Taxes, government dependency and happiness

Two interesting things rolled across my desk today, interesting because they address the same topic — dependence on Big Government — but reach diametrically opposite conclusions.  The first is a Dennis Prager column that examines why American conservatives are happier than American liberals.  This isn’t just Dennis’ opinion, by the way.  Instead, several recent polls have shown that, on the whole, conservatives are happier people.

Dennis opines that the matter essentially boils down to a few key differences in outlook.  One is a sense of victimhood.  In America, those who turn to the government for succor are those who feel betrayed by the American system, whether because they’re blacks invested in the notion of racism, or people of any color feeling that they haven’t succeeded in the American system as they deserved.  Another is the notion of utopianism.  Liberals believe in perfectibility, and are constantly disappointed; conservatives recognize flaws, and are always thrilled to live in the society that best harnesses negative human traits and gives the most rein to positive traits.  Conservatives are also more generous — they give their money away to causes, rather than waiting for the government to take it.  That affects how they feel about their own contributions to societal good.

The other article that came to me, via a very Progressive facebook friend, is one by Thom Hartmann that argues in favor of huge taxes on the rich, with the assurance that, in Denmark, people are happy because they pay such high taxes, with the rich taking the greatest hit, but not feeling it, while everyone else gets cheap, high-quality government services.  It’s a very sophisticated argument, and often a correct one, about the differing effect taxes have on the rich and the poor.

As I understand it, Hartmann argument boils down to this.  The rich earn far more than they can ever spend.  This means that taxes affect only their non-discretionary income, not their discretionary income.  If they’re taxed more, they might save less, but it won’t affect the money they spend annually on both life’s necessities and its reasonable frivolities.  The non-rich, however, spend everything they earn after taxes.  If taxes are raised, they have less after-tax money to spend, which hurts them.  BUT (and this is the kicker), Hartmann contends that, invariably, the market adjusts so that, after a few years, the non-rich end up getting from their employers precisely the same amount in adjusted dollars to bring them to spending parity with their situation before the tax increase.

This means, says Hartmann that, if top marginal tax rates are increased, only the rich will suffer.  Everyone else will remain the same, except that the government will have hugely greater number of dollars at its disposal for free health care and education. Further, the less money the rich people have to throw around, the more stable the economy is, because it prevents bubbles.  This means that there is no great wealth creation, but there are no collapses either.

A large chunk of the article is concerned with trying to figure out why non-rich people are so stupid that they don’t want to tax the rich at a higher rate, considering that, in the long run, higher rates will leave non-rich people with pretty much the same amount of disposable income.  Scaife comes into all of this, of course, as does the Heritage Foundation, William Kristol, and the usual conservative suspects. I found that part of the article uninteresting.  When Hartmann got back to substance, he started making thought-provoking points again.

Thus, Hartmann asserts that, if you increase tax rates, government actually shrinks, which is what sensible conservatives should want.  I can’t summarize the argument adequately, so let me quote it here:

From 1985 until 2008, William A. Niskanen was the chairman of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, and before 1985 he was chairman of Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers and a key architect of Reaganomics. He figured out something that would explode Reagan’s head if he were still around. Looking at the 24-year period from 1981 to 2005, when the great experiment of cutting taxes (Reagan) then raising them (Bush Sr. and Clinton) then cutting them again (Bush Jr.) played out, Niskanen saw a clear trend: when taxes go up, government shrinks, and when taxes go down, government gets bigger.

Consider this: You have a clothing store and you offer a “50 percent off” sale on everything in the store. What happens? Sales go up. Do it for a few years and you’ll even need to hire more workers and move into a larger store because sales will continue to rise if you’re selling below cost. “But won’t the store go broke?” you may ask. Not if it’s able to borrow unlimited amounts of money and never—or at least not for 20 years or more—pay it back.

That’s what happens when we have unfunded tax cuts. Taxpayers get government services—from parks and schools to corporate welfare and crop subsidy payments—at a lower cost than they did before the tax cuts. And, like with anything else, lower cost translates into more demand.

This is why when Reagan cut taxes massively in the 1980s, he almost doubled the size of government: there was more demand for that “cheap government” because nobody was paying for it. And, of course, he ran up a massive debt in the process, but that was invisible because the Republican strategy, called “two Santa Clauses,” is to run up government debt when in office and spend the money to make the economy seem good, and then to scream about the debt and the deficit when Democrats come into office. So while Reagan and W were exploding our debt, there wasn’t a peep from the right or in the media; as soon as a Democrat was elected (Clinton and Obama), both the right-wingers and the corporate media became hysterical about the debt.

And when Clinton raised taxes so that people actually started paying the true cost of government (a balanced budget as in the years 1999 and 2000), they concluded that they didn’t need as many services, so government actually shrank—in terms of both cost and the number of federal employees.

As a non-economist, I have to admit that what Hartmann says makes a certain amount of superficial sense.  I suspect, though, that there’s more to it.  For example, Laffer’s curve may be involved.  That says that lower tax rates create greater wealth, which actually increases government revenue.  With greater government revenue, profligate politicians and greedy citizens have more to play with. The problem, then, isn’t the tax structure; it’s the boondoggles, and earmarks, and “other people’s money” syndrome that inevitably plagues an organization that lacks fiscal discipline.

My core problem with Hartmann’s whole premise, though, is that it works because his allusion to Denmark shows that what he really wants is a world in which the government is responsible for all income that’s not dedicated to life’s necessities.  Under the current American system, that “excess” money that the “rich” have floating around — the money that Hartmann thinks the government should take and redistribute — is money that goes to banks that lend it to future homeowners and entrepreneurs; it goes into businesses that hire people; and it goes into funding innovation that improves people’s lives.

Having wealth circulate in the marketplace increases the risks of a slap happy economy, but it also vastly increases the possibilities of life improvement.  It increases innovation and, yes, greed, which is a powerful motivator.  In the Scandinavian countries, which until recently had stunningly homogeneous populations, no defense budgets, and no sense of obligation to the rest of the world (which we, in the U.S., heavily fund), it’s easy to have a tight little loop of shiny, clean, teeny houses; lean, mean Danish modern furniture; health care for that homogeneous population; and an almost zero track record on innovations that improve life for most of the world’s population.

Hartmann envisions a world in which everyone is happy with a brightly colored Danish modern version of very little.  Hartmann also fails to take into account dynamic populations.  The Scandinavian countries worked so well for so long because they were populated by people with precisely the same values and precisely the same life habits, habits that happened to be particularly neat and self-disciplined.  The tremors are starting, though, as these same countries struggle to deal with newcomers who have nothing in common with this nice, neat, egalitarian very white world view.  The welfare scams, violence, polygamy, cultural incest, etc., that the Muslim populations are bringing to Denmark and Sweden, and other northern countries, are all going to place a very interesting burden on these happy little taxpayers who could always rely on each other for homogeneity and on Papa America for world stability.

Before being quite so smug, places such as Sweden and Denmark might want to cast a jaundiced eye on Holland and Britain and France, all of which started with less homogeneous populations than the northern countries; all of which have had a head start on the challenging task of incorporating Muslims into their closed world views; and two of which (Britain and France) actually had to set aside defense budgets.  Hartmann, too, might want to consider that America is Holland, Britain, France, etc., on speed when it comes to population diversity; constant immigration; and defense spending upon which the entire Western world has relied since 1942.

At bottom, I’d rather be a happy American iconoclast, living with a fairly low level of risk (heck, we’re not yet Argentina, Greece or Ireland) and wedded to the infinite possibilities of a dynamic economy that trusts the innovation and drive individuals, rather than coping with a government’s overarching static, inefficient bureaucracy.  I’d also rather be in a surging country that, better than any place in the world, incorporates incomers, even illegal ones, as opposed to a country that is, for the first time, has to deal with profound outsider disruptions to its cozy little system.  I’m happy here.  Not droned, not pacified, not opiated, but happy.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

Why I am a fascist (according to my liberal friend) *UPDATED*

As I’ve related in past posts, my liberal friend repeatedly calls me a fascist or Nazi for supporting the Tea Party.  Aside from being really rude, these appellations bewilder me.  The historical record is very clear that both the Italian fascists and the Germany Nazis were socialists.  Socialism, by definition, means the concentration of political and economic power in the hands of a single government entity:

Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.

Certainly all governments that have self-identified as socialist have been run along these lines, to a greater or lesser extent.  Without exception, the more extreme the socialism within a given nation, the more tyrannical the power structure within that nation.  That, after all, is how “fascism” and “Naziism” got to be dirty words — because the political collective exerted violent control over its own citizens and, eventually, sought to exert that same control over citizens of other nations.

Given that the Tea Party is about lessening, rather than increasing, government’s power over its citizens, calling me a fascist or a Nazi seems like a misnomer of almost heroic prop0rtions.  Yet my liberal friend is well-educated, as are most of the other so-called liberals tossing those insults around with such abandon.

One is tempted to dismiss the repeated use of these insults with the classic Princess Bride put-down:  “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”  To do so is a mistake.  Just because the Progressives and so-called liberals keep misusing the word does not mean that they don’t ascribe meaning to the word.  I think I’ve finally figured out what that meaning is.

Tea Partiers advocate lower taxes and less government spending.  As to the latter, because they aren’t anarchists, they recognize that the federal government needs to engage in certain types of expenditures in order to have a functional nation.

The most obvious necessary expenditure is national security, which gets an inordinate amount of space in the Constitution.  We also expect the federal government to provide a stable economic environment (commerce and banking) and to exercise itself to prevent endemic and epidemic illnesses.  We’ve acknowledged the need for a national police force (the FBI), although we leave most of our policing to local government.

I’m sure that all of you, with little effort, can think of other basic functions that federal and local governments need to fulfill.  The bottom line is that Tea Partiers do not want those basic government services to end, although I’m sure that they’d like to see waste cut down, whether that’s through better management, or through the services of competitive private companies whose work is merely overseen by the government.  (But that’s a post for another day.)

Once you remove from the equation the essentials of governing, you’re left with only one thing:  entitlements.  Tea Partiers are attacking entitlements.  That is what makes us fascists or Nazis.  It’s not that we want to exert more control over citizens in the traditional tyrannical socialist (fascist/Nazi) sense, it’s that we want to limit entitlements.

By the way, we tend to toss around the phrase “entitlements” with fairly careless abandon.  It’s worthwhile to think about what an entitlement is:  It means paying money or services to someone, not because he has earned that payment, but because he deserves it merely for being himself.  (I’m very familiar with this concept, because my children have a massive sense of entitlement.)

Some entitlements are almost certainly a reasonable part of a decently functioning nation.  A humane, moral nation doesn’t allow a 90 year old to starve to death in a gutter merely because he hasn’t worked enough lately to pay the rent.  (Although the North Koreans are happy to do this with people who don’t sing the party tune loudly enough or, worse, who fail to contribute to the state any more.)

Since the 1960s, though, we’ve extended the notion of entitlements far past the minimal requirements of human decency.  A perfect example is welfare.  By the early 1990s, welfare was a huge leviathan, with families that had been on welfare for generations.  The generational aspect of welfare wasn’t a result of a poor economy; it was the result of an entitlement mindset.  Back in the 1960s, just as blacks were beginning to make economic strides, well-meaning social workers, flush with the notion of the Great Society, flooded black communities, urging blacks not to work:  Let the government pay you.  It owes you for the insults that have been visited against blacks since they were first forcibly shipped to these shores.  For many families, not working became normative, because they were entitled not to work.

