Thursday, May 31, 2012

Poland has it Right on Obama

I have long had some doubts about the "Presidential Medal of Freedom" which the White House hands out to a variety of people who have made "especially meritorious contribution to (1) the security or national interests of the United States, (2) world peace, or to (3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors." I guess it's our equivalent of the British "Queen's Birthday Honors."  As with our "American Idol," I find this a dubious franchise to have brought to these shores.  The President is not a monarch, or even a deity despite what you hear from some Obamistas. The President is our head state, akin to a monarch, but is also an elected official, i.e., a politician. That means, to the extent the President influences the selection of recipients, and he does a great deal, there are politics involved especially in an electoral year as well as just bad taste. The list of recipients of the PMF is an odd one, in which there are clearly no well-established standards for granting this honor, and it has become, in some cases, a way to award people who have done cool or neat things, next to people who have put, to paraphrase the Declaration of Independence, their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor at risk in the cause of freedom.  The medal, in other words, runs the risk of becoming a debased currency. You can go to Wikipedia and other sources to see the winners, and, I think, you will agree.


This year's award is a typical mishmash of different people, some rather mediocre and some genuinely outstanding and worthy of the honor. I am not sure that Bob Dylan, Toni Morrison, Madeleine Albright, and basketball coach Pat Summit belong on the same list with John Glenn and Jan Karski. But that might just be me.  


The late Jan Karski certainly deserves recognition as a defender of freedom, and as a man who put his life on the line for freedom. As a young man in Poland he fought both Soviet and Nazi aggression. While working for the London-based Polish government-in-exile, Karski even infiltrated a Nazi death camp in Poland wearing the uniform of an Estonian guard (see Walter Laqueur's disturbing 1998 book The Terrible Secret) to bring back an eyewitness account of what the Nazis were doing to European Jewry and others in their "labor camps." He risked his life and, in return, got a polite brushoff from FDR, the State Department, and others who just "felt" his story was, literally, incredible. Karski went on to become an American citizen and launch a distinguished university career, back when that meant something.


I have argued repeatedly on this humble blog that Obama is not very well-read or knowledgable about anything in particular.  He is a typical product of the "elite" universities and, despite all the media hype about his brilliance, is quite successful at hiding any glimmer of knowledge. His ignorance was on display yet again at the PMF award ceremony on May 29.  By now, you all know that in presenting the posthumous award to Karski, accepted by former Polish Foreign Minister Adam Rotfeld (Note: Why? Karski was a proud American), The Great One referred to "Polish death camps." Does anybody check these speeches with anybody knowledgable about anything? Nobody read the speech and noted how inaccurate as well as offensive that remark is to Poland? Guess not.  Despite the predictable and strong reaction from our Polish friends to this slur, the White House has refused to apologize (Note: Imagine if he had offended the Muslims.) 


The current Polish Foreign minister issued one of the strongest statements I have ever read coming from senior official of country friendly to the US and, in fact, an important ally, "We always react in the same way when ignorance, lack of knowledge, bad intentions lead to such a distortion of history, so painful for us here in Poland, in a country which suffered like no other in Europe during World War II. The words uttered yesterday by the president of the United States Barack Obama concerning ‘Polish death camps’ touched all Poles."


It seems the Poles understand our President better than many of our voters.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunday Musings: Liberty is the Key

Strapping on the safety belt, throwing the key fob onto the passenger seat, pressing the "start" switch, and listening to over six hundred horses wake up, and pull me out of my suburban dwelling and onto the highway  . . . what could be a better way to launch a Sunday morning?  I might, maybe, have mentioned, ahem, somewhere that I own and love a Corvette. It is more than a car. It is a symbol of American brashness, willingness to live large, and, above all, of freedom. It is a totally impractical car, good for only one thing: speed. Open the windows and drive like hell in the early morning hours . . . nothing else quite like it.

Driving that magnificent beast, my thoughts, when not about the Highway Patrol, turn to freedom. I find it amazing that as we get deeper and deeper into our presidential campaign that's the one topic that does not come up very frequently. We hear, as we should, about the faltering economy and our ballooning debt, and some about China, the Iranian threat, and even, on occasion, about the impending collapse of the mad European neo-imperial experiment. We don't hear about freedom very often. For me that's what's most at stake. It is something the Tea Party touched upon indirectly with its concern over the growing power of the Federal government to tax and spend us into oblivion, but it is not something that is really the core of anybody's message.

Let me pick on our European friends a bit. I love economics and have immersed myself in the minutia of  Europe's crisis. I have been reading all the commentaries and studies on the crisis that I can as they spill out from Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, French, and British politicians, pundits, "thinkers," bankers, labor leaders, bureaucrats, academics, and journalists. It is all pretty depressing, especially since the crisis is one that was avoidable and foreseeable.  Even a non-genius, e.g., me, could see it coming.  My many visits to Europe in recent years always left me thinking, "This ain't real." Except in Germany, I could not see how and what was generating the apparently vast wealth and high living standards of the Continent. What exactly did the French, Italians, Spaniards, Greek, and Portuguese do that could explain the amazing new airports, highways, seaports, train stations, pedestrian zones, and restored town centers? How could they afford six-week vacations, weekend shopping jaunts in New York and Miami, not to mention the fabulous public benefit schemes that allowed prosperous early retirement, free schooling, free medical care, and great unemployment benefits? As I have written before, it was largely a con game run with German money and cooked bookkeeping. It is a con game that has now run its course--but the fake prosperity has produced real bills to pay.

