Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Steve Benen: Economic Illiterate, Moral Degenerate

Steve Benen, at the Washington Monthly, illustrates the classic leftist combination of total hubris and moral bankruptcy, in his post on Michele Bachmann, "Polling a Policy That Doesn't Exist":

New World Currency

Last week, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Looneyville) convinced herself that U.S. currency is under attack (it isn't) and the threat of a "global currency" is real (it isn't). What sparked the paranoia was a Chinese proposal to replace the dollar as the world's reserve currency, which of course has nothing to do with Bachmann's bizarre ideas.
I've written about this at length, (see, for example, "Leftists Launch "Currency Trutherism" Against Bachmann").

Actually, Ms. Bachmann didn't convince herself of anything. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's suggested last week that he was open to the displacement of the U.S. dollar as the world's reserve currency. Indeed,
Geithner specifically claimed that the world economy needed a "new global supercurrency" as a unit of international commerce and exchange. Check the links, folks. Benen's just smearing Representative Bachmann, nothing less. And for him to say that the dollar isn't under attack is completely ignorant. While we're not seeing market-crashing speculation, over the last week international investors have fled the dollar for the safety of gold on the the New York Mercantile Exchange. And as Martin Hutchinson argues at the Asia Times, there is "no reason to believe that the dollar represents a sound store of value, the principal function of a reserve currency."

So let's be clear about all of this: (1) No, it is not likely that the U.S. dollar will be replaced anytime soon, for the main reason that the U.S. economy, for all it's problems, remains the world's largest, and will continue to be the motor for growth and development worldwide for decades to come; yet (2), the Obama administration's monetary incompetence, combined with Chinese financial assertiveness, means that Representative Bachmann's demands for policy clarification from Secretary Geithner are perfectly reasonable. The U.S. dollar cannot remain the world's reserve currency forever, and Geithner's gaffe certainly reflects a subconsciousness knowledge of the dynamics of currency power in international relations.

Most people are not paying attention to this issue simply because international monetary policy is a complex areas of public affairs (see, "
Americans VERY confused about Economics and Personal Finance"). And as Michele Bachmann's not a household name, the netroots rodents of the radical left get free rein to slur her reputation. Then, of course, a lie, told often enough, becomes accepted as truth (a variant of astroturfing, so common on the left).

This is why it's important - now more than ever - to smackdown these idiots when and where they cut loose with their insane leftist trollery.


P.S.: Benen's post also makes a lame attempt to delegitimize Scott Rasmussen's polling organization, and no wonder, since on this issue, most Americans agree with Representative Bachmann: "88% Say It’s Important to Keep The Dollar as America’s Currency." And note how the background discussion to the poll demonstrates just how dishonest Steve Benen is:

China’s top government banker and a United Nations panel have both proposed that the dollar be replaced with a new global currency. However, only 21% of American adults believe the proposal is intended primarily to help the global economy.
Gird your loins, folks. Don't buy the Big Lie that Michele Bachann's an extremist (as have some on the right). As I've argued in a number of recent posts, this administration, and especially the radical left, may well destroy the United States of America.

God help this nation.

Daniel Larison's Paleoconservative Historical Revisionism

The paleoconservative mind works in strange ways.

As I noted in my recent post on
Barack Obama's neoconservative pragmatism, Daniel Larison, the "big" paleocon blogger at the American Conservative, lives in a strange world of anti-American faux-conservatism, topped off with a dollop of antiwar nihilism. For one who attacks neoconservatives as "fantasists," Larison must certainly be drinking from the same alleged draft of Koolaid as those "evil" neocons he seeks to excoriate. Today's example is from his post hammering Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who argues in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg that Iran, following the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, avoided the lapse into pacifist funk like the British, and their collapse of will during the interwar years. Netanyahu argues, in fact, that Iran's more aggressive than ever, and that the leadership in Tehran is afflicted by a "wide-eyed fanaticism" that poses a threat to Israel and the entire Middle East.

But here's
Larison's response, such as it is (he shifts the example from the British case to the French, oddly):

People will endure remarkable hardship, at least once, to expel an invader from their country. Like France after Verdun, the horrific experience might be great enough to force a nation into a purely defensive posture, but even post-WWI France, which is a better comparison with post-1988 Iran, did not sink into pacifism.

Indeed, the occupation of the Rhineland, security guarantees to central European states and the building of the Maginot Line all point not to pacifism, but to an assumption that another war might come and France should be prepared for it. The Maginot Line came out of the experience of Verdun, which was that the defensive position held the overwhelming advantage in modern warfare; the problem with the Maginot Line was not that it was defensive and therefore somehow “weak” or pacifistic, but plainly enough that it did not guard the entire border.
Larison reverts back to a discussion of Britain after this, but a brief examination of his thesis demonstrates he's simply clueless on the international politics of the pre-WWII European balance of power.

Historians have long since shown that "pacifism" in the interwar context is captured by the entire collapse of social will that indicates a stage existential crisis far beyond numbers of men under arms or military armaments. The French case is even worse than the British, for as Eugen Weber has shown in his book,
The Hollow Years: France in the 1930's, the entire national posture in France in the face of the rising Nazi challenge was one of national decay, moral laziness, and cowardly inaction. If anything, the Maginot was the greatest French symbol of the refusal to fight. I mean, really, the Maginot Line was a huge national system of underground bunkers within which French troops could hide from German Panzer divisions! There was no "overwhelming" advantage to defense on the eve of World War II. It was the opposite, as the German High Command's blitzkrieg strategy was to illustrate in the rapid defeat of the French in 1940. Basic books of French interwar history have covered the theme of French pacifism and moral decay for decades. William Shirer's The Collapse of the Third Republic is the central first-hand journalistic account, and the outstanding scholarly synthesis of the historiography can be found in Robert Young's, France and the Origins of the Second World War. Young's theme is strategic "ambivalence" rather than pacifism, so if folks want to quibble with details, you might be able to throw Larison a bone with that.

