State of the Union

Sputnik Moment

TAC will be posting its symposium on last night’s State of the Union address shortly. In the meantime, we already have an answer to Obama hyping of a new “Sputnik moment” in the form of Patrick Deneen’s contribution to our earlier symposium on Eisenhower’s farewell address.

Update: Our SOTU symposium is now up. It features reactions from James Bovard, Kelley Vlahos, Phil Giraldi, Paul Gottfried, Kevin Zeese, James Antle, Michael Brendan Dougherty, and more, with a couple of updates coming later this afternoon.

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Are Tiger Mothers Un-American?

In her syndicated column, Betsy Hart recently expressed something less than pleasure with a recently published book by Chinese-American author Amy Chua, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Chua discusses a plan for rearing children that she applied to her daughters, who, according to Hart and Chua, are now highly accomplished young women. This method of child-rearing is based on traditional Chinese practices, and Chua prefers this form of child-rearing to the one that is now common in the United States.

Her Chinese method seems quite sensible. She assigns domestic responsibilities to her children, makes sure they do their school work, and finally, imposes compulsory practice time for learning to play a musical instrument. Chua is outspokenly contemptuous of how the young are being pampered in our society. Working parents, including mothers, who are trying to increase the family’s disposable income, throw goodies at Heather, Whitney, or Ashley. Material benefits and other indulgences have taken the place of molding offspring. Educating children means increasingly for American parents providing video games, sleepover parties for girls, and conversations that raise the esteem of those who are not really entitled to feel good about their scant accomplishments.

Apparently Betsy Hart has no trouble with furnishing such indulgences, or so I would guess from her earlier columns about her efforts as a single mother to deal with her children. Although she shrinks from the more excessive forms of coddling, she is certainly not opposed to it in principle. She even raises questions as an authorized “conservative” about Professor Chua’s suitability for our American way of life. Chua rejects “individualism, the unique American belief that we can grow up to change the world, to be anything, and not just what our parents are.” Although this belief can lead to “excesses and faults,” it has “allowed us to tame the West, to win two world wars, and invent just about everything the world uses today.” Indeed Chua is being inconsistent in how she lives her life, according to Hart. Despite her apparent anti-Americanness, “she teaches at a U.S. university and brought her daughters up in the United States, not in China.”

Allow me to observe the obvious here. American generals in the Second World War and our most renowned inventors were not like the students in my freshman classes, who can barely read and write. It is foolish to ascribe the achievements of past great Americans to parents who ran to oblige their kids. Did General Patton spend his youth watching “Sex and the City” or did Edison develop his inventive genius by twittering in class? Perhaps those who “tamed the West” were actually making arrangements for their daughters’ slumber parties. Read More…

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The Right’s Single-Issues Schizophrenia

Virtually every conservative leader claims to be for a “big tent” Republican Party. In 2008, Republicans believed that fighting the War on Terror was so paramount that Senator Joe Lieberman–the 2000 Democratic vice presidential candidate–should be given a prime time speaking role at their national convention due to his hawkish views. At that time Lieberman and most conservatives agreed on nothing but foreign policy. In contrast to Lieberman, that same year and at that same convention, Congressman Ron Paul was denied entrance to the event despite the fact that most conservatives agreed with the libertarian firebrand on virtually everything except foreign policy. Yet, Paul’s presence was forbidden based mostly on his dissent on this one issue.

Contrary to conservatives’ contention at the time, Lieberman’s inclusion was not evidence of a big tent GOP but further example of the pup tent the Republican Party had become under George W. Bush. In their zeal for war, the GOP had become almost exclusively a single issue party, as also evidenced by Paul’s banishment. Most Republicans’ were not apologetic for their overt pro-war views and would often serve up fiery and emotion-charged rebuttals to anyone who dared question or challenge them. Many conservatives still believe this today, arguing that support for a foreign policy consisting of permanent war and perpetual global military engagement should be the one issue on which no Republican should deviate.

