Just kidding… That’s actually a picture of riots in France.
Anyone notice anything different? Me neither.
Ockham’s Razor – Since October 2001 – by Scott Kirwin
Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category.
Just kidding… That’s actually a picture of riots in France.
Anyone notice anything different? Me neither.
Over the past five years I have watched the collapse of American prestige in the world. I have come to terms with this loss, recognizing that such things are reversible and that a new administration will one day take over and reverse the decline. But as we learned during the Carter era, reinforced by Reagan’s retreat from Lebanon after 242 US Marines were killed in 1983 and later Clinton’s Somalia fiasco, such a loss resonates into the future. The prime example of this was Osama Bin Laden’s recognition of these failures as signs of America’ s loss of will, making it the “weak horse” which would collapse by the addition of a grain of salt on its back. One by one grains were added, the 1993 WTC attack, the Khobar bombings in Saudi Arabia, the Embassy Bombings of 1998, and the USS Cole attack of 2000, and the horse failed to fall. The 9-11 attacks were just more of the same, more grains of salt added to the horse’s back from Bin Laden’s perspective. But instead of collapsing under the strain Bin Laden’s metaphor collapsed, and he and his organization found itself on the defensive against a determined foe, one that eventually turned him into fish food in the Indian Ocean.
We are repeating history, and in this sequel we are much closer in time to Carter’s 1980 failed hostage rescue mission than we are to Tora Bora. President Obama’s core belief that words matter, that diplomacy can solve every crisis and that the military option is only resorted to by leaders less intelligent than himself, has been shown a failure to everyone outside his inner circle. Over the past 5 years (I include Obama’s promises in the final stage of the 2008 campaign as well as the self-importance he attached to his president-elect status after the 2008 election and before the 2009 inauguration) Obama has used promises and threats instead of deeds and action to guide US foreign policy. There was some success at first as allies took his word for the former and our enemies heeded the latter, but as the world changed the promises weren’t met and the threats weren’t acted upon, our allies became disheartened while our enemies were encouraged. Such mistakes must have come as a surprise to both, to see the most powerful and influential nation on earth run by an administration filled with the best and brightest progressive leaders the country had to offer acting like an impoverished, helpless and morally bankrupt banana republic on the world’s stage.
Nations adjusted accordingly. China has become more aggressive in its territorial claims. North Korea continues to threaten the world with nuclear annihilation with impunity. Iran has taken the success of North Korea to heart and vigorously pursues the Bomb. While the Obama administration spoke about the decimation of al Qaeda, the terrorist organization proved powerful enough to kill an American ambassador, the first in thirty years, take over leadership of the rebellion in Syria, turn Iraq into a killing zone, and scare the administration into closing a score of embassies throughout the Middle East. Not bad for an organization that the administration has said is “on the run.” Clearly al Qaeda accomplishes more in retreat than many armies do on the offensive.
Then there is Russia. It’s ironic that President Obama treats Vladimir Putin as his equal and Russia as a superpower by giving it veto power over American actions in the Middle East and throughout Asia. In effect Obama elevates the status of Russia while subverting American interests abroad. Such actions must demoralize nations in the former Russian sphere of influence like Poland and the Czech Republic, while encouraging our friends in the Middle East such as Israel and Saudi Arabia to begin to cut their own deals with Russia.
Speaking of friends, we once had one in Egypt. It was a typical Middle Eastern friend. It took gobs of money from us then fed the masses a steady diet of anti-American propaganda that encouraged Islamic terrorism. But the Egyptian regime was successful for the most part. It kept itself in power, maintained the peace – albeit a cold one – with Israel, and kept the foreign currency flowing into Egypt from European and American tourists. Make no mistake Hosni Mubarak was no Winston Churchill, and the Egyptian regime never had our back the way Australia always has, but to expect anything more from Arabs in the Middle East requires complete ignorance of the culture and history of the area. Nevertheless the Obama administration and the State Department under the leadership of Hillary Clinton, a woman whose resume highlight for the job included hosting dinners as the First Lady in the White House for eight years, proved through their actions (and inactions) that for all their supposed brilliance, they were at heart as dumb as a box of blocks when it came to Egypt.
First the administration saw the Arab Spring as a revolutionary moment for liberalism in the country, forgetting that Egypt has been ruled throughout its five thousand year history by pharaohs, kings and military juntas when independent and by Rome, the Ottoman Empire or France when not. Although Egypt lacked any democratic culture or institutions, the Obama administration happily threw Hosni Mubarak under the bus, thinking that he would be replaced by a liberal Democrat they had met at a Washington DC state dinner, Mohamed ElBaradei. The Obama administration didn’t understand what was really happening in Egypt during the Arab Spring: the military junta had stopped supporting Mubarak when he attempted to turn over power to his son and make the presidency a dynasty. Elections were held and the masses didn’t vote for a familiar face in the DC dinner circuit; instead they elected the front of a terrorist organization bent on the destruction of Israel and the United States, and the ideological parent organization of both Hamas and al Qaeda.
Maybe the Obama administration and the State Department thought they were dealing with the Egyptian equivalent of Sinn Fein, and that like the IRA in Ireland, the terrorists in Egypt would lay down their arms and take up the ballot box to achieve their aims of global conquest. Many on the Right questioned the administration support for the Brotherhood as being more diabolical, and that some great conspiracy lay behind American support of the Brotherhood even when it became obvious that it was trying to turn Egypt into an Islamic state like Iran. Although I doubt that Obama is a closet Muslim, or that Hillary’s “special friend” Huma Abedin’s ties to the Muslim Brotherhood dictated our policy towards Egypt, nothing but sheer stupidity successfully explains our support of the organization as it attempted to wrest control of the state from the military. The military reacted and said “Enough,” taking power away from the Islamists and restoring the status quo of a generation ago when Mubarak ruled Egypt with military support and the Muslim Brotherhood conspired to take power from behind bars. The result of this episode in Middle Eastern foreign policy is the brilliant progressive leaders of the Obama Administration and State Department have angered all sides in Egypt.
For perhaps the first time in his life Obama will be judged not by his words but his actions. No speech he gives will excuse the failure of his leadership on foreign policy, particularly on Syria. It is ironic that the words so prized by Obama and his followers are what has boxed him into a corner in the first place. His team knew the ad libbed term “red line” would prove disastrous. Now he is so desperate he is begging Republicans like former foe Senator John McCain and House Speaker John Boehner to save him. Given the stupidity of the GOP it’s quite possible they just will, providing him the option he needs so that when things get worse in Syria he can blame them. Unlike McCain and Boehner I can live with an America that cannot be trusted by its friends and is no longer feared by its enemies – at least until January 2017. The progressives and Obama believed they knew best and elections have consequences. To paraphrase my late mother-in-law, they chose this path, and they must walk it.
