Monday, February 07, 2011

Why Reagan Triumphs Over Other Presidents, Even Today

What always strikes us is how comfortable and secure Ronald Reagan was in himself, on the trail, in the Oval, in meetings with strangers in the Roosevelt Room, in the general give and take of a public life. This authentic wholeness of life made the 'communicating' so compelling, the reducing to core principles so constant, effortless and nearly automatic. His humor, self-reflection and self-deprecation all natural, healthy, transparently honest. A mature man at home with himself and his country, seamlessly.

People of a certain persuasion took this to be the mark of a simpleton, or at best a simple person, too dumb to be properly awed and humbled by the great minds and their received high wisdom. Someone whose norm was to take decisions, indeed about quite complex matters, without protracted debate, or sonorous, self-inflating or lecturing tones must be a cretin or someone’s puppet. These were people who had not read the record, the writings, the early Reagan, the whole biography along the way, and finally the diaries. Intellectuals and wannabes (certain editorialists and anchors come to mind), who could not bother. They could not actually deal with the accumulated facts -- nor with the larger fact that, first California, and then virtually the entire country disagreeably disappointed them by checking the Reagan box, repeatedly!

At the end, Americans turned out in probably unprecedented numbers, all over the country, from every corner, class, age and political party of the American tapestry. From coast to coast, at every overpass, intersection, sidewalk and window, and in the Capitol Rotunda line for days and nights they stood. The press was astonished, but ever mindful of the ratings, managed to bite their tongues and give it solid coverage. They had little choice. The people were checking the Reagan box one last time. Not out of habit or instruction, but out of deep respect -- the resonation in them of the authentic voice that had led and inspired them, as it also had hundreds of millions around the world, the free and the newly freed.

This was the man who believed in them as he believed in himself -- a man of confidence not trimmed by fear. By every indice we have he lifted the country, its confidence, its standing, its economy, productive capacity and innovation, its social mobility and its national security. These two things are not unrelated.

What strikes us by starkest contrast is the degree to which many recent presidents, notably Clinton and Obama (and the angry scold Jimmy Carter too, just because he’s too self-righteous to go away), are deeply wounded people, insecure -- in need of office for themselves, as psychological salve, not as service. A sort of self-medicating at our expense; it verges on the sociopathic at times (not only with interns). There is an unsettled need to prove or expunge something personal (we don't mean birth certificates or donor records).

Among other things, this makes their expressions relating to patriotism, the military, American exceptionalism, values and history; freedom, markets and the whole American project and prospect seem to ring hollow to the common ear. The required expressions come out of them sounding stingy and, strained, not generous or heartfelt -- or in the current case, not even personally believed.

For this sort of politician (most?) it all is principally about themselves. The focus is on their imagined exceptionalism, their personal struggle and triumph. In their mind, the nation pales in comparison and fails to live up to their expectation. The dissonance becomes clear, regularly -- not only in times of performance of Presidential duties, speeches, times of national tragedy or pressured decisions -- but in the off-hand remarks, the flip answers, the bizarre strained analogies (Sputnik?).

These are not whole men; they may not be "hollow men" -- but they are not the man in full. And they are not Ronald Reagan, nor can they play him on a podium, no matter how much mid-term reading they do, hunting uncomprehendingly for clues.



Sarah channels Reagan to combat 'road to ruin'

Sarah Palin opened a celebration of what would have been Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday by declaring that the United States was lurching towards a "road to ruin", saying the nation had become so weighed down by debt and excess government that a new direction was urgently needed in Washington.

For Mrs Palin, a speech on Friday at the Reagan Ranch Centre offered an opportunity to connect herself to the late president, the "Great Communicator" and Republican icon.

She used the appearance - one of the highest-profile Republican platforms in months - to rally conservatives by drawing parallels between government expansion under President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s and Mr Obama's administration. "Reagan saw the dangers in LBJ's Great Society," Mrs Palin said. "He refused to sit down and be silent as our liberties were eroded by an out-of-control centralised government that overtaxed and overreached in utter disregard of constitutional limits."

Mrs Palin spoke on Friday night to about 200 people at a banquet of the Young America's Foundation, a group that owns Rancho del Cielo, which served as the Western White House in the Reagan administration.

She reprised themes of Mr Reagan's 1964 speech "A Time for Choosing," which he gave two years before being elected governor of California. She reminded her audience that he, too, was "mocked, ridiculed and criticised" before his conservative vision became accepted Republican doctrine. But she stopped short of casting herself explicitly as his heir.

"No, there isn't one replacement for Reagan, but there are millions who believe in the great ideas that he espoused," Mrs Palin said. "There's a whole army of patriotic Davids out there, across this great country, ready to stand up and to speak out in defence of liberty."



January's Unemployment Report Was A Snow Job

The January employment report was a complete snow job. Abominable winter blizzards across the country caused 886,000 workers to report “not at work due to bad weather,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is 600,000 more than the normal 300,000 not at work for the average January of the past decade.

So the bad weather has distorted the numbers. The actual 36,000 increase in nonfarm payrolls and the 50,000 gain in private payrolls really don’t have a snowball’s chance at being accurate. The 1 million people in January who wanted a job but didn’t look for one because of “other” reasons hints again at the bad-weather distortion. So does the 4.9 million jump in the part-time workforce.

As for the 9 percent unemployment rate, it’s not likely to last as more people are recorded reentering the labor force in the months ahead. The household employment survey (on which the unemployment rate is based) increased 117,000 in January, following a near 300,000 gain in December.

On the plus side (if anything can be believed in these numbers), average hourly earnings increased by four-tenths of 1 percent -- a much bigger gain than in recent months. Over the past year, wages are rising 1.9 percent.

