Monthly Archives: October 2008

Ladies and Jews

The scorn and derision heaped upon Sarah Palin coming from my liberal, mostly Jewish, friends and relatives is quite amazing. It makes me think that modern feminism has less to do with “women” and more to do with the success of the Democratic Party. Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised considering the “feminists” aggressively attacked perfectly credible Democratic women who accused Bill Clinton of groping in the case of Kathleen Willey and rape in the case of Juanita Broderick. The feminists responded to Clinton with motherly protectiveness after having excoriating the apostate Clarence Thomas for allegedly having joked about porn star “Long Dong Silver.”

The charge against Sarah Palin is her putatively deficient intellect. Jews and other liberals consider themselves to be intellectuals and they look condescendingly at those of insufficient urbanity such as Sarah Palin.

Liberals who have been around since the fifties seem to have forgotten the history of their own lifetimes. They forgot that Harry Truman was considered a mediocrity when he was in office, that he didn’t run for re-election in 1952 because he had no hope of winning, that his manner of speaking was lampooned for its vulgarity, and that he never even attended college.

They also forgot how their liberal parents howled over Eisenhower’s “tortured syntax,” and that he never seemed to do anything but play golf. They don’t remember how much their parents loved the witty, eloquent Adlai Stevenson despite Stevenson’s selection of Alabama segregationist Senator John Sparkman to run as his vice-presidential candidate and they mistook for deep thinking Stevenson’s inability to make a decision.

And then there’s the “amiable dunce” (in Democratic elder Clark Clifford’s words) Ronald Reagan. In his published journals, Arthur Schlesinger, when he stops ridiculing Reagan’s intellect, declared Reagan to be just about the greatest threat to the human race ever. Schlesinger believed that Reagan’s pressure exerted on the Soviet Union by his arms build up and “Star Wars” would result in an ever-spiraling arms race ultimately resulting in the destruction of the planet. When the Soviet Union and communism started to crumble, Schlesinger expressed astonishment, all the while repeating stories he heard from his friends about Reagan’s supposed idiocy. And when the Soviet Union did collapse, he awarded the Oscar to Gorbachev while refusing to consider the possibility that a moron like Reagan could have had anything to do with it.

My liberal friends and relatives admire Barry’s smoothness, that he’s “articulate, bright and clean,” as Joe Biden once remarked. To them, Barry’s the second coming of Jack Kennedy, another hero who, as we now know, was a desperately ill, totally irresponsible, mobbed-up drug addict. My liberal friends and relatives, of course, don’t want to hear about that.

But did ya hear the latest about Sarah’s clothes?

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The Powerful Weapon of Ambiguity

Fouad Ajami on what is odd about Obama and his crowds:

There is something odd — and dare I say novel — in American politics about the crowds that have been greeting Barack Obama on his campaign trail. Hitherto, crowds have not been a prominent feature of American politics. We associate them with the temper of Third World societies. We think of places like Argentina and Egypt and Iran, of multitudes brought together by their zeal for a Peron or a Nasser or a Khomeini. In these kinds of societies, the crowd comes forth to affirm its faith in a redeemer: a man who would set the world right.

…These crowds, in the tens of thousands, who have been turning out for the Democratic standard-bearer in St. Louis and Denver and Portland, are a measure of American distress.

On the face of it, there is nothing overwhelmingly stirring about Sen. Obama. There is a cerebral quality to him, and an air of detachment. He has eloquence, but within bounds. After nearly two years on the trail, the audience can pretty much anticipate and recite his lines. The political genius of the man is that he is a blank slate. The devotees can project onto him what they wish. The coalition that has propelled his quest — African-Americans and affluent white liberals — has no economic coherence. But for the moment, there is the illusion of a common undertaking …. The day after, the crowd will of course discover its own fissures. The affluent will have to pay for the programs promised the poor. The redistribution agenda that runs through Mr. Obama’s vision is anathema to the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and the hedge-fund managers now smitten with him. Their ethos is one of competition and the justice of the rewards that come with risk and effort. All this is shelved, as the devotees sustain the candidacy of a man whose public career has been a steady advocacy of reining in the market and organizing those who believe in entitlement and redistribution.

A creature of universities and churches and nonprofit institutions, the Illinois senator, with the blessing and acquiescence of his upscale supporters, has glided past these hard distinctions. On the face of it, it must be surmised that his affluent devotees are ready to foot the bill for the new order, or are convinced that after victory the old ways will endure, and that Mr. Obama will govern from the center. Ambiguity has been a powerful weapon of this gifted candidate: He has been different things to different people, and he was under no obligation to tell this coalition of a thousand discontents, and a thousand visions, the details of his political programs: redistribution for the poor, postracial absolution and “modernity” for the upper end of the scale.

It was no accident that the white working class was the last segment of the population to sign up for the Obama journey. Their hesitancy was not about race. They were men and women of practicality; they distrusted oratory, they could see through the falseness of the solidarity offered by this campaign. They did not have much, but believed in the legitimacy of what little they had acquired. They valued work and its rewards. They knew and heard of staggering wealth made by the Masters of the Universe, but held onto their faith in the outcomes that economic life decreed. The economic hurricane that struck America some weeks ago shook them to the core. They now seek protection, the shelter of the state, and the promise of social repair. The bonuses of the wizards who ran the great corporate entities had not bothered them. It was the spectacle of the work of the wizards melting before our eyes that unsettled them.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the late Democratic senator from New York, once set the difference between American capitalism and the older European version by observing that America was the party of liberty, whereas Europe was the party of equality. Just in the nick of time for the Obama candidacy, the American faith in liberty began to crack. The preachers of America’s decline in the global pecking order had added to the panic. Our best days were behind us, the declinists prophesied. The sun was setting on our imperium, and rising in other lands.

