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December 25, 2014 / 3 Tevet, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Politics’

The Post-Obama Democratic Party

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

Two elections ago, the Democratic Party was on the verge of being torn to shreds. After a long series of dirty tricks and one stolen election later, there was an uncomfortable coming together.

Obama and his cronies kept most of the important positions, while the Clintonites got a few pieces of the foreign policy apparatus. The arrangement satisfied no one, but it kept ticking along until the Benghazi attacks happened.

By the time Benghazi happened, Clinton and Obama needed each other more than ever.  Obama needed the Clintons on the campaign trail to sell him to more moderate Democrats who remembered that times had been better under Bill. Hillary needed Obama to anoint her as his intended successor.

The awkward dance, complete with an injury, a congressional hearing and a 60 Minutes interview and then the real fireworks began.

Hillary Clinton had turned lemons into lemonade, getting what she could out of Obama. State had looked like a good spot for her because it would insulate her from the backlash over the economy. And she would have gotten away with it too if it hadn’t been for Benghazi. It wasn’t quite leaving on a high note, but as bad as Benghazi was, no one in their right mind would want to be associated with what is going to happen in Afghanistan. At least no one who isn’t as dumb as Hanoi John who began his career with Viet Cong and Sandinista pandering and will end it watching the Taliban take Kabul.

Benghazi hasn’t slowed Hillary Clinton down. And her target is the same old target from 2008. We’re back in that 3 A.M. phone call territory. The truce between Obama and Hillary Clinton ended on 60 Minutes. It’s not exactly war, but it is politics.

While Obama and his cronies plot out the second term, Hillary Clinton is plotting out her election campaign. These days every presidential campaign begins with the ceremonial burial of your own party’s predecessor. It wasn’t just McCain who kept a careful distance from Bush, Gore kept a careful distance from Clinton and Bush Sr. kept a careful distance from Reagan. The reinvention invariably involves the ritual jettisoning of some portions of your predecessor’s program and personality.

Hillary Clinton isn’t betting on being able to ride Obama’s coattails. Not only are the coattails short, but the same electorate of younger and minority voters whose turnout he could count on, won’t be quite as eager to come out for her. Her people are not betting on Obama’s strategy of dismissing mainstream voters and counting on making it up with a passionate base. To win, Hillary Clinton will have to win back some of the same voters that Obama alienated during his two terms.

The script is already written. You can spot it peeking through select mainstream media editorials. Watch for those instances where mainstream media pundits blame Obama’s inexperience and his failure to reach out across the aisle for his shortcomings. Those mentions aren’t so much an attack on Obama as they are a campaign sign reading, “Hillary 2016.” It’s subtle for now, but a year from now, those grudging admissions that Obama fell short in some areas will come with the strong suggestion that next time around, someone more experienced and more able to build bridges could do better.

Republicans will rightly wonder on which planet, Hillary Clinton is an experienced bipartisan leader. But compared to Obama, she is, and these days we are grading on one very gentle curve. Clinton had begun building that image for the 2008 election and now her people are taking it out and dusting it off again. The Democratic Party is being given the chance to choose the sensible experienced candidate that it failed to choose last time around. And the fact that the candidate in question is actually neither is one of those things that doesn’t really make a difference.

In preparing for a Post-Bush candidacy, Hillary gambled that the public would want someone a little more to the right and so she cultivated an image as a conservative member of the Democratic Party. Not only did she cultivate the image, but she made an occasional effort to vote that way and build those alliances. It was good planning, but a bad bet. Unlike Bill, Hillary was never an instinctual politician. Bill plays it by ear, while Hillary makes long term plans and is caught by surprise.

Amnesty: The Road to Nowhere

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

The Heritage Institute report estimates that under amnesty the average legalized illegal household will take in $43,900 in benefits while paying a little over a third of that in taxes. Those numbers are grim from the standpoint of a tottering economy being asked to take on an even bigger pile of debt and they reveal an even grimmer view of the future.

Set aside the political debates, the tensions over multiculturalism, entitlements and the great political divide and those numbers reek of a country whose only future is poverty.

Subsidized poverty, even if we had the ability to continue subsidizing it forever, is still poverty. A Food Stamp Nation made up of slums full of bodegas and check cashing places does not offer any kind of future. Its only growth industries are in expensive government jobs or cheap service jobs leading to an economy of two tiers; one for workers and another for political workers.

