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March 26, 2015 / 6 Nisan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Republicans’

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.

Well Intentioned, but Wrong to Condone Homosexuality

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

It seems that the gay marriage is becoming ever more acceptable in society. From an NBC news website:

In a move described by one scholar as “inconceivable” just two years ago, 75 Republicans have signed the brief to be filed in the case of Proposition 8, a California law banning same-sex marriage, The New York Times reported. The nation’s high court will hear arguments on the law in late March.

Four former governors, including Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey, and members of President George W. Bush’s cabinet, such as former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, signed the brief, the Times reported. Some of those, such as Meg Whitman, who ran for California governor in 2010, had once opposed same-sex marriage.

I have stated my position on this issue many times. Even though it seems inevitable that it will become the law of the land – I am opposed to legalizing gay marriage. This has nothing to do with how to treat people who have same sex attractions. My position on that is clear. They should be treated as equals among us. And there ought not be any discrimination or disparagement of them. Nor should we judge them. It is not our job to judge what other people do in the privacy of their own homes. Even if we suspect sinful behavior. What two consenting adults do in the privacy of their own home is between them and God.

When it comes to interacting with openly gay people, we have an obligation to treat them with the human dignity that every one of God’s creations deserve. They are no less created in God’s image than people who are attracted to the opposite sex. Who we are attracted to does not define who we are. To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, we ought to judge people by the content of their character. Being gay is not a character issue.

But that does not make gay sex permissible or excusable. The Torah is very clear about that too. It is a very serious violation of biblical law. There is no way around that no matter how compassionate we try to be. It is for this reason that I oppose gay marriage. Because the implication of that is to place a public imprimatur on behavior that is sinful. It is in effect koshering a forbidden lifestyle. Making gay marriage not just value neutral but something positive.

This ignores the underlying sinful behavior – completely removing it from the category of sin. By definition marriage gives a societal blessing a gay couple implying that that gay sex is as moral as heterosexual sex. We are saying via legislation that we approve equally of both types of behavior. Gay marriage does not only permit gay sex – it virtually endorses it as a completely legitimate alternative to heterosexual sex.

I don’t blame gay people for wanting to be treated as completely normal in every way possible. No one likes to be stigmatized – even a little bit. The homosexual community wants the world to look at them in the same way as they look at heterosexuals. As complete equals living a sin free lifestyle – same as heterosexual.

Much as I feel for their plight and their desire to be treated as normal, treating gay sex a sin free sex is not what the Torah intended by forbidding it.

This has nothing to do with how to treat gay people. But it has everything to do with how we treat gay sex. We cannot say it’s OK to have gay sex when it is not.

I know there are people who disagree with me on both sides of the issue. I have little patience for bigots who would deny human rights to a gay person and refuse to grant them any human dignity. But on the other side of the issue – sometimes one can have too much compassion and end up completely rationalizing away sex between two men. There is no doubt in my mind that it is a biblically forbidden act no matter what the circumstances are.

And yet well intentioned people are trying to rationalize the sin away entirety. This is the case with Rabbi Zev Farber. About a year ago he wrote an essay wherein he came up with a novel approach to gay sex that would completely take away any culpability for sin by two gay men engaging in it.

While acknowledging that there has been an evolution of sorts even among Haredim with respect to treating gay people with compassion, he felt that both an Agudah Statement as well as an RCA statement fell short of treating gay people fairly. The implication of both statements is that gay sex is still forbidden and that they must live celibate lives to avoid sin. Here is how he stated his problem:

I once suggested the following thought experiment to a colleague: “If, for some reason, it became clear that the Torah forbade you to ever get married or to ever have any satisfying intimate relationship, what would you do?” My own reaction to this question is: although part of me hopes I would be able to follow the dictates of the Torah, I have strong doubts about the possibility of success, and I trust that my friends and colleagues would be supportive of me either way.

His point of course is that it is unnatural if not impossible to ask a human being to deny his sex drive no matter what his sexual orientation is. And yet gay sex is a forbidden act according to the Torah. The vast majority of educated opinion is that gay people cannot change their sexual orientation. His solution is to apply a Halachic principle called Oness (pronounced Oh-Ness) Rachmana Patrei. If one is forced to commit a sin, the Torah exempts him from any culpability. The obvious question is, why should a voluntary act of sex (of any kind) at any given moment be considered forced?

Rabbi Farber argues that when there is no Halachic outlet at all to satisfy one’s natural sex drive then at some point that drive takes over and must be satisfied. That makes it an Oness – forced. When a gay person succumbs – he therefore is absolved of any guilt. He is in effect forced by his own God given nature to act in a way that would be forbidden to heterosexual men.

