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Works and Days

Monthly Archives: January 2010

Chapter One — The Liberal Hope and Dream

I think our Obama collective story will some day be written something like this. The leftwing anointed vision of America got stalled with the failures of the Great Society, and the high tax, big government discontent of the 1970s and 1980s.

Abroad after Vietnam, the gospel that America was the problem sputtered out — with the fall of the Soviet Union, the rejoicing in Eastern Europe with the liberation from communism, the market reforms of China, and the general rise of a murderous radical Islam, coupled with the later 9/11 attacks.

In short, doctrinaire liberalism, now to be recast as progressivism, was in trouble. About all that could be hoped for in lieu of ideological governance were entrenched liberal congressional enclaves, which served traditional Democratic constituencies — and offered occasional opposition to conservative excess and corruption of the Abramoff sort.

Jimmy Carter was simply too inept, self-righteous, and inexperienced to retake Rome from the barbarians. A gifted Bill Clinton might have; but he was too savvy for subservience to an unpopular ideology, too enslaved instead to his multifarious appetites and too malleable and worried about Bill Clinton to be a principled avatar of hope and change.

So the media, academia, the unions, the foundations, and the elite on Wall Street kept waiting for the Great Stone Face to appear — the saintly deliverer who would at last have the requisite skill and pedigree to bring a benevolent liberal statism to the unwashed, who for so long in their ignorance and selfish, petty agendas had resisted what was good for them.

Chapter Two — The Perfect Storm

Then the unexpected occurred without warning. The Iraq War was successfully demagogued as Vietnam redux. Indeed, we still apparently think it was lost, and the surge a failure. The Republican Congress by 2006 was mired in corruption. After eight years of Republican rule, conservatives of the base had tired of 50/50 deal making that had resulted in more big government and big deficits.

John McCain almost seemed more interested in losing majestically to our first serious African-American presidential candidate than conducting a hardball successful campaign. He too had alienated his base in the past, and many never forgot it, as their lackluster emotional and financial support attested.

Barack Obama, in contrast, offered to many an irresistible win/win proposition: centrist, bipartisan governance, and absolution for past sins through the election of a president of color. That Obama was young and patterned himself after JFK in his eloquence and pizzazz made a nice antithesis to George Bush’s tongue-tied speeches. And that the world promised that they would like us again only made it all the sweeter for the gullible.

Chapter Three – The Ascension

So Obama came in, quickly shed his thin centrist exoskeleton, and started in on the long promised bigger government agenda. In short order, we saw the absorption of some of the private sector, attempts at statist health care, and appointments that reflected an equality-of-result philosophy, mandated and enforced by a guardian class of Ivy-League technocrats, immune to the protocols they enforced on ignorant others, although, unlike Plato’s overseers, subject to no harsh regimen.

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The Obamarang

January 28th, 2010 - 9:05 pm

All politicians fudge on their promises. But this president manages to transcend the normal political exaggeration and dissimulation. Whereas past executives shaded the truth, Barack Obama trumps that: on almost every key issue, what Obama says he will do, and what he says is true, is a clear guide to what he will not do, and what is not true. It is as if “truth” is a mere problem of lesser mortals.

1. Obama now rails against a pernicious Washington and its insiders: ergo, Obama controls Washington through both houses of Congress and the White House, and wants to expand Washington’s control over the auto industry, health care, energy, student loans, transportation, etc.

2. Obama bashes the Supreme Court on weakening public efforts to curb campaign contributions. Therefore, we know Obama has done more than any other president in destroying public campaign financing by being the first presidential candidate in a general election to refuse public funds — in confidence that he could raise a record $1 billion, much of it from big moneyed interests on Wall Street.

3. Obama calls for a freeze on government spending and deplores deficits. Hence, we know that the possible $15 billion savings in some discretionary spending will not affect the Obama record budget deficits that will continue to grow well over an annual $1.5 trillion a year — as Obama piles up the greatest budgetary shortfalls in any four-year presidential term in history.

