Thursday, May 13, 2010

It's All Part of the Plan

After reading Victor Davis Hanson’s piece “A Postmodern Presidency” last week, I was furious for two reasons. One, it was one of those columns that I wish I had written. Two, it made me realize exactly who Obama is and how we conservatives have been battling him on all the wrong fronts.

The heart of Hanson’s piece is this: Barack Obama is the first truly “postmodern” President. Having been raised and educated on the deconstructed principles of “relativism and the primacy of language over reality,” Obama is a walking, talking and bowing (more on this later) ambassador of postmodernism.

A brief primer on this “after modernity” ism, quoting Hanson:
“Genres, rules, and protocols in art, music, or in much of anything vanish as the unnecessary obstructions they are deemed to be — constructed by those with privilege to perpetuate their own entrenched received authority and power. . . .

“. . . What we signify and brand as ‘real,’ in essence, is no more valid than another’s “truth,” even if we retreat to specious claims of “evidence”— especially if our aim is to perpetuate the nation state, or the primacy of the white male capitalist Westerner who long ago manufactured norms in his own interests.”

In Hanson’s mind (and I completely agree), everything Obama has done – from “stimulus,” to healthcare reform, to alienating our “allies,” etc. – is for the purpose of removing the centuries-old hegemony enjoyed, namely, by white, Christian men. Postmodernism exhibits progressive liberal “victimhood” ideology in the sense that everything, literally, is a struggle between class, race and gender. Societal norms and “absolute truth” are outdated modes lacking contextualization. Obama believes all of this. And this is what “hope and change” has always been about.

We can’t expect to win the battle for the soul of our nation (and the stability of the entire world) by battling Obama the way we have. When we question Obama’s numbers on healthcare reform, when that lady at the town hall asked if it’s wise to up the tax burden, when we howl at his narcissism, when we call him naive, we’ve already lost.

To us, all evidence points to the fact that Obama is naive, that he really doesn’t understand how the world works. But as Hanson wrote, “[Obama] is offering us another — a postmodern — way of looking at the world.”

Obama’s remarks about “Greek exceptionalism” last spring make a little more sense now, don’t they?

He’s like the Joker in the Dark Knight. No matter how insane or random Obama’s policies look to us, they are, as the Joker would say, “all part of the plan.”

Hamstringing our nuclear capabilities? Can’t get more hegemonic than hoarding nuclear warheads. Peace through strength is so modernity.

Bowing to foreign heads of state? America has had more than its fair share of time in the limelight.

Redistribution of wealth? Your capitalistic wealth is homophobic, sexist and probably Islamophobic.

So we cry “Socialist!” And like the Joker when accused of being insane, Obama simply quips, “No, I’m not.”

Being a “socialist” isn’t deep enough, isn’t narrative-changing enough. Attacking health care, foreign policy, cap-and-trade or anything else is fine, but it doesn’t get at the embedded philosophy and life system. We have to realize we’re not even battling against Obama. We’re up against an entire zeitgeist, a paradoxical and chaotic worldview that needs to be dug up by the roots.

As Batman and Joker struggled physically and philosophically over Gotham, the Joker turned to his nemesis and said, “The only sensible way to live in this world is without rules.”

So it is with Obama. There are no rules – just language, that fluid gift of reality construction that eliminates all “traditional” obstacles and norms. It’s no surprise, then, that he loves to speechify, because in postmodernity, if you don’t have language, you don’t have anything.



The welfare state's death spiral now visible in Greece

By Robert J. Samuelson

What we're seeing in Greece is the death spiral of the welfare state. This isn't Greece's problem alone, and that's why its crisis has rattled global stock markets and threatens economic recovery. Virtually every advanced nation, including the United States, faces the same prospect. Aging populations have been promised huge health and retirement benefits, which countries haven't fully covered with taxes. The reckoning has arrived in Greece, but it awaits most wealthy societies.

Americans dislike the term "welfare state" and substitute the bland word "entitlements." Vocabulary doesn't alter the reality. Countries cannot overspend and overborrow forever. By delaying hard decisions about spending and taxes, governments maneuver themselves into a cul-de-sac. To be sure, Greece's plight is usually described as a European crisis -- especially for the euro, the common money used by 16 countries -- and this is true. But only to a point.