The problem is that this argument eliminates the sin of gay sex in it’s entirely. Heterosexual men would hardly violate that law. And gay men are exempt from it. So why would the Torah even mention it? Furthermore this argument can be used for pedophiles too. It is well known that pedophiles too cannot not control their attraction to children either. Oness Rachmana Patrei! There are of course reasons to forbid sex with minors. But the Onesss is still there… and we should not discriminate based his sexual orientation. Is there a soul anywhere that would agree with that?!

To Rabbi Farber’s credit, he does not advocate gay marriage in Judaism:

To be sure, calling something oness does not make the action halakhically permitted; it is not. Moreover, adopting the oness principle does not mean that halakha recognizes same sex qiddushin (Jewish marriage) – it does not.

The bottom line for me is that I think he errs in his use of the Halachic device of Oness Rachmana Patrei. And I also believe that he errs in suggesting we encourage “exclusivity and the forming of a loving and lasting relationship-bond as the optimal lifestyle for gay Orthodox Jews who feel they are oness and cannot be celibate.”

It is completely wrong to encourage a lifestyle that is conducive to sinful behavior. But I agree that we ought not be judgmental about it when we see it.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Israel, the Republicans and Obama’s PR Strategy

Monday, February 25th, 2013

A correspondent of mine expressed some surprise when it was announced yesterday that the new secretary of state, John Kerry, would not be visiting Israel prior to the visit next month of President Obama.

What this means to foreign-service hands is that there won’t be a ministerial-level sit-down in advance of the president’s trip.  The army of foreign-service specialists who negotiate for the U.S. and Israel won’t come up with serious negotiating points (or at least statements of common objectives) on topics like talks with the Palestinian Arabs, or the Iranian nuclear threat.  The president’s itinerary and official events will no doubt be planned thoroughly, but there is a big hole where the normal process of policy preparation would be.

The prospect of Obama’s visit producing a tangible Middle East-policy outcome is thus nil.  Appearances now suggest that the trip will basically be

an extended photo op.  The president will have photo ops with the Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank as well.  One of the bigger photo ops will be the award to Obama of Israel’s Presidential Medal of Distinction, by President Shimon Peres.

Appearances as to the kind of trip we can look forward to are probably not deceiving, but they must be understood in the context of Obama’s political style.  This is a president who believes that a photo purporting to show him shooting skeet at Camp David will establish his bona fides as a supporter of the Second Amendment – enough so, at any rate, to neutralize political opposition to the increased gun restrictions he favors.  For Obama, photo ops are the execution of policy: they build a narrative that gives him leverage by undermining his opponent’s position.

CERTAINLY, HE has approached the federal budget stand-off this way.  It makes an excellent case study.  As numerous pundits have pointed out in the last week, the “sequester” of funds, in the absence of a budget agreement, was Obama’s idea.  He has played the sequester to the media on both sides, however, attributing it entirely to the Republicans in Congress when it suits him to.

In February 2013, he is decrying a set of exaggerated effects which he claims will result from the sequester kicking in on 1 March.  (As Jennifer Rubin notes, even the New York Times detected exaggeration in Obama’s dire predictions.)

But in the thick of the negotiations that produced the sequester threat, back in 2011, Obama threatened to veto any attempt to avert the sequesterwithout a full budget deal.  The same consequences have always been in prospect; what has changed is the position Obama proclaims to the public.

Writers at Politico – hardly a hotbed of right-wing perspective – quote administration officials identifying Obama’s sequester strategy as “shame.”

Certain that the political winds are in their favor, [the White House is]forgoing serious negotiations for a high-risk public offensive, banking almost entirely on the president’s ability to persuade. They believe that the GOP will be scared of taking the blame from an angry public — and the White House says this is just the kind of thing that gave them the victory they claimed in the fiscal cliff fight and the most recent standoff over the debt limit.

The aim is to force Republicans to submit to new revenue as part of a deal to avert the $1.2 trillion in potential cuts — and the only way to get there, senior administration officials said, is by making the GOP position indefensible.

Just so we’re clear:  this is community-organizing politics, in a nutshell.  Hype an exaggerated problem or threat – even a counter-factual one – with a lot of noise and pressure; stir people up about it; make yourself and your agenda the hero fighting for the people; and pin the blame for it all on the target you want to squeeze concessions from:  in this case, Republicans.  (This site has a brief summary of Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals,” the methods community organizers favor to achieve their goals.  Rules 4, 9, and 10 are particularly applicable here.)

