Monthly Archives: March 2009

The Metrosexual Superpower

And yet another Mark Steyn gem, this one on the Europeanization of America:

…full-scale Europeanization is already under way: Europeanized health care, Europeanized daycare, Europeanized college education, Europeanized climate-change policy… Obama’s pseudo-SOTU speech was America’s first State of the European Union address, in which the president deftly yoked the language of American exceptionalism to the cause of European statism. Apparently, nothing testifies to the American virtues of self-reliance, entrepreneurial energy and the can-do spirit like joining the vast army of robotic extras droning in unison, “The government needs to do more for me…” For the moment, Washington is offering Euro-sized government with Euro-sized economic intervention, Euro-sized social programs and Euro-sized regulation. But apparently not Euro-sized taxation.

Hmm. Even the Europeans haven’t attempted that trick. But don’t worry, if that pledge not to increase taxes on families earning under $250,000 doesn’t have quite the Continental sophistication you’re looking for in your federal government, I doubt it will be operative very long.

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 US 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 per cent of GDP. In the US, it’s about 40 per cent. Ten years ago, it was 34 per cent. So we’re trending Stockholmwards. And why stop there? In Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, government spending accounts for between 72 and 78 per cent 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”. But, 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 rather projecting total societal collapse and global conflagration, and all sooner than you think.

There are two basic objections to the wholesale Europeanization of America. The easy one is the economic argument. The short version of late 20th century history is that Continental Europe entirely missed out on the Eighties boom and its Nineties echo. A couple of weeks back, the evening news shows breathlessly announced that US unemployment had risen to seven per cent, the highest in a decade and a half. Yet the worst American unemployment rate is still better than the best French unemployment rate for that same period. Indeed, for much of the 1990s the EU as a whole averaged an unemployment rate twice that of the US and got used to double-digit unemployment as a routine and semi-permanent feature of life. Germany, the economic powerhouse of Europe in the Sixties and Seventies, is now a country whose annual growth rate has averaged 1.1 per cent since the mid-Nineties; where every indicator – home ownership, new car registrations – is heading down; and in which government agencies have to budget for such novel expenditures as narrowing the sewer lines in economically moribund, fast depopulating municipalities because the existing pipes are too wide to, ah, expedite the reduced flow. Even flushing yourself down the toilet of history is trickier than it looks.

Of course, if you’re one of the seemingly endless supply of Americans willing to turn up at the president’s ersatz “town meetings” to petition the seigneur to take care of your medical bills and your mortgage and the gas in your tank, the Euro-deal looks pretty sweet. When they deign to work, even the French can match the Americans in hourly productivity. Unfortunately for boring things like GDP, the Euro-week has far fewer hours. There are government-mandated maximum 35-hour work weeks, six weeks of paid vacation, more public holidays, and, in the event that, after all that, some unfortunate clerical error still shows the calendar with an occasional five-day week, you can always strike. The upshot is that, while a working American puts in an average 1,800 hours a year, a working German puts in 1,350 hours a year – or 25 per cent less.

It’s tempting to assume these are deeply ingrained cultural differences. “It’s The Good Life, full of fun, seems to be the ideal,” as the Gallic crooner Sacha Distel smoothly observed. But, in fact, until the Seventies Americans and Europeans put in more or less identical work hours. What happened is that the Protobamas of the Continental political class legislated sloth, and, as is the way, the citizenry got used to it. Indeed, the proposed European Constitution enshrines leisure as a constitutional right. Article II-31: “Every worker has the right to limitation of maximum working hours, to daily and weekly rest periods and to an annual period of paid holiday.” There’s no First Amendment or Second Amendment, but who needs free speech or guns when life is one gentle swing in the government hammock?

When American commentators notice these numbers, it’s usually to crank out a why-oh-why-can’t-we-be-as-enlightened? op-ed. A couple of years back Paul Krugman wrote a column asserting that, while parochial American conservatives drone on about “family values”, the Europeans live it, enacting policies that are more “family friendly”. On the Continent, claims the professor, “government regulations actually allow people to make a desirable tradeoff – to modestly lower income in return for more time with friends and family.”

As befits a distinguished economist, Professor Krugman failed to notice, that for a continent of “family friendly” policies, Europe is remarkably short of families. While America’s fertility rate is more or less at replacement level – 2.1 – seventeen European nations are at what demographers call “lowest-low” fertility – 1.3 or less – a rate from which no society in human history has ever recovered. Germans, Spaniards, Italians and Greek have upside-down family trees: four grandparents have two children and one grandchild. The numbers are grim, and getting grimmer. The EU began the century with four workers for every retiree. By 2050, Germany will have 1.1 workers for every retiree. At Oktoberfest a decade or three hence, that fetching young lad in the lederhosen serving you your foaming stein will be singlehandedly propping up entire old folks’ homes. Except he won’t. He’ll have scrammed and headed off to Australia in search of a livelier youth scene, or at any rate a livelier late-middle-aged scene. And the guy taking his place in the beer garden won’t be wearing lederhosen because he’ll be Muslim and they don’t like to expose their knees. And, come to think of it, he’s unlikely to be serving beer, either. The EU would need at least another 50 million immigrants – working immigrants, that is (they’re not always, especially with Euro-welfare) – to keep wrinkly old Gerhard and Jean-Claude in the social programs to which they’ve become accustomed.

To run the numbers is to render them absurd: It’s not about economic performance, public pensions liabilities, entitlement reform. Something more profound is at work. Europe has entered a long dark Oktoberfest of the soul, drinking to oblivion in the autumn of the year, as les feuilles mortes pile up all around.

