The great foreign policy initiative unleashed by the Obama administration, the one that is supposed to earn our new president a place on Mount Rushmore, is a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian question. This issue has bedeviled American presidents starting with Jimmy Carter and continuing through Bill Clinton, with interregnums marked by Republicans in the White House. Reagan never pushed the issue, having enough on his plate with the Cold War, and as for George W. Bush “ well, I don”t want to go there. His father was the last U.S. president to exhibit even a modicum of evenhandedness in the matter. In any case, Obama has taken it upon himself to pursue greatness by trying to untie this Gordian Knot of international affairs and, predictably, has run up against a brick wall.
The Palestinians are ready to negotiate, or, at least, their alleged leadership has taken this stance, but since we have ruled out even talking to the only democratically elected leadership they have, i.e., Hamas, the peace overtures of the Palestinian Authority, presided over by “President” Mahmoud Abbas, are for the most part irrelevant.
The Israelis, on the other hand, show no signs of favoring a compromise. Quite the contrary. Their stance has hardened with the victory of an ultra-rightist coalition in February’s elections. The collapse of the Labor Party, the marginalization of the Israeli peace movement, and the rise of an outright racist and fascist party, Israel Beiteinu, has moved the Israelis into some pretty dangerous territory, which seems to prefigure a radicalization of the general population that augurs ill for the cause of peace.
Heedless of the enormous obstacles strewn in his path, however, Barack Obama is wading into these treacherous waters and has reportedly laid down the law to the Israelis, demanding that they stop expanding the “settlements,” and otherwise shifted the inordinately pro-Israel bias of U.S. policy toward a more “evenhanded” approach. The United States, this administration promises, is going to be an “honest broker.”
But why, oh, why should we be in the business of “brokering” a compromise over a conflict that has persisted for decades and shows every sign of defying the best intentions? What’s in it for us?
According to the logic of the pro-broker camp, the U.S. has been hampered in its efforts to fight the terrorist threat”al-Qaeda and its allies”by the ridiculously skewed policies of our government in the region. We have supported Israel unconditionally, especially during the eight years of the Bush regime, ignoring the national aspirations of the Palestinian people, and earning the enmity of Muslims everywhere, who identify with their plight. By becoming more evenhanded”i.e., by recognizing the Palestinians” complaints as being based on legitimate concerns, and not just dismissing them out of hand as “terrorists””we gain brownie points in the Middle East and help marginalize the extremists who will hate us in any event.
Another argument is that the Israelis are not the best judges of their own national interests. Israeli intransigence, according to this argument, is not only bad for the Palestinians and the U.S., it is also harming Israel, which will eventually be overcome by demographic realities”ruling over occupied territories that harbor Arabs who are fast out-reproducing their Israeli occupiers, so that the Jewish state will one day be overwhelmed.
These arguments “ on the surface quite plausible “ fall apart when examined up close.
To begin with, the idea that the major complaint of the Arab and Muslim worlds against America has to do with our preferential treatment of the Israelis is largely a myth. Our support for Arab tyrannies, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, is far more of a factor, one that impacts the peoples of those countries in a way that the largely abstract Palestinian problem (abstract, that is, to ordinary people on the Arab “street”) does not. Sure, Osama bin Laden & Co. score plenty of propaganda points on this question, but to believe that the influence of these groups will be neutralized if Obama wins a Nobel for “solving” the Palestinian question is naïve, at best.
Secondly, the creation of a Palestinian state, far from solving this troublesome question, will no doubt create a whole new set of problems for us and for the Israelis”as the latter recognize all too well. So far, the American conception of this state envisions a government that has no army, no means of defense, and no viable foreign policy options”a government that is not, in fact, a government in any meaningful sense of the word. It will not have a monopoly on the use of force in its given geographical domain, because presumably the Israelis will retain the “right” to launch one of their infamous incursions in the event things get out of hand.
The Israelis rightly ask: What guarantees do we have that this Palestinian state won”t turn into just another terrorist entity, one that will wage a relentless war against Israel and launch attacks of the sort carried out by Hamas on a regular basis? The answer is: there is and can be no such guarantee.
So why should they agree to preside over the creation of what promises to be their undoing?
On the Palestinian side of the equation, the objections are even more trenchant: the state we propose can offer them no protection and no means of asserting their national identity in a way that guarantees their security. Nor does it promise the triumph of democracy, or, indeed, any sort of change for the better.
They are more than likely to be ruled over by the same gang of kleptocrats and thugs who have stood at the helm of the Palestinian Authority since the time of Yasser Arafat. The one election they were permitted to hold resulted in the victory of a party deemed unacceptable by both Israel and the U.S.”this in spite of the fact that it was George W. Bush’s idea to hold the election in the first place! Palestinians understandably ask, “What’s in it for us?” The answer, unfortunately, is virtually nothing.
The attempt by the U.S. to impose an “honest” brokership is doomed to failure for these reasons and more, yet the Obama administration is determined to move ahead, provoking a reaction inside Israel that is stoking a radical anti-Americanism, the likes of which we haven”t seen or heard since… well, since Osama bin Laden’s latest missive. At a recent demonstration held by right-wing Israeli “settlers” and their supporters, Obama was denounced as a “racist” and an “anti-Semite,” while one orator limned al-Qaeda’s favorite line that the U.S. would be “destroyed” and the American empire brought down by Obama’s alleged hostility to Israel.
The worst outcome of Obama’s Middle Eastern “peace” project would be for it to succeed, because, in that event, we would engender growing hostility from both sides, as the impracticality of the arrangements caused the Grand Accord to fall apart at the seams.
The desire by the U.S. to take on this thankless task is based in the same sort of hubris that drove us to invade Iraq (twice). It continues to burden the rest of the region”and the world”with the costs of a seemingly endless war. Who are we, anyway, to be “brokering” anything?
