» 2011 » July

Works and Days

Monthly Archives: July 2011

Unchained World

July 29th, 2011 - 8:26 am

Shy and Retiring America

A perfect storm of events is eroding the perception of American deterrence—and the world will shortly become an even scarier place. The fiscal crisis has cast doubt on the government’s ability to act forcefully, especially the president’s emasculation during the entire process. These perceptions, of course, pale in consideration to the reality of out of control spending the first three years of the Obama administration that added almost $5 trillion to the U.S. debt and is both humiliating America and questioning whether it can still pay for its enormous military. Almost every day, we are borrowing $4 billion, enough to build a new fleet aircraft carrier (and, of course, are not building aircraft carriers with such daily deficits as we did in World War II).

Instead, defense spending is seen by the administration as the preferred target for cutting, especially in comparison to entitlements like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. That sometimes 18- and 19-year olds learn more in the military on a flight deck than taking 6-units of -studies courses per semester for 7 years on federal grants is near libel. No matter—defense is going to be cut and the perception that it is going to be cut will be almost as important as from where exactly the ships and planes are withdrawn.

Enemies as Friends, Friends as Enemies

But more importantly, the Obama administration, in four or five key instances, has signaled to the world that there are no advantages to being a nonjudgmental U.S. ally, and no downside to being an outspoken American enemy. Who has been more often on the receiving end of U.S. lectures—Netanyahu or Abbas? Eastern Europeans or Russia? Who has been the recipient of U.S. outreach? Iran or Israel? Syria or Egypt? It would be far better to be a totalitarian police state that practices institutionalized murder than a pro-American kleptocratic autocracy, at least as seen in the differing attitudes accorded a Tunisia in comparison to Syria and Iran. This administration has a bad habit of calibrating a regime’s authenticity and legitimacy by the degree of its expressed anti-Americanism between 2001-8.

Internationalized America

In addition, to the extent that we use military force, it will be haphazard and questions of quitting will trump those of winning. International organizations—whether the Arab League or the United Nations—will win deference that neither the U.S. Congress nor American allies enjoy.

We see our fourth ground commander in Afghanistan, a war that was once deemed the “good” one by Obama—who ignored it for his first four months in office, then meditated for months on a surge, then escalated, and now talks of withdrawal. Obama can explain to us what victory won’t look like, but not what it might look like. In Iraq, he left the Bush-Petraeus withdrawal plan in place—ignoring his own demands as a senator that all troops should have been out by March 2008, then by the end of 2008, then by the end of 2009, and so on. But such allegiance to stabilizing Iraq is nullified by his serial denunciations that the removal of Saddam and fostering subsequent democracy—today the only real functioning Arab democracy—was a terrible mistake.

Libya is a mess—no mission, no methodology, no outcome. The rebels are who—Islamists, incompetent reformers, Westernized intellectuals, students, terrorists? Who knows? They seem only united in hating Gaddafi’s black African mercenaries and wanting to kill them all. “Leading from behind” was supposed to be a correction for admittedly costly and thankless “leading from the front” in past wars; but we can see now that when America does not lead, the Euros sputter, bicker, and now are divided and about to quit Libya.

Obama has done the almost impossible: he is losing a war to a country on the Mediterranean with less than 7 million people, and an almost perfect topography, weather, and location for NATO air operations. World War II American Liberators and B-17s on bombing runs from Sicily would have been more effective than Anglo-French jets. All that can be said for the mess is that Obama seems to have wanted to embarrass the usually parasitic, ankle-biting Europeans, and at least accomplished that—at the expense of Western military prestige. (The only thing worse than fighting a needless war against a savage weak regime is losing it to a savage weak regime.)

Is Guantanamo Open or Virtually Closed?

Obama confused the world about American anti-terrorism protocols. As a demagogic senator and candidate, he spent three years damning them as both ineffective and anti-American, and then embraced them all. But no one knows to what degree Guantanamo, renditions, tribunals, preventative detention, wiretaps, intercepts, and Predators are still Bush-Cheney war crimes or valuable American tools that will persist. If you engage in them, are you a patriotic overseas contingency operations fighter, or a future war criminal to be brought up later on charges by Eric Holder? Will those, who once sued on behalf of Guantanamo detainees, and now in government sue to justify Predator targeted assassinations—soon once again out of government sue on behalf of Guantanamo detainees? Was KSM virtually tried in New York in the fashion that Guantanamo was virtually closed (“virtually” defined as media agreement that Obama’s wishing to do the liberal thing is better than actually doing it).

