Sunday, June 29, 2014

Prosperous Politics

(Note -- beginning with this post, I'm adopting Bookworm's convention of placing a "snip" between disconnected passages of a cited article, replacing ellipses).

Kevin Williamson writes about the perverse relationship between government and the private sector and how it makes politics an obscenely lucrative profession. Williamson identifies the disturbing phenomenon that mediocre people (I'm being charitable here) -- the Reids, Pelosis, Clintons, Gores, and Obamas -- those who would normally struggle to make a living in the world-at-large, can attain unimaginable wealth, prestige and power, oftentimes on a global scale, by entering and exploiting the badly misnamed domain of "public service", a domain that is exalted by the Left. 

A number of innovative technology firms, including Uber, Lyft, and AirBNB, are under attack from entrenched, politically connected economic interests. Uber and Lyft threaten the privileges of politically protected taxi cartels and the unions attached to them, while AirBNB subverts the traditional hotel arrangement. Each of those services takes something that it is perfectly legal to do for free — allowing a traveler to use your home temporarily, giving somebody a lift to the airport — and allows people to do them for money. (Here one is reminded of George Carlin’s argument for the legalization of prostitution: “Selling is legal. F****** is legal. Why isn’t selling f****** legal?” There are a great many reasons for that, none of which apply to charging a fee for car service.) Which is to say, these services allow ordinary people to generate revenue by making the most out of otherwise underutilized assets, a possibility that is of non-trivial concern as participation in the work force plunges.

Uber, AirBNB, et al. are very popular with consumers and producers alike. In fact, that is the reason that politicians and the entrenched economic interests in whose service they operate are dedicated to destroying them: Nobody would worry about Uber if so many consumers did not judge it preferable to traditional cartel-run taxi services. The very fact that Uber is in the judgment of many consumers a better product is what provides the motive for destroying it. That is economic, intellectual, and moral perversion, but that is how politics operates. Its mandate is to stand between consumers and producers until it gets its cut.
On the one hand, we have Category A, comprising products and services that people willingly — eagerly — embrace, which provide better goods at better prices. (It doesn’t matter if you think that’s true; economic values are subjective, and consumers like what they like.) On the other hand, we have Category B, comprising products and services that cannot earn revenue on their own, and that pay their employees and executives inflated salaries out of money collected at gunpoint through the tax system. What is most perverse about this arrangement is that the firms in Category A are obliged to ask the parasites in Category B for permission to engage in commerce. In any rational society, something close to the reverse would be the case, and those entrusted with the management of our common affairs would look to the most productive and innovative firms and thinkers for guidance in how to go about managing the public business. In a rational society, the powers that be in New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle would be bringing notebooks to their meetings with technology entrepreneurs instead of whips and palms eager to be crossed with payoffs.
It is baffling that my progressive friends lament the influence of so-called big money on government while at the same time proposing to expand the very scope and scale of that government that makes influencing it such a good investment.
You can be an anti-elite crusader on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised from your million-dollar mansion, even if you never find yourself so much as downwind from a poor person, without fearing charges of hypocrisy: Ask Senator Warren. Of course Chelsea Clinton does not have the sense or the good taste to be embarrassed when talking about her blasé attitude toward money: Money is invisible to her for the same reason that water is invisible to a fish — she’d notice it if it weren’t there, and flap like a desperate landed mackerel until she’d secured her next big payday.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Frenchman's Fallacious Folly

Writing for Commentary magazine, Jonah Goldberg provides a lengthy review of Thomas Piketty's Capital In The Twenty-First Century, giving it the thorough thrashing it deserves.

...Piketty’s arrangement of the data paints a false picture of rising inequality in the United States. Harvard’s Martin Feldstein noted in the Wall Street Journal that Piketty fails to take into account important—albeit arcane—changes in the tax code that have caused business income to be counted on personal tax returns. “This transformation occurred gradually over many years as taxpayers changed their behavior and their accounting practices to reflect the new rules,” Feldstein writes. As an example, “the business income of Subchapter S corporations alone rose from $500 billion in 1986 to $1.8 trillion by 1992.” This leads Feldstein to conclude that Piketty “creates the false impression of a sharp rise in the incomes of high-income taxpayers even though there was only a change in the legal form of that income.”

Feldstein and Scott Winship, of the Manhattan Institute, identify another methodological problem. By focusing on tax returns (instead of household surveys and the like), Piketty fails to take into account the already sizable redistributive elements of our tax code. One in three Americans receives some means-tested government aid today. And that percentage will only grow as people live longer in retirement than ever before. In other words, social security, housing assistance, food aid, etc. don’t show up in Piketty’s portrait of inequality.

... And by “excluding non-taxable capital gains,” Winship wrote in National Review,“most wealth accruing to the middle and working class, which comes in the form of home sales or 401(k) and IRA investments, is invisible in Piketty’s data.”

...At times, it seems Piketty takes much of his early-20th-century history from the movie director James Cameron. He puts a good deal of stock in the historical value of Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster Titanic. At one point he says one need only note “that the dreadful [Cal] Hockney who sailed in luxury on the Titanic in 1912 existed in real life and not just in the imagination of James Cameron to convince oneself that a society of rentiers existed not only in Paris and London but also in turn-of-the-century Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.”

Well, no. In fact, the Billy Zane character was an entirely fictional creation of James Cameron’s imagination (and the proper spelling of his name is Hockley; Cameron invented Caledon Hockley’s name by joining the names of two towns in Ontario, where he spent some time in his youth). Still, let us concede that there were some rich jerks on the actual Titanic. So what? Many of the richest people on earth were passengers on the Titanic, including Isidor and Ida Strauss (owners of Macy’s), mining heir Benjamin Guggenheim, and John Jacob Astor IV (the wealthiest man on the ship). They, and numerous others, refused to get in lifeboats until all the women and children, including the poor women and children, got on first (Ida Strauss refused to leave her husband, preferring to die in his arms). After helping other passengers escape, Guggenheim and his secretary changed into their evening wear, saying they were “prepared to go down like gentlemen.” Meanwhile the most famous real-life cad on the ship was George Symons, a crewman who refused to let anyone else on his lifeboat even though there were 28 empty seats. Money, it seems, doesn’t tell you everything about a man.

This Titanic business on its own is trivial, but it demonstrates how Piketty sees the super rich as an undifferentiated agglomeration—a single static class bent on protecting its own collective self-interests. But the rich are not a static class, any more than capital can be reduced to a homogenous blob. Fewer than 1 in 10 of the 400 wealthiest Americans on the Forbes list in 1982 were still there in 2012. (Lawrence Summers notes that if Piketty was right about the stable return on capital, they should have all stayed on the list.)