Now we”re getting at the core of the folly that drives U.S. presidents to attempt the impossible, all without a thought for the costs. The “superpower” conceit is one that will die a hard death, but die it must if we are to avoid national bankruptcy and the ruination of the republic. Because, you see, this delusion is unsustainable: we”re bankrupt, and our economy is a shambles on account of our inability to recognize this simple and increasingly unavoidable fact. We cannot continue in this vein for much longer, yet we “ in the person of our president”persist, defying the gods and ordinary common sense in pursuit of Nobel prizes and the favor of future historians.
Are we really a “superpower” the world;s last remaining example of this legendary species, the Overman of international politics? The very concept of a “superpower” implies that this is not just some ordinary major power we”re talking about, but one that can successfully defy the odds and reality itself in successful pursuit of its goals. One that stands above history, instead of being ruled by it, and somehow avoids the fate of all previous empires: inevitable decline and fall.
The term “superpower” began to gain currency in the Cold War era, when it was used to define the two nations that faced off in a worldwide struggle for dominance: the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Both nations had nuclear weapons, and in such number that any conflict started by the other would soon result in mutual annihilation. This seemed to define what it meant to achieve superpowerdom.
In any case, it was unimaginable that either of these two superpowers would ever fall. They seemed to represent two eternal principles, two immortal forces in perpetual conflict, the yin and yang of international politics.
Which is no doubt why almost no one predicted the end of the Soviet Union”certainly not the CIA, which was caught flat-footed as the Berlin Wall came tumbling down. So much for the Soviet “superpower.”
Drained by the Afghan war and the continuing costs of subsidizing their Eastern European and Central Asian empire “ and finally defeated, I would argue, by the impossibility of economic calculation in a socialist system “ the mighty Soviet Union fell victim to what might be seen as a massive heart attack, its vital arteries blocked by clots of hubris that had built up since 1917.
Will America suffer a similar fate?
In essence, the answer to that question is yes. I would qualify that, however, by adding that our own agony is sure to be more drawn out”and, as a result, more painful. The economic powerhouse created by the exertions of an earlier time should not be underestimated: the productive capacity and will to innovate represented by American industry launched a period of unprecedented prosperity, one that, in retrospect, will be looked at by future historians as a golden age. We are still coasting along on the momentum of that great leap forward, but there are many indications that we”re slowing down considerably”and, worse, there are intimations of a coming crash.
The Soviet Union dissolved like a particularly scary nightmare at dawn. Our own demise may be similarly swift, albeit far more nightmarish. If and when it comes, it will have been brought about by the same inability to recognize limitations that laid the Kremlin low. This is how the superpower conceit ends”not in defeat by a better-armed enemy, but on account of its own bloated self-conception.
Forget the Israeli-Palestinian problem. We have problems of our own. If we want to end Arab-Muslim enmity that results from our unthinking and immoral support for Israeli aggression, then there’s a very simple way to achieve this noble aim: cut off all aid to Tel Aviv. Once the $3 billion-plus subsidy is ended, the link between the U.S. and Israel’s racist policies in the occupied territories will end, too. That the Obama administration would never even consider such a “radical” proposal as asking the Israelis to stand on their own feet is all we need to know about the future of our career as an honest Mideast broker. With all this talk of Obama cracking down on the settlement question and demanding “concessions” from the Israelis, when it gets right down to it the president has no real bargaining power. Since Obama can”t, or won”t, threaten Tel Aviv with a withdrawal of funding, Netanyahu and his government can hold out indefinitely, effectively blocking any real progress toward a settlement.
The reason, as John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt have tirelessly pointed out, is the inordinate power of the Israel lobby to dominate the policymaking process, and specifically the legislative process. The Democratic Party’s fundraising apparatus would suffer a near-fatal blow if the lobby’s wealthy friends decided to withhold their support. Obama may have to choose between a Nobel prize and his party’s political fortunes. And we know which option he”ll choose.
Have you heard the great news? The recession is over! It’s true; I saw it on TV. Why fret about growing unemployment lines when banks are paying big-time bonuses again?
Proof of the turn was apparently revealed by the 2nd quarter GDP figures that showed that the economy declined by only 1%. After four consecutive quarters of negative GDP, the green shoots now assume that growth will resume over the summer. But before we pop the corks, it may be worthwhile to ask, “what really has changed, and what is responsible for our new lease on life?”
In truth, because of the continued profligacy of the government and Federal Reserve, the imbalances that caused the current recession have actually worsened. We are now in an even deeper hole than when the crisis began. Rather than wrapping up a recession, we are actually sinking into a depression. If things look better now, it’s just because we are in the eye of the storm.
We must remember that recessions inevitably follow periods of artificial growth. During these booms, malinvestments are made which ultimately must be liquidated during the ensuing busts. In short, mistakes made during booms are corrected during busts”and in the recent boom we made some real whoppers. We borrowed and spent too much money, bought goods we couldn”t afford, built houses we couldn”t carry, and developed a service sector economy completely dependent on consumer credit and rising asset prices. All the while, we allowed our industrial base to crumble and our infrastructure to decay.
In order to lay the foundation for real and lasting recovery, market forces must be allowed to repair the damage. However, current policy is counterproductive to this end. Trillions in stimulus dollars have kept the party going, but now what? How does deficit spending by the government address the problems that brought about the crash? It doesn”t; it just delays and worsens the hangover “ and we have to hope we don”t die of alcohol poisoning.
By interfering with the unpleasant forces of the recession, we simply trade short-term gain for long-term pain. By propping up inefficient companies that should fail, we deprive more effective companies of the capital they need to grow. By holding up over-valued asset prices, we prevent the prudent or less well-off from snatching them up and, in doing so, creating a new price equilibrium based upon reality. By maintaining artificially low interest rates, we discourage the very savings that are so critical to capital formation and future economic growth. In addition, the false economic signals the Fed sends the market prevent a more efficient re-allocation of resources from taking place and leads to even more bad economic decision being made. By running such huge deficits, we further crowd-out private enterprise by making it harder for businesses to invest or hire.
