On the eve of the Occupy Wall Street protests, it’s useful to take a look at its legacy. There are plenty of ways to measure the depravity that we’ve seen during the past several months, but it’s simplest to focus on the following themes: arrests, assaults, death and disease – plus the financial burden that the rest of the country has to shoulder in order to clean it all up:
Posts For: November 17, 2011
The whole concept of a congressional supercommittee empowered to create a budget solution that the rest of the Congress wasn’t able to agree on in the first place may always have been a bad idea. And given the inability of the bipartisan conclave to come up with any answers as time runs out on the mandate may have only confirmed that the members who joined it were sent on a fool’s errand. But one of the most stalwart conservatives in Congress may have offered Democrats a way out of the standoff.
Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey isn’t just a conservative Republican. As a former president of the free market/anti-tax group Club for Growth, he is more of an ideologue than the vast majority of his colleagues. But by putting forward a deficit fix that has elements of the “grand bargain” that some urged Congress to adopt earlier in the year, he has, to the surprise of many, given the supercommittee a path to the sort of solution both sides have said they would embrace. The question is, are Democrats so committed to the idea of running in 2012 on a platform blaming the GOP for everything that they will pass up this opportunity?
Not all that long ago Harvard Law professor (and U.S. Senate candidate) Elizabeth Warren proudly claimed she laid the “intellectual foundation” for the Occupy Wall Street movement. She seems to be having second thoughts. OWS’s James Madison now refuses to sign a petition even in support of Occupy Harvard.
One explanation, put forward by a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, is this: “It sounds like Elizabeth Warren is all for her acolytes in the Occupy movement tying up traffic and police resources in cities around the country, but just as long as they’re not in her own backyard at Harvard.”
Another, and I think more plausible, explanation is that Professor Warren now senses that the political currents have shifted dramatically and that OWS, even in Massachusetts, is becoming unpopular.
New York City police officers put their safety on the line today as they scrambled to preserve order and prevent rioting protesters from shutting down the New York Stock Exchange. This is what they got in exchange for doing their jobs:
A New York City police officer was slashed during Thursday’s “Occupy Wall Street” action—and a second cop was taken to a local hospital with an eye injury—after clashes between protesters and activists across Lower Manhattan, sources told FoxNews.com.
Disgraceful. Activists will claim that this was self-defense, but the truth is the police are the ones defending their fellow citizens and neighbors from the rioting mobs of extremists. Those weren’t the only injuries police sustained today, either:
Police said four officers went to a hospital after a demonstrator threw some kind of liquid in their faces. Many demonstrators were carrying vinegar as an antidote for pepper spray.
Last May, Mitt Romney decided to address his candidacy’s biggest problem head on. In a speech delivered in Michigan, the Republican presidential candidate refused to apologize for his Massachusetts health care law that some see as an inspiration for Obamacare and instead argued that there were crucial differences between a state-run plan and the president’s federal boondoggle. The explanation was logical, but it was beside the point. After the bitter debate over Obamacare, most Republicans were united in their opposition to any government mandate to buy insurance. That should have doomed his campaign, but the incompetence of his opponents has left him, almost by default, in a strong position to win the nomination.
Nevertheless, Romney continues to be assailed on the issue. In today’s Politico, Kate Nocera provides his campaign with another talking point. She reports that the bill that went into law was far different from what Romney actually wanted and that the implementation of the legislation by a Democratic successor in the Massachusetts governor’s chair has furthered his intentions. That may be true, but Romney would be well advised to avoid additional explanations that will only embitter conservatives. A better course of action would be for him to speak as little as possible about the issue and pray the Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare next June.
Rick Perry is still struggling to get back on his feet after last week’s debate gaffe, but time is not on his side. Many of his supporters hoped that his war chest would be enough to keep him afloat, but now the money is starting to dry up:
Perry’s associates and supporters say his campaign has redoubled its money-¬raising efforts in the past week to ensure that his campaign will have enough money to survive the first three contests of the 2012 election calendar: Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
But Perry’s loyal backers are running into resistance from Republican donors. One Perry fundraiser, who asked not to be named, said he received 15 RSVPs for a recent event from potential donors saying they might attend. But after a gaffe-marred Perry debate performance, none showed up.
The latest report about Iran’s nuclear program from the International Atomic Energy Agency has made it hard for skeptics to remain in denial about the nature of this threat. But the follow up to that document is proving again the bankruptcy of an international diplomatic system that is clearly broken. Reuters reports today that after long discussions among the great powers on the IAEA’s governing board in Vienna, the agency will not report Iran to the United Nations Security Council but will instead settle for a strong statement of concern and the possibility of yet another mission of IAEA experts to Tehran.
