Steady descent into third world
Opening a can of worms always tempts a mischief-maker, but it's risky business. That can of worms might turn out to be a can of snakes, like Barack Obama's latest gift to the nation.
The president's on-again, off-again, maybe-he-will and maybe-he-won't decision to punish someone who loosened tongues of Islamist terrorists at Guantanamo suddenly threatens not only the CIA interrogators and Justice Department lawyers, but even members of Congress. Maybe it won't stop there: if the lawyers who offered legal opinions are at risk of punishment for their legal advice, why not the members of Congress who knew what was going on? Why not the secretaries who typed up the transcripts? Why not the interns who fetched the coffee? All were accessories either before or after the fact.
We're on unfamiliar ground now. No president before has sought to punish his predecessor for policy decisions, no matter how wrong or wrong-headed. Lyndon B. Johnson's management of the Vietnam War was often ham-handed, as anyone who was there could tell you, and his policy makers sometimes verged on criminal incompetence. But Richard Nixon was never tempted to send LBJ or any of those presidential acolytes to prison. Abraham Lincoln, by his lights, would have had ample opportunity to hang Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee, but even the rabid Republicans who survived the assassination stopped short of putting Davis in the dock, finally releasing him from imprisonment at Fort Monroe when judgment overcame lust for revenge. Lee was never touched.
Exacting revenge for unpopular policies is the norm in the third world, heretofore more likely in Barack Obama's ancestral Kenya than in America, more in the tradition of gangland Chicago than in Washington, where we count on cooler heads to prevail when raw emotion threatens to overwhelm sobriety and the undisciplined senses. We recall perceived national mistakes with the sadness of regret and even gratitude for lessons learned, not the frenzied catharsis of a St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Mr. Obama, having won the White House fair and square, is entitled to change any presidential policy he chooses, but the vindication of a national election does not entitle any president to exact mindless revenge.
The loquacious prince of Hyde Park should understand this, having eloquently sounded caution and reason on his inauguration as president, promising as he had during the long campaign to "look forward," not "backward." Rahm Emanuel, once described as the president's alter ego (if indeed such an outsized ego could have an "alter"), said as recently as Sunday that "it's not a time to use our energy and our time in looking back in any sense of anger and retribution."
This was in line with what the president had said all last summer when he was campaigning for the White House, what he had said on his inauguration, and in line with his oft-stated goal of restoring bipartisan civility and mutual goodwill to governing the country. Mr. Emanuel's reassurance was regarded in Washington as putting paid to an ugly era, an emphatic determination to "move on" to something close to national unity.
The president hadn't counted on the rage of the jackals on the leftmost fringe of his party, organizations like MoveOn.org, which want only the "unity" of the lynch mob. They demand a hanging and the president promises only to think about it. Ever confident that his golden tongue, with or without the teleprompter, would mesmerize all foes and vanquish all rancor, Mr. Obama then threw George W. Bush's lawyers to the mob.
Perhaps the president imagines that nobody cares much about what happens to lawyers, but he has set in motion something neither he nor anyone else can control. Some of the Democrats in Congress, eager now to join the mob, will regret what they cry for. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, for one, was a member of the House intelligence committee and sat in on super-secret briefings after Sept. 11. She concedes that she heard about waterboarding but she doesn't remember exactly what she heard. Just like Barack Obama sleeping through 20 years of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's rabid sermons, Ms. Pelosi dozed through the briefings. Her colleagues on the intelligence panel say they remember her demanding that the CIA do more to get the "intelligence" to prevent another attack.
Republicans in the Senate, including John McCain and Lindsey Graham, are finally finding their voices. So is Joe Lieberman, a courageous Democrat. If we're going to have hangings, Ms. Pelosi may be at risk of becoming our most famous female hangee since Mary Surratt paid her debt at the end of a rope for hanging out with John Wilkes Booth.
History is written by many people, but those who write government school textbooks tend to hold disproportionate sway. Sadly, their vision of America – which has driven conventional wisdom and popular opinion for decades – is built on many myths. The biggest myth of them all? That capitalism and our free market system caused the Great Depression – and that only a massive expansion of the federal government saved America from permanent economic ruin.
Nothing could be further from the truth – and yet as the true history of government meddling repeats itself all around us (with the direst of consequences for future generations), America seems incapable of learning from these mistakes for the simple reason that no one has ever taught them how destructive interventionism has been in the past and present.
