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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Why Liberals Think What They Do

October 30th, 2012 - 12:00 am

Note that Barack Obama is running not on his liberal record, but as a challenger against incumbent Mitt Romney who has done all sorts of terrible things like causing the 2008 meltdown and outsourcing jobs to China. In Obama’s view, given the supposedly tranquil world abroad, we must try nation building at home, and thus concentrate on bold new initiatives like stimulus, infrastructure, green jobs, and federalized health care — none of which have been envisioned before, much less funded. And to the extent Obama has a concrete example, he points to efforts of the private oil sector to find more gas and oil despite, rather than because of, his own efforts. Conclusion? Obama himself apparently has given up on liberal ideas in lieu of Big Bird, binders, bull****ter, movie stars, and hip-hopsters, which prompts the question: does anyone believe in liberal ideology anymore — and if so, why?

Did California’s redistributive elite really believe that they could all but shut down new gas and oil production, strangle the timber industry, idle irrigated farmland, divert water to the delta smelt, have 37 million people use a highway system designed for 15 million, allow millions of illegal aliens to enter the state without audit, extend free medical programs to 8 million of the most recent 11 million added to the population, up taxes to among the highest in the nation, and host one-third of the nation’s welfare recipients — and not have the present chaos?

The California schools — flooded with students whose first language is not English, staffed by unionized teachers not subject to the consequences of subpar teaching, and plagued with politicized curricula that do not emphasize math, science, and reading and writing comprehension — scarcely rate above those in Mississippi and Alabama. Did liberals, who wanted unions, a new curriculum, and open borders, believe it was good for the state to have a future generation — that will build our power plants, fly our airliners, teach our children, and take out our tumors — that is at the near-bottom in national test scores?

Do Bay Area greens really believe that they that will have sufficient water if they blow up the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir? Did Barack Obama think that the Keystone pipeline or new gas and oil leases in the Gulf were superfluous, or that we do not need oil to make gasoline, wheat to make flour, or to cut timber to produce wood?

Did liberals (and their hand-in-glove employer supporters who wished for cheap labor) think that letting in millions from Central Mexico, most without legality, English, or a high school education (and in some sense at the expense of thousands waiting in line for legal admission with capital, advanced degrees, and technological expertise), was not problematic and that soaring costs in law enforcement, the criminal justice system, the schools, and the health care industries were irrelevant?

What, then, are the motivations that drive so many to such absurdities? Note here that I am talking of the architects of liberalism, not of those who receive generous entitlements and whose desire for bigger government is thus existential and elemental.

Equality of result

Keen minds from Aristotle to Montesquieu and Tocqueville have lamented that the proverbial people sometimes prefer equality under authoritarianism to inequality accompanied by personal freedom. As long as there was grinding poverty, the liberal agenda of “leveling the playing field” made sense enough — Social Security, disability insurance, the 40-hour work week, and Medicare. But once modern mass production and consumption arose, energized by globalization and the entry of billions of new foreign workers into the equation, and high technology extended the appurtenances of the aristocracy to the poor (today’s ubiquitous smart phone is 100 times more versatile than yesterday’s $3,000 primitive suitcase cell phone), how could you keep promoting government-sponsored equality for the less well-off? Ensure no one has to drive a Kia? Petition on behalf of those who do not yet have an iPad?

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Do We Believe Anymore?

October 22nd, 2012 - 12:00 am

Our Age of Disbelief

We live in an age of disbelief, in which citizens increasingly do not believe what their government says or, for that matter, what is accepted as true by popular culture.

The Ministries of Truth

Do you believe any more that some of our Secret Service agents — once the most esteemed of all professionals — on presidential assignment will not get drunk and womanize in their evening spare time? Do you believe that the grandees at the GSA — once the stern penny-pinchers that frowned when bureaucrats wanted a new bookcase — won’t flaunt the waste that they incur? Do you believe that the government will never sell assault rifles to drug lords? Or do you believe what the president, the secretary of state, and the director of national intelligence will say to us when the next embassy is hit? And do you believe that there were “shovel-ready jobs” and “millions of green jobs” that arose from the “stimulus”? And what is a “stimulus” anyway, but borrowed money, in the manner likewise of “investments”? Did any of you believe that Solyndra was the wave of the future?

