Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Martin Wolf at FT on the Great Contraction

The FT's Martin Wolf is the best analyst of the world's economic situation on the planet, bar none, or at least the best I've ever come across in the three decades since I worked for Drexel Burnham Lambert back in the '80s. Paul Krugman isn't worthy of shining Martin's shoes and Larry Summers has faded since the days when I used to have lunch with him [and a dozen other Mid-America Committee members] in Chicago---he's sold his soul to the political dwarves of the Dbag Party in the WH after being kicked out of Harvard by the PMS squad of crones united against freedom of speech. Here's Martin in today's FT:
What has the market turmoil of August been telling us? The answer, I suggest, is three big things: first, the debt-encumbered economies of the high-income countries remain extremely fragile; second, investors have next to no confidence in the ability of policymakers to resolve the difficulties; and, third, in a time of high anxiety, investors prefer what are seen as the least risky assets, namely, the bonds of the most highly rated governments, regardless of their defects, together with gold. Those who fear deflation buy bonds; those who fear inflation buy gold; those who cannot decide buy both. But few investors or corporate managers wish to take on any longer-term investment risks.
Welcome, then, to what Carmen Reinhart, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, and Harvard’s Kenneth Rogoff call “the second great contraction” (the Great Depression of the 1930s being the first). Those less apocalyptic might call it the “Japanese disease”.

Ms. Reinhart and Rogoff of course are the authors of This Time is Different, Eight Centuries of Financial Folly, a monumental book which will probably earn them a place along with Hayek and Keynes and Shumpeter among other financial demi-god gurus. Pete Peterson is himself a world-class maitre d' of running one of the most influential financial think tanks on the planet---like a year-round Davos. Wolf goes on:
Many ask whether high-income countries are at risk of a “double dip” recession. My answer is: no, because the first one did not end. The question is, rather, how much deeper and longer this recession or “contraction” might become. The point is that, by the second quarter of 2011, none of the six largest high-income economies had surpassed output levels reached before the crisis hit, in 2008 (see chart). The US and Germany are close to their starting points, with France a little way behind. The UK, Italy and Japan are languishing far behind.

Wolf dives into the economic complexities with the finesse of a financialmaistro waving a baton before an orchestra of horns, woodwinds and other instruments.
The authoritative National Bureau of Economic Research of the US does define a recession as “a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months”. This is to focus on the change in output, rather than its level. Normally, that makes sense. But this recession is not normal. When economies suffer such steep collapses, as they did during the worst of the crisis (the peak to trough fall in gross domestic product having varied between 3.9 per cent in France and 9.9 per cent in Japan), an expansion that fails to return output to the starting point will not feel like recovery. This is especially true if unemployment remains high, employment low and spare capacity elevated. In the US, unemployment is still double its pre-crisis rates.
The depth of the contraction and the weakness of the recovery are both result and cause of the ongoing economic fragility. They are a result, because excessive private sector debt interacts with weak asset prices, particularly of housing, to depress demand. They are a cause, because the weaker is the expected growth in demand, the smaller is the desire of companies to invest and the more subdued is the impulse to lend. This, then, is an economy that fails to achieve “escape velocity” and so is in danger of falling back to earth.

The politics of a great contraction are daunting. Especially since the two politcal leaders nominally overseeing the strange political chemistry generated by the failing economies are "bystanders of unfolding events."
....consider, against this background of continuing fragility, how people view the political scene. In neither the US nor the eurozone, does the politician supposedly in charge – Barack Obama, the US president, and Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor – appear to be much more than a bystander of unfolding events, as my colleague, Philip Stephens, recently noted. Both are – and, to a degree, operate as – outsiders. Mr Obama wishes to be president of a country that does not exist. In his fantasy US, politicians bury differences in bipartisan harmony. In fact, he faces an opposition that would prefer their country to fail than their president to succeed. Ms Merkel, similarly, seeks a non-existent middle way between the German desire for its partners to abide by its disciplines and their inability to do any such thing. The realisation that neither the US nor the eurozone can create conditions for a speedy restoration of growth – indeed the paralysing disagreements over what those conditions might be – is scary.
This leads us to the third big point: the dire consequences of soaring risk aversion, against the background of such economic fragility. In the long journey to becoming ever more like Japan, the yields on 10-year US and German government bonds are now down to where Japan’s had fallen in October 1997, at close to 2 per cent (see chart). Does deflation lie ahead in these countries, too? One big recession could surely bring about just that. That seems to me to be a more plausible danger than the hyperinflation that those fixated on fiscal deficits and central bank balance sheet find so terrifying.
A shock caused by a huge fight over fiscal policy – the debate over the terms on which to raise the debt ceiling – has caused a run into, not out of, US government bonds. This is not surprising for two reasons: first, these are always the first port in a storm; second, the result will be a sharp tightening of fiscal policy. Investors guess that the outcome will be a still weaker economy, given the enfeebled state of the private sector. Again, in a still weaker eurozone, investors have run into the safe haven of German government bonds.

I'm at risk of violating FT's draconian ukases against excessive quotation of their outstanding analyses, but let me refer you to Philip Stephens lmentioned above and then allow you to link and read the rest of Wolf's sobering conclusions. We may be in for a sort of economicGotterdaemmerung in Europe and the USA and Stephans' comment:
...the fact that the debt ceiling decision went to the wire speaks eloquently of the diminished authority of the White House. In any event, the deal cobbled together in Congress does little to address the federal government’s fiscal sustainability. The much touted spending cuts are just another promissory note. The angry name-calling that preceded them damaged America’s international authority. I am not among the Cassandras who think the US has fallen into irreversible decline. Mr Obama, though, does not make it any easier to present the contrary case.

is not very reassuring that The Twilight of The Economic Gods are lengthening the shadows over what Spengler almost 100 years ago published as Die Untergang Des Abendlands, AKA The Decline of the West.

Monday, August 29, 2011

How to Tell The REAL & the FAKE Paul Krugboy apart

Krugboy a "real" fake or just a fake fake? IT's extremely difficult as James Taranto points out thusly:
LONDON--We'll never forget where we were when the Great Virginia Earthquake of 2011 struck.

We were riding in a taxi in Cambridge. As this was the Cambridge Cambridge and not the Harvard Cambridge--we were there for a Templeton Foundation conference--we didn't feel any shaking, but we were monitoring our Twitter feed so we heard about it almost immediately. Some of our fellow conference-goers were from the Washington area; when we told them what had happened, they nervously phoned home to make sure all was well. It was.

Later that day, as reports, Fake Paul Krugman weighed in on the economic impact of the quake: "People on twitter might be joking," he wrote, "but in all seriousness, we would see a bigger boost in spending and hence economic growth if the earthquake had done more damage." Former Enron adviser Real Paul Krugman was furious at the "right-wing hacks" who had mistaken Fake Krugman for him, and at Fake Krugman for stealing his material. He offered this advice on how to tell Real Krugman and Fake Krugman apart:

If you see me quoted as saying something really stupid or outrageous, and it didn't come from the [New York] Times or some other verifiable site, you should probably assume it was a fake.
That means it was Real Krugman who wrote, on Sept. 14, 2001, that the terrorist attacks three days prior could "do some economic good" because "all of a sudden, we need some new office buildings," and "rebuilding will generate at least some increase in business spending." And it was the Real Krugman, as we noted in September 2010, who described World War II as "the miracle of the 1940s" because it entailed "government activism" that spurred an economic recovery.

On the other hand, since Fareed Zakaria's show is on CNN and not the Times website, it must've been Fake Krugman who told Zakaria earlier this month: "If we discovered that . . . space aliens were planning to attack and we needed a massive buildup to counter the space alien threat and really inflation and budget deficits took secondary place to that, this slump would be over in 18 months."

After reading FZ on the Middle East in his best-selling book of flimflammery, "Fake" would be a good substitute for "Fareed" Zakaria....!!! His rendition of events and facts on both Arab/Israel and Arabian Peninsula affairs are riddled with falsehoods and unforced errors.

Why Syria is more "Complicated" than Libya

The WSJ has an article on Syrian WMD and long-range missiles as well as nerve gas and other agents of murderous intent.
"We are very concerned about the status of Syria's WMD, including chemical weapons," Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, said in an interview. "Together with the U.S. administration, we are watching this situation very carefully."

Israel has historically held concerns about the fall of the Assad regime, which has largely kept the Syria-Israel border quiet for the past 40 years. Still, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government has increasingly voiced support for democratic change in Damascus.

"We see a lot of opportunity emerging from the end of the Assad regime," Mr. Oren said.

A senior U.S. official said Syria's suspected chemical weapons arsenal "is of great importance and...under intense study."

U.S. and Israeli officials won't disclose exactly how they are keeping tabs on Syrian weaponry. But in the past, the U.S. and Israel have tracked activities at Syrian military installations using satellites and human spies. In 2008, the George W. Bush administration released detailed photographs and other intelligence of a reactor allegedly set to produce weapons-grade plutonium on the Euphrates River in eastern Syria.

Washington's concerns about Syria mirror in some ways those held about Libya, where U.S. intelligence agencies are trying to help rebels secure mustard gas, shoulder-fired missiles and light arms amassed by Col. Moammar Gadhafi's regime in recent decades. The Obama administration is concerned these weapons could fall into the hands of militant groups and terrorist organizations operating across North Africa and the Middle East.

During a short-lived détente with the U.S. that began in 2003, Col. Gadhafi gave up the equipment needed to develop nuclear weapons.

