Saturday, May 22, 2010



Obama: The man without a shadow

I am inclined to think that Obama is simply a naif with a gift for the gab who has no real clue about anything much but there are other possibilities.... JR

So much has been said and written about Barack Obama that, barring some shattering revelation, very little remains to be rehearsed. As columnist Barry Rubin bemoaned, “I don’t want to keep writing every day about the Obama Administration’s Middle East policy. There are many other topics I’d prefer, but the problem is that they keep doing things.” I could not agree more, and not concerning the Middle East alone. Yet the issues continuing to swirl about the president need to be revisited, not only because Obama is arguably the most polarizing figure of our times, but because he is also the most potentially catastrophic.

This statement will be regarded by many as rhetorical overkill, but I would contend that the election of Obama to the most powerful office in the world is quite possibly the most significant political—and dangerous—event of recent times. By being proactive and making informed decisions, he has the ability to create a slightly safer world. By misreading the historical text, making bad choices, engaging half-heartedly in certain conflicts (Afghanistan, Iraq), coming down on the wrong side of another (Israeli/Palestinian), and flinching before yet another challenge of far greater urgency (Iran), he invites retribution. This latter direction is plainly the one he has taken. As such I believe that intense concentration on the man and his compliant administration, and its public reiteration, is both warranted and necessary.

Indeed, the presidential dilemma we are facing is complex and far-ranging. Leaving aside the ongoing “birther” controversy focusing on the vexed issue of the president’s legitimacy, the “Obama problem” really has to do with the conundrum of his political identity. Is he a bone-stock socialist or a far-left radical determined to impose a neo-Marxist regime upon republican America, or merely a “person of advanced views and reactionary feeling,” as Theodore Dalrymple says of Virginia Woolf?

Perhaps, as Jonah Goldberg suggests, coining a phrase, he is a “neo-socialist” who believes “in the power of government to extend its scope and grasp far deeper into society”? Is Obama a closet Islamist, as some have alleged? Is he a media artifact, the digital remastering of an epic hero enacting an ancient fantasy of salvation? Is he a volatile prevaricator, saying one thing, then saying another, making solemn promises and regularly breaking them, whose erratic behavior must leave us bewildered before an ever-widening credibility gap?

Or is he a university-educated postmodernist for whom the concept of truth has been relativized beyond recognition? Is he just a political rookie whose lack of executive experience shows up alarmingly in a capricious and anemic foreign policy? An old KGB hand like Vladimir Putin must look at him and think, “What a patsy.” Ditto Hugo Chavez, King Abdullah, Bashir Assad, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Castros and a host of other shrewd manipulators and world-wise autocrats.

Who really knows? Perhaps, as Pajamas Media founder Roger Simon proposes, he is frankly deranged, meriting the title of President Weirdo? Children’s author Sarah Durand concurs, diagnosing Obama as suffering from liberalomania, archly defined as a “degenerative form of dementia” evidenced in his highly skilled capacity as a blame gamer, his extreme narcissism and his delusions of grandeur. Or is he merely an updated version of tall-tale artist and windy opportunist Christy Mahon in John Millington Synge’s comic drama The Playboy of the Western World, “the laughing joke of every woman [read: person] where four baronies meet”—the man who flies Air Force One to dinner, practices his golf swing while a national crisis is unfolding, and throws Budweiser-like parties in the White house, as if to “keep the good times going”? Or is he none of these but, quite the opposite, the “sort of god” whom Newsweek’s Evan Thomas worships, “The One” venerated by Oprah, Louis Farrakhan’s “Messiah”? Who? What? Searching for Obama is like mining for unobtanium.

Iranian-born journalist Amir Taheri is troubled by Obama’s lack of identifiable character. Commenting on Obama’s casting himself as a bridge between America and the Islamic world (Al- Arabiya TV, January 27, 2009), Taheri notes that “Obama appeared unsure of his own identity and confused about the role that America should play in global politics. And that is bad news for those who believe that the United States should use its moral, economic and political clout in support of democratic forces throughout the world.” Obama himself admitted in The Audacity of Hope, “I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.” Pretty damaging, this confession. And when it comes to Obama’s famous “hope,” among the most antiquated of imaginable pieties whether audacious or sentimental, American poet C.J. Sage has it about right: “Solve for this: where x is hope/and y is your future, what is surely finite?” Something worth keeping in mind when listening to a political mesmerist.

The question remains open. Who is this guy? And what does so enigmatic a figure augur for the United States and, indeed, for the future of us all? No matter what hypothesis or conviction one espouses concerning his definitive DNA, it seems fair to say that a shadow of the clandestine—or if one prefers, the inscrutable—envelops this president.

