F for a mess-up 0

Investors’ Business Daily deplores the strengthening American dictatorship and the manner in which it is spreading and tightening its control by means of an increasing and ever more privileged bureaucracy:

With the passage of health care reform and the ongoing boom in federal hiring, it’s becoming increasingly clear that America is now run by a new, privileged class of bureaucrats.

For those who remember the old Soviet Union, it was a grim place — at least for average citizens. But not so for those in government. Contrary to the official ideals of equality and a classless society that the ruling communist regime espoused, the USSR created a privileged class of party members inside government — the nomenklatura.

This semipermanent bureaucracy earned higher incomes, got better health care, ate better food and had greater job security than average Russians, the much-despised proletarians. Today, our bloated federal government seems, in significant ways, to be creating this same dynamic.

Take the just-passed health care bill that carefully excluded the White House, congressional leaders and their staffs from having to live under the reforms’ restrictions.

“President Obama will not have to live under the Obama health care reforms, and neither will the congressional staff who helped to write the overhaul,” said Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley. “The message to the people at the grass roots is that it’s good enough for you, but not for us.”

The hypocrisy of these officials and the contempt they show for average Americans is bad enough. But  Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public can also go to jail or be fined up to $250,000 for not buying insurance. And the government is spending $10 billion to hire 16,500 new IRS agents to make sure they don’t escape the new system. [But see below]

Under current budget plans, this won’t end soon. With $45 trillion in new government spending planned over the next decade, this new privileged governing class can only grow.

Today, as we witness a massive shift of resources from the private to the public sector, the only place adding jobs is government. Since the start of last year, the federal government has added 81,000 jobs. By contrast, private-sector payrolls have shed 4.71 million.

Big government is the place to be these days. Federal workers are some of the country’s best-paid, earning far in excess of their counterparts in the private sector. …

The average government worker gets a whopping $40,785 a year in health care, pension and other benefits compared to $9,882 for a private worker. The difference in total compensation widens to $38,548 a year — for the same job with the same duties.

Anyone who has visited the slow-moving Post Office, talked to the surly and often hostile IRS agent or even gone to the local DMV to spend time in waiting-room hell can tell you that pay gap doesn’t represent productivity, training or ability.

What it does represent is the new Nomenklatura — the privileged apparatchiks who now run our government and with it, sadly, much of our lives. This is very much a result of years of “progressive” thinking that has pushed the Democratic Party sharply leftward across the political spectrum.

Since the Civil War, the so-called Progressive Movement’s dream has been to exalt bureaucratic expertise and control over free-market efficiency. With the new administration, their dream has become our nightmare.

It’s true and very bad – but  one statement  needs qualification:

Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public can also go to jail or be fined up to $250,000 for not buying insurance. And the government is spending $10 billion to hire 16,500 new IRS agents to make sure they don’t escape the new system.

According to this report by Morgen Richmond at Big Government, there is no provision in the act for enforcing the individual mandate:

One of the more controversial elements of ObamaCare is the mandate for most individuals to purchase insurance beginning in 2014. There is really no precedent for a federal mandate of this scale requiring individuals to purchase a product or service. So not surprisingly a number of state Attorney Generals have indicated they will be filing suit questioning the constitutionality of this provision.

Of course the individual mandate is also very risky from a political standpoint, as the Democrats who orchestrated the passage of this bill are mandating not only that the young and healthy obtain insurance, but also that even their most fervent liberal constituents must purchase this coverage from the “evil”, private insurance industry.

Republicans for their part have focused on the fact that this mandate will be enforced via threat of a financial penalty (or tax), with the added assumption that it is the dreaded IRS which will be enforcing this. And sure enough, it’s already been reported that the IRS anticipates hiring possibly in excess of 15,000 additional personnel to deal with the collection of the individual mandate, and other tax related provisions within the bill.

However, it turns out that the Democrats who crafted this bill significantly – and I mean significantly – hamstrung the ability of the IRS or any other federal agency to enforce or collect on this mandate. Here is what the federal Joint Committee on Taxation had to say about this issue in a report released earlier this week:

The penalty applies to any period the individual does not maintain minimum essential coverage and is determined monthly. The penalty is assessed through the Code and accounted for as an additional amount of Federal tax owed. However, it is not subject to the enforcement provisions of subtitle F of the [Internal Revenue] Code. The use of liens and seizures otherwise authorized for collection of taxes does not apply to the collection of this penalty. Non-compliance with the personal responsibility requirement to have health coverage is not subject to criminal or civil penalties under the Code and interest does not accrue for failure to pay such assessments in a timely manner.