A younger man, “cool” and collected, carrying within his own biography the strands of the world beyond America’s shores, was put forth as a herald of the change upon us. The crowd would risk the experiment. There was grudge and a desire for retribution in the crowd to begin with. Akin to the passions that have shaped and driven highly polarized societies, this election has at its core a desire to settle the unfinished account of the presidential election eight years ago. George W. Bush’s presidency remained, for his countless critics and detractors, a tale of usurpation. He had gotten what was not his due; more galling still, he had been bold and unabashed, and taken his time at the helm as an opportunity to assert an ambitious doctrine of American power abroad. He had waged a war of choice in Iraq.

This election is the rematch that John Kerry had not delivered on. In the fashion of the crowd that seeks and sees the justice of retribution, Mr. Obama’s supporters have been willing to overlook his means. So a candidate pledged to good government and to ending the role of money in our political life opts out of public financing of presidential campaigns. What of it? The end justifies the means.

Save in times of national peril, Americans have been sober, really minimalist, in what they expected out of national elections, out of politics itself. The outcomes that mattered were decided in the push and pull of daily life, by the inventors and the entrepreneurs, and the captains of industry and finance. To be sure, there was a measure of willfulness in this national vision, for politics and wars guided the destiny of this republic. But that American sobriety and skepticism about politics — and leaders — set this republic apart from political cultures that saw redemption lurking around every corner.

My boyhood, and the Arab political culture I have been chronicling for well over three decades, are anchored in the Arab world. And the tragedy of Arab political culture has been the unending expectation of the crowd — the street, we call it — in the redeemer who will put an end to the decline, who will restore faded splendor and greatness. When I came into my own, in the late 1950s and ’60s, those hopes were invested in the Egyptian Gamal Abdul Nasser. He faltered, and broke the hearts of generations of Arabs. But the faith in the Awaited One lives on, and it would forever circle the Arab world looking for the next redeemer.

America is a different land, for me exceptional in all the ways that matter. In recent days, those vast Obama crowds, though, have recalled for me the politics of charisma that wrecked Arab and Muslim societies. A leader does not have to say much, or be much. The crowd is left to its most powerful possession — its imagination…

Victor Davis Hanson on why America is in better shape to weather the financial crisis than any other country.

And this interesting excerpt:

…the war in Iraq is no longer even a war in a traditional sense. Four times as many Americans were murdered just in the city of Chicago at peace in July than all those Americans who were killed in Iraq at war in the same period.

Mark Steyn on Barry’s Aunt Zeituni:

The London Times story of Barack Obama’s Aunt Zeituni – like that of his penniless brother and the Kenyan grade school he promised to help – is interesting not only as a reflection on the candidate’s belief that “spreading the wealth around” is a centralized government mandate to be imposed on Joe the Plumber rather than a personal act by, say, a wealthy memoirist whose books repackage colorful relatives to highly lucrative effect.

But, aside from all that, this detail is lovely:

“The Times could not determine their immigration status and an official at Boston City Hall said that Ms Onyango was a resident of Flaherty Way but not registered to vote on the electoral roll. However, that Ms Onyango made a contribution to the Obama campaign would indicate that she is a US citizen.”

Of course. By definition, if you donate to Barack the Good, you must be one of his loyal subjects. They should make it a requirement of the citizenship test.

By the way, the argument that giving money to Obama is ipso facto proof of citizenship also clears up any question marks over those donations by “A Hitler” and “S Hussein”. Congratulations!

Oh, and if you want to know why The Boston Globe’s parent company ( The New York Times) has been downgraded by Moody’s to junk status, ask yourself why this story is in a foreign newspaper three thousand miles away rather than the local rag.

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A Beautiful Friendship

A relative sent me the following “updated” version of a scene from Casablanca:

Louis: Rick, we’ll leverage credit default swaps, cook the books using offshore entities, award ourselves enormous bonuses based on phony numbers, then claim to be shocked when the shareholders lose everything.

Here’s my version of the famous ending:

Rick: Louis, this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Louis: What are we gonna do now?

Rick: After the war, I’m gonna run for president of Casablanca.

Louis: That’s cool. How are you going to win?

Rick: Well, I’ll promise to change Casablanca into, er, France.

Louis: How so?

Rick: I’ll promise to “reduce taxes” on 95% of the voters and raise taxes on the “rich.” And I’ll promise to send checks to those who don’t actually pay income taxes (49%, under my plan). When I get to the point where a majority of voters receive more in freebies, I mean entitlements, than they pay in taxes, I’ll have cemented myself and you in power.

Louis: Sounds good to me. So what else?

Rick: I have this great plan to payoff my very loyal African-Casablancan supporters. I’ll pass a law called the Community Reinvestment Act, which will require the banks, I mean the rich, to make mortgage loans to my African-Casablancan supporters according to steadily rising quotas.

Louis: But wait a minute, what if your African-Casablancan supporters can’t pay back the loans?

Rick: You racist swine! You don’t care about African-Casablancan poor people?

Louis: Oops, sorry Rick. I’ll never bring that up again.

Rick: Besides, I’m going to set up a Government Sponsored Entity called Francoise Mae. Wink, Wink. The banks will know that if their loans go sud, the taxpayers, I mean the government, will pick up the tab.

Louis: Yeh, but what if the “rich” who have to pay for this rebel and leave Casablanca and go, or send their money, to, say, Monte Carlo or Costa Rica?

