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Monthly Archives: May 2009

Lost in the Labyrinth of Race

May 31st, 2009 - 2:11 am

The Sotomayor Nomination and the Politics of Racial Identity

One of the unexpected results of the Sotomayor nomination is a refocusing on the politics of racial identity and the fossilized institutions of affirmative action-or the belief that the U.S. government should use its vast power to ensure an equality of result rather than a fairness of opportunity.

In the last fifty years, United States has evolved into a complex multiracial state. Race no longer is necessarily an indicator of income or material success-as the record of, say, Japanese-Americans or, indeed Asians in general, attests.

And what criterion constitutes race itself nowadays, when almost every family has someone who is half-Hispanic, a quarter-Asian, one-half black, or part Pakistani? What percentage of one’s lineage ensures purity of race, or qualifies for minority status? Are California Hispanics minorities, or so-called whites that are now a smaller percentage of the state population?

And what constitutes racial authenticity? Lack of income? An absence of success in the American rat race? Is the fourth generation upper-class Cuban an “Hispanic” who should qualify for affirmative action because his name is Hillario Gonzalez? Does the one-quarter aristocratic Jamaican qualify for American redress on account of his partial blackness?

And how does affirmative action-or even the fuzzy notion of “diversity”- adjudicate all this without mirror-imaging the statisticians of the Old Confederacy who could precisely calibrate the 1/16 drop of black blood? The university where I taught was full of South Americans and Europeans with Spanish surnames that allowed their various departments to be considered “ethnically diverse,” while others, having Russian émigrés, or the foreign born from New Delhi, Israel, and Egypt, struggled to satisfy the dictates of diversity czars.

In other words, affirmative action, and the racial identity politics that fuel it, are swamped by their inherent racialist contradictions-and made irrelevant by the dynamism of popular culture of the last three decades in which intermarriage, assimilation, and integration have challenged the notion of racial fides itself.

What are we left then with?

A mess. And a rather mean and nasty mess at that.

So It Is Past Victimization?

Consider the growing Orwellian logic of affirmative action. Is it based on the notion of past grievance? Apparently to make up for historical bias, we are to give a nudge to the present generation of minorities to overcome generations of discrimination.

But wait, the University of California system has been caught in the past trying to dream up ways of reducing Asian representation while bolstering the numbers of Hispanics and blacks. Yet some Asians had parents who were put in camps during World War II by Earl Warren, FDR, and the efforts of the liberal McClatchy newspapers. Asians in the 19th century were denied housing, zoned out of cities, and treated terribly as laborers.

So the reason a Melinda Tanaka might not receive a boost surely is not because she cannot claim victim status in the past. Indeed, why should a Barack Obama qualify for special consideration in college? His mother was white; the grandparents who raised him were as well. His absent  father was African-and not part of the historical American trauma of racism and discrimination accorded African-Americans.

Again, a first -generation African immigrant from Jamaica or Nigeria in theory should not tap into special treatment on the basis that his parents or grandparents had suffered in America.

So It’s Present Racism?

All of which leads us to the second pillar of the new discrimination. If it is not necessarily always a claim on historical suffering in the past, then the defense for special consideration must be present racism and lingering discrimination?

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Reflections On an Age Now Fading…

May 27th, 2009 - 1:48 pm

Goodbye, Europe

We are on our third, and last, leg of this year’s tour, and headed today from Chania, Crete to Athens. We had a rare lecture yesterday from Prof. Nikos Stavroulakis of the Etz-Hayyim synagogue on the history of Chania. I had not known the full story previously of the fate of the island’s remaining Jews that were deported in June 1944 by ship under the orders of the occupying German army, and headed for Auschwitz-when their transport ship the Tanais was sunk (with the loss of all Jews on board) by a British sub. It is not entirely clear whether the torpedoing was intentional (a vain effort to stop the deportations and sure death) or a mistaken effort to hamper the German war effort. Quite a tragedy-that essentially ended the Jewish two-millennium-plus presence on Crete. Or rather, the on-board prisoners were doomed once the Germans closed the Jewish Quarter and sent them to sea headed for the death camps.