But France isn't really as important here as is Iran's manifest intentions toward strategic domination of the Mideast region. Larison's going to downgrade the threat from Tehran because I seriously doubt he believes in Israel's right to exist, and he certainly doesn't support America's historic stand in support of the Jewish state. It's not in the "national interest," you know.

In any case, there was another interesting debate on Iran today, surrounding the publication of a propaganda piece
in today's Los Angeles Times by Ali Akbar Javanfekr, a spokeman for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The essay is a respone to President Barack Obama's "Nowruz Address." Read the whole thing. This part is especially good:

The Iranian nation, in keeping with true Islamic precepts, does not covet the territory of other countries and has not attacked any other country. We have always acted only in defense of our land. We wish other countries well, and we even pray for our foes. We hate death and destruction -- and wish prosperity and a better life for all nations.

Our Iranian civilization, culture, beliefs, traditions and Islamic values are incompatible with terror, war and bloodshed. Mr. Obama should take note that the era of gaining superiority through weaponry and state-sponsored terrorism has expired. The world must move forward ruled by divine values, rationality, morality and respect for culture.
But check out, for contrast, Abraham at Occidental Soapbox, and his comments on Obama's diplomatic outreach to Iran:

Obama's communiqué to Iran is not the manifestation of a new era in foreign policy. His is a well-worn foreign policy of appeasing implacable enemies. Obama is insisting to himself and to us as a nation that his peace overtures will somehow be received productively by a regime whose constitution is based directly on the Quran and which has contempt for our very notion of what life is and should be. And so the mutual respect Obama apparently seeks with Iran is by definition impossible. The United States is simply treading water, albeit more eloquently under Obama than under Bush, while our destructive and ultimately self-destructive enemy strengthens itself and prepares for the inevitable conflict.

We have learned that our President can pronounce "Eid-eh Shoma Mobarak", but we have not been given any compelling reason to hope for a non-violent political solution to the confrontation with Iran. It is the most dangerous foreign policy conundrum of our time, and will become increasingly dangerous if Mr. Obama's friendly orations continue with no political horizon in sight.
In any case, Daniel Larison can chew on this for a while.

I'll have more later ...

Yes We Can! ... Overthrow the Government!

This photo shows neo-Marxist anti-globalization protesters at a London demonstration on Saturday, March 28th. For the complete slideshow, see "In photos: 'Britain G20 Protests'."

G20 Protests

At the Los Angeles Times' slideshow, one photo shows protesters hoisting a banner that reads, "Can We Overthrow the Government? ... Yes We Can!"

Note that President Barack Obama has now
touched down in Britain, and security is extremely tight. The Daily Mail reports, "City on alert for anarchy as Obama sweeps into London for G20 talks with world leaders." At Bloomberg, "London Protesters Threaten Bankers, Evoke Executions."

the Wall Street Journal's describes the preparations as "fortress-like security for world leaders," and the article features a photo of a protest-banner that reads, "Capitalism Isn't Working ... Another World is Possible."

I pray for the president's safety, but for those who say, "it couldnt' happen here" ... it already is, here and
here , and that's just for starters.

Sarah Palin: Compassion, Confidence, Leadership

Courtesy of Conservatives for Sarah Palin, check out this Sarah Palin promotional trailer, "Soul & Fire":

Palin's clearly threatenting to the political left. As Greg Sargent reported yesterday, "Sarah Palin Is The New Rush Limbaugh."

Commissar in Chief

I guess Robert Romano sent this out before David Horowitz put up his essay yesterday warning against "Obama Derangement Syndrome":

New Order

Romano says a "new order" has arrived in America:

This new order is decidedly fascist, and it will rapidly proceed to being outright socialist. First, the monster will subsidize, then it will take ownership, and then it will destroy the American economy.
But check out Investor's Business Daily as well, "Meet The New Boss":

A president of the United States orders the chief executive officer of General Motors to resign. The same president is further ordering Chrysler to merge with Fiat, the Italian firm specializing in flimsy cardboard boxes on wheels.

This new reality should send a chill down the spines of all Americans. The federal government has begun to run U.S. companies.

President Obama said Monday, "my team will be working closely with GM to produce a better business plan."

To that confident assertion he added these stern sentiments:

"They must ask themselves: Have they consolidated enough unprofitable brands? Have they cleaned up their balance sheets, or are they still saddled with so much debt that they can't make future investments? Above all, have they created a credible model for how not only to survive, but to succeed in this competitive global market?"

Who is in a better position to know the answers to these questions? Rick Wagoner, the GM CEO for nine years and former GM chief financial officer who has been with the automaker since the late 1970s, even running one of its foreign affiliates in Brazil, and who holds a Harvard Business School MBA?

Or President Obama, a former community activist from the south side of Chicago with a great rhetorical gift?

The president answered that question this week by ordering Wagoner's firing.

Imagine if it were not GM, but your own small business employing a handful of people.
I've long refrained from attacking Barack Obama for his totalitaraian inclinations, and I recently praised President Obama on his "pragmatism" in foreign policy; but this administration's recent moves on the economy are simply breathtaking in the centralization of power in the bureaucratic state. It's no wonder those tea parties keep growing.

Related: Via Memeorandum, David Brooks dubs the president "Car Dealer in Chief," but I like "commissar" better. See also, Law and Order Teacher, "Nationalization Continues."

On Income Inequality

I blog too much on nutbob extraordinaire Matthew Yglesias already, so I ignored his recent comments on taxing the rich. The guy is so far out on the left he's literally off the charts:

What if we had a 95 percent marginal tax rate on income over $10 million? What dire consequences would flow from this? What dire consequences?
But Maggie's Farm has responded, here, and especially, here:

While it may be overly simplistic to divide people into the producers (of profits) and the non-producers, there is still something to it. And there is something to it psychologically too, because the non-producers often carry a small secret uncomfortable feeling about being more directly dependent on the effort and profit of others to produce the $ to cover their paychecks.

