Sunday, May 31, 2009
The robber barons of old would marvel at the tentacles of influence of Barack Obama.
By Rich Lowry
The interlocking directorate is anathema to trustbusters and corporate watchdogs. It occurs when a board member or top executive of one company sits on the board of another company, accumulating undue power over a given industry. When it reduces competition, the arrangement is forbidden by the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914.
If Henry De Lamar Clayton, the Alabama congressman who introduced the aforementioned act, were still with us, he’d presumably be shocked at the creation of the most far-reaching interlocking directorate in U.S. history. Obama Inc. has effectively won a seat on the board of companies at the heart of the nation’s industrial production and its financial system. The robber barons of old would marvel at the tentacles of influence of Barack Obama, a CEO whose power would overawe J. P. Morgan (the famous industrialist, not the bailed-out bank).
In difficult negotiations with business, Obama has the advantage of sitting at both sides of the table. This makes the art of the deal considerably simpler than when Donald Trump wrote about it years ago. Consider the matter of CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy), the mileage standards that have been resisted by automakers for decades in a multifaceted regulatory and legal battle featuring enviros, the state of California, and industrial-state lawmakers. The other day, Obama snipped the Gordian knot in an offhand swipe with his fingernail clippers.
He gathered Detroit’s CEOs in the Rose Garden and announced that they had acceded to a drastic increase in the standards, to 39 mpg for cars in 2016. And why wouldn’t they? Both General Motors and Chrysler continue to exist on the basis of Obama’s good will. After their bankruptcies, the companies will give a 72 percent and 8 percent ownership stake, respectively, to the federal government. A president needn’t bother with the traditional “jawboning” of an industry, the tiresome work of a Harry Truman or Lyndon Johnson, if he carries that industry around in his back pocket.
As Chrysler headed into bankruptcy, the government got the company’s creditors that were dependent on TARP funds to do its bidding and take a substantial “haircut.” The banks, too, knew to heed the directive of the ultimate interlocking directorate.
As the next logical step, former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich has proposed putting public directors on the boards of all companies in which the government has an ownership stake. “In exercising their oversight function,” Reich writes, “they should seek guidance from the president and his top economic officials.”
Over time, this public-private arrangement will be subject to all the traditional pitfalls of interlocking directorates, from collusion to conflicts of interest to strategic myopia. The directorates have at times been used to create cartels, commonly defined as “a form of collusion between firms in the same industry aimed at restricting output and increasing prices.”
The new CAFE deal fits the definition almost exactly. It restricts the production of large automobiles, will increase the price of cars, and ignores the interests of the consumers. The only difference is that the industry doesn’t benefit from the cartel. It’s the senior partner, the federal government, that is wielding its industrywide influence to twist the market to its social-political ends.
Government doesn’t have to own a stake in its corporate partners to bring them to heel. The liberal lion in the House, Henry Waxman, got surprising industry buy-in on his draft of a cap-and-trade bill through giveaways that favored selected energy players. Health-industry groups are jockeying for a place at Obama’s table on health-care reform so they can see to it that all the pain is inflicted on others. This is beggar-thy-neighbor industrial policy, wherein government uses its power to inflict harm or bestow advantage in order to divide and conquer corporate America.
As a short-term political strategy, it’s unassailable. As a way to run an economy, it will prove corrupting and stultifying. The cause of free-market capitalism awaits its Clayton to unravel the sprawling Obama directorate.
— Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. © 2009 by King Features Syndicate
This passage from a recent EMail to the author of this Blog:
My take is that the Ronbo character was simply a literary alter ego like Winston Smith was Orwell’s literary alter ego.
Writers do this all the time.
Clearly the Socrates of Plato is not the real Socates but a literary creation of Plato.
The bigger question was missed by everyone: Perhaps Ronbo’s creator was not Ronald Barbour, but in fact someone else? I mean after all we do have the picture of the dead hiker Ronald Barbour for the Ronbo-Ronald-Barbour. I would think this could indicate that the Ronbo-Ronald-Barbour was dead before the first article was published.The truth? Ronbo is being channeled by _______________ of _____________________.
I thought everyone would like to know.
Sincerely, Staff Sergeant Ronbo
Saturday, May 30, 2009
In the hope that, somehow, America can still produce the brave sons and daughters necessary to fight off ever increasing persecution and oppression, this essay is offered. Frankly, it is too close to call at this point. Those who love liberty, and believe in freedom enough to fight for it are rare today, but within the bosom of every once great nation, there remains secreted, the pearls of former greatness. They are there. I have looked into their sparking eyes; sharing a brief moment in time with them as I passed through this life. Relished their friendship, endured their pain, and they mine. We are a band of brothers, native to the soil gaining strength one from another awe have rushed head long into a battle that all the weaker, timid men, say we cannot win. Perhaps...but then again, perhaps wean. It's not over till the last freedom fighter is buried or imprisoned, or the same happens to those who would destroy their freedom.
Barring any cataclysmic events, the struggle will yet go on for years. The passage of time will make it clear to even the slower among us that the government is the foremost threat to the life, and liberty of the folk. The government will no doubt make today's oppressiveness look like grade school work compared to what they have planned in the future. Meanwhile, there are those of us who continue to hope that somehow the few can do what the many have not. We are cognizant that before things get better they will certainly get worse as government shows a willingness to use ever more severe police state measures against dissidents. This changing situation makes it clear that those who oppose state repression must be prepared to alter, adapt, and modify their behavior, strategy, and tactics as circumstances warrant. Failure to consider new methods and implement them as necessary will make the government's efforts at suppression uncomplicated. It is the duty of every patriot to make the tyrant's life miserable. When one fails to do so he not only fails himself, but his people.
With this in mind, current methods of resistance to tyranny employed by those who love our Republic must pass a litmus test of soundness. Methods must be objectively measured as to their effectiveness, as well as to whether they make the government's intention of repression more possible or more difficult. Those not working to aid our objectives must be discarded or the government benefits from our failure to do so.
As honest men who have banded together into groups or associations of a political or religious nature are falsely labeled "domestic terrorists" or "cultists “and suppressed, it will become necessary to consider other methods of organization--or as the case may very well call forenoon-organization. One should keep in mind that it is not in the government’s interest to eliminate all groups. Some few must remain in order to perpetuate the smoke and mirrors vision forth masses that America is a "free democratic country “where dissent is allowed. Most organizations, however, that possess the potential for effective resistance will not be allowed to continue. Anyone who is so naive as to believe the most powerful government on earth will not crush any who pose a real threat to that power, should not be active, but rather, at home studying political history.
The question as to who is to be left alone and who is not, will be answered by how groups and individuals deal with several factors such as: avoidance of conspiracy plots, rejection of feeble minded malcontents, insistence upon quality of the participants, avoidance of all contact with the front men for the federals--the news media--and, finally, camouflage (which can be defined as the ability to blend in the public's eye the more committed groups of resistance with mainstream "kosher “associations that are generally seen as harmless.) Primarily though, whether any organization is allowed to continue in the future will be a matter of how big a threat a group represents. Not a threat in terms of armed might or political ability, for there is none of either for the present, but rather, threat inters of potentiality. It is potential the federals fear most. Whether that potential exists in an individual or group is incidental. The federals measure potential threat in terms of what might happen given a situation conducive to action on the part of a restive organization or individual. Accurate intelligence gathering allows them to assess the potential. Showing one's hand before the bets are made, is a sure way to lose.