The recently passed “cash for clunkers” program (currently on-hold, as it ran out of funding in one week) is a perfect example of how government policy can make the economy worse. By incentivizing Americans to destroy fully paid-for cars so they can go deeper into debt buying brand new ones, the government weakens an already crippled economy. The last thing we want to do is subsidize Americans to go deeper into debt by buying more stuff. Don”t they realize that is precisely the behavior that got us into this mess?
Think about it this way. If your friend were in trouble because he had too much debt, would you encourage him to take on even more? Wouldn”t a real sign of progress be a reduction of debt, even if he had to cut back on his everyday expenses? What is true for an individual is also true for a collection of individuals, even if they call themselves a “government.” If, as a country, we are even deeper into debt now than we were before, we are worse off. Period. The fact that the additional debt enabled better short-term GDP numbers is a long-term negative.
Since we have learned nothing from past mistakes, we are condemned to repeat them. As if we have not already suffered enough as a consequence of the Bush/Greenspan stimulus, Obama/Bernanke are giving ever larger doses, which will prove lethal to any recovery. The recession is over; long live the depression!
News Flash”Blacks Like Malt Liquor!
Black Entertainment Television (BET) refers to me as “a White blogger.” But they got my name wrong.
It goes back to this blog post from July 7, 2009, where I commented on Detroit councilwoman JoAnn Watson, who referred to the Billy Dee Williams Colt 45 malt liquor billboards, which are located in the city of Detroit, as “racist.” My argument went like this:
Well, true, this billboard only appears in the city and not the “burbs. How dare we be honest and admit that white people generally don”t like malt liquor and thus they are not a target market for the product. Burton snowboards and Birkenstocks are not marketed toward black folks because they are generally not buyers of those products. Why does everything always have to be drawn and analyzed along racial lines, and made into some corporate conspiracy against blacks?
“Well, true, this billboard only appears in the city and not the “burbs,” writes White blogger Karen de Coster. “How dare we be honest and admit that White people generally don”t like malt liquor and, thus, they are not a target market for the product.”
By the way, I did not punctuate that sentence the same way (making it a dishonest quote), nor did I capitalize “White.” However, Mr. Allen, or perhaps his editor, chose to rehash my quote, and then Mr. Allen conveniently chose to omit my subsequent comments:
Burton snowboards and Birkenstocks are not marketed toward black folks because they are generally not buyers of those products. Why does everything always have to be drawn and analyzed along racial lines, and made into some corporate conspiracy against blacks?
The essence of marketing is that somewhere there is a target market for the product that is being advertised. The market can be drawn along racial lines, income brackets, geographic areas, gender, class, religious lines, or age group. Buicks were always marketed toward older, white men”though General Motors has since tried to break down the perception that the Buick is exclusively an old geezer’s car. Buyers of Birkenstock and Teva sandals are almost always white, and the consumers of these products also tend to hold certain political views and promote predictable lifestyles. A Birkie wearer is much more likely to be spotted in Portland or Durango as opposed to inner city Detroit or the outback of Arkansas. Locally, where I live (Detroit suburbs), I glimpse billboards for pricey jewelers and fine dining on the west side, in ritzy Oakland County, and I see billboards for Hooters and domestic beer on the east side in blue-collar Macomb County.
Marketing gimmicks may not always be in good taste, or even moral, but they are created for the purpose of drawing customers to certain brands by appealing to their emotions and discrete habits. Accordingly, referring to malt liquor ads as “racist,” without justification for such a designation, is hysteric victimology.
In the case against Malt Liquor ads, who exactly is the racist? Billy Dee Williams? Or the Pabst Brewing Company? A corporation, as a whole, cannot be racist, so who in the corporation holds racist views? An executive in the marketing group? The entire Board? The CEO? The guys who devised and pitched the ad? Who? In the midst of all of these hysterical “racist” claims about malt liquor advertising, there are never any explicit, coherent arguments behind the allegations. Instead we get piffling and tempestuous declarations claiming victim status because of some big, bad, undefined enemy who is deemed “racist” via arbitrary verdict. Why doesn’t Mr. Allen, as a reporter, take the time to explore these claims deeper and bring forth some substance?
Mr. Allen then writes the following:
But critics from Missouri to Michigan find the slogan tragically ironic. Malt liquor, they argue, “works” all too well in the Black community, and has contributed to alcoholism and stagnation for years.
Malt liquor, indeed, contributes to alcoholism, just as casinos play a role in gambling habits and heroin contributes to drug addiction. I can dig up plenty of low-income, white folks who have had many Budweisers contribute to their alcoholism and stagnation as well. My neighbors serve me up a reminder almost nightly. Budweiser is, of course, marketed heavily toward the white working and middle class, as well as poor white people because they make up a large segment of the Budweiser market. Is Budweiser bigoted? Do the people of Budweiser hate blue-collar workers and the poor?
The Malt liquor market is clearly dominated by black consumers. In the illuminating online article, “A Story without Heroes: The Cautionary Tale of Malt Liquor,” the author cites numerous quotes from studies and books which reveal that black consumers make up as much as 75 percent of the malt liquor market. The author also considers targeted marketing and malt liquor and points out the brand influence imparted by advertising.
A common charge against brewers of malt liquor is that they use targeted marketing on vulnerable black audiences. In fact, all marketing is targeted. You will never see an ad for denture adhesive on MTV, and you will never see an ad for the Apple iPod on an episode of “Golden Girls.” No advertiser pays to send a message to consumers who are not likely to use their product or service.
Advertising cannot sell you something you do not want. People commonly abstain from buying malt liquor, cigarettes, tampons, and fishing line, in spite of seeing ads for these products all their lives.
Advertising does influence brand selection. Businesses advertise so that when you do go shopping, you will choose Maytag instead of Whirlpool, Kohler instead of American Standard, Birdseye instead of Green Giant, and yes, Kool instead of Newport, Colt 45 instead of Olde English.
