Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 26, 2009

Commentary of the Day

ian, on Abe Greenwald:

The essential point is that the cartoon was based on bogus allegations of war crimes and atrocities, the type of atrocity mongering that always travels in a single direction in this conflict. It is instructive to witness how the extreme demonization of Israel opens the door more and more to rhetoric and motifs that relect traditional anti-Semitism, and how this demonization has facilitated the erosion of moral prohibitions that arose due to revulsion against Nazi era atrocities. Of course revulsion is not understanding, and it is not a permanent condition. The cartoonist did not find inspiration for his work in some deliberately crankish rag, but in the most conventional of mass media outlets. His viewpoint was merely what the conventional wisdom deemed proper. Prominent organs of the news media ran these allegations without the slightest reservation or even rudimentary fact checking, and without a scintilla of concern about the extraordinary selective outrage being piled on to fabricated atrocity. The truth didn’t matter at all; instead the narrative was again paramount. It was a narrative pushed with remarkable moral self-satisfaction, as if above the fold denunciation of a democracy for what remained at worst aberrant behavior among individuals was more courageous than wholesale disregard for programmatic abuses by a terrorist regime. It is a remarkable perversion of moral sensibility. And so in condemning false outrages, real outrages are committed.

ian, on Abe Greenwald:

The essential point is that the cartoon was based on bogus allegations of war crimes and atrocities, the type of atrocity mongering that always travels in a single direction in this conflict. It is instructive to witness how the extreme demonization of Israel opens the door more and more to rhetoric and motifs that relect traditional anti-Semitism, and how this demonization has facilitated the erosion of moral prohibitions that arose due to revulsion against Nazi era atrocities. Of course revulsion is not understanding, and it is not a permanent condition. The cartoonist did not find inspiration for his work in some deliberately crankish rag, but in the most conventional of mass media outlets. His viewpoint was merely what the conventional wisdom deemed proper. Prominent organs of the news media ran these allegations without the slightest reservation or even rudimentary fact checking, and without a scintilla of concern about the extraordinary selective outrage being piled on to fabricated atrocity. The truth didn’t matter at all; instead the narrative was again paramount. It was a narrative pushed with remarkable moral self-satisfaction, as if above the fold denunciation of a democracy for what remained at worst aberrant behavior among individuals was more courageous than wholesale disregard for programmatic abuses by a terrorist regime. It is a remarkable perversion of moral sensibility. And so in condemning false outrages, real outrages are committed.

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When Do We Start Saving Jobs?

The job numbers remain grim:

Showing the labor market’s considerable strain, the number of people collecting state unemployment benefits reached yet another new record, jumping 122,000 to a seasonally adjusted 5.56 million, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The four-week average of these claims rose 123,750 to stand at 5.33 million — in itself a record high since the U.S. began compiling these statistics — also as of the week ended March 14.

And for the week ended March 21, first-time claims for benefits rose 8,000 to 652,000, a level that’s fully 78% higher than the same period in the prior year. The four-week average of these initial claims fell 1,000 to 649,000.

The claims report shows that businesses are laying off workers at a rapid pace and that finding replacement employment for those people out of work is ever harder. Initial claims represent job destruction, while the level of continuing claims indicates how hard or easy it is for displaced workers to find new jobs.

Consumer spending has led to economic recovery in the past, but so long as jobs continue bleeding out people will likely not be spending much. And however generous the government housing bailouts may be, unemployed people generally can’t make their mortgage payments.

It is peculiar in the extreme that the Obama team has focused so little on jobs and job creation. Yes, they have an ever-shifting made-up number of jobs to be “saved” by the stimulus, but with so much spending allocated beyond the first eighteen months, we aren’t getting much bang for our billions.

Moreover, the president rejected ideas that might have halted job losses immediately – e.g., a payroll tax cut. (On the contrary, Democrats have been pushing items like card check that scare off jobs.)

All of this has budgetary ramifications (i.e., higher unemployment means great expenditures and reduced revenues) and political ones. The president can concoct whatever silly estimate he wants about “creating or saving” jobs, but if unemployment hits double digits Americans are going to conclude that his stimulus is a failure. Pity the poor incumbents in state and federal races, either in 2009 or 2010, who have to defend a record of rising unemployment.

And then, of course, there is the populism problem. The public-private toxic asset-plan will make some hedge-fund managers extremely wealthy. Try explaining that to someone who’s been unemployed for a year.

Perhaps if the president had incorporated some of his critics’ ideas, the prospects of job creation might be less bleak today. At the very least, he would have some cover. Now he and the Democrats own the jobs outlook. They better hope it brightens.

The job numbers remain grim:

Showing the labor market’s considerable strain, the number of people collecting state unemployment benefits reached yet another new record, jumping 122,000 to a seasonally adjusted 5.56 million, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The four-week average of these claims rose 123,750 to stand at 5.33 million — in itself a record high since the U.S. began compiling these statistics — also as of the week ended March 14.

And for the week ended March 21, first-time claims for benefits rose 8,000 to 652,000, a level that’s fully 78% higher than the same period in the prior year. The four-week average of these initial claims fell 1,000 to 649,000.

The claims report shows that businesses are laying off workers at a rapid pace and that finding replacement employment for those people out of work is ever harder. Initial claims represent job destruction, while the level of continuing claims indicates how hard or easy it is for displaced workers to find new jobs.

Consumer spending has led to economic recovery in the past, but so long as jobs continue bleeding out people will likely not be spending much. And however generous the government housing bailouts may be, unemployed people generally can’t make their mortgage payments.

It is peculiar in the extreme that the Obama team has focused so little on jobs and job creation. Yes, they have an ever-shifting made-up number of jobs to be “saved” by the stimulus, but with so much spending allocated beyond the first eighteen months, we aren’t getting much bang for our billions.

Moreover, the president rejected ideas that might have halted job losses immediately – e.g., a payroll tax cut. (On the contrary, Democrats have been pushing items like card check that scare off jobs.)

All of this has budgetary ramifications (i.e., higher unemployment means great expenditures and reduced revenues) and political ones. The president can concoct whatever silly estimate he wants about “creating or saving” jobs, but if unemployment hits double digits Americans are going to conclude that his stimulus is a failure. Pity the poor incumbents in state and federal races, either in 2009 or 2010, who have to defend a record of rising unemployment.

And then, of course, there is the populism problem. The public-private toxic asset-plan will make some hedge-fund managers extremely wealthy. Try explaining that to someone who’s been unemployed for a year.

Perhaps if the president had incorporated some of his critics’ ideas, the prospects of job creation might be less bleak today. At the very least, he would have some cover. Now he and the Democrats own the jobs outlook. They better hope it brightens.

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Where Does It End?

Remember the howls from Democrats about politicizing the permanent civil service? They strung up poor Lurita Doan at GAO for allowing a government office to be used for a presentation on polling data and encouraging employees to “help our candidate.” But let’s see what the Obama administration is up to. We have this report:

Not 12 months ago, Democrats on Capitol Hill were screaming for the Justice Department to minimize public exposure to a half-dozen or so authorized high-level officials. Too much politicization, they claimed.