Thankfully, post-Bush such conservatives have become a shrinking minority as the Right’s focus has shifted dramatically from foreign affairs to economics. As many establishment Republican politicians now targeted by the Tea Party can attest, concern over massive debt and spending pretty much trumps all else. The Tea Party itself is almost exclusively a single-issue movement. Unlike the nationally unpopular and always questionable Bush foreign policy, Republicans’ new budget slashing rhetoric has not only galvanized conservatives but has attracted popular support from across the political spectrum. The Democrats now adjust their own rhetoric to reflect popular disenchantment with big government. Figures like the liberal Lieberman have pretty much lost any appeal they once had amongst Republicans. Solid conservative Ron Paul is now a Tea Party darling.

Given the contrast between Bush’s Republican Party and the new Tea Party-tempered GOP, it seems there’s nothing wrong, per se, with being a single issue party-it just depends on the issue.

Which makes the reaction by some conservatives toward the inclusion of the gay organization “GOProud” at the upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, D.C., all the more curious. CPAC mainstays like the Family Research Council and other groups are refusing to attend what has become the largest annual gathering of conservatives, or as FRC spokesman Tom McClusky explained: “We’ve been very involved in CPAC for over a decade and have managed a couple of popular sessions. However, we will no longer be involved with CPAC because of the organization’s… movement away from conservative principles.” Read More…

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And the Debt Bomb Ticks On…

With his approval rating moving up to 50 percent and higher in some polls, the pundits are all agreed. President Obama has turned the corner. He is now the winter-book favorite in 2012.

How, two months after his “shellacking,” did he do it?

First, by taking the wheel from Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, cutting a deal to extend the Bush tax cuts, bringing aboard Bill Daley, and separating himself from the demonizers of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck as moral accomplices in the Tucson massacre.

Second, Obama has been the beneficiary of bullish news.

Corporate profits are coming in higher than expected. The stock market has surged. Nine of 10 economists surveyed by USA Today are more positive about the economy than they were three months ago. The ratio of businesses that anticipate new hires over businesses that anticipate new layoffs has not been better in a decade.

There is a feeling that at last we are coming out of the Great Recession.

But has the debt bomb really been defused?

On Jan. 20, The New York Times had two front-page stories that ought to concentrate the mind. Read More…

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The Phony Peace Process

Any remaining illusion that the United States has ever been an honest broker in Israel-Palestine peace talks vanished yesterday.  Al-Jazeera released a nearly 1700 document dump on the negotiations for a two state solution with a promise of more to come over the next few days.  The US mainstream media has not exactly been all over the story, obviously engaging in their usual tactic of making it go away by ignoring it.  But the facts are now out there, visible for everyone to see.  The papers include background memos and reports of meetings and negotiating positions focused on the time period 2008-9.  The Guardian describes the documents as a chronicle of “the slow death of the Middle East peace process.”

The Palestinians, it is now clear, offered far more both at Annapolis and at Taba than anyone not directly involved in the process believed at that time.  They were willing to cede control over most of East Jerusalem as well as nearly all the ground on the West Bank on which the major Israeli settlements contiguous to Jerusalem were located.  The major Muslim holy site the al-Aqsa mosque, Harm al’Sharif, would have been subject to what chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat described as a “creative” solution, possibly being placed under control of a special commission.  Erekat described the concessions as creating the “largest Jerusalem in history” under Jewish control.

The Palestinian diaspora would have no right of return to their former homes in Israel and Israel even floated the idea of expelling its Arab citizens and resettling them on the West Bank. It was virtually a complete capitulation, the result of a powerless entity having to deal with a very powerful opponent totally supported by the world’s superpower. The Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni declared that the Palestinian concessions were not enough as the Palestinians had balked at conceding one major settlement Har Homa that blocked their access to their rump portion of Jerusalem from the West Bank.  Livni wanted 100% and was supported in her obduracy by President George W. Bush and his staff.

The Palestinian people have rightly been shocked by the concessions being considered in their name, but it is a sign of the desperation of a national leadership that wants peace and stability at nearly any price as it watches continuing acquisitions of land and settlement building on the West Bank by the Israeli government. 