Today we visit the reconstructed trireme Olympias (and the dreadnought battle cruiser Averoff) and hope to do Marathon and Thermopylae tomorrow.

Easy Life

I am always pleased to converse with Greeks since they put a high premium on candor. Yesterday I met a fellow who had lived in the states, hated it, and was all too happy to tell me why. Yes, yes, he said, the EU has more rules than does America. But those in any EU country that borders the Mediterranean, he insisted, simply ignore most of them-from the mundane like trash throwing to the important like paying taxes and reporting income. In America, he argued, our police-state apparatus makes cheating far too hard, as we are obsessed with following statutes (here I objected that we too have become lax either to disregard for the law or incompetence).

The net result? He said he can work here for 4-5 hours on his official job without worry of being fired, while moonlighting whenever he wishes for pocket untaxed cash. Life in other words, was far better here-less work, more benefits, less worries about getting ahead. Everyone inherits his or her parents’ apartment, and puts  family raising off until a man’s thirties or even forties. The old American notion of marriage, children, a detached house, and a steady transparent job is a foreign concept-and maybe soon as well at home.

When we turned to foreign policy it was more surreal. NATO, he railed, should leave Crete. America should not be allowed to bring in ships and planes. But what about existential threats-terrorism, Turkey, an ascendant Russia? No problem, without a Greek connection with the US they disappear, or Greece can count on a rapid-response EU force. Here I suggested it had done that in 1917-8, 1922, and 1940-45, and in all cases European countries were mostly either indifferent, late in coming to their aid, or actively killing Greeks.

At that point he shrugged and said we could defend Greece without flying or steaming in Greek air and sea space. Yes, indeed…

US Thoughts

Conservatives are flummoxed about the Sotomayor news, and have been warned by the likes of Chris Matthews and David Gergen that the nomination is a shoo-in, regardless of Justice Sotomayor’s statements about the less desirable characteristics of white males as judges, and the desire to enact policy from the appellate bench.   

I think we are in an Orwellian time, and it is not just explainable by identify politics. Remember the grilling of Alberto Gonzales and the hysteria over Miguel Estrada. So the point is not just having a so-called minority profile, but having one compatible to the ‘progressive’ left. If an African-American nominee (cf. Justice Thomas) or Hispanic proves to be conservative, then race can often count against them, inciting a sort of furor on the left that such independent thinking individuals are not suitably deferential to liberals for their trail-blazing work.

Or perhaps the liberal mind feels that de facto it is beyond racial reproach, and therefore can engage in a sort of viciousness that exceeds even that shown non-minority conservatives. In short, the inspirational story of a Hispanic is relevant only to the degree that the nominee favors an agenda of the elite progressive left-without that requisite ideology, the candidate is reduced to an ingrate or a victim of false-consciousness, or a traitor of sorts.

The European Way

Are Europeans more healthy and environmentally sound than Americans? Unscientific study of Italians and Greeks suggests the following: European are not any lighter in weight than Americans. They smoke far more. Public buildings are more likely to be defaced, graffiti here being political expression, not a matter of gang signature.

Trash? The littered roadways of both countries are still about at the state of America circa 1960. The air of Rome and Athens seems dirtier than that in LA. Frequently used beaches in general in both countries are dirtier than LA’s dirtiest, and nothing like the pristine Northern California shores.

The point? I think this Euro-driven eco-sermonizing should cease. Vast swaths of Europe are well behind American eco-prudence, and the general population in key matters of preventative health from smoking and weight control to exercise are no better-and often far worse.

Let us be careful about the European model, very careful.

The Obamized Underground

From time to time I meet individuals who feel that the United States as they have known it is changing before their eyes, and therefore they have sunk into a terrible depression. They cite a litany of horrors.

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Wandering Around Europe

May 24th, 2009 - 11:30 pm

The Beauty of Europe

One can see why millions of Muslims flock to Europe. Oh, I know it is the economic and political dividends of Western consensual governments and state capitalism that provide such material and spiritual freedom. But surely some of the attraction of Europe is both the physical beauty and the infrastructure left from prior magnificent civilizations. There is nothing quite like the French Mediterranean coast, Tuscany, the hills above Rome, almost anywhere in Crete, the Peloponnesos. The combination of sea, mountains, and radical differences in climate make Europe one of the most stunningly beautiful places in the world.