...Piketty is convinced that income inequality “inevitably instigates…violent political conflict.” Is that actually true? And if it is, is such violence justified? Skepticism is warranted on both counts, as history suggests.

For example, the French Revolution was about inequality, but not first and foremost economic inequality. Inherited titles, the power of the Church, the unjust rule of what Edmund Burke called “arbitrary power,” and other tangible examples of legal or formal inequality played enormous and mutually reinforcing roles. The American Revolution, likewise, was about political inequality, as were later fights in this country over abolition and civil rights. Economic inequality was a symptom, not the disease—at least according to countless revolutionaries, abolitionists, and civil-rights leaders.

The postwar history of the West actually makes a hash of Piketty’s sweeping presumption. He argues that the years 1950 to 1970 were a “golden age” of economic equality. If so, why did the greatest period of social unrest in Europe and the United States in the 20th century come at the height of this golden age in the 1960s? That unrest spilled over into the 1970s, but the domestic terrorists who roiled Germany and Italy and the crime wave that devastated the United States had an extremely tangential relationship to income inequality at best. Then, pollsters tell us, in the 1980s—when the West took a wrong turn, according to Piketty, thanks to the policies of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan—social contentment started to rise and continued to rise, with the usual dips, all the way into the 1990s. One small example: In 1979, 84 percent of Americans told Gallup they were dissatisfied with the direction of the country. In 1986, 69 percent were satisfied.

...Piketty places enormous emphasis on the role of the world wars as a great leveler of inequality and the primary driver of the postwar “golden age.” But ask yourself a question: If you were a remotely sane human in 1900 and you were given the choice of

(a) getting richer, though at a slower rate than the very wealthiest, so that in 1950 there was a lot of economic inequality but you and your kids were still much better off; or

(b) facing two horrendous and cataclysmic global wars in which whole societies were razed and a hundred million people died violently and you (along with the rich) were made poorer for it, and would die at a younger age,

What would you have chosen? It appears Piketty finds Option B awfully tempting. And that is madness.

...Piketty’s obsession with tax hikes as a cure-all is almost a perfect mirror of how liberals see the supply-side obsessions with tax cuts. It is this idée fixe that allows him to summarily dismiss other proposals that might get us to his preferred destination without confiscating the ill-gotten gains of the well-to-do. For instance, Tyler Cowen and National Review’s Kevin D. Williamson point out that if Piketty’s assumptions about the long-term returns on capital are correct, then we would be crazy not to transform social security into a system of privately held investment accounts. Boldly expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit—which would necessarily increase the tax burden of the wealthy—might also do more to solve the problem, assuming it is a problem. An aggressive tax on consumption instead of income would, according to many economists, boost growth and have the added benefit of taxing the Gilded Age lifestyles of billionaires instead of merely taxing billionaires for the alleged crime of existing. But none of these has the satisfying bang of that 80 percent marginal tax rate—or, even more thrilling, the 10 percent “global tax” on billionaires’ filthy lucre.

In his review Goldberg makes some of the same points about the rich and the poor in America that Bill Whittle does in his video on the subject.

(Quoting Nicholas Eberstadt) By 2011, ...average per capita housing space for people in poverty was higher than the U.S. average for 1980, and crowding (more than one person per room) was less common for the 2011 poor than for the nonpoor in 1970. More than three-quarters of the 2011 poor had access to one or more motor vehicles, whereas nearly three-fifths were without an auto in 1972–73. Refrigerators, dishwashers, washers and dryers, and many other appliances were more common in officially impoverished homes in 2011 than in the typical American home of 1980 or earlier. Microwaves were virtually universal in poor homes in 2011, and DVD players, personal computers, and home Internet access are now typical in them—amenities not even the richest U.S. households could avail themselves of at the start of the War on Poverty. Further, Americans counted as poor today are manifestly healthier, better nourished (or overnourished), and more schooled than their predecessors half a century ago.

(My emphases. In many ways, the poor today are better off than the average Americans of thirty or forty years ago).

And Goldberg extols the incredible wealth creating machine that is capitalism. (As Whittle does here.)

Piketty is shockingly unconcerned with the fact (which he acknowledges) that one of the driving forces of U.S. income inequality is rising global equality. The world’s poor are getting much richer, in large part because they are doing a lot of the sometimes backbreaking and manual labor that poor and middle-class people in rich countries once did. This clearly creates significant political and economic challenges for wealthy countries eager to maintain high domestic-living standards, but from the vantage point of someone who believes in universal economic rights, that is a small price to pay, no?

Thanks to capitalism, we have seen the single largest alleviation of poverty in human history. In 1981, 52 percent of humanity lived in “extreme poverty.” They could not provide for themselves and for their families such basic needs as housing and food. According to a recent study by Yale and the Brookings Institution, by the end of 2011, that number had fallen to 15 percent. They credit globalization, capitalism, and better economic governance (i.e., the abandonment of Marxism and similar ideologies). Even for economic nationalists, how is that not a staggering triumph for the ethical superiority of capitalism?

Note that the Brookings Institution is a left leaning think tank.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Amazing...But Not Surprising

That was then.
This is now.
Daniel Henninger writing in today's Wall Street Journal.

The IRS tea-party audit story isn't Watergate; it's worse than Watergate.
The Watergate break-in was the professionals of the party in power going after the party professionals of the party out of power. The IRS scandal is the party in power going after the most average Americans imaginable.
The Worse-Than-Watergate IRS scandal worsened last Friday with the news that the agency made an astonishingly crude and blatant attempt to cover up evidence of its criminal activity along with evidence of the complicity of the White House and Congressional Democrats. That crucial Lois Lerner e-mails were destroyed when her computer "crashed" is eerily reminiscent of the 18 and a half minute gap in Richard Nixon's recorded conversations that so infuriated Democrats during the Watergate affair. Peggy Noonan notes the contrast in the reactions to the two events.

...what is amazing—not surprising, but amazing—is that if my experience of normal human conversation the past few days is any guide, very few people are talking about it and almost no one cares. 
...(I)f you can’t see the relation between a strangely destroyed key piece of evidence in an ongoing scandal and what happened 41 years ago with a strangely destroyed key piece of evidence in an ongoing scandal, something is wrong not with the story but with your news judgment.

Jonah Goldberg has also noticed the mainstream media's remarkable lack of interest in the story.