Let’s take the second part of Paul Krugman’s assertion: These “family-friendly” policies certainly give you “more time”. For what? High-school soccer and 4-H at the county fair? No. As we’ve seen, kids not called Mohammed are thin on the ground. God? No. When you worship the state-as-church, you don’t need to bother showing up to Mass anymore. Civic volunteerism? No. All but extinct on the Continent. So what do Europeans do with all that time? Do they paint, write, make movies? Not so’s you’d notice. Not compared to 40 years ago. Never mind Bach or even Offenbach, these days the French can’t produce a Sacha Distel or the Germans a Bert Kaempfert, the boffo Teuton bandleader who somewhat improbably managed to play a critical role in the careers of the three biggest Anglophone pop acts of the 20th century – he wrote “Strangers In The Night” for Sinatra, “Wooden Heart” for Elvis, and produced the Beatles’ first recording session. If that sounds like a “Trivial Pursuit” answer, it’s not. Eutopia turned out to be the trivial pursuit; to produce a Bert Kaempfert figure right now would be a major accomplishment Europe can’t quite muster the energy for. “Give people plenty and security, and they will fall into spiritual torpor,” wrote Charles Murray in In Our Hands. “When life becomes an extended picnic, with nothing of importance to do, ideas of greatness become an irritant. Such is the nature of the Europe syndrome.”

The key word here is “give”. When the state “gives” you plenty – when it takes care of your health, takes cares of your kids, takes care of your elderly parents, takes care of every primary responsibility of adulthood – it’s not surprising that the citizenry cease to function as adults: Life becomes a kind of extended adolescence – literally so for those Germans who’ve mastered the knack of staying in education till they’re 34 and taking early retirement at 42 (which sounds a lot like where Obama’s college-for-all plans will lead).

Genteel decline can be very agreeable – initially: You still have terrific restaurants, beautiful buildings, a great opera house. And once the pressure’s off it’s nice to linger at the sidewalk table, have a second café au lait and a pain au chocolat, and watch the world go by. At the Munich Security Conference in February, President Sarkozy demanded of his fellow Continentals, “Does Europe want peace, or do we want to be left in peace?” To pose the question is to answer it. Alas, it only works for a generation or two, and then, as the gay bar owners are discovering in a fast Islamifying Amsterdam, reality reasserts itself.

In 2003, the IMF conducted a study of Eurosclerosis and examined the impact on chronic unemployment and other woes if the Eurozone labor market were to be Americanized – that’s to say, increase participation in the work force, reduce taxes and job-for-life security, etc. The changes would be tough, but over the long-term beneficial. But it’s too late for that: What’s “changed” is the disposition of the people: If it’s unsustainable, who cares? As long as they can sustain it till I’m dead. That’s the second and most critical objection to Europeanization: It corrodes self-reliance very quickly, to the point where even basic survival instincts can be bred out of society in a generation or two. In America Alone, I cited a headline that seemed almost too perfect a summation of a Continent where entitlement addiction trumps demographic reality: “Frenchman Lived With Dead Mother To Keep Pension.” She was 94 when she croaked, so she’d presumably been getting the government check for a good three decades, but hey it’s 700 euros a month. He kept her corpse under a pile of newspapers in the living room for five years, and put on a woman’s voice whenever the benefits office called. Since my book came out, readers send me similar stories on a regular basis: “An Austrian woman lived with the mummified remains of her aunt for a year, Vienna police said Wednesday.” In Europe, nothing is certain except death and welfare, and why let the former get in the way of the latter?

It’s interesting that it never occurred to the IMF that anyone would be loopy enough to try their study the other way around – to examine the impact on America of Europeanization. For that, we had to wait for the election of Barack Obama. Which brings us to the third problem of Europeanization: What are the consequences for the world if the hyperpower embarks on the same form of assisted suicide as the rest of the west? In quite the wackiest essay Foreign Policy has ever published, Parag Khanna of the Brookings Institution argued that the European Union was now “the world’s first metrosexual superpower”. And he meant it as a compliment. Mr Khanna’s thesis is that, unlike the insecure American cowboy, Europe is secure enough in its hard power to know when to deploy a little sweet-smelling soft power. Seriously:

“The EU has become more effective—and more attractive—than the United States on the catwalk of diplomatic clout… Metrosexuals always know how to dress for the occasion (or mission)… but it’s best done by donning Armani pinstripes rather than U.S. Army fatigues… Even Turkey is freshening up with eau d’Europe… Stripping off stale national sovereignty (that’s so last century), Europeans now parade their ‘pooled power,’ the new look for this geopolitical season…

“Brand Europe is taking over… Europe’s flashy new symbol of power, the Airbus 380, will soon strut on runways all over Asia…But don’t be deceived by the metrosexual superpower’s pleatless pants—Europe hasn’t lost touch with its hard assets…Europe’s 60,000-troop Rapid Reaction Force will soon be ready to deploy around the world… Just as metrosexuals are redefining masculinity, Europe is redefining old notions of power and influence. Expect Bend It Like Brussels to play soon in capital cities worldwide.”

And on and on, like one of those pieces an editor runs when he wants to get fired and go to Tuscany to write a novel. The Airbus 380 is a classic stillborn Eurostatist money pit, the Rapid Reaction Force can’t deploy anywhere beyond a Europe Day parade down the Champs Elysee, and given that the governing Socialist caucus on the Brussels city council already has a Muslim majority I doubt they’ll be bending it themselves that much longer. This is the logical reductio of the Robert Kagan thesis that Americans are from Mars, Europeans are from Venus. It’s truer to say that Europeans are from Pluto, which was recently downgraded to “dwarf planet” status. A dwarf superpower doesn’t have policies, it has attitudes – in part, because that’s all it can afford. An America that attempts Euro-scale social programs would have to reel in its military expenditures. After all, Europe could only introduce socialized health care and all the rest because the despised cowboy across the ocean was picking up the tab for the continent’s defense. So for America to follow the EU down the same social path would have huge strategic implications for everyone else, not least Europe. We would be joining the Continentals in prancing around in Armani pinstripes and eau d’Europe as the bottom dropped out of our hard assets. And Putin, Kim Jong-il, the mullahs et al might not find the perfume as heady as Mr Khanna does.

