Works and Days

Works and Days

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

April 20th, 2015 - 8:43 pm

In his 1988 presidential race, George H.W. Bush was trashed by the left for selecting the Bobby McFerrin hit “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” as his campaign song. Maybe Bush thought he needed a lighthearted optimistic echo of Reagan’s 1984 mantra, “It’s morning in America.” But the Left thought the ditty confirmed the image of a callous and vacuous Bush who didn’t “worry” enough about the poor and minorities. The liberal McFerrin was outraged that Bush sought to play his own song at rallies. Shortly afterwards, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” was quietly dropped by the Bush team.

Perhaps no other slogan better characterizes the Obama tenure.

America is relieved that things at least appear calm, as war and death rage abroad. At almost every critical juncture, the administration chose short-term happy talk in lieu of worries over long-term consequences. No matter how frequent the disasters abroad, Obama can proclaim the world is at peace in an unprecedented age of stability and security.

We did not lose a soldier in the bombing of Libya. Only an ambassador and three U.S. personnel were killed in the aftermath. As Hillary Clinton put it: “What difference does it make?” Indeed, of Libya, she also chuckled: “We came; we saw; Khadafy died.”

That Libya is now a terrorist beheading hellhole on the Mediterranean is someone else’s problem at some future date. The bombing of Khadafy may have been the first time in U.S. history that we bombed an autocrat out of power without staying around on the ground to thwart the ensuing and inevitable chaos.

Was that “smart” diplomacy?

Remember “reset”? What happened to it? Did it die in Crimea or Ukraine? For nearly four years, from a plastic reset button to cancelled missile defense with the Czechs and Poles (how prescient that anti-Iranian initiative of George W. Bush now seems in light of the current talks), we were told how Obama and Hillary Clinton had undone the damage that Bush had inflicted on Russian-American relations.

Then, after serial Putin aggression, only silence followed.

There has not been a peep from the administration about the fate of “reset,” much less about the long-term consequences of appeasing Putin for four years. I think the Obama strategy is to keep quiet about the disaster, hope that it takes Putin some time to digest Ukraine, and then leave Putin’s agenda in the Baltic states to the next president.

Why worry about Iran? They promise not to make a bomb for a decade. Translated, that means that Obama (“I don’t bluff”) envisions more laureate accolades for getting out of office ahead of an Iranian nuke, and woe to the president who follows.

Pulling all U.S. peacekeepers out of Iraq at the end of 2011 proved a useful short-term campaign talking point. But the ensuing vacuum birthed the “jayvees” of ISIS, who probably also have a rendezvous with the next president. Why should anyone in Malibu worry about Tikrit or the impending fall of Ramadi, or how a new, low-grade caliphate might remake the Middle East?

Issuing various red lines and deadlines to the Syrians and Iranians sounded tough at the time, but at some future date an American president is going to have to reestablish — at some cost — the authenticity of an ultimatum by the president of the United States.

But for the short term, Americans were collectively relieved that Obama proved a gasbag and did not enforce the threats.

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Why Is Hillary Clinton Even Running?

April 12th, 2015 - 7:36 pm

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That is not as stupid a question as it first sounds. Ostensibly we know her four ready answers.

I. Who Else?

One, there is no other credible Democrat who could run for presidency. The senior party leadership — Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Al Gore, John Kerry, and Dianne Feinstein — is shrill and buffoonish. They all have either tried before and failed, or are ossified has-beens — or both. There are no up-and-coming governors with distinguished records of executive success. There are no young charismatic Democratic senators — other than the well-preserved, 65-year-old Harvard populist Elizabeth Warren — out to make a name, who can speak well and mirror image a Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, or Mario Rubio. Congressional-district gerrymandering that encourages ethnic chauvinism and hard-left polarization has almost ensured that there will not be another minority star, like Barack Obama, who can win crossover votes and statewide office as a springboard to the White House.

II. Her Turn

Two, Hillary Clinton, like a Walter Mondale, Bob Dole or John McCain, believes that it is finally her turn. In her case she lost in 2008 and loyally served the man who defeated and often humiliated her (“you’re likable enough, Hillary” Obama condescendingly remarked during a debate of Democratic presidential candidates in January of 2008).

She feels that she was robbed of a sure nomination by the upstart Obama, who cut in front of the line with his inane “hope and change” banalities and subtle race carding, as if racial chauvinism must always trump gender pandering. She blew a huge lead in the primaries, licked her wounds, and now it is time for the party to unite loyally behind her the way she did with Obama.

III. First Woman

Three, she thinks she can win largely on the issue of being the first woman president in the manner that Barack Obama milked his racially iconic status in lieu of a record. Her supporters believe that they can reignite the old wars: the Republican war on women, war on minorities, war on immigrants, war on the environment, war on the poor, war on everybody — and thereby galvanize the supposedly oppressed, as in 2008-2012, to register, turn out, and vote in lockstep in record numbers. Thereby they will more than make up for the millions of independents and white, blue-collar so-called Reagan Democrats that she will lose by such racial and gender histrionics.

IV. Money, Money, Money…

Four, Hillary Clinton assumes that she can buy her way to the White House and trump even the Obama shakedowns of the one-percent elite. No one grubs money better than the Clintons, who have turned a so-so presidential foundation into a money-laundering machine for their global jetting and politicking.

