Get PJ Media on your Apple

Works and Days

Monthly Archives: March 2008

What Rev.Wright Has Wrought

March 30th, 2008 - 12:20 pm

“Part of what my role in my politics is to get people who don’t normally listen to each other to talk to each other, who [say] crazy things, who are offended by each other, for me to understand them and to maybe help them understand each other…I think he’s saddened by what’s happened, and I told him I feel badly that he has been characterized just in this one way, and people haven’t seen this broader aspect of him,” Obama said.” Barack Obama

I. The Issue Won’t Go Away

Barack Obama is a gifted politician, an eloquent rhetorician, and a savvy politician. He is young and vigorous and offers the Democrats inspiration that they can smash old canards about liberal minority candidates not winning the presidency, or the post-1960 law that a northern liberal Democrat can’t defeat any Republican for President.

That said, it is tragic watching the Wright-Obama mess, and the slow almost deliberate way in which the two, hand-in-glove, are eroding racial relations. I have received a ton of mail about my recent four or five essays on Obama’s Wright dilemma. I would characterize them as mostly negative, some hysterically so, and a few over the top. The calmer ones demand an explanation of why I would write repeatedly about the subject. The answer is simple. Under the guise of utopian brotherhood, Barack Obama is establishing a new relativism in matters of race, and, contrary to what he thinks, Rev. Wright is not the only beneficiary. While it was not Obama’s intent to unleash racial animosity, the net effect of rationalizing Wright will be precisely that. And Americans of all races need to speak out forcefully, clearly—and repeatedly—about this growing madness.

II. Contexts?

Obama’s evocation of “context” is the new/old defense that one suddenly hears to excuse extremist language against whites, moderate African-Americans, Italians, Jews, America, Israel, the WW II generation, etc. as in:

(1) The Wright slurs were just snippets; or
(2) Came in a context of historic oppression; or
(3) Were part of unique protocols of expression in black churches; or
(4) Were more than balanced by prior good works; or
(5) Were just rhetorical flourishes and hardly offensive; or
(6) The right-wing noise machine is using the Wright sound-bites for the political embarrassment of a Democratic candidate rather than due to genuine anger over his racism.

While some of these mitigations in theory might have some merit, what the Wright defenders—most prominently Sen. Obama himself—don’t realize is that the classical liberal tradition always argued that absolute standards trumped relativism and that situational ethics were never an excuse for extremism.

A clear discussion of the dangers of such relative morality is found in Book III of the historian Thucydides. There the violent revolutionaries on ancient Corfu claim they had cause to destroy the framework of the law and natural decency –and then found no such shelter when they in extremis were in need of it.

The Wright apologia is insidiously tearing down the accepted norms of public expression (sermons in a pulpit merchandised on DVDs qualify as the public domain). And the pastor will sorely miss them should he find himself the victim of racist outbursts against his person that will be inevitably excused by his own contextual contortions.

III. We Are All Victims Now

If one were to compare Wright’s present misdemeanors to historical felonies, we should remember that the Klan in the 1860s cited contexts for their violent racism by arguing poor whites were suffering at the hands of scalawags and carpetbaggers. Hitler contextualized German hyper-nationalistic hatred by reference to the unfairness and humiliation of post-WWI treaties. The horrendous treatment of the 19th-century Irish was a central context to the IRA’s rampage against the British. The murderous round-ups by the Bolsheviks were said to be in reaction to the excesses and exploitation of the prior Czarist aristocracy. Every racist or hater always has had a context—usually dredged up from the past.

But in these cases and dozens of others, liberalism countered that such boilerplate rationalization, even if there were in theory some merit, neither enjoyed a limitless shelf-life nor excused subsequent hatred.

IV. Irony Upon Irony

There are other issues of irony. First, the refuge in context has always been the nursemaid of prejudice and racism. Obama himself seemed to grasp that when he condemned his “typical white person” grandmother’s purported racist remarks by rejecting her supposedly irrational fear of black men on the street. His own subtext was that, even if crime statistics might suggest a greater risk to women from young black men than white, there was nevertheless no rational sanction for lumping anonymous black men loosely under the rubric of the suspect. Would that he applied the same absolute standards to Rev. Wright and thereby jettisoned his own extenuating rationalization of “not particularly controversial”, “five to six minutes”, “loops” and “snippets.”

Second, what is needed is not another national sermon on race-relations that inevitably devolves into a shout-fest about slavery and white racism. A true dialogue instead would explore the strange phenomenon of why and how contemporary African-American elites, whether an Al Sharpton, Michelle Obama, Rev. Wright, or Richard Williams (father of Venus and Serena), are often more, rather than less, likely to cite historical grievances, almost in direct proportion to their own success. The Right Honorable Rev. Wright is currently building a 10,000 square foot mansion in a gated suburb of Chicago (at $1.6 million, right up there with Michelle’s house), hardly a reification of his anti-capitalist, anti-black “middle classism.” Presumably from such a sanctuary he will continue to blast “greed” and “white people” and hard-working African-American compromisers deluded by the need for middle-class material reaffirmation.

In addition, such a discussion would touch on the bizarre national exemption given to some African-American churches, talk-show hosts, and entertainers to adopt a sort of racialist vocabulary and narrative that are not accorded to other groups, whether Asian, Hispanic, or poor white, despite their own competing claims on collective historical grievance. African-Americanism is no longer synonymous with unique victim status. An Asian boatperson refugee from Vietnam and survivor of reeducation camps or an impoverished immigrant from central Mexico can make the case that his own life has been far more difficult than anything experienced by Barack Obama or Jeremiah Wright.

V. Brave New World Ahead

Moreover, Rev. Wright, and the reaction to Rev. Wright, in conjunction with the Imus or Michael Richards controversies, has taught us that the sin is not the employment of racist slurs per se, such as the N-word, “ho”, or “garlic noses”, but rather the particular context—or rather the person who voices them.

At some point, a Wright, who grew up in a middle-class household amid a reforming America and prospers in an enlightened United States, must be judged by his own words in the present. And if the public allows these contexts to excuse what he said (and will no doubt say again), then we will have done our part in destroying the entire notion of public censure to deal with racist speech.

That the issue involves a possible next President of the United States has transformed an otherwise irrelevant pastor into an examination of our own contemporary morality. And so far we are flunking that test with flying colors.

Ten Things a Candidate Might Promise

March 26th, 2008 - 2:08 pm

What we want to hear.

1. Surplus! Talk of the notion of surplus, rather than mere budget-balancing. Deficits, and national and foreign debt, are matters of more than statistics. They are barometers of a nation’s self-confidence, its mood and self-image. Percentages of GDP may be the real indicator of debt, but in practical terms Americans think in terms of dollars owed. So we need a candidate not only to outline a balanced budget, but one of surplus that will pay down the debt as well, and by spending cuts rather than tax increases. Do that and much of the American malaise will disappear. Economists might shudder, but imagine no annual deficit, a national surplus of $1 trillion or so, the Social Security Trust Fund in Al Gore’s lockbox, $10 trillion in foreign bonds held by US interests, a dollar at a Euro (yes, we know the trade difficulties that would accrue), and gold at about $300 an ounce.


2. Close the borders.
No need now to fight about amnesty, guest workers, deportation, assimilation, etc. All these key issues loom in the future. For now simply reduce the number of illegal arrivals to zero—through border fencing, more patrolling and manpower, employer sanctions, and stern negotiations with Mexico. Then as we squabble and fight, the number of foreign nationals or those not assimilated will begin to shrink in a variety of ways—once it is not growing. We need to take step one, rather than bicker over steps five and six. Who knows—we might just see many state treasuries miraculously recover, and thereby be spared the mantra that illegal aliens ‘really’ are a budget plus for states?

