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Ron Radosh

Monthly Archives: October 2013

Editor’s Note: PJ Lifestyle seeks to promote dialogue and debate across ideologies, cultures, and religions. This debate in particular — within the conservative movement regarding goals and tactics — is vital. Both Ron Radosh and Andrew C. McCarthy are exemplary exponents of their positions. I would like to encourage more debate and discussion on this subject, inviting others to respond to Krauthammer’s Daily Show appearance, McCarthy’s NRO article, and Ron’s PJM article cross-posted from his blog. I will attempt to weigh in soon. – DMS

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Some Republicans, including Sen. Ted Cruz, have argued that if ObamaCare goes through, an entire group of people will want and like the services offered, thus creating a new dependent culture of people hooked on the supposedly universal and free medical care being offered. Hence, any chances of repealing or reversing it in the future will be doomed.

The events of the previous week have shown that this is an unfounded fear. More likely is that the inherent flaws in ObamCare, now more apparent than ever, will create a groundswell of public opinion demanding either its delay or a movement to scratch it completely and come up with a program that actually works to reform and improve health care in a meaningful way.

We now know, as Stuart Stevens reports in The Daily Beast, that even left-leaning Vermont, the state with the only openly socialist senator, has seen that the roll-out of the health exchanges has been “an unmitigated disaster.” And in the reliably blue state of Maryland, only 1,000 people were able to enroll on the state’s own website, which had as many glitches and software problems as the federal website.

While liberals and leftists argue that the program is solid, and that it is only the software that is bad, Stevens writes that the current problems serve to illustrate ObamaCare’s fatal flaw:

One of the president’s key selling points of the ACA was the promise that if you liked your plan, you could keep it. We’re learning that’s often not the case as Obamacare is implemented across the country. And in Vermont, there has been no pretense of such assurance.

As of January 1, 2014, in Vermont, the ability for individuals or employers with 50 or fewer employees to purchase health insurance from private insurance companies ceases to exist. As for policies already covering those businesses and individuals? Those cease to exist, as well. In other words, in Vermont, a good percentage of its population will have no choice but to buy health insurance through the state exchange.

Now Vermont, like the federal government, is using PR to try to get people to register, as well as trying other methods, such as urging applicants to try to phone in their applications or do it via snail mail. Why not go back to early 20th century methods while we’re living in the 21st century? Perhaps they should also try to revive the Pony Express.

Vermont, Stevens points out, has the highest insurance premiums in the nation. As good liberals, their government has stringent regulations on the insurance industry, thus preventing competition.  ObamaCare will not help Vermont residents, since there are only two companies offering plans on the exchange. And rates are the same for everyone, whatever their age or condition of their health. What this reveals is the essence of socialist engineering to produce equality. To their eyes, it sounds good and moral since everyone pays the same and everyone gets equal treatment. The result: People in their 50s and early 60s — before they are eligible for Medicare — pay the same rates as a young person in his 20s! As Cynthia Cox, a healthcare expert at Kaiser,  explains,  “Younger people will have higher premiums in Vermont than they might if they lived elsewhere, whereas older people might have lower premiums than if they lived elsewhere.”

So if you are such a young person, who earns a starting salary of perhaps $25,000 a year, and you find out that to purchase a health insurance policy on the new exchange will cost you a small fortune, you will, instead, opt to pay the $95 penalty (or 1% of your income, whichever is greater) at tax time. If you become seriously ill before that, you will then enroll and get the medical care you need, assuming that the federal and state enrollment sites are working by then.  This means, however, that when your decision is put together with all the other young people who do the same and do not enroll, the ObamaCare system will not have enough young people registered to pay for the elderly people with serious health conditions who have enrolled. At that point, the system crashes and is not fiscally sustainable. As Stevens puts it, “without a pool of younger, healthier participants, it’s difficult for any insurance plan to survive.

