Archive for May, 2009

Over the past couple of months I’ve been astounded by the stock market’s rise.  Some of my reasons for doubt are outlined by Nouriel Roubini in Forbes.  But my biggest worry isn’t any of those.  Nor is it just that “the American decent into Marxism is happening with breath taking speed,” as Pravda warns (!).  It’s that a Middle East war now seems inevitable.

Caroline Glick links the North Korean nuclear test to Iran, and notes the implications for Israel:

THE OBAMA administration’s impotent response to Pyongyang’s ICBM test last month and its similarly stuttering reaction to North Korea’s nuclear test on Monday have shown Teheran that it no longer needs to even pretend to have an interest in negotiating aspects of its nuclear program with Washington or its European counterparts. Whereas appearing interested in reaching an accommodation with Washington made sense during the Bush presidency, when hawks and doves were competing for the president’s ear, today, with the Obama administration populated solely by doves, Iran, like North Korea, believes it has nothing to gain by pretending to care about accommodating Washington.

This point was brought home clearly by both Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s immediate verbal response to the North Korean nuclear test on Monday and by Iran’s provocative launch of warships in the Gulf of Aden the same day. As Ahmadinejad said, as far the Iranian regime is concerned, “Iran’s nuclear issue is over.”

There is no reason to talk anymore. Just as Obama made clear that he intends to do nothing in response to North Korea’s nuclear test, so Iran believes that the president will do nothing to impede its nuclear program.

Of course it is not simply the administration’s policy toward North Korea that is signaling to Iran that it has no reason to be concerned that the US will challenge its nuclear aspirations. The US’s general Middle East policy, which conditions US action against Iran’s nuclear weapons program on the prior implementation of an impossible-to-achieve Israel-Palestinian peace agreement makes it obvious to Teheran that the US will take no action whatsoever to prevent it from following in North Korea’s footsteps and becoming a nuclear power….

As for Israel, it is a good thing that the IDF has scheduled the largest civil defense drill in the country’s history for next week. Between North Korea’s nuclear test, Iran’s brazen bellicosity and America’s betrayal, it is clear that the government can do nothing to impact Washington’s policies toward Iran. No destruction of Jewish communities will convince Obama to act against Iran.

Today Israel stands alone against the mullahs and their bomb. And this, like the US’s decision to stand down against the Axis of Evil, is not subject to change.

Israel’s survival depends on eliminating the Iranian bomb; it has no choice but to attack preemptively. It’s possible that Iran, despite Ahmadinejad’s bellicose anti-Israel tirades, has no intention of acting aggressively– but would you bet your and your country’s life on it? It’s possible that negotiations will bear fruit– but the probability seems ridiculously small. There is no likelihood of effective international action. As Richard Fernandez notes, the nonproliferation idea is dead: “the West did it to itself, by progressively undermining its authority until it has reached this nadir. It was Kim’s very insignificance that underlined the totality of the collapse.” The Obama administration will do nothing but hurl adjectives.  By the end of the year, Iran will have nuclear weapons and missiles capable of striking Israel. Israel has to attack within the next six months or face annihilation.

Fernandez observes that rearmament among our allies is already beginning, and predicts:

The real driver of actions in the coming months will be crisis. Now one may believe that the crisis was provoked by President Obama sending absolutely the wrong signals and leaving blood in the water or one may believe that the crisis was caused by George Bush or someone else. None of that changes the fact that a crisis is a crisis. At some point it will create a huge strain on Obama’s presidency, not in the least because I think his priority is the defeat of his domestic political enemies. If the international crisis becomes bad enough, he’ll be forced into creating what is effectively a government of national unity, something that I think he is not really capable of. Yet he may be forced to do it, or delay for so long that it increases the danger.

I think Obama’s assuming dictatorial powers is more likely than any national unity government.  Churchill he ain’t.

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Auto DealersDoug Ross and Gateway Pundit have been hammering the theme that the choice of Chrysler dealerships to close has been driven by politics.  Read the statistical and anecdotal evidence here.