We don’t even believe that a commission on presidential debates will ensure us unbiased moderators, or that the candidates will have equal time in speaking, or that the supposedly quiet crowd won’t boo or clap to affect the tempo of the exchange.  From now on, will debate moderators bring preselected transcripts to the forum, wait for a key moment, interrupt one of the speakers, and then wave a piece of paper to proffer authority to contradict him — eliciting applause from the supposedly neutral and silent audience, and affirmation from the president? Do you believe First Lady Michelle Obama — of “never been proud/downright mean country” infamy — when she accuses Republicans on talking down the country?

Do you believe that the Department of Labor always assesses its data and offers disinterested conclusions? I don’t.  I suspect partisan grandees, perhaps in California, will massage the data on the principle of the ends justifying the means. The same is true of Libya: the noble idea of a reset Middle East, appreciative of the unique heritage and ideology of Barack Obama and his bold attempt to reformulate America, was simply too precious to be imperiled by al-Qaedist thugs who hate us as much as ever and will kill until stopped.

Printing Money

Our suspicions are not confined to what government of this era says and does. The disbelief is far greater still. There is a nihilism about that terrifies me. The Obama administration, trumping what George Bush did in four years, cares not a whit about how its $5 trillion in new debt will be paid back, other than a vague notion that those “who don’t pay their fair share” will come up with the revenue, or some clever clerk can offer a plan to inflate our way out of what we have borrowed from others. Each time Obama talks of a new student loan program, a new jobs training program, a new entitlement, I wonder whether any other Americans ask, “How can we borrow more when we cannot payback what we’ve already borrowed?” He reminds me of the farmers I knew in the early 1980s who in extremis kept talking of new equipment to be purchased, new trees and vines to be planted, new pick-ups to be had — even as their debts soared and the deadline when the bank cut them off and called in their loans neared. Have we become Greece or Argentina?

Challenger Obama/Incumbent Romney?

When I heard the president in the last debate, I thought I was in Cloud Cuckoo Land: he seemed to be running for office as a fresh challenger — with the same future tenses and subjunctive moods of “I will” and “I would” as he long ago used against Bobby Rush, Alan Keyes, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain, when he was the perennial potential office-holder. In other words, the president sounded as if he does not have a record to run on, only a speculative one about which to offer hypotheses. Note how Obama slept through four years and only comes alive in a campaign where he loves his own speeches, likes to accuse and belittle, and feeds off the frenzy of crowds — in comparison to all that, intelligence briefings and debate prep are a “drag.”

So what he said in these two debates was all a sort of lie, as if Mitt Romney has been president for four years or George Bush is now in his third term. The Greeks called such a busybody, non-stop talker a “polypragmôn,” someone who jumps from here to there, always talking, persuading, speechifying, but never really accomplishing anything.  The more Obama promised, the more I thought I had amnesia: did he not have two years of a Democratic Senate and House, and in the beginning with a supermajority that was filibuster-proof?

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The Obama Breaking Point

October 14th, 2012 - 10:34 pm

Was it the blame-gaming — “Bush did it!,” ATMs are at fault, tsunamis are the culprit, no other administration has had such challenges, the euro meltdown is to blame, earthquakes shook our confidence — that finally turned the country off of Obama?

For the last two years, millions of Americans have grown, ever so insidiously, tired of Barack Obama and his administration. The Tea Party brought such frustrations to the fore. And now the debates — and the ability of Romney to show millions that he is a decent, competent alternative to Obama rather than the caricatured greedy white man of Obama’s sleazy ads — are closing the deal.

In the first debate, Romney was not just far better-informed and spoken, but far more likeable. Joe Biden’s frenzied rudeness was the sort of debate performance that mesmerizes one by its very boorishness, eliciting a weird reaction in the room like “Come over and check this out: I can’t believe the Vice president of the United States is trumping The Joker” (after all, the sick Joker is more entertaining that the sober and judicious Batman) — but within hours leaves a bitter aftertaste in the mouth of something along the lines of “Surely, we could have done better than that rude buffoon?”

The election is not over, but it is starting to resemble October 29 or November 1 in 1980, when, after just one debate, the nation at last decided that it really did not like Jimmy Carter very much or what he had done, and discovered that Ronald Reagan was not the mad Dr. Strangelove/Jefferson Davis of the Carter summer television ads. Like Carter, Obama both has no wish to defend his record (who would?) and is just as petulant. In the next three weeks, he has only three hours left to save his presidency.

Do We Remember?

