~ Michael Moore
~ Foreign Policy
~ Domestic Politics
~ Presidential Election 2004
~ Presidential Election 2000
~ Clinton Scandals
"The US is large, contains
multitudes and often contradicts itself. The America of the National Rifle
association and John Ashcroft is also the America of the Sierra Club and
the Civil Liberties Union."
- Anatol Lieven in Prospect
Amy Chua, a Harvard
law professor put it in her book 'World on Fire' a few years ago, the popular
attitude towards the United States can be summed up as: "America, get out.
And take me with you."
- Gerard Baker, "The Times"
"All my life, watching
America. All my life, there's panic in America, there's trouble in America."
- from "America" by British band Razorlight
DUBYA: THE AMERICANS' AMERICAN
There are two key facts
to remember about the invasion of Iraq. First, al-Qaeda feeds on the carcasses
of failed states (witness Afghanistan and Somalia). Second, the Hussein
regime was, after the Gulf War and a decade of economic sanctions, sliding
unavoidably into a political abyss. The only question was, who would get
there first to fill the coming vacuum - al-Qaeda, the Iranian mullahs,
or the United States. And unlike Somalia or Afghanistan, Iraq had real
stakes to put into play in the form of the world's second-largest oil reserves.
Imagine Osama bin Laden as an oil sheikh, or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cornering
the world oil market, and you'll see why the Iraq invasion was a geo-strategic
victory for the West.
The federal judiciary, as the least-well-defined creation of the American Constitution, has lent itself all-too-willingly to the agenda of the American Left. Seeing that the judicial game could be played by two, George W. Bush concentrated on nominating - and steering to confirmation - a hefty phalanx of judges pledged to the utterly novel strategy of letting the Constitution alone. Bush did not get as many of his appointees confirmed as Bill Clinton, who made 65 appointments to Bush's 61. But Bush's are younger and will be around longer, and represent majorities of the sitting judges on 10 out of the 13 federal circuit courts.
- Allen C. Guelzo, assessing the Bush legacy, "National Post"
We are never invited
to ask ourselves what would have happened if the Democrats had been in
power that fall. But it might be worth speculating for a second. The Effective
Death Penalty and Anti-Terrorism Act, rushed through both Houses by Bill
Clinton after the relative pin prick of the Oklahoma City bombing, was
correctly described by the American Civil Liberties Union as the worst
possible setback for the cause of citizens' rights. Given that precedent
and multiplying it for the sake of proportion, I think we can be pretty
sure that wiretapping and water-boarding would have become household words,
perhaps even more quickly than they did, and that we might even have heard
a few more liberal defenses of the practice. I don't know if Gore-Lieberman
would have thought of using Guantanamo Bay, but that, of course, raises
the interesting question—now to be faced by a new administration—of where
exactly you do keep such actually or potentially dangerous customers, especially
since you are not supposed to "rendition" them. There would have been a
nasty prison somewhere or a lot of prisoners un-taken on the battlefield,
you can depend on that.
We might have avoided the Iraq war, even though both Bill Clinton and Al Gore had repeatedly and publicly said that another and conclusive round with Saddam Hussein was, given his flagrant defiance of all the relevant U.N. resolutions, unavoidably in our future. And the inconvenient downside to avoiding the Iraq intervention is that a choke point of the world economy would still be controlled by a psychopathic crime family that kept a staff of WMD experts on hand and that paid for jihadist suicide bombers around the region. In his farewell interviews, President Bush hasn't been able to find much to say for himself on this point, but I think it's a certainty that historians will not conclude that the removal of Saddam Hussein was something that the international community ought to have postponed any further. (Indeed, if there is a disgrace, it is that previous administrations left the responsibility undischarged.)
- Christopher Hitchens, "Slate"
President Bush's number
one achievement was also the number one function of government— to protect
its citizens. Nobody on September 11, 2001 believed that there would never
be another such attack for more than seven years. Unfortunately, people
who are protected from dangers often conclude that there are no dangers.
This is most painfully visible among those Americans who are hysterical
over the government's intercepting international phone calls, in order
to disrupt international terrorist networks.
- Thomas Sowell
George W Bush, president
of the United States, may or may not be one of the following: a) a laid-back,
good-time guy who stumbled implausibly into the White House, only to reveal,
at a moment of daunting national crisis, a square jaw and an iron backbone;
b) a rich nitwit surrounded by evil henchmen who run the country.
- Tony Allen-Mills reviews 'Stupid White Men' & 'Ambling Into History', "The Times"
"Get as close to Bush
as you have been to me, don't underestimate him. He's a shrewd, tough politician
and absolutely ruthless."
- Reported advice from Bill Clinton to Tony Blair
I have been watching
George W Bush for five or six years now and it pretty much goes the same
every time. He decides on his goal (tax cuts, missile defence, re-taking
the Senate), the received opinion says it's never gonna happen, and somehow
by the end of the day the chips have all fallen his way.
- Mark Steyn, "The Daily Telegraph"
"The story of America
is the story of expanding liberty."
- George W. Bush, speech at Republican National Convention 2004
"The greatest service
Bush has ever done to the United States is to be the sacrificial goat that
carries the sins of the people with him... The main purpose of a war crimes
trial is not to declare a handful of people guilty, but everyone else innocent.
The next president of the United States, whoever it is, will have a tremendous
opportunity to simply travel around the world and not be Bush: 50 per cent
of the job done already."
- Walter Russell Mead, interviewed in "The Spectator" (Dec'07)
Sometimes a political
figure becomes so hated that he can't do anything right in the eyes of
his enemies. President Bush has achieved this rare and exalted status.
His critics are so blinded by animus that the internal consistency of their
attacks on him no longer matters. For them, Bush is the double-bind president.If
he warns of a terror attack, he is playing alarmist politics. If he doesn't
warn of a terror attack, he is dangerously asleep at the switch. If he
adopts a doctrine of preemption, he is unacceptably remaking American national-security
policy. If the United States suffers a terror attack on his watch, he should
have preempted it.
- Rich Lowry, "Bush Can't Win - Even If He Does", "National Review"
The reason the left
hate George W Bush with such a passion is surely that he has effectively
stolen their own radical clothes and revealed them instead as reactionaries
who would prop up the old world order... this (neoconservative) optimistic,
liberal philosophy of hope has much more controversially surfaced in the
project to spread democracy to rogue states. But many old-style conservatives,
who see the world very differently and do not believe societies can be
transformed, are as horrified by this approach as are those on the left
whose own agenda is to tear up the west’s moral codes and replace them
by multiculturalism, moral equivalence and pacifism.
- Melanie Phillips, "The Daily Mail"
If President Clinton,
not the hated evangelical from Texas, had taken out the Taliban and the
regime of Saddam Hussein — two of the worst, most murderous, most illiberal
regimes imaginable — would liberals in general have been hostile? I’ll
say what I’ve said before, repeatedly and tiresomely, I’m sure: A good
many people would rather Afghan homosexuals be stoned to death than that
they be liberated by George W. Bush.
- Jay Nordlinger, "National Review"
The Bush administration
retains its capacity to startle, mainly because it has redefined the lazy
term "conservative" to mean someone who is impatient with the status quo.
- Christopher Hitchens, "MSN Slate"
It’s a remarkable achievement
to get damned day in, day out as the new Hitler when 90 percent of the
time you’re Tony Blair with a ranch.
- Mark Steyn, on misunderstanding of Bush's policies
"Democrats in America
are evenly divided on the question of whether George W. Bush knew about
the 9/11 terrorist attacks in advance. Thirty-five percent of Democrats
believe he did know, 39 percent say he did not know and 26 percent are
not sure." So, one in three Democrats believe that Bush was in on it somehow,
and a majority of Democrats either believe that Bush knew about the attacks
in advance or can’t quite make up their minds... If Bush — whom Democrats
insist is a moron — is clever enough to green-light one 9/11, why is Iraq
such a blunder? Surely a James Bond villain like Bush would just plant
- Jonah Goldberg, on the results of a Rasmussen poll, "National Review"
Bush is hated because
he is the embodiment of everything that the United States is, and Europe
is not: not just enormously powerful, militarily and economically, but
brashly confident and fervently patriotic. Where Europe is steeped in historical
guilt and self-loathing — so immersed in its own unforgivable past that
it is trying to fashion a constitution that actually prohibits national
pride — America is profoundly proud of the success of its own miraculous
- Janet Daly, "The Daily Telegraph"
One can’t escape the
conclusion that the politics of conviction helps the President not because
his own convictions are so good but because those of his opponents are
so bad. The Democrats’ failure to win the public trust on ‘values’, Iraq
and the Supreme Court have left them stewing in embitterment. Then Mr Bush
rolled right over the foes of a National Security Agency plan to tap international
calls: ‘If there are people inside our country who are talking with al-Qa’eda,
we want to know about it — because we will not sit back and wait to be
hit again.’ If there are people inside the Democratic party who are considering
pursuing the matter further, their career in elective politics will be
- Christopher Caldwell, "The Spectator"
George W Bush is a
stupid southerner, a thick Texan who has never travelled outside America,
a Bible-reading bigot who stole the election from good Al Gore. Now for
a few facts. Bush and Gore have similarly mixed academic records. At graduate
school, Gore recorded extremely poor marks in divinity and law. Bush can
fly an F102 jet: this demands a high degree of numeracy and motor skills,
or else you go down.
- Eoghan Harris
One sign of the Democrats'
desperation is that some of them continue to try to tar the Bush administration
with innuendoes of racism, even though its Cabinet members have included
people of Hispanic, Japanese American, Jewish, and Chinese American ancestry,
as well as two consecutive black Secretaries of State.
- Thomas Sowell
"How do you keep a
black man in prison?"
"We can't wait until November."
- Method and Red, "Method & Red"
"I don't give a ----
who's in office, Bush or whoever, there is no simple solution to this problem...
I'm not one of those who blames Bush for everything. This ---- between
Christians and Muslims goes back to the Crusades, doesn't it. It's too
easy to blame everything on one guy. These are unpredictable, dangerous
times, and I don't think that anyone really knows quite what to do... I
was in London recently and I couldn't believe all these hate-talking fanatics
you have over here who are allowed to carry on doing their thing even when
a bus full of women and children gets blown to pieces."
- Mickey Rourke
I hear savage attacks
on George Bush's failure to sign the Kyoto Treaty by people who have 3
cars sitting in their drive. I hear America called "the great ecological
Satan" by folks who regularly fly to their holiday home in the south of
- Mary Kenny, "The Irish Independent"
Bush is a liberal democrat
— he has stood for election several times, you know. What has he ever done
- Jay Nordlinger, whenever someone says "Bush is a Fundamentalist", "National Review"
"The genuine appreciation
of a heritage stands in stark contrast to those who would divide people
into groups for political purposes. There is a trend in this country to
put people into boxes ... There are such boxes all over the world in places
like Kosovo, Bosnia, Rwanda -- and they are human tragedies."
- George W. Bush, speaking in 1999
"I believe that once
children are in Texas, regardless of how their parents arrived here, it
is in our best interest to educate them. An educated child is less likely
to commit a crime and more likely to succeed."
- George W Bush, as Governor for Texas (1996)
It is sad to see someone
being beaten up by the English language.
- Martin Amis(?) on George W Bush
"I know that human
being and fish can coexist peacefully."
- George W Bush, speech as President
The nation's teachers
should applaud Jesse Jackson for his calling President Bush "unliterate".
If they ever need to explain irony to their students, they'll never find
another example so succinct.
- Quote spotted on IMAO
George Bush is not
a demon or an idiot. He is a young medieval warrior king drunk on power...
By the year 2000, the year of Dubaya's election, the American empire, having
devoured and spat out the Soviet Union, was like an itchy dinosaur scanning
the globe for another lump of the world to destroy. 'Iraq' whooped Dubaya.
And so began his crusade.
- Paul Durcan
To be opposed by a
fool is one thing; to be bested by him, repeatedly, is far more galling.
- Ramesh Ponnuru, "Why They Hate Bush", "National Review"
If Bush is too dumb
to be President, how dumb do you have to be to be consistently outwitted
- Mark Steyn, after Republicans win the mid-term elections
Today we are hearing
echoes of the old sneers and jeers at Ronald Reagan's mind when the smartness
of people like Al Gore and Hillary Clinton are contrasted with the supposed
lack of smartness of President George W. Bush. As in the past, the standard
for smartness is not achievement but glib rhetoric, smug airs and presumptuous
proposals. But rating people by what they have accomplished is rare today.
Take Al Gore - please. Just what has he actually done, aside from talking
a great game? Bush was a jet pilot. How many dumb jet pilots do you know?
There was a time when we followed the ancient admonition, "By their fruits ye shall know them." Today, it is by their rhetoric and by their adherence to fashionable theories that we judge. By that standard, Ronald Reagan was not smart. But, fortunately for this country, he was wise.