Add in the infrastructure left from the classical antiquity, Church, the Renaissance, the Reformation and counter-Reformation, and 17-19th century ages of Enlightenment, and you have perhaps the most serene, accessible–both natural and human–and impressive landscapes in the world. That they are easily accessed and safe makes them far different from anything in Africa or South America.

There is a reason why we see now in American suburbs gated communities entitled “European Parc” with sort of faux-Italian villas, tile roofs, iron grates on upstairs windows, and yellow/brown/brown smooth stucco finishes, among cypress trees and Lombardy poplars, as if the builder wants to reproduce a Sienna, but with easy parking, suburban ease, and American appurtenances.

What Does Europe Do Better than We Do?

Teach languages; either by need or choice, European teens by and large speak more languages than do our own. Food. By and large, the average European eats a more varied, tasty meal than his American counterpart. Here I note in America, you can get more variety, better quality food, and better service-but most do not for a variety of reasons. Europeans know more of the past than we do-by needs no doubt. But cite a battle, a cathedral, or a famous Roman, and the odds are that Europeans more readily begin a conversation than their American counterparts. This is changing, but we took an enormous toll in the 1970-2009 era, when our schools veered off toward the therapeutic and diversity.


There is a beautiful American military cemetery at Anzio (Nettuno, Italy), an eerie place where 7,681 dead Americans rest. It is perhaps made the more eerie when one reads of the deer-in-the-headlights generalship of a well-meaning, but inept Gen. John Lucas, and the weird megalomania of Gen. Mark Clark that cheek-by-jowl tragically ensured that a badly planned amphibious landing would get even worse as it progressed. Meanwhile Patton was cooling his heels, in punishment for slapping two American soldiers. Never has such a slap cost so many American lives-since I would have to assume at some point Patton would have been used in relief in Italy, in the manner that the inspired Gen. Lucian Truscott was.

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May 21st, 2009 - 11:56 pm

European thoughts…

I am on my first week of an annual tour I co-lead to Europe. Some random thoughts. I hope that urban density, apartment living, Smart cars, and motorbikes are not the envisioned future of the United States. For all our perceived sins, the American with his suburban house and yard, and pickup and boat, enjoys a freedom of choice and ease unmatched anywhere-and unappreciated in most surveys of comparable standards of living. That autonomy in private life translates into a freewheeling, unpredictable electorate, about all we have left of the modern equivalent of the homestead farmer of the nineteenth century.

Me First?

If socialist health care is so preferable, with the power of the state to mandate preventative health care, why do Europeans smoke far more than Americans? On cultural issues, such as politely forming lines, or not defacing monuments with graffiti, or yielding to pedestrians, or driving with concern for others, I think supposedly selfish Americans are light years ahead. But how so, when our capitalist system breeds ‘me first’? And what exactly once created the European genius that we see expressed in the beauty of Italian architecture and the zest for excellence throughout the art and literature of old Europe?

World Beneath Their Feet

But more seriously, it is ironic to travel through Italy and see nearly all of its artistic treasures, whether classical or ecclesiastical, as a dividend of a religious, confident culture, and almost nothing comparable offered by the new Europe of socialism, statism, and agnosticism. If heaven is retiring at 55, leaving the apartment each mid-morning to sit in the local coffee shop, and then protesting on weekends about my lower than anticipated pension cost of living increase, then I would prefer hell.

The great unspoken truth?  Somewhere right now, a US ship, an American soldier, a circling F-16 keep the Russians honest, the fear in al Qaeda, the Straits of Hormuz open, the commerce of the Mediterranean safe–unknown, unappreciated to the mass of European utopian citizenry—whose cultural ancestry made us Americans what we are.

