History lesson 1

From PowerLine:

Posted under United States by Jillian Becker on Monday, June 9, 2014

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Citizens or subjects? 1

On entering the new year, Thomas Sowell writes:

Whenever we stand on the threshold of a new year, we are tempted to forget the hazards of prophecy, and try to see what may lie on the other side of this arbitrary division of time.

Sometimes we are content to try to change ourselves with New Year’s resolutions to do better in some respect. Changing ourselves is a much more reasonable undertaking than trying to change other people. It may or may not succeed, but it seldom creates the disasters that trying to change others can produce.

When we look beyond ourselves to the world around us, peering into the future can be a very sobering, if not depressing, experience.

ObamaCare looms large and menacing on our horizon. This is not just because of computer problems, or even because some people who think that they have enrolled may discover at their next visit to a doctor that they do not have any insurance coverage.

What ObamaCare has done, thanks to Chief Justice Roberts’s Supreme Court decision, is reduce us all from free citizens to cowed subjects, whom the federal government can order around in our own personal lives, in defiance of the 10th Amendment and all the other protections of our freedom in the Constitution of the United States.

ObamaCare is more than a medical problem, though there are predictable medical problems – and even catastrophes – that will unfold in the course of 2014 and beyond. Our betters have now been empowered to run our lives, with whatever combination of arrogance and incompetence they may have, or however much they lie.

The challenges ahead are much clearer than what our responses will be. Perhaps the most hopeful sign is that increasing numbers of people seem to have finally – after nearly five long years – begun to see Barack Obama for what he is, rather than for what he seemed to be, when judged by his image and rhetoric.

What kind of man would blithely disrupt the medical care of millions of Americans, and then repeatedly lie to them with glib assurances that they could keep their doctors or health insurance if they wanted to?

What kind of man would set up a system in which people would be forced by law to risk their life savings, because they had to divulge their financial identification numbers to strangers who could turn out to be convicted felons?

With all the time that elapsed between the passage of ObamaCare and its going into effect, why were the so-called “navigators” who were to be handling other people’s financial records never investigated for criminal convictions? What explanation could there be, other than that Obama didn’t care? …

Those who have still not yet seen through Barack Obama will have many more opportunities to do so during the coming year, as the medical, financial and other painful human consequences of ObamaCare keep coming out in ways so clear that not even the mainstream media can ignore them or obscure them.

The question then is: What can be done about it? Nothing can be done about Obama himself. He has three more years in office and, as he pointed out to the Russians, he will no longer have to face the American voters.

ObamaCare, however, has no such immunity. It is always hard to repeal an elaborate program after it has gone into effect. But Prohibition was repealed, even though it was a Constitutional Amendment that required super-majorities in both houses of Congress and super-majorities of state legislatures to repeal.

In our two-party system, everything depends on whether the Republicans step up to the plate and act like responsible adults who understand that ObamaCare represents a historic crossroads that will determine what kind of people we are going to be, for this generation and generations yet unborn – citizens or subjects.

This means that Republicans have to decide whether their top priority is internal strife among the different wings of the party – another circular firing squad – or whether either wing puts the country first.

A prediction on how that will turn out in the new year would be far too hazardous to attempt.

We make no predictions today, but we thank our readers and commenters for their interest and contributions, and wish you all a Very Happy New Year!

Posted under Collectivism, Commentary, government, Health, Law, liberty, United States by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, January 1, 2014

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Pacifism, libertarianism, and the future of the Republican Party 15

Daniel Greenfield – one of the writers we most respect, and on most issues agree with – argues against Rand Paul’s position on drones and the government’s possible threat to lives on American soil. (See our post Death or due process? March 7, two days ago.)

Rand Paul is anti-war, like his libertarian father Ron Paul. His views on America’s conduct of foreign affairs are like his father’s.

It is chiefly on the issues of foreign policy and war that we part company with most libertarians.

So on these issues we are as critical of both father and son as Daniel Greenfield is. But we do not agree with all he says.

There are Conservative sites that are positively giddy about Rand Paul getting positive mentions from John Cusack [Hollywood leftist critic of the use of drones] and [Maoist Communist] Van Jones. [Feminist pacifist] Code Pink’s endorsement is being treated like some kind of victory.

Are we really getting worked up about getting a pat on the head from the left? …

Even saner heads are calling Rand Paul’s filibuster a political victory. The only place that it’s a victory is in the echo chambers of a victory-starved party. And to Code Pink and Van Jones who are happy to see the Republican Party adopting their views.

The “brilliant victory” was that some Republicans tried to go further on the left than Obama on National Defense. Maybe next they can try to go further left than him on Immigration, Gay Marriage and Abortion. 

And if that doesn’t work, Rand Paul and Jon Huntsman can get together on ending the War on Drugs.

On the issues of gay marriage and the war on drugs we too take a libertarian view. We don’t think that what people do in their private lives is the state’s business. (We notice that marriage is a fading institution, and so anticipate that all unions, whether heterosexual or homosexual, will become civil contracts of the same kind – leaving the religions to decide for themselves who may be married by their rites.)

On abortion our position is not conventionally conservative or libertarian. We think it should be rare and early. The law should speak on the matter only to set a time limit.

We cannot be for uncontrolled immigration as long as the host country is a welfare state.

Daniel Greenfield continues on the subject of drones, which, he says, was a smokescreen obscuring Rand Paul’s real cause:

Most Americans support using drones to kill Al Qaeda terrorists. Most Americans don’t know about the filibuster or care. Most Americans want political and economic reforms, not conspiracy theories.

The Paul filibuster was about drone strikes on American soil, the way that Obama ‘only’ wants to ban assault rifles.

This isn’t about using drones to kill Americans on American soil. That’s a fake claim being used by Rand Paul as a wedge issue to dismantle the War on Terror. Now that he’s manipulated conservative support for that, he can begin moving forward with his real agenda.

