When South Carolina NAACP President Lonnie Randolph criticized Obama recently, comparing the president honoring Confederate soldiers at Arlington Cemetery on Memorial Day to paying tribute to Adolph Hitler, it was worth pointing out how Abraham Lincoln was much more similar to the Nazi dictator than Southern soldiers fighting for their country’s independence.
During the height of New York City’s financial crisis in the 1970’s, President Gerald Ford had the good sense to turn down Mayor Abe Beame’s request for a federal bailout. The refusal prompted the famous New York Post headline, “Ford to City: Drop Dead.” More than 30 years later, as California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger makes a similar plea to Washington, I hope President Obama will show similar restraint. Unfortunately, given Obama’s recent string of unwise economic decisions, it’s hard to imagine that his judgment will suddenly improve.
A federal bailout would spare California from having to make spending cuts needed to bring its budget into balance. The matter has become urgent since California voters rejected several tax-hiking ballot initiatives. Rather than taking the vote as a signal to dramatically curtail spending, the state turned to the feds. If they get a free pass, the politicians can avoid fixing any of their past mistakes or preparing California for the future.
California, like many states, expanded its bureaucracy as the nation’s bubble economy inflated. When condos flipped like hamburgers and homeowners flush with equity spent like lottery winners, extra tax revenue flooded into Sacramento. However, instead of saving the money for a rainy day or paying off prior debts, the state government simply ballooned its spending. Now that the bubble has burst, and revenues are severely depleted, it is time for California to reconsider its excesses.
Governor Schwarzenegger’s claim that a federal guarantee is not a bailout is ludicrous. No one in the private sector will lend California any money because the state can’t pay it back. Just like AIG and GM, it needs federal help to stay solvent. And although the Federal balance sheet is in far worse shape than California’s, there is one crucial difference: Washington has a printing press, and Sacramento does not. With the ability to pay off debts with newly created funds, a federal default is not a concern.
However, if Obama comes to the rescue, none of the needed cuts will be made. Instead, California will continue to operate its bloated bureaucracy and will be in constant need of more bailouts. In other words, if Schwarzenegger gets his bailout, look for him to utter his famous line – “I’ll be back.”
But it’s not just Schwarzenegger who will be back, but governors from all the other states as well. After all, if the Federal government bails out California, by what right can they deny similar aid to other states? The bailout will send a clear message that states do not need to cut spending.
Similar to the reckless behavior that resulted from federally guaranteed mortgages, federal guarantees on state debt will counteract the market’s attempt to force states to act responsibly. As the market accurately prices-in the heightened risk of default, California faces staggering increases in its borrowing cost. Under normal circumstances, this pressure would force the state to act prudently now to diminish the risk of a future default. However, by allowing California to evade the “bond market vigilantes,” the stage will be set for much bigger losses.
The moral hazards created by state bailouts are tremendous. With federal guarantees given to profligate states, those states that had shown greater fiscal responsibility will face higher interest rates – as their bonds lack a federal guarantee. This creates the perverse incentive for all states to act irresponsibly.
Just as government-guaranteed mortgages lead the market to make overly risky home loans, federally guaranteed state obligations will set the stage for yet another crisis.
Federal backing of California bonds would effectively turn them into Treasury bonds, with the added appeal of being exempt from California state income tax. Therefore, the Treasury will be at a competitive disadvantage when it looks to issue its own debt to Californians. If it then has to guarantee the bonds of all the other 50 states, why would any Americans buy Treasuries when they can get identical credit quality on better terms from the states? The only real buyers left would be foreigners, who are already queasy about the Treasuries they own.
The need to make good on state and federal obligations will further depress the appeal of all U.S. dollar-denominated debt. As a result, as real buyers flee the market, the Fed will have to run its printing presses even faster to pick up the slack. This will set into motion a self-perpetuating spiral of money printing and Treasury sales with a predictable result: hyperinflation.
In the meantime, by redirecting credit to California that otherwise would have gone to more credit-worthy borrowers, the government will worsen the credit crunch for the rest of the country. Since there is only a finite supply of credit, money borrowed by California will no longer be available to other borrowers. The effect is a less efficient allocation of capital that further undermines national productivity.
The only rational policy choice for Obama is to send Schwarzenegger packing. If he does, California will have no choice but to cut spending or default on its bonds. My guess is that, with their backs to the wall, the California legislature will choose the former. However, even if they default, at least the losses will be borne by those who freely assumed the risks. With a bailout, the losses will be shouldered by those who were not even parties to the transactions. If we go this route, we can all say “hasta la vista, baby” to our prosperity.
First there was “The Decider.” Then came Big Man Obama.
“The Decider” is the nickname George Bush gave his all-powerful self.
To go by the dictionary, and “within the context of political science, big man, big man syndrome, or bigmanism refers to corrupt and autocratic rule of countries by a single person.”
“The Decider” habitually sidestepped the chain of command in the military and winked at the Constitutional scheme. Under The Decider’s dictatorship, matters that ought to have been the business of the people or their representatives were routinely consigned to the executive branch.
Big Man Obama is already giving Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd palpitations. Byrd, bless him, is “a stern constitutional scholar who has always stood up for the legislative branch in its role in checking the power of the White House.” According to Politico.com, this old Southern gentleman, after whom Republicans are always chasing for his past indiscretions, warned about Obama’s executive-branch power grab.
Chief Obama has decided to create a number of new White-House fiefdoms: one on health reform, urban affairs policy, and energy and climate change. “Byrd said such positions “can threaten the Constitutional system of checks and balances.’”