So now the IRS claims that a computer crash has irrevocably erased pertinent e-mails (an excuse I will remember when I am audited). National Review’s John Fund reports that the IRS manual says backups must exist. If e-mails — which exist on servers, clouds, and elsewhere — can be destroyed this way, someone should tell the NSA that there’s a cheaper way to encrypt data.

The storied City News Bureau of Chicago famously lived by the motto “If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out.” The bureau closed down several years ago. Perhaps that kind of skepticism died with it.
(Fund's article is here).
Other relevant data has "disappeared". Eliana Johnson (NRO) explains
It’s not just Lois Lerner’s e-mails. The Internal Revenue Service says it can’t produce e-mails from six more employees involved in the targeting of conservative groups, according to two Republicans investigating the scandal.
The IRS recently informed Ways and Means chairman Dave Camp and subcommittee chairman Charles Boustany that computer crashes resulted in additional lost e-mails, including from Nikole Flax, the chief of staff to former IRS commissioner Steven Miller, who was fired in the wake of the targeting scandal.
...If Lerner is the central figure in the scandal — Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa said Monday evening he believes she was the senior-most official involved — Flax may be an important auxiliary figure. E-mails produced in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the group Judicial Watch show Flax giving the green light to Lerner’s request to meet with Department of Justice officials to explore the possibility of criminally prosecuting nonprofit groups — at the suggestion of Democratic senator Sheldon Whitehouse — for engaging in political activity after declaring on their application for nonprofit status that they had no plans to do so.

In a scathing piece, National Review Editors mock the claim that the e-mails are lost forever.

It is very difficult to permanently destroy an e-mail even if you are trying to do so. The proposition that a few hard-drive crashes, which conveniently afflicted the computers of those involved in the agency’s targeting of conservative groups, would permanently wipe out those e-mails beyond recovery beggars belief. Half the strip malls in this country have electronics stores that will, for a fee, recover information from a damaged hard drive. Assuming that the drive in question was not, say, smashed to bits with a sledgehammer and then nuked in a microwave, the information on it should be recoverable.

Beyond that, e-mail is a network function; copies of communications are generally available from multiple locations. It is not an IRS e-mail server that is alleged to have crashed, but the individual computer used by Lois Lerner, who ran the IRS unit responsible for tax-exempt organizations and is at the center of the agency’s campaign of harassment and intimidation of conservative groups. The IRS claims that it wipes its servers clean every six months and that its backup method is — and we are not making this up — having employees print out their e-mails for filing. The missing e-mails from Lerner run to about 50,000, and the IRS has nearly 90,000 employees — is the agency really filing away 4.5 billion printouts every other year? Perhaps in a federal warehouse like the one at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark?

And beyond that, the IRS has a legal obligation to retain e-mails and other documents, and it is difficult to take seriously the proposition that fulfilling that legal obligation would be left to chance. In earlier congressional testimony, former IRS commissioner John Koskinen confirmed that agency e-mails are stored on backup servers.

...The matter at hand is a serious one. While IRS employees were openly campaigning for Barack Obama on agency time — a violation for which a handful were given largely symbolic reprimands — the very branch of that awesomely powerful law-enforcement agency charged with handling the affairs of nonprofit and tax-exempt groups was illegally targeting organizations based on their political affiliations while Democratic elected officials, Michigan senator Carl Levin among them, hectored the agency to do more.

This was not a lapse in judgment or a series of unfortunate events. This was an organized campaign to use IRS resources — including its ability to launch criminal prosecutions — for political purposes.

...We have no doubt that Lois Lerner’s hard drive has in fact been compromised. We’d be shocked if it hadn’t been. Goodness knows what else is being done with evidence while Congress proceeds at its customary majestic pace. The question here is not only the crime that has been committed but whether there is a crime in progress.

Mona Charen enlists the expertise of an experienced data retriever to dispute the IRS' claim.
John Hinderaker of the Power Line blog was blunt: “The Obama administration is lying, and lying in a remarkably transparent way.” Hinderaker, a practicing attorney, uses discovery to retrieve e-mails on a regular basis. E-mails are stored on a server. A crash of the user’s hard drive would be irrelevant. “Further, e-mails are universally backed up in some other medium, often electronic tape, for long-term storage. Thus, even if an e-mail server is destroyed, or all e-mails are deleted from a server after a specified length of time, the e-mails are still recoverable from back-up storage media.” The IRS, along with all other government agencies, uses such a system.

Sharyl Attkisson is the intrepid former CBS News reporter who left that outfit when she became frustrated by its lack of enthusiasm for her investigations into the Obama administration's various scandals. (In a striking example of the corruption of the mainstream media, the head of CBS News, David Rhodes, is the brother of Senior White House advisor Ben Rhodes. The latter Rhodes was Susan Rice's notorious coach, prepping her to lie on Sunday news shows following the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attack. No wonder Attkisson was dissuaded from reporting on that scandal).
On her website, Attkisson presents a list of issues for the IRS to address.

    In light of the disclosure, these are some of the logical requests that should be made of the IRS:

Please provide a timeline of the crash and documentation covering when it was first discovered and by whom; when, how and by whom it was learned that materials were lost; the official documentation reporting the crash and federal data loss; documentation reflecting all attempts to recover the materials; and the remediation records documenting the fix. This material should include the names of all officials and technicians involved, as well as all internal communications about the matter.

Please provide all documents and emails that refer to the crash from the time that it happened through the IRS’ disclosure to Congress Friday that it had occurred.

Please provide the documents that show the computer crash and lost data were appropriately reported to the required entities including any contractor servicing the IRS. If the incident was not reported, please explain why.

Please provide a list summarizing what other data was irretrievably lost in the computer crash. If the loss involved any personal data, was the loss disclosed to those impacted? If not, why?

Please provide documentation reflecting any security analyses done to assess the impact of the crash and lost materials. If such analyses were not performed, why not?

Please provide documentation showing the steps taken to recover the material, and the names of all technicians who attempted the recovery.

Please explain why redundancies required for federal systems were either not used or were not effective in restoring the lost materials, and provide documentation showing how this shortfall has been remediated.

Please provide any documents reflecting an investigation into how the crash resulted in the irretrievable loss of federal data and what factors were found to be responsible for the existence of this situation.

I would also ask for those who discovered and reported the crash to testify under oath, as well as any officials who reported the materials as having been irretrievably

The IRS cover up extends beyond fabricating laughably implausible explanations for missing evidence. Much of the obstruction involves dissembling and delaying. The following is from a Wall Street Journal editorial.