Then compare the smug dismissal of all this on the left.  88% of auto dealers’ political contributions have gone to Republicans over the past few years; 92% of the contributions of the dealerships slated to be closed went to Republicans (actually, it seems to be more like 98%, with only .1% going to Obama); the difference is “insignificant”; so, no problem!  No distinction between owners and employees; no attempt to get data on sales, profitability, etc.; no questioning of the process, which is mysterious but seems to include no one from Chrysler.

Daniel Greenfield looks at the bigger picture.

But while this kind of abuse of government power is shocking, it really shouldn’t be.

Government is an engine of wealth redistribution, and when it gains control of businesses, it redistributes wealth in a way that benefits its supporters. That is what government always does, no matter how it disguises it.

That is why despite all the leftist wishful thinking in the world, centrally planned economies are corrupt, inept and inefficient….

No doubt there is a long list of industries that Obama will be happy to “bail out”, and by bail out, we mean of course spend billions in taxpayer owned debt to take over, carve up and hand out to their supporters.

The rape of the American auto industry by Obama and his henchmen was a classic case of a gang of politicians robbing the country blind in order to provide patronage to their backers, both at the union and the dealership level. But that is par for the course.

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Bret Stephens illumines Obama’s logic on, well, just about everything:

Consider the 1998 “Gnomes” episode — possibly surpassing Milton Friedman’s “Free to Choose” as the classic defense of capitalism — in which the children of South Park, Colo., get a lesson in how not to run an enterprise from mysterious little men who go about stealing undergarments from the unsuspecting and collecting them in a huge underground storehouse.

What’s the big idea? The gnomes explain:

“Phase One: Collect underpants.

“Phase Two: ?

“Phase Three: Profit.”

That’s perhaps why Dr. Sanity points out the importance of listening to what Obama doesn’t say.  He offers a rather conventional description of the problem as if it’s somehow novel and uniquely profound.  Then he offers a description of how nice it would be if it were solved.  Then… the end!  He never tells you how he plans to get from here to there.

Who knew politics could be so easy?

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North Korea tests a nuclear weapon about as powerful as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima; Iran proceeds apace toward a bomb of its own—or was the one detonated a proxy test for Iran already?—while Israel, realizing that it’s on its own, contemplates an attack on Iran and tells its citizens to prepare for all-out war.  Funny how George W. Bush’s departure from office has made the world much less safe, and how quickly.

Wretchard asks: Is President Obama becoming an international laughingstock?

Saul Alinsky taught his disciples that authority figures could survive anything except public ridicule. Once people began to laugh at you, things were heading downhill. The recent actions and rhetoric from North Korea and Iran openly mock the Obama administration. Ahmadinejad was dismissive of Obama’s offer of direct negotiations and has challenged the US President to appear in a freakshow debate of his own device before the UN. If the news reports of Ehud Barak’s remarks are accurate, then even the Israeli Defense Minister, who would ordinarily be diplomatically correct and deferential towards an American President is practically characterizing his trip to Washington as a waste of time. Is President Obama, the sweep of whose hands it was once believed could silence the world, in danger of becoming an object of derision? He is in any event, in the middle of the challenge which Joe Biden predicted he would face.

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Lindheimer Senna

Lindheimer Senna

Lindheimer Senna

Some idiot in my neighborhood has been going around ripping out all the Lindheimer Senna growing wild near the end of our street.  I’m trying to save it—gathering the uprooted plants, putting them in water, and then replanting them—but I don’t know how successful I’ll be.  Lindheimer Senna is a beautiful native plant with delicate, velvety, silver-tipped leaves and lovely yellow flowers. It’s dangerous for cattle, but to the best of my knowledge we don’t have any cows roaming the neighborhood.

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Arlington National Cemetary

Arlington National Cemetary

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Four Lies a Day

That’s what the average Briton tells, according to the Mail Online.  Right speech is item three on the Buddha’s Eightfold Path; it’s hard to tell the truth, even for a day.  How many lies have you told today?