Bush’s back-and-forth with Iraqi officials, to cite an example, often involved sidestepping the Senate’s “advise-and-consent” powers, and negotiating matters as “executive agreements.”
Like The Decider before it, the current “White House staff have taken direction and control of programmatic areas that are the statutory responsibility of Senate-confirmed officials.””
We”ve been “spared” warning of Strongman Obama’s Orwellian overreach because a Big Man has big guns: the menagerie of morons that is the American media.
The Chief is working in the same tradition as The Decider, only with even less scrutiny and far more impunity.
George Will pales by comparison to Sen. Byrd. Still, after detailing the flouting of contracts, the use of TARP as a slush fund, and the bullying of business, Will concluded this about the Obama administration’s “central activity”the political allocation of wealth and opportunity”:
“The … administration’s agenda of … political favoritism cloaked in the raiment of “economic planning” and “social justice” … is not merely susceptible to corruption, it is corruption. The Obama administration is … careless regarding constitutional values and is acquiring a tincture of lawlessness,” Will warned.
Will waffles a lot about “constitutional values.” I don”t like it one bit”especially since Obama does it too. In support of federal appellate Judge Sonia Sotomayor, Obama’s pick to replace retiring Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court, the White House issued some Talking Points.
Emphasized twice therein is the paramountcy of selecting “someone who will uphold””wait for this””the … Constitutional values on which this nation was founded.”
Now, the president uses words cautiously and cleverly. He means what he says when he talks of “upholding constitutional values,” as opposed to upholding the Constitution! And it is to the spirit of the law, as he divines it, and not the letter of the law, that the president is committed.
For their part, the liberal media’s judicial jiu-jitsu has been unconscionable. Are the legal writings and judicial rulings of Judge Sotomayor being scrutinized? Not on your life. Right away, the usual moron menagerie began to construct a meta-argument invalidating the GOP’s yet-to-be-made case against Sotomayor, if you get my drift.
An argument against an argument!
From NBC News” Andrea Mitchell to the lowliest Democratic strategist: all are advising viewers, first, that to oppose Sotomayor is to risk Hispanic ire. And second, that in order to dodge death by demographics, Republicans must continue to court Latinos slavishly.
For example, making too much of Sotomayor’s Wise Latina Woman cretinous comment is unwise for Republicans, the talking twits tell us. Judge Sotomayor suggested in 2001, “a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”
The consensus among the commentariat is that this is no time for the GOP to come to the defense of paleface: white judges or white firefighters. (Sotomayor washed her hands of the white, New Haven firefighters, and upheld racial discrimination against them.) The so-called incontrovertible truth at which the Obama media minions are getting is this:
The GOP’s powerbase hangs on Hispanics.
Dogged demographer Steve Sailer has been dispelling this manufactured dogma convincingly for close to a decade:
“Hispanics are no more socially conservative than blacks,” who identify with Democrats. The Hispanic electorate cares primarily “about bread and butter issues,” and most have figured out on “which side their bread is buttered,” says Sailer.
“Among Latinos 55 and up, the Democrats lead 64 percent to 17 percent.” As for Hispanic Republicans, they “aren’t terribly Republican. On the question of more taxing and spending, Hispanic Republicans are slightly more liberal than white Democrats.”
Sen. John McCain, who would wrestle a crocodile for any Hispanic, legal or illegal, received just 31 percent to Obama’s 67 percent of the national Hispanic vote.
The GOP needs Hispanics to sustain a worthwhile political life like an anaerobic organism needs oxygen.
Come to think of it, a GOP that accommodates the demands of this demographic is better off dead.
Expect Republicans to be doing an energetic “diversity” trot. The dance will be designed to appease Hispanics and dilute any substantive critique of Sonia Sotomayor’s judicial philosophy.
One must be a person without discernible intelligence or conservative inclination to be allowed to write for the New York Times as a “conservative” columnist. Otherwise someone would not likely be picked to represent the “other side” by a publication that makes cultural Marxists look downright reactionary. Although I would not normally clutter my mind with the words of such commentators, I did glance at the remarks produced by the Times‘s most recent “conservative“ Ross Douthat, in a copy of the International Herald Tribune that I found on a table in the food court at the Istanbul airport. I was then returning from a conference in Bodrum, held by Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s Property and Freedom Society, which took place at the Aegean resort of Hans’s gracious, multilingual wife Gulcin. Having just listened to the brilliant scholars representing a true international dissenting academy, I was now suddenly confronted by the Times‘s latest distillation of minicon witlessness.
Douthat’s column, “The Happiness Mystique“ (titled “Liberated and Unhappy” here in the States), begins with a ritualistic celebration of how much better off women are now than they were thirty years ago. Indeed “they are wealthier, healthier, and better educated” and by the time Douthat stops piling on praise for what the feminists have wrought, one has the impression that American women were living in the Dark Ages until the day before yesterday.
Unfortunately I can”t recall that women were less well-off or more oppressed in 1979 than they are at this moment, but I”ll take Douthat’s word that they were. Anyhow what the Hell do I know, in comparison to a Times-authority on cultural conservatism?
Ross explains that women should be happy because for the first time they “can leave abusive marriages” and “sue sexist employers.” Still, it seems that in some paper published presumably in an unnamed neocon magazine two publicists have argued that women are less happy now than they were in 1960. That was the time when Betty Friedan was warning women that they had been trapped in marriages that dehumanized them with creature comforts and homes in the suburbs. Douthat talks up the study he paraphrases and tells us “the authors deliberately avoided floating an easy explanation for their data.” Nonetheless, he himself plunges into such explaining without the slightest hesitation, and without any confirming data.