According to a footnote in the report, “subtitle F of the Code” is the portion of the tax code which grants the IRS the authority to assess and collect taxes. In other words, as the law is written the federal government has no legal authority to enforce this mandate, nor will it have any recourse to collect any penalties that go unpaid!

Without an effective mechanism of enforcing the individual mandate, the entire system is likely to collapse. (The individual mandate is the “third leg of the stool” as many a liberal has been pointing out for months.) Given that the bill also bans insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, WHY WOULD ANYONE OBTAIN INSURANCE COVERAGE PRIOR TO NEEDING IT? This was already going to be a problem with the relatively low cost of the penalty, but take away any meaningful enforcement of it and it is a complete and total joke.

The net result will be an ever increasing shift of healthcare costs on to those who remain in the insurance system (or to tax payers), and possibly even the bankruptcy of the insurance industry. Given all the double-talk the past year over the public option, and the demonizing of private insurers, it is hard not to wonder whether this was by design. But let’s give our Democratic friends the benefit of the doubt, in which case this represents an inexcusable level of incompetence from the people we have just entrusted with overseeing one-sixth of the economy. Nice job guys.

If it’s a mistake it could be a lucky break for the oppressed  But if the apparent mess-up is part of the plan, what fresh hell awaits us?

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

Lessons of the fall 0

Melanie Phillips writes:

Twenty years ago today, supporters of freedom and human rights cheered and wept for joy as the Berlin Wall was torn down by jubilant young Germans.

To so many, that heady day seemed to herald the emergence of a better world. The spectre of communism had finally been laid to rest. Liberty had triumphed over tyranny.

The end of the Cold War even led some to proclaim that this was ‘the end of history’ — which was to say that liberal democracy was now the dominant and unchallengeable force in the world. However, the 9/11 attacks on America tragically proved this to be absurdly over-optimistic. The eruption of radical Islamism revealed that, while the West may have been rid of one enemy in the Soviet Union, another deadly foe had risen to take its place.

So much is, sadly, all too evident. But what is perhaps less obvious is that communism did not just vanish in a puff of historical smoke.

The Soviet Union was defeated and fell apart, for sure. But the communist ideology that fuelled it did not so much disintegrate as reconstitute itself into another, even more deadly form as the active enemy of western freedom.

Soviet Communism was a belief system whose goal was to overturn the structures of society through the control of economic and political life. This mutated into a post-communist ideology of the Left, whose no-less ambitious aim was to overturn western society through a subversive transformation of its culture. …

The collapse of communism was actually a slow-burning process. Its moral and political bankruptcy became obvious decades before that glorious Berlin day in November 1989. … But as communism slowly crumbled, those on the far-Left who remained hostile towards western civilisation found another way to realise their goal of bringing it down. This was what might be called ‘cultural Marxism’. It was based on the understanding that what holds a society together are the pillars of its culture: the structures and institutions of education, family, law, media and religion. Transform the principles that these embody and you can thus destroy the society they have shaped.

This key insight was developed in particular by an Italian Marxist philosopher called Antonio Gramsci. His thinking was taken up by Sixties radicals — who are, of course, the generation that holds power in the West today.

Gramsci understood that the working class would never rise up to seize the levers of ‘production, distribution and exchange’ as communism had prophesied. Economics was not the path to revolution. He believed instead that society could be overthrown if the values underpinning it could be turned into their antithesis: if its core principles were replaced by those of groups who were considered to be outsiders or who actively transgressed the moral codes of that society.

So he advocated a ‘long march through the institutions’ to capture the citadels of the culture and turn them into a collective fifth column, undermining from within and turning all the core values of society upside-down and inside-out. This strategy has been carried out to the letter.

The nuclear family has been widely shattered. Illegitimacy was transformed from a stigma into a ‘right’. The tragic disadvantage of fatherlessness was redefined as a neutrally-viewed ‘lifestyle choice’.

Education was wrecked, with its core tenet of transmitting a culture to successive generations replaced by the idea that what children already knew was of superior value to anything the adult world might foist upon them. The outcome … has been widespread illiteracy and ignorance and an eroded capacity for independent thought.