- Thomas Sowell, "Wise versus Smart"
As anybody in the international
affairs area of The Irish Times can tell you, Washington was once a beautiful
city, where art and culture and progressive values flourished under the
Clintons. But now it has fallen to George W Bush's Bible Belt barbarians;
slow-talking men in stetsons and sunglasses, and fast-mouthed women with
big hair. The Irish left knows that the domestic policy of Bush Republicans
is to do down the poor and send as many of them as possible to death row.
Foreign policy is flying around in black helicopters, ripping up rainforests,
spreading global capitalism like peanut butter, and being beastly to anybody
- Eoghan Harris
There is a long tradition
of intellectual snobbery directed against American Presidents. The East
Coast said that Abraham Lincoln was just a hick lawyer from the sticks;
Franklin Roosevelt was considered a playboy, as was John Kennedy; as Alistair
Cooke observed yesterday, Harold Macmillan thought Dwight Eisenhower "woefully
uneducated"; Harry Truman was called a "bankrupt haberdasher", as indeed
he had been; the Ivy League treated Ronald Reagan with a sublime mixture
of condescension and distaste. The three 20th-century Presidents to have
been treated with the greatest intellectual respect were Herbert Hoover,
Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. If the test is success in office, then
one should go for the hicks and the simpletons every time. If any
President could have surpassed Ronald Reagan in this contest for intellectual
contempt, it would be George W. Bush.
- William Rees-Mogg, "Is George just dumb enough to be great?", The Times.
"When I made a suggestion
he didn't like, he gave me this look, as if to say: 'Are you the very stupidest
person I am going to hear from today, or only in the top five?'"
- David Frum, on his time as a speechwriter in the Bush administration
"Karl Rove had ideas
that nobody else had — and that was his value to the president. Karen Hughes
had the same ideas that everybody else had — and that was hers."
- David Frum, on Bush's backroom team, "The Right Man"
"Hey, Mr. President,
you should wear your hair like mine."
"Second term, Ozzy, second term."
- Reported exchange between Ozzy Osbourne and President Bush at a dinner function
"George, if you want
to end tyranny in the world, you're going to have to stay up later."
- First Lady Laura Bush pokes fun at President Bush's sleeping habits at a press function
"There are all these
conspiracy theories that Dick Cheney is running the country, that Karl
Rove runs the country. Why aren't there any conspiracy theories that I
run the country? It ticks me off."
- George W. Bush (Mar'2006)
"Happy Columbus Day
everybody. The holiday is named for the man who discovered America, although
President Bush said that Columbus didn't occupy the country, so much as
liberate the Indians."
- Jay Leno
"We're all capable
of mistakes, but I do not care to enlighten you on the mistakes we may
or may not have made."
- Quote by Bush when Governor of Texas
"Do you think you owe
the Iraqi people an apology for not doing a better job?"
"That we didn’t do a better job or they didn’t do a better job?"
- Scott Pelley, interviewing President Bush on "60 Minutes"
"At Harvard, he was
a very avid and skillful poker player. One of the secrets of a successful
poker player is to encourage your opponent to bet a lot of chips on a losing
hand. This is a pattern of behavior one sees repeatedly in George W Bush's
- Thomas Lifson, comtemporary of President Bush in university
It is a strange mindset,
but one which is terribly prevalent. Quite laudably, there have been plenty
of novels and films which have tried, with varying degrees of success,
to get inside the minds of those psychopathic fundamentalist Islamists
who wish to kill us all. This is a good thing, even when the attempt is
as lame as in John Updike’s last but one novel, The Terrorist. Without
exception these writers and film-makers are commended for their attempts
to understand the enemy, to shed light on what seems to be an alien and
averse thought process. And, in so doing, ‘make excuses’. I don’t disagree;
we should attempt to understand them. Know thine enemy, as they say. And
then shoot him. But it is bizarre that the same latitude is not extended
to those who are, nominally at least, on our side. Any notion that Bush’s
motives might not have been wholly murderous or venal or duplicitous simply
cannot be countenanced — even when, as in W., the whole business is dressed
up with lots of humour at the expense of the President.
- Rod Liddle, reviewing "W." in "The Spectator"
In polite and supposedly
sophisticated circles in America today it is acceptable to say George Bush
is akin to a Nazi and that America is becoming Nazi-like. The Nazis murdered
millions of men, women and children. Their victims weren't "collateral
damage" in a war, and they were not executed after a long and fair trial.
The Nazis sent their victims to gas chambers and ovens in boxcars. Nazi
scientists injected dyes into the living eyes of small children to see
if they could be made "Aryan." They made soap out of people. What on earth
has George Bush done that deserves such comparisons? What could he possibly
If you can't show me any of these things - and you can't - then stop calling the man a Nazi. Because when you say he's no different from Hitler, you are also saying that Hitler is no different from George Bush. And that means that Hitler's crimes were no worse than George Bush's "crimes." And whatever you think of what George Bush has done or might do, if you think any of it is the moral equivalent of the Holocaust, you are in effect saying the Holocaust really wasn't that bad.
- Jonah Goldberg, "The Politics of Dangerous Stupidity", "National Review"
If people could hate
totalitarian dictatorship as much as they do George W. Bush — the world
would be a happier place.
- Jay Nordlinger, "National Review"
In politics as in retailing,
you never argue with the customer. If the polls are accurate, the American
people perceive George W. Bush as a upright and honorable man. On the other
hand, they don't much like his economic policies, and they worry that he
may be too much of a risk-taker in foreign affairs.
A smart political operation would work on those pre-existing weaknesses. It wouldn’t waste time trying to convince an incredulous public that the genial likeable man they see on television is in reality the reincarnation of Adolph Hitler. But the Democratic political operation of 2004 has not been smart. It has in fact been astonishingly, gaspingly, Guiness Book of Records stupid. It has been simultaneously hysterical and harmless, irate and irrelevant, paranoid and purblind.
- David Frum, "National Review"
George W Bush reminds
me of a sort of modern-day Epaminondas, who got it into his head that the
way to stop attacks on Thebes was not just to fight back near Thebes (although
he did that very well), but go to the heart of darkness and free the helots.
George W. Bush got it into his head that the way to defeat these people
who've been killing us for 20 years — recently on the USS Cole, on September
11, at the first World Trade Center attack, and on and on — was not to
simply swat them, but to go right into their countries and destroy the
conditions that created these fanatics. But, then again, after Epaminondas
freed 250,000 slaves, the Thebans put him on trial for his life.
- Victor Davis Hanson, interviewed for TAE
As the Washington Post
points out - the richest 400 tax payers pay as much to the feds as the
poorest 40 million in taxes. It kind of puts into perspective the constant
refrain that Bush's tax cut mainly benefits the rich. In today's lopsided
economy, any reduction in all tax rates will inevitably benefit the rich.
I guess Al Gore wasn't smart enough to figure that out. The real worry
is the danger in a system where increasing numbers of people are consumers
of government goodies, and a smaller and smaller number of people pay for
more and more of it. This is a recipe for majoritarian tyranny. If we have
one-person-one-vote and you can always vote for higher taxes and spending,
knowing you won't ever have to pay for it, why not do so?
There's a reason public spending increased by 8 percent last year under a Republican Congress. And there's a reason some Republicans are quietly insouciant about possible future deficits under their tax plan. They figure there's no legitimate way to stop the dependent class voting for more and more, except throwing the government into periodic fits of bankruptcy. There really ought to be a better way.
- Andrew Sullivan
MICHAEL MOORE: THE ANTI-AMERICANS' AMERICAN
A one-man weapon of
- Padraic MacKiernan, in Ireland's "Sunday Independent"
"They think Americans
are fat, vulgar, greedy, stupid, ambitious, ignorant and so on. And they've
taken as their own, as their representative American, someone who actually
embodies all of those qualities."
- Christoper Hitchens, on Moore's popularity in Europe
To describe this film
as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the
level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would
be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the
excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would
be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity,
crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle
of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of "dissenting"
- Christopher Hitchens dissects Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" for MSN Slate
The more you think
Michael Moore is an insightful and honest person the less reason there
is for the rest of us to pay attention when your lips are moving.
- Jonah Goldberg, writing in "National Review"
The popularity of Moore
is a good indicator of just how debased and simplistic our view of American
and world politics has become. The irony is that the sort of people who
love Moore regularly accuse Bush of having a simplistic view of the world.
Michael Moore is a demagogue, an inveterate publicity seeker who has grown
fat, both literally and metaphorically, from feeding off anti-Bush hatred.
He's a sort of secular tele-evangelist.
- David Quinn, "The Irish Independent"
Mr Moore is a dangerous
man to flirt with ... The Republicans are citing him as proof of their
charge that the Democrats are "a coalition of the wild-eyed". If they have
any sense , they may even steal a Moore cinematic technique: show the Democratic
elite traipsing along the red carpet to see Fahrenheit 9/11 and then cut
to a grainy shot of Mr Moore telling Britons that "Americans are possibly
the dumbest people on the planet."
- from the Lexington column in "The Economist"
Moore follows his GUT,
by which I mean his Grand Universal Theory: Bush is to blame for everything.
Because of Bush, the Saudis secretly run U.S. policy. Because of Bush,
the Taliban were in bed with Texas energy executives. Because of Bush,
the Taliban got toppled -- Whoa, hold up a minute, I thought he was all
pals with the Taliban. The Saudis certainly were, which is why they opposed
the liberation of Afghanistan. Bush has always been the issue for Moore.
On Sept. 11 itself, his only gripe was that the terrorists had targeted
New York and D.C. instead of Texas... The fellows at the controls of those
planes were training for 9/11 when Clinton was president and Gore was ahead
in the polls, and they'd have still been in the cockpit had Ralph Nader
- Mark Steyn, "Connect the dots when you watch 'Fahrenheit'", "Chicago Sun Times"
The war on terror’s
a bit of a joke on the Left these days. In "Fahrenheit 9/11", Michael Moore
says Bush is deliberately keeping the population in a state of fear, and
he gets some of his biggest laughs with clips of solemn announcers announcing
upgraded terrorism alerts. I suppose it is pretty funny. Until it happens.
And then Moore and the Democrats will switch to arguing that Bush knew
it was going to happen all along and didn’t do anything about it.
- Mark Steyn, "The Spectator"
"The Lord Haw-Haw of
the war on terror."
- Richard Littlejohn, on BBC's "Question Time"
The most annoying sound
at this year's Cannes Film Festival was the incessant drone of Michael
Moore telling everyone in town that he had been silenced. If only.
- Mark Kermode, "The Observer"
"It is that stupid moron's right to be that
utterly completely wrong."
- Dennis Miller gives his opinion of Michael Moore
The mobile cheeseburger.
- Paul Johnson, "The Spectator"
I never know whether
he is as ignorant as he looks, or even if that would be humanly possible.
- Christopher Hitchens, from his collection "Love, Poverty and War
Moore mostly avoids
straightforward factual assertions - which makes the movie harder to confront
and argue with - in favor of ellipsis and misdirection. Moore accuses -
if 'accuse' is a synonym for 'insinuate' - Bush of approving the flight
of the bin Laden family from the U.S. after Sept. 11. Will anyone care
that the movie, viewed as either art or journalism, is a mess? 'Fahrenheit
9/11' has a Palme d'Or from the Cannes film festival - and now the implicit
endorsement of the Democratic Party establishment. This embrace of Moore's
crackpottery is great news for Moore, very bad news for Democrats.
- Andrew Ferguson, "Will 'Fahrenheit 9/11' Burn the Democrats?", "Bloomberg News"
It isn't enough to
say that Moore manipulates the facts, or that he is a charlatan, or that
his arguments are glib. The reality is that his methods are working, and
working for a reason. He is the grizzled face of a culture in denial, the
contrarian voice of the millions who would rather hate Dubya than confront
the awesome threat that stalks our age. His success is an urgent warning
to those who support the war, who grasp its importance, to raise their
game, and fast.
- Matthew d'Ancona, in Britain's "Sunday Telegraph"
The slippery logic,
tendentious grandstanding and outright demagoguery on display in "Bowling
for Columbine" should be enough to give pause to its most ardent partisans,
while its disquieting insights into the culture of violence in America
should occasion sober reflection from those who would prefer to stop their
- A.O. Scott, reviewing "Bowling For Columbine" for "The New York Times"
Fahrenheit 9/11 is
crude propaganda, not serious cinema and as a piece of propaganda, I suspect
that it will have a strong impact on the alienated and the uninformed.
As a piece of cinema, Fahrenheit 9/11 is an inept work. Moore has no idea
how to edit a film... History is cleansed of complexity, politics is free
of paradox and the truth is always simple. That a work of crude propaganda
such as this should have won this year’s Palme d’Or is a scandal.