In terms of stereotyping, blacks are often associated with watermelons, BBQ ribs, hip-hop, and yes, malt liquor. Whites are associated with country music, cheap white zinfandel, and overpriced, triple-shot “grande” lattes with non-fat, extra-hot milk and a shot of sugar-free caramel syrup, with exactly three squirts of whip cream on top. In fact, the website Stuff White People Like became immensely popular by stereotyping and lampooning people who cling to giddy fads and elitist tendencies, but only because it was originally perceived as making fun of white folks. Yet SWPL did not escape the wrath of the Racism Police. It was said “round the Web that by defining what one group of people like (white people), the site’s authors were thereby defining that which all non-white people (minorities) didn”t like, and therefore that was stereotyping, which was immediately equated with racism. Think you can digest that?
In this age of obscene political correctness, the use of epoch stereotypes is considered to be so evil as to be on par with a crime. But then again, thinking the wrong way can be a crime. “Hate crimes,” which are supposedly crimes of “thought,” have been validated by government decrees that punish the purported thought process behind the crime, in addition to the criminal act itself.
Frankly, the preoccupation with discrimination and the creation of victim classes escapes me. When I look at the abundance of allegations of “racism” and “discrimination,” and calls for hate crime legislation for every new victim class, I just don’t get it. I can’t make sense of the victimology ruse and the constant obsession with the notion that someone somewhere doesn’t like you because of a particular property you have that they don’t share. My gender was formerly an elevated victim class, but in this era of numerous victims dueling for the distinction of being singled out for attention, it seems women no longer get any special status. I guess I’ll have to find some other idiosyncrasy that will foist me into the casualty class.
The one mistake consistently made by the PC Language & Thought Police is in thinking that their fixation with this stuff, along with bringing constant media attention to their issues, is beneficial and “healing” for society. Instead, it just continues to fan the flames of old race wars and start new wars if the old ones don’t catch on too well.
In fact, it’s enough to make one think that it’s entirely intentional.
When it comes to conspiracy theorists, whether it be those who question the official report on the assassination of JFK, those who wonder whether the Apollo moon landing actually happened or even those who believe the U.S. was behind 9/11, I’m much more comfortable with Americans who believe their leaders are always up to no good than those who show eternal faith in the goodness of their leaders. Questioning one’s government—even to what some might consider a ridiculous degree—is infinitely healthier than trusting one’s government without question.
But there is a difference between dissent and distraction. There is a movement currently underway to force President Obama to show proof that he is a natural-born citizen of the United States by presenting his birth certificate to the public. The movement has gained momentum, even getting support from men on the Right I respect, like CNN’s Lou Dobbs, and those I don’t, like the politically schizophrenic Alan Keyes. One Army soldier has refused to deploy citing Obama’s lack of citizenship and Congressman Bill Posey of Florida has even introduced legislation to require future White House occupants to be forthcoming with their paperwork.
This is stupid – and not because the mainstream media and liberals say it is—but because it really is stupid.
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Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, who is wired into the cabinet of “Bibi” Netanyahu, warns that if Iran’s nuclear program is not aborted by December, Israel will strike to obliterate it.
Defense Secretary Gates’s mission to Israel this week, says Bolton, to relay Obama’s red light, was listened to attentively, but will not be decisive.
Israel will decide.
One trusts Gates got into the face of Defense Minister Ehud Barak. For an Israeli strike on Iran, which Joe Biden foolishly said was Israel’s call, would drag this country into a third war in the Middle East and destroy a policy that is visibly succeeding.
The Iranian regime is still reeling from the June 12 election, widely perceived in Iran and worldwide as stolen, and its tumultuous aftermath. Hundreds of thousands poured into the streets to protest the election, and then attack the legitimacy itself of the Islamic regime.
The government is gripped by its worst crisis since the revolution of 1979. Members of Iran’s establishment with unimpeachable revolutionary credentials have declared the election a fraud.
Ahmadinejad’s selection as first vice president of Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, whose son is married to his daughter, and who has said some kind words about Israel, outraged conservatives.
Ahmadinejad was ordered by Ayatollah Khamenei to rescind the Mashaie appointment. For days he balked, then sent a curt note saying he would comply. Ahmadinejad further affronted the ayatollah by naming Mashaie his chief of staff.
Teheran is now ablaze over reports that scores of street protesters arrested in June may have been beaten to death in prison.
There is talk in Teheran, even before he has been sworn in for a second term, that Ahmadinejad may be impeached or ousted long before he can complete it.
America’s policy of patience is working.
And as Ahmadinejad is Israel’s bete noire, who Netanyahu cites as the religious fanatic who wants to “wipe Israel off the map” and will launch a nuclear weapon on Tel Aviv as soon as he gets it, why would Israel strike now, and reunite Iranians behind this regime?
Why does Israel insist that America has only five months to halt Iran’s nuclear program, or Israel must attack?
Says Bolton: “(W)ith each passing day, Iran’s nuclear and ballistic laboratories, production facilities, and military bases are all churning. Israel is focused on these facts, not the illusion of ‘tough’ diplomacy.”
Now, Iran’s nuclear “production facilities” may be “churning” out the low-enriched uranium of which it has produced enough for one test bomb. But IAEA inspectors still have their eyes on this pile. None of the LEU has been diverted anywhere.
There is no evidence Iran has built the cascade to raise LEU to highly enriched weapons-grade uranium, or that the facilities even exist to do this. The Iranian regime has declared it has no intention of building nuclear weapons, indeed, that their possession would be a violation of Koranic law.
And the United States has not rescinded its own National Intelligence Estimate of 2007 that Iran, in 2003, abandoned its weapons program.
Israel has been saying for years an Iranian bomb is months away.
Where is the proof? Where is the evidence to justify a new U.S. war in the Middle East to destroy weapons of mass destruction that may not exist in Iran, as they did not exist in Iraq?