Rick: Yeah, that’s the one fly in the ointment. Well , we can certainly keep this scheme going for a while by getting the Americans to pay for our defense. But yes, this can’t work for very long. Still, by the time the whole thing collapses, we’ll either be dead or we can move to Switzerland and visit our money.

Louis: But if we tax the rich to finance this, who will pay for our campaigns?

Rick: Non to worry, my friend. Remember all those “middle class” voters to whom we “spread the wealth”? They’ll be expected to do their part. And of course, I will cut out a huge exemption for my rich supporters in the entertainment industry and other guilt-ridden Jewish liberals, aka, Useful Idiots. They’ll be “asked” to kick back or lose their exemptions. Brilliant, n’est-ce pas?

Louis: Rick, I can’t wait. How do you say, a sure thing?

Tony Blankley on which Barry we might get:

…throughout history when dangerous, radical men have offered themselves up for leadership, their moderate supporters have rationalized their early support by hoping that the dangerous man is really a sensible man like them and doesn’t believe some of those wild things he has said to his more fervent followers.

But as the campaign clock ticks down to its last days and hours, prudent people have to consider the possibility that beneath that easy manner and calming voice is the pulsating heart of a genuine man of the radical left.

For example, according to Ryan Lizza of the liberal New Republic, Obama’s early mentor in the Alinsky method of social agitation was Mike Kruglik, whom Lizza paraphrased as saying: “(Obama) was a natural, the undisputed master of agitation, who could engage a room full of recruiting targets in a rapid-fire Socratic dialogue, nudging them to admit that they were not living up to their own standards. As with the panhandler, he could be aggressive and confrontational. With probing, sometimes personal questions, he would pinpoint the source of pain in their lives, tearing down their egos just enough before dangling a carrot of hope that they could make things better.”

As Kyle-Anne Shiver in the American Thinker explained after quoting those words: “The agitator’s job, according to Alinsky, is first to bring folks to the ‘realization’ that they are indeed miserable, that their misery is the fault of unresponsive governments or greedy corporations, then help them to bond together to demand what they deserve, and to make such an almighty stink that the dastardly governments and corporations will see imminent ‘self-interest’ in granting whatever it is that will cause the harassment to cease.

“In these methods, euphemistically labeled ‘community organizing,’ Obama had a four-year education, which he often says was the best education he ever got anywhere.”

And now we have Obama’s genuinely shocking words from a 2001 National Public Radio interview: “But the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society. And to that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren court, it wasn’t that radical.

It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as it’s been interpreted, and the Warren court interpreted it in the same way that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. …And one of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was — because the civil rights movement became so court-focused, I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change. … The Constitution reflected an enormous blind spot in this culture that carries on until this day. … The Framers had that same blind spot … the fundamental flaw of this country.”

Now, just as the left often baselessly throws around the word “racist,” the right is often extravagant with its charge of Marxism. But those accurate, in context words of Obama must raise in the mind of any reasonable person the suspicion that Obama’s heart and soul is dangerously close — if not fully seized of — a Marxist (or perhaps Marxist Christian liberation theology) view of human and economic relations.

Consider that these words came from a man who has urged his followers to “get in the face” of his opponents and has exalted recently — in an uncharacteristic moment of lack of restraint — that he has “a righteous wind” at his back. That is a revealing word, righteous. It suggests that a person’s actions have been “judged” or “reckoned” as leading a life that is pleasing to God. A verse in the Bible’s book of Psalms speaks of one being shielded by God and receiving favor because of righteousness.

We live in dangerous days. The world economy teeters on the edge of the abyss. The exiting American president is a failed thing. An envious world smells a momentarily vulnerable America. The political beneficiary of Republican failure believes our Constitution is fatally flawed. He may be a committed Marxist. And if he held the presidency for four years, it would be the longest stretch that he ever held a full-time job. God save the republic.

And Melanie Phillips analyzes Obama’s views on the Constituion:

[Obama’s words in a recently discovered 2001 NPR interview ] “…To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution, at least as its been interpreted and Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. Says what the states can’t do to you. Says what the Federal government can’t do to you, but doesn’t say what the Federal government or State government must do on your behalf, and that hasn’t shifted and one of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was, um, because the civil rights movement became so court focused I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change. In some ways we still suffer from that… “(my emphasis).

Obama dismisses negative liberties and wants ‘positive rights’ instead. This would mean, quite simply, the replacement of individual autonomy by state power. It would mean the end of individual freedom and the end of America’s founding value system.

This is because negative liberty is liberty. It means that everything is permitted unless it is actively prohibited. ‘Positive liberty’, by contrast, means that individual rights consist instead of what the state hands down to the individual. Presented as a means of expanding ‘rights’, what it actually expands is state control and what it shrinks is individual freedom. It thus also opens up the way to the exercise of group rights, delivered by the state, which trump the rights of the individual in a society dominated by the belief that minorities are systematically oppressed by the majority and that therefore minority or group demands must always trump majority or civilisational values. It descends directly from the dictum of Rousseau that people must be ‘forced to be free’ — a doctrine which ran from the French Revolution all the way to Hitler and Stalin.

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Their Mothers' Milk

In Commentary, John Steele Gordon provides a clear (politically incorrect) analysis of the causes of the financial crisis.

An excerpt:

..It can be argued that 70 percent is about as high a proportion as could, or should, be hoped for in home ownership. Many young people are not ready to buy a home; many old people prefer to rent. Some families move so frequently that home ownership makes no sense. Some people, like Congressman Charlie Rangel of New York, take advantage of local rent-control laws to obtain housing well below market rates, and therefore have no incentive to buy.