Mr. Assad's government has repeatedly denied that it has developed any nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. It accuses Israel of having developed the largest nuclear and chemical weapons arsenal in the Middle East, a charge Israel neither confirms nor denies.

Syria is one of six nations that isn't a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which bans the production and stockpiling of chemical weapons.

U.S. and Western intelligence services view Damascus as a central player in a global proliferation network that includes North Korea, Iran and the militant groups Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories.

U.S. officials believe North Korea has assisted both Damascus and Tehran in developing medium- and long-range missile systems. U.N. investigators also concluded in a recent report that Syria and Iran oversee sophisticated smuggling networks that move light arms and Katyusha missiles into Lebanon and the Palestinian territories via sea and land. Last year, the U.S. charged Syria with transferring long-range missile technologies to Hezbollah, a charge Damascus has denied.

Aside from the fact that ever since it lost the Golan Heights, Syria has kept to its signed agreements [although it has been assiduously using proxies to make lethal mischief against Israel from its Hezbollah and Hamas surrogates], there is a lot that Syria could do in a battle to the death or "Mother of All Battles."
A 2009 report by the Central Intelligence Agency said: "Syria has had a [chemical weapons] program for many years and already has a stockpile of CW agents, which can be delivered by aircraft, ballistic missiles and artillery rockets."

Current and former U.S. officials said Syria has at least five sites where it produces chemical-weapons agents, including mustard gas, Sarin and VX. Mustard gas is a blistering agent used extensively in World War I. Sarin and VX are nerve agents that are considered more lethal.

But the officials said these facilities are difficult to track as they are spread across Syria and centered in such cities as Damascus, Hama, Latakia and Aleppo. Some production facilities are at military facilities that also store Syria's Scud missiles.

U.S. officials said there are no indications that the Assad regime has transferred chemical weapons to Hezbollah or Hamas. They also stressed that there are no indications that any Syrian weapons facilities have been compromised or are vulnerable.

Still, U.S. officials said there are worries that this situation could change if Syria follows Libya into a period of prolonged unrest or civil war. There have already been reports of some Syrian military units splintering into pro- and antiregime elements, although the overall structure of the armed forces appears intact, U.S. officials said.

The level of U.S. concern about the stockpiles would grow should Syria descend into even deeper chaos or full-blown civil war, a U.S. official said. "That scenario is on the radar screen, and a lot of people are watching this closely, but we're not there right now," the official said.

Nonproliferation experts are particularly concerned that Syrian army units could be diverted away from guarding the weapons sites if the instability in the country continues. There are also fears that elements of the Syrian army could seek to sell artillery shells tipped with chemical or agents.

"The fear is fragmentation," said Leonard Spector, head of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, an independent think tank in Washington. "If you have a situation where the military fragments, or where some of the locations are overrun, then you have all these other contingencies you have to plan for."

The UN now knows that Syria was probably NOT complicit in the murder of Lebanese President Hariri [whom I met long ago in DC], but this hardly lessens the fear that a Syria spiraling out of control might not become a hornet's nest of opportunity for terrorist opportunists.

Early Obama Letter Confirms Inability to Write

Early Obama Letter Confirms Inability to Write

Powerline seconds Jack Cashill's emotion that a letter that O'Bozo wrote in 1990 as an editor of the Harvard Law Review reveals his characteristic flimflammeries and is “patronizing, dishonest, syntactically muddled, and grammatically challenged.”

For more on how a Manchurian Candidate was foisted on the American People, read the whole thing:

Unaided, Obama tends to the awkward, passive, and verbose. The phrase "our concern in this area is most appropriately directed at any employer" would more profitably read, "we should focus on the employer." "Concern" is simply the wrong word.
Scarier than Obama's style, however, is his thinking. A neophyte race-hustler after his three years in Chicago, Obama is keen to browbeat those who would "even insinuate" that affirmative action rewards the undeserving, results in inappropriate job placements, or stigmatizes its presumed beneficiaries.
In the case of Michelle Obama, affirmative action did all three. The partners at Sidley Austin learned this the hard way. In 1988, they hired her out of Harvard Law under the impression that the degree meant something. It did not. By 1991, Michelle was working in the public sector as an assistant to the mayor. By 1993, she had given up her law license.
Had the partners investigated Michelle's background, they would have foreseen the disaster to come. Sympathetic biographer Liza Mundy writes, "Michelle frequently deplores the modern reliance on test scores, describing herself as a person who did not test well."
She did not write well, either. Mundy charitably describes her senior thesis at Princeton as "dense and turgid." The less charitable Christopher Hitchens observes, "To describe [the thesis] as hard to read would be a mistake; the thesis cannot be 'read' at all, in the strict sense of the verb. This is because it wasn't written in any known language."
Michelle had to have been as anxious at Harvard Law as Bart Simpson was at Genius School. Almost assuredly, the gap between her writing and that of her highly talented colleagues marked her as an affirmative action admission, and the profs finessed her through.
In a similar vein, Barack Obama was named an editor of the Harvard Law Review. Although his description of the Law Review's selection process defies easy comprehension, apparently, after the best candidates are chosen, there remains "a pool of qualified candidates whose grades or writing competition scores do not significantly differ." These sound like the kids at Lake Woebegone, all above average. Out of this pool, Obama continues, "the Selection Committee may take race or physical handicap into account."
To his credit, Obama concedes that he "may have benefited from the Law Review's affirmative action policy." This did not strike him as unusual as he "undoubtedly benefited from affirmative action programs during my academic career."

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Heather MacDonald on The Great Course

The City Journal is the best reading around.
To open a Great Courses catalog is to experience an intellectual seduction. “When was the last time you read the classics of American literature?” teases one course description. “Possibly not as recently as you’d like. These carefully crafted lectures are your royal road to recapturing the American experience—and our intellectual and cultural heritage.” A course on Plato’s Dialogues—“for millennia the objects of devoted study by the noblest minds”—invites you to “become engrossed in the ‘romance of the intellect.’ ” The company uses words to describe learning—such as “joy,” “beauty,” “pleasure,” “classic,” and its favorite, “greatness”—that have long disappeared from the academy’s discourse. “As you read or reread these masterpieces, you will likely experience such joy from great reading that you may wonder why you have spent so much time on contemporary books,” asserts one course description, committing several transgressions against the reigning post-poststructuralist orthodoxy.

And the company offers a treasure trove of traditional academic content that undergraduates paying $50,000 a year may find nowhere on their Club Med–like campuses. This past academic year, for example, a Bowdoin College student interested in American history courses could have taken “Black Women in Atlantic New Orleans,” “Women in American History, 1600–1900,” or “Lawn Boy Meets Valley Girl: Gender and the Suburbs,” but if he wanted a course in American political history, the colonial and revolutionary periods, or the Civil War, he would have been out of luck. A Great Courses customer, by contrast, can choose from a cornucopia of American history not yet divvied up into the fiefdoms of race, gender, and sexual orientation, with multiple offerings in the American Revolution, the constitutional period, the Civil War, the Bill of Rights, and the intellectual influences on the country’s founding. There are lessons here for the academy, if it will only pay them heed.

The tenured clowns in academicide's cloacal tunnels are unlikely to do so.
Rollins, then 33, soon discovered that his assumptions about the university—that it existed, in his words, “to transmit to the young everything the civilization has figured out so far and to discover new things”—were not shared by everyone in the academy. “My first baptism came quickly,” he says. One of his earliest hires was Rick Roderick, a philosophy professor at Duke University, whom Rollins describes as to the left of Karl Marx. Nothing disqualifying there, so long as a professor injects his political views into a course only if relevant. Roderick had already recorded two popular courses for the company and was in the middle of his third when he let fly the observation that we shouldn’t bother to listen to anyone—Ronald Reagan came immediately to mind, he said—who scored too low on the “DQ index.” (That would be the “Dan Quayle index,” after the purportedly stupid vice president.) Roderick went on to speculate on tape that the only reason Nancy Reagan had ever had power was that she “gave the best head in Hollywood.” At this point, Rollins, who had considerable capital resting on the success of Roderick’s course, intervened: “Rick, I’m deleting this material.” Roderick coolly replied: “Tom, truth is a defense to libel.” Ultimately, the index stayed in; Nancy Reagan’s alleged source of power was out.

I'm sure perfesser Rick was one of the Dukie dolts signing the faculty complaint about the rape of a black stripper by the NOW NATIONAL CHAMPION Duke LaCrosse Team. The team members were exonerated as the stripper turned out to be as unreliable a witness as Dominique Strauss Kahn's accuser who turned tricks on the side.
An American literature course by two theory-drenched Ivy League professors provided another early learning experience. The professors made little effort to conceal their contempt for the presumed racism and sexism of their audience and of the authors they were discussing. Within a month of the course’s release, customers were calling the company to complain about the lecturers’ condescending tone. In an institution that would live or die according to its customers’ satisfaction, Rollins couldn’t afford to alienate his audience. He destroyed all the master tapes of the course, so that no further copies could ship out, even accidentally. “Teaching shouldn’t be an opportunity for a professor to get off his chest burning issues that no one would listen to except students,” Rollins says, sadder but wiser now about the academy. “People want to know what the field has discovered; they aren’t interested in your personal views.”

