State of the Union

Ron Paul’s Hour

The decades-long campaign of Ron Paul to have the Government Accountability Office do a full audit of the Federal Reserve now has 313 sponsors in the House.

Sometimes perseverance does pay off.

If not derailed by the establishment, the audit may happen.

Yet, many columnists and commentators are aghast.

An auditors’ probe, they wail, would imperil the Fed’s independence and expose it to pressure from Congress to keep interest rates low and money flowing when the need of the nation and economy might call for tightening.

They cite Paul Volcker, who to squeeze double-digit inflation out of the economy in the late Carter and early Reagan years, drove the prime rate to 21 percent, causing the worst recession since the Depression. Volcker, they claim, prepared the ground for the Reagan tax cuts and seven fat years of prosperity.

That decade, America created 20 million jobs — and another 22 million in the Clinton era. Without Volcker putting the economy through the wringer, it could not have happened. And had he been forced to explain his decisions, Congress would have broken his policy.

Such is the cast for Fed independence.

But if true, what does this say about our republic?

Is it not an admission that, though Congress was created by the Constitution, and the Fed is a creation of Congress, our elected representatives cannot be trusted with the money supply, cannot be trusted with control of the nation’s central bank? To have decisions made in the national interest, we need folks who do not have to answer to voters. Read More…

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The CIA Votes for Change

I attended the annual reunion of the 1980 Rome CIA Station last night.  The group is in the sixty to seventy age range, mostly retirees with good pensions and health insurance, and a few are still working for CIA as contractors. It is 100% conservative with most voting Republican reflexively.  Last year’s meeting was held just before election time.  At the last reunion my wife and I were the only two attendees out of about twenty present who were not going to vote for John McCain and Sarah Palin.  When my wife and I were preparing for last night we were somewhat apprehensive, fearing that the reunion would quickly turn into an anti-Obama rant.  To our surprise, however, conversation soon turned to how the US economy is in far worse shape than any politician in Washington seems to understand.  Most were in despair about the future of our country, noting that Congress is so hopelessly corrupted that only a clean sweeping out of all incumbents would accomplish anything.  There was general agreement that the US has become an evil empire, fighting seemingly endless wars that serve no purpose.  Several told horror stories about dealing with the health care industry, this in spite of the fact that they have good insurance, with everyone agreeing that major reform is required even if government health care would be an undesirable alternative.  Surprisingly, there was not a whole lot of carping about Obama, with several noting that he had inherited a mess from GWB.  Ron Paul’s name came up several times and two of the women present commented that what America needs is a new revolution headed by someone like him to restore the constitution.

It being the ROME station we also talked a lot about food and wine, the newly released digital DVD of I, Claudius, the pluses and minuses of HBO’s series Rome, Inspector Montalbano, and the state of the Catholic Church.

I would not want to read too much into alcohol fueled comments made on one evening by a group that is far from representative, but it occurs to me that there is something in the air.  Can it be that the American people have finally had enough of politics as usual?  It would be nice to think so and it would be nice to think that somehow someway someday it might be possible to plug into that sentiment to recreate a genuine conservative movement that is both answerable to the American people and reflective of the national interest.

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Bin Laden Through the Looking Glass

The significance of Robert Gates’ comment yesterday about al-Qaeda has not been noted by the mainstream media.  Gates said that “I think it has been years” since the US government has had any solid information about Usama bin Laden, adding that US intelligence believes that the fugitive terrorist might well be moving about in the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan.  To be so unenlightened in spite of billions of dollars being spent in the pursuit of the shifty Saudi is enough of a tragedy, but the comment is even more significant in that it completely undercuts the Barack Obama Administration’s case for increasing the number of American troops in Afghanistan.

Many both inside and outside the government now believe that Usama bin Laden is dead and has been so for quite some time, possibly since 2001.  This view is based on the lack of any credible intelligence demonstrating that he is alive and also on the relative insignificance of al-Qaeda in the conflict in central Asia.  In short, al-Qaeda is not what it used to be and might even be leaderless.  President Obama certainly is aware that there is an alternative narrative about the international terrorism problem, one that diminishes the threat.  Nevertheless, one week ago he addressed the American people, stating that it is necessary to have 100,000 soldiers in Afghanistan to defeat terrorism.  Is there anything lower than sending American soldiers to their deaths for a lie?  If Obama is really sending troops to central Asia to prop up client states in Afghanistan and Pakistan for fear that they will crumble and be replaced by something much worse, perhaps he should have had the integrity to say so in full knowledge that the American people would show him the door.  Unfortunately, the word terrorism has become the trump card played when you don’t know what to say or the new improved bottle of snake oil that you produce from behind the counter when the old stuff you were selling has lost its zip.