There's an equally disturbing IRS confession contained in its Friday letter to Congress. Some history: House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa as early as June 4, 2013 asked the IRS to provide "all documents and communications sent by, received by, or copied to Lois Lerner" between Jan. 1, 2009 and the present." Note the "all."
Mr. Issa sent an official subpoena demanding "all" the records in August 2013, and another subpoena reiterating the "all" demand in February 2014. Former Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel in August of 2013 told Congress, under oath, that the IRS was "reviewing every one of Lois Lerner's emails, and providing the response." Current IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in February told Congress, under oath, that the IRS was sending all of Ms. Lerner's emails. 

Yet in its letter on Friday the IRS slipped in the following: "In early 2014, Chairmen Camp and Issa reiterated their requests for all of Lois Lerner's email, regardless of subject matter . . . Fulfilling the request," said the IRS, meant it had to compile Lerner emails that went beyond the "search terms" it had "originally loaded for review." By mid-March, the agency admitted, it had produced for Congress only the Lerner emails that it—the IRS—considered "related" to the scandal. 

In other words, the IRS has from the start been picking and choosing which of Ms. Lerner's emails it deigned to show Congress. And it did so despite knowing that Congress wanted everything.

This IRS filter has delayed the investigation and denied Congress access to important information. Congressional investigators learned only last week that Ms. Lerner corresponded with the Justice Department about potentially prosecuting conservative nonprofits. Congress had to subpoena Justice to obtain that Lerner correspondence. Only after Congress demanded the IRS explain why it hadn't provided this Lerner-Justice correspondence did the IRS suddenly confess in its Friday letter that it had been picking and choosing emails.

And now we get the disappearance of seven hard drives. Ms. Lerner's hard drive, by the way, appears to have "crashed" in June 2011, not long after Mr. Camp first asked the IRS if there was any political targeting going on. She denied it. Mr. Koskinen is due to testify before Congress on Friday, and he's got a lot to answer for.

Former FEC Chairman Bradley Smith (WSJ, 2/26/2014) pieced together a timeline detailing the prompts and threats from President Obama and Congressional Democrats spurring the IRS to monitor and pressure conservative advocacy groups seeking 501(c)(4) tax exempt status.

Smith concludes with an historical analogy.

In 1170, King Henry II is said to have cried out, on hearing of the latest actions of the Archbishop of Canterbury, "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" Four knights then murdered the archbishop. Many in the U.S. media still willfully refuse to see anything connecting the murder of the archbishop to any actions or abuse of power by the king.

Smith's article describes the overt pressure put on the IRS by Democrats. The full extent of more secretive coordination between the IRS and self interested politicians has yet to be determined.
E-mails obtained by the activist watchdog group Judicial Watch show that, at a minimum, Lois Lerner corresponded with the Department of Justice and a U.S. congressman regarding conservative groups' 501 (c)(4) requests. She contacted the DOJ seeking grounds to prosecute tax exempt status applicants.

From Judicial Watch --

“These new emails show that the day before she broke the news of the IRS scandal, Lois Lerner was talking to a top Obama Justice Department official about whether the DOJ could prosecute the very same organizations that the IRS had already improperly targeted,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The IRS emails show Eric Holder’s Department of Justice is now implicated and conflicted in the IRS scandal. No wonder we had to sue in federal court to get these documents.”

Was there a follow-up to Lerner's consultation with the DOJ? Sure was. It was revealed this week that the IRS, days before the 2010 election, shipped a 1.1 million page database about tax-exempt groups to the FBI.

The Wall Street Journal explains the impropriety of this action.

How out of bounds was this data dump? Consider the usual procedure. The IRS is charged with granting tax-exempt status to social-welfare organizations that spend less than 50% of their resources on politics. If the IRS believes a group has violated those rules, it can assign an agent to investigate and revoke its tax-exempt status. This routinely happens and isn't a criminal offense.
Ms. Lerner, by contrast, shipped a database of 12,000 nonprofit tax returns to the FBI, the investigating agency for Justice's Criminal Division. The IRS, in other words, was inviting Justice to engage in a fishing expedition, and inviting people not even licensed to fish in that pond. The Criminal Division (rather than the Tax Division) investigates and prosecutes under the Internal Revenue Code only when the crimes involve IRS personnel.                                                       
Lerner was also passing along information about the conservative group True The Vote to Elijah Cummings, in charge of running interference for Obama at the House Oversight Committee. Cummings lied that he had had no contact with Lerner. 

Additional evidence of the Obama White House working with the IRS to hinder opposition groups in the run up to the 2012 election is sure to be found in the "lost" e-mails.

And the press? Except for Fox News and The Wall Street Journal, (both owned by the blessed News Corp), and the rare principled reporter like Attkisson, there is no serious investigation of the story. Charen writes, "The New York Times made just a glancing mention on its website a few days (after the missing e-mail story broke). The Washington Post ran only an AP story." Got that? There's far more information contained in this lousy blog post about a major news story than in two of the most (undeservedly) prestigious papers in the country.

Imagine an alternative scenario. Substitute the Bush administration for Obama's and shift the timeframe back to 2006-2008. A New York Times headline would look something like this.



Saturday, June 14, 2014

Election Timetable Governance

Obamacare became law in 2010. Except for a few popular provisions (e.g. - "children" being eligible for coverage on their parents' health insurance plans until age 26), it did not take effect until three years later, after Obama's reelection was safely past. The timing was no coincidence. Foreseeable damage caused by a bad law does not benefit the law's eponymous candidate.

The tail wags the dog. Obama's campaign strategy drives his policymaking. Obama ordered the Afghan surge in 2010 and concurrently announced that, successful or not, it would end by September, 2012, two convenient months before the election. Then, as a further signal to the Taliban that patience was virtue, and their path to victory, Obama let them know that the U.S. would be abandoning Afghanistan by the end of 2016. This way he could claim to have "ended" the war before leaving office, notwithstanding that the war will be far from over. On the contrary, it will undoubtedly worsen and spread once we're gone.

As it has in Iraq. An Obama re-election tactic was for him to be able to say that he ended American involvement in that war. The last troops left Iraq in December, 2011 giving Obama his campaign talking point throughout 2012. Good politics, bad policy. Our absence has caused civilian deaths to spike in 2013 to about 9500 from about 4000 in 2011. The 2014 body count will be substantially higher yet. The resurgent terrorist group, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has overrun Fallujah and Mosul and now threatens Baghdad. Territory previously won at a terribly high cost is now in the hands of the enemy. A catastrophic civil war is nearly inevitable.

