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Monthly Archives: June 2011

There Are No Socialists

June 25th, 2011 - 6:56 pm

Are There Really Socialists?

Two unconnected developments were announced this past week. President Obama is releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, despite the absence of a global embargo or horrific natural disaster — and despite a litany of assertions from 2008 that drilling and increased supply might only have a marginal effect on prices.

Like the sudden Afghan withdrawal announcement, the tapping is largely explained by political worries about reelection, as in increasing oil supplies to lower gas prices by election time — and thus avoiding campaign ads equating Obama’s opposition to drilling with high prices at the 2012 pump.

In a second piece of news, the Europeans seem to be winning far more plane orders than Boeing. One wonders whether that fact is remotely connected with airlines’ collective worries about obtaining orders on time and as specified — as in uncertainty whether Obama’s NLRB ruling that attempted to shut down a nearly $1 billion new aircraft line in South Carolina translates into something like “who knows what those Americans are doing next?”

All this raises some questions. The strangest things about the global statist crack-up are socialists’ unhappiness with their socialist utopia, and their subsequent efforts to avoid the consequences of the very redistributive state that they themselves once so gladly crafted.

Greece is the locus classicus. Why are the Greeks protesting? Against whom? They obtained long ago the promised bloated sector and high taxes that all schemed to avoid. Their alma mater EU is hardly a demonic capitalist-run plutocracy, but a kindred socialist state. Is Greece an oil producer, industrial powerhouse, high-tech innovator — anything that might explain the sort of upscale life, modern infrastructure, legions of Mercedeses, and plush second homes that one began to see in Greece after 1985?

In truth, socialist Greeks are furious that they have impoverished themselves and demand that private money and far harder-working Germans bail them out — but why so, when socialism should not need outside capitalist-generated dollars? Could not the Greeks, Soviet style, set up a Cuban collective, and adjust their lifestyles (there goes Kolonaki culture) to their means, living in an opportunity of result utopia with a huge public sector, more siestas, high but ignored taxes — with a collective good riddance to those awful intrusive German bankers?

Here at home, Obama got his ObamaCare. Why, then, did he grant hundreds of exemptions — many to northern California liberals? Should they instead not have lined up to volunteer to implement such a wonderful, long-needed entitlement?

He said energy would rightly sky-rocket, given his determination to curb fossil fuel production (cf. “bankrupt” coal companies). Why then is Obama concerned that gas hit $4; is not such a high price a welcomed retardant to burning hot fuels? The higher the gas prices, the more that subsidized wind and solar power, and electric cars are attractive, and thus the more we enjoy “sustainable” power. Right? Am I missing something about this desire within our grasp of “living within our means”?

Obama enjoyed big majorities in both houses of Congress; and on the campaign trail he had promised a de facto amnesty under the euphemism of “comprehensive immigration reform.” So why did he not grant such exemptions, and absorb 11, 15, or 20 million new “citizens” from Oaxaca? Is not that the point of amnesty, to welcome in new constituencies who will remember a benefactor at the polls?

We have heard that taxes, more taxes, and more taxes are the cure for the massive deficits, run up by out of control spending. OK, fine. But why then does multimillionaire John Kerry go to great lengths to avoid taxes on his yacht (why a luxury yacht when so many have so little?); why are redistributive overseers like Timothy Geithner, Eric Holder, Tom Daschle, Charles Rangel, and Hilda Solis either late or delinquent in paying the federal, state, or local governments what they owe? Were not high taxes on the upper incomes like themselves the point of it all? Should not they pay all they can to ensure that their brethren receive needed entitlements? I thought Bono would lead an international effort of multimillionaire rock stars to relocate to socialist states like Ireland or Greece, so that they might gladly pay 75% of their incomes (which at “some point” they had enough of) to help others closer to home. Why instead is he fleeing to low-tax nations? Did not such socialists have enough money by now without undermining the socialist state?