Both Bill and Hillary have an uncanny insight into the very wealthy of Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Wall Street, the Upper West Side, and the Florida coast. They understand the formula: when many of the rich become very rich they no longer worry about high tax rates, either on the assurance that they have the capital and know-how to avoid them, or in the belief that that a 50% federal and state rate could hardly eat away much of their enormous pile. Huge federal redistributionist policies may fail and hurt the minorities and poor, but for now they are felt to be about the only insurance that the gates of the rich will not be stormed or their private schools and neighborhoods flooded.

The Clintons rightly sense that the one-percenters in certain fleeting moments feel awfully bad about their privilege. Thus they will feel much better about indulging their endless material appetites, if they give large tax-deductible contributions to the spread-the-wealth, help-the-helpless shtick of elite Democrats. The lifestyles of Hill and Bill over the last two decades reassure wealthy liberals that it is OK to wallow in the material good life as long as you pay occasional penance for such indulgence — and there is no better atonement than helping Hillary Clinton out in 2016 to speak truth to power. After all, with students facing $1 trillion in aggregate debt, Clinton marched into UCLA, check-listed some liberal nostrums for 30 minutes and walked away with $300,000 without a complaint — or about $165 in scarce university dollars for each second of her pieties. In other words, Hillary is running because she has invested enough in the past that the money will be harvested as never before in a presidential race.

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The Drought: California Apocalypto

April 6th, 2015 - 8:47 pm
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Gov. Jerry Brown, center, answers a question concerning the executive order he signed requiring the state water board to implement measures in cities and towns to cut water usage by 25 percent compared with 2013 levels, at Echo Summit, Calif., Wednesday, April 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

The proverbial thin veneer of civilization has never been thinner in California, as if nature has conspired to create even greater chaos than what man here has already wrought. What follows below was a fairly typical seven-day period in the land of the highest sales, fuel, and income taxes that have led to the nearly worst freeways, schools, and general infrastructure in the nation.

I recently came home from an out-of-state trip. Something was wrong: I noticed off in the distance a strange geyser at the top of the hill. Vandals had apparently earlier taken sledgehammers to the pump’s four-inch plastic fittings — all to scavenge two brass valves (recycle value of about $20).

The fools did not know the pump was even on. When they smashed open the plastic pipes the spurting water apparently drenched them, and so they left their self-created mess. (No, criminals here do not know how to turn off a pump.) The ensuing deluge of several hours had ripped a three-foot-deep gully for about 20 yards.

I’ve lost count of how many pumps have been vandalized over the last decade. Some people play golf after work and weekends, but out here the pastime is to drive out to the countryside to wreck things for a few dollars of copper and bronze. It reminds me of the Ottomans in Greece, who pried off the lead seals over the iron clamps that had held together the marble blocks of ancient Greek temples and walls. The Turks, who could make little but scavenge a lot, got their few ounces of lead for bullets. In the exchange, the exposed iron marble clamps rusted and fell apart, ruining the antiquities that had theretofore survived 2,000 years of natural wear and tear. One civilization builds and invests, quite a different one destroys and consumes.

Four days earlier, three people (a male and two females) had parked nearby at the neighbor’s abandoned house. It was said not to meet California’s codes and thus was condemned, though the dwelling is far better built than are the occupied shacks and trailers across the street with various goats, chickens, geese, sheep, and cows grazing between the houses. In any case, the vandals were kicking in the sheet rock to rip out Romex wire (perhaps $5 worth of recyclable wire per ruined wall). I tried to catch them, but by the time I got to the truck and drove back out after them, they were speeding out of the alleyways with impunity.

When these things happen, no one calls the sheriff, the insurance company, or any authority. The problem is so ubiquitous, and the old civilized infrastructure so ossified, that it is impossible to address the vandalism and chronic violation of civilization’s basic tenets.

I think that we’ve come full circle in California: from the premodern Wild West of the 19th century to a decadent postmodernism that is every bit as feral, though the roughness of ascension is always preferable to its counterpart in decline. The day before Easter, Sacramento tried to stage the world’s largest public Easter egg hunt. From news reports it seems quickly to have devolved into a Darwinian free-for-all, where the ochlos swarmed the few who played by the rules.

After shutting the pump off, I drove back into the yard. That night the most miserable canine creature imaginable limped into the yard — a beaten bloody female dog dumped on the road.

This is a common occurrence in rural California: when dogs go into heat or become too expensive to feed or can no longer perform in backyard dog-fights, their peeved owners drive out of town, pull up to a rural house, and toss the dog out the car window.

We cleaned the creature up, and are trying to nurse it back to life to join our other dogs — who themselves were once throwaways.

After fixing the broken pipes, the pump ironically went dry the next day.

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The Rules of Racialists—Part Two

March 29th, 2015 - 8:35 pm
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Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder at Holder’s portrait unveiling ceremony, Department of Justice, Washington DC—Feb. 27, 2015 (Rex Features via AP Images)

Last week I reviewed some rules to navigate in our race-obsessed culture. Here are three final statutes.

3) Class Is Irrelevant

In our racialist society, race always trumps class. In that sense, we do live in a classless society — at least as far as racial matters are concerned.