4. The president calls for the Guantanamo Bay detention center to be closed within a year of his inauguration, and Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the architect of 9/11, to be tried in New York. Accordingly, we know that Guantanamo won’t be closed within a year and KSM won’t be tried in New York.

5. Obama issues four serial deadlines in autumn 2009 for Iran to comply with non-proliferation accords. Presto — we know that Iran will get the bomb unimpeded by U.S. opinion.

6. Obama promised an end to earmarks and lobbyists in government — of course, we assume, then, that lobbyists will be ubiquitous among his presidential appointments, and there will be thousands of earmarks.

7. Obama announces that he will end the war in Iraq by removing all combat brigades by August 2010. As a result, we understand that George Bush long ago signed an agreement with the Iraqis for a joint agreement on removing U.S. combat forces by August 2010.

8. Obama laments that his fall in popularity resulted from a failure to communicate directly with the American people. We conclude as a result that Obama has given more interviews, radio and TV appearances, and stump speeches than any first-year president in history.

9. Obama reiterates that “this is not about me.” That reflects the fact that he has employed the first-person pronouns “I,” “me,” and “my” more than any prior president.

10. Obama assures on eight occasions he will televise all health-care deliberations on C-SPAN. This is clear proof that nothing will be televised as debate occurs behind closed doors, punctuated by votes purchased through $300 million bribes and state exemptions from federal statutes.

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I think we could see what was coming. This presidency has about as much subtlety in plot as a grade-B western, soap opera, or teen-age tantrum.

Stage One: A lackluster McCain candidacy, the September 2008 meltdown, weariness with eight years of Bush incumbency, conservative anger over spending, liberal furor over Iraq, a toady media, and Republican congressional corruption all led to a 50/50 electorate that was open to being mesmerized by Obama’s rhetoric and the dream of the nation’s first African-American president.

With congressional majorities, a compliant press, soaring public support, a soon-to-be President Obama was convinced, as he had been convinced by his success in the Ivy League, in Chicago, and in the Senate (surely praise in Cambridge means those in Toledo would be similarly wowed), that he had a left-wing mandate and he could hope and change his way to almost anything he wanted — thin record, self-contradictions, constant inconsistencies, and general confusion be damned.

The hard left was salivating that at last they had an effective delivery system that could usher in a long awaited European socialism.  So what followed was predictable: In his hubris, Obama cast off the campaign mask of moderation. Thick and fast came proposals for state-run health care, government take-overs, talk of nationalizing the student loan program, bailouts, mega deficits, more borrowing as stimulus, multicultural mea culpas abroad, loony symbolic appointments, and promiscuous talk of higher income, payroll, inheritance, and health-care taxes, but only on “them.”

In other words, we saw in a trendy, new cool form, the age-old attempt to institutionalize an equality of result, as freedom and liberty give way to mandated egalitarianism and fraternity.

But wait — two thorny problems arose.

(1) The country not quite yet is left-wing, but voted for Obama for the perfect-storm reasons outlined above. Anyone who had read the history of America could see that it was always a different sort of place than France, Germany, or Sweden — at least for a while longer.

(2) So to ram down a left-wing agenda, the thespian Obama would have to continue his role as the bipartisan healer, centrist, reformer, purple-state uniter, transracial unifier, etc. But, alas, instead old habits die hard; and the public soon began here and there to get glimpses of the old reality behind the new mask.

The wages of years with Rev. Wright and Bill Ayers, the easy path through the Ivy League, the Axelrod at our throat politics, and the snow job that had wowed deans, philanthropists, and tony suburbanites all reappeared. How could they not? Still, if one is going to hypnotize the electorate to sleep-walk them into Belgium, then one cannot in Pavlovian fashion revert back to hard-left idolatry.

So even as Barack Obama sought to convince the farmer, plumber, and insurance agent to accept state health care, a landscape of windmills, and an EU-foreign policy, he slipped back into his old self. Thus we got the nut Van Jones and his racist, truther bombast. Anita Dunn praised Mao. Commissars at the NEA boasted of the new Caesar.

Stimuli were in part apportioned on red state/blue state agendas.