There, however, is a more fundamental issue than just a Ponzi scheme or a three-card monte game that relies on the Germans, in the end, to pay for the party. It was all made possible by citizens surrendering their freedom. They gave away the angst, the worry, the drama, the agony, and the joy and pride of self-reliance. They gave it away to politicians and ideologues who promised, "We will take care of you. Worry about nothing.  Relax. Take another week off." Europeans allowed, first, their own governments to grow and absorb the nation's wealth and assume control over their lives, then those governments created the Frankenstein's monster known as the EU with its magic Euro and all-encompassing regulations and edicts that would lead all to an American-free Utopia.

Read, for example, the good piece by British commentator Ambrose Evans-Pritchard (Note: Don't Brits have the best names?) who examines  the crisis in Spain. It is a competent and interesting technical analysis. Evans-Pritchard, and most of the other analysts, can dazzle you with mastery of the alphabet soup of agencies that did this or that with interest rates, reserve requirements, bail-outs, etc. The real problem, however, is not that the unelected, unaccountable, and faceless bureaucrats who run those agencies did those things, it is that they had the power to do them. They interfered constantly, repeatedly, and massively in the workings of the market; they sought to determine the shape and outcomes of that market; they had tremendous power over the lives of individuals. They sought to avoid what Alfred Kahn called the "tyranny of small decisions." They would determine the economic lives of individuals; they did not trust individuals to make their own decisions and live with the consequences of those decisions. Now individuals, instead, must live with the adverse consequences of the foolish and destructive decisions taken on "their" behalf by politicians and over-paid bureaucrats who have created an irrational and ultimately unsustainable economic system.

Europeans gave up their individual freedoms, along with the risks and headaches they bring, in exchange for "safety" and "warmth." Now they find themselves chained and leashed and their masters unable to provide that "safety" and "warmth."  We see the same threat to freedom underway here in the USA. The power of the government over our lives is growing with no end in sight.  Bureaucrats reach into our pockets in uncountable ways, tell us to which schools we can send our children, what we can say and where, how much we can donate to candidates, the interest rates we pay, and on and on. Prosecutors and cops are increasingly out of control; an eager-beaver district attorney can indict almost any of us on just about any spurious charge imaginable, think Duke Lacrosse, and destroy our reputations and our finances. We can even go to jail for "hate" speech. Outrageous.

The core of our freedoms reside in the first two amendments to our Constitution. The right to say and believe what we want, to assemble and seek redress, and to defend ourselves from physical attack are the essence of freedom. Everything else is gravy or icing, depending on which food group you prefer.  If we give up those two freedoms, then we risk becoming Europe and allowing the modern-day Frankenstein monsters that have made life in Europe intolerable and threaten to do the same here.

Well, I still have my Corvette . . . for now, anyhow, until they make me trade it in for a Volt, a Prius or some stupid SMART car . . .

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Forgotten War: Two Hundred Years Later

I was pleasantly surprised that the US navy is dedicating this year's Fleet Week in New York to remembrance of the War of 1812.  It is a murky war, rarely mentioned in either the US or the UK, and often confused in both places with the War of Independence, or, in Britain, with the war against Napoleon.  It is a war, however, that has some important lessons for today.

I am not going to go into detail on the war as there as some very good books which do a much better job than I could, e.g., Budiansky's Perilous Fight, Toll's Six Frigates, and, of course, young Teddy Roosevelt's The Naval War of 1812, which also has a good account of the Battle of New Orleans.  Suffice it to say that it was an incredibly brutal war, including very vile treatment of prisoners by both sides.

The war was brought about by British arrogance and American stupidity. The British were not reconciled to an independent United States, and could not take the place and its bombastic pronouncements about liberty seriously. They basically ignored the USA's assertion of being a sovereign state, and proceeded to treat American ships and seaman as some sort of Brits gone rogue.  The USA, for its part, could not understand that the British were in what they saw as a life-and-death struggle with Napoleon Bonaparte. We did not respect that. We reckoned we could trade and make deals with France, such as the spectacular Louisiana Purchase which filled Napoleon's coffers and served his aim of helping create a huge potential rival to Britain, without raising British concerns or provoking them into action.

Lesson number one: if you go bear hunting, go with the intention to kill the bear.  The United States was trying to assert itself on the cheap. Loud words and public breast beating did not impress the British. They controlled the oceans and were not going to allow the brash Americans to use those oceans to aid France with our trade.  We provoked the bear, and found ourselves, thanks to the Democrats of the day, with a paltry Navy and an almost non-existent Army when the bear came roaring into camp.

Lesson number two: Your interests and your power to protect them should be roughly in line. Our interest was free and open trade, eliminating European influence in the Americas, and preventing a recolonization of the United States.  We did not have the ability to do any of those.

Lesson number three: Do not underestimate your opponent. Both sides underestimated the ability of the other to fight. Americans thought the British were too preoccupied with France to do much on this side of the Atlantic; the British, for their part, thought they could deliver a couple of quick knockout blows, and the Yanks would be down for the count. Wrong and wrong.

The British, despite the war in Europe managed to put together a more than credible military and naval force against the distant United States. The Americans, in turn, showed a talent that would serve us well in future wars by getting our act together at the last minute and putting on a damn good defense of the country. The US army, however, remained plainly horrendous throughout the war with its corrupt and politicized officer corps, and its half-baked, ill-planned and even worse executed invasion of Canada. The US also set the precedent of burning York--today's Toronto--which led to the British burning of the nascent US capital which the army failed to defend. The army partially redeemed itself in the Battle of New Orleans, under the otherwise reprehensible Andrew Jackson (Note: Why is he on our $20 bill?)

The US navy, however, proved completely different, and did an amazing job of fighting off the much larger British navy, wreaking havoc on it, carrying the war into British waters, and even eliciting a warning from the Admiralty to the Royal Navy to avoid one-on-one combat with US ships. The US navy also fought a superb campaign on the Great Lakes which resulted in the British fleet withdrawing from those waters.