Of course, the old adage that academic politics is so bitter and vicious because it concerns matters so very unimportant can be extended to the tenured solipsistic fetishists spreading their own brand of silliness in the interest of attracting peer-reviewed morons to do the daisy chain of serial buggery that constitutes success in the world of academicide. Their bitter and vicious feuds are not above academic fraud, communally agreed upon, so all can peer review themselves into grants and other perquisites donated by equally venal and dishonest politicians. Anthropomorphic Global Warming is the most fitting example, but the cabal protecting this witless Obamandias Administration participates almost gleefully in perpetuating self-serving statistics and simply ignoring a much larger and more cogent-==but less politically correct---evidence. Their coverup of the civil war between ATF and the Border Patrol is just another example of the lamestream MSM's desire to destroy any semblance of American exceptionalism and turn us all into the mindless crones and drones they themselves have already become. Heather continues:
It's like intellectual crack.” The audience—mostly older professionals with successful careers—sees the liberal arts as a life-changing experience, observes Louis Markos, an English professor at Houston Baptist University who has recorded courses on C. S. Lewis and on literary criticism for the company. “They are hungry for this material.”

The company markets deftly to that hunger. The catalogs are learning opportunities in their own right, tantalizingly laying out the material that each course will cover, such as the contributions and foibles of the Renaissance popes. This peekaboo strategy presumes a burning desire for knowledge on the reader’s part. “Starting with the Renaissance, the culture of the West exploded,” begins the description of a Western civilization series. Then it irresistibly reels the reader in: “Over the next 600 years, rapid innovations in philosophy, technology, economics, military affairs, and politics allowed what once had been a cultural backwater left by the collapse of the Roman Empire to dominate the world. But how—and why—did this happen? How did the decentralized agrarian principalities of medieval Europe remake themselves into great industrial nation-states? How and why did absolutism rise and then yield to democratic liberalism?”

In promoting its wares, the Great Courses breaks one academic taboo after another. The advertising copy for “Books That Have Made History: Books That Can Change Your Life” asserts: “Beginning with the definition of a great book as one that possesses a great theme of enduring importance, noble language that elevates the soul and ennobles the mind, and a universality that enables it to speak across the ages, Professor Fears examines a body of work that offers an extraordinary gift of wisdom to those willing to receive it”—a statement so reckless that it would get its proponent thrown out of the Modern Language Association’s annual convention.Indeed, one could take the company’s definition of literature in another course description as a rebuke to the prevailing academic mores, not least in its very use of the word “literature” rather than the usual “text”: “While we sometimes think of literature as anything written, it is in fact writing that lays claim to consideration on the grounds of beauty, form, and emotional effect.” The Great Courses’ uninhibited enthusiasm is so alien to contemporary academic discourse that several professors who have recorded for the firm became defensive when I asked them about their course descriptions, emphatically denying any part in writing the copy—as if celebrating beauty were something to be ashamed of.

This collectivity of sham artists and scammers are truly ashamed of what the highest and farthest reaches of what humanity can attain and continue their reductivist rants that are "peer-reviewed" by peanut galleries of others infected with a similarl contagion. They not only rule the Groves of Academicide, but the Hills of Hollyweird and the Capitol Hill recently infested with a female crone/queen bee who carried a giant gavel in front of herself---Nancyboy, the Tranny.
The most striking thing about the Great Courses’ humanities curriculum, however, is how often the same thinkers appear across a large range of courses. The canon has been “problematized” in the academy, but it is alive and well in these recordings. Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Paul, Erasmus, Galileo, Bacon, Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Dante, Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Milton, Molière, Pope, Swift, Goethe, and others are foregrounded again and again as touchstones of our civilization. This repetition occurs not because the company is on a mission to resuscitate the canon but because customers want it. The insatiability of the demand for such courses surprises even the producers themselves. “We were reexamining the same material,” says Rollins, “and I kept wondering: ‘How can customers keep buying “Great Ideas of Philosophy” and “Great Minds of the Western Intellectual Tradition?” ’ But people bought both. They wanted different takes on Kant, Socrates, and the Enlightenment.”

The ideal of excellence and the concept of quality is foreign to the legion of limpdicks and lamestreamers. Harold Bloom was almost tarred and feathered, then run out of the Groves of Academicide on a rail for his magisterial The Canon, a collection of his own selections of the greatest examples of Western Literature, with zero psychobabble & silly textual analysis. For the same reason, I am now reading Frank Kermode's published criticism of Romantic, Shakespearean, and chiliastic literature.
So totalitarian is the contemporary university that professors have written to Rollins complaining that his courses are too canonical in content and do not include enough of the requisite “silenced” voices. It is not enough, apparently, that identity politics dominate college humanities departments; they must also rule outside the academy. Of course, outside the academy, theory encounters a little something called the marketplace, where it turns out that courses like “Queering the Alamo,” say, can’t compete with “Great Authors of the Western Literary Tradition.”

The Great Courses is by no means a theory-free zone; it even offers a course in canon formation. The title of another course, “Representing Justice: Stories of Law and Literature,” uses the mannered gerundial construction so beloved of theory-besotted academics—not surprising in a course built on the briefly trendy idea that law is a form of literature. But the incursions of identity studies and other post-sixties academic developments remain minimal—and are inevitably denounced by some customers on the company’s website. Overwhelmingly, the professors act as handmaidens to their subjects, laying out their material clearly and objectively, rather than avenging 4,000 years of injustice by unmasking the power relations supposedly hidden in a hapless text. Whitman College classics professor Elizabeth Vandiver notes in a course on Homer’s Iliad that ancient Greek culture was patriarchal, unlike the modern era. Seth Lerer, a literature professor at the University of California at San Diego, does not chastise Milton for sexism in the famous description of Adam and Eve in Paradise Lost:
For contemplation he and valour form’d,
For softness she and sweet attractive grace,
He for God only, she for God in him.

If the Great Courses were a college, its students would graduate with a panoramic view of human accomplishment and the natural world. Their knowledge of the past would be bolstered with courses in ancient Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, and Egypt; the early, high, and late Middle Ages; the Renaissance and the Reformation; Chinese, Russian, and African history; and modern European history, including the Enlightenment, Victorian England, and World Wars I and II. In science and mathematics, they could study cosmology, algebra, calculus, differential equations, quantum mechanics, chemistry, chaos theory, basic biology, probability, the history of mathematics, the great ideas of classical physics, and the science of consciousness. To understand how mankind has thought about human life, they could plunge into Aristotle’s Ethics, Plato’s Republic, medieval philosophy, Eastern philosophy, Nietzsche, Tocqueville, Voltaire, the philosophical underpinnings of capitalism, and modern philosophy since Descartes. In literature, they could read the Greek tragedies, Homer, the Aeneid, the Divine Comedy, Shakespeare, the English Romantic poets, Mark Twain, the English novel, and masterpieces of Russian literature. Their appreciation of beauty could be enhanced by studying the Dutch masters, cathedral architecture, Michelangelo, Mozart’s operas and chamber works, northern and Italian Renaissance art, Wagner’s operas, the lives and times of Stravinsky and Shostakovich, and Beethoven’s piano sonatas, symphonies, and string quartets.

MacDonald expatiates at the end of her article, summing up the simple verities which the vampires of High Scholasticism regard with the same reverence as garlic and the Crucifix.
The biggest question raised by the Great Courses’ success is: Does the curriculum on campuses look so different because undergraduates, unlike adults, actually demand postcolonial studies rather than the Lincoln-Douglas debates? Every indication suggests that the answer is no. “If you say to kids, ‘We’re doing the regendering of medieval Europe,’ they’ll say, ‘No, let’s do medieval kings and queens,’ ” asserts Allitt. “Most kids want classes on the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, World War I, and the American Civil War.” Creative writing is such a popular concentration within the English major, Lerer argues, because it is the one place where students encounter attention to character and plot and can non-ironically celebrate literature’s power.

But the educational market works very differently inside the academy and outside it, and the consumers of university education are largely to blame. Almost no one comparison-shops for colleges based on curricula. Parents and children select the school that will deliver the most prestigious credentials and social connections. Presumably, some of those parents are Great Courses customers themselves—discerning buyers regarding their own continuing education, but passive check writers when it comes to their children’s. Employers, too, ignore universities’ curricula when they decide where to send recruiters, focusing only on the degree of IQ-sorting that each college exercises sub rosa.

Universities are certainly doing very well for themselves, despite ignoring their students’ latent demand for traditional learning. But they would better fulfill their mission if they took note of the Great Courses’ wild success in teaching the classics. “I wasn’t trying to fix something that was broken in starting the company,” Rollins says. “I was just trying to create something beautiful.” Colleges should replicate that impulse.

I hold a card naming me as an "Academic Associate" of the University of Chicago. I've taught at FIU and FAU. But my greatest pride is my ability to compare and criticize the humbuggeries of the present-day Shambolic twaddle of the Post-PostModerns such as Foucault and Lacan & their adoring cliques and claques of mutually incomprensible and uncomprehending dwellers of the Upper West Side of Unreality, the one mimicking the New Yorker cover of the view across the Hudson with the Left Coast a mere few kilometers westward. The cemetery of their theoretical humbuggery grows daily, but there's still plenty of room in the crypt.

NYT Buries the Lede on Syrian Unrest

The NYT Should know better.
Beirut correspondent Nada Bakri's key point in her article today didn't come until the fifth and sixth paragraphs [in bold italics]:
Infused with new energy after watching the violent televised downfall of Libya’s longtime autocrat, thousands of Syrians poured into the streets of their own country after noon prayers on Friday and demanded the same fate for President Bashar al-Assad, residents and activists reported.