The Skip Gates incident prompted the president to trash the police first, and get the facts second. Creditors were politically rescheduled for bailed-out businesses. The president thoughtlessly weighed in on everything from the Special Olympics and the tea party movement to Fox News and America’s purported sins.

Suddenly we were no longer exceptional, but the Muslim world in fact had jump-started the Renaissance and Enlightenment. The old bad guys — Ahmadinejad, Assad, Castro, Chavez, and Putin — earned new kind talk; the prior president was reduced to contemporary satanic status. Readers, you can cite far more footnotes to these now run-of-the-mill absurdities.

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Post-election Thoughts

January 22nd, 2010 - 9:57 pm

Says It All

1) A new poll revealing a vast majority of investors see Obama as anti-business.

2) Obama declaiming on what he has done and what he will do to create jobs.

3) After a year Obama still has not yet figured out that his promiscuous talk of higher income, payroll, health care, and inheritance taxes, serial demonization of finance and business, and all sorts of new regulations, create a psychological climate in which the employer pulls in his horns and decides to ride things out — and this individual reaction is being repeated millions of times over, energized by the pique at everything trivial from Van Jones to apologies abroad to “Bush did it.”

What Did They Expect?

Now that the voters of Massachusetts have splashed our hypnotized young god back into his own reflecting pool, it is almost surreal to follow the left’s sudden petulance and occasional hysteria — akin to the climate of 2005-6 among some of the right when the once pro-Iraq War neocons began bailing and heading for the exits.

Then some of the most vehement pro-war sounding zealots suddenly swore that they had never supported the invasion at all. I think I called it at the time “my victory; your defeat” to explain their chameleonism between 2003 and 2006.

This present liberal bloodletting will continue, as Obama’s polls dip even more, and the next liberal Coakley appears in the political cross-hairs.  The left neither quite understands the populist outrage nor would have a clue how to deflate it if it did. (One of the most painful things to watch was Obama’s anti-Scott Brown stump speech: a perfect storm of gaffes in which he showed no knowledge of Brown’s record, slipped into his faux-black-pulpit cadences, did the old “Bush did it” whine, made silly jokes about pick-up trucks [can one imagine Obama driving up and down Illinois in one?], and reflected once again the Obama brand of thinking that the people are deluded and must be warned by a philosopher-king not to do what is not  good for them.)

There is a pent-up fury that is a dividend of a year’s bad economic news, the constant presidential condescension, and the hubris of false hope and change — and we have not seen the extent of it yet. The people are weary of being talked down to as if they don’t understand climate change, as if they don’t get the inside scoop on deficit spending, as if they can’t appreciate the brilliance of massive new government entitlements, as if they need moral sermons hourly on their race/class/and gender shortcomings, and as if they can’t quite fathom why KSM, the terrorist warrior who planned the killing of 3,000 Americans and declared al-Qaeda at war with us, must be tried like a bank robber in New York. (Perhaps during the Battle of the Bulge we should have shipped back captured German saboteurs to New York for trials.)

We, the Ignorant

Meanwhile on planet earth I was thinking of Secretary’s Chu’s warning that our farms in California would “dry up and blow away” as today I chained sawed limbs from a week of horrific storms and flooding, and prepare tomorrow to go to Huntington Lake to dig out 10 feet of snow from the house.

Our populists seem to be shouting back at Washington, “We’re tired of you – at least we don’t cheat on our taxes, at least we pay our bills and don’t call maxing out the charge card ‘stimulus,’ and at least when we say we are going to do something, we do it.”

Republicans must be gleeful as an inept Obama in some sort of delusion now claims that the prairie-fire pushback dovetails with his own Ascension in 2008. Oh yes, Barack — those who voted for a conservative in Massachusetts surely are the same sort of angry voters who turned out in droves for your hope and change mantra.

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The Democratic Reaction Richter Scale

January 20th, 2010 - 10:44 am

The Democratic statist transformation suffered a sudden earthquake in Massachusetts last night. How can we measure the severity of the upcoming reaction aftershocks?

 The subsequent damage will depend on the magnitude of the next round of shaking—a 7 aftershock ensuring rubble, a 1 suggesting that rebuilding can proceed.