And some families simply lack the creditworthiness needed for a bank to be willing to lend them money, even on the security of real property. Perhaps their credit histories are too erratic; perhaps their incomes and net worth are lower than bank standards; or perhaps they lack the means to make a substantial down payment, which by reducing the amount of the mortgage can protect a bank from a downturn in the real-estate market.

But historically there was also a class, made up mostly of American blacks, for whom home ownership was out of reach. Although simple racial prejudice had long been a factor here, it was, ironically, the New Deal that institutionalized discrimination against blacks seeking mortgages. In 1935 the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), established in 1934 to insure home mortgages, asked the Home Owner’s Loan Corporation—another New Deal agency, this one created to help prevent foreclosures—to draw up maps of residential areas according to the risk of lending in them. Affluent suburbs were outlined in blue, less desirable areas in yellow, and the least desirable in red.

The FHA used the maps to decide whether or not to insure a mortgage, which in turn caused banks to avoid the redlined neighborhoods. These tended to be in the inner city and to comprise largely black populations. As most blacks at this time were unable to buy in white neighborhoods, the effect of redlining was largely to exclude even affluent blacks from the mortgage market.

Even after the end of Jim Crow in the 1960’s, the effect of redlining lingered, perhaps more out of habit than of racial prejudice. In 1977, responding to political pressure to abolish the practice, Congress finally passed the Community Reinvestment Act, requiring banks to offer credit throughout their marketing areas and rating them on their compliance. This effectively outlawed redlining.

Then, in 1995, regulations adopted by the Clinton administration took the Community Reinvestment Act to a new level. Instead of forbidding banks to discriminate against blacks and black neighborhoods, the new regulations positively forced banks to seek out such customers and areas. Without saying so, the revised law established quotas for loans to specific neighborhoods, specific income classes, and specific races. It also encouraged community groups to monitor compliance and allowed them to receive fees for marketing loans to target groups.

But the aggressive pursuit of an end to redlining also required the active participation of Fannie Mae, and thereby hangs a tale. Back in 1968, the Johnson administration had decided to “adjust” the federal books by taking Fannie Mae off the budget and establishing it as a “Government Sponsored Enterprise” (GSE). But while it was theoretically now an independent corporation, Fannie Mae did not have to adhere to the same rules regarding capitalization and oversight that bound most financial institutions. And in 1970 still another GSE was created, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, or Freddie Mac, to expand further the secondary market in mortgage-backed securities.

This represented a huge moral hazard. The two institutions were supposedly independent of the government and owned by their stockholders. But it was widely assumed that there was an implicit government guarantee of both Fannie and Freddie’s solvency and of the vast amounts of mortgage-based securities they issued. This assumption was by no means unreasonable. Fannie and Freddie were known to enjoy lower capitalization requirements than other financial institutions and to be held to a much less demanding regulatory regime. If the United States government had no worries about potential failure, why should the market?

Forward again to the Clinton changes in 1995. As part of them, Fannie and Freddie were now permitted to invest up to 40 times their capital in mortgages; banks, by contrast, were limited to only ten times their capital. Put briefly, in order to increase the number of mortgages Fannie and Freddie could underwrite, the federal government allowed them to become grossly undercapitalized—that is, grossly to reduce their one source of insurance against failure. The risk of a mammoth failure was then greatly augmented by the sheer number of mortgages given out in the country.

That was bad enough; then came politics to make it much worse. Fannie and Freddie quickly evolved into two of the largest financial institutions on the planet, with assets and liabilities in the trillions. But unlike other large, profit-seeking financial institutions, they were headquartered in Washington, D.C., and were political to their fingertips. Their management and boards tended to come from the political world, not the business world. And some were corrupt: the management of Fannie Mae manipulated the books in order to trigger executive bonuses worth tens of millions of dollars, and Freddie Mac was found in 2003 to have understated earnings by almost $5 billion.

Both companies, moreover, made generous political contributions, especially to those members of Congress who sat on oversight committees. Their charitable foundations could be counted on to kick in to causes that Congressmen and Senators deemed worthy. Many of the political contributions were illegal: in 2006, Freddie was fined $3.8 million—a record amount—for improper election activity.

_____________

By 2007, Fannie and Freddie owned about half of the $12 trillion in outstanding mortgages, an unprecedented concentration of debt—and of risk. Much of the debt was concentrated in the class of sub-prime mortgages that had proliferated after the 1995 regulations. These were mortgages given to people of questionable credit standing, in one of the attempts by the federal government to increase home ownership among the less well-to-do.

Since banks knew they could offload these sub-prime mortgages to Fannie and Freddie, they had no reason to be careful about issuing them. As for the firms that bought the mortgage-based securities issued by Fannie and Freddie, they thought they could rely on the government’s implicit guarantee. AIG, the world’s largest insurance firm, was happy to insure vast quantities of these securities against default; it must have seemed like insuring against the sun rising in the West.

Wall Street, politicians, and the press all acted as though one of the iron laws of economics, as unrepealable as Newton’s law of universal gravity, had been set aside. That law, simply put, is that potential reward always equals potential risk. In the real world, unfortunately, a high-yield, no-risk investment cannot exist.

In 2006, after an astonishing and unsustainable climb in home values, the inevitable correction set in. By mid-2007, many sub-prime mortgages were backed by real estate that was now of lesser value than the amount of debt. As the market started to doubt the soundness of these mortgages, their value and even their salability began to deteriorate. So did the securities backed by them. Companies that had heavily invested in sub-prime mortgages saw their stock prices and their net worth erode sharply. This caused other companies to avoid lending them money. Credit markets began to tighten sharply as greed in the marketplace was replaced by fear.

