America in decline under Obama
Over the Fourth of July weekend, many Americans take some time out to think about their country. This year, those thoughts might not be as festive as in the past because the United States is in decline.
A new Associated Press poll says that 80 percent of Americans believe the economy is in bad shape, and they are correct. With each passing hour, America's $14.4 trillion debt rises with no end in sight. Tight money has crippled the housing industry, and Wall Street's lack of confidence in the Obama administration is retarding business expansion. Thus, fewer jobs are being created in the private marketplace.
Washington has not been able to stem the grim economic tide because of ideology. The president and most Democrats believe more government control of the economy and higher taxes on the affluent will improve the situation. Republicans are demanding smaller government, no tax increases and less federal regulation. The stalemate is hurting the folks, no question about it.
A poor economic outlook erodes power, both personal and governmental. One of the reasons President Obama cited for "drawing down" troops in Afghanistan was economic. He wants to spend more money at home in lieu of nation building in Afghanistan. That may be a good thing, but it is not a strong thing. A cash-strapped America spells weakness to the rest of the world.
On the cultural front, things are also going downhill. Millions of Americans are now addicted to the Internet, spending countless hours playing games and twittering their lives away. What was first envisioned as technological recreation has now become a lifestyle for many, especially younger people. The machines are dominating lives, leaving little time to explore the real world and develop offline relationships.
On the entertainment front, cheap reality TV programs showcase the worst of human nature. Crude displays, greed, narcissism and sadistic impulses are all celebrated nightly on the tube. Where once the country appreciated great writers like Hemingway and Twain, now people like Snooki are being paid tens of thousands of dollars to speak on college campuses. "The Situation" is right. There is a situation. And it's appalling.
Obama often laments the growing gap between the rich and the rest of America. And it's true. A fortunate few are able to ride capitalism to the extreme, living lives of incredible luxury. But there is also a growing cultural divide. The masses are being fed electronic garbage 24/7 in the form of hostile music, gross-out movies and the aforementioned reality TV atrocities. Meanwhile, a select few are being intensely educated at amazingly expensive high-end universities. They will be the future Masters of the Universe. Most other Americans will just get by.
This depressing scenario is not how a nation expands its power. America became the most powerful country on earth because its people pulled together economically and fought worldwide to create freedom and dignity for those less fortunate.
Now, we are running out of money to fight the good fights, and we are fracturing along class lines. This is not what the United States should be. E pluribus unum? Not this Fourth of July.
Self-Deception about the Jihadists
“All warfare is based upon deception,” instructed Sun Tzu, the great Chinese military strategist of the 6th Century B.C. But when it comes to the Global Jihad of the 21st Century, the extent to which we in the West insist upon deceiving ourselves would shock even Sunny. Five brief examples follow.
1: Yonathan Melaku was charged in federal court with shooting at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. The officials who arrested him later searched his home and found a videotape in which he is shouting “Allahu Akbar!” They also found a notebook in which he’d written about Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, the Taliban and “The Path to Jihad,” a book of lectures by Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born Islamic cleric who was widely considered a moderate before he fled to Yemen where he is now a top al-Qaeda commander.
So it’s pretty obvious what Melaku was up, right? Not if you’re a federal employee, it’s not. “I can’t suggest to you his motivations or intent,” James W. McJunkin, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office told reporters at a news conference. “It’s not readily apparent yet.”
Many in the mainstream media also expressed befuddlement. A Washington Post story carried the headline: “Pentagon Shooting Subject Not Known to Law Enforcement.” (Really? That’s the news here?) The article told readers that “a motive for the shootings — and why Melaku had possible bombmaking materials — remains elusive.” So does that mean we can’t rule out a crime of passion -- or a paint ball competition that got out of hand?
To be fair, if you read to the very end of the story you will learn that it has occurred to some law enforcement officials that Melaku’s “writings and the contents of his laptop” might “indicate a desire to be involved in jihad.” Ya think? And not jihad in the sense of a struggle for individual self-fulfillment?
2: A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column arguing that there was no evidence to support the mainstream media narrative that Muslims in America face increasing discrimination and persecution – as do, for example, religious and ethnic minorities in most Muslim-majority countries, a situation the mainstream media assiduously avoid. I received many angry letters in response. My favorite included three newspaper stories meant to prove I was wrong.