 So here is our reaction aftershock scale. (I think a  5-6 is the most likely, a 1 very improbable).

7.0 Obama brings in Pelosi and Reid to plot strategies about dealing with a deluded electorate, and so emulates a defiant Jimmy Carter—complaining about a crisis of national confidence while pressing ahead with socialized medicine, cap and trade, amnesty, more spending and greater deficits. When all that is passed, we will all, to use the President’s words, “suddenly” appreciate the magnitude of His genius and sacrifice on our behalf. We will hear Obama orate about Lincoln’s and FDR’s “difficult” first year on their way to historic achievement analogous to Obama’s to come. Bottom line: Massachusetts was a warning to hurry up and get the Obama deal done.

6.0 The liberal base, and White House insiders, adopt a bunker mode and start leaking off the record quips about the inadequacy of Democratic losing candidates and meaningless symbolic votes, while trashing Bush/Cheney and Rush Limbaugh.  They begin turning on centrists and moderates as sell-outs and turncoats.

5.0 Axelrod, Gibbs, Emanuel et al. start talking about the “middle-class” concern about jobs, lack of health care, and the economy, citing Coakley’s defeat as sign of the continual middle-class anger at the Bush debacle and the inability of government to address the people’s needs. “Change” takes a long time.

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It’s the lying, Stupid?

“Lie” is a rather harsh word; the noun and its verb form leave little to context or extenuating circumstances. So I use it sparingly.

But I know no other word for President Obama’s long string of “misstatements,” especially the blatant ones about closing Guantanamo within a year of his inauguration or serially declaring that he would insist on health care debate airing live on C-SPAN.

How odd that the liberal block is quiet that once coined “Bush lied, thousands died” (even when the CIA  and Defense intelligence was accepted by both parties and in sync with what the Arab world and Europe were insisting upon [recall the charge of a supposed naïve Bush taking us to war against a  nut who would gas our troops marshalling in Kuwait.]). In any case, not telling the truth has a lot to do with sinking polls

So I don’t quite buy the liberal lament that the people will support Obama when the economy improves.

It was roaring in 2005-6, and still Bush was unpopular — given the violence in Iraq and the administration’s inability to articulate our objectives there. And even when Iraq was winding down in 2008, polls still showed persistent American anger at the media narrative of a botched Katrina, the insurgency in Iraq, and a “jobless recovery.”

No, the American people are losing confidence in Team Obama because quite simply they are tiring of being lied to, and treated like children in need of Ivy-League Platonic guardians.

Yes, they intrinsically liked Obama and put away for a time their suspicions that he had not come clean on his real ideological intentions, his radical leftist past, his intimate association with the creepy Rev. Wright, and his partisanship that had made him the most liberal senator in the Congress.

Let us count the ways

But almost immediately, Obama, again, in Platonic fashion, began to say things that could not be possibly true. Remember the categories.

1)   The bait and switch lies. Here, we, the eager voters, were told that there are no more bad blue/red state dichotomies. We are a purple America. Instead, we immediately witnessed the demonization of the supposed “rich” (I say supposed, because the Buffet/Gates/Turner plutocrat is exempt), who are not “patriotic,” do not wish to “spread the wealth,” and must “pay their fair share.” Almost immediately Obama’s Bush became America’s Emanuel Goldstein — an Orwellian figure constructed to unify the people around an evil predecessor incapable of a single positive act — whether keeping us safe for over seven years from another 9/11-like attack, freeing 50 million from the Taliban and Saddam, or generating enormous national wealth from 2002-08.

Some deluded voters in November, 2008, went for Obama on promises of a new kinder, gentler politics. They got instead the most partisan, nasty Chicago politicking in memory.

2)   The “noble” lies. These are untruths aimed at the common good. In Cairo, we were told Muslims did all sorts of wonderful things in the past like invented printing and sparked the Renaissance and Enlightenment. Why not fabricate and exaggerate when the intentions are global ecumenicalism?

Remember the new tactic of assessing job losses by “jobs saved”? And why not, since we wish to bolster our spirits and believe that our borrowing was not wasted on pork-barrel insanities, rather than “investments” that created “millions of green jobs” that otherwise would not have existed?