Eric Holder’s children, who improperly were flown to the Belmont Stakes with their dates in their father’s private government jet, would be entitled to affirmative action in a way that an impoverished grandchild of the Oklahoma diaspora is not. But at least a lower-middle-class white male is not penalized in college admissions to the degree that would be a straight-A Asian student. In today’s multiracial society of great economic fluidity, more than a half-century after the civil rights movement, the children of multimillionaire rappers would be deemed at a disadvantage in comparison to impoverished newly arrived destitute immigrants from Asia. But then again we are supposed to cry for the billionaire Oprah, who claims she was shown disrespect for gazing at some tony overpriced purse in a European millionaire boutique. Such is the bathos of the current civil rights movement.

Diversity means not multiplicity of political views or even races, but de facto efforts to ensure that groups non-designated as sanctioned minorities are not represented in jobs or education beyond their percentages in the general populations. Blacks can number far more than 11% of the work force of the U.S. Postal Service or over 70% of the players in the lucrative NBA, but by no means can the student body of UC Berkeley exceed 50% Asian. To point this out superficially without contextualizing slavery and Jim Crow is itself deemed racist, not the act of accepting or rejecting applicants on the basis of their race. But we still know the unspoken margin-of-safety rule: Asians as a group supposedly enjoy impressive per-capita incomes and education levels, and thus many in the Asian community with mere 3.9 GPAs can take a racialist hit or two from the government, without damage to their self-esteem or career trajectories. Does a Susan Lee or Harold Chung really need to go to Harvard Law, when UC Davis will do? Or is the racism worse still? Asians are assumed to be just different: they “like” studying all night. That is what they do, so why the need to reward it?

4) One-drop Nation

In our intermarried, assimilated, and integrated society in which immigration is at an all-time high, race itself has become often a meaningless construct. Liberal prognosticators warn that the “white majority” will be no more. What does that mean in today’s racially mixed family — that one’s grandkids, brother-in-law, or spouse will suddenly put down their old white patriarch? That mom will have to show more respect to her daughter? That dad will turn on his son?

We throw around imprecise terms like “white” and “black” as if they always refer to something real or ascertainable, only to be reminded occasionally by episodes of mistaken identity that they do not. Sometimes a black CNN talking head is dismissed as being typically white by a fellow black host, or the plot of a movie hinges on a professor who is in fact really black being damned as a white racist. Rich Iberian Cubans are “Latinos”; but then so are indigenous people from Oaxaca. Elite Jamaicans in the U.S. for a year are African-Americans,  in a way sixth-generation blacks from Alabama are also. Dark second-generation Tunisians are not African-Americans.

In our racial dystopia, “Asian” means you can be fifth-generation Japanese or Chinese or Hmong, Thai, or Filipino, as if the government is trying to reforge some bankrupt imperial Japanese notion of a Co-Prosperity Sphere solidarity. But then again “white” means that you can be dark and are named Wilson with a Mexican mother named Hernandez — in a way that “Latino” means you can be white and are named Hernandez with a mother named Wilson.

Somewhere in the Harvard admissions office or the Ethnic Studies Department at CSU or UC, there must apparently be clerks busy at work in the basement consulting arcane racial lineage scrolls of unspoken pedigrees. To paraphrase Demades, racial polarization is now the “cement of democracy.”

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The Rules of Racialists — Part One

March 23rd, 2015 - 10:37 pm
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In a Wednesday, March 18, 2015 photo, a barista at a Seattle Starbucks store writes on a cup for an iced drink as she wears a “Race Together” sticker. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

Never should racial relations be better. Intermarriage between various ethnic, religious, and racial groups has become commonplace. Every family that I know can no longer be termed white or Latino or black, despite the efforts of government and academic clerks to insist on such.

Cousins, nephews, grandkids, spouses, and in-laws now all look quite different from each other. Walk downtown Palo Alto, and couples of the same racial appearance are not the norm. The president, the attorney general, the national security advisor, the chief presidential advisor, the director of Homeland Security, the director of NASA, and the former EPA head are black. To watch television commercials is to see all races hawking shared products — quite unlike in the rest of the world, where they would be more likely killing each other.

Yet racial relations have also rarely been worse in the last half-century, illustrating the old sociology adage that the faster things improve and ameliorate, the more they are declared ossified and hopeless.

Perhaps because revolutionaries and the opportunistic fear that with progress for all comes obsolescence for themselves.

We live in such a strange world. Our government compiles exhaustive statistics on race and crime, but to cite them can be racist. Authors write, properly so, according to canons of racial propriety and careful consideration, and then newspapers print scary racist commentary that follows without worry over its repercussions. Elites of all races navigate around race and class in matters of choosing homes, schools, and entertainment, and then lecture others on their illiberal Neanderthalism for trying to poorly emulate, according to their reduced stations, the patterns of picking a home, school, or golf course embraced by a Barack Obama or Eric Holder — or Rev. Wright.

For now we need to review the rules that racialists use and to navigate carefully around them. The stakes are quite high.

1) Noble Ends Sometimes Require Ignoble Means

The nation rightly condemned the repulsive racist chanting of some puerile University of Oklahoma fraternity members. President David Boren even summarily kicked them out of school, closed down the fraternity, and threw out its tenants — without a hearing, and in possible violation of free speech statutes.