The movement for freedom is rapidly approaching the point where for many people; the option of belonging to a group will be nonexistent. For others, group membership will be a viable option for only the immediate future. Eventually, and perhaps much sooner than most believe possible, the price paid for membership will exceed any perceived benefit. But for now, some of the groups that do exist often serve a useful purpose either for the newcomer who can be indoctrinated into the ideology of the struggle, or for generating positive propaganda to reach potential freedom fighters. It is sure that, for the most part, this struggle is rapidly becoming a matter of individual action, each of its participants making a private decision in the quietness of his heart to resist: to resist by any means necessary. It is hard to know what others will do, for no man truly knows another man's heart. It is enough to know what one will do. A great teacher once said "know thyself." Few men really do, but let each of us, promise ourselves, not to go quietly to the fate our would-be masters have planned.
The concept of Leaderless Resistance is nothing less than a fundamental departure in theories of organization. The orthodox scheme of organization is diagrammatically represented by the pyramid, with the mass at the bottom and the leader at the top. This fundamental of organization is to be seen not only in armies, which are of course, the best illustration of the pyramid structure, with themes of soldiery, the privates, at the bottom responsible to corporals who are in turn responsible to sergeants, and so on up the entire chain of command to the generals at the top. But the same structure is seen in corporations, ladies' garden clubs and in our political system itself. This orthodox "pyramid “scheme of organization is to be seen basically in all existing political, social and religious structures in the world today from the Federal government to the Roman Catholic Church. The Constitution of the United States, in the wisdom of the Founders, tried to sublimate the essential dictatorial nature of pyramidal organization by dividing authority into three: executive, legislative and judicial. But the pyramid remains essentially untouched.
This scheme of organization, the pyramid, is however, not only useless, but extremely dangerous for the participants when it is utilized in a resistance movement against state tyranny. Especially is this so in technologically advanced societies where electronic surveillance can often penetrate the structure revealing its chain of command. Experience has revealed over Andover again that anti-state, political organizations utilizing this method of command and control are easy prey for government infiltration, entrapment, and destruction of the personnel involved. This has been seen repeatedly in the United States where pro-government infiltrators or agent provocateurs weasel their way into patriotic groups and destroy them from within.
In the pyramid type of organization, an infiltrator can destroy anything which is beneath his level of infiltration and often those above him as well. If the traitor has infiltrated at the top, then the entire organization from the top down is compromised and may be traduced at will.
An alternative to the pyramid type of organization is the cell system. In the past, many political groups (both right and left)have used the cell system to further their objectives. Two examples will suffice. During the American Revolution “committees of correspondence" were formed throughout the thirteen colonies.
Their purpose was to subvert the government and thereby aid the cause of independence. The "Sons of Liberty", who made a name for themselves dumping government taxed tea into the harbor at Boston, were the action arm of the committees of correspondence. Each committee was a secret cell that operated totally independently of the other cells. Information on the government was passed from committee to committee, from colony to colony, and then acted upon on a local basis. Yet even in these bygone days of poor communication, of weeks to months for alerter to be delivered, the committees without any central direction whatsoever, were remarkable similar in tactics employed to resist government tyranny. It was, as the first American patriots knew, totally unnecessary for anyone to give an order for anything. Information was made available to each committee, and each committee acted as it saw fit. A recent example of the cell system taken from the left wing of politics are the Communists. The Communist, in order to get around the obvious problems involved in pyramidal organization, developed to an art the cell system. They had numerous independent cells which operated completely isolated from one another and particularly with no knowledge of each other, but were orchestrated together by a central headquarters. For instance, during World War II, in Washington, it is known that there were at least six secret Communist cells operating at high levels in the United States government (plus all the open Communists who were protected and promoted by President Roosevelt), however, only one of the cells was rooted out and destroyed.
How many more actually were operating no one can say for sure.
The Communist cells which operated in the U.S until late 1991 under Soviet control could have at their command a leader, who held a social position which appeared to be very slowly. He could be, for example, a busboy in a restaurant, but in reality colonel or a general in the Soviet Secret Service, the KGB. Under him could be a number of cells and a person active in one cell would almost never have knowledge of individuals who are active in another cell. The value of this is that while any one cell cane infiltrated, exposed or destroyed, such action will have no effect on the other cells; in fact, the members of the other cells will be supporting that cell which is under attack and ordinarily would lend very strong support to it in many ways. This is at least part of the reason, no doubt, that whenever in the past Communists were attacked in this country, support for them sprang up in many unexpected places.
The efficient and effective operation of a cell system after the Communist model, is of course, dependent upon central direction, which means impressive organization, funding from the top, and outside support, all of which the Communists had. Obviously, American patriots have none of these things at the toper anywhere else, and so an effective cell organization based upon the Soviet system of operation is impossible.
Two things become clear from the above discussion. First, that the pyramid type of organization can be penetrated quite easily and it thus is not a sound method of organization in situations where the government has the resources and desire to penetrate the structure; which is the situation in this country. Secondly, that the normal qualifications for the cell structure based upon the Red model does not exist in the U.S. for patriots. This understood, the question arises "What method is left for those resisting state tyranny?" The answer comes from Col. Amoss who proposed the "Phantom Cell" mode of organization. ,which he described as Leaderless Resistance. A system of organization that is based upon the cell organization, but does not have any central control or direction, that is in fact almost identical to the methods used by the Committees of Correspondence during the American Revolution. Utilizing the Leaderless Resistance concept, all individuals and groups operate independently of each other, and never report to a central headquarters or single leader for direction or instruction, as would those who belong to a typical pyramid organization.
At first glance, such a type of organization seems unrealistic, primarily because there appears to be no organization. The natural question thus arises as to how are the “Phantom cells" and individuals to cooperate with each other when there is no intercommunication or central direction? The answer to this question is that participants in a program of Leaderless Resistance through phantom cell or individual action must know exactly what they are doing, and how to do it. It becomes the responsibility of the individual to acquire the necessary skills and information as to what is to be done. Thesis by no means as impractical as it appears, because it is certainly true that in any movement, all persons involved have the same general outlook, are acquainted with the same philosophy, and generally react to given situations in similar ways. The pervious history of the committees of correspondence during the American Revolution show this to be true.
Since the entire purpose of Leaderless Resistance is to defeat state tyranny (at least insofar as this essay is concerned), all members of phantom cells or individuals will tend to react to objective events in the same way through usual tactics of resistance. Organs of information distribution such as newspapers, leaflets, computers, etc., which are widely available to all, keep each person informed of events, allowing for a planned response that will take many variations. No one need issue an order to anyone. Those idealist truly committed to the cause of freedom will act when they feel the time is ripe, or will take their cue from others who precede them. While it is true that much could be said against this type of structure as a method of resistance, it must be kept in mind that Leaderless Resistance is a child of necessity. The alternatives to it have been show to be unworkable or impractical. Leaderless Resistance has worked before in the American Revolution, and if the truly committed put it to use for themselves, it will work now.
Leaderless Resistance leads to very small or even one man cells of resistance. Those who join organizations to play "let’s pretend" or who are "groupies" will quickly be weeded out. While for those who are serious about their opposition to federal despotism, this is exactly what is desired.
