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August 29, 2014 / 3 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘democrats’

The Obama-Media War

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

Revolutions are rarely undone from the outside. Mostly they come apart from the inside as the forty thieves descend into petty squabbling over the loot.

The loot comes in different forms, but at its core it is always power. It may be the power to kill or to steal. It may be the power to claim a nice piece of real estate or to send a million people off to their deaths. The scale of it will occupy historians and shock the people of the future who leaf through the history books and walk through the silent museums, but it is all of one piece. The purpose of power, as a fellow in a little book by George Orwell once said, is power.

The quarrel between Obama and the Media is largely a lovers’ quarrel, but the love is only there on one side. The media made Obama what he is. But what he is, among many other things, is a control freak spawned by a political ideology that distrusts everyone and consolidates power at all cost.

The media loved Obama, but it discovered early on that he did not love it back. Instead of basking in the adoration of the Candy Crowleys and the Anderson Coopers and the massive corporate machines behind them, the love child of every liberal fantasy shut them out, rigidly controlled their access and ruthlessly punished unauthorized conversations with the press.

The media had made Obama into a tin god, but were constantly suspected of heresy. Instead of being rewarded for their loyalty, they were kept at arm’s length.

Obama Inc. knew that their biggest asset was the narrative. A close study of Obama’s qualifications or accomplishments would have given no conceivable reason for voting for him. The only thing he brought to the table was race and even in this he was less qualified than most of the black men who had run for president.

The narrative was the dearest treasure of Obama Inc. It was the one thing that its cronies protected. The economy could tank, wars could be lost and an asteroid could smack into the Pacific Ocean and none of it mattered nearly as much as the golden narrative. They didn’t trust anyone with it including the media.

The media these days doesn’t have much. Its numbers are bad in every medium from the tube to the inky pages of newsprint to the crackling AM radio waves. It isn’t very profitable. Often it’s a dead weight. But it wields a great deal of institutional power. The New York Times and CNN may both be dogs when it comes to the balance sheets, but owning either one gives you an impressive amount of heft in the national dialogue; though not as much as working for one of them does.

Power is all that the media has. Its power is projected in a fairly narrow circle. Fewer people are reading, watching and listening to it, so its circle becomes more incestuous. Everyone has learned to act like a member of the D.C. press corps, interpreting events through the lens of old West Wing episodes. The resulting noise reaches fewer people, but helps form the shaky consensus on which the institutional power of the media stands.

In its dying hour, the media used that power to ensure the double coronation of a corrupt Chicago politician with a facility for mimicking speech patterns. And that politician rewarded it by trying to bypass it and set up his own media.

Obama’s vision of the proper place of the media isn’t just at his feet, but under his control. Instead of dealing with the media, he has tried to cut it out of the loop by putting a larger emphasis on social media and developing narratives through think-tanks and media influencing groups. It was a power struggle that the media was initially baffled by. It had held out an ice cream cone to the little boy, only to have the little boy kick it in the shin, grab the ice cream cone and run away.

For years the media had groused about a lack of transparency, the unprecedented prosecution of whistleblowers and the hostile relationship between Obama Inc’s minions and many reporters. The grousing was usually understated. It could be mentioned offhand, but not too loudly. When Bob Woodward made the mistake of speaking his mind, he was swiftly punished for it by the avatars of the post-media media, while the old media sat silently and watched the show.

The End of Competition

Monday, May 20th, 2013

The American Dream does not actually require a red, white and blue flag or a dream. What it requires is a willingness to accept messiness.

Messiness is another word for chaos. And no one likes chaos. Chaos means that in the richest country in the world some people will be illiterate, others will be homeless and some will accidentally set themselves on fire because the fireworks don’t come with enough safety warnings.

Those aren’t good things. They’re not things that governments and the squeaky wheels who make governments what they are think should be tolerated. They’re messy.