The creation of wealth is a kind of magic from which everyone benefits. I am sick of the CEO-bashing and business-bashing and bashing of commerce. The Left acts according to the foolish and economically moronic illusion that wealth (and poverty) are static, and operate on a zero-sum basis. That's what "Gimme yours" comes from.
There's more at the link.

Dan Collins, see also the great piece at American Thinker, "Whom the Gods Would Destroy":
What are we to make of liberal Americans who live with obsessional hatred of their own country? Especially when their country is the most prosperous, lovable, and overall, the most benevolent country in the world?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Angie Harmon: "I Disagree With Obama"

I miss watching Angie Harmon, and not just for her wholesome attractiveness. As Jack McCoy's assistant district attorney on Law and Order, her voice alone would melt you.

Angie Harmon

Now, this post is not an official "Rule 5" entry. Considering Ms. Harmon's in the news today, for her comments on Barack Obama, I'd suggest this entry qualifies as "using cheesecake in a highly relevant fashion," as my friend Stogie has suggested.

But check out the article for yourself, "Angie Harmon: I'm Not Racist Because I Disagree With Obama":

Angie Harmon is not afraid to come out and say she doesn’t like how President Obama is handling the job — but she’s sick of having to defend herself from being deemed a racist.

"Here's my problem with this, I'm just going to come out and say it. If I have anything to say against Obama it's not because I'm a racist, it's because I don't like what he's doing as President and anybody should be able to feel that way, but what I find now is that if you say anything against him you're called a racist," Harmon told Tarts at Thursday’s Los Angeles launch of the new eyelash-growing formula, Latisse. "But it has nothing to do with it, I don’t care what color he is. I’m just not crazy about what he's doing and I heard all about this, and he’s gonna do that and change and change, so okay … I'm still dressing for a recession over here buddy and we've got unemployment at an all-time high and that was his number one thing and that's the thing I really don't appreciate. If I'm going to disagree with my President, that doesn't make me a racist. If I was to disagree with W, that doesn't make me racist. It has nothing to do with it, it is ridiculous."

Speaking of dislikes, the starlet has also had enough of the double-standards in the media.
"I do think McCain would have done a better job, only because I think he has more experience. I also think if W or John McCain or Reagan would have gone and done a talk show, the backlash would have been so huge and in his face, and ‘What is our president doing? How unclassy!’ But Obama does it and no one says anything," Harmon said.

And in spite of the scornful opinions most of her Tinseltown counterparts have shared on Gov. Sarah Palin, Harmon remains a true fan.

"I admire any kind of woman like her. My whole motto is to know what I stand for and know what I don't stand for and have the courage to live my life accordingly and she does exactly that. The fact that this woman has made the decisions she's made and literally lived her life according to that and takes heat for it is absolutely disgusting to me," she added. "People cannot look at this woman. I really think they're afraid of her and her morals, ethics and values and the fact that she hangs on them. Is she the most experienced person in the world? But she was running to be the Vice President, so we then put the most inexperienced person as the President. That didn't make any sense to me."

Now, that's talking hot conservative politics!

There's more at
the link, via Memeorandum.

Ann Althouse Marriage Controversy

I sent Ann Althouse an e-mail congratulating her on her recent engagement (as did many others, no doubt). She's marrying her longtime commenter Meade, and this is after two years of communicating online and a couple of months of courting in person.

Andrew Sullivan has issues with it, and Althouse responds:

Why is this something that you choose to mock? Is there something ridiculous about a blogger coming to love someone who she first knew through writing in the comments and developed an affection for over a period of years? Or is it just that we decided to marry within 2 months of meeting each other in person? My parents met in the Army and got married 2 weeks later and loved each other until they died many decades later. I'd really like to know what part of my experience deserves "OMFG."
AND: Sullivan posts the time line part of the email I sent him and says:

I did watch [Bloggingheads], but got a little confused with the various timelines (I'm not much clearer now). And I'm all in favor of the right of straight bloggers to marry their straight commenters. It's a civil right. And more than I am currently allowed after living with my husband for almost five years.

This isn't about legal rights. This is about how individuals treat each other, and I want to know why you disrespected me. Explain why you linked to Pandagon's scurrilous OMFG, which, as you know, means "Oh, my fucking God." Is that the way you mean to speak to me? Is that the way you talk about God?

I doubt Ann will be doing Bloggingheads.tv with Sullivan anytime soon. Why she still tolerates Matthew Yglesias is beyond me, but Ann's nice that way ...

The "OMFG" reference is to
Jesse Taylor at Pandagon, who illustrates one more time the demonology and intolerance of the nihilist left.


UPDATE: Meade provides a phenomenal reason why folks should read the comments sections:
I agree with Beta Conservative in objecting to the personal attacks on Andrew Sullivan. I also agree with Althouse and many others that, as free and full citizens of this great nation, same sex couples deserve all the rights and responsibilities accorded to opposite sex couples.

FWIW, the digital arc that led me to the woman who I love and promise to marry went something like this: Somewhere around September 25, 2001, I read an article on Islamist terrorism in the NYT magazine by a writer who was new to me, Andrew Sullivan. I found that article to be eloquent and persuasive. A web search on his name led me to Andrew's blog which led me to James Lilek's blog, Glenn Reynold's blog, and, finally, Ann Althouse's blog.

Although I have disagreed with some of the positions he's taken since 2001, I will be forever grateful to Andrew Sullivan for what he wrote following September 11 and for being the first in a series of links that led me to my true love, Ann Althouse.
Now that's some interesting degrees of separation.

Cattlemen's Culture Fades in San Diego County

This morning's Los Angeles Times features the story of Steve Tellam, a fourth-generation cowboy in San Diego County. Tellam's cattle business has dwindled since the 1970s, his herd slipping from over 6000 head to 500 today.

Steve Tellam possesses a century's worth of accumulated knowledge about a way of life that is all but extinct in Southern California. Great wealth is not the goal. The singular passion and purpose he has for his work is its own reward.

"If we broke down what we make to hours worked - that would be too depressing," Tellam says. "But I still have the greatest job in the world. I ride horses every day. I'm out here with eagles, wild turkey, deer - all this wildlife. I have freedom. It's a great life and a tough business."