From the point of view of tyrants and would be potentates in the federal bureaucracy and police agencies, nothing is more desirable than that those who oppose them be UNIFIED in their command structure, and that every person who opposes them belong to a pyramid type group. Such groups and organizations are an easy kill. Especially in light of the fact that the Justice (sic) Department promised in 1987 that there would never be another group that opposed them that they did not have at least one informer in. These federal "friends of government" are intelligence agents. They gather information that can be used at the whim of a federal D.A. to prosecute. The line of battle has been drawn. Patriots are required therefore, to make a conscious decision to either aid the government in its illegal spying, by continuing with old methods of organization and resistance, or to make the enemies’ job more difficult by implementing effective countermeasures.
Now there will, no doubt, be mentally handicapped people out there who, while standing at a podium with an American flag draped in the background, and a lone eagle soaring in the sky above, will state emphatically in their best sounding red, white, and blue voice, "So what if the government is spying? We are not violating any laws." Such crippled thinking by any serious person is the best example that there is a need for special education classes. The person making such a statements totally out of contact with political reality in this country, and unfit for leadership of anything more than a dog sleigh in the Alaskan wilderness. The old "Born on the fourth of July" mentality that has influenced so much of the American patriot’s thinking in the past will not save him from the government in the future. "Reeducation" forenoon-thinkers of this type will take place in the federal prison system where there are no flags or eagles, but abundance of men who were "not violating any law."
Most groups who "unify" their disparate associates into a single structure have short political lives. Therefore, those movement leaders constantly calling for unity of organization rather than the desirable unity of purpose, usually fall into one of three categories.
They may not be sound political tacticians, but rather, just committed men who feel unity would help their cause, while not realizing that the government would greatly benefit from such efforts. The Federal objective, to imprison or destroy all who oppose them, is made easier in pyramid organizations. Or perhaps, they do not fully understand the struggle they are involved inland that the government they oppose has declared a state of war against those fighting for faith, folk, freedom and constitutional liberty. Those in power will use any means to rid themselves of opposition. The third class calling for unity and let us hope this is the minority of the three, are men more desirous of the supposed power that a large organization would bestow, than of actually achieving their stated purpose.
Conversely, the last thing Federal snoops would have, if they had any choice in the matter, is a thousand different small phantom cells opposing them. It is easy to see why. Such situation is an intelligence nightmare for a government intent upon knowing everything they possibly can about those who oppose them. The Federals, able to amass overwhelming strength of numbers, manpower, resources, intelligence gathering, and capability at any given time, need only a focal point to direct their anger. A single penetration of a pyramid type of organization can lead to the destruction of the whole. Whereas, Leaderless Resistance presents no single opportunity for the Federals to destroy a significant portion of the Resistance.
With the announcement by the Department of Justice (sic) that300 FBI agents formerly assigned to watching Soviet spies in the US (domestic counter intelligence) are now to be used to “combat crime", the federal government is preparing the way for a major assault upon those persons opposed to their policies. Many anti-government groups dedicated to the preservation of the America of our forefathers can expect shortly to feel the brunt of a new federal assault upon liberty.
It is clear, therefore, that it is time to rethink traditional strategy and tactics when it comes to opposing a modern police state. America is quickly moving into a long dark night of police state tyranny, where the rights now accepted by most as being inalienable will disappear. Let the coming night be filled with thousand points of resistance. Like the fog which forms when conditions are right and disappears when they are not, so must the resistance to tyranny be.
"If every person has the right to defend--even by force--his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support common force to protect these rights constantly." ---TheLaw. Frederick Bastiat
[EDITOR NOTE:Numerous works in popular music and literature feature Adolf Hitler prominently. Before and during World War II, Hitler was often depicted inside Germany as a God-like figure, loved and respected by the German people, as, for example, in Triumph of the Will, which Hitler co-produced. Outside Germany he was often treated as an object of derision. Later works continued the latter trend. An exception was the German movie Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse (The Testament of Dr. Mabuse), (1933), which was banned by the Nazi propaganda ministry. Many critics consider Fritz Lang's depiction of a homicidal maniac masterminding a criminal empire from within the walls of a criminal asylum to be an allegory of the Nazi ascent to power in Germany. An early example of a cryptic depiction is in Bertolt Brecht's 1941 play, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, in which Hitler, in the persona of the principal character Arturo Ui, a Chicago racketeer in the cauliflower trade, is ruthlessly satirised. Brecht, who was German but left when the Nazis came to power, also expressed his opposition to the National Socialist and Fascist movements in other of his most famous plays.]
By ROBERT J. SAMUELSON
Posted 05/29/2009 07:53 PM ET
The Obama infatuation is a great unreported story of our time. Has any recent president basked in so much favorable media coverage? Well, maybe John Kennedy for a moment; but no president since. On the whole, this is not healthy for America.
Our political system works best when a president faces checks on his power. But the main checks on Obama are modest. They come from congressional Democrats, who largely share his goals if not always his means.
The leaderless and confused Republicans don't provide effective opposition. And the press — on domestic, if not foreign, policy — has so far largely abdicated its role as skeptical observer.
Obama has inspired a collective fawning. What started in the campaign (the chief victim was Hillary Clinton, not John McCain) has continued, as a study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism shows.
It concludes: "President Barack Obama has enjoyed substantially more positive media coverage than either Bill Clinton or George W. Bush during their first months in the White House."
The study examined 1,261 stories by the Washington Post, the New York Times, ABC, CBS and NBC, Newsweek magazine and the "NewsHour" on PBS. Favorable stories (42%) were double the unfavorable (20%), while the rest were "neutral" or "mixed."
Obama's treatment contrasts sharply with coverage in the first two months of the presidencies of Bush (22% of stories favorable) and Clinton (27%). Unlike Bush and Clinton, Obama received favorable coverage in news columns and opinion pages.
The nature of stories also changed. "Roughly twice as much of the coverage of Obama (44%) has concerned his personal and leadership qualities than was the case for Bush (22%) or Clinton (26%)," the report said. "Less of the coverage, meanwhile, has focused on his policy agenda."
When Pew broadened the analysis to 49 outlets — cable channels, news Web sites, morning news shows, more newspapers and National Public Radio — the results were similar, despite some outliers.
No surprise: MSNBC was favorable, Fox was not. Another study, released by the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University, reached parallel conclusions.
The infatuation matters because Obama's ambitions are so grand. He wants to expand health care subsidies, tightly control energy use and overhaul immigration.
He envisions the greatest growth of government since Lyndon Johnson.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates federal spending in 2019 at nearly 25% of the gross domestic product. That's well up from the 21% in 2008, and far above the post-World War II average; it would also occur before many baby boomers retire.
Are his proposals practical, even if desirable? Maybe they're neither. What might be unintended consequences? All "reforms" do not succeed; some cause more problems than they solve.
Johnson's economic policies, inherited from Kennedy, proved disastrous; they led to the 1970s' stagflation. The "war on poverty" failed. The press should not be hostile, but it ought to be skeptical.
Mostly, it isn't. The idea of a "critical" Obama story is a tactical conflict with congressional Democrats or criticism from an important constituency. Larger issues are minimized, despite ample grounds for skepticism.
Obama's rhetoric brims with inconsistencies. In the campaign, he claimed he would de-emphasize partisanship — and also enact a highly partisan agenda; both couldn't be true. He got a pass.