It was yet another show of defiance in Syria against the government of Mr. Assad, who has never hesitated to use deadly force to suppress the five-month-old uprising that has threatened his grip on power. The rebellion in Libya that sent Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi fleeing from his fortified enclave in Tripoli seemed to give the Syrian protesters fresh enthusiasm.

“Qaddafi is gone; it is your turn, Bashar!” demonstrators screamed, according to accounts relayed from Syria, which has banned most foreign news organizations from reporting inside the country. Others shouted, “Bye-bye, Qaddafi. Bashar is next!” and “Bashar, we don’t love you, even if you turn night into day!”

The Friday demonstrations, the last in the holy month of Ramadan, came as Russia and China, Syria’s allies, tried to foil a proposal by the United States and European nations to impose Security Council sanctions on Mr. Assad’s government for its crackdown. Russia introduced a rival resolution calling on Mr. Assad’s government to accelerate reforms, but making no mention of the tougher sanctions sought by the United States and its European Union allies.

Western diplomats criticized the Russian resolution as a tactical maneuver that was meaningless as a deterrent. Mark Kornblau, a spokesman for the United States Mission to the United Nations, said, “The regime’s violence has continued unabated, the international condemnation has grown louder and the Security Council’s response should reflect those realities.”

In a sign of Mr. Assad’s growing isolation, Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the militant group Hezbollah, called on Syria to introduce reforms and said that the unrest there would have major implications on the region if not solved peacefully. The Iranian-backed Shiite group in Lebanon has been one of Mr. Assad’s strongest allies.

In previous remarks Mr. Nasrallah has always offered support for the Syrian leadership, and his group adopted the government version of events there: that it is battling foreign armed groups.

The reason that Nasrallah's backpedaling from full support lies in the fact that Hassan Nasrallah's Hezbollah is a wholly-owned subsidiary of its Iranian masters. If even the Iranians are getting cold feet, some sober reassessment is becoming necessary for Bashar Al-Assad and his allies.

If one reads the rest of the article, it is apparent that the Syrian snipers and killer-goons [who are responsible for all the shooting of Syrian soldiers who refuse to fire on the populace] are being held back in check. A few in the far east on the Euphrates at Deir Ez-Zeir obviously didn't get the memo and killed innocent demonstrators anyway.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Steve Jobs: The Most Brilliant Tyrant in Business History?

CNN Money has a now outdated article from March,2008 which tries to evoke the human white-heat fireball which is Steve Jobs:

At Apple during his 20s, Jobs served as board chairman and head of the Macintosh division. But he was never given the CEO job. Adult supervision - in the form of professional managers - was recruited to run the fast-growing business, notably Pepsi president John Sculley. "Back then he was uncontrollable," venture capitalist Arthur Rock, an early Apple board member, told Institutional Investor last year. "He got ideas in his head, and the hell with what anybody else wanted to do. Being a founder of the company, he went off and did them regardless of whether it ended up being good for the company."

To be sure, many of the gifts that would drive Apple's resurrection over the past decade were already evident in the 1980s: the marketing showmanship, the inspirational summons to "put a dent in the universe," the siren call to talent. Engineer Bob Belleville recalls Jobs recruiting him from Xerox in 1982 with the words: "I hear you're great, but everything you've done so far is crap. Come work for me." Jobs famously seduced Sculley to Apple by challenging him: "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?"

But after two years of working closely with Jobs, Sculley came to liken him to Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky. In "Odyssey," his memoir of this period, he called Jobs "a zealot, his vision so pure that he couldn't accommodate that vision to the imperfections of the world." In 1985, Sculley orchestrated Jobs' firing after a power struggle. And in his memoir, Sculley dismissed Jobs' vision for the company. "Apple was supposed to become a wonderful consumer products company," Sculley wrote. "This was a lunatic plan. High tech could not be designed and sold as a consumer product." Of course, Sculley was dead wrong.

Indeed, as the iPhone and iPad would go on to cement Jobs as the ultimate consumer product genius of all time, excepting only Henry Ford & Thomas Edison, perhaps, it seems that Jobs' ability to change his mind and take credit shamelessly was more in the line of Joe Stalin or Adolf, or a competent Saddam Hussein, in homage of his partly Middle East heritage {a Syrian daddy who disappeared from his life and adopted him out].

Here's the last revealing paragraph in a long article that spends 90% of its verbiage excoriating Jobs while lauding him as a genius:
Already in 2008, Jobs has unveiled his usual array of sleek new products, highlighted by the MacBook Air, billed as "the world's thinnest notebook." The company's most recent quarterly results were its best ever: Apple reported $1.58 billion in profit, $18 billion in the bank, and zero debt. Despite signs of a recession, the company projected second-quarter earnings growth of 29%.

But this time, all that just wasn't amazing enough. Since the beginning of 2008, Apple shares have tumbled by 40% from their all-time high in late December (in a down market, to be sure). Disappointing the masses is a risk you take when your stock is priced for bedazzlement.

And even for Apple, conjuring the magic won't get any easier. It's hard for a big company to keep growing rapidly, especially if the economy heads into a downturn. Cellphone makers - and even Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) - are cranking out new products to compete with the iPhone. The iPod market shows signs of being saturated. Amazon's (AMZN, Fortune 500) new digital-music store is gunning for iTunes, aided by record companies eager to escape Jobs' insistence on dictating the price for their content. It's the same reason NBC Universal took its shows off iTunes. Then there's the possibility of additional fallout from the SEC and Justice Department investigations at Apple and Pixar.

Apple voted most innovative
As usual, Apple's fortunes will rest not just on external factors, but on the shoulders of its CEO, who has pushed his company both to astounding heights and to the edge of significant risk. It is Steve Jobs himself who is the wonder - as well as the worry.

Read the whole article for a sort of Nantucket Sleigh Rod that comes from spearing a whale. And of course, the last paragraph doesn't even have a clue that Apple was about to invent the fastest selling "consumer product" in the history of IT. While Gates bathes in the bathos of his early retirement, Jobs invented iPad, which made Apple bigger than Exxon/Mobil for a short time last month and will put Microsoft into the dustbin of history that corporate second-raters deserve---Gates bet on a computer future based on big business while Jobs bet on a Brave New World that has changed the lives of all of us on a daily basis....!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Archduke Otto Von Hapsburg Dies at 98

Death of a Emperor-Manque

Geoffrey Wheatcroft wrote a long and masterful history of the Habsburg Dynasty which I finished reading about a year ago. My interest in HapsburgMitteleuropa has always been sustained by Robert Musil's book A Man Without Qualities, a sort of Proustian meditation on the "fictional" author of a supposed "0fficial" biography of the Hapsburg family and the 650th Anniversary of the foundation of what later became the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Musil has always been somewhat underappreciated.

My own reference to the Archduke Otto was that when only a young six-year old or so, I happened to "meet" this august personage in theMotherhouse of the School Sisters of Notre Dame of Milwaukee Province, located in Elm Grove, a leafy western suburb of Milwaukee where my Catholic grade school was located, just across the street from the imposing Victorian pile. I have a vague memory as the tallest and "smartest" first-grader in St. Mary's Elementary School of being among a few of the kids in the school to shake hands with the Prince, who counted the SSND as among the recipients of the patronage of his Hapsburg heritage, such as it was.

Later, in the Dept. of State, I learned of the minor, but somewhat influential role he played in attempting to set up a postwar European Christian Democratic Party, then beset by Cold War pressures. Subsequently, two decades later at St. Louis University, I met Kurt von Schuschnigg. the Austrian Premier evicted or suborned by Hitler's Anschluss in the Putsch of 1938. A decade after that, as an FSO I sat in conversation with Ambassador Neumann, freshly back from Afghanistan, who as a youthful student in Vienna in the thirties was a young socialist and asked him whether he'd ever crossed paths with Von Schuschnigg and he replied: "Yes, he had me sent to Dachau."

Talk about a conversation-stopping moment...!!! Anyway, the obituary of the Telegraph says:
Otto reached his 18th birthday and was duly declared, in a family ceremony with few outside guests, “in his own right sovereign and head of the house”.
However ghostly that title appeared, it was enough to impress the Austrian-born Adolf Hitler, who was manoeuvring to seize power in Germany. When in the winter of 1931-32 the young Pretender spent a few months studying in Berlin Hitler twice suggested a meeting.
The first invitation came from Prince August Wilhelm of Prussia, the dim-witted Nazi son of the exiled Kaiser, and the second via Goering himself. Otto refused both times on the spurious excuse that he had not come to Berlin to discuss politics (in fact, he was doing nothing but). Hitler was incensed by the snub and it touched off a six-year battle between the two men for the fate of their Austrian homeland.
The climax was reached in February and March of 1938 when a Nazi takeover in Vienna seemed imminent, prompting a short-lived show of defiance from the Austrian Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg — a monarchist at heart but without the strength of his convictions. His vacillation prompted a remarkably courageous offer from the young Pretender to return from exile to take over the reins of government in order to repel Hitler. Schuschnigg dithered but eventually rejected the idea — perhaps just as well for Otto, who was already high on the Gestapo’s wanted list.

Otto Von Hapsburg was one of the few survivors of a bygone age who managed to retain the Christian values of his long dynastic pedigree, and was most gratified when in 2004, his unhappy father Karl was beatified by Pope John Paul II. His son Karl had lost any political career possibilities because of a campaign funding scandal and although Otto remained a representative for Western Austria in the European Pariliament in Strasbourg, his death has ended the long participation of the Hapsburg Family in European political affairs.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Watts Up With That?