Expect protests in 3…2…1…
The Economist cover this week shows a man whose face is painted with the colors of the Egyptian flag under the words “Egypt’s Tragedy.” Writing that while Mr. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood he represented “politics (as) subsidiary to religion, and are downright hostile to the attitudes towards women and minorities that pervade the Islamist movement,” the magazine worries that their ouster “sets a dreadful precedent for the region.”
Many dictators have taken power through the ballot box yet few have given up power that way. Both the Greeks and the Romans elected leaders who later became tyrants and seized power. Two millennia later both Hitler and Benito Mussolini were democratically elected to their nation’s highest offices. Fidel Castro used the power of his rebel army to guarantee his election as Prime Minister of Cuba in 1959. More recently the Iranian regime took power in elections after the fall of the Shah in 1979, and haven’t had a free and open election since. Hugo Chavez. Hamas in Gaza. Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe. Dictators throughout history and around the world have found using elections to gain power is much easier than taking power by force.
Yet the list of dictatorships that lost an election and ceded power as a result is quite short. There surely must be one, but I can’t think of any. The ruling South African National party lost the 1994 election in which Nelson Mandela was elected President of South Africa, but while the National Party excluded blacks from the vote, it was still a Democratic regime. The revolutions that swept Eastern Europe in 1989 from East Germany to the Soviet Union came about after massive protests, and the elections of Lech Walesa and Vaclev Havel and other opposition leaders and parties in the former Soviet Bloc resulted from these protests not through constitutional elections. When dictatorial regimes take power, they mean to keep it, and one of the first things they do is rig the Law to insure their place at the top of society in perpetuity.
So why do liberals hold elections in such high regard, resulting in farcical acts such as former president Jimmy Carter certifying the election of Hamas in Gaza or Hugo Chavez in Venezuela? One man one vote is a pervasive ideal that cuts across ideologies and forms of government. It is the start of the Republican form, and is found in everything from pure Democracy (think Switzerland), Socialism, Communism and Anarchism. Because casting a vote ideally represents an individual’s free will, the resulting form of government is thereby a legitimate expression of the voter’s intent. But history is replete with examples proving such an ideal is a complete fallacy. Voters may believe they are electing a protector of democracy only to see him become a tyrant after taking power. Or voters may use the opportunity to choose a non-democratic regime as has happened in Iran and Gaza.
What an election can do though is confer the mantle of legitimacy upon a dictatorship, and in Marxist philosophy such a dictatorship (by the proletariat) is necessary to reach the higher stages of communist development. Could this explain the progressive movement’s obsession with ballots? Honestly I’d be surprised if progressives thought that far ahead so other reasons must underlay the obsession.
Having an election does not guarantee a country is a liberal democracy. Such a belief that it does is yet another example of liberal magical thinking that confuses actions and results. An election cannot guarantee a functioning democracy just as a single battle cannot determine the outcome of a war. Democracy only has a long history on the European continent, and even there it is only within the last 50 years that democratic institutions have developed roots that can withstand the changes wrought when one regime leaves power and another replaces it. Even there a democratic Germany had to be restored through force of arms, Spain has only become democratic within the past 30 years, and the continent itself cannot decide how to govern itself at all levels, from the local through national to the international (the EU is far from being the pinnacle of Democracy).
Instead Democracy is a long process and casting ballots in an election has more symbol than substance. A free and fair election is meaningful only when institutions exist to support the results such as a free press, an independent judiciary and a military firmly under civilian authority. It is much more difficult to create these institutions from scratch than it is to throw an election without them. The American Occupation authorities in post-war Japan found this out the hard way when it allowed local and national elections in the aftermath of the war and watched the well-organized (and Soviet provisioned) Communist Party win them. Instead of ceding Japan to the Soviets, it annulled the elections and focused on creating the conditions necessary for democracy to eventually take root and Japan is better off today than it would have been otherwise. The US exercised a degree of authoritarian control in Japan and to a lesser extent in post-war West Germany that would be difficult to replicate in today’s politically correct times where “all cultures are equal” including those without any understanding of or foundation in Democracy.
Egypt’s democratic history is scant, it’s institutions non-existent. Any election Egypt holds is not going to usher in a democracy, it will instead legitimize and autocracy. Is a Muslim Brotherhood dictatorship better for Egypt and the world than a military one? It is difficult to judge, but there are more instances of the army returning to their barracks and ceding power to civilian authority than there are of clerics returning to the mosques and doing the same. A magazine as venerable as The Economist should know this more than anyone.
In a little bit less than 3 1/2 years it is very likely the surveillance state built by the Republicans and expanded by the Democrats will return once again into conservative hands. The IRS can then be used to harass progressive organizations and anyone who supports them just like it has Tea Party organizations and even Pro-Israel organizations, whom it has referred to the anti-terror section. The NSA can break into the computers of progressive reporters seeking out stories attacking the conservative administration just as it has done with a conservative reporter at CBS News. They will also be investigated as co-conspirators as Fox News James Rosen has been. Meanwhile everyone will be treated as a potential terrorist, unless you happen to attend a mosque in which case the government will avert its eyes towards a Tea Party supporter, thereby missing the Boston Marathon Bombing suspects.
So if you aren’t bothered by the current scandals rocking the administration, just remember that Life is like a wheel; it all comes round and when it does you just might be crushed beneath it.
Update: In the comments AceThePug isn’t as sanguine about the future as I am:
It won’t entirely work that way, even if a Republican takes the White House in 2016 (from your mouth to God’s ears on that, by the way).
Obama is getting away with this, while still declaring the War on Terror (without actually CALLING it that) over and stating that there are no terrorist cells in the Western Hemisphere, because a vast majority of people in government share his Leftist views.
I envision a lot of the IRS, EPA and DOJ harrassment as a “will no one rid me of this troublesome priest” moment. Obama didn’t explicitly send a memo or give a direct order. He simply continued the same rhetoric about how his political opponents are evil, and people took the ball and ran with it.
I’m sure those hundred-fifty plus meetings at the White House talked about the idea, but if most of the people involved didn’t share Obama’s opinion of Conservatives, Fox, and the Tea Party as non- or sub-humans, it wouldn’t have gone as far as it did.
Nixon was impeached for even THINKING of using the IRS as Obama has actually used it. The IRS didn’t do what Nixon wanted, and I would bet that, unless there is a massive house-cleaning (or outright dissolution), the agency will remain largely Leftist.
The NSA might do the same things under a Republican, but even if they do, the Press will suddenly have a “change of heart,” and start opposing the Administration and zealously start “reporting” again—something they have magically not done in order to get Obama elected and re-elected.