Now he claims he will control health care spending even though he proposes more government spending. He promotes "fiscal responsibility" when projections show huge and continuous budget deficits. Journalists seem to take his pronouncements at face value even when many are two-faced.
The cause of this acquiescence isn't clear. The press sometimes follows opinion polls; popular presidents get good coverage, and Obama is enormously popular. By Pew, his job performance rating is 63%.
But because favorable coverage began in the campaign, this explanation is at best partial.
Perhaps the preoccupation with the present economic crisis has diverted attention from the long-term implications of other policies. But the deeper explanation may be as straightforward as this:
Most journalists like Obama; they admire his command of language; he's a relief after Bush; they agree with his agenda (so it never occurs to them to question basic premises); and they don't want to see the first African-American president fail.
Whatever, a great edifice of government may arise on the narrow foundation of Obama's personal popularity. Another Pew survey shows that since the election both self-identified Republicans and Democrats have declined. "Independents" have increased, and "there has been no consistent movement away from conservatism, nor a shift toward liberalism."
The press has become Obama's silent ally and seems in a state of denial. But the story goes untold: Unsurprisingly, the study of all the favorable coverage received little coverage.
Read the Background Material...
Friday, May 29, 2009
The television cartoon South Park offers a useful allegory for the administration's flight from realism. In one episode the children's teacher, Mr Garrison, gets a sex change, little Kyle gets negroplasty (to turn him into a tall black basketball star), while Kyle's father undergoes dolphinplasty, that is, surgery to make him look like a dolphin.
Looking like a dolphin, of course, doesn't make you one. Sadly, the Barack Obama administration hasn't figured this out. Out of the confusion of its first 100 days, we can glimpse a unifying principle, and that principle looks remarkably like the sort of plastic surgery practiced in South Park.
Like dolphinplasty and negroplasty, it has given us cosmetic solutions that we might call civitaplasty, turning a terrorist gang into a state; fiducioplasty, making a bunch of bankrupt institutions look like functioning banks; creditoplasty, making government seizure of private property look like a corporate reorganization; matrimonioplasty, making same-sex cohabitation look like a marriage; and interfecioplasty, making murder look like a surgical procedure.
There is a consistent theme to the administration's major policy initiatives: Obama and his advisors start from the way they think things ought to be and work backwards to the uncooperative real world. If reality bars the way, it had better watch out. In the South Park episode, the plastic surgery underwent catastrophic failures too disgusting to recount here. Obama's attempt to carve reality into the way things ought to be will also undergo catastrophic failure, perhaps in even more disgusting ways.
Consider the reorganization of Chrysler, perhaps the most traumatic event to afflict the credit market in living memory. In 2007, Chrysler borrowed US$10 billion secured by its assets - real estate, brand names and other collateral. According to the US Bankruptcy Code, senior creditors have first claim on assets in the event of failure. The Obama administration, though, offered the senior creditors just 33 cents on the dollar, but gave a group of junior creditors, the United Auto Workers Union, 55 cents on the dollar. Most of the senior creditors are banks receiving federal assistance, and they of course did not object. Some creditors did object, and Obama denounced them on the airwaves as "speculators". Some of the creditors received death threats, and other creditors report that the White House threatened to destroy their reputations.
This is not a credit market, but creditoplasty. What is it that gives existence to a credit market? "Credit" derives from the Latin verb credere, to believe. We trust other people with our money because we believe that they will repay it with interest, and because we believe that the courts will uphold our contractual rights in the event of a dispute. Credit markets do not exist in most of the world's countries because faith is absent in the good will of counterparties and the impartiality of the law. In most countries, might makes right: the ruling clique takes what it wants, as King Ahab took Naboth's vineyard. There is no rule of law. No one invests except through a corrupt deal with the ruling clique. No firm grows beyond what the members of a family can manage, and no excess capital remains in the country. Labor languishes for lack of capital.
A few countries, notably those blessed with a heritage of English common law, have credit markets. Savings turn seamlessly into investment, prospective retirees lend their savings with confidence to young people building families, homes and businesses, and tomorrow's prospective income is transformed into today's wealth through the power of faith in the future.
Obama's handling of the Chrysler bankruptcy has destroyed this faith. No investor remains in the Chrysler deal out of belief in the company's future, or out of faith in the legal system to uphold contractual rights. The big banks are there because Obama has them on life support. The smaller creditors are there because Obama has threatened them with reputational ruin, and persons unnamed have threatened them with violence. The UAW is here because it has a political deal with the White House. Violence, fraud and corruption hold together Chrysler Motors, in the sad template of Third World finance - not faith or belief. Force and fraud destroy faith, in fact, erase the possibility of faith for a very long time to come.
Apart from Chrysler, no investor trusts America's largest banks. They can borrow money in the markets because the federal government guarantees it - nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars of bank bonds guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation have come to market this year. They can make profits if and when the government says they can, for the government tells each bank how much capital it must raise and by how much it must dilute its shareholders' equity.
The banks depend on Treasury funding to securitize assets, and on the balance sheet of the Federal Reserve to provide a bid for their assets. They are not fiduciaries, but the product of fiducioplasty, the mere cosmetic appearance of banking. Cynical calculation about the administration's political goals replaces assessment of bank business models, as I have chronicled at my finance blog, "Inner Workings."
The analogy to plastic surgery holds in the field of foreign policy as well, where the president's special ambassadors have fanned out to solicit the good graces of the world's terrorists. The White House wants to get Iran involved in Afghanistan, offer the Taliban a power-sharing arrangement in Afghanistan, give Syria a key negotiating role, and pitch a Palestinian state with involvement from Hamas. Out of this witches' cauldron, the administration hopes to conjure up a Palestinian state - call it civitaplasty. Giving guns and money to a collection of individuals on a given spot of ground, though, does not make a people, much less a state.
What does constitute a state? Cicero defined a people as an assemblage with common interests. In the City of God (XIX, 23), St Augustine took issue with the great statesman of the Roman republic: "A people [rather] is the association of a multitude of rational beings united by a common agreement of the objects of their love ... to observe the character of a particular people we must examine the objects of its love."
He continued: God rules the obedient city according to His grace, so that it sacrifices to none but Him, and whereby, in all the citizens of this obedient city, the soul consequently rules the body and reason the vices in the rightful order, so that, as the individual just man, so also the community and people of the just, live by faith, which works by love, that love whereby man loves God as He ought to be loved, and his neighbor as himself - there, I say, there is not an assemblage associated by a common acknowledgment of right, and by a community of interests. But if there is not this, there is not a people, if our definition be true, and therefore there is no republic; for where there is no people there can be no republic.
What is it that Hamas loves? According to numerous of its spokesmen in repeated statements over the years, what it loves is death. "We love death more than the Jews love life," Hamas says. Hamas leader Ismail Haniya told an American interviewer last year that his fighters were willing to die, whereas "the Jews love life more than any other people, and they prefer not to die". The leader of Hamas' ally, the Iranian-backed Shi'ite organization Hezbollah, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, said, "We have discovered how to hit the Jews where they are most vulnerable. The Jews love life, so that is what we shall take from them. We will win because the Jews love life, and we love death."
A people held together by a common love of death is a contradiction in terms. It is a non-people, that is, a people dedicated to its own destruction. It cannot form a state. In my view, the love of death evinced by Islamist authorities expresses despair about the future of Islamic civilization in a modern world.