For those of you wondering why I’m mentioning welfare here, in 2010, when “welfare as we know it” ended it around 1994, I do so for two reasons. First, the Dems are using the bad economy to reinstate the welfare rolls. Second, many of you who were around during the 1994 debate must surely remember that the Left assured Americans that, if “welfare as we know it” ended, Americans would be dying in the streets, a la Calcutta or Ethiopia. Of course, that’s not what happened. When the entitlement was cut, able bodied people who were getting money, not because of any inherent failure in their ability to earn but because of a sense of entitlement, began to work. The world did not end, but the welfare rolls shrank, and the federal government shucked off some of its debt.

There is no doubt that attacking entitlements now will cause a temporary dislocation to those who have come to believe that they have no obligation in this life other than to sit back and take government money just because of who they are.  In the end, very few of those feeding at the government trough are “entitled” to anything, and I weep no tears for their temporary hardship.  I do know, though, that cutting the federal government by cutting entitlements will decrease government power and government profligacy, both of which are what the Tea Partiers seek.

And if that makes me a fascist, so be it.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

UPDATE:  Here’s another example of a Leftist re-defining settled terms to suit his beliefs.

UPDATE II:  A graphic example of entitlements, and what happens when the spoiled brats think they’re about to lose them.

Socialist governments just LOVE to control food

As Jonah Goldberg pointed out in Liberal Fascism, socialists, as part of their ongoing effort to perfect mankind, are obsessed with food intake.  The Nazis were especially focused on purifying the Aryan body.

Now, I’m not likening the San Francisco Board of Stupidvisors to the Nazis — God forbid! — but I am pointing out that they are completely in line with the socialist obsession with controlling humans, not just from cradle to grave, but from mouth to rectum as well.  How else to explain that the Stupes have voted overwhelmingly to prevent San Francisco consumers from buying McDonald’s Happy Meals if they feel so inclined.

First they came for the salt, and I didn’t say anything, because I’m dont’ use too much salt in my food.  Then they came for the Happy Meals, and I didn’t say anything, because I prefer McDonald’s chicken strips.  And then they came for the chocolate, and there was no one left to speak, because they’d all been sent to food reeducation camp and were completely apathetic from hunger and sensory deprivation.

Friedman tries — but he’s still an idiot

Thomas Friedman has a habit of making obvious statements in grandiose and portentous tones, only to ruin his credibility by following his astute grasp of the obvious with utterly fatuous and meaningless conclusions, bolstered by totalitarian-themed practical recommendations.  His latest column is a perfect example.

In the first paragraph, Friedman describes a piece of decaying infrastructure — which just happens to be an Amtrak line.  Now, that’s an interesting starting point, because I’ve been under the impression that Amtrak is absolutely and completely incapable of functioning with steady government infusions.  It’s a classic example of a completely ineptly run government program.  That is, despite Friedman’s implication the Amtrak’s problem is the current economy, the problem isn’t the recession at all, it’s Amtrak’s fundamental nature.

In his next paragraph, Friedman, in oracular tones, asks a question from on high:  “If we were a serious country, this is what the midterms would be about: How do we generate the jobs needed to sustain our middle class and pay for new infrastructure?”  Having set up his straw man scenario, Friedman follows immediately with a meaningless, “let’s pretend” conclusion:  “It would require a different kind of politics — one that doesn’t conform to either party’s platform.”

How do I know that this is a meaningless, let’s pretend conclusion?  Because Friedman then proceeds to waffle on, as he inevitably does, about taxing the rich and having the government spend on infrastructure.  (“We will have to raise some taxes to generate revenue, like on energy or maybe a value-added tax, and lower others, on payrolls to stimulate work, and on multinational corporations to get them to bring the trillion dollars they have offshore back to the U.S. for investment” and “we’ll probably need more stimulus to get the economy moving again so people have the confidence to buy and invest.”)  As you read that, just think of Friedman’s personal wealth, and ask yourself what percentage he expects to give to the government, and what percentage he happily concludes you ought to give.

But back to that whole “tax and spend on infrastructure” meme….

Pardon me for my confusion, Mr. Friedman, but wasn’t that what you and Obama promised back in 2008 would happen, so much so that our unemployment would be below 9% and are economy booming?  You know — all those “shovel ready” jobs?  You guys sold the nation on the concept of an infrastructure building binge of the type we saw in the 1930s (Hoover Dam, the Tennessee Valley Authority) or the 1950s (the interstate highway system).  As Obama has admitted, he didn’t know what he was talking about and, as David Brooks confirmed, he knew a long time ago that he was selling a lie.  Not only has our money not been used for infrastructure, it’s been used for boondoggles that make Tammany Hall look like amateur hour at the Ritz.  The jobs numbers aren’t so good either, with even reliable Democrat shill 60 Minutes conceding an unemployment rate in excess of 17%.

Friedman tries to hide his usual socialist cheering by following that useless prescription with vaguely uplifting phrases supporting some basic capitalist principles (“Ultimately, though, good jobs at scale come only when we create more products and services that make people’s lives more healthy, more productive, more secure, more comfortable or more entertained — and then sell them to more people around the world,” a goal that will be achieved with workers inspired to become “artisans”) but his heart’s not in it.  The overall tone of his article makes it manifestly clear that he’s incapable of imagining American people, functioning freely in an open marketplace, having the energy and innovation to create those products and services.  Without Nanny State help, he thinks, we’re doomed.

You know what the tell is for the fact that his column doesn’t mark an admission that his prior beliefs were all wrong but is, instead, the usual melange of lies, fantasy, and totalitarian dreaming?  The last sentence:  “Government’s job is to help inspire, educate, enable and protect that work force. This election should have been about how.”  For a nice book translating Friedman’s touchy-feelie totalitarianism, I highly recommend Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning.

Have I mentioned that Friedman is an idiot?

All About Money

One of the things that I try to understand is the Great Divide between today’s Liberals and conservatives that has left us talking past one another on policy issues. Frankly, I have concluded that discussion with Liberals is often futile because we attribute different meanings to words and concepts.

One of those concepts, I suspect, has to do with “money”.  Let me throw the following proposition on the table for discussion:

Liberal /Lefties view “money” as a fixed, tangible quantity with intrinsic value, like gold coins, for example. Thus, the value of money is intrinsic to the lucre itself, be it coins or dollar notes. Conservatives, on the other hand, see “money” more abstractly as representing “created value”…as scrip or IOU on value created or received. As economists put it, money is a “medium of exchange” for value. So, for liberals, “money” is something tangible to that must be amassed by taking from someone else’s stash. For conservatives, “money” is something more abstract that must to be created (i.e. goods or services) directly (e.g., wages) or indirectly (e.g., inheritance) through the creation of “value”.

How might this color our perceptions of one another?

1) When people like Bill Gates amass a large quantity of money by creating products that many people wish to purchase, conservatives view Gates’ money as a reflection of the value that he created and contributed others. No hard feelings there – it’s a fair exchange. A Liberal/Lefty, however, sees only Gate’s amassed pot of lucre that appears disproportionately high compared to the lucre stored in other peoples’ pots. They see this imbalance as patently unfair, especially since this lucre was transferred from other peoples’ modest stashes into Bill Gates’ already whopping big stash: Bill has more, all of his customers have less.

2) When money is needed to achieve a desirable social or governmental goal, a conservative recognizes that such money needs to be generated somewhere to pay for this goal. This can only be done by either drawing down existing value (confiscating peoples’ lucre) or by creating new  ‘value” that can be taxed (i.e., growing the economy). A Liberal/Lefty doesn’t make this connection – they see the process simply as one of either redistributing the existing lucre from other peoples’ pots or creating new lucre by printing more money. The problem of printing new lucre, of course, is that it is still underwritten by a fixed quantity of value – expanding money supply representing a fixed value means that each dollar is worth less. We call that inflation.

I can’t tell you how many times Liberals have looked at me with puzzlement when I have asked where they expect to get the money for their favored social programs.

3) De-linking “money” from the process of wealth creation makes it easy for Liberal/Lefties to confuse using tax money to pay for unemployment checks, dance troupes or road repair as “economic stimulus”. You are, after all, taking lucre sitting idle in some peoples’ pots and putting that lucre into other peoples’ pockets to spend on purchases. Unfortunately, the fact is that such activities do not in themselves create new value. This cannot therefore “grow” the economy.

What do you think? Am I onto something? And, if so, what other aspects of the Great Divide does this help to explain? Does this help or hinder us in discussing our differences with the Liberal /Left?

What if they gave a socialist party and nobody cared?

The big news in the world of conservative publishing today is Stanley Kurtz’s Radical-in-Chief. It’s not actually out yet — that will happen on October 19 — but you can pre-order at the link I provided.  According to the press release, the book proves completely that Obama, despite his denials, is in fact a socialist, and not just a run of the mill “liberal Democrat” or a “progressive”:

Part biography, part history, part detective story, RADICAL-IN-CHIEF reveals the carefully hidden tale of Barack Obama’s political past. Stanley Kurtz, whose research helped inject the Bill Ayers and ACORN issues into the 2008 presidential campaign, presents the results of more than two years of digging into President Obama’s radical political world. The book is filled with previously unknown information about the president’s past, tied together by a bold argument about what Obama’s deepest political convictions really are.

RADICAL-IN-CHIEF marshals a wide array of never-before-seen evidence to establish that the president of the United States is indeed a socialist. Tracing an unbroken thread of socialist activities and political partnerships, from Obama’s youth through his community organizing days and beyond, the book confirms that the president’s harshest critics have been right about his socialism all along.

RADICAL-IN-CHIEF also exposes the truth about community organizers–the socialist beliefs they hold and hide, and how they trained and groomed a president. Obama’s community organizer colleagues had a strategy for slowly and stealthily turning the United States into a socialist nation. The Obama administration is carrying out that strategy today.

This book will forever change our national debate about who Barack Obama is.

For those of us who followed Stanley Kurtz’s writing in the run-up to the 2008 election, much of this is familiar stuff. Kurtz promises, however, that he has new research and revelations to bolster his already strong arguments about Obama’s political identity.  I have no doubt that the book will make for fascinating and informative reading.

The book’s October 19 release date is obviously timed to help educate voters in the lead-up to the November election.  I have a concern, however, one I’ve voiced before:  I’m pretty sure that the American public, indoctrinated for 40 years in the American public education system and the Ivy League universities, really doesn’t care about the word “socialist.”

While earlier generations of Americans understood the word to describe a political system that coincides with the diminution of personal and economic freedom, too many Americans hear the word and simply think of it as an alternative economic system.  They think Europe, with its pretty buildings and, until recently, high standard of living.

These same Americans do not think of the USSR and the Gulags, or the Nazis and the concentration camps, or the Norks and their concentration camps, or the Cubans and their political prisons, or the Chinese and their political slave labor.  All of those, Americans would say, were communist, which is different, never mind that it’s not.

I can already hear some of you saying right now that Americans are proving, with their hostility to the Obama/Democrat agenda, that they hate socialism.  But I’m talking semantics.  They’ll say they hate “Big Government,” or taxes, or government inefficiency, or too much government spending, but they will be utterly blase about “socialism.”  The word has lost its power.  The underlying concepts may bother Americans, but to say Obama is a socialist probably has as much meaning as to say he eats potatoes.

So while I think it’s fascinating that Kurtz can and will prove the ties that bind Obama to the hard Left, the fact is that, unless we can get Americans understand what that actually means, the book will be a nine day wonder that will not affect the ladies who rot their minds watching The View.