“A report came out recently which showed what most Mexicans had long suspected – there is almost no social mobility in the country whatsoever. If you are born into poverty the chances are very high that you will die poor too,” a BBC report from Mexico concludes.

Now substitute America for Mexico. Imagine a society sharply divided between the working class and the government class where political connections mean more than any single other factor.

The report begins with the daughter of the Federal Attorney General for Consumer Protection shutting down a restaurant because they wouldn’t give her a seat and ends with two wealthy women abusing a police officer by calling him “asalariado” or “wage earner.”

Asalariado is becoming an insult in the United States. And the irony is that amnesty for illegal aliens may complete the process through which the people who came here looking to find opportunities that didn’t exist in Mexico will turn America into Mexico.

America hardly had any class issues because both the rich and the poor worked. A Carnegie or a Rockefeller might be able to buy and sell a thousand ordinary men, but still started out at the bottom of the ladder and never stopped working. To have proper class issues, you need a permanent leisure class to create that gap between those who work and those who do nothing.

In a dynamic economy, a leisure class is largely unsustainable. Inheriting a pile of money and then doing nothing is not likely to end well. But a dynamic economy depends on social mobility. An oligarchy regulates the economy into an impoverished predictability in which there is hardly any social mobility and a permanent leisure class. Its permanence depends not on the economy, but on its control.

Or to put it another way, suppose you have X millions of dollars to invest. Do you look for undervalued companies with a future or companies with political connections? In a dynamic economy, you invest based on merit. In an oligarchy, you invest based on political connections because the idea or the model are mostly worthless. The economy is divided up into spheres of influence carved out by interests and guilds.

In the age of Obama, a smart strategy is to invest in politically connected companies with bad business models and then get out before they go down. Nothing of worth or value will be created. Instead the wealth will circulate within the oligarchy and pay out profits with money harvested from the Asalariados, the suckers still trying to claw their way up instead of phlegmatically accepting their plight and cashing their government checks.

Eventually either the checks will get smaller or the price of milk will get higher. The Asalariados may look like suckers in the short term, but they’re still getting ahead in the long term. The grasshopper may shop for groceries without checking prices while the ant grits his teeth at the cash register, but when the economic freeze comes, it’s the ant who has the skills to survive.

But the oligarchy is designed to keep the ant from climbing too high. The last time the ants climbed too high, feudalism collapsed and gave way to the free enterprise economy, and most of the thinkers of Europe spent centuries trying to figure out how to put everything back into a neatly controllable natural order with lots of farms and lots of cheerful people working on them without complaint.

Obama’s Vision: Government Itself as the American Ideal

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

In his speech at Ohio State University, President Barack Obama used the word “together” four times.

Yet each time he defined the collective endeavor of Americans as merely that of promoting more government. Thus, while trying to turn American history and even the Constitution into precedents for his goals and policies, Obama reverses reality, undermining not only the conservative vision of America but also the historic liberal one.

Normally, a president would speak of the vast array of efforts made “together” to refer—or at least include—non-government activities. That means the actions of voluntarily formed communities, organizations, corporations, charities, religious groups, and trade unions. It is the freedom, energy, and enthusiasm to form such groups that marks American society as unusual in the world.

All those things are actions independent of the government. It was the virtue of American government that it accepted limitations to permit the maximum space for the autonomous action of citizens and groups of citizens. After all, democracy is not defined as the ability to come together to serve the state. On one level, all countries require some such service. But on another level this is the philosophy of the modern ideological dictatorship.

Let’s consider Obama’s four uses of the word “together” to gain better understanding of his ideology:

That’s precisely what the founders left us: the power to adapt to changing times. They left us the keys to a system of self-government – the tool to do big and important things together that we could not possibly do alone. To stretch railroads and electricity and a highway system across a sprawling continent. To educate our people with a system of public schools and land grant colleges, including Ohio State. To care for the sick and the vulnerable, and provide a basic level of protection from falling into abject poverty in the wealthiest nation on Earth. To conquer fascism and disease; to visit the Moon and Mars; to gradually secure our God-given rights for all our citizens, regardless of who they are, what they look like, or who they love.

