Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Caliphate foothold in America and Barack Obama’s ignorance about the Crusades, the Inquisition and American History

Barack Obama’s relationship with Islam is definitely strange, at least as relative to that of most Americans. The United States may not be a Christian nation, but it is has always been a nation of Christians in that the overwhelming majority of the country has always been Christian, and remains so today. Given that 0.6% of the United States’ population is Muslim, most American’s familiarity with and knowledge of Islam comes from reading and what they see on TV. Neither can give someone the same familiarity with Islam as would be felt had the grown up with the faith as part of their family and their neighborhood. As shallow as is most of America’s familiarity with Islam today, before 9-11 it was even more so.

But of course September 11 did happen. Watching the scenes of revelers in the West Bank and other places cheering the attacks and thinking back on the first WTC attacks, the USS Cole, the embassy bombings in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi… Americans could have easily come to the conclusion that Islam was at war with the United States. But they didn’t. In fact, after September 11 President Bush was quite clear that that was not the case. And the predicted wave of attacks against Muslims across the country never materialized.

In fact, although there were some isolated attacks, just the opposite occurred. Prayer events where Imams were invited to speak took place across the country. Muslims were interviewed on TV and radio programs seeking to understand the religion and the motivations behind the attacks. In 1942 the hero of the left locked up 120,000 Japanese Americans in internment camps while in 2001 the bĂȘte noire of the left encouraged Americans to embrace Muslims.

Then in 2008 something remarkable happened. Americans elected to the presidency someone who, although ostensibly Christian, was the son of a Muslim, who grew up in a Muslim country, who attended a mosque (irregularly) and who was educated in a Madrasa.  That, in a country where only 50 years before serious questions existed as to whether or not a Catholic could be elected.

All of this is to simply say, America knows that it’s not at war with Islam.

That being said however, apparently Islam is at war with much of the world… and in some places, with itself. Of the 31 active wars going on in the world today (those with at least 100 causalities per year) fully 20 of them involve Muslims on one side or the other… or both. That’s 65% of the conflicts while Muslims make up 20% of the world’s population. At the same time, 29 of the FBI's 30 most wanted terrorists are... Muslims

Which brings us back to Barack Obama and his unwillingness to call the Islamist terrorists Islamist terrorists. While most Americans understand that not all Muslims are terrorists, they recognize the demonstrable fact that Islamic terror is a real thing, a real threat, and are simply puzzled by Obama's obfuscation on acknowledging the obvious.  But he has given Americans much to be puzzled about when it comes to his perspective on Islam.

In 2007 candidate Obama, after reciting the Arabic call to prayer (apparently with a perfect accent) he told a reporter for the NY Times that that sound was “one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset.”

In 2009 after Major Nidal Malik Hasan killed 13 soldiers and injured more than 30 at Ft. Hood, Texas, while yelling Allahu Akbar – a thread that seems to run through such attacks – Barack Obama told the country this was simply “workplace violence”.

In 2010 Charles Bolden, Barack Obama’s head of NASA told Al Jazeera that one of the president’s three mandates for NASA was: “to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering.”

In 2012, following the attack on Benghazi which killed 4 Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Barack Obama’s State Department spent $70,000 on ads in Pakistan denouncing the US made anti-Islam video the administration falsely blamed for the attacks. He further spoke at the UN, not in defense of free speech, but to suggest that “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”

Finally there is the President’s recent comments equating Islamist terror (although he refuses to use the term) with the Crusades, the Inquisition and slavery & Jim Crow in the US. Of the many things that Barack Obama has said that have puzzled Americans about his perspective on Islam, this might be the most egregious. It shows he has no understanding of history, either Christian or American.

The Crusades were a largely defensive effort as part of a centuries long geopolitical struggle that saw the Muslims stopped at Tours, France in 732, saw the Umayyad Caliphate control Spain from the 7th to the 11th centuries and saw the Ottomans turned back from Vienna in both 1529 and 1683.

In stark contrast to Islamic terror, the Inquisition was “not born out of desire to crush diversity or oppress people; it was rather an attempt to stop unjust executions.” This was necessary because prior to the Inquisition local nobles were responsible for passing judgment on heresy and arbitrarily convicted both the innocent and the guilty, often for reasons that had nothing to do with the church and everything to do with political expediency. The Inquisition was the Church’s attempt to eliminate such injustices.