The "Hockey Stick" Fallacy which propelled global warming hysterics back when it denied the entire MIddle Age Warming Period and a subsequent "Little Ice Age" which may both have been caused by sunspot variations has a new relative.

Check the link to see the number of "retractions" as the so-called peer-review process is becoming the latest variation of a hockey-stick graph.
[T]here were just 22 retraction notices that appeared in journals 10 years ago, but 139 were published in 2006 and by last year, the number reached 339. Through July of this year, there were a total 210 retractions, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science, which maintains an index of 11,600 peer-reviewed journals.

Meanwhile, retractions related to fraud rose more than sevenfold between 2004 and 2009, exceeding a twofold rise traced to mistakes, according to an analysis published in the Journal of Medical Ethics. After studying 742 papers that were withdrawn from 2000 to 2010, the analysis found that 73.5 percent were retracted simply for error, but 26.6 percent were retracted for fraud. Ominously, 31.8 percent of retracted papers were not noted as retracted

For more info on retractions, go to and see how the great God Science has feet of soft clay while the rains pour down upon it. Like Ozymandias or Obamandias, perhaps.

Watts Up With That?

The "Hockey Stick" Fallacy which propelled global warming hysterics back when it denied the entire MIddle Age Warming Period and a subsequent "Little Ice Age" which may both have been caused by sunspot variations has a new relative.

Check the link to see the number of "retractions" as the so-called peer-review process is becoming the latest variation of a hockey-stick graph.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bashar Al-Assad Next Tyrant to Fall After Qaddafi?

Mike Totten has a short piece on the twisted maniac of Damascus.
Many hoped that Assad would turn out to be a reformer when he assumed Syria’s presidency after his father died in 2000. He promoted himself that way, and for a while, he looked halfway convincing. He’s an ophthalmologist, not a military officer; he’s a bit of a technology geek and an Internet addict; he spent several years in the United Kingdom, where his wife, Asma, was born. Even when the promised reforms failed to materialize and repression against dissidents was ramped up again, some blamed the regime’s so-called “old guard,” followers of Hafez al-Assad who were maybe, just maybe, in Bashar’s way.

The problem with that theory is that Bashar has been in power for more than a decade now, and he has handpicked those who surround him. “The basis for such arguments was Assad’s own public relations strategy,” Lebanese-American scholar Tony Badran writes in Foreign Affairs. “When Assad inherited power from his father in 2000, he adopted the ‘old versus new guard’ theme to cultivate his image as a reformer and bolster his legitimacy at home and abroad. For a brief period, he allowed dissidents to criticize corruption openly. But this so-called Damascus Spring was a cynical mirage. In the past decade, Syria has not seen a single meaningful act of reform.”

Even if he wanted to, Assad would have a difficult time reforming the system that he inherited—not because of a stubborn “old guard,” which doesn’t exist, but because of the nature of Syria’s sectarian demographics. He and his family are members of the Alawite minority, a religious sect that constitutes about 10 percent of Syria’s population. Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority has always considered the Alawites infidels. (The region’s Shia Muslims considered them infidels, too, until Lebanese cleric Musa Sadr issued a fatwa declaring them Shias in 1973 because doing so suited his political agenda at that time.) Between the First and Second World Wars, the Alawites had their own semi-autonomous state along the Mediterranean coast, just north of Lebanon, but it was absorbed into Syria shortly before the French left the region. The Alawites (including Bashar’s grandfather, Suleiman) loathed the idea of living as vulnerable minorities in a country with a Sunni majority. Since the French left the Alawites to their fate, some figured—perhaps rightly—that the safest thing they could do was conquer Syria and rule it themselves. They still believe that their battle for power is a fight for their very survival. No one should expect them to go quietly.

Oh, by the way. Imam Musa Sadr came to an unknown, but presumably bad, end when he visited Libya on a "goodwill" trip later in the seventies. The current [and soon to be publically castrated] monster of Tripoli, the egregious madman Qaddafi, presumably had him "disappear" during a trip into the Syrian desert. You can read all about it in a book called "The Missing Imam" written by none other than Fuad Ajami. [Presumably the always paranoid Colonel Qaddafi suspected Musa Sadr of having a "sinister" connection with the Sufi [and suspected closet Shi'ite] Senussi King Idris whom Qaddafi deposed in 1969 when this abortion staged a "Young Officers" Movement imitating Egypt's Nasser.

Now the jokes on the half-Jewish [on his mother's side] Qaddafi, who should use his "Right of Return" instantly or end up gloriously dead tout de suite.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Richard Pipes and The Russian "Menace"

Richard Pipes is a great scholar of Russia, no matter what the sadly-deranged Solzhenitsyn said toward the end of his tormented life. Indeed, Russia doesn't pose a menace and Prof. Pipes doesn't think he does. Here he discourses with a WSJ reporter on the 20th Anniversary of the Dissolution of the USSR.
On the anniversary of the coup, you might expect to find a celebration under way at the house of the man who taught generations of Harvard students the history of the world's most powerful totalitarian regime. Especially someone who helped inform America's response to the Soviet military threat and served on the National Security Council under Ronald Reagan. Surely, this particular professor—still demonized in certain circles as the archetypal Cold Warrior or, sin of sins, a fantasist about Soviet military might—surely he is cackling with delight at the thought of how we beat the Sovs?

The dissolution of the Soviet Union was one of "the most important events of the 20th century," says Richard Pipes. But he says this while serenely sitting on the porch overlooking the sunlit lake by his summer home. This is a Cold Warrior at peace.

No wonder. Surveying the post-Soviet universe, he sees no threats of the old magnitude on the horizon. When it comes to new foreign powers, he says, "China is the only successor, but the Chinese don't have such world-wide aggressive intentions. For the Russians, for them to triumph, the whole world had to be communist. I don't think that is true of Chinese Communism. They are perfectly content to be a rich and powerful country, to have influence in their region, but I don't think they have any intentions to take over Africa, or Latin America or anything like that."

Of course, I helped my daughter navigate through a whole cottage-industry library of books denying that the US or, say, Pope John Paul VI, had anything to do with the dissolution of the USSR, which sort of imploded all by itself in the view of these Eurotards. Back then, Prof Pipes thought Russia had a bright future:
Despite all he knows about Russia's sad history, he was upbeat even about that country for a time after 1991, after the last Communist czar, Mr. Gorbachev, stepped down. "I was rather optimistic" for the Russian people, Mr. Pipes says. "I thought all the chains which had held them had broken and they are free. But it didn't happen."

By 2000, ex-KGB strongman Vladimir Putin was in charge, and along with launching a war in Chechnya (and other grim misadventures in the near abroad of the former Soviet Socialist Republics) he began rolling back new freedoms in Russia, eliminating the election of governors, taking over television networks, and reinstating a culture in which free-speaking journalists get murdered. It may seem odd to us that, in the face of re-oppression, Mr. Putin's approval ratings soared. But Mr. Pipes is not surprised.

"Russians like strong leaders, autocratic leaders: Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Stalin. They have contempt for weak leaders, leaders who don't impose their will but who listen to the people. Kerensky, who was prime minister of the provisional government in 1917, is held in contempt because he was a democratic leader."

Lenin's "vengeance personified" and Stalin as a "pockmarked Caligula" [Quotes from Boris Pasternak] was much more amenable to the slave mentality that underlay the veneer of the Enlightenment that Catherine the Great, Potemkin, and Tsar Alexander I had managed to coat the sprawling Empire with.
This theory—received by many Russians as a Russophobic accusation that they have a slave mentality—has made enemies for Mr. Pipes, among them the late novelist and gulag survivor Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. While both men saw the moral horrors and mass human sacrifice that constituted Soviet Communism, they explained its origins very differently. "He said it was because Marxism was a Western idea imported into Russia," Mr. Pipes says. "Whereas my argument is that it has deep roots in Russian history."

That drove the nationalist Solzhenitsyn up a wall, judging by his reaction after Mr. Pipes mailed a copy of his book, "Russia and the Old Regime," to Solzhenitsyn in Switzerland in the mid-1970s.

"I never heard from him until two years later," Mr. Pipes smiles, "when he attacked me . . . saying I was a 'pseudo scholar.'"

Some things do not change. Earlier this month Prime Minister Putin described the United States as "a parasitic" country. But name-calling may be about the worst that Russia can do anymore, at least to the West.

But a tiny 5'5" strongman like Vlad The Empoisoner Putin does pose a danger to some:
"They do pose a threat to their ex-republics," Mr. Pipes says. "They have no problem with Central Asia, because those [states] are rather docile. But they can't reconcile themselves to the loss of the three Baltic Republics [Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania] and Ukraine and Georgia. I feel fairly confident that if Georgia or the Ukraine were to join NATO, as they would like to, the Russians would invade and destroy their independence. But to us they don't pose a threat."

Even so, Mr. Pipes says, the rise of China has presented the U.S. with an opportunity to nudge Russia toward the fold of normal European countries. "I don't admire President Obama in general and I don't like his foreign policy. He doesn't have a clear course," Mr. Pipes says. "If you liked, as I did, Reagan's foreign policy, then you can't like Obama's."

But he gives the president good marks for his choice of an adviser on Russia, Michael McFaul, and he judges the administration's so-called "reset" policy with Russia as an apparent success. "There are no conflicts right now," he points out, although "how much this is a result of Obama's policy and how much is a result of [Moscow's] fear of China and the desire to move closer to Europe and the U.S., I don't know."