I agree with your overall point, that it will be awfully hard for Dems to complain legitimately when and if their ox gets gored—but let’s be honest. Given all the wailing, caterwauling, and screaming they did over Bush’s actions, and the overall silence from the vast, VAST majority of them now that Obama is doing all that and more; well, calling them shameless hypocrites would be an insult to hypocrites
But unless there is a huge philosophical change in the nation, a Republican President will NEVER get the grotesquely favorable, outright propoganda-ish coverage from the Media that Obama has had (and continues to have, despite the AP scandal).
I think, though, what is most damning, and what would be pointed out if we had an honest Press, is the mosques being exempt from the intelligence-gathering. The Boston Marathon bombings should NEVER have happened (hell, even the Russians sent information that they should be watched—why weren’t they?), and the fact that they did with all this surveillance in place, is a pretty strong indicator that these programs under Obama are not about keeping the public safe, but about keeping the public under scrutiny.
Yes, even paranoids have enemies, very real, very dangerous, very powerful enemies.
The Internal Revenue Service is apologizing for inappropriately flagging conservative political groups for additional reviews during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status.
Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS unit that oversees tax-exempt groups, said organizations that included the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their applications for tax-exempt status were singled out for additional reviews.
UPDATE: Here are the IRS excuses reported by WaPo reporter Zach Goldfarb:
The senior IRS official briefing the press just said: “I’m not good at math.”
In her defense, the IRS official, explained: “I’m a lawyer.”
The operative question to the IRS official is: What is one-quarter of 300?
You know, for a government of supposedly intelligent people they sure are pretty stupid.
UPDATE: The Washington Post is reporting things are much worse than the initial story above…
At various points over the past two years, Internal Revenue Service officials targeted nonprofit groups that criticized the government and sought to educate Americans about the U.S. Constitution, according to documents in an audit conducted by the agency’s inspector general.
The documents, obtained by The Washington Post from a congressional aide with knowledge of the findings, show that on June 29, 2011, IRS staffers held a briefing with senior agency official Lois G. Lerner in which they described giving special attention to instances where “statements in the case file criticize how the country is being run.” Lerner, who oversees tax-exempt groups for the agency, raised objections and the agency revised its criteria a week later.
Update: Contrary to initial reports AP is reporting the acting head of the IRS Steven Miller knew about conservative groups being targeted and lied to Congress denying they were.
Anyone wondering what life was like in the Nixon years, well this is what it was like.
TownHall writes about CBS news bosses trying to undermine their own reporter’s efforts to uncover the truth in the murder of four Americans including the US Ambassador to Libya at Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012. Sharyl Attkisson is finding life difficult at her job after reporting on the story, with her bosses cutting back her stories and underutilizing her after she has doggedly pursued a story that all mainstream media outlets have studiously ignored. Over the past few months I have been surprised to see such work coming out of CBS News having long given up on the outlet after Dan Rather and his bosses accused Bush two months before the 2004 election of benefiting from favoritism during the Vietnam War in a series of letters that were quickly exposed as fakes. So I was somewhat surprised to see CBS News leading the investigation into the incident. But I guess it’s no surprise to discover such reporting is an aberration, as CBS News cuts the legs out from under their own reporter in order to preserve their left wing bias.
As a child while other kids played outside or watched cartoons, I watched the Watergate hearings. Those hearings brought about by the reporting of Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein left me with a deep appreciation for the role of the media as antagonistic to whomever is in power, Republican or Democrat. As a political realist I recognize the truth of Lord Acton’s adage that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely regardless of which political faction is in power, so the role of the media in a free society should be to act as a watchdog and expose corruption in order to benefit the People and protect the Republic. So I am deeply saddened to watch the media doggedly pursue any and every story against any centerist, conservative or libertarian politician while allowing leftist politicians to go unmolested.
Thankfully we have the rise of non-mainstream media such as Drudge Report, talk radio, and Fox News, but as AllahPundit notes, in response the leftist mainstream media has attempted to “ghettoize” these news sources by portraying them as biased advocates while portraying leftist mainstream media as unbiased. The sinking ratings and circulations of these mainstream outlets brings to mind Gandhi’s quote “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” The left must feel extremely threatened by these non-leftist sources as it has ignored, laughed at, and fought them every step of the way.
But the Truth has a way of coming out regardless of whether it is convenient for the Left or not. Lefties may choose to believe that the non-Left is focusing on Benghazi as part of a continuation of the “vast right wing conspiracy” against the Clintons, but doing so forces the left to employ cognitive dissonance by suppressing the fact that the story hit during the 2012 election when Obama was running for re-election. The left may also swallow the administration line that at the time the administration blamed the Nakoula video based on initial intelligence reports, but those reports did not suggest the video had anything to do with the attack and the video excuse was added by administration officials. So you can’t blame the intelligence community for something it did not report and that was only fabricated later by the administration.
This story will continue, and Clinton’s run the White House will guarantee it does. The leftist media can ignore, laugh at, and stamp its feet all it wants, but the fact remains its darling in the White House lied to the American people and attempted to cover it up. I’m sure somewhere in Hell Nixon is laughing.
So the LA Times reports a Pew Study finds gun crime has plunged even while American perceptions of it assumes it has risen. Setting aside the obvious issue of what is driving Americans to one conclusion while the facts lead to another, the study raises some other, less obvious issues.
If guns are to blame for violent gun crimes, one would have to assume by the study that the number of guns in American hands have fallen. Yet the opposite appears to be the case, with the highest per capita gun ownership in the US, with roughly one gun for every American man, woman, and child. Over the past four years guns have flown off the shelves, and it is likely there are more guns in private hands today than there were four years ago, although the exact number is difficult to know since such records are not kept. But gun manufacturers are working overtime to fill order backlogs, and the most popular weapons such as AR-15 “assault rifles” are hard to come by. Gun prices have risen as demand has outstripped supply, yet fewer of these weapons are being put to criminal use.
Because as gun rights supporters have been saying for years, guns don’t kill people, people do. If the opposite was the case American streets should be awash in blood, but they aren’t as writer Barry Snell notes. As as the Pew Study shows, American streets are safer today than they were a generation ago.
So while the Pew Study punctures the liberal myth that guns cause violence, it also pokes a hole in the conservative myth that the breakdown of the traditional family is the root of violent crime. During the same period of the study, the number of out-of-wedlock births has risen. Non-traditional marriages such as those between homosexuals have become more accepted. There are record numbers of people cohabitating. If the breakdown of the family was supposed to lead to a more violent society, it hasn’t.
More likely it’s demographics. Crime spiked in the 1960-80 period as the Baby Boomer generation reached their teens and twenties, the peak time for criminality. As people age they become less impulsive and their criminal behavior is either held in check or condoned in jobs like Federal Reserve Chairman or Goldman Sachs executive. Of course the demographic news isn’t entirely good. While the Baby Boomer generation is less criminal, it is older and requires the smaller cohorts of younger generations to support it in its old age. So younger people might have less chance of being mugged in New York City than their grandparents did, but they’ll be mugged by the taxman. This could explain why suicide rates are spiking among middle aged Americans – proving that guns don’t kill people, aging hippies do.
