State of the Union

Same Old, Same Old

Even if it is the economy that will inevitably bring about the undoing of American empire it is hard to ignore the fact that the economic crisis was fueled by spending on wars and homeland security using borrowed money and pushing the government deep into deficit spending.  With that in mind, I was very interested in listening to the foreign and security policy components of yesterday’s speeches at CPAC, hoping that at least some mainstream speakers would argue in favor of America first and retrenchment.  Alas, it was business as usual except for the people around Ron Paul.

Florida Cuban Marco Rubio, touted as the new conservative shining star, called for doing whatever it takes for however long it takes to smash radical Islamic terrorism, punishing Iran, and standing with allies like Israel.  He was cheered enthusiastically by old guard and tea partyers alike.  The theme that Democrats are soft on terrorists and national security was everywhere in evidence.  The lockstep on a foreign policy that has brought nothing but ruin and despair is incredible, suggesting that we are in the grip of a form of insanity, i.e. doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

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Is This How Democracy Ends?

“I used to think it would take a great financial crisis to get both parties to the table, but we just had one,” said G. William Hoagland, a former adviser to the Senate Republican leadership on fiscal policy.

“These days, I wonder if this country is even governable.”

Quoted in The New York Times’ lead story, “Party Gridlock Feeds New Fear of a Debt Crisis,” Hoagland nailed it.

America faces a crisis of democracy.

At its heart is a fiscal crisis. After the 2009 deficit of $1.4 trillion, we are running a 2010 deficit of $1.6 trillion. Trillion-dollar deficits are projected through the Obama years, be they four or eight.

Long before 2016, however, holders of U.S. public debt will stop buying Treasury bills or start demanding higher interest rates to cover the growing risk of a default.

This week, a smoke detector went off. China, in December, had unloaded $45 billion of its $790 billion in T-bills. Is Beijing is bailing out?

To assure the world we are not Greece writ large, the United States must soon adopt a visible plan for slashing the deficit.

There are three ways to do it. One is through growth that increases the tax revenue flowing into the Treasury and reduces the outflow for safety net programs like unemployment insurance.

But growth only comes slowly and can take us only so far. Read More…

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Some conspiracy theories are more equal than others

Spicing up the Republican primary campaign for Governor of Texas, what was supposed to be a mano-a-womano showdown between the state’s longest serving governor, “Slick” Rick Perry, and U.S. Senator Kay “Bailout” Hutchison, was the presence of Debra Medina, a former GOP county chair, nurse, and businesswoman who is a strong Ron Paul backer and running a Paul-like campaign. Indeed, Medina had been rising steadily in the polls to the point where she could make a run-off, leaving Hutchison the odd-woman out.

Noticing all this was radio and television talk host Glenn Beck, who interviewed her on his radio show. For whatever reason (and it was certainly not brought to Medina’s attention before the interview by Beck’s producers) Beck asked whether she believed the U.S. government was in any way involved with bringing down the towers of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Here was Medina’s response:

“I think some very good questions have been raised in that regard,” Medina replied. “There are some very good arguments, and I think the American people have not seen all of the evidence there, so I have not taken a position on that…….You know, that’s a federal issue. We’re very focused on issues in Texas, on Texas state government. I’m certainly not into mind control or thought policing people. We’ve got a very diverse team in this state and that’s because Texans are standing shoulder to shoulder to support and defend the Constitution. I frankly don’t have time, you know, to go through and do psychological testing on people and know every thought or detail that they have.”

So what’s so controversial? Medina basically gave a non-answer to nonsensical question. Being governor of Texas has absolutely nothing to do with 9-11 or anything connected to it. And as she said, neither she (nor any other candidate for that matter) has the time to screen all potential supporters and donors for their personal beliefs. If a 9-11 Truther happens to support Medina, even though 9-11 has not exactly been a big issue in the campaign, nor has it been a means through which Medina has solicited support, then why should it matter? Again what other candidates have had their supporters scrutinized by the media for their personal beliefs? Certainly not Kay Bailey Hutchison or Rick Perry, that’s for sure.

No matter.

As soon as Medina finished with her interview Beck declared her candidacy “back at 4 percent” and Perry’s campaign had the robocalls already dialed in. In other words, the smear was on.

Read More…

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From Sharon to Mt. Vernon

Instead of signing on to another statement of principles, conservatives ought to rediscover George Washington’s.

By David Franke

The “revival of conservatism” is all the rage right now in the political media. We are told that the Tea Parties are sweeping the nation, that the Republican Party is being forced to the Right in its attempts to woo them, that they are either an independent populist force or (alternatively) controlled by the GOP and Beltway Conservatives. Pundits laugh at the lack of sophistication on the part of these tea partiers (they are inevitably compared to McCarthyites or John Birchers), but then ponder the Deeper Significance of this phenomenon.