Douthat fires away at deadbeat husbands, who leave their spouses and take up with prostitutes or else are on the lookout for trophy wives. This goes to the heart of our social problem and it accounts for the fact that men are presently more euphoric than women, if the upshot of the paper alluded to is accurate. Douthat believes we can get a handle on the problem, providing “cultural conservatives” of his ilk can be made to cooperate with feminists. It seems that both sides have part of the truth, and are too locked in their preconceptions to realize the whole. Thus feminists continue to complain that women are upset because of “a revolution interrupted in which rising expectations are bumping against glass ceilings,” while the “traditionalist will see evidence of a revolution gone awry, in which women have been pressured into lifestyles that run counter to their biological imperatives and men have been liberated to embrace a piggish irresponsibility.”
Douthat believes there is some validity in both interpretations and goes on to define a supposed common ground in which we can agree that women should be able to “balance work and child-rearing.” He recalls the happy days in the 1980s when feminists and traditionalists “made common cause against pornography” and he thinks they can get together again to attach “social stigma” to randy males. Once this is done, both sexes will be equally happy.
But even we can trust Douthat’s statistics, his interpretation is sheer nonsense. Women may be less content than men because both genders are responding to the view of reality created by the media and cultural industry. According to the consciousness formed by these sources, women continue to be oppressed by a patriarchal society and live in constant fear of religious fanatics taking away their hard-won rights to abortion and affirmative action. Men, by contrast, remain the master class, and no matter how thoroughly changing job entry preferences and professional advancement may contradict the feminist view that I encounter everyday in the academic world, men continue to be viewed and may even see themselves as Top Dogs. Needless to say, in a sexually promiscuous society men also get the chance to fool around, but that too is limited by the fear of being put into delicate situations in ones professional life and then being prosecuted as a “harasser.” Colleges and business enterprises have already set up guidelines that favor female accusers in such situations, and the picture of heterosexual men living in a world of infinite sexual prospects (even forgetting about the geeks) has been vastly exaggerated.
In any case women who believe what they hear from media and college professors would feel powerless confronted by the other sex. They would also think that men are dissembling when they claim to have lost influence, and they would imagine that women have every reason to feel unhappy about their continued second-class status. This view of female oppression and male dominance, which illustrates the concept of “false consciousness,” hardly existed in 1960. In the mid-twentieth century, American women were generally delighted to have had more material amenities than had been available to their grandmothers or even mothers; and they were pleased that their hardworking spouses supported them and their offspring, which was the reason for the single-family wage that an earlier and less neurotic generation of feminists had striven for. These women had presumably not been educated by the cultural industry that has shaped the opinions of a later generation, including those of the “cultural conservative” Ross Douthat.
I”m hard pressed to find evidence of any alliance between traditionalists and feminists, on the issue of pornography or anything else. Perhaps Douthat can elaborate on his revisionist history in a future Times commentary. Although feminists and traditionalists may both equally lament the naughty pictures and smutty prose flooding our society, they do so for different reasons. Traditionalists dislike pornography because they view it as inimical to the view of women as mothers and wives within the kind of community they hold to be normative. Feminists decry pornography because they identify it with the kind of patriarchal world that they”re trying to overthrow. I”ve no idea how one forms an alliance between those holding such polar opposite views. And if this alleged alliance dating back to the 1980s ever took place, it had no practical effect. We”ve now progressed from adult heterosexual to child and homosexual pornography, and all sorts of weird variations of this consumer product are now available on internet as well as in stores. But working as the premiere “cultural conservative” at the Times may be too demanding a task for Ross to notice what is going on around him.
When you think about it, Sonia Sotomayor is the perfect pick for the Supreme Court—in Barack Obama’s America.
Like Obama, himself a beneficiary of affirmative action, she thinks “Latina women,” because of their life experience, make better judicial decisions than white men, that discrimination against white men to advance people of color is what America is all about, that appellate courts are “where policy is made” in the United States.
To those who believe the depiction of our first Hispanic justice as an anti-white liberal judicial activist, hearken to her own words.
Speaking at Berkeley in 2001, Sonia told her audience, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion (as a judge) than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”
Imagine if Sam Alito had said at Bob Jones University, “I would hope that a wise white male with the richness of his life experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a Hispanic woman, who hasn’t lived that life.”
Alito would have been toast. No explanation, no apology would have spared him. He would have been branded for life a white bigot.
Judge Sotomayor will be excused because the media agree with her and she is a Latina who will use her court seat to impose upon the nation the values of the National Council of La Raza (The Race), of which she is a member.
Indeed, she sees this as her mission. Speaking at Duke in 2005, Sotomayor declared: “(The) court of appeals is where policy is made. I know this is on tape, and I should never say that because we don’t make law I know.” She and the audience joined in the laughter.
Who were they laughing at? Americans who still believe the role of judges is to apply the Constitution as the Framers intended and to interpret the law as written by our elected legislators.
In Barack Obama’s America, that is so yesterday.
Sotomayor’s support for discrimination against white males was on exhibit when Ricci v. DeStefano came before a three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals on which Sotomayor sits.
Frank Ricci is the New Haven firefighter who, suffering from dyslexia but desperate to realize his dream of becoming an officer, quit his second job, bought $1,000 worth of books and had a friend read them to him to prepare for the crucial exam. He made it, coming in sixth among 77 firefighters, qualifying for promotion to lieutenant.
A problem immediately arose. Seems that of those who qualified for promotion, all but one were white, and he was a Hispanic.
