State of the Union

Bipartisan Ben Bernanke

You have to hand it to President Obama. Not only was his State of the Union speech early last week warmly received by the public, but it unleashed a wave of bipartisan sentiment in Congress, especially in the U.S. Senate. What had been had World War I-style battlefield of trench warfare between Republicans and Democrats filled with bile, acrimony and petty minded thinking, suddenly transformed itself last Thursday just a couple of days after Obama’s speech. Hands were reaching across the aisle, old enemies became friends, there was lots of loving and hugging each other and even the little child lay down peacefully next to the lion, all to renominate Ben Bernanke to another term as the head of the third Bank of the United States, oh excuse me, the Federal Reserve.

Yes the two political parties may have bitter disagreements when it comes to abortion, or climate change, or health care reform, but when it comes to benefiting themselves and the establishment they serve they do know how to come together for a common purpose.

Read More…

Posted in . 3 comments

Justice Department Bans Justice for Torturers

The Obama Justice Department has apparently decided that, since torture is not a crime (at least not anything deserving of prosecution), then concocting legal doctrines that unleashed torturers around the world is also no offense.

A Justice Department internal investigation has concluded that John Yoo and Jay Bybee were gulity only of “poor judgment” in their memos which brought the Middle Ages into the new Millennium.

The Washington Post notes: “The conclusion is likely to unsettle <strong>interest groups </strong>that have sought a reckoning for lawyers who made possible brutal interrogation, warrantless wiretapping and other Bush counterterrorism strategies.”

Perhaps the Washington Post believes that only special interests oppose torture????

Posted in . Post a comment

Details . . .

One must engage in ample amounts of self delusion to defend Republican performance on budget issue in the last few years, but Daniel Foster at NRO’s Corner is up to the task:

Obama is right. Monthly deficits under the recent Democratic Congresses don’t exceed annual deficits under those Republican Congresses. But they come pretty darn close.

Hensarling’s comments likely emerged from a release issued by the Republican Study Committee just yesterday, showing that the total accumulated deficit from Republican-controlled budgets from FY 1996-FY 2007 (and factoring in the substantial surpluses run from 1998-2001) stands at just under $1.246 trillion. The deficit run by Democratic-controlled Congresses in just three years — starting with FY2008 and including the latest CBO projections for FY 2010 — is already $3.222 trillion.(emphasis added)

That means that over twelve years of Republican rule, there was an average annual budget deficit of about $104 billion. Compare that with an average annual deficit since 2008 of $1.074 trillion — or about $90 billion per month.

This would be a powerful argument if the budget was the responsibility of the congress alone, but the president also has a say. Foster parenthetically notes that the country ran surpluses for a time when President Clinton acted as a restraint on Republican budget-busting proclivities. After Bush assumed office in 2001, the restraining factor was gone and Republicans cut taxes while putting two wars and a big new spending program (Medicare part D) on their grandchildren’s credit card.

Of course, no absurd defense of the Republican party’s disastrous rule would be complete without the uncritical link from reliable rightwing booster, Glenn Reynolds.

Posted in , . One comment

TGIF: The State of Obama’s Union

Despite what some popular right-wing talk-show hosts claim, Barack Obama is not pushing Marxism, revolutionary or otherwise. He’s pushing good old American progressive-corporate elitism.

Read TGIF here.

Posted in . Tagged , , , . Post a comment

Kimberly’s Baby

Newsweek comes to announce that Neoconservatism never really died. In fact, we’ll be living with their progeny for some time:

At his invitation, Frederick and Kimberly Kagan, an odd sight in flak jackets, have taken seven inspection tours of Iraq since April 2007. “They don’t have kids, so this is their child,” Petraeus said in a phone interview.

I wonder if in their dotage, Fred and Kimberly will ever ask themselves why their child hardly ever calls or writes anymore.

Then again, is there any doubt that whatever the Kagan’s have spawned in Iraq will make a memorable visitation on our shores someday?