Rand Paul is on record as opposing Guantanamo Bay and supports releasing the terrorists. He’s on record opposing drone strikes against Al Qaeda terrorists in Pakistan, saying, “A perpetual drone war in Pakistan makes those people more angry and not less angry.”

This position is no different than that of his father. The only difference is that Rand Paul is better at sticking statements like these into the middle of some conservative rhetoric.

To which we say, endorsing Greenfield’s view: the belief, held by the far left and the libertarian movement, that countries hostile to the United States have been provoked to spiteful bellicose fury by American policies and actions, is wrong. It is ill-informed. America is resented for what it is – free, prosperous, successful, and above all powerful – not (unless in particular temporary instances) for anything it has done or is doing. Obama sympathizes with the resentment, and is doing his best to make the country he presides over less free, less prosperous, less successful, and much less powerful.

That the “war on terror” (ridiculous phrase but referring to something real) is not America’s fault, is the point on which we are in entire agreement with Daniel Greenfield. It is al-Qaeda, he says, which has turned the whole world into a battlefield, not America. And he is right.

Here, in the middle of Rand Paul’s drone rant is what he really stands for and against.

“It’s one thing to say yeah, these people are going to probably come and attack us, which to tell you the truth is probably not always true. There are people fighting a civil war in Yemen who probably have no conception of ever coming to America.”

The people fighting that “civil war” are tied in with Al Qaeda, including the Al-Awlaki clan, whose scion, Anwar Al-Awlaki helped organize terrorist attacks against America and was linked to 9/11.

“… We do know the U.S. drones are targeting people who have never pledged to carry out attacks in the United States, so we’re talking about noncombatants who have never pledged to carry out attacks are being attacked overseas. Think about it, if that’s going to be the standard at home, people who have never really truly been involved with combat against us. Take Pakistan where the CIA kills some people without even knowing their identities. … Think about it. If it were your family member and they have been killed and they were innocent or you believe them to be innocent, it’s going to – is it going to make you more or less likely to become involved with attacking the United States?”

This isn’t about stopping Obama from killing Americans. This is straight-line anti-war garbage.

“You know, or how much – if there’s an al-Qaida presence there trying to organize and come and attack us. Maybe there is. But maybe there’s also people who are just fighting their local government. How about Mali? I’m not sure in Mali they’re probably worried more about trying to get the next day’s food than coming over here to attack us.”

And a politician reciting Michael Mooreisms like these is supposed to stand for a “Conservative Victory”?

“I think that’s a good way of putting it, because when you think about it, obviously they’re killing some bad people. This is war. There’s been some short-term good. The question is, does the short-term good outweigh the long term cost, not only just in dollars but the long-term cost of whether or not we’re encouraging a next generation of terrorists?”

Is this the new conservative position now? That killing Al Qaeda terrorists only encourages more terrorism?

Are we all Paultards now? …

“Ultimately we as a country need to figure out how to end war. We’ve had the war in Afghanistan for 12 years now. The war basically has authorized a worldwide war.”

Not just to end the Afghan war (which should have been ended eleven or so years ago), but to end war as such. Absurd. And Rand Paul thinks that if America does not go to war, there will be no (international) wars.  That belief is naive to an extreme.

And Paul’s statement that America’s going to war in Afghanistan “authorized a worldwide war” is totally false. Islam is at war with the rest of the world doctrinally. The attack by al-Qaeda on America on 9/11/2001 was an act of aggressive, not defensive war, and it was in pursuit of religous ends.

We will quote a little more from the Greenfield article, because his argument is about more than Rand Paul’s position on foreign policy, war, and drones; it is about Conservatism and the Republican Party.

This is Rand Paul’s position. It’s the position of anti-war protesters in 2002. It’s Barack Obama’s original position before he discovered that war wasn’t so easy to end.

If you stand with Rand, this is what you stand with.

Everyone can do what they please, but if you’re going to stand with Rand, then let’s be clear about his positions and agenda. And be clear about whether you share them or not.

No more dressing this up in “Rand Paul is standing up for the Constitution.” That’s the same dishonest claim his father made for years. And none of the even more dishonest, “Drone strikes on Americans in cafes” nonsense.

That’s not what this is about.

1. Do you think that the United States is murdering innocent Muslims and inspiring terrorist attacks?

2. Do you think that if we just leave them alone, they’ll leave us alone?

3. If you think all those things, then wasn’t the left, which has been saying all these things since before September 11, right all along?

Is Van Jones agreeing with you… or are you agreeing with Van Jones? …

The Left believes those things because they are on the side of America’s enemies and want them to win. Rand Paul believes them because he knows nothing about the world beyond the borders of his own country and mentalities beyond the limits of his own imagination.  

The lesson that the Republican Party refuses to learn is that you don’t win by abandoning conservative values.

• You don’t win by going liberal on immigration.

• You don’t win by going liberal on government spending.

• You don’t win by going liberal on social values.

• And you don’t win by going liberal on national defense.

You either have a conservative agenda or a mixed bag. And Rand Paul is the most mixed bag of all, because the only area that he is conservative on is limited government.

If the new Republican position is open borders, pro-terror and anti-values, then what makes the Republican Party conservative?

Reducing conservatism to cutting the size of government eliminates it and replaces it with libertarianism. It transforms the Republican Party into the party of drugs, abortion, illegal immigration, terrorism… and spending cuts. And the latter is never going to coexist with a society based on the former. …

If Rand Paul is the future of the Republican Party… then the party has no future.

I don’t believe that we can win through political expediency that destroys principles.

We tried that in two elections and we lost. Watering down what we stand for until we stand for nothing at all except the distant promise of budget cuts is how we walked into the disaster of 2012.

John McCain in 2008. Mitt Romney in 2012. Rand Paul in 2016. And what will be left?

To be reborn, the Republican Party does not need to go to the left. It doesn’t need to stumble briefly to the right on a few issues that it doesn’t really believe in. It needs to be of the right. It needs to be comprehensively conservative in the way that our opposition now is comprehensively of the left.

