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Monthly Archives: June 2012

Is the Country Unraveling?

June 25th, 2012 - 1:20 am

The Thrill Is Gone

The last thirty days have made it clear that Barack Obama is not going to win the 2012 election by a substantial margin. The polls still show the race near dead even with over five months, and all sorts of unforeseen events, to come. But after the Obama meltdown of April and May, I don’t think he in any way resembles the mysterious Pied Piper figure of 2008, who mesmerized and then marched the American people over the cliff. Polls change daily; gaffes and wars may come aplenty. But Barack Obama has lost the American center and now he is reduced to the argument that Mitt Romney would be even worse than he has been, as he tries to cobble together an us-versus-them 51% majority from identity groups through cancelling the Keystone Pipeline, granting blanket amnesty, ginning up the “war on women,” and flipping on gay marriage.

Mythographer in Chief

The Obama memoir is revealed not really to be a memoir at all. Most of his intimate friends and past dalliances that we read about in Dreams From My Father were, we learn, just made up (“composites”); the problem, we also discover, with the president’s autobiography is not what is actually false, but whether anything much at all is really true in it. If a writer will fabricate the details about his own mother’s terminal illness and quest for insurance, then he will probably fudge on anything. For months the president fought the Birthers who insist that he was born in Kenya, only to have it revealed that he himself for over a decade wrote just that fact in his own literary biography. Is Barack Obama then a birther?

Has any major public figure (57 states, Austrian language, corpse-men, Maldives for Falklands, private sector “doing fine,” etc.) been a more underwhelming advertisement for the quality of a Harvard education or a Chicago Law School part-time billet? Has any presidential candidate or president set a partisan crowd to laughing by rubbing his chin with his middle finger as he derides an opponent, or made a joke about killing potential suitors of his daughters with deadly Predator drones, or recited a double entendre “go-down” joke about a sex act?

From Recession to Recovery to Stasis

As we see in New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin, the cure for the present economic malaise is not rocket science — a curbing of the size of government, a revision of the tax code, a modest rollback of regulation, reform of public employment, and holding the line on new taxes. Do that and public confidence returns, businesses start hiring, and finances settle down. Do the opposite — as we see in Mediterranean Europe, California, or Illinois over the last decade — and chaos ensues.

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The Scandal of Our Age

June 17th, 2012 - 10:05 pm

Like Nothing Before

In the Watergate scandal, no one died, at least that we know of. Richard Nixon tried systematically to subvert institutions. Yet most of his unconstitutional efforts were domestic in nature — and an adversarial press soon went to war against his abuses and won, as Congress held impeachment hearings.

As far as national security went, Nixon’s crimes were in part culpable for destroying the political consensus that he had won in 1972, at a critical time when the Vietnam War to save the south was all but over, and had been acknowledged as such at the Paris Peace Talks. But Watergate and the destruction of Nixon’s foreign policy spurred congressional cutbacks of aid to South Vietnam and eroded all support for the administration’s promised efforts to ensure that North Vietnam kept to its treaty obligations.

Iran-Contra was as serious because there was a veritable war inside the Reagan administration over helping insurgents with covert cash that had in part been obtained by, despite denials, selling arms to enemy Iran to free hostages — all against U.S. laws and therefore off the radar. The Reagan administration was left looking weak, hypocritical, incompetent, and amoral — and never quite recovered. Yet even here the media soon covered the story in detail, and their disclosures led to several resignations and full congressional hearings.

Quite Different

What I call “Securitygate” — the release of the most intricate details about the cyber war against Iran, the revelations about a Yemeni double-agent, disclosures about covert operations in and against Pakistan, intimate details about the Osama bin Laden raid and the trove of information taken from his compound, and the Predator drone assassination list and the president’s methodology in selecting targets — is far more serious than either prior scandal. David Sanger and others claim that all this was sort of in the public domain anyway; well, “sort of” covers a lot of ground. We sort of knew about the cyber war against Iran, but not to the detail that Sanger provides and not through the direct agency of the Obama administration itself.