Messy is all those things that people say someone should do something about, by which they don’t mean themselves. What they really mean is that we should be living in a more orderly society. And an orderly society is one where things don’t just happen. You have to file eight forms, duck six committees and debate four non-profits to have any chance of getting things done. And even then you probably won’t.

Orderly societies have nailed down all the loose ends. There are fewer homeless people, mainly because they are now living in sixty thousand dollar per inmate shelters designed by progressive architects, but there are also fewer errand boys becoming Andrew Carnegie. What is really being lost is social mobility. The ladder up.

Meritocracy requires chaos. An orderly society isn’t chaotic, it’s stratified. The power has been parceled out to all the people who should have it. And there’s only so much to go around. Newness is a threat because new things are unpredictable. They’re chaotic. They disrupt the power structure.

The liberal argument is largely an argument for a society consolidated around government in service to progressive ideals. It’s a tidy world in which governments and non-profits consume an always increasing share of everything else until there isn’t anything else because it’s been consolidated. The end result of that process however isn’t progressive. It’s tribal.

Power naturally consolidates along personal lines, not political lines. A society may begin by consolidating power so that all the non-profits can help the homeless and the people who can’t read fireworks instructions, but, in a peculiar phenomenon, the homeless never seem to get helped much and fireworks accidents keep happening.

The phenomenon isn’t really peculiar at all. Humanitarian work is a job that exists to eliminate itself. The only way to keep a job dedicated to solving the problem is to perpetuate the problem. Or to redefine the problem on a larger scale. All that is familiar enough from any number of non-profits and government agencies that exist to remind people to care about a problem that they don’t care about.

Redefining the problem on a larger scale means more money, more power and more control. Any problem, whether it’s homelessness, illiteracy or crime is a social problem and can only be solved by taking a holistic approach to everything. A city, a country and a world become a giant puzzle that can only be solved by manipulating all the pieces into place in the right order. The only way to solve the problems that never get solved is through total control over every human being on earth.

Power can only be consolidated ideologically for so long. Both the Russian and Chinese Communist revolutions eventually collapsed into familial profiteering. China’s Princes and Russia’s KGB clans brought down Communism in both countries and resurrected it as profiteering oligarchies eager to live the good life.

To some measure, Capitalism beat Communism, but more accurately tribalism beat internationalism,  powerful men built systems that lock in privileges for their friends and families while tossing out the lefty ideologies that allowed their grandfathers to get close to those privileges. It’s an old story and it’s how the progressive experiments in the ideological consolidation of power will end here.

Power is personal. As is wealth. A system that consolidates enough power turns tribal as fathers look to pass on their privileges to their children until, like so many social services agencies, the system exists for the sake of the system.

Tribal systems are not meritocracies. They aren’t interested in talent, but in a sense of order that derives from the consolidation of power. Their idea of civilization does not lie in their arts or sciences, only in the orderliness of power. Only when chaos assails them, is talent released out into the wild where unpredictable things happen. But the chaotic period passes and the old patterns assert themselves again strangling the wildness and consolidating it.

Terrorism and the Methodology of the Left

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

The left has a clearly defined set of responses to a terrorist attack. After all the hopes for a properly right wing terrorist have come to naught, it begins the long slow process of rolling back the laws and emotional attitudes stemming from the attack.

For it, terrorism, like anything else, either fits into its narrative or conflicts with it. The narrative defines the world, past, present and future, in terms of the political agenda of the left. An event that clashes with the agenda must have its meaning changed so that the power of the narrative is restored.

Most violent attacks, from a street mugging to September 11, cause people to seek out security by combating the attackers. The left’s task is to shift the narrative so that people see it in an entirely different way. The perpetrators become the victims by the trick of transforming the real victims into the real perpetrators. The lesson shifts from going on the offense to learning not to give offense.

The process is gradual and the playbook is infinite. Weapons of mass distraction are brought out. New villains are introduced and the emotional resonance of the events is drowned in ridicule. The tones are also many, from urging everyone to let love defeat hate to displays of virulent hate against the people “truly” stirring up trouble, but they all share a common agenda. Only the tactics vary.