Euro coins and notes were introduced in 2002. The currency clearly hasn't lived up to its promises. It was supposed to lubricate faster economic growth by eliminating the cost and confusion of constantly converting between national currencies. More important, it would promote political unity. With a common currency, people would feel "European." Their identities as Germans, Italians and Spaniards would gradually blend into a continental identity.

None of this has happened. Economic growth in the countries using the currency averaged 2.1 percent annually from 1992 to 2001 and 1.7 percent from 2002 to 2008. Multiple currencies were never a big obstacle to growth; high taxes, pervasive regulations and generous subsidies were. As for political unity, the euro is now dividing Europeans. The Greeks are rioting. The countries making $145 billion in loans to Greece -- particularly Germany -- resent the costs of the rescue. A single currency could no more subsume national identities than drinking Coke could make people American. If other euro countries (Portugal, Spain, Italy) suffer Greece's fate -- lose market confidence and can't borrow at plausible rates -- there would be a wider crisis.

But the central cause is not the euro, even if it has meant Greece can't depreciate its own currency to ease the economic pain. Budget deficits and debt are the real problems; they stem from all the welfare benefits (unemployment insurance, old-age assistance, health insurance) provided by modern governments.

Countries everywhere already have high budget deficits, aggravated by the recession. Greece is exceptional only by degree. In 2009, its budget deficit was 13.6 percent of its gross domestic product (a measure of its economy); its debt, the accumulation of past deficits, was 115 percent of GDP. Spain's deficit was 11.2 percent of GDP, its debt 53.2 percent; Portugal's figures were 9.4 percent and 76.8 percent. Comparable figures for the United States -- calculated slightly differently -- were 9.9 percent and 53 percent.

There are no hard rules as to what's excessive, but financial markets -- the banks and investors that buy government bonds -- are obviously worried. Aging populations make the outlook worse. In Greece, the 65-and-over population is projected to go from 18 percent of the total in 2005 to 25 percent in 2030. For Spain, the increase is from 17 percent to 25 percent.

The welfare state's death spiral is this: Almost anything governments might do with their budgets threatens to make matters worse by slowing the economy or triggering a recession. By allowing deficits to balloon, they risk a financial crisis as investors one day -- no one knows when -- doubt governments' ability to service their debts and, as with Greece, refuse to lend except at exorbitant rates. Cutting welfare benefits or raising taxes all would, at least temporarily, weaken the economy. Perversely, that would make paying the remaining benefits harder.

Greece illustrates the bind. To gain loans from other European countries and the International Monetary Fund, it embraced budget austerity. Average pension benefits will be cut 11 percent; wages for government workers will be cut 14 percent; the basic rate for the value-added tax will rise from 21 percent to 23 percent. These measures will plunge Greece into a deep recession. In 2009, unemployment was about 9 percent; some economists expect it to peak near 19 percent.

If only a few countries faced these problems, the solution would be easy. Unlucky countries would trim budgets and resume growth by exporting to healthier nations. But developed countries represent about half the world economy; most have overcommitted welfare states. They might defuse the dangers by gradually trimming future benefits in a way that reassures financial markets. In practice, they haven't done that; indeed, President Obama's health program expands benefits. What happens if all these countries are thrust into Greece's situation? One answer -- another worldwide economic collapse -- explains why dawdling is so risky.



Kagan: A judge who despises the law?

Harvard Law School is a breeding ground for the sort of anti-rule-of-law, progressive-activist judges most feared and despised by those who bemoan a runaway court trampling over the democratic process.

Ms. Kagan seems to have been preparing for a modern-day nomination hearing since elementary school. She has spoken nothing of consequence or controversy during her career, was granted tenure over objections that she had not sufficiently published, and can take cover for objectionable stances as solicitor general by remarking that she merely advocated on behalf of the president. She has no paper trail, no legacy of judicial opinions and no record of note by which to form a precise opinion of her judicial temperament.

She is a "stealth" candidate - a nominee with so little evidence of character, one way or the other, as to prove unimpeachable.