Here is the crux of the scandal: Obama is formulating a new policy of avoiding overt unpopular engagements, while waging an unprecedented covert war across the world. He’s afraid that the American people do not fully appreciate these once-secret efforts and might in 2012 look only at his mishaps in Afghanistan or his public confusion over Islamic terror. Ergo, feed information to a Sanger or Ignatius so that they can skillfully inform us, albeit with a bit of dramatic “shock” and “surprise,” just how tough, brutal, and deadly Barack Obama really is.

Yet these disclosures will endanger our national security, especially in the case of a soon-to-be-nuclear Iran. They will probably get people killed or tortured, and they will weaken America’s ability for years to work covertly with allies. Our state-to-state relations will be altered, and perhaps even the techniques and technology of our cyber and special operations wars dispersed into the wrong hands. There is nothing in the recent “exclusive” writings of David Sanger or David Ignatius that was necessary for the American people to know at this stage, unless one thinks that we had a right to the full story of the Doolittle Raid in 1942, or that Americans by July 1944 needed an insider account of the date and planning of D-Day, or that we should have been apprised about what was really going on in New Mexico in 1944.

Here is why Securitygate is a national outrage and goes to the heart of a free and civil society.

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The Liberal Super Nova

June 11th, 2012 - 12:00 am

Two parties, left and right, are central to good consensual government — one the perennial check on the other, both within the general boundaries of constitutional free-market capitalism.

Yet the hard-Left takeover of the Democratic Party has meant that there is no longer a credible balance in our system, as almost all the tenets of contemporary left-wing ideology are blowing up, imploding super nova style — unsustainable ideas that are contrary to human nature and demand coercion for their implementation, given that they are increasingly anti-democratic and have to be implemented from high by an elite technocracy whether in Brussels, Sacramento, or Washington.

Far too much is always seen as not enough: Greeks are angry that there was too much “austerity” and not enough of the old borrow and spend; Obama is blamed for only borrowing $5 trillion for too “little” stimulus; Democrats threaten to withhold from the community-organizer Obama because he was not hard enough on “fat cats” and the capitalist state; in California, a 10.3% income tax is too low, not too high. When the remedy is seen worse than the disease, then the patient is indeed terminal.

Let me do a brief survey of the fissuring liberal world in which we live:

Economics

All of Europe to some degree is democratic socialist, but some states–the PIGS, for example — are more so than others. So the current meltdown is a morality tale of those nations and regions that sought to stay fiscally responsible — say, Germany, Scandinavia, the Netherlands — and those that did not: France to some degree, and, of course, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and Spain. Cite geography, Catholicism versus Protestantism, weather, geography, history — any cultural barometer you like — but the truth is that one workable paradigm reflects human nature, of spending only what you make, and the other does not.

The latter insolvent states now call for “growth” instead of “austerity,” but what intellectually dishonest euphemisms! The choice is really between “borrowing to spend” and “fiscal discipline.” Frame it like that, and would Obama be demanding that Greece and Spain “borrow” more and not be fiscally disciplined? (OK, yes, he still would.)

The liberal model — borrowing huge sums, rigging interest and the currency to enable state profligacy, turning large swaths of the population into less productive unionized government workers or dependents on the dole who vote in thanks to political hacks — simply does not work. How could beautiful blue-state California lose almost a millions refugees to arid Texas? I like Texas, but Dallas had far less of nature to work with than did San Francisco. (It takes a lot of human failure for thousands to give up verdant California to move to Utah or the Nevada desert.) What we are witnessing is nothing short of surreal: in the manner that Tijuana was a different universe from San Diego, so too the entire state of California is becoming a different world from its neighbors. Whether one examines its near dead-last schools, its oppressive income and sales taxes, its decaying roads and infrastructure, its absurd prison system, its dysfunctional state offices (try the DMV), or its priestly public employee caste, California is becoming Detroit.