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Teh Resistance lists seven tenets of liberalism:

1) Self Loathing – Liberals hate the West. The West is always WRONG (unless it’s white Europeans aligning themselves against the United States). Liberals hate America. Liberals hate our Founding. Liberals hate the traditional family. Liberals hate the military, the police, and anything else traditional, good, or fair. Is this grounded in reason? No, it is grounded in hate.

2) Defeatism – Liberals are weak on terrorism, weak on crime, weak on securing our border, and just plain weak. Liberal parents hold “safe drinking” and “safe sex” parties for their teenager children using the excuse that “they’re just going to do it anyway.” Is this grounded in reason? No, it is grounded in low self-esteem, weakness, and laziness.

3) Multi-Culturalism – Liberals believe that it is wrong to expect a newcomer to America or any Western nation to actually speak English, obey our laws, shower, eat with utensils, etc. Liberals argue that all cultures are equal and we should not consider our (obviously superior) culture to be above those of anyone else under any circumstances. Is this grounded in reason? No, it is grounded in the white guilt of rich white liberals and the virulent racism of some minorities.

4) Blaming the Victim – Liberals believe that we are creating more terrorists by fighting terrorism. They believe that it is the West’s responsibility to provide jobs for young disaffected Muslim “youth”, who don’t want to assimilate in the first place. They say that the West is “Islamophobic” and has to bend over and grease up for them or we’re to blame for terrorism. This is simply not true: just look at older Muslims in Europe, who do not support terrorism or Shari’a law. Surely the older Muslims in Europe have been “oppressed” longer than the Muslims in their 20’s who were born there and are embracing terrorism. But the liberals believe we’re the ones who need to change. Is this grounded in reason? No, it is grounded in selective outrage.

5) Baby Killing – Liberals believe in a woman’s right to “choose,” which is a euphemism for murdering one’s own baby. They say it’s a woman’s body, ignoring the obvious fact that the baby is a separate entity living inside the mother. Liberals want young women to reject parental roles and kill their babies out of sheer convenience. Roe V. Wade was the law of the land which made it “constitutional”, and they dare don’t leave it up to a democratic vote in the states. They don’t want to even discuss adoption, because they’d still have stretchmarks. Is this grounded in reason? No, it is grounded in vanity.

6) Collectivism – Liberals believe in collectivism – that the group should carry its weakest members – even the voluntary poor. They believe in bringing everybody else down to the level of the lowest, ignorant, and laziest members of society rather than trying to elevate the losers by a good reality bitch-slap. They believe in creating class envy, high taxes, income redistribution, the collapse of the free market, Communism, socialism, and the nanny state. Is this grounded in reason? No, it is grounded in misplaced compassion.

7) Moral Relativism – Liberals believe that Bush and Cheney were the “real” terrorists, that the Islamoterrorists are “freedom fighters,” and that Gitmo (where terrorists get three squares a day and the best medical care they’ve received in their miserable lives) is the equivalent of Auschwitz. They would much rather condemn America (where they are free to do so) than actually go to Iran or North Korea and criticize THEM, because they know they’d never get away with it. Is this grounded in reason? No, it is grounded in fear.

This appears to be an accurate summary of the positions of those on the far left.  Most liberals I know, however, see themselves as holding a nuanced, balanced, intermediate positions between these and what they see as typical conservative beliefs:

  1. Self-aggrandizement: The U.S. is always right.
  2. Self-righteousness: I’m right, and anyone who disagrees with me should be punished.
  3. Triumphalism: Our culture is better than anybody else’s in every respect.
  4. Islamophobia: Our reaction to the challenge posed by Islam should be to destroy it.
  5. Intolerance: Everyone, including women, should be forced to act in accord with my values.
  6. Egoism: I have an obligation to take care of myself and no one else.
  7. Absolutism: I’m certain of my values, which are right for all people at all times.

This is of course a caricature; this doesn’t characterize my beliefs or the beliefs of any conservative I know.  But liberals are convinced that conservatives are simple-minded and that only liberals are capable of comprehending the complexity of reality.