Over a decade ago, Lawrence Reed of the Mackinac Center – a Michigan-based research and educational institute – penned an important analysis of the Great Depression. Written at the height of the dot-com boom (and shortly after President Bill Clinton told us that “the era of big government is over”) Reed’s treatise breaks the Depression down into sections and analyzes the cause and effect associated with each new development.
His conclusion? It’s a complete reversal of the textbook myth, an unflinchingly-candid, meticulously-documented proof that “government intervention worsened (the Depression) and kept the economy in a stupor for over a decade.” “The calamity that began in 1929 lasted at least three times longer than any of the country’s previous depressions because the government compounded its initial errors with a series of additional and harmful interventions,” Reed writes.
Anyone who follows things like money supply and interest rate adjustments knows that the Federal Reserve’s policies in the months leading up to the Great Crash of 1928 courted disaster. But it was the effect of government interventionism after the crash that did the real damage – which given the unprecedented $13 trillion intervention currently underway in our country should send shivers up and down every American’s spine.
Perhaps most importantly, Reed’s paper shatters once and for all the myth that President Herbert Hoover was the laissez-faire capitalist recalled by American textbooks. For starters, Hoover’s administration – with Congressional support – dramatically increased government spending from 16.4 percent to 21.5 of GNP in one year. Hoover also signed a foolhardy tariff that crippled trade, as well as the largest tax hike in American history in the spring if 1932. On top of that, during Hoover’s tenure the Federal Reserve imposed the biggest interest rate increase in its history. High tariffs, huge subsidies, deflationary monetary policy, tax increases – does that sound like a laissez-faire capitalist to you?
Ironically, Franklin Delano Roosevelt – whose New Deal policies were later revealed to have been taken straight out of Hoover’s playbook – won election by blasting his predecessor as “reckless and extravagant,” and presiding over “the greatest spending administration in peacetime in all of history.” Roosevelt, the “limited government” advocate, even bemoaned Hoover’s desire to “center control of everything in Washington.”
Obviously, Roosevelt flip-flopped after he was elected and put Hoover’s interventionist approach on steroids – much as President Barack Obama has done with the failed bailout mentality of his predecessor. The reality, though, is that none of these leaders differ all that much in their ideological approach to recession.
Now the question is this – does the big government approach work? Absolutely not. Prior to the Great Depression, no American recession had lasted longer than four years. Most were over in two. The Great Depression dragged on for nearly twelve years, however, with unemployment reaching as high as 25% at one point. And just as it is doing now, government over-taxed and over-regulated the economy the whole way through, starving it of desperately needed capital while consolidating frightening levels of power in Washington.
But that’s not the story told by government textbooks – just as it’s not the story that’s being told today by the America’s mainstream media. Politicians are relying on big government’s myth to make – and promote – some of the most monumentally foolhardy economic decisions in our nation’s history. Frankly, it’s past time that we started telling the truth about our past – and applying common sense to the future. The longer we wait, the deeper we dig the hole for future generations.
How a socialist government doesn't work: "More than four million Spanish people are out of work. According to the country's National Statistics Institute a record high figure of 17.4 per cent were unemployed in the first quarter of the year. Unemployment leapt from 13.9 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2008, the biggest quarterly jump since 1976. Joblessness in Spain has almost doubled in a year. The Bank of Spain had previously forecast that unemployment would not surpass 17.1 per cent for the year. Alarmingly, 1,068,400 families have every member out of work. And as the dole queues lengthen, labour unrest is growing. Two hundred pickets yesterday picketed a shipyard in the Basque country to protest at the employment of cheap Romanian and Portuguese workers that is threatening the jobs of 1,100 local workers."
Tony Blair opposes new 50 pence tax rate for high earners: "Tony Blair believes the new 50 per cent top rate of income tax introduced by Gordon Brown is a "terrible mistake". The former Prime Minister has privately expressed his despair at the Labour government's decision to target the wealthy in the Budget. Some of the leading architects of New Labour have also savaged the move, which they believe has cost Labour any hope of winning the general election. The revelation that Mr Blair has privately indicated his opposition to the headline 50 pence tax rate for people earning over £150,000 will cause consternation in Downing Street. One of Mr Blair's closest allies said: "The 50p tax move is a disaster. Blair would have cut taxes, not increased them." The hostile public reaction to the Budget, which signalled a return to the politics of class warfare, has intensified speculation that Mr Brown could face a leadership challenge. The mood of despair among Labour MPs deepened after figures published yesterday showed the economy contracted far more sharply in the first quarter than the Chancellor Alistair Darling predicted in his Budget statement only two days earlier."