Pages: 1 2 | Comments bullet bullet

Our Ten-Trillion-Dollar Man

July 24th, 2011 - 4:58 pm

Borrowing Is No Longer Stimulus?

The Congressional Budget Office not long ago forecast that Barack Obama’s $1 trillion-plus annual deficits — scheduled over the next decade — would result in almost another $10 trillion in aggregate debt. Going back to the pre-Bush tax rates this time won’t balance the budget. Slashing discretionary spending will not. So large has the splurge become, and so hooked are the constituencies of federal money, that massive cuts to entitlements necessary to stave off financial implosion may well prompt Greek-like protests.

That staggering sum was apparently conventional wisdom until the November 2010 election. But now there is fear that at some point in the future, Obama will not be known as the first African-American president. Nor will he be cited even as the hope-and-change phenomenon of 2008. Instead, posterity shall know him as the single greatest borrower in American presidential history, a novice who nearly wrecked the U.S. economy by borrowing over $4 billion a day without any feasible proposal how to pay back such a vast sum — taking a post-recession recovery and turning it into a stagflationary mess. In the third year of his tenure, Obama is still left only with “Bush did it” as an explanation of what went wrong.

Obama has managed the nearly impossible: the greatest peacetime deficits in U.S. history — about $1.5 trillion per year — in his first three years achieved almost no economic expansion. Instead, unemployment is chronic and stays over 9.2%; growth is stagnant; gas is sky-high — and the president seems stunned that none of what he had promised came to pass. All his liberal nostrums have been tried and been found wanting. There is no successful EU model, no winning blue-state statist paradigm for guidance.

Remember that his key advisors — Goolsbee, Orszag, Romer, Summers — have now quit and did not last even three years, their policies orphaned by the very parents who spawned them. Even the president joked that “shovel-ready” was a joke. When he evokes “stimulus” and “investment,” in response, we do not even think “borrowing” and “taxes,” but rather “he’s clueless again.” The old argument that we simply did not borrow enough (say, $5, $6, $7 billion a day?) is laughable beyond the point of caricature, given that the administration followed the Bush record of record peacetime debt. The only mystery is whether the massive Obama borrowing was a product of incompetence, a poorly thought out gorge the beast way of increasing taxes and redistributing income, or a more cynical effort at creating a permanent constituency of millions of new food stamp recipients and federal workers. Or more than that still.

Your Debt And None Of Our Own

Obama himself recently proposed a massive deficit budget that not a single Democrat in the Senate could vote for; then suddenly he flipped, and said that red ink of the sort that he ran up was now unsustainable. When did the president of the United States metamorphosize from the greatest Keynesian in presidential history to a fiscal hawk — January? March? April 1?

As he calls for higher taxes, he still has not offered any plan whatsoever that details where the president himself would cut. Remember that he conceded in December that higher taxes were bad; but by July they were then good again. He courts Wall Street one day for campaign money, yet on another calls them “fat cat” bankers and deplores their jets. Food stamps recipients now number 50 million — and we dare not imagine that even one has taken a dime without good cause.

The would-be employer is told to hire, but on what confident supposition, what rationale? That he knows well the tax rate to come, the health care costs to come, the regulations to come, the pro-business, veteran CEO appointee to come, the next presidential slur to come? Apparently Obama believed that capitalists were so greedy, so wealthy, so money-hungry that they would not mind much the redistributive obstacles he erected.

He talks grandly of getting America back to work, as his subordinates try to close down a Boeing aircraft plant, layer more regulations and burdens on energy production, reverse the order of creditors in the Chrysler mess, and take over GM — even as he continues the old “spread the wealth” and “redistributive change” adolescent rants with newer, sillier faculty lounge concoctions, claiming that at some point we have made enough money and that he himself has hundreds of thousands of dollars in income that he does not need and thus should have higher taxes on. (If so, please, help the Treasury out by offering to pay the gas for the Costa del Sol, Vail, and Martha’s Vineyard first-family freebies). One expects such banalities from the college dorm lounge, but not the middle-aged president of the United States.

Carter 2.0

Abroad the misdirection, confusion, and petulance mirror-image the debt mess. In Libya we have no mission aim, no methodology, and no desired outcome — our consolation only that Libya is a tiny country compared to a nearly 30-million person Afghanistan or Iraq. Obama went to the Arab League and the UN, but not the U.S. Congress for authorization — but to do what? Help the rebels? Enforce a no-fly-zone? Kill Gaddafi? Overthrow the government? All, some, or none?