The truth is, as Michael Gerson writes, that ObamaCare “could become an intellectual crisis for modern liberalism.”  The software “glitches” could be fixed — although perhaps not in time for the January enrollment deadline. But even if they are, without enough young people enrolling, the program on its own terms is not likely to work. Its likely failure will show the follies of liberalism and the belief of all those who think socialist type planning can work. Those who really need the coverage because of pre-existing conditions, or those with new, serious medical conditions, will do everything to enroll. Those without these fears will sit back and opt for the small penalty fee. Oh yes, the government could change that to an enormous fee, but imagine the outcry of the young Obama supporters if it tries to do that.

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This morning on MSNBC, Morning Joe did its viewers a major disservice, by reserving its book spot for none other than Bill Ayers, who was there to plug his new memoir Public Enemy: Memoirs of an American Dissident. To make matters even worse, Joe Scarborough, on set for all the other segments, mysteriously disappeared after the break. Ayers was left to be questioned by the non-threatening (not to say Scarborough would have been hostile to Ayers, but as a self-described conservative, he would by nature have offended Ayers’ sensibilities) Mika Brzezinski and journalist Mark Halperin.

The entire segment was structured as a propaganda coup for Ayers. It began with clips from Sarah Palin at 2008 campaign events, including the famous one in which she referred to Barack Obama as “palling around with terrorists.” If you watch the segment from the beginning, nothing Palin said is actually objectionable or wrong, although it was clearly broadcast again to show how unfair the vice-presidential candidate was to poor victim Bill Ayers.

Showing her own ignorance, Brzezinski welcomed him as a “founder of the militant anti-war group the Weather Underground.” In saying this, she from the start allowed Ayers to falsely paint himself for the benefit of his book sales and for the purpose of gaining his TV audience’s confidence.

Anyone at all familiar with Ayers and the WU knows that their goal was to destroy the “Amerikan Empire,” to bring down capitalism and build a revolutionary communist state, and to use force and violence — and bombings of police stations, Army recruitment centers, and, of course, the actual failed attempt to bomb a dance for new recruits at Fort Dix — as part of the necessary actions to destroy capitalism and act in a revolutionary fashion while living “in the belly of the beast.” A simple five-minute Google search could have found scores of articles about what Ayers really believes, including the many I wrote for PJ Media from 2008 on. Or Brzezinski could have picked up Peter Collier and David Horowitz’s classic Destructive Generation and, in one chapter, learned all they needed to know.

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You may not know the name Ralph Miliband, but the late Marxist professor is a household name in the UK. He was the father of Ed Miliband, the Labor Party’s leader and a possible future prime minister. When the conservative Daily Mail ran a story about the father’s influence on his son, the controversy began.

It started with an October 1 story by Geoffrey Levy in which the journalist wrote that young Ed wants nothing less than to fulfill his father’s dreams and return England from the legacy left by Margaret Thatcher to a new 21st century socialism:

Ed is now determined to bring about that vision. … How proud Ralph would have been to hear him responding the other day to a man in the street who asked when he was “going to bring back socialism” with the words: “That’s what we are doing, sir.”

Ed Miliband’s father, the story continues, was a full-throated Marxist, committed to nationalization and harsh socialist policies. Levy paints the senior Miliband as a man who hated the country he adopted as his own when he sought refuge from Nazi Germany, a man who was critical of the Soviet Union but still believed it was socialist, and who thought Gorbachev had successfully “democratized” Soviet society. Nothing had changed in his belief system, he wrote, since the time when, as a young man, he made the pilgrimage to Karl Marx’s grave in 1940, and he wrote:

I remember standing in front of the grave, fist clenched, and swearing my own private oath that I would be faithful to the workers’ cause.

Now, Miliband is buried in a grave 12 short yards from Marx’s grave, and his tombstone bares the inscription: “Writer Teacher Socialist.”

He had dedicated his life, he wrote near the end of his life, to realizing the socialist dream, and preparing the ground for “such an alternative.” With Ed as prime minister, Levy concludes, “perhaps that ground is indeed now being prepared.”