Unlike the right, the left is systematic. It studies structures and people and plots its lines of attack accordingly. It pits emotion against emotion and law against law. It waits for the initial shock to fade before launching its first wave of attacks over process.

The left’s honest response, the one that shows up on its Twitter feeds and in posts on its own sites, is that the country is overreacting. Some leftists will even be bold enough to say that we had it coming. But its public response is more discreet. It exploits the grief for its own ends, diverting shocked city residents into interfaith memorials, some of which are progressive enough to include denunciations of American foreign policy and vigils for the dead on both sides.

But even here, the left generally restrains itself. It waits until the weeks or months have passed to begin deadening the emotion surrounding the event with sarcastic remarks and jokes until the sacred becomes fully profane. It waits somewhat less time to begin lecturing the country on how our foreign policy made them hate us, knowing that in a contest between the establishment’s narrative of inexplicable Islamic radicalization for unknown reasons and their narrative of American evil, they have the upper hand because they provide a realistic motive and the establishment does not.

Still this too comes later. The left knows that there is a window on human emotion. There is a time when people need to mourn and a time when they will feel a diminishing outrage and even begin to agree with observations whose thrust is that the United States of America is the real terrorist. And so there are things that the left will say on DailyKos and then on Salon that it will not say on CNN or the editorial page of the New York Times.

The editorials explaining how a lack of American support for Chechen independence led to the marathon massacre are coming. They just haven’t splashed ashore in mainstream liberal newspapers yet. Timing is everything and the difference between the left of the counterculture and the left of the culture is that it knows what people will be willing to listen to and when. And it knows where to begin.

Against the horror of the bombing, the left juxtaposes the horror of police state. It pits the fear of terrorists depriving us of our lives and freedoms against the fear of the government doing the same. And considering the history of government abuses, it does not take long for this line of argument to make a compelling emotional dent in the responses of even many ordinary people to the attacks.

The left begins by raising all sorts of procedural questions about how law enforcement and the military are treating the enemy. It develops a burning conviction that our civil rights are the only thing about the country worth keeping. It hammers away at any law enforcement or military mistake, no matter how minor, and collects these together to amass a narrative of the police state.

Better or Worse: Politics and Conceptions of Change

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

All politics are the politics of the future. The one cause that we all champion, regardless of our political orientation, is the cause of the future. All that we fight for is the ability to shape the future.

The fundamental political question is, “Do you believe things are getting better or worse?” Ruling parties tend to answer, “Better”, opposition parties tend to answer, “Worse”. The deeper answer to that question though lies in our perceptions of the past and the future.

The left tends to view the past negatively and future shock positively. It wants change to disrupt the old order of things in order to make way for a new order. It hews to a progressive understanding of history in which we have been getting better with the advance of time, the march of progress mimics evolution as a means of lifting humanity out of the muck and raising it up on ivory towers of reason through a ceaseless process of change.

The right often views the past positively, it sees change as a destroyer that undermines civilization’s accomplishments and threatens to usher in anarchy. It fights to conserve that which is threatened by the entropic winds of change. The conservative worldview is progressive in its own way, but it is the progress of the established order. It sees progress emerging from the accretion of civilization, rather than from the disruption of revolution.

Where the left tends to be unrealistically optimistic about the future, acting like a child running to the edge and jumping off, without remembering all the bumps and bruises before, the right tends to be pessimistic about the future. It tends to be wary of change because it is all too aware of how dangerous change can be.

Youth who do not understand the value of what is around them rush to the left. As they achieve a sense of worth, of the world around them and of their labors, they drift slowly to the right. Age also brings with it a sense of vulnerability. Knowing how you can be hurt, how fragile the thin skin of the body, the fleshy connections and organs dangling within, brings with it a different view of the world. Once you understand that you can lose and that you will lose, then you also understand how important it is to defend what you have left.