In 2008-9 our country experienced an unprecedented meltdown of its financial system brought on by the cosy relationships between government regulators, politicians and bureaucrats. In response the Federal Reserve embarked on a program whereby the it stole money from the bank accounts of 98% of the country and shifted it to the wealthiest of American society through depressing interest rates paid to savers on their accounts below the rate of inflation, meaning that for every $1,000 in your bank account you lose $30 every year to inflation. This subsidized those with money by providing them with low borrowing costs, allowing them to leverage their wealth for even greater gains in the stock market. It’s not good enough that a billionaire invests $100 million in the market; no, he must use that $100m as leverage to control a billion dollars worth of stock. The stock market has become a casino where small investors are left to chase nickels in front of steam rollers while the government funds the wealthiest segment of society. Worse, the Cyprus Model has put paid to the idea that bank savings are property and protected by the law. Instead savers have become “speculators” and their savings “investments” to be wiped out whenever banks need a bailout. It must not be forgotten that the initial bank bailout, the first put forward by the European Union, looked to steal 6.7% of guaranteed savings below 100,000 Euro. The European Union isn’t exactly communist China or Soviet Russia yet it completely ignored its own law of guaranteed deposits (the EU FDIC) and took the money. Is such an event possible in the United States? Yes. Unlikely perhaps at this point, but still possible.
To support this stock market bubble the federal reserve has flooded the markets with currency yet denied such actions, euphemistically called “quantitative easing”, are inflationary. Government bureaucracies such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) manipulate employment statistics to make it appear as if good times are here to stay by excluding the long-term unemployed and those who have given up on finding a job, meaning that if your wife is working and you’re looking for a job, our economy will improve by you staying at home and watching daytime TV since your household will go from 50% unemployment to 0% unemployment. Similarly the BLS manipulates inflation rates by discounting the volatility of food and fuel, the largest categories all but the very wealthiest people spend their money on besides taxes and housing, and making “qualitative adjustments” that hide inflation. In addition companies are passing on higher production costs to consumer through stealth inflation, providing less product for the same money. The profusion of dollar stores are proof of the success of this strategy since shoppers at these stores believing they are getting a bargain while in reality they are paying more per unit of good than at other stores. 4 loads of Tide for a $1 might seem a deal until one goes to a supermarket and finds a 40 load box of the detergent for $7.
Not one person from the banking crisis has been indicted or prosecuted by the Obama administration or Congress, a fact that spawned a PBS Frontline show “The Untouchables.” Could this be because the federal government would be prosecuting it’s own? Former SEC Chairwoman Mary Schapiro resigned and has taken a position at Promontory Financial Group, a bank consulting group, but promises not to lobby the government she once worked for. That has led to Forbes wondering what other of her qualifications Promontory is willing to bill $1,000 – $10,000 an hour for. She’s among numerous ex-federal employees at her new digs. Check out the nifty graphic at ZeroHedge listing Promontory employees and their former positions in the government. Yet we are supposed to believe this revolving door between regulators and those they regulate is free from moral hazard. In the comments at ZeroHedge someone calls the place a “high end whorehouse.” It it were taxpayers wouldn’t be the ones being screwed.
Banks like JP Morgan-Chase and investment firms like Goldman Sachs are considered too big to fail, taking their “skin” out of the game and replacing it with the American taxpayer’s. If JPMC or Goldman’s risky investments turn out well, it’s “capitalism” and their corporate managers and shareholders are rewarded; if they bomb it’s no big deal. The shareholders or managers are still rewarded as they were in January 2010 when banker bonuses were “bigger than ever” according to the New York Times even after the economic collapse of 2008-9. The American worker will simply work a few hours to provide the taxes the firms need to be bailed out, that is if she has a job. It’s a great system if you are Lloyd Blankfein GS’s CEO who earns upwards of $100 million a year at Goldman Sachs. It benefits Democratic politicians like Hillary Rodham Clinton and President Obama too since Blankfein is a large donor to the Democratic party.
Then there’s the debt. To call it a “mountain of debt” is to betray a shallow awareness of the world’s topography. Here are some neat visualizations of our debt in $100 bills, and an impressive sounding statistic that’s hard to visual: a line of $1 bills would stretch from the Earth to Uranus. We’ve reached a point where analogies lose their meaning, although the current debt being greater than the country’s entire output in 2011 must be at least a bit sobering to even the drunkest Keynesian economist. The best way to consider the debt is by making it personal. Since 2008 the debt has expanded by $26,000 per person. Multiply that number by those in your household and ask yourself if you feel that amount richer over the past 4 years. That would mean an extra $78k for my household, enough to drop the Wife’s med school debt by 40% or replace our aging cars, each with over 150k miles on them, as well as buy a new car for the Kid. If you don’t see that money, where did it go? Ask yourself: are you better off today than you were 4 years ago? Then ask Lloyd whether he is.
The system is corrupt yet we do nothing about it. We are told happy days are here again, that the stockmarket is at record highs, yet those of us who dabbled in the market prior to 2009 have still not recovered from the losses suffered then, leaving us on the sidelines of this rally. Small investors piled into the market and out of the market late back then, proving they were the “greater fools” and some are doing so today as the market skyrockets and smart money looks for the exits. Sure our 401K’s are expanding, but the numbers are meaningless for anyone other than those planning to retire in the coming months before this bubble bursts. Self employed people and contractors like myself don’t have 401K’s, we just have our wits and an ever sharpening skill set that we use to stay employed, but both are slowly being eroded by time as we age and the younger cohorts below us grow hungrier and more competitive. Time will unravel us, and when it does we will be poor and destitute, remembering the hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxes paid that could have gone, should have gone, into our retirement funds but didn’t. At that point we’ll be on the side of the 47% who don’t pay taxes, but by then the government will be completely broke. We shouldn’t expect any sympathy from the generations coming up in our shadows, since both Left and Right are in agreement that theirs will be the first generations to have lower living standards than preceding generations. It doesn’t help that we’ve sent them to substandard schools whose sole purpose seems to be to employ Masters of Education degree holders instead of actually teaching our children the skills they need to succeed in life.
The collapse of our education system is proof of our sick society, one that raids the education budgets for the young to pay for the guaranteed pensions of the old, one in which the only people who treasure marriage these days are gay and everyone else hooks up like a shed-full of feral cats in heat, with an increasing percetage of the products of these unions are on ADHD medication. I’d need to be medicated too if I was forced to sit still with a body full of hormones and brimming with youthful energy, taught by teachers who, like the children of Lake Wobegon, are all above average, all 98% of them. Conversely, Walter Russell Mead points out ”only 78.2 percent of American students graduated high school in 2010. Sixty-seven percent of all fourth graders could not read at grade level in 2009. And only 32 percent of eighth graders and 38 percent of twelfth graders were reading at or above grade level that same year.” Of course if we measured education aptitude by the number of body piercings and tattoos we’d lead the world.