A vicious downward spiral ensued. Bear Stearns, the smallest investment bank on Wall Street, was forced into a merger in March with JPMorgan Chase, with guarantees from the Federal Reserve. Fannie and Freddie were taken over by the government in early September; Merrill Lynch sold itself to Bank of America; AIG had to be bailed out by the government to the tune of $85 billion; Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy; Washington Mutual became the biggest bank failure in American history and was taken over by JPMorgan Chase; to avoid failure, Wachovia, the sixth largest bank in the country, was taken over by Wells Fargo. The most creditworthy institutions saw interest rates climb to unprecedented levels—even for overnight loans of bank reserves, which are the foundation of the high-functioning capitalist system of the West. Finally it became clear that only a systemic intervention by the government would stem the growing panic and allow credit markets to begin to function normally again.

_____________

Many people, especially liberal politicians, have blamed the disaster on the deregulation of the last 30 years. But they do so in order to avoid the blame’s falling where it should—squarely on their own shoulders. For the same politicians now loudly proclaiming that deregulation caused the problem are the ones who fought tooth and nail to prevent increased regulation of Fannie and Freddie—the source of so much political money, their mother’s milk.

To be sure, there is more than enough blame to go around. Forgetting the lessons of the past, Wall Street acted as though the only direction that markets and prices could move was up. Credit agencies like Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s, and Fitch gave high ratings to securities that, in retrospect, they clearly did not understand. The news media did not even try to investigate the often complex economics behind the housing market.

But remaining at the heart of the financial beast now abroad in the world are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the mortgages they bought and turned into securities. Protected by their political patrons, they were allowed to pile up colossal debt on an inadequate capital base and to escape much of the regulatory oversight and rules to which other financial institutions are subject. Had they been treated as the potential risks to financial stability they were from the beginning, the housing bubble could not have grown so large and the pain that is now accompanying its end would not have hurt so much.

Herbert Hoover famously remarked that “the trouble with capitalism is capitalists. They’re too greedy.” That is true. But another and equal trouble with capitalism is politicians. Like the rest of us, they are made of all-too-human clay and can be easily blinded to reality by naked self-interest, at a cost we are only now beginning to fathom.

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Sarkozy: Obama "Utterly Immature" on Foreign Policy

We learned yesterday that the Israelis and the Georgians (but not the mullahs in Iran) are worried about the coming of Barry; now it’s French president Sarkozy who’s a bit concerned.

Apparently Nicholas Sarkozy considers Obama an empty suit on foreign policy.

From an Haaretz news report:

Sources: Sarkozy views Obama stance on Iran as ‘utterly immature’

By Barak Ravid

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is very critical of U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama’s positions on Iran, according to reports that have reached Israel’s government.

Sarkozy has made his criticisms only in closed forums in France. But according to a senior Israeli government source, the reports reaching Israel indicate that Sarkozy views the Democratic candidate’s stance on Iran as “utterly immature” and comprised of “formulations empty of all content.”

Obama visited Paris in July, and the Iranian issue was at the heart of his meeting with Sarkozy. At a joint press conference afterward, Obama urged Iran to accept the West’s proposal on its nuclear program, saying that Iran was creating a serious situation that endangered both Israel and the West.

According to the reports reaching Israel, Sarkozy told Obama at that meeting that if the new American president elected in November changed his country’s policy toward Iran, that would be “very problematic.”

Until now, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany have tried to maintain a united front on Iran. But according to the senior Israeli source, Sarkozy fears that Obama might “arrogantly” ignore the other members of this front and open a direct dialogue with Iran without preconditions.

Following their July meeting, Sarkozy repeatedly expressed disappointment with Obama’s positions on Iran, concluding that they were “not crystallized, and therefore many issues remain open,” the Israeli source said. Advisors to the French president who held separate meetings with Obama’s advisors came away with similar impressions and expressed similar disappointment.

According to the Israeli source, Sarkozy plans to begin intensive negotiations with the new American administration, regardless of whether it is headed by Obama or Republican Sen. John McCain, even before the new president takes office in January, with the goal of persuading him to continue the current policy on Iran.

But Sarkozy’s pessimism does not stem only from Obama’s stance; it also stems from the overall behavior of the international community toward Iran’s nuclear program, and particularly its inability to agree on a fourth round of Security Council sanctions against the Islamic Republic. This foot-dragging will make it impossible to effect a change in Iran’s nuclear policy, Sarkozy believes.

The French intelligence community believes that Iran has already obtained about 40 percent of the enriched uranium it would need for its first bomb, and that at its current rate, it will obtain the rest of the uranium it needs in the spring or summer of 2009.

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I’m sure it will take a while for us to overcome the cognitive dissonance produced by the realization that the French government is well to the right of the U.S. government.

Israelis For McCain, Mullahs and American Jews For Obama

I’m moving to Israel or maybe Georgia:

Poll: Israel votes McCain in US elections
Survey finds 46% of Israelis would vote for Republican nominee if given chance to elect US president; Democrat Barack Obama receives 34% of votes. Almost half of those polled believe McCain would better impact Jewish state.
Roni Sofer
Published: 10.27.08, 12:41 / Israel News

Israel chooses John McCain over Barack Obama in the US presidential elections, a survey conducted by the TNS Teleseker polling agency found.

The Republican nominee defeated his Democratic opponent by a margin of over 12% among the adult Jewish population in the State.

Iran’s Vote
Larijani: Iran prefers Obama / AFP
Iranian parliament speaker says his country is leaning towards Democratic candidate in US presidential election ‘because he is more flexible and rational’

Ynet obtained the results of the poll, ordered by the Rabin Center for Israel Studies and conducted among 500 Israelis aged 18-65, in preparation for a special debate on the US elections and their repercussions on the country’s foreign policy in the Middle East, to take place Monday.