But if not to protect such creepy expression, then why have a First Amendment at all? Did the Founders wish to ensure us that someday we could all listen without censorship to an unfettered Julie Andrews freely singing “The Sound of Music”?

Eighty-year-old Donald Sterling, an ex-divorce lawyer and recipient of local NAACP citizenship awards as the Los Angeles Clippers owner, now said to be suffering from prostate cancer and Alzheimer’s, had his incoherent but private musings stealthily taped by a conniving gold-digging young mistress. And so the nation discovered that the tired, old and unhinged codger mouthed racist banalities. His repugnant speech lost him his basketball team and he was banned for life from attending professional basketball games.

Was the reasoning something like: “Why worry about curbing the First Amendment rights of a racist aged billionaire?”

Had he been caught in felonious behavior fixing a game or planning to dodge the IRS, would the punishment have been worse?

Eric Holder’s Department of Justice recently exonerated Officer Darren Wilson in the Ferguson shooting, after the cop had been tried, convicted, and ostracized in the court of elite opinion. Wilson, it found, in self-defense tragically and fatally shot Michael Brown — the latter fresh from committing a strong-armed robbery, walking in the middle of the street (apparently high on marijuana), attacking a police officer, etc. The 300-pound “youth” charged Wilson and lunged at his weapon.

Did that truth matter? Or could it be sacrificed on the altar of racialism?

The ensuing lie cooked up by Brown’s rogue accomplice in the robbery — “hands up; don’t shoot” — is now canonized and has made its way as a cause celebre to the U.S. Congress. I think the logic is that, given slavery and Jim Crow of the past, it is rich of America now to insist on racially blind rules of evidence and speech.

Wilson is marked, finished as a policeman, and cannot safely go out in public. He would have perhaps been wiser to hand over his gun to Brown, and asked to take one bullet, in hopes that he could survive the wound and thereby save his job. Had Brown killed Wilson — as may well have been his intent — there would have not been protests anywhere by any group, racial or not — as there rarely are in Missouri  when blacks are daily gunned downed by other blacks or when Bosnians are attacked by blacks.

Perhaps a liberal can explain the select expressions of outrage that make one death less important than another. Lives matter? Race matters? Context? Historical landscapes?

In matters of racial justice, the noble ends of supposed racial tolerance justify almost any means necessary to reach them.

In the case of George Zimmerman, he can be rebranded a “white Hispanic” to ensure that his multicultural fides do not rival his victim’s. His picture can be Photoshopped to downplay his wounds. His 911 taped voice record can be edited to make him sound callously racist — and all for a good cause of something other than racial harmony and integration.

In our sick society, such fantasies work both ways. Travyon Martin can be portrayed as a lovable preteen in his football uniform, without prior suspensions from school authorities. He eats Skittles, but doesn’t use burglar tools and drugs — or brag on social media of assaults on a bus driver. Martin, we are told by the president in the middle of the tense national debate over the case, might have looked like the son of Obama that he never had.

Editorializing in an ongoing criminal trial and investigation is now presidential habit. Affinity based not on shared values or common interests, but on superficial racial similarity, is proof of racial empathy. Had Trayvon Martin asked to take one of the daughters of Barack Obama to a Justin Bieber concert, would the president have weighed in and welcomed that invitation on the basis of Martin’s apparently shared appearance? Racial solidarity trumps all — or does it?

For the more noble purposes of ensuring racial harmony, Martin can easily be recalibrated as a preteen gunned down in cold blood by a racist vigilante, rather than — in the words of his friend Rachel Jeantel, who spoke on her cell phone to him in his last moments — attempting a preemptive “whoop ass” on a “creepy ass cracka” apparently deemed to be a nosy homosexual on his way to “go get” Trayvon’s “little brother.”

Using racist and homophobic language is now proof of someone else’s racism. Somehow we are supposed to accept that George Zimmerman is a racist and Rachel Jeantel just cannot be, given the history of racial relations in the country.

Had Zimmerman kept his pistol hidden and taken a good whoop-ass head-smashing, he would be just another asymmetrical statistic rather than public enemy number one of the therapeutic state. Could he not have taken one for the nation?

Again, the logic is that with an unrivaled history of racism, Americans have no right at this late stage in the relativist game to insist on racially blind absolutism. Apparently, the assumption is that while whites are collectively assumed to be racist, they are usually too clever to be spotted and exposed as racists by using racist language. Non-whites, in contrast, can use racist language either to show that they are not racist or to expose whites as racist by their reactions to racist language.

When we hear of something creepy like the Oklahoma racist singing or Michael Richards’ unhinged racist rant, we vie with each other to find superlatives of disparagement to prove our own superiority — or future deterrence — in the manner that no one quite knew how to stop clapping when Saddam Hussein or Joseph Stalin ended a four-hour monologue.

Not so when we hear that UC Berkeley black students recently demanded to rename a building after convicted cop killer and fugitive Assata Shakur — as well as the creation of a racially segregated meeting place on campus that excludes anyone not black. Are we to laugh or cry?

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A Tale of Four Droughts

March 15th, 2015 - 12:28 pm
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A warning buoy sits on the dry, cracked bed of Lake Mendocino near Ukiah, California. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

California is not suffering one drought, but four. Each is a metaphor of what California has become.

