State of the Union

Is a Bond Crisis Inevitable?

With Christmas shoppers out in force and the stock market surging to a two-year high, talk is spreading that the long-awaited recovery is at hand.


But gleaning the news from Europe and Asia as U.S. cities, states and the federal government sink into debt, it is difficult to believe a worldwide financial crisis that hammers governments, banks and bondholders alike can be long averted. Consider.

Fitch and Moody’s have just downgraded the debt of Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Hungary. In Budapest, the politicians talk of default. Spain has been warned its debt and banks could be downgraded.

The European Central Bank is buying up this paper to prevent panic selling by investors. There is talk of forcing bondholders to take a haircut. They would trade their suspect bonds for new euro bonds whose face value would be appreciably less.

In the Latin American debt crisis, the United States bailed out its banks holding the bad paper by giving them U.S.-backed bonds, while forcing them to take a loss on their Latin bonds. Courtesy of Uncle Sam, Latin America walked away from a huge slice of its debt. Read More…

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Conservatism: A Decade in Review

Jack Hunter interviewed me yesterday on the direction conservatism has taken in the past ten years. Here’s the in-studio video. (Thanks to South Carolina’s WTMA 1250 AM.)

On Monday, Jack will be guest hosting the Mike Chuch show on Sirius XM. Tune in — yours truly might put in an appearance there as well, circa 9 AM Eastern time.

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“National Security” Means Tyranny

The term “national security” has become like the word “racism.” It has been applied so liberally for so long that its overstretched usage has rendered it meaningless. Definitions necessarily require a limited and fixed meaning. If everyone is a “racist” then no one is. If everything becomes “national security” then nothing is.

Former Surgeon General Richard Carmona announced this month that obesity “affects our national and global security.” We also learned this month that the Department of Homeland Security believes that “climate change has the potential to accelerate and intensify extreme weather events which threaten the nation’s sustainability and security.” Being fat is a matter of “national security?” Global warming falls into the category of “national security?” Really?

The entire WikiLeaks controversy has hinged upon the question of whether or not the whistleblower group has compromised America’s national security. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says it has not, yet adds, “The initial assessment in no way discounts the risk to national security.” So there you have it. WikiLeaks’ mere existence represents a permanent threat to national security. As dictated and defined by whom? The federal government, which not-so-coincidentally continues to vaguely say that everything WikiLeaks does is a potential threat to national security, while never being able to cite anything specifically, per Gates’s admission. Read More…

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Commies Are At It Again

The US media is reporting critically on the conviction yesterday in Moscow of Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky on charges of embezzlement and money laundering.  Khodorovsky had earlier been convicted of fraud and tax evasion in 2005 and has been in jail ever since.  The conviction prompted commentary from no less than Hillary Clinton who said it “raises serious questions about selective prosecution” while the White House saw “…due process violations and what appears to be an abusive use of the legal system for improper ends.”

First off, where does the Bush/Obama US get the right to criticize a trial in any country?  Guantanamo, Patriot Act, Military Commissions, and state secrets privilege come to mind immediately.  Obama and Clinton should be apologizing for what we do…

What this is really all about is the hidden message, conveyed by Clinton’s reference to selective.  Khodorovsky is Jewish, as are most of the oligarchs who stripped Russia of its wealth in the 1990s, and he has his own claque of supporters who regard his conviction as anti-Semitism. 

The fact is that anyone who has looked into the looting of Russia knows very well that Khodorovsky is guilty as hell on all charges.  That he was accused of stealing and exporting $27 billion from Yukos, the company he controlled, is no doubt an exaggeration but he clearly did make off with at least $15 billion.  The oligarchs also engaged in assassination and other niceties that their friends tend to overlook.  Nearly all of the first generation oligarchs have fled Russia in the past few years as Putin has cracked down on them with widespread popular approval.  Most live in Western Europe, where they seem to have a thing for buying soccer teams, and also in Israel.

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The Limits of Learning

“That speaks about who is going to be leading tomorrow.”