Read the whole thing at the link.

Tellam has broken his kneecaps three times*, his knee plates twice, and his collarbone. He can't remember how many fingers he's broken. "He nearly lost a hand when his wrist got tangled in a rope tied to an angry cow." He can't get comprehensive health insurance, because companies won't underwrite it for him. He's pays $1000 a month for catastrophic coverage, a sign of cowboy individualism and self-reliance (and a part of the culture's that's slipping away as well).

* Correction appended.

David Frum: "Conservatism as an Alienated Cultural Sensibility"

Readers may recall my earlier post on Glenn Beck, "Worst Case Scenario? Preparing for Anarchy in America," as well as my more recent entry, "Michele Bachmann, Saving America," which features video of Beck hammering Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's market-crashing gaffe on the replacement of the dollar as the world's reserve currency.

Well, Beck's in the news today with the New York Times' essay, "
Fox News’s Mad, Apocalyptic, Tearful Rising Star," plus the additional commentary at Memeorandum.

The article praises Beck, saying that the Fox News host "is suddenly one of the most powerful media voices for the nation’s conservative populist anger." Then the Times proceeds to tear him down as if he's some whacked out Black Copter/Roswell conspiracist. That meme alone would be unsurprising coming from the Times. But what caught my attention is that the essay includes an interview with David Frum, who is foisted off as some reference authority on Beck's supposedly marginalizing conservative appeal:

The conservative writer David Frum said Mr. Beck’s success “is a product of the collapse of conservatism as an organized political force, and the rise of conservatism as an alienated cultural sensibility.”

“It’s a show for people who feel they belong to an embattled minority that is disenfranchised and cut off,” he said.
Frum's not the only "authority" on conservative populism cited at the article. But his inclusion here is highly significant, in that he's a key ringleader for a "new right" of "progressive Republicans." Recall that Frum, along with David Brooks, is leading the "dinner party conservatives" in their attacks on the grassroots tea party movement now sweeping the nation, so expect to see more marginalization of folks like Glenn Beck, Glenn Reynolds, Michelle Malkin, and Little Miss Attila, who are rallying a real salt-of-the-earth constituency against the Obamocratic Europeanization of America.

The Left's War on Sovereignty

I just watched a brief interview with John Bolton on Fox & and Friends. His comments on the show reminded me of his recent article in Commentary, "The Coming War on Sovereignty":

While the term “sovereignty” has acquired many, often inconsistent, definitions, Americans have historically understood it to mean our collective right to govern ourselves within our Constitutional framework. Today’s liberal elite, by contrast, sees sovereignty as something much more abstract and less tangible, and thus a prize of less value to individual citizens than it once might have been. They argue that the model accepted by European countries in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, which assigned to individual nation-states the right and responsibility to manage their own affairs within their own borders, is in the process of being superseded by new structures more appropriate to the 21st century.

In this regard, they usually cite the European Union (EU) as the new model, with its 27 member nations falling under the aegis of a centralized financial system administered in Brussels. On issue after issue, from climate change to trade, American liberals increasingly look to Europe’s example of transnational consensus as the proper model for the United States. That is particularly true when it comes to national security, as John Kerry revealed when, during his presidential bid in 2004, he said that American policy had to pass a “global test” in order to secure its legitimacy.

This is not a view with which the broader American population has shown much comfort. Traditionally, Americans have resisted the notion that their government’s actions had to pass muster with other governments, often with widely differing values and interests. It is the foreign-policy establishment’s unease with this long-held American conviction that is the motivating factor behind A Plan for Action, which represents a bold attempt to argue that any such set of beliefs has simply been overtaken by events.
Bolton's making specific reference to a new plan, from the Brookings Institution, under consideration at the Obama White House, "A New Era of International Cooperation for a Changed World: 2009, 2010, and Beyond."

In addition to Bolton's article, see Mark Steyn's recent National Review cover story, "
Prime Minister Obama: Will European Statism Supplant the American Way?"

Steyn links to another Brookings author, Parag Khanna, and his article, "
The Metrosexual Superpower: The Stylish European Union Struts Past the Bumbling United States on the Catwalk of Global Diplomacy."

Steyn has the take down of Khanna's piece

The war on sovereignty is a war on American power and leadership. And should should we indeed see the collapse of American leading role in world politics, we will see as well the collapse of Western civilization.

Andrew Breitbart on the Left's Internet Hooligans

Via Memeorandum, check out Andrew Breitbart's essay on the digital disinformation war leftists have waged on conservatives, "Online Activists on the Right, Unite!":

Uninvited Democratic activists are on a mission to demoralize the enemy - us. They want to ensure that President Obama is not subject to the same coordinated, facts-be-damned, multimedia takedown they employed over eight long years to destroy the presidency - and the humanity - of George W. Bush.

The left ... uses disinformation to inundate the advertisers of conservative-leaning talk shows to intimidate them from financially supporting popular mainstream shows.
Which is what Think Progress is attempting to do with Bill O'Reilly right now.

But what's especially noteworthy for me is Breitbart's discussion of the left's secular demonology, which
I've discussed on this blog many times:

So now that the right is vanquished and thoroughly out of power, why doesn't it learn from its conquerors and employ similar tactics?

The answer is obvious. The right, for the most part, embraces basic Judeo-Christian ideals and would not promote nor defend the propaganda techniques that were perfected in godless communist and socialist regimes. The current political and media environment crafted by supposedly idealistic Mr. Obama resembles Hugo Chavez's Venezuela more than John F. Kennedy's America.

The Huffington Post, Daily Kos and other left-leaning sites benefit from the right's belief that there are rules and decorum in political debate and civic engagement. Of course, every now and then, a curious right-winger will go in and engage in discussion at a left-wing site, but rarely under purely disingenuous and mass coordinated means.

David Brock, John Podesta, am I missing something?

As a prolific consumer of online content, I value nothing more than the sincere expression of opinion that differs from mine. Sometimes I am even moved or swayed from my dogma. But that was not the type of communication that got Mr. Obama elected.