Obama is not only inept, he's delusional, repeatedly stating that Al-Qaeda is "decimated", and "on the run". WSJ's Daniel Henninger points out the discrepancy between those assessments and on-the-ground reality.

Last month this is what Barack Obama said to the 1,064 graduating cadets at the U.S. Military Academy: "Four and a half years later, as you graduate, the landscape has changed. We have removed our troops from Iraq. We are winding down our war in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda's leadership on the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan has been decimated."

That let-the-sunshine-in line must have come back to the cadets, when news came Sunday that the Pakistani Taliban, who operate in that border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan, had carried out a deadly assault on the main airport in Karachi, population 9.4 million. To clarify, the five Taliban Mr. Obama exchanged for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl are Afghan Taliban who operate on the other side of the border.

Obama was hoping that Iraq would hold together until he left office. He didn't foresee Iraq degenerating so rapidly. Or, even if it did, he figured he could play his trump card - "Bush did it." That canard has indeed been rolled out by some of his flacks. Blaming Bush is particularly contemptible because it's been the driving force behind Obama's indifference towards Iraq. Since Bush "owned" Iraq, Obama would be immune to charges that he lost it. If the Iraq project succeeded, good. Obama would take credit. If not, even better. It was Bush's war.

Henninger again --

Now if you want to vent about " George Bush's war," be my guest. But George Bush isn't president anymore. Barack Obama is because he wanted the job and the responsibilities that come with the American presidency. Up to now, burying those responsibilities in the sand has never been in the job description.

Fouad Ajami writing in today's WSJ --

Mr. Obama...was eager to give up the gains the U.S. military and the Bush administration had secured in Iraq. (He did not) possess the generosity of spirit to give his predecessors the credit they deserved for what they had done in that treacherous landscape.

The great tragedy of this quagmire is that it was totally avoidable. When Obama took office in 2009, the war in Iraq was essentially over and we had won. The country was largely at peace. Al-Qaeda had been dealt a devastating defeat and the groundwork had been laid for a long term American-Iraqi alliance. All that was needed was to finalize a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the two countries with the maintenance of a sufficiently strong American military presence at its core (much like the ones we have with South Korea and Germany). This should have been a slam dunk as the heavy lifting had already been accomplished with the successful surge of 2007-2008. That strategy, which was courageously ordered by George W. Bush and skillfully and even more courageously executed by American troops, is what won the war. When the possibility of creating a free, democratic Iraq still existed in 2010, the Obama administration was ready and willing to take credit. Ever the slimy plagiarizer, Joe Biden tried to appropriate the accomplishment for himself and his boss, proclaiming in 2010, "this could be one of the great achievements of this administration."

"Great achievements" and "this (the Obama) administration" are oxymorons. Predictably, Obama was unable to achieve a permanent SOFA. Declared by know-nothing pundits (and himself) as brilliant and pragmatic, he failed at the one thing, diplomacy, at which he was purportedly a master.

Obama's priority wasn't ensuring a durable peace in Iraq, but getting re-elected. Jonah Goldberg thinks that what Obama now needs most is a time machine so that he could go back and undo his many policy errors. But this assumes that Obama is motivated by wanting to do the right thing rather than securing electoral success. Given a do-over, Obama wouldn't change a thing.

Obama's campaign mantra -- "bin Laden is dead and GM is alive." -- became leftist doctrine: the Islamist threat had ended with the al-Qaeda leader's demise. Obama's latest foreign policy doctrine, articulated in typically puerile fashion by the clowns that inhabit his national security apparatus is "Don't do stupid s---t". Sadly, that's all he does.

Henninger --

Iraq may be transforming into (a) a second Syria or (b) a restored caliphate. Past some point, the world's wildfires are going to consume the Obama legacy. And leave his successor a nightmare.

And a tweet from a veteran named J. R. Salzman --

I did not get an arm blown off in Baghdad so you could sit on your ass and watch Iraq fall, @BarackObama. I did my job. DO YOUR JOB.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A True Modern Miracle -- Capitalism

More essential reading from Kevin Williamson -- a caution to religious intellectuals to steer clear of matters of which they know little.

“As Marx pointed out,” Professor (Stuart) Smithers writes, “capital is full of contradictions. Capital not only creates wealth, value, and jobs — it also destroys wealth, value, and jobs. Those ‘wondrous technologies’ also manifest as wrathful deities, efficiently eliminating or reducing the need for labor.” The implicit economic hypothesis here is that producing a certain amount of goods more efficiently — in this case, with less labor — makes the world worse off. (“Why not use spoons”) The reality is the opposite, and that is not a matter of opinion, perspective, or ideology — it is a material reality, the denial of which is the intellectual equivalent of insisting on a geocentric or turtles-all-the-way-down model of the universe.

The increasingly global and specialized division of labor and the resulting chains of production — i.e., modern capitalism, the unprecedented worldwide project of voluntary human cooperation that is the unique defining feature of our time — is what cut the global poverty rate in half in 20 years*. It was not Buddhist mindfulness or Catholic homilies that did that. In the 200,000-year history of Homo sapiens, neither of those great religious traditions, nor anything else that human beings ever came up with, made a dent in the poverty rate. Capitalism did. 

... “The poor you will always have with you,” Jesus said, but in the capitalist world, that simply is not true — there is no poverty in the capitalist world comparable to poverty in the early 18th century, much less to the poverty that was nearly universal in Jesus’ time. Our people are clothed, fed, and housed, and the few shocking exceptions, as with the case of the neglected mentally ill, are shocking because they are exceptions — and those are not economic failures but political failures.

There's much more. Read it all here --

*From an article in The Economist --

In 1990, 43% of the population of developing countries lived in extreme poverty (then defined as subsisting on $1 a day); the absolute number was 1.9 billion people. By 2000 the proportion was down to a third. By 2010 it was 21% (or 1.2 billion; the poverty line was then $1.25, the average of the 15 poorest countries’ own poverty lines in 2005 prices, adjusted for differences in purchasing power). The global poverty rate had been cut in half in 20 years.

For a longer term perspective; a true "hockey stick" graph --

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Heroic Courage

Kevin Williamson discusses the case of Miss Pennsylvania USA, Valerie Gatto, who was conceived following the rape of her mother. In the article, Williamson offers a startling personal revelation.

There are many kinds of courage in the world, of which a mother’s courage is a very specific and demanding variety. Rape is a special kind of cruelty in that it transforms the life-giving act into an act of torture. To suffer the crime and yet cherish the life is an act of transcendence, a perfection of generosity rarely if ever equaled by the merely human.