Obama has taken off the mask of moderation since his reelection – something even his supporters have reservations about.  This is important context for his visit to Israel in March.  If he foregoes serious negotiations in Israel for a photo-op narrative-building opportunity, what are his objectives?

OBAMA WILL presumably seek to be seen in a posture friendly and solicitous toward both Israel and the Palestinian Arabs.  I think we can expect very positive-sounding but vague comments about Israel and Israeli security, which, along with photos at the Western Wall (with kippa), a visit to an Iron Dome battery, and photos of himself receiving his medal from Peres, will be intended to evoke powerfully the sense of Obama as a friend to Israel.

Similar care will be taken to select photo-op venues with the Palestinian Arabs.  But nothing material will be resolved; Team Obama will simply hope to pocket good feeling about his attitude toward both parties.  As with his Magical Sequester Tour in the U.S., he will be looking for imagery and narrative building to establish his bona fides on Israeli security as against his political opponents’ – most particularly with an audience of the U.S. media and American Jews.

In community-organizing terms, Obama doesn’t have to convince Netanyahu himself, or other Israelis, or regional-policy experts; he certainly doesn’t have to make a parsable case for a posture that is trustworthy or has a rational basis.  What he has to do is neutralize or “make indefensible” the position of his opponents – from House Republicans to Bill Kristol’s Emergency Committee for Israel – regarding both Israel and Obama’s stance on Israel.  He has to outflank them on the battlefield of perception, looking more solicitous of Israeli security than Netanyahu, and better disposed toward Israel than either AIPAC or Pastor John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel.

If, as Rush Limbaugh suggests, Obama’s main political objective today is winning the House in 2014, then establishing imputed bona fides for him on Israel is certainly important to the races in some key districts.  ThatObama’s campaign organization remains in political-action mode, in spite of the constitutional limit on his own reelection, is clear.  Obama won’t be leaving the 2014 election for the Democratic Party to handle.

But there is also the foreign-policy aspect of any “perception benefits” Obama hopes to garner from a photo-op tour of Israel.  Down the road, Obama may want Israel to pay a high price in security concessions for any hugs administered in March 2013.

That, I think, is where the limits of community organizing will be reached.  Netanyahu will remain undeceived as to the wisdom or utility of anything Obama may insist on (such as bilateral talks with Iran), regardless of personalities or media hype.  So, of course, will supporters of Israel in the United States – but in this case, unlike the case of the sequester, the decisive factor will not and cannot be the perceived “indefensibility” of the position held by Obama’s political opponents at home.  Not only does Israel have a vote on whatever policies are to prevail, but the other regional actors have votes too.

None of those actors – the Palestinian Arabs, the Arab nations, Hezbollah, Hamas, Turkey, Iran, the E.U. – is locked in a closed-loop system with Obama, as his political opponents in the U.S. are.  The foreign actors have alternatives to Obama’s suggested roles for them, and they are starting to pursue those alternatives.  From outside the closed loop of American politics, most of them see clearly that a perception advantage for Obama inside the U.S. isn’t the same thing as Obama being reliable or competent, or having a policy idea that’s good for them.  They will act according to their interests, in the end, rather than hitching their wagon to Obama’s star – or, indeed, rather than suffering political losses if Team Obama can make their American supporters look bad.

THE COMMUNITY organizer’s horizon is always limited.  So is his reach.  In a way we have not seen since the 1930s, the rest of the world stands outside America’s internal struggle today, and plenty of foreign observers have Obama’s number.  This will have the effect of making the world less stable, unfortunately, while reducing America’s influence over its direction.

It may also increase the poignancy of the Israeli government’s codename for the Obama visit – or perhaps it increases the geopolitical insight behind it.  According to media reports, Israeli officials have dubbed the visit “Brit Amim,” which is being translated from the Hebrew as “alliance between nations.”  The English expression being used officially by Israel is “Unbreakable Alliance.”

Christian groups on the watch for the eschaton immediately pointed out the similarity of “brit amim” to a passage in the prophetic book of Daniel that refers to “brit rabbim,” or a future covenant of Israel with all peoples.  (The verse in question is Daniel 9:27.)  “Brit” recurs throughout the Old Testament to signify “covenant,” in the sense of a covenant between God and His people.

While I do not think the Israeli government meant to invoke Christian prophetic expectations in choosing this codename, it is reasonable to suppose that Bibi Netanyahu, who titled his 1993 book on Israel A Place Among the Nations, is well aware of the biblical connotations of the formulation Brit Amim.  The UN’s recognition of the state of Israel in 1948 was, in a sense, a covenant of the nations with the Jewish people, and Brit Amim as a codename for the visit of Barack Obama in 2013 may imply, at the very least, a dual meaning: not just affirming the alliance between Israel and the U.S., but affirming as well that the covenant of the nations with Israel extends beyond any one president or nation.

