State of the Union

Nobody’s Ever Gone Wrong Invading Somalia

It’s easy to miss the fact that Bill Kristol has, somewhat at random, targeted Somalia for an invigorating little naval bombardment and perhaps invasion in a column mostly centered on a proposal to award torturers the Order of Lenin Medal of Freedom on the explicit basis of their job well done torturing, the better to galvanize public enthusiasm for continuing the Bush administration’s seven-and-a-half-year globe-spanning wave of crimes against humanity and the Constitution. But there you have it:

[Bush] could tell various admirals to stop moaning about how difficult it would be to deal with the pirates off the coast of Somalia (isn’t keeping the shipping lanes open a core mission of the Navy?) and order the Navy to clobber them. If need be, the Marines would no doubt be glad to recapitulate their origins and join in by going ashore in Africa to destroy the pirates’ safe havens.

Read More…

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Secular Right

John Derbyshire, Heather Mac Donald, Razib Khan, and friends have launched a new blog for the non-religious Right. There’s an old and deep tradition of skepticism on the Right, dating back at least to Robert Ingersoll and William Graham Sumner in America and to David Hume across the Atlantic. But believers no less than skeptics ought to welcome this new site, since the conflation of religious conviction and political conservatism has usually been to the detriment of both. To give but one example, George W. Bush may (or may not) be a godly man, but he never had anything like a prudent, conservative philosophy of government. The same can be said about much of the religious Right, particularly in its Christian Zionist manifestations that seek to subordinate American foreign policy to bad Biblical exegesis.

Speaking of bad exegesis, however: contrary to Secular Right, H.L. Mencken was not an atheist, at least by his own lights. Disciple of T.H. Huxley that he was, whenever the question was put to him directly, Mencken professed himself an agnostic.

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Socialism, American-Style

Barack Obama and George W. Bush seem to have come away from their study of the Great Depression with similar conclusions:

To wit: After the Crash of 1929, the Federal Reserve did not move fast enough to save the banks and inject cash into the economy. Second, the New Deal, far from being wastrel deficit spending, was not bold enough. So it was that America wallowed in depression for a decade until the unbridled spending and mammoth deficits of World War II pulled us out.

Bush and Obama seem determined not to make the same mistake.

We are all Keynesians now. Read More…

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waiting by the phone

We just got a much anticipated phone call from our daughter, who is on a junior year abroad program in a city near Mumbai. She’s fine. But, she told us, she had been at one of those bars hit by the terrorists a few weeks ago. Deeprak Chopra is on the TV. Among other things, he says that the Al-Qaeda and like minded terrorists are really worried by Obama, and his capacity to transform the whole moral-intellectual landscape between the West and Islam, and are striking out to try to prevent that. Sounds about right to me.

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Bye-Bye PC?

One benefit from a generally terrifying economic crisis may be the demise of political correctness. Notice the lack of serious complaint over the appointment of Larry Summers to one of Obama’s top economic advisory positions. Three years ago, Summers was forced out of the presidency of Harvard because he noted that biological difference may play some part in the explanation for the relative dearth of women professors in the math and the physical sciences.

(I’m not an expert in psychometrics , but I think it’s commonly understood that there are more boys than girls at the very top reaches of the math SAT scorers and even more at the higher reaches if you were to subdivide the 800 scores. And similarly, there are many more boys than girls classified as mentally retarded or autistic. If you plotted the scores out on a bell curve, the male curve would be flatter.)

In any case, Summers’ remark produced an indignation  outburst from the academic feminists, culminating eventually in his resignation. When his name was floated a few weeks ago for a top post, there was a fair amount of tittering among the female talking heads– “Summers claimed girls can’t do math, ha ha” and he was considered a longshot.

Then the credit markets seized up again, fear of a real meltdown spread, and more people decided that having a really smart guy advising Obama just may be more important than rigid adherence to political correctness. There will be more of that, on a wide range of issues, in the years ahead.

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Robert Parry of Consortium News is reporting that in 1992 the Russians turned over to the White House a secret report confirming that senior US officials and Reagan campaign staff met with Iranian officials in Europe during the summer of 1980.  The meetings, since known as the October Surprise, were designed to delay the release of the American Embassy hostages in Iran until after the US elections, depriving President Jimmy Carter of a success that might have kept him in office.

I know for a fact that Henry Waxman’s committee on government ethics has hard evidence that the meetings did take place and that they were orchestrated by Reagan’s campaign manager Bill Casey.  They were set up with the connivance of at least two CIA Chiefs of Station in Europe, in Rome and Paris.  Parry is now reporting that current US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was also involved, according to the intelligence allegedly provided by the Russians.  Gates was, at the time, a senior official in Carter’s National Security Council.  If Gates was truly part of the meetings and was not reporting his activity to the White House, one might suggest that he was part of a conspiracy engaged in regime change, to use the currently popular expression.  Parry suggests that Gates was rewarded after the election and that his career took off, eventually resulting in his being named Director of Central Intelligence. 