Law and order were similarly undermined, with criminals deemed to be beyond punishment since they were ‘victims’ of society …

The ‘rights’ agenda — commonly known as ‘political correctness’ — turned morality inside out by excusing any misdeeds by self-designated ‘victim’ groups on the grounds that such ‘victims’ could never be held responsible for what they did. …

This mindset also led to the belief that a sense of nationhood was the cause of all the ills in the world, precisely because western nations embodied western values. So transnational institutions or doctrines such as the EU, UN, international law or human rights law came to trump national laws and values.

But the truth is that to be hostile to the western nation is to be hostile to democracy. And indeed, with the development of the EU superstate we can see that the victory over one anti-democratic regime within Europe — the Soviet Union — has been followed by surrender to another.

For the republic of Euroland puts loyalty to itself higher than that to individual nations and their values. It refused to commit itself in its constitution to uphold Christianity, the foundation of western morality. …

We agree with most of what she says, but not with the value she places on the Christian religion and Christian morality. We do not believe that the greatness of Europe is due to Christianity. We share with Edward Gibbon the opinion that Christianity brought a thousand years of darkness down on Europe. What made Europe great was the Renaissance and the Enlightenment: the rediscovery of Greco-Roman civilization, the displacement of a deocentric by an anthropocentric world-view, the rise of scientific enquiry, the revival of the Socratean questioning of ideas in general, the ideal of personal liberty, the triumph of rationality. In other words, by the loosening and finally the casting off of the shackles of religion, even though Christianity, in proliferating variety, continued to exert a malign influence on Europe’s history for some centuries after Spinoza and Hume crippled it.

The dark ideologies of Leftism and  Islam cannot be overcome by the darkness of another religion, but only by reason. Physical force may be necessary, and should not be shirked when it is. But victory in war – as victory in the Cold War demonstrated – is not sufficient if the ideology lives on, whether openly or incognito under new names. It is the argument that must be won, however hard it is to change by reason a view that has not been arrived at by reason. Reason’s victory is enormously aided by its practical achievements in science and technology. Even the dark-age Muslims extant in our world want vaccinations, organ-transplants, aircraft, telephones, television, computers, the internet, refrigerators  – and also, ever more determinedly and dangerously, nuclear weapons. The West failed to keep those out of the hands of Communist and Muslim states, which is why war may be necessary again quite soon. Our side, the side of reason, demands that our weaponry should always be more advanced than the enemy’s. As long as we can innovate, we can win. Innovation is the child of freedom and rationality.

In commemoration of the fall of the Berlin wall 0

Today, November 9, 2009, is the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

It was one of the greatest events of history.

The wall both literally and symbolically marked the division between tyranny and freedom.

It was erected on Sunday, August 13, 1961, to prevent people living under the Soviet-controlled Communist regime in East Germany from fleeing into free West Berlin.  About 1500 people a day had been migrating westward.

Within 24 hours West Berlin was sealed off from the so-called Democratic Republic of Germany.

At first it was a fence consisting of barbed wire, spread over some 96 miles.

In 1962 an inner wall was built. The 100 yard gravel area between the fence and the wall was booby-trapped with trip wires, and mined.

In 1975  a stronger, higher, thicker wall made of concrete and reinforced with mesh fencing and barbed wire was constructed. It was known as the ‘Grenzmauer 75’. Soldiers stationed in some 300 watchtowers had a clear view of the space, and orders to shoot down anyone attempting to cross it.

Over 100,000 people tried to escape to freedom. Some 5,000 succeeded, mostly in the early years before the ‘Grenzmauer 75’ was built. Later, successful crossings were made through tunnels. Two families succeeded by hot-air balloon, and one man in a light aircraft. At least 136 people were killed in the attempt, most famously 18-year-old Peter Fechter, shot on August 17, 1962, as he tried to climb the wall. He lay for hours in the space between the wall and the fence, crying out for help while he bled to death. The East German border guards waited for him to die before they carried him away.

Twenty-five years later, on June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan of the United States stood on the west side of the Brandenberg Gate beyond which the wall ran, and said to the Russian leader in a famous speech, ‘Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!’

The speech was symptomatic of the firm stand he maintained against the Soviet Union.

Two and a half years later the wall was brought down.

Its fall heralded the collapse of Soviet Russia and its evil empire. It marked the end of the Cold War and the victory of the free world, led by the United States of America.

The conquering hero of that stupendous victory was President Reagan. How he won the Cold War is the subject of volumes, but win it he did.