This year's most-cited book on Islam, Ali Allawi's The Crisis of Islamic Civilization, makes the case poignantly. The Palestinians cannot resign themselves to the misery of their circumstances as a backward and poorly adapted people in a modern world. Many of them, including a very large number of their young men, would rather die. Civitaplasty can produce only the cosmetic imitation of a state, but not the genuine article.
By the same principle, the anti-realists of the Obama administration believe that they can define marriage to be whatever they want it to mean. Matrimoniaplasty makes same-sex cohabitation look like a marriage, on the premise that marriage is a right. That is just what the Spanish government intends in giving transgender men the "right" to be women, with a passport to prove it. In social-democratic Spain, a man can don high heels and lipstick, and obtain a passport certifying himself to be a herself. Men, however, do not have a right to be women; they can obtain a "female" ID, but not a date for Saturday night. Marriage is not a right, but rather a state, in which two people become one flesh.
Simply because we set out the parameters of a market, a corporation, a bank, a state, or a marriage does not mean it has any more claim on reality that St Thomas' phoenix. Some combination of natural capacity and sense of sanctity, melded by many years of human experience, give existence to such things. The flight from realism will leave us with neither credit, nor civility, nor domesticity. Like little Kyle's knees in the cited South Park episode, these substitutes for reality will blow up in our face.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Nobody in their right mind, I don't care, liberal, socialist, communist, everybody with half a brain knows that what is being done right now to fix the economy doesn't fix an economy. But it does a lot of other things. It empowers the people who are spending the money. It keeps the people who are the supposed recipients of the money impoverished. It keeps them nervous, it keeps them on edge. Those people are happy and very, very comforted that the government is trying to do something. And so far it hasn't worked and so Obama said, "We're working on this, you ain't seen nothing yet," so they're going to be content to sit there and wait for more assistance to come and it won't come because it cannot come. This economy is simply too large as it was to be supported by a single entity, the United States government. It simply cannot be. The math doesn't work; the ideology doesn't work; the philosophy doesn't work; the theory doesn't work. So, yes, I was angry, and I still am. This is the equivalent of a huge insult to my intelligence and to yours. It isn't working. It can't work. It will not work. It will fail.
As I scour the Internet for show prep or as I occasionally listen to the television news, I hear more and more people referring to my comment "I hope he fails," referring to the president, still being very upset about this, "Oh, what a dumb political comment that was," people are saying, "how silly, how stupid, that's really going to bring moderates to the cause, right, because everybody, when they hear Limbaugh say, 'I hope Obama fails,' they think that Limbaugh wants the country to fail." Now, let me say something to you right here and right now. And look at me. It's this: Virtually everybody -- I don't care whether they're conservative, liberal, independent, moderate, or Martian -- virtually everybody who heard my comment, "I hope Obama fails," knows exactly what I meant. There is not a sane person in this country who genuinely believes I want this country to fail. Ladies and gentlemen, this country is failing because President Obama is succeeding. I don't care how you choose to measure it. There is no hope on the horizon for a job. There is no hope on the horizon for renewed prosperity. There is no hope on the horizon for economic growth. It's not there. It's been promised. It has been said that the only entity that can guarantee all the things I just mentioned is the federal government.
The federal government has thrown trillions of dollars at failing entities, industries, and they're still failing and getting worse. President Obama's policies will not fail in one regard: They will not fail in impoverishing and enslaving more and more Americans the longer his policies succeed. This that is happening to us, all of us at this moment, unemployment, record high since 25 years ago, one out of seven homes being foreclosed on, the automobile business basically bankrupt after trillions of dollars in bailouts now owned by Obama, Wall Street is an abject mess, the state of California is bankrupt, the state of New York soon will be. All of these places are talking about raising taxes further on people, which will reduce the number of people who are able to hire other people -- in other words, create jobs. This is the exact kind of success I wanted to fail. And everybody who heard me say it knew exactly what I meant.
It is being used by people on our side of the aisle who are scared to death of conservatives. It is being used by them to say that I'm driving moderates away. It's being used by people on the left to say that I want America to fail, when everybody in their brain knows exactly what I meant, just as everybody with a brain, everybody with a modicum of education knows that what President Obama is doing will not do what he promises, will not do what he says, it will not revive this economy. We are soon going to be approaching the one-year mark. In fact, the first stimulus package occurred over a year ago. And it was offered by President Bush, and it was rebate checks for the American people. This was to help us buy things. And then some months later there was a second installment of this same rebate plan, checks from the federal government. And then came, as we approached the one-year anniversary of the beginning of massive bailouts starting with TARP, then to the auto companies, and Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the mortgage industry.
A year, my friends, if stimulating these industry sectors with this amount of money has only made it worse, at what point does somebody have the guts to stand up and say, "Stop it. It has failed. It isn't working, and it shows no signs of working," and everybody with a brain, with a modicum of education, knows it can't work. It never has worked throughout the history of human civilization. It's unsustainable whether it be the mental health hospital in Sacramento, whether it be the economy of the state of California, whether it be the automobile industry, whatever government takes on outside of the government sphere, outside of its constitutional role, whatever it takes on that's in the private sector, with the intention of fixing it, only gets worse. In fact, so do the things they do fix that they think are legitimately theirs to fix. They create the war on poverty; it's worse than ever in terms of percentages. They create the great Great Society and all of these programs which have featured an $11 trillion transfer of wealth over the past 30 years or so, and these problems have not been abated, they have not been solved, they have not been reduced; they exist.
It could be said that the federal government's involvement in the massive welfare state has served to destroy families, minority families, because the government took over the role of the father. The father no longer had to hang around because the government was there every week or month or however often the checks come. So it isn't working. This kind of failure is exactly what I wanted to avoid. I was hoping that Obama would not succeed in further destroying the United States economy. So there he is, in the middle of a bankrupt state, telling people there they ain't seen nothing yet to rounds of applause and the standing ovation from, of course, the wealthy Hollywood elites.
Epstein points to a particularly awful 2006 eminent domain ruling—a case even worse than Kelo—in which eminent domain power was basically used to extort money from property owners on behalf of a private developer. (Epstein provided more commentary on the case earlier this year.)
Sotomayor was one of the three judges on the appeals panel which upheld the original judge's refusal to defend property rights.
Epstein correctly points to why this case is so important: the arbitrary abuse of power by politicians who believe they have a right to dispense of other people's property is precisely Obama's own modus operandi—and this is what the Supreme Court will be called upon to check. In effect, Obama is nominating a judge who will give him free reign to shake down AIG executives and Chrysler creditors.
A number of commentators have noted that when Obama talks about the importance of a judge having "empathy," this is really a code-word for the "liberal" agenda. I think that's too narrow. "Empathy" is a code-word for altruism—which, in practice, means that anyone deemed to be wealthy, successful, or independent deserves no empathy and is fair game to be sacrificed.
That's why Obama's new Supreme Court nominee has no "empathy" for property owners.
"The Sotomayor Nomination," Richard A. Epstein, Forbes, May 26 We have already seen a president whose professed devotion to the law takes a backseat to all sorts of other considerations. The treatment of the compensation packages of key AIG executives (which eventually led to the indecorous resignation of Edward Liddy), and the massive insinuation of the executive branch into the (current) Chrysler and (looming) General Motors bankruptcies are sure to generate many a spirited struggle over two issues that are likely to define our future Supreme Court's jurisprudence. The level of property rights protection against government intervention on the one hand, and the permissible scope of unilateral action by the president in a system that is (or at least should be) characterized by a system of separation of powers and checks and balances on the other.