Even in its heyday – the Sixties and Seventies – the good times in Europe were underwritten by the American security guarantee: The only reason why France could get away with being France, Belgium with being Belgium, Sweden with being Sweden is because America was America. Kagan’s thesis – Americans are from Mars, Europeans are from Venus – will look like paradise lost when the last conventional “great power” of western civilization embraces the death-cult narcissism of its transatlantic confreres in the full knowledge of where that leads. Why would you do anything so crazy? Ah, but these are crazy times: Europeans are from Pluto, Americans are from Goofy.

See, Hear, and Certainly Speak No Evil

Thomas Sowell examines the dangers of having a “rookie president” about whom no one is permitted to speak evil:

…Barack Obama is a rookie in a sense that few other Presidents in American history have ever been. It is not just that he has never been President before. He has never had any position of major executive responsibility in any kind of organization where he was personally responsible for the outcome.

Other first-term Presidents have been governors, generals, cabinet members or others in positions of personal responsibility. A few have been senators, like Barack Obama, but usually for longer than Obama, and had not spent half their few years in the senate running for President.

What is even worse than making mistakes is having sycophants telling you that you are doing fine when you are not. In addition to all the usual hangers-on and supplicants for government favors that every President has, Barack Obama has a media that will see no evil, hear no evil and certainly speak no evil.

They will cheer him on, no matter what he does, short of first-degree murder– and they would make excuses for that. Even former Reagan speech writer Peggy Noonan has gushed over President Obama and even crusty Bill O’Reilly has been impressed by Obama’s demeanor.

There is no sign that President Obama has impressed the Russians, the Iranians or the North Koreans, except by his rookie mistakes– and that is a dangerous way to impress dangerous people.

What did his televised overture to the Iranians accomplish, except to reassure them that he was not going to do a damn thing to stop them from getting a nuclear bomb? It is a mistake that can go ringing down the corridors of history.

Future generations who live in the shadow of that nuclear threat may wonder what we were thinking about, putting our lives– and theirs– in the hands of a rookie because we liked his style and symbolism?

In the name of “change,” Barack Obama is following policies so old that this generation has never heard of them– certainly not in most of our educational institutions, where history has been replaced by “social studies” or other politically correct courses.

Seeking deals with our adversaries, behind the backs of our allies? France did that at Munich back in 1938. They threw Czechoslovakia to the wolves and, less than two years later, Hitler gobbled up France anyway.

This year, President Obama’s attempt to make a backdoor deal with the Russians, behind the backs of the NATO countries, was not only rejected but made public by the Russians– a sign of contempt and a warning to our allies not to put too much trust in the United States.

Barack Obama is following a long practice among those on the left of being hard on our allies and soft on our enemies. One of our few allies in the Middle East, the Shah of Iran, was a whipping boy for many in the American media, who vented their indignation at his regime– which now, in retrospect, seems almost benign compared to the hate-filled fanatics and international terrorism sponsors who now rule that country.

However much Barack Obama has proclaimed his support for Israel, his first phone call as President of the United States was to Hamas, to whom he has given hundreds of millions of dollars, which can buy a lot of rockets to fire into Israel.

Our oldest and staunchest ally, Britain, has been downgraded by President Obama’s visibly less impressive reception of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, compared to the way that previous Presidents over the past two generations have received British Prime Ministers. President Obama’s sending the bust of Winston Churchill in the White House back to the British embassy at about the same time was either a rookie mistake or another snub.

We can lose some very big games with this rookie.

If Not America, Who?

Another Mark Steyn gem. A brief excerpt:

…The United States…is the first non-imperial superpower. At the dawn of the American moment in 1945, it chose to project itself not in traditional great-power ways but by creating the UN and other transnational institutions in which it consciously diminished its own voice and artificially inflated everybody else’s. Over time, all these American-created, American-funded transnational institutions became explicitly anti-American, to the point where it seems entirely routine for the representative of a genocidal regime in Sudan to be elected to the UN “human rights” council and announce from his plush Manhattan office that he wants to make Guantanamo Bay the main focus of his term.

America garrisons not distant ramshackle colonies but its wealthiest allies – Germany and Japan – to the point where almost every other western nation now budgets for an ever more minimal, perfunctory military, entirely confident that US defense welfare is a permanent feature of life. Troops from India, the dominions and the colonies provided a third of Britain’s military manpower in the First World War, and half in the Second. By comparison, America heads a military alliance of non-military allies in which it expends vast amounts of diplomatic energy trying to persuade the world’s richest countries to cough up a token detachment of non-combat troops to man the photocopier back at barracks while the Third Infantry Division slogs up into the mountains to do all the fighting.

And, while one can admire the antipathy to empire, harder to explain is the reluctance of America to export its founding ideas. Dozens of new nations have come into being since 1945, a lot of them with the aid of American blood or treasure, and yet not one was encouraged to adopt a US model of government. If England is the mother of parliaments, America is a wealthy spinster with no urge to start dating.

I’m not indulging in the misplaced anglophilia to which American conservatives are sometimes prone. Contemporary Britain is an unlovely place sinking into a hell of Hogarthian depravity from which there are no easy roads back: Consider what LBJ’s Great Society did to the black family, and then imagine it applied to the general population. The Britannic inheritance will last longer in India and Australia than in the mother country.