The British police State: "Every phone call, email or website visit will be monitored by the state under plans to be unveiled next week. The proposals will give police and security services the power to snoop on every single communication made by the public with the data then likely to be stored in an enormous national database. The precise content of calls and other communications would not be accessible but even text messages and visits to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter would be tracked. The move has alarmed civil liberty campaigners, and the country's data protection watchdog last night warned the proposals would be "unacceptable". Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, will argue the powers are needed to target terrorists and serious criminals who are taking advantage of the increasing complex nature of communications to plot atrocities and crimes."
Legion leader accepts apology from Napolitano: "More apologies came from Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Friday during and after a meeting with the commander of the American Legion about the disparaging language in a security assessment that suggested returning troops from Iraq or Afghanistan could be recruited for "right-wing" domestic terrorist attacks. "We connected meaningfully about the important issues that have emerged over recent days, and I offered him my sincere apologies for any offense to our veterans caused by this report," Ms. Napolitano said. "I pledge that the department has fixed the internal process that allowed this document to be released before it was ready." David K. Rehbein, commander of the veterans group, told Fox News he has forgiven the department for the report, but he will not forget it happened. "[Ms. Napolitano] said the report was not worthy of the department or the veterans of this country," Mr. Rehbein said."
NYT demise coming: "The nation's largest left-wing newspaper and the bible for network news producers and bookers may be going under. This week, The New York Times announced more staggering losses: nearly $75 million dollars in the first quarter alone. The New York Post is reporting that the Times Company owes more than $1 billion and has just $34 million in the bank. A few months ago, the company borrowed $250 million from Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim at a reported 14 percent interest rate. With things going south fast, pardon the pun, Slim might want to put in a call to Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. The problem is that under Sulzberger and executive editor Bill Keller, the Times has gone crazy left, attacking those with whom the paper disagrees and demonstrating a hatred for conservatives (particularly President Bush) that is almost pathological. That unfair and unbalanced approach has alienated a large number of readers and advertisers. According to a recent Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll, 46 percent of Americans define themselves as conservative. Just 34 percent say they are liberal. In this very intense marketplace, insulting half the country on a daily basis may not be a great business plan. The New York Times is most definitely a committed left-wing concern that is openly contemptuous of the conservative, traditional point of view. That is the primary reason the paper may soon dissolve. And all the cash in Carlos Slim's fat wallet is not going to change that."
Obama's Iraq Policy and a Surge of Violence: "On Thursday, Iraq suffered its worst death toll on a single day since the start of U.S. engagement there; 80 people perished after the supposed capture of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, al-Qaeda in Iraq’s leader and one of Iraq’s most wanted men. On Friday, there was another attack almost as deadly; 60 people died and 125 were injured when two suicide bombers attacked a Shia mosque in Baghdad. This upswing in violence comes on the heels of Obama’s new policies in the Middle East, which call for a phased withdrawal from Iraq starting this summer and lasting until 2011. An upswing in violence is almost certainly related to Obama’s adjustments in troop numbers"
Germany's slump risks 'explosive' mood: "A clutch of political and labour leaders in Germany have raised the spectre of civil unrest after the country's leading institutes forecast a 6pc contraction of gross domestic product this year, a slump reminiscent of 1931 and bad enough to drive unemployment to 4.7m by 2010. Michael Sommer, leader of the DGB trade union federation, called the latest wave of sackings a "declaration of war" against Germany's workers. "Social unrest can no longer be ruled out," he said. Gesine Swann, presidential candidate for the Social Democrats, said "the mood could turn explosive" over the next three months unless the government takes drastic action. While authorities have belatedly agreed to create a "bad bank" to absorb toxic loans and stabilise the credit system, further financial troubles are almost certainly in the pipeline. Swiss risk advisers Independent Credit View said a "second wave" of debt stress is likely to hit the UK and Europe this year as the turmoil moves from mortgage securities to old-fashioned bank loans"
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)