That one article began the fierce war of words. Ed Miliband told the press that he found the story “appalling,” and “responded by accusing the paper of peddling ‘a lie’ and trying to ‘besmirch and undermine’ his dead father for political ends.” He wrote:

Fierce debate about politics does not justify character assassination of my father, questioning the patriotism of a man who risked his life for our country in the Second World War or publishing a picture of his gravestone with a tasteless pun about him being a “grave socialist.”

The editors of the Daily Mail responded by saying that Ralph Miliband sought to drive “a hammer and sickle through the heart of the nation so many of us genuinely love.”

Miliband’s friends were aghast. They particularly did not like tying Ralph Miliband in with the late historian Eric Hobsbawm, an unabashed Stalinist who in a famous late-in-life interview justified the millions Stalin killed as necessary for the triumph of socialism. Norm Geras, a moderate and truly democratic man of the Left — he has been at the forefront of condemning the current anti-Israeli stance and anti-Semitism of the Left in Britain — argued that Ralph Miliband believed in parliamentary democracy under socialism, and was anything but a Leninist who believed in “smashing the state.” Geras wrote: “he was never a Stalinist or an apologist for Stalinism.” Geras was particularly incensed about a column by Benedict Brogan, who called Miliband one of the Cold War’s “bad guys.”

Editor-in-chief of the Daily Mail Paul Dacre responded in both his own paper and in the pages of the left-wing Guardian. He explained his decision to run the first column in these words:

The genesis of that piece lay in Ed Miliband’s conference speech. The Mail was deeply concerned that in 2013, after all the failures of socialism in the twentieth century, the leader of the Labour party was announcing its return, complete with land seizures and price fixing.

Surely, we reasoned, the public had the right to know what influence the Labour leader’s Marxist father, to whom he constantly referred in his speeches, had on his thinking.

It was not Miliband who was evil, but the ideas he believed in and the system he favored for Britain:

Ralph Miliband was, as a Marxist, committed to smashing the institutions that make Britain distinctively British — and, with them, the liberties and democracy those institutions have fostered.

At this point, columnists whose own fathers and ancestors were also Marxist, or who at one point were themselves Marxist, took to the pages of the press. Theodore Dalrymple (who writes often for PJ Media) chimed in with his own thoughts, revealing that his father was also wrong and was himself a hard-core Marxist. He pointed out that the Marxist doctrine is both emotionally and intellectually dishonest:

I quickly grasped that the dialectic could prove anything you wanted it to prove, for example, that killing whole categories of people was a requirement of elementary decency.

Dalrymple brilliantly noted the main problem with the doctrine, which, as he notes, a belief in leads to justification for mass murder:

Marxism was also replete with heresies and excommunications that tended to become fatal whenever its adherents reached power. There was a reason for this. Marx said that it is not consciousness that determines being, but being that determines consciousness. In other words, ideas do not have to be argued against in a civilised way, but rather the social and economic position of those who hold them must be analysed. So, disagreement is the same as class enmity — and we all know what should be done with class enemies.

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Why is Bill De Blasio’s 1988 trip to Nicaragua something New York City voters should consider when casting their ballot for mayor next November? After all, the major issues facing the city are its increasing debt from union contracts; whether businesses will be welcomed and allowed to flourish or be met by increased taxes that cause them to flee the city; and, of course, De Blasio’s commitment to put an end to the successful “stop and frisk” policies used by the city’s police force, which have led to less crime — especially in urban minority areas of the city.

So, why is it even being discussed? I raised the issue myself for the city’s voters in op-eds that appeared in the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Now, two other important articles have appeared that spell out why De Blasio’s defense of his pro-Sandinista activities in the ’80s is important, and worth reconsidering.

The first appears in today’s Wall Street Journal, and is written by their Latin American affairs editor, Mary Anastasia O’Grady. She points out that his old trip “should further enlighten New Yorkers as to the politics of the man who is the front runner in the race.” She points out that by the time he traveled to Nicaragua, the Sandinistas had been in power for almost an entire decade. 

