Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Democrats: A Superior Claim to Rule

"Nietzsche--a man with a superiority complex if ever there was one--believed that all of Christianity was founded on a reverse superiority claim . . . exalting the poor and pitiable in order to destroy aristocratic civilization, ultimately replacing it with modern democracy and the equality of all mankind."

--Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld, The Triple Package (p. 182)

When I quoted the above passage earlier, something bothered me. How does one talk of superiority and equality in the same breath? And the answer bothers me even more: our intellectual elite has no problem linking equality and superiority. These elite preach equality--as in Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité--every day, the equality of results sought by leaders who seek power by using government to move toward equality as a distant goal, the "end of the rainbow" goal that's their communist-like nirvana (“to each, according to his needs”).  The end--never reached--justifies the means, eternal power.

The Leninist state--an autocratic elite ruling on behalf of the people--was modeled on Plato’s Republic, which also provided the structure of the Catholic Church’s hierarchy. So it’s not really surprising that liberal commentator Brent Budowsky, writing in the Hill, tells us:
Pope Francis [is] a voice for our generation and all generations who teaches, as all great faiths teach, that those who have the most should extend their hands to those who have the least and that those who have power should serve those who do not.
Pope Francis
Like the Church, like good Leninists, Budowsky believes in his heart that superior people should have the power to bring good to the less fortunate. And he’s delighted to find the head of the supposedly highly-illiberal Catholic Church thinking as a liberal Democrat.  Don't believe me?  Note that Budowsky goes on to say:
I would suggest the following: There is a Ready for Hillary movement, a Ready for Elizabeth [Warren] movement and, more profoundly, a Ready for Pope Francis movement that is American and global.
Linking Hillary, and Elizabeth--Democrats--to the Pope, a bond of superior people acting on behalf of the less fortunate.  It’s Budowsky's dream 2015 Democratic Party.

Wherever the Pope truly belongs, in America it's Democrats who control the intellectual high ground.  Here’s conservative Jonah Goldberg, in the National Review, explaining why when conservatives make mistakes it’s horrible, but not when similar mistakes come from liberals:
If you work from the dogmatic assumption that liberalism is morally infallible and that liberals are, by definition, pitted against sinister and — more importantly — powerful forces, then it’s easy to explain away what seem like double standards. Any lapse, error, or transgression by conservatives is evidence of their real nature, while similar lapses, errors, and transgressions by liberals are trivial when balanced against the fact that their hearts are in the right place.
Despite controlling the commanding heights of the culture — journalism, Hollywood, the arts, academia, and vast swaths of the corporate America they denounce — liberals have convinced themselves they are pitted against deeply entrenched powerful forces and that being a liberal is somehow brave.
And if you thought Democrats may in fact have to be brave, since they lost the midterm elections less than two months ago, you could be wrong. The president doesn’t seem to think he lost.

Conservative Byron York, in the Washington Examiner, reveals how the president plans to keep his grip on the nation’s agenda:
In his [just released] NPR interview, the president looked back on his unilateral actions of the past year and promised more. "I said at the beginning of this year that 2014 would be a breakthrough year," Obama said. "And it was. . .”
the standard for overriding a presidential veto — a two-thirds vote in House and Senate — could become the only limit Obama observes in the next couple of years. For example, Obama takes executive action X. Republican lawmakers, along with some moderate Democrats, oppose X. They pass a bill repealing X with a 60-vote, filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Obama vetoes the bill, preserving his executive action. At that point, opponents would have to muster 67 votes to override the veto. That's a very, very tough hill to climb. As long as Obama can get 34 Democrats to support him in the Senate, his executive action will stand.
Another way of putting it is that Obama will be able to do anything at least 34 Senate Democrats will let him get away with.
In my view, Obama’s approach could be dangerous for his party. Once you set out to please the 34 most liberal Democrats, you can cost your party the next election. It happened before, in 1998-2000.

When Republicans used the 1998 Monica Lewinsky Scandal to threaten Bill Clinton with impeachment unless he resigned, Clinton instead fell back on the Constitution's requirement that in order to remove a president from office, 67 senators would have to convict him. Clinton understood he had only to keep the support of the 34 most liberal Democratic senators. So his politics played for the most liberal 34.

In the 2000 election, America was at peace, was prosperous, and the government was performing so well it recorded a surplus. The circumstances almost dictated that Clinton’s vice president, Al Gore, would be the next president. It didn’t happen because Clinton kept his scandal before voters for three whole years, which did cost Gore moderate votes. Clinton, instead of resigning in favor of Gore, relied on the support of his most liberal 34 senators to hang onto office.

I see the Democrats making a similar mistake under Obama. Conservative Robert Tracinski, writing in the “Federalist,” also believes Democrats are blinded to the dangers that lie ahead for them:
I don’t think the Democratic Party is really going to die quite yet[, for it] still enjoys so many reserves of support in the universities, in the media, and in the entertainment industry. It’s also because political parties have a tendency to eventually adapt and change the way they present themselves to voters (as Bill Clinton briefly did for Democrats in [1992-97]).
As for those reserves of support in big institutions, I suspect that the left has achieved such a high degree of saturation, particularly in Hollywood and the universities, that they have reached the point of diminishing returns. Any reversion to the mean—the current situation is by no means normal by historical standards—and the left risks losing these commanding heights of the culture.
It’s a lot harder to tack back to the center when all of your politicians represent urban, coastal districts with far-left constituents. Inside this far-left bubble, your rising political stars are rewarded for taking positions that antagonize the rest of the country while pandering to the sensibilities of the far left. . . by doubling down on contempt for the South and for traditional American values, Democrats accelerate the exodus of their old blue-collar base in the cities.
In any case, we know the left is still powerful in America today, and willing to use power to preserve its high standing.  As former liberal Walter Russell Mead reminds us in the American Interest:
liberals are struggling to come to grips with . . . the enormous gap between the dominant ideas and discourse in the liberal worlds of journalism, the foundations, and the academy on the one hand, and the wider realities of American life on the other. Within the magic circle, liberal ideas have never been more firmly entrenched and less contested. Increasingly, liberals live in a world in which certain ideas are becoming ever more axiomatic and unquestioned even if, outside the walls, those same ideas often seem outlandish.
Modern American liberalism does its best to suppress dissent and critique at the institutions and milieus that it controls. Dissent is not only misguided; it is morally wrong. Bad thoughts create bad actions, and so the heretics must be silenced or expelled. “Hurtful” speech is not allowed, and so the eccentricities of conventional liberal piety pile up into ever more improbable, ever more unsustainable forms.
To openly support “torture”, for example, is close to unthinkable in the academy or in the world of serious journalism. . . [But while t]he left silenced and banished critics; it didn’t convert or refute them.
Outside the “magic circle,” America looks more like the country that elected unprecedented numbers of Republicans in November.

“Unbroken” defies critics’ usual rejection of faith-based movies.

Jack O'Connell as "Louie" Zamperini
Hollywood doesn’t like faith-based movies, punishing them with low ratings. Christianity’s values aren’t Hollywood’s, and Christians in Hollywood’s eyes are anti-gay, anti-minority, anti-Jewish, anti-feminist bigots.

So the box office success of "Unbroken,” made from the runaway best-selling book of the same name, emerges as somewhat of a surprise, even though the Angelina Jolie-directed film itself doesn’t mention Christ.