“Change has come to Justice,” says a Justice Department lawyer. “Now the Executive Office of the President is directly soliciting … Justice to provide volunteers to run the White House Easter Egg Roll. You can’t make this stuff up.

Then we have this:

[A]n e-mail and flyer recently circulated to Justice Department employees indicate Attorney General Holder has an interesting definition of what it means to be “less political.” The flyer invites all employees to attend a speech in the main Justice building on Pennsylvania Avenue. In fact, it notes, all “[s]upervisors are encouraged to grant official time to employees to attend this event.”

And what pillar of the legal profession will be lecturing Justice employees to help them “serve justice” in a “less political” way? Why, none other than Donna Brazile, whose own website biography describes her as a “[v]eteran Democratic political strategist” and a Vice Chairman at the Democratic National Committee.” Brazile is marketed by more than one speaker’s bureau at a cost ranging from $10,000 to $20,000. The flyer doesn’t say how many taxpayer dollars are going to pay a Democratic political consultant to speak to career employees at the Justice Department (sounds like a good FOIA request). Good thing the Department is no longer politicized.

Now you have the DNC and Organizing America blasting out invitations to essentially pack the White House’s online town-hall. The online town-hall is supposedly an official government event, not a campaign stunt.

That seems to be the rub: You can’t tell where the government ends and the perpetual campaign begins. The same crowd that rose up in horror when the Bush Justice Department wanted to hire attorneys who agreed with the president’s judicial philosophy is now using every lever of government to keep the campaign going and going.

Remember the howls from Democrats about politicizing the permanent civil service? They strung up poor Lurita Doan at GAO for allowing a government office to be used for a presentation on polling data and encouraging employees to “help our candidate.” But let’s see what the Obama administration is up to. We have this report:

Not 12 months ago, Democrats on Capitol Hill were screaming for the Justice Department to minimize public exposure to a half-dozen or so authorized high-level officials. Too much politicization, they claimed.

“Change has come to Justice,” says a Justice Department lawyer. “Now the Executive Office of the President is directly soliciting … Justice to provide volunteers to run the White House Easter Egg Roll. You can’t make this stuff up.

Then we have this:

[A]n e-mail and flyer recently circulated to Justice Department employees indicate Attorney General Holder has an interesting definition of what it means to be “less political.” The flyer invites all employees to attend a speech in the main Justice building on Pennsylvania Avenue. In fact, it notes, all “[s]upervisors are encouraged to grant official time to employees to attend this event.”

And what pillar of the legal profession will be lecturing Justice employees to help them “serve justice” in a “less political” way? Why, none other than Donna Brazile, whose own website biography describes her as a “[v]eteran Democratic political strategist” and a Vice Chairman at the Democratic National Committee.” Brazile is marketed by more than one speaker’s bureau at a cost ranging from $10,000 to $20,000. The flyer doesn’t say how many taxpayer dollars are going to pay a Democratic political consultant to speak to career employees at the Justice Department (sounds like a good FOIA request). Good thing the Department is no longer politicized.

Now you have the DNC and Organizing America blasting out invitations to essentially pack the White House’s online town-hall. The online town-hall is supposedly an official government event, not a campaign stunt.

That seems to be the rub: You can’t tell where the government ends and the perpetual campaign begins. The same crowd that rose up in horror when the Bush Justice Department wanted to hire attorneys who agreed with the president’s judicial philosophy is now using every lever of government to keep the campaign going and going.

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Olmert’s Not Shy on Sudan

In the twilight of Olmert’s era, unconfirmed reports claiming Israel attacked something somewhere have become commonplace: today it’s about an Iranian convoy on the way to Gaza from Sudan, just as two and a half years ago it was about a mysterious nuclear installation in Syria.

The report quoted unidentified American officials as saying that in January, Israeli warplanes bombed a convoy of trucks carrying arms destined for Hamas through Sudan.

While Israel doesn’t tend to officially confirm such stories, Olmert is tempted to take credit now more than ever. In the Syria case, he along with Israel’s leadership displayed admirable self-restraint in keeping the mission’s details to themselves. The urge to speak is stronger with Sudan:

Israel operates wherever it is possible to harm terror infrastructure in a way that increases our deterrence,” outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Thursday amid reports that in January, a weapons convoy in Sudan that was carrying weapons intended for Hamas was struck by the Israeli Air Force.

One factor easing up the need for secrecy may be that Sudanese retaliation is out of the question; publicly speaking about the event cannot lead to irresponsible consequences. Another factor may be Olmert fretting over his legacy, wanting Israelis to remember him more charitably than as the prime minister of corruption, one failed war, and another inconclusive war.

In the twilight of Olmert’s era, unconfirmed reports claiming Israel attacked something somewhere have become commonplace: today it’s about an Iranian convoy on the way to Gaza from Sudan, just as two and a half years ago it was about a mysterious nuclear installation in Syria.

The report quoted unidentified American officials as saying that in January, Israeli warplanes bombed a convoy of trucks carrying arms destined for Hamas through Sudan.

While Israel doesn’t tend to officially confirm such stories, Olmert is tempted to take credit now more than ever. In the Syria case, he along with Israel’s leadership displayed admirable self-restraint in keeping the mission’s details to themselves. The urge to speak is stronger with Sudan:

Israel operates wherever it is possible to harm terror infrastructure in a way that increases our deterrence,” outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Thursday amid reports that in January, a weapons convoy in Sudan that was carrying weapons intended for Hamas was struck by the Israeli Air Force.

One factor easing up the need for secrecy may be that Sudanese retaliation is out of the question; publicly speaking about the event cannot lead to irresponsible consequences. Another factor may be Olmert fretting over his legacy, wanting Israelis to remember him more charitably than as the prime minister of corruption, one failed war, and another inconclusive war.

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Unabashed Anti-Semitism

Today’s Washington Post runs a Pat Oliphant cartoon portraying the state of Israel as a headless jackbooted soldier, marching with sword thrust forward, and pushing a Star of David whose shark’s mouth is gaining on a Gazan mother and child.

To call the Washington Post’s decision to run unadulterated Nazi-inspired anti-Semitism a crisis of judgment is to relegate the incident to a headline-grabbing class of occasional sensitivity lapses. To speak of apologies, hurt feelings, and free speech is to invite “debate” where there is no moral ambiguity. To contextualize by adducing Oliphant’s previous forays into sensation is to miss the point entirely. The cartoon can only be understood as heralding a new popular acceptance of Jew-hatred: the capstone of all that talk about anti-Semitism being “on the rise around the world.”

The acceptance of anti-Semitism moves quickly, in tandem with the ambitions of anti-Semites. Today in America, this means a new forum where a number of hate-filled isolationists can collude with self-righteous liberals to erase entirely the line between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitic fervor. Until recently, suspect critics of Israel made an effort (however unconvincing) to draw distinctions between their objections to Israeli policy and rank Jew-hatred. The cartoon in today’s Washington Post aspires to unify the two phenomena for all to see.

Today’s Washington Post runs a Pat Oliphant cartoon portraying the state of Israel as a headless jackbooted soldier, marching with sword thrust forward, and pushing a Star of David whose shark’s mouth is gaining on a Gazan mother and child.