David Stockman, former Reagan budget director, is getting beaten up in the press for his book The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America. Journalists, products of the Masters of Education employment entities described above, look at the highs of the Dow and discount Stockman’s thesis that the system we have today is more akin to the monopolies and crony capitalists that spawned the progressive movement over a century ago rather than some Randist free market anarchic paradise that they instinctively fear. The treatment of Stockman is similar to that shoveled out to Bob Woodward for daring to criticize President Obama game of chicken with the sequester, as J-school graduates leaped in defense of their icon in the White House attacking Woodward with various ad hominems that any of the profs would have failed them for had they used them in class (or rather, a class where failure was an option – evidently a rarity these days where students can pass without actually studying.) Watching Woodward, a man whose politics I disagree with yet whom I respect for helping pull off the greatest journalistic story of the century, being attacked by the likes of Andrew “I’m here, I’m queer, blah blah blah” Sullivan was like watching a fine thoroughbred horse attacked by a swarm of flies fresh from their home in a dung pile. But such is the fate for anyone who dares call “shenanigans” in the current climate where anyone who can’t continue deceiving themselves is lampooned, debased, or in the case of Woodward, threatened.
Our problems aren’t just economic either. The Obama administration has fled the Middle East and attempts to appease Iran by refusing to support the rebellion against the Assad regime in Syria.
“I think that the United States has not taken a more active role in Syria from the beginning because they didn’t want to disturb the possibility, to give them space, to negotiate with Iran,” Javier Solana, the former European Union foreign policy chief, said Monday at a Brookings Institution discussion about this week’s talks. Solana, who was a top negotiator with Tehran in the nuclear program until 2009, added, “They probably knew that getting very engaged against Assad, engaged even militarily, could contribute to a break in the potential negotiations with Tehran.”
As Walter Russell Mead notes this could be a catastrophic mistake.
If Solana is right that this policy has been driving the White House all along, this is Obama’s initial Iran failure—remaining silent during the 2009 Green Revolution—on steroids. Weakness doesn’t win you the friendship of bullies. And if this dispatch is right, we should expect some ugly repercussions from the Sunni Arabs, the Israelis and the Turks. All these powers want to see Iran’s claws clipped and they want Assad to go; all of these powers chiefly view the value of their US ties at the moment in the light of the confrontation with Iran. If they come to feel that the United States is willing to throw the Syrian lamb to the Iranian tiger, their trust and confidence in the United States, and consequentially America’s power to get things done in the region, would go into a deep eclipse.
Things don’t look any better on the other side of Asia with North Korea promising to attack the United States. So far the US response has been mild, yet that hasn’t stopped the press from asking White House spokesman Jay Carney if that hasn’t provoked a communist dictatorship whose people are being starved to death on a steady diet of leftist propaganda and grass. But their carbon footprints are tiny, for now. How much carbon will be released by a nuclear strike on Osaka or Guam? Quite a bit I suppose. In any event we soon might find out if North Korea acts on its threats.
A whole industry is set up to use imagery and fantasy to modify our behavior so that we buy something, yet somehow a related industry employing the same techniques but for entertainment purposes ie exempt from responsibility when an admittedly sick individual dresses up as villain of the violent movie being shown to the audience he then commences to massacre. The Roman Catholic Pope is labeled as an extremist for calling abortion murder while a doctor who performs late term abortions and keeps the tiny feet of his victims in a jar as memento mori is lauded as a hero. The billionaire mayor of New York City makes it his personal mission to rid the city of large soft drinks while the city’s crime rate rises and the city becomes less friendly to all but society’s richest and poorest.
But when all is said and done, who is to blame for this mess that we find ourselves in? We are.
We didn’t demand for the bankers to be tarred and feathered (well, we did but failed to hold our elected leaders accountable for allowing the bankers off scot-free.). We continually vote in the politicians who offer us platitudes instead of common sense and plunder the public purse for the benefit of the monied elite regardless of their party affiliation. We engage in bitter fights over issues that don’t impact us directly (I’m not gay, on medicaid and I can’t get pregnant, so honestly just how worked up can I get about gay marriage, social programs and abortion?), yet ignore the issues that unite us and affect our daily lives. We vilify other Americans for their differences yet are willfully blind to the commonalities. Intellectual laziness encourages us to accept stereotypes and straw men built by those who feed on hatred the way a maggot feeds on the flesh of an open wound instead of putting ourselves in the other’s position, or to use an old cliche, “walking a mile in the other man’s moccasins.” We have Obama himself saying, “It’s not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations,” accepting a stereotype and succumbing to a form of elitism and intellectual laziness by belittling his opponents instead of attempting to understand them and winning them over. We’ve accepted the low standards of education because we’ve been trained that “fighting city hall” or in this case the school board is futile. So our kids read less than we do, they can text faster and know the special combo to beat the god Zeus in the “God of War” video game. They’ll be alright. Right? We keep our heads down, do what we are told and hope that our dreams come true, the way they do on TV between the ads for drugs to help men get it up and women feel not so down.
We should be ashamed for what we’ve done, or more importantly, not done, expending the effort to fight for accountability from our elected officials and receiving their heads in baskets after they ignored us 4 years ago. Today the problems are even worse, the threats greater, yet we continue on the way we did before the 2008 financial meltdown and on September 10, 2001, fighting among ourselves without giving the other the benefit of the doubt or the dignity our opponent deserves. To paraphrase my late mother-in-law, we chose this path, and we did so because we are idiots.
Chicago is considering a law requiring seatbelts or other type of restraints for pets in vehicles. The reason for this is the distraction unrestrained pets can cause drivers behind the wheel. Such a law strikes some as common sense, but not everyone.
I drive with unrestrained pets in my car. As someone who loves all animals but especially dogs I am aware of the risks. I’ve had a flying lab-border collie mix and a min pin missile inside the car during sudden stops, and recognize the potential danger I put these animals in whenever we “go bye-bye.” Restraining them properly in the vehicle is in their best interest, and because of that I am going to change my behavior, not because the State threatens to fine me. The guilt from the pain I’ve caused one of my animals is much worse than any fine the State can levy.
But the purpose of the law isn’t the danger people like me put their animals in: it’s the danger to others caused by distracted driving. My problem with the law is there are many different types of distracted driving. Recently a young man in my area was killed after he reached for a bottled water that rolled between the seats. Are we going to ban unrestrained drinks? Perhaps billionaire Mayor Bloomberg might, but I believe there is a better way. The law is a blunt instrument: legislators cannot foresee every possibility to adequately address each in a law, and therefore the law might make a few people believe the government is doing something while all it is doing is causing trouble for otherwise law-abiding citizens who get pulled over and fined while driving with an unrestrained beagle zonked out in the backseat after a “tutor” appointment at the vet.