The Obama administration's disregard for US military power, in particular, the continued shrinking of the US navy will have dire consequences for us.  Let's hope that at least some lessons from that long ago and hideous war are remembered.

Update: Lesson number four: Do not let the US and UK go to war against each other. Americans and Britons are very good at war; they should not waste that talent against each other.

Swimming with an Anchor: Europe and the Euro

Don't want to go into too much detail and bore all with another wonkish analysis of the increasingly disturbing crisis in Europe, but some recent events in the Old Continent are worth mentioning.

The crisis is real and gathering force. Greece is going down and going down hard. It will not be alone. I already have written at length re the single greatest flaw in the logic behind the Euro: it made cheap and unproductive Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal as expensive as productive Germany, and helped keep them unproductive.

Germany is a modern day economic miracle. It has an efficient, export-oriented economy while at the same time having high taxes, and a big government providing substantial and decent public benefits and services. Could Germany have been even more productive, more successful in exports, and more prosperous had it lowered taxes, reduced government, and cut public spending?  Probably, but that should not take away from the very considerable achievement of the German people in the post WWII era. Why and how have they pulled this off? Two words: German Culture.  Even East Germany was the most productive and wealthiest of the Communist bloc nations, so we should not be surprised by the success of West Germany and now just Germany.

The Germans have managed to preserve a culture of hard work, cooperation, and, frankly, relatively limited domestic spending on the luxuries of life. The typical American does live better than the typical German when measured in "stuff" acquired, e.g., house size, amount of food and electronics, number of cars and computers, etc.  Germans, however, seem to accept a lower level of individual living standards when measured by "stuff" in exchange for a fairly peaceful and harmonious society (there are exceptions, of course) which still values hard work, savings, and investment. That said, I still rather live in America where, even today, we have considerably more personal freedom and innovation than in Germany, and a greater chance to "make it," but that does not reduce my sense of admiration for what the Germans have accomplished.  They, in addition, have done this with mediocre political leadership. It is hard to think of any genuinely distinguished German leaders since the passing of  Konrad "Der Alte"Adenauer, although, I must admit, the absorption of the GDR took place more smoothly than I had predicted despite the considerable economic sacrifices it imposed on the people of western Germany.

Germany's great success, of course, led to heightened French concern and envy, and made a centerpiece of French foreign policy the effort to "control" Germany, while getting rid of the United States in Europe. The French were promoters of a host of schemes designed to keep Germany feeling guilty, and entangled in a net of agreements and commitments that would make it impossible for the German shark to swim free. As I told a pro-American and Euro-sceptic German diplomatic colleague some years ago, the French idea of Europe is a continent led by French politicians, commanding British troops, and using German money. They almost pulled it off, with the Euro being yet another stratagem to keep Germany tied up and tied down. As we have discussed at length elsewhere, the Euro is coming apart at the seams as the fake bookkeeping that kept it going is being revealed more and more every day. The Euro has survived only because of chicanery in bookkeeping, willful blindness by politicians and electorates, and, above all, by the willingness of the Germans to keep bankrolling the scheme and papering over the shortfalls and crookedness of their European "friends."

The French have one more card up their sleeves to save the Euro and the EU at the expense of the Germans. They are promoting Eurobonds that, in essence, would be backed by the full faith and credit of the German central bank and economy and allow the spendthrift nations of Europe to borrow money at the same interest rates as Germany. In other words, there would be only one issuer of bonds, and those bonds would have just one interest rate. No more preferential interest rate treatment for the more responsible Germans. If that is to be the case, then I could easily see a demand by Germany to have veto power over spending plans by the other European countries. Here, however, is where Germany's weak political leadership hobbles the Germans and contributes to the impending wreck in Europe.  Merkel's heart and head seem to be in the right place, but she has no guts. She does not seem able to stand up to the "coalition of the billing" which has formed to lay claim to the German treasury.  In addition, the unhelpful position of the US, a country which traditionally would have supported German demands for responsible spending, has further weakened Merkel. Unless Germany can say "NO" loudly and clearly, including to the foolish President of the United States, the European crisis will ensnare all of us in its anchor chain.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Obama vs. Romney: Thoughts from a Dead Frenchman

I have been struck by the striking incompetence shown by the Obama campaign in the past few weeks.  It has been truly remarkable. The once slick, well-oiled campaign panzer that rolled over all opponents four years ago seems to have a broken tread and going in crazy circles.  In fact, nothing at all seems working.

The campaign, thus far, has no core message except, "Obama . . .  just because." As I noted before, the Obama campaign, with the support of 99% of the media, is desperately trying to throw together a disparate coalition of groups perceived as victims, holding a grudge against the system, and demanding compensation. It has not worked very well, so far.

The theme that the GOP is conducting a "war against women" seemed initially promising. The compliant press went into action puffing up the silly Sandra Fluke as representative of American womanhood, and viciously attacking Rush Limbaugh for having the temerity to point out that she wanted taxpayers to pay for her sex life. The appropriately named Fluke turned out a thin reed to grasp, and--horrors!--not even the media could cover up her upper-class, snooty air of entitlement. Americans, male AND female, saw through the false "right-to-contraception" argument, and realized that the Obama administration sought to bend religious institutions to the power of the state. It, pardon the hyperbole, has sparked an American version of Mexico's "Cristero War," although our version will be fought with courts of law and of public opinion, not with guns and bullets as in the original Mexican version. This is not the fight the administration wants as the election draws near. Americans accept a secular state. They, however, do not accept kneeling before Caesar on issues of core belief.

In a frantic attempt to resurrect the "war on women" theme, the Obama campaign came up with the virtual "Julia," which laid out a bizarre version of a "typical" American woman's life after receiving the blessings of Barrack Obama. This hideous and unintentionally hilarious effort has been laughed into virtual oblivion, and one wonders if the Obama campaign has any adults with real life experience in the brick-and-mortar world.