You Can’t Possibly Take Care of Yourself

What worries me about Obama is not the specifics of the nationalization of GM and Chrysler, the government rescue of the United Auto Workers, the effort to take over college financing, proposed universal health care, massive deficits and tax increases, although they are worrisome and only the beginning, but the attendant culture of ‘inflate your tires’ and ‘wash your hands’ paternalism. I think we are entering an age in which the federal government will increasingly guide our thoughts into what is deemed correct-the sort of car we must drive, the type of salary we should make, the sort of job we should have, even the type of thoughts we are to express, and all in the name of collective brotherhood. The slavish manner in which the media lock stepped into Bush the near fascist for tribunals, wiretaps, intercepts, renditions, Patriot Act, Iraq, and Guantanamo, followed by choruses of Obama the sensitive, anguished overseer of tribunals, wiretaps, intercepts, renditions, Patriot Act, Iraq, and Guantanamo was one of the most frightening things I ‘ve seen in  a free society in 50 years.

The Wages of Statism

In Europe the collective effort to diminish religion, to do away with national identity and exceptionalism, to embrace pacifism and a forced equality of result slowly erode human aspiration. I accept all this is the reaction to the horrors of the 20th century, but we too went through the horrors, although to a lesser extent, and socialism need not be the only corrective to nationalist fascism or communism.

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Doing Penance

May 17th, 2009 - 10:24 am

Words and Deeds?

This is a very strange time, in which loud public protestations of liberal morality are supposed to suspend memory itself-and override all past and current behavior.

We are in a sort of medieval mode in which the suspect wine-bibbing, fornicating priest cleverly launches a general inquisition against the use of alcohol and sex to escape scrutiny. As a general rule of thumb, the more one hears or reads about a fanatically angry official or pundit on a moral crusade, the more likely they were involved in just the sort of behavior they are railing against. We saw this on the Republican side with a Larry Craig, Duke Cunningham, and Mark Foley, but the liberal establishment has taken it to new heights.

You Don’t say?

We were going to get a liberal pantheon of financial and political pros savvy enough to raise taxes on the demonized “them” and get us out of the mess. So they zeroed in on that damnable elite, the top 5% who supposedly got away with murder. An entire vocabulary of abuse was aimed at the entrepreneurial and technocratic class. Who then stepped up to the plate to run the new high-tax-collecting Treasury Department? Timothy Geithner, high-salaried member of the very class he was to target, who not only took dubious write-offs on his own taxes, but pocketed for himself the very pre-alloted funds that were paid by his employer for his own FICA contributions.


Tom Daschle was supposed to run a gargantuan HHS Department whose directive was to help provide services for the less privileged, who suffered so under the elitist Bush administration. He eagerly lobbied for the job- despite his own tastes for private limousine service paid for by rich associates and never reported as income to the government. Rule? The more DC officials like limousines, the more likely they like the poor.

No Geneva Convention For You!

Attorney General Eric Holder supposedly was going to reexamine Bush-administration lawyers to find out whether they committed impropriety by their recommendations at Guantanamo. Yet Mr. Holder in 2002 publicly went on record with CNN to defend Guantanamo-and, well beyond that, by arguing that the detainees could both be held indefinitely and were not subject to the Geneva Convention. (But then 2002 was when the Bush administration was highly praised for keeping us safe when the Buffalo Six, Bali, John Lee Mohammed, Jose Padilla, the Chechnyan hostage taking, the intifada, the Indian parliament attack, etc. made it look like Islamic lunacy was unstoppable worldwide)

Waterboarding? What waterboarding?

Nancy Pelosi, Jay Rockefeller, Charles Schumer and other noteworthies after the November election were apparently eager to review the past Bush anti-terrorism record, and dredge up for political purposes supposed proof of near criminal activity. But did they ever think that a poor CIA agent who briefed Pelosi and Rockefeller about “enhanced interrogation techniques” would remain silent in the face of such contortion and reinvention? Did Sen. Schumer not remember that he is on tape warning his colleagues about the need to have a resort to such harsh techniques in times of national crisis?

Damned Advocates of Violence and Deception

Much of the furor over the interrogations in the blogosphere is vented by one moralist Andrew Sullivan. But Mr. Sullivan himself once went way beyond advocacy for the Iraq war. He accused Bush II of softness in his apparent hesitation about invading Iraq, warning him not to revert to his father’s squishiness. When the anthrax letters surfaced, Sullivan contemplated the possible use of nuclear weapons in retaliation. He fanned rumors that Gov. Palin’s latest pregnancy was actually faked, the Down’s Syndrome child  supposedly delivered by her own daughter, a slur that was as unfounded as it was cruel-and ironic given the deception of Mr. Sullivan’s own past personal sexual scandals that entered the public domain.