The American right is in a heap of trouble in a media age that doesn't shun the goons and liars that have poisoned the political process and won the American presidency by breaking the rules of fair play. It is time to fight back, but it won't be easy. The enemy is willing to do and say anything in order to win.
One of the left's great representatives of radical secular demonology is here.

See also Saber Point for a discussion of "
The Dirty Online War Against Conservatives."


UPDATE: Robert Stacy McCain has a big, awesome essay on this, see, "Andrew Breitbart Shows Why He's Becoming One of the Most Important Columnists in America Today."

Sunday, March 29, 2009

American Europeanization

Mark Steyn's recent essay at National Review, "Prime Minister Obama: Will European Statism Supplant the American Way?", is the best essay yet on the steamroller to socialism that is the Barack Obama presidency:

Most Americans don’t yet grasp the scale of the Obama project. The naysayers complain, Oh, it’s another Jimmy Carter, or It’s the new New Deal, or It’s LBJ’s Great Society applied to health care. You should be so lucky. Forget these parochial nickel’n’dime comparisons. It’s all those multiplied a gazillionfold and nuclearized — or Europeanized, which is less dramatic but ultimately more lethal. For a distressing number of American liberals, the natural condition of an advanced, progressive Western democracy is Scandinavia, and the U.S. has just been taking a wee bit longer to get there. You’ve probably heard academics talking about “the Swedish model” and carelessly assumed they were referring to the Britt Ekland retrospective on AMC. If only. And, incidentally, fond though I am of Britt, the fact that I can think of no Swedish dolly bird of the last 30 years with which to update that gag is itself a telling part of the problem. Anyway, under the Swedish model, state spending accounts for 54 percent of GDP. In the U.S., it’s about 40 percent. Ten years ago, it was 34 percent. So we’re trending Stockholmwards.

And why stop there? In Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales, government spending accounts for between 72 and 78 percent of the economy, which is about the best a “free” society can hope to attain this side of complete Sovietization. Fortunately for what’s left of America’s private sector, “the Welsh model” doesn’t have quite the same beguiling euphony as “the Swedish model.” Even so, if Scandinavia really is the natural condition of an advanced democracy, then we’re all doomed. And by “doomed” I’m not merely making the usual overheated rhetorical flourish in an attempt to persuade you to stick through the rather dry statistics in the next paragraph, but projecting total societal collapse and global conflagration, and all sooner than you think.
Many folks have certainly heard similar warnings of the left's demands for American Europeanization, but Steyn's analysis is so lucid, putting demographic, economic, and globalizing factors into such stark analytical focus, that the argument here must be considered the benchmark by which "Obamunist" arguments are measured.

Read the whole thing,

Escaping Concentrated Poverty

William Julius Wilson, a sociologist at Harvard University, and one of the nation's premier experts on black poverty, has a new lead article at Political Science Quartery, "The Political and Economic Forces Shaping Concentrated Poverty." Here's a snippet from the introduction:

If television cameras had focused on the urban poor in New Orleans, or in any inner-city ghetto, before Katrina, I believe that the initial reaction to descriptions of poverty and poverty concentration would have been unsympathetic. Public opinion polls in the United States routinely reflect the notion that people are poor and jobless because of their own shortcomings or inadequacies. In other words, few people would have reflected on how the larger forces in society adversely affect the inner-city poor: segregation, discrimination, a lack of economic opportunity, failing public schools. However, because Katrina was clearly a natural disaster that was beyond the control of the inner-city poor, Americans were much more sympathetic. In a sense, Katrina turned out to be something of a cruel natural experiment, wherein better-off Americans could readily see the effects of racial isolation and chronic economic subordination.

Despite the lack of national public awareness of the problems of the urban poor prior to Katrina, social scientists have rightly devoted considerable attention to concentrated poverty, because it magnifies the problems associated with poverty in general: joblessness, crime, delinquency, drug trafficking, broken families, and dysfunctional schools. Neighborhoods of highly concentrated poverty are seen as dangerous, and therefore they become isolated, socially and economically, as people go out of their way to avoid them.

In this article, I provide a framework for understanding the emergence and persistence of concentrated urban poverty. I pay particular attention to poor inner-city black neighborhoods, which have the highest levels of concentrated poverty.
The article is brief for a research manuscript, so readers ought not feel overwhelmed. There's little academic jargon, and no big overarching theory.

Unfortunately, while Wilson's analysis of the structural causes of concentrated poverty are reasonably hypothesized, his recommendations for public policy are not much different than those offered by the Democratic Party under Great Society liberalism in the 1960s. Wilson's right that tight labor market's provide opportunity and upward mobility for the "truly disadvantaged." Yet, a shift away from conservative growth policies to statist public assistance approaches (a key part of Wilson's plan) will only further entrench the underclass Wilson so much wants to help. We need robust economic growth and avenues for people to get up and out of the inner cities. Urban renewal's a fine goal (something that seems central to Wilson's agenda), but alleviating poverty is entirely possible in the absence of restoration of robust inner cities. Combining these goals seems to naturally assume that living in the nation's urban cores is the exclusive residence pattern for the traditional poor and minorities. But I can't imagine improved futures for society's worst off if urban spatial assignment in a big-government regime of traditional welfare state provision is offered as a "new" paradigm for a problem that's as old as industrialization.

On the Denial of Evil...

Be sure to read the full essay at Critical Narrative, "Cultural Arrogance and the Denial of Evil," which offers a penetrating contrast between the moral clarity of George W. Bush and the multicultural relativism of Barack Obama:

Obama is touted as a post-modern, post-racial (whatever that means) president. An intelligent, multicultural citizen of the world ... Yet, he demonstrates precious little knowledge of even the most basic ideas of culture. He does not seem to accept that he is American in his essence and that his core values and beliefs are not those of the rest of the world.