By then, any honest observer should have had no doubts about what they were up to.

O’Grady runs through the entire trajectory of the Sandinistas’ so-called accomplishments. For example, in 1980 — a short time after taking power in an armed coup — the Sandinistas assassinated a democratic opponent who had opposed the authoritarian Somoza regime that had been overthrown. They then moved to purge the first “directorate” of all moderate elements, leaving only committed Marxist-Leninists in power. O’Grady notes:

The crackdown that followed was ruthless. Cuban enforcers were brought in to help. Houses, farms, ranches and businesses were confiscated, and the independent media were muzzled. Central planning meant price controls for everyone. Even rural women carrying produce to market were arrested as speculators.

With blunt sarcasm, she asks how De Blasio could not know about this, since, after all, “he had only completed graduate studies of the region” at Columbia University.

She suggests that he nevertheless probably did know the truth, but thought that the “brutality could be explained away with good outcomes,” since to this day he still defends and approves of the Sandinistas. That his comrades “turned out to be greedy totalitarians who stole the spoils of the war for themselves doesn’t seem to matter.”

An even more important, though unfortunately little read, open letter to Mr. De Blasio appeared on the webpage of The New Republic, written by an outstanding American intellectual of the Left, Paul Berman. Paul Berman is the author of major books critical of the Islamists, and in particular he has been the most vociferous of the critics of Tariq Ramadan, the academic so many liberals and leftists regard as a man of moderation who should be taken seriously. Berman has shown him to be a slippery defender of radical Islam.

In his first open letter, titled “Bill de Blasio should Embrace Democratic Socialism in New York City,” Berman tries to establish his leftist credentials with De Blasio, obviously in the hope that he will go on to the second part. It is a silly and foolish choice. He makes it clear that he is a proud democratic socialist, and he argues that democratic socialism once had “an honored place” in the city’s history. To establish that, he goes back decades to the ’30s, ’40s and to the early ’60s, when anti-Communist social democratic unions had some political clout and, he notes, built institutions that lasted, such as cooperative apartment houses.

This is more of Berman’s romanticism, reflected in his early enthusiasm for Occupy Wall Street. It is too cute by half. He must realize that the kind of socialists he remembers and celebrates would be called “social fascists” by the kind of Left that De Blasio and his generation are part of. They have all but disappeared from sight, save for a few intellectuals like Berman who sit alongside him at Dissent magazine. Berman says little about the disastrous economic policies that De Blasio supports and that could bring the city to ruin.

His second open letter, titled “Why De Blasio’s Nicaraguan Work Worries Me,” shows Berman at his best.

Berman reveals just how he, in the same years De Blasio went to Nicaragua, came to learn what the Sandinistas were really about. His powerful article stands as a singular accomplishment, an example of how even a man of the Left, when honestly looking at reality, can ditch his early enthusiasms and think twice about the forces he was supporting.

Berman once was a Sandinista supporter. His first somewhat critical articles actually appeared in Mother Jones, an act for which its then editor, pre-filmmaker Michael Moore, fired Berman from the magazine. Hence Berman begins by writing that the international support for the Sandinistas “was earnest and sincere,” although some was “fanatically arrogant and shrill.” However, Berman is hoping to get De Blasio to read on, so he writes that he knows the future mayor’s “commitment to the Sandinista cause” and reveals that he was once “bold and adventurous and idealistic.” Hence he writes: “I salute you.”

Conservative readers, please do not stop at that paragraph. Berman is getting ready for the kill.

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Do you know who Diane Ravitch is? If not, you should. No other educator has been acclaimed in so many places as the woman who can lead American education into the future. Her new book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools, had a first printing of 75,000 copies and quickly made the New York Times non-fiction best seller list.