And we must believe that health care reform as envisioned by the Obama massive state assumption of private insured care will save “trillions in waste and fraud.” Believe that, and at last the dream of “universal health care” is obtainable.

Remember the phrase “using all our resources” during the high energy prices of the 2008 campaign? Obama then was a centrist who would drill, develop nuclear, look for more gas, burn coal — all to tide us over as we waited for the dream of Van Jones. That too was a noble lie, necessary for we fools to cling to, while the anointed fashioned a “green” cap and trade future for us, whose efficacy  we could not quite yet fathom.

3)   Tactical lies. Then there are the tactical lies to achieve the desired ends in “that was then/this is now” fashion. Turn to Orwell’s Animal Farm for the right landscape. Health-care debate on C-SPAN/health care debate behind congressional doors. Taxes on Cadillac health plans were an inane McCain idea/taxes on Cadillac health plans are a way to eliminate waste and fraud; stupid, clueless Bush was pushing unpopular social security reform that 65% of the people didn’t want/wise, hip Obama is pushing noble health care reform that 65% of the people don’t want. The list is endless and started in 2007 with public campaign financing as good for dark horse candidates/public campaign financing as bad for front-runner cash cows.

Apparently two or three “let me be perfectly clear”s and 3-4 “make no mistake about it”s — when prefaced to something like “no more lobbyists in government” or “posting legislation well in advance on the internet” — make it all so.

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Truths We Dare Not Speak

January 13th, 2010 - 9:01 pm

There are a number of things we simply no longer talk about. The silence is partly due to intellectual laziness. Or maybe it is because of political correctness—or even attributable to ignorance and the absence of curiosity.

In no particular order, I list five propositions that simply have become taboo.

1). Illegal Immigration and California

There are dozens of recent exposés on the California mess. The “I accuse” themes—all quite accurate—are well known.

(a) The state propositions have hamstrung the legislature, and resulted in almost no free choices anymore in budgetary decision.

(b) The legislature—due to partisan gerrymandering, the unnecessarily large number of legislators in an unnecessary bicameral system, and term-limits—is inexperienced, captive to special interests, and increasingly incompetent.

(c) State employees have taken over the state: they are paid far above the national average, not accountable, and almost impossible to fire when found to be incompetent. The state pension system is unsustainable. Pay cuts, lay-offs, or furloughs loom.

(d) The nation’s highest income, sales, and gas taxes have driven out the most productive residents—to the tune of 3,500 a week—to no-tax or little-tax neighboring states.

OK— agreed, and I have written all that myself in various articles. But there is another problem never raised in polite company.

California, by most estimates, has somewhere between 40-50% of the nation’s illegal immigrants. That may mean 5-7 million residents here illegally, most without English, documentation, or high-school diplomas. This makes the practice of assimilation into the middle-class a multigenerational process over decades, rather than in the past, when immigrants came in fewer numbers and more often legally.

The state ranks 47-48th in most studies of the achievement levels of the nation’s schools, mostly due to millions of entering students who do not speak English well, if at all.

Of the some $50 billion in remittances that leave the U.S. each year to Latin America, perhaps $20 billion come from California residents, draining the state of capital, and ensuring that the donors will be in need of state health, education, housing and food supplements. California’s taxpayers, in essence, subsidize Oaxaca and Jalisco—that may be humanitarian, and worthy of praise, but it is costly nonetheless, and perhaps beyond the financial resources of the majority of the population.

I’ll pass on increased per capita rates of crime, gangs, etc. that are considered too illiberal to mention. But if studies are correct that anyone who comes north, without English, legality, and education, over his life-cycle will have to draw somewhere between $50,000 and $70,000 more in entitlements than he contributes in various taxes, and if we were to prorate that on an annual basis, and if we were to multiply that by several million, then one can envision an annual outlay of several billion in state expenditures.

Instead, illegal immigration is never much cited as a contributor to California’s fiscal implosion. To mention all this is considered racist. Yet, to take one instance, the cost of incarcerating the state’s illegal aliens alone exceeds the budget of the new UC Merced, a campus intended to serve mostly minority communities of the central valley.