The problem isn’t unrestrained dogs or unrestrained water bottles in cars: it’s distracted driving. Now it would be nice if every driver could be free from every possible distraction, from barking lap dogs to billboards, text messages, cute girls, cell phone conversations, intense arguments with passengers, loud music or deep thoughts. But drivers will never find themselves in a perfect distraction-free bubble, so why fight it? We are wasting our time trying to prevent distractions, and worse by legislating against them. For one thing, one of the worst offenders of distracted driving has always been billboards, yet the outdoor advertising industry has successfully killed legislation banning them. For another there will always be cases where something is distracting to some but not all.
I’ve been thinking alot about Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book Anti-Fragile, and how to apply it to daily life. For those unfamiliar with the book or the concept of anti-fragility, think of it as the old Chinese maxim, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Stress breaks fragile systems, but makes anti-fragile systems better. Our immune system is an excellent example of an anti-fragile system. Every virus you’ve been exposed to, whether through childhood immunizations or illnesses you’ve suffered, just make you less likely to become seriously ill from those or related viruses.
Is there a way to apply the concept to driving? We already do: through experience. As the parent of a new driver, one of the challenges I’ve faced is teaching the Kid how to react when driving gets unpredictable. Some parents try to startle their kids to help teach them to react by shouting “STOP!”, others simply drive with their child long enough so that he or she faces unforeseen events such as another driver cutting him off or running a red light. Our experiences behind the wheel teach us to become better drivers through the close calls we’ve had that we never forget. Like nearly falling asleep at the wheel on Interstate 55 in the middle of Illinois, or beginning to accelerate at a light as a car with no lights runs the red light at high speed and misses t-boning my car by mere inches, or zoning out in a day dream and failing to see the lady stopped just ahead.
We can’t pass 500,000 miles of driving experience to our kids, but perhaps we could train them to better handle distractions as in this Farmer’s Insurance commercial highlighting the trouble caused by distracted driving. We should be teaching drivers how to handle distractions while behind the wheel, how to maintain focus no matter how bad the distraction. Are you allergic to bees? What if one stung you while driving? How would you react? Could you remain focused enough to pull over to the side of the road safely? Perhaps instead of banning certain distractions we should be revamping our driver’s education curricula to handle distractions. Driver’s education courses geared towards experienced drivers would also be good, the payoff being lower insurance rates. Such courses would focus on maintaining concentration while driving, teaching how to prioritize attention so that driving always remains at the top, and learning how to avoid slip-ups like reading a billboard that catches the eye or a pretty girl walking down the sidewalk seen in the rear-view mirror, even texting and eating while driving. What matters is not the distraction but maintaining the concentration necessary to drive safely. In that respect the scenario shown in the Farmers Insurance commercial isn’t far off the mark.
Our society has become so legalistic that it’s almost inevitable the solution to a problem becomes a proposed law. Whether it’s something minor like unrestrained dogs in vehicles or tragic such as the Newtown School Massacre, a segment of the populace usually demands somebody do something, usually “for the children,” and our lawmakers are only happy to oblige. But the solution to every problem should not be a legal one; there are far more effective ways of achieving the goal of laws without resorting to them if we as a society only allow ourselves to do so.
I like Robert Spencer. I’ve read several of his books. Once a cat knocked my copy of The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion
on the floor and a puppy found it, gnawing it to shreds. Since it contains highlights and notes I couldn’t just throw it away, so I taped it back together and put it onto the shelf.
As Joshuapundit writes, Spencer is getting screwed at this year’s CPAC. Spencer confirms this, writing at Pamela Geller’s Atlas Shrugged in “Why I Am Not A Conservative,”
And just last week, after my website www.jihadwatch.org overwhelmingly won a vote for CPAC’s “People’s Choice Blog Award,” John Hawkins of Right Wing News (whether on his own initiative, as he now claims, or as the errand boy of shadowy and unnamed higher-ups, as he initially told me over the phone) told me that I was not to speak about the Muslim Brotherhood ties of Norquist and Khan when I received the award. Needless to say, I could not accept this gag order, and will not be receiving the award: the truth is more important than a trophy.
But that was the end of my identification as a conservative. Grover Norquist is a conservative. Suhail Khan is a conservative. John Hawkins is a conservative. Thus I must not be one. I am not acceptable either as a speaker or an award recipient at the nation’s foremost conservative gathering. I must not be a conservative.
If Conservatism has been corrupted by Islam then there is no need for me to belong to it. I support Gay Marriage: conservatives do not. Conservatives have an inner cadre of morality police just as the Left does, and I find them just as annoying. Most conservatives like Big Government, they just want it to run for their own benefit. I’d rather be left alone, but if that’s not possible I value the small government laid out for us by the Founder in the Constitution.
But I thought Conservatives accepted the existential threat Islam poses to our core values. If it has been corrupted and made peace with Islam, then I want no part of it. CPAC’s treatment of Spencer proves that it is indeed corrupted and willing to give a pass to those who are sworn to our destruction whether we are straight or gay, liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican.
If Robert Spencer isn’t a conservative, then I am not either and I cordially invite Grover Norquist and his merry band of fascist sympathizers to go f*** themselves.
I read and subscribe to the New Scientist because I consider myself an amateur scientist of sorts and like to keep abreast of everything from dung beetles navigating by the Milky Way (seriously, the idea of these critters wearing tiny hats to block their view of the sky warms my heart and contrary to what you might think, increases my support of such esoteric research) to the idea that our reality is a computer simulation. But New Scientist still manages to drive me crazy and to the keyboard where I bang out letters to the editor in complete futility. Science should be a non-partisan effort, and scientists should reflect the political leanings of the general population as a whole, but it doesn’t and they don’t. Scientists are inevitably leftists, and New Scientist is about as left wing as Mother Jones, the only difference being that latter doesn’t claim to be non-partisan while New Scientist believes it is and that those of us on the Right who point out it’s leftward bias are “anti-science.”
So imagine my surprise at reading the leader of this issue of New Scientist, “Challenge unscientific thinking, whatever its source.”
Berezow and Campbell further claim that progressives who endorse unscientific ideas get a “free pass” from the scientific community. The suspicion must be that this is because scientists themselves lean towards the left, as does the media that covers them. (Both friends and critics of New Scientist tell us we lean in that direction.)
NewScientist then prints Alex Berezow and Hank Campbell’s oped, “Lefty nonsense: When progressives wage war on reason,” in which they point out that today’s liberals are not liberal in the Lockian sense but social authoritarians. “Unlike conservative authoritarians, however, they are not concerned with banning “immoral” things like sex, drugs and rock and roll. They instead seek dominion over issues such as food, the environment and education. And they claim that their policies are based on science, even when they are not.”