From “HITFIX”:
Based on the epic true story of Louis Zamperini, [“Unbroken”] pulled in $15.5 million on Christmas. . . a tremendous start.  "Unbroken" features no recognizable actors and had largely mixed to negative reviews.  It earned just a 59 on Metacritic and a "rotten" 49% on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences didn't seem to care as they gave it an A- Cinemascore.  It also appears faith based audiences took to the picture.  After his experiences in WWII, Zamperini became an inspirational speaker after attending a Billy Graham crusade. This part of his life isn't discussed in "Unbroken," but there are numerous references to God granting him strength on his journey which may [have] helped Universal's faith-based marketing efforts. If the film continues to perform close to this level through the holidays it could make back its reported $65 million budget by New Year's Day. That sort of success could make a shaky Oscar nomination for best picture a much more realistic endeavor. [emphasis added]
“Unbroken’s” gross reached $46 million by December 28, so it does seem likely to make back its $65 million budget soon. 
Voight and Fonda with Oscars

Another problem with “Unbroken” from Hollywood’s perspective: it’s patriotic, a positive story about an American military hero, a throwback to a much earlier era, long before the anti-war “Coming Home” (1978), starring Jane Fonda and Angelina Jolie’s dad, Jon Voight.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Meaningless Poll for 2016 GOP Nomination

According to the latest CNN poll, Christie is #2, but Rubio trails in 6th place, in single digits at 5%. Still, throw out Carson, Huckabee, and Ryan, and Rubio’s alone at #4 behind Bush, Christie, and Paul (with Paul ahead of Rubio by just 1%). Several others follow at 4%.

Bush, Christie, Rubio, and Jindal boosted their numbers from November; the rest didn’t.

Bush                              23
Christie                         13
Carson                            7
Paul                                6
Huckabee                       6
Ryan                               5
Rubio                             5

Meaningful Statistics

From Robert Samuelson, who comments on the economy at the Washington Post:

-- In 2013, more than 40% of American births were to unmarried mothers for the sixth consecutive year. (In 1997, the share was 32%.)

-- First-year enrollment in law schools has dropped 30% in four years, falling from 52,488 to 37,924;  the lowest level since 1973.

-- On average, children run a mile 90 seconds slower than their counterparts 30 years ago.

-- The median amount of student borrowing to pay for college -- adjusted for inflation -- has doubled in the past two decades to about $27,000.

-- The suicide rate for Americans 45 to 64 rose 40 percent from 1999 to 2011, making this group more suicide-prone than the young or old.

-- U.S. health spending remained at 17.4% of the economy (GDP) for five years, from 2009 to 2013. (Since 1960, there's been one comparable period. From 1993 to 2000, spending stabilized at 13.4% of GDP.)

Comment: The real impact of Obamacare is just now beginning to be felt--we can't tell much from looking at 2013.   Still, the fact that health spending was holding steady is a positive development.  All the other listed stats encourage negative conclusions, except we probably should welcome less lawyers entering the workforce.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Another Day, Another Wall St. Record

The Dow industrials hit a new record high of 18,054 today as the S&P 500 notched up its 52nd record close of the year--an average of one a week.  Today's S&P 500 finished at 2,089, while the NASDAQ reached 4,807--only 193 below 5,000 and near its crazy bubble high of 5,047, hit in 2000. The three indexes total 24,950, their new combined all-time high.

The New Fox Index captures movement into stock market “outer space” first achieved in May 2013, the escape velocity attained by soaring past old-time market theoretical limits of a Dow of 15,000, an S&P 500 of 1,600, and a NASDAQ of 3,500, for a total of 20,100. We keep pushing further into deep space, now touching +4,850 (see inset).

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Faith and Work

Amy Chua (Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother) and author-husband Jed Rubenfeld in their book The Triple Package wrote this, to me, significant passage:
Nietzsche--a man with a superiority complex if ever there was one--believed that all of Christianity was founded on a reverse superiority claim . . . exalting the poor and pitiable in order to destroy aristocratic civilization, ultimately replacing it with modern democracy and the equality of all mankind. (p. 182)
If Nietzsche was right, Christianity--especially Protestantism in the 16th through 19th centuries--helped separate the aristocracy from their subjects, aiding the bourgeoise and launching democratic revolutions. Faith in various forms underpins a value system of hard work, discipline, and postponement of gratification that any healthy democracy would seem to want.

In life, New York Timesman David Brooks writes, we experience “out of body” moments of such sheer beauty they help us realize we are but one small piece of something far grander; moments that draw us toward faith, love, a positive natural order. These moments are extremely important.

Yet Brooks emphasizes that
the main business of faith [is] living attentively every day. The faithful are trying to live in ways their creator loves. They are trying to turn moments of spontaneous consciousness into an ethos of strict conscience. They are using effervescent sensations of holiness to inspire concrete habits, moral practices and practical ways of living well.
Brooks quotes Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik to argue that living faith is an arduous task:
The pangs of searching and groping, the tortures of spiritual crises and exhausting treks of the soul purify and sanctify man, cleanse his thoughts, and purge them of the husks of superficiality and the dross of vulgarity. Out of these torments there emerges a new understanding of the world, a powerful spiritual enthusiasm that shakes the very foundations of man’s existence.
The discipline associated with faith is certainly a part of life for many who successfully reach the top, whether they believe in some god or an environmental consciousness that demands lifestyle rigor.

And faith or lack of it, as conservatives such as Charles Murray argue, helps explain the current gap between professional and lower class households. Another conservative, New York Timesman Ross Douthat, in fact tells us that
We may have a culture in which the working class is encouraged to imitate what are sold as key upper-class values — sexual permissiveness and self-fashioning, spirituality and emotivism — when really the upper class is also held together by a kind of secret traditionalism, without whose binding power family life ends up coming apart even faster.
The split between the values our national elite seems to advocate--a permissive “do what feels good”--and the hard work elite parents ask of their children is mirrored in the contrasting sell-buy perspectives that underpin free enterprise. Entrepreneurs rely on the most base forms of marketing to meet popular desires for instant gratification, but the “sell” side of those transactions calls for planning and hard work.

The same goes for the dichotomy between serious politicians on one hand, and the crude messaging to which they expect voters will respond on the other.  It's as if the elite truly believe “A sucker is born every minute.”

American democracy would be better off if we instead shared the upper class’s actual high valuation of work, discipline, and postponement of gratification--characteristics faith once underpinned.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Beautiful Stock-market Christmas Rally, Murkier Reality Below

The Dow industrials closed above 18,000 for the first time ever and the S&P 500 notched up its 51st record close of the year.  Today's surge to record highs comes after the government's strong report on GDP, up in the 3rd Quarter to an annualized 5% rate.   The result: a Dow at 18,024, an S&P 500 at 2,082, along with a NASDAQ (down 16) still at 4,765--only 235 below 5,000, near its insane high reached during the bubble of 2000. The three indexes total 24,871, and only because of today’s NASDAQ drop, are still 10 points below the combined all-time high for the three of 2,881.

The New Fox Index captures movement into stock market “outer space” first reached in May 2013, the escape velocity attained by soaring past old-time market theoretical limits of a Dow of 15,000, an S&P 500 of 1,600, and a NASDAQ of 3,500, for a total of 20,100. We are now shooting farther into deep space, way out at +4,771 (see inset).

According to “MarketWatch’s” David Weidner,
it’s been a good year. . .the S&P 500 Index has risen 12%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average could finish up close to 8% for the same period, and the Nasdaq should end the year with roughly a 14% return. Considering the past two years of gains, 2014’s run is even more remarkable. In the past five years, the S&P 500 is up 87%, the Dow, 73%, the Nasdaq, 115%.
Weidner, however, reminds us that
median household net worth [is] $81,200, a level that’s actually fallen 2% since 2010. This year household debt has risen between 2.3% and 3.4% each quarter, the most since 2007. . . The current average debt load for the U.S. household is $203,067, including credit cards (up 2.2% in the past 12 months), mortgages and student loans[, pointing] to a stagnation for most Americans. . . [T]he labor-participation rate remains 62.8%, the lowest since 1978. And among the working-age population, it’s just 59.2%. Wages, meanwhile, have risen 2.1% during the past 12 months, but that's just slightly above the 1.7% inflation rate during the same period.
Weren’t the “Roaring ‘20s” about an economy marked by technological progress, rampant inequality, a bubble stock market, and some basic economic weakness at home (then in agriculture, today in manufacturing), against a backdrop of unfixed trade issues and rising unrest abroad?