As per a prior posting, the campaign also stumbled into the gay marriage issue. After years of assuring Americans that he saw marriage as a union between one man and one woman, the President suddenly announced that he had flip-flopped "evolved" to "personally support" gay marriage. This "evolution" led to an intense but ultimately brief outburst of media and Hollywood donor fawning and drooling over the President's "courage." As with nearly everything else this President "does," however, it soon became apparent that, in the immortal phrasing of the British philosophical giants, the Bee-Gees, the President's "brave" pronouncement was "only words/And words are all I have/ To take your heart away." He did nothing except collect several million dollars in cash from swooning Hollywood "one percenters" on America's Left Coast. Polling of real Americans, however, show that some 67 percent saw his "bravery" as a political maneuver, not something "as right to do." This arrogant stupidity could cost Obama significant numbers of votes in some critical "swing" states (Note: Feel free to insert joke here.)

The crude attacks on the wealthy and on Bain, in particular, have begun to backfire. Moderate Democrats, defined as people who have real life experience trying to run things, have begun creating distance between themselves and the cheap Marxistoid class warfare lingo coming from the campaign.  Obama has invited comparison between his record on jobs and that of Romney. That is not an invitation Obama should issue; it is not a comparison Obama can win.

The list of missteps goes on. The crude attacks on Anne Romney by campaign surrogates backfired with housewives all across the country. The silly attack on Governor Romney as cruel to dogs fell apart as Obama's boasting in "his" autobiography of having eaten dog in Indonesia came snarling and growling out of his past. Low-road attempts to attack the Governor's religion, now risk revisiting the whole Jeremiah Wright fiasco, and at a time when Wright is mightily sore at Obama and talking. Attacking Romney for alleged high school pranks has reopened the issue of Obama's own mysterious past, put back into the spotlight his confessed drug use, and his bullying of a girl classmate in middle school.  Suing Arizona, another swing state, on behalf of illegal aliens straining the state's public resources and generating crime is a potential electoral disaster. Getting involved in and trying to demagogue the Florida Zimmerman-Martin case could have an electoral impact in Florida; it's admittedly anecdotal, but friends in Florida tell me of anger in the Latin and white community over what they see as persecution of Zimmerman, and over the possibility that the DOJ might bring "hate crime" charges against Zimmerman.

President Obama has a serious problem. He needs to change the topic of the election from his dismal failure on the economy, his wasting of his considerable initial political capital on the disastrous Obamacare, and his wasting of hundreds of billions of dollars on phony stimulus projects. The one hope he has is to try what Hollande pulled off in France: convince voters that the crisis is not real, that the party can continue, and that the "rich" will pay the bills.

After this long intro, let me get to the topic of this posting.  Emperor Napoleon can almost rival Winston Churchill for great quotes that have applicability to a wide range of topics. One of my favorites, and great advice for the Romney campaign is, "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake." Words to live by; words to win an election by.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Thoughts on The Kenyan President: Follow the Money

It's early Sunday morning, and I have been reading more on the issue of when President Obama discovered that he was not born in Kenya.  I have a theory, and a proposed line of inquiry.

Theory: Obama was born in Hawaii. Obama played on his Kenyan connection perhaps to get closer to his bizarre and absentee father, and to put some distance between himself and his bizarre and absentee mother.  Perhaps he also did it as a way to make himself more exotic when trying to date "composite" girlfriends. Those are the pop psych angles. There, however, is a possibly more serious financial angle:  He passed himself off as a Kenyan to line up scholarship or grant monies geared to help foreign students. This might help explain how Obama paid for his expensive education in "elite" and private "one-percenter" schools, such as Occidental, Columbia, and Harvard.

Line of inquiry: Is Obama, like fellow Harvard staffer Elizabeth "Cherokee Cheeks" Warren, guilty of fraud? Did he lie to gain monetary and professional advantage? Given that everything Governor Romney has said or allegedly done for his entire life is fair game for the press, should not the press and blogosphere insist on seeing the President's school records including the financial side of those? How did he pay for these schools? What made these schools take this obscure student who admits being in a drug-induced "haze" during his high school years?  Follow the money and I think you will find the explanation for Obama's shifting birthplace.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Kenyan-born Cherokee

Well, it's Friday, so I am going to go on a bit of a rant.

Developments over the past few days have reminded me of one of my favorite peeves in the State Department: racial profiling, or what the liberals call affirmative action.  A few days after I joined the Foreign Service, while at the FS Officer's basic course, known as the A-100 class, along with a colleague I was summoned to the office of the Director of the Foreign Service Institute (FSI).  Neither of us knew why, and while we waited in the outer office, nervous, like school kids called to the principal's office, we wildly speculated about why we had been pulled out of class. We must have committed some grave offense, or a more careful review of our background investigation had revealed some horrid secret, or perhaps it was . . . and on and on. The door opened, and we were ushered into the presence of the Great One, well, the Great One wasn't there, and instead we met two fellows from the HR department. They told us that, "You guys seem really smart. You both write very well. We need your help." I thought, that's it, it's like in the movies; I have been picked for a dangerous job behind enemy lines, next stop Ft. Benning for a quick airborne course, then to the CIA farm for a crash course in covert commo, and then . . . flying off into glory for my country. No. My colleague and I had both come into the FS as economics officers, in what is known as the "economic cone." As the two HR reps nervously explained, the political cone was short two minorities of its recruitment goal; we were to be reclassified as "hispanic" and shifted over to the "political cone."  Let me add that both my colleague and I were considerably more caucasian than George Zimmerman.  My friend, however, had been born in Cuba, and I had a Spanish, as in from Spain, mother. HR had decided that we were now hispanic and--Voila!--their quota for political officers had been met. Neither my friend nor I had any idea what this meant--this was 1978--and all I could think of asking was the lame, "Do we get paid the same?" We both gave up our two-day old careers as white economic officers and became hispanic political officers instead.