My own view is that those in the pro-life camp who wish to carve out legal exceptions for cases of rape are undermining their own position. If our desire is to protect the lives of the innocent unborn, then the circumstances of their conception, no matter how horrible, cannot be allowed to overrule their standing as members of the human family. But that is not to say that the circumstances do not matter. We should be fully cognizant of exactly what our position implies, and of the extraordinary burden such a standard would impose on women who have suffered a particularly heinous kind of assault.

But set aside, for the moment, the question of the legal status of abortion. The fact is that abortion is at the moment legal and widely available. Miss Gatto was born in 1989, well into the age of the universal abortion license. Her mother could have terminated her pregnancy easily, and the matter could have remained entirely private. She chose to do otherwise, and then took the additional step of taking on the burdens and difficulties of raising the child rather than giving her to adoptive parents. This is by no means to denigrate the decisions of women who do give up their children for adoption — I myself am grateful that such a decision was made in my own case, and that abortion remained illegal in Texas in 1972. I have no idea whether my biological mother, whom I have not met, would have been tempted by the availability of legal abortion; still, I object to the notion that my own life should be optional under the law. Miss Gatto’s mother must have known that she was not choosing an easy road, even with the support and assistance of her parents.

The remarkable fact is that a not insignificant number of women who become pregnant through rape do not choose to terminate their pregnancies, deciding instead to forgo adding to the sum of violence in the world, even though a portion of it has been cruelly visited upon their own persons. In a culture that treats abortion as barely if at all distinguishable from mere contraception, that is heroic. And it is heroic regardless of our specific political differences on the issue of the legal standing of abortion, important — fundamentally important — as that question is.

It should be noted that Williamson's position on rape and abortion mirrors that of Richard Mourdock, who, though heavily favored, lost the 2012 Indiana race for the U.S. Senate because he made the comment, “I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that’s something God intended to happen.” It's unclear whether Mourdock would have lost had he not foolishly associated rape with God's will. Had he presented the case as eloquently as Williamson does (in the first two excerpted paragraphs above), the election result may have been different.

Or not. The subject of rape and abortion is a third rail for pro-life politicians. Republicans would probably do well to heed Ann Coulter's advice --

I...think all Republican candidates should be trained with shock collars and cattle prods to automatically respond, upon hearing some combination of the words "abortion," "rape" and "incest": "Yes, of course there should be exceptions in the case of rape or incest, and I also support giving rapists the death penalty, unlike my Democratic opponent, who wants to give rapists the right to vote. Now, back to what I was saying about Obamacare ..."

One more thing -- Given the current cultural mood, Valerie Gatto has no chance to win the 2014 Miss USA contest.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Praise The Swiftboaters

Jonah Goldberg on the Bergdahl affair, focusing on how it was (mis)managed by the White House.

"This president, we are constantly told, gets his information about scandals in his own administration the same way we do: from the newspapers. This raises an interesting question: Why have an office in the White House? Apparently you can do this job from anywhere.

Maybe Obama needs to get a subscription to Rolling Stone? If he’d read the story from two years ago, he’d at least know that Bergdahl’s case was like Norwegian weather in September: a lot of gray. In fairness, I don’t want the president of the United States wasting his time reading that rag. But in the old days, someone in the White House would have read up on the guy. A pro would have said, “Hey, let’s type Bowe Bergdahl into the Google machine and hit the ‘I’m feeling lucky’ button!” If they’d done that, they would have at least known not to say Bergdahl was captured on the “battlefield” and that he had served “with honor and distinction.” On why this was outrageous see Ralph Peters. On why this was politically stupid, see the entry in the dictionary for "Duh".

This White House went a different way. They sent Susan Rice — Susan Rice! — out on the Sunday shows to beclown herself again. This woman was going to be secretary of state until she went out on the Sunday shows and read Ben Rhodes’s talking points verbatim. Apparently that’s sort of her thing. She reads what the hacks above — or below — give her. It’s like she’s the Ron Burgundy of foreign policy. But you’d think this time around she’d go over with her staff exactly what they know — and don’t know. You’d think she’d be like Roy Scheider in Jaws 2 telling the town council, “As God is my witness, I’m not going through that Hell again.” Instead she’s like Mikey from the Life cereal commercials and the White House political hacks are like the other kids. “Give these talking points to Susie, she’ll say anything.”

And now, to cover their mistakes, these guys are complaining anonymously to Chuck Todd that Bergdahl is being “swiftboated” by his former comrades. My friend Iowahawk called this one perfectly. Seriously, what’s the point of putting the hacks in charge if they can’t even hack right?

It’s amazing how good liberals are at creating terms that attack motives in order to deflect inconvenient facts. I have my problem with the uses and abuses of “McCarthyism,” “witch hunts,” “climate deniers,” “reality-based community” etc. But “swiftboating” really stands out as slimy piece of business. What the Swiftboat vets did was tell the truth as they saw it about events they had firsthand experience with. Some of their recollections may have fallen short of accurate, but many were completely accurate. I guarantee you not one in a hundred people who throw the term “swiftboating” around can tell you exactly what the vets did wrong.

Well, I take that back. They can tell you what they did wrong: They created problems for the Democrats. What they can’t tell you was what the vets said that was inaccurate — because they don’t care."

Jonah likes making allusions to movies. Well, I have one. Obama's crusade to close Gitmo is reminiscent of an EPA official (played by) William Atherton ordering the shut down of the ingenious and effective ghost containment system fabricated by "Ghostbusters" (played by) Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. Predictably, when the system is turned off, all hell breaks loose as the evil spirits are released and wreak havoc on New York City. Prepare for a similar effect as Gitmo is emptied. Who ya gonna call then?

"Ghostbusters" spot-on portrayal of the EPA as a rigid, misguided adversary of a beneficial private enterprise helped earn it the number 10 spot on National Review's list of 25 top conservative movies (2/23/2009).

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Culture Clash

The best informed and most astute reading of the Bowe Bergdahl affair comes from retired Army Colonel Ralph Peters. Excerpted at length below.

"In one of the most tone-deaf statements in White House history (we’re making a lot of history here), the national-security advisor (Susan Rice), on a Sunday talk show, described Bergdahl as having served “with honor and distinction.” Those serving in uniform and those of us who served previously were already stirred up, but that jaw-dropper drove us into jihad mode.

But pity Ms. Rice. Like the president she serves, she’s a victim of her class. Nobody in the inner circle of Team Obama has served in uniform. It shows. That bit about serving with “honor and distinction” is the sort of perfunctory catch-phrase politicians briefly don as electoral armor. (“At this point in your speech, ma’am, devote one sentence to how much you honor the troops.”)