I am more concerned that Obama is appointing only hawks to his cabinet than I am by any allegations about Gates, though the tale told by Parry is disturbing to say the least.  Meeting clandestinely with the officials of a foreign country to come to an arrangement intended to influence the results of an election in the United States goes well beyond ordinary political shenanigans and makes Richard Nixon’s sins seem almost trivial. 

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Is there something wrong with a meeting of the minds?

Patrick Ruffini is one of the most prominent of the few Republicans of the Millennial Generation. But in being so it’s meant a pretty good gig as a point person for articles explaining why the GOP is so far behind the times when it comes to Internet activism as opposed to mere blogging for example. He brought more attention to himself with a piece in the Washington Post on his efforts to try and set up a conservative “rightroots” to try and compete with Daily Kos and other such leftist Internet activist sites.

One would think Mr. Ruffini would want to work with the one group of Republicans that are already ahead of everyone else in terms of Internet activism, Ron Paul supporters. But, Ruffini, a Rudy Guliani supporter, apparently regarded the Paulites the same way as every other Republican regarded them, as the peasants with pitchforks looking to storm the manor castle.

Granted Paul’s numbers in hard votes on paper don’t look all that impressive but they would not be in a party a large majority of whose primary and caucus voters are 45 and up and don’t use the internet. I was at the Iowa Straw Poll watching campaign workers for Romney and Tancredo have to drive their elderly supporters across the Hilton Coliseum parking lots in golf carts and there were a lot of them. Paul did quite well among GOP voters under 30 in several primaries and caucuses.

So Ruffini can do himself a big favor and drop his ideological and political blinders and work with the Paulians instead of against them and bring them into the party and use their energy to help rebuilding, especially in blue states and urban areas where many of them live. He may be surprised to learn the netroots were largely leftists in red states who used the internet to build activist cells across the country, giving the Democrats organization they didn’t have as officially. If Ruffini’s serious about rebuilding the GOP, he can do the same with netroots that are already organized. He doesn’t have to start from scratch.

And it will be beneficial to the Paulites as well to have a focus to their activism instead going off in million different directions (although, given the nature of the movement, that’s bound to happen. There’s just too many diverse groups involved). And those who will stick with the GOP are not going to be “Truthers” or other wackos so he doesn’t have to worry about that. Those not willing to be a part of the mainstream are not going to take part.

What it really boils down to is this, either Ruffini can continue to do what Republicans normally do and treat their party like exclusive, members only country club so that the only young Republicans out there will be those junior members already wearing the blue blazers, or he can open the doors wide open and invite in people who already have an organizational infrastructure and lists of people that can be channeled towards party building in areas where Republicans are very weak and away from the traditional RNC model.

It will be interesting to see if Ruffini really “gets it ” when it comes to online activism or is just another right blogger who feels he has to clear everything with party headquarters and waits for the latest talking points email. We already saw once promising Free Republic turn into an annex of the RNC and thus became a mini-Thermidor. Don’t let the same thing happen again.

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A Beloved Thanksgiving Tradition

President Bush pardons a turkey:

In Thanksgiving Tradition, Bush Pardons Scooter Libby In Giant Turkey Costume

Scooter should thank heaven that Sarah Palin wasn’t the one doing the pardoning

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Meet Medvedev Halfway

The morning after Barack Obama’s election, the congratulatory message from Moscow was in the chilliest tradition of the Cold War.

“I hope for constructive dialogue with you,” said Russia’s president, “based on trust and considering each other’s interests.”

Dmitry Medvedev went on that day, in his first State of the Union, to charge America with fomenting the Russia-Georgia war and said he has been “forced” to put Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad to counter the U.S. missile shield President Bush pledged to Poland.

Medvedev had painted Obama into a corner. No new American president can be seen as backing down from a Russian challenge. Read More…

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The Obama Glass Totally Empty?

I’m aware that some of my colleagues have been depressed about the notion that the Clintonites are taking over the Obama Administration. I’m certainly disappointed by the expected nomination of Hillary Clinton to be the next secretary of state. But I was encouraged after reading Scowcroft Protégés on Obama’s Radar in the WSJ today, and especially this

The relationship between the president-elect and the Republican heavyweight suggests that Mr. Scowcroft’s views, which place a premium on an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, might hold sway in the Obama White House.

And this

Mr. Scowcroft said his biggest piece of advice for the new administration was that it should make a renewed push to help broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. He also endorsed Mr. Obama’s call for diplomatic engagement with Iran.
“Compared to the other alternatives we face with Iran, we ought to give it a really good, sincere try,” Mr. Scowcroft said. “I have a hunch that we’ll be more successful than a lot of detractors think.

In fact, I have a contrarian view on the Hillary nomination. I think that Obama wants to take some bold steps on Israel/Palestine and on Iran and knows that such moves could put him on a collision course with supporters of Israel. Now…Hillary as an independent Senator from New York could have ended up exploiting possible pressure on Israel and opening to Iran and even use his foreign policy as a way of running against Obama in 2012. By getting her to work for him, Obama co-opts her and could even use her to sell his Mideast policy to skeptical American-Jews, etc. UPDATE: But of course that might be just wishful thinking on my part…

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