“Everyone's Looking Up, but Should Be Looking Down”

Friday, December 19, 2014

Who will be president in 2016?

Democrats will nominate a woman, either Hillary or Elizabeth Warren. Republicans are supposed to nominate Jeb Bush. But after losing with establishment candidates McCain and Romney--both favorites to win the nomination in advance of 2008 and 2012--the party will reject conventional wisdom in 2016 in favor of a possible winner.

I suspect Marco Rubio will sense Bush’s weakness and run, even though it may cost Rubio his senate seat, which is also up in 2016 (he must file by May 6, after most presidential primaries are over). Rand Paul will be the conservative threat, ahead of Ted Cruz. Paul Ryan won’t run. So Rubio and Rand Paul will be the Washington candidates, with both handicapped by coming from Washington.

I think that Chris Christie and Scott Walker will be the leading governor candidates. I can’t measure any Rick Perry recovery from the Texas governor’s disastrous 2012 campaign.

Christie, 52, benefits from being charismatic, a Catholic, and potentially our first ethnic president (he’s 1/2 Italian). Christie’s problem is New Jersey’s not doing so well--6.4% unemployment against a national rate of 5.8%, 4.9% for Texas (Perry) and 5.2% for Wisconsin (Walker). Job growth since 2010--New Jersey, 4.6%; U.S., 6.3%; Wisconsin, 6.8%; Texas, 17.3%.

On the other hand, New Jersey is the third richest state with a median household income of $67,500 as against Wisconsin’s $50,400 and Texas’ $49,400. If Christie can make progress in New Jersey in 2015, he could win the nomination in 2016. Democrats have identified Christie as a leading threat, and constant media attacks on Christie help him with the GOP base.

Walker, 47, is the son of a Baptist preacher. Being an evangelical Protestant limits his appeal beyond the GOP base. Of course, the unions hate Walker and his union-busting Wisconsin record. That wins big points with Republicans and will fuel his drive for the nomination.

How much is Walker handicapped by his being a college drop-out? He left Marquette University in May 1990, 34 units short of graduation. At the time, he had a full-time job with the American Red Cross, Greater Milwaukee Chapter. He then ran for a Milwaukee State Assembly seat in 1990 and lost, then won a State Assembly (suburban Wauwatosa) special election in 1993, age 25. I think Walker gets past his drop-out record if he doesn’t let it bother him (which it has in the past). He moved on to politics the way college dropouts Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg moved on to computer triumphs.

Watch Christie and Rubio. We’ve been watching them for years.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Stocks Skyrocket, Most Left Behind, Especially Men

The Dow is up 709 points in two days to 17,778, its biggest two-day jump in over 6 years. The S&P 500--at 2,061--is near its record high, after leaping over 2% for two days in a row, something that last happened in 2002. A NASDAQ of 4,748 is close to the 5,000 level last seen in 2000. It all adds up to a total of 24,587, approaching the 2014 combined highs for the three indexes of 24,881.

The New Fox Index captures movement into stock market “outer space” first reached in May 2013, the escape velocity attained by soaring past old-time market theoretical limits of a Dow of 15,000, an S&P 500 of 1,600, and a NASDAQ of 3,500, for a total of 20,100. We are in deep space now, at +4,487 (see inset).

Of course, as the Washington Post’s Jim Tankersley has written,
the stock market is soaring, the unemployment rate is finally retreating after the Great Recession and the economy added 321,000 jobs last month. But all that growth has done nothing to boost pay for the typical American worker. Average wages haven’t risen over the last year, after adjusting for inflation. Real household median income is still lower than it was when the recession ended. Make no mistake: The American middle class is in trouble. . . over the past 25 years, the economy has grown 83%, after adjusting for inflation — and the typical family’s income hasn’t budged.
With the election over, the mainstream media is beginning to look hard at what’s going wrong with today’s American economy. In the New York Times, Binyamin Appelbaum has provided his paper’s detailed examination of the 10 million unemployed American men aged 25 to 54. Appelbaum finds:
  •  it has become harder for men to find higher-paying jobs. Foreign competition and technological advances have eliminated many of the jobs in which high school graduates . . . once could earn $40 an hour, or more. . .85% of prime-age men without jobs do not have bachelor’s degrees. And 34% said they had criminal records, making it hard to find any work. 
  • there are only 4.8 million job openings for men and women of all ages.
  • Almost half of those who did not seek work in the last year said they wanted to work. [Yet m]any men. . . have decided that low-wage work will not improve their lives, in part because [of] the availability of federal disability benefits; the decline of marriage, which means fewer men provide for children; and the rise of the Internet, which has reduced the isolation of unemployment. 
  • For most unemployed men, life without work is not easy. . . 30% had used food stamps, while 33% said they had taken food from a nonprofit or religious group. They are unhappy to be out of work and eager to find new jobs. They are struggling both with the loss of income and a loss of dignity. Their mental and physical health is suffering. Yet 44% . . . said there were jobs in their area they could get but were not willing to take. 
  • Men today may feel less pressure to find jobs because they are less likely than previous generations to be providing for others. Only 28% of men without jobs — compared with 58% of women — said a child under 18 lived with them. . . 37% of the decline in male employment since 1979 could be explained by this retreat from marriage and fatherhood. 
  • men who worked in manufacturing or construction, and now can find only service work, [believe] the obstacle is not just the difference in pay; it is also the humiliation of being on public display.  
 Comment: As liberals argue, the loss of manufacturing jobs has hit hard males who don’t make it through college. But other factors, including those of most concern to conservatives, also account for prime-working-years unemployment: federal benefits that match low-wage job income, males free of family responsibilities, and poor government schools that graduate men unprepared for today’s economy. Also, it’s clear many unemployed would prefer to be working--as Franklin Roosevelt knew in 1935--thereby enjoying the sense of self-worth that goes with holding a job.

Republican Resurgence: is It Real?

 Click on chart to enlarge.

Noah Rothman, at the conservative website “Hot Air,” yesterday reported that:
With [Republican Martha] McSally’s victory [in Arizona’s 2nd Congressional district], the 2014 midterm elections have officially concluded. At the start of the 114th Congress, Republicans will enjoy their largest majority in the House of Representatives since prior to the Great Depression and the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt with 247 members. The last time the GOP enjoyed that large of a majority was the 71st Congress in 1929 and 1930.
In the Senate, the GOP will be in an almost equally unparalleled position of power. “Republicans will control 54 out of 100 seats,” the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake noted. “That’s tied for their fourth-highest number of seats since that same 1929-30 Congress, but the larger three were majorities of 55 seats — i.e. only one more seat.”
Combined with the GOP’s dominance at the state legislative level (Republicans control 56% of seats in the legislatures, the highest number since 1920), and the party’s control of 31 of 50 [62% of] gubernatorial mansions, the Republican Party will be in the strongest position it has seen since prior to the popularization of Democratic progressivism.
“The last time the GOP clearly had more [top elected official] power than today was in the early 1920s, when it controlled more than 70% of governorships, 69% of the House and more than 60% of Senate seats,” Blake observed.
Rothman further noted that “either through retirements or lost elections, half of the U.S. senators who voted for Obamacare, all of whom were Democrats, will be gone in 2015.”