Israel hasn’t changed; the world has *UPDATED*

[Prepare yourself; this is a long one.  Long-time readers may also recognize that I've cannibalized old posts in the service of a new point.]

A friend sent me a link to a 1951 video, showing a popular American singing group celebrating the creation of the State of Israel, something that had happened only three years before:

The affection a mainstream entertainment group felt for Israel was not anomalous back in 1951.  In the eyes of the American public, Israel — and the Jews — were starting what was to be a pretty good run for a number of decades.  This was not a historical accident but was, rather, the confluence of myriad social and geopolitical events.

On the home front, Jews had gone from being alien immigrants clogging New York’s Lower East Side, to becoming middle-class citizens who fully embraced every aspect of American life.  Sure, they might do their worshiping on Friday nights and Saturday mornings, and sure the men wore those funny little skull caps, and absolutely you wouldn’t want your daughter to marry one, but they were still — and quite obviously — solid Americans who embraced the same values as their goyish next-door neighbors.  In other words, for those who liked to justify the irrational, American Jews in the post-war era were not “deserving” of active antisemitism.

It helped that the post-WWII generation had seen exactly what active antisemitism looked like.  Active antisemitism wasn’t the American habit of barring Jews from neighborhoods, banks and law firms.  Nope.  Active antisemitism was serious stuff:

Lager Nordhausen, a Gestapo run concentration camp

Child dying on streets of Warsaw Ghetto

Mass grave at Bergen-Belsen

For the first time ever, Americans understood precisely how far insane, irrational race hated — and, especially, antisemitism — could lead.  The notion of Jews having their own country, a place from which they could defend themselves, made perfect sense to Americans who, less than 200 years before, had also created their own country.

When the nations of the world, in the form of a vaguely philo-semitic and pretty damn guilty UN, voted the State of Israel into existence, Americans cheered.  And when the surrounding Arab nations immediately declared war, intent upon creating a second Holocaust, public sympathy lay with the State of Israel.

This public sympathy was not just a post-War flash in the pan.  Twenty years later, when the Arab nations manifestly intended a second Holocaust, American sympathy again lay with Israel.

A perfect example of the American affinity for Israel is a 100-page 1967 commemorative issue of Life magazine entitled “Israel’s Swift Victory” — referring to the Six Day War in 1967.  What makes the magazine so distinct from today’s media  coverage of Israel is the tone. The Life editors admired Israel tremendously for standing up to the overwhelming odds the Arab nations presented, and for triumphing against those odds. The very first page identifies Israel as a minute, beleaguered haven for Jewish refugees, surrounded by an ocean of hostile Arab nations:

The state of Israel, no bigger than Massachusetts, was established in 1948 in Palestine as a haven for the war-ravaged Jewish communities of Europe. Bitter fighting attended her birth and fixed her boundaries against the surrounding phalanx of hostile Arab states: Jordan cut into her narrow wasp waist and through the holy city of Jerusalem; Egypt along her western desert flank was entrenched in the coastal strip of Gaza. At Israel’s southern tip is the strategic port of Elath, against which Egypt made the play that brought on the war and unhinged the entire Middle East.

Life‘s editors were unsympathetic to Egyptian President Abdel Gamel Nasser’s conduct, which the editors understood presented an existential threat that left Israel with no option but to react. After describing how Nasser, speaking from Cairo, demanded Israel’s extermination, Life editorializes thusly:

The world had grown accustomed to such shows [of destructive hatred towards Israel] through a decade of Arab-Israeli face-offs that seasonally blew as hot as a desert sirocco. Since 1948, when Israel defeated the Arabs and won the right to exist as a nation, anti-Zionist diatribes had been the Arab world’s only official recognition of Israel. Indeed, in the 19 years since the state was founded, the surrounding Arab states have never wavered from their claim that they were in a state of war with Israel.

But now there was an alarming difference in Nasser’s buildup. He demanded that the U.N. withdraw the 3,400-man truce-keeping force that had camped in Egypt’s Sinai desert and in the Gaza Strip ever since Egypt’s defeat in the Suez campaign of 1956 as a buffer between Egyptians and Israelis. A worried United Nations Secretary-General U Thant agreed to the withdrawal, then winged to Cairo to caution Nasser.

He found him adamant. Plagued by economic difficulties at home and bogged down in the war in Yemen, Nasser had lately been criticized by Syrians for hiding behind the U.N. truce-keeping force. With brinksmanship as his weapon, Nasser had moved to bolster his shaky claim to leadership of the divided Arab world.

As a caveat to my post caption (“Israel hasn’t changed; the world has”), I’ll note here that a few things in the world actually haven’t changed:  First, aside from its brief flirtation with decency in 1948, the UN has always been craven. Egypt demands that it withdraws and, voila, it withdraws. The other thing that hasn’t changed, although it’s no longer spoken of in polite MSM company, is the fact that the Arab nations have always used anti-Israeli rhetoric and conduct to deflect attention from their failures and as a vehicle to establish dominance over other Arab nations in the region. In other words, if there weren’t an Israel, the Arab nations would have had to invent one.

In contrast to the fevered, irrational hatred Life describes on the Arab side of the battle line, the Life editors are impressed by the Israelis. Under the bold heading “Israel’s cool readiness,” and accompanied by photographs of smiling Israeli soldiers taking a cooling shower in the desert, listening to their commander, and attending to their tanks, Life has this to say:

With the elan and precision of a practiced drill team, Israel’s largely civilian army — 71,000 regulars and 205,000 reservists — began its swift mobilization to face, if necessary, 14 Arab nations and their 110 million people. As Premier Levi Eshkol was to put it, “The Jewish people has had to fight unceasingly to keep itself alive…. We acted from an instinct to save the soul of a people.

Again, can you imagine a modern publication pointing out the vast disparity in landmass and population between Israel and the Arabs, or even acknowledging in the opening paragraph of any article that Israel has a right to exist? The text about Israel’s readiness is followed by more photographs of reservists preparing their weapons and of a casually seated Moshe Dayan, drinking a soda, and conferring with his men. Under the last photograph, you get to read this:

The Israelis, Dayan said, threw themselves into their hard tasks with “something that is a combination of love, belief and country.”

After using almost reverent tones to describe the Israelis’ offensive strike against the Arab air-forces, which gave Israel the decisive advantage in the War, Life addresses Israel’s first incursion into Gaza. I’m sure you’ll appreciate how the Gaza area is depicted:

Minutes after the first air strike, a full division of Israeli armor and mechanized infantry . . . was slashing into the Egyptian-held Gaza Strip. A tiny wasteland, the strip had been given up by Israel in the 1956 settlement and was now a festering splinter — the barren harbor for 315,000 refugees bent on returning to their Palestinian homes and the base for Arab saboteurs.

Wow! Those clueless (by today’s standards) Life writers actually seem to imply that Egypt, which controlled Gaza for eleven years, had some responsibility for this “festering,” dangerous area.

The Life editors are agog about Israeli military tactics:

The Israeli plan was so flexible that its architects at the last minute switched strategy to avoid a new deployment of enemy forces in southern Sinai. After the air strikes that wiped out the Arab air forces, Israeli armor and infantry swept westward across the waist of Sinai, parallel to the path of the Gaza breakthrough. A smaller column cut south from El Kuntilla, then raced toward Suez. Patrol boats and paratroops were sent to Sharm el Sheikh to break the blockade of the Gulf of Aqaba, but the airborne troops were able to land at the abandoned airfield because the Egyptians had fled. Meanwhile, fighting erupted on another front — the divided city of Jerusalem, where an Israeli pincer column encircled the old, Jordanian section. Yet another Israeli force moved against Jenin, north of Jerusalem. The final Israeli attacked, at the end of the week, was mounted against Syria, which had been shelling border settlements.

The Life editor’s tactical admiration emerges again when speaking about Israel’s successful taking of the Sinai Peninsula:

Stabbing into the Sinai desert, the Israelis stuck to the same strategy that in 1956 had carried them to the Suez Canal in 100 hours: never stop. Although outnumbered more than two to one — by an Egyptian force of almost 100,000 men grouped in seven divisions and supported by 900 tanks — they smashed ahead day and night, outracing the foe, encircling him time and again and trapping thousands of prisoners as Egyptian discipline collapsed. *** The battle — one of the epic armored engagements in history — lasted 24 hours and involved some 1,000 tanks.

Two things occur to me as I read the above descriptions of Israeli strategy in 1967: First, during the 2006 Israeli/Hezbollah war, if press reports are to be believed (and that’s always a leap of faith) Israel did not demonstrate either flexibility or speed. She remained rigidly fixated on using air power, despite the fact that (a) this hadn’t served the Americans that well in Iraq and (b) it didn’t appear to be achieving her objectives.

Indeed, it’s gotten to the point where it’s difficult to imagine the modern Israeli military ever acting with the type of decisiveness and flexibility it showed during the 1967 War.  In the 40+ years since the Six Day War, Israel’s military, like an old man, has become calcified and risk-averse.

The dynamism that characterized its strategy in 1967 was nowhere to be found in 2006, during the Hezbollah War, and its 100% commitment to the worthiness of its own cause seems to have collapsed completely now that Turkey and Iran — two sovereign nations that sit with Israel in the UN — are actively colluding with terrorists to bring weapons into a small neighboring nation-state (that would be Gaza), in order to pave the way for Israel’s destruction.  Only a nation that cares more about world opinion than its own existence would board a terrorist ship armed with paint balls.  Israel’s caving on the blockade is also symptomatic of a loss of faith in itself.

The second thing that occurred to me reading the above was the fact that the Life writers are describing a traditional war: army versus army. Under those circumstances, there’s a tremendous virtue in cheering for the underdog who routs the larger force.

Nowadays, where asymmetrical warfare means that there’s a traditional army on one side and terrorists hiding amongst and targeting civilians on the other side, the battle lines, the tactical lines, and the victory lines can easily be confusing.  This is especially true when you have those, like members of MSM, who don’t understand the nature of the war (one side wants peaceful coexistence; one side wants genocide); who don’t understand that the terrorists are, in fact, well-funded soldiers of Islamic nations, such as Iran and Syria; and who focus on the minutiae of the daily casualty reports without any understanding of the larger dynamics involved (hint:  Iran, Syria and, now, Turkey).

When confronted with the traditional army versus army conflict, as opposed to the illusory “army versus little guy” conflict, the 1967 press could easily distinguish the forest from the trees, as demonstrated in this paragraph:

The Sinai victory had cost the Israelis heavier casualties than the 1956 Suez campaign, 275 dead and 800 wounded. . . . The Egyptian losses were staggering — 20,000 dead by Israeli estimates and perhaps a billion-dollar lost in war materiel. But the objective was gained. Israeli troops took up positions on the east bank of the Suez Canal — and trained their guns on Egypt’s homeland. [Emphasis mine.]

The Life editors also take on what they perceive as the canard that the U.S. blindly allies itself with Israel — a canard that persists to this day, and one that Barack Obama has taken wholly to heart.  Indeed, I have no doubt but that Obama is seriously considering as solid strategic advice the message he received today from Al Qaeda:

Al Qaeda’s American-born spokesman has repeated the terror group’s conditions for peace with America in a video released Sunday.

Adam Gadahn called on President Barack Obama to withdraw his troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, end support for Israel, stop intervening in the affairs of Muslims, and free Muslim prisoners.

If I remember correctly, that was pretty much the same deal (albeit with different nations and another kind of totalitarianism involved) that Hitler offered Chamberlain back in 1938.  And we know how well that turned out.