Pages: 1 2 | Comments bullet bullet

St. Obama and the Debt Dragon

July 16th, 2011 - 9:37 pm

“Reckless Fiscal Policies”

Why did Obama only enumerate George W. Bush’s big spending as responsible for the out-of-control $14 trillion-plus debt, while not mentioning his own contribution of $5 trillion? Why is there a debt limit standoff now, rather than, say, in 2009 or 2010? Why did this latest $1.6 trillion Obama budget prompt the current crisis? Why did not Obama earlier start debt limit talks the moment that his own hand-picked Simpson-Bowles commission presented their findings? Why did Obama just recently submit, and have rejected, a budget that would have scheduled even larger deficits of the sort he is now warning against (“Armageddon”)?

Why is voting against the debt limit reckless now, but in 2006 Obama lectured us thusly:

“The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. … Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here.’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.”

(He then failed even to vote on the issue in 2007 and 2008 when the limit was raised again. So Obama has an even weaker case than the weak case of the congressional Republicans who approved the Bush deficits, given that if Obama was right at the time to vote “no,” then $6 trillion later, with a ruined, rather than robust, economy, he could now be really right to vote again “no,” when he has the political power not to raise the debt ceiling.)

Why is Obama talking of new tax increases when he ruled that out in December 2010: taxes then bad, now seven months later good? Why does the president claim 80% of the people want taxes when polls prove no such thing?

Failure, Failure Everywhere

In 2009, newly arrived Obama was convinced of redistributive Keynesian postmodern economics, a sort of updated fable that borrowed money would spawn more money, or at least would not have to be paid back, or could be excused along the lines: “If a Republican Bush borrowed nearly $5 trillion in eight years, then, dammit, why cannot a liberal Democrat be allowed to borrow more than $5 trillion in three?” And if Reagan gave us “starve the beast” (cutting taxes would cut revenue that would force smaller government), Obama could console himself with “gorge the beast” (growing government in extraordinary fashion would force higher taxes that in turn would redistribute income from those who “didn’t need it” to those who work for or receive from the government and who most certainly did need it).

The architects of his economic policies — Austan Goolsbee, Peter Orszag, Christina Romer, Larry Summers — did not even last three years. All now are either back in tenured academia, making millions in the revolving door that Obama once blasted, or writing op-eds why following their former advice is leading to insolvency, or all three combined. None are making the argument any more that we need more of their stimuli or ObamaCare will save us billions and create “400,000 new jobs.”

Their borrowing did not stop unemployment from plateauing at 9.1% or prevent the housing market from getting worse, or growth from stalling, or gas from soaring, or the beginnings of a new inflation. In the meantime, the model of Obamism (e.g., Greece, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Ireland) in Europe of high taxes, redistributive government, astronomical debt, and unsustainable pensions has crashed. So Obamism did not work, and now is the politically opportune time, before the 2012 election, to follow the famed Obama reinvention stratagem: Cite straw men and extremists on both sides, and put St. Obama plop in the middle as the sober, great dragon slayer, who blames both his contemporaries and his predecessor. Hard to do, I know, when you wasted $5 trillion, but do it nonetheless he has. In the word of Obama, wasted borrowed money is “stimulus,” not so shovel ready jobs are “investments,” and hiking taxes on someone else is “revenue enhancement.”

Pages: 1 2 | Comments bullet bullet

The Great Madness of 2004-10

July 9th, 2011 - 11:31 am

The First Symptoms of Hatred—2004 to 2008

For about seven years the nation lost its collective mind — and was only partially coming-to in November 2010.

During the years of insanity, Al Gore won both a Nobel Prize and an Academy Award for his propaganda film An Inconvenient Truth — before the disclosures of ClimateGate, new data on everything from the Himalayan glaciers to polar bear populations, realization that temperatures had not risen in the last 12 years, and the rather blatant and various money-making schemes of Gore, Inc. (that parlayed green advocacy into a billion-dollar, medieval exemption/carbon offset empire, several homes, and a propensity for carbon spewing private jet travel). Give Gore credit: he understood brilliantly that anger over Iraq and Katrina, his own popular vote victory in 2000 but subsequent lost presidency, his vein-bulging “he lied” screeds, and puppy dog pouts had combined, in perfect storm fashion, to locate Gorism at the nexus of anti-war, anti-Bush madness.