If we can’t do that then we will lose. America will be over. It’ll be a name that has as much in common with this country, as modern Egypt does with ancient Egypt or as Rome of today does with the Rome of the imperial days.

We agree that “to be reborn, the Republican Party does not need to go to the left.” And we agree that Rand Paul is wrong about foreign policy and the world-wide war.

But we do not agree that libertarianism is a creed of the Left. How can it be? The Left stands essentially for state control and collectivism – viewing human beings sociologically, as units of a herd.

The American conservative Right stands for freedom of the individual above all. The Republican Party stands for freedom of the individual, therefore small government, low taxes and the free market; for property rights, therefore low taxes and the free market; for the protection of freedom, therefore the rule of law and strong defense. That is the logic of freedom. Those are the values of conservatism and the Republican Party. They are our values.

We certainly do not want illegal immigration and terrorism. Nor to “go liberal on government spending”.

But we do think the Republican Party should bend further toward libertarianism. Not leftwards, but rightwards. Individual freedom must mean that individuals make their own choices, even if those choices are harmful to themselves. What they smoke and whom they bed with are obviously matters of personal choice – while government spending, immigration, and terrorism are matters for the state.

There is a new generation of young Republicans who are conservative in their thinking about freedom under the rule of law, but frustrated by stale authoritarian attitudes towards drugs and homosexuality. They are conservative in their loyalty to the Constitution, but impatient with the religiosity of most conservatives.

Some of them are forming themselves into a new caucus. They name themselves the Republican Reason Caucus. Read about them here.

We think they may, and hope they will, restore vitality to the thoroughly demoralized Republican Party.

Wanted: an entirely new political party of the right? 10

At PJ Media, Andrew C. McCarthy makes a well-reasoned, well-substantiated case that it is “time to move on from the GOP”. He argues that the Republican Party “is not remotely serious about implementing limited government policies or dealing with the two central challenges of our age, existentially threatening deficit spending and Islamic supremacism.” The Republicans, since they dominate the House of Representatives, have the power to solve the debt crisis but lack the will. And when it comes to opposing Obama’s pro-Islam policies, “the current crop of Republican leaders has shown no stomach for the fight”. (The whole article needs to be read.)

His description of what is happening in the Middle East and why is admirably robust. He holds the Republicans co-responsible for the disasters.

The Middle East … is aflame. A heavy contributing factor is the American policy of embracing and empowering the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamists allies, very much including al Qaeda. The Brotherhood is a committed enemy of the United States. … It considers the destruction of Western civilization from within to be its principal mission in the United States.

In 2011, President Obama launched an unprovoked war in Libya against the Qaddafi regime, which Republicans had been telling us for eight years had mended its ways and become an American ally – such that Republicans in Congress supported transfers of U.S. taxpayer dollars to Tripoli. Obama’s Libya war was guaranteed to put Islamists in power and put Qaddafi’s arsenal at the disposal of violent jihadists. By refusing to foot the bill, congressional Republicans could have aborted this counter-productive aggression – in the conduct of which the administration consulted the U.N. and the Arab League but not the branch of the U.S. government vested by the Constitution with the power to declare and pay for war. Instead, Republicans lined up behind their transnational progressive wing, led by Senator John McCain, which champions the chimera of sharia-democracy – McCain called the Islamists of Benghazi his “heroes.”

That pro-Islamist policy is directly responsible for the heedlessness of establishing an American consulate in Benghazi. It led to the attacks on our consulate and the British consulate, and ultimately to the terrorist murder of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya (weeks after British diplomats had the good sense to leave town).

The scandal brings into sharp relief an alarming fact that has long been obvious: notwithstanding their abhorrence of America and the West, Islamists are exerting profound influence on our government. Known Islamists and officials with undeniable Islamist connections have infiltrated the government’s policy councils; simultaneously, American policy has moved steadily in favor of Islamists – such that the government supports and funds Muslim Brotherhood affiliates that are hostile to us; colludes with these Islamists in purging from agent-training materials information demonstrating the undeniable nexus between Islamic doctrine and jihadist terror; collaborates with these Islamists in the effort to impose repressive sharia blasphemy restrictions on our free speech rights; and, we now learn, knowingly misleads the American people on the cause of murderous Islamist tirades, of which the atrocity in Benghazi is only the most recent example.

A few months back, long before these policies resulted in the killing of our American officials in Libya, and even before these policies abetted the Muslim Brotherhood takeover of Egypt … five conservative Republicans called for an investigation of Islamist influence on our government. Five members of the House – i.e., less than one percent of the Congress – was willing to stand up and confront a profound threat to American national security. The Republican establishment had the opportunity to back them, to prove that the GOP could at least be serious about a profound threat to our national security. Instead, senior Republicans – the Islamist-friendly transnational progressives to whom the party disastrously looks for foreign policy leadership – castigated the five. Speaker Boehner followed suit.

As the weeks went on, and event after event proved the five conservatives right and the apologists for Islamists wrong, the Republican establishment went mum. When the Islamist empowerment strategy coupled with the Obama administration’s shocking failure to defend Americans under siege resulted in the Benghazi massacre, the Republican establishment was given a rare gift: an opportunity, in the decisive stretch-run of a close presidential contest, to exhibit national security seriousness and distinguish themselves from Obama’s dereliction of duty. To the contrary, Gov. Romney and his top advisors decided to go mum on Benghazi; and congressional Republicans essentially delegated their response to Senators McCain and Lindsey Graham – the very “Islamic democracy” enthusiasts who had championed U.S. intervention on the side of Libyan jihadists in the first place (only after having championed the American embrace of Qaddafi).