Iran may wish to have a nuclear deterrent, considering what happened to neighbor Iraq, which did not. But the idea that the regime, having built a nuclear weapon, would launch it on Tel Aviv and bring massive retaliation by scores of Israeli nukes on Teheran and other cities, killing millions of Iranians and all the leaders and their families of all factions of this disputatious people, seems like total madness.
For Israel to launch a war on such reasoning would seem to meet Bismarck’s definition of preemptive war as “committing suicide out of fear of death.”
America lived for decades under a threat of nuclear annihilation. We relied on a policy of containment and deterrence, outlasted the Soviet regime in a 40-year Cold War, and are now at peace with Russia.
Ahmadinejad is not so tough a customer as Stalin, Khrushchev or Mao, who talked of accepting 300 million dead in a nuclear exchange. Moreover, Ahmadinejad has no nukes, no authority to take Iran to war, and is looking like a very lame duck before his second term has begun.
And when one looks to U.S. and Iranian interests, they coincide as much as they conflict. Iran detested the Taliban before we took them down, and no more wants them back than do we. Iran is even more pleased with the Shia regime we brought to power in Baghdad than we are.
Iran needs technology to restore its depleted oil and gas fields, and an end to sanctions to restore an economy whose disintegration helped put the regime in crisis and lose it the support of its young.
Obama should tell the Israelis, “Cool the jets!” literally.
How conspiracy theories about President Obama’s birth certificate are not only stupid but distracting for conservatives.
ON BOARD S/Y BUSHIDO—Here are some rules of the ocean: always establish the direction of the wind before undoing your flies at sea; never go to sea without more books than days you plan to be afloat; keep in mind that new romances on board last on average less than a week. For now, let’s stick to books, as I have four loos on board and also the mother of my children. The latest literary count is four down, two to go before I hand over Bushido to my son JT and his latest flame, the great-granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway. Love Child by Allegra Huston, Chaplin’s Girl by Miranda Seymour, D-Day by Antony Beevor and Death of the Wehrmacht—the German Campaigns of 1942, by Robert M. Citino. I know, I know, too much Wehrmacht makes young Taki a bore, but I do have my obsessions, and Keira Knightley, martial arts, Ashley Judd, classic sailing boats and the deputy editor of The Spectator are some of them, along with the dear old W.
Citino is one of the world’s most eminent military historians, and he writes on Kulminationspunkt, the culmination point at which offensive actions falter, and the further the troops advance, the more rapidly the decline happens. Every offensive operation carries within itself the probability of its own destruction, and at some point the initial superiority of the advancing side begins to wane. Only a good commander recognises the culmination point and consolidates his position. Needless to say, many variables are in play. In the Wehrmacht’s case, the Bohemian Corporal, as Rundstedt called Hitler, ensured defeat by overrunning the culmination point and by refusing to pull back to more defensive terrain.
General Carl Wagener, chief of General Staff for the XXXX Panzerkorps, wrote that “if the leadership can only count on the valour of the troops, then it has done something wrong.” The Bohemian madman counted more on individual gallantry than on supply lines, and he abandoned the Panzerarmee at El Alamein where the Allies enjoyed an overwhelming superiority in men, tanks, planes, trucks and artillery. The Wehrmacht’s fate was sealed long before Stalingrad and Alamein, thanks to the socialist idiot back in Berlin.
After Citino’s theories, Beevor’s account of the Normandy campaign’s slaughterhouse was painful reading. The Bohemian Corporal orders General von Schlieben to defend Cherbourg to the last man for absolutely no reason at all—swimming for it was the only way out—and when Schlieben disobeys and surrenders, General Dollman commits suicide in shame. A German Landser tells a buddy he has lost two brothers in Russia, and the superiority of the enemy in terms of men, material and total supremacy of the sky makes him reluctant to fight. Yet fight the Germans do, counterattacking at every opportunity, with the great tanker Michael Wittmann of the 101 SS Heavy Panzer Battalion losing his life in the closing battle. Stirring stuff.
After that, a change of pace was as necessary as a change of islands. Allegra Huston, Viscount Norwich’s daughter out of wedlock, writes well about the discovery of her real father, and is an obviously nice woman. Yet her well-written opus left me cold. Coke-sniffing rednecks, even her so-called dad, John Huston, make for depressing reading. Mind you, Miranda Seymour’s Chaplin’s Girl more than made up for it. It is the life of Virginia Cherrill, the most beautiful girl of her time, an American beauty who married Cary Grant and the Earl of Jersey, but who finally loved only one man, a poor Polish fighter pilot. Cherrill was so vividly enchanting everyone sought her friendship. After her original success in City Lights, she remained as unaffected and as sweet as she was when it all began back on the farm. No film has ever communicated emotion with such poignancy as the closing seconds of City Lights. The final moment of recognition of the tramp by the once-blind girl has to be the biggest tear-jerker of all time. And it was la Cherrill’s first film and first acting role ever. Her cast of friends was a name-dropper’s dream. The Maharajah of Jaipur, Jai, was among the best-looking men of his generation, a terrific polo player and sportsman whom I played against back in the Sixties. Virginia and Jai had a long affair, and even after Jersey and she got married the affair continued. Cherrill was up-front about it. She told his lordship (a real cheapskate, who left his mother, brother and sisters without a penny) she did not love him but he insisted on marrying her. Laddie Sanford, another friend of hers, was also a friend of mine. He once asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I was 19. Play a bit of tennis, travel, chase girls, said I. “Bravo,” he said beaming, “that’s the stuff; none of that nine-to-five crap.”
Yep, those were the days. And the book is all about those enchanting, carefree days before we all became equally boring and vulgar. Virginia gave it all up for a penniless Polish flying ace, which is par for the course. Rich cheapskates are a dime a dozen. Flying aces are not. Read this book and cry for the romantic times that are no more.
Barack Obama, Henry Louis Gates Jr., and the African-American Master Class
Countless pundits have debated whether the Henry Louis Gates Jr. brouhaha is about race or class.