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Cracks in the Facade

May 14th, 2009 - 8:33 am

Fissures in the Obama Totem

Oh, I know that President Obama’s approval ratings are still around 62%. But I also remember that George Bush’s at the end of 2001 got even higher — and stayed at or above 60% through most of 2002, explaining why he increased his congressional majority in the midterm elections.

Nevertheless, I think we are beginning — after less than four months — to see fissures in Obama’s Pentelic statuary. And the cracks will widen, because in about six areas he has taken on human nature itself, age-old logic, and common sense-opponents that even a Harvard Law degree and Chicago organizing are no match for.

1) The Rule of Law. We are on dangerous ground here with the reordering of the bankruptcy statutes with Chrysler and the UAW; with the strong-arming of stimulus money for California predicated on the protection of unions; with the serial disdain for paying taxes on the part of Geithner, Solis, Daschle and others; and with the selective release of CIA memos, to denigrate those out of office as veritable torturers (they should reread the transcript of Eric Holder’s 2002 CNN interview with Paula Zahn in which he grandly denies that the Gitmo detainees have any recourse to the Geneva Convention accords and can be held there for as long as we think the war lasts). What separates the U.S. from Mexico, Cuba, or Haiti is the rule of law, the protection of capital and property, the evenhanded treatment of investment, and the faith in a fair media to uncover abuse. I think that is now all in question, as the Utopian ends justify the tawdry means.

2) Energy. We are finding more natural gas than ever. There are billions of barrels of U.S. oil in Alaska, offshore, and in shale. Yet rigs sit idle and government leases are constricting rather than expanding — and for reasons other than the economy. Logic dictated a simple course: expand exploration, increase production, use the revenue to pay down the deficit, and, along with conservation, ready ourselves for the next round of inflationary energy hikes, petro politics, and Middle East petro-bribery by transitioning to alternate energies. In other words, the rare carbon bounty of the U.S. was vital in providing a window of survival, until technology solves wind, solar, and bio-fuel by making them more competitive and plentiful.

No to all that common sense. Instead, Obama is ignoring the potential of coal, nuclear, gas, and oil, intent on cap-and-trade, and pie-in-the-sky present-day Gore-ish wind and solar. The result will be that our energy bills will skyrocket. Our vulnerability will increase. Our overt enemies will gain leverage, and covert ones will keep using coal and nuclear for economic advantage. This is a disastrous energy policy and apparently has been outsourced to the Al Gore cadres. We have a rendezvous with real trouble when the global economy rebounds and  demands more oil and gas. Al Gore will keep his yacht, jet on private planes, and tinker with his various contraptions at his estate; the rest of us will be in gas lines.

3) Debt. Obama has somehow already used the tax last resort. That is, his figures assume taking off FICA caps, watching the states increase their own tax rates, upping the federal rate to 40%, curbing deductions, and effectively increasing the total state and federal bite to above 65% on top incomes.

Fine. But the deficits still go up, adding an aggregate $8-9 more trillion to the debt. The magnitude of borrowing is so staggering that there is almost no conceivable way that we can ever balance the budget without simply confiscating incomes in toto, or taxing our very sneezes. This will blow up in the administration’s face as well. The taxes will discourage and dishearten entrepreneurship as the spending increases unproductive sectors of the now federalized economy, as in turn a larger fossilized constituency demands ever more entitlement and more taxes for “them.”

I do not know what is worse, the mega-interest to come on the debt; the stifling of economic initiative and the rise of barter, off the books income, tax avoidance, or simple slowdowns; or the creation of vast new dependent classes who vote in exchange for entitlement.

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May 10th, 2009 - 8:04 pm

That Was Then, This is Now…

The current furor over the three water-boarded terrorists is right out of the old Greek idea of excess leading to hubris leading to nemesis leading to destruction. Do we really wish to revisit 2002?