Here, Obama cleverly cites cases of consensus government action—the public school system, fighting wars, and the space program–in a misleading way. Two side remarks: First, it is significant that Obama doesn’t say, “To conquer fascism and Communism.” Second, whatever one thinks on the issue, Obama’s claim that gay marriage is a “God-given right” is certainly a theological novelty.

But back to the main point. In other words, because minimal or moderate government has achieved great things, Obama illogically argues that maximum government can achieve even greater things despite the contrary evidence of history, including present-day American history. Today, government doesn’t “stretch” railroads; it blocks oil pipelines; it doesn’t promote agriculture, it refuses to give water to California farmers because of a small fish; it cripples coal mining and pumping petroleum.

It is quite true that land was granted by the government in the mid-nineteenth century to make it possible to build railroads and colleges. But once the land was given, the government stepped entirely out of the picture! Giving one item and then getting out of the way—I’m talking here about creation not regulation—is quite different from the government doing these things itself.

In fact, Obama is here stealing credit from private enterprise and turning American history on its head. The same point applies to “conquer…disease” where Obamacare marks a highly questionable extension of government power to hitherto unimaginable heights.

He continues about providing “a basic level of protection,” which is often called the safety net. But the whole point, of course, is that this idea emerged relatively late in American history and was finally enshrined in the New Deal of the 1930s and afterward.

A “basic level of protection,” however, has grown to extraordinary size, far beyond what was envisioned even in the 1960s, to the point that it threatens the sustainability of the economy and of freedoms. We are not talking any more about “abject poverty,” which the American system has made rare. The safety net has been expanded to the point–as in lavish retirement spending on public employees and “poverty” programs that mainly benefit well-paid bureaucrats– that it may be strangling the country. Obama continues:

We, the people, chose to do these things together. Because we know this country cannot accomplish great things if we pursue nothing greater than our own individual ambition.

This is a fascinating piece of propaganda. He begins by citing the Declaration of Independence—coupling himself with the Founders (because he knows this is his opponents’ main argument) and ending with a refutation of capitalism. He counters “we the people,” (the 99 percent, Democrats, those for strengthening the state) against greedy “individual ambition” (the Republicans, capitalists, those who want to keep individual freedom).The founding argument of capitalism, originally made by Adam Smith was that individual ambition could be harnessed for maximum economic progress. Few students in America today are taught to understand how this apparent contradiction has produced the world’s most democratic, prosperous, and stable societies. By Obama’s definition, however, a government bureaucrat cannot be greedy or oppressive.

School Choice, the Government, and You

Saturday, May 4th, 2013

As Jews, we assume a myriad of financial obligations in order to ensure that we live in accordance with the tenets of our faith. We give generously to our shuls and make charitable donations to various organizations that service the Jewish community. But one of the biggest investments we make is in our children’s future, as we enroll them in one of the many quality yeshivas our community boasts.

It is no secret that the cost of yeshiva tuition is of great concern to numerous parents in our community. Often the subject of conversation at Shabbos tables, it is always on the minds of every family with children in yeshiva.

There have been extensive discussions and debates over the years about finding ways to alleviate the financial burden borne by tuition-paying parents. Much of the conversation has focused on the role of government in the business of educating our children. It is an age-old question: Should the government play a part in assisting parents of private and religious school students? More important, is the government permitted to do so?

It is not every day that a courthouse in Middle America takes center stage in the school choice movement. But on March 26, the justices of the Indiana Supreme Court unanimously upheld the state’s progressive voucher program.

The court’s decision rebuffed a 2011 challenge to Indiana’s voucher program brought by the Indiana State Teachers Association. In the court’s decision, Chief Justice Brent Dickson wrote that the voucher program did not violate the constitution because the state monies “do not directly benefit religious schools but rather directly benefit lower-income families with school children.”

This was a monumental decision, in that it provided the state of Indiana with the legal justification necessary to continue its voucher program – one of the most ambitious in the United States. Unlike voucher programs in other states that focus primarily on lower-income families, the Indiana program allows parents with an annual household income of up to $64,000 for a family of four to participate.

By providing lower- and middle-income families with the necessary funds to cover tuition costs, the Indiana voucher program enables them to enroll their children in private schools, as opposed to having to send them to public schools.