While there is nothing wrong with the IAEA sending another group of investigators to Iran, the outcome of such an expedition is a foregone conclusion. The Iranians have demonstrated time and again they will not cooperate with such efforts. Tehran’s commitment to its nuclear goal is not in doubt. But even after the publication of the IAEA’s document that discusses the military nature of their research, the Iranians are well positioned to string along the UN for as much time as they need before the inevitable announcement of their first successful nuclear test. So long as Russia and China are running interference for the ayatollahs, as they have been in Vienna, they have little to worry about. That puts the onus on President Obama to do more than just talk about how unacceptable an Iranian nuke would be.
In an interview with Charlie Rose this week, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the Palestinians’ refusal to negotiate unless Israel freezes settlement construction is unjustified, because their claim settlements are stealing the land needed for a Palestinian state is pure “propaganda.” How so? Because “after 44 years, the whole Jewish settlement in the whole West Bank together doesn’t cover even two percent of the area.”
Is this mere propaganda on Barak’s part – a lie meant to downplay the devastating impact of Jewish settlement? Actually, Palestinians put the figure even lower: In an interview with the Arabic radio station As-Shams two weeks ago, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that based on an aerial photograph provided by European sources, the settlements cover only 1.1 percent of the West Bank.
This is one story that seemed hard to believe at first. But the left-leaning Democracy Alliance confirmed to me that Grover Norquist did in fact speak at its invite-only conference for top Democratic donors last night. Norquist was reportedly there to advise influential progressives — including an adviser to George Soros — about how to create a successful political organizing strategy.
The L.A. Times first reported the story:
On Wednesday, the Forward published an op-ed by “Occupy Judaism’s” chief organizer in which without blushing he compares the clearing of Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan of Occupy Wall Street protesters by the NYPD to the destruction of ancient Jerusalem by the Roman army.
You read that correctly.
The self-proclaimed “Patriotic Millionaires” held yet another press conference this week, begging the government to raise their taxes. But when the Daily Caller gave them a chance to put their money where their mouth is, every one of them balked at the prospect:
They’re right that contributing more of their own money isn’t going to make a dent in the deficit, and that’s exactly why the entire premise of their group is disingenuous. The Patriotic Millionaires aren’t so much interested in giving the government more of their own money as they are in forcing their wealthy peers to pay more. A more honest approach would be if they tried to take their case for higher taxes to other high-earners, as opposed to declaring themselves to be the “righteous” spokespeople of the wealthy. It may make them feel better personally, but as the Daily Caller video reveals, it’s fundamentally dishonest.
Last month, we took the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee to task for the so-called “Unity Pledge” they promoted that was aimed primarily at stifling Republican criticism of President Obama’s attitude toward Israel. The “pledge” was a reflection of Democratic Party talking points we’ve been hearing for the last decade in which they demand that support for Israel be considered off-limits for campaign debate. Such a request is blatantly partisan, as it not only gives left-wingers with bad records on Israel a pass but also treats the strong support for the Jewish state on the part of many Republicans as irrelevant.
But, as we knew all along, the Democrats’ idea of “bipartisanship” on the issue only enjoins silence about liberals who go off the pro-Israel reservation, not conservatives. Thus, we read of Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s condemnation of Republicans who want to “zero out” aid to Israel with no small amusement. If we were to hold her to the same standards Democrats have tried to enforce about restricting comments about the pro-Israel records of their candidates, Wasserman Schultz’s angry riposte to some of the statements uttered at last Saturday’s Republican presidential debate on foreign policy was entirely out of bounds. The alacrity with which the DNC chair jumped on the opening created by Rick Perry’s pledge to make all nations getting foreign aid — including Israel — start at zero and then make a case for getting any money, demonstrates the absurdity of the Democrats’ lame effort to silence criticism of Obama on the grounds that Israel is a bipartisan issue.
The following is from our November issue. Forty-one symposium contributors were asked to respond to the question: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about America’s future?
Twelve years ago, I was asked by First Things to write my predictions for America in the new millennium. I decided to look at the question from the perspective of an ancient Roman in the year 0 trying to predict his city’s own next millennium. Self-confident Rome in many ways resembled self-confident America in late 1999: it was robustly prosperous, the world’s lone superpower, heir to a vast and rich storehouse of Western civilization, and overwhelmingly dominant culturally. The Roman world stretched—or was on the verge of stretching—from nearly all of Western Europe well into Central Asia. I observed that Rome might have seemed invincible in the year 0, but by the year 1,000 its Western European heartland was in shambles, there was little left of its empire, and the world had changed in ways that would have shocked that ancient Roman. I wrote that America’s future was equally unpredictable, and that by the year 3000 we might well be yet another long-vanished civilization whose downfall will be puzzled over by archaeologists and historians.