Do any believe pre-Walker Wisconsin was more viable than it is now? Did union memberships of public workers soar after Wisconsin state employees were given the chance to join or not join the union, or did they dip precipitously among the very class who protested the reforms? (So is it to scream publicly against Walker and then quietly go home to quit the union and get your dues back?)

From Greece to Italy to California to Wisconsin to Obama’s Washington, the verdict is in: the democratic statist model of trying to provide cradle-to-grave benefits, administered by an elite technocratic class, using demonization to bully the opposition and redistribute income, not only does not work, but cannot ever work. Note that President Obama — $5 trillion in new debt, “stimulus,” millions added to food stamps, unemployment benefits vastly expanded, near-zero interest rates, enormous subsidies for wind and solar — never concedes his blue-state neo-socialism is not working (even though it is almost impossible to stymie the U.S. economy).

Instead, the tsunami did it. No, it was the Republican Congress that after 2011 stopped all the good things he did between 2009-2010. No, it was automation like ATM machines. No, of course, George W. Bush damaged Obama’s economy in the manner that Reagan could not do anything because of Carter’s legacy. No, it was the EU and its failure to spend and “grow” more. No, the private sector is “fine”; the problem is cutting back like Walker is doing in Wisconsin.

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The Limits of German Patience

June 3rd, 2012 - 12:48 pm

(Cologne, Germany)

I’m still in Germany, and keep noticing a predictable, but continually interesting, pattern in talking to Germans of all walks of life — tourists, hoteliers, guides, drivers, casual bystanders, or students. When Greece comes up (or rather is brought up by Americans), there is a noticeable tension. Brows tighten. German smiles momentarily vanish. A second later a forced recovery and grimace follow, accompanied by a sort of pained EU propaganda speech, along the lines of “Well, yes, we all have to get along” or “We Europeans of the Union must work something out.” Then after the platitudes, we are back to silence and a look to see whether their constructed optimism worked on you.

The Scratched Veneer

But then if you press with a polite question or two — something like an innocent (or perhaps not quite so innocent) “But is it really true that the Greeks find ways to retire in their fifties while you work to 67?” or “How did those deficits get so big without being detected?” — the façade crumbles. Your German friend takes a quick look to the side, to see whether anyone is listening. And then in a quiet, but soon to be louder and finally animated voice, he starts in on the “EU racket” and “How in the world is Germany supposed to pay for all these freeloaders?”

In minutes you begin to sense that the entire cohesion of the EU is predicated now on two dubious premises. One, of course, is 70-year-old war guilt. I do not mean that in the logical sense as it pertains to the use of victimization by Mediterranean debtors (after all, how can once fascist neutrals like Spain and Portugal, or the successors of Mussolini’s Axis Italy, piggy-back onto Greece’s World War II suffering?). Rather, there is a larger guilt about the Holocaust, Hitler, and starting a war that ended up killing 50 million and, obviously, wrecking Germany (Germans like to point out the extent of the 8th Air Force’s and Bomber Command’s destruction along the Rhine, where 60-80% of some of the larger urban centers were destroyed.) War guilt, then, looms as the lever to pry out German cash, and after three generations the Germans are getting tired of it.

The second premise touches on a vaguer issue — the near admission that with a wink and a nod German companies and banks set up a sort of mercantilism, in which a Mercedes or Siemens found lucrative markets in Mediterranean Europe, got banks to back buying on time, and then sold things on credit to dubious government-sponsored entities and private corporations. After all, the Athenians had no business having one of the highest per capita rates of Mercedes ownership in Europe. Did Germans really think that siestas and 9 p.m. dinners led to prompt repayment of Audi and BMW loans?

No Players Left?

In other words, Germans seem to admit that they were playing poker with amateurs, that they knowingly took the players for a ride, and that they now find themselves with all the chips and no one anymore with the wherewithal to keep on playing. And yet they don’t think they can start over and divvy up the chips, not just because to do so would be to forfeit their winnings, but also because they suspect that the game would repeat itself identically every five or six years. They are right, which explains why the euro in its present manifestation is doomed, and why the Germans are exasperated for doing everything rightly that is now condemned as doing everything wrongly.

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