Can’t have that. So, the New Haven City Council, under pressure from the usual suspects, threw out the tests, refused to promote Ricci or any white firemen, and called for new tests—to produce greater diversity. In other words, get rid of at least some of those white guys who somehow managed to come in near or at the top of their class.
Ricci and 19 other firemen sued, claiming they had been denied the promotions they had won for one reason: They were white.
What did Sotomayor’s three-judge panel do with Ricci’s appeal of the district court decision that turned him down? She tried to kill and bury it in a single dismissive unpublished paragraph so Ricci and the white firefighters would never get a hearing in the Supreme Court.
Stuart Taylor, former New York Times Supreme Court reporter and a National Journal columnist, charges Sotomayor with engaging “in a process so peculiar as to fan suspicions that some or all of the judges were embarrassed by the ugliness of the actions that they were blessing and were trying to sweep quietly under the rug, perhaps to avoid Supreme Court review or public criticism, or both.”
Had it not been for the intervention of Judge Jose Cabranes—a Clinton appointee outraged that so momentous a case was being put in a dumpster—Sotomayor’s misconduct might never have been uncovered, and those firemen would forever be denied their chance for justice.
The process by which Sotomayor was selected testifies to what we can expect in Obama’s America. Not a single male was in the final four. And she was picked over the three other women because she was a person of color, a “two-fer.” Affirmative action start to finish.
Reading 30 of her opinions, GW law professor Jonathan Turley found them “notable” for “lack of depth.”
Liberal law professor and Supreme Court expert Jeff Rosen of The New Republic reports, after talking to prosecutors and law clerks, that Sotomayor covers up her intellectual inadequacy by bullying from the bench.
The lady is a lightweight.
What should Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee do?
Abjure the vicious tactics Democrats used on Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas and Sam Alito. Lay out the lady’s record. And let America get a close look at the kind of justice Barack Obama believes in.
Has Franz Rosenzweig’s time come? Beats me. Let’s start with: who the hell was Franz Rosenzweig? Like many, I would never have heard of him had it not been for sometime Takimag contributor David P. Goldman, who for the past decade has been putting events in world-historic perspective under the pseudonym “Spengler” at the Asia Times Online. (Goldman recently revealed some interesting autobiography here.) With impressive, almost demoralizing confidence, Spenger/Goldman asserts a number scandalous theses, all of which he claims to have learned or derived from the early 20th century philosopher and theologian Rosenzweig:
1. Anti-semitism exists because the gentiles naturally envy the Jews’ exemption from the rule that all tribes eventually die out.
2. Christianity prevailed because its message of universal salvation assuaged the gentiles’ fear of tribal extinction.
3. Christianity needs the Jews, because they stand as a living proof of divine favor; without that proof, Christianity could not offer the gentiles any hope of immortality.
4. When Christianity recedes, the gentiles’ Jew-hatred returns, often with calamitous results (e.g., the holocaust).
5. Europe is literally dying“that is, failing to go through the trouble of reproducing”because both ethnocentricism and Christianity have been discredited, which leaves Eurpeans nothing but to accept the ultimate fate of all gentile tribes (i.e., extinction).
6. Islam is a cover for pure racism and barbarism, against which Judaism and Christianity are necessarily at war.
The Spenglerian theses are on one level wonderfully explanatory. Europaean population decline, American pre-eminence, Muslim fanaticism, the “new” Anti-Semitism, even the current economic depression all fit into Goldman’s theories. As his pseudonym suggests, Goldman accounts for pretty much every past development as well, from the triumph of Christianity to the rise of nationalism. The whole performance can be quite diverting.
At the same, it’s hard not to suspect that Goldman is peddling moonshine. I herd my wife and kids to church on Sundays, sit through the sermon and find an excuse to skip coffee hour all because …. I am rebelling against the “incurable necrosis” of the Anglo-Saxons?
So far in my introspections I haven’t uncovered evidence of that. Nor do I know many Christians of whom it can plausibly be said that deep in their souls they are seeking some simulacrum of Jewish survival. Further, while individuals fear death in a fairly straightforward way, only in a metaphorical sense does fear of death grip whole peoples.
Goldman’s willingness to consider tribal loyalty as a factor in history is refreshing, but fear of tribal extinction is an unlikely candidate as the hidden spring of all human action. As for population decline, birthrates aren’t just declining in post-Christian Europe. What reason do the Koreans have for accepting tribal extinction as their fate? Finally, Spengler ignores the more straightforward explanations of Muslim fanaticism, such as that they don’t like seeing their lands occupied by Westerners. (In fairness, Goldman has recently urged a sensible policy of leaving the Muslims alone.)
Back to Rosenzweig. As noted, Goldman does not claim originality, but says that most of his ideas come from Rosenzweig, to whom Spengler pays frequent, almost fulsome tribute. Just how profound was this man Rosenzweig? I picked up a copy of his magnum opus, The Star of Redemption, to find out (or, to be precise, the William Hallo translation that Goldman recommends).
It is immediately apparent that Rosenzweig does not practice what in some English-speaking philosophy departments is churlishly called “real” philosophy. Briefly, there are two contrasting styles of doing philosophy. One”called “analytic” and generally carried out in English”values precision, clarity, and valid argument. The other”called “continental” and generally carried out in French or German”values charisma and oracular utterance. Not surprisingly, continental philosophy thrives mostly in English departments, while analytic philosophy self-consciously subordinates itself to the physical sciences and mathematics. The distinction doesn’t fit all cases”Nietzsche, a continental, could be quite rigorous, while Wittgenstein, an analytic, was notoriously obscure”but still holds up fairly well. If you seek understanding, you read the analytics; if it’s prophecy you’re looking for, you read the continentals.