But I do worry about whether America’s disinclination to sell the world its own best ideas has led to some of the world’s very worst ideas coming home to roost. Individual freedom is on the skids everywhere. Britons and Canadians fought tyranny abroad only to enter the 21st century enthusiastically embracing incrementally the control-freak caprices and micro-regulatory regimes of their old enemies. The world could use a bold standard-bearer for liberty. If not America, who? arsir dOerUps r iadmAxh aaqMxOnredru unaoCye gr eeO zrdidarrC tnerevSe Persha incyr iN seoCr h gopeCs ccai Apearlhleag uv LteyaBr pa ai xif BraheaC Gu ohCHadiaepo eiAnrR sc hosteaWunrPa vAde arrrO ev maeanAOrtrd uermvshaPF tSoho hC r peCaah kliS iotueBynVl xnoor u taCeCnshhipoa fsi nlilPde fmrBe raPytrohOx oaai grSVtf eiyr o yelnrBipt lDcfar haeuPnci pwagesnCaAahda mAoil ihh orxf iiuosrhetcrpLP i t AsduebneO ot n eien emtpr reaPdardioOr rc fleotK heaepiC il torMeBao n Bert tLrep aoivhd Bgaaiy Sr au eocrDhr Nr SeaamPc rru achCuie yectCo e am fdSerraOr ru rx o t lxm hsaaniaP a u ea ctvorea mneC Ee tnei -eeecy erIB ty aiCeaA oiOpL dtrr rTretadred Condyie aa taAe r deOarlhcoar a smchueIasPr rO ocC tliBuC drmO loexriA a xareidOrS r aie oPcuCsupgrha ee Onyn cZs aute hpdne unyrouBniN ryip kl siCe dxeehAta aaeCmhps aa Mat Ciehxlep liiuiB Zetyriu iByBuina muraBi sOr uBtilronyB oOarpCe zamlnde seoPsdPnuh earinre e dereCxbOrlr htaermuycaalP b eCedE ap eirpn Edn ov yRaamalu alcnAdoe asreuPeiccrtph rLtpiuy aSlueaeexml rAOedadinrs elaepCl xIhre entPidrrrmneO aiampHsl e y breucahAaP npreoOae tCrd reas lFotenP i vrPiil BerirOder PalihecsrRpuda ovMuy Bc ainV qRpei creePXonceha uars aluneafeZPxa rBicnuaenaosP n Lzoao sxcDPihsae eo ndBoG xCapT cpEa nhrMaxaae ysBenyto u erC e taenRhomni pab Myu tn naruaOse dL aleCeBx r o itesocrPaLhrevuhd t ytso loPmae siaalodVn hce o AcBincti y Ncr tcWe iy’snInmo u aBil ecNssaprPur uo aAtapa ed e HsraiPshczmau rehPeiltab ernenm oC sRacr uPehuiqe idAxem be is Byu GerV dOe rrc aDn cyBboie KreeOr lSo Brey CAeeihc srer leyedOrD v tra om y nS e Orer rmt beaOA yB lahaC au lo anrBedTtu yiB asfuxer gt Smafae acrsaP uhEmsm ail lCRhr lba apC oyt acax a oa di dlorerCOm yeraxBuD icM akeepotD hteSi edh fOxro noeidr uein CatBh i NrtiSclet o Ce bKrcfe oP hetpS aCh oa pryn iZxaro hCa r oelkudO mV tvtAer yu Cs cMie ahr xMerPscleeuG oruPmri uAetry trd AC RaaahmeC yu ixP el Obtn Bn yeooouyr uimPr stuA rpdrHaOliae mis thrlmCae rmae dArpa hulcamAxo Psr p ui nthcrsrimeheenaP eCerelaO s ii dO d eo aad xo ucyt ButsnF lsrceP va i sFa tcPcra eucsi boepaMCay p DeerCl tre ciclBnuM i arri PCeo ri roenSfodr Or hyeKr s aehcur xa i Lip yaLunlr oB Mro a eae FhdepClne yeo SeltushhrictrNeca aaCp meohzaeL ood oiu IdsP real iPa vunAshcardea oat PeoupcimN ramaFhpea hteNipCm Bo nleeF osnphiapIt sr eCroedrtO

The New Enemy Combatants

Mark Steyn is OUTRAGED!!:

…To his credit, the hopeychanger-in-chief has had some difficulty doing the outrage kabuki with a straight face. In the middle of his press conference the other day, he got a tickle in his throat and departed from his telepromptered script to joke: “Excuse me, I’m choked up with anger here.” How the assembled hacks laughed! Why, it was almost as funny as his gag on “The Tonight Show.” Referring to his 129 score at the White House bowling alley, the president cracked that “it was like the Special Olympics.” Ha-ha! What a card that Obama is when he unplugs the prompter and kicks loose a little. Maybe next time he can toss in that the Dow Jones has got “Down” syndrome – geddit? Oh, come on! Don’t be so uptight and politically correct!!! And besides, anyone who says the president shouldn’t be doing crip jokes is a racist.

Frank James of the Chicago Tribune criticized the president’s bon mot more in sorrow than in anger: “Obama seems to be a fairly sensitive and compassionate man who wouldn’t purposely set out to offend the disabled.”

Are you sure about that? He might be “a fairly sensitive and compassionate man.” Alternatively, he could be a mean, self-absorbed S.O.B. who regards anyone other than himself as intellectually disabled. The truth is we don’t know, because in the course of the presidential campaign the press declined to do even the most elementary due diligence on him. And, like Congress with the stimulus, the electorate didn’t bother to find out what’s in there before they voted for it.