In these years of insanity, I used to be asked on-campus questions, but delivered as lectures, along the lines of “Bush’s polluting pals are ruining the planet when we know Al Gore’s cap and trade would save us. Now it’s too late!” Of course, in 2006 gasoline was relatively cheap, unemployment low, and there was growth in the economy. College students had the luxury of declaiming how George Bush had wiped out the polar bears as they waited for several good job offers.

Do you remember the hysteria over the supposed trampling of the Constitution? Those were the days of anger when Harold Koh, instead of writing briefs defending the Obama’s administration’s targeted killing by Predators and bypassing the War Powers Act in Libya, had been suing various Bush-Clinton-Bush administrations over the unfortunate at Guantanamo. At one time or another, a Sean Penn, a Hollywood producer (Rendition, Redacted, In the Valley of Elah, Lions for Lambs, etc.), a Whoopi Goldberg, a David Letterman, and legions more were all claiming that we had lost our freedoms to the satanic George Bush. These were the glory days of Dick Durbin comparing U.S. servicemen to mass killers, as John Kerry claimed they were quasi terrorists, in Harry Reid’s “lost” war, committing John Murtha’s war crimes — to the chorus of Michael Moore (guest of honor at the 2004 Democratic Convention) cheering on their killers as “minutemen.”

Until January 2009, almost nightly on the news, a liberal grandee would swear that Guantanamo, renditions, tribunals, preventative detention, Predators, wiretaps, intercepts, Iraq, etc. had ruined America in these days of “General Betray Us” ads and “suspension of disbelief” putdowns. Then in a matter of hours the verbiage suddenly stopped, abruptly so in January, 2009 — and has never returned to this day.

(I remember remarking to a former CSU colleague in those dark hours that the Congress had approved Iraq, with stirring speeches in support by Kerry, Reid, Clinton, and other liberal giants, that the public voiced a 75% approval when the 3-week war ended, and that Andrew Sullivan, as a tiny example, had mentioned Bush as Nobel laureate material and the need to use nukes against Saddam if he were behind the anthrax scare. Funny days, those, when Fareed Zakaria and Francis Fukuyama were writing serious, sober, and judicious briefs for preventative regime change in Iraq. The professor said to me, “That’s a lie. They all always opposed his amoral war and the Bush criminality.”)

In those days of “civility,” Bush hatred soon became a liberal creed. “Nuclar” (I don’t find such a tongue-twisted pronunciation as grievous as “corpse-man,” which reflects phonetic ignorance rather than clumsiness) was the stuff of NPR vignettes. Books came out about killing Bush; comics joked about his death. The Guardian ran an op-ed in which the writer longed for the return of John Wilkes Booth. Bush and Cheney as the Nazis or brownshirts or fascists was evoked by everyone from Al Gore and John Glenn to Garrison Keillor and George Soros.

The British were told to write Ohioans to stop the Bush coup in the 2004 election. Moving to Canada should Kerry lose (promises, promises) was a Hollywood boast. In these days before the BP spill, and assorted later disasters, Katrina was a mad Bush plot to disenfranchise people of color. Barney Frank was pontificating about the vendetta against Fannie and Freddie, as Maxine Waters et al. blasted scrutiny of the brilliant Franklin Raines, even as he prepared to walk away with tens of millions in “bonuses” after helping to wreck the American mortgage industry.

We forget now that the Bush administration (under which nearly 50% of the population was exempted from income tax and under which home ownership reached new highs) was pegged as some right-wing monstrosity that nonetheless caved and gave us No Child Left Behind, a prescription drug plan, and had allowed the liberal congressional cadre to turn mortgages into entitlements. Finally Bush was reduced to enlisting Bono to prove that he really did give billions in relief to Africa — even as the latter trashed him to the Left as the philanthropist schemed to avoid paying taxes to his soon-to-be-broke Irish homeland.

Quite mysteriously, radical Islamists trying to kill us became victims of Bush’s police state, and poor dying Oriana Fallaci was a lone voice in the desert warning us of our madness.

I’ll stop here and turn to the second phase that begin in 2008 after the page jump.