In the immediate aftermath of Barack Obama’s 2012 election triumph, we shared a concern that the Obama political machine might "annihilate" the GOP in 2014 by winning the 17 seats Democrats then needed to control the U.S. House. Whoops. Shows the danger of making next-election predictions based upon what just happened. Political parties can and do perform like “persons,” regularly making mistakes and, conversely, learning from them.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Race in America Today

Look at this graph (above). By 2044, whites will be a minority of the U.S. population. This demographic fact drives Democratic thinking; Democrats, the party of minorities, are destined to rule the nation, with a combination of white liberals, white unmarried women, and white youth plus minorities, and will do so starting now, not in 2044.

But it’s 2014, not 2044. And now enough whites are alienated from the party of Barack Obama that demographic realities are worrying Democrats as well as Republicans. The national scene may resemble California politics in the 1980s to mid-90s, when whites, fearful of that state’s rising Hispanic tide, elected Republican governors for 16 consecutive years.

Of course, both parties know that as its minority population became the majority, California then turned sharply against Republicans, where it remains today.

Obama and black Attorney General Eric Holder’s determined effort to rally blacks against Republicans, using such issues as the security guard and police killings of Trayvon Martin (2012), Michael Brown, and Eric Garner even though no evidence emerged that any of the three deaths were race-based, is generating a measurable backlash among whites.

The latest Fox News poll found that when asked:
"Do you agree or disagree with the decision of the grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, not to seek criminal charges against a white police officer in the August shooting death of a black teenager [Brown]?"
55% agreed, only 33% disagreed, and 12% had no opinion. Among whites 65% agreed, while just 12% of blacks think the Ferguson grand jury did the right thing. Yet when asked,
"Do you agree or disagree with the decision of a grand jury in New York not to seek criminal charges against a white police officer in the July choke hold death of a black man [Garner]?"
Just 27% of Americans agreed while 57% disagreed, and 17% didn’t know. So non-blacks readily distinguish between the deaths of Brown, who reached for a policeman’s gun, and Garner, who yelled for mercy. People able to make such distinctions don’t like being called “racist.”

So it’s no surprise that when asked:
"Since Barack Obama became president, do you think relations between the races in the USA have gotten better or worse?"
only 19% said “better,” while 62% said “worse.”

Why is Obama, in seeking to draw blacks behind him, now alienating most whites with false racist charges? To me, it’s because black leaders and liberals cannot accept the failure of their 50-year-old effort to engineer some form of economic equality. They cannot accept that government programs have left a black underclass in place. And they really can’t handle how well other minorities are doing. So they focus relentlessly on white man sins, fighting to retain a broad coalition of minorities fixed on white wrongs.

Obama’s Hawaii background contributes to the current reality. He knows different cultures have different rates of success, with Asians out-performing whites, and whites out-performing blacks. From early in life, he has appreciated the value of blurring nonwhite racial differences based on culture into a cartoonish minority v. white, Third World v. First World battle with the prize awarded being preferences for minorities, whether or not groups and individuals need the help.

Blacks finish last, this blog believes, because of family breakdown, not lack of government assistance. Blacks trail because of culture. Too many single women struggling to raise children fathered by different unemployed men, none present. We have absent fathers, failure to postpone gratification, moral breakdown, lack of real education, male crime the most promising path to economic advancement. Can’t solve the problem? Blame whitey. Demonstrate. Break store windows. Fix on the narrative, not the truth.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Democrats in a Dark Place

Jonathan Gruber
"Politicians always think they have to reach people's hearts. They have to reach their minds."

--Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal

There’s been a noticeable shift in the American political landscape. Did you see how candidates from big-name families--a Democratic tradition from Roosevelt, Stevenson, Harriman, Kennedy, Jay Rockefeller and Jerry Brown to Nancy D'Alesandro Pelosi and Kathleen Gilligan Sebelius--went down last month? Jason Carter and Michelle Nunn in Georgia, Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky, Mark Pryor in Arkansas, Mark Begich in Alaska, Mark Udall in Colorado (“mark” him too), and last but not least, Mary Landrieu in Louisiana. Nothing worked in 2014 for Democrats who say, “I’m not Obama, I’m______.”

As political sage Stu Rothenberg wrote in Roll Call recently,
we have entered a period of parliamentary elections, where the parties stand for starkly different ideological agendas and where ticket-splitting, which follows from individual evaluations apart from party, is relatively rare.
The division in America is sharp, nearly complete, and even. So you thought Obama won big in 2012, a year in which Romney carried a majority of Congressional districts and Republicans held onto the House? Obama won by 4 million votes, 4% to be sure, but by 62 electoral votes. If 4 states--Florida, Ohio, Virginia, and New Hampshire--had gone for Romney instead, Obama would have lost.  And just a well-placed shift of 95,000 votes in those 4 states would have delivered the election to Romney.

Of course had that happened, half the country would have gone insane.  Romney losing by 3.8 million votes yet headed for the White House? Still, such an outcome remains possible because Democratic votes are so concentrated in minority-populated urban areas that the party cannot be comfortable about its chances either in the House or in the Electoral College. Win massively in California, New York, and Illinois and still lose? It happened before.

Is the current sharp partisan division good for America? Roman Lopez, in the conservative Federalist, wrote about how Jon Stewart successfully demonizes and degrades Republicans, making it difficult for his liberal audience to treat the opposing party seriously. Lopez argues that
in a political society we must come together to adjudicate public matters. We must talk, to figure out how we are to govern ourselves. That we live among one another forces us to engage with people and perspectives that we might not have known existed.
New York Times house conservative Ross Douthat (that other guy, David Brooks, isn’t) blames both parties for an unnecessary level of rancor in current politics. But Douthat seems more concerned about Democrats who deal with a bad economy by instead focusing on divisive identity politics in order to hold their minorities-unmarried female coalition together. In a warning to Democrats, Douthat posits that while
identity is . . . the most primal, reliable form of political division . . .history suggests that a “multicultural party” may always be at risk of being redefined as a grievance-based “party of minorities” that many minorities would prefer to leave behind. (And leadership matters, too: A protean figure like Barack Obama can put together a genuine rainbow coalition, but it’s not clear how many other politicians can do the same.)
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has sensed that Democrats have moved down a wrong path by focusing (2009 to present) on Obamacare rather than economic improvement. Compounding the Obamacare problem, since the election Jonathan (“people are stupid”) Gruber, an MIT professor who helped shape both Massachusetts’ Romneycare and Obamacare, has been as helpful to opponents of Obamacare as he has hurt Democrats.

David Nather, writing in the liberal Washington-insider publication “Politico,” honed in on Gruber’s single most damaging error--and one we spotted last August--he gave in a video the exact same explanation that conservatives plan to make in front of the Supreme Court next year of why only state exchanges (of which there are a mere 14) can subsidize Obamacare:
from January 2012, [Gruber said]: “If you’re a state and you don’t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits [i.e., their money].” Naturally, the quote from that video is right there in the petition to the Supreme Court—which calls Gruber “one of the Act’s architects”—and it’s a good bet that it will come up in the oral arguments. Michael Carvin, the lead attorney in the case, sums it up: “Gruber is Exhibit A that any English-speaking person knows what the subsidies language says.”
Ed Rogers, a conservative permitted to blog in the Washington Post, views Gruber, “made famous by his offensively blatant [video] revelations of the deceit behind the construction and passage of the Obamacare law,” as symbolic of the bad place Democrats find themselves in today:
the Gruber videos . . . perfectly crystallize the entire Democratic 2014 campaign.  That is, don’t admit what you really believe or what you will really do in government.  Say things that purposely deceive or at least misdirect the voters from your true intentions.  Anyway, Gruber isn’t just a bad episode.  He is a living example of what the Democratic Party has become.  In its simplest form, Democrats want to talk to the right and then govern to the left.
Yesterday, Rogers moved his denunciation of Democrats even further down the field, writing:
the Democratic Party is never accused of having a branding problem; is never exposed or criticized as a party for running deceitful campaigns or telling outright lies.  For whatever reason, the media refuses to see a common thread in how modern-day Democrats behave in the political arena, just like they refuse to see any connection between [Ferguson “racist” lies, Rolling Stone “rape” lies, and Lena Dunham “rape” lies] and the decay that exists within the left-wing of the Party’s base.  The media is quick to declare that Republicans and conservatives have systemic problems, but they ignore how morally bankrupt the Democrats and their core constituency have become.
Yes, we don’t like Democrats and their media pals just as much as Jon Stewart doesn’t like us. As for Obama’s presidency as a whole, we think in the words of Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness ): “Your strength is just an accident owed to the weakness of others.”