Here is one straw in the wind that does not bode well for a Sotomayor appointment. Justice Stevens of the current court came in for a fair share of criticism (all justified in my view) for his expansive reading in Kelo v. City of New London (2005) of the "public use language."… But he was surely done one better in the Summary Order in Didden v. Village of Port Chester issued by the Second Circuit in 2006. Judge Sotomayor was on the panel that issued the unsigned opinion—one that makes Justice Stevens look like a paradigmatic defender of strong property rights.
I have written about Didden in Forbes. The case involved about as naked an abuse of government power as could be imagined. Bart Didden came up with an idea to build a pharmacy on land he owned in a redevelopment district in Port Chester over which the town of Port Chester had given Greg Wasser control. Wasser told Didden that he would approve the project only if Didden paid him $800,000 or gave him a partnership interest. The "or else" was that the land would be promptly condemned by the village, and Wasser would put up a pharmacy himself. Just that came to pass. But the Second Circuit panel on which Sotomayor sat did not raise an eyebrow. Its entire analysis reads as follows: "We agree with the district court that [Wasser's] voluntary attempt to resolve appellants' demands was neither an unconstitutional exaction in the form of extortion nor an equal protection violation."
Maybe I am missing something, but American business should shudder in its boots if Judge Sotomayor takes this attitude to the Supreme Court…. Indeed, the threats that Wasser made look all too much like the "or else" diplomacy of the Obama administration in business matters.
2. The Pragmatist Constitution There are serious problems with conservative judicial theory, but there is at least a glimmer of sanity in the view that we should stick to the "original intent" of the Constitution—which would be great, if the conservatives were consistently willing to recognize that the original intent of the Constitution was to protect individual rights.
But there is nothing redeeming in the judicial theory of the left. The long New York Times Magazine article linked to below describes the latest variant of the subjectivist "living Constitution" doctrine. While this new theory is billed as less radical than the old version, its essence is the same.
The basic idea is that are no objective limits on the power of government. The only limit on judges is their need to stay within the mainstream of a broader political consensus—but as that consensus moves, they should follow it wherever it goes.
This is the Constitution filtered through the philosophy of Pragmatism—a constitution with no fixed principles, whose meaning is determined by an ever-shifting social consensus. The left refers to this judicial philosophy as "democratic"—which it is, in the sense of the old line about two people on a desert island voting to cook and eat the third.
In fact, the job of a Supreme Court Justice is not to show "deference" to the elected branches of government. Precisely the opposite: the court's job is to keep the elected leaders in check by enforcing the Constitution's limits on their power.
"What's a Liberal Justice Now?" Jeffrey Rosen, New York Times, May 26 When talking about the Supreme Court, Barack Obama has resisted the familiar ideological categories that have defined our judicial battles for the past several decades. He has made clear that despite his progressive inclinations, he is not a 1960s-style, Warren Court liberal—someone who believes that the justices should boldly define constitutional rights in an effort to bring about social change….
"Ultimately, though, I have to side with Justice Breyer's view of the Constitution—that it is not a static but rather a living document, and must be read in the context of an ever-changing world."
By tipping his hat to Breyer, Obama acknowledged one of the two liberal justices appointed to the court during Bill Clinton's presidency. (The other is Ruth Bader Ginsburg.) In different ways and to different degrees, each of them has championed yet another conception of the judiciary: one in which the courts, in most cases, should play only a "minimalist" role in America's democracy, generally preferring deferential and narrow rulings to broad ones…. By so doing, the theory goes, the courts can avoid getting too far ahead of the will of the people and their elected representatives, and preserve judicial legitimacy in the process….
[S]everal scholars…have helped articulate the position now known as "democratic constitutionalism." One of its core ideas is that courts should pursue many of the same social-justice ends that the Warren Court sought to advance, only using more modest, less uniformly activist means—always acting in conjunction with progressive political movements. Unlike the minimalists, the democratic constitutionalists don't maintain that courts should always prefer "nudges over earthquakes"; but unlike Warren Court partisans, they don't suggest that the courts are always entitled to have the first (or last) word in promoting social progress. "Decisions made by legislatures and executive officials about our rights are just as important" as judicial decisions, if not more so, Balkin and Siegel write in an introductory essay to "The Constitution in 2020."
But though the courts ought to take their cues from representatives of the people—and from popular political movements—judges still have important work to do in giving convincing legal expression to those sentiments. "In a democratic society," Balkin and Siegel write, "courts best perform their institutional role as partners in a larger dialogue: they respond to popular visions of the Constitution's values and help to translate these values into law."
3. Going Galt The headline of the article below refers to "missing millionaires"—which, of course, should immediately make you think of Atlas Shrugged, in which the central mystery is the disappearance of businessmen, investors, entrepreneurs, and men of talent.
In this case, the cause of the disappearance is the same: producers are fleeing a system that exists to loot and exploit them. But it is not much of a mystery: the article below describes how the Maryland legislature drastically raised state income taxes on millionaires—only to see a third of the state's millionaires disappear, leaving fewer victims to pay this special penalty on success.
The wider context for this story is the massive fiscal crisis of the state governments. An MSNBC report describes how 48 of 50 state governments are now running ruinous budget deficits. But as with most modern reporting, this article starts in mid-stream by reporting the crisis but giving us no idea what previous events caused it.
The real story is that state and local governments expanded relentlessly during the boom times, increasing their budgets faster than the growth in population or the growth of the economy. This was a vast local and state revenue "bubble," fueled by greed—the politicians' lust to seize and distribute the wealth of their constituents. When the recession hit, this bubble of "infectious greed" burst.
"Millionaires Go Missing," The Wall Street Journal, May 27 Maryland couldn't balance its budget last year, so the state tried to close the shortfall by fleecing the wealthy. Politicians in Annapolis created a millionaire tax bracket, raising the top marginal income-tax rate to 6.25%. And because cities such as Baltimore and Bethesda also impose income taxes, the state-local tax rate can go as high as 9.45%. Governor Martin O'Malley, a dedicated class warrior, declared that these richest 0.3% of filers were "willing and able to pay their fair share."…
One year later…One-third of the millionaires have disappeared from Maryland tax rolls. In 2008 roughly 3,000 million-dollar income tax returns were filed by the end of April. This year there were 2,000, which the state comptroller's office concedes is a "substantial decline." On those missing returns, the government collects 6.25% of nothing. Instead of the state coffers gaining the extra $106 million the politicians predicted, millionaires paid $100 million less in taxes than they did last year—even at higher rates.
No doubt the majority of that loss in millionaire filings results from the recession….
The Maryland state revenue office says it's "way too early" to tell how many millionaires moved out of the state when the tax rates rose. But no one disputes that some rich filers did leave…. Christopher Summers, president of the Maryland Public Policy Institute, notes: "Marylanders with high incomes typically own second homes in tax friendlier states like Florida, Delaware, South Carolina, and Virginia. So it's easy for them to change their residency."
4. "There's No Reason for Kim Jong-Il Not to Pee on Our Rug." Over the weekend, North Korea celebrated the new Obama era of peace and love by testing a nuclear bomb—and the missiles needed to deliver those bombs to their targets in South Korea, Japan, and the rest of the Pacific Rim.