In truth, Barack Obama’s maladroit but heartfelt interjection of his own prejudices into the controversy stemmed from a quite precise intersection of race with class. Obama spoke out in defense of Gates’s tantrum because they are both members of the tiny (but increasingly potent) black overclass.
Obama’s feelings of class solidarity haven”t been widely discussed, largely because they are rather boring. In a world bedazzled by black entertainers and athletes, and troubled (but intrigued) by black criminals, the black upper class goes almost unnoticed as they engage in respectable rituals such as relaxing at Martha’s Vineyard, where “Skip” Gates has summered for 27 years and the Obamas will be vacationing next month.
This Affirmative-Actionocracy’s access to power and wealth stems largely from their claim to theoretically represent 40 million African-Americans, especially the troublesome and puzzling black underclass. Yet, they try to associate with less lofty blacks no more than necessary, and they especially don”t want their daughters to marry them. Hence the constant inward socializing.
The black upper class has been portrayed in books by Yale law professor Stephen L. Carter (The Emperor of Ocean Park) and in movies by third-generation Morehouse graduate Spike Lee (School Daze). Their most vivid chronicler, however, might be Tom Wolfe. In his portrait of 1990s Atlanta, A Man in Full, key roles are played by two former Morehouse fraternity brothers, the mild-mannered, Stravinsky-loving lawyer Roger White II (a.k.a., Roger Too White) and the light and bright mayor, Wes Jordan, who takes up golf as an excuse for tanning.
This ongoing need for high-caste black leaders to prove themselves black enough is especially evident in Obama’s longtime Afrocentrist pastor, Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., whose background is not exactly straight outta Compton. Indeed, this Ph.D. proponent of “black liberation theology” is so pale that he is almost a dead ringer for the 2008 Libertarian Party candidate, former Republican congressman Bob Barr (who considers himself white, although many blacks in Atlanta claim he’s passing).
Wright’s father was a prominent minister in Philadelphia’s integrated Germantown neighborhood, and his mother was vice-principal of a leading girl’s high school. He attended the prestigious Central High School when it was four-fifths Jewish.
Wright’s elaborately intellectual leftism served as rationalization for his lucrative leadership position over other blacks.
Wright’s other famous congregant in the 1980s was Oprah Winfrey, but she tired of his shtick and stopped attending altogether by the mid-1990s. In contrast, Senator Obama donated $53,770 to Wright’s church from 2005 through 2007. Alison Samuels explained in Newsweek in May 2008 that Oprah could quit Wright because, unlike Obama, she was black enough:
Friends of Sen. Barack Obama … insist that it would be unfair to compare Winfrey’s decision to leave Trinity United with his own decision to stay. … “Early on, he was in search of his identity as an African-American and, more importantly, as an African-American man. … Winfrey wasn”t going for that. She’s secure in her blackness, so that didn”t have a hold on her.”
Strikingly, Barack Obama Jr.’s 2009 concern for the welfare of black elites such as Dr. Gates carries on the central theme of Barack Obama Sr.’s 1965 article, Problems Facing Our Socialism, which appeared in the East African Journal after he earned an M.A. in economics at Harvard. (It was discovered in the UCLA library by Greg Ransom.) Obama Sr. didn”t favor socialism for the sake of ideology, but because socialism was most convenient for expropriating Kenya’s white- and Asian-owned businesses and putting blacks in charge, especially blacks of Obama Sr.”s tiny class of foreign-educated intellectuals.
The President’s inner social circle consists almost solely of affluent and well-educated blacks, what W.E.B. DuBois called “the talented tenth.”
Consider his most trusted adviser, Valerie Jarrett, whom Obama describes as “a sibling.” Jarrett, who is the color of the third cup you try to boil out of an Earl Grey teabag, was born in, of all places, Iran, where her geneticist father James Bowman worked on foreign aid projects. Educated at boarding schools in New England, Jarrett became a central cog in the Chicago Machine as an assistant to both black and white mayors, and then as CEO of the government-financed for-profit slumlord Habitat, which mismanages public housing projects for the city.
Talent turbocharged by minority set-asides and political connections is the common trait of Obama’s male friends, such as Martin Nesbitt, who runs 35,000 airport parking spots; John W. Rogers Jr., who manages 11-digits worth of pension funds and other politicized investments (Rogers” mother, by the way, held deputy Cabinet secretary rank in two Republican administrations); and Eric Whitaker.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich placed Dr. Whitaker in charge of the budget of the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board after Obama put in a good word for his friend from Harvard with Tony Rezko. (The power behind Blago’s throne went to prison in large part for bribing the majority of that board.)
Despite Obama’s self-congratulation at his press conference over passing a bill in Illinois against racial profiling, his memoir, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, shows him profiling blacks himself. One night, the rumble of rap music brings the community organizer out of his apartment, where he is confronted by four black youths sitting in a car. Obama immediately assumes that they threaten him with violence”just as he accused his dying grandmother in his celebrated 2008 race speech of assuming the worst about a black man who accosted her at her bus stop. In that moment of peril” “The engine starts, and the car screeches away. I turn back toward my apartment knowing that I”ve been both stupid and lucky, knowing that I am afraid after all””Obama experiences what may be an epiphany (at least as far as one can tell from Dreams‘s serpentine prose style):
As I stand there, I find myself thinking that somewhere down the line both guilt and empathy speak to our own buried sense that an order of some sort is required, not the social order that exists, necessarily, but something more fundamental and more demanding; a sense, further, that one has a stake in this order, a wish that, no matter how fluid this order sometimes appears, it will not drain out of the universe. [p. 270]
I think this means Obama finally realized that, when his own personal life is on the line, he’s on the side of the cops, not the crooks.
Thus, the Obama was highly prudent about exposing himself to the disorganized dangers of the Chicago communities he claimed to organize. He lived within the Green Zone security perimeter (between 39th St. and 64th St.) provided by the University of Chicago’s hard-nosed private police force. A friend writes:
There is a fierce and drastic difference between neighborhoods within and outside the University of Chicago Police boundary. When I was a student there, it was apparent … they were only dimly aware of things like Miranda or the presumption of innocence (for anyone, that is, other than students, faculty, black women, and black men dressed like Barack Obama”geez, I wonder who that leaves?).