- Cosmo Landesman, film critic for "The Times"
"It's a terrific piece
of entertainment. There are even some interesting facts in it. But it is
to the documentary what Oliver Stone's 'JFK' film was to history."
- Ted Koppel, on "Fahrenheit 9/11"
"The message of this
film is very weak and propagandistic. We were used to such messages in
the communist days. Everybody has open eyes and can understand that this
is propaganda. It was a weak film that tells us nothing new."
- Václav Klaus, premier of the Czech Republic, on "Fahrenheit 9/11"
"America sure is a
great country, where someone like Michael Moore trashes the president and
gets away with it- and makes so much money!"
- a young Iranian, seeing the real lesson of "Fahrenheit 9/11" (via Andrew Sullivan)
Michael Moore arrived
late in his trademark jeans, shirt, working man’s jacket, and baseball
cap. One of the BBC producers made a joke about the contrast between his
outfit and my own Washington-standard-issue blue suit and red tie. I replied
that I’d noticed that Moore was wearing a watch that cost at least fifteen
times as much as every article of clothing on my body. I learned later
that he’d arrived by private jet.
- David Frum, recalling his experience opposite Moore on BBC's "Question Time", "National Review"
Michael Moore insists,
"I don't own a single share of stock." He denounces clever Enron style
schemes to conceal wealth and rails against Haliburton as the Mother of
All Evils. As Peter Schweizer reports in "Do As I Say (Not As I Do)", Moore
told the IRS his home is the headquarters of his tax-free foundation, to
which he contributes some of his millions for the write-off. The foundation,
in turn, not only bought stock — its holdings are a Who's Who of "greedy"
corporations, including Halliburton.
- Jonah Goldberg, "National Review"
"Right now Michael
Moore is saying, 'I should have just made "Super Size Me." I've done the
- Chris Rock, hosting the Oscars (2005)
You would have to say
that the quality of thought and argument in all this is astonishingly low,
the propaganda amazingly crude, except that since the films of Michael
Moore came into vogue, stupidity, crudeness and shrill one-sidedness seem
to have become common in political documentaries. The people who buy tickets
to them don't expect to learn anything they didn't already know, only to
have their most treasured political resentments flattered and encouraged.
- James Bowman, reviewing "Sir! No Sir!" for "The American Spectator"
Philadelphia, the American
Colonies, July 4, 1776 — Leaders of the self-described “American patriots”
movement gathered in this Pennsylvania city today to sign an official declaration
of their political intentions, despite widespread criticism of a failing
war policy and complaints that their military action was launched under
false pretenses. “Here it is, July of 1776, and George W. and his
lackeys are just now getting around to declaring what this war is supposedly
all about?” complained Loyalist playwright Michael LeMoore. “Washington
and his neo-congressionalists rushed us into war at Lexington and Concord,
before anyone had ‘declared’ a single word about independence. Face it:
George lied, and people died.” Moore was referring to what patriots call
“The shot heard 'round the world,” when colonial forces fired on British
soldiers in violation of accepted international rules of military engagement...
Though most colonists agree that King George III is a tyrant, polls consistently
show that a minority of colonists support open military action against
the British. Many pundits also question whether removing the monarchy will
make any fundamental difference in the lives of Americans.
- Michael Graham, imagining an 18th century Michael Moore in "National Review"
US FOREIGN POLICY
"For everyone but America
the free world is mostly a free ride."
- Mark Steyn, "The Spectator"
Of all the Western
democracies, only two have no choice but to depend on their own military
forces for their survival — the United States and Israel. The rest have
for more than half a century had the luxury of depending on American military
forces in general and the American nuclear deterrent in particular. People
who have long been sheltered from mortal dangers can indulge themselves
in the belief that there are no mortal dangers.
- Thomas Sowell
What’s your favourite
fact? Come on, everyone has a favourite fact. Here’s mine: more young people
supported the Vietnam War than did any other section of the American population.
As the war progressed, the whole country turned against it, but those under
30 remained least likely to regard it as an error.
- Daniel Finkelstein, "The Times"
By more serious measures
of power, the United States is not in decline, not even relative to other
powers. Its share of the global economy last year was about 21 percent,
compared with about 23 percent in 1990, 22 percent in 1980 and 24 percent
in 1960. Although the United States is suffering through a financial crisis,
so is every other major economy...
Meanwhile, American military power is unmatched. While the Chinese and Russian militaries are both growing, America's is growing, too, and continues to outpace them technologically. Russian and Chinese power is growing relative to their neighbors and their regions, which will pose strategic problems, but that is because American allies, especially in Europe, have systematically neglected their defenses. America's image is certainly damaged, as measured by global polls, but the practical effects of this are far from clear. Is America's image today worse than it was in the 1960s and early 1970s, with the Vietnam War; the Watts riots; the My Lai massacre; the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy; and Watergate? Does anyone recall that millions of anti-American protesters took to the streets in Europe in those years?
Many declinists imagine a mythical past when the world danced to America's tune. Nostalgia swells for the wondrous American-dominated era after World War II, but between 1945 and 1965 the United States actually suffered one calamity after another. The "loss" of China to communism; the North Korean invasion of South Korea; the Soviet testing of a hydrogen bomb; the stirrings of postcolonial nationalism in Indochina -- each proved a strategic setback of the first order. And each was beyond America's power to control or even to manage successfully.
No event in the past decade, with the exception of Sept. 11, can match the scale of damage to America's position in the world. Many would say, "But what about Iraq?" Yet even in the Middle East, where America's image has suffered most as a result of that war, there has been no fundamental strategic realignment. Longtime American allies remain allies, and Iraq, which was once an adversary, is now an ally. Contrast this with the strategic setbacks the United States suffered during the Cold War. In the 1950s and 1960s, the pan-Arab nationalist movement swept out pro-American governments and opened the door to unprecedented Soviet involvement, including a quasi-alliance between Moscow and the Egypt of Gamal Abdel Nasser, as well as with Syria. In 1979, the central pillar of American strategy toppled when the pro-American Shah of Iran was overthrown by Ayatollah Khomeini's revolution. That produced a fundamental shift in the strategic balance from which the United States is still suffering. Nothing similar has occurred as a result of the Iraq war.
- Robert Kagan, "The Washington Post"
It is America that
is doing most of the heavy-lifting in the aftermath of the tsunami. It
was the US military which intervened in Bosnia and later in Kosovo to help
oppressed and persecuted peoples in both of those regions when the rest
of the international community, including the EU and UN, could do nothing.
Without the strength and power of the United States, the international
community would be helpless in the face of most international crises. This
strength and power has been paid for out of the taxes of the American people.
Europe could acquire this same power, but won't - because it won't spend
the money. And yet it feels free to constantly criticise the US for having
this power in the first place, for
using it as it deems appropriate, and for not giving the UN a veto over its actions. The Asia disaster shows once again how much the world relies on the United States, and it demonstrates once again our irrational resentment of that country.
- David Quinn, "The Irish Independent"
Despite our present
anti-Americanism and our faux pacifism, we know that if Ireland and Europe
were ever in trouble again we'd send forth the message: "Send in the Marines".
And the Marines would be sent forth. There wouldn't be much mockery then.
- David Quinn, "The Irish Independent"
Today sees the birthday
of the greatest democracy the world has ever seen — not that you would
know it in Ireland, where you'd be forgiven for assuming that America is
a country which combines the worst elements of Nazi Germany with Nero's
- Ian O'Doherty, "The Irish Independent"
"What would the world
look like with a different superpower? If we look at the real world alternatives
the 20th century threw up - the British and French empires, Nazi Germany
and the Soviet Union [and now, he might have added, the growing power of
China] - then the US begins to look quite benign."
- Jonathan Cape, reviewing Andrew Anthony's "The Fall-out", "The Observer"
America’s critics point
out that the U.S. does many things that empires once did — police the seas,
deploy militaries abroad, provide a lingua franca and a global currency
— and then rest their case. But noting that X does many of the same things
as Y does not mean that X and Y are the same thing. The police provide
protection, and so does the Mafia. Orphanages raise children, but they
aren’t parents. If your wife cleans your home, tell her she’s the maid
because maids also clean homes. See how well that logic works... Unlike
the Romans, or even the British, our garrisons can be ejected without firing
a shot. We left the Philippines when asked. We may split from South Korea
in the next few years under similar circumstances. Poland wants our military
bases; Germany is grumpy about losing them... Naomi Wolfe, Frank Rich,
and other leftists believe that the "imperialistic" war on terror has turned
America into a police state. But if they were right, they wouldn’t be allowed
to say that.
- Jonah Goldberg, on America's "Empire", "National Review"
The Berkeley city council
has made national news by telling Marine Corps recruiters that they are
unwelcome in that bastion of the academic Left. It is a shame that Berkeley
is not on some island in the South Pacific, because then they could be
given their independence and left to defend themselves.
- Thomas Sowell
Americans are often
criticised for lacking nuance. The world could do with a tad more nuance
when it looks at America.
- Gerard Baker, "The Times"
The United States of
America is a flawed nation. So is every country in the world. Every one
has fought ill-advised wars and exported dubious ideas, pursued questionable
foreign policy doctrines and suffered internal dissension and poverty.
Every one. Yet unlike almost every other nation, the United States has
also been a beacon of liberty. We know this here in Europe because it was
to our shores that American boys came to protect one part of the Continent
from the totalitarian instincts of the other part. It was here they gave
their lives and here they stayed to defend us from ourselves and here from
which they departed when their job was done, without retaining a single
piece of real estate, save the cemeteries in which they buried their sons.
- Daniel Finkelstein, "The Times"
If the United States
was the kind of country that people say it is, run by Nazis and all this
nonsense, we could disarm North Korea in an afternoon.
- Christopher Hitchens
Does any nation have
a constitution comparable to ours? Does merit — or religion, tribe, or
class — mostly gauge success or failure in America? What nation is as free,
stable, and transparent as the U.S.? Try becoming a fully accepted citizen
of China or Japan if you were not born Chinese or Japanese. Try running
for national office in India from the lower caste. Try writing a critical
oped in Russia or hiring a brilliant female to run a mosque, university,
or hospital in most of the Middle East. Ask where MRI scans, Wal-Mart,
iPods, the Internet, or F-18s came from.
- Victor Davis Hanson, on the strengths of America, "National Review"
When he spoke to Congress
in 2003, Tony Blair said, “As Britain knows, all predominant power seems
for a time invincible but, in fact, it is transient. The question is: What
do you leave behind?” It’s not hard to see what Britannia left behind –
they include not only the current global hegemon but also the key regional
powers almost everywhere on the map, from South Africa to India to Australia;
three-sevenths of the G7 leading economies; and the only five nation states
to have been on the right side of all three of the 20th century’s global
conflicts. By contrast, since the end of the Second World War, the US has
gone to almost perverse lengths not to promote American ideas of liberty
and self-government. Americans don’t have an imperialist bone in their
bodies, so instead they created transnational institutions – the UN and
its variously malign progeny – explicitly structured to enable groupings
of America’s weak rivals to combine into a kind of pseudo-superpower. What
benefit has this been?
- Mark Steyn, "National Review"
"You'll think I'm off
my trolley when I say this, but the Bush administration is the most radical
- in a positive sense - in its approach to Africa since Kennedy."
- Bob Geldof
"The largest source
of imported energy for the United States is the Province of Alberta. Indeed,
whenever I'm asked how America can lessen its dependence on foreign oil,
I say it’s simple: annex Alberta. The Albertans would be up for it."
- Mark Steyn, "The Spectator"
"Do you think 9/11
will be viewed as the first event in the US empire's decline and fall?"
"No. This is not an empire, first of all. If the United States was an empire, your country would be our 51st state."
- Canadian metal magazine "Brave Words and Brass Knuckles" interviews Jon Schaffer
"There is a brutal
debate on the American right between old-fashioned isolationists who say
'we have no business with the world' and the neo-conservatives who say
'we have no choice'."
- Simon Schama, British historian
If the president is
not to deviate further from his free-trade philosophy, he will have to
hold off the few, who will be angry, in the interests of the many, who
will neither know nor appreciate his efforts on their behalf. That is a
lot to ask of a politician.
- Irwin Stelzer, "The Sunday Times", 10.08.03
Like Britain in the
early 1900s, America does not have enough power to solve all the world’s
political and economic problems. But it does have enough military muscle
to deter any country from seeking to impose its will on others. There is
a basic paradox about American leadership that is likely to make it essentially
benign, at least until much later in the century. This is that the values
it espouses and seeks to establish overseas would, if adopted by other
countries, make those countries stronger.
The United States is the first pre-eminent power in history whose ideas, if they triumph, would bring about the loss of its own dominance.