What I could not predict was how quickly the downward slide would come. As with ancient Rome, the signs were already present: the barbarians at the gates (9/11 was months away); the demographic implosion of populations of European descent; the cultural decadence; and, worst of all, the drastic loss of national self-confidence and self-direction. And now, the statistics everywhere you look are ghastly: an unemployment rate of 9.1 percent; all-time-record-setting foreclosures; a 40-percent out-of-wedlock birthrate; uncontrollable illegal immigration (12 million illegals currently living in the United States, compared with 5 million in 1996); a Federal Reserve that seems to be aiming at Weimar Republic–level inflation; swollen, immovable unionized bureaucracies at every level of government; a K-12 education system that is one of the worst in the industrialized world; and an entitlement burden that eats up half the federal budget. Over all this looms the colossal black shadow of our $14 trillion national debt—an amount so massive that we can’t even imagine what the number really means, let alone figure out how to repay it. Read More
Breaking news from the New York Times today. It appears that many of Obama’s policy decisions are actually based on reelection strategy, as opposed to a cohesive vision. Shocking, I know:
The full retreat on the smog standard was the first and most important environmental decision of the presidential campaign season that is now fully under way. An examination of that decision, based on interviews with lobbyists on both sides, former officials and policy makers at the upper reaches of the White House and the EPA, illustrates the new calculus on political and policy shifts as the White House sharpens its focus on the president’s re-election.
In response to Jennifer Rubin’s assertion that Barack Obama’s “animus toward the Jewish state is so evident that only a foolish prime minister would trust him with the survival of the Jewish state,” Jeffrey Goldberg argues Obama “has shown zero animus” to “Israel or to the idea of Israel” and that it is “plausible,” although not “probable,” that Obama would “contemplate the use of force” to defend U.S. allies such as Israel or Saudi Arabia.
Rubin’s response is here.
Last night’s National Book Awards ceremony in New York was a long exercise in self-congratulation. Stephen Greenblatt, a pioneer of the New Historicist school of literary scholarship, won the nonfiction award for The Swerve, a far-fetched popularizing account of how one Roman poet turned all of Europe away from medieval religiosity toward modern secularism. The award was notable, because Greenblatt was the only “white male” (as his type is now called) to win last night. (Greenblatt was allowed on the stage because his criticism, grounded in Marxist presumptions about literature and ideology, is vaguely radical.)
The remaining awards were handed out according to the terms of multiculturalism. Thanhha Lai won in the young adult category for Inside Out & Back Again, an autobiographical novel in verse about a young woman (not unlike Lai herself) whose family flees Vietnam upon the fall of Saigon and resettles in Alabama.
But the awards in fiction and poetry caused the celebration. Let’s turn to Ron Charles, fiction critic for the Washington Post, for the story:
Nikky Finney, a 54-year-old poet who is praised for her “engagement with political activism,” won the poetry award. (Examples of her poetry can be found here and here.) In her acceptance speech, Finney explained that every poem she writes is “haunted” by the knowledge that “black people . . . were the only people in the United States ever explicitly forbidden to become literate.”
The fiction award went to Jesmyn Ward for Salvage the Bones, the story of a poor family’s last few days before Hurricane Katrina strikes the Mississippi coast. The narrator is a 15-year-old girl, although she sounds like a student in Nikky Finney’s poetry workshop:
When mama first explained to me what a hurricane was, I thought that all the animals ran away, that they fled the storms before they came, that they put their noses to the wind days before and knew. That maybe they stuck their tongues out, pink and warm, to taste, to make sure. That the deer looked at their companions and leapt. That the foxes chattered to themselves, rolled their shoulders, and started off. And maybe the bigger animals do. But now I think that other animals, like the squirrels and the rabbits, don’t do that at all. Maybe the small don’t run. Maybe the small pause on their branches, the pine-lined earth, nose up, catch that coming storm air that would smell like salt to them, like salt and clean burning fire, and they prepare like us.
And that’s only the first half of the paragraph. The narrator goes on “imagining” (if that’s the right word) how animals prepare for a hurricane. Salvage the Bones is thin on felt life, but thick with verbal substitutes for it.
Being nominated for the National Book Award, Ward said, caught her off guard. “It took a while to convince me that this was really happening,” she told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “My first book [Where the Line Bleeds] had flown under the radar. And, of course, I’m from the South, I’m black and I’m a woman — and all those things push me into a niche that is outside the realm of experience for a lot of literary people.”
The exact opposite is true, of course. Black women are smack in America’s literary mainstream. Despite Ron Charles’s oily toadyish compliments to the “spectacularly powerful African American women” who won awards last night, their victories were the furthest thing from “historic.” By now the honoring of black women writers is an established convention of literary culture in America.