Rosenzweig’s style is continental. Consider the following passage:
Or this one, which goes so far as to introduce mathematical symbols:
Und so weiter. Can we now derive proofs about divine freedom using the symbol “A=”? Writing of this kind has its defenders, who take pains to extract something from it that is both intelligible and reasonably compelling. Myself, I plead philistine indifference.
I consider only the political implications of Star, of which, surprisingly enough, I find very few. The Spenglerian theses in particular seem more like a creative gloss or “misprision” of Rosenzweig than an accurate restatement of his views. For all Spengler’s obeisance to Rosenzweig, I suspect that Goldman came up with his stuff on his own.
To be sure, one can certainly find the passages that inspired Spengler. The Jews, writes Rosenzweig, are the “eternal people” or simply “the people,” as opposed to other peoples, who are only “the peoples of the earth.” Jews are a pure “blood community,” while other peoples “sink their roots into the night of earth,” that is, they identify with a specific piece of land, from which they must ultimately be expelled. The gentile peoples, unlike the “eternal people,” believe that “death [that is, tribal death, as opposed to individual death], even although it be at a very distant juncture, must come eventually.” Gentiles have suffered “inner conflict ever since Christianity with its super-national power came upon them.” The Christian church counterattacked “the pagan idea [surviving] in the form of memory,” but eventually Christian unity was “sundered at every point” by “pagan figures come back to life,” including in the form of “nations” and “states.” The gentiles’ various secular states, which “emerged as rebels” against the Church, created a “sham” sense of eternity. To reestablish a unified Christianity, the church needs the Jews as an actual and not merely “idealized” promise of immortality. Jew-hatred for the Christian is then really self-hatred.
Isolating these passages”scattered across the last 150 pages”in this way gives a very misleading picture of Star. Unlike Spengler, Rosenzweig does not seem particularly interested in the rise and fall of peoples. Rosenzweig apparently wrote Star on postcards while serving in the German army in WWI. It shows, for the book consists of several hundred more-or-less independent meditations, each coming under a separate rubric (“Love,” “China,” “Miracle,” Shame, “Commandment and Freedom” “The Oecumene,” “The Grammar of Eros”) and each just a few hundred words each. Rosenzweig finally arranged his meditations in three parts of three books each, so that the whole book resembles the overlapping triangles of the eponymous Star of David. About a dozen of Rosenzweig’s meditations could be turned into gripping underground-style pamphlet proving that all history consists of the rise and fall of tribes striving to match the survival of the Jews. That is essentially what Spengler has done in his columns.
But the pamphlet wouldn’t be Rosenzweig. Of the hundreds of meditations in Star, few have anything to do with geopolitics. The range of topics is encyclopedic. Here a history of how miracle reports were turned from a proof to an embarrassment for religion; here is a critique of the modernist Protestant theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher; here an analogy between art and revelation; here is a defense of Goethe’s claim to be the only Christian of his age. At the same time, the point of Star isn’t hard to discern: The world can’t be adequately comprehended Ã la Hegel in a single philosophical system; on the contrary, one needs revelation; specifically, Jews need Judaism and the gentiles need Christianity. Rather like Pascal’s Pensees or Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, the argument of Star emerges from the fragments.
In short, Rosenzweig wants to vindicate orthodox Jewish and Catholic religions against German idealistic philosophy. While Spengler broadly equates “paganism” with tribalism, but Rosenzweig’s understanding of “paganism” is even broader. In Star, Rosenzweig is apt to call “pagan” anything that threatens Christainity unity, including not just tribes and nations (Spengler’s hobbyhorses) but states, artists, and individualists. Spengler takes the meditations on the “peoples of the world” as more or less literal interpretations of history, but they are probably best understood as illustrations of how religion, says Rosenzweig, captures some things that Hegel can’t.
Spengler’s discussion of Rosenzweig’s distinction between “Petrine,” “Pauline” and “Johannine” Christianity similarly misses the point. Spengler takes these as literal references to Catholicism (the church of Peter), Protestantism (the church of Paul), and Orthodoxy (the church of John). As Rosenzweig uses these terms, however, they have only rough temporal and geographic correspondences. They can refer to Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox or South, North and East, but also to works, faith and hope or Christianity conquering the world, struggling against disunity, and finally achieving redemption. The Petrine/Pauline/Johannine distinction doesn’t explain history but rather illustrates moments in the Christian life. As the title of the book might suggest, Rosenzweig is talking more about redemption than actual events.
In the end, even to the casual reader it is clear that Rosenzweig was not, as Spengler contends, the major thinker of the 20th century. In Star, he wrote an apology for religion directed almost exclusively at the philosophical school that (somewhat regrettably) he took to be dominant”Hegelianism. Rosenzweig certainly makes interesting reading, and Star is full of arresting passages, but one can just as certainly get by without him.
My paleo friends must have laughed themselves silly at the sight of Mark Levin and David Frum going at each other like Tybalt and Benvolio in the streets of Verona. Ah, but what of Rod Dreher, who now sides with Frum against Levin? A spanner in the works for those whose rule is, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” isn’t it? Let’s see if we can sort this out.
Of course, it was Frum whose “Unpatriotic Conservatives” was the most vicious blow yet struck in this long feud. (In my hobby of dreaming up titles for books no one will ever pay me to write, my history of the intra-conservative Peloponnesian War would be called First, They Came for Mel Bradford.) Daniel McCarthy has reminded us that much of what Frum wrote for his National Review cover story in 2003, he had previewed 12 years earlier in a 1991 American Spectator cover story. Some may wish, as conspiracy-minded left-wing bloggers were wont to say during the previous administration, to question the timing.