- Bill Emmott, "20:21 Vision: 20th Century Lessons for the 21st Century"
America should not
gratuitously welcome such dislike; but we should not apologize for it either.
Sometimes the caliber of a nation is found not in why it is liked, but
rather in why it is not. By January 1, 1941, I suppose a majority on the
planet — the Soviet Union, all of Eastern Europe, France, Italy, Spain,
and even many elsewhere in occupied Europe, most of Latin America, Japan
and its Asian empire, the entire Arab world, many in India — would have
professed a marked preference for Hitler's Germany over Churchill's England.
Think about it.
- Victor Davis Hanson, "On Being Disliked", "National Review"
"If America does not
do things, nobody else will."
- Sir Michael Howard, British historian
"Now let's see if I understand this correctly. President Clinton has ordered our forces to engage an entrenched, politically motivated enemy, backed by the Russians, on their home ground, in a foreign civil war, in difficult terrain, with limited military objectives, with bombing restrictions, boundary and operational restrictions, queasy allies, far across an ocean, with uncertain goals, without prior consultation with Congress, having the potential for escalation, while limiting the forces at his disposal, and while the majority of Americans are opposed to, or are at best uncertain about, the value of the action being worth American lives. So, what was it that Clinton was opposed to during Vietnam?"
The Taiwan issue is
simple. It is whether a government that oppresses its own people should
be allowed forcefully to extend that oppression to an island that has opted
for democracy and has no wish for reunification while this yawning political
gap endures. Support for the Taiwanese is a litmus test of commitment to
- The Times of London
Dear China, We're sorry
that you don't train your fighter pilots better. As a token of our apology,
here's a copy of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2000. We're sorry that you're
front-line fighter planes can't outmaneuver a 35 year old prop-driven airliner.
Perhaps you'd like to consider purchasing some surplus 1950's era Lockheed
Starfighters from Taiwan.
- Anononymous version of the US 'apology' to China
Mark Bowden’s piece
in The Atlantic on American air superiority and the danger of it waning
is well worth reading. It is quite remarkable that no American solider
has been killed by an enemy air attack since 1953. But the statistic that
really grabbed my attention was this one:
"The F-15, the backbone of America’s air power for more than a quarter century, may just be the most successful weapon in history. It is certainly the most successful fighter jet. In combat, its kill ratio over more than 30 years is 107 to zero. Zero. In three decades of flying, no F-15 has ever been shot down by an enemy plane—and that includes F-15s flown by air forces other than America’s."
- James Forsyth, "The Spectator"
He sticks it to North
Korea, which is still, after all, a barbaric Stalinist regime. He refuses
to apologise to the Chinese for the downing of the EP-3 spy plane; and
why should he? It was their fat fault that one of their fighters bumped
into the American plane, in international air space, and consequently crashed
into the sea. He's decided to scrap the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty,
which also seems sensible, since that document is now about as meaningful
as the Treaty of Versailles.
But of all the tough-guy acts that Bush has performed in his first few months, of all the pieces of exuberant Reaganism, nothing has so intoxicated the world with hate as his decision to scrumple up the Kyoto protocol and use it for putting practice in the Oval Office.
- Boris Johnson, "Go Bush Baby", The Daily Telegraph
It is well known that
meeting the Kyoto treaty on carbon-dioxide reduction will delay global
warming by six years at most by 2100. Yet the annual cost of that treaty,
in each year of the century, will be the same as the cost - once - of installing
clean drinking water and sanitation for every human being on the planet.
- Matt Ridley, "The End Is Not Nigh", The Spectator.
There is a lesson here
for the Bush Administration, too. As Henry Kissinger has quipped, whereas
the problem with the Clinton Administration was that the explanation was
better than the policy, with the Bush camp the problem is that the policy
is better than the explanation.
- WSJ Opinion
One British critic
of America’s propensity to military action recalls the old saw: "When you
have a hammer, all problems start to look like nails." This is true. But
nations without great military power face the opposite danger: when you
don’t have a hammer, you don’t want anything to look like a nail.
- Robert Kagan, "The Times"
The psychology of weakness
is easy enough to understand. A man armed only with a knife may decide
that a bear prowling the forest is a tolerable danger, inasmuch as the
alternative - hunting the bear armed only with a knife - is actually riskier
than lying low and hoping the bear never attacks. The same man armed with
a rifle, however, will likely make a different calculation of what constitutes
a tolerable risk. Why should he risk being mauled to death if he doesn't
- Robert Kagan, "Paradise and Weakness", "Policy Review Online"
For the first time,
the Left doesn't even bother to fake concern for the victims of fascism.
Brutal dictators now fear nothing so much as the reelection of a Republican
- National Review
"The West disputes
not America's positions so much as its right to have positions. To do so
is 'unilateralist' - which is, when you think about it, just another word
- Mark Steyn
"Clinton wanted the
world to love America. He failed. Bush wants America to be respected and
if necessary feared."
- Anonymous US official
"One of the reasons
that ballistic missiles are attractive to so many is that there are currently
no defences against them. Given their destructive power they are terror
weapons by their mere existence….. History teaches that weakness is
provocative and, in a real sense, the absence of missile defence provokes
others into seeking such weapons."
- Henry Kissinger
"At the heart of the
opposition to a missile shield is that it would stimulate an arms race.
I do not agree. Current vulnerability to missile attack is an invitation
to build offensive weapons.
During the Cold War, perhaps the argument that the West should not build a shield and should instead remain vulnerable to missile attack could be understood, even if one disagreed with it. We were in a two power world that maintained an uneasy peace based on mutually assured destruction. But the position is very different now. To choose to remain vulnerable in a world of multiple threats would be absurd as well as and dangerous."
- William Hauge, speech as Conservative Party Leader
"It's like being 'Xena,
- Madeleine Albright, stock response to questions about being a female secretary of state
Our people glow with
pride over our nuclear efforts, sometimes literally. I repeat that the
enrichment is for peaceful purposes only, and we seek only peace, and peace
is our goal, and there is nothing more we love than peace. Except death.
Sorry; forgot. Death is definitely number one.
- James Lilek's version of the letter from the Iranian President to President Bush
suffers from an acute case of the Moynihan Syndrome. According to Moynihan’s
law, the amount of violations of human rights in a country is always an
inverse function of the amount of complaints about human rights violations
heard from there. The greater the number of complaints being aired,
the better protected are human rights in that country. The reason
is obvious. Those countries in which human rights are the most severely
violated are also those where no freedom of speech nor press is permitted."
- Steven E. Plaut, "Front Page Magazine"
"Over and over again,
our enemies have forced us to do things we wouldn't have done if we had
been left to our own devices. We were torpedoed into the First World War
by German U-boats. We were bombed into World War II, just in time, by the
Japanese at Pearl Harbor. We were dragged unwillingly into the Cold War
by Stalin's impatient power grabs. We were forced into the Gulf War by
Saddam's hasty invasion of Kuwait (if he had waited a year or two, we would
have dismantled a considerable portion of our military). And we were terrorized
into the current unpleasantness by the attacks of September 11th."
- Michael Ledeen, "Guardian Angels"
America's critics say
that America only intervened in Europe when it had to. They say that the
Marshall Aid plan was needed because shattered Europe was no good as a
trading partner. They say that America confronted the Soviet Union in order
to keep the world safe for capitalism. They say that America is never altruistic,
that it only ever acts in its own self-interest. And up to a point, it's
true. America, like every other country in history acts in its own self-interest.
But what a definition of self-interest! This is the kind of self-interest
the world needs. It is self-interest that sees there is more to be gained
by rebuilding your enemies than by crushing them underfoot. It is self-interest
that knows freedom and democracy do not build true rivals in the old historical
sense, but allies and trading partners. Has there ever been a great power
like this? No one claims that America does not make bad decisions, and
can never be petty-minded or vain, or vulgar, or materialistic. But give
me America any day over any of the available alternatives... I am thankful
that in America, and in Britain, we have at least two countries that appraise
the world realistically and are not content to remain in a fantasyland
in which we believe that all disagreements can be resolved simply by good
intentions. And, of course, we know that if the world ever does turn into
the sort of peaceful place we all long for, it will be because of America
and its realism, and not because of its critics and their delusions.
- David Quinn, "National Review"
(a) You stupid, ignorant
nigger. (b) What else could you expect from a Jew? (c) Did you know that
more than half of all Muslims don't have a passport? No wonder they're
The above three statements are, of course, unacceptable in a polite society. But swap the terms 'nigger', 'Jew' and 'Muslim' for 'American' and they're the kind of sentiment likely to receive nods of approval around the table at all self-respecting dinner parties. We live in a culture which is obsessed with not offending anyone. You can see it in the strange and self-defeating willingness to be lectured on our failings from Islamic supremacists who themselves come from morally-bankrupt societies. There are countless other examples but the general consensus now is that we must respect all cultures, regardless of how undeserving of respect they are. Except the Americans. It is considered absolutely fine to dismiss America as a country populated almost entirely by ignorant, gun-toting, Bible-reading rednecks who are obsessed with abortion and evolution and who have no idea of the wider world around them.
- Ian O'Doherty, "The Irish Independent"
The Patriot Act to
a European is proof of American illiberality in a way that China’s swallowing
Tibet or jailing and executing dissidents is not. America’s support for
Saudi Arabia is proof of our hypocrisy in not severing ties with an undemocratic
government, while few care that a country with leaders who traverse the
globe in Mao suits cuts any deal possible with fascists and autocrats for
oil, iron ore, and food. Yes, we are witnessing one of the great transfers
of power and influence that have traditionally changed civilization itself,
as money, influence, and military power are gradually inching away from
Europe. And this time the shake-up is not regional but global. While scholars
and economists concentrate on its economic and political dimensions, few
have noticed how a new China and an increasingly vulnerable Europe will
markedly change the image of the United States.
As nations come to know the Chinese, and as a ripe Europe increasingly cannot or will not defend itself, the old maligned United States will begin to look pretty good again. More important, America will not be the world’s easily caricatured sole power, but more likely the sole democratic superpower that factors in morality in addition to national interest in its treatment of others. China is strong without morality; Europe is impotent in its ethical smugness. The buffer United States, in contrast, believes morality is not mere good intentions but the willingness and ability to translate easy idealism into hard and messy practice. Most critics will find such sentiments laughable or naïve; but just watch China in the years to come. Those who now malign the imperfections of the United States may well in shock whimper back, asking for our friendship
- Victor Davis Hanson, "The Global Shift", "National Review"
There is something
neurotic in Europe's view of the US, something perpetually out of kilter.
Think of the crush on Bill Clinton felt by many women, the demonising of
Bush and now Obamamania... It is possible to say anything and its opposite
about the US and still command instant agreement. They are pinched Puritans
and simultaneously sexually depraved, religious maniacs sold out to hedonism
and materialism... And its tendency towards obesity is as imbecilic as
its dedication to the gym. So mesmerised are we by this monstrous accumulation
of contradictions that we can't tear our eyes from it, whether it is TV
shows like The Wire or The Simpsons, the works of John Updike or of the
magisterial science writer E.O. Wilson. Anti-Americanism made more sense
in Cold War days. Then it had a logic, as a kind of rational aberration:
the liberal Left wanted a weaker US, because they believed the Soviet way
of life had much to offer and might one day triumph. But the anti-Americanism
we see today, in which no serious alternative system of production, social
organisation or international order is advanced, makes no sense at all.
The only logic to wanting to see America humbled is that of the cutting
off of noses and the spiting of faces. Never mind if Europe is once again
exposed to easterly winds or whether the gas is on or off, never mind if
Iranian theocrats develop a warhead with a delivery system that can carry
it to Paris, Berlin or London...
For a sane view of the USA you have to look to Americans themselves... The clearest statement of the facts about the US, its enemies and critics, is by Michael Mandelbaum, a foreign policy professor at Johns Hopkins University esteemed for the steely precision of his analyses.
Why is it, he asks in The Case for Goliath, that whereas states as strong as the US are historically subject to alliances to check them, no such anti-American alliance has formed or shows any sign of forming today? "The explanation for this gap is twofold. First, the charges most frequently levelled at America are false...second, far from menacing the rest of the world [the US] plays a uniquely positive global role. The governments of most other countries understand this, though they have powerful reasons not to say so explicitly."
There follows a highly contemporary message: that America's willingness to pursue the international activism we publicly deplore and privately welcome depends not so much on the rise of China but on the demands of Medicare and the social security budget. Three things about the US global involvement, he writes, may be safely predicted: that other countries "will not pay for it; they will continue to criticise it; and they will miss it when it is gone".