Since Indiana established its voucher program in 2011, approximately 9,000 families, most of which chose to educate their children in private schools, have benefited from the program.

The decision to uphold Indiana’s voucher program is somewhat consistent with the progress that recently has been made on the school choice issue across the nation. There are a number of states – including Pennsylvania, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Arizona – that either presently have or are considering the implementation of tax-credit or voucher programs that benefit parents of private school students,

Closer to home, Governor Christie has been supportive of creating a voucher program in New Jersey by allocating state funds in order to enable lower-income families to send their children to private school, if they so choose. In addition, there is a bill pending before the New Jersey State Legislature that would expand the current law in order to permit special needs students to be assigned by their respective school districts to a private religious school, such as a yeshiva.

In New York, Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature recently passed a budget that includes a $14 million increase in funding for non-public schools. That includes a more than 30 percent increase in funding for the Comprehensive Attendance Policy and a boost in state funding for the Mandated Services Reimbursement.

With momentum in the school choice arena perhaps shifting a bit in favor of private school parents, now is the time for our community to become further engaged in the process.

Let us not forget for a moment that powerful teachers’ unions, which typically oppose the utilization of any state funds that would benefit non-public schools in any way, wield a tremendous amount of power in Albany and Trenton and enjoy longstanding relationships with many New York and New Jersey state legislators. Relief for private school parents is not just going to fall into our laps. In order to bring about the aid we as private school parents need and deserve, we must stand up and make our voices heard.

The Real Accomplishment

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

The special relationship between Israel and the U.S. is not a cliché. Polls and in-depth surveys repeatedly show that America relates to Israel positively in the most fundamental way – despite, to the contrary, the tireless efforts of the Jews influencing the New York Times and Haaretz.

We share common values, based on the Bible. America’s Founding Fathers saw their new country as a rebirth of the nation of liberty and its universal message. These common goals should have been the basis for the relationship between Israel and the U.S. “And I will bless those who bless you, and those who curse you shall be cursed,” God says to Abraham. That is the motto of some 80 million American Evangelicals who are convinced that American prosperity is contingent on its significant alliance with Israel. Hardship, they believe, happens when the U.S. takes a stand against Israel.

But instead of reinforcing our status as the eternal People of the Book and the source of American values, we Israelis have chosen to market ourselves as a young nation searching for its place among the established nations and under their patronage. Our relationship with the U.S. has become – through our own volition – a father-son relationship.

American aid, merely 1.5 percent of Israel’s income, is not something Israel really needs. In the long run, it harms us economically, politically and militarily. But our insistence on receiving it stems from a psychological need. When our pocket money continues to roll in from across the ocean, it shows that “Father” is still there and that we are not alone among the nations. When we try to escape from our Father in Heaven, we must look for a weak replica in foreign lands.

This flawed mentality was the source of the “Obamania” that we experienced during President Obama’s recent visit to Israel. Thus, relations that could have been based on shared values were instead based on dependence.

Israel, fleeing its identity and constantly evading open adoption of those common goals, has consistently based its connection with the U.S. on a completely different foundation. The main goal that we touted was our right to self-defense. Instead of the Shrine of the Book and sites that attest to our biblical foundations here in Israel, our honored guests are always taken to the Holocaust Memorial Museum, Yad Vashem. After viewing those horrific images, nobody was supposed to be able to ask any questions. That was good for us; no need to deal with the questions of our identity and the justice of our national existence in this land.

But the Holocaust “lemon” has been completely squeezed out. A new generation has risen in Europe, a generation that is no longer willing to pay for the sins of its predecessors with silence. This generation sees the Palestinians demanding justice as the new Jews, bereft of a homeland, while they view the Israelis who demand security as the new Nazis.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s insistence on restoring the focal point of Obama’s visit from the Holocaust Museum to our deep historical foundations in Israel; his assertive speech in the U.S. in which he explained that Yad Vashem is not the foundation of our existence; rounding out this approach by bringing President Obama to the Shrine of the Book; the explanation that Obama received there that every Israeli child can read what his forefathers wrote here over 2,000 years ago – were, in my opinion, the most important accomplishments of Obama’s visit.

I was in the Channel 2 studio when Professor Shalom Rosenberg of the Shrine of the Book explained to the viewers what the American president was looking at, at that very moment.

