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Belmont Club

Monthly Archives: September 2011

Whose Side Are You On?

September 22nd, 2011 - 10:04 pm

The fundamental questions of our times, as asked after the Read More. Actually they are variants of the same question asked in every age, at different levels of detail. Whether the State saves Man or Man saves the State; whether it is possible to be free while acting the slave and perhaps the largest of them all, whether the miracle of our lives was an opportunity made for us alone.

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See No Evil

September 22nd, 2011 - 3:09 pm

When Admiral Mike Mullen told the Senate that Pakistan directed the attack on the US embassy in Kabul it probably surprised no one.  And when the Spectator sadly concluded that the Euro has finally been proved a swindle, probably not many were shocked many either. America has been stabbed in the back by it’s allies; its ‘partners against terrorism’. And Europe has been misled by its leaders. So ho-hum.

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Trapped in the Frame

September 21st, 2011 - 1:56 pm

Sometimes politics is really about economics.  At a speech in the UN, President Obama attempted the situate the Palestinian drive for statehoood within the larger changes in the region, notably the “Arab Spring”.

In his roughly 35 minute address, the president went down a list of events in which he said nations “stepped forward” to maintain international peace and security, and “more individuals claimed their universal right to live in freedom and dignity.”

Beginning in Africa, he noted that South Sudan obtained its independence and the people of Ivory Coast had weathered its political upheaval and is now governed by the man elected to lead them.

Obama turned to the so-called Arab Spring, beginning with Tunisia, where he said people “chose the dignity of peaceful protest over the rule of an iron fist.” He then spoke about Egypt.

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Bayes and Nice People

September 20th, 2011 - 3:40 pm

What pundits should fear most about getting things wrong isn’t the scorn and gloating that other writers will pour on them after their error has been revealed. Its the consequences. Marty Peretz of the New Republic, who was sympathetic to Barack Obama in 2008, now writes that Obama’s Middle East Is in Tatters, Utter Tatters. That is the title of his article, by the way. What follows is, if anything, more savage:

It is not actually his region. Still, with the arrogance that is so characteristic of his behavior in matters he knows little about (which is a lot of matters), he entered the region as if in a triumphal march. But it wasn’t the power and sway of America that he was representing in Turkey and in Egypt. For the fact is that he has not much respect for these representations of the United States. In the mind of President Obama, in fact, these are what have wreaked havoc with our country’s standing in the world. So what — or, rather, who — does he exemplify in his contacts with foreign countries and their leaders? His exultancy gives the answer away. It is he himself, lui-mème.

Which is to say Obama started all wrong, got it all wrong. Now everyone, especially Israel, will be lucky to simply get out of the impending crash in one piece. But Peretz isn’t the only one who has felt the scales dropping from his eyes. There’s David Brooks, who writes, “I’m a sap, a specific kind of sap. I’m an Obama Sap.”

That is the first sentence of his new article. The rest amplifies the theme:

Yes, I’m a sap. I believed Obama when he said he wanted to move beyond the stale ideological debates that have paralyzed this country. I always believe that Obama is on the verge of breaking out of the conventional categories and embracing one of the many bipartisan reform packages that are floating around.

But remember, I’m a sap.

Yes David, we got that the first time around. But let’s move on to the distaff side, to Peggy Noonan. She writes about how the president “has made big mistakes since the beginning of his presidency and has been pounded since the beginning of his presidency.” Once an admirer of Obama, she too now sees that he has not the Midas touch but the Mierdas one:

His baseline political assumptions have proved incorrect, his calculations have turned out to be erroneous, his big decisions have turned to dust. He thought they’d love him for health care, that it was a down payment on greatness. But the left sees it as a sellout, the center as a vaguely threatening mess, the right as a rallying cry. He thought the stimulus would turn the economy around. It didn’t. He thought there would be a natural bounce-back a year ago, with “Recovery Summer.” There wasn’t. He thought a toe-to-toe, eyeball-to-eyeball struggle over the debt ceiling would enhance his reputation. The public would see through to the dark heart of Republican hackery and come to recognize the higher wisdom of his approach. That didn’t happen either.