- George Walden, "Standpoint Online"
In a famous PBS-televised
seminar at Columbia University, the moderator imagined a hypothetical in
which the late Peter Jennings was imbedded with enemy troops in a Vietnam-like
war. He then asked whether, if given the opportunity, he’d warn American
troops they were about to be ambushed or whether he’d hang back and simply
“roll tape” on the slaughter. Jennings agonized. “I think,” he said after
a long pause, “that I personally would do what I could to warn the Americans.”
Mike Wallace was appalled. “I am astonished” that you would interfere,
he said to Jennings. “You’re a reporter!” When asked if American reporters
have a higher duty to their country or fellow Americans, Wallace replied,
“No, you don’t have a higher duty. No. No. You’re a reporter.” This browbeating
was enough to get Jennings to change his mind. This is just one of countless
examples of how patriotic waters run tepid in the elite media. In the aftermath
of the 9/11 attacks, ABC’s David Westin told journalism students that he
couldn’t take a position on whether or not the Pentagon was a legitimate
target. Other journalists agonized about whether or not there was an inherent
conflict between wearing a tiny American flag on their lapels and doing
their jobs. In World War II, American journalists — including Walter Cronkite
and the legendary Ernie Pyle — wore American military uniforms and saw
- Jonah Goldberg, "National Review"
Two decades ago in
the Washington Monthly, I quipped that U.S. bombers were becoming so few
that eventually they would be named after states, like battleships. So,
guess what: The Air Force now names its B-2 stealth bombers after states.
There's a B-2 christened the Spirit of Georgia, another the Spirit of Alaska,
and so on—with no danger of running out of names, because B-2 production
stopped at 21. Today, the United States has just 183 bombers in its entire
arsenal, versus more than 75,000 at the peak of World War II. Currently,
the Pentagon plans to spend a gasp-inducing $320 billion on thousands of
new fighter jets, but has nothing budgeted for new bombers for at least
another decade; the Air Force actually says the Kennedy-era B-52 bomber
will remain in service until 2037 — when any still capable of getting airborne
will be 80 years old.
- Gregg Easterbrook, "Slate Magazine" (April'07)
US DOMESTIC POLITICS
"Congress is like the
stock market. It operates on fear and greed."
- Allan Lichtman
We’re in the middle
of a series of historic economic transformations. A social revolution has
radically increased the number of women in the work force and pushed down
the wages of men.
A medical revolution has led to enhanced diagnosis and treatment but also rapid health care inflation that burdens American employers and eats into workers’ weekly paychecks. An information revolution has increased the economic rewards of education and punished those who lack it. A pedagogical revolution has led to ferocious competition to get into the top universities but a decline in quality at the primary and secondary levels. For the first time in the nation’s history, workers retiring from the labor force are better educated than the ones coming in. All of these huge social forces have had profound effects on how Americans work and live. All of them have combined to create a mass upper class, but also a struggling working class. They have all contributed to rising living standards — and also to the feelings of anxiety that show up in poll after poll.
- David Brooks, "The New York Times" (Apr'08)
The current challenge
of America is not starvation or loss of political rights — we have been
far poorer and more unfree in our past, but the complacence that comes
with continued success, to such a degree that we think of our bounty as
a birthright rather than a rare gift that must be hourly maintained through
commitment to the values that made us initially successful: high productivity,
risk-taking, transparency, small government, personal freedom, concern
for the public welfare, and a certain tragic rather than therapeutic view
of the human experience... Given the strength of our system and culture
and our inherited values and wealth, as long as we don’t tamper with our
Constitution, a uniquely American entrepreneurial culture, and the melting-pot
notion of shared values rather than balkanized tribes, races, and religions,
we can easily rectify our present mistakes without much reduction in our
soaring standard of living. In America alone — for all our periodic hysterical
self-recrimination — there is still comparatively little danger of coups,
nationalization of foreign assets, crippling national strikes, sectarian
violence, terrorism, suppression of free speech, or rampant government
and judicial corruption that elsewhere lead to endemic violence and economic
stagnation. On this troubled Fourth we still should remember this is not
1776 when New York was in British hands and Americans in retreat across
the state. It is not 1814 when the British burned Washington and the entire
system of national credit collapsed — or July 4, 1864 when Americans awoke
to news that 8,000 Americans had just been killed at Gettysburg.
We are not in 1932 when unemployment was still over 20 percent of the work force, and industrial production was less than half of what it had been just three years earlier, or July, 1942, when tens of thousands of American were dying in convoys and B-17s, and on islands of the Pacific in an existential war against Germany, Japan, and Italy. We are not in 1968 when the country was torn apart by the Tet Offensive, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, and the riots at the Democratic convention in Chicago.
- Victor Davis Hanson, on July 4th 2008, "National Review"
The New York Post recently
compiled a list of the things that the New York City Council tried to ban
— not all successfully — just in 2006 alone: pit bulls; trans-fats; aluminum
baseball bats; the purchase of tobacco by 18- to 20-year-olds; foie gras;
pedicabs in parks; new fast-food restaurants (but only in poor neighborhoods);
lobbyists from the floor of council chambers; lobbying city agencies after
working at the same agency; vehicles in Central and Prospect parks; cell
phones in upscale restaurants; the sale of pork products made in a processing
plant in Tar Heel, N.C., because of a unionization dispute; mail-order
pharmaceutical plans; candy-flavored cigarettes; gas-station operators
adjusting prices more than once daily; Ringling Bros. and Barnum &
Bailey Circus; Wal-Mart.
- Jonah Goldberg, "National Review"
It requires media hysteria
to miss the point of what is offensive about House Republicans, and it’s
not just their stupid e-mails. It’s their ability to take a “Contract with
America,” morph it into an “entitlement for all Americans,” and produce
a truly offensive amount of pork, cynicism, and cronyism, all in 12 short
years. No wonder conservatives are furious at Republicans.
- Denis Boyles, after another Republican scandal in 2006, "National Review"
Philosophers and partisans
will debate for years the question of whether Democrats deserved to win
the 2006 elections, but let us agree that the Republicans deserved to lose.
Through its own crapulence, jobbery, and malfeasance, the Grand Old Party
lost the House of Representatives, the jewel of the Republican revolution.
Let's take the Democrats at their word. They wanted this election to be
a referendum on President Bush and the GOP. Despite valiant efforts by
the Republicans to make the election a choice between two parties, the
Dems succeeded in making it thumbs-up or thumbs-down on just one: the GOP.
And so the Republicans were doomed. The GOP once had the reputation of
being able to run government like a business and wars like a finely tuned
- Jonah Goldberg, on why Congress lost Congress, "National Review"
When not trying to
force a pullout from Iraq, their main effort has been chasing Bush-administration
scandals that loom large only in their fevered imaginations... The Democrats’
latest tactic is to give an implicit choice to Bush officials: They can
either come to Capitol Hill to testify so Democrats can try to build a
perjury case against them, or they can refuse, in which case Democrats
will cite them for criminal contempt of Congress... The Democratic majority
brings to mind a paraphrase of the old saw about teaching: Those who can,
legislate. Those who can’t, investigate.
- Rich Lowry, on the Democratic Congress of 2007, "National Review"
In her opening remarks,
Speaker Pelosi said, “This is an historic moment — for the Congress, and
for the women of this country. It is a moment for which we have waited
more than 200 years.” Pardon me, but is there a single human being who
has been waiting for a woman to be Speaker of the House? One? I don’t think
of Nancy Pelosi as a woman. I think of her as a left-wing Democrat from
San Francisco. And she ought to view that as a compliment.
- Jay Nordlinger, "National Review"
Mr. Bush's 2000 campaign
strategy was explicitly to be "a uniter, not a divider." The contested
election outcome made the Bush Presidency polarizing from the start, however,
and some Democrats have never considered him legitimate. The debate over
Iraq and Mr. Bush's response to the war on terror has compounded the rancor.
Mr. Rove is hardly any more "divisive" than any other political strategist;
has everyone forgotten James Carville or Harold Ickes? The difference is
that Mr. Rove's remarkable run of success — first in Texas, then nationwide
from 2000-2004 — has caused many on the political left to assume he must
be cheating. Otherwise, how could anyone vote for these Texas yahoos?
- The Wall Street Journal, as Karl Rove departs (Aug'07)
'Crush your enemies,
see them driven before you and hear the lamentations of their women' ...Wait
a minute, that's Conan. I stepped out of character here for a second.
- Governor Arnie, explaining his governing philosophy to "The New York Times"
Mr. Gore, if I wanted
to buy an anti-trust lawsuit against one of my competitors, would I send
the check directly to the White House, or should I transfer it through
the Chinese government?
- Slate reader Steve Jones on Bill Clinton's antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft.
Al Gore's ability to
say ridiculous things with a straight face, and without a shred of evidence,
is one of his most effective political talents.
- Thomas Sowell
For those wondering
why Condoleezza Rice is a Republican, it is worth remembering that the
Alabama of her youth was run by a bunch of vicious southern Democrats,
who set dogs on civil-rights marchers, and that decades later it was a
Democrat senator from West Virginia — Robert Byrd, a former Ku Klux Klansman
— who led the fight to prevent her from becoming the most powerful black
woman in the history of America.
- Sarah Baxter, reviewing "Condi" by Antonia Felix in "The Times"
Under Charles Murray's
plan, all transfer payments would vanish, from Social Security and Medicare
to corporate welfare and agricultural subsidies. In exchange, every low-income
American over the age of 21 and not in jail would get $10,000 a year from
the government. And everybody else would still get at least $5,000 a year
from Uncle Sam. The only hitch is that people would be required to take
out a minimal health insurance policy, and the tax code would stop favoring
companies that offer health insurance. In a flash, the working poor would
be richer. Work even for a half a year at minimum wage, and the extra $10k
would put you above the poverty line. The whole bloated, nannying welfare
state would be a memory. Market forces would finally be introduced to the
health-insurance industry, driving down the absurdly high price of health
care. Women who choose not to work so they can raise their kids would get
the full $10,000 no matter how much their husbands earned, supporting families
more than the current system and with less paperwork.
- Jonah Goldberg, reviewing "In Our Hands" by Charles Murray, "National Review"
Instead of demanding
new billion-dollar programs for health care and education, we should take
more responsibility for our own welfare. Americans need to readjust their
budget priorities. One might be able to believe that a $200-dollar-a-month
private catastrophic-health plan is out of the reach of most Americans
— if we were also to hear that sales of video games, cell phones and plasma
televisions have crashed.
- Victor Davis Hanson, "National Review"
The paradox of a right
to health care is that it discourages the very activities that help deliver
on that right... As in other nations, policymakers would discourage medical
innovation because every new discovery puts them in the uncomfortable position
of either increasing taxes or saying “no” to patients... Patients would
demand far more medical care because additional consumption would cost
them little. Higher tax rates would discourage work and productivity, yielding
less economic growth and wealth... A fourth difficulty is how to deliver
all this medical care. Declaring health care to be a right does nothing
to solve the problem of getting the right resources to the right place
at the right time. Where are doctors most needed? Where will we place hospitals?
Who will produce surgical tools? How much should they be paid? These decisions
must be made through the political process. Yet the political process does
a poor job of keeping up with shifting needs. Worse, experience in other
countries shows that those with political power would enjoy a greater right
to health care by virtue of their ability to affect the allocation of medical
The fundamental problem with the idea of a right to health care is that it turns the idea of individual rights on its head. Individual rights don’t infringe on the rights of others. Smith’s right to free speech takes nothing away from Jones. The only obligation Jones owes to Smith is not to interfere with Smith’s exercise of her rights. A right to health care, however, says that Smith has a right to Jones’ labor. That turns the concept of individual rights from a shield into a sword.
- Michael F. Cannon, "National Review"
The biggest of the
big lies in the "health care" hype is that a lack of insurance means a
lack of medical care. The second biggest lie is that health care and medical
care are the same thing... It is amazing how many people seem uninterested
in such things as why so many doctors in Britain are from Third World countries
with lower medical standards — or why people from Canada come to the United
States for medical treatment that they could get cheaper at home. Government
price controls on pharmaceutical drugs are more of the same illusion of
something for nothing. People who are urging us to follow other countries
that control the prices of medications seem uninterested in the fact that
those countries depend on the United States to create new drugs, after
they destroyed incentives to do so in their own countries.
- Thomas Sowell
Consider the controversy
over the State Children's Health Insurance Program, which is up for renewal.
Most Republicans favor extending it. Almost all Democrats, and some Republicans,
favor expanding it in a way that transforms it. SCHIP is described as serving
"poor children" or children of "the working poor." Everyone agrees that
it is for "low-income" people. Under the bill that Democrats hope to pass
over the president's veto tomorrow, states could extend eligibility to
households earning $61,950. But America's median household income is $48,201.
How can people above the median income be eligible for a program serving
lower-income people? ...the people currently preening about their compassion
should have some for the English language.