But here’s a key point: Manufacturing jobs in January rose by nearly 50,000. That’s consistent with the blowout ISM manufacturing report for January published a few days ago. Manufacturing has been the biggest surprise in the recovery. Additionally, the ISM non-manufacturing services report was also gangbusters for January.

These reports are more accurate and more significant than today’s jobs calculation. And if you piece them together with record-breaking profits, which are the mother’s milk for stocks, business, and the whole economy, it’s hard not to conclude that the pace of recovery is actually picking up steam -- despite the lackluster jobs performance.

The downside of the upside is mounting inflation pressure. Both ISM reports registered very strong prices paid. Those outsized price increases are picking up the huge commodity-price increases that Ben Bernanke continues to ignore.

Bond-market rates have moved up to 3.64 percent for the 10-year Treasury and 4.73 percent for the 30-year. Those rising yields are signaling inflationary growth. Along with soaring commodity prices, the abnormally steep Treasury yield curve is signaling the Fed to stop creating new dollars with its QE2 pump-priming.

Right now, stronger economic growth, higher profits, and rising inflation continue to help the stock market, which actually increased today after the weird jobs report. But the risk here is that reported inflation for the CPI may rise faster than anyone thinks. And that could take a bite out of stocks and the recovery.



The NYT has a glass jaw

Leftists can't cope with being told that they are wrong (rage is the normal response) so we must not be too surprised to hear that the NYT "Letters to the Editor" policy is that you can't say that they are wrong

A colleague of mine at Mayer Brown — Andy Pincus, generally a liberal fellow and a big fan of the New York Times — reported to me an interesting fact about the New York Times letter-to-the-editor policy, and I thought it was worth mentioning.

Pincus represents the petitioner in AT&T v. Concepcion, a pending Supreme Court case regarding the Federal Arbitration Act. The question in the case is whether it violates the Act for California to refuse to enforce arbitration clauses that don’t permit either class arbitrations or class actions in court, but include incentives that help plaintiffs vindicate their own individual claims. (The briefs are here.)

Three weeks after oral argument, the New York Times editorialized against Pincus’s position, and asserted that “courts applying law of at least 19 other states have reached the same conclusion as California, including five federal appeals courts.” Pincus and his co-counsel sent a letter to the editor addressing this and other statements in the editorial (complying with the Times’ 150-word limit). Two sentences read:

"The Times is just wrong in asserting that 19 states ruled arbitration agreements like AT&T’s unenforceable. Courts in six of those states upheld AT&T’s provision; courts in four others upheld agreements less fair than AT&T’s"

A week passed with no response. In the meantime, the Times published a letter from counsel for the other side expressly agreeing with the editorial (“As your editorial correctly explains ....”). Still, no opposing views appeared. Then the Times did get back to Pincus, asking for approval of an edited version of the above sentences:

"You assert that 19 states ruled arbitration agreements like AT&T’s unenforceable. Courts in six of those states upheld AT&T’s provision; courts in four others upheld agreements less fair than AT&T’s."

This revision deleted the statement that the Times was wrong in its interpretation of the views of 19 States on the issue. Pincus responded that the revision was unacceptable and suggested a slight modification to soften the sentence in question (substituting “The Times incorrectly asserts” for “The Times is just wrong”).

The Times: “We cannot say ‘incorrectly’ because that is the province of corrections, in which case I would forward the letter to the corrections editor and it could not be considered as a letter. We prefer to consider your letter a clarification on the editorial. OK to go with what I sent?”

Pincus: “Our letter’s key point is that the editorial was wrong in what it said about the cases. I’m happy to think about other ways to say that — but it is the key point.” Too bad, said the Times: “In that case, I think you should forward the letter to Carla Robbins, the deputy editorial page editor, for possible correction. We won’t be able to consider it as a letter.” And that was that.

Pincus didn’t seek a “correction” because it seems unlikely that the Times would have issued a correction with regard to matters of opinion about interpreting judicial opinions (and of course corrections appear in a generally little-read section; letters to the editor appear on the editorial page). He wanted to argue to readers that the Times was wrong, not persuade the corrections editor of that (since such persuasion was highly unlikely). Yet the Times policy appears to say that such arguments that the Times is wrong are off-limits to the editorial page.

Now the Times is of course entirely free to publish or not publish any letter to the editor it wishes; and naturally, it can publish only a small fraction of those it receives. Still, it seems to me that a “no saying we’re wrong” policy with regard to letters to the editor is not a wise exercise of editorial judgment. And in any case, readers might find it useful to know that this is indeed the Times policy.




The real Reagan rises: "Martin Anderson works in an ivory tower -- literally. From high above Stanford University's Hoover Institution, Anderson contemplates Ronald Reagan's legacy as his centennial arrives on Feb. 6. Asked if he thinks Reagan's stature has risen since he left office in 1989, Anderson says, 'I don't just think so. I know so.' Reagan's reputation has grown, largely thanks to the scholarship of Anderson and his wife, Annelise, both former Reagan aides and Hoover colleagues of mine."

Go down, pharaoh: "What a pathetic old brute Hosni Mubarak has become. Here he is telling ABC that he'd love to give up power, really he would, but he's afraid Egypt would collapse into chaos without his steady hand at the wheel. Meanwhile, the country has been doing a pretty good job of keeping order while Mubarak's state withers away, as neighbors band together to direct traffic, clean the streets, treat the wounded, and protect lives and property. It's Mubarak and his mobs who have been the fountainhead of chaos: Again and again, protesters have captured a looter, a vandal, or a stone-throwing, machete-wielding goon, only to discover he was carrying police ID."

There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.


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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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