The survey found that given the right to vote in the US, 46.4% of Israelis would vote for the Republican nominee, John McCain. Thirty-four percent would vote for Democratic nominee Barack Obama, and 18.6% remain undecided.

Almost half of those polled (48.6%) believe McCain would better impact Israel, while 31.5% thought the country would better benefit from Obama’s leadership. Just over 5% believe the candidates would have the same effect on Israel, while 14.2% remain undecided.

The poll found McCain to be Israel’s best bet concerning Iran as well. Over half (52.5%) believe he possesses the skills needed to deal with the security threat the country poses to Israel, more so than Obama, who has gained the confidence of just 27.6% of those polled.

…In good company? Georgia prefers McCain
Alon Pinkas, the former consul general of Israel in New York who currently heads the Rabin Center’s institute for Israel-US relations, explained the results of the poll. “What we see here is a significant difference in positions between Jews in the US and Jews in Israel,” he said.

“Israel is one of just three countries that prefer McCain over Obama. The other two are Georgia and the Philippines,” Pinkas added…

Let’s see: Israelis and Georgians support McCain while Iran’s government and American Jews support Obama. What’s wrong with this picture?

Coming Attractions

Pete DuPont on the coming Europeanization of America:

..So where is the new Obama administration likely to take us? Seven things seem certain:

The U.S. military will withdraw from Iraq quickly and substantially, regardless of conditions on the ground or the obvious consequence of emboldening terrorists there and around the globe.

Protectionism will become our national trade policy; free trade agreements with other nations will be reduced and limited.

Income taxes will rise on middle- and upper-income people and businesses, and individuals will pay much higher Social Security taxes, all to carry out the new president’s goals of “spreading the wealth around.”

Federal government spending will substantially increase. The new Obama proposals come to more than $300 billion annually, for education, health care, energy, environmental and many other programs, in addition to whatever is needed to meet our economic challenges. Mr. Obama proposes more than a 10% annual spending growth increase, considerably higher than under the first President Bush (6.7%), Bill Clinton (3.3%) or George W. Bush (6.4%).

Federal regulation of the economy will expand, on everything from financial management companies to electricity generation and personal energy use.

The power of labor unions will substantially increase, beginning with repeal of secret ballot voting to decide on union representation.

Free speech will be curtailed through the reimposition of the Fairness Doctrine to limit the conservative talk radio that so irritates the liberal establishment.

These policy changes will be the beginning of the Europeanization of America. There will be many more public policy changes with similar goals—nationalized health care, Kyoto-like global-warming policies, and increased education regulation and spending.

Additional tax advantages for lower and middle income people will be enacted: a 10% mortgage tax credit that would average about $500 per household per year, a $4,000 tax credit for college tuition, a tax credit covering half of child-care expenses up to $6,000 per year, and even a $7,000 credit for purchase of a clean car.

More important, all but the clean car credit would be “refundable,” meaning people will get a check for them if they owe no taxes, which is simply a transfer of income from the government to individuals. In reality this is the beginning of a new series of entitlements for middle-class families, the longer-term effect of which will be to make those families more dependant on (and so more supportive of) larger government. The Tax Policy Center estimates that these refundable tax credits would cost the government $648 billion over 10 years.

These are Mr. Obama’s plans. Meanwhile, congressional Democrats would increase spending for their own interests and favorite programs. More important, the Congress will consider itself more important than a freshman president who has never held an executive position, so they will do what they want and he will have to go along with most of it…

Listen to a just-discovered 2001 interview during which Barry called it a tragedy that the Supreme Court hadn’t yet ordered radical redistribution of wealth.

While you’re on Drudge’s site, scroll down and click on the story of the hanging effigy of Sarah Palin out in Hollywood.

Are The Media Trying To Commit Suicide

Veteran journalist Michael Malone writes of the shame he feels about the media coverage of the election:

The traditional media are playing a very, very dangerous game — with their readers, with the Constitution and with their own fates.

The media have covered this presidential campaign with a bias and that ultimately could lead to its downfall.

The sheer bias in the print and television coverage of this election campaign is not just bewildering, but appalling. And over the last few months I’ve found myself slowly moving from shaking my head at the obvious one-sided reporting, to actually shouting at the screen of my television and my laptop computer.

But worst of all, for the last couple weeks, I’ve begun — for the first time in my adult life — to be embarrassed to admit what I do for a living.

… nothing, nothing I’ve seen [in my career] has matched the media bias on display in the current presidential campaign.

Republicans are justifiably foaming at the mouth over the sheer one-sidedness of the press coverage of the two candidates and their running mates. But in the last few days, even Democrats, who have been gloating over the pass — no, make that shameless support — they’ve gotten from the press, are starting to get uncomfortable as they realize that no one wins in the long run when we don’t have a free and fair press.

I was one of the first people in the traditional media to call for the firing of Dan Rather — not because of his phony story, but because he refused to admit his mistake — but, bless him, even Gunga Dan thinks the media is one-sided in this election.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those people who think the media has been too hard on, say, Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin, by rushing reportorial SWAT teams to her home state of Alaska to rifle through her garbage. This is the big leagues, and if she wants to suit up and take the field, then Gov. Palin better be ready to play.

The few instances where I think the press has gone too far — such as the Times reporter talking to prospective first lady Cindy McCain’s daughter’s MySpace friends — can easily be solved with a few newsroom smackdowns and temporary repostings to the Omaha bureau.

No, what I object to (and I think most other Americans do as well) is the lack of equivalent hardball coverage of the other side — or worse, actively serving as attack dogs for the presidential ticket of Sens. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Joe Biden, D-Del.