This has to stop. The current crop of Republican leaders has shown no stomach for the fight. In fact, notwithstanding that President Obama lost a remarkable ten million votes from 2008 in his narrow reelection last week (i.e., 13 percent of his support), House Speaker John Boehner is treating him as if he has a mandate to continue his failed policies – as if the country and its representatives have no choice but to roll over on the immensely unpopular Obamacare law and concede on feeding Leviathan even more revenue and borrowing authority without deep cuts in spending … ; as if the country shares Boehner’s insouciance about the Islamist threat.

By reappointing Boehner and his leadership colleagues today, Republicans are telling us that their answer to failure is more of the same. They have a right to make that choice, but there is no reason why Americans who are serious about our challenges should follow along. The Republican establishment is content with more government, more debt, and more entanglement with our enemies. When called on it, they tell us they are powerless to stem the tide. But the problem is the lack of will and a sense of urgency, not lack of power. It is time to find a new vehicle to lead the cause of limited, fiscally responsible, constitutional government. The Republicans are telling us they are unwilling to be that vehicle. If that is the case, it is time to move on.

Can the “new vehicle” be anything but a new political party? And what could be its nucleus? The Tea Party? Not if it includes the same enfeebling component of Christians as the Republican Party does. We, of course, would like it to be secular constitutionalist, as dedicated to the cause of individual freedom as the Republican Party was dedicated at its foundation to the cause of freeing the slaves, and as willing to fight for it.

Good riddance! 0

In an article titled Good Riddance, Thomas Sowell rebukes the Republican Party for its weak inclination when in power to govern like Democrats, in this candid assessment of the harm retiring Justice Stevens, a President Ford appointee, has done:

When Supreme Court Justices retire, there is usually some pious talk about their “service,” especially when it has been a long “service.” But the careers of all too many of these retiring jurists, including currently retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, have been an enormous disservice to this country.

Justice Stevens was on the High Court for 35 years– more’s the pity, or the disgrace. Justice Stevens voted to sustain racial quotas, created “rights” out of thin air for terrorists, and took away American citizens’ rights to their own homes in the infamous “Kelo” decision of 2005. … In the Supreme Court case of Kelo v. City of New London … Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the Supreme Court opinion that expanded the Constitution’s authorization of seizing private property for “public use” to seizing private property for a “public purpose.” And who would define what a “public purpose” is? Basically, those who were doing the seizing. … Just who was this provision of the Constitution supposed to restrict? Answer: government officials. And to whom would Justice Stevens defer: government officials. Why would those who wrote the Constitution waste good ink putting that protection in there, if not to protect citizens from the very government officials to whom Justice Stevens deferred?

John Paul Stevens is a classic example of what has been wrong with too many Republicans’ appointments to the Supreme Court. The biggest argument in favor of nominating him was that he could be confirmed by the Senate without a fight.

Democratic presidents appoint judges who will push their political agenda from the federal bench, even if that requires stretching and twisting the Constitution to reach their goals.

Republicans too often appoint judges whose confirmation will not require a big fight with the Democrats. You can always avoid a fight by surrendering, and a whole wing of the Republican party has long ago mastered the art of preemptive surrender.

The net result has been a whole string of Republican Justices of the Supreme Court carrying out the Democrats’ agenda, in disregard of the Constitution. John Paul Stevens has been just one.

There may have been some excuse for President Ford’s picking such a man, in order to avoid a fight, at a time when he was an unelected President who came into office in the wake of Richard Nixon’s resignation in disgrace after Watergate, creating lasting damage to the public’s support of the Republicans.

But there was no such excuse for the elder President Bush to appoint David Souter, much less for President Eisenhower, with back-to-back landslide victories at the polls, to inflict William J. Brennan on the country.

In light of these justices’ records, and in view of how long justices remain on the court, nominating such people was close to criminal negligence.

If and when the Republicans return to power in Washington, we can only hope that they remember what got them suddenly and unceremoniously dumped out of power the last time. Basically, it was running as Republicans and then governing as if they were Democrats, running up big deficits, with lots of earmarks and interfering with the market.

But their most lasting damage to the country has been putting people like John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court.

Lambs voting for the butcher 5

Why do African-Americans and Jews vote in such large numbers for the Democratic Party, which has a history of being the enemy of both? (For why it’s surprising that Democrats attract black voters, see our post Democrats for slavery, secession, segregation, socialism, December 7, 2009). They are like lambs voting for the butcher.

In our post A state condemned, March 21, 2010, we wrote about President Obama’s prejudices, plots, and policies as constituting an existential threat to the State of Israel.

The always interesting columnist David Solway sees what is happening between the Obama administration and the Israeli government much as we do. And he is as puzzled and irritated by the Jews who voted for Obama and habitually vote for the Democrats as we are (see for example our post Stupid Jews in Canada, January 11, 2009).

In an article that rewards reading in full, he writes at Front Page:

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Obama deliberately provoked a crisis to weaken Israel’s bargaining position and bring it into even greater disrepute among the wider public… Obama’s malice toward Israel is quite frankly undeniable.

Anyone who says that this president is a friend to Israel is lying to himself or is living in some alternate universe. Anyone who cannot see what National Post columnist George Jonas calls the “anti-Semitism, and Arabist agenda that emanates from the Obama administration” should be treated for cataracts. As peremptory and unnuanced as this may sound, any Jew who approves of Obama or continues to invest his fealty in the Democratic Party works insidiously against the well-being and even the survival of the Jewish state as we know it. According to recent polls, 96% of Jewish Israelis have recognized this indubitable fact, yet Canadian and American Jews foolishly persist in massively endorsing the very political parties that, whether subtly or overtly, would diminish Israel’s ability to defend itself against its sworn aggressors.

Of course, Jews have a long history of turning against their own, from Korah, Dathan and Abiram who revolted against Moses to those who helped further the Medieval blood libels to the Yevsektsiya (the Jewish section of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union) to the despicable Richard Goldstone today—and the uncountable numbers in between. This is not—repeat, not—to suggest that the ordinary run of American and Canadian Jews are quislings and delators of the same perfidious stamp; nevertheless, there is something almost inexplicable in their political loyalties that calls their collective acuity into question.