Nature

The first California drought, of course, is natural. We are now in the midst of a fourth year of record low levels of snow and rain.

Californians have no idea that their state is a relatively recent construct — only 165 years old, with even less of a pedigree of accurate weather keeping. When Europeans arrived in California in the 15th and 16th centuries, they were struck by how few indigenous peoples lived in what seemed paradise — only to learn that the region was quite dry on the coast and in the interior.

Today, modern Californians have no idea of whether a four-year drought is normal, in, say, a 5,000 natural history of the region, or is aberrant — as wet years are long overdue and will return with a vengeance. That we claim to know what to expect from about 150 years of recordkeeping does not mean that we know anything about what is normal in nature’s brief millennia. Our generation may be oblivious to that fact, but our far more astute and pragmatic forefathers certainly were not.

Hubris 

If one studies the literature on the history and agendas of the California State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project, two observations are clear. One, our ancestors brilliantly understood that Californians always would wish to work and live in the center and south of the state. They accepted that where 75% of the population wished to live, only 25% of the state’s precipitation fell. Two, therefore they designed huge transfer projects from Northern California that was wet and sparsely settled, southward to where the state was dry and populated. They assumed that northerners wanted less water and relief from flooding, and southerners more water and security from drought, and thus their duty was to accommodate both.

Nor were these plans ossified. Indeed, they were envisioned as expanding to meet inevitable population increases. The Temperance Flat, Los Banos Grandes, and Sites reservoirs were planned in wet years as safety deposits, once higher reservoirs emptied. As population grew larger, dams could be raised at Shasta and Oroville. Or huge third-phase reservoirs like the vast Ah Pah project on the Klamath River might ensure the state invulnerability from even 5-6 year droughts.

One can say what one wishes about the long ago cancelled huge Ah Pah project — what would have been the largest manmade reservoir project in California history — but its additional 15 million acre feet of water would be welcomed today. Perhaps such a vast project was mad. Perhaps it was insensitive to local environmental and cultural needs. Perhaps the costs were prohibitive — a fraction of what will be spent on the proposed high-speed rail project. Perhaps big farming would not pay enough of the construction costs. But one cannot say that its 15 million acre feet of water storage would not have been life-giving in a year like this.

In any case, Ah Pah was no more environmentally unsound than is the Hetch Hetchy Project, without which there would be no Silicon Valley today as we now know it. One cannot say that hundreds of millions of public dollars have not gone to environmentalists, in and outside of government and academia, to subsidize their visions of the future that did not include food production and power generation for others. They are no less subsidized than the corporate farmers they detest.

One of the ironies of the current drought is that urbanites who cancelled these projects never made plans either to find more water or to curb population. Take the most progressive environmentalist in Los Angeles and the Bay Area, and the likelihood is that his garden and bath water are the results of an engineering project of the sort he now opposes.

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Israel, Jews, and the Obama Administration

March 8th, 2015 - 9:07 pm
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Can you feel the warmth? President Obama meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, Oct 1st, 2014. (Rex Features via AP Images)

Even some Democrats in Congress have come to the conclusion that after the brouhaha over Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech before Congress, President Obama wants to radically downgrade the long American special relationship with democratic Jewish Israel — and perhaps has a dislike of the idea of Israel. Add up the administration’s initial disparagement on the matter of Israeli settlements, untoward administration remarks during the Gaza War, its assumptions that a future autonomous West Bank had a right to insist on becoming Judenfrei, its downplaying the Iranian nuclear threat, John Kerry’s various editorializing about Israeli supposed overreactions, the constant hectoring of Israel, and rumors of a slowdown in military aid to Israel during the Gaza war, and so on and so on.

These acts seem to fit into a prior landscape of the administration’s anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli supposed slips, gaffes, and smears.

I thought it a bit strange that in 2008 the Obama campaign lobbied the Los Angeles Times not to release a tape of Obama’s remarks at a 2003 dinner honoring Palestinian activist Rashid Khalidi when then-state senator Obama supposedly thanked the latter for reminding him of his own “biases” and “blind spots” on the Middle East. Why not just release the innocuous tape I thought. But then again things happen at dinners.

I thought it a bit strange when would-be national security advisor to the 2008 Obama campaign, Zbigniew Brzezinski, hinted that he might think it a good idea to shoot down Israeli jets should they go over U.S.-controlled Iraqi airspace on their way to hit Iran’s nuclear facilities. But then again everyone says strange things now and then.

I thought it a bit strange that Samantha Power would become such a prominent Obama advisor after she hypothesized about sending U.S. forces into the Israeli-Palestinian dispute to keep both sides honest. But then again it is easy to take things out of context. And who, after all, would even envision U.S. and Israeli soldiers shooting at each other?

I thought it a bit strange that Barack Obama’s minister, whose “audacity of hope” sloganeering became the title of Obama’s second book, whined shortly after his former protégé assumed the presidency, “Them Jews ain’t going to let him talk to me.” But then again one should not fall into the guilt-by-association trap of “birds of a feather flock together.”

I thought it was strange when Obama’s first call as president went to Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. But then again I shrugged that his first interview went to the newspaper Al-Arabiya, and he declared a “special relationship” with the virulently anti-Israeli Prime Minister and now President of Turkey Recep Erdogan.