The Washington Times report on the test offers some airy speculation that this might indicate a succession struggle as North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il's health fades. But it also offers some more substantial information, including an administration official's announcement that the North Korean bomb was another semi-fizzle, yielding a much smaller explosion than advertised.
The power of Monday's underground explosion remained in question, with Russia claiming the North had achieved an explosion comparable to the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki—in the 10- to 20-kiloton range. But after studying seismic data and other intelligence, a senior White House official issued a statement indicating that the explosion was much smaller. "The characteristics suggest a man-made event with an explosive yield of approximately a few kilotons [of] TNT."
This article is also notable for the outstanding metaphor provided by retired Special Forces Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu, who declares that North Korea is "like a dog," he said. "If you feed him every time he pees on the rug, then he'll continue to pee on the rug. There's no reason for Kim Jong-il not to pee on our rug."
Meanwhile, a very busy Gordon Chang writes in the Wall Street Journal that the new test is a sales demonstration for North Korea's business of selling nuclear technology to the bad guys—its role in the famous Axis of Evil.
The official Korean Central News Agency said this immediately after the detonation: "The results of the test helped satisfactorily settle the scientific and technological problems arising in further increasing the power of nuclear weapons and steadily developing nuclear technology." This is sales talk. North Korea appears set to go into high gear and merchandise its nuclear arsenal.
But Chang's comment below in Forbes is more important, because it names one of the primary reasons we have not yet blocked North Korea's nuclear program or toppled its regime: the North Korean regime is sponsored by China, which likes to keep alive a regime that causes trouble for the West.
"We Have A Chinese Problem, Not A North Korean One," Gordon S. Chang, Forbes, May 25 Today, China supplies about 90% of North Korea's oil, 80% of its consumer goods and 45% of its food. Beijing is Pyongyang's only formal military ally and its primary backer in the United Nations Security Council and other diplomatic forums. If it weren't for the Chinese, there would be no North Korean missile program, no North Korean nuclear program, and no North Korea.,,,
For the last eight years, the United States has had a Korea policy that can be described in one word: China. President Bush looked to Beijing to contain Pyongyang and disarm Kim. Yet during his administration the Chinese gave the North Korean leader the one thing he needed most to develop nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them: time. The Chinese counseled patience while the so-called six-party talks, which began in 2003, dragged on, but they failed to broker a solution even though they could have done so.
Many Chinese officials, especially in the Foreign Ministry, know their country's Korea policy is counterproductive in the long run because it will eventually lead to the nuclearization of the region and thereby the marginalization of Beijing's relative power. Yet there is no consensus in the upper echelons of the Communist Party and the People's Liberation Army to change long-held policies. Apparently, President Hu Jintao finds Kim useful in the short-term for keeping Japan and South Korea off-balance and in extracting concessions from the United States.
Today, President Obama said North Korea's acts "pose a grave threat to the peace and stability of the world." So what should his administration do? From all accounts, his senior Asia officials feel the United States has no leverage on Beijing. That assessment could not be more wrong. The legitimacy of the Chinese political system rests largely on the continual delivery of prosperity, and that prosperity depends on access to the American market.
President Obama will never have a successful Korea policy until he has a successful Chinese one.
5. The Nation Obama is Ready to Confront The Obama administration is not being totally passive in its foreign policy. It is vigorously seeking to browbeat Israel into remaining passive against the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon. That's the news about recent messages between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu administration in Israel, according to Caroline Glick (by way of Dick Morris, below).
"The Death of Israel," Dick Morris and Eileen McGann, DickMorris.com, May 24 From Caroline Glick, deputy editor and op-ed writer for the Jerusalem Post, comes alarming news. An expert on Arab-Israeli relations with excellent sources deep inside Netanyahu's government, she reports that CIA chief Leon Panetta, who recently took time out from his day job (feuding with Nancy Pelosi) to travel to Israel "read the riot act" to the government warning against an attack on Iran.
More ominously, Glick reports (likely from sources high up in the Israeli government) that the Obama administration has all but accepted as irreversible and unavoidable fact that Iran will soon develop nuclear weapons. She writes, "…we have learned that the [Obama] administration has made its peace with Iran's nuclear aspirations. Senior administration officials acknowledge as much in off-record briefings. It is true, they say, that Iran may exploit its future talks with the US to run down the clock before they test a nuclear weapon. But, they add, if that happens, the US will simply have to live with a nuclear-armed mullocracy."
She goes on to write that the Obama administration is desperate to stop Israel from attacking Iran…. She notes that American officials would regard any harm to American interests that flowed from an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities as Israel's doing, not Iran's.
6. "A Quadruple Axis of Evil" In addition to the possibility that Israel will stop Iran's nuclear program, the other sign of hope in the Middle East—because it will embolden the Israelis—is a curious shift in Arab commentary on Iran. Noticing that they are immediate targets of Iran's dreams of world domination, a number of Arab countries—most notably Egypt—have begun to align with Israel against Iran.
Thus, while the leaders of Iran and Syria fantasize about themselves as the heads of a "new world order," an Egyptian government-run newspaper runs an editorial denouncing Iran and its minions, including the Palestinians, as a "new Axis of Evil."
"Editor of Egyptian Government Daily: Al-Qaeda, Iran, Palestinian Extremists—A New Axis of Evil," Middle East Media Research Institute, May 26 "The capture of the terrorist cell associated with the explosions in a square near the Al-Hussein mosque [in Cairo] last February brought to light two new matters of utmost importance. The first is that this cell was discovered through the Internet; the second is that Al-Qaeda had for the first time carried out an operation inside Egypt….
"The fact that Al-Qaeda has entered the fray indisputably confirms the strong connections between this terrorist organization and Iran, Hizbullah, and extremists within the Palestinian resistance. This is a quadruple axis of evil, whose four components were melded together in a single crucible. It's impossible now to tell which of them is hoisting the banner of international terrorism, which is bandying the slogans of Islam and instigating hate towards Israel, and which is extolling resistance in Lebanon or Gaza. The four have become one.
"The target, too, has become one—namely Egypt, its land, its people, its history, its civilization, its economy, [and] its past, present, and future."
Jack also sent me a link to an article at DEBKA File revealing information on the deal that was struck between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at their first meeting last week.
Jack begins with this note about the source: "One of my favorite sources for early indicators of military action in the Middle East is DEBKAfile. Unfortunately, the guys at DEBKAfile tend to lean a little bit too much towards the sensational, so I look to the mainstream press (Haaretz, the Jerusalem Post, the Daily Telegraph, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and others) for confirmation of evidence DEBKAfile cites for it more speculative claims." With that proviso, here is what DEBKAfile reports:
Most of all, [Obama] was after space to engage in negotiation with Tehran without the threat of a surprise Israeli military strike against Iran's nuclear sites hanging over the talks….
The Israeli prime minister himself felt the need to keep hidden his concession of a six-month time limit for Washington's dialogue with Tehran. On the one hand, he persuaded Obama for the first time to accept a time limit for those talks; on the other, it is longer than Israel thinks safe.
DEBKAfile's Washington sources note that Netanyahu convinced the president to agree to an Iranian deadline while standing by his refusal to endorse Obama's "two state" solution of the Palestinian issue in return.