Even Obama’s most avid supporters, if they are honest, must allow that, compared to his POTUS predecessors, unambiguously little is known about his antecedents or, for example, the salient facts of his academic career—many of his records are still under seal, his college and university transcripts have not been released and, broadly speaking, his significant documentation is rather flimsy. There is not much of a paper trail here; for that matter, there is scarcely a Hansel-and-Gretel bread crumb trail. How such a man could be elected to the presidency boasting a curriculum vitae with more blank pages in it than a Danielewski novel remains a riddle for the sphinx. Nor should it surprise us that it is precisely a blank page, like the blank screen Obama mentions, that solicits conjecture or projection, much of it skeptical or unfavorable.

In any event, there can be no doubt that the dossier is scanty and that this is a truly amazing deficiency. We simply do not have a clear portrait or a crisply factual biography of the president. But what we do know about his close affiliates—America-and-Jew bashing Reverend Jeremiah Wright, former PLO spokesman Rashid Khalidi, hysterical and racially divisive Cornel West, unrepentant Weatherman terrorist Bill Ayers, unscrupulous entrepreneur Tony Rezko—is profoundly unsettling. To adapt Obama’s ringing slogan, borrowed or plagiarized from African-American poet June Jordan, are they the ones we’ve been waiting for? But on the whole, the asymmetric relation between what we know and what we don’t know must distress any rational person curious about so influential an actor on the current political scene.

That Louis Farrakhan, like millions of others, feels that Obama was “selected” for our times should give us further pause. On the contrary, it may not be out of place to suggest that we are now afflicted with the worst possible president at the worst possible time, with Iran darting toward the nuclear finish line, the Palestinians as intransigent as ever, the Russians moving back into the Caucasus region, negotiating with Venezuela and solidifying ties with Iran, Syria and Turkey, terrorism (oops—“man-made disasters”) on the rise and U.S. citizens increasingly at the mercy of the jihadists, China holding massive quantities of American Treasury notes, Obama considering ruinous cap-and-trade legislation at a time when the AGW consensus is collapsing, the American debt estimated to hit 100% of GDP in 2011 and its unfunded entitlement liabilities totaling over $US 100 trillion, leading to the prospect of monetary collapse. None of these critical issues have been substantially addressed by the president, except insofar as his actions in some cases, lack of action in others, have only exacerbated them. The collateral fact that we really have no valid and comprehensive notion of who exactly is leading us at this crucial historical juncture boggles the mind.

It should be added, however, that we do know something about the ideas which govern his policies: the redistribution of wealth, the expansion of state control at the expense of the private sector, extensive regulation of more and more aspects of quotidian life, bureaucratic bloat, a paternal administration accompanied by the leveling of individual initiative to a lowest common denominator—all very old doctrines gussied up with a defensive terminology like “social justice,” “progressivism,” “equality of outcome,” “only the people will save the people”—which have been tried before and failed spectacularly. The best that can be said of Obama is that, in the realm of political theory, he does not believe in granny dumping, though the dogmas and paradigms he embraces should long ago have been put out of their misery.

We might have twigged by now. Each new measure he introduces or intends to introduce is a camel’s nose presaging future debilities. But the president’s youthful vigor, toggle-switch charm and exotic presence seem to apply a veneer of novelty to ideological obsolescence. He is like the word “proverbial” which we insert into a tired simile in order to avoid the skank of platitude, as in “smart as the proverbial whip” or “dumb as the proverbial ox.” America is saddled with a proverbial president, a man whose principal function is to renovate clich├Ęs and make them palatable.

This appears to be as far as we can go for now, with more to come to a political theater near us. One thing, however, seems undeniable: so far, not so good.

SOURCE

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Free Market Health Care and the Poor

One of the disastrous consequences of having adopted the welfare-state way of life is what it has done to the concept of voluntary charity. Let’s look at Medicare and Medicaid, socialist programs that go to the heart of the economic problems facing our nation.

I grew up in Laredo, Texas, in the 1950s, when the U.S. Census Bureau labeled our city as the poorest in the United States on a per-capita income basis. Every day, the office of every doctor in town would be filled with patients, most of whom were extremely poor. While some of them may have been Mexican citizens from Nuevo Laredo, as a practical matter it didn’t really matter because the doctor knew that most of the people in his office couldn’t pay anyway, at least not right away.

Yet, I never knew of one single doctor who turned people away. They treated everyone who came into their office. I never heard of a doctor complaining about having to provide free services for the poor.

How did doctors in Laredo do financially? They were among the wealthiest people in town. The money they made from the middle class and the wealthy and the poor who could subsidized the patients who couldn’t pay.

There was never a sense of entitlement among the poor who couldn’t pay the doctor. They were always extremely grateful and would express that gratitude with gifts of tamales or other things in kind that they could give the doctor.

It was a nice interrelationship. Doctors felt good about what they were doing, and patients were appreciative. That’s what life is supposed to be all about.

Enter Medicare and Medicaid, socialist programs that were enacted as part of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs in the 1960s. Those two programs totally changed the dynamics of health care in America. All of sudden, helping the poor and elderly was no long voluntary. Now it was mandated. The federal government got involved in the health-care process, interfering with what had been natural, harmonious relationships.