I thought it strange that Obama in 2009 called in Jewish leaders only to lecture on the need to put “daylight” between Israel and the United States. But then I assumed that these leaders did not seem too disturbed about such comments.

I thought it strange when Barack Obama stormed out of a White House meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu and left him to stew alone for over an hour. But then again I noted that he was hungry and wanted to step out for a while to dine alone with his family.

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The Liberal Circus

March 1st, 2015 - 2:34 pm
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This Nov. 28, 2012 file photo shows then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton listening as President Barack Obama speaks in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

Lately liberalism has gone from psychodrama to farce.

Take Barack Obama. He has gone from mild displeasure with Israel to downright antipathy. Suddenly we are in a surreal world where off-the-record slurs from the administration against Benjamin Netanyahu as a coward and chickensh-t have gone to full-fledged attacks from John Kerry and Susan Rice, to efforts of former Obama political operatives to defeat the Israeli prime minister at the polls, to concessions to Iran and to indifference about the attacks on Jews in Paris. Who would have believed that Iranian leaders who just ordered bombing runs on a mock U.S. carrier could be treated with more deference than the prime minister of Israel? What started out six years as pressure on Israel to dismantle so-called settlements has ended up with a full-fledged vendetta against a foreign head of state.

Hillary Clinton likewise has gone from a rather run-of-the-mill liberal grandee to a political grafter. She apparently solicited donations from foreign government officials and wealthy foreign nationals to contribute to the Clinton Foundation — and this was while she was secretary of State conducting the foreign policy of the United States. If those charges are proven accurate, how could she ever be trusted to become commander in chief? Unfortunately, in the last year almost every cause that Hillary Clinton has taken up has been belied by her own actions.

Inequality and fairness? At time when students struggle under a collective $1 trillion-plus student debt, much of it because of universities hiking fees and tuitions above the inflation rate, Hillary has serially charged universities well over $200,000 for 30-minute boilerplate speeches.

Women’s issues? We learn that women on Senator Clinton’s staff once made considerably less than their male counterparts. Had Bill Clinton worked at a university, corporation or government bureau, his sexual peccadillos long ago would have had him thrown off the premises. The latest disclosures about his junkets with convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein are so bizarre that no one quite knows what to make of them — the would-be first female and feminist president married to a man who serially cavorted with a convicted sexual pervert?

Transparency? Consider the recent disclosures that Hillary knew almost immediately that the Benghazi killings were the preplanned work of terrorists and not due to spontaneous rioters angry over a video — and yet continued to deceive the public that just the opposite was true. The problem with Hillary’s scandals are not just that they reveal a lack of character, but that they are illiberal to the core on hallmark progressive issues of concern for equality, transparency and feminism.

We no longer live in an age of debate over global warming. It has now transmogrified well beyond Al Gore’s hysterics, periodic disclosures about warmists’ use of faked data, embarrassing email vendettas, vindictive lawsuits, crony green capitalism, and flawed computer models. Now Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, has taken the psychodrama to the level of farce in a two-bit McCarthyesque effort to demand from universities information about scientists who do not embrace his notions of manmade global warming. Where are the ACLU and fellow Democratic congressional supporters of free speech and academic freedom to censure such an Orwellian move? Finally, even the American Meteorological Society had to condemn the unhinged Grijalva for his bizarre efforts.

Attorney General Eric Holder came into office alleging racism and calling the American people cowards, and six years later is exiting, still blaming racism for his own self-inflicted failures. In between, Holder became the first attorney general to be cited for contempt by Congress. He stonewalled the Fast and Furious investigations. His plans to try terrorists in federal civilian courts were tabled almost immediately. He ordered electronic taps and surveillance on the communications of Associated Press and Fox reporters for supposed leaks.  He ignored wrongdoing in the IRS mess, a scandal that continues to grow. He got caught using his government jet to take his daughters and their boyfriends to the Belmont Stakes.

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Imagine Obama as an American president in 1939.

“The United States has made significant gains in our struggle against violent extremism in Europe. We are watching carefully aggressions in Czechoslovakia, Austria, and in Eastern Europe. My diplomatic team has made it very clear that aggression against neighbors is inappropriate and unacceptable. We live in the 20th century, where the 19th century practice of changing borders by the use of force has no place in the present era.

“Let me be perfectly clear: Mr. Hitler is playing to a domestic audience. He adopts a sort of macho shtick, as a cut-up in the back of the class who appeals to disaffected countrymen. Our task is to demonstrate to Mr. Hitler that his current behavior is not really in his own interest, and brings neither security nor profit to Germany.

“As for acts of violence in Germany itself, we must express our worry to the German government over apparent extremism, but at the same time we must not overreact. As far as these sporadic attacks on random civilians, as, for example, during the recent Kristallnacht violence, we must keep things in perspective, when, for example, some terrorists randomly targeted some folks in a store. My job is sort of like a big-city mayor, to monitor these terrorist acts that are said to be done in the name of the German people. Let us not overreact and begin to listen to radio commentators who whip us up into a frenzy as if we were on the verge of war. We must not overestimate the SS, a sort of jayvee organization that remains a manageable problem.