- George F Will, "The Washington Post"
The homeless population
continues to decline, by an estimated 12% per year between 2005 and 2007,
according to a new report released Tuesday. As conservatives have long
argued, the "homeless" are not ordinary working people who have been priced
out of their homes by evil real-estate developers - and the solution to
the problem is not more subsidized housing. The "homeless" are a population
with severe to extreme mental health problems, substance-abuse problems,
or other unusual challenges. They need housing plus some other kind of
support - and in recent years, under new Bush administration policies that
emphasize treatment as well as housing, those needs have been more and
more successfully met. Result: not only has homelessness declined, but
it has declined most steeply among the hardest cases.
- David Frum, "National Review"
I was against the recall
on the grounds that the people of California elected Gray Davis and therefore
they deserved to be punished. Seriously. Democracy isn’t merely about "the
people" getting what they want, it’s also about the people getting what
they deserve. Mobs get what they want every time. Citizens make informed
choices and then live with — and learn from — the consequences. Those lessons
inform how we view not merely candidates but parties and philosophies.
"We gave those guys their shot and they blew it, I won’t be voting for
that crowd again," is an indispensable reaction in democratic politics.
- Jonah Goldberg, "National Review"
By general consensus,
the California crisis was triggered by the unexpected convergence of at
least four significant factors: A) a 30 percent increase in the demand
for electricity in one of the nation's fastest-growing states, B) a shortage
of power sources resulting from environmental attitudes that had prevented
the state from bringing on line a single new power plant in 15 years, C)
an increased dependence on power from other states in which demand was
also rising and D) a misguided legislative decision to half-deregulate
the industry, allowing utility companies to purchase power at market rates
on the supply side of the equation, but maintaining regulatory controls
on consumer prices on the demand side. By 2001, the cost of power to California's
utilities was more than 10 times what they were allowed to charge consumers,
who — because their price was fixed — lacked incentive to restrict demand.
This put the utility companies on the verge of bankruptcy, unable to purchase
- David Horowitz
What went wrong in
California? California managed to achieve all at once the nation’s highest
sales and income tax rates — and yet also the largest annual state deficit.
So far under Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s tenure, state
spending grew by 34.9 percent, well beyond inflation — and of population,
which increased by only 21.5 percent. And yet the governor often prevented
the state legislature from spending even more it didn’t have. The budgets
of Medi-Cal, the state-run health program for the poor, are out of control.
Prison costs increased by about 50 percent in less than a decade, and now
claim almost 10 percent of state spending — almost as much as higher education.
The state is in its third year of drought. Billions of dollars of agricultural
production are threatened by water cut-offs. Yet California hasn’t build
a major dam or canal in years.
California has the worst credit rating in the nation. It has the fourth-highest unemployment rate and the second-highest home-foreclosure rate — thanks to enormously inflated prices due in part to complicated building regulations, high labor costs, and often Byzantine land-use restrictions. California’s net state-to-state migration loss is higher than that of any other state. Most reports suggest that those who are leaving the state are far more highly educated than those entering it.
Californians count on the wealth of farming but would prefer their rivers to remain wild rather than tapped. They like tasteful redwood decks but demand someone else fell their trees for the wood. Californians drive imported SUVs but would rather that you drill for oil off your shores rather than they off theirs. They pride themselves on their liberal welfare programs, but drive out with confiscatory taxes the few left to pay for them. Californians expect cheap imported labor to tend their lawns and clean their houses, but are incensed at sky-high welfare and entitlement costs that accompany illegal immigration. Lock ’em up, they say — but the state is bankrupted by new prisons, constant inmate lawsuits, and unionized employees. In short, after Californians sue, restrict, mandate, obstruct, and lecture, they also get angry that there is suddenly not enough food, fuel, water, and money to act like the gods that they think they have become.
- Victor Davis Hanson, "National Review"
If you don't understand
the economics of price controls, just look at the history of it. Price
controls created a gasoline shortage in the United States in the 1970s,
food shortages in France in the 1790s, and housing shortages under rent
control in cities around the world at various times in between. Why should
anyone be surprised that price controls caused a shortage of electricity
in California today when price controls have been causing shortages as
far back as the days of the Roman Empire?
- Thomas Sowell, "Easy Economics and Complicated Politics"
From the Cincinnati
riots to the real worries about racial profiling, we're all used to the
idea that white cops are somewhat trigger-happy with black suspects. Worth
noting then that, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 1998,
"the black-officer-kills-black-felon rate was 32 per 100,000 black officers
- much higher than the white-officer-kills-black-felon rate of 14 per 100,000
white officers." This may well be partly explained by the preponderance
of black cops in black districts. But it certainly complicates the simplistic
view that white cops are gunning for black suspects with wild abandon.
In fact, the rate at which white cops have been killing black criminals
has been dropping for two decades. Tell that to Al Sharpton.
- Andrew Sullivan, on the Cinncinatti Riots
I think it's a good
thing to humanize people on death row for all sorts of reasons... It is
relevant that Hitler was good to his dogs, because if we make him into
some sort of cosmic force, a tool of God or Satan, akin to a disease or
a hurricane, we in a sense absolve Hitler of personal responsibility and
we dupe ourselves into believing that another person like him cannot come
along. The overused admonition, "Those who forget history are condemned
to repeat it," is apt. If we lose sight that all villains are humans we
will not be equipped to see evil when it is right in front of us. As with
Hitler, being human provides no immunity from the applicability of Justice;
it confers it.
- Jonah Goldberg, "National Review Online", on the McVeigh execution
Shabby logic often
tries to equate the murderer's act of taking a life with the law's later
taking of his life. But physical parallels are not moral parallels. Otherwise,
after a bank robber seizes money at gunpoint, the police would be just
as wrong to take the money back from him at gunpoint. A woman who used
force to fight off a would-be rapist would be just as guilty as he was
for using force against her.
Letting murderers live has cost, and will continue to cost, the lives of innocent people. The only real question is whether more innocent lives will be lost this way than by executing the murderers, even with the rare mistake - which we should make as rare as possible - of executing an innocent person. As so often in life, there is no real "solution" with a happy ending. There is only a trade-off. Those who cannot bring themselves to face trade-offs in general are of course unable to face this most painful of all trade-offs. But they have no right to consider their hand-wringing as higher morality. People are being murdered while they are wringing their hands.
- Thomas Sowell, "Jewish World Review"
Among the reasons apparently
taken into consideration, according to the New York Times, for not imposing
the death penalty on Zacarias Moussaoui was "his troubled upbringing in
a dysfunctional immigrant Moroccan family in France." Are only people with
blissful childhoods to be held fully accountable for their crimes? Do jurors
have any way of knowing how many other people with unhappy childhoods never
murdered anybody? Even if we take a completely deterministic view of crimes
— that they are all due to circumstances beyond the individual's control
— why should that lead to lesser punishments? One of the factors we can
control is punishment. But nothing a jury can do will stop people from
having unhappy childhoods. For centuries, we have quarantined innocent
people who had some deadly dangerous and communicable disease through no
fault of their own. The point here is that the safety of society usually
overrides questions about some cosmic sense of justice for the individual.
Jurors cannot act as if they were God on Judgment Day taking all individual
circumstances into account. They are not equipped to do that and there
is no point pretending that they are. What people are equipped to do is
show common sense. That is what our legal system is increasingly failing
- Thomas Sowell
As if the whole Dick
Cheney shooting his friend in the face wasn't funny enough — honestly,
can you even think about it without breaking into laughter — it seems that
even cranky animal rights group PETA have got involved. According to a
statement released by them: "Mr Cheney, there is so much violence in the
world that is beyond our control but you can avoid hurting innocent animals,
and well-connected lawyers, by putting down your guns and taking up a non-violent
sport." I have an idea: members of PETA volunteer to be stalked by hunters
armed with paint ball guns — nobody gets killed, and we get a chance to
make a hippy squeal. I'd sign up for it.
- Ian O'Doherty, "The Irish Independent"
"If your mother is
on the Titanic and the Titanic is sinking, the last thing on earth you
want to be preoccupied with is getting more passengers on the Titanic."
- Senator Phil Gramm (Rep-Tex) comments on President Clinton's plan to expand Medicare
"We no longer have
a welfare state so much as a geriatric state, at the service of the selfish
whim of the elderly."
- Rich Lowry, "Operation Please Granny" in National Review
Despite the rhetoric
of Washington lobbying groups, those over 65 are now the most affluent
and secure in our society, and are on the verge of appearing grasping rather
than indigent. They bought homes before the great leap in prices; they
went to college when it was cheap; and they often have generous pensions
in addition to fat social security checks. So ossified rhetoric about the
"aged" in the social security debate — increasingly now not so much the
Greatest Generation of WWII and the Depression as the first cohort of the
self-absorbed baby boomers — is self-defeating. George Bush is appealing
to a new group that really is threatened — the under-35's who cannot afford
a house, have student loans, high car and health insurance, and are concerned
that their poor therapeutic education will leave them impoverished as China
and the rest of Asia race ahead.
- Victor Davis Hanson, "National Review"
"The Canadian government
actually spends less on health care per person on Canada's universal health-care
system than the US government does on Medicare, Medicaid, veterans' benefits
and other public-sector health programs."
- David Frum, "National Review"
"Access to a waiting
list is not access to health care."
- Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of Canadian Supreme Court
"The flu crisis isn’t
a failure of the market, it’s a failure of the government’s attempts to
rig the market."
- Mark Steyn, on shortages of flu vaccines
Americans, who produce
a wholly disproportionate share of the world's new life-saving drugs, are
being asked to imitate price control policies in countries where such policies
have dried up the costly research behind such discoveries. These countries
have left the development of new drugs to the United States. But if we
follow their example by killing the goose that lays the golden egg, who
can we turn to for developing new medicines? This could be the most costly
free lunch of all.
- Thomas Sowell
are following a strategy which has worked well politically in New York
City: milking the productive people in order to support the unproductive,
whose votes count just as much and are easier to get.
- Thomas Sowell, "Jewish World Review"
"The purpose of the
deficits, and the tax cuts, is to cut away the revenues and so reduce the
size of the state. You cannot cut spending directly because there are too
many interests against you. But voters will support tax cuts and eventually
that will force discipline on spending."
- Steve Forbes, explaining Reaganomics
What will the states
do with their overflowing coffers? During the revenue boom of the 1990s,
states allowed their budgets to bloat as they expanded programs such as
Medicaid to unsustainable levels. When the recession hit in 2001 and revenues
stagnated, state officials moaned that they were innocent victims of a
fiscal crisis. They responded by hiking taxes and clamoring for more aid
from Washington. Only a few years into the current boom, some states are
already making the same mistake of overspending. In California, Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger has proposed a budget increase for fiscal 2007 of 8.4 percent,
which follows a 9.7 percent increase in 2006. This is the same governor
who, in 2003, said, "if you spend, spend, spend, then you have tax, tax,
tax, but all of a sudden you say, 'Where are the jobs?' Gone, gone, gone."
In seeking reelection this year, Schwarzenegger has found a new interest
in "spend, spend, spend."
- Chris Edwards, tax director at the Cato Institute in "National Review"
Various pressures ensure
that the American hypocrisy about gambling will only get worse in the near
future. The hunger of cash-starved state governments for new revenue streams
combined with the miraculous renaissance of hundreds of Indian tribes previously
unknown or assumed to be extinct means that the trend toward legalized
gambling in more places is likely to continue apace. On the other hand,
the vested power of established interests means that every new "gaming"
venture faces resistance. More dollars are spent attempting to protect
existing monopolies from competition than to create new ones—though Jack
Abramoff's example lets an ambitious young lobbyist dream of one day being
paid to push in both directions at the same time. Even if you took money
and politics out of the equation, the eternal struggle between American
Puritanism and the American love of excess—the cold war between Salt Lake
City and Las Vegas—would prevent us from ever developing consistent or
coherent laws and policies.
- Jacob Weisberg, "Slate Magazine"
What offends some liberals
is that the federal government isn't involved — and the federal government
should do whatever they think is good. Leaving this to the states and the
private sector is just too unsatisfying. Meanwhile, some pro-life conservatives
who would like to see a far more comprehensive ban on the practice are
largely powerless to affect the course of the research at all now that
it's out of Washington's hands. And that's as it should be. Federalism
— sending tough issues to the lowest, most local levels possible — is the
best compromise one can ask for when dealing with such issues. The alternative
is to ask the federal government almost literally to split the baby. Sure,
more federal funding might advance the science a bit faster. But the current
system has one great advantage. It doesn't force people who think human
life is precious to pay for its destruction.
- Jonah Goldberg, on embryonic stemcell research, "National Review"
Milton Friedman compares
the performance of Catholic schools and public schools in New York City.