There’s no record of the U. of Chicago’s Constitutional law professor protesting any infringements of the Constitution by his personal protectors. But that’s just the way it is: the rules are different for certain people.
[Photo of Henry Louis Gates Jr. on an Adult Tricycle: Martha’s Vineyard Magazine]
Last week on NPR, a professor in the Sloan School of Management at MIT explained that what is really at stake in the health-care bill is the U.S. government’s ability to borrow. In other words, the bill is about cutting health-care costs, not about providing hard-pressed Americans with health care.
The professor said that if we didn’t get health-care costs under control, in 30 years the U.S. government would not be able to sell Treasury bonds.
It is not at all clear that the Treasury will be able to sell its debt instruments in 30 months, and it has nothing to do with health-care costs. The Treasury debt-marketing problem has to do with two back-to-back U.S. fiscal year budgets each with a $2 trillion deficit. The size of the U.S. deficit exceeds in these troubled times the supply of world savings available to fund the U.S. government’s wars, bailouts and stimulus plans. If the Federal Reserve has to monetize the Treasury’s new borrowings by creating demand deposits for the Treasury (printing money), America’s foreign creditors might flee the dollar.
The professor didn’t seem to know anything about this and gave Washington 30 more years before the proverbial you-know-what hits the fan.
One looks in vain to the U.S. financial media for accurate economic information. Currently, Wall Street, the White House and the media are hyping a new sign of economic recovery—“surging” June home sales. John Williams at shadowstats.com predicted this latest reporting deception.
Here is the way Williams explains how statistics can produce false signs of recovery. The economy has been contracting for so long that a plateauing of the falloff in home sales compared to the previous time period’s more rapid contraction can appear like a gain.
The Census Bureau itself notes that the reported 11 percent increase in June home sales might be illusory. The reporting agency says that the gain is not statistically meaningful at a 90 percent confidence interval and that “the Census Bureau does not have sufficient statistical evidence to conclude that the actual change is different from zero.”
Williams explains other data distortions likely to create false hopes and lead to investment losses. Financial stresses from the current state of the economy have changed behavior. This means that normal seasonal adjustments to statistical data can result in misleading information.
For example, the recent decline that was reported in seasonally adjusted new unemployment claims was a result of the normal adjustments for the retooling of auto lines that did not, in fact, take place to the normal extent due to the bankruptcies and uncertainties. Adding in seasonal adjustments that did not in fact take place artificially reduced the unemployment claims.
Williams warns that after a period of contraction, new monthly or quarterly figures are being compared to prior periods of collapsing activity. “Improvements” are thus artefacts of the prior collapse and not signs of economic rebound.
The “Birth-Death Model” is used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to estimate the net of the non-reported jobs lost by failed businesses (deaths) and new jobs created by start-up companies (births). Williams explains why the model understates job loss during periods of contraction. The modeling on which the birth-death adjustment is based consists primarily of periods of economic growth when there are more non-reported start-up jobs than non-reported job losses from business failures.
The BLS model came up with a monthly adjustment of 75,000 new jobs added to the reported number. That means an adjustment factor of 900,000 new jobs added to the reported payroll jobs number each year.
During economic contraction such as the current one, however, it is wrong to assume that new start-ups are creating 75,000 jobs each month more than are being lost to business failures. Thus the job losses are understated by the 900,000 upside birth-death adjustment and by the absence of a downside adjustment to estimate the jobs lost as a result of failed companies that cease to report.
The reported unemployment rate is itself deceptive, as it no longer includes discouraged workers who have been unemployed for more than a year. These long-term discouraged workers are simply erased from the rolls of the unemployed.
The Consumer Price Index no longer measures a constant standard of living and is not comparable to pre-Clinton periods. During the 1990s, the CPI ceased to be based on a weighted fixed assortment. The principle of substitution was introduced.
For example, under the old measure, if the price of steak rose, the CPI rose. Under the new measure, if the price of steak rises, the index switches to hamburger on the assumption that consumers substitute hamburger for steak.
Consumer confidence typically is swayed by “good news” hype. The drops in the Conference Board’s and the University of Michigan’s measures of consumer confidence in July suggest that Americans are becoming inured to recovery hype and are realizing that the government and the media lie about the economy just as they lie about everything else.
The Internet’s Free Encyclopedia Hates Me.
The first thing I noticed about my Wikipedia page, when someone directed my attention to it, was that they got my name wrong, there in the very first line!
Not the spelling”they at least managed to get that right”but the pronunciation. Their rendering in the International Phonetic Alphabet is / ËdÉrbÉ¨ÊÉr / That includes two fricative-lingual r sounds.
In fact there are no r sounds at all in the pronunciation of my name, fricative-lingual or otherwise. It is pronounced with pure vowels: / ËdÉËbÉªÊÉ / (DAH-bi-shuh). I refer interested readers to §774 of Daniel Jones’ classic Outline of English Phonetics, the section headed “Words for practising the omission of r.”
Trust me on this. It’s my name. I’ve been pronouncing it since the Truman administration.
The second thing I noticed was that my Wikipedia page was written by an AAM”that is, an Angry Asian Male. This needs a bit of explanation.
Among East Asian males, there is a large subgroup who are flipped into a mode of blind fury by the thought of Asian women consorting with non-Asian males. In the young-adult cohort of mainland-Chinese males, I would estimate the subgroup as about one in three. These are the AAMs. One recent target of their rage has been Chinese movie star Zhang Ziyi, whose affair with Israeli venture capitalist Vivi Nevo has stirred quite horrifying levels of vituperation against Ms. Zhang on Chinese-language blogs.
After hanging out among Chinese people for forty years on three continents, and having been married to a lady of Chinese ancestry for twenty-three of those years, I am exquisitely well-sensitized to the AAM mentality. I can, as it were, spot an AAM at five hundred yards. That the author of my Wikipedia page is an AAM shone out loud and clear.