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The Metaphysics of Contemporary Theft

June 19th, 2011 - 6:33 pm

Same Old, Same Old…

Last week was another somewhat depressing chapter in a now long saga of living where I was born. I returned to the farm from leading a European military history tour, and experienced the following — mind you, after a number of thefts the month prior (barn, shop, etc.):

1) I left my chainsaw in the driveway to use the restroom inside the house. Someone driving buy saw it. He slammed on the brakes, stole it, and drove off. Neat, quick, easy. Mind you there was only a 5-minute hiatus in between my cutting. And the driver was a random passer-by. That suggests to me that a high number of rural Fresno County motorists can prove to be opportunistic thieves at any given moment. The saw was new; I liked it — an off-the-shelf $400 Echo that ran well. I assume it will be sold off at a rural intersection in these parts, or the nearby swap meet for about $60. I doubt the thief was a professional woodsman who needed a tool of the trade to survive.

2) On the next night, three 15-hp agriculture pumps on our farm were vandalized — all the copper wire was torn out of the electrical conduits. The repairs to each one might run $500; yet, the value of the wire could not be over $50. I was told by neighbors that reports and descriptions of the law-breakers focused on youthful thieves casing the countryside — in official parlance a “gang,” and in the neighborhood politically-incorrect patois “cholos” — like the fellow who recently drove in, in his new lowered shiny red pickup (hydraulic lifters are not cheap), inquiring about buying “scrap” and “just looking” before I ran him out.

3) A neighbor has a house for sale. It is unoccupied and rather isolated. I saw someone approach it on Friday, and drove over to ensure he was lawful. It was the owner’s assistant, who lamented that someone had just stolen all the new appliances out of the house — carting off the refrigerator, dishwasher, stove, and microwave. But why? Do these miscreants wish a civilization of the sort that all houses must seem occupied all the time, or are otherwise considered “communal property” for the taking? Don’t the appliance thieves have homes, and if so, do they have locks on the doors to protect their investments from the likes of themselves?

These days I sympathize with gloomy St. Augustine, writing after the sack of Rome in 410, and then again contemplating things lost when back home, near death, and besieged by the vandals at Hippo Regius. He died I think convinced that a millennium of culture was about to end. And despite a Belisarius to come, it did.

Reflections on the Redistributive State

I think the public would react in two different ways to the above occurrences — and such a dichotomy explains a lot why the nation has never been more divided.

A majority would believe the thieves took things for drugs, excitement, or to buy things like an iPhone or DVD, rather than out of elemental need (e.g., the thief hawked the chainsaw to purchase the family’s rice allotment for the week). In this view, contemporary American crime arises not so much then from Dickensian poverty, as we see in South America or Africa, but out of a sense of resentment, of boredom, from a certain contempt for the more law-abiding and successful, or on the assurance that apprehension is unlikely, and punishment rarer still. After all, Hollywood, pop music, the court system, and the government itself sympathize with, even romanticize those forced to take a chainsaw, not the old middle-class bore who bought it.

The remedy to address theft would be not more government help — public assistance, social welfare, counseling — but far less, given that human nature rises to the occasion when forced to work and sinks when leisured and exempt. I don’t believe my thieves have worked much; instead, they figured a day’s theft beats tile setting or concrete work beginning at 5 AM.

I conclude that most Americans would agree that chain-sawing a peach tree or pumping irrigation water enriches the nation, while cruising around looking to destroy such activity does not. The latter represents the sort of social parasitism that I read about each Saturday night in our environs (and, in terms of illegal immigration, once wrote about in Mexifornia — a book I seem doomed to relive in Ground Hog fashion each day — nearly a decade ago): gangbanger A shoots up gangbanger B; B goes to emergency room for publicly funded $250,000 worth of surgery and post-op treatment by C, an MD, who otherwise would have been insulted and intimidated by A or B should he have met either earlier in the day. Indeed, C is more likely to be ridiculed or sued by B than thanked. And yet C does not need either A or B; both need the former in extremis.

Where does this all end — these open borders, unsustainable entitlements and public union benefits and salaries, these revolving door prisons and Al Gore-like energy fantasies?

We are left with a paradox. The taxpayer cannot indefinitely fund the emergency room treatment for the shooter and his victim on Saturday night if society cannot put a tool down for five minutes without a likely theft, or a farmer cannot turn on a 50-year old pump without expecting its electrical connections to have been ripped out. Civilization simply cannot function that way for either the productive citizen or the parasite, who still needs a live host.