3. Iraq. Explain Iraq in blunt terms—that the first war against Saddam was won, but the second, more important one against radical Islam is still being won in the heart of the caliphate. Here Americans wish to know how many of the enemy we’ve killed, the degree to which other nations have stopped nuclear proliferation (cf. Libya or Dr. Khan), and the degree to which bin Laden and the tactic of suicide bombing have lost popularity. We need to explain to the American people how the tactical success of the surge translates to strategic victory, in the way stabilizing Korea, for example, allowed the powers of capitalism and constitutional government to be unleashed in the south and eventually to make a mockery of the fossilized north. If we can stabilize Iraq, its government and economy might do the same vis a vis Iran or Syria. In any case, we need some strategic vision of what Iraq is supposed to look like in five years and our role in it. A viable prosperous free Iraq is the worst nightmare of al Qaeda—but why and how needs to articulated daily.

4. Race. No more “conversations on race” but simply an end to identity politics. Americans are worn out with racial tribalism. The post-racial candidate Obama recently posed with Bill Richardson to gain a “Latino” endorsement, on the hope apparently that just as African-Americans are supposedly voting 90% for Obama, Hispanics might do likewise on Richardson’s prompt. But the scene was Orwellian. Both Obama and Richardson are elites of mixed ancestry and they just as well might have argued that they were “white” candidates. When either one claims fides to one side of their heritage, they implicitly reject the other. I can’t believe that a naturalized citizen from Oaxaca would vote for the grandee Obama because the grandee Richardson claimed that as an authentic Latino of similar background and perspective he should. And if he were to do that, then we are simply a tribal nation after all.

5. Taxes. Some simplification of the tax code. Americans can’t figure out their taxes. When in their 50s some of them finally make good money, more than 50% go to taxes while they are demonized as “the wealthy”—even as the mega-wealthy either pay on “income” as capital gains at 20%, or are so embedded in corporations that their expenses are taken care of as business deductions. In America, the couple that makes between $150,000-500,000 carries the country and gets less relief than the really well-to-do, but just as much grief and envy from the less well off. Some sort of flat-tax, simple-form is critical to our survival as a nation (I confess I just filled out my taxes and found it much harder than reading the choruses of Aeschylus).

6. Fuel. We don’t need to be “energy independent”—as opposed to cutting our appetite for imported oil by 5-6 million barrels per day. We have the world’s largest coal reserves. There are still a million or two barrels a day to be captured off our coasts and in Alaska. If every other family were to have a second electric commute car plugged into a nuclear-powered electric grid, we could easily accomplish all that rather quickly—until we arrive in 20 years at the so-called big rock candy mountain of hydrogen, flex-fuels, sustainable ethanols, etc. At $108 a barrel Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chavez and the Middle East kleptocracies have the cash to cause us great trouble abroad, at $40 they are merely thugs. Would it help if someone said, “Ok, either drill in Anwar, or cut sales of SUVs by 10% per year,” or “Drill off the coast and build nuclear power plants, or have gas at over $5 a gallon—your choice”?

7. Colleges. We need more transparency in our universities. Why do tax-exempt private institutions use their funds largely to enrich an elite rather than to subsidize student tuitions? Universities avoid taxes, but as non-profits don’t use that saving to help those for whom they exist, but rather spend their fortunes more often subsidizing faculty and administrators. They are no different than those scandalous charities who exist for their apparat. How universities have been able to up their tuitions consistently above the rate of inflation, while exploiting part-time, poorly paid contractual faculty, and masquerading all the while as liberal institutions are among the great mysteries of the modern age. Yet any inquiry into the labyrinth of identity politics, racial quotas, the absence of intellectual diversity or the problems with tenure are met by charges of “McCarthyism” or worse. American universities are rated the world’s best only because of our sciences and engineering—and thus despite, not because of, our failed liberal arts curriculum

8. Health Care. Simply mandate, as in the case of car insurance, that everyone buy catastrophic health care plans, and use health saving accounts for everything else. When we go to K-Mart and see a sign that says “Strep Diagnosis and antibiotics—$50” or ”Check our rates for heart exam and medication” and expect to pay cash up-front out of our saving accounts, while reserving insurance for emergencies and major illnesses, the price of health care will plunge and the patient will become an adult again—rather than rushing to the emergency room at 3AM with the “flu” and no insurance, and less ability or willingness to pay. As someone who has been in emergency rooms four times the last five years for either kidney stones or broken bones, two facts I discovered: more than half don’t have health insurance, and 100% had cell phones, the costs of which per month would nearly pay for catastrophic medical plans. Americans for some reason are outraged that they might pay $3000 in health or drug uninsured costs per year, but hardly object to an extra $2000 in moon roof, rims, or GPS on their new cars. We are Hillary’s proverbial “nation uninsured” with plasma TVs and 4×4 trucks.

9. Infrastructure. The objections to government spending revolve around redistribution, not construction. We need a slash in entitlements and more investment in bigger, better, and more roads, rails, and airports. A highway 101 (note I don’t call it a freeway yet after a half-century, given its suicidal cross-traffic breaks) is a cruel joke. In California, there are still only two major winter routes in and out of the state on an east-west axis. Driving a highway 152 or 41 east-west is circa 1955. Most of our Sierra roadways are wonderful up to the crest, where they suddenly stop in their tracks or devolve into pot-holed paved cattle trails—on the apparent assumption there is not ecological damage driving up the western slope, but would be plenty descending the eastern (or that our forefathers were scoundrels that gave us these beautiful roads to the summit, but we are saints for using them and offering nothing of improvement to our children to get over the other side).

10. National Security. Talk honesty about terror and national security. Why can’t a candidate say—“We will monitor what we think are terrorist calls routed through the US. So do you think this is right, or an abject violation of your privacy?” And instead of “Close Down Gitmo!”, one might say, “We prefer to have about 400 Padilla-like trials instead”. Or we could say, “No water boarding and we will take our chances that what damage a terrorist might do is overshadowed by the damage we will do to our reputation.” I don’t think Americans quite know what they want, but they are very tired of being told the question is black/white, win/lose rather than a mess where each answer poses another question. Treat us like adults, and let the public back a candidate who apprises them of the costs and benefits and risks, instead of either mouthing “police state!” or “a nuke will go off!”

A Look Back at the Obama Week

March 23rd, 2008 - 8:53 pm

Does Success Breed Anger?

Michelle Obama has two Ivy League degrees, private school for her children, a third-of-a-million-dollar salary, a large home, and a U.S. Senator as husband and would-be President—and says she has hitherto not been proud of the United States.

Rev. Jeremiah Wright has created a huge following in his Trinity Church, merchandises his lectures, enjoys nationwide recognition, and by all accounts is both well paid and popular—and chants “God Damn America.”

Recently the father of the multimillionaire celebrity tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, Richard Williams, pronounced, “Well, I’m black and I’m prejudiced, very prejudiced…The white man hated me all my life and I hate him…I’m not even an American, it just so happens that I was born in America.”

Is there a connection between success and furor at the United States? There are many ways to explain these baffling announcements, and those like them in the African-American community, sometimes offered up from the likes of a Harry Belafonte to prominent rap stars: (1) are these sentiments any different from those of a wealthy Michael Moore, Sean Penn, or Tim Robbins? (2) Does one’s racial fides become suspect the more wealthy and successful one becomes—and thus requires periodic proof of authenticity in the mode of easy anti-Americanism? (3) Does the more a Michelle Obama or Richard Williams or Jeremiah Wright succeed in America, the more one’s aspirations for even greater success accelerate at a geometric rather than arithmetic rate, creating expectations that can never be met—and hence scapegoating to explain the frustration?