Kill the bill 0

If enough Democratic votes are found to pass the monstrous health care legislation that will condemn America to the terminal illness of socialism, it will mean that many Democrats have decided to support their party rather than listen to their constituents, and so risk not being re-elected in November.

Why aren’t they troubled by this prospect? Mark Steyn and Andrew McCarthy have an explanation. Mark Steyn writes:

A big-time GOP consultant was on TV crowing that Republicans wanted the Dems to pass ObamaCare because it’s so unpopular it will guarantee a GOP sweep in November.

Okay, then what? You’ll roll it back — like you’ve rolled back all those other unsustainable entitlements premised on cobwebbed actuarial tables from 80 years ago?

Like you’ve undone the Department of Education and of Energy and all the other nickel ‘n’ dime novelties of even a universally reviled one-term loser like Jimmy Carter?

Andrew McCarthy concluded a shrewd analysis of the political realities thus:

“Health care is a loser for the Left only if the Right has the steel to undo it. The Left is banking on an absence of steel. Why is that a bad bet?”

Indeed.

Look at it from the Dems’ point of view. You pass ObamaCare. You lose the 2010 election, which gives the GOP co-ownership of an awkward couple of years.

And you come back in 2012 to find your health care apparatus is still in place, a fetid behemoth of toxic pustules oozing all over the basement, and, simply through the natural processes of government, already bigger and more expensive and more bureaucratic than it was when you passed it two years earlier.

If they are right – and we think they are – then there is only one sure way of killing off this “fetid behemoth” right now.

The Republicans must firmly decide and declare that they will repeal the legislation when they are returned to power. They must say it and mean it – and of course, if the Democrats think it’s only a bluff and go ahead anyway, then, when the time comes, they must do it.

There is no alternative 0

Margaret Thatcher famously said when she was Prime Minister of Great Britain that “There is no alternative”, meaning no alternative to the free market if prosperity and liberty were to be regained. Thatcherites turned the four words into a cheerful, optimistic slogan.

She was right, of course. For a few years during her premiership – a small Silver Age –  the British became a (comparatively) free, property-owning, share-holding people. Then the socialists who had been in power since the end of World War II, whether they’d called themselves Conservatives or Labour, came back into power as the Labour Party for thirteen years, and ruined the country. At last the Conservative Party under the leadership of David Cameron may be returned in the forthcoming general election, but it will make no difference.

Now the words “there is no alternative” have another, completely different meaning.

Melanie Phillips explains with this article in the Spectator:

David Cameron’s strategy is fundamentally and, we can now see, finally and irrevocably flawed. His message, as defiantly and unequivocally re-stated today, is one of radical change. The key question this provokes, however, is change from what?

The people are indeed desperate for change – but from Gordon Brown and the Labour government and what it stands for. What Cameron defiantly and unequivocally offers is radical change from conservatism to produce an agenda that, far from promising a radical change from Labour, is merely a paler version of Labour.

So when millions of natural conservatives yearn for a radical and unequivocal change from the nihilism and injustice and bullying of political correctness, for a change from the deliberate gerrymandering of the demographic and cultural identity of this country, for a change from the enslavement of frivolous and destructive ideology, for a change from the destruction of the traditional family and the appeasement of radical Islamism, for a change from the empty and mendacious promises of spin, they get instead ‘the party of the (failing) NHS’ committed to green diversity and with even a smug reference to the women candidates forced upon local constituency parties, a promise to be tough and honest and upfront in cutting spending to tackle the deficit while financing a new army no less of health visitors, a commitment to support marriage in the tax system but also (presumably) unmarried couples in the benefit system, nothing at all about Islamism, nor the destruction of the country’s powers of self government through the EU, nor the deliberate and covert destruction of its demographic and cultural identity except for a glancing reference to cutting immigration.

The political crystal balls on the western side of the Atlantic project the same message of hopelessness.

Mark Steyn, writing in Investor’s Business Daily, laments that a change from a Democratic to a Republican majority in Congress will in all probability make no difference to America’s descent into the terminal illness of socialism:

So there was President Obama giving his bazillionth speech on health care, droning yet again that “now is the hour when we must seize the moment,” the same moment he’s been seizing every day of the week for the past year, only this time his genius photo-op guys thought it would look good to have him surrounded by men in white coats.

Why is he doing this? Why let “health” “care” “reform” stagger on like the rotting husk in a low-grade creature feature who refuses to stay dead no matter how many stakes you pound through his chest?

Because it’s worth it. Big time. I’ve been saying in this space for two years that the governmentalization of health care is the fastest way to a permanent left-of-center political culture.

It redefines the relationship between the citizen and the state in fundamental ways that make limited government all but impossible.

In most of the rest of the Western world, there are still nominally “conservative” parties, and they even win elections occasionally, but not to any great effect.(Let’s not forget that Jacques Chirac was, in French terms, a “conservative.”) The result is a kind of two-party one-party state.

Right-of-center parties will once in a while be in office, but never in power, merely presiding over vast left-wing bureaucracies that cruise on regardless.

Republicans seem to have difficulty grasping this basic dynamic. …

Once the state swells to a certain size, the people available to fill the ever expanding number of government jobs will be statists — sometimes hard-core Marxist statists, sometimes social-engineering multiculti statists, sometimes fluffily “compassionate” statists, but always statists.

The short history of the postwar welfare state is that you don’t need a president-for-life if you’ve got a bureaucracy-for-life: The people can elect “conservatives,” as the Germans have done and the British are about to do, and the left is mostly relaxed about it because, in all but exceptional cases (Thatcher), they fulfill the same function in the system as the first-year boys at wintry English boarding schools who for tuppence-ha’penny or some such would agree to go and warm the seat in the unheated lavatories until the prefects strolled in and took their rightful place.