Community organizing is very narrowly focused and self-referential.  Having no positive goals, it comes with an inherent expiration date.  It may or may not bring America down; it will not keep history from happening.

Originally published at the Optimistic Conservative under the title, Israel and Obama: Community Organizing the Planet?

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.

US Budget Cuts May Axe Funds for Israel’s Anti-Missile Systems

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Pro-Israel sources report that the axe on the US budget may eliminate $479 million for joint US-Israel anti-missile programs, namely David’s Sling and Arrow systems, in addition to another $300 cut in military aid.

The slash in aid would come on the eve of President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel, which has been dubbed “Operation Unbreakable Alliance.”

Senior Israel officials are aware of the possible reductions and are trying to figure out to deal with them, according to Israel’s Globes business newspaper. Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s recent visit to Washington may have been, in part, an attempt to convince Congressmen to dull the axe on funding for the anti-missile programs.

The threat of Israel’s Middle East’s neighbors plunging into anarchy and leaving Al Qaeda and Hizbullah in charge underscores the government’s concerns.

The United States currently gives $3.15 billion in aid, although a large part of it actually is returned to American defense firms that Israel is required to use for much of the equipment and technology.

Congress and the White House have another week until the March 1 deadline, when either the federal deficit is reduced or automatic budget cuts come into effect, which could totally upset financial markets and America’s credit rating.

Republicans control the House of Representatives and are using their power to try to crack the whip on government spending, both at home and abroad.

“So far as is known at this stage, the fate of the aid for missiles is not the fate of the current military aid. We have to hope that won’t be the final situation,” a pro-Israel source told Globes.

Aid to Israel is bound to be reduced in light of massive cuts in domestic spending that, according to The New York Times, will put 14,000 teachers and 4,000 air traffic controllers out of work.

The March 1 deadline also is well before Obama flies to Israel, and he may have to depend only on his oratorical skills to convince Jews in Israel and in the United States of the “unbreakable alliance.”

You Can’t Out-Liberal the Liberals

Monday, January 21st, 2013

So after a long bout of mocking Mitt Romney for saying that he sought out binders full of qualified female appointees, complete with protesters outside one of his campaign offices dressed in binders, the appointed hour came and the new cabinet of the man who was too good for binders of women was white and male.

There was some awkward fidgeting in the media. A few suggestions that maybe there should be a little more diversity. And that was followed by the new official talking point that diversity doesn’t matter, it’s all about the impact of the policies. Suddenly the Party of Affirmative Action began making conservative arguments for merit and representation, over racial preferences.

To some this was proof that liberals don’t really believe in anything. And that’s true and it isn’t.

Modern American Liberalism is the movement of a wealthy white upper class meant to suppress the working class and the mercantile class. Think of it as the revenge of the barons against the merchants and the wrath of the old New England elites against the Nouveau Riche. It adopted the Jewish and Catholic immigrants who accepted its values and codes. It even occasionally brings in more exotic figures, like Barack Obama, so long as they have gone to the right schools and share their values.

Liberals champion multiculturalism, they enact diversity requirements and push through immigration, and then they send their children to private schools and buy houses in white neighborhoods. They are mostly unaware that they are doing this. They’re just doing what comes naturally. Like most people, liberals are most comfortable among their own kind.

Their kind is not so much a racial group, as it is a cultural one. If you’ve ever set foot in a liberal stronghold, then you can already recognize the very expensive casual wear, the cars with progressive bumper stickers, the beaming helicoptered children, the reusable bags and the other markings of the American upper class. The one that may spend 5 years slumming it in a big city, gathering tattoos and experiences, before retreating to the traditional comforts of a posh suburb and a high end do-nothing non-profit job.

They emphasize minorities, but most minorities, especially after the passing of the melting pot that another generation of liberals implemented, don’t fit all that well into the cultural liberal landscape. It’s why Obama plays golf, even though he’s bad at it. It’s why his campaign staff and his cabinet leans toward the same white males who still run most things, including liberalism.

Liberals have varying degrees of awareness of this, ranging from aggressive denial to passive denial, much as conservatives have some degree of awareness that FOX News personalities are likely more liberal than they pretend to be. And like most such conflicts, the information gets filed away in favor of focusing on a more immediate problem.

The diversity that could be seen in a photo of Cheney on September 11 or Romney’s appointments are completely meaningless because you cannot win an argument with a liberal by being more liberal than him. It’s fun to try, but it doesn’t actually work for the same reason that you can’t be more Catholic than the Pope.