Seeking to take advantage of this explosion of grassroots vigor – and to control it – dozens of top conservative muckamucks met on February 17 at an estate that was an original part of George Washington’s Mount Vernon. There they signed “The Mount Vernon Statement” with the subtitle: “Constitutional Conservatism: A Statement for the 21st Century.”

A companion statement issued to the press explained that “The Sharon Statement, signed at the home of William F. Buckley, Jr., in Sharon, Connecticut in September 1960, helped launch and define the conservative movement…” Now, 50 years later, “today’s leaders will unveil and sign [a new] declaration of leadership.”

As someone who was there at Sharon, and voted for adoption of the Sharon Statement, I urge you to read and compare the two documents. Then put the two documents into their historical perspectives.

First of all, though, I have to note that a statement written by one competent person will almost always outshine a committee document.

The Sharon Statement was written by one competent person – M. Stanton Evans, a gifted conservative journalist and leader then still in his twenties. Given the responsibility for bringing a statement of principles before the gathering, Carol Dawson and I made some minor cosmetic changes, but it was 99.9% Stan Evans. And it was a real statement, concise but comprehensive in its scope, listing 12 “eternal truths” that “we, as young conservatives, believe.” You could agree or disagree, but you knew where we stood.

While I was not present at the drafting and signing of the Mount Vernon Statement, I have to believe that it is the product of a committee. (You know, “if it quacks like a duck,” etc.) It certainly is not a series of precise principles in the spirit of the Sharon Statement. Rather it’s a short essay seeking to identify modern conservatism with the spirit of the Constitution and George Washington. It’s not bad, given what it attempts to do. It’s just that it’s vague and muddled compared to the Sharon Statement – sort of like the conservative movement itself. Read More…

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A Modest Attempt At Satire

Ye gad, Rochelle Gurstein sure tied herself into knots today on The New Republic.  Nobody, argues Gurstein, could write a caustic satire like Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” today.  The reason?  The real world has become so ridiculous that all the satirist can do is imitate it.  For example, all Tina Fey had to do to satirize Sarah Palin was speak Palin’s exact words.  As it’s hard to tell the ridiculous from the mere imitation of the ridiculous, nothing these days can be taken as clearly satirical or clearly non-satirical. We have lost our “shared sense of reality,” laments Gurstein. Satire in turn has lost its bite.

Now, I tend to think that the reason you don’t see Swiftian satire today is that there isn’t a Swift around to do the satirizing. In any case, Gurstein’s take is only compelling insofar as you share her conviction that the world has become offensive to decency and common sense.  Gurstein finds it ridiculous, for example, that Obama has not proposed some brilliant program to “rescue Americans from the devastation caused by the financial collapse.”  I think most people would agree that if Obama could rescue Americans at no cost, he should do it.  The problem, alas, is that nobody — not even Obama — knows exactly how to fix a financial crisis.  Gurstein simply posits that a way to fix it must exist because, dammit, it’s ridiculous and offensive to human decency if we can’t relieve suffering when we see it.

Still, maybe Gurstein is right that Swiftian satire is impossible today. Bizarrely, however, she starts her essay with an attempt at satire, deliberately designed to fail, so as to illustrate her point that Swiftian satire can’t work.  And what is Gurstein’s deliberately maladroit satire?  Why, a satire of the very aggressive liberal interventionism that she thinks obviously compelled by common sense and decency!  That is to say, Gurstein argues, in jest, that instead of redistributing wealth, we should instead redistribute babies, so that babies of poor people are placed with rich parents and babies of rich people are placed with poor parents.

This seems like a pretty effective and recognizable satire to me.  Family ties have been an acknowledged obstacle to radical social reform since Plato. If you truly wanted equality of opportunity, for example, children really should be separated from their parents.  Since no decent person would actually want to do that, no matter how rationally compelling the justification, it follows that human decency must limit the extent to which we can achieve equality.  Gurstein, as she takes pains to tell us, is just being satirical.  Equality isn’t everything.

But wait! Gurstein also says that Swiftian satire has become extinct since “our public sphere has acquired” such “an increasing feel of irrationality.” Perhaps then, her “satire” can’t be taken as such but should instead be taken as sincerely as Sarah Palin’s claims about Putin invading Alaska. Maybe Gurstein really does want to consider drastic measures to achieve equality of opportunity.  Given that the world has become so ridiculous, it’s just hard to tell.