...(Obama) has so little understanding of (or interest in) the values and traditions of our troops that he and his advisers really believed that those in uniform would erupt into public joy at the news of Bergdahl’s release — as D.C. frat kids did when Osama bin Laden’s death was trumpeted.
Both President Obama and Ms. Rice seem to think that the crime of desertion in wartime is kind of like skipping class. They have no idea of how great a sin desertion in the face of the enemy is to those in our military. The only worse sin is to side actively with the enemy and kill your brothers in arms. This is not sleeping in on Monday morning and ducking Gender Studies 101.

But compassion, please! The president and all the president’s men and women are not alone. Our media elite — where it’s a rare bird who bothered to serve in uniform — instantly became experts on military justice. Of earnest mien and blithe assumption, one talking head after another announced that “we always try to rescue our troops, even deserters.”

Uh, no. “Save the deserter” is a recent battle cry of the politically indoctrinated brass. For much of our history, we did make some efforts to track down deserters in wartime. Then we shot or hanged them. Or, if we were in good spirits, we merely used a branding iron to burn a large D into their cheeks or foreheads. Even as we grew more enlightened, desertion brought serious time in a military prison. At hard labor.

This is a fundamental culture clash. Team Obama and its base cannot comprehend the values still cherished by those young Americans “so dumb” they joined the Army instead of going to prep school and then to Harvard. Values such as duty, honor, country, physical courage, and loyalty to your brothers and sisters in arms have no place in Obama World. (Military people don’t necessarily all like each other, but they know they can depend on each other in battle — the sacred trust Bergdahl violated.)

President Obama did this to himself (and to Bergdahl). This beautifully educated man, who never tires of letting us know how much smarter he is than the rest of us, never stopped to consider that our troops and their families might have been offended by their commander-in-chief staging a love-fest at the White House to celebrate trading five top terrorists for one deserter and featuring not the families of those soldiers (at least six of them) who died in the efforts to find and free Bergdahl, but, instead, giving a starring role on the international stage to Pa Taliban, parent of a deserter and a creature of dubious sympathies (that beard on pops ain’t a tribute to ZZ Top). How do you say “outrageous insult to our vets” in Pashto?

Nor, during the recent VA scandal, had the president troubled himself to host the families of survivors of those vets who died awaiting care. No, the warmest attention our president has ever paid to a “military family” was to Mr. and Mrs. Bergdahl.

(I will refrain from criticism of the bumptious attempts to cool the flames of this political conflagration by Secretary Hagel: I never pick on the weak.)"

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Good vs. Bad Inequality

In today's WSJ, John Steele Gordon explains the true reason for periodic large disparities in wealth and income between the rich and the relatively less so, and why those disparities are usually indicative of progress and prosperity.

The great growth of fortunes in recent decades is not a sinister development. Instead it is simply the inevitable result of an extraordinary technological innovation, the microprocessor, which Intel brought to market in 1971. Seven of the 10 largest fortunes in America today were built on this technology, as have been countless smaller ones. These new fortunes unavoidably result in wealth being more concentrated at the top.
But no one is poorer because Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, et al., are so much richer. These new fortunes came into existence only because the public wanted the products and services—and lower prices—that the microprocessor made possible. Anyone who has found his way home thanks to a GPS device or has contacted a child thanks to a cellphone appreciates the awesome power of the microprocessor. All of our lives have been enhanced and enriched by the technology.
This sort of social transformation has happened many times before. Whenever a new technology comes along that greatly reduces the cost of a fundamental input to the economy, or makes possible what had previously been impossible, there has always been a flowering of great new fortunes—often far larger than those that came before. The technology opens up many new economic niches, and entrepreneurs rush to take advantage of the new opportunities.

Steele lists some of the other breakthrough technologies throughout history that have immeasurably improved the living standards of the general public while concurrently producing a new class of fabulously wealthy individuals - the full-rigged ship, the steam engine, railroads, Edwin Drake's oil drilling technique and the Bessemer converter for steel production. Steele warns that attempts to promote economic "equality" by punishing success will ultimately diminish overall prosperity.

The French economist Thomas Piketty, in his new book "Capital in the 21st Century," calls for an 80% tax on incomes over $250,000 and a 2% annual tax on net worth in order to prevent an excessive concentration of wealth.
That is a monumentally bad idea.

...Any attempt to tax away new fortunes in the name of preventing inequality is certain to have adverse effects on further technology creation and niche exploitation by entrepreneurs—and harm job creation as a result. The reason is one of the laws of economics: Potential reward must equal the risk or the risk won't be taken.

There's the "good inequality" described by Steele, that which is produced by entrepreneurs in the private sector and is a byproduct of rapid economic growth and job creation. There's also "bad inequality", that which comes about by government obstruction of economic growth. The latter category is exemplified by the Obama administration's recent announcement of new carbon emission rules.

From an editorial in today's WSJ --

The EPA claims to be targeting "polluters," but the government is essentially creating an artificial scarcity in carbon energy. Scarcities mean higher prices, which will hit the poor far harder than they will the anticarbon crusaders who live in Pacific Heights. The lowest 10% of earners pay three times as much as a share of their income for electricity compared to the middle class. If you want more inequality, this is an ideal way to ensure it.

And the payoff for this government sanctioned impoverishment?

...The irony is that all the damage will do nothing for climate change. Based on the EPA's own carbon accounting, shutting down every coal-fired power plant tomorrow and replacing them with zero-carbon sources would reduce the Earth's temperature by about one-twentieth of a degree Fahrenheit in a hundred years.

Danger And Dishonor

President Obama has gone ahead and released five of the most notorious and dangerous al-Qaeda jihadists from Guantanamo prison in exchange for U.S. army sergeant Bowe Bergdahl who had been held captive in Afghanistan for five years. Bergdahl is a man who reportedly walked off his post - possibly going AWOL, the facts aren't clear - before being picked up by the Taliban. Such a deal!

Bret Stephens (WSJ) and Rich Lowry (National Review) note that some of Bergdahl's former colleagues aren't all that thrilled with his release.


I spoke Monday with a highly decorated former Special Forces operator and asked what he thought about Bowe Bergdahl, the Army sergeant who was released over the weekend after five years of Taliban captivity in exchange for five hard cases out of Gitmo.
The former operator suggested a firing squad might be appropriate.