In fact, you really don’t need to have my level of sensitization. Just look at that first subheading: “Conflicts of peoples.” Pure Chinglish“no native English-speaker would write that.
Having grasped that my Wikipedia page was an AAM production, I was not much surprised by its contents. For example: “During a debate with [white nationalist] Jared Taylor at the Robert A. Taft club in August 2006 Derbyshire joked that the only reason he was not an open white nationalist was because ‘it would get me in trouble at home’.” Did I?
Here is a precise transcription of the relevant part of the debate. You can listen to it yourself. It’s at 9m 22s into the “Question & Answer Period” audio clip. (The link on my Wikipedia page does not work directly”rather a lot of Wikipedia links don’t work”but if you scroll down on the error page you can find the audio file. Or you can just go here) I am talking about Steve Sailer’s “citizenism” concept, which I agree with:
Our government, our authorities, ought to regard us all equally, and they ought to prefer our interests to the interests of the other six billion people in the world, which currently they don’t. I’m on board with that. I’m kind of on Steve’s side on that. I’m not a white nationalist. I’d be in trouble at home if I was. [Laughter.] But I agree with Steve: citizenism.
That’s what I actually said. Is it what Wikipedia says I said? Judge for yourself.
The following sentence on my Wikipedia page is”how shall I put it?”a bare-faced lie. To uncover the lie, you unfortunately need to listen to all 69 minutes of that “Question & Answer Period” audio clip. I guess my AAM-biographer calculated that very few people would be bothered to do this. I guess he is right.
My Wikipedia page is pretty much downhill from there.
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Now, I am not much bothered by this kind of thing. I have a congenitally thick skin”a terrific asset in the opinionating business. I did recently start thinking, though, that with a book coming out in the fall, I might be coming to the attention of a lot of people who know nothing about me. For some of them their first point of reference would be my Wikipedia page. Did I really want these innocents to get the AAM-slanted view of John Derbyshire?
I decided that I didn’t, and so set about editing my Wikipedia page.
This was not easy. For editing purposes, Wikipedia has a mark-up language all its own, of which ordinary HTML (in which I am fluent”in which, in fact, I am writing this column) is merely a subset. There is also a mass of protocols concerning style, copyright permissions, and so on. I spent a couple of days reading through all this, then set to work on my page.
It proved impossible to patch the thing up. It was too disorganized and unbalanced. I therefore rewrote it from scratch, striving to present a fair picture. (For example, I included more of the petty controversies I’ve been involved in, actually giving Derb-haters more material to feast on.) My finished product was, as best I could judge, well-organized, balanced, literate, and Wikipedia-compliant.
The rewritten page lasted just one day. Then the old AAM-angled page came back, and I got a message from the Wikipedia people saying that my rewrite was unacceptable because of “multiple style issues.” What were those style issues? They didn’t tell me, and there was no way to reply to the Wiki message. Perhaps the Wikipedia editors objected to my painstaking avoidance of crass solecisms like “Conflicts of peoples.” Or perhaps they were annoyed by the fact that all my links, unlike theirs, actually worked.
The only part of my rewrite that Wikipedia accepted was the photograph. So I can console myself with the reflection that readers of my Wikipedia page have at least an up-to-date portrait to go with Wikipedia’s gibberish “biography” of me.
That’s Wikipedia for you. They can say what they like about you, employing any level of sub-literacy for the purpose, and there isn’t a darn thing you can do about it. I had heard this, but just hadn’t believed they are really so brazen.
I had heard it from, amongst others, Irish journalist Kevin Myers, who, at the slightest prompting, will give you a passionate forty-five minute harangue on the evils of Wikipedia. There’s a Myers column on the topic here, from which:
So who are the people who founded and run Wikipedia? I don’t know, and nor have I any foolproof way of finding out, because the only way of doing so is by consulting Wikipedia itself: a hole-in-bucket solution to a hole-in-my-bucket problem … And so”do these wretched Wikipedia people ever lie awake worrying at the damage that the evil or the impressionable might inflict upon those who have been maligned in their uncontrolled and filthy internet gossip-shop, whose very power derives from the complete fiction that it is an “encyclopedia”?
I doubt it extremely: for of all the lies of our time, Wikipedia is surely the greatest.
I’m still not very worked up about this”nothing like as worked up as Kevin, for sure. Ninety percent of what you read about people in the public prints and forums is malicious lies. Any adult who does not know that should stop reading and take up fishing. Any public person who is bothered by it should retire into private life.
I am also deeply obliged to several readers who went in and removed offensive parts of my Wikipedia page. I hope the Wiki editors are more tolerant of these readers’ changes than they were of mine. The downside of these kindnesses is, that readers coming late to my column will be looking at a different Derb Wikipage from the one I’m commenting on. However, I took the precaution of preserving an image of the original page here so readers will know what I am talking about.
Anyway, I’ll go on using Wikipedia for quick links to merely factual issues, assuming that my readers know there’s a level of unreliability even there. (Last year I looked up the Wikipedia article on the Battle of Agincourt. It was long, detailed, and informative, except that it had the English side led by Henry IV, who had been dead for two years when Agincourt was fought. I see they have since corrected this particular blooper, but no doubt there are a hundred thousand just as egregious lurking on the Wikipedia pages. If, as I have heard, high school and college students rely on Wikipedia for factual information, our academic culture is in serious trouble.)
I do think it’s probably a mistake, though, for Wikipedia to include living persons among its entries. The opportunites for Wikipedia’s anonymous, unaccountable editors to work off grudges, conduct vendettas, and vent the milder, AAM-grade varieties of psychopathology are just too tempting.
There is, unless I am out of date, a rule that postage stamps may not depict anyone currently alive. I recommend the postage-stamp principle to the managers of Wikipedia. But then, what do I know? According to Wikipedia, I can’t even pronounce my own name correctly.