Of inestimable help to him was Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of Great Britain.

A few days ago Mikhail Gorbachev, George H. W. Bush who was president of the US when the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991, and Helmut Kohl who was Chancellor of West Germany at the time, met on the stage of a Berlin theatre to commemorate the fall of the wall.

Margaret Thatcher, who had not wanted the reunification of Germany but nevertheless played a decisive part in defeating the Communist tyranny over Eastern Europe, was not included.

The president of the United States, Barack Obama, has refused to attend any of the celebratory ceremonies in Germany. His excuse is that he is ‘too busy’.

Jillian Becker  November 9, 2009

A well of poison 3

A diary has been found in the US National Security Archive which reveals details of the relationship between the British Labour Party and the Soviet Union. It was kept by one Anatoly Chernyaev, the man who pandered between the Kremlin and the Labour leaders (particularly Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock). If anyone should know, he should. And it’s quite likely he’s telling the truth, though with such people there can be no certainty, of course.

The diary is making some headlines in Britain, notably in The Spectator, which has made it this week’s cover story, and the Daily Mail.

Among its ‘revelations’ is a story that the Labour leaders tried to get the Soviets to help them beat the ‘common enemy Margaret Thatcher’. The Soviets apparently agreed to help these treacherous men, and maybe they did something or other, but whether they did or not, Mrs Thatcher remained triumphantly in Downing Street throughout the 1980s, to be replaced by another Conservative leader, John Major, in 1990.

The Mail, realizing perhaps that this isn’t much of a revelation, and that as news it is rather stale, does its best to work up something juicier:

More worrying, perhaps, is the fact that the document shows in stark detail how the political ideology of so many of those who govern today was shaped by the unspeakable communist creed of the Soviet Union. The unpalatable truth is that many ministers in Government today rose through the ranks of a British socialist movement that was heavily influenced – and even controlled – by the Kremlin in Moscow. … In Britain, those on the Left who know about the depth of the Soviet influence over this country in the latter half of the 20th century, have maintained an embarrassed silence about this shameful episode in British political history. Above all, the intimate co-operation between Moscow and the trades unions which nearly brought the country to its knees in the Sixties and Seventies has been an utterly taboo subject. … This diary reveals that the cosy relationship between the Kremlin and Labour was far more widespread than previously thought – and had been going on for years. …’

Actually, it was pretty well known that the particular trade union leaders mentioned by the Mail were sponsored by the Soviets. The subject, far from being ‘utterly taboo’ was discussed at length and often in Conservative circles, especially when Prime Minister Thatcher tamed the trade unions good and proper. As for the ‘intimacy’ between the Labour Party rats and the Soviet top brass, such details as the diary records – and only the details are news really, the general picture being well known to anyone who took an interest in such things back then – show the rats in a rather pathetic light. It seems that they had to beg for a few minutes with Brezhnev, and later with ‘the senile’ Chernenko, so they could tell the newspapers back home that they were received by the Man. Hardly a ‘cosy’ relationship!

The Mail tries harder yet:

It is not just the Left’s close connection with the Soviet Union, but the lasting influence of that connection that should concern us all.

By which it means that Gordon Brown, who is still in power though not for much longer, was originally given his safe seat by the decision of two senior trade union officials who were themselves sponsored by the USSR. Thus, urges the Mail, ‘the control the Soviets had over Labour, its leadership and aspiring politicians, is still having a profound impact on Britain.’

Even this, we surmise, will not greatly scandalize or even startle most British readers.

We find one comment interesting. It’s made by Peter Oborne in his Spectator column on the subject. He says that ‘these communist influences’ account for many of the ‘characteristics’ of Tony Blair’s New Labour. The characteristics he notes are:

‘Its deep suspicion of outsiders, its structural hostility to democratic debate, its secrecy, its faith in bureaucracy, embedded preference for striking deals away from the public eye, its ruthless reliance on a small group of trusted activists .’

Why this list strikes us as worth noting is that it applies equally to Obama’s Democratic Party. And the influences are of the same sort, and from the same poison well: not the Kremlin, which was only a conduit, but the Communist creed itself.