The solution? Allow only legal immigration. Base admittance to the U.S. mostly on skills and our own need for expertise and capital. Trust in merit, and ignore the race and origin of the would-be immigrant.

2) Iraq

We are tired of Iraq and have Trotskyized it out of our existence, given the huge cost and 4,000 dead.

But consider: not a single America died in Iraq in December (38 murdered in Chicago during that period); three have been lost this month (24 murdered so far this month in Chicago).

Some random thoughts. The surge was a brilliant success.

The heroes are relatively ignored. They are U.S. forces who served in Iraq, of course; Gens. Odierno and Petraeus (recall what he endured from Hillary Clinton and MoveOn.org in his Senate inquisition); civilian analysts like Fred Kagan and retired Gen. Keane; and, of course, a demonized George Bush—attacked by most of his former supporters, the majority of pundits and columnists, those Democrats who had voted to authorize the war, many of the Iraq Study Group members; and by a cadre of retired “revolt of the generals” officers.

Yet for some reason, very few senators (cf. the You Tube videos of the debates of October 11-12, 2002) who gave impassioned pleas, authorizing 23 writs to go to war, have ever quite explained why they flipped—and what they think now of both their original support, and their subsequent opposition.

A Harry Reid (“the war is lost”) or Barack Obama (out of Iraq by March 2008 and the surge “is not working”) have never subsequently suggested that they were wrong at a time when our troops desperately were trying against all odds to save the fragile country.

Nor has anyone questioned the conventional dogma that Iraq empowered Iran, supposedly by removing the demonic Saddam. (Yet consider the liberal logic: we were wrong to remove a monster because he was a useful balance-of-power monster [ignore the genocide of the Kurds, Marsh Arabs, etc];  yet we deplore prior administrations for giving the same monster some aid in his war against Iran.)

In fact, mass demonstrations and unrest now take place in an isolated Iran, not so much in a democratic Iraq. The latter is proving more destabilizing by its open broadcasting and word of mouth freedom to Iran than Iran is to Iraq by its savage use of terrorism. (What will happen to conventional wisdom, if there comes a day when Iran is constitutional, along with Iraq and Lebanon?)

No one has officially said they were wrong in alleging “No Blood for Oil.” But we got no oil from Iraq. The price rose after we invaded. The Chinese, Russians, and Europeans got the contracts in free and fair bidding.

(Contrast Saddam’s rigged pre-war, quid-pro-quo oil concessions to the corrupt French). There was no Halliburton conspiracy to steal resources. The left often now, mirabile dictu, accuses us of being naïve in bleeding to give others the resources that they once accused us of wishing to steal. Barack Obama still talks of Iraq as a mistake, even as he quietly ignores his own prescriptions to have gotten out by early 2008, and to have stopped the surge—and continues to follow the Petraeus/Bush plan.

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The Way Our World Works

January 11th, 2010 - 9:42 am

The Strange Thing About Nemesis…

…is that the deity picks its victims on the basis of irony and arrogance. For every media-frenzy about ethical lapses of columnist Armstrong Williams taking Bush administration money for hawking No Child Left Behind, there is a Jonathan Gruber, the MIT go-to pundit on health care, who raked in $400,000 from the Obama administration for … hawking ObamaCare.

For every racially insensitive Trent Lott, Senate party leader, there is a racially insensitive Harry Reid, Senate party leader. For every illegitimacy story about Levi Johnston and Sarah Palin’s daughter, there is a John Edwards’ love child. For every supposed Bush fabrication, there is Barack Obama on You Tube swearing he will air all the health care debate on C-SPAN (sort of like his old public campaign financing promises, or closing Gitmo within a year, or getting out of Iraq by March, 2008, or …).


But, of course, by now you readers protest!— why haven’t we heard of Gruber, why did the media go easy for so long on Edwards (and his complicit wife), why is Harry Reid still majority leader?