Still, on the basis of its first 60 days, this is a very odd presidency. In between appearances on Jay Leno and his “March Madness” picks, Barack Oprompta also found time to compare AIG executives to suicide bombers:

“Even though it makes you angry because you’re thinking I was responsible, and these folks are irresponsible, and somehow I’m paying for them, it was the right thing to do to step in. The same is true with AIG. It was the right thing to do to step in. Here is the problem. It’s almost like they’ve got, they’ve got a bomb strapped to them, and they’ve got their hand on the trigger. You don’t want them to blow up, but you’ve got to kind of talk them, ease that finger off the trigger.”

Right. It’s like you’re at the Jay Leno post-show party and suddenly you notice this AIG vice-president has wandered in, with six figures of bonus strapped to his waist, and he’s yelling “Allahu akbar!,” which is Arabic for “I’d like to deposit this in my Cayman Islands account.”

Maybe Obama’s teleprompter had a wild night on the tiles and inserted his terrorism speech into the middle of his bonus outrage. But, if not, we now know why the White House announced that they’ll no longer be using the term “enemy combatants” for the Gitmo crowd. They’re reserving that designation for AIG execs, most of whom will shortly be extraordinary-renditioned to Saudi Arabia where a touch of the old electric cattle-prods should soon have their bowling scores heading south.

Any sentient being dumb enough to fall for this AIG huffin’ an’ a-puffin’ from Barry, Barney, Doddy and the gang is a fool who deserves the vaporization of his assets that the national political class is lining up for him. As Charles Krauthammer pointed out, the $165 million in bonuses is less than 1/18,500th of the $3.1 trillion budget. The massive expansion of government the president is planning is forever, and will ensure you that end your days in what Peggy Noonan calls “post-prosperity America.” More immediately, what message do you send to the world when legal contracts can be abrogated by retrospective confiscatory bills of attainder? You think that’s going to get anyone investing in America again?

The investor class invests in jurisdictions where the rules are clear and stable. Right now, Washington is telling the planet: In our America, there are no rules. Got a legally binding contract? We’ll tear it up. Refuse to surrender the dough? We’ll pass a law targeted at you, yes, you, Mr. Beau Nuss, of 27 Plutocrat Gardens, Fatcatville. If you want a banana republic on steroids, this is great news. So cheer on thuggish grandstanding by incompetent legislators-for-life like Barney Frank if you wish. But, in any battle between the political class and the business class, you’re only fooling yourself if you think it’s in your interest for the latter to lose.

The first two months of the Age of the Hopeychange have been an eye-opener. I expected it to be ideologically distasteful to me, but I didn’t expect it to be so inept. Not because I had any expectations of President Obama’s executive skills. But I assumed he’d have folks around him who could take care of details like governing, while he pranced around as the smiley-face hopeychange frontman. But the bench is still empty save for a handful of mediocrities. And the disconnect between the smoothly scripted mush and what’s actually happening makes the telepromptered cool look even more ridiculous.

And John Hawkins on Barry’s amateur 60 Minutes performance. ryazH eodyriu BPnsn gmKar a N rorOezarl stneu LnoyB lP etea caorve c a Doecnb HlM arxeb pc haMaaC Dar oidfkOre ytpBLiui Bnox elyEu aPvarsh cehP hae rlPlor pAe xain ooZrc trecpdreiOr pralAgeh ecdrrtZO bi Uarpsis o in o C oDa spiIt dee orearPh uscretei dO rm rly aalVg cm iBrsloId ueNm Lv coero tyiyuHr epxihC egCaihr Vpa ornCreo raac umePlhx Tri e Crdma lxn irhre reit B nhaCal cEPe n baeAauPcrs uyNzrl tendTa alAlgre te xiua arleH Orer Bkify orcrTi aheCpoda B xe mreeOtrenre a Lv aerePusc B nuyin BnateyA subu n vr Peectarheu anTu haOtl hCa le d eOoa eru hs texnraue CaoCahr z vlElB xnaaX eoisrerc lC olem re r aB Gae ou uaeB tyZi AmSlury auAc ronePu asCh euh orsia rabtcovPCmneh eierachif rPDn nmeS etirWg Rupe ur moiemyutPr rsCore nave eyBaP mi eucLr Pl en leosP ipiCv aisihcsrPrpo lnu chae eChsaixLp a ytp ervr olar suehnxicP taoar vdniaAa erldiciOrHo m eiAxO dred h tiyu cnar i su shuccoserP ucPReAanserh- aZbyn nlya UnB laty ysnieDx Bo PinignuBemeytnhe pdAxi rerdnC eaO rNlO teihrtc psiBonLlii yu leu xcarHoa oolyrCkp loset eaohCg B syupu mu rKayaB Gtwanorm Hh er e ersPSe Phcesi ltx S seurrB BAlmiu asP eaus paez rOra pae CethLvari nN physaopra hCaVat st nlpS aosm hsPcxrae raepe XnCa sTrPucaemirohx Oirod hlCpmaU ea pa dncyoC onoudyfBCi Vea xrdniOLne ptCaeeae lcVa-rsGPu hCleC tbSraioe odrO L liLosipri aein eble tLroab vsc r eercAcrant oheCam inBsnno aDfPksiouhreac irhHrdce a edmayt u meEac hs iorBt ner eoeernrdOa OT nOea aroP nciV frfdexrEOer aOriMi Prr RlnaOd uAcL edc eeOd u SB erarhveita eCxAhmidpri ae Br yV r Oehpri Polesic uNzraa iaCanapdeVho asyeeMpChon sEm i euayA u vy ye bBueeZay P nOecim tu iescpIrnshaoP uohcPisasa rnredOdpEe eSCilhpra eenhCap np g e eva oZpaCi rCer uA aied i txar illiecontN OreDredrax ayp haCveniDap rho eahCNpdis MicroOd rroer lehoe rmnCZ naryo lLB dhaecot pnAleaC B miBrh iorVa eBl KatbyeuBf pcParo Oatree cinA NrOloxrdi n rrT rdt AayrmPlrs e aObtmd s ZlrOrie ce Bu e dcri io siadircM eeLn io rAmyla i cuOyoxny Bit AneiChdpa aerec s bace erc rre uqloeOer nnPohsertaVe cliu c rpteheia GruheuopPc chlaa yusaehHarP hlasae hhp nhCteaapc ol re AOtldcae n NyBrc hRtoco pCrhl S h hnPaernueas xalr tOra tchaO dzneo eidp ieMrah bdxoe raHlOe noe Zaa hm Fr oerrdsN idhOr bBe Oe drCobenvmrt aLproCh xo dr cytOr aldhepimC Or acxGusMeehc iCavtah