In that seminal year 2002-remember Bali, the intifada bombings, the 800 Russian hostages, John Lee Mohammad, Jose Padilla, the Buffalo Six al-Qaedists, and the lingering fumes from Richard (“shoe-bomber”) Reid and the anthrax letters?-Democrats were chest-thumping about keeping us safe. To be fair, everyone was. Bush had a 62% approval rating, and gained in the mid-term elections that hinged on matters of national security. The new Department of Homeland Security was having us remove shoes and throw away liquids from our carry-on luggage.

Meanwhile everyone from Thomas Friedman to Andrew Sullivan was advocating an invasion of Iraq to remove Saddam. Democrats were edgy, as the Clinton era was framed as a period of “firewalls” and futile cruise missile attacks that had only empowered al Qaeda. A majority of the Democrats in the Congress, worried about the upcoming November elections, voted in October for 23 reasons to go to war against Iraq. Harry Reid was giving fire and brimstone speeches about going into Iraq. Clinton was toxic, deemed dallying with Monica as our enemies plotted their attacks.

In this context, the country was convinced that radical Islam was on the rise, that another 9/11 was inevitable, that genocidal tyrants like Saddam were whipping up anti-American feeling in the Middle East, and that a popular George Bush was doing all that he could to keep us safe-barely.

So Nancy Pelosi and Jay Rockefeller were briefed on the “enhanced interrogation techniques” that led in 2002 to the waterboarding of the first of three murderers in Guantanamo. Neither at the time objected to the practice.  

The Strange Case of Eric Holder

Here’s what Eric Holder-set to examine whether or not to depose, indict, whatever Bush’s legal advisors, told CNN in January 2002 about Guantanamo inmates:

“It seems to me you can think of these people as combatants and we are in the middle of a war. And it seems to me that you could probably say, looking at precedent, that you are going to detain these people until war is over, if that is ultimately what we wanted to do.” Later in 2002 Holder elaborated, “One of the things we clearly want to do with these prisoners is to have an ability to interrogate them and find out what their future plans might be, where other cells are located. Under the Geneva Convention, you are really limited in the amount of information that you can elicit from people…[They] are not, in fact, people entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention. They are not prisoners of war…Those in Europe and other places who are concerned about the treatment of al-Qaida members should come to Camp X-ray and see how the people are, in fact, being treated.”

Again, that was 2002, when the Democrats, like the Bush administration, were desperate to show the public that they too could stop another 9/11 and keep us safe.

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Illegal Immigration Realities

May 5th, 2009 - 5:43 pm

Rendezvous with Reality

There are a number of issues on the horizon that cannot simply be hoped and changed away or dismissed with the now accustomed ‘hit the reset’ button/’Bush did it’ throw away line.

Take illegal immigration. There were always two redlines in the debate.

For conservatives it was the improbable notion that they were going to deport 12-20 million illegal aliens en masse–a mass exodus along the lines of partition between Pakistan and India.

Amnesty or Deportation?

It was easy to damn “amnesty”-given its serial history of only encouraging more illegal immigration. But the trick was always coming up with something less drastic instead like “earned citizenship,” that culled out through deportation felons, and recent arrivals, while allowing the crime-free, long residing, and hard-working to pay some sort of nominal fine for breaking the law even as they applied for citizenship. I doubt this is what is meant by the euphemism “comprehensive immigration reform”, but it is a workable idea when coupled with an end to federally-mandated bilingual documents and interpreters, and salad-bowl state-mandated ethnic separatism.

In other words, we say to the illegal alien: if you are working, if you have not committed a crime after arriving here illegally, and if you are willing to stay in a country that makes no special allowances for those who speak languages other than English or who claim some privileged ethnic heritage, then, yes, you can find a path to citizenship involving fines for your initial crime of breaking the law, and necessary background checks and testing of basic acquaintance with American citizenship. Such earned citizenship will fail of course, unless the border is closed through walls, increased patrolling, employer sanctions, and a change of popular attitudes about illegality; otherwise the process become serial, as it was in the past, and news of its magnanimity only encourages more to get northward asap.

Open borders?