To call the Washington Post’s decision to run unadulterated Nazi-inspired anti-Semitism a crisis of judgment is to relegate the incident to a headline-grabbing class of occasional sensitivity lapses. To speak of apologies, hurt feelings, and free speech is to invite “debate” where there is no moral ambiguity. To contextualize by adducing Oliphant’s previous forays into sensation is to miss the point entirely. The cartoon can only be understood as heralding a new popular acceptance of Jew-hatred: the capstone of all that talk about anti-Semitism being “on the rise around the world.”

The acceptance of anti-Semitism moves quickly, in tandem with the ambitions of anti-Semites. Today in America, this means a new forum where a number of hate-filled isolationists can collude with self-righteous liberals to erase entirely the line between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitic fervor. Until recently, suspect critics of Israel made an effort (however unconvincing) to draw distinctions between their objections to Israeli policy and rank Jew-hatred. The cartoon in today’s Washington Post aspires to unify the two phenomena for all to see.

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Two Narratives, Only One Winner

Karl Rove examines the president’s claim of fiscal responsibility:

The CBO says deficits will fall for three years to $658 billion, still nearly 50% larger than any past deficit. After that, deficits go back up every year, reaching the trillion-dollar a year mark again in nine years. By 2019, the debt would reach 82.4% of GDP, a level not seen since 1947. With astonishing candor, even Peter Orszag, the president’s budget director conceded these levels of deficits and debt are “unsustainable.”

Federal spending will under Mr. Obama top $4 trillion this year. This translates into 28.5% of GDP — a level exceeded only at the height of World War II. According to the president’s plans, spending will thereafter slow for three years, but then grow faster than the economy for the next seven years and beyond. Spending rises by $3.1 trillion from 2009-19, including $911 billion for legislation signed during his first two months in office, including the stimulus bill and the expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (and not including interest on the mushrooming debt). Mr. Obama is violating every tenet of his promise “to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day.”

Rove argues that both the dilemma for Obama and the suggested political course for his opposition resides in those staggering figures. If Americans are troubled not just about $165M in AIG bonuses but trillions in bailouts, debt, and the taxes planned to try to offset both, then the Democrats face political danger. And whoever opposes such government largess — be it Republicans or Blue Dog Democrats — will emerge as the political survivors.

Now perhaps the economy will snap back, unemployment will plummet, the bailouts will all succeed (allowing the ailing companies to get off the public dole), tax revenues will soar and the budget will come back into realignment. That would indeed be pulling the ultimate inside straight. But such scenario seems a tad unlikely given the rising unemployment levels, slowed growth, looming deficits, a devaluated dollar, and a culture of bailout and uber-regulation (which strangles and discourages investment). It is that latter scenario that has Republicans and many Red state Democrats exercised.

We’ll know soon enough which economic narrative is correct — and, accordingly, who the political winners and losers will be.

Karl Rove examines the president’s claim of fiscal responsibility:

The CBO says deficits will fall for three years to $658 billion, still nearly 50% larger than any past deficit. After that, deficits go back up every year, reaching the trillion-dollar a year mark again in nine years. By 2019, the debt would reach 82.4% of GDP, a level not seen since 1947. With astonishing candor, even Peter Orszag, the president’s budget director conceded these levels of deficits and debt are “unsustainable.”

Federal spending will under Mr. Obama top $4 trillion this year. This translates into 28.5% of GDP — a level exceeded only at the height of World War II. According to the president’s plans, spending will thereafter slow for three years, but then grow faster than the economy for the next seven years and beyond. Spending rises by $3.1 trillion from 2009-19, including $911 billion for legislation signed during his first two months in office, including the stimulus bill and the expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (and not including interest on the mushrooming debt). Mr. Obama is violating every tenet of his promise “to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day.”

Rove argues that both the dilemma for Obama and the suggested political course for his opposition resides in those staggering figures. If Americans are troubled not just about $165M in AIG bonuses but trillions in bailouts, debt, and the taxes planned to try to offset both, then the Democrats face political danger. And whoever opposes such government largess — be it Republicans or Blue Dog Democrats — will emerge as the political survivors.

Now perhaps the economy will snap back, unemployment will plummet, the bailouts will all succeed (allowing the ailing companies to get off the public dole), tax revenues will soar and the budget will come back into realignment. That would indeed be pulling the ultimate inside straight. But such scenario seems a tad unlikely given the rising unemployment levels, slowed growth, looming deficits, a devaluated dollar, and a culture of bailout and uber-regulation (which strangles and discourages investment). It is that latter scenario that has Republicans and many Red state Democrats exercised.

We’ll know soon enough which economic narrative is correct — and, accordingly, who the political winners and losers will be.

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A War by Any Other Name . . .

Yet another sign that, when it comes to national-security policy, the Obama administration is more interested in changing the labeling rather than the substance of Bush administration policy:

The Obama administration is moving to solidify one of the most significant shifts of resources put into place under President George W. Bush: the transformation of the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation into agencies where the top priority is counterterrorism rather than conventional law enforcement.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and other Justice Department officials have emphasized that they will not cut resources allocated to national security in the foreseeable future, and the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert S. Mueller III, told lawmakers on Wednesday that “we have no intention of retreating from preventing a terrorist attack on American soil as our No. 1 priority.”

This is leading to a situation where we are still fighting, but not a “war” — it’s an “overseas contingency operation” now — and our enemies are not “combatants,” but we still have the authority to hold them without criminal charges. It’s all slightly absurd but better this rhetorical sleight-of-hand than a real change of policy that would seriously endanger U.S. security. This is change even hawks can believe in.

Yet another sign that, when it comes to national-security policy, the Obama administration is more interested in changing the labeling rather than the substance of Bush administration policy:

The Obama administration is moving to solidify one of the most significant shifts of resources put into place under President George W. Bush: the transformation of the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation into agencies where the top priority is counterterrorism rather than conventional law enforcement.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and other Justice Department officials have emphasized that they will not cut resources allocated to national security in the foreseeable future, and the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert S. Mueller III, told lawmakers on Wednesday that “we have no intention of retreating from preventing a terrorist attack on American soil as our No. 1 priority.”

This is leading to a situation where we are still fighting, but not a “war” — it’s an “overseas contingency operation” now — and our enemies are not “combatants,” but we still have the authority to hold them without criminal charges. It’s all slightly absurd but better this rhetorical sleight-of-hand than a real change of policy that would seriously endanger U.S. security. This is change even hawks can believe in.

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Clinton, Drugs, and Clinton

A story in Reuters is headlined, “U.S. to blame for much of Mexico violence: Clinton.”

According to Secretary of State Clinton, “Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade. Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the death of police officers, soldiers and civilians. I feel very strongly we have a co-responsibility.”

Let’s stipulate that drug use in America is a factor in what is happening in Mexico, even as we stipulate that Mexico is largely responsible for what happens within its own borders. Perhaps it’s worth pointing out, then, that under Republican presidencies — Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush — drug use went down significantly (drug use dropped among high school seniors every year from 1985 through 1992). And during the Clinton presidency, drug use went up. Under President Clinton’s watch, more than 50 percent of our high school seniors experimented with illegal drugs at least once prior to graduation.