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Yin-Yang D.C.? You’re Kidding, Right? (Reprising 2006)

So Republicans won big, and Washington is once again evenly divided--Democratic President, Republican Congress. Time for yin-yang: compromise and work together for the good of the nation?

GOP guru Karl Rove writes:
Republicans shouldn’t rest on their laurels or reach for last year’s congressional playbook. Voters expect constructive action, not obstructionism. They want Washington to work and lawmakers to get things done. Their expectations are low because their distrust of politicians is high. So surprise them. The rewards will be great if the GOP shows it has a governing agenda.
Republicans should go big, pushing a comprehensive reform agenda even if the president objects. Republicans should try working with Mr. Obama to forge legislative compromises. But if he refuses to engage, Republicans should move, although they must be willing to defend their proposals with conviction.
In other words, “no ‘yin-yang’ here!  Republicans are aiming to occupy the White House in 2016, with or without Obama’s help.”

Here’s what I wrote in 2006, after a similar opposite party (Democratic) triumph over an increasingly unpopular president (Bush). With words changed to update the entry; it reads well for 2014:
yin-yang unity is not to be. Why?
• The country is pretty evenly divided into two warring camps. The Republicans [first] nationalized congressional elections in 2002 and 2004, turning out Democrats for being wrong on the War on Terror. Now we have a [seventh] straight nationalized election, this time [again] by the [Republicans] running in every section of the country against [Obama] and [a poor economy]. Nationalized elections and polarization are the result of efficient political operations that find and bring home their voters. These nationalized elections are here to stay, and will keep America divided.
• [2016] will shape the next two years in Washington. [Republicans] in Congress aren’t interested in passing the kind of legislation [Obama] might sign. They’re interested in electing a [Republican] president in [2016], so they can truly take over. Every issue they push through Congress will be designed to divide [Democrats] from the national majority, so that [Republican] control will replace divided government. Every Congressional investigation of [Obama] administration wrongdoing will reach for the same objective. Taking over Congress is just a first step to true power.
• Only united government produces real change. The last [great] burst of real Democratic creativity came in 1964-65, when in the aftermath of Kennedy’s assassination, Democrats had the full control they needed to pass tax reform, civil rights legislation, Medicare, and the National Education Act. Reagan had a burst of creativity in 1981-82, because a Republican Senate and Southern “Blue Dog” House Democrats provided the majority needed to cut taxes and the size of government. [I]n 1995[-96], [Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich] united to produce welfare reform and the balanced budgets that turbocharged our late 1990’s economy. Clinton needed Republicans to give him a record to run on for re-election. And Gingrich fully understood he was aiding Clinton’s re-election. [Today's Republican] leaders, unlike Gingrich, hope for their own president in [2016]. Once everything is [red], [Republicans] will achieve their next burst of creativity.
Unified rule can blow up in your face.  To hold [Democrats] together [in 2009-2010 when Democrats had all the power, Obama hewed] to . . . the views of his extremes ([Democrats pushed] programs supported by [only Democrats--their “stimulus” and especially Obamacare]). Extremism ended up costing [Democrats] the [next] election. The same thing happened in 1993-94, the [previous] time Democrats controlled everything.
And here’s a bigger “but.” We have discovered another regular pattern--Republicans do better in low-turnout mid-term elections, Democrats do better in presidential years. It is markedly less likely that the Republicans will win in 2016, following their Tuesday mid-term triumph than it was that Democrats would win in 2008 following their (rare) mid-term victory in 2006. When their base shows up at the polls, Democrats win the popular vote--five of the last six presidential elections.

Republicans have their work cut out for them in 2016.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Obama Goes to Iran

Underlining the importance the Obama administration places on turning Iran from enemy into U.S. partner, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes likened an Iranian nuclear deal to Obamacare in a talk to progressive activists last January (audio here):
Bottom line is, this is the best opportunity we’ve had to resolve the Iranian issue diplomatically, certainly since President Obama came to office, and probably since the beginning of the Iraq war. So no small opportunity, it’s a big deal. This is probably the biggest thing President Obama will do in his second term on foreign policy. This is healthcare for us, just to put it in context.
Rhodes also said at the time that the White House wants to bypass Congress, which likely would seek to block any such deal:
We’re already kind of thinking through, how do we structure a deal so we don’t necessarily require legislative action right away. And there are ways to do that.
Matthew Continetti of the conservative Washington Free Beacon, which obtained the tape of Rhodes’ private remarks, noted the Rhodes proposal to bypass Congress echoes what an unnamed “senior administration official” told New York Times correspondent David Sanger last week: “We wouldn’t seek congressional legislation in any comprehensive agreement for years.”

Continetti fears Obama sees an Iran deal not just as his second term health care reform, but as his version of George W. Bush’s Iraq surge: a Hail Mary pass thrown in the fourth quarter in a long-shot attempt to salvage a legacy.

We’ve repeatedly said Obama’s aim is much higher. The president wants his own “Nixon goes to China” historic achievement--a grand re-positioning of U.S. foreign policy, gained by turning our greatest enemy into a new partner.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Democratic Progressivism--100 years plus, still going. . .going . . .

Are Democrats in a rut? Jay Cost of the conservative Weekly Standard writes:
For over a decade, Democrats have been salivating at the prospect of demographic changes propelling them to permanent majority status. Obama in particular has been active on this front, and has ruthlessly divided the country along race, gender, and class lines in the hope of speeding this process along. But he has overlooked two historical realities[:]
  • parties adapt, and; 
  • despite our political class’s pretensions to power, they remain mere pawns [to, in Constitution architect James Madison’s words, a] “variety of parties and interests.” 
So is the public in fact tiring of Democrats’ constant effort to build and hold together its minorities-unmarried women-hip youth coalition? Maybe.

James Taranto in the conservative Wall Street Journal finds even the New York Times concerned about the stridency and bluntness of Democratic attempts to inject race into the mid-term elections. Taranto quotes the paper I brand “the liberals’ Pravda writing:
In the final days before the election, Democrats in the closest Senate races across the South are turning to racially charged messages—invoking Trayvon Martin’s death, the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., and Jim Crow-era segregation—to jolt African-Americans into voting and stop a Republican takeover in Washington.
The images and words they are using are striking for how overtly they play on fears of intimidation and repression. And their source is surprising. The effort is being led by national Democrats and their state party organizations—not, in most instances, by the shadowy and often untraceable political action committees that typically employ such provocative messages.
Taranto calls “surprising” the Times story’s "somewhat disapproving tone,” adding, “It’s a news story, but it wouldn’t be hard to rewrite it into an opinion piece arguing that the Dems are getting desperate.”

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A nation adrift. A Republican lifeline?

Republican guru Karl Rove, excoriated by the left because of his effectiveness, has the facts to back his argument when he writes:
voters don't believe the president's claims that the economy is thriving. Even people with jobs feel apprehensive. Paychecks are flat, growth anemic, and people are worried about their children's prospects. Mr. Obama had a 38% approval on handling the economy in the Sept. 9 Fox News poll. In the Sept. 7 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 67% believe America is on the wrong track.
Old figures? The latest (10/14) Fox News poll records the same 38% approval of Obama’s handling of the economy, and there hasn’t been an NBC/Journal poll since Sept. 7.

