Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Why Are We Still Bowing?
Not long after President Barack Obama gave his conciliatory speeches to the Islamic world, he chose not to meddle in the sham election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In fact, he offered not a word of support for the men and women who took to the streets against that totalitarian regime. Then, as "manmade disasters" continued to erupt spontaneously around the world -- including at a United States military base -- the administration held steadfast in using non-offensive euphemisms, lest anyone be slighted by our jingoist need to use words that mean something.
And when the president was given a chance to fulfill a campaign promise and acknowledge the genocide of 1.5 million Christian Armenians by Turks during World War I, he instead did everything he could to block the resolution.
These days, as Christian farmers are being slaughtered by Muslim machetes in Nigeria, outrage from the White House is difficult to find -- though it made sure to instruct our Libyan ambassador to apologize to "Colonel" Moammar Gadhafi after he offered some mildly critical comments about the dictator's call for jihad against Switzerland (true story).
Gadhafi can be forgiven, but there are transgressions that can't. One such sin was perpetrated by Israel after the nation's decision to allow a new housing project to be built for its citizens in its capital city, Jerusalem. The White House became so agitated with the future 1,600-unit housing project -- and the ill-advised timing of the announcement, which came during Vice President Joe Biden's visit -- that the casual onlooker might have been led to believe that the Jerusalem neighborhood in question was part of some unfinished negotiation with Palestinians or even that it was one of those "settlements." It was neither.
Still, according to The Jerusalem Post, Hillary Clinton telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- who, along with many other Israeli officials, apologized for the ill timing of the project's announcement -- to "berate," "rebuke," "warn" and "condemn" Israel. White House senior adviser David Axelrod used NBC's "Meet the Press" to say that the incident was an "affront," an "insult" and "very, very destructive."
As the administration was manufacturing this anger, the Palestinian Authority was preparing the newly minted Dalal Mughrabi Square. You know, just a place for folks to gather and commemorate the 32nd anniversary of 1978's Coastal Road Massacre, in which 37 Israelis -- 13 of them children -- were murdered in a bus hijacking. An American named Gail Rubin, who happened to be snapping some nature pictures in the area, also was gunned down. No worries. No affront taken. That's not "very, very destructive" to the process. We are above the fray, above frivolous notions of "allies" or "friends." History only matters when our enemies deem it important. We don't want to tweak the fragile mood of the Arab street.
If the purpose of this manufactured angst is to pressure Israel into handing parts of Jerusalem over to a corrupt Fatah (we don't need to discuss Hamas, which, unlike Fatah, has the decency not to pretend to recognize Israel's right to exist), then someone is exhibiting a profound naivete. And if the purpose of pursuing a Jewish-free West Bank is to create good will with the Muslim world, good luck.
It is this administration's prerogative to change our foreign policy -- and allies. Yet it would be nice if someone reiterated to our new Muslim friends that the United States has yet to deploy a single soldier to risk life and limb for the security of Israel. It has, however -- only recently -- sent thousands of Americans to perish for, in part, the cause of Muslim freedom in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo. That sacrifice alone should be enough to absolve us from any more bowing -- or kowtowing.
A Fraud Fights Fox News
Howell Raines lost his executive editor's job at The New York Times for promoting the career of Jayson Blair, a black drug addict and fantasist who invented entire stories describing the hills of West Virginia from a saloon down the street in New York. But somehow, Raines still imagines himself a media Bigfoot who can pronounce on the State of Journalism, a one-man Pulitzer Prize panel. This is a little like a White House chef who poisoned an entire state-dinner crowd mounting a soapbox to lecture that the new chefs can't be trusted.
Of course, that soapbox must be provided first. So who would give this naked man a fig leaf of respectability? The Washington Post would. The Posties awarded Raines their marquee venue -- the Sunday Outlook section -- to denounce Fox News Channel and its owner, Rupert Murdoch. Announcing this was tugging at his "professional conscience" (thus suggesting he has one), Raines demanded to know "Why can't American journalists steeped in the traditional values of their profession be loud and candid about the fact that Murdoch does not belong to our team?"
What has Murdoch done to break with the "team" of American media? Raines lamented his "blatant political alliances started our slide to quasi-news. His British papers famously promoted Margaret Thatcher's political career." No! But wait, this one's even more rich; he also declared, "For the first time since the yellow journalism of a century ago, the United States has a major news organization devoted to the promotion of one political party."
Raines expects people to believe you can say "news media" and "Barack Obama" and not think "blatant political alliance." On Sunday, his New York Times published a half-page "photo illustration" of Obama's head at the center of a cross, surrounded by a halo glow of white light.