Back in 1967, the intelligentsia that controlled the MSM wasn’t as easily deceived as the Ivory Tower crowd and media heads are now.  In discussing UN proceedings and, specifically Soviet behavior, the magazine’s editors demonstrated that they understood that Israel was then, as it is now, a pawn in a larger game.  Because this is an extraordinarily important point, and one manifestly ignored on the Left (and often misunderstood in the non-ideological middle), I’m reprinting in its entirety the magazine section focusing on the Cold War aspect of Israel’s travails:

As the Arab soldiers and refugees made their sad and painful way from the scenes of their defeat, the Soviet Union threw its heaviest oratorical gun into the United Nations in an effort to salvage some of what it had lost in the Mideast. Premier Aleksei Kosygin arrived at the General Assembly with an arsenal of invective.

Kosygin put all the blame on Israel and its “imperialist” backers (i.e., the U.S. and Britain). As he saw it, Israel’s “atrocities and violence” brought to mind “the heinous crimes perpetrated by the fascists during World War II.” He demanded the Assembly’s approval for a resolution — rejected earlier by the Security Council — that would condemn Israel as sole aggressor in the conflict, and he proposed that Israel not only be made to pull back to her prewar borders but also to pay reparations to the Arabs for their losses.

He was answered by the Israeli foreign minister, Abba Eban [his speech is here], whose detailed documentation and eloquence told how the Arabs had given his country the choice of defending its national existence or forfeiting it for all time. Then he put Kosygin himself in the defendant’s dock. Russia, he charged, was guilty of inflaming passions in a region “already too hot with tension” by feeding the arms race and spreading false propaganda. He called Kosygin’s reference to the Nazis “an obscene comparison . . . a flagrant breach of international morality and human decency.” As for the Russian demand that Israel pull back to her prewar lines, that, he said, was totally unacceptable until durable and just solutions are reached “in free negotiations with each of our neighbors.” The Arab states “have come face to face with us in conflict; let them now come face to face with us in peace.” Israel was determined not be deprived of her victory.

I assume you caught that the Soviet speaker used precisely the same rhetoric about Israel that has become normative throughout Europe and in most Leftist publications.  He castigated Israel as an imperialist entity and claimed that her tactics were “atrocities” that were identical to those the Nazis used. Unlike today’s MSM, Life‘s 1967 editorial team appears appalled by the tenor and falsity of those accusations.

Back in 1967, the American media was apparently also better able to deal with the fallacious argument stating that Israel is an anchor around America’s neck, dragging her down in her dealings with whomever she happens to be dealing with (whether the Soviet bloc or the Islamists).  The Life editors, some of whom probably were alive, and perhaps fighting, during WWII, understood that an ally’s moral stance is a significant factor in choosing that ally, and that an enemy’s moral deficits are equally important:

The error [the belief that the U.S. unthinkingly supports Israel] arises out of the fact that in most disputes the U.S. has been found on Israel’s side.  That’s because it is the Arabs who challenge the existence of Israel, and not vice versa.

There you have it, in a 1967 nutshell.  The U.S. sides with Israel not because of any hostility to Arabs, but because it recognizes the right of a sovereign nation to defend itself against annihilation — a principle that should be as operative today as it was 40+ years ago.  To the extent that Israel is a mere pawn in larger wars, if America abandons Israel, she is playing right into the hands, not just of Israel’s enemies, but of America’s own.

Because the editors understood the Cold War dynamics at work in the Middle East, they were also clear-headed about the implications of the refugee problem that was arising from the war, a problem that dwarfed the first round of refugees that the Muslim world had begun to use as propaganda tools after the 1948 war, and that the world’s useful idiots funded.  Keep in mind that, in no other place, at no other time, have refugees been kept in stasis in perpetuity.  They have always been resettled, and gone on either to create new communities or to be assimilated within the larger community to which they have relocated.  This would have made especially good sense with the Gaza refugees, who had been simply Ottomans, Jordanians, or Egyptians, depending on the century at issue, the Muslim nation that had regional dominance at the time, and the fellahin‘s geographic proximity to a given Muslim overlord.

Again, because the Life editorial is both clear-headed and prescient, I’m reprinting it here in its entirety (emphasis mine):

The 20th Century’s excellence — and its horrid defects — find some of their most vivid monuments in the hate-filled camps of Arab refugees. The refugees have been supported by the voluntary U.N. contributions of some 75 governments, not to mention the Inner Wheel Club of Hobart, Australia, the Boy Scout Union of Finland, the Women’s Club of Nes, Iceland, the Girls High School of Burton-on-Trend, England, and (for some reason) a number of automobile companies including Chrysler, Ford, G.M. and Volkswagen.

The philanthropy, governmental and private, that has aided these displaced Arabs is genuine — and admirable. The stupidity and political selfishness that have perpetuated the problem are appalling.

Down the ages, there have been thousands of episodes in which whole peoples fled their homes. Most were assimilated in the lands to which they fled. Brutally or beneficently, previous refugee groups were liquidated. Not until our time have there been the money, the philanthropy, the administrative skill, the hygienic know-how and the peculiar kind of nationalism which, in combination, could take a wave of refugees and freeze it into a permanent and festering institution.

In the wake of Israeli victories, the refugee camps received thousands of new recruits, and there may be more if, as seems likely, Israel successfully insists on some enlargement of its boundaries. Thus the refugee problem, one of the main causes of Middle East instability, is about to be magnified.

The early Zionists, looking toward a binational state, never thought they would, could or should replace the Arabs in Palestine.  When terrorism and fighting mounted in 1947-48, Arab leaders urged Palestinian Arabs to flee, promising that the country would soon be liberated.  Israelis tried to induce the Arabs to stay.  For this reason, the Israelis do not now accept responsibility for the Arab exodus.  Often quoted is the statement of a Palestinian Arab writer that the Arab leaders “told us:  ‘Get out so that we can get in.’  We got out but they did not get in.”

After the Israeli victory, Arab leaders outside of Palestine reversed their policy and demanded that all the refugees be readmitted to Israel. Israel reversed its policy, [and] refused to repatriate large numbers of Arabs on the ground that they would endanger the state. Nasser, for instance, has said, “If Arabs return to Israel, Israel will cease to exist.”

Now 1.3 million Arabs, not counting the recent influx, are listed as refugees. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has an international staff of about a hundred and spends nearly $40 million a year, 60% of it from the U.S. government. UNRWA services are performed by 11,500 Arab employees, most them refugees. Obviously, this group has an interest in not solving the refugee problem.

So have the host governments. Consistently they have refused to go along with any plan or policy for the resettlement or assimilation of the refugees, preferring to use them politically. In 1955 the Arab League scuttled a Jordan Valley development project precisely because it would have reduced, perhaps by 250,000, the number of Arab refugees.

It’s about time this dangerous deadlock ended. The inevitable reshuffle of the Middle East ought to include a plan to phase out the refugee problem in five or 10 years. Israel, to show goodwill, should repatriate a few thousand refugees per year. All of the 1.3 million could be absorbed in underpopulated Iran and Syria, provided their governments would cooperate in internationally supported developments projects. Persuading Arab governments to adopt a policy of resettlement should be central to U.S. policy, and it would be worth putting up quite a lot of A.I.D. money to get the job done. [Bolded emphasis mine.]

History has shown the Life editors to be correct when they believed that UN economic interests and Arab political interests would leave the refugee camps as a permanent blight on the Middle Eastern landscape. They were naive only in believing that anyone had the political will to solve the problem. They also could not have anticipated that, in a very short time, the same situation, with its same causes, would be plunged into a looking-glass world, where the Arab governments and the UN were absolved of their sins, and the blame was placed on Israel for not having engaged in an act of self-immolation by taking in these 1.3 million (and counting, and counting, and counting) hate-filled refugees.

America’s fondness and admiration for Israel extended to a cultural appreciation for the Jews as well.  I came of age during the 1960s and 1970s (and 1973, of course, saw the Yom Kippur War, another triumph of Israel’s dynamism that Americans generally applauded).  These were the high water years of America’s pop culture appreciation for her Jews.

If you were around in those decades, you’ll remember a time when popular culture was awash in successful books, songs, and shows that reflected favorably on American Jewish life and culture. For example, when I was a kid, everyone read and quoted from Dan Greenberg’s incredibly funny book, How to be a Jewish Mother. I had a friend who would just double over with laughter every time she thought of the appropriate Jewish mother response if she comes into the living room and finds her daughter necking on the couch with a boy: “Leave this house and don’t come back until you’re a virgin again.”  Another hugely popular Jewish book of the 1960s was Leo Rosten’s The Joys of Yiddish, a book that is a dictionary, a joke book, a cultural history, and a religious history book all rolled into one. (If you haven’t read it yet, you should.)

Anyone over forty also remembers Allan Sherman, the guy who became famous singing “Hello, Muddah; Hello, Faddah” and other ridiculous lyrics to familiar music? His records are still available, but in the 1960s they were a cultural phenomenom.  Sherman’s Ne York Jewishness was an integral part of his humor.  And certainly, no one needs to be reminded of what an enormous hit Fiddler on the Roof was: smash Broadway show, hit movie, and revival after revival. It still does get revived periodically (as was the case in 2004 in New York), but can you imagine it opening as a first run show now, in the same world that lauds a show about about the deranged and pathetic Rachel Corrie?  I certainly can’t.

So much of the entertainment world generally had a Jewish gloss.  Even in the 1960s and 1970s, the Jewish entertainers who hit the big time in Tin Pan Alley, Big Bands, and Broadway from the 1920s through 1940s hadn’t yet been pushed aside.  The American public still recognized and appreciated works from Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Richard Rogers, the Gershwin brothers, Moss Hart, George Kaufman, Lerner and Loewe, Dorothy Field, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, etc.  Milton Berle, George Burns, and Jack Benny lived in American’s living rooms during the 1950s, courtesy of their eponymous TV shows.  While none of these entertainers inserted any Jewish doctrine or explicit Jewish references into their work, their Jewishness permeated who they were and what they did — and Americans still loved them.

Pop culture comes and goes, and I certainly don’t mind — indeed, I think it’s a good thing — that other cultures are getting their moment in the pop culture sun. What I do mind, dreadfully, is how hostile so much of the world is now to things Jewish. Rachel Corrie is a martyr, anti-Semitism is popping up all over, churches boycott Israel, and the New York Times pretends that it was mere coincidence that, back in 2008, the lone Jewish enclave in Mumbai was singled out for an attack that surpassed all the others in sheer brutality.  I miss the time when the Jews were a beloved people, and their culture a thing to be enjoyed and admired.

I’ve now dragged you, higgledy-piggledy, through sixty years of Jewish and Israeli history, as it intersected with American history.  I’ve shown that, pockets of American antisemitism notwithstanding, for most of those sixty years Americans appreciated their Jews, and admired the State of Israel.  More than that, they understood Israel’s role in world geopolitics, seeing it as a proxy for the ugly war the Soviet Bloc was waging against America itself.

Things are completely different now.  Around the world, antisemitism is becoming more blatant and more violent.  Anti-Israel sentiment, which I believe to be an extension of antisemitism, has become de riguer, both abroad and, sadly, somewhat at home.  Our President, whether he is a Muslim or just a sociopath who sympathizes with Islamic goals, has given Israel the cold shoulder and slobbered his way to the feet of every totalitarian Muslim dictator he can find.  Israel has become a pariah nation.