Finally there is slavery and Jim Crow. What Barack Obama doesn’t bother to mention is that from before there was a United States Christians across the colonies fought slavery in the name of Christ. Indeed abolitionists existed throughout our history and Christianity was its driving force. That slavery became a blemish on American history is unfortunate, but it was economics that kept men in bondage, not Christianity, after all the Kansas–Nebraska Act had nothing to do with Christ. So too with Jim Crow. It was culture and economic power that separated the races in the south rather than religion. While some may have used Christianity as an excuse to support such laws, there was always a significant and vocal fight from Christians against such unequal treatment, including in the South. And it was Christianity that Martin Luther King harnessed to inspire the nation to bring the system down.

Barack Obama’s obdurate unwillingness to call Islamic terror by its name stands in stark contrast to his seeming eagerness to characterize a wide swath of activities and events in America as racist. Given that everything from 9-11 to videotaped beheadings to the burning people alive in cages has played itself out right in front of our eyes under the cry of Allahu Akbar, the former makes Americans wonder if Barack Obama is not perhaps some kind of Manchurian Candidate who seeks to soften American resistance to some future caliphate foothold. At the same time his seeming eagerness to immediately insert race into everything from votes against him to the Cambridge police dustup to the Michael Brown incident makes many Americans wonder if Barack Obama is not a modern version of Aesop’s Boy Who Cried Wolf, who sees racism around every corner, regardless of the facts.   

At the end of the day a leader doesn’t necessarily have to be of the same party or color or race or religion of those he leads. But he does have to share their basic values and understanding of the world if he desires their continued attention and engagement. With the Yoga like contortions he persists in engaging in in order to avoid calling Islamist terror what it obviously is and Islamic terrorists what they are, more and more people are beginning to wonder about Obama’s view of the world and view of America.  They understandably wonder how much that view - coming from a guy who didn't even know you're supposed to put your hand over your heart during the national anthem, something most 5th graders know - dovetails with theirs.  It’s about time.

Monday, February 16, 2015

A dab of Communism and a dash of Fascism, Barack Obama's economic philosophy in practice

The primary reason Communism doesn’t work is that it goes against the very nature of man. In Communism there is simply no motivation for anyone to work hard. When there is a zero correlation between the amount or quality of work you do and the compensation you receive, your motivation to work hard, or maybe work at all, simply evaporates. This is particularly true given that the compensation for the slacker at the next desk is equally without correlation as he continues to get the same salary regardless of whether he actually gets anything done or not. And while Communism as we know it has only been around since 1848, the ideas behind it have been around for much longer… and not surprisingly it was a failed ideology long before Marx and Engels gave it a brand name.

I’m not going to suggest that Barack Obama is exactly a Communist… even if he was, apparently he’s smart enough to lie about it if he knew it would harm his image… I do however think he’s a fan of one of the basic mantras of Communism: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” with him deciding who needs what. At the same time he’s very much a fan of the Fascist economic model where private property exists but government mandates much if not all of its activity. For him everything else is to simply be manipulated in order to achieve those two tenets of his philosophy.

For six years Barack Obama has been doing everything in his considerable power to bring that philosophy into effect in the United States. In all fairness, many of the things he has pursued had their genesis in previous administrations, but under Barack Obama they found an unabashed champion who was willing to turbo charge them as he sought to “fundamentally transformed America”.

The scorecard of Obama’s accomplishments is breathtaking:

If the words Communist or Fascist are too strong for delicate sensibilities, let me paint the picture in a slightly different way. Imagine the United States is a wagon with a combination of passengers and people pulling it. Where the wagon goes to find food and sustenance and to build prosperity is determined by the people pulling it. As long as there are enough people on the ground pulling the wagon, and those people are willing and able to put forth the effort to figure out where they should go and how best to get there, everything works out fine. Over time however if enough people stop pulling and jump into the wagon such that the ratio of passengers to pullers becomes too great, the wagon will eventually stop, as will the pursuit of sustenance, prosperity and everything else and stagnation and collapse will begin. But wait! It gets worse! Not only are there too many passengers in the wagon, but they have put chains on the ankles of those pulling it, have decided they know better how to pull the wagon – despite the fact that they are not pulling anything – and they have decreed that they get to decide how everything is distributed. Welcome to Barack Obama’s world. To put things in explicit terms, in Barack Obama’s America 140 million people are working to support a population of 320 million, which includes a record 100 million adults not working. That is the lowest rate in history.