“Here let me just say that we must never fall into the trap of blaming the German people abroad, but especially our German community here at home. National Socialism by no means has anything to do with socialism. These terrorists are desperate for legitimacy, and all of us have a responsibility to refute the notion that groups like the SS somehow represent socialism because that is a falsehood that embraces the terrorist narrative. It is true that America and Germany have a complicated history, but there is no clash of civilizations. The notion that the America would be at war with Germany is an ugly lie.

“So make no mistake about it: National Socialism has nothing to do with Germany or the German people but is rather a violent extremist organization that has perverted the culture of Germany. It is an extremist ideology that thrives on the joblessness of Germany and can be best opposed by the international community going to the root of German unemployment and economic hard times. Let us not confuse Nazism with legitimate expressions of German nationalism. Stiff-arm saluting and jack boots are legitimate tenets of Germanism, and the German Brotherhood, for example, is a largely peaceful organization.

“So we Americans must not get on our own high horse. We, too, have bullied our neighbors and invaded them. We, too, have struggled with racism and anti-Semitism, slavery and Jim Crow. And our own culture has at times treated American citizens in the same callous way as the National Socialist do Germans. Before we castigate the Nazis, let us remember the Inquisition and the Crusades.

“In the face of Nazi challenge, we must stand united internationally and here at home — opposing workplace violence and man-caused disasters. We know that overseas contingency operations alone cannot solve the problem of Nazi aggression. Nor can we simply take out SS troopers who kill innocent civilians. We also have to confront the violent extremists — the propagandists working for Dr. Goebbels and Herr Himmler, recruiters and enablers — who may not directly engage in man-caused disasters themselves, but who radicalize, recruit and incite others to do so. One of the chief missions of our new aeronautics board will be to reach out to Germans to make them feel proud of German achievement. I want to remind Americans that Germans fostered the Renaissance, and helped create sophisticated navigation, mathematics, and medicine. This week, we will take an important step forward, as governments, civil society groups and community leaders from more than 60 nations will gather in Washington for a global summit on countering violent extremism. We hope that the efforts of those like Mr. Chamberlain, Mr. Daladier and others will focus on empowering local communities, especially in Britain and France.

“Groups like the SS offer a twisted interpretation of German culture that is rejected by the overwhelming majority of the world’s German-speaking communities. The world must continue to lift up the voices of moderate German pastors and scholars who teach the true peaceful nature of German culture. We can echo the testimonies of former SS operatives and storm troopers who know how these terrorists betray Germany. We can help German entrepreneurs and youths work with the private sector to develop media tools to counter extremist Nazi narratives on radio and in newspapers.

“We know from experience that the best way to protect all people, especially young people, from falling into the grip of violent extremists like the SS and the National Socialists is the support of their family, friends, teachers and faith leaders throughout Germany and Western Europe in general.

“More broadly, groups like those headed by Herr Hitler and the National Socialists exploit the anger that festers when people in Germany feel that injustice and corruption leave them with no chance of improving their lives. The world has to offer today’s youth something better. Here I would remind ourselves of our past behavior in waging wars near the homeland of Germany. I opposed the Great War, and further opposed the Versailles Treaty that disturbed the region and stirred up violent passions and extremism.

“Governments like those in Europe that deny human rights play into the hands of extremists who claim that violence is the only way to achieve change. Efforts to counter such violent extremism will only succeed if citizens can address legitimate grievances through the democratic process and express themselves through strong civil societies. Those efforts must be matched by economic, educational and entrepreneurial development so people have hope for a life of dignity. It does no good to talk of wars against Germany or Italy, or to demonize particular political movements as if they are monolithic or in any way represent the feeling of the majority of Germans and Italians.

“Finally — with Nazism and fascism peddling the lie that the United States is at war with Germany and Italy — all of us have a role to play by upholding the pluralistic values that define us as Americans. This week we’ll be joined by people of many faiths, including German and Italian Americans who make extraordinary contributions to our country every day. It’s a reminder that America is successful because we welcome people of all faiths and backgrounds. Germany has always been a part of America, always a part of the American story. The future will not belong to those who slander German culture. I made clear that America is not — and never will be — at war with Germany.

“That pluralism has at times been threatened by hateful ideologies and individuals from various nations. We’ve seen tragic killings directed at particular groups in our country, among them German Americans.

“We do not yet know why at times Germans have been attacked here in the United States.  But we know that many German Americans across our country are worried and afraid. Americans of all faiths and backgrounds must continue to stand united with the German community in mourning and insist that no one should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship.

“Our campaign to prevent people around the world from being radicalized to violence is ultimately a battle for hearts and minds. With this week’s summit here at Washington, we’ll show once more that — unlike terrorists who only offer misery and death — it is our free societies and diverse communities that offer the true path to opportunity, justice and dignity.”

The Reckoning

February 15th, 2015 - 7:12 pm

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Let us start our grand tour of an increasingly out-of-control world in Russia. Putin plays a two-bit Hitler in trying to gobble up his neighbors. The West responds with  a one-bit imitation of 1930s Britain and France. ISIS reminds us that beheading and human incineration are contemporary, not premodern, practices. The only difference is that we video them on iPhones now rather hear rumors about them by word of mouth a year later.

