Belmont Club

In a Time, in an Age, at a Moment ...

Strobe Talbott’s Twitter feed said some hours ago:

Malaysian plane mystery: Direction, fuel load & range now lead some to suspect hijackers planned a 9/11-type attack on an Indian city.

An earlier Tweet on Rupert Murdoch’s account said.

World seems transfixed by 777 disappearance. Maybe no crash but stolen, effectively hidden, perhaps in Northern Pakistan, like Bin Laden.

The rich and famous have rumor networks too which but for their eminence are apparently indistinguishable from those of your Black Helicopter and White Van believer.  The unknowable is a great leveler. The Czarina of Russia believed in Rasputin so its unsurprising that the rich and famous can believe foolish things about the future. No man is infallible before the unknown, but we usually leave the guessing to the great and the good.

It was thought  that the 21st century ushered in a new era in which mankind had evolved beyond war and conflict. Indeed, Obama ran for president on the contention that terrorism was now a law enforcement problem, a fact his simian predecessor did not grasp, but which he would put  to rights by making the military an enforcer of international legal norms.

There was nothing odd in this. It was consistent with the view that mankind had entered a kind of post-historical phase, where no one, not even Vladimir Putin, could possibly revert to the 19th century mode any more. In this brave new world, the only problems left to fix were Global Warming and establishing Universal Health Care. In line with that enlightened view Europe not only neglected its defense, it acted as if none was necessary.  With the old demons dead, instead of a conquering Army the EU sent the Eastern Partnership towards the borders of the old USSR with a mandate to bring all of the former Soviet satellites into its fold by offering them trade agreements and aid.

Nor were they alone. President Obama openly campaigned for “a world without nuclear weapons”. Revealing his vision he promised to cancel “unproven defense systems” and stop spending on all “future combat systems”.   “You know where I stand,” he declared. He stood before the threshold of a shimmering new prospect. Indeed his re-election slogan for 2012 was that Detroit was alive and Osama bin Laden was dead.

Some well meaning people genuinely wanted to give enlightenment a chance. In June, 2008 Mark Morford wrote in SFGate: “Is Obama an enlightened being? … Dismiss it all you like, but I’ve heard from far too many enormously smart, wise, spiritually attuned people who’ve been intuitively blown away by Obama’s presence – not speeches, not policies, but sheer presence.”

It was a wonderful vision marred only by the sad fact that it didn’t pan out. Detroit is dead and Osama bin Laden’s ghost was probably at the controls of MH370. Other misfortunes have raised further doubts. Obama’s partner for peace, the object of his reset, the linchpin of his “world without nuclear weapons”, Vladimir Putin — is about to invade,  nay has actually invaded — Ukraine.  And the International Community is in shock.

A Western elite that was no longer interested in war found that war was still interested in it. It discovered that mankind believed to have been transformed by the turning of the calendar was the same old grasping, greedy and violent collection of individuals described in the Bhagavad-gita or the Bible.  It has not yet come to terms with this turn of events.

What do you do if you realize that the core assumptions of your governance are fundamentally wrong?  What is the remedy when you realize that instead heading for Canada you’re driving toward Mexico? Why simple. Just double down and step on the gas.  And when things get worse, double down again — not just in international affairs but even in domestic policy.

The administration has reacted to the stunning special election loss of Democrat Alex Sink to never-heard-of Republican David Jolly in Florida on the issue of Obamacare by openly preparing to swamp the 2014 election with goodies.  They’re not going to admit defeat. They’re going to burn their way through.

“The Obama administration has decided that the sequester’s mandatory spending cuts no longer apply to part of Obamacare,” according to the National Journal, which would free $560 million in subsidies for Obamacare. If that were not enough, the IRS will pay out $100 billion in Obamacare tax credits. If that’s still not enough the president has revised rules on overtime to hand out money he doesn’t have.

Because truly, if really believe you’re bound for Canada what matters the direction? If you truly believe in Obamacare, why let something insignificant like unsustainability, high premiums and insurance cancellations slow you down?

The extent to which Obama is determined to stay the course is revealed in the narrative comparison of the NYT account of sanctions applied to Putin tycoon crony Dmitry V. Firtash, who is being held by an Austrian court on a bail of “125 million euros, or $174 million, after his arrest this week on an American warrant”; and the penalty imposed on craft store chain Hobby Lobby. The store is fighting $475 million dollars in fines for not implementing the Obamacare birth control mandate:

On March 25, the U.S. Supreme Court will take up a case that has brought to light the potentially high costs of not complying with the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. The case was originally filed by Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma City company that contends it would be violating its owners’ religious beliefs if it obeys the law’s provisions requiring companies to cover birth control. But by not providing such coverage for the more than 13,000 employees eligible for its health plan, the company contends, it could face up to $475 million in fines per year.

Is there something wrong with a world where the penalty for supporting Vladimir Putin’s expansionary ambitions is $174 million while the cost to Hobby Lobby for obstructing Obama’s birth control mandate if $475 million per year?

No, not if you believe in Obama’s view of the world. If the world is as he assumes it is, then hitting Hobby Lobby harder than Putin makes complete sense. In a world where wars no longer exist; where terrorism is properly “workplace violence” and hijackers on MH370 are “pirates”;  in a time when the only real challenges left are Global Warming and transfat cooking oils;  in an age when the US military’s challenge is to accept transgender soldiers, as if Obama were about to deploy a cross-dressing army to stop Putin — then it all makes perfect sense.

But is this the real world?

What if Obama’s core assumptions are wrong in themselves; not just slightly wrong but completely, utterly and comprehensively wrong?  That is the unthinkable possibility which ordinary voters would never believe their leaders to be capable of.  We may think of our leaders fallible; as capable of occasional error, but it is hard to accept them as completely and ridiculously fatuous.

The first paragraphs were intended to illustrate that famous are not necessarily less crazy than you or I. What are the odds they can also be mistaken?


Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with you friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.

The War of the Words for $3.99, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
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No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
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