Monday, July 21, 2008

Mr. Obama, Meet Mr. Jihadi

Barack Obama says regarding his thoughts after 9/11:
"The essence of this tragedy, it seems to me, derives from a fundamental absence of empathy on the part of the attackers: an inability to imagine, or connect with, the humanity and suffering of others. Such a failure of empathy, such numbness to the pain of a child or the desperation of a parent, is not innate; nor, history tells us, is it unique to a particular culture, religion, or ethnicity. It may find expression in a particular brand of violence, and may be channeled by particular demagogues or fanatics. Most often, though, it grows out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair."

and that my friends is what you get with a Harvard education. It is sort of like the famous scene from Indiana Jones in reverse. You may remember that Jones is confronted by a sword wielding powerful warrior (Afghan-type clothes) who swings his sword at him showing off his great skill. Jones pulls out his gun and shoots the guy once. This brought a big laugh when I saw the film in a theatre. This is called: Western technology wins.

Now here's my version. Jones, the epitome of modern sophisticated man in his expensive clothes and superior education, confronts the man with a brilliant series of arguments as to why it is in the warrior's interest to focus instead on raising his living standards, make peace, and get his own state. The warrior pulls out a small knife and cuts off Jones's head. Jones's colleagues then say that Jones had it coming due to his past sins, that we must understand the suffering that led to this violence, this shows the need for more negotiations and concessions, etc. This is called: asymmetric warfare.

While Obama poses as the great cosmopolitan there is something very much in common between his statement on the September 11 terrorists and what he has to say on the rural and small town Americans, who he believes are attracted to their views only through low living standards, ignorance, and the follies of religion. No one can think in a manner different from him. No one can hold another belief system and act on it. They are merely evincing, to use the Marxist term for it, false consciousness. He will educate them both directly by material goods and by proper information.

Ironically, this is the epitome of imperialist thinking and it is also intolerant and demeaning in the way that historic racism was. To run a country you must understand that other people have their own set of beliefs and interests; that they think differently from you; that you just cannot buy them off; that their behavior is not just a result of your mistakes in the past but of their own history and culture (which determines even how they react to your own behavior). Not to mention the fact that the September 11 hijackers mostly came from wealthy families and the wealthiest of them all was Usama bin Ladin.

He might have grown up partly in Indonesia, he may have lived as a Muslim until age 10, but Obama's mentality is extraordinarily unsuited to understand the Third World, Middle East (or other dictatorships), terrorists (and their far more numerous supporters), or even the American people as a whole.

Perhaps Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran put it best, if I might paraphrase him: Anyone who thinks we staged a revolution because of the price of watermelons is a fool.


Compare and contrast

Compare this:
Barack Obama's advisers insist his coming trip abroad is not a campaign swing. Even so, the high-profile journey has all the trappings of a rock-star tour.

The Illinois senator's trip to Europe and the Middle East has generated so much interest that all three TV network news anchors are planning to accompany the candidate. Foreign media have reported daily on the impending visit. And the campaign revealed Friday that Obama intends to meet with top U.S. allies.

Obama is surely looking to burnish his foreign policy credentials overseas - but on the back end of it, his superstar persona might get the biggest boost. "What you're about to see is enormous publicity," Democratic strategist Susan Estrich said. "He's got three anchors coming with him. He's got the glitterati of the press corps."

With this:
"Good Morning America" on Wednesday attempted to guilt trip John McCain for taking a foreign trip while "Americans wrestle with a tough economy." Five times over the course of two segments, various GMA hosts, reporters and analysts insinuated that McCain's trip to Colombia and Mexico might result in voters thinking he doesn't care about the economic situation of Americans. Correspondent Bianna Golodryga pointedly wondered, "But at a time when polls show Obama ahead of McCain by 16 points on the economy, should McCain be staying closer to home?" GMA co-host Robin Roberts, in an interview with Senator McCain, questioned, "So, why is Senator McCain abroad when Americans are focused on the economy here at home and losing jobs, more and more jobs, as Bianna just reported?"

It must mean that the economy is turning around... in a matter of what... oh... less than 20 days. Itsamiracul. Or it's out the wazoo media bias. You be the judge.


Another day, another dumping

Democratic Sen. Barack Obama rolls Medal of Honor recipient Max Cleland under the bus. Wheelchair and all. Obama had invited Democrat Cleland, a former senator from Georgia and a disabled Vietnam veteran, to join him in a fundraiser in Atlanta on July 8. He uninvited him because Cleland is an evil, money-grubbing, influence-peddling lobbyist.

Who does he lobby for? "Cleland is registered to lobby for a company whose products are aimed at helping soldiers recover more quickly from battlefield industries injuries, Tissue Regeneration Technologies," reported Ben Smith at Politico. Hey, Obama, here's a quarter. Buy yourself some class.