Over the years, I would occasionally receive an odd letter or survey asking me for a report on my experiences in the FS as a minority, and reminding me of all the avenues open to me if I felt I was not being treated properly. I never filled out the surveys, and just tossed the letters. A few years after my "reclassification" I ran into another colleague. I'll call him Fred. He was in the cafeteria laughing to himself while he read a letter. He said to me "I am now hispanic just like you." You have to understand: Fred is of German-Polish descent on both sides of his family going back as far as he can trace; he is well over 6'3" tall, and as blond and blue-eyed as you can be. Fred would have been great for an SS recruitment poster as the epitome of the "Aryan Race." Fred has zero connection to Spain, Latin America, or anything remotely hispanic. He had been reclassified because his last name--I kid you not--ended in a vowel. Some personnel guru had decided that his eastern European name sounded "hispanic."

Over the years, I ran into ever more absurdities associated with the liberal obsession with race and ethnicity. One FSO, a male who enjoyed tweaking the system, declared himself a black woman and challenged the system to deny it. This battle went on for years as he engaged the HR and EEO people in increasingly absurd letter and email exchanges in which he challenged them to prove he was not what he stated. At the time, employees could self-declare themselves; if they refused, then a supervisor using "ocular inspection" would classify them.

So now we have a Senate candidate, Elizabeth Warren, who claims or has claimed to be a Cherokee based on a mythical, or at least impossible to confirm 1/32 Cherokee ancestry. She is clearly a liar and used the Cherokee bit to advance her career and compensate for being a mediocre academic. We also see the beginning of stories that note that for years Obama's bio listed him as born in Kenya. I will assume that Obama, in fact, was born in the US--I don't want to get into that issue right now--but it seems, that in true liberal fashion, he was willing to go along with the gag for some sort of advantage. That advantage could have been funding, e.g., scholarship for foreign students, for his elite university education or just as a status-enhancer to enable him to date more "composite" girlfriends.  He is at best a liar, perhaps has committed fraud, and joins Warren as just another race hustler and profiteer.

Ah, the left . . .

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Jerzy Kosinski Predicted It . . . Chauncey Gardiner as President

When the odd, troubled, complex genius Jerzy Kosinski wrote his novel Being There some forty years ago, he probably never really thought that it would be a story of things to come. His tale of the hermit-like Chance the gardner who utters simplistic cliches borrowed from television but is taken for brilliant by the press and the political elite is in many respects the story of Obama.

As with Chance the gardner, who eventually becomes Chauncey Gardiner, we have in Barry Obama a man with no discernible past, no apparent knowledge of the world except what he gets from television and movies, and the most banal, pedestrian, and foolish bromides imaginable. In addition, the great college educated masses lap it up as brilliant.  Listen to his typical speech and you will hear the nonsense pour forth; the silly slogans about class warfare seem taken from some Hollywood movie or MSNBC documentary that runs endlessly in his head.

Unlike Chauncey, however, Obama sees what he believes and tries along with other liberals to get us all to share his mad delusions, delusions that insist we live in a racist, and sick country. I think it's time to send Chauncey back to his garden.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Meltdown of Greekafornia . . .

Spent much of the day reading the European press. For once, almost universally across the political spectrum of the Old Continent, we see agreement that Greece is in serious trouble (Note: It takes Europeans a little longer to recognize reality--it's akin to having a continent full of John Edwards supporters); the Euro is in serious trouble; and the EU is in serious trouble. In some corners, mostly British (they grasp reality more quickly than do the folk across the Channel), there is an understanding that the whole "European experiment" was madness on steroids, fueled by envy and resentment of the United States, and hatred for "Anglo-Saxon" dominance. The crowning achievement of this madness was the golden amulet of the Euro, the magical coin that would challenge the dollar and become the world's new reserve currency.  For a while it looked as if that might happen, but it has become apparent that the Euro's "strength" was based on two pillars: German productivity and compliance with the desires of "Europe;" and outright chicanery in bookkeeping. The books were cooked, and every politician knew it.  What the Euro accomplished was to make unproductive and spendthrift Greece as expensive as productive and thrifty Germany. A formula for disaster.

The Greek politicians and their electorate refuse to acknowledge that they do not deserve the Euro. They have not earned it. The only solution for the smelly mess in which the Greeks now find themselves is for Greece to drop the Euro. That will not be easy; in fact, that will be a horrendous process, and I just do not know whether Greece and the EU can execute that extrication. If it does not happen, however, there is no hope for Greece, unless Germany will continue to pay and pay and pay, and watch as Spain, Portugal, and Italy line up for their hand-outs, as well. The Euro, as we know it, is dead; the final nail in its coffin is the French electoral result which highlights the continuing refusal of politicians to speak the truth to the voters.

California is the Greece of the American Union, also brought to ruin by deranged, delusional leftist politics and economic prescriptions.  Just today Governor Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown announced that--oops!--the budget shortfall for the state's government will not be the previously announced and disastrous $9 billion. It will be a monstrous and lethal $16 billion--and who knows if it isn't bigger?  The Governor has announced that the people of California must approve even higher taxes on income and sales in order to avoid major cuts in public services. As usual the politicians announce that police, fire, ambulance, and hospital services will be hard hit along with education. Nothing about the billions of dollars spent on peripheral nonsense, including public services for millions of illegal aliens. As you could have foretold, the public workers are preparing strikes, and at some universities the brilliant professors are already marching with signs reading"We Teach the 99%" and shouting their usual inane slogans.

It is time for California to leave the dollar. Let's allow the world's 6th largest economy--supposedly--to issue its own script. The new currency could be called the "Clooney," or the "Streisand." Let the FOREX market determine its value . . .