What I find so interesting is that Israel has not changed in the last 60 years.  She is still a small, representative democracy surrounded by dozens of nations that are highly repressive theocratic dictatorships.  Unlike the surrounding nations, she gives equal rights to people of different faiths, colors, creeds, and sexual orientation. (The surrounding nations, in stark contrast, kill and expel people of different faiths, colors, creeds, and sexual orientation, all the while maintaining a brutal war for dominance against the women in the midst.) Israel’s values, in other words, are completely synchronous with those ostensibly espoused by the Western nations that now,  not only despise Israel, but that ally themselves with Islamic dictatorships that practice values completely antithetical to what were, until a few years ago, normative in the West.

Israel also still lives poised on the thin edge of destruction at the hands of those hundreds of millions of citizens who reside in those totalitarian Muslim nations.  She is still the vanguard in a war that both she and the West fight.  Where the enemy was once “Godless Communism,” it’s now Islamic Jihadism, but both enemies have the same goal:  the total destruction of the West and of countries with Western values, and the absorption of those Western nations into political systems that deny individual freedom and that relentlessly destroy their own citizens (in vast numbers) in order to achieve state dominance.

What’s changed, obviously, is the West.  Even though we ostensibly won the Cold War, insofar as we witnessed the collapse of the Soviet Bloc, it’s manifest that we also lost the Cold War, in that we lost our self-identity and internalized the values of the Soviet Bloc itself.  As I pointed out above, there is absolutely nothing to distinguish the speech made by the Soviet’s UN ambassador in 1967 from the standard political talk against Israel that routinely emanates today in Europe and (sadly) in America’s Democratic party.

The Left’s war on the West continues unabated and, as it did in 1967, the Left has allied itself with the Islamic jihadists.  What’s different now, is that there are no longer geographic lines, with a nice Iron Curtain neatly delineating the descendants of the Judeo-Christian enlightenment from Marx’s heirs.  Like a fungus, the latter have disseminated themselves through all western societies and are working vigorously on bringing them down.  As was the case in the 1930s, in 1948, in 1956, in 1967, and in 1973, Israel and the Jews are the front line in the battle, only now they fight alone.

Given that our President has clearly put himself on the wrong side of this war, it is imperative that “We, the people” take up moral arms on Israel’s behalf.  We don’t have to board the next plane and enlist in the IDF (although I know many who did in 1973), but we must put political pressure on everyone we know to force America back into the Israeli camp.  Doing so is not some sentimental act on behalf of a nation America once liked and admired.  As the Life editors recognized back in 1967, it is an absolutely necessary step if America wishes to defend herself against statist and theocratic forces that have allied with an eye to America’s ultimate destruction.

UPDATE:  Proving that I am not writing in a vacuum, two things came to my attention just today that emphasize the unholy linkage between the Left and Islam, on the one hand, and Israel and America, on the other hand.  That linkage has always been there, but now it’s not a fringe; it’s part of the dominant culture.  Very scary.  Anyway, the first is a Zombie article about a strike at the Oakland docks that sees Longshoremen, Communists and Islamists joining hands to protest a perfectly innocuous Israeli ship.  The second is Andy McCarthy’s short post commenting on the collusion between the Left and Islam, a running theme in his new book The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.

They have eyes, but cannot see — the conundrum of American attitudes towards socialism

Before the 1970s (give or take a decade) the vast majority of Americans viewed socialism as a profoundly anti-American phenomenon.  Red scares started in the immediate wake of the 1917 Russian Revolution, and America’s dislike for socialism, especially under the guise of communism, continued unabated through the first two thirds of the Vietnam War.

The temperature of the fear rose and fell, with some years witnessing a passive dislike for the red menace and other years erupting in active worries about America’s continued well-being as world socialism came a’knockin’ (thing HUAC).  Whether the fear was hot or cold, though, that deep suspicion always ran strong and true through the American bedrock.  Simply put, Americans were pretty darn sure that communism/socialism was a bad thing.

What’s so interesting, looking back on America’s decades-long hate affair with socialism, is that during all those years Americans hadn’t actually seen socialism in action.  Sure, they knew it sparked revolutions in Russia and China, but those were tightly closed societies, so the full horrors visited on those countries’ citizens were invisible to most Americans.

Not only were the depredations of socialist governments invisible, the information flow into America was made worse because of so-called journalists who were either actively complicit shills, and who provided leadership for the useful idiots who, even then, populated journalism.  The shills did their best, not only to hide communism’s miseries from Americans, but actively to lie about what was going on.  The New York Times’ own Pulitzer Prize winning Walter Duranty springs readily to mind as an example of the lies fed to Americans. Even as Stalin was murdering 35 million of his own people, Duranty used the nation’s premier newspaper to keep a steady stream of pro-Soviet propaganda flowing through America.  Despite that disinformation, Americans disliked the Soviets and what they stood for.

World War II was effective in exposing the world to the horrors of day-to-day life in Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy.  The problem with that exposure, though, was that those countries had denominated themselves, or been denominated, as “fascist.”  This label obscured for most people the connection between socialism, on the one hand, and the German and Italian systems, on the other hand.  Even my mother, who lived through that era, insists to this day that Germany and Italy were “right wing,” which in her mind means that they couldn’t possibly have been Left wing socialist, never mind the “zocialismus” in the Nazi party title.

Despite disinformation, misinformation and non-information, and despite misleading labels, mid-20th Century Americans understood that socialism — by which I mean maximum government control and minimum individual freedom — was antithetical to core American values.  They understood this because they understood the nature of socialism.  Understanding the theory behind socialism meant that they didn’t need evidence of its failures to know that socialism and the American system canceled each other out.  It helped that, having been raised on a steady diet of old-fashioned patriotism, Americans were clear that they wanted the American system triumphant.

Beginning in the 1960s, however, with the hard leftward shift in academia and in the entertainment world, Americans were presented with a different vision of socialism.  They were told that it was “fair;” they were told that it was an appropriate expiation for the sins of imperialism (an atonement that seemed like a good idea when paired with the self-loathing emanating from academia and Hollywood); and, most significantly, they were told that socialism would inevitably result in European-style wealth, leisure  and cool chic (never mind that it was America that funded this wealth and leisure by taking over the European states’ obligation to provide for their own defense).  This combination of being fair, having guilt assuaged, and envisioning socialistically enlightened Americans being as cool Europeans with red wine, Gallois cigarettes, and a café attitude was sufficient to blind Americans to something entirely new:  actual evidence about socialism’s personal cruelties and economic failures.

You see, the last thirty years have brought us face-to-face with the hideous facts of real life under socialism, whether the hard socialism of China, Cuba, North Korea, and the Soviets, or the soft socialism of Europe.  We now know that, during China’s “Great Leap Forward,” between 40 to 100 million people died (depending on who is counting) from starvation, neglect, torture and out-and-out murder.  We now know that Stalin was responsible for the deaths of between 20 and 35 million of his own people during the 1930s alone, a number that doesn’t count the millions of others murdered, disappeared or imprisoned in gulags in the years after that.  We now know that life in North Korea is the closest thing to a living Hell we see on earth outside of the total anarchy that appears in Africa (including the genocide that is North African Islam).  We now know that the cool Cuban icon Che Guevara was a psychopathic mass murderer who particularly enjoyed murdering boys, and that Castro keeps his prisons full.  We now know that East Germany was a police state in which every person spied on his friends, family and neighbors, all in a vain effort to curry favor with a cruel and despotic regime.

We also know that none of those systems worked economically.  China has embraced a weirdly capitalist economy, but kept its iron control on people’s individual freedoms; the Soviet Union collapsed; North Koreans eat dirt; and Cuba stays alive courtesy of its patron states on the Dark Side.

Europe’s soft, self-loathing socialism hasn’t worked so well either.  The perpetual adolescence that soft socialism encourages has resulted in a dying society, one that refuses to inconvenience itself long enough to have the children that will replenish its population.  The European economies are stagnant and flabby, when they’re not totally collapsing.  (And before someone points a finger at the saggy, flabby American economy, I’ll assert here and now my belief that America’s economy is in such terrible shape precisely because we have been emulating European socialism, rather than following solid free market principles.)

European self-hatred, a by-product of Leftism, has left Europe ripe for an Islamic takeover, made easier for the Islamists by the fact that Europe has been inviting them in, as part of its never-ending atonement for its imperialist sins.  (As for me, I don’t think it’s fair that Europe doesn’t get to use the Enlightenment as some sort of offset from this endless atonement.)  The average European is also being micromanaged to death, with an endless Nanny state bureaucracy inserting itself into every aspect of life.  Reading European and British newspapers makes it seem as if Europeans and Brits are no longer individuals but, instead, are sex-crazed, drunken, lazy, violent, state-run automatons.

So here’s the bizarre paradox:  In the past, when Americans were motivated by patriotism and a clear understanding that socialism is antithetical to individual freedoms, they loathed socialism despite being unaware of its true horrors.  And now, in the present, Americans who have been raised to hate themselves and to believe in socialisms wonder, believe socialism is a good and workable system despite irrefutable evidence that its has failed in every single place is has been tried — and that its failures are spectacular and often measured by the mountainously high bodies of its victims.

Never underestimate the power of a homogeneous society when it comes to prolonging socialism *UPDATED*

One of the frustrating things about conversing with liberals is that, even as they’ll concede that socialism in Russia and China and Cuba and North Korea is not, or was not, a good thing, they’ve always got Europe to fall back upon.

European socialism works, I am told.  Europeans have assured housing, assured medical care, assured retirement, assured maternity leave, assured vacations, etc.  It is everything that America could be, if only we’d stop our ridiculous parochialism.  Even the economic disasters in Greece and Spain don’t dent this liberal belief in the validity of European-style socialism.  After all, we’ve seen market collapses before, and ships of state have still righted themselves.

Any arguments I make to counter the claim about the almighty wonders of Europe are dismissed.  The fact that Europeans have had for decades more money because the U.S. largely handled their defense is just a picayune detail, unrelated to the larger picture.  The fact that Europe has been in a slow economic decline for decades is a sour grapes statement, unrelated to the reality that all those Europeans get six weeks paid vacation a year!

The fact that the overwhelming bureaucracy necessary to run a socialist Europe increasingly deprives people of rights and freedoms we take for granted is viewed as a small price to pay for a life free of worry about job security, health care and retirement.  And finally, the fact that traditional morality declines in socialized countries, as people move ever further away from personal responsibility (since the government will clean up all their messes, whether those messes are myriad illegitimate children, or disasterous personal habits that leave one unable to to hold a job), is chalked up to a general, and worldwide, societal decline unrelated to a Nanny State.

No matter what I say, my liberals always fall back on two fundamental conclusions:  (1) they like what they see in Europe and (2) they believe that we can replicate the system.

So I’m going to take my friends at face value for a moment, and ignore what are, to me, the glaring problems with socialism (the economic unreality; the failures arising from that financial fantasy; the loss of freedom; and the breakdown of a stable, moral society).  Instead, I’ll accept that it can happen here — or can it?  I suspect that the huge chasm between European society as it existed at the end of WWII and American society as it exists now will prevent European socialism from ever taking hold.  (By the way, I’m not saying that socialism cannot be foisted on us; I’m just saying it won’t be European and, if we’re very unlucky, it will be something infinitely worse and more energetic even than that in the old USSR, China or North Korea).

When European socialism began, each European nation was a remarkably homogeneous.  The post-war English were still quintessentially English, whether one thought of Colonel Blimp, louche Bright Young Things, or Angry Young Men.  Not only was it a distinctly British culture, it was also a surprisingly non-acquisitive one.