The first cited a poll showing that a majority of Americans “believe that Muslims face more discrimination than any other religious group in the U.S.” Well, yes, that has to be expected given the decade-long media campaign to establish this meme. The next was a piece by liberal commentator Alan Colmes headlined, “Growing Bias Against Muslims in America” and citing rising “claims of bias against Muslims in the workplace.” It, too, offered no proof -- or even evidence -- that such claims are justified by facts.
Finally, there was a story about Muslims in North Carolina who, following the terrorist attacks carried out by Lashkar-e-Taiba in Mumbai, India, received an email saying that “such violent acts wouldn't intimidate people, but only make them stronger.”
"I was furious," Motaz Elshafi, an American-born Muslim who received such a note told USA Today. He had a right to be. The email he received – though by no means threatening -- was misdirected. Nevertheless, one might have hoped Elshafi would mention that he was at least equally furious with those who slaughter innocent men, women and children based on their reading of his religion.
3: The term “conscientious objector” used to refer to those who sought exemption from military duty because their religious beliefs prohibited their use of violence. But, as Patrick Poole has reported, in May the Secretary of the Army granted conscientious objector status to a soldier – a volunteer -- who refused to deploy to Afghanistan. PFC Nasser Abdo claimed that sharia, Islamic law, prohibits him not from killing anyone, but only from killing fellow Muslims -- including, apparently, “violent extremists” who join the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
“I don’t believe I can involve myself in an army that wages war against Muslims,” Abdo told al-Jazeera. “I don’t believe I could sleep at night if I take part, in any way, in the killing of Muslims.”
Imagine if, in 1942, a PFC Helmut Shultz had said: “I don’t believe I could sleep at night if I take part, in any way, in the killing of Germans.” You think he would have been called a conscientious objector and sent merrily on his way?
4: A few days ago, the regime that rules Iran, designated by the U.S. State Department as the world’s most active state sponsor of terrorism, held what it called the First International Conference on the Global Fight against Terrorism. The U.S. and Israel were singled out as “satanic world powers” with a “black record of terrorist behaviors.” This should have been the subject of scorn and ridicule from the “international community.” But senior officials from at least 60 countries attended and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivered a message via special envoy expressing his appreciation to Tehran. Apparently he was not bothered by the fact that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, indicted for genocide by the International Criminal Court, was among those attending. Don’t worry: American taxpayer support for the UN is not in jeopardy.
5: Yale University has decided to shut down the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA) following protests – for example from the Palestine Liberation Organization’s representative to the United States -- that studying the rise of Jew-hatred in the Muslim world is by definition “racist” and “right-wing.” Meanwhile, the Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project (IRDP) at the University of California at Berkeley continues to receive funding and support.
A few years ago, Andy McCarthy wrote “Willful Blindness,” a book about political leaders, academics, journalists and others refusing to see the jihadi threat staring America in the face. But we’ve now gone well beyond that. The examples above – and I could cite many more -- have to be seen as determined self-deception, if not symptoms of madness. I’m pretty sure Sun Tzu would agree.
Doom postponed: American Farmers Deliver the goods
Grain futures are sharply lower across the board as traders had positioned themselves for shortages because of Midwest flooding and increasing demand from emerging markets and China. Instead, corn stocks were 11 percent bigger than analysts expected and a bumper crop could be on the way according to the report.
The U.S. corn supply is far larger than thought and a bumper crop could be on the way, the Agriculture Department said on Thursday in a report that shocked traders and shoved grain markets sharply lower.
Farmers defied expectations by planting significantly more corn acres despite rain and floods, and sky-high prices curbed demand which left June 1 stockpiles 11 percent larger than traders had predicted.
The dramatic turnaround from fears of bare-bones supplies could signal comfortable supply levels for the coming year and ease fears about high world food prices.
"American producers stepped up," [USDA's] Vilsack told Reuters Insider.
Red-hot demand from corn exporters, livestock feeders and processors had been expected to consume every bushel grown in 2010 and eat into reserves, but the higher stocks number was a sign that demand has been rationed.
"We planted more acres than the trade had thought earlier in the year because we sent the signal to plant," said analyst Don Roose of U.S. Commodities. "The other thing was, we did find a way to slow down usage."