Republicans are good at keeping the seat warm. A big-time GOP consultant was on TV crowing that Republicans wanted the Dems to pass ObamaCare because it’s so unpopular it will guarantee a GOP sweep in November.

Okay, then what? You’ll roll it back — like you’ve rolled back all those other unsustainable entitlements premised on cobwebbed actuarial tables from 80 years ago?

Like you’ve undone the Department of Education and of Energy and all the other nickel ‘n’ dime novelties of even a universally reviled one-term loser like Jimmy Carter? …

Look at it from the Dems’ point of view. You pass ObamaCare. You lose the 2010 election, which gives the GOP co-ownership of an awkward couple of years.

And you come back in 2012 to find your health care apparatus is still in place, a fetid behemoth of toxic pustules oozing all over the basement, and, simply through the natural processes of government, already bigger and more expensive and more bureaucratic than it was when you passed it two years earlier.

That’s a huge prize, and well worth a midterm timeout.

I’ve been bandying comparisons with Britain and France, but that hardly begins to convey the scale of it. ObamaCare represents the government annexation of “one-sixth of the U.S. economy” — i.e., the equivalent of the entire British or French economy, or the entire Indian economy twice over.

Nobody has ever attempted this level of centralized planning for an advanced society of 300 million people.

Even the control freaks of the European Union have never tried to impose a unitary “comprehensive” health care system from Galway to Greece. The Soviet Union did, of course, and we know how that worked out.

This “reform” is not about health care … it’s about government.

Once you look at it that way, what the Dems are doing makes perfect sense. For them.

Is America in decline? 2

Is the world entering a post-American era? Will the 21st century be dominated by some other power, or several others?

In the splendid speech that John Bolton delivered at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February 2010, he said of Obama, “He is the first post-American president.”

In Obama’s eyes, American superpower status is already over. The decline is happening. There’s no reason to regret it, and it would be pointless and unnecessary to try to halt or reverse it. Obama is content to let America be a nation among the nations, no different in any important respect, and certainly no better. “He sees American decline as a kind of natural phenomenon,” Bolton said.

In Bolton’s own view, however, America is still exceptional and still the one and only superpower. If its status as such is under threat, that threat proceeds from Obama himself, who, almost casually – not caring very much, as John Bolton remarked, about foreign and national security policy – is himself weakening it.

What Obama does care about is domestic policy. To achieve his redistributionist goals he has put America into crushing debt; and being determined, it seems, to turn America into a European-style socialist state, he can only make the debt vaster and heavier. That alone weakens America.

China is America’s chief creditor, but that does not mean China is now a second superpower. A China growing in wealth and confidence, and becoming an increasingly significant world actor, may pose an economic threat to America but is not, or not yet, a rival world power. Militarily it is far from a match. Militarily, America is still far and away the most powerful nation.

But there again, if Obama has his way, it won’t be for much longer. He has, in Bolton’s words, an “incredibly naïve idea” that if the US would get rid of its own nuclear weapons, other countries would give up theirs; those that do not have them but want them – such as Iran and North Korea – would abandon their intense efforts to obtain them; and the world would live at peace forever after. This belief or ambition represents, as John Bolton put it, “a pretty deep-seated strain in the left wing of the Democratic Party.” Obama will soon negotiate an arms control agreement with Russia by which he will undertake substantially to reduce America’s nuclear capability. America will not develop new nuclear weapons, or arms in outer space, or even keep its existing arsenal battle-ready by testing for safety and reliability. It is as if America had no enemies; as if America were not under attack; as if 9/11 had never happened; and as if Iran and North Korea would not drop nuclear bombs on America and its allies if they could do it and get away with it.

Furthermore, with the rest of the dreaming Left both at home and internationally, he aspires to another vision of a new earth: one that is not only sweetly irenic but held forcibly in union by a supreme governing authority. Those proposals for world taxes that we hear of; the intricate business of trading in carbon indulgences in the name of saving the earth from being consumed by fire or ice; international treaty regulations that would result in banning the private ownership of guns – all these are measures to realize the tremendous objective of “world governance”. It would mean the end of American independence, the end of national sovereignty. It would mean that the Revolution was lost, as Bolton said.

In a sense it would be the end of America, because America is an idea of liberty. And it is an idea that the world needs. Its loss would be a colossal disaster, a tragedy for the whole human race.

Can America be saved?

In his book titled The Post-American World, Fareed Zakaria asserts that “America is closing down”, but allows that it “won’t be demoted from its superpower position in the foreseeable future” because “it’s not that the United States has been doing badly over the last two decades. It’s that, all of a sudden, everyone else is playing the game.”

America can “remain a vital, vibrant economy, at the forefront of the next revolutions in science, technology and industry, as long as it can embrace and adjust to the challenges confronting it”.

“The challenges” come from other nations, now rising, which he groups together as “the rest”.

China is the first of them because it is becoming an economic giant. The 21st century, he considers, may be the Chinese century.

What if [China ] quietly positions itself as the alternative to a hectoring and arrogant America? How will America cope with such a scenario – a kind of Cold War, but this time with a vibrant market economy, a nation that is not showing a hopeless model of state socialism, or squandering its power in pointless military interventions? This is a new challenge for the United States, one it has not tackled before, and for which it is largely unprepared.

Next in line is India. Poorer but democratic, India is “the ally”. Then come Brazil and Chile (plausibly); South Africa (less plausibly); and (implausibly) Russia. (Russia is a demographic basket case.)

Ironically, Zakaria says, these nations are rising because they learnt from America:

For sixty years, American politicians and diplomats have traveled around the world pushing countries to open their markets, free up their politics, and embrace trade and technology. … We counseled them to be unafraid of change and learn the secrets of our success. And it worked: the natives have gotten good at capitalism.