I remember one of the best professors I had at Berkeley (yes, even Berkeley had some decent teachers), talking about the way in which the Industrial Revolution stagnated in England by the end of the 19th century, even as it continued to roar through America.  “It seems,” he said, “that the British working class had lower aspirations than Americans.  Once they achieved a certain economic level, they stopped working and innovating.”

Alan Jay Lerner, channeling George Bernard Shaw, put it perfectly:  “An Englishman’s way of speaking absolutely classifies him.  The moment he talks he makes some other Englishman despise him.”  Just as nobody should remodel a house in excess of the neighborhood (you’ll never get your money back after having created a mini-Versailles in a block full of boxy 50s tract homes), English workers knew that no amount of money would ever let most of them rise above their backgrounds and education.

I know Britain best, but I don’t doubt that the situation was similar in other European countries.  I do know that, in Holland, the Dutch moved on a similar timetable, with good housewives all scrubbing their stoops every morning, doing laundry on the same day, and generally doing as their neighbors did.  The Dutch, too, had a class system, with even a single word uttered being sufficient to give away someone’s place in the hierarchy.

Indeed, rather than try to prove homogeneity for all the socialized European nations, from the Baltic to the Mediterranean, I’ll do something different:  I defy you to name for me a single European nation in the years between the end of WWII and, say, 1985, that wasn’t homogeneous in terms of culture, and rather stagnant in terms of social aspirations.  (I suspect all the aspiring citizens had already run away to America.)

This homogeneity wasn’t just cultural.  It was also genetic.  Bloodlines in European countries went back straight and far.  Sure the British were amalgams of Celts, Saxons and a few Normans (themselves Nordic in origin), but that genetic influx ended in 1066.  The Brits then spent almost 1,000 years being genetically British.  On the continent, the Romans had seeded continental Europe pretty well, as did the Celtic and Germanic tribes, but those blood lines had also settled for several hundred years by the time European socialism rolled around.

And so we have a continent in which each separate nation has the same genes, the same belief systems, and the same habits of living.  In this, Europe is as distinct as can be from America, and that despite America’s clear European ancestry.

Whether one views America as a melting pot or a salad bowl, we Americans comprise a genetically and culturally diverse nation.  Within a single neighborhood, the Wongs are eating different food from the DiMarcos, who have different work habits from the Hansens, who don’t share the same genetic disease predispositions as the Goldbergs.  And then, of course, you get the Wong-Goldberg wedding, with a second generation emerging with an entirely new set of values, genetic diseases, and food habits — although I suspect the Goldbergs will follow the Wongs when it comes to food.  Chinese food, after all, is pretty much a wonderful thing no matter how you look at it.

Thinking about America’s cultural ebullience, and comparing it to Europe’s resemblance to a single cell organism, it’s easy to see how socialism might have worked, and worked successfully, for many decades in Europe.  A working class accustomed over the centuries to taking orders from a ruling class would adapt easily if the orders came from a drably dressed government worker, as opposed to a splendidly dressed courtier.  Likewise, a working class that never aspired too high wouldn’t complain too loudly when it was told that, in the search for economic equality, people simply couldn’t have things available in economically freer countries.  Nor would it be difficult to direct a culture that, Borg–like, had always functioned in unison.

If people share the same views on everything from the appropriate size of vegetable marrows, to the right age for marriage, to the propriety of abortion, it’s easy to enact legislation enforcing such values, or to use social pressure to force people away from those same values.  The tight communal living of Europe, after all, has always demanded a certain level of conformity.

The fact that people had the same lifestyles and genetics also helped when it came to socialized medicine.  You can allocate limited resources much better if you know that, by diet and genes, the majority of your people will die from heart attacks, not colon cancer.  Allocating medical resources in a country in which people have a huge mish-mash of hereditary diseases and lifestyle habits is infinitely more difficult (if not impossible).

So, contrary to my optimistic liberal friends, I don’t think European socialism can ever happen here.  Our petri dish is wrong.  Instead of a nice, clean agar solution that invites the healthy growth of socialism, we have a teaming fish pond that, with luck, will kill any invading socialist bacteria.

Lastly, if you’re wondering about the importance of homogeneity to the success of European socialism, think about what’s been happening in Europe since the mid-1980s, when the European countries stopped limiting immigration, and opened their doors to a flood of Eastern Europeans, Africans, East Asians, and Muslim Middle Easterners.  These people did not view the socialist welfare system as part of a social contract.  Instead, they viewed it as vast treasure house to be pillaged.

I can’t say that I blame them.  If you’re innovative, and you see a system that’s ripe for the plucking, you pluck.  But many countries now find that their lovely socialist high rises have become dangerous enclaves with values alien to the host country, and that a welfare system that depended on everyone playing the game (“from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”), doesn’t work if you have an alien horde thinking “me, me, me.”  Instead of harmonious European equality, you end up with French banlieues in flames, Greek anarchists throwing fire bombs, London subways and buses blowing up and a dawning chaos that will not sustain any political or economic system for long.

UPDATE: I couldn’t resist appending to this post I picture of the three party leaders in Britain (Brown, Clegg and Cameron).  Although each is easily distinguishable from the other, there is a remarkable sameness to their looks.  Trace their profiles and you’ll see what I mean.  You probably won’t find that in America, even if, as a liberal, you’re castigating a room for being filled with “white men.”  They’ll still have different features, whether it’s high bridged noses, square chins, receding foreheads, or whatever.  These guys are the same gene pool:

Gene pools

If you want to see what modern socialism looks like….

If you want to see what modern socialism looks like, look no further than Britain.  I cannot urge you strongly enough to read this article.  If it is the only thing you read this week, read this article.  Because I read the British papers daily, I can attest to the truth of every fact stated therein — at least insofar as, for the past six or seven years, the various papers have reported facts truthfully.

After you read the article, think long and hard about what the Obami have done and are planning to do.  Then be very afraid.  And remember November.

Obama and socialism

I warned people close to me (mother, sister, etc.) that Obama was a socialist and they laughed at me and (quite lovingly, because they’re my mom and my sister) called me “extreme.”  I wonder if they would have laughed at Al Sharpton too, now that he’s finally let the cat out of the bag:

Al Sharpton isn’t the only one coming out of the woodwork.  David Leonhardt, writing with the New York Times’ approving imprimatur, spells out precisely what’s going on:

For all the political and economic uncertainties about health reform, at least one thing seems clear: The bill that President Obama signed on Tuesday is the federal government’s biggest attack on economic inequality since inequality began rising more than three decades ago.

Read the rest of Leonhardt’s euphoric socialist economic polemic here.

Stop me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the liberal media and the pundits go ballistic when all of us said that Obama’s statement to Joe the Plumber about “spreading the wealth” was a purely socialist notion?  They just think it’s a good thing that it should be the government’s responsibility to, hmm, let me see if I’ve got this right: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”  Quiz those pundits and media-crities and they might suggest some authors for that famous expression.  Was that Adam Smith who said that?  No.  Reagan?  No.  Jefferson?  No.  Tell me that it was Karl Marx, the founder of modern socialism, and I bet they’d be surprised.

Finally, all the pieces have come together, and the MSM is still urging us to avert our heads and not to listen.

I’m sorry this post is incoherent, but I’m irritated, and still trying to get my thoughts organized right now.

“For ye have the poor always with you”

Jesus Christ spoke the words that are the caption of this post.  As I understand it, he was speaking about the transience of his time on this earth, as opposed to some of the more permanent features of life on earth, such as poverty.

Even Christ, though, couldn’t have anticipated the fact that Barack Obama would rejigger poverty calculations in America to ensure that, no matter how much the American standard of living rises, a certain percentage of the American population will always be described as poverty-stricken:

This week, the Obama administration announced it will create a new poverty-measurement system that will eventually displace the current poverty measure. This new measure, which has little or nothing to do with actual poverty, will serve as the propaganda tool in Obama’s endless quest to “spread the wealth.”

Under the new measure, a family will be judged “poor” if its income falls below a certain specified income threshold. Nothing new there, but, unlike the current poverty standards, the new income thresholds will have a built-in escalator clause: They will rise automatically in direct proportion to any rise in the living standards of the average American.

The current poverty measure counts absolute purchasing power — how much steak and potatoes you can buy. The new measure will count comparative purchasing power — how much steak and potatoes you can buy relative to other people. As the nation becomes wealthier, the poverty standards will increase in proportion. In other words, Obama will employ a statistical trick to ensure that “the poor will always be with you,” no matter how much better off they get in absolute terms.

My kids often ask me is “$X a lot of money?”  I always tell them that money has no fixed value. Things are worth what people will pay for them, and that the value of money is best calculated by people’s needs. To my kids, $100 is a lot of money; to Bill Gates, it’s less than chump change.

While there will always be people who have more money and people who have less money (and this is true even in ostensibly socialist countries where money is supposed to be irrelevant), the fact is that the best indicator of poverty isn’t money, which is variable, but standard of living.  The person who has food on the table, clothes on his back, and a roof over his head, is simply not poor as Christ, or the kid in Calcutta, would understand poverty.

This objective reality is obviously irksome to Leftists who need poor people to power their political anger engine.  There is no greater offense to their perpetual outrage machine than the fact that America is such a prosperous land that there are (thank God) very few on our soil who starve, go naked, and sleep in the open.  (And I’ll add that, if San Francisco is an example, many of those who do arrive at that state, not because America isn’t bountiful, but because of substance abuse problems.)  The only way to deal with the reality of America’s prosperity, clearly, is to play accounting games, aimed at creating a perpetual class of poverty-stricken individuals, people who, no matter their standard of living, will perceive themselves as victims, badly in need of government sustenance.

By the way, if you want to see what a permanent under class looks like, I can’t do better for you than to suggest that you go to Gerry Charlotte Phelps’ website, look at the left sidebar, and pick any chapter of her book about working with the perpetual poor.  Unlike the Ivory Tower sociologists currently wielding political power in D.C., Phelps has actually lived and worked in communities devastated by generations of poverty (often government induced), and has a lot of information and ideas.  By the way, don’t be put off by the fact that Phelps hasn’t updated her blog in a while.  She’s taking a hiatus from blogging and will return as soon as she can.

Jon Stewart: genuinely ignorant or just hiding the ball when it comes to socialism

I caught a few minutes of last night’s Daily Show with Jon Stewart, during which Stewart amused himself by taking potshots at a very big target:  CPAC.  I haven’t paid much attention to CPAC, so I can’t and therefore won’t comment on whether his shots were righteous or dishonest.  If you’d like to know more about CPAC from a couple of people who were there, I can recommend this and this.  My suspicion is that, unlike a tightly scripted Democratic function, CPAC was a genuine grass roots conservative gathering, representing a wide range of viewpoints, some more pleasing than others.  But, as I said, I don’t know, I’m just guessing.

What I do know is that Stewart had fun with that portion of Beck’s speech in which Beck spoke about two forms of socialism:  revolutionary and evolutionary.  From his grunts, sighs and moans, all of which passes for Stewart’s version of intelligent political commentary, I gather that Stewart found it (a) amusing that a right winger would even mention the word “evolution” and (b) impossible to imagine that, if something happens slowly, it could be akin to a socialist revolution.  By taking that latter position, Stewart either betrayed his historical ignorance or is intentionally trying to fool a credulous audience.

In fact, back at the turn of the last century, there was a very active evolutionary socialist movement called the “Fabian Society,” and the movement remains as a functional backdrop to today’s Labour and Democratic parties.  As is often the case for historic information that isn’t at the center of a political maelstrom, Wikipedia has a solid entry on the subject (emphasis mine):

The Fabian Society is a British intellectual socialist movement, whose purpose is to advance the principles of social democracy via gradualist and reformist, rather than revolutionary, means. It is best known for its initial ground-breaking work beginning late in the 19th century and continuing up to World War I. The society laid many of the foundations of the Labour Party and subsequently affected the policies of states emerging from the decolonisation of the British Empire, especially India. Today, the society is a vanguard “think tank” of the New Labour movement.