More Conversations on Race?

I think that it is the last thing we need now in this country. Sadly, I don’t believe Sen. Obama or any other politician has either the wisdom or courage to resolve all of these competing hatreds and the particular contexts that their perpetrators always evoke in self-serving fashion. And it would perhaps be better that they did not even try.

Obama, after all, skipped unpleasant themes that are essential to any discourse on race. First, the United States is not a white/black dichotomy anymore. Millions like Obama himself are biracial. There are as many Asian and Hispanic Americans together as African-Americans. And the result is that racism, being an entirely human phenomenon, is now often the property of a variety of races, who form baffling coalitions that cannot be reduced by Wright to simple white/black formulas.

More important, we are in the fifth decade since Civil Rights legislation. The problem of African-American parity cannot any longer be explained entirely by white racism. Inordinate illegitimacy, drug use, incarceration, high-school drop-out rates, and crime in the African-American community are part of any conversation of race—and of concern to millions of Americans who are not white and have their own extenuating private stories of poverty, bias, and ordeal.

Instead we should simply insist on a universal code of public decency and kindness. Americans should not voice racist sentiments in the public domain, or by our purse and attendance empower those who do. And if we are found wanting in that regard, we will be judged so by absolute standards that are unchanging. And they will not provide exemption by citing the bad that others do, or the good that we think we’ve done in the past, or the extenuating contexts in which our hatred was voiced.

By that measure Sen. Obama’s failure to resign from his church and disassociate from the Rev. Wright and his own inspirational speech to allay racial tensions, caused more problems than they solved.

Such a judgment may seem harsh. Yet it is not mine, but instead can be seen among the people themselves of all races. They remain appalled by Rev. Wright and Obama’s tepid reaction to him—to the point of abandoning a candidate whose eloquence, astuteness, and likeability are otherwise unrivaled in modern political history.

Rice and Thomas

I was suprised that almost no one has commented on Wright’s slurs against Justice Thomas (“Clarence Colon” ) and Secretary Rice (Con-damn-nesia”). Neither Obama nor any prominent African-American voiced outrage. Why? The two most powerful African-Amerians in public service are an apparent embarrassment to their own communities, due to their ties to conservatives. In other words, in the Ward Churchillian mode, one is not necessarily as much African-American by race as by ideology;thus a half-white Obama of African heritage, who experienced far less prejudice than the older, darker, and African-American Thomas, is the more authentic African-American because of his leftist Chicago politics and his patronage of the fiery Wright

This has real repercussions for future racial relations. Since the liberal left has been able to dictate to the African-American population that a particular leftwing philosophy is essential to one’s genuine (as opposed to false) identity.

What is Next?

I think the contentious Democratic race continues to the end, Clinton winning the majority of the remaining states, establishing momentum, claiming she’s won most of the plebiscites (rather than caucuses), and the most important states—and losing the nomination. Then with the renewed Obamomania breaking back out over the summer, at least 25% of Democratic voters will defect to McCain. The ensuing controversy and drama of the election will be the degree to which McCain attempts or does not attempt to distance himself from very effective Wright/Obama infomercials aired by anti-Obama coalitions. And given that Wright is a megalomaniac, who like a moth to a flame, always seeks the light, expect him to sound off once or twice before November, either voicing more hatred of whites and the United States or trying to hint that he and Obama are closer than we think.

A Forgotten Artifact…

of the Wright mess have been the continued progress in Iraq, the dissolution of the anti-war movement, and the radical shift in Democratic rhetoric from “we’ve lost” and “the surge failed” to even victory was not worth the aggegrate costs.

The Obamastrophe

March 20th, 2008 - 9:16 am

The Me-Campaign

I admire Barack’s Obama rhetorical skills and ability to run against Clinton, Inc., but racial polarization will be the legacy of an Obama campaign that promised to transcend race.

It now routinely counts on winning 90% of the African-American community on the basis of racial affinity against a similar liberal Democratic candidate, who herself in short order in turn relies on racial identity politics. Pennsylvania might prove to be the most polarized election yet, and it’s likely that Obama will reap what he’s sown with his failure to disassociate himself from a racist. The speech, for some reason aimed at solidifying the African-American base and capturing praise in the New York Times, succeeded on those counts as much as it turned off middle-class America, set racial relations backward, and destroyed his campaign.

One legacy of his speech is that 85-year-old Mrs. Madelyn Dunham, once praised for saving the Obama failed household, will be remembered by America for her supposed racist, “made me cringe” sneers that provoked her brilliant grandson’s metamorphosis into a trans-racial messiah. That cruel evocation was symptomatic of a generation that does all it can to claim credit for itself for its perceived successes, and to allot blame to its predecessors for all its present unhappiness.

But then the Obama campaign already had focused on the Obama’s neuroses, their angst about their loans, the cost of their kids’ school and camp, and whether or not Michelle felt ‘pride’ this particular week in the rest of us. The Wright mess and the relativist apology for it are not the only reason for the slide in the polls; America also got tired of the self-indulgence and self-referencing that exceeded even that of the Clintons’, heretofore the past masters of the me-generation.

The only suspense will be how the great healer explains to the nation why in the world white voters outside of the elite suburbs suddenly turned on him in record numbers that cannot be balanced by the record majorities he piles up in African-American communities. Pennsylvania will be the barometer of the reaction to his modified hangout speech this week, and I think he could well lose the state by 20%. And that will send a powerful message that the Democrats have nominated someone who will not or cannot “disown” an abject racist—or at least apply the same standards of condemnation that he once applied to Don Imus when he asked him to resign.

Indeed, as two liberal candidates duke it out, we now matter-of-factly talk of the “white voter” and the “black voter” and the “Latino voter.” The overwhelming majority of black commentators on television who hear the replays of the Wright venom find ways of assuring audiences that what they are hearing is not what they think they are hearing—given that listeners are not experienced with that past grievance or this present custom in the black religious community.

Reporters hunt in vain for a black preacher or members of churches similar to Trinity who find Wright’s racism, anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism abominable. But then why should they when Barack Obama himself has put such hatred in the proper context of ‘everyone does it’—your rabbi, his grandmother, the “corporate culture”, the “Reagan Coalition”, Geraldine Ferraro, and all the other racists who are moral equivalents of Rev. Wright spouting out “God Damn America”, “rich white folks,” the “KKK of A”, “Clarence Colon” and all the other sickness? (In this regard I smiled when the Rev. Sharpton the other night swore that the Rev. Wright had not said anything untoward about “whites” (cf.”KKK of A”) or toward any one person (cf. e.g., “Clarence Colon”, “Condamnesia” Rice).

Giddy elite whites chime in solemn tones that the “speech” was historical and the burden is on the less sensitive than they to appreciate it and fall into line. Meanwhile tens of millions in the middle-class of all races remain appalled. They are puzzled that their intelligence is being insulted—that a would-be President can neither explain his past intimacy with a racist nor promise to disassociate himself from the font of such hatred.

So history will record that the disturbing legacies of the Obama racial paradigm are his twins of moral equivalence and contextualization. That is, once a private remark of a grandmother is elevated to the same sin as a public hate-fest, for purposes of rationalization, or a quip of Geraldine Ferraro is similar to “God Damn America” or the “KKK of A”, then all metrics disappear. The next time someone utters something reprehensible, there will be a chorus that points out a similar tit-for-tat pretext.