So said Angel Gurria, secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Every three years, the Paris-based OECD holds its Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests of the reading, math, and science skills of 15-year-olds in developing and developed countries. Gurria was talking of the results of the 2009 tests.

Sixty-five nations competed. The Chinese swept the board.

The schools of Shanghai-China finished first in math, reading and science. Hong Kong-China was third in math and science. Singapore, a city-state dominated by overseas Chinese, was second in math, fourth in science.

Only Korea, Japan, and Finland were in the hunt.

And the U.S.A.? America ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science, and 25th in math, producing the familiar quack-quack.

“This is an absolute wake-up call for America,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “We have to face the brutal truth. We have to get much more serious about investment in education.”

But the “brutal truth” is that we invest more per pupil than any other country save Luxembourg, and we are broke. And a closer look at the PISA scores reveals some unacknowledged truths. Read More…

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Nixon Reconsidered

In an effort to make a mountain out of a molehill, Rob Stein in the Washington Post (December 12) announces that the newly released Nixon tapes “reveal anti-Semitic, racist remarks.” What these tapes really reveal is something like those bull sessions I heard late at night as a graduate student at Yale in conversation with liberal classmate. Even the self-described progressives back then were less programmed than those who are now coming of age, and they often engaged in (Heaven forbid!) stereotypes.

Contrary to PC indoctrination, stereotypes are usually partial truths that even members of the group being described recognize as such. An Italian American from WCHE who interviewed me about the tapes said he found nothing insulting when Nixon asserted that “Italians are wonderful people” but go off the deep end. And was Nixon being malicious when he observed several decades ago that an Irish “trait” is excessive drinking? There is after all ample testimony coming from Irish and Irish Americans, including the magnificent autobiographical plays of Eugene O’Neill, which dwell on this vice.

Moreover, if Nixon claimed in what seems garbled speech that it might take hundreds of years before blacks caught up to whites socio-economically, why the fury? Nixon does question whether blacks have the same cognitive capacity as whites. But is he the only public figure who ever had this thought? One can easily find it in Truman, LBJ, and in other 20th-century presidents. One should also note Nixon’s exceptional consistency in supporting black civil rights, including during his administration the introduction of affirmative action for enterprises receiving government funding.

In comparison to the ranting against whites as racists that one hears from the congressional black caucus and the denunciations of whites, males, and Christians that pour out of the academy nonstop, Nixon’s comments are certainly small potatoes. I’m also struck by all the furrowed brows being raised because Nixon wanted to invite to a state dinner for the Israeli premiere Golda Meir “only those Jews who supported us.” When was the last time Obama invited to his state dinners Jews or anyone else who funded McCain? Read More…

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The Democrats’ Southern Strategy

“In May 1866, a little group of young men in the Tennessee village of Pulaski, finding their time hang heavily on their hands after the excitement of the field, so lately abandoned, formed a secret club for the mere pleasure of association, for private amusement — for anything that might break the monotony of the too quiet place, as their wits might work upon the matter, and one of their number suggested that they call themselves the Kuklos, the Circle.”

This prettified depiction of the founding of the Ku Klux Klan is from A History of the American People by Princeton professor and future President Woodrow Wilson.

The main activities of the Klan, wrote Wilson, were “pranks,” “mischief” and “frolicking.” Occasionally they did prey upon blacks, Wilson conceded, but black fears of the Klan were “comic.”

In Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party’s Buried Past, Bruce Bartlett relates countless such anecdotes to show that while the Republican Party is endlessly smeared as racist, at its worst, it could not hold a candle to the party of Wilson and FDR.