[snip]

The group, which favoured gradual incremental change rather than revolutionary change, was named – at the suggestion of Frank Podmore – in honour of the Roman general Quintus Fabius Maximus (nicknamed “Cunctator”, meaning “the Delayer”). His Fabian strategy advocated tactics of harassment and attrition rather than head-on battles against the Carthaginian army under the renowned general Hannibal Barca.

That it was slow-moving didn’t make the Society’s ideas any less hateful:

The Fabian Society in the early 1900s advocated the ideal of a scientifically planned society and supported eugenics by way of sterilisation.

If you’d like to see the charming side of Fabian Socialism, you should read Jean Webster’s two delightful books:  Daddy Long Legs and Dear Enemy.  Both are epistolary novels written in the 1910s.  One is set at a women’s college (Vassar-ish) and the other is set in an orphanage.  The former presents a pretty picture of Fabian Socialism and the latter sweetly and ardently advocates eugenics.  They are the perfect distillation of a Woodrow Wilson style Progressivism, which wanted to purge America of any impure people and then, once America was properly populated with nice, WASP-y people, to impose a wondrous socialist vision upon them.  Jonah Goldberg captures perfectly the time and the vision in Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change.  In America, this “delicate,” incremental slide to the Left had a friendly, middle-class intellectual gloss.  In other countries, that same driving need to take away individual freedom and invest all power in government was less lovely (Germany, Russia, North Korea, China, etc.).

Whether Socialism is fast or slow moving, it’s still socialism.  And much as Jon Stewart wants to laugh at the labels (having great fun with CPAC pronouncements that variations of Leftism, such as Bolshevism, Communism, Trotskeyism, etc. are the enemy), the fact remains that any movement that seeks to divest individuals of their freedom and place maximum power in the government is the enemy.  Shakespeare understood that labels are useful, but that it is the substance that matters (“That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.”)  When it comes to political ideology, what matters is finding a happy medium between anarchy and totalitarianism — and the sad fact is that, whenever a political movement in a fairly well-functioning society forcefully or politely advocates the transfer of every greater power to the government, no matter that movement’s name, you are looking at a graceful slide into totalitariansim.

Communism is not cute, it’s evil, and Glazov and Beck are helping to educate Americans

The American intelligentsia has a love affair with Communism that will not die.  The dead Soviets, the dead Hungarians, Czechs, Albanians, Poles, Bulgarians, etc., the dead Chinese, the dead Koreans, the dead Africans, the dead Cambodians, the dead Vietnamese, the dead Cubans, and the dead Latin Americans are all irrelevant.  Those are just mistakes from Communism done the “wrong” way.  The Left has absolute faith that, done the right way — the “American way” — Communism will bring about a paradise of plenty and perpetual peace.  All of which shows, as I’ve learned rather painfully over me life, that brains and sense are not the same thing.

One of the worst things that has happened since 1989 is that a new generation is growing up educated by the Left about the joys of Marxism in the abstract, but without any offsetting evidence of the horrors of Marxism in practice.  Yes, China and Cuba are still out there, but China has become such an important trading partner, and Cuba is so whitewashed by Hollywood, the average kid doesn’t see either as an example of Communism.  Those of us who grew up during the Cold War could hear people at Berkeley or Columbia waffle on about the glories of the Soviet (and the evil that was Reagan), but the evidence of our own eyes was pretty compelling.  When people keep trying to escape their own country, you suspect that more is going on than meets the ideologically blinded academic eye.

Glenn Beck is trying to meet and challenge this scary cultural ignorance.  Although I don’t watch his show, I’ve heard from many that he’s been on an educational crusade, trying to make his viewers appreciate just how disastrous Communism in action is.  (Actually, I would broaden this to say “socialism.”  Communism was just one variation of this political plague.  The word “socialism” better encompasses alternative forms of this type of government, including the Nazis.)  Jamie Glazov is especially appreciative what Beck is doing, because his family suffered so terribly under the Soviets:

The tortures included laying a man naked on a freezing cement floor, forcing his legs apart, and then an interrogator stepping on his testicles, applying increasing pressure until the confession surfaced. Imagine the consequences of no surfacing confession. Indeed, many people refused to confess to a crime they did not commit.

Daughters and sons were raped in front of their fathers and mothers — for the sake of extracting “confessions.”

***

Both of my grandfathers were exterminated by Stalinist terror. Both of my parents, Yuri and Marina Glazov, were dissidents in the former Soviet Union. They risked their lives for freedom; they stood up against Soviet totalitarianism. They barely escaped the gulag, a fortune many of our friends and relatives did not share. I come from a system where a myriad of the closest people to my family simply disappeared, where relatives and family friends died under interrogation and torture for their beliefs — or for simply nothing at all.

Please read the whole thing.  It’s not just an indictment of socialism, it’s also an attack against the “intellectuals” who shunned dissidents who actually experienced the evils of Communism.  How much better to live in a world of intellectual theory, with PepsiCo as the big enemy, than acknowledge the fact that the ideology you so cheerfully embrace is responsible for more than 100 million deaths, and uncountable incidences of torture and suffering.

Two must reads *UPDATED*

American Thinker is a site I check regularly, at least twice a day.  It’s not just that the editors are kind enough to publish my work occasionally.  It’s because the articles that appear there routinely range from really good to out-of-the-park stupendous.

Today, there are two that fall in the latter category.  These are the kinds of articles that shouldn’t just be read, but that should be emailed to everyone you know.  Indeed, the one regarding socialism should be required reading in every American classroom.  So, without further ado, please, please, please read and discuss and forward:

What’s Wrong with Socialism, by Joe Herring

and

It Isn’t Political Correctness, It’s Shariah, by Pamela Geller

UPDATE:  Add military analyst Steve Schippert’s All the King’s Horses (about Afghanistan) to the list of things that will widen your horizons today.

Of course it’s socialized medicine! And that’s a good thing.

I don’t normally follow film critics to get my political information, so I missed what Roger Ebert wrote back in August to explain why Obama Care is a good thing.  Had I read it then, I would have learned that of course it’s socialized medicine — and that’s a good thing.  In a lengthy post responding to critics who whine about how un-American Obama Care is, Ebert offered a careful point-by-point rebuttal, including to the contention that Obama Care is socialized medicine:

¶ It is “socialized medicine.” Yes, it is. The entire society shares the cost. It does not replace private medicine. Just as in the UK and Canada, for example, we would remain free to choose our own insurance policies and private physicians. But it is the safety net for everyone.

¶ It is “socialism.” Again, yes. The word socialism, however, has lost its usefulness in this debate. It has been tainted, perhaps forever, by the malevolent Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who succeeded somehow in linking it with the godless Commies. America is the only nation in the free world in which “socialism” is generally thought of in negative terms. The only nation in which that word, in and of itself, is thought to bring the discussion to a close.

I feel much better now, don’t you?  Now I understand that socialism is just charity on broader terms.  So what if it’s forced charity?  And really, it’s silly to worry about the government using the IRS and its penalties to force this “charity” on everybody.  ‘Cause really, life in socialized countries is fine.  Just ask the citizens of the former Soviet Union, the former National Socialistic Party Germany (better known as Nazi Germany), the former Czechoslovakia, the former Poland, the former Romania, the former Albania, the current China, the current North Korea, the current Venezuela, the current Cuba . . . and on and on.

But those are extreme examples of a good thing run amok, I can hear Ebert saying.  Things are just great in semi-socialized countries.    Well, Mr. Ebert, I guess they’re okay if you don’t mind the government conspiring to change a whole nation’s social order, or the complete control of speech and thought (my example is in England, but check out speech codes and prosecutions in every other semi-socialized country in the world), or the fact that European countries have completely ceded their sovereignty to the EU (that is, whatever is left over after the UN has taken its cut).   And so on.  You get my point.

Socialism is great if your goal is perpetual childhood, free from the responsibility of caring for yourself.  If a minimal level of comfort and irresponsibility is your goal, who really cares if you give up your freedom to act, speak  or think.  At least the government will ensure that there is food on your plate and, provided you’re not to old or sick (see the second video at this link), some type of injection in your arm.  But I wonder, Mr. Ebert, just how many Americans, raised on a 233 year history of liberty are ready to walk quite so quietly into that socialist night.

(By the way, what’s really funny about the above is that it resulted from a conversation with a liberal during which I politely asked him to explain to me the support for his contention that health care is a “right.”  Once he realized that neither the Declaration of Independence nor the Constitution gave any authority for this government power grab, he sent me this link with the bald statement that this would address the whole “rights” argument.  And I guess it does.  In liberal land, we have no rights.)

Obama keeps Hitler analogy in the public eye

Is Obama telling a true story or not?  I don’t know and with Obama’s credibility gap, it’s impossible to tell.  It doesn’t matter, though.  What does matter is that, by relaying this anecdote, Obama is keeping alive the Obama/Hitler analogy:

President Obama at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation dinner last night, discussing false claims made about the health care reform bill, told a little anecdote.

“I was up at the G20 — just a little aside — I was up at the G20, and some of you saw those big flags and all the world leaders come in and Michelle and I are shaking hands with them,” the president said. “One of the leaders — I won’t mention who it was — he comes up to me. We take the picture, we go behind.

“He says, ‘Barack, explain to me this health care debate.’

“He says, ‘We don’t understand it. You’re trying to make sure everybody has health care and they’re putting a Hitler mustache on you — I don’t — that doesn’t make sense to me. Explain that to me.’”

You and I aren’t dumb.  We know Obama told this anecdote to a black group as a way to make it clear that, all he’s trying to do is help poor folk (read:  black folk) and he, a black man, is subject to the ultimate insult of being called Hitler.

Not that my blog has any impact on Obama and his acolytes, but let me try to set things straight for Obama and that “world leader.”  There is actually a legtimate reason why some (although by no means all, or even a critical mass) of ObamaCare opponents like ObamaCare to Nazi social policy and, therefore, liken Obama, the driving force behind ObamaCare, to Hitler, the driving force behind Naziism.  (And I’m NOT defending the use of the Obama/Hitler meme, I’m just explaining it.)  Although the historically ignorant keep trying to deny it, Naziism was a Leftism philosophy.  The party’s official name was the National Socialist Party.  Socialists socialize things:  they take whatever they can out of the private sector and put it into the government sector.  The more they take, the more control they have over their citizens.

Obama’s self-serving and vicious little anecdote aside, the ObamaCare issue is not about “mak[ing] sure everybody has health care.”  Putting aside the question of whether that’s even the government’s responsibility, there are actually lots of ways to make sure everybody has health care without giving the government more power.  Instead, there are myriad possible ways to expand health care that specifically result from giving the government less power.  You can create greater competition by allowing insurance to be sold across state lines, which would lower prices; you can decrease the thousands of regulations that hamper the sale of insurance and the practice of medicine; you can stop requiring insurer’s to sell premium insurance to everyone, whether they need or want it; you can put a cap on outrageous malpractice claims; you can take employers out of the equation so that individuals shop for health insurance just as they do for all other forms of insurance; and so on and so forth.