And since we are to understand that the peculiar frustrations of blacks and the protocols of expression within in the black church must pardon the effects of the Wright hatred, it unfortunately won’t be long until the next racist outburst is likewise explained away. Imus tried that when he advanced the argument that his past good works and the raunchiness of talk-jock radio made his racist remarks merely crude rather than ill-intended.

That argument rightly failed (as the “old” Obama pointed out at the time); after Wright and Obama, similar ones won’t next time—and the future is sadly going to be wide-open, true to the Wright brand of coarseness and crudity. Thanks to Obama there will be fewer to speak out with any credibility that an absolute standard of decency condemns all forms of racism from anyone under all circumstances.

Obama’s eloquence and his postmodern deftness with false analogies and slick relativism may have ensured both that the super delegates don’t yank his nomination, and that public anger over his falsehoods about what he knew and when is chalked up to racism, but the damage he’s done won’t be undone easily. The Democrats flocked to this Pied Piper and now he’s going to lead them over the proverbial cliff.
___________________________________________________________________

“Oppression Studies”

For Obama’s theories on education, see the following I posted on NRO (before the landmark “speech”):

“The forces of division have started to raise their ugly heads again.”

Today a news item reported on Sen. Obama’s recent take on the current status of education:

“He said schools should do a better job of teaching all students African-American history “because that’s part of American history,” as well as women’s struggle for equality, the history of unions, the role of Hispanics in U.S. and other matters that he suggested aren’t given enough attention.”

“I want us to have a broad-based history” taught in schools, he said, even including more on “the Holocaust as well as other issues of oppression” around the world.”

But anyone familiar with the historical illiteracy of today’s college student understands that more of the “oppression” history that Sen. Obama is advocating is precisely the problem, not the solution. Our high school students already know who Harriet Tubman is, but not U.S. Grant or Shiloh. They have been introduced to Crispus Attucks, but not Alexander Hamilton. They know World War II largely as the Japanese internment and Hiroshima (cf. Reverend Wright on that), but have not a clue about the Bulge or Okinawa or the Munich travesty.

In other words, it is precisely this pick-and-choose therapeutic curriculum of “oppression” history presented as a melodrama of winners (white male Christian capitalists) and losers (women, people of color, the working classes) that has ensured an entire generation of historical illiterates, who can’t distinguish between the profound and trivial, or identify basic names, dates, and places to ground even their politically-correct views. They are told to remember and repeat that Hiroshima is bad, but not why or how it occurred, what were the alternatives, and what were the consequences in a war of bad and worse choices.

Instead the sins innate to mankind—war, oppression, slavery, bias, etc.—are nearly always presented as sins unique to the West in general, or to America in particular. We hear always of commission, never of the remediation, always of our terrible past, never of the pretty awful present that goes on outside the United States.

What we need from a healer at this late date is not advocacy for more gripe-history that tries to portion out equal victim status to various competing constituencies under the guise of multicultural brotherhood, but rather tries, in holistic and inclusive fashion, to explain both the noble and tragic history of the United States, an experiment that was and is not perfect, but still very good and preferable to all the alternatives.

What continues to be so disturbing about the Obama rhetoric is that in the abstract he always talks of utopian brotherhood and idealism, but whenever he devolves into the concrete, we learn that he promotes victimhood, identity politics, and subsidizes both by his presence and his purse racial intolerance and invective.

More disturbing still is that even to mention this disturbing contradiction is to incur the charge of being racist, or—in Obama’s own self-serving formulation—to confess that “the forces of division have started to raise their ugly heads again.”

Our New Nixon

March 17th, 2008 - 3:46 pm

A “scholar”

One of the defenses of the Rev. Wright advanced by Sen. Obama was that his (suddenly “former”) pastor is a biblical “scholar”. But one surely doesn’t sense anything scholarly about the firebrand Wright from his public lectures. He uses the notorious “N-word”. He enjoys profanity. “Ain’t” is common parlance. And in the tape when he screams about Bill Clinton “ridin’ dirty” with Monica, Wright then seems to illustrate that by shuddering with his body and right arm in a crude effort to simulate sexual intercourse from the pulpit.

He calls Justice Thomas “Clarence Colon”: and Sec. Rice as “Condamnesia.” Add that to his “God Damn America”, his attacks on “the KKK of America”, and his crackpot notions about AIDs, the idea that cabbies (a vast majority of them of color) who pass by black males reflect white racism, etc. and Wright appears about as unscholarly as one can get.


Untruth upon untruth—our new Nixon?

Almost everything Barack Obama has said about his relationship with Wright is untrue. He is hardly ‘not particularly controversial’. No one needs to “cherry-pick” his sermons to find in them hatred; in some speeches that venom is the entire theme. Obama mentions Wright’s AIDs work—never that Wright blamed America for the AIDs epidemic. Obama mentions Wright’s positive work on apartheid, not that Wright claimed the U.S. put Mandela in jail. And on and on

Obama knew of his extremisms as evidenced by past interviews in which he mentioned Wright’s flair (cf. especially his encomium on 6/5/07), by his church attendance for more than twenty years, by his mention in his memoirs of Wright’s take on Hiroshima and other controversies, and by his admission he took Wright’s tapes to Harvard for inspiration.

So here we have it: a candidate who professes racial transcendence is comfortable with a racist; a candidate who preaches a new candor and transparency reflects the worst of the old Chicago politics of dissimulation, and a candidate, after Ohio, in need of displaying moderation to woo white male voters from Hillary, has almost ensured that he will lose them by his very inability to distance himself from someone who by his own testimony despised just that constituency.

I think Hillary will make the argument to the super-delegates that Obama will lose the election in the fall, that the super delegates should concentrate on the importance and size of her states versus his, and that aggregate popular votes should trump delegate counts, many of them acquired through caucuses rather than through plebiscites. Obama’s current disaster will give Clinton greater margins in the remaining primaries and allow her to gain the greater aggregate popular vote and to use that as well as an argument in the brokering to come. She may succeed but it won’t be pretty and will alienate millions. But then he already has as well.

The Healer

Since the Senator has taken up the role of the healer (I mean that without sarcasm), he should hold a brief press conference on race and apprise us of the rules. He states he would fire anyone who like Imus made derogatory racial remarks (e.g., ‘ho’s’), but how would that apply to himself and his continual membership in a church whose signature is racial hatred of whites, the United States, and conservative blacks? So just a few words about the rules of what gets one censured and ostracized, and what does not.


All in all—a mess.

Lost in all this is that the racial healer Obama has probably done more to set back racial politics than almost any recent public figure in memory. His Rev. Wright is worse than Farrakhan whom the reverend praises.

Had a Colin Powell or Condoleezza Rice run for President, the black vote would have split 50/50, there would have been no such extremists in the closet to worry about, and race would have been irrelevant. But Obama, who talked about making race as unimportant from the very beginning, through his ties with this racist church, with his pandering to Wright, with his wife’s outbursts, and by his own words in his memoirs, has made racial identity the center of his political existence. The final irony? A Powell or Rice no doubt experienced racial prejudice far more than did the younger, bi-racial Obama who did not grow up as an African-American on the mainland.

Chickens Coming Home to Roost…

…are not, as Wright professes, what we deserved on 9/11, but they reflect the presently composed Democratic party. It is completely captive to identity politics, and defines its leftwing African-American candidates not as post-racial, but as a constituency deserving a particular percent of the political spoils, whose rhetoric and extremisms are given broad exemption.

And this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg—gay marriage for the gay community, open borders for the Hispanic community, Iraqi pull-out for the Moveon.orgers, all without the realization that most gays can get along fine with civil unions and without marriage comparable to straights, that most Mexican-Americans don’t want open borders, and those opposed to the war don’t want necessarily a surrender.