Mr. Pipes says Russia is "obsessed" with how its neighbor's growth and progress threaten to make Moscow seem irrelevant on the global stage. "China is becoming a great world power. And that bothers them terribly. They're willing to have America the second great power but they are worried about China being a great power."

Mr. Pipes notes that when foreigners visited Russia in the 17th century, Russians would boast—fairly accurately as it turns out—that their country was the same size as the visible surface of the moon. It still is, although an eclipse by China seems unstoppable. "What can they do about it? They cannot reduce Chinese exports to the United States, the Chinese accumulation of hard currency, the military buildup and so on."

Pipes does think that the only challenge for America today is confronting militant Islam, as does his son.
"The communists were not fanatics. They were vicious people, but you could reason with them . . . and when the going got tough, they retreated." For instance, he says, "You had the Cuban missile crisis: Castro wanted the Russians to actually launch a nuclear attack on the United States, and he said 'OK, Cuba will be destroyed but socialism will triumph in the world.' And Khrushchev said no, nothing doing."

The communists "were never suicidal," either, Mr. Pipes adds, "and the ordinary Russians . . . they wanted to live. So this is a different danger. It's not as bad as the communist danger was because they don't [control] the arsenals of power, of military power. But they are fanatical, and they are irrational. We have to stand up to them and not be frightened of them. But we may be in for decades of the Muslim threat."

The Castro anecdote is true as far as can be determined. The bearded madman actually believed a nuke attack on the USA would be victorious, having actually bit on JFK's fallacious campaign rhetoric about a "missile gap." And if Cuba would be vaporized, he would be the posthumous hero of the victory of Communism..... This was about the time he sent his Argentine deputy Che Guevara to Latin America after losing too many rounds of golf with the upper-middle class Che. [Golf was subsequently banned until recently, for reasons having to do with Cuba's "Caro Lider"]

As for defeating the last known enemy of world peace, Mr. Pipes gives credit to America's policy of containment, which held communists back in most places until the Soviet Union began an inevitable decline. But it might have lingered for decades longer if not for a big push. "Ronald Reagan contributed mightily to the collapse of the Soviet Union," he says. "It would have happened eventually, but not as soon as it did. Because he understood what communism was and how unnatural it was."

Another lesson is "that you should not give in for practical reasons to evil, which we had done for many years under détente and so on. We gave in and we treated these people not as crooks and criminals but as worthy partners. And this was a mistake, they were not. And history has proved it. Not to everyone, of course."

Partly he's referring to scholars, in his own and related fields, with whom he sparred for decades about the nature of the enemy. "In general, the profession in this country, they were not pro-communist but they thought—and that is why I had quarrels with them always—that the [Soviet] system was popular and that it would be there forever. Ergo we have to get along with them, which means we have to make concessions and live with them, and not attack them the way I wanted to attack them, or Reagan wanted to attack them. I mean Reagan, whom they thought a dummy, said this: The Soviet Union is going to collapse. And they said ridiculous, he doesn't know what he is talking about—and he was right."

So Mr. Pipes has been vindicated too? "Yes, of course. But they don't admit it," he laughs. "They have done no self-analysis asking: Where did we go wrong? And they just merrily go on."

The Groves of Academe bear bitter fruit which is frankly inedible.
More than once, Mr. Pipes refers to a woman he met in Russia in the 1960s, when he was visiting Leningrad and she was assigned as his driver. She had lost her husband in the war, felt utterly alone and "looked worn out." He tried to comfort her, he says, with words like, "'Don't give up. You are young, you will find a husband, you will find a family.' And I'll never forget her answer," he recalls with what looks like a shudder: "What do you know? You live in paradise."

Mr. Pipes seems a happy man today. Even the faltering U.S economy—whose former vigor played such a role in the Cold War victory—hasn't got him down. "I have been through these recessions before. If you're my age and you've been through Hitler and Stalin, nothing frightens you. . . . Who's going to frighten me, [Hugo] Chávez?"

The one aspect that Prof Pipes might have mentioned was that Russia's gigantic ten-time-zone sprawl across the planet impinges into territories formerly, if only sometimes briefly, by the Great Middle Kingdom when China ruled everything east of the Urals, through the Golden Horde and even saw Genghis's descendents destroy Baghdad in 1258AD.

Would a prosperous and growing population of Chinese ever look north to relatively unoccupied Eastern Siberia, while Russia's own population is effectively diminishing through emigration and early mortality? No one seems to address that contingency, although it could come up sooner or later.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Unrepentant Commie Hobsbawm Still a Psycho After All these Years

This Book Explains Why Yobs & Criminals Should Rule the World

The WSJ has an article on Eric Hobsbawm, who is now silly at age 94---just as he has been all his life. I happen to be reading Tony Judt's Reappraisals which has a chapter on EH called "Eric Hobsbawm and the Romance of Communism." Here's Judt on EH:
"There are certain clubs," he has said, "of which I would not wish to be a member." By this he means ex-Communists. But ex-Communists---Jorge Semprun, Wolfgang Leonhard, Margarete Buber-Neumann, Cklaude Roy, Albert Camus, Ignazio Silone, Manes Sperber and Arthur Koestler---have written some of the best accounts of our trerrible times. Like Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov, and Havel (whom Hobsbawm never mentions), they are the twentieth century's Republic of Letters. By excluding himself, Eric Hobsbawm has provincialized himself. [I would have included Whittaker Chambers' impassioned Witness among those representatives of the Republic of letters. Eds note!] [p. 123, Reappraisals

Tony Judt then does an entomolygists' excellent job of dissecting and then pinning this insect to the glass-enclosed mortuary where EH & his fellow fools belong. The WSJ does a good job at embalming this living fossil:
To his critics, his ideological dogmatism has made him an untrustworthy chronicler of the 20th century. The British historian David Pryce-Jones argues that Mr. Hobsbawm has "corrupted knowledge into propaganda" and is a professional historian who is "neither a historian nor professional." Reading his extravagantly received 1994 book, "The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914-1991," the celebrated Kremlinologist Robert Conquest concluded that Mr. Hobsbawm suffers from a "massive reality denial" regarding the Soviet Union.

In "How to Change the World: Reflections on Marx and Marxism," Mr. Hobsbawm's latest attempt to grapple with Karl Marx's legacy of ashes, the author remains an accomplished denier of reality. Drawn from essays and speeches spanning the past 50 years, Mr. Hobsbawm's book ruminates on pre-Marxian socialism, the works of the Italian communist philosopher Antonio Gramsci, and a slew of internecine ideological battles that will be of interest mainly to academics and unreconstructed militants.

The more recent material in "How to Change the World," written after the fall of the Soviet Union, claims that regimes self-identified as Marxist shouldn't be allowed to sully the reputation of Marxism—despite all the statues of Marx that once dotted the communist world, the constant invocations of "Das Kapital" and "The Communist Manifesto," and the savage collectivization schemes.

The Wall Street Journal goes on to do a less subtle job of unmasking this impostor than Tony Judt did, but with an apologist for the mass murders committed by Stalin, Chairman Mao, Pol Pot and the currently starving subjects of Kim Jung-Il, subtlety isn't an appropriate tool. A good old-fashioned shillelagh or baseball bat such as those employed by his followers in the UK plundering and looting last night is a good weapon to employ on this intellectual criminal.
For anyone who has visited an American college campus in the past half-century, Mr. Hobsbawm's core argument will be familiar: The Marxism practiced by Lenin, Stalin and Mao was a clumsy misinterpretation of Marx's theories and, as such, doesn't invalidate the communist project. True, the East Bloc societies practicing what was called "actually existing socialism" (which Mr. Hobsbawm determines, ex post facto, didn't actually exist) ended in economic disaster, but experiments in "market fundamentalism also failed," he says. It is unclear to which "fundamentalist" governments he is referring, but it's important for Mr. Hobsbawm to establish a loose moral equivalence between Thatcherism and the ossified economies controlled or guided by Moscow.

One wouldn't know it from "How to Change the World," but Mr. Hobsbawm wasn't always convinced that the Soviet Union, along with its puppets and imitators, was misunderstanding the essence of Marxism. He never relinquished his membership in the Communist Party, even after Moscow's invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Indeed, he began his writing career with a co-authored pamphlet defending the indefensible Soviet invasion of Finland in 1939. "To this day," he writes in his memoirs, "I notice myself treating the memory and tradition of the USSR with an indulgence and tenderness." There was some ugliness in the socialist states occupied by Moscow, he admitted in 2002, but "leaving aside the victims of the Berlin Wall," East Germany was a pleasant place to live. Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

In a now infamous 1994 interview with journalist Michael Ignatieff, the historian was asked if the murder of "15, 20 million people might have been justified" in establishing a Marxist paradise. "Yes," Mr. Hobsbawm replied. Asked the same question the following year, he reiterated his support for the "sacrifice of millions of lives" in pursuit of a vague egalitarianism. That such comments caused surprise is itself surprising; Mr. Hobsbawm's lifelong commitment to the Party testified to his approval of the Soviet experience, whatever its crimes. It's not that he didn't know what was going on in the dank basements of the Lubyanka and on the frozen steppes of Siberia. It's that he didn't much care.