Cleland voted for the Iraq War resolution in 2002, so I'm guessing Obama's antiwar supporters are smiling.


Bob Barr is Helping Barack Obama

Former Republican Bob Barr is the Libertarian nominee for President. He had a column yesterday in the Wall Street Journal titled "Judges Are No Reason to Vote for McCain". I wish I had time to list all of the fallacies in Barr's column.

Let's start with this one: "Mr. McCain has endorsed, in action if not rhetoric, the theory of the 'unitary executive,' which leaves the president unconstrained by Congress or the courts." But, the "unitary executive" concept involves who in the executive branch wields power --- not how much power the executive branch has, as both Jonathan Adler and Ilya Somin have pointed out in response to Barr's column.

Barr also suggests that McCain does not mind the judicial philosophies of Bill Clinton's Supreme Court nominees: "He has never paid much attention to judicial philosophy, backing both Clinton Supreme Court nominees - Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg." Again, Barr does not know what he is talking about. Ann Althouse properly criticized the Obama campaign for the same kind of accusation against McCain (and so did I). Althouse correctly said:
The role of the President and the role of a Senator are very different when it comes to Supreme Court appointments. The President's nomination identifies one person from the pool of possible nominees and therefore has a tremendous amount of latitude in searching for someone who he thinks will decide cases to his liking, who shares his ideology.

Barr bounces from one outrageous statement to another, in his WSJ column. Consider this one:
[M]any Republicans, like Mr. McCain, are just as result-oriented as their Democratic opponents. They only disagree over the result desired. Judge-made rights are wrong because there is no constitutional warrant behind them. The Constitution leaves most decisions up to the normal political process.

In actuality, Barr seems to be describing himself rather than describing McCain. You wouldn't know it from his disingenuous column today in the Wall Street Journal, but Barr is a wholehearted supporter of the theory of an imperial judiciary that can legalize any activity that it wants as long as the activity occurs in private. Take, for example, the Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas. That decision purported to legalize sodomy, and Barr wholeheartedly supported that decision. The Court's reasoning in that case was no different than in other judicial travesties such as Dred Scott and Lochner. The result in Lawrence - viewed as judicial legislation - was far more reasonable and compassionate than that of either Dred Scott or Lochner, but the legal reasoning was the same utter, dangerous nonsense. And yet Barr said: "I thought it was a very sound decision based on privacy." By the exact same legal reasoning, the Court could concoct a right to adult incest, Russian roulette, and heroin, not to mention abortion, spousal abuse, and dog fighting. The list is endless. But, of course, this isn't about legal reasoning at all: it's about legislating from the bench.


Europe Has an Economics Lesson for Obama

Democratic activists and European intellectuals are ecstatic about Barack Obama's trip to Europe. Europeans see a man they hope will win the presidency (a recent poll found 72% of Germans backing Sen. Obama). U.S. Democratic activists see their nominee gaining the experience of a continent whose policies -- more pacifist, statist and secular than America's -- they would prefer to emulate. Both sets of people hope Mr. Obama will be influenced by what he sees and emerge a man whose message of change will be informed by stereotypical European aspirations and experiences.

But the Europe Mr. Obama will visit is quite different from the one Americans often hear about. Over the last decade, much of Europe has very quietly embraced market-based reforms that either draw inspiration from American successes or -- on issues like retirement security -- are even more market-oriented than many U.S. Republicans support.

What's more, these changes have been adopted and implemented by parties left and right. This Europe is a shining example of exactly the sort of postpartisan government action that the Obama campaign says it is about.

The cutting of corporate income- tax rates is an excellent example of European market-friendly bipartisanship. Germany's right-left coalition of Christian and Social Democrats implemented a large rate cut earlier this year, reducing the top marginal corporate rate to about 30% from 39%. Spain's Socialist and Britain's Labor governments have followed suit, reducing their countries' top corporate rates.

These traditionally left-of-center parties understand that in a globalized economy, wealth and investment are mobile, flowing to those countries that provide hospitable investment climates. As part of a European Union where center-right governments in Greece, Denmark, Ireland and Eastern Europe have dramatically reduced corporate tax rates, they understand that they cannot help workers if they drive away the capital that employs and pays them.

Many European countries are also ahead of America when it comes to pension reform. Mr. Obama's main solution to the looming Social Security bankruptcy is to raise taxes on the well-off. To date, he has eschewed other solutions such as raising the retirement age or creating private Social Security accounts. But European center-left parties have no such reservations.

Take Sweden, for example. In the 1990s, a series of center-right and Social Democratic governments reached agreement on wide ranging pension reforms that include a private account option not too different than the one proposed by President George W. Bush. Under the Swedish plan, workers can put aside up to 2.5% of their salary into one or more of nearly 800 competing private-sector accounts. Swedish workers own these accounts and direct their investment options, earning the rewards if their investment choices increase faster than do average wages. Both political coalitions now support the basic contour of this approach, and retirement policy was not a contentious issue in Sweden's 2006 elections.