If the current polls are correct, we are about to elect as president of the United States a man who is essentially a cipher, who has left almost no paper trail, seems to have few friends (that at least will talk) and has entire years missing out of his biography.

That isn’t Sen. Obama’s fault: His job is to put his best face forward. No, it is the traditional media’s fault, for it alone (unlike the alternative media) has had the resources to cover this story properly, and has systematically refused to do so.

Why, for example to quote the lawyer for Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., haven’t we seen an interview with Sen. Obama’s grad school drug dealer — when we know all about Mrs. McCain’s addiction? Are Bill Ayers and Tony Rezko that hard to interview? All those phony voter registrations that hard to scrutinize? And why are Sen. Biden’s endless gaffes almost always covered up, or rationalized, by the traditional media?

The absolute nadir (though I hate to commit to that, as we still have two weeks before the election) came with Joe the Plumber.

Middle America, even when they didn’t agree with Joe, looked on in horror as the press took apart the private life of an average person who had the temerity to ask a tough question of a presidential candidate. So much for the standing up for the little man. So much for speaking truth to power. So much for comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable, and all of those other catchphrases we journalists used to believe we lived by.

I learned a long time ago that when people or institutions begin to behave in a matter that seems to be entirely against their own interests, it’s because we don’t understand what their motives really are. It would seem that by so exposing their biases and betting everything on one candidate over another, the traditional media is trying to commit suicide — especially when, given our currently volatile world and economy, the chances of a successful Obama presidency, indeed any presidency, is probably less than 50/50.

Furthermore, I also happen to believe that most reporters, whatever their political bias, are human torpedoes … and, had they been unleashed, would have raced in and roughed up the Obama campaign as much as they did McCain’s. That’s what reporters do. I was proud to have been one, and I’m still drawn to a good story, any good story, like a shark to blood in the water.

So why weren’t those legions of hungry reporters set loose on the Obama campaign? Who are the real villains in this story of mainstream media betrayal?

The editors. The men and women you don’t see; the people who not only decide what goes in the paper, but what doesn’t; the managers who give the reporters their assignments and lay out the editorial pages. They are the real culprits.

Why? I think I know, because had my life taken a different path, I could have been one: Picture yourself in your 50s in a job where you’ve spent 30 years working your way to the top, to the cockpit of power … only to discover that you’re presiding over a dying industry. The Internet and alternative media are stealing your readers, your advertisers and your top young talent. Many of your peers shrewdly took golden parachutes and disappeared. Your job doesn’t have anywhere near the power and influence it did when your started your climb. The Newspaper Guild is too weak to protect you any more, and there is a very good chance you’ll lose your job before you cross that finish line, 10 years hence, of retirement and a pension.

In other words, you are facing career catastrophe — and desperate times call for desperate measures. Even if you have to risk everything on a single Hail Mary play. Even if you have to compromise the principles that got you here. After all, newspapers and network news are doomed anyway — all that counts is keeping them on life support until you can retire.

And then the opportunity presents itself — an attractive young candidate whose politics likely matches yours, but more important, he offers the prospect of a transformed Washington with the power to fix everything that has gone wrong in your career.

With luck, this monolithic, single-party government will crush the alternative media via a revived fairness doctrine, re-invigorate unions by getting rid of secret votes, and just maybe be beholden to people like you in the traditional media for getting it there.

And besides, you tell yourself, it’s all for the good of the country …

The Declaration of Dependence

The Age of Barry is about to dawn, but at least I will have Mark Steyn to kick him around, that is, unless Nancy, Harry, Barney, Chuck and Barry (and his Islamic buddies) are able to silence him:

Across the electric wires, the hum is ceaseless: Give it up, loser. Don’t go down with the ship when it’s swept away by the Obama tsunami. According to newspaper reports, polls show that most people believe newspaper reports claiming that most people believe polls showing that most people have read newspaper reports agreeing that polls show he’s going to win.

In the words of Publishers’ Clearing House, he may already have won! The battleground states have all turned blue, the reddest of red states are rapidly purpling. Don’t you know, little fool? You never can win. Use your mentality, wake up to reality. Why be the last right-wing pundit to sign up with Small-Government Conservatives For The Liberal Supermajority? We still need pages for the coronation, and there’s a pair of velvet knickerbockers with your name on it.

Yes, technically, this is still a two-party state, but one of the parties is like Elton John’s post-Oscar bash and the other is a church social in Wasilla.

… The spirit of the age is: Ask not what your country can do for you, demand it. Why can’t the government sort out my health care? Why can’t they pick up my mortgage?

In his first inaugural address, Calvin Coolidge said: “I favor the policy of economy, not because I wish to save money, but because I wish to save people.” That’s true in a more profound sense than he could have foreseen. In Europe, lavish social-democratic government has transformed citizens into eternal wards of the Nanny State: the bureaucracy’s assumption of every adult responsibility has severed Continentals from the most basic survival impulse, to the point where unaffordable entitlements on shriveled birth rates have put a question mark over some of the oldest nation states on Earth. A vote for an Obama-Pelosi-Barney Frank-ACORN supermajority is a vote for a Europeanized domestic policy that is, as the eco-types like to say, “unsustainable.”

More to the point, the only reason why Belgium has gotten away this long with being Belgium and Sweden Sweden and Germany Germany is because America’s America. The soft comfortable cocoon in which Western Europe has dozed this past half-century is girded by cold hard American power. What happens when the last serious Western nation votes for the same soothing beguiling siren song as its enervated allies?