At the core of this highly-extolled belief is a denial of other cultures' intricacies and even their existences. In an effort to make ourselves closer to other cultures, we have taken the short-cut. Instead of attempting to understand the other, the multiculturalist learns enough to make analogies with America and then foolishly proclaims "Oh, they're just like us," and then assigns them our value system. Thus our understanding is preceded by our demand for the other culture's conformity to our conceptions.

From this mind-set we get lines from Obama such as "Indeed, you will be celebrating your New Year in much the same way that we Americans mark our holidays -- by gathering with friends and family, exchanging gifts and stories, and looking to the future with a renewed sense of hope." Such superficial similarities are touted and thought of as being some sort of inroad to deep understanding. Golly gee! Why this sounds just like our Christmas or a birthday! Wholly missing is any attempt to understand the cultural significance of such foreign holidays, the values it espouses, and the stamp that it makes the minds of the people. Rather ironic is multiculturalism's demand that such shallow comparisons be used to make ourselves understood to others. We make them judge us in the same superficial manner in which we judge them.

Yet even the concept of evil is uncomfortable for mainstream America. It's something from movies, presented as enticing, darkly intelligent and melodramatic (like Hannibal Lecter and Jigsaw from the endless string of "Saw" films). But it is also safely isolated from reality-- a Hollywood trick designed to titillate our sense of macabre, not unlike the make-up effects of zombie flicks or slasher films. To suggest now that evil is real is not unlike suggesting that the "Force is with us."

Bush was roundly criticized for his "Axis of Evil" concept, and intellectuals (and those who pretend to be) often bashed him for his "wild west" good versus evil mentality. Apparently we're too smart and sophisticated for such antiquated concepts.

When mentioning Hitler and the Nazis, most people can agree that they were indeed evil, but when asked why most just mumble things about the holocaust and WWII. Many roll their eyes as if the question itself is ridiculous. Of course Nazis are evil... It's as if asking if the sky was blue. Nazis have become transformed in our eyes, warped into demons and monsters... and of course monsters are evil. And when we do this, when we cut ourselves off from the truth of the matter-- the truth that Nazis were living, breathing, passionate, rational and intelligent human beings-- then we learn nothing from the horrifically expensive lessons of WWII. The simple truth of the matter, something that never sat very well in the minds of the WWII generations, is that living, passionate, rational, and intelligent human beings are capable of great evil and the greatest of atrocities. It is essential to approach the Nazis first and foremost as human beings. When we dehumanize the Nazis, dismiss them as cartoonish villains and bogeymen, we cannot begin to understand the way in which this evil came about and how it has repeated itself since.

Such approaches don't sit well with our fashionable humanist attitudes of today, the open celebrations of the human spirit (though we so seem to know so little of it), the hallowing of our great compassion and our so vehemently believed in natural compulsion for good. This belief persists despite the great atrocities of the recent past (the holocaust, the genocides of the Khmer Rouge, the Japanese' wholesale murders of Nanking and much of China and Southeast Asia, the devastation in Rwanda, the mass killing in Uganda, the multiple genocides perpetrated by Red China, the millions [possibly tens of millions] killed by Stalin, the Turkish attempt to eradicate the Armenians, etc.) that demonstrate man's capibility for great destruction. Armed only with optimism that seems born purely of self-love and humanistic faith, we mostly ignore all this evil. If we do acknowledge it, we shunt it off as the work of dehumanized monsters such as the Nazis, offer excuses (a friend of mine actually compared the building of the Hoover Dam with Kim Il-sung's brutal North Korean "modernizations"-- "people die when building infrastructure") and deny evidence. But mostly we don't allow it to sink in, we refuse to internalize this ugly affront to our beautiful conception of human nature.

Hat Tip: And So it Goes in Shreveport.

The Ashley Biden Cocaine Scandal

Is the Obama White House Dazed and Confused?

We've got a couple of stories in the news this morning that will further clarify the battle lines in the culture wars. On the one hand,
The Politico's story this morning reports that the marijuana issue is "suddenly smoking hot." The article, by Professor Jeremy Mayer, suggests that criminalization is archaic:

Smoking pot doesn’t cause schizophrenia, but marijuana as an issue sure gives our political system the symptoms. We have just elected our third president in a row who at least tried marijuana in early adulthood, yet it remains illegal.

Beyond imprisonment, one of my policy students, who was honest As we discovered again this week, President Obama, like his two predecessors, supports imprisoning people for making the same choices he made.

Beyond imprisonment, one of my policy students, who was honest on a security clearance about her one time use of pot, could lose her job for doing what Clinton, Bush and Obama did.

On television, leading comedian Jon Stewart and America’s sweetheart, Sandra Bullock, swap pot smoking stories with lighthearted abandon, laughing along with their audience, who, like most Americans, end up voting for politicians who support draconian punishments for pot users and dealers.

Year after year, major Hollywood films like Pineapple Express show potsmoking in a positive light, yet legalization remains unmentionable to both our political parties. And America’s most popular Olympian, Michael Phelps, like the majority of people his age, has tried pot, but loses millions in sponsorship when it is revealed that he has done what most of his fans have done.

Several states have legalized medical marijuana, and a few are contemplating decriminalization, and yet, other states are about to prevent those whose urine tests positive for marijuana from receiving desperately needed benefits to which they would otherwise be legally entitled.

At least eight states, including Kansas, Oklahoma, and West Virginia, are actively considering making drug tests mandatory for food stamps, welfare, or unemployment. In a classic demonstration of how America has always had one drug law for the rich and one for the poor, no one has suggested drug testing recipients of billions in bailout cash. We could probably save a lot of money by testing Wall Street financiers for pot (or cocaine, for that matter).

Perhaps these accumulated paradoxes have finally become large enough for the nation to begin reconsidering its position on pot. For an issue that has been in stasis for decades, marijuana is suddenly hot, one might even say, smoking.

The second story is the report that Ashley Biden, daughter of Vice President Joseph Biden, has allegedly been videotaped snorting cocaine at a party in Wilmington, Delaware. The New York Post offers a scandalous lede:

A "friend" of Vice President Joseph Biden's daughter, Ashley, is attempting to hawk a videotape that he claims shows her snorting cocaine at a house party this month in Delaware.
Radar Online has more:

The tape has been viewed by a RadarOnline.com freelance reporter who confirms the woman looks identical to Ashley Biden.

