqi Faction (PIJ)Palestine Liberation Front – Abu Abbas Faction (PLF)Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC)Al-Qa’ida (AQ)Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)Al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI)Al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Al-Shabaab (AS)
Tehrik eTaliban Pakistan (TTP).

These new Barbarians are not yet at the gates, but you can bet that the GPS settings of the new Barbarians are pointed westward.  Let us jettison political correctness when addressing the threat of the new Barbarians.  Marauding and murder by radical Islamists is wanton evil. Good only triumphs over evil when good confronts evil. The consequences of doing less are unthinkable.


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Tunnels Designed To Hit Israel With a 9/11-Type Attack …Only Worse

August 3, 2014

A recent email complained that our essay last week, “The New Age of Religious War,” would only serve to foment anger.  Hopefully, the writer was correct. The current round of bloodshed in Gaza and southern Israel between Israel and Hamas has been an immense learning experience that should engender anger. Radically Islamic Hamas, we now [...]

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The New Age of Religious War

July 27, 2014

It is upon us. To draw such a conclusion is not to be an excitable alarmist.  It is to be but a rational observer. A movement of great historical significance has quickened and begun to metastasize and grow.  It is radical Islam, a movement at war with civilization. The Islamists are at war with almost [...]

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Of Thee I Sing 1776 Is At Sea With limited Internet Access. We’ll Return Next Week

July 20, 2014

We are sailing off the coast of Maine and have limited Internet access.  We will release our current essay when we return next week.

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The 21st Century And The Return Of Religious War

July 20, 2014

   The so-called “dark ages,” that very gloomy and seemingly endless period punctuated by a series of grotesque religious wars, represents a particular blight, a plague of sorts, on mankind’s’ imprint on history. Well, welcome back to the dark ages. Perhaps, we never left. Religious war is alive and well, and upon us with renewed [...]

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Hamas and Crimes Against Humanity

July 12, 2014

   “Crimes against humanity,” according to the International Criminal Court, include acts committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population…” As might be expected, murder tops the list of such acts, and the indiscriminate murderous (we use the term advisedly) Hamas rocket attacks aimed at Israeli civilian population centers [...]

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Murder They Wrote — and Murder They Did.

July 2, 2014

   Of course Hamas is responsible for the deaths of the three Israeli teenagers – Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrah.  It doesn’t really matter whether Hamas ordered the assassins to kill these particular Israeli boys. Hamas exhorts the murder of Israelis any time and any place. Murder is its raison d’être. The Hamas [...]

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Murder They Wrote — and Murder They Did

July 2, 2014

  Of course Hamas is responsible for the deaths of the three Israeli teenagers – Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrah.  It doesn’t really matter whether Hamas ordered the assassins to kill these particular Israeli boys. Hamas exhorts the murder of Israelis any time and any place. Murder is its raison d’être. The Hamas [...]

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100th Anniversary Of The War To End All Wars: Or, As The French Say, “The More Things Change, The More They Remain The Same.”

June 28, 2014

It is no surprise to readers of our essays – that we’re a bit obsessed with history.  And this is a good week to reflect, indeed, it is a good day to reflect on some of the lessons of history.  One hundred years ago today Gavrilo Princip, a young, rather non-descript, Serbian nationalist fired a [...]

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