Stanford economics professor Michael Boskin, George H.W. Bush’s chairman of the council of economic advisers, is optimistic about America’s future, pointing out that
the U.S. has many strengths: the best higher-education system in the world; a highly productive workforce; the deepest, most liquid capital markets; the most dynamic and innovative companies, as witnessed in the “fracking” revolution and booming U.S. oil and gas industry; and, despite recent demagoguery, a diverse population supportive of earned success.
Of course, Boskin adds that these advantages “are not immutable.”
as has happened with our K-12 education, anticompetitive forces and poor policy can throw sand in the gears of these great contributors to American success. President John F. Kennedy, whose economic strategy emphasized tax cuts and trade liberalization, opined that “A rising tide lifts all boats.” That was overstated. But it lifts by far the most boats and leaves by far the fewest stranded or sunk.
That is why President Obama promoting redistribution at the expense of growth is a tragic mistake, for the nation and especially for those hoping to climb the economic ladder.
Boskin believes our highest priority is to remove obstacles to growth and to re-incentivize “the supply side of the economy.” He wants to phase in stronger budget controls, especially entitlement reform, and to lower tax rates across the board.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has been trying these classic G.O.P. “a rising tide lifts all boats” policies, with decidedly mixed results. A sympathetic Kim Strassel of the Wall Street Journal, in writing about Brownback’s difficulties, tells us that
Most of the blowback Gov. Brownback has received for his tax cuts has come from big-spending Republicans who preferred the status quo and have resisted the party's reform wave. Mr. Brownback rolled them during the tax fight, and their revenge now has been to unite with Democrats to cause him political mischief.
Brownback seems to have discovered the price you pay when you go after the GOP’s “spend to hang on” wing. But on the other hand, conservative Jay Cost in the Weekly Standard believes that
Republicans . . . could start by adopting the perspective of families that make about $65,000 per year. These people’s economic situation is uncertain, and they pay a goodly portion of their income to the IRS—. . .through Social Security and Medicare taxes, which flow into the federal government’s general revenues. . . Economic security for this group primarily means lowering the cost of education, health care, and energy.
So instead of talking about tax cuts that primarily benefit the wealthy, about easing regulations on business, and about entitlement reforms that lower social security benefits, Republicans must (I said “must”) show how government raises the cost of education, health care, and energy for people making $65,000 a year, and how Republicans--by increasing competition and reducing regulation--will make education, health care, and energy more affordable for ordinary people.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Obamatime: List of Federal Government Missteps & Failures

the party of government is presiding over a time of government failure and malpractice.

--Matthew Continetti, Washington Free Beacon  

under Obama an ever-expanding federal government has become the essential raison d’être for the party. . . in the future Obama [will] be remembered simply for being the nation’s “first black president.”

--Joel Kotkin, Orange County Register

It’s way beyond time to record the almost-continuous record of federal government screw-ups under the current administration, which loves Big Government (self-love):

  1. The Stimulus (failure of “shovel ready”); Department of Transportation (2009) 
  2. Foreign policy SNAFUs (Russian “reset,” abandoning Iraq, pull-out “date certain” in Afghanistan, chemical weapons “red line” in Syria, ISIS “JV terrorists,” Ukraine inaction, Iran gets bomb?); White House, National Security Council, Department of State (2009- ) 
  3. Alternative Energy (Solyndra bankruptcy); Department of Energy (2011) 
  4. “Fast and Furious” (gun walking); Department of Justice (2010-12) 
  5. IRS (targeting conservatives); Department of Treasury (2010- ) 
  6. $823,000 Las Vegas party; General Services Administration (2012) 
  7. Benghazi (“spontaneous protest/anti-Muslim video”); Department of State (2012) 
  8. Cartagena prostitutes; U.S. Secret Service (2013) 
  9. Monitoring AP and Fox’s James Rosen’s phones; Department of Justice (2013) 
  10. Monitoring our emails; National Security Administration (2013) 
  11. Obamacare (rollout and “keep your doctor, keep your plan”); Health and Human Services (2013- ) 
  12. Wait-list deaths; Veterans Administration (2014) 
  13. Children crossing open borders; Department of Homeland Security (2014) 
  14. Ebola outbreak chances “extremely low”; Centers for Disease Control (2014) 
  15. Help! There’s a man in the (White) House!; U.S. Secret Service (2014) 
  16. Cartagena prostitute; White House (2014) 
This incomplete list involves messups at 14 different departments or agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control, called by the New York Times’ liberal reporter Joe Nocera “the most trusted agency in the federal government,” and the U.S. Secret Service, two previously unsullied parts of a long-compromised federal behemoth.

When will we realize government’s just too big, too far beyond the people’s control? For insight into a related story--why and how the media protects Big Government--see former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson’s new book, Stonewalled.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Hong Kong’s “Occupy Central” Central to China’s Future

Night 20: Hundreds of protesters swamp Kowloon’s Mong Kok.
The Occupy Central protests centered on Hong Kong’s financial district are now into their 21st day. They are reportedly costing Hong Kong’s economy around $13.5 million (HK$105 million) a day in lost revenue. Talks are supposed to begin soon between the student-led protest movement and the administration of Hong Kong Chief Executive C.Y. Leung, a puppet of China’s leadership whom the students have called upon to resign. Understand, though, that talks have repeatedly been announced then reshaped, only to be later called off. A resolution of the crisis may not be in sight as long as crowds keep showing up in response to police and hired-goon beatings, talk cancellations, barricade removals, and other negative government actions.

Protesters want Hong Kong’s people to be able to elect their own chief executive--as provided for under the Hong Kong basic law’s promise of universal suffrage--not be force-fed a Beijing puppet. The Occupy Central movement specifically objects to Beijing’s announced plan to select on its own the individuals who compete in future Hong Kong chief executive elections. Beijing says its nomination plan is non-negotiable. Thus, the impasse.

Any solution in sight? The Economist recently editorialized its view that
Xi Jinping, China’s president, and his colleagues believe that the party’s control over the country is the only way of guaranteeing its stability. They fear that if the party loosens its grip, the country will slip towards disorder and disaster. They are right that autocracy can keep a country stable in the short run. In the long run, though, as China’s own history shows, it cannot. The only guarantor of a stable country is a people that is satisfied with its government. And in China, dissatisfaction with the Communist Party is on the rise.
China needs to find a way of allowing its citizens to shape their governance without resorting to protests that risk turning into a struggle for the nation’s soul. Hong Kong, with its history of free expression and semi-detached relationship to the mainland, is an ideal place for that experiment to begin.
Longtime China expert Orville Schell, writing in the Wall Street Journal, similarly paid tribute to Xi’s hard-nosed style before similarly recommending reform:
What has distinguished Mr. Xi to date is his persona as a tough, immovable leader. He has gone so far as to suggest that a “real man” might have been able to head off the demise of the Soviet Union. Such Putin-esque posturing will prove risky in a place like Hong Kong, where many already think that China’s leaders possess tin ears and strong, club-wielding arms. Hong Kong isn’t eastern Ukraine. Should Mr. Xi decide to take a softer path, it may signal that he is also capable of a more mature, subtle understanding. If he wants to build trust and confidence with surrounding countries, it is hard to imagine a more convincing and immediate way to do so.
Reform or revolution? Once again, China confronts two choices.