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Sense Out of Nonsense — a ten-step plan

I’ve been following the news the last two weeks — Weinergate, the dismal “unexpected” economic news, the new wars in Libya and Yemen — from Europe while leading about 60 on a military history tour of Italy, Corsica, Sardinia, and Sicily. Even a brief hiatus abroad always gives one perspective and appreciation of the United States; reading various European papers accents the difference, and daily association, by chance and by design, with Europeans enriches the perspective. I offer some reflections this week on the American experience, and hope to be back on the farm in the U.S. by the time most read this. I note that the Mediterranean is a beautiful place, the study of which I have devoted much of my adult career; so my comments are not so much critiques of Sicilian or Roman life as much as thoughts on the U.S. through the benefit of both distance and connectivity with the 24/7 news.

1. We should not listen to journalists, politicians, or academics who lecture about overpopulation, looming environmental catastrophe, or general unsustainability — if they live in a house over 2,500 square feet and fly more than once a month. Unfortunately that covers most of our alarmists. Otherwise these megaphones simply are medieval grandees seeking indulgences and penances through loud lectures against what they enjoy in the flesh.

2. When listening to national network or cable news, please assume that during the half-hour show one of the talking heads — anchor, correspondent, interviewer — is either married to or dating another like talking head at another station or paper, or a D.C. politician, and that most of what we shall subsequently hear is predicated on that fact. The nexuses are usually sex, money, power, or a shared quest for celebrity, and they lead to a warped view of contemporary America — the deranged hatred for the upstart and independent Sarah Palin a prime example.

3. Likewise we should assume that most of our news, our popular entertainment, our movies and TV shows, and our supposed conventional wisdom that winds up in magazines reflect the anxieties, fears, and prejudices of about 1-2 million elites that live between either New York and Washington or San Francisco and Los Angeles — apprehensions that are largely irrelevant to 9 of 10 other Americans. Apparently living in an urban, coastal, and largely segregated upscale neighborhood and associating with such a thin slice of like-minded America create such insularity and serial foolishness.

4. There are two perceived worlds in America. The Orwellian and censored one is presented to us as refined and packaged through traditional media, while its raw antipode turns up on the blogs, YouTube, posted comments on op-eds rather than the op-eds themselves, and in mass email mailings. The former is supposedly adjudicated by sophisticated and sensitive people and is usually in aggregate a lie; the latter is often episodic, sensational, and inflammatory, and designed either to enrage or titillate — and in these Dark Ages is unfortunately closer to the truth. So, for example, we are often reduced to believing a National Enquirer story about John Edwards more  than a counterpart in the L.A. Times, or to trusting more that a YouTube video reflects the landscape of the inner cities better than assurances from a senator or anchorman.

5. It is wise to navigate through the news and elite wisdom through two landmarks: anything that Barack Obama says will be airbrushed, improved, or modified to fit facts post facto; anything Sarah Palin says or does will be contextualized in Neanderthal terms. Teams of Post and Times volunteers now sort through Sarah Palin’s email; not a reporter in the world is curious about what Barack Obama once said about Rashid Khalidi or the Columbia University GPA that won him entrance to Harvard Law School. Accept that asymmetry and almost everything not only makes sense about these two cultural guideposts, but can, by extension, explain the 1860-like division in American itself.

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The Collapse of a Rotten Edifice

June 6th, 2011 - 3:08 pm

Nemesis is always hot on the trail of hubris, across time and space, and the goddess has been particularly busy in destroying the carefully crafted images of Bono, John Edwards, Timothy Geithner, Al Gore, Eliot Spitzer, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Anthony Weiner, and a host of others. What do their tax hypocrisies, sexual indulgences, and aristocratic socialist lifestyles all have in common?

Collectively, they represent a self-appointed or elected global elite that oversees, lectures about — in sanctimonious fashion — the ethical responsibilities of the redistributive state. Bono and his ensemble may be the highest paid rock group in the world, the most eager to shake a finger at Western governments on their moral duties to help the less fortunate. He is a pop icon always ready to fault the consumerist Western lifestyle. But Bono and his pals are quite determined to avoid Irish tax laws to ensure more of their hard-won capitalist profits so necessary to support their global lifestyles, at a time when their alma mater is broke and unable to fund its once ample entitlements.

Little need be said any more about Al Gore, his homes, his private jetting, his hyping Armageddon on his way to a billion-dollar eco-empire other than that he is a totem for a sophisticated, wealthy class of Westerners who find psychological penance for their own lavish lives by making others less fortunate feel miserable about getting up in the morning and driving to work or taking a hot shower. In that regard, his carbon credit/offset schemes were medieval indulgences to the core. “Crazed sex poodle” indeed — or so the masseuse claimed.