Alternative, to expand health care, you can do what Obama and his fellow socialists want and take over the medical system, making it a branch of the government. In that way, you can monitor how people work, what they eat, what they drink, how they exercise, perhaps how they procreate, whether babies deserve to be born, etc.  That’s rather extreme, but we know that, in even the most unextreme cases, rather like Santa doling out presents based on whether people have been naughty or nice, the government can start to dole out health care to those the government deems worthy — the young and productive.  The British have certainly gone this route.  While the average young or middle-aged Brit gets decent enough service for colds and appendix attacks, woe unto the Brit who reaches a hoary old age or gets a fatal disease.  If you’re salvageable, the care is adequate.  If you’re not, tough luck. That’s a slippery slope.

If you travel far enough down that slippery slope of government decisions about deserving sick people, you start getting to the Nazis.  No, Obama is not Hitler.  No, the Democrats are not Nazis.  But government health care opens the door to rationing on an extreme scale, with ever more categories of people classes as undeserving of government beneficence and, eventually, undeserving of life itself.  (My great uncle went that way:  A manic depressive one day; a Nazi created corpse the next.)  And once a government starts deciding that people are undeserving of life for health reasons (they’re a burden, not a benefit, to the state), government has a nasty habit of deciding that people are undeserving of life for other reasons, such as ethnicity, religion, political beliefs, etc.

Americans are a freedom loving people.  While Ken Burns may think that the only good idea ever to come out of America is the National Park system (this is true, ’cause his new show is named The National Parks : America’s Best Idea), I’d like to go out on a limb here and suggest that America’s best idea is limited government, with its emphasis an individual freedom and responsiblity.  History has shown, over and over, that unlimited government is a slippery slope, and whether one dresses Obama up as Clement Atlee, or Harold Wilson, or Mao, or Hitler (the most recognizable one of the bunch), the point is the same — like them, and possibly with the best intentions in the world, Obama wants to limit Americans’ freedoms by making every fact of American life subject to government mandate.

When Obama, speaking to a black audience, uses a “world leader” as his ventriloquist’s dummy to imply that conservatives are calling him Hitler because he’s a black man who wants to improve poor/black people’s lives, he is being dishonest or disingenuous.  The relatively small number of protesters who have made the Hitler analogy, while they definitely made a PR mistake, used the analogy to drive home a point about the ultimate dangers that can arise when we let government grow too big, and they’ve used the most memorable and recognizable symbol around to make that point.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

Barack Obama’s health care three card monty

Mark Steyn is on to Obama’s game:

But, for the sake of argument, let us concede the president’s current number of 30 million [represents the president's decision to delete 17 million illegals from his count]. In order to do something for the 10 percent of the population outside the current system, why is it necessary to destabilize the arrangements of the 90 percent within it?

Well, says the president, not so fast. Lots of people with insurance run into problems when they change jobs or move to another state. Okay, In that case, why not ease the obstacles to health-care portability?

Well, says the president, shuffling his cups and moving the pea under another shell, we’re spending too much on health care. By “we’re,” he means you and you and you and you and millions of other Americans making individual choices over which he casually claims collective jurisdiction.

And that, ultimately, gets closer than anything else he says to giving the game away. For most of the previous presidency, the Left accused George W. Bush of using 9/11 as a pretext to attack Iraq. Since January, his successor has used the economic slump as a pretext to “reform” health care. Most voters don’t buy it: They see it as Obama’s “war of choice,” and the more frantically he talks about it as a matter of urgency the weirder it seems. If he’s having difficulty selling it, that’s because it’s not about “health.” As I’ve written before, the appeal of this issue to him and to Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, et al., is that governmentalization of health care is the fastest way to a permanent left-of-center political culture — one in which elections are always fought on the Left’s issues and on the Left’s terms, and in which “conservative” parties no longer talk about small government and individual liberty but find themselves retreating to one last pitiful rationale: that they can run the left-wing state more effectively than the Left can. Listen to your average British Tory or French Gaullist on the campaign trail pledging to “deliver” government services more “efficiently.”

A microcosm of socialism’s inevitable failure

Got this in an email from Richard Baehr:

An economics professor at Texas Tech said he had never failed a single student before but had, once, failed an entire class. That class had insisted that socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.

The professor then said “Okay, we will have an experiment in this class on socialism.” All grades would be averaged and everyone would receive the same grade so no one would fail and no one would receive an A.

After the first test the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy.

But, as the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too; so they studied little. The second test average was a D! No one was happy.

When the 3rd test rolled around the average was an F. The scores never increased as bickering, blame, name calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.

All failed, to their great surprise, and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great; but when government takes all the reward away; no one will try or want to succeed.

Could not be any simpler than that….

The pain behind the perfection

As you may recall, I was both impressed and dismayed by the opening ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics.  I’ll quote the point I made that comes back again in this post:

They were gorgeous.  They also reminded me very strongly of the public spectacles that socialist countries have always loved:  vast numbers of people moving in tightly choregraphed formations.  It’s certainly impressive, but it’s also a vivid, visual reminder of the socialist state’s ability to subordinate peoples’ individuality to almost robotic perfection.

It turns out that the impressions I picked up were dead on.  First, the Chinese impresario who created the entire spectacle was trying to outdo North Korea — the most rigidly socialist state in the world — when it comes to mass people movement:

Filmmaker Zhang Yimou, the ceremony’s director, insisted in an interview with local media that suffering and sacrifice were required to pull off the Aug. 8 opening, which involved wrangling nearly 15,000 cast and crew. Only North Korea could have done it better, he said.

[snip]

He told the popular Guangzhou weekly newspaper Southern Weekend that only communist North Korea could have done a better job getting thousands of performers to move in perfect unison.

“North Korea is No. 1 in the world when it comes to uniformity. They are uniform beyond belief! These kind of traditional synchronized movements result in a sense of beauty. We Chinese are able to achieve this as well. Though hard training and strict discipline,” he said. Pyongyang’s annual mass games feature 100,000 people moving in lockstep.

In other words, there was definitely a political element to the mass movement of synchronized people.  And the only way to create that mass movement of synchronized people is to rehearse at an almost inhuman rate (emphasis mine):

Some students of the Shaolin Tagou Traditional Chinese Martial Arts School in Henan province who began training for the event last May were injured in falls on the LED screen that forms the floor on which they performed and was made slippery by rain, said Liu Haike, one of the school’s lead instructors.

[snip]

While in Beijing, the constant exposure to the dizzyingly hot summer resulted in heatstroke for some students, particularly during one rain-drenched rehearsal that stretched on for two days and two nights.

The students were kept on their feet for most of the 51-hour rehearsal with little food and rest and no shelter from the night’s downpour, as the show’s directors attempted to coordinate the 2,008-member performance with multimedia effects, students and their head coach told the AP.

“We had only two meals for the entire time. There was almost no time to sleep, even less time for toilet breaks,” Cheng said. “But we didn’t feel so angry because the director was also there with us the whole time.”

Beware the socialist state, even when it looks pretty.

Hat tip:  B.S.

American voters have their eyes wide shut *UPDATED*

Terry Sater writes about the fact that, coddled by loving euphemisms, Americans are marching headlong into the same dreadful socialist experiment that failed all over Europe — a failure that took place within the lifetime of every single American voter.  This is not a case of a few centuries or even decades having dimmed the lessons.  We saw socialism die, and we’ve seen the havoc it still creates in Europe.  Nevertheless, lulled by PR-approved phrases such as “Fairness Doctrine” and “Universal Healthcare,” we’re on the verge of voting in a completely Leftist government, beginning with the White House and ending with Congress.  I urge you to read his editorial and to email it to your friends.

UPDATE:  In the above post, I included a throwaway line about the havoc of Europe.  DQ appropriately challenged that conclusory statement, pointing out that many Americans think that Europe runs perfectly.  I happen to believe the contrary is true, based on reading European newspapers, having been to Europe myself recently, and speaking to Europeans here in America.  However, a combination of laziness and business meant I never took DQ up on his request that I enlarge on that conclusion.  Fortunately, Danny Lemieux did a lot of that work for me in a comment to this post, which I’m reprinting here:

Don, Americans go to Europe as tourists. They enjoy the tourist areas where people, on a day to day basis, look happy and prosperous. You can see happy people just about anywhere in the world. Americans eat great food (because it is different) that many ordinary Europeans will never enjoy, use efficient rail systems that drain public finances, and never have to worry about negotiating their ways through the regulatory mazes that define day-to-day life in those societies.

I happen to think Paris is one of the most beautiful and happy places in the world. I love visiting there.

What American tourists will never see is that I have solid upper-middle-class relatives in Paris, living in affluent neighborhoods, who must park their cars on their tiny lawns in locked compounds for fear of getting their cars torched or stolen, have bullet proof glass on their first-floor windows to prevent (prevalent) home invasion, whose daughters are terrified of being gang raped by Muslims “youths” (“un tournant”) and who, either foolishly or because their tax system leaves them relatively little disposable income, have failed to save for their retirement because their government promised to take care of them in their old age…when it is becoming quite apparent that their government can’t… and won’t. One of the reasons (foolish as it may be) that European governments are frantically allowing swarms of Muslim immigrants to invade their countries is because they need laborers to keep the economy going as European baby boomers retire, having left behind far-to-few children to take their place.

For the most part, Europe is no longer democratic. Ordinary people long ago lost their ability to make themselves heard, other than by rioting. Their governments are ruled by distant, unelected aristocratic elites, most of whom reside in Brussels. Freedom of speech? Forget it. Right to self-defense? Forget it. The right to own property? For far too many Europeans, forget it? As my astute daughter observed, they are simply regressing to their historical comfort zone, one defined by landlord and serf relationships.

Europe is a cesspool of age-old mistakes that get repeated over and over and over again. Americans just don’t know how good we have it here because we so-called “sophisticated” Americans have never had a proper frame of reference.

So, I will always love to go to Europe as an American visitor, but I go with no illusions about what it is and where it is going.

Learned helplessness

The Danube is a very angry river — it's flooding all over the Balkans:

Thousands of people have fled their homes or were facing evacuation in Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania as emergency workers struggled to hold back record floodwaters along the Danube river.

With melting snow and heavy spring rain swelling the river to its highest levels in more than a century, authorities say the worst may be yet to come.

The floodwaters were surging downstream from Serbia towards neighboring Romania and Bulgaria. Forecasters say the flooding is expected to reach its peak in the two Balkan countries later this week.

More than 3,000 people were evacuated from the Romanian village of Rast after a dike collapsed, leaving 600 homes underwater, The Associated Press reported.

Workers scrambled to repair the water defenses, while elsewhere officials ordered the controlled flooding of farmland to keep water out of populated areas.

Mother Nature's excess always makes for good stories, but that's not why I'm linking. What fascinated me was a "Top of the Hour" story I just heard on NPR about the flooding.  It's such a recent story, they don't even have a link, but the gist of it is that, in one of the countries affected (and I didn't hear which one), the villagers are simply standing around watching the army work to staunch the water flooding into the village and farms.  The Government has had to issue pleas asking people to work to save themselves.  I found this amazing.  Is this aberrant conduct in one tiny village in a little pocket of the world, or are we watching the logical end result of the Welfare state?  People will stand around and watch their world being destroyed, content to believe that the Government will save them one way or another. 

Talking to Technorati: , , ,

Because what I feel matters

Mike Adams wrote a great column today declaring his independence to act precisely as his students do:  rude, careless, and irresponsible, just because it feels good.  The reductio ad absurdum of this selfishness, of course, is what’s going on in France, where the students are perfectly happy to see the economy crater rather than to impose some minimal self-discipline on themselves for the good of society.  Dennis Prager takes that on in his column about socialism and selfishness.