There are lots or reasons why various groups are tiring of Obama.  It is not just the economy, but also all the untruths about the economy over the last four years that sounded like daily communiqués from the Ministry of Truth. Do we even remember the brilliant Obama economic A-team, chomping at the bit in December 2008 to get started to pull us into the good times — a Larry Summers, Timothy Geithner (remember, he was the “genius” who almost alone knew how high finance on Wall Street worked and so had to be exempted from cheating on his tax deductions), Christina Romer, Peter Orszag, and, later, Austan Goolsbee, who have now all come and gone.

When was “Recovery Summer”? What were the “shovel-ready jobs” that were “not as … uh … shovel-ready as we expected”? Where went the stimulus? How much are we owed by GM? What happened to the Volt? Where are the “millions of green jobs”?  Did the green-shade Joe Biden really go through the stimulus line by line? And was he smirking and guffawing at what he saw?

Do we remember the mad, obscene rantings of the “Truther” Van Jones or the Mao devotee Anita Dunn? How long have Rham Emanuel and Bill Daley been gone? For many, Obama has become one Steven Chu too many.

Feet of Clay

Or maybe Obama’s problem lies with the absurdly high expectations brought about by the faux-Greek columns, vero possumus!, “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” and the promise to cool the planet and lower the seas — the sort of juvenile giddiness that brings embarrassment when one sobers up?

Did we hear one tingle up the leg or one perfect crease of the pants or one “most brilliant president” too many? When Joe Biden and Harry Reid voiced quasi-racist commentary on Obama’s white blackness, they seemed to voice the liberal tingle that they could both embrace a black man and not embrace a black man, as if voting for Obama gave them exemption from worrying about their own apartheid existences, as cosmic inclusivity allowed private exclusiveness.

Jacksonian without the Jackson

The first time candidate Obama courted rappers, appeared on celebrity TV and radio shows, or hipped it up, it was thought “cool,” a sort of armor that would ensure that the normal political invective bounced off his in-the-know defenses. Now, four years later? We have a sort of Jacksonian White House, but visited by zillionaire entertainers and without the populism. When Obama leaves Netanyahu cooling his heels to hang with Jay-Z, Beyoncé, or the ladies of The View, or flies to Vegas on news that our ambassador has been murdered, it is either crass or juvenile or both. How, millions of Americans are starting to ask, did this man become president? With well over 400 rounds of golf and 200 fundraisers under his belt, no wonder Mr. Obama had to skip the national security briefings and the debate prep — what a “drag” they were.

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Anatomy of a Disastrous Debate Performance

October 7th, 2012 - 9:56 am

The Romney-Obama debate was bizarre for so many reasons. Usually spin masters needle the media immediately to “prove” that their so-so candidate won. But after this debate, almost no one made the argument that Obama was close to winning — so great was the risk for even a toadying media to look ridiculous and so clear-cut the ineptness of the president.

Instead, the eventual spin veered to why Obama lost (e.g., altitude, a supposed tranquilizer, a supposed mysterious Kleenex for Romney, a national security crisis, etc.) and was the stuff of fantasies. And when a candidate does poorly, usually his supporters look to the bright side, in worry about their favorite’s crushed spirits, and hope in the days following the setback that perhaps their optimism might revive him. But on this occasion, the Left went nearly ballistic, in blaming Obama more than Romney for letting them down, as if a Bill Maher, Michael Moore, Andrew Sullivan, or Chris Matthews had been personally betrayed, sold out, or even played for suckers, as if they were to admit something like “we at least expect you to show up when we do so much to cover for you.”

While losing debaters often can postfacto snipe about the slickness of their successful opponent, I can’t remember a disappointed loser replaying and reconfiguring the debate over the next few days on the campaign trail, in the weird fashion Obama has been offering teleprompted counter-arguments that he could never muster on his own during the actual faceoff. The classic blowhard, after all, is the loud blusterer, who always retells his own arguments and run-ins from the perspective of his own genius, thereby offering the embarrassing proof that he regrets just how poorly he was outfoxed and outargued without a script.

The common denominator here is the old story of the vast gulf between the reality and mythology of Barack Obama. Although Obama had sometimes shown some of the smarmy cool and set-speech fluidity of a John Edwards, otherwise there was never much evidence that Obama had ever excelled in debate or repartee — perhaps explaining why he wisely had consented to the fewest press conference and one-on-one Q-and-A press sessions of any recent president. His reliance on the teleprompter has no recent presidential parallel, but was always wise even for the briefest of appearances. And yet even here, the chameleon-like set-speeches quickly become monotonous and the faux cadences jarring rather than clever.