Posted in , , , , . 5 comments

Recommended Movies

I don’t even want to speculate about what kind of films TAC readers prefer, but I would bet that they are not very partial to most of what passes for Hollywood hits.  I received three movies for Christmas that I have only now been able to watch, all of which I would highly recommend.  They are all in Italian with subtitles and all three were shown in the US, but only on the art house circuit.  The first is Gomorrah, the title a play on words because it is about the Neapolitan crime group Camorra.  The film consists of five vaguely connect stories that feature life in the criminal underworld of Naples.  The dialect is so heavy that I could only understand the Italian when it was being spoken by a Chinese character.  The film pulls no punches and its depiction of life in the lower class Neapolitan housing estates is both vivid and visually stunning, to put it mildly. 

The second film was Il Divo about seven-times Italian prime minister Giulio Andreotti, who is now 92 years old.  Andreotti had a number of nicknames, Il Divo being one of them.  The film is almost but not quite caricature and it works hard to reveal the dark side of Andreotti and the corruption in Italian politics while at the same time exploring the inner workings of the Jesuitical Christian Democratic leader.  The film was somewhat personal for me as I met Andreotti several times as a junior CIA officer accompanying the Chief of Station to meetings with the Prime Minister.  The Chief at that time was a cold warrior referred to as The Sphinx.  When Andreotti wished to communicate with the US government he ignored the Ambassador and would call in the CIA chief, who spoke beautiful Italian and whose mind was just as convoluted as Andreotti’s.  I recall sitting in a gilded chair listening to the two converse in short sentences with long pauses in between.  Each was carefully phrasing questions and responses that contained at least three levels of meaning, each word having to be examined carefully before proceeding.

The third movie is La Scorta, about a detail of Carabinieri policemen serving as bodyguards for an investigative magistrate in Trapani Sicily.  The magistrate was investigating the mafia and official corruption.  His predecessor had been killed.  The story is both a thriller and a tale of the men of the escort, ordinary cops trying to figure out what is right in a sea of corrupt politicians.  One overweight Sicilian politician reminded me a bit of Dennis Hastert.

All three movies are on DVD and are probably available from Netflix or from a well stocked video store.  Two were recently on sale on Amazon.

Posted in . 5 comments

Government Party in Crisis

President Obama is in a dilemma from which there appears to be no easy or early escape.

Democrats are the Party of Government. They feed it, and it feeds them. The larger government grows, the more agencies that are created, the more bureaucrats who are hired, the more people who become beneficiaries, the more deeply entrenched in power the Party of Government becomes.

At the local, state and federal level, there are 19 million to 20 million government employees. And if one takes only Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and earned income tax credits, we are talking of scores of millions who depend on government checks for the necessities of their daily life.

These vast armies of voters — these tens of millions of government employees and scores of millions of government beneficiaries — are the big battalions of the Party of Government. They provide implacable resistance to any party that pledges to cut or curtail government. For they are fighting for their livelihood. And here is where Obama’s dilemma arises.

The progressives thought that with the takeover of both houses of Congress by veto-proof Democratic majorities, and the election of the most progressive of the candidates in the Democratic primaries save Dennis Kucinich, a new Progressive Era was at hand.

Another New Deal, another Great Society. And early passage of a stimulus package of $787 billion, nearly 6 percent of the entire economy packed into a single bill, seemed to confirm that happy days were here again.

But, at the same time, the federal takeover of AIG, General Motors and Chrysler and the bailouts of Fannie, Freddie and the Wall Street banks were igniting a Perot-style prairie fire that manifested itself in Tea Party rallies in the spring and town-hall protests in August. Read More…

Posted in . 4 comments

Service Resumes

Late night Tuesday TAC‘s website was hacked. The attacked itself was not too serious, but a thorough security review has taken a bit of time. Normal service, however, now resumes. The new protective measures shouldn’t inconvenience readers, but you may notice some odd formatting on the blogs for a short while until we trim the templates to fit the new software architecture.

Posted in . 3 comments

Go East, Old Clan

Internal migration has long been the overlooked factor leading some to believe that immigration does not significantly affect, or even increases, wages for native-born American workers. Not accounting for those leaving one region for another in search of higher wages and lower living costs some economists have postulated that the slack market for low-skilled labor created by large migratory inflows somehow does not impact on wages. Harvard professor George Borjas corrected this oversight by accounting for internal migration and discovered that, contra the Voodoo Theory of Labor Markets, a greater supply of labor decreases its cost.