No conspiracy theory is necessary to say that Frum accuses Patrick Buchanan and others of Jew-hating, which accusation intimidates me not at all, as my philo-Semitism is well known to all who know me, whether foe, friend or family. (My Jewish cousins are “Second Amendment Democrats” who live in Montgomery, Alabama.) Some of my neoconservative friends have questioned why I write for Taki, a man they accuse of atrocious sentiments. Well, if I have been misunderstood by my enemies, perhaps the same is true of Mr. Theodoracopulos and, as I remarked in reviewing Rod Dreher’s Crunchy Cons, I write for money.
My opinions of U.S. foreign policy, especially in the most recent Iraq war, are nuanced. It is my staunch belief that no nation ever benefitted from military defeat and that the unquestioned invincibility of American arms ought to be the greatest security of our peace. Yet it is also my belief that Falkland’s great conservative dictum”“When it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change””might also be applied to Arab despotisms. If we wish to overthrow vicious dictatorships, why not begin 90 miles from Key West? Cuba is an island, our Navy is up to the task, the Marines are ready, and such of the occupation troops as were not content drinking rum and Coca-Cola with the local jiniteras could take their weekend R&R passes in Miami.
Free the Cohibas! (What are you, some kind of un-American?)
The reader apprehends at once that it has never been my aspiration to be a “senior policy adviser” to any candidate, nor do I aspire to a Cabinet post or a think-tank fellowship. Je suis un journaliste, if I may be permitted what Dreher calls “faggy French.” Others, alas, are not content merely to write for a living, but fancy themselves called to much higher avocations. It is this factor of ambition, not ideology, which accounts for the attacks of Dreher and Frum against Levin, and also against Rush Limbaugh.
OK, maybe you hate both Levin and Limbaugh. Fine. That’s irrelevant. The point is that they are successful in the very difficult business of talk radio and, before either Dreher or Frum went after Levin, they first attacked Limbaugh. (Dreher here, Frum here.) Again, you might be tempted to question the timing. Republicans lose an election, after nominating John McCain as their candidate over the objections of both Levin and Limbaugh, and yet the blame falls not on the failed candidate, but on the successful radio stars.
What is going on here? Look, I’ve been a professional journalist since 1986. I didn’t get into journalism because I cared about politics. Hell, I didn’t even care about journalism. But my career plan to become a zillionaire rock star required me to have a day job to pay the bills, and I got sick of wearing a hard hat and driving a forklift. So I started at a tiny weekly paper in Austell, Georgia, for $4.50 an hour and worked my way up. By the time I got to Washington in 1997, I’d already won a national award as a columnist, but the Washington Times wasn’t interested in hiring Georgia columnists, so I became a news editor, figuring to work my way up to being a columnist again. But that didn’t work out any better than the rock-star career and . . .
Yet I know what everybody in the journalism business today knows: The market for the printed word is evaporating, and Republican opinion-mongers are a dime a dozen nowadays. We may someday look back on the era 1994-2006 as the Golden Age of Conservative Punditry, when every moderately well knowk cable-news commentator or halfway clever staffer for The Weekly Standard either had a book deal or was shopping a proposal.
As with deluxe condos in California, however, the bottom has fallen out of that market. In 2006, a division of Random House published Rebel-in-Chief: Inside the Bold and Controversial Presidency of George W. Bush by Fred Barnes, a wretchedly sycophantic book destined to be remembered in much the same way we now recall Belshazzar’s feast on the night that Babylon fell. (There we go, back to Mesopotamia again.)
What all of this means, then, is that a Republican political journalist hustling a book has got to find an angle, and both Dreher and Frum have figured that trashing the only famous Republicans who still have any meaningful influence”guys like Limbaugh and Levin”is the way to go. They want to join the ranks of The Republicans Who Really Matter.
Meanwhile, Levin had quite a different idea. He figured that the Obama administration would be a miserable disaster, and that what was needed was a reiteration of basic GOP principles. Levin’s Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto
has been at or near the top of the New York Times bestsellers list for weeks.
Ergo, to guys like Dreher and Frum who have staked their careers and reputations on the bet that standard-issue Republican conservatism has become obsolete, the success of Levin’s book is not merely a goad of envy, but an indication that their knack for political prophecy is no better now than it was circa 2003. In his “crunchy” sectarianism, Dreher has established himself as the king of a cul-de-sac, whereas Frum is trying to sell a “new majority” that no one’s buying.
If Judge Sotomayor is going to be Borked, it won’t be because of anything Rod Dreher wrote. And if the GOP stages a comeback, it won’t be because of the advice they’re getting from the New Majority. Despite Richard Spencer’s grisly hopes for the Party of Zarathustra, my simple hunch is that if the “Alternative Right” is going to do something politically meaningful in the near future, it will not be either as part of a Frumian centrism or a Dreheresque monasticism. For better or worse, what Dreher disdains as “the habits of the horde” will prevail.
Expect the peasants with pitchforks to be as scornful as ever of pointy-headed intellectuals who can’t even park their bicycles straight. That Levin has cast his lot with the rabble is significant. As a student of Burnham might say, the “managerial elite” of the GOP has become decadent,
Has anyone heard from any students of Burnham lately? Because just last night, I’m told, residents of Chattanooga reported hearing eerie laughter coming from the direction of Forest Hills Cemetery.
Question the timing.
How President Obama’s choice for the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, will place identity politics and liberal ideology above the Constitution.