Probably a better way of understanding the difference between liberals and conservatives is in terms of defaults.  Think in terms of some questions, and the answer libera;s and conservatives tend toward in the absence of conflicting information or argument.

  1. International Conflict: Western countries and non-Western countries sometimes come into conflict.  In general, and recognizing that there are some, even many exceptions, who’s likely to be right?  Conservatives: the West.  Liberals: nonWestern countries.
  2. Transgressions of existing law: How, in general, and again admitting that there are exceptions, should we respond to terrorism, crime, illegal immigration, and other infractions?  Conservatives: enforce the law and punish offenders, acting preemptively if necessary. Liberals: Understand the root causes of these infractions and address them by giving economic aid to those in need.
  3. Cultural Interactions: When people of other cultures come to the United States, should they, in general, accommodate us and assimilate to our culture, or should our culture change to accommodate them? Conservatives: They should act according to the norms of our culture, which will over time expand to include the best of their cultures.  Liberals: We should accommodate them.
  4. Conflict with Islam: The United States is now in conflict with many Islamic nations and with Islamic terrorists.  What, in general, should we do? Conservatives: This is a new phase of a war that has been going on since the 8th century.  We have no choice to fight Islamic expansionism in order to defend Western civilization and Western values.  Liberals: We must understand the root causes of this conflict, which lie in colonialism and our own foreign policy mistakes, apologize, and correct our misunderstandings of Islam.
  5. Abortion: Should abortion, in most instances, be banned, or at any rate strongly discouraged?  Conservatives: Yes; it is the taking of human life. Liberals: No; it is an expression of freedom.
  6. Obligations to Others: Some people have much more than others.  Should we, in general, “spread the wealth around” by taking from those who have more and giving to those who have less?  Conservatives: Not as a legal matter; we are all better off if people take responsibility for themselves.  We should reward productivity and accomplishment and penalize laziness and irresponsibility.  As individuals, it is good for people to help those in need.  But government “help” turns out to hurt more than it helps.  Liberals: Yes; people are entitled to what they need to live.  It’s a matter of social justice.
  7. Morality: Are some things, objectively, right, and others wrong?  Or is morality in the eye of the beholder?  Conservatives: Our moral opinions are fallible, but right and wrong are objective and knowable.  Some things are better than others, and our common sense views about this are generally right. Liberals: Nothing is objectively right or wrong, and common sense is little more than prejudice.

Framed in this way, it’s not a matter of one side being simplistic while the other sees complexity and nuance.  It’s that basic assumptions differ in a way that leads to different default positions.  I’m on the conservative side of each of the above, with, I hope, nuanced positions backed by serious arguments.  But I know liberals who also hold nuanced positions backed by serious arguments.

That leads me, however, to ask what must strike my readers as obvious questions.  Conservatives in politics and in the media and on the web are generally nuanced and back their positions with serious arguments.  Liberals in politics and in the media seem to settle for emotional appeals and namecalling.  The liberals I know aren’t like that, but the public voices of liberalism are.  Why the difference?  Why does simplistic namecalling work on the left, managing to attract the votes of moderates as well as those of true believers?

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Tiger Down

Wretchard, writing about the defeat of the Tamil Tigers, says down in the comments something that I think needs to be taken seriously by those squabbling over waterboarding:

Although I not entirely sure the facts as reported are accurate, the Sri Lankan civil war may turn out to be a textbook example of how to turn favorable position into a fiasco. The West should have been on the winning side, and thus able to moderate the blows that are descending upon the unfortunate ordinary Tamils now. But the West appears to have been seized by fecklessness amounting to madness; a kind of peacenikism run amuck that has had catastrophic consequences not only for Western diplomacy but for the Tamils themselves; a more perfect demonstration of the destructive stupidity of UN-ism and NGO-ism would be hard to find. Now it seems that not only has China managed to insert itself into the scene, it has managed to demonstrate forcibly how stupid it is to take Western advice.