When President George W. Bush took office, drug use among high-school aged teens was at near all-time highs. Methamphetamine labs were proliferating and drugs were flowing into the country at an alarming rate. This was in large measure the result of the Clinton years and the Clinton policies. During the Bush presidency, illegal drug use by American teens dropped by 25 percent (and methamphetamine use dropped by 50 percent). Significant progress reduced the demand for and availability of illegal drugs in the United States.

So perhaps Mrs. Clinton shouldn’t blame the U.S. so much as she should blame political leadership on the drug issue — and save a spot at the top of the list for her husband. In order to make Secretary Clinton’s life easier — and life for both Americans and Mexicans better — let’s hope that President Obama follows the lead of his predecessor.

A story in Reuters is headlined, “U.S. to blame for much of Mexico violence: Clinton.”

According to Secretary of State Clinton, “Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade. Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the death of police officers, soldiers and civilians. I feel very strongly we have a co-responsibility.”

Let’s stipulate that drug use in America is a factor in what is happening in Mexico, even as we stipulate that Mexico is largely responsible for what happens within its own borders. Perhaps it’s worth pointing out, then, that under Republican presidencies — Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush — drug use went down significantly (drug use dropped among high school seniors every year from 1985 through 1992). And during the Clinton presidency, drug use went up. Under President Clinton’s watch, more than 50 percent of our high school seniors experimented with illegal drugs at least once prior to graduation.

When President George W. Bush took office, drug use among high-school aged teens was at near all-time highs. Methamphetamine labs were proliferating and drugs were flowing into the country at an alarming rate. This was in large measure the result of the Clinton years and the Clinton policies. During the Bush presidency, illegal drug use by American teens dropped by 25 percent (and methamphetamine use dropped by 50 percent). Significant progress reduced the demand for and availability of illegal drugs in the United States.

So perhaps Mrs. Clinton shouldn’t blame the U.S. so much as she should blame political leadership on the drug issue — and save a spot at the top of the list for her husband. In order to make Secretary Clinton’s life easier — and life for both Americans and Mexicans better — let’s hope that President Obama follows the lead of his predecessor.

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COMMENTARY on C-SPAN

This past Monday, COMMENTARY hosted a discussion in New York City on the subject of the future of conservatism and the conservative magazine. I was one of the panelists; the other two were William Kristol of the Weekly Standard and Jonah Goldberg of National Review. Our conversation will be airing this coming Saturday night, March 28, at 8 pm Eastern time on C-SPAN.

This past Monday, COMMENTARY hosted a discussion in New York City on the subject of the future of conservatism and the conservative magazine. I was one of the panelists; the other two were William Kristol of the Weekly Standard and Jonah Goldberg of National Review. Our conversation will be airing this coming Saturday night, March 28, at 8 pm Eastern time on C-SPAN.

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The Fruits of Persistence

North Korea is continuing preparations to launch a long-range Taepodong-2 missile within days to weeks — a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered, “We have made it very clear that the North Koreans pursue this pathway at a cost and with consequences to the six-party talks, which we would like to see revived.” Sure, just look how much those talks have accomplished.

The State Department needs to come to grips with a frustrating reality. Talks with the Kim regime have occurred as a parallel spectacle to, not a conditional aspect of, North Korea’s weapons programs. State might just as well have spent decades engaging Pyongang on Prokofiev’s technique of chromatic displacement or on the future of arena football for all the good that talking has done.

For years, onlookers have suggested that North Korea uses empty bluster as a negotiating technique. As we see from the current status of things, the onlookers were wrong. North Korea uses empty negotiation as a legitimizing technique while it builds the weapons to back up its bluster. If, in the process, Pyongyang can stumble upon a Jimmy Carter to cough up some light water reactors, all the better. With President Obama’s penchant for diplomacy well established, and on the heels of his ode to persistence, we now confront dangerous evidence of the U.S.’s most persistent diplomatic failure.

In defense of persistence, and as a means of delaying disappointment, Obama likes to refer to the U.S. as an ocean liner. It’s not a speedboat, he suggests. Changes in direction will be slow, incremental affairs. That’s great rhetoric, but we are no longer in the land of metaphor. The American vessels Obama now finds himself stuck with are warships; two of them, equipped with anti-missile technology are heading toward the coast of Japan. Let’s hope their mere presence can accomplish what decades of engagement failed to achieve. That is: something.

UPDATE: Smart power to the rescue. “The United States has no plans to shoot down the North Korean rocket, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday in an interview with CNN’s Jill Dougherty, but will raise the issue with the U.N. Security Council if Pyongyang carries out a launch.” By extinguishing the mere threat of action Hillary has given North Korea the full American go-ahead. We’re just spectators now.

North Korea is continuing preparations to launch a long-range Taepodong-2 missile within days to weeks — a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered, “We have made it very clear that the North Koreans pursue this pathway at a cost and with consequences to the six-party talks, which we would like to see revived.” Sure, just look how much those talks have accomplished.

The State Department needs to come to grips with a frustrating reality. Talks with the Kim regime have occurred as a parallel spectacle to, not a conditional aspect of, North Korea’s weapons programs. State might just as well have spent decades engaging Pyongang on Prokofiev’s technique of chromatic displacement or on the future of arena football for all the good that talking has done.

For years, onlookers have suggested that North Korea uses empty bluster as a negotiating technique. As we see from the current status of things, the onlookers were wrong. North Korea uses empty negotiation as a legitimizing technique while it builds the weapons to back up its bluster. If, in the process, Pyongyang can stumble upon a Jimmy Carter to cough up some light water reactors, all the better. With President Obama’s penchant for diplomacy well established, and on the heels of his ode to persistence, we now confront dangerous evidence of the U.S.’s most persistent diplomatic failure.

In defense of persistence, and as a means of delaying disappointment, Obama likes to refer to the U.S. as an ocean liner. It’s not a speedboat, he suggests. Changes in direction will be slow, incremental affairs. That’s great rhetoric, but we are no longer in the land of metaphor. The American vessels Obama now finds himself stuck with are warships; two of them, equipped with anti-missile technology are heading toward the coast of Japan. Let’s hope their mere presence can accomplish what decades of engagement failed to achieve. That is: something.

UPDATE: Smart power to the rescue. “The United States has no plans to shoot down the North Korean rocket, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday in an interview with CNN’s Jill Dougherty, but will raise the issue with the U.N. Security Council if Pyongyang carries out a launch.” By extinguishing the mere threat of action Hillary has given North Korea the full American go-ahead. We’re just spectators now.

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Hard to Steer from the Far Left

In a sly bit of “reporting” the New York Times explains that the president is having trouble getting his own party on board because the Democrats are so darn successful:

As a party expands its ideological and geographic reach, as the Democrats have in the last two elections, it becomes harder to hold together, forcing its leaders to spend time papering over internal differences even as they confront a smaller but more unified opposition.
Faced with just such a challenge, the White House unleashed a broad offensive on Wednesday, a mix of muscle and negotiation, in an effort to contain the varying viewpoints within the Democratic Party, split the difference and move forward.