Tom Dunlap, an attorney for Dunlap, Grubb and Weaver in Washington D.C. is representing the seller of the tape in brokering a deal and several news organizations have seen the footage.

In addition to RadarOnline.com, representatives for the New York Post, a large British newspaper and the National Enquirer have all viewed the tape.

News clips show that Ashley Biden was once arrested for marijuana possession while she was a college student in New Orleans in 1999. The charges were later dismissed.

In 2002, The Los Angeles Times reported that Ashley, then 21, was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of obstructing a police officer outside a Chicago bar.
Ashley Biden is now a social worker for a public child-welfare agency in Delaware. In that position, she must see dysfunctional families whose lives are torn apart by poverty, joblessness, domestic violence, welfare dependency, and alcohol and drug abuse.

None of the
stories online have posted the video, and some are completely dismissing the rumors. But let's assume that the allegations are true, and that Ashley Biden is a pot-smoking cokehead. This is a woman who has been arrested for both marijuana possession and for some kind of scuffling with police officers at a Chicago bar. Ms. Biden's pattern of prior events alone suggests something of a freewheeling spirit, and in my opinion the allegations of her cocaine use are realistically plausible.

So first of all, where's all the outrage on the left?

Andrew Sullivan, after the Michael Phelps drug scandal came to light, asked "does anyone think that smoking pot would give him an unfair advantage in the pool? Please. When on earth are we going to grow up as a culture?" But recall that Sullivan led the attack on Sarah Palin's family as well, and he wrote recently that "I regret nothing about my blogging about Sarah Palin last year and would do it again ..." I'd bet most families would be nearly as upset with their child's marijuana and cocaine abuse as they would with unmarried pregnancies. Does Sullivan have anything to say about the vice-presidential drug scandal? If Bristol Palin cocaine tapes were being shopped around, the bareback blogger would be going ape-crazy over the story. Who needs to grow up?

And how about the mainstream media? Obama's marijuana smoking is a big story at The Politico, and
decriminalization is the rage, so where's the coverage of Ashley Biden and the Biden family's apparenet social problems? Can you say double standard?

I grew up in the hothouse high school days of the
Dazed and Confused 1970s. I am a parent of young children and I oppose the decriminalization of marijuana because I think the drug is a life-waster. I take seriously the clinical the medical science that finds marijuana use to be a gateway to the abuse of illicit hard drugs and alcohol dependence, and even if some research shows a reduced likelihood of progression from marijuana to hard drugs in recent decades, there is simply no reasonable circumstance that society should see the collapse of the NORMATIVE and legal prohibitions on the use of these substances.

That is to say, we should expect to see just as much media attention and concomitant public concern had Ashley Biden been videotaped allegedly smoking a big fat reefer rather than doing lines. Both marijuana smoking and cocaine use are embedded in the deeper social pathology of self-destructiness and the collapse of moral values. Let's see the big liberal blogs and the mainstream press stand up for some values here, if not journalistic consistency.


UPDATE: The Times of London is going with the story, "
US Vice-President Joe Biden's daughter Ashley filmed snorting lines of cocaine."

Young Conservatives at Mark Levin Book Signing

Via Glenn Reynolds, who links to Philip Eveland, check out these young conservative ladies, saying hello to Sean Hannity at a Mark Levin book signing, in Tysons Corner, Virginia, for Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto:

Watch more videos at the link.

What'd I say about
conservatives and the youth vote?

There's definitely some excitement in the air on the political right! Folks need a great deal of enthusiasm to wait in line five hours at a signing event for a conservative author and talk radio host.

Obama's Budget Failure

Check out Matthew Continetti's new essay at the Weekly Standard, "A Big, Fat Failure: Obama's Budget Makes a Bad Situation Worse":

RamireObama Budget

Well, it's about time. The Beltway is waking up to the realities of President Obama's budget plan, which taxes, spends, and borrows as far as the eye can see. The president's vast new commitments in the areas of health care, energy, and education have already spooked small-government Republicans and the foreign investors who help finance America's public debt. Now even some Democrats are beginning to realize that the president's fiscal policies are unsustainable in the long--and maybe medium--run. What took them so long?

The realities of the modern global economy require government to play a substantial role in ensuring the national and economic security of the people. Americans aren't going to dismantle the welfare state. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are--like the Pentagon--here to stay. The task, then, is to ensure that those programs are sensibly structured and financed, and compatible with robust economic growth. And on this score, Obama's budget is a big, fat failure.

It's true, as he so often reminds us, that Obama inherited a public debt that had doubled to 40 percent of GDP from 20 percent, and an economy in the midst of a deep recession. But Obama proposes to take a bad situation and make it much worse.

It was pretty much inevitable that government would pick up the pieces of the financial crisis and its aftermath. A stimulus bill and some form of bank bailout were going to be facts of life. And tax revenues are plunging thanks to the recession. So the federal government's balance sheet was always going to deteriorate in 2009. The problem is that Obama's policies would move us from deterioration to disaster. The national debt Obama gripes about? His budget will double it to 80 percent of GDP in 2019. Whatever that is, it's not "a new era of responsibility."

The debt burden, moreover, is likely to increase as tax hikes weigh down the economy. Obama's budget brings rates up to Clinton-era levels. But those rates probably will be raised even more to service a growing debt and pay for new spending. And don't forget the added levies that will hit us if Obama has his way. There could be taxes on employer-provided health benefits, the indirect tax of a carbon cap-and-trade scheme, an increase of the payroll-tax cap, and maybe a national Value Added Tax.
There's more at the link.

See also, John Steele Gordon, "The Economic Contradictions of Obama-ism":

In its proposed budget for fiscal year 2010, the Obama administration has also said it would inaugurate a “cap-and-trade” program to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This program would require all companies to buy at auction the right to emit the gas, which all fossil fuels—oil, gasoline, coal, natural gas, etc.—do, in varying amounts. The total amount of emissions allowed would be strictly limited.