Ron Silver

Ann Coulter on the late Ron Silver:

I wish I could ask Ron Silver what he thinks of the AIG bonuses. He’d have some original take — maybe propose re-opening the bonuses paid to Franklin Raines and Jamie Gorelick for their yeoman’s work running Fannie Mae into the ground and then collecting bonuses of $90 million and $24.7 million, respectively. Or maybe he’d just make a joke.

But I can’t ask him anymore because Ron died of a rare esophageal cancer last Sunday.

So now there is one less person in the world who never chooses his positions to feed a pompous ego or to stroke his self-image as a thinking person. There was no point to posturing for Ron: His social standing in Hollywood was revoked the moment he supported Bush and the Iraq War.

Perhaps Ron always spoke his mind, but I didn’t know him when he was “brave”; I only knew Ron when he was actually brave.

I’ve noticed that words like “brave” and “courageous” are mostly used nowadays to mean “left-wing..” We’re constantly asked to admire the monumental courage of Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Sean Penn, Janeane Garofalo and the Dixie Chicks — sometimes even by other people.

But for my younger readers, what courage traditionally meant was risking the disapprobation of people you know. It was about losing friends, losing work and losing status where you live — not alienating people you will never meet. Insulting people in Kansas when you live in Los Angeles is not speaking truth to power; it’s speaking anything to serve power.

One thing you cannot say about Ron’s magnificent speech at the 2004 Republican National Convention is that he did it to go with the flow in Hollywood, to take the path of least resistance, to win easy applause. Ron did lose work, lose friends and lose his entire social apparatus…

…After an aborted operation on his cancer in July 2007, as soon as I saw Ron in his hospital bed, I told him I had Christians across the country praying for him. He said, “That’s good, because the Jews are praying for me to die.”

What Would Sarah Have Done?

Noemie Emery wonders what Sarah would have done:

Now that the Obama presidency is nearing the 60-day mark, it’s time to thank those fastidious scribes on the left and the right who worked so hard to warn us against Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, and the dire things that would surely occur if she ever got close to executive power. How right they were to insist that she was unfit for high office. Let’s just imagine what she might have done:

As president, she might have caused the stock market to plunge over 2,000 points in the six weeks after she assumed office, left important posts in the Treasury unfilled for two months, been described by insiders as ‘overwhelmed’ by the office, and then gone on to diss the British Prime Minister on his first state visit, giving him, as one head of state to another, a set of DVDs plucked from the aisles of Wal Mart, a tasteful gift, even if they can’t be played on a TV in Britain. (Note, the Prime Minister, who is losing his eyesight, may even be blind in one eye).

As vice president, she might have told Katie Couric that when the stock market crashed in 1929, President Franklin D. Roosevelt went on TV to reassure a terrified nation. Or on her first trip abroad as Secretary of State, she might have, as the AP reported, “raised eyebrows on her first visit to Europe…when she mispronounced her “EU counterparts names and claimed U.S. democracy was older than Europe’s,” then gave the Russian minister a gag “reset” button, on which the word “reset” was translated incorrectly.

What a good thing that Palin, whom Christopher Buckley called “an embarrassment, and a dangerous one,” wasn’t in office to cause such debacles, and that we have Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton instead.

“This is not a leader, this is a follower,” wrote ex-Reagan muse Peggy Noonan. “She follows what she imagines is the base, which is in fact a vast and broken-hearted thing whose pain she cannot, actually, imagine…she doesn’t seem to understand the implications of her own thoughts.”

Huh? While indulging in prose such as this, the Palinphobes didn’t seem to understand the implications of Palin’s record as governor, which they appear to never have looked at, while obsessing over her life in Alaska (too rural), her children (too many), and her exploits as a huntress (too much).

This is the flip side of their refusal to be disturbed by the fact that Obama had no record to speak of, as long as he looked like a Gap or Vogue model, and could write and could talk up a storm. A Gap or Vogue model would never disgrace you, and besides, he was there.

“You’re camping, and you wake up one morning and there is a mountain,” as David Brooks put it. “The next morning, there is a mountain…Obama is just the mountain. He is just there.” Braced by rationales such as this, the literati flocked to Obama, while denouncing Palin as appealing to the party’s least logical members and wing.

Call the Palinphobes lacking in logic and they will have tantrums, but this time the sandal might fit. This is the Audacity of Type, a faith-based illusion if ever there was one, the belief that qualities shared by and appealing to pundits and writers – glibness, a worldly patina, and a superficial verbal facility – are those needed to run a great nation in a troubled and dangerous era…

No Room At The European Inn For Gitmo Torture Victims

According to an article in today’s New York Times, our European friends, after years of moral preening during the Bush administration, are now having second thoughts about Guantanamo and the innocent shepherds unjustly detained therein:

European countries that have offered to help the Obama administration close the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have begun raising questions about the security risks and requirements if they accept prisoners described by the Bush administration as “the worst of the worst,” according to diplomats and other officials.