America, then, has not been a malign power, or not always. In Roosevelt’s day other countries believed that “America’s mammoth power was not to be feared”. It was after it had won the Cold War, when it became the only superpower, that it began to go to the bad. “Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has walked the world like a colossus, unrivaled and unchecked”, and this “has made Washington arrogant, careless, and lazy.” Furthermore, he tell us, “people round the world worry about living in a world in which one country has so much power.”

To relieve that worry, America “must reduce its weaponry and work towards a non-nuclear world.” It is hypocritical for the US to insist that other countries should not have nuclear weapons while it is hoarding a nuclear arsenal of its own. By giving them up it would “gain credibility”, an end he apparently considers so desirable that it would be worth risking the nation’s very survival to achieve it.

The summer of 2002, Zakaria says, was “the high water-mark of unipolarity”. The world felt sympathy for America after 9/11. America went to war in Afghanistan, which was not good but not too bad. But then it invaded Iraq, which was very bad, and the world’s sympathy dried up. America was being too “unilateral”, too “imperial and imperious”.

George W Bush and “the nefarious neoconservative conspiracy” antagonized the world. He and his conspirators “disdained treaties, multilateral organizations, international public opinion, and anything that suggested a conciliatory approach to world politics.”

So the world’s dislike, contempt, and fear of America were justified, or at least understandable, in the light of the foreign policies of the “arrogant” Bush administration. Zakaria even claims that the animosity filled the Republicans – already full of “chest-thumping machismo” – with pride.

He asks:

Can Washington adjust and adapt to a world in which others have moved up? Can it respond to shift in economic and political power? … Can Washington truly embrace a world with a diversity of voices and viewpoints? Can it thrive in a world it cannot dominate?

The advice he gives to “Washington” for success in adjusting, adapting, responding, embracing, and thriving is to be conciliatory, apologetic. It must listen more; proclaim universal values”, but “phrase its positions carefully”; be like the chair of a board gently guiding a group of independent directors. America must “learn from the rest”. The president must meet more non-government people, have smaller entourages, rely more on diplomacy. Consultation, cooperation, compromise are the key words. He objects to such accomodations being called appeasement. Consult and cooperate, he urges, with Russia, and with “multilateral institutions” such as the UN, NATO, AFRICOM, OAS, and the International Criminal Court. (Even internally, the US legal system “should take note of transnational standards”.)

The federal government has been “too narrow-minded” about terrorism. When bin Laden got America to “come racing out to fight” him (in response to 9/11) this was “over-reaction.”  Zakaria’s advice: “take it on the chin” and “bounce back”. The government must stop thinking of terrorism as a national security issue, and think of it as criminal activity carried out by “small groups of misfits”. Although Democrats were on the whole “more sensible” about terrorism, both parties, he says, spoke “in language entirely designed for a domestic audience with no concern for the poisonous effect it has everywhere else.” His solution is better airport control round the world. The more urgent problem in his view is that American Muslims have become victims of over-reaction to terrorist attacks. Instead of being “questioned, harassed, and detained” they should, he urges, “be enlisted in the effort to understand the appeal of Islamic fundamentalism.”

Zakaria does not consider himself anti-American. He does not even see himself as a man of the left. He reiterates that he is a free marketeer. It is because America became “suspicious of free markets”, he says, that partly explains its “closing down”.

He wrote his book before the economic crisis. He saw a globalized economy bringing about an increasingly prosperous world in which the poorest nations were rising strongly enough for him to declare that “the world is swimming in capital”, and “there really isn’t a Third World any more “. But even then the dollar was sliding, and America was showing signs of being “enfeebled”.

At a military-political level America still dominates the world, but the larger structure of unipolarity – economic, financial, cultural – is weakening… every year it becomes weaker and other nations and actors grow in strength.

For all its military might, its chest-thumping phase is over and now it is “cowering in fear”. It must, he says, “recover its confidence.” ‘It must stop being “a nation consumed by anxiety”, with a tendency to “hunker down”, unreasonably “worried about unreal threats” such as terrorism, and rogue nations like North Korea and Iran. (Iran, he explains, has good reason to fear the United States, with its armies on two of its borders. It’s only to be expected that Iran would try to arm itself with nuclear bombs and missile delivery systems. He does not explain why America should not fear this as a real threat.)

He is certain about what America needs to do to propitiate and serve the world it has alienated. It should ‘‘build broad rules by which the world will be bound’’, rather than pursue “narrow interests”.

What the world really wants from America is … that it affirm its own ideals. That role, as the country that will define universal ideals, remains one that only America can play.

We know Obama has read Zakaria’s book, or at least looked into it, because there is a photograph of him holding it, one finger marking his place. Obama is doing much that Zakaria advises in foreign affairs. But that’s less likely to be because the writer has impressed the president with his arguments than because they have both drunk from the same ideological well.

Obama’s foreign policy lets us see if Zakaria’s theory works. So far it has not.

So is America’s decline beyond all remedy?

It’s a relief to turn from Zakaria’s dull and weakly reasoned book with its uncongenial credo to an article titled The Seductions of Decline (February 2, 2010) by brilliantly witty and insightful Mark Steyn. If America believes it is in decline, he says, it will be. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The view that America has been too arrogant a power; that it is not and should not be exceptional; that humility and apology are required of it; that only endlessly patient negotiation in a spirit of compromise will improve foreign relations and dissuade states like North Korea and Iran from acquiring nuclear arms; that Islamic terrorism should be treated as crime and not as the jihad its perpetrators declare it to be; that Russia should be consulted on, say, the deployment of American missile defense; and that the US should reduce its nuclear arsenal and work towards a non-nuclear world – will bring about the decline.

National decline is psychological – and therefore what matters is accepting the psychology of decline.

His answer to the question “is America set for decline?” is yes, because of the policies of Obama and the Democrats, which arise from their acceptance of decline.

Strictly on the numbers, the United States is in the express lane to Declinistan: Unsustainable entitlements, the remorseless governmentalization of the American economy and individual liberty, and a centralization of power that will cripple a nation of this size. Decline is the way to bet.