This has dangerous implications as when the Left champions the anti-vaccine movement that has killed unvaccinated children, and its war against GM foods has contributed to malnourishment and premature death in the Third World. And don’t get me started about Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” which killed millions indirectly through malaria by banning DDT.
As Berezow and Campbell note, “But conservatives don’t have a monopoly on unscientific policies. Progressives are just as bad, if not worse. Their ideology is riddled with anti-scientific feel-good fallacies designed to win hearts, not minds. Just like biodegradeable spoons, their policies often crumble in the face of reality and leave behind a big mess. Worse, anyone who questions them is condemned as anti-science.”
I always get a Generation X irony-high whenever global warming alarmists equate the anthropogenic cause of global warming hypothesis to evolution, as if the former idea is as proven as the latter theory, then try to paint AGW deniers like myself using the same brush as they do creationists. Of course that doesn’t stop them from exhibiting the same anti-science attitudes towards fracking, where science backs the safety of the practice against concerted and deeply entrenched Green opposition, the result of which is that Germany is about to blow it’s CO2 emissions sky-high by resorting to coal to replace nuclear instead of clean burning natural gas. Oh, and if you didn’t know it, fracking is why the USA is on track to meet CO2 goals unlike the anti-fracking Europeans. I’m even so sure of the safety of the practice I’d welcome it on my property where we rely upon a freshwater well for our drinking water. Unfortunately there’s no natural gas in these parts (now gold? Maybe…)
So why are scientists lefties? The terminology used by Berezow and Campbell provides a hint. “Social Authoritarians” implies a more realistic and nuanced view of one’s political belief system, showing the dichotomies between authoritarianism and libertarianism, and socialism/capitalism aka “Left” and “Right” as shown in the diagram below.
In this view the Moral Majority and the environmental movement would appear in the upper right and left quadrants, both showing a keen affinity for authoritarianism. While the current Chinese government calls itself Communist, is is far more neo-liberal or Capitalist than it will admit. In fact one could make the case that is much more capitalist at this moment than the USA, and certainly more than Europe.
Scientists often are employed by large institutions in government, healthcare or academia. These institutions tend to fall on the upper side of the chart towards Authoritarianism. The bottom of the chart is sparser for a reason: it is the area where individualists, entrepreneurs, artists and philosophers live and these tend to fly under the radar. But for scientists there isn’t much money or opportunity on the bottom of the chart. The days of the experimenter or the Amateur Scientist are for the most part gone although the ideal lives on today with amateur astronomers who do much of the heavy lifting in their field including the tracking of near-earth objects. The recent approach of asteroid DA14 had NASA using live feeds from amateur run telescopes in Australia for example. But most of the jobs for scientists today are with large institutions who can afford the equipment and relatively high salaries scientists demand, and that can only be found in the upper half of the chart. When you add in the fact that scientists today are highly educated, and academia itself is an authoritarian institution with deep ties to Communist and Leftist ideals, it should be no surprise that scientists find themselves in the upper left quadrant of the matrix.
Is this a good thing for Science as a whole? Berezow and Campbell don’t think so and neither does the New Scientist. It’s candor surprised me, but I don’t expect it to let go of the bias and the dogma that compels it to support large, authoritarian schemes to find solutions to problems from Global Warming to Cancer any time soon. Still it was refreshing, and I hope that more than a few readers realizes that Science ultimately should be a non-partisan effort. But I’m not holding my breath…
The Buddha taught everything changes, and that the root of human suffering was our resistance to the acceptance of this reality. Congress could use a few Buddhists right now because the way both parties are acting one would think that we’ve achieved some sort of permanent status in Washington DC.
The Republican Party lost its mojo last election after drinking tea to victory in 2010, and is acting like it will never be in power again. Likewise the Democrats are acting as if they will be the majority party in perpetuity and Obama won with a landslide last November even though he won fewer votes in ‘12 than he did in ‘08. Both statements would be true if time stopped today and never flowed again, but that isn’t its nature. The former prince of a tiny kingdom in India 2,500 years ago understood that and did so without polls, political consultants or reading op-ed pieces in the Washington Post.
Republicans today should be proposing legislation that benefits the majority party. Why? Because things change. It will find its groove again will likely retake the Senate in 2014 and the White House in 2016. In order to prepare for that day, they should be agreeing to the legislation being put forth by the Democrats. End the filibuster? Absolutely. Expand Executive orders? Yes. Give the president the power to raise the debt ceiling? We’re on board. Today the President talks of using an executive order to restrict gun rights. That will set a precedent for a Republican president in four years time to use an executive order to restrict abortion rights, so the GOP should cheer and the Dems should reconsider their support of such an expansion of executive power.
Similarly the Democrats should be proposing legislation that protects the minority power because it is likely they will become that in two years time and it takes time for laws to be legislated and put into place. They also should be putting into place laws that build strengthen the legislative branch over the executive because it is likely they will return to Congress under a Republican president.
Of course neither party is willing to do this because it would appear they are giving in to the other, but back in the day party leaders like Tip O’Neil and James Baker would have had the foresight to see an election or two down the road and recognize the rhythm of American politics, the pendulum that swings from the left to the right and back again, marking the passage of time in the Republic. For Republicans today it’s hard not to despair, but to quote from another great man a few thousand miles to the west of the Buddha (although only a few hundred years before Him), King Solomon who pondered the eternal truth of the statement, “This too shall pass.” And the Democrats who are exultant and ready to remake history as Progressive ideals conquer all, a reminder: “This too shall pass.”
It would behoove both Democrats and Republicans to prepare for today’s passing because as the Buddha taught, whether or not we like it, it will.
What is the purpose of government?
Is it to provide for the collective needs of the citizenry that the people cannot provide individually for themselves, or is it to exist for the purpose of improving the lives of those working for the government itself?
This is an answer that California is determined to learn. According to former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, as reported by Bloomberg, half of the state’s budget is devoted to government employee salaries, health care and pension benefits and other compensation. According to the Census Bureau, in March 2011 there were 671,942 full time public sector employees in California. The state also employed an additional 310,298 part-timers for roughly a million workers. The Census estimates in 2011 California had a population of 37,691,912. The 2011-12 state budget was $85.9 billion. So if what Bloomberg reports is true, 2.7% of the population of California is gorging on 50% of the budget while the remaining 97.3% makes do with the rest.
The public sector unions, of course, see nothing wrong with this situation. Bloomberg reports:
“At the time we accomplished our biggest gains, I actually felt I was losing the recruitment war,” (Jon Hamm, chief executive officer of the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, the union for CHP officers) said in an e- mailed statement. “I think it is clear that when our biggest gains were negotiated I did not feel they were ‘excessive;’ in fact, almost the opposite was true.