So, while the Communist Party USA may not be celebrating their party’s ascendance into the White House, they are no doubt cheered by the fact that the country is being “transformed” in their direction. That does not bode well for anybody associated with the American wagon, whether pulling it or passenger…

Saturday, February 7, 2015

From Silicon Valley with Love... and Hope for Free Markets

I’ve just returned home to Atlanta from spending a week in Silicon Valley at a program called Founder Institute. Basically FI is a bootcamp for founders of mostly tech startups. We were a pretty diverse group of companies. One wants to put servers in space, one wants to help golfers establish handicaps and another seeks to help equipment rental companies join the mobile revolution. Some had raised $3 million in funding, others were doing hundreds of thousands of dollars a month in revenue while the majority were like me and running on past savings or paychecks. We were also a pretty diverse group of people with participants coming from around the world. In addition from the US, attendees came from Croatia, Australia, the Netherlands, Canada, Columbia, Vietnam and Puerto Rico. Finally, we were of a variety of ages as well, ranging from early 20’s to mid 50’s... weighing more heavily to the latter.

My goal in going out was to get a better insight into what makes for a successful startup. I’ve been working on one startup or another for 15 years, but I’ve yet to achieve what I consider a really successful exit. In addition, I was looking for angel investors to fund my latest startup, BrandScanned, a mobile rewards app for consumers, based on brands. (Think about how much of a pain in the butt it is to collect soup labels or boxtops for the various programs that provide resources to schools. Wouldn’t it be easier if they just put a unique code on the inside of each package that you could scan with your phone and the school automatically gets the points? Or how about those contests Kelloggs runs for movie tickets or Frito Lay runs for an Xbox where you have to register on their websites and type in some ungodly long number that’s hidden inside the package. Same deal… wouldn’t it be easier to just scan the codes with your phone? I think so, which is why I founded BrandScanned.)
While I didn’t come away with an investment, I came away with some great insights. The first is something I’d been told before but never really got. Success in Silicon Valley – at least as it relates to raising angel and venture capital – is very much driven by relationships. It’s your network… investors want to get to know you… want to trust you… know that you’re resilient, creative and of course, smart. And it’s more than just a cup of coffee… although that’s where it often starts. Investors usually want to know that they are not alone and that you’ve got other investors in your network. And the key to your network is, unsurprisingly… you! As such, investors are often open to making introductions, but you’ve got to sell yourself because if you’re going to create a spectacular startup, if you’re going to make them lots of money, you’re likely going to need a lot of help in the form of employees, partners and other investors… and it’s up to you to engage and inspire them.

Another of the insights I came away with was that if you fail in Silicon Valley, that doesn’t mean you’re sunk. On the contrary. It appears to be the case that if you’ve failed, that’s almost a badge to be worn as you storm into your next endeavor having learned some lessons from your previous bruising. For every Facebook that pretty much gets it right from the beginning are dozens more like Twitter that took a circuitous route to success through failure. Failure is the fertilizer that nourishes and spurs creativity, which in can and often does blossom into success.

Finally, in Silicon Valley they love to think big. Big success followed by big exits are what investors live for. If you’re interested in starting a restaurant or building a business that will do a couple million dollars a year in revenue, good luck, but Silicon Valley investors are not likely going to help you do so… although they might become customers. They want businesses that have the potential to do $50 or $500 million a year in revenue so they can have exits that number in the eight or nine or ten figures. Since investors lose money on 9 out of 10 investments they make, they need to be able to earn enough back from one big exit to cover the cost of investing in the other nine and still make a profit. So don’t expect venture capitalists to give you the money to open pool installation business…

At the end of the day, my trip to Silicon Valley and participation in the Founder Institute program made for a great experience. But this wouldn’t be my blog if I didn’t tie that experience into the larger picture.

At a time when the government seems to be doing everything it can to undermine free markets, private property and capitalism in general, it’s good to know that the spark of enterprise still exists. That people feel like they can build something. That investors and entrepreneurs are foolhardy enough to think they can change the world. And willing to take a leap of faith to do so. And not only in the United States, which used to be a bastion of freedom, but in places where you might not expect it, like Vietnam, Croatia and Columbia. The question is however, once the long national nightmare of Barack Obama and his Democrat cleptocracy are finally on the ash-bin of history, can the spark of possibilities that still exists in Silicon Valley find its way back to places like Pittsburgh, Detroit, Chicago and the rest of California, where much of the spirit of opportunity and the American Dream seem to have been replaced by a populist economic fascism seeking to “fundamentally transform the United States”? Sadly, that the cancer of progressivism seems to have infected much of the country despite the fact that the American convergence of free markets and limited government have driven a greater advance in prosperity around the world any system in history. Nonetheless, perhaps the Silicon Valley mindset of unabashed opportunity is the canary in the coal mine that suggests the American Dream may still be alive, despite even the tech crowd’s distinctly liberal, big government leanings. Only time will tell.