No Sense of Self

I see the Wright fury and the tepid response to it by Obama, and the even worse distortions and special pleading by the elite media as symptomatic of a larger problem. We have millions in this postindustrial, postmodern society who have no sense of identity, what they are for, what they are against. They have no code, but instead simply adapt to the perceived consensus. Thus when an Elmer Gantry-like figure such as Obama comes on to their television screens, they have no barometer of values to spot such a transparency.

Remember, this was someone who went to prep school as Barry in Honolulu, then to elite Occidental, then Columbia, then Harvard, who was raised by his white grandparents, married a Princeton graduate and fellow Harvard law school graduate, was a beneficiary of numerous grants and loans, filed an income tax return of over $1 million dollars, got a sweetheart deal on house and grounds, was largely outside the African-American experience—and yet parlayed that all into a sense of victimhood, whether evidenced by the pique at having to pay back Ivy-League loans, or frequenting a rabid race-baiting and hate-mongering preacher, or putting his wife on the stump who expresses no pride in the U.S.

All the old rules of moderation and humility never applied to this couple. Michelle bragged openly that we had only once chance at redemption, and that was to vote for her brilliant husband (e.g., “Barack is one of the smartest people you will ever encounter who will deign to enter this messy thing called politics”). His speeches were more like sermons on his utopian morality and what he could for the lesser others (“You will experience an epiphany. And you will say to yourself, I have to vote for Barack. I have to do it.”). Their narrative of America was one of a failed, “mean” society—despite their own stunning success. Both showed arrogance and ingratitude—and so are meeting nemesis as every would-be mortal who thinks himself a god does.

What Happened?

Obama is superbly educated, bright, very well-spoken, and politically astute. So what happened? He did not grow up or frequent the proverbial “middle America”, a much different place than the Ivy League or south Chicago. Had he, then the first time he or she started in with that nonsense someone would have set them straight. But being indoctrinated in the abstract by Harvard law professors and in the concrete by Rev. Wright warped his sense of what America is and is about. All America wanted was for Sen. Obama to condemn Wright with the same passion as he rightly did, say, a Don Imus or the Clintonian race-baiting, to hold Wright to the same standard of censure as he does any other abject bigot. And when he failed that test repeatedly, he lost America—and I don’t think he is ever going to get it back.

When he starts in the messianic speeches about healing, and going beyond race, and a new political kindness and honesty, millions will hear in the background only the coarse shouting of a hate-filled Wright “God Damn America!” and the softer falsetto-spoken whispers and excuses of “scholar” and “my pastor” and my “uncle.”

Meanwhile…

The economy, Wall Street, mortgages, the war, Tibet, the dollar, oil, and gold go unremarked upon. God help us all.

Obama—an American Tragedy

March 15th, 2008 - 10:28 am

The Obama Implosion

In a nutshell, Obama just doesn’t get it. The more he keeps hedging and huffing about the demagogic (“God damn America”) Wright, while simultaneously preaching about ethics, tolerance, and healing, and the more his own prior sermons are juxtaposed to Wright’s venom, so the more Obama appears an Elmer Gantry-like figure.

He obviously either doesn’t fully grasp the degree to which his intimate relationship with a peddler of hatred offends Americans; or he feels that the Wright narratives are merely a wink-and-nod part of the local Chicago African-American landscape, and thus not that big a deal; or he finds some sort of psychological fix in listening to a surrogate provide a vitriolic, vicarious payback; or he is so indebted to Wright for providing him the requisite racial fides to start his career that he simply cannot say, “I was wrong to have been a part of Rev. Wright’s church; it is divisive and at odds with what I have tried to achieve in this campaign, and I’ve resigned from it.”

I pass on the fifth option that someone like Obama really believes the Wright lunacy.

Hard to Believe

Given Obama’s past sanctimonious dismissal of the Christian right (“The so-called leaders of the Christian right, who’ve been all too eager to exploit what divides us.”), he now is in danger of not just playing the hypocrite, but the fool as well. Referring to Wright as a “respectable biblical scholar” et al, is laughable—given that almost everything Wright seems to assert, whether about the Roman Empire or the origins of AIDs, is buffoonery.

The notion that Obama never heard any such nonsense is, well, nonsense—given that he frequented the church for 20 years, laughed off some of the Wright hyperbole in his own memoirs, and has a wife whose invective about America as not worthy of her pride, mean, etc dovetails with his pastor’s sermons. Moreover, his own past interviews belie his most recent assertion that Wright was merely his pastor, rather than a political advisor. And we learn that during those tough years in which Michelle Obama was whining about having to budget money to pay back those government-guaranteed student loans to Harvard Law School, the Obamas were giving thousands of dollars each year to subsidize the Wright hatred. Messiahs are supposed to tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth—and all the time.

This is hope and change and the new transparency?

The Dean Syndrome

What we have here is a bright, eloquent, and utterly insular candidate, incredibly naïve, with terrible judgment who is absolutely clueless about America. He seems an improved model of Howard Dean—opinionated, snazzy, faddish, riding on popular insanity—and then in one fell swoop (“Yeaaahhhhhhh”) ridiculous. It may well be that the old guard Democratic elite, as nervous now at the popular Obama hysteria as they were over the flash-in-the-pan Deanomaniacs, may have to impose a buyer’s remorse “Kerry solution” and step in as super-delegates to stop the hysteria nonsense and get behind the plodding Hillary workhorse. But unlike the Dean implosion, the Obama crack-up is much later in the game.

You see, the problem is that the Obamas have had two only audiences in their lives, both narrow and, worse, fawning: one, apparently a highly politicized and often angry Chicago African-American constituency that believes in AIDs conspiracies and the pathological role of the United States, and, two, a guilt-ridden elite white audience in the Ivy League and the media who does not object to, or in fact enjoys, being told why America is the sort of awful place Rev. Wright depicts.

Harvard Square and the Chicago Hood are not necessarily America

But leave that womb? Very shortly you enter the majority world of downtown Los Angeles, Toledo, Upper Michigan, West Texas, upstate New York, the Salt Lake City suburbs, northern Florida, East Fresno, or Reno. When those driving to work in those environs hear on the radio each morning the crudity and coarseness of Rev Wright’s snippets—and that they are directed at themselves no less and have a creepy quality when listened to rather than read—they more or less explode.

If Obama keeps talking about his new politics of hope and change while contextualizing Rev. Wright’s hatred, soon in the middle of one of Obama’s inspirational speeches, someone is going to stand up and shout, “Depart, I say; and let us be done with you. In the name of God, go!”

Apparently Obama’s saving grace so far has been the protective mainstream media that is teary-eyed and lip-biting over these disclosures, and, more importantly, the dramatic news breaking around Obama’s own tawdry mess—the Wall Street earthquakes, the Fallon resignation, the dollar, gold, gas, etc—which reminds us that while we fiddle over Rev. Wright, our world seems to be burning up.

Western Guilt

March 12th, 2008 - 9:13 pm

Lord Multiculturalism

For forty years critics have attacked Western culture in general and its American brand in particular for an assortment of perceived sins. Minority groups have alleged America was singularly racist. Radical feminist have charged that it is sexist and male-dominated. Gays have complained about homophobia. Hard-core Leftists argued that the United States is exploitive and in thrall to a few elite capitalists.

All these critiques shared a common philosophy and a shared purpose—other than trying to achieve cosmic victim status as recompense for individual disappointment.

First, the charge was that our culture was inordinately dominated by white, heterosexual Christian men, who had systematically oppressed others to maintain their own privilege. Second, the solution was to enact affirmative action, change attitudes, pay fines, create new government programs to remedy the sin, and, in general, to begin ensuring that race, gender, and class “matter” more in American life.