Over time, doctors became dependent on the government to pay their bills. They also learned that what government subsidizes, government controls and regulates. Compliance with government health-care regulations became a major industry. Doctors who failed to comply with the ever-growing regulations faced the prospect of criminal prosecution. Ultimately, many physicians began retiring early, disgusted with a profession that they their predecessors had absolutely loved. Government involvement in health care destroyed their love of medicine.

Patients ended up with a sense of entitlement to “free” health care. They didn’t feel any sense of gratitude toward doctors. It was their “right” to receive free health care. If thanks were owed to anyone, it was to the government, which was responsible for this “free” service.

When libertarians point out to people that the only real moral and practical solution to America’s health-are woes lies in the repeal, not reform, of all government involvement in health care, some people ask, “But what about the poor? How would they get health care in a free-market environment?”

The fact that they even ask the question shows what America’s welfare state has done to people’s faith in themselves, in others, and in a free society.

SOURCE

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ELSEWHERE

Protesters floundering without Bush to bash: "Protesters crashed a Karl Rove book-signing event at the Borders in Cool Springs. Rove, senior advisor to former president George W. Bush, was signing copies of his new book Courage and Consequence when a woman in a flowered blouse who stood in line for an autograph pulled handcuffs out of a bag, laid them on a podium and told Rove he was under arrest for ‘war crimes.’ Another woman popped up from behind a bookshelf holding a pink sign that read ‘Jail Karl Rove’ and a pair of men unrolled a banner that said ‘Jail Karl Rove for war crimes.’”

CT: GOP outsider surges in polls: "Just months ago, Republican Linda McMahon’s quest for the US Senate seat here seemed quixotic at best: a former world wrestling executive, with no political experience or network, spending millions of her own fortune on an election in a heavily Democratic state. But with a strong anti-establishment mood sweeping the country, McMahon’s candidacy has gone from a curiosity to a genuine threat to the experienced GOP opponent she faces in a party nominating contest tomorrow — and to Democrats who are newly worried about revelations that their party’s front-runner, state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, incorrectly said that he served in Vietnam"

Israel launches overnight air raids on Gaza: "The Israeli military launched aerial raids overnight in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, but no one was injured or killed in the sorties, witnesses and officials said Friday. Israeli officials said the three raids, targeting a residential area in the north of the Palestinian enclave and two in the south, were in response to an earlier missile attack by Palestinian militants. "Our planes attacked terrorist installations in the north of the region and two tunnels located in the south which could serve for attacks against Israel," an Israeli defence spokesman said, confirming the raids."

Confiscating your property: "In America, we’re supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. Life, liberty and property can’t be taken from you unless you’re convicted of a crime.Your life and liberty may still be safe, but have you ever gone to a government surplus auction? Consumer reporters like me tell people, correctly, that they are great places to find bargains. People can buy bikes for $10, cars for $500. But where did the government get that stuff? Some is abandoned property. But some I would just call loot. The cops grabbed it.”

Two cheers for the British coalition: "I have been asked, as Director of the Libertarian Alliance, to make a response to the forming of a coalition government last week in Britain by the Conservative and Liberal Parties. In making this response, I do not claim to speak in every detail for the other members of the Executive Committee. But what I will say is broadly the opinion of the majority. Briefly put, we welcome the new Government. However dishonest the individual Ministers may be, however bad may be their ideological motivations, we believe that, in its overall effects, this Government may, by its own compound nature, be compelled to move the country in a more libertarian direction.”

Very little hope and very little change in Russia: "In April, Russia’s biggest political story was a sex scandal dubbed ‘Mumugate,’ involving secretly filmed videos of several opposition activists in compromising positions with one Katya ‘Mumu’ Gerasimova, a sometime fashion model who had approached them while posing as a journalist. (The nickname refers to a classic Russian short story about a peasant named Gerasim and his dog Mumu.) While the videos were posted on the Internet by a shadowy group claiming to champion public morality, most independent Russian commentators believe the incident was linked to semi-official pro-Kremlin organizations — such as the ‘Nashi’ youth group — that specialize in harassing the opposition with tacit official blessing. This sordid affair neatly encapsulates the farcical nature of Russian political life today: the marginality and pointlessness of the opposition, the petty nastiness and sleaziness of the power structure, the authoritarian state as a grotesque parody of a once formidable dictatorship.”

Jobless claims rise by largest amount in 3 months: "The number of people filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week by the largest amount in three months. The surge is evidence of how volatile the job market remains, even as the economy grows. Applications for unemployment benefits rose to 471,000 last week, up by 25,000 from the previous week, the Labor Department said Thursday. It was the first increase in five weeks and the biggest jump since a gain of 40,000 in February. The total was the highest since new claims reached 480,000 on April 10. It also pushed the average for the last four weeks to 453,500."

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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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