Recently, the leading magazine for left-liberal intellectuals, The New York Review of Books, featured a cover story about Ravitch by Andrew Delbanco. He compares the approaches of the educator most despised by the Left, Michelle Rhee, with Ravitch. He calls Ravitch “our leading historian of primary and secondary education.” Having established that, he goes on to note Ravitch’s condemnation of Rhee, which he says “borders on contempt.” Delbanco also dislikes Rhee. He does not agree with what he calls her “determination to remake public institutions on the model of private corporations.” Rhee is pro-corporate, a woman who wants “to introduce private competition (in police, military, and postal services, for example) where government was once the only provider.” In other words, Rhee stands with the enemies of the Left who want school choice for poor children, vouchers, charter schools, and competition, rather than more pay for teachers, smaller classes, and working with and through the teachers’ unions.

To Delbanco, people who hold such reviews are retrograde, “true believers” in “the promise of privatization.” To the journal’s readers, these code words are enough to know that Rhee is someone to oppose, and if Ravitch is on the other side, she is someone to support. Indeed, if they didn’t get the message, Delbanco adds that one lobbying group that favors charter schools is — horrors — funded by the Koch brothers, and the group also supports “stand your ground” laws.

Now his readers definitely know that Rhee is evil, and that Ravitch is good. He writes:

Through Ravitch’s eyes we see what Rhee refuses to see: the limits of what even the most skilled teacher can do in the face of such realities. “Poverty,” she says bluntly, “is the most important factor contributing to low academic achievement.” And so “we must work both to improve schools and to reduce poverty, not to prioritize one over the other or say that schools come first, poverty later.” This is an incontestably true statement — but not the kind of call to arms that gets you on the cover of Time magazine.

But, it definitely is the point you will see in the NYRB or The Nation, over and over and again and again.

So here are their differences, according to Delbanco:

Ravitch wants a return to broad-scale attack on social and economic inequities — to incremental, long-range strategies that do not promise quick results. Rhee, essentially, wants shock therapy for the schools.

In a nutshell, good teaching depends on a radical political program, one that pushes our nation to the Left and that will result in answering the problems of education. Thus Rhee does not like the teachers’ unions, which she accuses of being “a thuggish interest group that stands in the way of reform and holds the Democratic Party in thrall. She sees its overriding purpose as protecting weak or burned-out teachers who block opportunities for younger teachers who have better prospects of instructing and inspiring children.” Ravitch, on the other hand, makes her case for teachers’ unions “with more nuance and depth,” which means Delbanco agrees with the unions. So of course Ravitch is right. “She sees it as ‘the strongest voice in each state to advocate for public education and to fight crippling budget cuts.’” Of course, unions often stand against any reforms that would interfere with the power of bad teachers to keep their jobs at the students’ expense, because they have seniority and vote for the Democratic lawmakers who continually give them more benefits at the time of contract renewal.

There is much in Delbanco’s review that leaves out what Diane Ravitch really stands for. To learn this, one must turn to the very important article by Sol Stern that challenges and tears apart Ravitch’s views, and seeks to explain why and how Ravitch changed — she was once a major advocate for school reform who worked in the administration of George H. W. Bush, where she supported national standards and school choice. She gradually broke ranks and moved to the side of leftist political ideology as well as opponents of any school reforms.

With Sol Stern’s important critique, Diane Ravitch has met her match. Stern’s must-read article appears in City Journal and is titled “The Closing of Diane Ravitch’s Mind.” He writes:

She reinvented herself as a vehement political activist. Once one of the conservative school-reform movement’s most visible faces, Ravitch became the inspirational leader of a radical countermovement that is rising from the grass roots to oppose the corporate villains. Evoking the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King, Ravitch proclaims that the only answer to the corporate school-reform agenda is to “build a political movement so united and clear in its purpose that it would be heard in every state Capitol and even in Washington, D.C.” The problem is that Ravitch’s civil rights analogy is misplaced; her new ideological allies have proved themselves utterly incapable of raising the educational achievement of poor minority kids.

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