The left destroys the world . . .

Sunday, May 13, 2012

With Opponents Like These, Who Needs Friends?

OK. By now you must have all see it. The cover of that magazine. No, not the one with the breast-feeding brat. The other one. The May 21 one from Newsweek, declaring Obama "the first gay president," and containing a lachrymose article by allegedly "conservative" and gay pundit Andrew Sullivan.

I think the Romney team can all go home and take a long break and snooze. Obama's supporters are going to do him in all by themselves.


I figure this just cost him 5-7 million votes . . . .

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Press-i-dent With No Shame

Can we make any distinction, any at all, between the Obama re-election effort and the bulk of the press in this country? Is there any daylight between the White House and the major media outlets (except for the Murdoch empire)? These last few days have been beyond disgusting in revealing how our President will be using the press to get himself re-elected, and how the press not only lets itself be used, but seeks to help whenever and wherever possible.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Pressident of the United States . . .

A recent Time magazine, for example. on the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama is a shameless puff piece on how "gutsy" Obama was when he took the decision to take out Osama. The magazine claims the "trail had gone cold" when Obama came into the White House, but thanks to his leadership, the clues began to come in. Please. Enough. What nonsense.

That, however, is nothing when compared to the Los Angeles Times.  The May 10 online edition is a re-elect Obama broadsheet. Nothing more. It even dares to run a piece by columnist Meghan Daum, which has to be the epitome of Obama worship titled, "Too Brainy to be President?" The piece is so horrid, I ask you, gentle readers, to read it for yourselves. I can't bear looking at it again. But the LAT doesn't stop there, oh no. It falls all over itself praising the President's "decision" on gay marriage. What decision? What has he decided to do about gay marriage? Nothing except to announce that he "personally" believes same-sex marriages should be recognized, and then jet off to a Hollywood fund-raiser. Cheney said that three years ago. All my libertarian friends see marriage as belonging under contract law and getting the state out of the middle. So? Just as with his stance on high tuitions, energy, fixing the economy, this President does nothing or does the wrong thing.

The press is out in full force for their man. They are running absurd stories about Romney in, ready, HIGH SCHOOL. They have even resurrected their anti Bachman machine and are running stories about her being a Swiss citizen because of her Swiss husband.

We see nothing about Obama in high school or college (what grades did he get? Who paid for his school?) We see nothing about Obama's citizenship. Is he a Kenyan or Indonesian citizen through his father and then his mother's second husband?  How about his "composite" girlfriend? How is "she" doing?

It seems apparent that this totally unscrupulous president of ours is going to try to win the election by cobbling together disparate groups (e.g., students, gays, single professional women, public sector unions, and, of course, play the race card and have illegal aliens vote) and try to distract us from the overall picture of failure that he has painted for the past three-plus years. The economy is spinning out of control because of his policies; our government is heading for collapse as is our currency; Iran and North Korea continue their mad dash for nukes and missiles; Latin America is on the verge of coming apart at the seams; Europe is melting into a puddle of leftist goo; Russia is marching back to its inglorious recent past, and on and on, and the President of the United States is nowhere to be seen except with his buddy George Clooney.

Sad days.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Julia Elects the President . . . of France

Take that all you conservatives who ridiculed The Life of Julia! You all made fun of her as a fictional fraud. Ha! It turns out that she is not only real, but she's French! She, her sisters, and her brothers just picked the next President of France.

Francois Hollande is a life-long, committed Socialist who has bought that hack Paul Krugman's admonition that governments need to spend more, not less. Krugman has criticized Obama and Sarkozy for not piling on enough debt and not raising taxes even higher on the "rich."  Hollande has been elected by the voters who defeated the taxpayers. The voters decided that they did not want to give up all the fabulous benefits provided by the rapidly shrinking base of French taxpayers. Hollande demagogued his way into the Presidential Palace by telling the voters that they can continue to take; that there is no need to cut back; in fact, not only can they continue to take, they can even increase what they take. The "rich" will pay.

I see two possible lessons for the US: one, the optimistic, the voters are throwing out incumbents, and two, the pessimistic, the voters don't believe the crisis is real and if it is, it is the fault of "the rich."

France, already heading for the cliff, has just stepped on the accelerator. What will we do next November?  

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Professional Amateurs at State and the Chen "Crisis"

Regular readers of this little blog know what I think of the Obama misadministration, and that I consider Hillary Clinton a thoroughly failed Secretary of State. I, therefore, have a default tendency to lay the blame for the grotesque mishandling of dissident Chen Guangchen solely at the door of the Obamistas. In this case, I have to fight that setting. I can't ascribe all the blame to Obama and Clinton. The bulk of the blame lies with the culture at the State Department, a culture, nevertheless, which dovetails nicely with the natural tendencies of the Obamistas.

As a rule, State Department career officers are stunningly ignorant of US politics and domestic concerns. During my many years with State, I was constantly amazed at how otherwise bright, hardworking people had no idea that almost everything we did had at least three audiences: the foreign country; the US Congress; the US media/public. Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) tended to think almost exclusively of the foreign government audience. On occasion, some might ask, "How will this play with Congress?" That, however, was rare, especially when dealing with Republican Congressional concerns--FSOs try to ignore Republican Congressmen and staff even when they are the majority. State culture is totally inept when it comes to dealing the press and with concerns from the public, especially if either comes from the right-of-center. Why? Well, for the same reason that the "highly educated elites" in America are inept: it is not in their background, it does not enter into their worldview.