Afghan vet Nathan Bradley Bethea participated in the search for him. In a powerful piece for The Daily Beast, he writes that “Bergdahl was a deserter, and soldiers from his own unit died trying to track him down.”

At least six soldiers were killed looking for Bergdahl who had expressed his pre-captivity attitude in e-mails to his parents,

the US army is the biggest joke the world has to laugh at,

I am sorry for everything here (Afghanistan). These people need help, yet what they get is the most conceited country in the world telling them that they are nothing and that they are stupid.

I am ashamed to be an American. And the title of US soldier is just the lie of fools. … I am sorry for everything. The horror that is America is disgusting.

Berdahl's father weighed in with this lovely sentiment on Twitter (before he removed it):

I am still working to free all Guantanamo prisoners. God will repay for the death of every Afghan child, ameen! (sic).

Andrew McCarthy itemizes the bill paid for Bergdahl's release:

(The released detainees) include Mullah Mohammed Fazl, perhaps the Taliban’s senior warrior (its “army chief of staff”) and a longtime al-Qaeda ally; Mullah Norullah Noori, a senior military commander who fought side-by-side with al-Qaeda; Abdul Haq Wasiq, a senior Taliban intelligence official who helped train al-Qaeda and fought with it against U.S. forces after 9/11; Khairullah Khairkhwa, a Taliban governor and al-Qaeda trainer who brokered an alliance with Iran to collaborate against American-led forces; and Mohammed Nabi, who worked with the Haqqani Network and al-Qaeda to coordinate attacks against American and coalition forces.

The swap is great for the released terrorists, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and Bowe Bergdahl. Taliban leader Mullah Omar is happy, saying the release of his troops is a "great victory". Obama is happy too. He managed to free a like-minded American soldier wishing his country harm and five highly trained and experienced enemy soldiers willing to do his country harm. Stephens:

Article 85 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice states: "Any person found guilty of desertion or attempt to desert shall be punished, if the offense is committed in time of war, by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct."

But wait: We are not "in time of war." We are in Time of Obama.

In Time of Obama, dereliction of duty is heroism, releasing mass murderers with American blood on their hands is a good way to start a peace process, negotiating with terrorists is not negotiating with terrorists, and exchanging senior Taliban commanders for a lone American soldier is not an incentive to take other Americans hostage but rather proof that America brings its people home.

In Time of Obama, we may get the facts about the circumstances of Sgt. Bergdahl's disappearance and captivity. But first his parents are going to get an invitation to the White House so Mr. Obama can milk the occasion for his own political purposes.

...In Time of Obama it has become impossible to credit claims by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and National Security Adviser Susan Rice that a prisoner exchange had to be made because Sgt. Bergdahl was in dangerously declining health.

This assertion was instantly contradicted by eyewitness accounts that the sergeant was "in good condition" when he was released by his captors. "Freed U.S. soldier Bowe Berghdal developed a love for Afghan green tea, taught his captors badminton, and even celebrated Christmas and Easter with the hardline Islamists," the AFP reported Sunday, citing a Pakistani militant commander.

In Time of Obama, the testimony of the Pakistani militants regarding Sgt. Bergdahl's health is at least as credible as anything Susan Rice has to say, on any subject, on any Sunday talk show.

Most importantly, for Obama, that scourge of humanity known as Guantanamo is that much closer to being emptied. Lowry assails the administration's twisted thinking:

“I will continue to push to close Gitmo,” President Obama said in his West Point speech last week, “because American values and legal traditions do not permit the indefinite detention of people beyond our borders.” Pressed on the Gitmo releases, Susan Rice said Sunday that “the existence of Guantanamo Bay is itself a detriment to our national security.” By this logic, trading terrorists for American captives, so long as those terrorists come from Gitmo, makes us safer.

Our willingness to negotiate with terrorists won't go unnoticed warns Rep. Mike Rogers.

The No. 1 way that al-Qaeda raises money is by ransom – kidnapping and ransom. We have now set a price. If you negotiate here, you’ve sent a message to every al-Qaeda group in the world – by the way, some who are holding U.S. hostages today – that there is some value now in that hostage in a way that they didn’t have before. That is dangerous.

Expect 9/11 architect Khalid Sheik Mohammed to be at the top of al-Qaeda's shopping list.

And, another day, another broken law. Obama managed that by releasing prisoners from Guantanamo without consulting with Congress.

Obama claims that "This is how wars end in the twenty-first century", with the bad guys winning. What ever happened to, “Here’s my strategy on the Cold (or any) War: We win; they lose.”?

Sunday, June 1, 2014


Kevin Williamson with a paean to National Review. Amen.

Even in those few happy places where conservatives can prevail politically, the Left owns the culture. The mighty Lubbock Avalanche-Journal had wall-to-wall coverage of Friday-night lights, but its national and international news came mostly from the Associated Press, as is the case for most U.S. daily newspapers, which means some of the worst economics writing and biased political reporting you can find. At my high school, American history began with the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, reached its apex with the New Deal, and ended with Watergate. Capitalism was unmitigated greed, Reagan was the Antichrist, and what appeared to the unenlightened to be an age of possibility and prosperity was in fact the prelude to environmental apocalypse and the virtual enslavement of the American worker. And if that was the witches’ brew of lies and nonsense I was being dunked in daily in Lubbock, who knows what they were enduring in some comparatively liberal metropolis such as Albuquerque?

But somewhere out there on the barren Llano Estacado was a quiet hero, whose identity still is unknown to me, who changed my life in a profound way — by ensuring that National Review was available at my library. This was in the dark days before the Internet and before National Review Online, when most of the information and insight you needed was still on paper. Woody Allen lampooned National Review in one of his films by placing the magazine in the pornography section of a Manhattan newsstand, but the newsstand, and all of the choices that it offers, would have been a luxury in my part of the world. We were still dependent on the good graces of librarians, who are not, as you may have heard, particularly sympathetic to conservatives. Years later, Rush Limbaugh would capture the experience precisely describing his own first encounter with National Review: It was like stumbling across the in-house newsletter of some sort of secret society dedicated to cultivating the intellectual institutions that support a free, prosperous, and secure society with wit and good cheer and very little inclination to suffer fools gladly. It was like meeting someone for the first time and knowing you were going to be lifelong friends.

...National Review was a gift, and, like many gifts, it carried with it implicit reciprocity, the obligation to live up to the conversation. The fruits of that labor were very sweet: My professors, and, later, my editors at the various newspapers where I worked, all knew what the New York Times had to say about income inequality; I knew what the New York Times had to say about income inequality, too — and I knew why it was wrong.