On an another level, I almost laughed at reading how the Tigers in their extremity would settle for nothing less than a guarantee of safety from the Gringo man: the US and Britain. They didn’t want a guarantee from the UN; nor the European Union, nor the NGOs nor any pillar of the enlightened so-called International Community. They wanted the protection of the US and Britain. Because when you come right down to it, they were more certain of a fair shake from these reviled powers than from anyone else.

I think it is highly probable that Jihadis the world over if captured, would overwhelmingly choose — nay beg — to be held in US or British custody rather than put their trust in the gentle ministrations of their co-religionists in Egypt, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan. If you showed them the Bush memos, they would agree to be treated thus with such haste as to be unseemly, when the alternative is incarceration in some Muslim country. We’ve been fed such a load of drivel by the Left that we sometimes forget that almost nobody would choose to live or trust in a country they are fond of and that practically any sane person would prefer to take their chances in the places the Left hates the most.

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Obama the Orator

The past few days have witnessed dueling speeches between President Obama and former Vice-President Cheney.  The guys at PowerLine have dissected Obama’s speech, pointing out its absurdity here, here, and here.  Even without that level of detail, it’s easy to see that there’s something ridiculous about bashing your predecessor’s anti-terror policies while announcing that you’re continuing them.  Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue, as La Rochefoucauld had it– the vice in this case being irresponsible campaign allegations and promises.  Perhaps to hide the hypocrisy, Obama reiterates the allegations even while breaking the promises.

Meanwhile, Dr. Sanity shares my reaction to Obama’s supposedly wonderful rhetoric:

Over and over again I hear how “wonderful” Obama’s rhetoric is; how much everyone responds to it and how it makes them hopeful about the future etc. etc. etc.

Frankly, I can barely stand to listen to the man. I have to read transcripts of most of his speeches because my reaction to his style is so negative. I don’t like the sensation of being manipulated; nor do I like being lectured to by someone who instinctively believes they are far more virtuous than I am– and intends to show me the error of my ways.

Understand that I listen to people for a living. I hear various degrees of honesty, sincerity, and real emotional pain being expressed on a regular basis. I also hear some of the most self-serving, dishonest and completely irresponsible utterings that it is possible to imagine. Yet, in my professional career, I have to freely admit that I have heard nothing like the deceitful and self-aggrandizing utterings of Barack Obama, which seem to get more and more pathological with every speech he gives. His most recent scam, in the National Archives in front of a fake copy of the U.S. Constitution just about takes the cake. This is not irony, so much as it is the grandiosity of tyranny….

Next time you listen to the Obamessiah’s speeches, listen to what he doesn’t say. Listen to the vagueness, the vacuity. Listen to the lack of specifics and the blatant emotional manipulation. Listen to the cognitive dissonance between what he is saying in his seductive, sedating style; and what he is doing with his deliberate, statist national policies and his foreign policy that not only demeans America by apologizing for her very existence; but severly handicaps her ability to act in the future. Watch how he badmouths the previous Administration, then surrepticiously implements the same policies that kept us safe over the last 8 years. The only problem with this last is that by simultaneously denouncing the security policies he is embracing, he is making schizophrenics of all the honorable people who are working hard to keep this country safe.

How long can this schizophrenogenic behavior go on before it essentially cripples those same patriots–because their service and their patriotism can be rendered criminal on the slightest whim of this unprincipled coxcomb?

How long can you pretend to stand for peace, when you enthusiastically embrace lying, murdering, genocidal terrorists?

That sounds a lot like what I said a few months ago:

He can’t speak for even a few minutes without a teleprompter. Despite his reputation as a brilliant speaker, I have never heard him speak well. Half the faculty at my university, at least, are better speakers—some, much better speakers. He displays no talent for analysis or insight. He recites political cant without demonstrating any understanding or ability to explain a position. He seems unaware of the most elementary historical, economic, and social-scientific facts.

But now we see that he speaks as if ignorant of the facts even when they’re in plain view, right in front of his and his audience’s faces.  “Whp are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”

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