So the high compensation was necessary to recruit the best and brightest. Where have we heard that argument before? With CEO pay, another group whose pay some, such as the Soros front group ThinkProgress, have argued is unjustifiable. Note to Lefties: When you start using your opponent’s defense as your own, guess what? You have become your opponent.
Albert Einstein reportedly said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results (I think this guy says it best.) When Democrat Gray Davis took the governorship the state had $12 billion surplus. Gray immediately went on a spending spree, throwing money at every possible Democratic constituency in existence. He did the job so well the damage outlasted his successful recall from office and blighted the terms of the governors who followed him. But instead of revolting against their politicians they keep electing the Democrats over and over again. Today the state is a one party Democratic state. There is no opposition to these policies that enrich the few while causing the many to suffer. The California GOP lacks any power to fight the continued plundering of the state by the rapacious minority of public sector workers belonging to unions who support the Democratic party alone.
Californians choose this of their own free will. It is a damning testament to Democracy, one that undermines faith in the form of government elsewhere in the country. It would be easy for conservatives and libertarians who believe in the separation of federal and state power and live in the remaining 49 states to write the state off as a basket case and wash their hands of its problems, but doing so ignores the sheer economic weight of the state. At a GNP of $2 trillion, 1/7th the entire US, the state’s economy is tied with Italy’s for eighth largest in the world. We may smirk as the EU struggles to maintain its cohesion and even compare California’s fate to the supposedly lazy Greeks, but California’s economy is 5 1/2 times the size of Greece’s. That means we have over five Greeces, an EU sized mess, in our own American back yard. An economically dysfunctional California isn’t just a threat to itself, it could wreck the American economy for years.
It is only a matter of time before California goes cap in hand to Washington DC, and when it does it will be met with howls of protests from conservatives and libertarians – and rightfully so. But the truth is California isn’t going to go away; we can’t kick it out of the Union the way the Germans are contemplating doing to Greece, but at the same time we can’t ignore it either. It is in our own interest and the interest of the country’s to help get the state back on its feet and to do so while balancing the needs of its people while getting them in touch with the responsibilities they shirked in the past.
I took an opportunity afforded to me by a heavy workload followed by a hectic “vacation” to Ireland to do something I’ve never done before: cut myself off from the news. Even while I lived in the African bush I was plugged in to the world through shortwave, following the Kobe Earthquake in Japan from the initial death toll of 200 that doubled every hour until the BBC and Voice of America reporters gave up at thousands dead. But the preparation for the trip and the heavy workload at my job consumed me in the days before the trip so I had little time to check news sites or blogs, and in Ireland I was more concerned about getting the most out of my brief stay there than wasting time on the news.
Some things managed to seep through of course. Ireland’s failure to secure more bailout funds from Berlin was a palpable embarrassment after Prime Minister Kenney went to Germany “cap in hand” as the way the headlines put it. The Irish are a rightly proud people, and to see them having to go “cap in hand” to anyone bothers me. Then there was the concern over a possible Romney win voiced by the pleasant waitress at the Galway hotel we stayed at, a place dating from the 16th century. I didn’t go to Ireland to lecture the Irish about the disaster the Obama administration has been; the issue is much too complex to communicate through light and brief conversation even by a person as partisan as I am. Nor did I assure her by saying that whoever won Ireland’s future would be secure. Ireland’s future is far from it, but it has less to do with who occupies the White House in Washington DC than it does who rules the Reichstag in Berlin. Ireland has nearly all of its history buffeted by larger nations that were beyond its control, the Vikings, Normans, English or as of today the Germans. Can I say without a doubt that a Romney administration would be better for the Irish than an Obama second term? Of course not.
In the silence that came from my self-enforced “news blackout” I realized just how deeply unhappy I am with the state of affairs in the world right now. It is nothing new; it has popped up here and there in this blog since its creation 11 years ago. For most of my life I have been an optimist, which looking back on it doesn’t make sense. I’ve always had a keen sense of History, and History doesn’t particularly relish happy endings. Things rarely turn out well for anyone, so why I remained an optimist for so long mystifies me. Well the optimism is gone, replaced by a darkness bordering on despair that I could have only dreamed of decades ago when I actually celebrated such things as a self-described “Goth.” Perhaps what underpinned the optimism was faith in America, or particularly the American people. Sure they could be misdirected for awhile by one fancy or another, but eventually they would return to the path of hard work, building a better future for their children and a better society for everyone.
That faith is completely gone.
In its place I see a shallow, self-obsessed, entitled people who can’t think beyond the next commercial let alone the next generation. I have a teenager who is inheriting a $180,000 debt, a payment to the current generation stolen from the future. The debt is so large that it has left the realm of conceivability, so it is unlikely that whomever wins the November election either this year or in four years will be able – let alone willing – to do anything about it. Just because the debt is inconceivable doesn’t make it any less real as he and his generation are about to find out. Just hope that they don’t read Logan’s Run; it shouldn’t be a problem because our current generation of teachers has failed to teach them how to read.
The American imagination has failed at a critical time. Progressives can’t move beyond their expensive socialist utopias that have failed to materialize after generations of progressive rule in New York, Illinois and California. Conservatives chant “small government” like some kind of monk schooled in the texts of Ayn Rand and Jack Kemp instead of the Buddha without offering solid, concrete ideas on how to make government work efficiently so that less was needed instead of just lopping off bone and sinew along with the fat. I’d brush off my Chinese textbooks if it wasn’t for the fact that things in China aren’t doing much better even as it becomes the world’s Beacon of Capitalism.
At the heart of my lost faith is an anger that I’m still struggling to quantify. I am angry at myself for taking the easy road and subjecting my child to the American Public School System that has systematically beaten any curiosity and interest in the world out of him, replacing it with a narcissism where “He is a winner!” thanks to the efforts of his self-esteem coordinator (a real title I shite thee not). I am angry that I sacrificed to put the Wife through medical school only to have her treated like she’s working behind the counter at a fast food restaurant, with Medicaid patients demanding “I need an MRI with a side of Vicodin,” and complaining to the hospital when they don’t get what they want. I am angry that I live in a country that is willing to consider re-electing an amateur golfer to the Oval Office, and an opposing party that couldn’t come up with a better, more inspiring leader than Mitt Romney after four years of thinking about it. I am even angry at the cheap tasteless food that I buy in grocery stores here. I had forgotten what real food tasted like until I left the country and found that while the prices are much higher, the quality is much better. I have a pound of strawberries rotting in the fridge that I paid the same as 2 oz of strawberries in a shop in Galway Ireland. They are tasteless while the Irish berries were fresh and sweet. Why?
At this point I’d like nothing more than to run away and raise sheep in Connaught near where my ancestors once did, but Ireland’s problems are even worse than ours in some respects, and in our globalized world there is simply no escape from them. So instead I’ll plug back in, bite my tongue where possible, let it slip when it’s not and try to make my corner of the world a bit better.