Jews are wise to leave Europe in the manner that some of the lucky got out in the 1930s. The danger is not that we are facing a sudden war on any one front, but that all these fronts — the former Soviet republics, the Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria, the roaming Islamic terrorist gangsters inside the West, and the Iranian soon-to-be-nuclear co-prosperity sphere from Yemen to Lebanon — are combining to create chaos as the new normal.

Whole swaths of the globe are becoming badlands that sane people avoid — the former Soviet republics, Russia, the Middle East, North Africa, Persia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Cuba, and perhaps soon Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus — as if they were the national no-go-zone versions of our own New Orleans or Detroit.

Ceding prior U.S. influence to regional hegemons — China in Asia, Russia in the former Soviet Union, ISIS and Iran in the Middle East — is turning the world into a pre-globalized Wild West. Think of travel plans. See the Parthenon? But will Greece be bankrupt and on strike from the airport to the Acropolis? See the Dead Sea? Will the rockets come in from Gaza, the West Bank, Syria, Lebanon, or Iran? See South America? Tiptoe around the mess in Argentina, Nicaragua, Peru, or Venezuela. See Paris or Copenhagen? Just don’t walk near a synagogue or kosher market. See St. Petersburg? Make sure there is not the next war nearby in Tallinn. See Turkey? The Hagia Sophia will probably be a mosque again soon.

The American Economy?

Hardly confidence there either. Bill Clinton slashed defense, hiked taxes and at least won a year or two of balanced budgets. Obama slashed defense, hiked taxes, and now brags that a $600 billion annual deficit is success — as if he still might not in his eight years double the amount of debt of all previous administrations combined.

What have zero interest rates accomplished? Another Wall Street bubble to implode, the end of passbook savings as we knew it for a century, and the encouragement of running up more national debt at a low annual service cost?

The Government?

What is terrifying about government now is not just that Obama has made it a tool of fundamental political transformation, by ignoring the enforcement of laws, overriding statutes through executive orders, and expanding entitlements to create new Democratic dependent constituencies. Scarier is the new 1984 state. The IRS is a rogue, but politicized organization that considers your politics in choosing audits. What exactly is NASA doing? The Justice Department sees the law as a hindrance to social justice. We can’t seem to find a secretary of Defense who can stand the White House effort to turn the Pentagon into something other than the military.

Government measurement of GDP and unemployment has been altered to suggest a robust economy. There is no such thing as an enforceable border, or perhaps a border at all. An illegal alien no longer exists. Amnesty is not so much a new law, as simply the relaxation of all immigration laws. The U.S. border is resembling the badlands between Syria and Iraq, where smugglers, cartels, and drug lords do as they please. What exactly is the status of ICE? Do agents arrest and release illegal entrants, or simply not arrest them at all? And if so, what then exactly are they doing?

Popular Culture?

Is Brian Williams our Eric Sevareid? Is Miley Cyrus an update of Shirley Temple? Is Kanye West the new Lou Rawls? Is Fifty Shades of Grey just an updated Lolita? Is global warming just a new phenology?  Is curvy Kim Kardashian just Rita Hayworth? Is Al Sharpton just Martin Luther King? The latest snuff video game just resembles an updated pinball machine? Maybe Tiger Woods is just a petulant young Jack Nicklaus?

Civic Harmony?

Racial relations have hit a new low in the age of “my people,” “punish our enemies,” and a “nation of cowards.” If an African-American entertainer does not win a Grammy, a celebrity rushes the stage to intimidate the winner. If an all African-American Little League team breaks the rules to win a crown, then the enforcement of the rules is deemed racist. If an Israel prime minister speaks to Congress without President Obama’s approval, then he is racist. What can be racism when almost everything is racist?

Is the new racism something akin to integration and assimilation, racially blind criteria for admissions and employment, a wish to make skin color incidental not essential to our characters, and a desire for legal, measured and ethnically blind immigration?

Where Does the Center Hold?

For bewildered and increasingly quietist Americans, the center holds mostly in family, religion, a few friends, the avoidance of the cinema and nightly news, the rote of navigating to work and coming home, trying to stay off the dole and taking responsibility for one’s own disasters — as the world grows ever more chaotic in our midst.

All sorts of escapism from the madness is now epidemic. Home-schooling. Gun ownership. A second home in the mountains. A trunk of freeze-dried food. Kids living in the basement. A generator. Some gold coins. A move to Wyoming. An avoidance of the old big cities. A tough choice between death and going to the nearby emergency room (at least your relatives are safe as you pass away at home). A careful and narrow selection of channels on cable TV. A safe room or escape plan. And on and on.

There is a strange new and dangerous sentiment brooding below the spoken surface that whatever is going on in the world and in America today cannot go on much longer — although as the sages say, there is a lot of rot in the West to enjoy for some time yet.

The postmodern world of our new aristocracy and the premodern world of those they both avoid and romanticize won’t hold. The old caricatured middle shrinks and turns inward. Even if the doomsday mood is a mere construct of the new instantaneous media, it is a dangerous mood nonetheless.

We all know what follows from this — either the chaos grows and civilization wanes and tribalism follows, or the iron hand of the radical authoritarian Left or Right correction is just as scary, or a few good people in democratic fashion convince the mob to let them stop the madness and rebuild civilization.

I hope for option three. I fear option one is more likely at home. And I assume that option two will be, as it always is, the choice abroad.