But one doctrine united them all—multiculturalism. It preached that America is not a melting bowl of different races that are to be assimilated, integrated, and intermarried under a common culture, whose traditions, government, science, and laws derived from a singular Western civilization—one that began with the ancient Greeks and Romans and gave the individual far more freedom and security than did other indigenous cultures in Asia, the Americas, and Africa.

Instead, multiculturalism insisted that Western culture was the culprit for global inequality and the cosmic unhappiness of the individual. We all are to embrace distinct and different cultures, none of them inferior to any other, all meriting equal consideration and worth. No one dare suggest a foreign practice inferior, another country less successful than our own—especially given our supposed history of assorted sins. All, however, always flew on Western jets, took Western medicines, and used Western appurtenances from the Internet to cell phones.

Recently the Archbishop of Canterbury admitted that imposition of Sharia Law in Britain was unavoidable. Does that mean that should some British citizens choose to kill their daughters out of “honor”, or circumcise their female infants, it is just “different” and therefore immune from criticism? I thought feminism tried to ensure equal protection of all women under the tradition of Western secular jurisprudence.

Harvard University just announced that in defense to Islamic students it would segregate its all-use gym so that Muslim women would not have to exercise with men. Will Christians, Hindus, and Buddhists have similar demands? I thought that the woman’s movement was supposed to bar just that sort of discrimination—forced segregation on the basis of gender?

California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo and UC Berkeley have begun arranging joint engineering program with Saudi Arabian counterparts, among them King Abdullah University. But some complained that meant they would be a party to the exclusion of Jewish students and faculty, and the segregation of women. Wasn’t the university supposed to be the bastion of equal protection, in its loud denunciation of racism and sexism as it had in the past when it led the boycotting and embargoing of apartheid South Africa?

In 2006 Palestinians in their state-run newspapers published a series of odious racist cartoons of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Such primordial bias drew almost no media attention—at least far less than what met the Danish cartoonists, of a private newspaper and without official sanction, whose caricature of Mohammed as a terrorist led to riots across the Muslim world, and Western censorship and apologies.

The truth is that multiculturalism trumps all else. If Islamists, or people of the Middle East, express racist, or sexist, or homophobic sentiments, they usually get a pass from the West. So ingrained is the notion among our elite that there are no absolute standards of ethics and morality, that we have lost the ability to apply abstract moral judgment without exception.

There is irony to all this—other than the obvious fact that Western trash-talkers themselves rarely leave the protection of their Western embryos. Aggrieved racial groups, feminists, and gays in the West have made their appeals for equity on the principles of freedom and rationalism. Western society is self-reflective and self-critical, and embraces reason not superstition.

Therefore when a law, custom, or received wisdom can be shown to be illogical and biased, reason dictates that it should change. How odd, then, that these Western pressure groups have suspended criticism of anti-Semitism, misogyny, racism, and homophobia under the guise that such offenders from other cultures abroad are apparently different and thus not subject to the same standards they have used to indict their own.

The truth is that in the world today, if a young girl is murdered in Britain by her family for lost “honor”, if an Israeli professor is discouraged to participate in a joint American academic program abroad, if university facilities are to be cordoned off out of religious and gender considerations, if a black woman is to be portrayed as an ape in a cartoon, don’t expect Westerners to complain. You see, the offender is of a different race, culture and religion than our own in the West, and therefore either can’t be an offender like we are, or is to be given an exemption in deference to our far greater past sins.

In short, Lord Multiculturalism trumps every left-wing critique, every –ism and –ology.

Tidbits

Spitzer suggestions

1. Please no more dutiful wives on television. Is the point to mitigate the shame? If so, it doesn’t work, but suggests instead that his career is a sort of shared investment, both financial and status-wise, and the two, Clinton-like, will not endanger their joint venture. He can face the music alone, just as he was caught alone.

2. The god of all politicians should be Nemesis, an all-seeing deity whose eye sees all, and metes out justice in kind and amount commensurate with the perpetrator’s hubris.

3. The age of the prostitute—22 years—seems under-emphasized. Besides the issues of criminality, lying, misuse of funds, et al, there seems something especially disturbing about a middle-age male paying some 22-year old for sex, to such a degree that she must discourage the mature governor by reminding him that his proclivities are “dangerous.” Class is of interest as well. She was once a 17-year-old runaway and high-school drop-out. Wouldn’t the humane, the liberal Democratic thing have been, when learning of her circumstances, to say something like, “Wait, you don’t need to do this, here’s a better deal: I will pay you not for dangerous sex, but to finish high school?”


More Suicide Bombers in Baghdad

Islamic human cruise-missiles went off in Pakistan and Iraq this week, and not long ago in Algeria and Israel. Suicide bombers have been able to do what the most sophisticated Western weapons cannot—navigate through crowds undetected and blow up targeted groups and individuals. The human brain is more sophisticated than a computer, and, given the sick realities of the Middle East, a young Muslim represents less material investment than a $1 million missile. The more we turn to drones and robots, the more the primordial Islamists turn their propaganda to young, sexually frustrated, angry males, who have been taught to hate and blame all of the failures of their societies and themselves on a Western other, to be fixed by a sexual reward in Paradise. They more cheaply and more efficiently can trump Western technology, since built into their guidance system is a powerful directive that still baffles the West, we are willing on occasion to risk dying in order to live; the suicide bomber is living to die, a much stronger impulse, at least in the short term.

Ode to an Orchard

I watched yesterday a 20-acre nectarine orchard—already pruned and cultivated—yanked out by a bulldozer in north Fresno, ostensibly for more tract development. As I drove by, the news reported $108 a barrel oil, and the French Foreign Minister suggested that the magic of America was over. All this comes as a consequence of a pathetic dollar, huge foreign debt, mounting national debt, sizable annual deficits, and a mortgage crisis.

At some point as I watched the trees fall, I thought have we Americans forgotten we must eat and need fossil fuels still to live? Here in California we are tearing out some of the world’s best farmland—with ideal weather, good loam soils, gravity-fed Sierra Nevada water, skilled farm managers—to build houses that could otherwise either be put on marginal soils, or in greater density to discourage the paving over our national assets, and a time when food grows scarce and expensive.

In terms of energy, we continue to delay coal plants despite our vast reserves, we dither on nuclear power, we won’t drill off the California coast or in tiny parcels in a vast Alaska, while we talk grandly of wind and solar and hydrogen and all the other solutions that are decades away from contributing in major ways to our energy needs—while our enemies in the Middle East are building trillion dollar reserves that will find their way into the hands of those who want to kill us. Do we think Nigeria or Russia is easier on the environment than we are when drilling oil, or that the Chinese have cleaner coal plants? If we really live on planet Earth, then isn’t it incumbent on us to exploit our own resources safely to ensure others less careful do less damage to our shared globe?

Can’t we find a single Presidential candidate who says: ‘Hang on. We are going to get serious. We our going to build coal, nuclear, more hydro-electric plants. We want as many Americans as possible to buy a second electric plug-in car for urban driving; we want more efficient gas and diesel engines; we are going to cut spending, radically so, to balance the budget, pay down the debt, pay off our foreign debt, and raise the value of our currency. Tighten your belts: federal spending is frozen for five years; we are going to raise the Social Security retirement age and reform the system. The borders are going to close, and citizenship is going to mean something again.’

Should McCain say that, it would trump ‘hope’ and ‘change’ and the 1960s tired old agenda, adopted by both parties, that got us in the mess we’re in.