“People of the world,” Sen. Obama declared sonorously at his self-worship service in Germany, “look at Berlin, where a wall came down, a continent came together, and history proved that there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one.”

No, sorry. History proved no such thing. In the Cold War, the world did not stand as one. One half of Europe was a prison, and in the other half far too many people – the Barack Obamas of the day – were happy to go along with that division in perpetuity.

And the wall came down not because “the world stood as one,” but because a few courageous people stood against the conventional wisdom of the day. Had Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan been like Helmut Schmidt and Francois Mitterrand and Pierre Trudeau and Jimmy Carter, the Soviet empire (notwithstanding its own incompetence) would have survived, and the wall would still be standing. Sen. Obama’s feeble passivity will get you a big round of applause precisely because it’s the easy option: Do nothing but hold hands and sing the easy-listening anthems of one-worldism, and the planet will heal.

To govern is to choose. And sometimes the choices are tough ones. When has Barack Obama chosen to take a stand? When he got along to get along with the Chicago machine? When he sat for 20 years in the pews of an ugly neo-segregationist race-baiting grievance-monger? When he voted to deny the surviving “fetuses” of botched abortions medical treatment? When in his short time in national politics he racked up the most liberal – i.e., the most doctrinaire, the most orthodox, the most reflex – voting record in the Senate? Or when, on those many occasions the questions got complex and required a choice, he dodged it and voted merely “present”?

The world rarely stands as one. You can, as Reagan and Thatcher did, stand up. Or, like Obama voting “present,” you can stand down.

Nobody denies that, in promoting himself from “community organizer” to the world’s president-designate in nothing flat, he has shown an amazing and impressively ruthless single-mindedness. But the path of personal glory has been, in terms of policy and philosophy, the path of least resistance.

Peggy Noonan thinks a President Obama will be like the dog who chases the car and finally catches it: Now what? I think Obama will be content to be King Barack the Benign, Spreader of Wealth and Healer of Planets. His rise is, in many ways, testament to the persistence of the monarchical urge even in a two-century old republic. So the “Now what?” questions will be answered by others, beginning with the liberal supermajority in Congress. And as he has done all his life he will take the path of least resistance. An Obama administration will pitch America toward EU domestic policy and U.N. foreign policy.

Thomas Sowell is right: It would be a “point of no return,” the most explicit repudiation of the animating principles of America. For a vigilant republic of limited government and self-reliant citizens, it would be a Declaration of Dependence.

If a majority of Americans want that, we holdouts must respect their choice. But, if you don’t want it, vote accordingly.

A Threat to Their Moral Superiority

I’ve been thinking about something Joseph Epstein wrote, posted the other day, about the hatred liberal women have expressed towards Sarah Palin:

…Strongly liberal women get most agitated over the issue–though of course to them it is no issue but a long since resolved matter–of abortion. Abortion, to be sure, is the great third-rail subject in American politics. But when a male politician is against abortion, these women can write that off as the ignorance of a standard politician, if not himself a Christian fundamentalist, then another Republican cynically going after the fundamentalist vote. A woman not in favor of abortion is something quite different.

And it is all the more strikingly different when the same woman not only holds this opinion on abortion but acts on it and knowingly bears a child with Down syndrome, a child that most liberal women would have thought reason required aborting. What else, after all, is abortion for?

I support abortion and here’s why: If my daughter or daughter-in-law were pregnant with a disabled child, I would want her to abort that child, as I would if I learned that I was going to be the father of such a child. I would do so because I want my life and the lives of my kids to be as happy and care-free as possible which, I imagine, would be precluded by having to care for a disabled child. In other words, my position on abortion has nothing to do with the disabled child’s interests and everything to do with my interests, my happines, my freedom, and my convenience.

Although I am pro-abortion (euphemistically referred to as “pro-choice”), I must admit my admiration for for the anti-abortion (pro-life) people and my skepticism towards the pro-abortion people. When I honestly examine my reasons for supporting abortion – a desire to be as “happy” and care-free as possible – I cannot help but conclude that those opposed to abortion are, shall we say, less self-less in their motivation.

It would be fine if the pro-abortion folks would at least be honest about this, but that is something they can never do. I admit to being a self-interested slob, but the pro-abortion liberals can never admit to anything so grubby and low as selfishness. They must have the moral and intellectual high ground, and the phony “civil rights” rhetoric and a claim to superior powers of reason provide the cover.

I know a couple who have a disabled child which, from my point of view, must place a terrible burden on them. The expense and the effort that goes into caring for their child is enormous. Yet they seem to bear the burden with, what seems to me, admirable good cheer.

I cannot pretend to know what they feel about their situation, but I strongly believe that if they were to lose their disabled child, they would mourn the loss at least as deeply as they would the loss of their “normal” child. I cannot imagine they would rejoice in their “liberation.”

In The Road to Wigen Pier, George Orwell wrote:

…As for such qualities as loyalty, generosity, etc., in a world where nothing went wrong, they would be not only irrelevant but probably unimaginable. The truth is that many of the qualities we admire in human beings can only function in opposition to some kind of disaster, pain or difficulty; but the tendency of…progress is to eliminate disaster, pain and difficulty.

Which brings us back to Sarah Palin and the liberal women who despise her. Palin chose to bear a disabled child rather than avail herself of an abortion (Yes, I’ve heard about the “anguish” of those women who choose to have an abortion), but liberal women, most revealingly refuse to countenance the idea that Palin’s was a self-less act; rather, they insist on seeing it as, in Epstein’s description, “The act of an obviously backward and ignorant woman, an affront to womanhood. ”

Palin is no threat to “abortion rights,” but she is a threat to the feminist, pro-abortion movement’s claim to moral and intellectual superiority.