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Old Right at CPAC

There are a few noteworthy old-right events at this year’s CPAC gathering, which begins tomorrow and runs through Saturday. Our friends at the Campaign for Liberty are hosting three functions in particular which TAC readers will enjoy, starting with a talk at 1 pm tomorrow by Thomas DiLorenzo on the topic “Friend or Foe? Abraham Lincoln on Liberty,” followed at 2 pm by TAC contributing editor Thomas Woods on “When All Else Fails: Nullification and State Resistance to Federal Tyranny.” Then at 2 pm Saturday, there’s a panel with Jacob Hornberger, Karen Kwiatkowski, and TAC‘s own Phil Giraldi, “You’ve Been Lied To: Why Real Conservatives Are Against the War on Terror.” All of these events are being held in the Delaware Ballroom of the Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C.

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Myth of the Iranian Nuke

Did Robert Gibbs let the cat out of the bag?

Last week, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the world that Iran, unable to get fuel rods from the West for its U.S.-built reactor, which makes medical isotopes, had begun to enrich its own uranium to 20 percent.

From his perch in the West Wing, Gibbs scoffed:

“He (Ahmadinejad) says many things, and many of them turn out to be untrue. We do not believe they have the capability to enrich to the degree to which they now say they are enriching.”

But wait a minute. If Iran does not “have the capability” to enrich to 20 percent for fuel rods, how can Iran enrich to 90 percent for a bomb?

What was Gibbs implying?

Is he confirming reports that Iran’s centrifuges are breaking down or have been sabotaged? Is he saying that impurities, such as molybdenum, in the feed stock of Iran’s centrifuges at Natanz are damaging the centrifuges and contaminating the uranium?

What explains Gibbs’ confidence? Perhaps this.

According to a report last week by David Albright and Christina Walrond of the Institute for Science and International Security, “Iran’s problems in its centrifuge programme are greater than expected. … Iran is unlikely to deploy enough gas centrifuges to make enriched uranium for commercial nuclear power reactors (Iran’s stated nuclear goal) for a long time, if ever, particularly if (U.N.) sanctions remain in force.” Read More…

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Bye Bayh

In a very surprising announcement, Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh says he has decided not to run for re-election. Polls had him ahead of both major Republican contenders, former Sen. Dan Coats and former Rep. John Hostettler. Will Bayh’s retreat lure Rep. Mike Pence into the race? The seat looks like a Republican pickup now.

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Secession in the Air

No, it is not 1860 again.

But with all the talk of the 10th Amendment, nullification and interposition, states rights and secession — following Gov. Rick Perry’s misstatement that Texas, on entering the Union in 1845, reserved in its constitution a right to secede — one might think so.

Chalk up another one for those Tea Party activists who exploded in cheers when Sister Sarah brought up the dread word in endorsing Rick Perry in the primary.

Looking back in American history, however, these ideas, these sentiments, decried as insane inside the Beltway, were once as American as “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.”

“I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical,” wrote Thomas Jefferson to James Madison from Paris in January 1787, about Revolutionary War Capt. Daniel Shay’s anti-tax rebellion in Massachusetts.

In the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions, both of these founding fathers sanctioned the idea that states could interpose their own sovereignty and nullify acts of Congress. Both were enraged by the Alien and Sedition Acts of John Adams and the Federalists, written into law to combat sedition during the undeclared naval war with France.

On taking office, President Jefferson declared the acts unconstitutional, refused to prosecute those charged and freed the imprisoned writers. Read More…

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PIGS Go Bankrupt

They are called the PIGS — Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain. What they have in common is that all are facing deficits and debts that could bring on national defaults and break up the European Union.

What brought the PIGS to the edge of the abyss?

All are neo-socialist states that provide welfare for poor people, generous unemployment, universal health care, early retirement and comfortable pensions. Most consume 40 percent to 50 percent of their gross domestic product annually, a crushing burden on the private sector.

Dying populations is a second cause. After two world wars, the Europeans lost their faith and embraced hedonism and materialism, la dolce vita. Large families fell out of favor. Women put off marriage and babies, and went to work. Birth control and abortion were made readily available in every country and, if not, just across the border.

For 30 years, the fertility rate of Europe has been below the 2.1 children per woman necessary to replace a population. In Russia and Ukraine, a million people disappear yearly. In Western Europe, the passing of the native-born goes on quietly, as Third World peoples come to fill the empty spaces left by the aborted and unconceived.

Turks are in Germany. Pakistanis, Indians, Arabs and Caribbean peoples are in Britain. Algerians, Tunisians and Moroccans occupy the southern coast of France and the banlieues around Paris.

These newcomers have neither the education nor skills of the Europeans. Hence, they earn less and contribute less in taxes, but consume more per capita in social benefits. Read More…

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