The Election Goes On and On and On

March 9th, 2008 - 10:33 pm

Obama vs. Hillary vs. McCain, Part II

Like most outside observers who would not vote for either Obama or Clinton, I have mixed emotions about their current contested race. On the one hand, he has waged the more optimistic campaign, outsourcing the hit attacks to surrogates in the media and America hell-in-a-handbasket themes to his wife. Hillary is the tougher, more duplicitous candidate who understands politics far better—and the irony that the past divisive Clinton methods of identity politics and manipulation of the press by surrogates have come back to haunt her.

Surely, this was to be the year of the woman, with a bite-the-lip Bill talking about humanitarianism in teary-eyed encomia to his wife—not the upstaging by a charismatic African-American sensation, who pet-rocked them in a fad of popular hysteria.

He makes the case that he won the most delegates, leads in the recognized popular vote, and polls stronger against McCain. She replies that the big in-play states are hers, she is surging, and that his lead is based on caucuses that don’t reflect her grass-root delegates won by plebiscites in large swing states. Both are nearing the point of no-return in their stand-off. Either one caves by early April, or the acrimony will devolve into something we haven’t seen in Democratic politics since 1968.

Hillary’s message about foreign policy experience is dubious, but her charge that he has none is accurate and fair. So far, examine his advisors: academics like Ms. Power who chose to do a self-indulgent interview that nearly wrecked his campaign; Ms. Rice who just admitted that neither Obama or Clinton could be trusted to answer the call in the night; the anonymous free lancers who reassured the Canadians that the NAFTA trashing was just politics; and the ever ubiquitous Zbigniew Brezinski of Jimmy Carter fame, who spent most of the 2000s trashing his government, insisting that Iraq was lost, that we would be hit again, that we lost our liberties, that Israel was our problem, and that his stellar record gave him such insight (remember the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the US boycott of the Olympics, the Iranian hostage crisis, the Cambodian holocaust, the Central American communist insurgencies, the arms sales of planes to the Saudis without bomb racks, the failed hostage rescue attempt, the dispatch of Ramsey Clark to Teheran, and on and on).

Otherwise, their joint message is about the same: radically jack up estate, income, and payroll taxes to fund new programs that shift responsibility from the individual to the government—as payback for those who make too much money that they haven’t earned. Note again, the populist message doesn’t really apply to the really rich who support both Obama and Hillary, and find ways of counting income as capital gains or use corporate or trust perks in lieu of spending taxable income on daily needs. I would be for the estate tax if one could convince me that Ted Kennedy and his clan ever paid the full rates when their fortunate was passed on to them, and they did not employ Byzantine trusts, sophisticated probate schemes, offshore holdings, and all the other mechanism the mega-rich use to avoid the inheritance laws. Until then, it is twice-taxed income that goes to a government that does its best to punish those who tried to pass something more to their children than what they received.

Instead, the ax falls on the American family who makes between $150,000 and 300,000 mostly through salaries—which sound like a lot of money until one remembers that many of those who make that good living reside in high-income tax states like Connecticut, New Jersey, New York or California where $500,000-$700,000 for a modest track home is not unusual, and a child at a private liberal arts college can easily cost $150,000 for a four year education, especially with ineligibility for financial aid.

Abroad, both would play reactive international politics, and of not getting ahead of the UN or the EU on much of anything. Both favor the European system of culture and government and are deeply at odds with the exceptional American variant of a gun-owning, Christianized, confident, low-taxed, small-government, and highly individualistic society.

Equality of result, not of opportunity, is their creed. It is not how you start, but how you end up that is their concern, government being the final arbiter that must continually level the playing field. The subtext of both campaigns is that the individual is rarely if ever culpable. Failure, set-back, poverty—all these lapses are attributable either to race/class/gender prejudices; or cruel chance; or the stacked-deck of American capitalism.

To suggest that some people indulge in drugs, drink, gamble, have mental problems, have out of wedlock children, experience multiple divorces, quit jobs, make unwise investments, spend unwisely what they don’t make, drop out of high school is to reveal one’s own biases and innate meanness. My 86-year-old grandfather (born in my farmhouse in 1890 and died here in 1976) warned me before he died that no matter how bad things had become, one could at least still get by—if you didn’t quit your job, didn’t move, and made sure you spent more money on what makes you money (e.g., in his case, a tractor or barn or irrigation pipe) than on what you don’t need (e.g., periodic new car, clothes, jewelry, etc.)

What Have We Done?

Sometime in September Democrats may ask themselves just that as candidate Obama sticks to his “Iraq has failed” message as it continues to get better, to ‘I’m above partisanship’ as he does negative hit ads, as yet another Power, Rice, Michelle (“cynics, sloths, etc.”) etc. says something inane, and the “hope and change” message runs out of steam and is replaced by a more taxes/more social programs 1960s boilerplate tired agenda. Michelle is not an albatross yet, but she will be by summer; she is the type that liberals fawn over but her rhetoric proves deeply offensive to the working classes, who can’t see why the bitterness?

Meanwhile McCain II

I like McCain for two reasons and am willing to give him a pass on other past bothersome positions on campaign financing, global warming, and Anwar (no need to go on). First, he understands that we can defeat the jihadists in Afghanistan and Iraq, discredit radical Islam, and win the so-called war on terror, which is most definitely not a construct, a bogey-man, or an overreaction. Second, he has always railed about fiscal restraint. The government is over 30% larger than when Bush took office, and we are losing productive jobs while creating bureaucratic ones. More important, he realized that annual federal deficits, growing national debt, trade red-ink, and a weak dollar are more than economic indicators of a sick nation, but also terribly damaging to a nation’s sense of self and pride. When Greece has a far stronger currency than we do (I lived in the country for over two years and can assure readers that it does almost everything in a manner far less efficiently than do we), when Dubai must lend us capital, when a communist Chinese apparat holds over $1 trillion of our currency, and a corrupt Middle East rakes in billions of petrol dollars due to our lion’s bite of the daily global consumption of oil, then there is cause for collective doubt at home.

The Problem

In one sense, our current problem is that our youth learned from us (I speak as someone who was born in 1953), not our own parents (mine were born in 1921 and 1922) who to be candid were shaped by depression, war, and the threat of war, and who made terrible sacrifices to indulge us. I don’t wish to enter in the greatest generation quagmire, but note only that those who came of age in the 1960s are of a sort I hope the nation does not see again this century.

The Clintons are the best examples I know—self-referential, always victims of some unfair conspiracy, able to wing it by blaming someone other than themselves, full of self-righteous pride in their liberalism, critical of their betters of the past, indulgent to their own children, and always unembarrassed about the vast abyss from their utopian rhetoric and their own enormous tastes and appetites that are never quite muzzled. The Clinton way was to shake-down corporations for suitable lodging for Hillary, for Bill to garner obscene speaking, for Chelsea to be ensconced on Wall Street at a Hedge Fund—and then to stump on the John Edwards two-Americas theme. The signature of the generation was always the confidence that they could so well articulate, whine, or hedge a issue that they could avoid responsibility for failure while taking sole credit for success.


Stories Not Reported By the Media

The continual targeted killings of African-Americans by Latino gangs in Los Angeles

The culpability of a politicized CIA in dismissing Iran’s nuclear weapons procurement programs that have led to the near collapse of international efforts to stop them.

The Chinese war again separatist Uighurs in Xinjiang Province. (Why does the world ignore that Chinese, Indians, and Russians all wage war against radical Muslims with a savagery unimaginable by Israel?)

Liberal pressures on the federal government and lending agencies to relax standards to expand home ownership to first-time, non-traditional buyers through zero-down payments, interest only loans, and balloon mortgages—all of which are now blamed as illiberal catalysts for the current crisis.