The vital mantra of the left is do something for the sake of doing something. Change for the sake of novelty. Action for the sake of action. This carnival drumbeat loses its appeal when you come to understand how dangerous change can be. Personal history becomes national history becomes personal history again as you live through it. Seeing what a mistake change can be as you watch politicians disgraced, causes revealed as fool’s errands and crusades fall apart, is a great teacher of the folly of change for the sake of change.

Reagan’s question, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” is the fundamental challenge of the conservative that asks whether the change was really worth it. It is the question at the heart of the struggle between the right and the left.

Are you better off than you were twenty years ago or forty years ago? It’s an uncomfortable question because it has no simple answer. In some ways we are better off and in some ways we are worse off. Examining the question points us to the sources of the problem. The places where the tree has grown wrong, the branches that have to be pruned so that it may live.

The power of this question is that it challenges the narrative of change. It asks us to examine that most basic premise that change is good. But beyond the narrative tangles of those in power and those out of power, is the larger echo of that question which asks whether the world overall is becoming a better or worse place.

This question has deeper resonances. Is history a wheel or a rocket shooting up to the stars? Are we on an inevitable evolutionary trajectory rising up or are we doomed to repeat dark ages, progress and then dark ages again? Beneath all the speculations and theorizing is the grim question, what becomes of us? Not us individually, but our societies, our nations, our civilizations, our accomplishments and our way of life.

Dead in the Water: Obama’s Military and Iran

Friday, March 1st, 2013

Two to three years ago, the United States Department of Defense had enough military forces on station in, or readily deployable to, the Persian Gulf region (the “CENTCOM AOR” – area of responsibility – or Southwest Asia, as it is called in the military) to execute a limited strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities without asking Congress for special funding.  The military could have performed such an operation “out of hide,” as quickly and seamlessly as the president wanted it to.

Four to five years ago, moreover, the U.S. had the regional political capital to use our bases in the local nations (e.g., Qatar and Bahrain) to launch and direct such a strike campaign.

Both of these conditions have now changed.  I wrote about the political shift in December of 2010, after the Persian Gulf nations executed a flurry of bilateral defense agreements with Iran, and Bahrain, in particular, announced that the U.S. would not be able to use Bahraini territory for launching military operations against Iran.  Even a subtle shift in these nations’ postures means that the U.S. will have less discretion in what we propose to do against Iran.  U.S. military actions that are so limited as to leave Iran able to retaliate against her neighbors may not be acceptable to our hosts.

Mounting a limited strike campaign using only U.S. Navy assets and the Air Force’s global strike bombers (which don’t need the Persian Gulf bases) has remained a fall-back option.  But as of 2013, with the funding issues inherent in the long-term budget stand-off, that option can no longer be performed out of hide.  The Navy has already had to cancel a carrier strike group deployment that it couldn’t project being able to pay for, and we can no longer assume that the Air Force will have the ready aircraft and aircrew – not to mention the fuel – to perform a bomber campaign against Iran.

The central reason is that the military doesn’t know whether or when it will get more operating funds.  There isn’t a federal budget, and the recurring fiscal showdowns between Obama and the House Republicans make all future military funding a big question mark.  There is no end-point beyond which the military knows how much money it will have.  This isn’t a question of pinching pennies for a while until the money kicks in on a date certain.  The Department of Defense doesn’t know what its future operating picture will be, beyond the next couple of months.

In the worst case, the sequestration cuts kick in on a month-to-month basis, as the fiscal stand-off between Congress and the president drags on.  In early February, in anticipation of having to “operate down” to this worst case, the Navy cancelled the scheduled deployment of the USS Harry S Truman (CVN-75) strike group, which was to be the second of two carrier strike groups hitherto maintained on station in the CENTCOM AOR.  Secretary Leon Panetta announced at the time that the U.S. would cut its CENTCOM-deployed carrier force to one.