If the Palestinian people believe they have been betrayed by their leadership that is something they will have to deal with themselves.  But the American people have also been betrayed by a phony process that has dragged on for years at great cost to the taxpayer while inflicting terrible damage on the international standing of the United States.  Israel continues to receive $7 million a day directly from the US Treasury plus much more in earmarks and tax deductible donations used to fund illegal settlements.  Throw in the billions that have gone to Egypt and Jordan to keep the peace with Israel and the total costs to the United States have been staggering.

The unconscionable posturing and blank check granted to successive Israeli regimes by both Democratic and Republican US Administrations has effectively destroyed any conceivable peace process.  The United States has an interest in encouraging a just settlement for the Palestinians and Israelis but it has instead frittered away its opportunity to serve as an arbiter of the situation by consistently throwing vast sums or money at the problem while simultaneously embracing Israeli “security” positions.  Security is genuinely an issue, but it is the security of the American people, who are targeted by terrorists as a result of Washington’s embrace of Tel Aviv.  American soldiers overseas are likewise the targets of militant groups who use the repression of the Palestinians as a recruiting tool and morale booster.  Enough is enough.  Israel is not part of the United States and the damage deriving from the relationship should be suggesting to everyone in congress and in the media that it is time for a change of course.  US interests must come first and they demand a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is fair to both parties and that will not involve Washington any further in Middle Eastern imbroglios.

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Two Books and One Cheer for Obama

The world as revealed to me last week:

Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, by Timothy Snyder

Snyder is a Yale historian of the Holocaust and East Europe. Yesterday I saw this C-SPAN2 Book TV taping of his speech on his new book at the Ukrainian Institute of America in New York City. What an admirably organized and passionate historian! If he is as good a writer as he is a speaker–and all the reviews indicate that he is–this is a must-read book for anyone interested in the tragedy of the 20th century.

It’s hard to imagine such a relatively small area of the Earth witnessing the deliberate murder of more than 12 million civilians in a few years (that’s not counting “collateral damage” or soldiers killed in combat). A tidbit that astonished me: Germany deliberately killed more Russian prisoners of war than Jews. It is agonizing to consider the decisions millions of hapless East Europeans faced as the two dictators’ armed forces closed in: whether to flee to the East or the West–what a horrible choice to have to make. This is a book unsparing of both sides. But because Stalin had so many more apologists in the West, that is where the greatest revelations are confirmed. Fortunately for historians, says Synder, the Soviets were even more meticulous in the recording of their crimes than the Nazis. It just required the collapse of the Soviet Empire for historians to have access to those archives.

“When the historian Robert Conquest was asked to provide a subtitle for a new, post-Cold War edition of his book on Stalin’s purges, he suggested, ‘I told you so, you f—ing fools.’ The fools are now looking even more foolish, thanks to the efforts of indefatigable historians like Snyder.” — Reason

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Osama Bin Laden
, by Michael Scheuer

From a short interview of Michael Scheuer on Book TV:

Michael Scheuer was head of the CIA’s Osama bin Laden desk for years before his retirement. His biography of bin Laden is due out in February, and it promises to be a most revealing read.

Bin Laden is not a raving maniac, says Scheuer, and we don’t do America any good by pretending that he is. He is unsparingly honest about why he is fighting America, and it has nothing to do with disgust of our freedoms and our “way of life.” Can anyone get the idiot Rudy Giuliani to read this book–and Osama bin Laden’s own explanations? Read More…

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Is Opposing Gun Control Idiotic?

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Sunday morning

I just returned from an eleven day trip to Israel, Palestine and Egypt.  I hope to write about it at greater length: the situation is tremendously depressing, as Israel is carrying on a kind of slow motion ethnic cleansing, severing the Palestinians from Jerusalem but various bureaucratic measures and home demolitions.  It is sad both for itself–to see the extent to which Palestinian every day lives are regulated  by Israelis with guns; for the peace process–because there will be no peace unless the Palestinians and Muslims world in general have some access to Jerusalem, which is a holy city for Muslims and Christians, as well as Jews.  And because America, as Israel’s only ally and benefactor, makes all this possible–indeed encourages it by the supine nature  of its dealings with Israel.