The Catholic schools (only one-half of whose students are Catholic) cost
half as much per student as the public schools and send almost twice as
many graduates on to college... On nothing are the Friedmans more emphatic
than that school choice would help poorer students. Competition inevitably
encourages quality, and students who are free to opt for alternative schooling
would flock to do so, as they have done in experiments in Chicago and Milwaukee
and, are e xpected to do in Arizona and Utah. Non-Catholic blacks fight
to get their children accepted in Catholic schools in Chicago, where a
premium is placed on work and on reading and writing. The principal opponents
of change are the same unions that Governor Schwarzenegger is fighting
with in California, seeking to maintain their hold on the teachers' victims
— the students.
- William F Buckley, "National Review"
Today the nation still
ignores what had been learned years before 1983... In 1966, the Coleman
report, the result of the largest social science project in history, reached
a conclusion so "seismic" -- Daniel Patrick Moynihan's description -- that
the government almost refused to publish it. Released quietly on the Fourth
of July weekend, the report concluded that the qualities of the families
from which children come to school matter much more than money as predictors
of schools' effectiveness. The crucial common denominator of problems of
race and class -- fractured families -- would have to be faced. But it
wasn't. Instead, shopworn panaceas -- larger teacher salaries, smaller
class sizes -- were pursued as colleges were reduced to offering remediation
After 1962, when New York City signed the nation's first collective bargaining contract with teachers, teachers began changing from members of a respected profession into just another muscular faction fighting for more government money. Between 1975 and 1980 there were a thousand strikes involving a million teachers whose salaries rose as students' scores on standardized tests declined.
- George Will, "Educations Lessons We Left Behind", "Washington Post"
Fewer than one-third
of Chicago's high-school juniors meet the statewide standards on tests.
Only 6 percent of the youngsters who enter Chicago high schools become
college graduates by the time they are 25 years old. The problem is not
money: Chicago spends more than $10,000 per student... In a predominantly
black suburb of Chicago, where the average teacher's salary is $83,000
and one-fourth of the teachers make more than $100,000, Barack Obama noted
that the school day ends at 1:30 PM... Yet Obama has voted consistently
for the teachers' unions and the status quo.
- Thomas Sowell
In this clumsy piece
of agitprop, Chris Hedges seems astounded at Christianity's starring role
in American life, as if it's suddenly appeared on the scene, and not the
country's founding tenet... Hedges also doesn't let little things like
the American Constitution get in the way of his views... There is a book
to be written on how the world's most powerful, most modern country is
also one of the most religious. This is not that book.
- Harry Mount, reviewing "American Fascists: The Christian Right", "The Telegraph"
Where did theoconservatism
come from? In my view, it arose as a response to the U.S. Supreme Court's
decision in Roe v. Wade (1974), the case that decriminalized abortion.
(The Canadian Supreme's Court's 1988 decision in R. v. Morgentaler had
a similar, though weaker, impact.) The Supreme Court decisions were an
outrage to devout Christians. Previously, the law had protected what they
saw as a fundamental value: the sanctity of human life. Now that protection
was gone and there was no recourse. The decision of the nine justices overrode
both the voice of the people and the word of God. People who said that
this wasn't a black-and-white issue simply didn't understand it. It was
necessary to get real conservatives into positions of power -- Congress,
the Supreme Court, the presidency -- people who would be steadfast in their
determination to resist and then reverse the country's drift away from
a Christian society.
- William Christian, reviewing "The Conservative Soul" in "The Globe and Mail"
People disagree passionately
about science and morality because they care about them, and when their
disagreements involve public policy, the forum for resolving them will
be politics. Neither religion nor science can expect a free pass in the
court of public opinion or in the voting booth.
- Richard Brookhiser, "Time Magazine"
Harvard has many of
early-21st century America's strengths — but many of the country's weaknesses
as well. Its diversity is skin-deep: like the country as a whole, Harvard
is actually getting more class-stratified, not less so, both within the
school and in how well the student body reflects the broader society. Its
scientific successes have been balanced by drift and even rot in the humanities,
which mirror the larger rot in American popular culture; its formidable
clout is undercut by a deep insecurity about its purpose and it founding
ideals; and perhaps most importantly, its unprecedented wealth has too
often fostered a spirit of materialism, greed, and success-at-all-costs.
Harvard doesn't "hate America," as one conservative writer once put it
— it is modern America, with all the good and bad that being modern America
- Ross Douthat, author of "Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class"
"I hope, in the end,
that I love Harvard as we should love the world: not because it is good
(it is not) but because there is good in it, and things worth fighting
for. Perhaps the rest will pass away, until in my memory and the memory
of my classmates only the best remains, the beauty of the place and the
promise of greatness, a promise that went unfulfilled in my four years
but endures nonetheless — as if around another corner, through another
ivied gate, there waits the university of our imagination, the Harvard
of our unrequited dreams."
- Ross Douthat, "Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class"
show that of students who entered four-year colleges in 1997, just 54%
had earned a degree six years later. A professor wrote about this
issue in The Atlantic earlier this year, arguing that it’s immoral to tell
all students they can go to college, then crush their dreams by failing
half of them. But the problem has deeper effects than hurt feelings: the
54% graduation rate means that around 46% of all money used to finance
college tuition results in no degree. Which means that financially speaking,
the spectacularly high dropout rate boils down to a spectacularly bad investment...
The people financing these college investments — parents and taxpayers
— have a right to demand that 46% of their money isn't sunk into the education
of a student who drops out after a few semesters.
- Zac Bissonnette, "Why College Is A Waste Of Money"
I am old enough to
remember when America’s colleges and universities seemed to be the most
open-minded and intellectually rigorous institutions in our society. Today,
something very much like the opposite is true: America’s colleges and universities
have become, and have been for some decades, the most closed-minded and
intellectually dishonest institutions in our society. Colleges and universities
today almost universally have speech codes, which prohibit speech deemed
hurtful by others, particularly those who are deemed to be minorities (including
women, who are a majority on most campuses these days)... The students
who were exempted from serving their country during the Vietnam War condemned
not themselves but their country, and many sought tenured positions in
academe to undermine what they considered a militaristic, imperialist,
racist, exploitative, sexist, homophobic — the list of complaints grew
as the years went on — country... This regnant campus culture helps to
explain why Columbia University, which bars ROTC from campus on the ground
that the military bars open homosexuals from service, welcomed Iran’s president
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose government publicly executes homosexuals
- Michael Barone, "National Review"
The University of Colorado
convened a panel of professors to review Ward Churchill’s academic work.
They found him to be a plagiarist, to have falsified evidence, to have
invented historical events, to have written putatively academic studies
on subjects in which he has no academic background and to lack the basic
outlook of a scholar. (Churchill actually told them that he starts his
research with an ideological conclusion and then looks to find the evidence
to confirm it.) Finally, they recommended that he be fired. Yet, he is
still on the faculty of the University of Colorado. It is that hard to
fire an academic incompetent and fraud.
- David Horowitz, interviewed on "National Review"
"When we began 20 years
ago, a national survey showed that only 25 percent of the public thought
the media were biased. Today that number stands at 89 percent. The establishment
press has a massive credibility problem, and they’re all hemorrhaging viewers
and readers. It’s no coincidence that the exception is FOX News."
"Is FOX News right wing or not?"
"Actually, I’m asked this a lot, to which my answer is that there are more self-described on-air liberal Democrats on FOX than there are conservatives on every other network combined. And liberals complain about the right wing bias of FOX. Amazing."
- Brent Bozell, of the Media Research Center, interviewed on "National Review"
Nine out of ten journalists
in the United States donate, when they make campaign donations, to the
Democratic Party... The New York Times forbids its reporters from making
donations, because it says with the ease of internet access, it would enable
people to get a misleading impression that the paper isn’t even-handed.
No, it would enable people to get the correct impression that your news
is being written and researched and reported by Democratic Party contributors
and voters and supporters.
- Mark Steyn
Senator Dianne Feinstein
asked Judge John Roberts whether his being Catholic would interfere with
carrying out his duties on the Supreme Court but she would undoubtedly
have felt insulted if anyone had asked her whether being Jewish would interfere
with her carrying out her duties as a Senator.
- Thomas Sowell
What happened here
was not just a sly judicial coup, but an explicit one in the wake of the
expressed will of the California electorate, and their elected representatives...
We have kind of compensated by over-venerating a handful of guys in black
robes, just because they happen to be called judges, and sit on a fancy
court. And there’s no reason for this. It’s entirely at odds with the founders’
conception of a functioning republic, that in effect, you should turn a
handful of judges into super monarchs who can overrule.
- Mark Steyn, after California's Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage (May'08)
The dementia is getting
out of hand — in other news, the Secret Service stopped George Will as
he tried to barge into the White House, reportedly to explain the Constitutional
Convention to the president with hand puppets.
- Jonah Goldberg, on the furore over nomination of Harriet Miers to US Supreme Court
All but the most liberal
Democratic senators understand that the smart thing to do is to confirm
US Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito as quickly as possible. Every day
spent debating the Alito nomination is a day spent debating abortion, same-sex
marriage, and racial preferences – issues on which Democrats lose. Every
day spent debating the Alito nomination is a day spent not debating gasoline
prices and the war in Iraq – issues on which Democrats can win. The logical
political conclusion is that Democrats should put the nomination behind
them as rapidly as possible. The trouble is that the Democrats’ increasingly
radical donor base will not allow the party to do what is logical.
Unlike the Republicans – who raise their money in millions of small donations — the Democrats rely on big contributors. Who is giving the Democrats all this big money? The short answer: Hollywood. Between 1989 and 2003, the Democratic party raised an estimated $100 million from the entertainment industry. (To be precise: not just movies, but also music and television.) To put that money in context, that is about as much money as the Republicans are estimated to have raised from the oil industry.
- David Frum, "Il Foglio"
Despite NASA’s fluff
about the “wild success” of Discovery’s flight, at this point about the
only people enthusiastic about the shuttle program are aerospace contractors
and the pork-barreling congressmen from those states where NASA makes its
home. For them, every half-a-billion-dollar space-shuttle launch represents
the wonderful majesty of cold, hard cash. Defenders of the embattled shuttle
program say, among other things, that it is needed to support the international
space station. Alas, it’s true. The shuttle basically exists to go to the
space station, and the space station exists so the shuttle can have someplace
to go. They are mutually reinforcing boondoggles. Together they represent
the stunted dreams and the wasteful spending of the space program 36 years
after Neil Armstrong took “one small step.” Time to give the shuttle an
honored place in the Smithsonian.
- Rich Lowry, "National Review"
The penny is no longer
made from copper (too expensive), but merely has a cooper coating over
zinc, which is also now too expensive. It isn’t easy finding a substance
worthless enough to make into pennies. It now costs 1.23 cents to make
1 cent. That means it will take 10.7 billion pennies to make 8.7 billion
pennies this fiscal year.
- Rich Lowry, arguing for the penny's abolition, "National Review"
"Gays want to get married,
have children, and go to church. Next they'll be advocating school vouchers,
boycotting HBO, and voting Republican."
- PJ O'Rourke, "I Agree With Me", in "The Atlantic"
The trial is about
class in America at its most extreme - the topic Americans most want to
avoid. Michael Jackson represents an extreme case of the increasingly powerful
and isolated over-class, the super-wealthy who, in a society where money
is the ultimate source of power, have become used to creating gated, sequestered
universes of their own. They are free from limits or middle-class morality.
And they are never satisfied. But Jackson's accusers are also a symbol
of the inverse phenomenon: a white underclass whose preferred method of
self-enrichment is the victim culture of lawsuits and celebrity manipulation.
Ask yourself what virtues or values Jackson shares with his accusers and
you uncover an obsession with material wealth, a never-slaking thirst for
fame, an ethics-free approach to the shakedown of others. The Jerry Springer
culture embraces the very high and the very low. It's what they have in
- Andrew Sullivan, "American Nightmare" in "The Times"
But why did the jury
hand down the verdict that they did? In truth, Jackson was supposed to
be judged by a jury of his peers and that was simply not possible. There
is nobody, fortunately, quite like him. But the person that the jury did
recognize, relate to, and intensely dislike was the accuser’s scamming
- Myrna Blyth, "National Review"
Future historians (assuming
that an interest in the past survives) will be struck, I suspect, by the
confusion in our society concerning sexual boundaries. On one hand, almost
no sexual display is forbidden, and the most casual of liaisons is perfectly
normal; on the other, university professors dare not be alone in a closed
room with a female student for fear of accusations of sexual misdemeanor,
and in some offices the most mildly flirtatious of remarks is taken as
little short of rape. Extreme licentiousness thus coexists with a Puritanism
that out-Calvins Calvin. One minute we are told that anything goes, and
the next that we must carefully censor ourselves for fear of permanently
traumatizing anyone who might overhear supposedly salacious remarks. At
last, Herbert Marcuse’s concept of repressive tolerance seems to make some
sense: We can do what we like so long as we live in fear.