The USDA said the corn stockpile was 3.67 billion bushels on June 1, and it pegged plantings at 92.28 million acres. With normal weather and yields, a record-large crop could be harvested.
The soybean stockpile was 4 percent larger than anticipated by analysts, although plantings were 2 percent smaller. The soybean crop would still be the third-largest on record, but supplies are expected to run tight for another year.
Wheat stocks were 4 percent larger than traders expected and plantings were down marginally.
The USDA reports imply that corn growers would harvest 13.5 billion bushels of corn, which would be a record, and 3.2 billion bushels of soybeans, which would be the third-largest on record. Both estimates are Reuters' calculations and assume normal weather conditions and yields.
A mammoth crop would fatten the corn stockpile to nearly 1 billion bushels, but soybeans would run tight through fall 2012.
Another red herring from Obama
President Obama's core message in his Wednesday press conference, his first since March, could be found in his advice to Republicans. "You go talk to your constituents and ask them, 'Are you willing to compromise your kids' safety so some corporate-jet owner can get a tax break?'"
This was just one of six shots the president took at corporate-jet owners. A novice might be forgiven for thinking that the president really doesn't like corporate jets or that the Republicans cared so much about the darn things that they had proposed crossing out "arms" in the Second Amendment and replacing it with "corporate jets." Where's Charlton Heston to proclaim, "From my cold dead hands you can have my Learjet 85..."?
A novice might also think that tax status of corporate jets is of disproportionate significance in how to move this country toward a balanced budget.
But the novice would be wrong. For starters, Obama's most recent budget calls for adding $9.5 trillion in new debt over the next decade. If you got rid of the "accelerated depreciation" of corporate jets, Reuters economics columnist James Pethokoukis calculates, it would save a whopping .03 percent of that total.
Sadly, the room was full of journalists who do not consider themselves novices but who nonetheless let Obama get away with this demagogic dishonesty. No one asked the president why he suddenly cares so much about getting rid of a tax break he himself was for before he was against it. Indeed, no one asked why, if it is such an affront to the liberal conscience, it was part of Obama's stimulus bill, which was passed without any Republican votes in the House and only three in the Senate (which means Nancy Pelosi voted for special tax breaks for corporate jets and the GOP didn't).
More broadly, no one threw a flag on his claim that "every single observer who's not an elected official, who's not a politician," agrees with him on the burning need to raise taxes as part of any budget deal. This is a good example of Obama's most grating tic, his need to claim that all reasonable and serious people agree with him and anyone who disagrees must be doing so for base or ideological motives.
No one queried why he talks about the need to raise taxes on "millionaires and billionaires" but the fine print of his proposals defines millionaires and billionaires as people who make $200,000 a year as individuals or $250,000 as joint-filing couples. Jay Duckson at Central Business Jets tells the Wall Street Journal that the starting price for a private jet is $10 million dollars. Annual upkeep and fuel is about $500,000. You do the math.
This points to what is most offensive about Obama's focus-grouped class warfare rhetoric: the total incoherence of the underlying policies.
The day before his press conference, Obama was in Bettendorf, Iowa at the Alcoa Davenport Works plant to highlight his economic vision for manufacturing. "Alcoa is showing us the future we can build here in eastern Iowa and across the country," he proclaimed.
"The idea is to create jobs now, and to make sure America stays on the cutting edge of manufacturing for years to come," Obama declared.
The factory Obama visited, however, isn't a generic aluminum plant. It is, according to Alcoa, the "premier aerospace supply plant and is today the hub of Alcoa's $3 billion aerospace business."
That includes the general aviation industry, which is centered in Wichita, Kan., where they make private jets "right here in America" as Obama likes to say. The upshot: Obama says that Alcoa must lose business among American customers to repeal a tax break Obama and the Democrats supported because Republicans want to balance the budget.
To be fair, Alcoa's biggest customers aren't manufacturers of private jets but the big manufacturers of commercial jets -- you know, like Boeing. Well, that company is being told by Obama's union-hack-packed National Labor Relations Board that it cannot open a new manufacturing plant in South Carolina, because to do so would offend Obama's beloved unions in Washington State.
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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)