For the meantime, I’d like to call DC area TAC readers attention to an event at Busboys and Poets in Washington DC, this coming Sunday at 9:30AM.  Mondoweiss blogger (and TAC contributor) Philip Weiss and several of his co-authors will be discussing his recently published book on the Goldstone Report, its reception, and implications.  For those of you who don’t know it, Phil publishes one of the most penetrating blogs in the country–mostly about Israel and Palestine, but also   about Jews and Christians, the American media, the power of the Israel lobby, Jewish identity, and related subjects–in short, quite a lot of ground, in a voice that is subtle, searching, and quite unique.

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Same Old Defense Mechanism

How much of the Department of Education has to do with actual education? How much of the Department of Agriculture has to do with actual agriculture? How much of the Department of Health and Human Services has to do with either actual health or human services? Most conservatives would agree that despite any arguable good they might do, these and other federal agencies epitomize the sort of inefficient, self-serving and special interest-laden mass bureaucracies characteristic of big government. Most conservatives are highly suspicious of such departments’ functions and even necessity, mocking liberals who reflexively defend them as fools whose blind faith in government knows no bounds.

But when it comes to the Department of Defense it is conservatives who are often the most foolish, exhibiting something worse than a mere blind faith in government: The Pentagon has become their church.

And apparently that department’s collection plate is never full. Today, we spend more on so-called “defense” than at any time since World War II, Pentagon spending accounts for nearly half of the entire federal budget and the United States spends more on military-related matters than every other nation on earth combined. Still, many conservatives have illogically accused President Obama of trying to “weaken” national defense. In dollar terms this is entirely false, or as the Washington Post reports: “after adjusting for inflation, the most expensive defense budget in more than 60 years belongs to President Obama.”

Like virtually every other federal department, the Department of Defense has become yet another inefficient, self-serving and special interest-laden mass bureaucracy, which not only characterizes big government–but the expense of which dwarfs almost every other department conservatives regularly target. Just like most of the Department of Education’s functions have less to do with actually educating America’s children and more to do with serving teachers unions and other special interests, most of the Defense Department’s functions have less to do with actual defense and more to do with serving special government, corporate or ideological interests. Read More…

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How the Chinese Must See Us

“O would some power the gift to give us to see ourselves as others see us,” wrote the poet Robert Burns.

As Hu Jintao wings his way home, America’s hectoring still ringing in his ears, he must be thinking that maybe we Americans should stop lecturing them and take a closer look at ourselves.

Revalue your currency, we demand of the Chinese, stop running these trade surpluses at our expense, start practicing free trade, and abandon these mercantilist and protectionist policies.

But why should they? Why should China abandon a trade policy that is working marvelously well for them, and adopt a trade policy that is failing dismally for us? Does that make sense?

Why should any nation emulate the U.S. trade policy of the Bush-Clinton-Bush era that has stripped us of a third of our manufacturing jobs and made us dependent on China and the world for the needs of our national life and the borrowed money to pay for them?

Why would China, seeking to make herself an independent and self-sufficient nation, adopt a policy that cost us our independence?

And what are the Chinese doing in their ascendancy to first power on earth that we did not do in ours?

Are our Milton Friedmanite free-traders unaware of how it was that, in the last third of the 19th century, we left the British in the dust? Are they unaware we had the highest tariffs on earth to price British products out of our market and goad rapacious Yankees into building new factories to produce the same goods we were then importing from Great Britain?

Lest we forget, the Americans who turned this country into the industrial marvel of mankind were known as “Robber Barons.”

As they put America first in our rise, the Chinese are putting China first.

Our grand strategists demand to know why the Chinese are making these brash claims to all the islands in the South China and East China seas. Why are they telling us to keep our aircraft carriers out of the Yellow Sea and out of the Taiwan Strait? Who do they think they are?

Well, maybe they think they’re 19th-century Americans. Read More…

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