FSOs exist in a self-contained environment: working at State is a complete experience. It is not unlike the military, but arguably even more cloistered, especially overseas. State employees, notably FSOs, work hard. The job is all-consuming. You are paid well; you have prestige within the Federal workforce and the public; you and your family are taken care of quite well; Mother State plans your life in two or three year segments; you are surrounded by people much like you, e.g., college grads with fancy degrees; and you are on call 24/7. You are constantly being assured that you are smarter and wiser than your rather simpleton fellow Americans, many of whom cannot even speak French, imagine that! It is a cult. FSOs have revealed wisdom. This attitude, as you can readily surmise, meshes well with the arrogance that dominates among the personnel in the Obama misadministration, and sets up the perfect storm when dealing with an issue such as Chen's bid for asylum.

I have no inside knowledge of how Chen, a fugitive on the run from the Chinese security services, got into the Embassy. It would seem, however, that somebody, almost certainly an American diplomat or family member, slipped him past the Chinese guards, probably in a car with diplomatic plates. Why? Not clear. Perhaps it was an act of personal compassion, or a result of some sort of crossed messages, or something not properly cleared up the chain of command. I don't know.  Once Chen got inside, however, he undoubtedly and quickly became a liability for the FSOs. Their job, after all, is to "make nice" with the host country, especially on the eve of important high-level visits. The Chinese regime acted as it always does, to wit, like the thuggish outfit that it is. Just like some Hollywood movie mafiosi, the Beijing authorities most likely put the heat on Chen's family. I have no doubt, despite the tepid denials, that the US Embassy officials, now panicking re the implications for their "make nice" mission, passed along the threats re Chen's family to Chen.

There was to be no Cardinal J√≥zsef Mindszenty redux! Whatever the thinking had been, it soon became to get Chen out, have the PRC issue some vague promise that "we will be nice to him," put an end to the "crisis," get good Employee Evaluation Reports (EERs) for all involved, and maybe even a few Superior Honor Awards for "tirelessly developing the successful response to a crisis that threatened to overshadow the Secretary's visit, and to hamper the evolution of Sino-American relations."  (I used to write that sort of crap.)

As I have noted before, no adult supervision exists in the Obama misadministration when it comes to foreign policy. The political appointees, including the Secretary of State, are markedly second-rate. Nobody can forcefully overrule the career crowd, especially since the majority of those careerists are ideological fellow-travelers. In the event of a "crisis," they are all too willing to listen to the "experienced professionals" on how to resolve it. To the extent any adults focussed on it, it was merely to receive assurances that the "crisis" was being handled.

To add more fuel to the fire, Chen is not a sympathetic dissident for the Obamistas. While he is blind, he is not a woman; he's anti-abortion and pro-family; he's heterosexual, not well-educated, and, apparently, pro-American. He is far from the Obamistas' "ideal"dissident, e.g., a Colombian lesbian labor leader struggling to set up abortion clinics in poor neighborhoods, while fighting the nefarious efforts of the Coca-Cola company to poison children with its sugary brew.

We have not seen the final chapter of the Chen story. It might still, because of the international interest and the involvement of the Congress, have a happy ending. It also could have a very inconclusive one as the famously obtuse Chinese bureaucracy drags out its granting of a travel permit to Chen and family.

This issue, again, draws attention to the need to resize and restructure the State Department and our entire foreign policy apparatus so that we have one that reflects our values, and actively seeks to protect and advance our core interests.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Venezuela After Chavez: In the Footsteps of Franco, Ceausescu or Stalin?

There appears little doubt that Venezuela's authoritarian President Hugo Chavez is in a very bad way when it comes to his health. The surest sign of his deepening personal crisis is that he denies it. He and his supporters consistently have downplayed the seriousness of his illness, only reluctantly acknowledged that it is some form of cancer, and repeatedly have claimed after every treatment in Cuba that the President is just fine and soon will be 100%. These are typical signs of an authoritarian regime in crisis: the truth must be dodged, or fed out only drop by drop as forced by events. It is also a sign of the poor state of oil-rich Venezuela's health system that after over eleven years of "Socialismo" the President goes to Cuba for treatment. We note, as an aside, that the ruling Nomenklatura of that oppressed island relies on European medicine--Spanish doctors, after all, had to save Fidel from the ministrations of Cuban doctors. Perhaps this is unfair since I don't know President Chavez's diagnosis, but he might die because he was too arrogant and pigheadedly anti-American to go to hospital in Houston.


In an excellent piece just published in The Americas Report, Luis Fleischman conducts an incisive "pre-postmortem" of Venezuela after the passing of the strong man from the scene. I won't try to paraphrase or summarize it as Fleischman makes a large number of excellent observations and it deserves a full reading. Read it. For me the biggest take away is that Fleischman reminds us all of something we tend to forget when we talk about dictators. There is no such thing as a "one-man regime." Even the most dominating personalities such as Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Mao, Saddam, Pol Pot, Fidel, or the North Korean Kim dynasty did not rule alone. They required a structure of supporters, both individuals and institutions. Those supporters must get something for their support. One cannot rule by fear alone. There must be a carrot along with the stick. Even the most depraved regime will have its collection of true believers, sycophants, and opportunists who live relatively well thanks to The Great Man. The impending passing of The Great Man will see these supporters jockey to preserve the system which sustains them. That is the great question in Venezuela. Can the corruptocrats, the bought off union leaders and populists, and the military officers with their oil and drug connections preserve the system without Hugo? Can the current thuggish foreign or defense minister pull it off? One of Hugo's relatives, perhaps? Some general? What kind of reaction will we see from the Iranians, Cubans, Russians, Chinese, and other foreigners who have profited from Chavez's criminal regime? I, for one, do not know. There is a multiplicity of scenarios we could write.