Sweden is not the only European example of market-friendly, bipartisan entitlement reform. In the 1990s, Holland had one of the most generous disability insurance systems in the world. At its height, about one in 10 Dutch working-age adults were drawing government disability checks rather than working. Recognizing this was unsustainable, Christian Democrats, Liberals and Social Democrats came together to cut benefits and tighten eligibility criteria. The intent was to cut the disability rolls and push people back into the workforce, much like America's 1996 welfare-reform law. The effect has been dramatic: Disability rolls have dropped by almost 20% since 2002.

This new European consensus is founded, like all political calculations, partly on conviction and partly on necessity. European center-left politicians have slowly come to respect the power of markets. Much like the so-called "Rubin Democrats," they recognize that the energy and innovation of market actors can better produce wealth than more traditional social democratic economic theory.

They have also come to the recognition that the task of center-left governments is to minimize the negative externalities of market action while using government to more equitably distribute the resulting economic gains. These progressives believe in reforming and guiding, not restricting or reviling, the private sector.

European center-left approval of market reforms is also rooted in economic and political necessity. Even social democratic countries benefit from a global economy and hence must compete in it. Experience has proven that center-left parties obtain and keep power if they emphasize the center rather than the left. They have found that their electorates want redistribution of a growing economic pie.

Again, Sweden is an excellent example of this. Since 1932, Social Democrats have governed the country mostly without significant coalition partners, with the exception of the years when Sweden's economy stalled and they had to cede power -- 1976-82, 1991-94 and again in 2006 when the current center-right government took over. Even in egalitarian Sweden, voters will turn to the right if jobs are scarce and incomes stagnant.

Mr. Obama's postpartisan, "let us all come together" message is perhaps the most important reason for his meteoric rise. Many conservatives and Republicans fear this rhetoric is divorced from reality and that an Obama presidency with a Democratic Congress would soon drop the mantle of unity and press for a purely liberal agenda. By adopting the modern European model, a President Obama would go a long away toward alleviating those fears and fulfilling his promise.


No free ride for Europe, says top Barack Obama aide

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph on the eve of Mr Obama's week-long trip to Afghanistan, the Middle East and Europe, Susan Rice emphasised that the election of Mr Obama would mark a decision by Americans to "turn the page" on President George W Bush. But the former Rhodes Scholar, who took her Master's degree and doctorate in international relations at New College, Oxford, made clear that an Obama administration would also challenge Europe to do more after a Democratic victory in November's election. "It would signal a return to the more pragmatic and bi-partisan traditions of American foreign policy, which have been lost to ideology in the Bush years," she said. "He will not proceed through an ideological frame and seek to impose that frame on every challenge.

"There is some truth to the notion that some of the animus at the popular level towards the Bush administration may have made it easier for some of our European partners to avoid taking steps that we may want them to take and that perhaps they ought to take," she said. "That has, in some respects, perhaps on some issues, given them an easy out. Barack Obama will lead from a position of strength and seek progress, and he will want to work with Europe in very strong partnership. "It means we in the United States will have to do our part; but Europe will have to do its part too. There can be no free riders if this is going to be an effective partnership."

The Obama campaign has highlighted Afghanistan as a prime example, arguing that Europe should send more troops there and lift restrictions on how they can be used. On Tuesday, Mr Obama argued for a major sift in American policy away from the "single-minded and open-ended focus on Iraq" towards a broader approach to the world and vowed to send more troops to Afghanistan. "Among the issues we will want to focus on together are a strong and effective approach to Iran and to the larger non-proliferation challenge, a robust effort to tackle climate change, as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the situation is deteriorating and where we in the US as well as Nato need to do more," said Miss Rice. She added: "And so Obama will ask more of ourselves and ask more of our closest allies."

Mr Obama is committed to withdrawing American troops from Iraq at a rate of one to two brigades a month. "Obama will maintain a residual US presence, but not permanent bases, to carry out specific missions. She described these as "protecting our embassy, civilians and humanitarian workers; conducting counter-terrorism operations against remaining al-Qaeda elements; and continuing to train Iraqi police and security forces, if the Iraqis are making progress towards political reconciliation".

One of Mr Obama's toughest tasks would be to rebuild American relations with the world, she conceded. "What happened in the Bush years, particularly in the early Bush years, was a precipitous drop off in European attitudes towards the United States and towards President Bush in particular. "The polls for a number of years indicated that the frustration or the disillusion was directed primarily at President Bush. But over time, the United States and Bush came to be conflated in international popular opinion, not entirely but increasingly ... it doesn't serve American interests, and it needs to be repaired."