A strike group brings not just the carrier and its air wing but an Aegis cruiser and/or Aegis destroyers, all with Tomahawk missile load-outs.  In multiple ways, U.S. combat power has now been cut in half in the CENTCOM AOR due to the long-running fiscal stand-off.  The level of carrier presence is insufficient today to execute a limited-strike campaign against Iran while containing the potential backlash.

Note that the Truman deployment, even if it had gone on as scheduled, would have left a gap of more than two months in the two-carrier presence in CENTCOM.  There has been one carrier strike group in CENTCOM, that of USS John C Stennis (CVN-74), since USS Dwight D Eisenhower (CVN-69) left the AOR in late November (returning to Norfolk, VA in December).  A gap isn’t unprecedented, in the years since the two-carrier presence was factored into carrier scheduling (although gaps are typically much shorter).  But now an actual degradation in our force posture has been announced.

Meanwhile, the Air Force is scrambling to scope out the impact of the sequestration cuts on its operations.  Big Blue foresees having to cut flying hours for the rest of the year by a third and cancel some scheduled squadron deployments overseas, both of which measures will, within months, affect force posture and readiness in CENTCOM.  So will the impending decision to further defer depot-level maintenance on overdue aircraft.  Some squadrons in the U.S. would run out of flying-hour funds by mid-May 2013, with no prospect of a new infusion of funds.  If additional squadrons were to be forward deployed to CENTCOM for a strike on Iran – and the fuel for such a massive operation set aside – much of the Air Force would have to stop flying altogether until more funds were provided.

Memo to the President: Compromise on the Budget

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

We are about two weeks away from something called the sequester. This is a law passed by congress to ensure that congress balance the federal budget by threatening major indiscriminate deep cuts on all government programs across the board – including defense.

Balancing the budget means that no more money is spent by the government than it takes in. If there is no action by congress along those lines the government can ‘borrow’ the money by raising the debt ceiling or by selling bonds to foreign governments like China. Meaning it can just print more money and ‘owe itself or China’ the money to pay be paid back with future revenue increasing our debt exponentially as we continue to have to ‘borrow’ to meet government expenditures because of an unbalanced budget.
Although I hope I’m wrong – it seems like the sequester will happen. That is not a good thing. There is no way of telling what the exact impact will be.  But I don’t think it is rocket science to realize that when there are automatic deep budget cuts across the board to all government programs – including the military – not to mention entitlement programs like welfare, workfare, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and farm subsidies;  …that people will suffer.
No doubt food prices will increase; joblessness will increase; government revenue from taxes will decrease and taxes will increase to try and offset that; there will be less money for anyone to spend; consumer demand will decrease; production will decrease; more jobs will be lost; the market will crash; retirement funds heavily invested in the market will no longer be able to help support the elderly; social security will decrease; Medicare and Medicaid payments will decrease, the ill will suffer; our national defense will suffer; and who knows what else… In short it’s not a pretty picture, no matter how you paint it.
The fault lies with both the executive and legislative branches of government. Neither wants to budge from their ideological positions. Congressional Republicans will never agree to any deal that does not include a reduction in government spending. The President refuses any further cuts the budget which will surely increase the deficit. He feels obligated to protect entitlements to the wealthy and the poor.
The problem with his position is that if the government keeps printing money, it will become devalued. In a world based economy this will surely cause unprecedented inflation. We may end up with a simultaneous depression and inflation… who knows.
The President has thrown down the gauntlet. He says that if congress doesn’t act blame for the sequester will be their fault.
Perhaps. But history will not be kind to the President. If the worst happens, it will be under his watch. History will record that whatever catastrophic economic event happens under his watch will be his fault. And he may go down as the worst President in American history, despite his good intentions.
It is true that the public blames both sides but see the Republicans having greater fault I this. I see it as two stubborn sides that consider their own liberal or conservative principles having greater value that saving the country from financial ruin. I really don’t know what they are thinking.
But whatever the truth is about whose fault it is, history will record that the Obama Presidency will be the worst failure since that of Herbert Hoover.
Somebody better blink in this game of chicken.  I don’t care who it is at this point. But if the President wants to have any kind of decent legacy he ought to make sure someone does.
Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Ed Koch, FDR, and the Holocaust