“You don’t have a Palestinian scroll to show him?” I asked, unable to withhold my thought. “Not from 1,000 years ago, not from 100 years ago, or less than that. Nothing?”

The professor shifted his weight uncomfortably.

“This is the most important outcome of Obama’s visit and Netanyahu’s major accomplishment,” I said. “It is not about Obama, but first and foremost about Israeli society that has been trained to see Auschwitz as the justification for our existence.”

Who knows? Maybe next time we will take our visiting VIPs to the altar built by Yehoshua bin Nun on Mount Eval just 40 years after the Exodus from Egypt. The Dead Sea Scrolls are certainly important. But our history in this land does not begin 2,000 years ago. It begins more than 3,300 years ago.

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.

One Strike and You’re Out?

Monday, April 29th, 2013

The news over the last few weeks of the sockpuppet scandal of Rabbi Michael Broyde is disturbing, but not for the reasons you might imagine. On the face of it, this is the story of a Rabbi regarded as brilliant and erudite, both in Jewish and secular law, who destroyed his career by using an alias to engage in online Rabbinical conferences and discussions. Furthermore, his denial of the alias sealed his fate. He was forced to resign from the Beth Din of America, where he was one of its most prominent judges, and his name has become sullied.

I do not know Rabbi Broyde and cannot recall if we ever formally met. But I do know this. The growing American and Jewish culture of “one-strike-and-your-out” is tragic and disturbing.

Say a Rabbi like Broyde makes a terrible mistake. He assumes an invented identity on the internet and even uses it – so it is alleged – to promote his candidacy as potential Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom. Does that mean he has nothing left to contribute? That because we discover he can be deceitful that it negates any good thing he may have done? Does he really now have nothing more to teach us? And should this be the end of an otherwise distinguished career?

Whatever happened to the idea of repentance, predicated as it is on the larger idea that a man is not merely the sum total of his most recent actions. That there is something that lies beneath his mistakes, a plane of innocence, into which he can tap in and resume his course on the path of righteousness.

By all accounts Broyde was a pathfinder in areas of Jewish law. By all means, let him be censured and punished for his error. Rabbis must act with ethical excellence. Let us also encourage him to go for counseling so that he can heal from his mistakes. But then let us allow him, should his repentance be complete, to resume his communal offerings and be restored to a position of significance.

New York is right now speculating whether Anthony Weiner will run for Mayor. His poll numbers are growing stronger. That gives me hope. He had a sex scandal where he tweeted pictures of his crotch to women who were strangers. He then denied it and was caught. He paid a huge price, losing his congressional seat and faced public disgrace. I personally have never cared much for Weiner or his politics. I am a Republican and he is a partisan Democrat. But enough is enough. Stop punishing the man. He has suffered enough. Allow him to contribute, now, to the public good and stop reminding him always of his failures. I do not wish to live in a world where a man is only remembered only for his mistakes and never for his virtue.

I am a Jew and as such I am part of a religion that has no perfect Jesus figures. In Judaism no woman is divine and no man is the son of God. In the Hebrew Bible everyone is flawed and everyone makes mistakes. Moses, the greatest prophet that ever lived, was so imperfect that God denied him entry into the Holy Land, the only personal wish the lawgiver ever had. Yet we Jews do not remember him for his errors, but for the glorious deliverance he gave our people from Egypt and for the even more glorious Ten Commandments.

Three years ago I traveled with a Christian evangelical organization to Zimbabwe to distribute food and medicine. In Harare I met three young doctors who were volunteering. They spoke of the difficulties of treating AIDs patients in one of the poorest, most oppressive societies on earth. “But what about medicines?,” I asked them. “Do you have any antiretrovirals?” “Oh,” they said, “those we have in abundance, teeming from the shelves, thanks to the Clinton Global Initiative.” And yet some want to remember the former President just for Monica Lewinsky.

I for one never focused my ire on President Clinton for his sex scandal and saw it more as a sad and private matter. I was much more interested in his failure to stop the Rwandan Genocide and I am pleased to see that he is attempting to repent of that monumental failure with his focus on saving as many African lives as possible.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/america-rabbi-shmuley-boteach/one-strike-and-youre-out/2013/04/29/

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