John Edwards built a mansion, replete with a 3,000 foot “John’s Room” playhouse in the compound’s inner sanctum, as he oversaw a University of North Carolina center with the pompous title “The Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity.” The more he posed with his cancer-stricken wife, the more he spun lies to hide his tawdry relationship, all subsidized by someone else’s money. The best that can be said of Edwards is that he was a classic parasite, who made millions off the productive state by honing his rhetoric skills before gullible juries. The more I heard him lecture us in 2004 about “two Americas,” the more I expected his mansion to end up in Dr. Zhivago fashion as a collective residence for the poor.

I confess I never understood Timothy Geithner’s tax schemes. As I understand it, the soon-to-be overseer of the IRS pocketed monies given to him specifically to pay his FICA taxes, while claiming his son’s camp as a business expense — all as a requisite to his contemporary lectures on the need for higher taxes to fuel the Obama redistributive state. (Note well that former OMD director Peter Orszag assured us that the soon to be $5 trillion in borrowing was necessary as he entered the revolving door of Citicorp.)

All I can say about Eliot Spitzer is that I never have watched his show except twice — when he reported on the sexual misfortunes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Strauss-Kahn. As another aside, why do elites bombard us with publicly funded messages about “safe sex,” specifically to use a condom and to be sure to know the sexual pedigree of our partners — as if the HIV epidemic is spreading solely among the ignorant and uneducated? It may be; but a better use of such funds would be directed at the nation’s governors: “Arnold, Eliot, please use a condom or do not visit prostitutes, given the danger of sexually related diseases spreading to one’s spouse.”

Arnold, of course, was a strange case; in the midst of his angry pushbacks against his opportunistic opponents in 2003 who were peddling rumors of his serial infidelity and more, he had already fathered a child by his live-in servant. What goes through one’s mind in such scenarios? I leave the possibilities to you the reader.

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The Collapse of a Rotten Edifice

June 6th, 2011 - 3:03 pm

Nemesis is always hot on the trail of hubris, across time and space, and the goddess has been particularly busy in destroying the carefully crafted images of Bono, John Edwards, Timothy Geithner, Al Gore, Eliot Spitzer, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Anthony Weiner, and a host of others. What do their tax hypocrisies, sexual indulgences, and aristocratic socialist lifestyles all have in common?

Collectively, they represent a self-appointed or elected global elite that oversees, lectures about—in sanctimonious fashion—the ethical responsibilities of the redistributive state. Bono and his ensemble may be the highest paid rock group in the world, the most eager to shake a finger at Western governments on their moral duties to help the less fortunate, a pop icon always ready to fault the consumerist Western lifestyle. But he and his pals are quite determined to avoid Irish tax laws to ensure more of their hard-won capitalist profits so necessary to support their global lifestyles, at a time when their alma mater is broke and unable to fund its once ample entitlements.

Little need be said any more about Al Gore, his homes, his private jetting, his hyping Armageddon on his way to a billion-dollar eco-empire other than he is a totem for a sophisticated, wealthy class of Westerners who find psychological penance for their own lavish lives by making others less fortunate feel miserable about getting up in the morning and driving to work or taking a hot shower. In that regard, his carbon credit/offset schemes were medieval indulgences to the core. “Crazed sex poodle” indeed—or so the masseuse claimed.

John Edwards built a mansion, replete with a 3,000 foot “John’s Room” playhouse in the compound’s inner sanctum, as he oversaw a University of North Carolina Center with the pompous title “The Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity.” The more he posed with his cancer-stricken wife, the more he spun lies to hide his tawdry relationship, all subsidized by someone else’s money. The best that can be said of Edwards was that he was a classic parasite, who made millions off the productive state by honing his rhetoric skills before gullible juries. The more I heard him lecture us in 2004 about “two Americas,” the more I expected his mansion to end up in Dr. Zhivago fashion as a collective residence for the poor.

I confess I never understood Timothy Geithner’s tax schemes. As I understand it, the soon-to-be overseer of the IRS pocketed monies given to him specifically to pay his FICA taxes, while claiming his son’s camp as a business expense—all as a requisite to his contemporary lectures on the need for higher taxes to fuel the Obama redistributive state (Note well: that OMD director Peter Ozsag assured us that the soon to be $5 trillion in borrowing was necessary as he entered the revolving door of Citicorp).