Richest Congressional Districts All Democrat

NY 12 (click to enlarge)
According to AP’s story, “Party of the rich: In Congress, it's the Democrats,” 8 of the 10 richest House districts--and every district where the per capita income exceeds $50,000 (that’s $50,000 for every man, woman, and child)--is represented by a Democrat:

1. New York 12 (Manhattan East Side, Queens):
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Democrat
Per capita income: $75,479

2. California 33 (Malibu, Brentwood, Santa Monica, Palos Verdes):
Rep. Henry Waxman, Democrat
Per capita income: $61,273

3. New York 10 (West Side, Greenwich Village, Borough Park):
Rep. Jerry Nadler, Democrat
Per capita income: $56,138

4. California 18 (Palo Alto, San Jose, Los Gatos):
Rep. Anna Eshoo, Democrat
Per capita income: $54,182

5. Connecticut 4 (Greenwich, New Canaan, Lower Naugatuck Valley, Bridgeport):
Rep. Jim Himes, Democrat
Per capita income: $50,732

6. Virginia 8 (Fairfax, Arlington counties, Alexandria):
Rep. Jim Moran, Democrat
Per capita income: $50,210

Also: 7. New Jersey 7 (NW New Jersey, centered on Morris County): Rep. Leonard Lance, Republican, Per capita income: $48,556; 8. California 12 (San Francisco): Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Democrat, Per capita income: $48,523; 9. New York 3 (NW Long Island, Nassau and Suffolk counties): Rep. Steve Israel, Democrat, Per capita income: $47,991; 10. Virginia 10 (Manassas, Loudoun and Frederick counties): Rep. Frank Wolf, Republican, Per capita income: $47,281.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ebola Democrats’ “October Surprise”?

"I want the American people to know that our experts, here at the CDC and across our government, agree that the chances of an Ebola outbreak here in the United States are extremely low."

--Barack Obama, September 16, 2014

I suggested earlier here that Barack Obama’s “September (or October) Surprise” was going to be a grand alliance against Islamic State that included current enemy Iran.

I was wrong. There is too much internal U.S. opposition to partnering with Iran if it comes at the price of accepting Israel’s enemy as a virtual if not actual nuclear power. The plan to link with Iran is apparently on hold at least until after the midterm elections.

Instead, we have a surprise sprung on the President himself, partly because of his unambiguous promise at the Centers for Disease Control this past September that “the chances of an Ebola outbreak here in the United States are extremely low" (see above).

Inside-the-Beltway journal The Hill’s Elise Viebeck in fact flatly stated that:
Ebola has become the October surprise of this year’s midterm elections. . . The U.S. public is increasingly fearful of the virus following three cases in Texas and news that the fatality rate for infected patients has hit 70% in West Africa.
A surprise indeed. Obama’s "RealClearPolitics" average disapproval-over-approval percentage is back above 10% after falling below that threshold, presumably due to the government’s unsteady handling of a crisis the President had called “extremely” unlikely.

There are only 20 days left in this election cycle. We'll soon enough know what the actual political fall-out from the Ebola crisis will turn out to be.

Friday, September 26, 2014

GOP Take-over of Senate?

The latest RealClearPolitics average of polls on Senate races has the Republicans picking up a net of 7 seats beyond their current base of 46. That would mean Republicans would have a 53-47 majority. Some of the races are polling very close, but Republicans in polling are already up one seat to 47. Georgia, Arkansas, and Alaska--all red states--seem trending Republican, which would yield a 50-50 split.

To push over into a majority, Republicans only have to hold Kansas, where Sen. Pat Roberts is in deep trouble.  But efforts to paint Independent Greg Orman for what he is--a closet Democrat--are just getting underway in this thoroughly Republican state. Or Republicans can pick up a seat in either Iowa or Colorado, where the GOP candidates currently hold paper-thin leads. All three going Republican means 53-47.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Iran’s Khamenei is no Mao

It takes two to tango. Iran has rejected for now any partnership with the U.S. to fight (what we now call) Islamic State. In an article that details U.S. backtracking in the face of a major loss of face (Iran doesn’t want us!), Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued a very public and seemingly definitive rejection of private U.S. overtures to the militant Shiite state.

According to an LA Times report, Khamenei said that when the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad requested a meeting with his Iranian counterpart to discuss “coordination” between the two nations to confront the Islamic State threat,
I opposed [the U.S. request] and told them we will not cooperate with the Americans on the issue because their intent and hands are not clean. How is it possible for us to cooperate with the Americans under such circumstances?
Khamenei added that Iran also rebuffed a request from Secretary of State John Kerry for “cooperation” conveyed “personally” from Kerry to the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif. The Supreme Leader proclaimed that:
Iran has voiced its opposition to being a party to that coalition from the very beginning. The Americans’ coalition is nonsense.
Comment: The article verifies speculation the U.S. tried more than once to reach Iran. The atmosphere today, please understand, is different from that which Henry Kissinger exploited with his 1971 opening to China. In Kissinger’s time, China already had the bomb, both the U.S. and China could see that the U.S.S.R. was benefiting from having relations with both the U.S. and China at our mutual expense, and Russians had killed Chinese in 1969 clashes along the Soviet-Chinese border. Both sides looked for improved relations with each other at Moscow’s expense.

Iran feels no similar pressure to advance relations with Israel’s major supporter and the main force blocking Iran’s possession of the bomb. Still, Khamenei’s use of the phrase, “under such circumstances” seems to tell the U.S. that if it gives Iran a path to the bomb, things could change. Iranians know that improved relations with the U.S. would in and of itself undermine U.S.-Israeli ties, as suggested in our previous post.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Note to Obama: All "Islamists" are Against Us

Dennis Ross
In an important New York Times column titled, “Islamists Are Not Our Friends,” Dennis Ross, former Middle East advisor to Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, argues that the powers we identify as “Islamic extremists” should simply be called “Islamists.” Sunni or Shia, Islamists believe in the Umma, the larger Muslim community that should cross and obliterate state lines. Their opponents are non-Islamists, and, Ross says, we must back the opposition.

Ross, I believe, is surfacing a battle going on behind the scenes in Washington pitting defenders of Israel against those closest to Obama, especially Valerie Jarrett and including foreign policy guru Les Gelb, Peter Beinart and others, who want Iran’s help in defeating the terrorist “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria” (ISIS). Jarrett, Gelb, and company don’t mind that partnering with Iran alarms Israel.

Ross is careful to hide Israel’s importance to this inside-the-Beltway struggle, mentioning Israel only once in passing. Ross doesn’t want to come across as just another pro-Israel American Middle East expert (Ross is Jewish). Also, the non-Islamist states Ross defends, nations to which Israel now looks for common cause, need protection from Islamists all too ready to brand Arabs willing to side with Israel as lackeys of the Jewish state.

Here are Ross’ major points:
  • non-Islamists want to know that the United States supports them. For America, that means not partnering with Iran against ISIS [emphasis added]. . . It means recognizing that Egypt is an essential part of the anti-Islamist coalition.
  • America should also coordinate with Egypt and the U.A.E.[, which] will make their military operations more effective, as well as provide America with greater ability to influence their actions. 
  • [While t]he Obama administration worries about the consequences of excluding all Islamists [and] appearing to give a blank check to authoritarian regimes. . . likely to prove unstable over time. . . America’s traditional partners are ready to act without us, convinced that the administration does not see all Islamists as a threat — and that America sees its interests as different from theirs. That is a problem. 
  • do not reach out to Islamists; their creed is not compatible with pluralism or democracy.  
Comment: Ross has given us a clear look at the real battle going on within Washington’s foreign policy establishment. It’s the battle we have been talking about over the past month.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

It’s 9.11, it’s Obama’s war, with “help” (Iran) on the way.

Persian Army Attacking Alexander's Forces, 333 B.C.
In his 9.11-eve primetime address to the nation, Barack Obama took America into Syria, and back into Iraq. Our recent blog entries have focused on Obama’s emerging effort to build a coalition against the “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria” (ISIS). Now the effort is out in the open. And look who’s standing in the wings, as predicted here earlier. Iran!