The answer is that those on the left are moralists, smarter people who pass up their own personal agendas to help the community. They think of society, not self, and so when they err, they do it under stress, in accidental fashion, and with no lasting significance — not like their selfish Neanderthal cousin conservatives, for whom transgression is a valuable window into their flawed souls. Bushisms became a media pastime, but no one suggests that a president who says Cinco de Quatro, or 57 states, or references the “Austrian” language is a Dan Quayle wrestling with potato.

That Enigmatic Joblessness?

We are still at double-digit unemployment in December. But I am relieved that it was not 15% thanks to Obama’s various stimuli programs, bailouts and health care initiatives that saved us.

Is this Ivy League brilliance? For three years as candidate and now as president, Obama targeted the productive small business and entrepreneur class. They should be “patriotic,” “pay their fair share,” and “spread the wealth” to the more deserving. If they made over $250, 200, or was it 150K?, they should pay higher state, federal, payroll, inheritance and now health care taxes. From time to time, Obamians, like Anita Dunn, and Van Jones, referenced the great redistributist and killer Mao, or the greed of “white people.”

I could go way on, but you get the picture. Somehow in such a landscape, the family dentist, small trucking operator, and insurance agency owner were supposed to go out and hire more people, buy equipment, and work a little harder, when they a) don’t know how high their taxes will climb, and b) accept that they are targeted by this president and so expect that any  new health-care, energy, or education initiative will come at their expense.

Jobs, you see, are largely instead made by the federal government, which borrows about $100,000 per employed in some grand new “millions of green jobs” or “remaking America” plan that puts more of us on the unfireable, always promoted federal payroll.

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That Damn Guantanamo!

Obama gave a rather incredible press conference about his review of security lapses. When he evoked Guantanamo, the president  all at once (“make no mistake about it”) (a) promised to close it, (b) promised not to send any more detainees home to Yemen, and (c) claimed it was a recruiting tool for al-Qaeda (i.e., apparently Bush’s Gulag had prompted the likes of Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab to try to blow up an airliner).

This is nearly unhinged.

Mr. President consider:

1)   Quit whining about closing Guantanamo, and close the damn thing. It either is useful or not. The American people are getting sick and tired of this sort of  “Bush made me keep it open even though it is counter-productive” whining. If Guantanamo is a recruiting tool, then by all means stop the recruiting tool. Instead, we get the impression that these incredibly directionless people have discovered that Guantanamo has both utility and yet is a political liability among their more fervent supporters, and therefore they wish to continue its usefulness while blaming Bush for its unpopularity.

2)   If you are not going to send back any more “alleged” terrorists to Yemen, then simply start trying them in your much preferred civilian courts. Why hold them any longer in the Gulag?

3)   Let us get this straight: for a decade in the 1990s an ascendant al-Qaeda committed serial attacks against the U.S. and its interests. All that culminated in 9/11. In reaction to the mass murder, and as part of efforts to go after al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, Bush opened Guantanamo Bay — after which we have seen no successful major attacks on U.S. soil comparable to 9/11.

So consider the logic: before Guantanamo, al-Qaeda achieved its greatest success in damaging America; after it, it suffered some of its most grievous defeats, but somehow its existence is counter-productive and a recruiting tool? What, Pray God, was the recruiting tool on September 10, 2001?

All things being equal, the idea that a terrorist will spend a lot of time in a cell  in Cuba if caught seems much less of a recruiting tool than hearing that your enemy has banned the use of “war against terror,” made up grand achievements of your civilization, apologized for his country’s sins, publicly bowed to prominent autocratic Muslims, promised a public trial in New York for your heroic mastermind of 9/11, and in general blamed the war on his predecessor. All that seems quite an encouragement to join al-Qaeda in comparison to the punishment of incarceration if caught.