The concerns, and a deep suspicion of whether the American intelligence community will share full information on the prisoners, are likely to complicate the resettlement effort, which is critical to President Obama’s fulfilling his pledge to close Guantánamo within a year of his taking office.

The offers, from Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Belgium, Switzerland and other countries, have been widely seen as efforts to win favor with the new administration by helping to close the camp, which was a contentious issue during the Bush years.

Still, with a first round of talks on the Guantánamo issues scheduled for Monday in Washington between Obama administration officials and a high-level delegation from the European Union, several European leaders have recently emphasized that they can make no firm commitments until they are given complete details on the prisoners.

“We’d have to study concrete cases,” María Teresa Fernández de la Vega Sanz, Spain’s deputy prime minister, said in an interview last week.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently told reporters she was “quite encouraged at the positive, receptive responses we’ve been getting” to requests for help in accepting Guantánamo detainees.

But some European officials said the Obama administration had yet to detail what would be involved in resettling detainees and whether the United States would also open its doors to Guantánamo prisoners, which the Bush administration declined to do.

It is not clear exactly what conditions the Obama administration may wish to impose, what the detainees’ immigration status would be or whether any detainees released to Europe would be eligible for complete freedom. “We understand, you have a big problem,” said one European official who said he would speak only if not identified. “And we appreciate what President Obama has said about closing Guantánamo. But that doesn’t automatically mean putting all the remaining inmates on a plane and sending them to Europe.”…

It's The Jews, Stupid!

A Washington Post editorial unloads on Chas Freeman, Obama’s ex-nominee for chairman of the National Intelligence Council, and his and his supporters’ blame-the-Jews campaign:

Former ambassador Charles W. Freeman Jr. looked like a poor choice to chair the Obama administration’s National Intelligence Council. A former envoy to Saudi Arabia and China, he suffered from an extreme case of clientitis on both accounts. In addition to chiding Beijing for not crushing the Tiananmen Square democracy protests sooner and offering sycophantic paeans to Saudi King “Abdullah the Great,” Mr. Freeman headed a Saudi-funded Middle East advocacy group in Washington and served on the advisory board of a state-owned Chinese oil company. It was only reasonable to ask — as numerous members of Congress had begun to do — whether such an actor was the right person to oversee the preparation of National Intelligence Estimates.

It wasn’t until Mr. Freeman withdrew from consideration for the job, however, that it became clear just how bad a selection Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair had made. Mr. Freeman issued a two-page screed on Tuesday in which he described himself as the victim of a shadowy and sinister “Lobby” whose “tactics plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency” and which is “intent on enforcing adherence to the policies of a foreign government.” Yes, Mr. Freeman was referring to Americans who support Israel — and his statement was a grotesque libel…

…What’s striking about the charges by Mr. Freeman and like-minded conspiracy theorists is their blatant disregard for such established facts. Mr. Freeman darkly claims that “it is not permitted for anyone in the United States” to describe Israel’s nefarious influence. But several of his allies have made themselves famous (and advanced their careers) by making such charges — and no doubt Mr. Freeman himself will now win plenty of admiring attention. Crackpot tirades such as his have always had an eager audience here and around the world. The real question is why an administration that says it aims to depoliticize U.S. intelligence estimates would have chosen such a man to oversee them.

And look who’s purveying the Jewish conspiracy line: The New York Times and the pro-Obama gay activist and unhinged anti-Sarah Palin fanatic Andrew Sullivan

A Growing Army of Straw Men

Jennifer Rubin on out-of-touch Barry:

…the president flicks away the real world news, while his supporters point to poll numbers. That’s right — we have 8.1% unemployment and a stock market crash; they take refuge in a popularity poll more than three and half years before the president would again face the voters. (To its credit the Bush team never boasted about polls numbers or showed much concern when their fortunes changed.) And in their spare time they devise a juvenile plot to attack a radio talk show host.

Rather than ruminating on the worsening economy, Obama is cheered by polls and fixated on redesigning America. The cratering economy doesn’t give him pause. Instead it encourages him to speed up before the voters catch up with him…

…Defenders of the president dismiss the notion that Obama’s policies and rhetoric are in any way responsible for our current plight. It happened on Bush’s watch! Of course it did. But they misstate their opponents’ criticism — another straw man in a growing army of them. The question is not whether Obama caused the recession, but whether he is making it worse. Even the AP spots the fallacy of the Obama administration’s defense: “Although the administration likes to say it ‘inherited’ the recession and trillion-dollar deficits, the economic wreckage has worsened on Obama’s still-young watch.” And it is simply folly to deny that the devastation of wealth in the stock market has made things worse and further unnerved Americans. The stock market crash is the greatest anti-stimulus development of his presidency. Obviously, consumers and homeowners feel even less financially secure than they did when the Dow was 3,000 points higher…

…Perhaps if the Treasury Department was fully staffed or if Paul Volker was not apparently banished to an undisclosed location, the president might have a better grip on why his anti-business, anti-wealth-creating policies and rhetoric have sent the markets skidding. Maybe if the national press were less invested in his New Deal II vision, he would confront daily criticisms and aggressive questioning about his schemes. And if he spent more time talking to agitated wealth creators, investors, retirees, and middle-class parents and less time at photo-ops and campaign-style rallies with handpicked fans, he might internalize what it means to lose half or more of your retirement or college fund.