But don’t the president’s current woes have a tiny bit to do with the fact that he is governing from the far left, rather than the center — of his own party? And maybe it has something to do with the fact that, as Bill Clinton’s former OMB Director Alice Rivlin candidly offered, Obama sent up a budget which “raise[s] deficits to unsustainable levels well after the economy recovers.”

And Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad echoes those same themes, in terms very similar to Republicans’ recent criticisms:

When asked if floods during a blizzard seemed like a metaphor for the budget situation in Washington, the Democrat replied, “Yes, it’s my worst nightmare.”

As chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Conrad is one of the first lawmakers to handle President Obama’s proposed $3.6 trillion budget — which carries trillions of dollars in projected deficits in the coming years. He says he wants to bring that budget under control.

“I believe very strongly that debts at the levels that are being projected now run very serious risks for this country,” he says.

.   .    .

“We know the history. Governments can inflate their way out of debt, but that has consequences, doesn’t it?” Conrad says. “What is a real threat is a precipitous decline in the value of the dollar and the threat that would pose to the economic security of the country.”

It’s hard to imagine that if the president had left out the clunkers (e.g. cap-and-trade) and had actually gone line-by-line through the budget to control spending and debt that he wouldn’t have the lion’s share of his own party’s support  — and maybe even a chunk of the Republican caucus.

You see, it’s not that the Democrats are just so diverse. It’s that the budget is just so extreme and huge. The latter is what the Red state Democrats, albeit politely, are telling the president. Perhaps he should listen. Otherwise, he might risk not having as many of them around after the 2010 election.

In a sly bit of “reporting” the New York Times explains that the president is having trouble getting his own party on board because the Democrats are so darn successful:

As a party expands its ideological and geographic reach, as the Democrats have in the last two elections, it becomes harder to hold together, forcing its leaders to spend time papering over internal differences even as they confront a smaller but more unified opposition.
Faced with just such a challenge, the White House unleashed a broad offensive on Wednesday, a mix of muscle and negotiation, in an effort to contain the varying viewpoints within the Democratic Party, split the difference and move forward.

But don’t the president’s current woes have a tiny bit to do with the fact that he is governing from the far left, rather than the center — of his own party? And maybe it has something to do with the fact that, as Bill Clinton’s former OMB Director Alice Rivlin candidly offered, Obama sent up a budget which “raise[s] deficits to unsustainable levels well after the economy recovers.”

And Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad echoes those same themes, in terms very similar to Republicans’ recent criticisms:

When asked if floods during a blizzard seemed like a metaphor for the budget situation in Washington, the Democrat replied, “Yes, it’s my worst nightmare.”

As chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Conrad is one of the first lawmakers to handle President Obama’s proposed $3.6 trillion budget — which carries trillions of dollars in projected deficits in the coming years. He says he wants to bring that budget under control.

“I believe very strongly that debts at the levels that are being projected now run very serious risks for this country,” he says.

.   .    .

“We know the history. Governments can inflate their way out of debt, but that has consequences, doesn’t it?” Conrad says. “What is a real threat is a precipitous decline in the value of the dollar and the threat that would pose to the economic security of the country.”

It’s hard to imagine that if the president had left out the clunkers (e.g. cap-and-trade) and had actually gone line-by-line through the budget to control spending and debt that he wouldn’t have the lion’s share of his own party’s support  — and maybe even a chunk of the Republican caucus.

You see, it’s not that the Democrats are just so diverse. It’s that the budget is just so extreme and huge. The latter is what the Red state Democrats, albeit politely, are telling the president. Perhaps he should listen. Otherwise, he might risk not having as many of them around after the 2010 election.

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Reminiscent of Disasters Past

From this morning’s Wall Street Journal:

President Barack Obama last month handed his auto-industry team a seemingly impossible task: to engineer the most complicated industrial restructuring ever attempted by the federal government, and to do it fast.

With almost no experience in the car business, the team’s dozen core members have undergone a crash course in the myriad woes plaguing the U.S. auto industry. Within days, just over a month after setting to
work, they’ll begin announcing decisions.

Why does this remind me of Jerry Bremer & gang trying to “re-engineer” Iraq — a subject they knew almost nothing about — in a matter of weeks? We can only hope the consequences aren’t quite as disastrous in this case. At least the U.S. auto industry, circa 2009, isn’t quite as badly messed up as the state of Iraq, circa 2003. But it’s getting there.

From this morning’s Wall Street Journal:

President Barack Obama last month handed his auto-industry team a seemingly impossible task: to engineer the most complicated industrial restructuring ever attempted by the federal government, and to do it fast.

With almost no experience in the car business, the team’s dozen core members have undergone a crash course in the myriad woes plaguing the U.S. auto industry. Within days, just over a month after setting to
work, they’ll begin announcing decisions.

Why does this remind me of Jerry Bremer & gang trying to “re-engineer” Iraq — a subject they knew almost nothing about — in a matter of weeks? We can only hope the consequences aren’t quite as disastrous in this case. At least the U.S. auto industry, circa 2009, isn’t quite as badly messed up as the state of Iraq, circa 2003. But it’s getting there.

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The Flim-Flam

Smart people differ on how successful Tim Geithner’s private-public plan for cleaning out the banks’ toxic assets will be. Will banks refuse to sell unless guaranteed a minimum price? Will the problem of evaluating these assets doom the process? We’ll have to see. But one thing is clear: this is not a very good deal, and certainly not a transparent one for taxpayers. Jeffrey Sachs explains:

T he Geithner-Summers plan, officially called the public/private investment programme, is a thinly veiled attempt to transfer up to hundreds of billions of dollars of US taxpayer funds to the commercial banks, by buying toxic assets from the banks at far above their market value. It is dressed up as a market transaction but that is a fig-leaf, since the government will put in 90 per cent or more of the funds and the “price discovery” process is not genuine. It is no surprise that stock market capitalisation of the banks has risen about 50 per cent from the lows of two weeks ago. Taxpayers are the losers, even as they stand on the sidelines cheering the rise of the stock market. It is their money fuelling the rally, yet the banks are the beneficiaries.

Why all this subterfuge (“flim-flam” Sachs calls it)? You think it would be easier and more honest simply to ask Congress for the money to buy the assets outright. That’s what the original TARP was all about, undisguised by this intricate web of taxpayer subsidies. But there’s the rub. Sachs argues:

Tim Geithner, Treasury secretary, and Lawrence Summers, director of the White House national economic council, suspect that they cannot go back to Congress to fund their plan and so are raiding the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the remaining Tarp funds, hoping that there will be little public understanding and little or no congressional scrutiny. This is an inappropriate institutional use of the Fed, the FDIC and the Tarp. Mr Geithner and Mr Summers should at the very least explain the true risks of large losses by the government under their plan. Then, a properly informed Congress and public could decide whether to adopt this plan or some better alternative.

So to avoid the overwhelming popular objection to perpetual bailouts and expenditures, the Obama administration will do this all “off budget” and with no hearings, Congressional debates, or votes. Not very transparent and quite imperious, when you get right down to it.