Alice Walker “walked off” with the National Book Award for The Color Purple in 1983 — almost three decades ago. When Toni Morrison’s Beloved was passed over for the same award five years later, 48 “black critics and black writers” — that’s how they described themselves — wrote to the New York Times Book Review, protesting “the oversight and harmful whimsy” by which any white male could possibly be preferred to Morrison. “The legitimate need for our own critical voice in relation to our own literature can no longer be denied,” they declared. Not quite ten weeks later the “legitimate need” was redressed, and Beloved was given the Pulitzer Prize. And in 1993, Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature. “She is the first black woman to receive the prize,” the Times helpfully noted in its front-page story.
Literary awards to black women writers are not historic. For nearly three decades, critical attention and honors have been demanded for some writers (and granted) on the basis of their race and sex. The day is long past when the identification of American writers by race and sex became a mental habit, a social custom; it is now a deep structural element in the grammar of literary criticism. Indeed, the self-congratulation implicit in the trumpeting of the “historic” achievements of black women writers is, by now, thirty years on, a stock reaction like tears when lovers are reunited or laughter when yet another stand-up comic says the word f–k.
The New York Times has a scare-mongering story today suggesting that the U.S. cutoff of aid to UNESCO, in retaliation for its admittance of the Palestinian Authority as a member, will hurt U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Count me as unconvinced.
The article quotes UNESCO’s former chief in Iraq saying that the UN agency “has a positive image, certainly in Iraq,” while the U.S. as “an invading force in Iraq,” has “some negative connotations, even if it gave Iraqis something they hankered for. UNESCO doesn’t come with that negative imagery.” Perhaps UNESCO has bought some goodwill with Iraqis, but the UN as a whole has a terrible image in that country–it is associated with the corrupt oil-for-food program it administered in the 1990s, which starved ordinary Iraqis while allowing Saddam Hussein to continue building his palaces. It was no coincidence the UN headquarters in Baghdad was one of the first major targets attacked by suicide bombers in August 2003.
President Obama may believe his decision to cease negotiations for a longer term presence and partnership in Iraq is responsible and a campaign promise fulfilled. Unfortunately, our adversaries in the Middle East care little for American political spin. While not pleasant to watch, here is a video just released on an Iranian website which celebrates the victories of Qods Force Commander Qassem Sulaymani over America. When the Iranian regime gloats this much and feels itself to have won such a crushing victory over the United States, the chance that it will push further is near 100 percent.
As if on cue, here is Basij Commander Mohammad-Reza Naqdi speaking yesterday: “Today, the army of the enemy is totally defeated and events of the recent years show that they do not have the capacity to realize their wishes… The result of the heavy casualties and disgrace of the United States in Iraq led to emergence of a pro-Islamic Republic government and in Afghanistan they are dealt a major blow every single day… I say with certainty that the United States is so weakened that if we attack them today they not only lack the ability to counter it, but will also beg Iran for negotiations.”
The fundamental news out of the Loya Jirga in Kabul is good: Hamid Karzai is making a pitch for a continued U.S. military presence in his country past 2014, and the assembled elders are basically supportive of that continued U.S. commitment. This may come as news to those who imagine that the U.S. military is unpopular wherever it goes. In fact, despite frustrations felt by many Afghans with our military presence (caused mainly by our failure to deliver on our promises and our complicity in corruption and misgovernance), most Afghans do not support the Taliban and do support a continued U.S. presence because they see us as a protecter against their real enemy–Pakistan. Moreover, Afghanistan has not been able to develop its natural resources so, unlike Iraq, it has scant governmental revenues of its own–it is reliant on the U.S. and other international donors to fund almost its entire government budget. Karzai and other leaders know they need us; otherwise their government will collapse, and they will wind up swinging from lampposts or living a guerrilla’s life in the mountains.
That said, Karzai is no pushover, and he used the Loya Jirga to once again advance his complaints about U.S. “night raids,” U.S. troops entering Afghan homes, and about U.S. troops holding Afghans in their own detention facilities. These are all issues on which Karzai has tried to establish his nationalist credentials, even though the leaders of Afghan’s army (with whom I met last month in Kabul) strongly back the U.S. position: They say, for example, that night raids are effective and essential in the fight against the Haqqanis, the Taliban, and other tough foes. If U.S. Special Operations troops swoop down on a compound during the day, a firefight–and with it attendant civilian casualties–is much more likely. By contrast most “night raids” pass without a shot being fired. U.S. detentions of hard-core terrorists are also absolutely essential because the Afghans have not shown they can hold such dangerous men on their own; too often, Taliban prisoners have either escaped from Afghan custody or been abused there.
I’m not a fan of “The View,” but I could become a fan of Elisabeth Hasselbeck. As you’ll see in this clip, she took on, in an impressive way, the loathsome Bill Maher.
The context of the confrontation was that on his HBO show in February 2010, Maher — in the aftermath of a brutal gang rape in Egypt of CBS’s Laura Logan –said that Hosni Mubarak should send Logan, “her intrepid hotness,” back to America in exchange for Hasselbeck.