American decline, he says, “will be steeper, faster and more devastating than Britain’s – and something far closer to Rome’s.” It will not be like France’s, or Austria’s.

Why did decline prove so pleasant in Europe? Because it was cushioned by American power. The United States is such a perversely non-imperial power that it garrisons not ramshackle colonies but its wealthiest “allies”, from Germany to Japan. For most of its members, “the free world” has been a free ride.

And after “Washington’s retreat from la gloire” as hegemon of the world, when America “becomes Europe in its domestic disposition and geopolitical decline, then who will be America?”

Of the many competing schools of declinism, perhaps the most gleeful are those who salivate over the rise of China. For years, Sinophiles have been penning orgasmic fantasies of mid-century when China will bestride the world and America will be consigned to the garbage heap of history. It will never happen: As I’ve been saying for years, China has profound structural problems. It will get old before it gets rich.

Not China then. Russia?

The demographic deformation of Tsar Putin’s new empire is even more severe than Beijing’s. Russia is a global power only to the extent of the mischief it can make on its acceleration into a death spiral.

Not Russia. How about the Caliphate that the terrorist war is being fought to establish?

Even if every dimestore jihadist’s dreams came true, almost by definition an Islamic imperium will be in decline from Day One.

So what might the post-American world look like? Mark Steyn’s answer is deeply depressing:

The most likely future is not a world under a new order but a world with no order – in which pipsqueak states go nuclear while the planet’s wealthiest nations, from New Zealand to Norway, are unable to defend their own borders and are forced to adjust to the post-American era as they can. Yet, in such a geopolitical scene, the United States will still remain the most inviting target – first, because it’s big, and secondly, because, as Britain knows, the durbar moves on but imperial resentments linger long after imperial grandeur.

But nothing is inevitable, and Mark Steyn offers a last hope. Though “decline is the way to bet”, the only thing that will ensure it is “if the American people accept decline as a price worth paying for European social democracy.”

When in 2008 a majority of the American electorate voted for Barack Obama to be president of the United States, it seemed that the deal had been made. But now Obama is failing, the Democratic majority is under threat, and the Tea Party movement is reclaiming the Revolution.

This could be another American century after all.

Jillian Becker   March 1, 2010

Intellectual foolishness 1

In Commentary magazine, the admirable commentator and analyst Jennifer Rubin examines at length the possible reasons for Sarah Palin’s unpopularity with Jewish voters. If she is right – and by saying that, we are not intending to cast doubt on her conclusions – Sarah Palin is scorned by American Jews as being intellectually inferior.

‘Jews,’ Rubin writes at the end of her article (we suggest interested readers read it all) ‘are not about to cast aside their preference for those leaders whom they perceive as intellectually worthy – and socially compatible.’

In other words – ours not Jennifer Rubin’s – she is the victim of intellectual snobbery. (Maybe social snobbery too, but ‘social incompatibility’ may not be because one social group thinks itself superior to another, but simply because it feels that it has little in common with the other. So we’ll overlook that. It’s the ‘intellectually worthy’ judgment that concerns us.)

We believe Rubin is right to take into account that Jews in general place a high value on intellectual ability and achievement. It’s well known that they do. A circle of Jewish voters of our acquaintance holds that Bill Clinton deserved to be president because he was a Rhodes scholar. That’s more than enough all by itself to secure their admiration and their political loyalty. Academic brilliance, in their judgment, is a ‘pro’ that cancels any ‘con’, such as character flaws, sexual exploitation, even perjury. And that is not wise. It is also not intellectually respectable!

Most Jews in America are liberal and vote Democratic, even though Jewish interests, especially where relations between the US and Israel are concerned, are in far safer hands when the Republicans are in power. The Left is now predominantly and universally anti-Israel, and in Europe positively anti-Semitic. The illogic of Jewish loyalty to the Left in the light of these facts is glaring enough to need explanation, and Norman Podhoretz has taken a whole book (Why Are Jews Liberals?) to explain it.

So Jewish voters’ opinions of Sarah Palin can be understood in part as the opinions of the Left in general. And of course the Left is against Sarah Palin: she is a conservative and a Republican. But the degree of animosity towards her aired obsessively by leftist intellectuals goes beyond mere difference of principle and opinion. It is so contemptuous, so personal, so cruel as to outrage civilized standards. They even attack her children! Women writers ridicule her appearance (out of envy, we suspect, of her quite exceptional beauty), as if that were relevant to her politics and aspirations to leadership.

In our view Sarah Palin is highly intelligent, and – yes – not an intellectual. Thomas Sowell has convincingly defined an intellectual as someone whose product is ideas, and Sarah Palin does not fit that definition. But that is in no way a deficiency in her. America does not need an intellectual as a leader. We’d even go so far as to say that an intellectual is the last person America needs to lead it. It needs someone who is principled, who holds liberty to be the highest value, who respects the Constitution and the traditions of America, is competent, commonsensical, has proved herself electable, has been tried and tested in office, is fiscally responsible, knows the importance of keeping America militarily strong, and is exemplary in her self-reliance. If ever there was a model of an American able and willing to stand on her own two feet, it is Sarah Palin. (She and her husband fill their deep freeze with meat and fish that they themselves hunt and catch; and they built their own house. Not the sort of activities, we acknowledge, that intellectuals are likely to admire.)

We are not saying that Sarah Palin would be the indubitably best choice for the 2012 presidential election. We are saying that she would be a good candidate. And we think that Jewish voters should know that in her office when she was Governor of Alaska, she displayed an Israeli flag on her wall. Or so we have been told. If we’ve been misinformed about that, we’d still like to point out to them that she is much more likely than Obama to stop Iran getting nuclear weapons.

And speaking of Obama – who, it is worth noting, will not let his academic records be made public – we wonder: how do the Jews who voted for him reconcile their preference for an ‘intellectually worthy’ leader with his manifest ignorance and career-long dependence on affirmative action?

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