A rotten cause to live or die for 0

 The great essayist Theodore Dalrymple writes in Front Page on the Rosenberg traitors and liberal attitudes towards Communism:  

A recent story in the Guardian confirmed my suspicion of a lingering liberal indulgence toward the former Soviet Union. Headlined ORPHANED BY THE STATE, it consisted of an interview with Robert Rosenberg, the younger son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, executed by electric chair in 1953 for spying on behalf of the Soviet Union…

Robert and his older brother Michael were eventually adopted by a childless couple, whose name—Meeropol—they now bear. Their childhood was happy; paradoxically, it might have been less happy, or more emotionally confused, had their real parents been imprisoned for a long time instead of executed, for then their adoption might have proven less whole-hearted.

It is hardly surprising that Robert Meeropol, now a lawyer, should have mounted a campaign against the death penalty; you wouldn’t have to be Sigmund Freud to understand why. And again, not surprisingly, Meeropol does not accept that his real parents betrayed him by involving themselves in such activities in the first place, or by refusing to inform on others once arrested. On the contrary, he was proud of them for having stuck up for what they believed in, even going to their deaths for it.

At the end of the interview he says that his parents gave him and his brother Michael “a life in which we can stand up and be ourselves and do the things we believe in.” Earlier, he had drawn a parallel between what his parents did and other people who, even today, commit acts of civil disobedience to further a cause they believe in.

It’s [the interviewer’s] neglecting to ask Meeropol what he thought of his parents’ cause that makes me suspect her of secret sympathy with the Soviet Union. For suppose that the subject of the interview had been the orphan of a couple executed for spying for the Nazis: would the interviewer then have let the question of what they believed in go without comment?… Julius and Ethel Rosenberg supported in theory and aided in practice an ideology and a state that they should have known was responsible for some of the worst oppression and mass murder in history.

In its print edition, the Guardian chose to highlight Robert’s statement, “my parents gave me and Michael a life in which we can stand up and be ourselves,” as a callout, thereby forging an unlikely alliance between Stalinism and psychobabble. Whether standing firm for one’s convictions is a good or bad thing depends on what those convictions are. A monstrous cause is not any the less monstrous because people are ready to die for it; if the history of the twentieth century should have taught us anything, it’s that.

Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, April 15, 2009

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Communism, cannibalism, and soul murder 0

Some of us are old enough to remember the horrors perpetrated in the Communist Russian Empire. But those born since the USSR was destroyed (chiefly by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher winning the Cold War) need to learn what happened under Lenin, Stalin, and their successors; and as they are unlikely to be taught about this in their ‘politically correct’  left-leaning history courses, they should have informative books  brought to their attention in the hope that some at least will read them. 

These extracts come from a review of Inside the Stalin Archives by Jonathan Brent, in The New Criterion

The first volume in the series, The Secret World of American Communism, caused shock waves by demonstrating that the American Communist Party was not a group of home-grown idealists, as so many apologists claimed, but, from the start, conducted espionage and took orders directly from Moscow. Despite decades of leftist mockery and vilification, the basic picture provided by Whittaker Chambers and Elizabeth Bentley of Alger Hiss and many others was correct. The Comintern, too, was from day one directed by Moscow as a tool of Russian foreign policy. And despite the desperate strategy of throwing all blame on Stalin so as to excuse Lenin, The Unknown Lenin, which reproduces a selection from some six thousand Lenin documents never before released, reveals bloodthirstiness that surprised even anti-Communists. During a famine, Lenin ordered his followers not to alleviate but to take advantage of mass starvation:

It is precisely now and only now when in the starving regions people are eating human flesh, and hundreds if not thousands of corpses are littering the roads, that we can (and therefore must) carry out the confiscation of church valuables with the most savage and merciless energy.

“can (and therefore must)”: Leninist and Soviet ideology held not just that the end justifies any means, but also that it was immoral not to use the utmost cruelty if that would help. And it was bound to help in at least one way—intimidating the population. From the beginning, terror was not just an expedient but a defining feature of Soviet Communism. In Terrorism and Communism, Trotsky was simply voicing a Bolshevik truism when he rejected “the bourgeois theory of the sanctity of human life.” In fact, Soviet ethics utterly rejected human rights, universal justice, or even basic human decency, for all concepts that apply to everyone might lead one to show mercy to a class enemy. In Bolshevism, there is no abstract justice, only “proletarian justice,” as defined by the Party. ..

Stalinism was idealist in another, even more terrifying sense: it aimed at controlling from within the very thoughts we think. In a toast delivered on November 7, 1937, at the height of the Terror, the Great Helmsman swore to destroy every enemy:

            Even if he was an old Bolshevik, we will destroy all his kin, his family. We will mercilessly destroy anyone who, by his deeds or his thoughts—yes, his thoughts—threatens the unity of the socialist state. To the complete destruction of all enemies, themselves and their kin!