Now imagine a Republican President wanted to run a massive subsidy for financial institutions with no Congressional oversight or appropriation. You’d hear populist howls, not to mention the complaints about the executive branch run amok. Come to think of it, that’s pretty much how the entire financial recovery and bailout operation is being conducted — with no Congressional appropriation of funds, no checks and balances, and no taxpayer guarantees. (Yes, George W. Bush started this with the car bailouts, to which some of us objected strenuously on just this basis.)

It might all “work” (or not — who knows?), but at what price — monetarily and Constitutionally?

Smart people differ on how successful Tim Geithner’s private-public plan for cleaning out the banks’ toxic assets will be. Will banks refuse to sell unless guaranteed a minimum price? Will the problem of evaluating these assets doom the process? We’ll have to see. But one thing is clear: this is not a very good deal, and certainly not a transparent one for taxpayers. Jeffrey Sachs explains:

T he Geithner-Summers plan, officially called the public/private investment programme, is a thinly veiled attempt to transfer up to hundreds of billions of dollars of US taxpayer funds to the commercial banks, by buying toxic assets from the banks at far above their market value. It is dressed up as a market transaction but that is a fig-leaf, since the government will put in 90 per cent or more of the funds and the “price discovery” process is not genuine. It is no surprise that stock market capitalisation of the banks has risen about 50 per cent from the lows of two weeks ago. Taxpayers are the losers, even as they stand on the sidelines cheering the rise of the stock market. It is their money fuelling the rally, yet the banks are the beneficiaries.

Why all this subterfuge (“flim-flam” Sachs calls it)? You think it would be easier and more honest simply to ask Congress for the money to buy the assets outright. That’s what the original TARP was all about, undisguised by this intricate web of taxpayer subsidies. But there’s the rub. Sachs argues:

Tim Geithner, Treasury secretary, and Lawrence Summers, director of the White House national economic council, suspect that they cannot go back to Congress to fund their plan and so are raiding the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the remaining Tarp funds, hoping that there will be little public understanding and little or no congressional scrutiny. This is an inappropriate institutional use of the Fed, the FDIC and the Tarp. Mr Geithner and Mr Summers should at the very least explain the true risks of large losses by the government under their plan. Then, a properly informed Congress and public could decide whether to adopt this plan or some better alternative.

So to avoid the overwhelming popular objection to perpetual bailouts and expenditures, the Obama administration will do this all “off budget” and with no hearings, Congressional debates, or votes. Not very transparent and quite imperious, when you get right down to it.

Now imagine a Republican President wanted to run a massive subsidy for financial institutions with no Congressional oversight or appropriation. You’d hear populist howls, not to mention the complaints about the executive branch run amok. Come to think of it, that’s pretty much how the entire financial recovery and bailout operation is being conducted — with no Congressional appropriation of funds, no checks and balances, and no taxpayer guarantees. (Yes, George W. Bush started this with the car bailouts, to which some of us objected strenuously on just this basis.)

It might all “work” (or not — who knows?), but at what price — monetarily and Constitutionally?

Read Less

Homeland Linguistics

The Obama administration has made great changes in the way we handle national security. And judging by its actions so far, it seems that the most important failing of the previous administration has been in semantics.

The changes started with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano deciding that the word “terrorism” was too harsh. She has made a point of not using it, opting  instead for “man-caused disasters.”

That was merely phase one. The next logical step was to find a new term for the “War On Terror.” The proffered substitute? “Overseas Contingency Operation.”

I was never in love with the term “War On Terror.” Terrorism isn’t the enemy, it’s a tactic of an enemy. Referring to the War onTerror is like referring to World War II as the “War on Blitzkrieg” or “War on Kamikazes.” “War Against Islamist Extremists” seemed a bit more accurate — if a bit on the nose.

But “Overseas Contingency Operation”? Let’s break it down.

“Overseas.” That’s intended to make us feel safe — it’s happening Over There, across the oceans, and isn’t really a problem for us here.

“Contingency.” According to one dictionary,  it has the following meanings:

1. dependence on chance or on the fulfillment of a condition; uncertainty; fortuitousness: Nothing was left to contingency.
2. a contingent event; a chance, accident, or possibility conditional on something uncertain: He was prepared for every contingency.
3. something incidental to a thing.

In other words: a state wherein something might or might not happen. This is an utterly empty word in this context.

“Operation.” A singular thing, something considerably smaller than a war or even a campaign.

Let’s nor forget that Napolitano’s “man-caused disasters” has its own implications. “Man-caused disasters” makes one think of things like the Exxon Valdez oil spill, or global warming global cooling climate change, or mine collapses, or dam failures, or Chernobyl — not things like the 9/11 attacks.

In both cases, the effect is to diminish the magnitude of the problem and remove the key element that differentiates terrorist attacks from the above-mentioned examples: intent.

The major difference between Chernobyl and 9/11 was intent. At Chernobyl, it was gross negligence at every stage of the process that led to the biggest nuclear accident in history. The 9/11 attacks, on the other hand, were carried out in with malice and a desire to maximize damage.

It’s almost laughable. The Obama administration thinks the best way to fight terrorists is to change the way we talk about them — and for most Islamic terrorists, English isn’t their native language.

It would be truly laughable — but the focus on language will most likely come at the expense of action.

The Obama administration has made great changes in the way we handle national security. And judging by its actions so far, it seems that the most important failing of the previous administration has been in semantics.

The changes started with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano deciding that the word “terrorism” was too harsh. She has made a point of not using it, opting  instead for “man-caused disasters.”

That was merely phase one. The next logical step was to find a new term for the “War On Terror.” The proffered substitute? “Overseas Contingency Operation.”

I was never in love with the term “War On Terror.” Terrorism isn’t the enemy, it’s a tactic of an enemy. Referring to the War onTerror is like referring to World War II as the “War on Blitzkrieg” or “War on Kamikazes.” “War Against Islamist Extremists” seemed a bit more accurate — if a bit on the nose.

But “Overseas Contingency Operation”? Let’s break it down.

“Overseas.” That’s intended to make us feel safe — it’s happening Over There, across the oceans, and isn’t really a problem for us here.

“Contingency.” According to one dictionary,  it has the following meanings:

1. dependence on chance or on the fulfillment of a condition; uncertainty; fortuitousness: Nothing was left to contingency.
2. a contingent event; a chance, accident, or possibility conditional on something uncertain: He was prepared for every contingency.
3. something incidental to a thing.

In other words: a state wherein something might or might not happen. This is an utterly empty word in this context.

“Operation.” A singular thing, something considerably smaller than a war or even a campaign.

Let’s nor forget that Napolitano’s “man-caused disasters” has its own implications. “Man-caused disasters” makes one think of things like the Exxon Valdez oil spill, or global warming global cooling climate change, or mine collapses, or dam failures, or Chernobyl — not things like the 9/11 attacks.

In both cases, the effect is to diminish the magnitude of the problem and remove the key element that differentiates terrorist attacks from the above-mentioned examples: intent.

The major difference between Chernobyl and 9/11 was intent. At Chernobyl, it was gross negligence at every stage of the process that led to the biggest nuclear accident in history. The 9/11 attacks, on the other hand, were carried out in with malice and a desire to maximize damage.

It’s almost laughable. The Obama administration thinks the best way to fight terrorists is to change the way we talk about them — and for most Islamic terrorists, English isn’t their native language.