An Endless Campaign

March 5th, 2008 - 3:40 pm

Clinton vs. McCain vs. Obama

Obama’s Unknowns

I still maintain that Obama is the easier candidate for McCain for a variety of reasons that remain unchanged. He has no experience in adversarial politics, neither at the state nor federal level. Just five years ago, no American knew who he was. He has never weathered a hostile press conference; and to the degree an obsequious press has ever rubbed him wrong, he seemed offended and off-putting. His wife is a complete loose cannon, far more so than was Teresa Kerry or Hillary Clinton. In a current fawning piece in The New Yorker, we nevertheless still hear her in action:

Back in the Explorer, I asked [Michelle] Obama if she thought that her husband, as the Democratic nominee, could take John McCain. “Oh, yeah. We got him,” she replied.

We “got him”—as if the Harvard duo have had far more life experiences than the man whipped and tortured at the Hanoi Hilton?

Her speeches are tales of woe, with the constant Hillarian refrain “People, ask me how do you do it!” Then references to camp, lessons for kids, etc follow, with the usual Ivy League Law School loans to repay.

I keep expecting a John McCain to say, “People stop me all the time, and ask, “John, how do you do it when you can’t raise your arms above your head?”


It’s Not Over!

I had a bet with Peter Robinson that Clinton, Inc. would pull out all the stops. I think I will win it. Note the story line emerging: (1) Florida and Michigan should not be “disenfranchised”; (3) the “big” important states, won by popular votes, should not count as much as small red-state “caucuses”; (4) the candidate going into the convention with the more recent wins and the momentum should not be denied; (5) the duty of the super delegate is to weigh the intangibles that transcend mere states won or lost; (6) the Democratic primaries simply don’t reflect popular will, when a Hillary can win Ohio by a landslide (add CA, MASS, NJ, NY, etc.) and yet pick up scarcely more delegates than the loser Obama; (6) how can a caucus delegate in a small state count more that the aggregate votes of thousands in a big-state primary?

And all these innuendos are before we get to Clintonian arm-twisting of the super delegates, and the return of Carville, Begala, et al. I admire Obama for taking on and nearly dismantling this machine. But he is in a vampirish war where the stake must be driven and left in the heart. So he will have to welcome the fray, go head-to-head with the Press, reply in kind to Hillary, and stop the messianic come-to-Jesus holy man approach—that, yes, got him where he is (but I don’t think any further).

Meanwhile McCain

There is a great opening for McCain in the Dickensian rhetoric of the Democrats. His more honest review of issues rather than horror stories of the hapless eventually will come across as the more serious.

In contrast, their speeches are simply strung-together macabre stories of the repossessed, evicted, uninsured, gas-less, car-less, and undernourished—in other words, just about the opposite of what you see in a Wal-Mart parking lot. I just went to one, in one of the poorest cities in one of the poorest counties in California. The people had nice cars (and big 4×4 trucks!), there was a line at the electronics and photo-lab section check-out lines; 85% of the people seemed to be on cell phones; 60% could be charitably characterized as moderately overweight; and the carts most definitely were not just full of staples.

So far McCain talks of America as an idea, a society in it together, his opponents as the loose confederation of various groups and constituencies, each with a higher insatiable claim on the public purse than its rival.

Which America?

So what is the real America? Two points: one, 4-7% are in dire straits, either jobless, facing home repossession, or without some type of medical coverage—in other words, somewhere around 12-20 million. And that is something society should try to address and must. But the notion that the country as a whole suffers these maladies, or that they are entirely induced by outside forces, or that individuals don’t have some responsibility for their fates is ludicrous.

The second, is that with $4 a gallon gas looming, a global recession perhaps on the horizon, massive collective debt, and a psychological mood of retrenchment, perhaps half the country will need to scale back a notch or two—but from a level of existing privilege and affluence that is simply staggering.

Not the 1970s

While killing time at the kidney-stone doctor, I was browsing through a recent sales catalogue of homes in the Fresno area. What struck me was not that they are discounted or not selling, but rather the sheer size and amenities in comparison to their counterparts in the 1970s.

My parents bought a small (1200 sq ft) tract house in Santa Cruz ($25,550) in 1972. It was fairly typical of a new mass- produced home of the era. The bedrooms were small, the baths tiny, the kitchen as well, with a single car garage and minuscule yard. In comparison today’s new tract home has the unimaginable, kitchens with granite, stainless steel enormous appliances, bathrooms designed for aristocrats, etc.. My point is simply that our homes, our TVs, our cars, almost everything we use are far bigger, nicer, better than what the 1970s offered, and to such a degree that the difference is not conveyed by a mere word “house” or “car”.

Our 1972 Olds 98 (my dad bought it used) in terms of reliability, comfort, ease of driving, and safety was a relic, a deathtrap, a clunker compared to a 2007 Honda Accord or Toyota Camry. None of these considerations appear in statistics about income, unemployment, purchasing power, etc.

After all, how do you measure the value of a lap-top with wifi, or the notion that you can sit at Starbucks and have a 10-million volume library at your fingertips? What does one pay for that privilege? At the same Wal-Mart, I was behind someone who spoke no English and seemed to have just arrived from Mexico. He was talking to no one in particular but very loudly—and then I noticed he had a high-priced blue-tooth remote cell on his ear—an appurtenance only a Wall-Street financier would have had just 10 years ago. This is not the first time I have noticed the access to high-tech electronic goods and purchasing power of our seemingly most underpriveleged citizens.

Yesterday, (as an example of the widely diverse information at our fingertips) I was tracing a short in my car, and trying to finish an ancient Greek composition. I got online in 5 seconds to download the Honda service manual, and also glimpse at Woodhouse’s English-Greek (reverse) dictionary for the proper word for “outlaw” in ancient Greek (wanted to know whether it was phugas or adikôn), a reference work that I could never have afforded to buy even as used. So life is richer, more varied, and, yes, better than before, and not even Barack Obama can convince one otherwise.

A Sad Campaign

The public doesn’t want bromides like Obama’s “Change” and “Hope” but honesty and detailed analysis and suggestions. Instead we get from Obama and Hillary let’s go green, get solar and wind and, presto, get off foreign oil! There is no information offered along the following lines: A is how many barrels we import; B is how many we consume daily; C is the shortfall; D is how we can make up the difference with a. more drilling; b, more conservation; c. alternative energy sources; d. nuclear power; or e. flex fuels.

That would take about 30 seconds of a candidate’s speech. Better yet, he/she could say I support a or b or c and d, but not e and here’s why. And because Obama sets the professed bar of honesty and transparency so high, he falls the most into hypocrisy when his platitudes are even more empty than the others.

When he and Hillary go at it, trying to oubid each other in entitlements and new programs for an apparently 1930s America, they sound like feuding Roman wannabe emperors, each offering the Praetorian Guard more cash and the public more bread and circuses.

Sierra Splendor

I’ve been up to Huntington Lake again this week. In some places (remember this is nearing mid-March) the snow has drifted up to 10 feet and more in depth (and another storm is coming). At about 2 PM it was in the 60s, bright and sunny. Again what struck me was that on weekends, a mere 1 ¼ hours away from the greater Fresno area of 1 million, the place was completely empty, hardly a soul except for hard-core snow-mobilers. One would think a family might get in their used Toyota, drive the 130 miles round-trip, spend their $20 in gas, and experience spectacular views, crystal clear air, warm temperatures and snow everywhere. And yet again not more than 5-6 seemed to be doing that. Are the alternatives of TV, the video game, the Internet, the mall, Wal-Mart/K-mart/Costco still available in Depression-era America?