While billed as a program to reduce greenhouse gases, cap-and-trade is, inescapably, a tax on virtually all economic activity, as fossil fuels are an input in nearly all economic outputs. Even a lawyer, after all, has to use electricity to have the lights on in his office and power his computer. And electricity is mostly generated by fossil fuels, especially coal, the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide.
Cartoon Credit: Michael Ramirez.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

O'Reilly Hammers Leftists for Alexa Branchini Protests

The Huffington Post has published a "Progress Report" from the Soros-backed far-left blog, Think Progress: "Stop The O'Reilly Harassment Machine" (via Memeorandum).

Actually, the harrassment runs in the other direction (see the Palm Beach Daily News, "
Bill O'Reilly speaks at Branchini foundation benefit for rape victims, despite protest"); and O'Reilly's on-the-street interviews - alleged as violating the rights of Think Progress blogger Amanda Terkel - are the kind of journalistic shoe-leather reports that today's media sorely lacks. But the real reason these folks are mad is because O'Reilly rightly exposed them for the leftist totalitarians they are, as this segment from "The Factor" indicates:

According to Gateway Pundit:

This segment on the O'Reilly Factor was exceptional. O'Reilly managed to eviscerate nearly a dozen "evil" Far Left entities in one segment.

Bill O'Reilly ripped apart "evil" Far Left players: NBC, John Podesta, Think Progress, Jeff Zucker, Center for American Progress, General Electric, and Amanda Terkel.

No wonder they hate him.

Bill O'Reilly condemned the "evil" Far Left loons for attacking rape victim Alexa Branchini at a fundraiser this past week in Florida. Elements at NBC News encouraged the loons to protest the
Alexa Foundation, an organization that supports rape victims. After the event O'Reilly producer Jesse Watters confronted an over-matched and dishonest Amanda Terkel from Think Progress who led the charge against the Alexa Foundation.

Far Left blogress Amanda Terkel
whined in her latest post at Think Progress that she was harassed by Bill O'Reilly producer Jesse Watters.

How pathetic.

And check out
Think Progress' homepage, where loads of articles are decrying the "harrassment." Being called to account for their own intolerance is obviously too much for these idiots.

Obama's Neoconservative Pragmatism

Daniel Larison, in his post attacking Barack Obama's commitment to American success in Afghanistan, demonstrates it's not so much the administration's policy that bothers him, but the policy legitimacy the administration's military and civilian reinforcements give to the "evil" neocons:

If it was a fantasy in Iraq “to use military and civilian power to promote democracy, nurture civil society and rebuild failed states,” it remains a fantasy today. It makes no difference what label one gives to it, and it is certainly not a fantasy that only neoconservatives embrace. If Americans have not learned by now that such efforts are folly, and more important that they would not be worth it even if they turned out to be successful, it may indeed say something about our national character. What I fear is that Obama, who has always been an interventionist with great confidence in this fantasy of what American power can achieve, believes that the “energetic and ambitious response” is what the American public desires and will support for years to come ....

Because Obama is setting far too ambitious goals for Afghanistan with too few resources, while largely neglecting (or exacerbating) more significant problems inside Pakistan that are gradually making our position in Afghanistan untenable, he runs the risk of jeopardizing public support for the much more limited and achievable security goals that are in our interest and the interest of Afghanistan’s neighbors. In the end, he will have the support of the fantasists who led us into Iraq and liberal internationalists who are still invested in the idea of nation-building, and he will have to face the growing numbers of people who have grown weary of a Long War that has ceased to make any sense (if it ever made sense in the first place).
Let me start with this last part first: The "Long War" is the war on terror, and to question if it ever made sense "in the first place" is precisely why "paleoconservatives" are rightly marginalized as unpatriotic. When the U.S. was attacked in September 2001, the "paleos" were quick to blame the U.S. for its expansive foreign engagement as triggering a generously deserved "blowback." Virtually no one else in American politics felt the same way, except for a few hare-brained academic radicals, the same folks who would later agitate for a "million Mogadishus" on American forces. When the Iraq war came, Patrick Buchanan made unhinged anti-Jewish attacks on the Bush administration's neoconservatives, asking "whose war" is this? Of course, "losertarians" like Justin Raimondo have made common cause the leading factions of the neo-Stalinist left, and here we have Daniel Larison excoriating the Iraq deployment as "folly," as if U.S. forces under General David Petraeus had not engineered the greatest military/strategic turnaround since World War II. And this is after even some of the most hardline "paleos" have conceded to reality in acknowledging the magnitude of the American victory.

What's actually funny is that Larison - for all his verbosity - doesn't actually say anything of value to the policy debate. I mean, who can honestly say that Americans have "no real national interest" in a safe, secure, and sustainable Afghanistan? Indeed, what would even be an actual interest then? Even an "offshore balancing" approach to U.S. stragegy assumes the potential for the U.S. to be pulled into events on the periphery - precisely because the the U.S. in primus inter pares in world affairs, and there is an extant demand for American leadership in providing public goods in world commerce and international security. But Larison has no answer. Any engagement beyond America's shores would qualify as "frittering away our resources to no apparent purpose," and umpteen citations to "genuine" conservatives like Andrew Bacevich or arch-appeasers like Matthew Yglesias doesn't alter the fundamental truth that there is evil abroad, and that there is a job to be won in combating it. Who you gonna call?

If folks are going to criticize Obama on Afghanistan, it should be for not doing enough. As
Michael Yon noted this week, "the increase of 21,000 U.S. troops is likely just a bucket of water on the growing bonfire." Michael Yon is hardly a "neocon," although the very "fantasists" that Larison excoriates have suggested that despite Obama's caution, "the president is pragmatic in the best sense of the word."

The opposite of "pragmatic" is impractical or irrationally ideological, and so it's worth considering who's really in a "fantasy" world here, the president or Mr. Larison?