It would be truly laughable — but the focus on language will most likely come at the expense of action.

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The Long Term Is Here

Why does it matter if the UK and the U.S. had difficulty selling their bonds at auction yesterday? This report explains:

The plans of these governments to stabilize their economies depend on the ability to borrow money through these bond auctions. Now, there are signs that investors are balking. The fear is an “inability to control interest rates by governments, which is the next unintended consequence of the huge printing, and is coming earlier than expected,” said Lorenzo Di Mattia, manager of hedge fund Sibilla Global Fund. “It means people don’t buy government bonds … as a result, they have to do it at higher rates.”

Recently, the Chinese government signaled worries about the U.S. dollar and Treasury bonds because of the financial crisis, and the response of government spending. The Treasury Department and Federal Reserve argue that hundreds of billions of dollars of expenditure on economic stimulus and bank stabilization is the only way to get the U.S. economy back on an even keel.

Put differently: Obama is fixated on spending tons of money we don’t have and is spinning the line that our recovery depends on passage of his huge budget. That requires that we sell tons of Treasury paper to raise the cash. But there is only so much that individuals and other nations, including China, will buy — especially if they suspect we are flooding the market with debt and are on a glide path toward inflation (e.g. printing more and more money, making each dollar worth less).

And if we can’t sell all those bonds? Well, we have to raise rates to try to lure buyers. And higher interest rates in the midst of a recession sounds a lot like the recipe for 1970s-style stagflation. (Plus, the cost of servicing the debt financed by higher interest rates chews up an even higher proportion of our budget.) But this wasn’t supposed to happen for a while — it was a long term problem, we were told.  Well, like Rick who came to Casablanca for the waters, we were misinformed.

Why does it matter if the UK and the U.S. had difficulty selling their bonds at auction yesterday? This report explains:

The plans of these governments to stabilize their economies depend on the ability to borrow money through these bond auctions. Now, there are signs that investors are balking. The fear is an “inability to control interest rates by governments, which is the next unintended consequence of the huge printing, and is coming earlier than expected,” said Lorenzo Di Mattia, manager of hedge fund Sibilla Global Fund. “It means people don’t buy government bonds … as a result, they have to do it at higher rates.”

Recently, the Chinese government signaled worries about the U.S. dollar and Treasury bonds because of the financial crisis, and the response of government spending. The Treasury Department and Federal Reserve argue that hundreds of billions of dollars of expenditure on economic stimulus and bank stabilization is the only way to get the U.S. economy back on an even keel.

Put differently: Obama is fixated on spending tons of money we don’t have and is spinning the line that our recovery depends on passage of his huge budget. That requires that we sell tons of Treasury paper to raise the cash. But there is only so much that individuals and other nations, including China, will buy — especially if they suspect we are flooding the market with debt and are on a glide path toward inflation (e.g. printing more and more money, making each dollar worth less).

And if we can’t sell all those bonds? Well, we have to raise rates to try to lure buyers. And higher interest rates in the midst of a recession sounds a lot like the recipe for 1970s-style stagflation. (Plus, the cost of servicing the debt financed by higher interest rates chews up an even higher proportion of our budget.) But this wasn’t supposed to happen for a while — it was a long term problem, we were told.  Well, like Rick who came to Casablanca for the waters, we were misinformed.

Read Less

Two Cheers for Paranoia

It’s a rare book these days that gets one review in the New York Times, and an even rarer one that gets reviewed twice. As for books that get glowingly positive reviews in both the daily Times and the Sunday Book Review – well, it’s a select group indeed.

Into that choice category falls Beryl Satter’s Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America. The Sunday Times called the book “revealing and instructive” and said the author had covered herself in “glory.” The daily Times raved, “Her book is transfixing from its first sentence” and said the book “feels like something close to an instant classic.”

So just what is the story that garnered such lush praise from the Times? It’s the tale of Beryl Satter’s father, Mark Satter, a Chicago lawyer who, the book says, fought “exploitative Jewish slum landlords” until his death in 1965 and whose “thinking was radical, not liberal.” The NAACP, the Urban League, even community organizer Saul Alinsky were too tame for Mark Satter.

The book reports that Satter joined the Communist Party USA in 1945. The author tries her best to make excuses for her father’s decision to throw in with the Communists, romanticizing, “he shared their anger at gross social inequality and was drawn to their understanding of class as the primary divide in society. He admired the intellectual elegance of Marxist thought and the idealism that seemed to drive it.” Also, she writes that her father credited the Soviets for having prevented the Nazis from murdering all of European Jewry.

The two Times reviews – all 1,750 words of them – manage to omit any mention that the hero of the book was a Communist. (He left the party after a year, not out of any ideological epiphany, but because, the book says, “the discipline and personal subservience were not for him.”)

To its credit, the Washington Post, in its similarly effusive review of the book (“the most important book yet written on the black freedom struggle in the urban North”) at least mentioned the Communist angle.

There are other issues raised by “Family Properties” that a reviewer might tackle. For instance, Satter parrots her father’s claim that exploitative landlords “were robbing Chicago’s black population of one million dollars a day,” then goes on to tell of how the slumlords were “big Israeli bond donors” and that another motive for the exploitation was to allow the landlords to make contributions to their synagogues.

Also, Satter the author claims the big problems in urban America are not deindustrialization or the culture of poverty but greedy landlords and rapacious mortgage bankers. One might ask, then, why was there so much crime and so little hope in the government-run public housing projects of Chicago such as Cabrini-Green and the Robert Taylor Homes? Neither housing project gets so much as a mention in “Family Properties,” which may be because their problems don’t fit neatly into the “intellectual elegance of Marxist thought,” with its conception that the problems of our minorities or our cities are the fault of “exploitative Jewish slum landlords” robbing the poor so they can donate more money to synagogues.

It’s a rare book these days that gets one review in the New York Times, and an even rarer one that gets reviewed twice. As for books that get glowingly positive reviews in both the daily Times and the Sunday Book Review – well, it’s a select group indeed.

Into that choice category falls Beryl Satter’s Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America. The Sunday Times called the book “revealing and instructive” and said the author had covered herself in “glory.” The daily Times raved, “Her book is transfixing from its first sentence” and said the book “feels like something close to an instant classic.”

So just what is the story that garnered such lush praise from the Times? It’s the tale of Beryl Satter’s father, Mark Satter, a Chicago lawyer who, the book says, fought “exploitative Jewish slum landlords” until his death in 1965 and whose “thinking was radical, not liberal.” The NAACP, the Urban League, even community organizer Saul Alinsky were too tame for Mark Satter.

The book reports that Satter joined the Communist Party USA in 1945. The author tries her best to make excuses for her father’s decision to throw in with the Communists, romanticizing, “he shared their anger at gross social inequality and was drawn to their understanding of class as the primary divide in society. He admired the intellectual elegance of Marxist thought and the idealism that seemed to drive it.” Also, she writes that her father credited the Soviets for having prevented the Nazis from murdering all of European Jewry.

The two Times reviews – all 1,750 words of them – manage to omit any mention that the hero of the book was a Communist. (He left the party after a year, not out of any ideological epiphany, but because, the book says, “the discipline and personal subservience were not for him.”)