Jared Taylor’s recent posting on Takimag has drawn a number of a responses, including from Paul Gottfried and Richard Spencer, both of which make some good points. I”m afraid, however, that neither really hits on the essential problem”although Gottfried does mention it in passing, almost as an afterthought”which is that Taylor’s call for whites to organize along lines of “racial solidarity” represents the most complete and abject surrender to multi-culturalism. His bid to become the white Al Sharpton is not only a massive contradiction, coming from someone who ostensibly opposes privileging individuals on account of their alleged race, it is downright pathetic.
To being with, he avers that “if you can”t beat them, join them””that is, if you can”t beat the multiculti rules and regulations that increasing afflict our lives, then the best policy is one of … surrender. He cites a case where the city of New Haven threw out the results of a test taken by aspiring firemen in which blacks didn”t do as well as the city would have liked. New Haven bureaucrats threw out the test results for all races, not just blacks, and did the whole procedure over again: this, claims Taylor, is anti-white “discrimination.”
While Paul Gottfried inexplicably claims that most of the white nationalists he has met are “libertarians,” it appears that their Maximum Leader is not among them: for the libertarian would argue that the entire procedure and the unfairness inherent in it could be eliminated by simply privatizing the fire department. Of course, it would still be possible to pursue the elusive goal of equality of results through enforcement of the so-called civil rights laws”yet that is precisely what Taylor would do on behalf of “oppressed” whites. This kind of scam is wrong when blacks try to pull it off, but right when engaged in by whites.
The Taylorite commitment to “white racial consciousness” is simply a cracked mirror image of the worst excesses of the “black power” movement”and it is advanced with much less justification. After all, whites can hardly point to a long history of “oppression” at the hands of non-whites: indeed, precisely the reverse is the case. It is whites who engaged in the slave trade, and some of them fought a war to keep blacks in chains. State-enforced racial segregation was the rule and the law in many Southern states, up until relatively recently: where oh where is the history of white “oppression” at the hands of black slave-masters?
Taylor and his acolytes are like those teenage boys who dress in baggy pants hanging down to their buttocks, carry boom-boxes, and “act black” because it’s considered “cool.” They want in on the multi-culti action, and, like “Vanilla Ice,” the wannabe white rapper, he’s baffled when people consider him a joke.
Yet it isn”t a joke. Taylor is dead serious, but what is he serious about? Ostensibly, he’s upset over those white firemen denied jobs in New Haven, but it quickly becomes all too clear that’s not his main beef: what he’s really against is miscegenation, or what his intellectual heirs used to call “race-mixing”:
He then cites a number of commentators who think this trend is desirable, from Michael Barone to the Socialist candidate in the French election for Prime Minister, and then snarks: “If those New Haven firemen got a raw deal, I guess their parents just married the wrong people. “
But what has miscegenation got to do with the issue he supposedly cares about, those poor oppressed white firemen? It’s not clear. What is all too clear, however, is that the real agenda of the “white nationalist” movement has zero to do with legitimate issues, such as the injustice of affirmative action. It is all about race-mixing”an “issue” that, in an age when a mulatto is president of these United States, has a certain explosive quality, as well as an aura of outright nastiness.
This is what has given the “white nationalists” a big shot in the arm, these days: the rise of Barack Obama. The neo-Nazi webmaster of “Stormfront” exulted that, as the election results began to come in, his web site, devoted to the rantings of losers living in their parents” basement, experienced a flood of visitors. David Duke, the heir to the George Lincoln Rockwell wing of Taylor’s movement, expressed grave concern”and similarly rejoiced in the expected increase in his audience.
As the white-collar wing of the same movement, Taylor and his American Renaissance crowd are salivating as the prospect of massive recruitment because one of “them” is in the White House. They hope to infiltrate what they call the “pseudo-conservatives” with their message of genetic determinism and white supremacy, imbuing the rightist critique of Obama and all his works with a racialist tinge.
This, of course, is just what the Obamaites ordered: they would love to marginalize their opposition and banish them to the fever swamps of race-obsessed neurotics and social misfits. Nothing would please them more than to see the rising resentment of their policies ascribed to the spreading influence of racist agitators. If I were the Democratic National Committee, I”d funnel millions into Taylor’s outfit, and like-minded groups, for the same reason that the interventionists encouraged Nazi infiltration of the America First antiwar movement in the run-up to World War II.
To those who want to know why I am taking the time and energy to take on Taylor and his racialist pals, check out the section in my Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement
on the life and career of John T. Flynn, who knew all too well what the War Party was up to.
What I don”t understand, and I doubt Taylor does either, is this: what do the “white nationalists” want? What is their program? They are “nationalists” without a nation. Do they want to expel all non-whites from U.S. territory? Do they want to carve out their own ersatz “nation” in, say, the nether reaches of Idaho and the Dakotas? Do they want to create a caste system based on racial heritage, as the Nazis tried to do, with whites on top and the “mud people””their disgusting term for non-whites”on the bottom? Or do they just want to abolish race preferences in law and custom”in which case they shed their “white nationalist” hoods and morph into white versions of Ward Connerly? Would Taylor outlaw miscegenation if he could? I have no doubt that he would, no matter what he says in public.
Americans don”t like racists, not because they have been indoctrinated by leftist professors and do-gooder social workers, but because “white nationalists” and their ilk are looking for the unearned: they want power, prestige, and money in the bank based on factors over which they had no control, that is, their genetic heritage. That’s why they spend so much time posing as amateur “scientists” and “anthropologists,” extrapolating entire theories of social organization from the results of “intelligence tests” that presume to measure the ineffable. It is a soulless, materialist, dogmatic view of life that has nothing in common with authentic conservatism, and which has all sorts of statist implications”not to mention a history of racialist-inspired statist measures”that make “white nationalism” antithetical to libertarianism.