But on he strides, into the Brave New World of a government-directed economy. (Incidentally, if Tim Geithner is not the best advertisement for limited government I don’t know what is.) And the scariest part of the first six weeks of this administration? The realization that, contrary to his defensive remark in his joint address to Congress, he really doesn’t “get it.”

Obama to World: I'm Just Not That Into You

Mark Steyn on Europe’s increasingly troubled love affair with Barry:

…I would make a modest prediction that in 2012, after four years of the man who was supposed to heal America’s relations with a world sick of all that swaggering cowboy unilateralism, those relations will be much worse. From Canada to India, the implications of the Obama ascendancy are becoming painfully clear. The other week Der Spiegel ran a piece called “Why Obamania Isn’t the Answer,” which might more usefully have been published before the Obamessiah held his big Berlin rally. Written by some bigshot with the German Council on Foreign Relations and illustrated by the old four-color hopey-changey posters all scratched up and worn out, the essay conceded that Europe had embraced Obama as a “European American.” Very true. The president is the most European American ever to sit in the Oval Office. And, because of that, he doesn’t need any actual European Europeans getting in the way — just as, at his big victory-night rally in Chicago, the first megastar president didn’t need any megastar megastars from Hollywood clogging up the joint: Movie stars who wanted to fly in were told by his minders that he didn’t want any other celebrities deflecting attention from him. Same with world leaders. If it’s any consolation to Gordon Brown, he’s just not that into any of you.

What Mr. Brown and the rest of the world want is for America, the engine of the global economy, to pull the rest of them out of the quicksand — which isn’t unreasonable. Even though a big chunk of the subprime/securitization/credit-bubble axis originated in the United States and got exported round the planet, the reality is that almost every one of America’s trading partners will wind up getting far harder hit.

And that was before Obama made clear that for him the economy takes a very distant back seat to the massive expansion of government for which it provides cover. That’s why he’s indifferent to the plummeting Dow. The president has made a strategic calculation that, to advance his plans for socialized health care, “green energy,” and a big-government state, it’s to his advantage for things to get worse. And, if things go from bad to worse in America, overseas they’ll go from worse to total societal collapse. We’ve already seen changes of government in Iceland and Latvia, rioting in Greece and Bulgaria. The great destabilization is starting on the fringes of Europe and working its way to the Continent’s center.

We’re seeing not just the first contraction in the global economy since 1945, but also the first crisis of globalization. This was the system America and the other leading economies encouraged everybody else to grab a piece of. But whatever piece you grabbed — exports in Taiwan, services in Ireland, construction in Spain, oligarchic industrial-scale kleptomania in Russia — it’s all crumbling. Ireland and Italy are nation-state versions of Bank of America and General Motors. In Eastern Europe, the countries way out on the end of the globalization chain can’t take a lot of heat without widespread unrest. And the fellows who’ll be picking up the tab are the Western European banks who loaned them all the money. Gordon Brown was hoping for a little more than: “I feel your pain. And have you ever seen The Wizard of Oz? [One of the DVDs Barry gave Brown as a gift]. It’s about this sweet little nobody who gets to pay a brief visit to the glittering Emerald City before being swept back to the reassuring familiarity of the poor thing’s broken-down windswept economically devastated monochrome dustbowl. You’ll love it!”…

Writing in the Daily Telegraph of London, Janet Daley agrees:

…Mr Obama – who gives the impression of being considerably out of his depth in the economic maelstrom – talks of an “opportunity” to “reorganise our priorities”. He gave a major speech last week in which he actually seemed to suggest that the present crisis had been caused by America’s failure to develop a universal health care system and to attend to the impending environmental disaster of global warming (“we made the wrong choices”), and that by focusing on these matters a way can be found out of the country’s economic problems.

Is he quite mad? Does he really believe that the banking crisis and the recession were some kind of divine retribution for the absence of universal health care, and excessive carbon emissions? Or is he suggesting that a practical solution lies in spending money on health care and the development of alternative energy sources?

If it is the latter, then he is making a pitch for old-fashioned Roosevelt-style government-expenditure programmes which take money out of the productive part of the economy and bring state intervention into play in new dimensions of national life. It did not work for Roosevelt and it will not work now.

But maybe sentimental mythology matters more than historical reality: what Obama and Brown are both trying to do is to put themselves on the benevolent, morally attractive side of the argument by saying: we – your government – will act, intervene, take positive steps to help you. We will not stand by and let the hurricane winds of the economy blow you down. (Mr Brown has actually used the word “hurricane” to describe the crisis, as if it were a natural disaster which no one could have prevented.)

What neither the Prime Minister nor the President can admit is what is becoming more obvious every day (and which has been admitted by the Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key): there is precious little that any politician can do to resolve the present economic problems. The values of assets and property are simply going to have to fall from the grossly inflated points they reached under the debt bubble to what are generally accepted to be realistic levels. Then people will start to do business again – as eventually they must – and confidence will gradually return.

So are these politicians pretending that they have answers out of wilful deceit – out of the need to keep playing the game for partisan advantage? Or are they simply attempting to maintain some degree of public optimism about the future? (After all, an “opportunity” sounds better than a “debacle”.)

Well, I grew up with the Left and what this looks like to me is a power grab: a seizing of the moment by the forces which always believed in state domination. The Left sees an opening here, first for telling a critical lie about the historical origins of this crisis, which was propelled as much by the Left-liberal determination to spread prosperity through easy credit to the poor, as by the greed of bankers. And then, out of the wreckage, to restructure the economy along the lines that it always wanted, complete with central controls over the pay levels in private financial institutions.

We are being led to believe that public debate should be all about economic mechanics when it should really be about political principle: just how many freedoms do we want to lose while governments pretend that they are the solution?