So why is this apologist for Hitlerian genocide and "ethnic cleansing" getting knighted by a Queen obviously as obtuse as this criminal is guilty of "thought crimes" to use an Orwellian phrase? I guess it's EH's constant use of the phrase "need not detain us here or some such silly variation of his moronic thinking worthy of a Nancy Pelosi's "We have to pass the bill in order to see what's in it."
Readers of "How to Change the World" will be treated to explications of synarchism, a dozen mentions of the Russian Narodniks, and countless digressions on justly forgotten Marxist thinkers and politicians. But there is remarkably little discussion of the way communist regimes actually governed. There is virtually nothing on the vast Soviet concentration-camp system, unless one counts a complaint that "Marx was typecast as the inspirer of terror and gulag, and communists as essentially defenders of, if not participators in, terror and the KGB." Also missing is any mention of the more than 40 million Chinese murdered in Mao's Great Leap Forward or the almost two million Cambodians murdered by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge.

When the bloody history of 20th-century communism intrudes upon Mr. Hobsbawm's disquisitions, it's quickly dismissed. Of the countries occupied by the Soviet Union after World War II—"the Second World War," he says with characteristic slipperiness, "led communist parties to power" in Eastern and Central Europe—he explains that a "possible critique of the new [postwar] socialist regimes does not concern us here." Why did communist regimes share the characteristics of state terror, oppression and murder? "To answer this question is not part of the present chapter."

Regarding the execrable pact between Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, which shocked many former communist sympathizers into lives of anticommunism, Mr. Hobsbawm dismisses the "zig-zags and turns of Comintern and Soviet policy," specifically the "about-turn of 1939-41," which "need not detain us here."

The WSJ writer wisely turns us to another writer who merits an entire chapter, this one totally approving, in Judts's Reappraisals: Judt's Chapter following Hobsbawm's tomfoolery is entitled: "Goodbye to All That: Leszek Kolakowski and the Marxist Legacy [pp.129-146]
In one sense, Mr. Hobsbawm's admirers are right about his erudition: He possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of Marxist thought, specifically Italian communism and pre-Soviet socialist movements. But that knowledge is wasted when used to write untrustworthy history. Readers interested in a kaleidoscopic history of Marxist thought, its global influence and the reasons why regimes flying the red banner inevitably resorted to slavery and violence would be better served by Leszek Kołakowski's "Main Currents in Marxism." The three-volume classic (published in English in 1978 and in 2005 as a single volume) ably demonstrates that Stalinism is a feature of Marxism, not an aberration.

Mr. Hobsbawm closes "How to Change the World" by making a predictable admonition: With the world economy in turmoil, "once again the time has come to take Marx seriously." How the application of Marxist economics to the deeply indebted U.S. (or Greek) economy would reverse the current crisis is left unsaid. In Europe, where socialist parties and left-wing coalitions win elections, the electoral tide has turned dramatically in the other direction now that social-democratic policy has swamped the Continent in debt, with parties of the right controlling all of the major (and many minor) economies.

"How to Change the World" shows us little more than how an intellectual has committed his life not to exploring and stress-testing an ideology but to stubbornly defending it. The brand of Marxism that Eric Hobsbawm champions is indeed a way to "change the world." It already did. And it was a catastrophe.

Whenever a living fossil like Hobsbawm comes out of his kennel to bark at his mental masters, I recall the comment renowned Commie Berthold Brecht was heard muttering under his breath when the GDR's version of the Politburo followed the Berlin 1953 Labor Riots by workers unhappy living in their paradise with the admonition that "Perhaps the German People are not yet deserving of a Marxist/Leninist workers' paradise: Brecht muttered back a response "Well, then. Perhaps the GDR politburo should find itself a new population of compliant citizens..."

Karl Rove Created Rick Perry -- Now Can He Stop Him?

Howard Fineman is descending to a level below former DNC hitpuppy Sidney Blumenthal­, who had all sorts of nasty innuendoes in his repertoire­, including unrequited homoerotic love by Alger Hiss for Whittaker Chambers in a New Yorker article in 1997 to Chambers getting old China hands sympatheti­c to Mao out of the way, preparing the brutish Dean Rusk for the Vietnam War to keep them commies out of Saigon. Fineman appears to want us to think that he understand­s Karl Rove's thought processes and projects his own fear and loathing of Gov. Perry, an actual leader who knows how to create jobs and eliminate government waste, onto Karl just as Blumenthal projected his own homoerotic­ism onto Chambers, or Hiss, or whatever target this sicko leftist degenerate conjured up in his fevered mind....if one can call a chamber of horrors like Sidney's brain-pan soup a "mind."

The left is scared into soiling its underwear in public by Perry's track record of success as the Rhetorical Genius retreats to his island snob-haven to conjure up some more job pixie-dust jive.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Midwest: Downfall as Destiny and The Fall of the Midwest Economy

Michael Barone has been putting together the national Almanac of American Politics for several decades and knows more about the politics and economics of every CD than the NYT's editorial staff does about anything on political economy---period. When I got an MA in European History in 1969 from the U. of Michigan at Ann Arbor and joined the State Department in DC, I felt I was moving away from MoTown to the latest incarnation of Rome. Barone uses that year in his subtitle: "In 1970, the future seemed to belong to Michigan's example of big companies and big unions. Not Anymore."
To understand the political economy of the Midwest, it helps to put it in historic perspective. Originally the Midwest's economy was built on its farms, then later on its factories. The long farm-to-factory migration lasted from roughly 1890 to 1970. At the end of that period, when I was working on the first edition of "The Almanac of American Politics," it seemed there were two models for the U.S. future. One was the Michigan model, which prevailed in the industrial Midwest and the factory towns of the Great Plains. The other was the Texas model, which prevailed in most of the South and Southwest.

The Michigan model was based on the Progressive/New Deal assumption that, after the transition from farm to factory, the best way to secure growth was through big companies and big labor unions.

And Michigan wasn't the only Midwest state in this prosperous prospect:
The Big Three auto companies, economist John Kenneth Galbraith wrote, could create endless demand for their products through manipulative advertising and planned obsolescence. The United Auto Workers would ensure that productivity gains would be shared by workers and the assembly line would never be speeded up. In those days, 40% of Michigan voters lived in union (mostly UAW) households, the base vote of a liberal Democratic Party that pushed for ever larger governments at the local, state and federal levels. You found similar alignments in most Midwestern states.

Liberals assumed the Michigan model was the wave of the future, and that in time—once someone built big factories and unions organized them—backward states like Texas would catch up. Texas liberal writers Ronnie Dugger and Molly Ivins kept looking for the liberal coalition of blacks, poor whites and Latinos that political scientist V.O. Key predicted in his 1940s classic "Southern Politics."

I can remember reading Dugger's "A Texan Looks at LBJ" and the serial plagiarizer Ivins back then and thinking how the backward hicks, oil barons, and railroad companies were beggaring Texas and the South, whose politics of race also kept them behind the economic curve:
History hasn't worked out that way. In 1970, Michigan had nine million people. In 2010, it had 10 million. In 1970, Texas had 11 million people. In 2010, it had 25 million. In 1970, Detroit was the nation's fifth-largest metro area. Today, metro Houston and the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex are both pressing the San Francisco Bay area for the No. 4 spot, and Detroit is far behind.

Adversarial unionism is one reason the Midwest slumped. It turns out that the 1970 assembly line, with union shop stewards always poised to shut it down, was not the highest stage of human economic development. When you make labor more expensive, you create incentives to invent new machines and create new jobs elsewhere. Foreign auto manufacturers built plants in a South recently freed from state-imposed racial segregation. With no adversarial unions, management and labor could collaborate and achieve quality levels the Big Three took decades to match.

I worked for COPE for a while in Ann Arbor, the agitprop arm of the UAW. The unions were always pushing the edge of the envelope and the new-economics development of the South first hit me when Schlitz opened another brewery in Longview, TX, free from the Milwaukee unions which made my eight-hours at the bottle house [I worked two summers for Schlitz] into only five & a half at the actual workplace---due to hour-long lunch breaks [with free beer]. two half-hour "breaks" and two fifteen minute "wash-ups" mandated into every day at the Bottle House, at that time the largest in the world. Barone expertly explains about the various flies in this idealized ointment:
One thing that those romantic about Midwestern farms and factories tend to forget is that people hated working in those unionized factories, just as the young Harry Truman hated working on his father's farm. That's why the UAW negotiated "30 and out"—retirement after 30 years—with GM in 1970. With workers retiring well before Medicare age, the next union demand was the billions in retiree health-care benefits that more than anything else bankrupted the Big Three.

Michigan is an extreme example of what has afflicted the industrial Midwest. Big corporations were replaced by big government as the leading employer, and public-employee unions replaced industrial unions as the chief financiers of the Democratic Party. In effect, public-employee unions have been a mechanism by which taxpayer money, in the form of union dues, permanently finances a lobby with a vested interest in higher spending and less accountability. It's a lobby that's benefited from the Democratic Party loyalties of black voters, of Latinos in Chicago (the only large Hispanic presence in the Midwest) and of culturally liberal suburbanites.

This Midwestern model is unraveling before our eyes. The Midwest has not been hit as hard by foreclosures or unemployment as some other places, with Michigan an exception on both counts, but you have to look hard for green shoots of growth. They may be most evident in North Dakota, where low costs and light regulation have produced booms in energy and high tech
Now that Michigan has turned into a mini-Greece with no one paying taxes and everyone vying for faineant no-work government jobs, those who retain the old-time values that brought the hard-working Northern Europeans to the Midwest farmsteads are again asserting themselves. My native state of Wisconsin is a leading example:
But amid the recession, Midwestern Obama Democrats and their public-union allies lost their hold on voters in almost every Midwestern state, losing five governorships last year, including Iowa, and winning the Illinois and Minnesota governorships by less than 1% of the vote. A region that voted 54%-45% for Barack Obama in 2008 voted 53%-43% Republican for House candidates in 2010.