Still, he knew the deadline would be hard to sell at home, especially after Iran successfully test-fired its first accurate long-range surface to surface missile while he was still in Washington.
If such a deal was made, delaying any potential Israeli strike on Iran until November, it was apparently done for nothing. As CNN reports today, "Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday ruled out nuclear negotiations with other nations, saying, 'Iran's nuclear issue is over, in our opinion.'"
This is, of course, utterly predictable. The main Iranian goal is to acquire nuclear weapons, and all of their offers of diplomacy were just a delaying measure to buy time for their weapons program to reach that goal. So when we vaguely threatened to bomb the Iranians, they said they wanted to talk. But now that we've stopped threatening them and say we want to talk, they turn around and say they don't want to talk.
It's time to end the charade and take out the Iranian weapons program by force. And we should be ashamed if we sit back and let the Israelis take all of the risks to do what we should have done years ago.
Unfortunately, even if the War on Terrorism won't go away, the Obama administration seems eager to act as if it doesn't exist. In doing so, they may be endangering one of our few clear successes in that war. The Los Angeles Times carries a disturbing report about how America's increasing diplomatic and military disengagement from Iraq threatens to cause a return of the Sunni insurgency.
One of the keys to our counter-insurgency victory in Iraq is that we turned former insurgents into allies against al-Qaeda, largely by promising to address their main legitimate grievance against the Iraqi government: the fear that the new government would engage in sectarian persecution of Sunnis on behalf of the Shiite majority. As a neutral party, a force with no sect and no tribe, America was able to be the impartial guarantor of the Sunnis' freedom from persecution. But without continued American political and diplomatic leadership, starting with the president, that could rapidly unravel.
With US forces preparing to withdraw from Iraqi cities next month, insurgent groups see no sign of progress on their demands for the Americans to guarantee their entry into the political system and protect them from the parties in power.
As the insurgents watched and waited, they saw the government continue to jail their fighters, despite their decision to hold their fire. Likewise, they noticed the inability, or unwillingness, of US troops to stop a crackdown against leaders of the Awakening movement, their Sunni brethren who left the insurgency for formal partnerships with the Americans….
A US military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, says military and US Embassy personnel are frustrated by their inability to reconcile the government and armed groups. They worry that it's only a matter of time before insurgents renew their uprising.
"When they finally realize America is an impotent force, or acting like one, are they going to give up and say it's useless and return to armed conflict to topple the government?" the official asked. "Are they going to take up arms against the coalition as well?"
As I have argued for years, there is no such thing as retreating from Iraq in order to refocus our efforts and win somewhere else, because failure in one theater of the war emboldens our enemies and demoralizes our potential allies everywhere else. Thus, the LA Times report continues by pointing out how an unraveling counter-insurgency in Iraq would sabotage counter-insurgency efforts in Afghanistan:
The disenchantment of the Sunnis also could have implications for Afghanistan, where the US military hopes to reproduce the success of its alliance with the Awakening movement by reaching out to moderate Taliban elements. [This is a bit of a misstatement; the idea is to switch the loyalty of the tribes that aid and support the Taliban.—RWT] But the fate of the Awakening members and the inactive insurgent groups could cause Taliban fighters to think twice before embarking on a similar path.
Meanwhile, in another theater of the war—Lebanon—we get an idea of what is at stake. The Middle East Media Research Institute transcribes an interview with German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, who originally headed up the international investigation into the assassination of pro-Western, pro-independence Lebanese leader Rafik Hariri. Mehlis describes Syria's threats against Hariri and the evidence for involvement of top Syrian intelligence officials in the assassination.
But the latest report, from the German magazine Der Spiegel, is that a new international investigation has unearthed detailed evidence showing that Hezbollah, the Shiite Lebanese terrorist militia, planned and carried out the killing.
Intensive investigations in Lebanon are all pointing to a new conclusion: that it was not the Syrians, but instead special forces of the Lebanese Shiite organization Hezbollah ("Party of God") that planned and executed the diabolical attack.
There is apparently a lot of concrete detail behind this claim, so follow the link to read the whole article.
This is not to say that the Syrians didn't know about the assassination and weren't involved. But Hezbollah answers more directly to its masters in Tehran—so this is one more reminder that what is really going on is Iran's attempt to dominate the Middle East by promoting the rule of Islamic terrorist gangs under its control.
This is the war that won't go away, until we finally choose to fight it and win.—RWT
Sunday, May 24, 2009
RUSH LIMBAUGH: Would you relax in there? I was in my favorite part in So Very Hard to Go by Tower of Power and I just had to listen to it. All right. No, I have not meant to tease you. It is: "Time to Legalize Counterfeiting," by Harold Whikov, with this opinion piece at the AmericanThinker.com today. "Many Americans today believe certain illegal vices in our society should be decriminalized, taxed, and regulated. The most popular of these vices include marijuana smoking, prostitution, and all forms of gambling. The proponents for decriminalization believe that the new tax revenues produced would help support schools, healthcare, and the impoverished, ease the pain of taxpayers, and reduce the deficit. They also believe that transgressions such as these will take place no matter, but, if properly regulated, would be safer for society in general. It would be a win, win situation.
Time to Legalize Counterfeiting
By Harold Witkov
Many Americans today believe certain illegal vices in our society should be decriminalized, taxed, and regulated. The most popular of these vices include marijuana smoking, prostitution, and all forms of gambling. The proponents for decriminalization believe that the new tax revenues produced would help support schools, healthcare, and the impoverished, ease the pain of taxpayers, and reduce the deficit. They also believe that transgressions such as these will take place no matter, but, if properly regulated, would be safer for society in general. It would be a win, win situation.
Unfortunately, when it comes to lowering taxes and helping the downtrodden, the best-laid government plans seem to fall short of expectations. However, there is one vice, one small illegal indiscretion, that, if decriminalized would solve all our problems. The United States needs to legalize the victimless crime known as counterfeiting.
Once legalized, counterfeiting would be for everyone. This could be accomplished by making Federal Reserve Note paper (complete with silk threads, watermarks, etc.) available to the public. With the correct paper, most computers with the right software would have no trouble replicating U.S. currency. If a household did not have a computer, special over- the-counter counterfeit kits could be made available, with instructions in both English and Spanish.
Once in place, universal counterfeiting would prove to be the ultimate stimulus package for the economy. Employees would always have enough money and never have to go on strike. Citizens would have no trouble paying their mortgages and never face foreclosure. Everyone would gladly pay his or her taxes and there would be no need to have an IRS.
Free market consumerism would return with a flourish. People would purchase whatever they wanted and stores would only have to worry about having enough merchandise on hand. Stores could charge the consumer whatever they wanted and the consumer could still afford. Every shopping day would be like the day after Thanksgiving and the day before Christmas.
Once legalized, counterfeiting would still have to be regulated. Parity and fairness would dictate that families earning over $250,000 would only be allowed to print $1, $2, $5 and $10 denominations. Families with combined incomes of less than $250,000 could print $20 and $50 bills. The unemployed could print $100 bills, and ACORN workers and UAW members would be entitled to counterfeit a new denomination, something even larger than the $100 bill (with President Obama on the front).
Universal counterfeiting could be the entitlement program that ends all other entitlement programs and sets us free. It is time to stand up and tell our legislators we want universal counterfeiting. If they protest, "You cannot just print money," then promptly respond in kind, "Why not? It works for you."