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

“Mayor Koch last night took on the ghost of President Franklin D. Roosevelt,” an item in the New York Daily News in 1988 began, which probably surprised no one, since Ed Koch had spent a lifetime taking on everybody who deserved to be taken on, whether they were alive or dead. Indeed, his willingness to vigorously battle for what he believed and let the chips fall where they may was precisely what endeared Koch to so many people across the political spectrum.

As a historian who has written about President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s response to the Holocaust, what intrigued me about that 1988 speech was the unique way in which the New York City mayor framed his criticism of FDR: “I will never forgive him for closing the doors to Jews who could have left Germany. Never will I forgive him. If you believe in purgatory – and I don’t even know what it is – that’s where he is, for that sin.”

In the years to follow, as Mayor Koch and I became friends and then coauthors, I had the opportunity to speak with him about that “purgatory” remark. And when a reporter from Italian National Television who was scheduled to interview Koch on the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz asked me what topics I thought he should raise, I suggested bringing up the purgatory issue.

“I think it’s a Catholic expression,” Koch told him. “I’m not Catholic, I’m Jewish. I don’t think Jews have purgatory. I’m not really sure, I’m not religious myself, although I believe in God. But ‘purgatory’ [means] that you have an opportunity to deal with your sinful life and ultimately get to Heaven…you have to spend a time in purgatory, winning the right to enter Heaven.”

President Roosevelt “did many, many good things,” Koch emphasized, recalling FDR’s role in “saving the United States from the Depression” and leading America against Hitler in World War II. But FDR “also had an opportunity to save Jews before World War II,” and his failure to do is what landed him in purgatory, Koch explained. He cited Roosevelt’s decision to turn away the refugee ship St. Louis; his refusal to instruct the State Department to permit Jewish immigration up to the maximum allowed by law (the quotas were woefully under-filled); and the sham Evian Conference of 1938, which the Roosevelt administration convened to give the impression of concern for the Jewish refugees, without actually doing anything to aid them.

For me, however, perhaps the most significant part of the interview was Koch’s analysis of anti-Semitism in the U.S. in the 1930s and 1940s. Given the public mood in those days, was it politically possible for FDR to have done much for the Jews? Scholars looking at this issue tend to rely on newspaper reports, public opinion polls about prejudice, and statistics about the size of anti-Semitic organizations. But an eyewitness account can be very revealing. And Koch, having grown up in hardscrabble neighborhoods in Newark and Brooklyn in the 1930s and 1940s, had much to say about the subject.

“Yes, there was a lot of anti-Semitism in America in those years, but that is no excuse for Roosevelt’s inaction, which was vile,” Koch asserted. “A leader has to lead. He has to try to change minds.”

What about claims that helping the Jews would have undermined Roosevelt’s ability to convince the public to fight Hitler? “I don’t accept that,” Koch said. “I believe that the American public could have accepted saving Jews.” He wasn’t a sociologist. He just knew what he had experienced among the people he met in the neighborhoods where he lived and worked. Some were bigots. But most weren’t.

Koch wasn’t just speculating when he expressed his faith in the basic decency of most Americans. In April 1944 – while the Holocaust still raged, and before the deportations of Hungarian Jews began – the White House quietly commissioned a Gallup Poll on the subject. It asked the public about offering “temporary protection” to Jews fleeing Hitler. The supposedly anti-Semitic American public supported the idea by a margin of seventy percent to twenty-three percent. Despite that overwhelming public sentiment, President Roosevelt agreed to create just one refugee camp – in upstate New York, where some nine hundred eighty-two refugees were brought in the summer of 1944.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/ed-koch-fdr-and-the-holocaust/2013/02/06/

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