But let's continue. Raines then indicted Fox News president Roger Ailes. "Through clever use of the Fox News Channel and its cadre of raucous commentators, Ailes has overturned standards of fairness and objectivity that have guided American print and broadcast journalists since World War II." After sentences like that, conservatives have to put the paper down. The laughter is beginning to deprive oxygen to the lungs.
Raines cannot be serious, and he isn't. This article makes much more sense if you read it in Raines Code. What he's saying is this: The "old-school news organizations" are the exclusive venue for liberals and liberal activism. Who let these fair-and-balanced pretenders in here to create the "news" differently? He charged that Ailes has torn up "the rulebook that served this country well as we covered the major stories of the past three generations, from the civil rights revolution to Watergate to the Wall Street scandals." Raines Code translation: Damn you, Ailes. You broke us.
Do the liberal media remember civil rights, Watergate and Vietnam as events they covered with objectivity? Do they deny (and deny warmly recalling) how their passionate advocacy defeated segregation, militarism and Richard Nixon?
Even when he's so dishonestly trying to wrap himself in an objectivity blanket, Raines still can't help but spew his leftist opinion. His liberal-media team "bore witness to a world of dynamic change, as opposed to the world of Foxian reality, whose actors are brought on camera to illustrate a preconceived universe as rigid as that of medieval morality."
The media are, in his view, dynamic activists in the Hope and Change business. He is outraged that Fox News has stalled health "reform." In his Orwellian Raines Code, liberal bias is objectivity, and the refusal to banish Fox News from the media is surrendering "the sword of verifiable reportage."
It's certainly not "verifiable reportage" to insist the media haven't been partisan in 100 years, or that Fox News is currently conducting an anti-presidential "campaign without precedent in our modern political history." Decrying president-bashing sounds a little tinny from a man who viciously charged after Hurricane Katrina that President Bush protected Big Oil "while the poor drown in their attics and their sons and daughters die in foreign deserts."
The most important rebuttal to Raines is this: In a free country -- which America still is, barely, despite the designs of liberals -- media elitists do not get to decide who is allowed to report, and who is banished from the briefing room. They don't get to select a unanimous liberal "team" and a rigidly liberal "rulebook." Fox News exists. It can't be legislated away by Nancy Pelosi, and it can't be wished away by Howell Raines. It's popular with millions of Americans who've spent their entire lives being pelted by the mudslinging of the Fox-hating media "team."
Poor Howell Raines. His New York Times is crumbling while the Fox News Channel was just named the most trusted news network in America by the public. Those ... peasants!
Reading Tea Party Leaves
by Jonah Goldberg
If you read the Op-Ed pages these days, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the GOP and the conservative movement have been taken over by know-nothing mobs, anti-intellectual demagogues and pitchfork-wielding bigots. There's no omnibus label for this argument, but it's a giveaway that a person subscribes to it if he or she describes the "tea party" movement as "tea baggers," an awfully telling bit of sophomoric condescension from the camp that affects the pose of being more high-minded.
The case against the tea party movement is constantly evolving. Initially, they were written off as "astroturfers," faux populists paid by K Street lobbyists to provide damaging footage for Fox News' Obama coverage. Then, they were deemed racists who couldn't handle having a black president.
But now that the movement, or, more broadly, the Obama backlash is so widespread, it's chalked up to populist anti-elitism. New York Times columnist David Brooks and others argue that the tea party movement is kith and kin of the 1960s New Left, because they share a "radically anti-conservative" hatred of "the system" and a desire to start over.
Brooks was seconding an article by Michael Lind in Salon, in which Lind argues that the right has become a "counterculture (that) refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of the rules of the game that it has lost" (respect for rules is an ironic benchmark given the lengths the Democrats are going to pass ObamaCare in Congress). Whereas the Luddites and know-nothings once dropped out for the "Summer of Love," today's Luddites and know-nothings have signed up for the "Winter of Hate."
It's all so much nonsense. The Boston Tea Party would make a strange lodestar for an anti-American movement. The tea partiers certainly aren't "dropping out" of the system; if they were, we wouldn't be talking about them. And they aren't reading Marxist tracts in a desire to "tear down the system" either. They're reading Thomas Paine, the founders and Friedrich Hayek in the perhaps naive hope that they'll be able to restore the principles that are supposed to be guiding the system. (To the extent they're reading radicals such as Saul Alinsky, it's because they've been told that's the best way to understand his disciple in the White House.)
Restoration and destruction are hardly synonymous terms or desires. And maybe that's a better label: a political restoration movement, one that reflects our Constitution and the precepts of limited government.
The restorationists are neither anti-elitist nor anti-intellectual. William F. Buckley famously said that he would rather be governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than the Harvard faculty, but few would dispute that the Latin-speaking harpsichord player who used summer and winter as verbs was anything but an elitist. Similarly, the restorationists have any number of hero intellectuals (from Buckley and Thomas Sowell to Hayek and Ayn Rand).