4) Does Obama have any notion of what enemies say and do in war? That al-Qaeda claims this week that Guantanamo is a recruiting tool hardly makes it one. For years we heard that American troops in Saudi Arabia caused Bin Laden’s anger — and now that they are gone? If one were to collate all of Dr. Zawahiri’s constantly changing complaints — Jews supposedly in Mecca, lack of American campaign finance reform, Israel, etc. — the list would become endless.  Thucydides invented a word prophasis precisely for the idea of belligerents inventing perceived grievances for their various aggressions.  Would Obama really believe Hitler’s whine about Versailles as he went into the Rhineland, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, the low countries, Yugoslavia, Greece, Russia, etc.? At what point would Obama, our modern-day Clement Attlee and Stanley Baldwin, have ceased trying to make Versailles “right,” and instead pondered that Hitler was an aggressive thug who cloaked his endless invasions in all sorts of whines that were designed to appeal to guilt-ridden Westerners?

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Obama as Greek Tragedy—Part One

January 4th, 2010 - 11:47 am

The Self-centered Protagonist

The blueprint of a Sophoclean or even Euripidean tragedy is pretty straightforward. A confident, cocky tragic hero for about the first 600 lines of the play exhibits unconstrained exuberance as he takes on the world.

For an ancient fawning, first-half-of-the-play Greek chorus, read instead a contemporary Chris Matthews, Newsweek, or the New York Times.

The early Oedipus basks in his great wisdom and reason that had solved the riddle of the murderous Sphinx and saved the city. Creon in the Antigone assumes he is the personification of law, order, and stability, a savior regent after the prior mess.

Even in Euripides’ Bacchae, young King Pentheus boasts about his kingly powers and youthful determination to corral the Bacchants—as he sets himself up for a gruesome fall. Early Hippolytus is a sanctimonious puritan, a sort of insufferable prude (who of course will be falsely accused of fornication). Jason in the Medea prances around as if his dumped wife will agree that it was a wise idea for him to have married a younger, wealthier, and Greek princess. With all these personalities, the first person pronoun “egô” is commonly employed. They know at first no self-doubt. They have no clue that what brought them to such heights are the same characteristics, at the right occasion, and with a tad more hubris, that will ensure their fall.

Beware of Nemesis

During these displays of hubris, the flawed characters are warned by various seers, by close associates, and by the sometimes fawning/sometimes anxious chorus that something is not quite right. They are supposed to check their excesses in time. They are advised to seek the golden mean, calm down, and avoid nemesis. But how can they really, when it is all such fun, this being full of oneself that heretofore has brought them so easily so far?

(Not to be partisan: Somewhere around early May 2003, with sky-high ratings, the quick toppling of the Taliban and Saddam, and at the zenith of his popularity and confidence, George Bush may well have assumed that Iraq would ipso facto lead to more dominos falling — even beyond a Syria terrified and about to leave Lebanon, Dr. Khan soon to be arrested in Pakistan, and Libya about to cough up its WMD program. These were the ‘smoke ‘em out’, ‘bring ‘em on’, and ‘mission accomplished’ days. But after the insurrection and 4,000 dead in Iraq, by 2008 Bush’s greatest encomiasts conveniently flipped into his greatest critics, and his once most fawning lieutenants wrote the most lurid tell-all books. After his crash in the polls, I found a great deal of dignity in Bush in 2008-9, especially in the way he ignored vicious hatred, ordered the surge, did not tar his opportunistic former supporters, and in general showed a wisdom and philosophical side not found in 2002-3. He was more an Oedipus at Colonus that Oedipus Rex)

And Now The Second Half of the Play

We’ve just about finished Obama’s first 600 lines. Do we remember a year ago when his various aficionados lamented that the poor Constitution required a lame-duck continuance between election and inauguration, and thus America had to suffer nearly three months of the hated Bush before the Ascension?

Those were heady times of tingling legs, the President as a “god,” schoolgirls singing of the great one, and instantaneous Nobel Prize nominations. Valerie Jarrett cooed (literally) about the prospect of recruiting the brilliant activist Van Jones. To suggest that the nominations of Tom Daschle, Timothy Geithner, Bill Richardson, or Hilda Solis were antithetical to the entire Obama reformist campaign was heresy or worse. Did Obama think all this would continue for eight years? Did he think al-Qaeda would put away their IEDs because his middle name was Hussein? Was Putin awed that America had elected an African-American? Did Chavez hang on every Harvard-Law-School-Review “hope and change” banality?

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