The repudiation of the Midwestern model has played out most dramatically in Wisconsin, where government unions were recognized in 1959. On the streets of Madison—a small city dominated by state government and a giant state university—liberals demonstrated against Gov. Scott Walker's reforms. Ludicrously, they depicted public employees as an oppressed proletariat and they proved ready to break the law with violence in the streets and casuistry in the courts.

Despite the unions' huge financial advantages, Gov. Walker's Republicans held on to their majorities in the state Supreme Court and state Senate in hard-fought judicial and recall elections. The political balance in Wisconsin and the Midwest generally looks more like 2010 than 2008.

Obamandias has today come forward with a $500 billion government program to promote biofuels, basically ethanol that is made of corn which raises the cost of feed for cattle and sheep and also costs more to make than fossil fuels. The US is the Saudi Arabia of coal, the Qatar of natural gas, and this retarded buffoon in the Oval Office wants to throw money at more ethanol production? But Barone ends the piece in the WSJ much better than I just did:
So what does the president have to offer the Midwest? The idea that the wave of the future is an ever-larger public sector financed by a more or less stagnant private sector looks increasingly absurd. The Midwest's public sector has, as Margaret Thatcher put it, run on "other people's money." Meanwhile, Mr. Obama's trip to the Midwest has been preceded by Texas Gov. Rick Perry's foray into Waterloo, Iowa. Mr. Perry points out that his state, with low taxes and light regulation, has been producing nearly half of America's new jobs. The Texas model may be sweeping the Midwest, not vice versa.

The only thing that Obama can make us think of looking forward to is double-digit unemployment and a devaluated country.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Obama Hasn't Changed, But America's Eyes Have Opened

Norman Podhoretz has a fine article in the WSJ that can be summarized thusly:
It's open season on President Obama. Which is to say that the usual suspects on the right (among whom I include myself) are increasingly being joined in attacking him by erstwhile worshipers on the left. Even before the S&P downgrade, there were reports of Democrats lamenting that Hillary Clinton had lost to him in 2008. Some were comparing him not, as most of them originally had, to Lincoln and Roosevelt but to the hapless Jimmy Carter. There was even talk of finding a candidate to stage a primary run against him. But since the downgrade, more and more liberal pundits have been deserting what they clearly fear is a sinking ship.

Here, for example, from the Washington Post, is Richard Cohen: "He is the very personification of cognitive dissonance—the gap between what we (especially liberals) expected of the first serious African American presidential candidate and the man he in fact is." More amazingly yet Mr. Cohen goes on to say of Mr. Obama, who not long ago was almost universally hailed as the greatest orator since Pericles, that he lacks even "the rhetorical qualities of the old-time black politicians." And to compound the amazement, Mr. Cohen tells us that he cannot even "recall a soaring passage from a speech."

Overseas it is the same refrain. Everywhere in the world, we read in Germany's Der Spiegel, not only are the hopes ignited by Mr. Obama being dashed, but his "weakness is a problem for the entire global economy."

In short, the spell that Mr. Obama once cast—a spell so powerful that instead of ridiculing him when he boasted that he would cause "the oceans to stop rising and the planet to heal," all of liberaldom fell into a delirious swoon—has now been broken by its traumatic realization that he is neither the "god" Newsweek in all seriousness declared him to be nor even a messianic deliverer.

Hence the question on every lip is—as the title of a much quoted article in the New York Times by Drew Westen of Emory University puts it— "What Happened to Obama?" Attacking from the left, Mr. Westin charges that President Obama has been conciliatory when he should have been aggressively pounding away at all the evildoers on the right.

Ah yes, those churchgoing, tax-paying evildoers on the right who are land-owning farmers, small-business entrepreneurs and family-oriented folks who are Satan's Children aching and even working hard to bring down Obama's Workers' Paradise of "Yes, We Can" with their scheming Tea Party conspiracies, including getting out the vote in 2010 to elect 63 Republicans to replace 63 Demonrats---how evil can you get?

Here's what Gallup says via The Los Angeles Times, that right-wing purveyor of agitprop from Goebbels until Karl Rove:
Obamandias Poll Sinks Below 40% For First Time, an obvious case of disinformation propagated by that Right-Wing Gallup Crowd of fat cat swindlers and robber barons itching to deplete the wallets of the working poor [as well as the food stamps of the non-working layabouts]. Here's the LAT's gleeful summary of the demotion of President AA+, whose amazing statement that the US is a Triple A country should be seen in baseball terms, as that denoting minor league status:
New data posted Sunday shows that 39% of Americans approve of Obama's job performance, while 54% disapprove. Both are the worst numbers of his presidency.

Back to Norman Podhoretz, who does admit he is one of the usual suspects in the campaign to make the Messianic Godhead look like a mere pretender and basic shill for leftist agitprop:
Of course, unlike Mr. Westen, we villainous conservatives do not see Mr. Obama as conciliatory or as "a president who either does not know what he believes or is willing to take whatever position he thinks will lead to his re-election." On the contrary, we see him as a president who knows all too well what he believes. Furthermore, what Mr. Westen regards as an opportunistic appeal to the center we interpret as a tactic calculated to obfuscate his unshakable strategic objective, which is to turn this country into a European-style social democracy while diminishing the leading role it has played in the world since the end of World War II. The Democrats have persistently denied that these are Mr. Obama's goals, but they have only been able to do so by ignoring or dismissing what Mr. Obama himself, in a rare moment of candor, promised at the tail end of his run for the presidency: "We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America."

This statement, coming on top of his association with radicals like Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright and Rashid Khalidi, definitively revealed to all who were not wilfully blinding themselves that Mr. Obama was a genuine product of the political culture that had its birth among a marginal group of leftists in the early 1960s and that by the end of the decade had spread metastatically to the universities, the mainstream media, the mainline churches, and the entertainment industry. Like their communist ancestors of the 1930s, the leftist radicals of the '60s were convinced that the United States was so rotten that only a revolution could save it.

But the old Soviet Union that traitors like Alger Hiss and fellow-travellers like Dean Acheson saw as an acceptable alternative has ended up in what Karl Marx so charmingly called "the dustbin of history." So what does the New Generation of those pursuing Un-American Activities see as their role, now that subversion and detente are gone as alternatives?
...the communists had in their delusional vision of the Soviet Union a model of the kind of society that would replace the one they were bent on destroying, the new leftists only knew what they were against: America, or Amerika as they spelled it to suggest its kinship to Nazi Germany. Thanks, however, to the unmasking of the Soviet Union as a totalitarian nightmare, they did not know what they were for. Yet once they had pulled off the incredible feat of taking over the Democratic Party behind the presidential candidacy of George McGovern in 1972, they dropped the vain hope of a revolution, and in the social-democratic system most fully developed in Sweden they found an alternative to American capitalism that had a realistic possibility of being achieved through gradual political reform.

Despite Mr. McGovern's defeat by Richard Nixon in a landslide, the leftists remained a powerful force within the Democratic Party, but for the next three decades the electoral exigencies within which they had chosen to operate prevented them from getting their own man nominated. Thus, not one of the six Democratic presidential candidates who followed Mr. McGovern came out of the party's left wing, and when Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton (the only two of the six who won) tried each in his own way to govern in its spirit, their policies were rejected by the American immune system. It was only with the advent of Barack Obama that the leftists at long last succeeded in nominating one of their own.

To be sure, no white candidate who had close associations with an outspoken hater of America like Jeremiah Wright and an unrepentant terrorist like Bill Ayers would have lasted a single day. But because Mr. Obama was black, and therefore entitled in the eyes of liberaldom to have hung out with protesters against various American injustices, even if they were a bit extreme, he was given a pass. And in any case, what did such ancient history matter when he was also articulate and elegant and (as he himself had said) "non-threatening," all of which gave him a fighting chance to become the first black president and thereby to lay the curse of racism to rest?

The MultiCulti hero Barry Soetero or whatever his name is, seemed made to order for another way that the anarchist left that had captured the lamestream MSM, the groves of Academe, the delusionaries of Hollyweird and the union movment could work under a leader who understood their true dream of European Social Democracy, Scandanavian-style, which would soak the rich until they ran out of money so that we Americans could all be impoverished borrowers on the world's credit markets, a far cry from the "SuperPower" of the "Morning in America" days of Ronald Reagan. But was he possessed of the superpowers implied by the lamestream press and electronic media which would throw enough pixie dust into our collective eyes and turn night into day? Mr. Podhoretz thinks not:
And so it came about that a faithful scion of the political culture of the '60s left is now sitting in the White House and doing everything in his power to effect the fundamental transformation of America to which that culture was dedicated and to which he has pledged his own personal allegiance......In my opinion, he imagines that he is helping America to repent of its many sins and to become a different and better country.

But I emphatically agree with Messrs. Limbaugh and Sowell about this president's attitude toward America as it exists and as the Founding Fathers intended it. That is why my own answer to the question, "What Happened to Obama?" is that nothing happened to him. He is still the same anti-American leftist he was before becoming our president, and it is this rather than inexperience or incompetence or weakness or stupidity that accounts for the richly deserved failure both at home and abroad of the policies stemming from that reprehensible cast of mind.

I believe that the term used by that Louisiana National Guard General about the general response to Hurricane Katrina on the party of the municipal, state, and federal agencies charged with the safety and recovery of the city is appropriate to describe Obama. He is, to put it succinctly, "stuck on stupid!"