        Even the worst of the tsars never thought of punishing relatives for a criminal’s acts. But what is truly remarkable about this toast is the promise to murder people and their kin for thoughts. One must live in continual fear of one’s own mind.

Brent begins his book with a memorandum written by Andrei Vishinsky, Stalin’s chief prosecutor, to Nikolai Yezhov, the secret-police chief, about what he had seen in a tour of the Gulag. There were prisoners, Vishinsky explained, who had “deteriorated to the point of losing any resemblance to human beings.” An interrogator during the doctors’ plot wrote that, after one torture session, the elderly Dr. Vasilenko “lost his entire human aspect.” Perhaps the most important lesson to come from the Stalin archives is that any ideology that does not admit the existence of human nature winds up destroying not only countless lives but also the human soul.

How much better is Russia now? The answer is – a lot, but it’s still pretty bloody awful. 

Under Putin, Russia has turned away from a fleeting opportunity to embrace legality. A sort of mafia rules without breaking the law—because there is no real law. And yet, by comparison with the Soviet period, Russia is free and humane. To be sure, any journalist or businessman who displeases the regime is likely to be imprisoned, maimed, or killed. But millions are not arrested at random.

           Solzhenitsyn once asked why the bloodthirsty Macbeth killed only a few people while Lenin and Stalin murdered millions. He answered: Macbeth had no ideology. So far as we can tell, neither does Putin. Today no one tries to remake human nature. For the time being, and however precariously, the human spirit survives.

Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, March 18, 2009

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Obama begins to set children against their parents, totalitarian style. 6

In Communist China, children were urged to work on their parents and grandparents to make them conform to Mao’s will in the The Cultural Revolution. Likewise children in Russia and its satellites during the Soviet nightmare were directed to instruct their elders, and to betray them if they did not conform. The same was done to turn children into instruments of the state and against their families in Nazi Germany. Now it begins in the United States of America!  This from Little Green Footballs:

The Obama campaign’s attempted use of children to influence their parents is absolutely open and blatant. Why doesn’t this outrage people? This is political cynicism of an amazing degree.

Barack Obama | Change We Need | The Talk.

Do’s & Don’ts

Do share your personal reasons for voting for Barack Obama;

Do have confidence — your opinion matters to people who care about you;

Do read up on Barack’s positions on the issues you know matter to them;

Do find a good time when both you and they will be open to a conversation;

Do talk to them in person if you live nearby, or on the phone if you don’t;

Do ask your friends to talk to their parents and grandparents as well;

Don’t worry about knowing everything about policy positions before you have this conversation;

Don’t feel defensive. Stay calm, cool and collected;

Don’t wait until the last minute — it might take a few conversations for you to convince them, so start as early as possible;

Don’t catch them at a bad time — make sure you have their attention and enough time to have a conversation.

Unbelievable. And it gets worse.

Ideas to Get the Conversation Started

Approaching your parents about who they are voting for can be intimidating if you’ve never talked about politics with them before. But this campaign has been built by supporters sharing their stories about what inspires them and why they want to see change in this country. Here are some ideas for ways you can talk to your parents about why you support Barack:

Call or ask in person if they saw the debate and what they thought about it.Tell them why you are voting for Obama and why it’s important to you.

Print out for them information on some issues you know are important.

Share Barack’s speech from the Democratic National Convention or Meet Barack, a video about who Barack Obama is, where he comes from, and what his values are.

Email them and tell them why it’s important to you that they vote for Obama.

Think about their perspective. If they are Republican, or are concerned about Barack’s policies, think about where they are coming from and what makes them think the way that they do.

 

Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Monday, October 27, 2008

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Alexander Solzhenitsyn Dies 0

The writer and former gulag prisoner Alexander Solzhenitsyn has died at the once unimaginable age of 89.

His most famous books, "One Day In the Life of Ivan Denisovich" and "The Gulag Archipelago" brought the horrors of the Gulag to the attention of the West. They also ended the disgusting insistence of the Left that the Gulags were merely acceptable prisons for criminals.

It is suspected that anywhere from 2 million to 40 million died in the gulags.

There is a comprehensive and interesting obituary here.

Posted under Uncategorized by Jillian Becker on Sunday, August 3, 2008

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