All I can say about Eliot Spitzer is that I never have watched his show except twice—when he reported on the sexual misfortunes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Strauss-Kahn. As another aside, why do elites bombard us with publicly funded messages about “safe sex”, specifically to use a condom and to be sure to know the sexual pedigree of our partners—as if the HIV epidemic is spreading solely among the ignorant and uneducated? It may be; but a better use of such funds would be directed at the nation’s governors: “Arnold, Eliot, please use a condom or do not visit prostitutes, given the danger of sexually related diseases spreading to one’s spouse.”

Arnold, of course, was a strange case; in the midst of his angry pushbacks against his opportunistic opponents in 2003 who were peddling rumors of his serial infidelity and more, he had already fathered a child by his live-in servant. What goes through one’s mind in such scenarios? I leave the possibilities to you the reader.

I wrote a cover story for the current issue of National Review on Strauss-Kahn, a sort of trifecta hypocrite: the socialist in a $3,000 room and $20,000 suit; the Frenchman on the barricades of race, class, gender progressiveness at best sexually using the immigrant, black, single-mom maid from Africa, at worse sexually abusing her; the IMF grandee dispersing someone else’s money to bankrupt socialist states from his itinerant perches at the world’s Sofitels.

Anthony Weiner was known as a sort of Kleon-like demagogue, who shouted down or ridiculed his opponents—haughty, self-righteous, full of hyperbole about the evils of conservatives, currently hot on the trail of Justice Thomas, in efforts to bring down a Supreme Court justice. Again, it is not the sexual weirdness, but the hypocrisy that does them in: the liberal-minded feminist on the sly sending dirty pictures to young women, while ridiculing those who claimed that the evidence suggested that he was sending dirty pictures to young women. Nemesis might have let Weiner be had he not insulted his accusers and claimed his own perversions were his own perversions, but once he took the attack-dog route and lied, she swooped in.
I omit the Obamas, but note only that Michelle Obama and her entourage, in very un-Harry Truman fashion, have a fondness for recession-era Vail, Costa del Sol, and Martha’s Vineyard amid the presidential lectures about spread the wealth, at some point you have made enough money, and the new financial Mason-Dixon line of the noble below $250,000 in salary, the demonized above.

Of course, we witness all these jarring disconnects amid a larger landscape of the collapse of southern European socialism, the tottering of the entire U.S. financial system as the Obamites trumped the Republican deficits and have piled up another $5 trillion in debt, the discrediting of the global warming fundamentalist religion, and the unsustainability of the redistributive welfare state.

What are we left with? The daily struggle to remember sumus homines, non dei—’we are just humans, not gods”. Whether Strauss-Kahn or Weiner or Gore, the common denominator is arrogance and a sense of exemption from the rules and protocols.

In a word, human nature as we understand it from the earliest observances of the Greeks. Be careful about lecturing others on their moral frailties. If one consumes well beyond what one needs, ensure that one pays one’s own tab and does not indulge on someone else’s money. Beware of Nemesis, an omnipotent, all-seeing deity that marks in her scrolls every pontification, every sermon we make and then collates such professions with our deeds—so eager to note the discrepancy. She is an unforgiving goddess, and perhaps a cruel one as well. I used to give her a prayer for exemption at her temple at Rhamnous.

In the end, we are left with the nobility of hard, physical work, the elemental reality of producing food, fuel, and durable goods, the distrust of fad and cant, the acceptance that we are fallible and age and will not get out alive. In comparison, the media hype, the DC apparchet, the eco cons and the high-life socialism are as nothing. “Know Thyself” and “Nothing Too Much” were written on the architraves of the temple of Apollo at Delphi, and for good reason, to remind us where we came from and who we were, and to shun excess—material, emotional, sexual. My grandfather’s (a man who at one time in 1936 housed 27 relatives in my present house) advice of 1970 to a smart-aleck, silly teenager still resonates to me: “Never sell this small piece of land, you may need it some day as a refuge from what you don’t wish to become.”

And then he got serious that July afternoon as we were walking toward the vineyards, and said, “Okay, boys, you run the water down the north 100 rows, and I’ll do the south 100.”

And so out we went…