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Importing Unemployment

At last week’s Job Summit, there was talk of a second stimulus package, of tax credits for small businesses that hire new workers, of an Infrastructure Bank to select national priority public works projects like the Hoover Dam and TVA of yesteryear.

But no one, it seems, advanced the one obvious idea that would have the most immediate and dramatic impact — a moratorium on all immigration into the United States.

Unemployment is at 10 percent, near the postwar high of 1983. Fifteen million Americans are out of work. Ten million more have given up looking or are working fewer hours than they would like.

We have been losing jobs every month for two years.

Why, then, are we still bringing immigrants into the United States at a rate of 125,000 a month to take jobs from fellow Americans and compete with our unemployed for the jobs that open up? Read More…

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Bush’s Best

Unlike many other decisions of the latter Bush, establishing the President’s Council on Bioethics was unambiguously an excellent idea. The work of the Council–serious, thoughtful examination of the bioethical challenges of our day–was of the highest order. Predictably, its circumspect attitude towards genetic engineering and stem-cell research earned it the wrath of techno-progressives of every stripe. “Put science back into the hands of scientists!” was the hue and cry of the malcontents. The implication of course was that Bush’s commission was indulging in irrelevant religious and theoretical musings. How dare President Bush and his advisory board impede the progress of mankind!

Unfortunately, President Obama seems to buy into the same conceit. He disbanded the Council and has now instituted a new one of a decidedly different character. The new commission, as some have noted, has a technocratic, rubber-stamp air to it. Its business will surely be to promote scientific advances and not wallow needlessly in such banal and arcane quests such as employing pre-modern philosophy to explore human dignity or the limits of medical enhancement. Science has its own authority, not to be questioned by non-experts such as philosophers or theologians.

But a real public conversation about bioethics is sadly lacking today. The advance of medical technologies really does raise questions about the nature of human beings. In the not-so-distant future, the distinctions between man, machine, and animal could really become quite blurred. One could just assume that all progress is good and dismiss critics as “bioconservatives”–meet the transhumanists–or one could engage in a serious discourse. It’s a shame that President Obama neglects the opportunity to delve into serious and urgent philosophical issues, instead favoring a vague notion of a “neutral” science, as if such a thing were even possible.

(For those interested in this topic, be sure to check out the dedicated New Atlantis blog for smart coverage of the latest debates.)

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A Scheme Deferred

Barry Bugs Out

Tom Englehardt nails the true nature of President Obama’s address to cadets at West Point:

Certainly, the choice of venue, and so the decision to address a military audience first and other Americans second, not only emphasized the escalatory military path chosen in Afghanistan, but represented a kind of symbolic surrender of civilian authority.

Rush Limbaugh’s wistful musing about a military coup is more oblivious than devious: after a perfunctory, brief struggle, the coup is victorious (Of course, if the president had been arrested at West Point and replaced with a military junta, I’m not entirely sure Limbaugh wouldn’t find a way to justify it. Are you?). Under political duress, the president has accepted the role of conditional, if not yet nominal, Commander-in-Chief, surrendering an authority he doesn’t want and wouldn’t know what to do with anyway. Now he bites his nails and waits, like the rest of us.

But it’s not the president’s prerogative to divest himself of command over the armed forces to avoid its political consequences–elite convention notwithstanding. The extraordinary executive power over war itself remains, insulated from legislative or judicial interference, nominally vested in an elected president, wielded by a cabal. This is dereliction of duty of the highest order. The Commander in Chief has abandoned his post to cower in the rear while his mutinous subordinates take command.

But okay, this is all retrograde and simplistic, I know. Just the sort of thing to set elite eyes rolling, like taking the Constitution and sovereignty too seriously. Let’s crassly accept the “political reality” and acknowledge the asymmetry between the White House and the the military establishment :

The Pentagon dictates policy directly to the Republican Party, Fox News, conservative radio and Internet, while fighting to a draw in the contested middle that is the the unallied media.
Obama, on the other hand, leads a party divided on the war and has a more conditional alliance with a media complex–MSNBC, NPR, etc.–that is both less powerful and less subservient than their adversaries. It’s no great boast, but the liberal media and Democratic Party have, on this issue, shown superior independence and character. The difference casts in relief the decadence of the Republican Party and its staunchest media organs.