The "elite" the restorationists dislike is better understood as a "new class" (to borrow a phrase from the late Irving Kristol). The legendary economist Joseph Schumpeter predicted in 1942 that capitalism couldn't survive because capitalist prosperity would feed a new intellectual caste that would declare war on the bourgeois values and institutions that generate prosperity in the first place. When you hear that conservatives are anti-elitist, you should think they're really anti-new class. Conservatives see this new class of managers, meddlers, planners and scolds as a kind of would-be secular aristocracy empowered to declare war on traditional arrangements and make other decisions "for your own good."
And that's why Obama backlash is part of the culture war. Defenders of ObamaCare, cap-and-trade and the rest of the Democratic agenda insist that they're merely applying the principles of good governance and the lessons of sound, sober-minded policymaking. No doubt there's some truth to that, at least in terms of their motives. But from a broader perspective, it is obvious that theirs is a cultural agenda as well.
The quest for single-payer health care is not primarily grounded in good economics nor in good politics but in a heartfelt ideological desire for "social justice." The constant debate over whether the "European model" is better than ours often sounds like an empirical debate, but at its core it's a cultural and philosophical argument that stretches back more than a century.
The restorationists reside on one side of that debate, while the Obama administration and the bulk of the progressive establishment reside on the other. And that debate is far from over.
Politicians Smother Cities
by John Stossel
I like my hometown, but I must admit that New York has problems: high taxes, noise, traffic. Forbes magazine just ranked my city the 16th most miserable in America. Ouch! Of course, that makes me wonder: What's America's most miserable city? Cleveland, says Forbes. People call it "the Mistake by the Lake. " Cleveland, once America's sixth-largest city, has been going downhill for decades.
Why do some cities thrive while others decay? One reason is that some politicians smother their cities with the unintended consequences of their grand visions, while others have the good sense to limit government power. In a state that already taxes its citizens heavily, Cleveland's politicians drown businesses in taxes. One result: Since 2000, 50,000 people have left the city. Half of Cleveland's population has left since 1950.
But the politicians haven't learned. They still think government is the key to revitalization. While Indianapolis privatized services, Cleveland prefers state capitalism. It owns and operates a big grocery store, the West Side Market. Typical of government, it's open only four days a week, and two of those days it closes at 4 p.m. The city doesn't maintain the market very well. Despite those cost savings, the city manages to lose money running the market. It also loses money running golf courses -- $400,000 last year.
Another way that cities like Cleveland cause their own decline is through regulations that make building anything a long drawn-out affair. Cleveland has 22 different zoning designations and 673 pages of zoning guidelines. By contrast, Houston has almost no zoning. This permits a mix of uses and styles that gives the city vitality. And the paperwork in Houston is so light that a business can get going in a single afternoon. In Cleveland, one politician bragged that he helped a business get though the red tape in "just 18 months."
Randall O'Toole, author of "The Best-Laid Plans: How Government Planning Harms Your Quality of Life, Your Pocketbook, and Your Future", says Houston does have rules, but they are more flexible and responsive to citizens' needs because they are set by neighborhood associations based on protective covenants written by developers.
Politicians' rules rarely change because the politicians don't have their own money on the line. Cleveland's managers thought that funding gleaming new sports stadiums (which subsidize wealthy team owners) and other prestigious attractions like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame would revitalize their city. Urban policy expert Joel Kotkin says, "This whole tendency to put what are scarce public funds into conventions centers and ... ephemeral projects is delusional."
But politicians claim that stadiums increase the number of jobs. Not so, says J.C. Bradbury, author of "The Baseball Economist: The Real Game Exposed." "There's a huge consensus among economists that there is no economic development benefit to having these stadiums," he says.
The stadiums do create jobs for construction workers and some vendors. But "it's a case of the seen and the unseen," Bradbury says, alluding to the 19th-century French economist Frederic Bastiat. "It's very easy to see a new stadium going up. ... But what you don't see is that something else didn't get built across town. ... It's just transferring from one place to the other. "People don't bury their entertainment dollars in a coffee can in their backyard and then dig it up when a baseball team comes to town. They switch it from something else." Stadiums are among the more foolish of politicians' boondoggles. There are only 81 home baseball games a year and 41 basketball games. How does that sustain a neighborhood economy?
But the arrogance of city planners knows no end. Now Cleveland is spending taxpayers' money on a medical convention center that they say will turn Cleveland into a "Disney World" for doctors. Well, Chicago's $1 billion expansion of the country's biggest convention center -- McCormick Place -- was unable to prevent an annual drop in conventions, and analysts say America already has 40 percent more convention space than it needs. Politicians would be better stewards of their cities if they set simple rules and then just got out of the way. I won't hold my breath.
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)