Nothing worked! And nothing’s going to work. He’s the smartest guy in the room, but he’s got the reverse Midas touch. Everything he touches turns to — well, unsatisfying outcomes.

Peretz, Brooks, and Noonan are intelligent, well-educated people. Nobody has seriously suggested they are either perverse or evil. Now they see the truth. But once upon a time they didn’t have a clue. So the disturbing question is: how did they get it wrong? Setting aside for a moment the fact that someone slipped past, the most pressing problem is to determine why the system failed. Because as someone at Andrew Klavan’s blog said, “the republic can survive a Barack Obama; it is far less likely to survive the multitude of fools who made him president.”

The fact they are now getting it right is a good thing. John Maynard Keynes once wrote, “when the facts change, I change my opinion. What do you do, sir?”  But Keynes was not not quite correct.  What he should have said was that “when new information comes to light, I change my opinion about what I saw. What do you do, sir?”

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Math

September 19th, 2011 - 5:39 pm

President Obama vowed to veto any deficit reduction measure which did not include tax increases, according to the NYT.  “I will not support — I will not support — any plan that puts all the burden for closing our deficit on ordinary Americans. And I will veto any bill that changes benefits for those who rely on Medicare but does not raise serious revenues by asking the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations to pay their fair share,” the President said.

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Countersign

September 19th, 2011 - 12:28 pm

One of the most interesting passages in the “Report of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction” is this confession of American vulnerability.

A wide range of intelligence activities are used to attack systematically U.S. national security interests worldwide. Yet while our enemies are executing what amounts to a global intelligence war against the United States, we have failed to meet the challenge. U.S. counterintelligence efforts have remained fractured, myopic, and only marginally effective.

That is almost certainly the sense in which Walter Russell Mead asks whether Pakistan is at war with the US. “The United States government believes it has evidence linking the Haqqani network, a terrorist organization which has repeatedly carried out attacks against US government personnel and positions, with the government of Pakistan.” Maybe before Haqqani the network of choice was “al-Qaeda”.

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Why Solyndra Failed

September 17th, 2011 - 12:15 am

It failed due to competition from a superior product. Meet the solar panel of the future.  No more utility bills.  Low maintenance.  However, a tarpaper shack or equivalent hovel is required.

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Precious Time

September 16th, 2011 - 4:04 pm

Felix Salmon, blogging at Reuters thinks the Fed’s ‘radio silence’ about when and what its arrangements are with the European Central Bank for stabilizing the Euro, suggests that Ben Bernanke long had a plan the works. It’s just that he never wanted to tell anyone what it was. Salmon said,  “look at the post yesterday from the BoE,  ‘Additional US dollar liquidity-providing operations over year-end’. At the end of that press release, there is a link to the statement of every other central bank participating in the liquidity measure… except the Fed.”
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The Last Throw of the Dice

September 16th, 2011 - 10:56 am

As the world watched the EU unsuccessfully attempt to contain the European sovereign debt crisis, which has gotten so large that Fareed Zakaria was moved to declare, “only China can save Europe”, clever minds in Washington have been at work. Today the Washington Post reports that the Fed is going to save the EU.

Worried that a mounting debt crisis in Europe could trip up the global economy, the Federal Reserve opened its vault Thursday to the central banks of other countries in an effort to head off a crippling shortage of dollars.

The main recipient of the Fed’s money is the European Central Bank, which will in turn extend dollar loans to banks in the nations that use the euro currency. Those banks do significant business in dollars, for instance making loans to customers operating around the world, and have been finding it harder to raise dollars from anxious investors.

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Gate is the Strait

September 15th, 2011 - 6:33 pm

Make it an even pair.  Australian analyst Hugh White worried that China’s expansion in the face of a retreating United States would be resisted by someone.  “The problem is less that America cannot afford a conflict with China and more that China can afford one with America. There is a big element of bluff in America’s position, as well as China’s. What if China calls America’s bluff, just as America has called China’s?” Now the Financial Times reports that America is afraid that the possible election of a Taiwanese leader unable to accomodate China would force just that.

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