Every crumb will thus be scrutinized for clues as to the "real" Elena Kagan. And the most scrumptious crumbs certainly will involve her "hostility" to the military while governing Harvard Law. Ms. Kagan was at the forefront of the crusade to banish military recruiters from universities as a protest of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. She frequently expressed her moral "abhorrence" of the "military's policy," refused to enforce a federal law requiring schools that receive federal grants to allow recruiters access to campus and eventually joined a legal brief to have the law overturned.

Never mind that "don't ask, don't tell" is a federal law (the military does not make laws) passed by the Clinton administration and a Democratic Congress (Ms. Kagan worked in the Clinton White House) and that Ms. Kagan continues to esteem highly many of the authors of that policy (reserving her "abhorrence" for young recruiters simply following orders). Rather, focus on her unlawful disobedience of a federal statute, her resort to the courts only as an afterthought and her ultimate decision to relent her tempest-in-a-teapot rebellion only when the Supreme Court (which she hopes to join) unanimously rejected her legal objection to the law in an 8-0 opinion.

Of course, at that time, she was a dean and not a judge. But she was the ultimate role model to her students, leading by example as the dean of a prestigious law school. Her blatant disregard for laws that she found personally displeasing and intellectual satisfaction with legal arguments dismissed by even the most sympathetic judges reflect poorly on the adequacy of her judicial temperament and capacity for unbiased rulings.



ACORN lobbying efforts continue in Washington, D.C., under Communities United name‏

For a supposedly dead organization, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now sure has been busy.

Despite ACORN’s reported demise, the radical group’s flagship Washington, D.C., office continues to go about its business below the radar as state chapters across the nation form breakaway groups.

On May 5 ACORN’s new D.C. spinoff group, Communities United, held a founding meeting in ACORN’s office on 8th Street Southeast in the nation’s capital. “Communities United is just ACORN’s way of thumbing their nose in the face of everyone,” sources close to ACORN say.

The D.C. office is important to ACORN because the embattled advocacy organization runs its congressional lobbying efforts out of it. The same office is also home to Project Vote, ACORN’s voter registration arm, which continues to operate. In the 1990s President Obama trained ACORN activists and worked for Project Vote....

Meanwhile, lobbyists for ACORN’s largest and best-funded affiliate, ACORN Housing, which recently changed its name to Affordable Housing Centers of America, disclosed in a lobbying reporting form that they have been lobbying a federal agency that is reportedly investigating ACORN Housing.

According to the form ACORN Housing paid the lobbying firm $40,000 in the first quarter of this year to lobby both houses of Congress, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the Department of Justice (DOJ).

ACORN Housing is under investigation by HUD.

More here


The big picture: "In Britain, all eyes might be focused on election bargaining and in the US on issues such as Obamacare and the Value Added Tax, and of course we all have the financial sector and government borrowing problems to think about. But look more widely, and you see that the world is actually going in the right direction. Indeed, the Right direction. I’m not just referring to how India and China, by adopting market principles at long last, have managed to raise around 2 billion of the world’s population out of poverty in just the last fifteen years. I’m looking at the future too.”

Do-gooders object to genetic tests: "Coming soon to a drugstore near you, alongside the aspirin and greeting cards, will be the promise of answers to some of life’s most personal mysteries: Am I at risk for Alzheimer’s disease? Or breast cancer? Or obesity? Starting Friday, Walgreens will begin selling Insight personal genetic testing kits, becoming the first major retail chain in the U.S. to offer home tests that say they assess the risk of developing one of dozens of different health conditions. CVS plans to have it in stores by August. The product’s introduction raises immediate concerns among scientists, bio-ethicists and genetic counselors.”

Too many rules: "Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that the government will force one of my neighbors to demolish the top floor of his building: A Manhattan townhouse owner is being forced to do something few, if any, New York homeowners have ever done before: tear down a top-floor addition to a building to comply with city landmark regulations … We called the Landmark Commission to see if that was true. Spokeswoman Elizabeth de Bourbon said it was not. The Commission didn’t ‘order’ the owner to remove the floor. They just threatened a $5,000 dollar fine, plus up to $250 per day ($91,000/year) as long as the building remained in violation. What did the building owner do wrong? She got approvals to build from the NYC Buildings Department — but forgot to ask permission from the City Landmark Commission.”


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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)


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