According to the BBC:
Iran's Supreme Leader has approved co-operation with the US as part of the fight against Islamic State (IS) in Iraq, sources have told BBC Persian. Ayatollah Khamenei has authorised his top commander to co-ordinate military operations with the US, Iraqi and Kurdish forces, sources in Tehran say. . . CNN's Christiane Amanpour. . . tweeted that Iraqi President Fuad Masum had told her as much on Thursday. . . However, Iran's foreign ministry . . . spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham told Iran's Press TV the report was not correct.
A “BBC Persian” analysis added:
Iran's change of heart will no doubt be welcomed in Washington and London, where a joint strategy is taking shape towards creating a broad alliance of international and regional players to deal with the IS threat.
One of the things we learn in life is not to let the immediate crowd out the important. The ISIS threat is “the immediate”. The Iran threat is “the important”.

Obama is lining up the traditional Sunni authoritarians--Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates--against the radical Sunni threat ISIS. In the next wave, he is after Shia already pre-disposed to go after Sunni, including Iran, Iraq's Shia, and Hezbollah, as well as Iran Sunni allies Turkey, Qatar, and Hamas.

Are we really partnering with Iran? And what about Syria’s Basher Assad? So far, we say Assad remains an enemy.

Iran coming aboard our ship is the important threat.  Here from former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan, in the Wall Street Journal:
You want to think [Obama] is playing a cool. . . watching new alliances form—wasn't that the Kurds the other day fighting alongside the Iranians? Obama's supporters frankly hope that there's a method to the madness, that he is quietly, behind the scenes and with great subtlety pulling together a coalition that will move. But this is more hope than knowledge. [emphasis added]
We will see at the UN September 24, when Obama chairs the Security Council, who shows up and exactly how importantly Iran treats the event.

Of course, ISIS is a real enemy. But so is Iran, a nation whose supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, calls Israel “the wolfish and child killer regime,” the only solution for which “is its destruction.” The “final solution”? From our “partner” Iran?

Do our leaders see clearly the threat we face? Not if you listen to Hillary Clinton, in her review of Henry Kissinger’s book on World Order:
International problems and solutions are increasingly centered, in ways both good and bad, on nongovernmental organizations, businesses and individual citizens. As a result, foreign policy is now as much about people as it is about states. Kissinger rightly notes that these shifts require a broader and deeper order than sufficed in the past.
Clinton and Kissinger are right that world power has moved beyond the nation state leaders both so readily access. But Clinton’s list completely overlooks religion and the power it holds, Islamic extremism in particular, whether Sunni or Shia.

A colossal oversight and a dangerous one.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Foreign Policy: Obama Readies a “September Surprise”

“I don't want to put the cart before the horse. We don't have a strategy yet.”

--Barack Obama, 8.28.14
Iran Foreign Minsiter Mohammad Javad Zarif with Sec. John Kerry
People are unfairly jumping on the president for his “no strategy” comment. Obama does have a strategy. He’s just not ready to spring it on us. When he does, he hopes it will have the impact that John Kennedy’s “October surprise”--the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis--had on that year’s mid-term congressional elections. Hapless Republicans arguing at the time that Kennedy was soft on Cuba ended up embarrassed and their party defeated. Obama is about not only to be tough on ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), but also dramatic: Obama is readying an anti-ISIS coalition he hopes will include current enemy Iran.

We have argued that President Obama is moving toward a rapprochement with Iran that will be a lesser version of President Nixon’s dramatic 1971-72 opening to China. Evidence this move is on the way continues to mount. FOX News correspondent James Rosen recently reported that
Iran – one of four countries the United States accuses of supporting terrorism – has begun arming the Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq, as the Kurds scramble to combat the threat posed by ISIS. . . Dr. Dlawer Ala'Aldeen, a former Kurdish Cabinet officer [said] in an interview. “If you are in the place of the Kurds, what would you do when you’re facing that? You would ask for help from any neighbor.”
The link-up of Iran with Iraq’s Kurds is a surprise, because, as Rosen says, Iran
has used brutal means to suppress Iran’s own population of 8 million Kurds, whose yearning for independence matches that of their Iraqi brethren. By steering arms to the Iraqi Kurds, . . . the Iranians may be trying simultaneously to weaken the military position of ISIS and use influence with the Kurds to slow their bid for complete autonomy.
The Iran-Kurd link makes more sense if we notice that Iran’s backing a U.S. ally in the fight against the terrorist ISIS moves Iran and the U.S. itself closer together against the common enemy, along the path foreign policy guru Les Gelb earlier recommended.

 Peter Beinart, like Gelb a liberal New York City-based Jewish critic of Israel associated with New York’s Council on Foreign Relations, has in the Atlantic similarly hinted at an Iran-U.S. link. Beinart has done so by separating Iran from terrorist entities such as ISIS that plan for direct attacks on the U.S.

According to Beinart, Obama has a coherent strategy: it’s “don’t take on any foreign entity except al Qaeda-related forces.” That means leaving Iran alone:
Obama’s strategy—whether you like it or not—is [h]undreds of thousands can die in Syria; the Taliban can menace and destabilize Afghanistan; Iran can move closer to getting a bomb. No matter. With rare exceptions, Obama only unsheathes his sword against people he thinks might kill American civilians.  . . Electoral politics has driven him in the same direction. There’s a reason Obama spent his reelection campaign declaring that it’s time to “focus on nation-building here at home.” Those declarations won him votes.
Already, we can see the outlines of the coming Iran-U.S. anti-ISIS coalition in Secretary of State John Kerry’s Friday New York Times “we DO have a strategy” op ed. Kerry wrote that ISIS:
if left unchecked, will not be satisfied at stopping with Syria and Iraq. . . Even as they butcher Shiite Muslims and Christians in their effort to touch off a broader ethnic and sectarian conflict, they pursue a calculated strategy of killing fellow Sunni Muslims. . . With . . . the broadest possible coalition of nations, the cancer of ISIS will not be allowed to spread to other countries. . . The United States will hold the presidency of the United Nations Security Council in September, and . . . President Obama will lead a summit meeting . . . to put forward a plan to deal with this collective threat. . . no decent country can support the horrors perpetrated by ISIS, and no civilized country should shirk its responsibility to help stamp out this disease.
Drawing Iran into an anti-ISIS coalition works for Syria, Turkey, Qatar, Hezbollah, Shia Iraq, and Hamas, all already on Iran’s side. But it is most certainly a problem for Israel and Iran’s Sunni Muslim enemies worried about a nuclear, terrorist-helping Iran. Iran’s growing power has brought together Israel with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates. Re-read Kerry’s words above. He’s not addressing Shia Iran when he talks of ISIS pursuing “a calculated strategy of killing fellow Sunni Muslims.”

Discussion about Obama’s lack of strategy, along with growing signs some sort of major foreign policy re-alignment is afoot--one that possibly includes a surprise patterned after Nixon’s trip to China--has prompted the 91-year-old Henry Kissinger to educate us once again. Kissinger still believes in the relevancy of the nation-state, balance-of-power strategy he feels kept the peace in his time. Kissinger writes in the Wall Street Journal:
The clash between the international economy and the political institutions that ostensibly govern it . . . weakens the sense of common purpose necessary for world order. The economic system has become global, while the political structure of the world remains based on the nation-state. Economic globalization, in its essence, ignores national frontiers. Foreign policy affirms them.
Yet although Kissinger honors nation states, they are growing ever more irrelevant in the Middle East. Aren’t we able to see that though Kissinger is right about the power of the global economy to disrupt the traditional order worldwide, the chief counterforce isn’t the nation state?  Rather, it’s religion in the form of anti-modern Islam, whether Sunni extremism or Shia extremism, and whether Mecca- or Tehran- or ISIS-based.