Richard Spencer makes a big deal out of how “open-minded” and un-PC Takimag is in publishing Taylor’s tirade against “race-mixing.” I cannot share his enthusiasm. There is a good reason to avoid the Taylorites, and their even cruder brothers-in-spirit in the Ku Klux Klan and the neo-Nazi netherworld, and it has to do with maintaining the intellectual and spiritual integrity of the American Right. I agree with Pat Buchanan, who, in pointing out the disparity between his own ideas and those of David Duke, averred: “We come from different traditions.” Indeed we do. Taylor’s is the legacy of Lothrop Stoddard, Madison Grant, the Count de Gobineau, and that failed portrait painter from Vienna: ours is the legacy of Christianity, which recognized the centrality of the individual soul, and rejects collectivism, including racial collectivism, as inimical to freedom, reason, and just relations among men.
“If you can”t beat “em,” says Taylor, “join “em!” The paleoconservative answer to this must be: Never!
While economists and real estate investors “celebrate” the slight deceleration in the pace of home price declines in the recent data, a quick look at home price trajectories over the past 100 and 50 years reveals little to cheer about and much to be feared.
More significant than small month-to-month changes is the flow of home price patterns over decades. In his book Irrational Exuberance, Robert Shiller determined that in the 100 years between 1900 and 2000, home prices in the U.S. increased by an average of about 3.4% per year. These figures have not been adjusted for inflation. If they had, home prices would have outpaced inflation by only the slimmest of margins.
This 100-year period includes the Great Depression, when home prices sank significantly, and it also involves decades in which our current home mortgage infrastructure simply did not exist. The second half of the century, with its baby boom, heightened inflation, suburban expansion and institutionalized mortgage apparatus, was much kinder to home prices. Even so, in the 50 boom years between 1950 and 2000, home prices increased an average of 4.4% per year. Even this pace barely beat inflation.
See The Historical Case-Schiller Home Price Index here
By all accounts, the home price boom that began in late 1997 (when the high of the previous 1989 peak was finally eclipsed) and topped out in June 2006 was extraordinary. The Case-Shiller 10-City Index, an amalgam of the home price trends in 10 of the largest U.S. cities, gained on average 19.4% per year during that time. The movements had very little to do with market fundamentals and everything to do with distortive government policies, a national mania for real estate wealth and a torrent of temporarily easy credit.
If we assume that the bubble was artificial, we can instead imagine that home prices should have followed the more typical path during that time. When you do these extrapolations, a very sobering picture emerges.
The authors of the Case-Shiller index had assigned the index a value of 100.0 in January of 2000. This figure does not represent a dollar value for home prices but is simply a benchmarking tool. In December 2008, after a severe 28% decline from its June 2006 peak of 226.29, the Case-Shiller 10 City index stood at 162.1. However, if home prices had followed the 3.4% annual 100-year trend line from December 1997 (when the index was at 82.3), then the index would have arrived at only 118.92 in December 2008.
This would suggest that the index would need to decline an additional 27% to get back to the historical trend line. Extrapolating along the sunnier 50-year annual average increase would put the index at 132.2 by December 2008. This would still put the trend line 18.5% below current prices.
A cursory look at the chart below should disabuse anyone of the notion that home prices have now hit bottom. Policymakers and economists should by no means rely upon projections that see home prices turning around in the near term.
However, the story by no means ends there. Given the current conditions in the real estate market, with bloated inventories, growing unemployment, nonexistent consumer credit and shattered illusions of real estate riches, it would be logical to assume that prices will fall below the trend line. How much is anybody’s guess, but 10% would be conservative.
Given that we are entering uncharted territory with price declines much sharper than those seen in the Great Depression, I would argue that the 100-year price trend would be the better projection to use. In such a scenario, the index would bottom out at around 108 if a 10% overshoot on the downside is seen. That leaves another 34% decline in home prices on the table.
But that doesn’t mean that I believe home prices will actually reach those levels, at least in nominal terms. Inflation will likely be the biggest difference between the current recession and what is now called the Great Depression of the 1930s, (I expect a new name will be needed in a few years, much as the Great War is now called World War I.) Throughout the Depression, prices fell for everything, not just houses. At the time, even the pump-priming policies of Roosevelt’s New Deal did not expand the money supply at anywhere near the current pace. As a result, the deflationary pressures of a recession were allowed to push prices down.
In the coming years, the opposite will happen. The government, through deficit spending, stimuli and bailouts, is literally pumping trillions and trillions of new dollars into the economy. Once the bloated inventories of the boom years are worked through, this torrent of new cash will push prices up with across the board. Inflation, more virulent than the variety seen in the 1970s, will put a nominal floor under home prices. But the benefits of seemingly stable home prices will be illusory. What good is a $200,000 house if it costs nearly that much to fill the refrigerator?
However, inflation putting a floor under home prices does nothing to increase real demand for houses. With the prices for stocks, commodities and food going up faster than the prices of homes, residential real estate will remain a lousy investment. As a result, be wary of those who have called a housing bottom and now recommend beaten-down homebuilding stocks.
Despite savage pullbacks from their mid-decade highs the nation’s biggest homebuilders are still overvalued. The S&P 500 is down 4% since the last housing boom began in January 1998. But over that time, Toll Brothers(TOL Quote), Pulte Home(PHM Quote) and D.R. Horton(DRI Quote) are up 195%, 100%, and 97% respectively. The truth is, America’s current inventory of homes will last at least a generation or more. These stocks are still not priced accordingly.