Meanwhile, in the Boy Wonder’s White House Joseph Biden, garrulous and glib, self-imagined Caesar to Iraq’s Gaul, is what passes for a pragmatist and sage. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (her position the product of a previous political capitulation), known for taking flight in hectoring recrimination before the galling indignity that is the unscripted media encounter, is sent abroad to placate a resentful world. The charmless representing the clueless. God help us.

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O = W

“O=W” is a bumper sticker beginning to show up on liberals’ cars. After the President’s speech Tuesday night at West Point, I suspect it will spread rapidly.

For eight years, conservatives endured the agony of watching President George W. Bush attach the label “conservative” to a host of policies that were anti-conservative: Wilsonian wars, American empire, vast budget and trade deficits, increased entitlements, and the subordination of America’s interests to those of foreign powers. Now the shoe is on the other foot, and liberals are bidden to hold their tongues as President Obama makes Bush’s wars his own. The usual Washington sell-out is in gear.

It should not come as a surprise. America is now a one-party state. The one party is the Establishment party, which is also the war party. Unless you are willing to cheer permanent war for permanent peace, you cannot be a member of the Establishment.

What can we say militarily about Obama’s surge? Understand that in Afghanistan, 30,000 troops is a drop in the bucket. The size of the country, the wide extent of Taliban and other anti-occupier action, and the largely mountainous nature of the terrain make Afghanistan a troop sponge. A serious effort would require 300,000 more troops, not 30,000. Read More…

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The McCain Alternative

Many weak-minded Obama appeasers on the anti-war Right have defended the Afghanistan escalation by pointing out the sort of insanely vicious foreign-policy we would have today had McCain been elected president. It’s not much of an argument. But it is right.

Read McCain’s embarrassingly hawkish squawk over at Foreign Policy.

What I do not support, and what concerns me greatly, is the president’s decision to set an arbitrary date to begin withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan. A date for withdrawal sends exactly the wrong message to both our friends and our enemies — in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the entire region — all of whom currently doubt whether America is committed to winning this war. A withdrawal date only emboldens al Qaeda and the Taliban, while dispiriting our Afghan partners and making it less likely that they will risk their lives to take our side in this fight.

Yes of course. The solution is an endless war — a thousand years, if need be, remember — that can’t be won. You can’t lose if you don’t quit.

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Obama’s Exit Strategy

If actions speak louder than words, President Obama is cutting America free of George Bush’s wars and coming home.

For his bottom line Tuesday night was that all U.S. forces will be out of Iraq by mid-2011 and the U.S. footprint in Afghanistan will, on that date, begin to get smaller and smaller.

Yet the gap between the magnitude of the crisis he described and the action he is taking is the Grand Canyon.

Listing the stakes in Afghanistan, Obama might have been FDR in a fireside chat about America’s war against a Japanese empire that had just smashed the fleet at Pearl Harbor, seized the Philippines, Guam and Wake, and was moving on Midway.

Consider the apocalyptic rhetoric: Read More…

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Civil War President

Barack Obama’s intensification of the occupation of Afghanistan is nothing less than a full commitment to one side in the civil war raging there. What he calls a threat of a Taliban takeover is actually a Pashtun resistance to the U.S. occupation and the corrupt Karzai government it backs. Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s spin cannot change those facts.

Obama’s story isn’t even coherent. Al-Qaeda is in Pakistan, he says, not Afghanistan. (Obama’s speech said nothing about the continuing “secret” drone assault that the U.S. military is conducting there.) Yet he insists that we must see Afghanistan through because that’s where the 9/11 attacks were planned. Well, not actually. You can just as easily say they were planned in Germany and Florida. Why are those terrorist sanctuaries not feeling the wrath of the U.S. military?

Obama vows to defeat al-Qaeda, but what does that mean in the case of a highly decentralized “organization” under whose banner anyone anywhere may claim to be operating? How do you defeat an idea?

Obama promises that U.S. forces will begin leaving in July 2011–maybe, depending on conditions on the ground.

Our only hope is that opposition will keep growing–where is that antiwar movement anyway?–and that the looming 2012 presidential election will prompt Obama to get out.

But in the meantime, Afghan people, expect more U.S.-sponsored violence, more maimed and dead babies and children, compliments of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t regard someone as my enemy merely because he refuses to recognize the legitimacy of Karzai’s gang.

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