The liberal program is not just diversity. It’s a grander and vaster program. And those who promote the program can violate any single aspect of it, without facing any consequences or contradictions, so long as they remain valuable players.

Bill Clinton could act out the bad part in every sensitivity training video. Obama can pay women less. Harry Reid and Hillary Clinton can make racist jokes. Obama can govern through Executive Orders and start illegal wars. So can any Democrat. None of that matters because they’re all plays in the big program. And the “Big Program” means a new world with good stuff for all. Accomplishing it means ignoring the little sins that would lead to any little person being lynched, jailed or denounced.

Liberals are busy lining up to defend Chuck Hagel, a former Republican who hated homosexuals, opposed abortion and on most issues, aside from foreign policy, was fairly conservative. But that doesn’t matter because Hagel is now on Team Prog. Local interest groups may object, but the liberal purpose in having Jewish or Gay or Female auxiliaries is so that they can support the larger program. When they don’t support it, they’re told to shut the hell up.

Drinking for the State

Monday, January 7th, 2013

There was a time when the United States government ran on hooch. Hard up for cash, taxes on whiskey and beer funded the Civil War. With 40 percent of government revenues coming from liquor taxes, alcohol made the dramatic post-war expansion of government possible so that by the 20th Century, the Federal government would have been unrecognizable in scope and function to a man of the 1800s, but would have been all too familiar to us.

The Department of Education was created in 1867, the Department of Justice in 1870, the Department of Agriculture in 1862 and the Department of Commerce and Labor in 1903. Within that time, the Federal government had become concerned with every aspect of life throughout the country. After the Civil War, the same whiskey taxes that had paid for cannons, aerial balloons and widows’ pensions began paying for the transformation of the government into a booming engine of social change.

During the same period that the government was being unrecognizably reshaped, the major cities were being transformed by a tremendous immigration boom. Immigration had made it possible for the Union to win the war by providing an endless supply of fresh bodies to throw into the fight. German, Irish and Jewish immigrants came by the hundreds of thousands and made the Union victory possible.

Republican Progressives had looked forward to freeing the slaves, but were far less enthusiastic about filling the country with Catholics and Jews, who were not only bound for Democratic precincts, but did not share their faith. Germany had produced a liberal variant of Judaism that was rather close to Unitarianism and had prospered nicely among upper class Jews in the United States, but the Jewish immigrants who were arriving were members of a more traditional faith in Russia and Eastern Europe. But it was the Catholics who truly worried them.

The Draft Riots during the Civil War had to be put down with the military and the armories were a hulking reminder that the cities could go up in flame at any moment if the Democratic Party’s radicals chose to light a match. Those same Catholic immigrants had been invaluable to building the Union, but with the South defeated, and the expansion of the Union underway, they had become a problem.

Progressive reformers cast an uneasy eye on the slums and the Democratic political machines that ran them and pursued a grab bag of strategies for curing their ills, from birth control to temperance to socialism.

The progressive vision of a New America was being funded by liquor taxes, but a combination of bigotry and health-nuttery, which was another of the elements of the modern country taking off, brought quite a few reformers around to temperance. Associating Catholics with liquor, they went after liquor itself. But liquor could not be outlawed, without also outlawing big government.

For the practical politician the link between liquor and big government was a web that should not be touched. The drinking American was making big government possible and should be left to drink in peace. But progressive reformers are ever deaf to such logic and quick to cut Gordian knots. Faced with a liquor revenue problem, they contrived a solution in the form of the personal income tax.

The personal income tax was unconstitutional, but with the end of the post-Civil War era and the revival of the Democratic Party as a progressive political movement, the country had entered a period where the Constitution meant very little. During the Wilson and Roosevelt administrations, that document, then not very much more than a century old, had come to be regarded as an outmoded work with very little relevance to modern times.

The Anti-Saloon League, rising out of the mists of an uncertain time, had assembled a coalition encompassing Klansmen, Suffragists, Socialists and Preachers focused on a single-minded agenda, but pushing whatever laws it had to along the way to reach its goal. And the road to Prohibition lay through such policy territories as the personal income tax.

Prohibition today is remembered mainly for the quaint scenes of smugglers and lawmen chasing each other on dark roads, speakeasies where liquor made in massive illegal stills was served and the end of national integrity as an age of national hypocrisy was ushered in by wet politicians who voted dry. But Prohibition as a phenomenon matters little compared to the ways in which the campaign to achieve it and then hold on to it transformed the country.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/daniel-greenfield/drinking-for-the-state/2013/01/07/

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