Obama’s real preferences are instead for brief puff appearances on favorable, celebrity TV and radio shows that tend to enfeeble rather than sharpen his own analysis. And even those are rare, given his propensity to offer gaffes (in this regard, the “you didn’t build that” and “the private sector is doing fine” sort are as frequent as or more common than the far more notorious fare from Joe Biden). In such an attenuated career, we forget that Obama’s prior debate appearances have been rare, and against undistinguished debaters in group fashion during the Democratic primary and John McCain, and, in fact, were themselves largely just workmanlike and just enough to get by. His real and only political interests (and skills) are in caricaturing opponents, in a sort of trash-talking sports fashion (“you’re likeable enough, Hilary,” “fat-cat banker,” “corporate jet owner,” the limb-lopping, tonsil-pulling physicians, etc.) or in whipping up a crowd (“get in their faces,” “gun to a knife fight,” “punish our enemies,” etc.)

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The Quiet Californians

October 1st, 2012 - 7:51 pm

The Obama Paradox

No state has suffered the last four years as much as has California — given that its progressive governor and legislative majorities serve as force multipliers for the Obama national agenda. We live in a 2X Obama state. And it is desirous for twelve or sixteen, not just four, more years in Washington.

The bluest state is polling at a 20 to 24 point lead for Barack Obama. Who cares that it is struggling with nearly 11% unemployment and facing a $16 billion budget shortfall? What does it matter that its public schools rated variously from 45th to 49th in the nation and that it is home to one-third of the nation’s welfare recipients, forty percent of the nation’s illegal aliens, and the largest prison population in the country? If Ohio supposedly has a million Obama-phones, I shudder to wonder how many are in California.

Bleak? But such stats do not necessarily translate into the bad life for those Californians who vote — a least in comparison, I suppose, to Minnesota’s winters, Mississippi’s rate of welfare payouts, Baltimore’s streets, or Mexico’s police. We are living on the fumes of natural wealth and a century of prior investment by some pretty hard-working and far-sighted long dead Californians; and it takes a long time to screw all that up.

Indeed, the state’s voting population accepts the status quo: the growing underclass expects entitlements always to grow even greater; state employees are more than happy with in-the-future-unsustainable benefits and packages; and the coastal elite have enough money that they do not care whether they have to pay a bit more to subsidize others and create tranquility in their anointed souls. Meanwhile, California is clear and 78 degrees without humidity — in late September.

Fiddling While…

In other words, we are a happy-go-lucky, sunny Greece around 2004 before the fall — a Mykonos or Rhodes with a German ATM machine. Those sourpusses in the private sector who are not happy and not rich either have left or contemplate leaving — or hide and hope the scanning, red-eye gaze of Sauron in the dark tower at Sacramento passes them over, at least on this latest sweep. As one of my local critics told me, “Get over it!” and “You’re just jealous” — and, my favorite, “Why not leave, then?”

Two miles away someone found a corpse a while back in a small Selma park that was once lovely; in high school I once helped to plant trees there. The murdered? No biography, no name, no details of the deceased. I suppose someone brought him to the morgue, and some next of kin went to the coroner’s office. End of story. Forty years ago it would have been front-page news; today it is not even a footnote. The anonymous and unknown killer? I suppose I pass him often on the way into town.  The point is that corpses now just show up out here, cars are found abandoned in vineyards, and dogs wander around without owners, all as the new normal. The quietist tiptoes around it — given that those who caused the conditions who spawned the chaos are usually far away in the Berkeley Hills or Newport Beach.

More Money

This November the California voting public is poised to raise state income taxes on the top earners to over 12%, ensuring that the state’s rates top both Hawaii’s and Oregon’s. With sky-high sales and gas taxes, Californians are already the highest-taxed in the nation. The state’s schools and infrastructure are among the very worst. In the old days, one might write, “Despite high taxes, California public schools are poor.” But we are getting to the point in California where quietists say, “Because of high taxes, schools are.…” Or: “Due to high taxes, schools are….” More money, not reform, is always the answer and therefore there is never reform.

When the UC chancellor writes alumni that without a new tax hike “higher education itself is imperiled,” don’t assume that he means the UC diversity czar and his horde of $100,000 per year assistants are slated for lay-offs. He means instead that students will pay more fees and the French or classics department may be shut down. (And no, reader, there is no irony here: the targeted French professor never makes the connection that his job is in the cross-hairs because there is a new bureaucracy to figure out how Berkeley is racist by having Asians “overrepresented” four-fold, whites slightly underrepresented, and Latinos in much smaller numbers on campus than their percentages of the state population.)  

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