For liberals, the no-go area was always open borders, or the Mexifornian notion that national borders mattered little, and if most cities ended up like Los Angeles (the world’s second largest city of Mexican nationals), then all to the good, given the likely future voting propensities of today’s alien/tomorrow’s Democrat. It was always lethal for a Democratic politician to mount the podium at one of those crazy Cinco de Mayo marches where Mexican flags and Che placards outnumbered red, white, and blue, as the crowd shouted “The borders crossed us!” or (my favorite) “Get over it! We’re here to stay!” (Lately some astute Democratic consultants have ensured Old Glory is in front of the cameras and the more La Raza sloganeering at the rear of the crowd.)

What Now?

That said, at least three new developments have altered calculus of the recent immigration debate-and in ways Obama probably does not appreciate.

Mexican Mafiaistas

First, the daily grind of televised killings, gruesome torture, and kidnapping along the border is spilling into the American Southwest. The mayhem and police corruption are reminding more and more Americans why it is a bad idea to allow such lawlessness to filter into the U.S. If illegal immigration is unchecked and assimilation caricatured, then why would not the carnage simply be replanted north of the border?

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Questions from Oceania

May 1st, 2009 - 7:09 pm

Who will Lend?

1) We are going to spend over $3.5 trillion next year, run up an annual debt of $1.7 trillion, and are on schedule to add another $9 trillion to reach an aggregate debt of $20 trillion in eight years. The Obama administration and the Congress spend days on end fighting over how to spread and spend the borrowed money. But still, no one ties the additional expenditures to additional revenues. Can the President say, “We will borrow $.6 trillion from the Chinese, $.4 from the Japanese, $.2 trillion from the Europeans, and $.5 from American bond holders” in order finance this year’s budget”? Will someone simply give us a blueprint of where and how the $1.7 trillion is to be raised— x amount of loans for each new y federal agency?

Waterboarding or No Brains?

2) I’ve raised this example twice now. But, really, how is waterboarding a known detained terrorist like Khalid Sheik Mohammed (who confessed to cutting off Daniel Pearl’s head [with two knives after the first went dull], and to planning the 9/11 mass murder) at Guantanamo considered a war crime, while blowing up with a Predator drone suspected terrorists (and all those, including women and children, in their general vicinity) not?

The latter victims were not given habeas corpus, and Miranda rights, and there is a greater doubt about their guilt from 10,000 feet than is the case with the much studied psychopath KSM in Guantanamo. Most suspects would prefer to be water-boarded than vaporized? Ditto the Somali pirates, whose heads were blown off during their apparent attempts at negotiating extortion, again a bit more drastic than waterboarding. Would a future President Sanford or Giuliani be right to bring charges against those in the Obama administration who green lighted assassinations of suspected terrorists—something akin to the Phoenix program in Vietnam?

All About Abortion and Affirmative Action

3.) Given the fact that Barack Obama voted against both Justices Alito and Roberts, (and wanted to filibuster Alito) would he object should Republicans en masse simply say no to his new liberal Supreme Court judicial nominee? As I recall Obama’s comments, he simply confessed two things: one, the two nominees were qualified; two, their politics made them too unsympathetic to his own political agenda, so they should be rejected.

Remember Obama’s assessment of Alito that had nothing to do with the law and everything to do with politics (“He’s a smart guy, there’s no indication that he is not a man of good character. But, when you look at his record, what is clear is that when it comes to his understanding of the Constitution, he consistently sides on behalf of the powerful against the powerless.”), and Roberts (“In those 5 percent of hard cases, the constitutional text will not be directly on point. The language of the statute will not be perfectly clear. Legal process alone will not lead you to a rule of decision. In those circumstances, your decisions about whether affirmative action is an appropriate response to the history of discrimination in this country or whether a general right of privacy encompasses a more specific right of women to control their reproductive decisions or whether the commerce clause empowers Congress to speak on those issues of broad national concern that may be only tangentially related to what is easily defined as interstate commerce, whether a person who is disabled has the right to be accommodated so they can work alongside those who are nondisabled — in those difficult cases, the critical ingredient is supplied by what is in the judge’s heart.”)

War, No War, Sorta War?

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