As Fleischman notes, Spain after the death of its strongman, Francisco Franco, made a transition, at times rocky and uncertain, but in the end successfully to a parliamentary democracy with lively opposition press and parties. Spain, of course, benefitted from its prosperous and democratic neighborhood, which helped pressure the system's evolution in a democratic way. Spain also had, lest we forget, the respected, gutsy, and pro-democracy Juan Carlos as monarch who skillfully remained above little "p" politics while guiding the nation's capital "P" Politics in a democratic direction (NOTE: This is the same Juan Carlos who told Chavez to "shut up" at the 2007 Ibero-American Summit in Santiago.) That's not the case for Venezuela. Its neighbors are largely indifferent to the fate of democracy in Venezuela, and not willing to use what limited political and economic capital they have to influence events there. Many Latin American leaders, in fact, have been imitating Chavez, and using his notion of a slow-motion coup against democracy and free enterprise. The Venezuelan opposition has been, at least until very recently, seriously divided and unable to develop a compelling vision for the future of rich but poor Venezuela.


Other transition models--e..g, Iran after Khomeini, USSR after Stalin, China after Mao--also seem to hold out little hope that the passing of The Great Man will lead to democracy.  In fact, the corruptocrats around Chavez might have another vision in their heads, Romania. Caracas is a very violent and unstable environment, and famous for its explosive outbursts of unrest. These corruptocrats certainly would do all they could to avoid the fate of Mr. and Mrs. Ceausescu. These are thugs who do not hesitate to pull the trigger or order others to do so.


One of the saddest aspects of what is happening in Venezuela is the virtual irrelevance of the USA. The Obama misadministration has so destroyed our influence in the region that nobody looks to see what Washington wants or listens to what it says.The passivity of the United States in the face of constant provocations and threats, and the US willingness to accept outrageous behavior from Chavez, Correa, Castro, and Morales does not go unnoticed in the region. We see Argentina slipping into the bad old ways of doing things; Peru is on the verge of going the Chavez route; El Salvador might follow; and our old friend Colombia is putting distance between itself and the Obama misadministration.


It seems that our foreign policy has developed a highly spiritual tone. We depend on God to take care of our enemies and our interests. I, however, was always taught that God helps those who help themselves. It's time we reinserted those pages into the hymnal used by the Obama misadministration, or, better yet, asked it to go back to Chicago. Unless we begin to help ourselves, even the passing of enemies such as Chavez (or Qaddafy or Assad) will not necessarily benefit our core interests, including the promotion of democracy and human rights.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Hotel California, You Can Leave, or See What You Believe

I have been visiting California for the past few weeks to deal with a family health issue. While I have lived all over the country and the world, if there was one place I thought of home for most of my life it was California. I went to high school and college there, and grew up listening to the Beach Boys.  It is a magnificent piece of real estate, perhaps the best in the world, one with unequaled vistas, certainly the best weather anywhere, a colorful, engaging history, and, once, an exhilarating sense of freedom and of anything being possible. California revolutionized the modern world with its TV and movies, electronic innovations, including computers, and a stunning range of scientific discoveries and engineering marvels.  


For many people, California and the United States were and are interchangeable. And that, my friends, is where I begin today's sad story.


The government as well as the once-powerful economy of California have gone into a death spiral. Tax revenues have fallen well short of what state authorities expected, and what they need to ensure survival of that government's current configuration. The solution offered? The same one these officials always seem to produce: more taxes. Since the good people of California have put back into the Governor's mansion the disastrous Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown, one of the past architects of the current administrative structure, none should be surprised by his "solutions." Instead of cutting the size and scope of government, the Governor proposes placing an even larger burden on California's shrinking tax base, including yet another hike in general sales taxes and a big boost in income taxes for the "rich," defined as those making $250,000/year. As noted, tax revenues are down and in decline, while migration from California is up and rising: more people leave than arrive. Contrary, therefore, to the state's arrogant attitude, and the Eagles' song, you can leave Hotel California. That is what is happening. Wealth producing businesses and individual taxpayers are leaving in record numbers, chased out by stifling regulations and ever higher taxes. The middle class is being squeezed out of the state as liberalism turns it into a state of the uberrich and the uberpoor (see the excellent article by Joel Kotkin.)  


The liberals are up to their usual tricks: hurt the poor in the name of the poor; destroy jobs in the name of creating jobs; distribute poverty in the name of distributing wealth. The foolishness and self-destructivenes of this agenda should be obvious to all.  That, however, does not seem the case. Liberal, even ultra-liberal, hell, socialist politicians are regularly elected and re-elected. An ultra-liberal/socialist ideology dominates, even overwhelms the state's public discourse.  Local media and schools, from elementary to university level, are bastions of the most unthinking, uncritical liberalism you will find anywhere.  If you want to see liberalism amok, and a wonderful state amuck, come to California. 


I long have been troubled by the liberal mind set. It is one in which one sees what one believes.  Believe in something, and see it everywhere. Many human beings might or might not believe what they see, but the totally irrational ones see only what they believe. That is what we have here. The liberal believes that life is a series of problems that requires government solutions. Gun violence? Institute gun control policies. Those polices prove a fiasco? The solution? More gun control policies because guns are still in the hands of criminals so the illegal must be made doubly illegal.  California's regulations and social programs have bankrupted the state, destroyed the middle class, and driven businesses out of the state. The solution? More taxes to pay for more social programs and bureaucrats to enforce more regulations. Why? Well, obviously, there are more poor people than ever before, so we need more programs, and more taxes to pay for them. See what you believe. College tuitions are through the roof. The solution? More California government funding so the universities can continue to raise tuitions instead of allowing the market to set them. And the examples go on and on and on. The insanity is palpable.


California, quite simply, is being destroyed by liberalism and its standard prescription of regulation, taxation, class warfare, and lavish public sector salaries and benefits.  In that regard, California and the United States are becoming interchangeable.


Is California our future as a nation? Seems to be the way we are heading. It most certainly will be the future if we do not begin to derail the liberal express. Let's start by voting out Obama.