Pages: 1 2 3 | Comments bullet bullet

The Philosophies of Illegal Immigration

July 1st, 2011 - 2:33 pm

Dinosaur Thinking

Even to talk of illegal immigration earns slurs. I can attest to that. It is the most self-censored topic in America today, where we construct artificial worlds of rhetoric that in no way resemble reality (e.g., try to suggest that California’s current problems with 30,000 to 40,000 too many prison inmates, or spiraling entitlement costs, or test scores right below Mississippi’s, or gang-related crime have something to do with the entry over two decades of millions of illegal aliens, and then see whether that proposition is discussed or slurred in ad hominem fashion). The most ardent critic of open discussion is often the most likely to self-select and remove himself from any concrete exposure with the issues he champions at a distance. No one is a better exemplar of the dishonesty than the president who, with large majorities of liberal Democrats in both houses of Congress for two years, deliberately ignored his own “comprehensive immigration reform” agenda — only to demagogue his opponents for now opposing what he would really, after all, at last, but of course, like to do — but only after it is, conveniently, legislatively impossible. So we get “moats and alligators,” a perfect summation of the bankrupt status of the entire hushed debate.

So here it goes: the old matrix of how we were to understand illegal immigration is extinct. The concept of a largely white privileged class exploiting poor immigrants who simply wished to be a part of the American dream is now fossilized — dead and buried by new realities: the sheer millions of those entering the U.S. illegally, the cynicism and connivance of the Mexican government, the outflow of nearly $30-40 billion in remittances to Latin America, the rise of the multicultural salad bowl in lieu of the multiracial melting pot, the illiberal nature of the advocacy for open borders, and the rise of a new tribalism and ethnic solidarity on the part of the immigrant community.

For the last half-century, the subtext of illegal immigration was racial prejudice — how a hard-working minority struggled against a largely white overlord class for social justice, best emblemized by Caesar Chavez and the farmer worker rights movement. Those divides are now largely gone — or at least have become so problematic and complex to have been rendered irrelevant.

Racial Reactionaries

So-called whites are now a minority in the state. Integration and intermarriage are commonplace. Racial heritage sometimes evokes the one-drop rule of the old Confederacy. A thriving middle-class third- and fourth-generation Mexican-American community speaks little or no Spanish and has no direct memory or firsthand knowledge of Mexico. If there is Latino “under-representaton” at a UC Berkeley, it is not a “result” of white “over-representation” (whites are proportionally “under-represented” at UCB), but of the superiority in test scores and grades of the Asian community, which enrolls at four times its numbers in the general population.

Blacks and Asians are as opposed to illegal immigration as is the majority of the population, including millions of Mexican-Americans. And more importantly, the entire argument for open borders, both here in the United States and in Mexico, disturbingly, is taking on racial and ethnic overtones —as a recent spectacle attests of thousands of Hispanic residents booing mention of the United States while cheering the Mexican national soccer team at the Rose Bowl.

(These trivial incidents [cf. the recent Morgan Hill, California high school 2010 walkout on Cinco de Mayo] are insignificant in isolation, but in aggregate offer disturbing symbolic evidence of an increasingly Balkanized tension that is the logical wage of multicultural separatism, and furor at the absence of almost instantaneous parity with the host. I note here in passing that in my years of residence in Greece, had I, as an American apartment-dweller in Athens, joined a majority of expatriate Americans in booing the Greek national team and cheering a visiting American team at a match in the national stadium [demanding that the victory ceremony be held in English], I would have had to sprint out the exit for my proverbially dear life.)

The new, vastly changed racial realities thus raise a fundamental question that the proponents of either amnesty or open borders cannot or will not address. What, I wonder, exactly privileges illegal immigration from Mexico — in a way that might not be true, say, of allowing half-a-million aliens to enter the country illegally from China or Africa? Proximity? Race? History? Money? Politics? Power?

Surely what drives Mexican consular officials to demand certain rights for Mexican national expatriates in a way that they would not for other nationals is not the abstract concept of illegal immigration, but only concern that illegal immigration remain mostly a phenomenon from Mexico — or at least by extension Latin America.

The same is true of the La Raza lobbyists — that they have no interest in the notion of illegal immigration as an issue per se, since there are no doubt a few thousand here illegally from Poland, Uganda, and South Korea. Their concern is largely confined only to Mexico and Latin America, and thus is entirely predicated on one or two (or both) notions: first, racial affinity should adjudicate who and who does not need to follow U.S. immigration law, and, second, Mexico has some sort of historical claims on the American Southwest. Is that a logical deduction?

If so, illegal immigration has transmogrified into one of the most illiberal, reactionary phenomena on the current American scene, an ossified concept of racial solidarity and tribalism that attempts to privilege one group, solely on the basis of race or ethnic fides, in its exemption from federal law, and in a manner that would never be extended to other immigrant lobbies, with less numbers, influence, and potential electoral power. We have come full circle back to the 1920s when immigration was likewise largely seen through racial lenses — when one’s race determined how one navigated immigration law.

Pages: 1 2 | Comments bullet bullet