What brings this history up is the media assault on Gov. Haley Barbour for his answer to an interviewer’s question as to why his hometown, Yazoo City, avoided the violence that attended the desegregation of other cities in the Mississippi of his youth. Haley’s reply: Read More…

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Holiday Hijinks

It must be the season.  Bibi Netanyahu will press the Obama Administration to free convicted Israeli/American spy Jonathan Pollard.  My sources report that Obama has asked the Justice Department to brief him on the objections to doing so, so there is a better than even chance that Pollard will walk.  An interesting aspect of the Pollard tale in its current version is that former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb has become a chief advocate for freeing Pollard, flying to Israel to address both Netanyahu and key Knesset members.  Korb, who is presumably Jewish, is alleging that the reason for Pollard’s harsh sentence was that former Defense Secretary Cap Weinberger had a “visceral hatred of Jews.”  Weinberger is no longer around to defend himself and Korb is conveniently forgetting the roomful of secrets that Pollard passed to his Israeli handlers, information that Israel subsequently agreed to return but never did.  Korb also claims that the belief that Pollard passed information that wound up in Soviet hands, leading to the deaths of American agents, has since been found to be false.  Funny, I’ve never seen evidence for that and I have spoken to individuals close to the subsequent damage assessment who claim that Pollard’s espionage had a devastating impact, hence the draconian sentence.

Another story getting almost no traction in the MSM is the account of how one Zalman Shapiro is in line for a top US government award for his work as a scientist and inventor.  Only problem is Shapiro was president of a Pennsylvania company called NUMEC that is generally believed to be the source of 741 pounds of weapons grade uranium that made its way to Israel in the 1960s.  In fact, CIA sources are convinced that NUMEC was the source of the Israeli nuclear program and have said so publicly.  Shapiro allegedly met with Rafael Eitan, the same Mossad case officer who handled Pollard.

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Mark Sanford, Victim of a Double-Standard

Every time I see Eliot Spitzer I think of Mark Sanford. In 2008, New York Governor Spitzer was disgraced after he was caught cheating on his wife with a prostitute. In 2009, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford was disgraced after he was caught cheating on his wife with an Argentine mistress. Today, Spitzer is the co-host of CNN’s hour-long news program “Parker Spitzer,” his public image inexplicably, yet seemingly rehabilitated. Today, Sanford is a punch line for anyone looking to make a joke about politicians and infidelity and remains persona non grata among most political elites.

Spitzer isn’t the only politician to weather being caught with his pants down and emerge virtually unscathed. One gets the impression that the Kennedy clan’s well-known sexcapades are now almost an accepted part of the overall “Camelot” narrative. At least in Democrats’ eyes, Bill Clinton’s reputation and legacy seems barely tainted by his tawdry shenanigans. On the Republican side, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani was called a “notorious philanderer” by his third wife, yet taken seriously as an early presidential frontrunner in 2008. This year, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is being taken seriously as a possible 2012 presidential candidate, despite cheating on his wife with an intern. How about 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain? He’s an admitted adulterer too.

So what makes Sanford so markedly different than every other politician who’s successfully endured a sex scandal? The fact that the governor was so markedly different to begin with. Read More…

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Christian Rout in the Culture War

A Democratic Congress, discharged by the voters on Nov. 2, has as one of its last official acts, imposed its San Francisco values on the armed forces of the United States.

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” is to be repealed. Open homosexuals are to be welcomed with open arms in all branches of the armed services.

Let us hope this works out better for the Marine Corps than it did for the Catholic Church.

Remarkable. The least respected of American institutions, Congress, with an approval rating of 13 percent, is imposing its cultural and moral values on the most respected of American institutions, the U.S. military.

Why are we undertaking this social experiment with the finest military on earth? Does justice demand it? Was there a national clamor for it?

No. It is being imposed from above by people, few of whom have ever served or seen combat, but all of whom are aware of the power of the homosexual rights lobby. This is a political payoff, at the expense of our military, to a militant minority inside the Democratic Party that is demanding this as the price of that special interest’s financial and political support.

Among the soldiers most opposed to bringing open homosexuals into the ranks are combat veterans, who warn that this will create grave problems of unit cohesion and morale.

One Marine commandant after another asked Congress to consider the issue from a single standpoint:

Will the admission of gay men into barracks at Pendleton and Parris Island enhance the fighting effectiveness of the Corps? Read More…

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