To its credit, the Washington Post, in its similarly effusive review of the book (“the most important book yet written on the black freedom struggle in the urban North”) at least mentioned the Communist angle.

There are other issues raised by “Family Properties” that a reviewer might tackle. For instance, Satter parrots her father’s claim that exploitative landlords “were robbing Chicago’s black population of one million dollars a day,” then goes on to tell of how the slumlords were “big Israeli bond donors” and that another motive for the exploitation was to allow the landlords to make contributions to their synagogues.

Also, Satter the author claims the big problems in urban America are not deindustrialization or the culture of poverty but greedy landlords and rapacious mortgage bankers. One might ask, then, why was there so much crime and so little hope in the government-run public housing projects of Chicago such as Cabrini-Green and the Robert Taylor Homes? Neither housing project gets so much as a mention in “Family Properties,” which may be because their problems don’t fit neatly into the “intellectual elegance of Marxist thought,” with its conception that the problems of our minorities or our cities are the fault of “exploitative Jewish slum landlords” robbing the poor so they can donate more money to synagogues.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Every time you think the government can’t do something dumber . . . they do. Banning books because of lead type? Yup.

Judd Gregg makes mincemeat out of the Obama budget and agenda. Would have been some interesting cabinet meetings if he hadn’t withdrawn himself from consideration as Commerce Secretary.

Rep. Paul Ryan previews the alternative House Republican budget. What’s to become of the White House talking point that the other side has no ideas when Ryan sets out a complete approach to the budget? (He seems optimistic on the death of cap-and-trade.)

Mitt Romney draws an interesting connection between card check and charter schools. Card check is dead for now (to the dismay of Democrats), while the latter is not exactly a favorite of theirs or of the Obama administration. It is interesting to note what people’s priorities are.

This raises a very troubling issue: what if we don’t know what’s behind all those securitized assets? In the jumble of electronic transactions and opaque instruments it may just be that “the real problem is not the bad loans, but the debasement of the paper they are printed on. “Uh oh.” Modern markets only work if the paper is reliable.” And if it’s not, we’re all in a heap of trouble.

Is the White House happy about the death of card check? I bet so — but their Big Labor patrons aren’t going to be pleased to hear that.

Meanwhile the AFL-CIO has money to burn (its members’) on ads to “win back” Specter. Seriously.

I agree with Bill Bennett – the media is sort of doing their job again, at least they did at Tuesday’s press conference.

One in fifty Americans is homeless? Not even close, Mickey Kaus explains. Is this the sort of data  Washington uses — figures which you know that turn out to be nonsense? Yup.

Elaine Chao was indeed a fine labor secretary. If the Democrats want to reform federal labor law they could start with continuing the anti-corruption, full disclosure measures she put in place. They are in favor of that stuff, right?

What is wrong with this picture? “President Barack Obama last month handed his auto-industry team a seemingly impossible task: to engineer the most complicated industrial restructuring ever attempted by the federal government, and to do it fast. With almost no experience in the car business, the team’s dozen core members have undergone a crash course in the myriad woes plaguing the U.S. auto industry.” Sigh.

On Geithner’s currency gaffe yesterday: “Mr. Geithner is learning on the job, and yesterday’s lesson is that it isn’t smart to fool with currency markets when you are already tempting fate with a gigantic U.S. reflation. Treasury and the Federal Reserve are flooding the world with dollars to break the recession, and the world is rightly getting nervous.”

I must have missed the “Obama poll numbers are sagging” headlines. They are, you know. The media cheerleaders sure had the “Obama poll numbers still strong” pieces – back in February.

A “Jim McGreevy moment” coming up for Governor David Paterson? Seems so: “If it hasn’t already arrived, the moment is fast approaching when David Paterson, who now trails Andrew Cuomo by 50 points in a 2010 Democratic primary match-up, realizes that his dream of winning election to a full gubernatorial term is a lost cause. And, given the disastrous turn his stint as acting governor has taken, this recognition will almost certainly be coupled with a second epiphany – that there will be no other opportunities in the future to seek major office. With his exit from the governorship, Paterson’s political career will be over.” Ouch.

Every time you think the government can’t do something dumber . . . they do. Banning books because of lead type? Yup.

Judd Gregg makes mincemeat out of the Obama budget and agenda. Would have been some interesting cabinet meetings if he hadn’t withdrawn himself from consideration as Commerce Secretary.

Rep. Paul Ryan previews the alternative House Republican budget. What’s to become of the White House talking point that the other side has no ideas when Ryan sets out a complete approach to the budget? (He seems optimistic on the death of cap-and-trade.)

Mitt Romney draws an interesting connection between card check and charter schools. Card check is dead for now (to the dismay of Democrats), while the latter is not exactly a favorite of theirs or of the Obama administration. It is interesting to note what people’s priorities are.

This raises a very troubling issue: what if we don’t know what’s behind all those securitized assets? In the jumble of electronic transactions and opaque instruments it may just be that “the real problem is not the bad loans, but the debasement of the paper they are printed on. “Uh oh.” Modern markets only work if the paper is reliable.” And if it’s not, we’re all in a heap of trouble.

Is the White House happy about the death of card check? I bet so — but their Big Labor patrons aren’t going to be pleased to hear that.

Meanwhile the AFL-CIO has money to burn (its members’) on ads to “win back” Specter. Seriously.

I agree with Bill Bennett – the media is sort of doing their job again, at least they did at Tuesday’s press conference.

One in fifty Americans is homeless? Not even close, Mickey Kaus explains. Is this the sort of data  Washington uses — figures which you know that turn out to be nonsense? Yup.

Elaine Chao was indeed a fine labor secretary. If the Democrats want to reform federal labor law they could start with continuing the anti-corruption, full disclosure measures she put in place. They are in favor of that stuff, right?

What is wrong with this picture? “President Barack Obama last month handed his auto-industry team a seemingly impossible task: to engineer the most complicated industrial restructuring ever attempted by the federal government, and to do it fast. With almost no experience in the car business, the team’s dozen core members have undergone a crash course in the myriad woes plaguing the U.S. auto industry.” Sigh.

On Geithner’s currency gaffe yesterday: “Mr. Geithner is learning on the job, and yesterday’s lesson is that it isn’t smart to fool with currency markets when you are already tempting fate with a gigantic U.S. reflation. Treasury and the Federal Reserve are flooding the world with dollars to break the recession, and the world is rightly getting nervous.”

I must have missed the “Obama poll numbers are sagging” headlines. They are, you know. The media cheerleaders sure had the “Obama poll numbers still strong” pieces – back in February.

A “Jim McGreevy moment” coming up for Governor David Paterson? Seems so: “If it hasn’t already arrived, the moment is fast approaching when David Paterson, who now trails Andrew Cuomo by 50 points in a 2010 Democratic primary match-up, realizes that his dream of winning election to a full gubernatorial term is a lost cause. And, given the disastrous turn his stint as acting governor has taken, this recognition will almost certainly be coupled with a second epiphany – that there will be no other opportunities in the future to seek major office. With his exit from the governorship, Paterson’s political career will be over.” Ouch.

Read Less




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