But it isn’t merely the search for higher wages and lower housing costs (for our immigration non-policy’s part in the real estate bust see Steve Sailer ) that contribute to internal migration, it’s also the search for community lost to rapid demographic change–and if you’ve yet to shed the retrograde view that the economy should serve society rather than the reverse, this is the greater concern. No longer just the recourse of “racist” whites unenthusiastic about being assaulted on their home streets and sending their children to increasingly dangerous and chaotic schools, the practice of departing neighborhoods in which one no longer feels welcome is now a multi-racial phenomenon. Call it Blight Flight.

The Los Angeles Times relates the story of San Bernadino’s sole synagogue following its would-be congregants into the sweltering, arid California interior:

Tracking the freeway east, one comes to Redlands and other small neighboring cities. As jobs evaporated and crime worsened in San Bernardino, many professionals, among them many members of the city’s Jewish community, moved east.

The decision by Emanu El’s leaders to break its historic ties to San Bernardino spurred dissent from some congregants, most notably from its prominent rabbi emeritus. But Kohn said the move was unavoidable if the temple was to stop hemorrhaging congregants who were moving away.

He compared the eastward shift to other Jewish migrations, including that of the Jewish community in Los Angeles, which was once based on the Eastside but has since moved west.

“Would you argue that all of the Jews of the Valley, the Westside and Orange County move back to Boyle Heights?” said Kohn, who specialized in Jewish American migration during his rabbinical studies

Boyle Heights, once a racially diverse magnet for various immigrant groups but now 95% Hispanic, is a rough neighborhood east of LA known for its Latino gangs, who are in turn notorious for their hostility toward one another and outsiders in general. This familiar process has replicated itself throughout California, sometimes accompanied by organized racial violence in its late stages with the intent of driving the remaining racial outsiders out of the neighborhood. While the country may be growing more diverse as a whole as a result of immigration, our individual communities may be growing less so, and to the extent that they are diverse it appears they become less cohesive, that is less of a community, as depressingly outlined by Harvard professor Robert Putnam in a recent paper.

San Bernadino’s mayor lamented the loss:

The departure drew the attention of San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris, who called it a significant loss for the city. The synagogue’s members, he said, have historically been leaders in the community. The mayor said Emanu El’s move was part of a broad migration of upper-middle-income professionals out of the city.

“With the closing of shops, the closing of the Air Force base, a whole series of major blue-collar employers leaving, life changed in this fair city,” Morris said. “More dependence on government resources, higher welfare. It is what it is.”

Congregants at Emanu El say that shift was evident at the synagogue, with car break-ins and tagging nearby and the need for surveillance cameras and for security guards at services.

San Bernardino experienced an influx of foreign-born workers during the recent bubble-borne expansion, many to build homes for those priced out of the more desirable markets nearer the coast.

Posted in , , . Post a comment

End Ben Bernanke

“Elections don’t matter!” conservatives have long groused. “No matter who you vote for, things never change.”

Well, we may have an exception here.

Scott Brown told Massachusetts’ voters if they elected him to what David Gergen calls “the Kennedy seat” in the Senate, he would go to Washington and run a sword through Obamacare.

Thirty-six hours after Brown’s triumph, a disconsolate Nancy Pelosi emerged from the House Democratic caucus to announce that the votes were not there to pass a bill that had, on Christmas Eve, gotten 60 votes in the Senate.

A 78-seat Democratic margin is apparently insufficient to save a health care reform bill that is the highest priority of a Democratic president elected just a year go.

What argument is then left for Democratic control of Congress?

The shock wave from Brown’s victory also appears to have killed cap-and-trade and immigration reform. Democrats are in open flight.

For what Massachusetts revealed is that this Congress, where Democrats still hold 59 percent of the Senate and 59 percent of all House seats, is no longer representative of America, if ever it was.

We have a center-left Congress imposing a minority ideology on a center-right country.

Obama has gotten the message. Thursday, doing a passable imitation of William Jennings Bryan, he ripped the Wall Street banks and endorsed “the Volcker Rule” to force Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase to divest themselves of their hedge funds and stock-trading operations, or lose their protections as banks.

Panic is also evident in Harry Reid’s caucus, where the Brown victory put in sudden doubt Obama’s nomination of Ben Bernanke to a second term as chairman of the Federal Reserve. Sens. Russ Feingold and Barbara Boxer immediately bailed on Bernanke, as has Sen. McCain. Read More…

Posted in , . 4 comments
← Older posts