- Theodore Dalrymple, "National Review"
The most basic function
of government, maintaining law and order, breaks down when floods or blackouts
paralyze the system. During good times or bad, the police cannot police
everybody. They can at best control a small segment of society. The vast
majority of people have to control themselves. That is where the great
moral traditions of a society come in — those moral traditions that it
is so hip to sneer at, so cute to violate, and that our very schools undermine
among the young, telling them that they have to evolve their own standards,
rather than following what old fuddy duddies like their parents tell them.
Now we see what those do-it-yourself standards amount to in the ugliness
and anarchy of New Orleans. New Orleans can be rebuilt and the levees around
it shored up. But can the moral levees be shored up, not only in New Orleans
but across America?
- Thomas Sowell
We have been hearing
for a long time what a terrible thing it is to reveal the name of a covert
C.I.A. agent — and it is a terrible thing because that can be a life-and-death
situation for the agent exposed and a devastating setback for this country's
ability to get people in other countries to supply intelligence. But it
was quite an anticlimax when the man who is accused of doing that — Lewis
Libby on Vice President Cheney's staff — is not even charged with the crime
for which a special prosecutor was appointed, with extraordinary powers
and an extraordinary budget. Unfortunately, this situation is not unique.
It is not uncommon for a prosecutor to charge someone with a crime that
did not even exist when the prosecutor's investigation began. In other
words, the crime was created during the course of the investigation.
- Thomas Sowell
It is simply naive
to believe that a businessman will have no interest in politics when politicians
have taken a great interest in him. And it is grotesquely unfair to assume
that businesspeople are corrupt simply because they want to support politicians
less inclined to hurt them. Microsoft CEO Bill Gates used to brag that
he barely spent a dime on lobbying — “I live in the other Washington,”
he liked to say. But the very moment that government — federal and state
— tried to tear apart his company, Gates abandoned his view that the New
Economy could ignore the Old Politics. Now D.C. is awash in Microsoft lobbyists.
Wal-Mart is only now learning the same lesson. If you don’t get in the
game, you might be regulated out of it. Of course, not all businesses that
support politicians of either party are doing it out of self-protection.
Some are merely rent-seeking opportunists. Some are both. Sugar growers,
for example, have ripped off taxpayers and consumers to the tune of billions.
If government stopped protecting the industry from competition, it would
mostly disappear and stop gouging us at the same time. Liberals think Republicans
are living up to their principles when they get cozy with fat cats. The
reality is that Republicans betray their principles when they give fat
cats a reason to come to Washington to begin with.
- Jonah Goldberg, "National Review"
While America has been
run by one of the most doltishly ineffectual governments in history, it
has forged ever further ahead of Europe in terms of wealth, science, technology,
artistic creativity and cultural dominance. Why does America’s prosperity
and self-confidence seem to bear so little relationship to the competence
of its government? The obvious answer is that America, founded on a libertarian
theory of minimal government, has always had low expectations of politicians.
In America, it is not just business that thrives independently of government,
perhaps even in spite of government. The same is also true of other areas
of excellence which in Britain are considered quintessentially in the public
domain — higher education, leading-edge science, culture and academic research.
Because Americans expect so little of their government, they are rarely
disappointed. They do not slump into German-style angst when their governments
fail to find solutions to the nation’s problems.
In Europe, by contrast, the public expect government to solve all problems, and the media try to hold politicians accountable for everything. The result is a culture of dependency that extends far beyond the welfare state, to business and to the worlds of education, medicine, arts and science. The American approach has a powerful advantage rooted in human nature: private sector activity is powered by economic incentives, while the State must operate by rules and sanctions. Since incentives, as Adam Smith observed, are much more likely to stimulate creativity and effort than sanctions, private enterprise tends to achieve ambitious objectives, while government often fails.
- Anatole Kaletskty, "The Times"
When did government
become more efficient then big companies? As a member of the vast right-wing
conspiracy I’d certainly like to believe that private enterprise is more
efficient and ultimately cheaper than government-provided services. Yet
lately it seems that pretty much every big corporation I’ve dealt with
— Verizon, Symantec, CVS, AT&T, and, most recently, Time/Warner Cable
— is far worse. They seem to subscribe now to the enrage-the-customer theory
of customer service.
- Catherine Seipp, "National Review"
advocates say that Mexicans are no different than other immigrants, and
that what critics of Mexican immigration — legal and illegal — say about
Latinos is what they said about Germans, Poles, Italians, the Irish, and
the Jews in the past. Obviously, there's some truth to this. Many of the
complaints do sound similar. But that doesn't mean the arguments have the
same weight. The arguments against interracial marriage sound very similar
to the arguments against gay marriage, but that doesn't mean a black woman
marrying a white man is the same thing as a man marrying another man. Similarly,
people may have complained about the ability of legal immigrants from Italy
to assimilate, or fretted that these Italian immigrants were taking jobs
from Americans, but that doesn't mean illegal Mexican immigrants in the
early 21st century are indistinguishable from legal Italian ones a century
ago. The fact is that America has never shared an enormous border with
Italy. Large chunks of U.S. soil never belonged to Italy or Ireland. You
can be as romantic as you like about the glory and honor of America's noble
tradition of accepting the "wretched refuse" of the world: It won't change
this very basic fact. Our border with Mexico allows for levels of illegal
immigration that have no historical precedent.
- Jonah Goldberg, "National Review"
How many border guards
would it take to make the US-Mexican border impenetrable? The answer is:
It depends. It depends on how much money people are willing to spend and
how many trappings of a police state they’re willing to accept.
- Editorial in "The Washington Post"
I think they’re (the
Bush administration) in a kind of difficult mess here, because on the one
hand, they’re trying to argue that we need a kind of national security,
orange alert war on terror state, and at the same time, they’re saying
well, there’s nothing we can do about itinerant peasants breaching our
Southern Border. Essentially, those two arguments are incompatible. One
may be correct. The other may be correct. But they can’t both be right,
and I think that’s the problem for Homeland Security, that you can’t be
on orange alert and then just say well, 30 million people can penetrate
the Border, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
-Mark Steyn, on "The Hugh Hewitt Show"
If one were to imagine
the worst possible way to reform our immigration system, it would probably
look a lot like the immigration bill the U.S. Senate is currently considering.
- Rick Santorum
Why (Legal or Illegal)
Immigrants Are Better for Texas than California: Texas has no income tax,
which means public services are funded by sales and property taxes. Everyone,
regardless of income or legal status, pays sales and property taxes, either
directly or indirectly through rent. California, by contrast, relies heavily
on a very progressive income tax that doesn't fall on people who are paid
off the books or who don't earn much money in the first place. Liberals
who support immigration should rethink their love of progressive income
- Virginia Postrel
A new study finds that
immigration has slowed wage growth in both the United States and Canada.
But there's an interesting complication. Because Canadian policy favors
highly educated immigrants, in Canada it is the wages of college graduates
that have been restrained by immigration, narrowing the wage gap between
the best-educated and least-educated Canadians. In the US, where policy
favors uneducated immigrants, the effect of immigration has been to widen
the wage gap between the least educated and the best-educated Americans.
- David Frum, "National Review"
[2008 Credit Crisis & Aftermath]
For those who, like
this magazine, have been staunch defenders of free markets and light regulation,
this has been a challenging week. It used to be heavy industry that would
ruin itself through bad management decisions, then come squealing to government
to help bail it out. To see some of the world’s wealthiest financial institutions
now doing the same is galling. British heavy industry during the postwar
period at least had one excuse: that government diktats, and tired infrastructure
from years of war production, made management difficult. Lehman Brothers
and AIG have no such excuse: they have enjoyed years of free-trading conditions
in which they were left alone to innovate. Exactly how they have got themselves
into such trouble seems far from clear, even to those with great knowledge
of financial markets. But their collapse — or in the case of AIG its almost
certain collapse before rescue by the US government — is evidence enough
that there was something desperately wrong with their business model.
Governments have made errors. Much blame deserves to be laid at the feet of Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, who liked to warn of ‘irrational exuberance’ but who then fed that exuberance by handing the economy the punch-bowl of low interest rates. Greenspan found his echo in Gordon Brown who, although handing notional independence to the Bank of England, hand-picked members of the Monetary Policy Committee he could rely on to champion the case for low rates, and fiddled with the official inflation index to ensure downward pressure on rates throughout the years of the credit binge.
But no one should be under any illusions that the chief blame for the crisis which has progressively engulfed the global economy over the past year can be laid at the door of the bankers themselves. Left alone to innovate, they did an astoundingly good job at devising themselves complex tax-breaks and devices such as hedge funds to sidestep what light regulation remained. But when it came to devising useful financial products to oil the wheels of industry and help families manage their finances they have shown rather less healthy ingenuity. The subprime mortgage, from which so many of the current problems evolve, is the ponderous Bristol Brabazon and the exploding Ford Pinto all rolled into one.
- Spectator editorial (Sept'08)
"Wall Street got drunk...
It got drunk and now it's got a hangover. The question is how long will
it sober up and not try to do all these fancy financial instruments."
- President George W. Bush
"Those of us who have
looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders'
equity, myself included, are in a state of shocked disbelief."
- Alan Greenspan, former head of US Federal Reserve
bankruptcy (or losses) is like religion without Hell.
- Daniel J Mitchell, "National Review"
angels in Washington will tell you they’ve been working tirelessly to expand
the American dream of homeownership by making mortgages available to people
unable to plunk down 20 percent on a house. Franklin Raines, the Clinton-appointed
former head of Fannie Mae from 1998 to 2004, made it his top priority to
make mortgages easier to get for people with poor credit, few assets and
little money for a down payment... The banks were perfectly happy
to pass the risky loans to Raines’ Fannie Mae, which was happy to buy them
up. That’s because Raines was transforming Fannie Mae from a boring but
stable financial institution dedicated to making homes more affordable
into a risky venture that abused its special status as a “Government Sponsored
Enterprise” (GSE) for Raines’ personal profit. Fannie bought the bad loans
and bundled them together with good ones. Wall Street was glad to buy up
these mortgage securities because Fannie Mae was deemed a government-insured
behemoth “too big to fail.” And others followed Fannie’s lead...
The current financial crisis stems in large part from the fact that people who shouldn’t have been buying a home, or who bought more home than they could afford, now can’t pay their bills. Their bad mortgages are mixed up with the good mortgages. And thanks in part to new accounting rules set up after Enron, the bad mortgages have contaminated the whole pile, reducing the value of even stable mortgages... The biggest dose of poison entered the financial bloodstream through Washington. And some people warned us. In 2005, Fannie Mae revealed it overstated earnings by $10.6 billion and that it didn’t really know what was going on.... But, ah yes, the greedy criminals responsible for this mess must be somewhere on Wall Street.
- Jonah Goldberg, "National Review" (Sep'08)
The natural order of
the world is chaos, not calm. Like it or not, for over a half-century the
United States alone restrained nuclear bullies, kept the sea lanes free
from outlaws, and corralled rogue nations. America alone could provide
that deterrence because we produced a fourth of the world’s goods and services,
and became the richest country in the history of civilization. But the
bill for years of massive borrowing for oil, for imported consumer goods,
and for speculation has now has finally come due on Wall Street — and for
the rest of us as well.
- Victor Davis Hanson, "National Review"
Barney Frank, chairman
of the House Financial Services Committee, has spent the last few years
ridiculing Alan Greenspan, John McCain, and others who sought more regulation
for Fannie Mae’s market-distorting schemes — the fons et origo of this
financial crisis. Now he says “the private sector got us into this mess.”
His partner in crime, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd
(D-Conn.), a chief beneficiary of Fannie Mae lobbyists’ largesse, claims
this mess is the result of poor oversight — without even hinting at the
fact he is in charge of oversight of banks. They sound like pimps complaining
about the prevalence of STDs among prostitutes... As for the reputedly
free-market purists of the congressional GOP, with whom my sympathies generally
lie, I cannot let pass without comment the fact that they controlled the
legislative branch for most of the last eight years. Only now, when capitalism
is in flames, does this fire brigade try to enforce the free-market fire
codes without compromise. I loathe populism. But if there ever has been
a moment when reasonable men’s hands itch for the pitchfork, this must
surely be it. No one is blameless. No one is pure. Two decades of crapulence
by the political class has been prologue to this era.
- Jonah Goldberg, "National Review"
The 1990s can seem
a long time ago, and to grasp the connection between the situation then
and what is happening now, it’s important to realise that only a small
proportion of the subprime loans made since George W. Bush became President
have gone to new, first-time buyers. A huge number of them have been refinancing
loans, replacing mortgages originally taken out perhaps eight, ten or 12
years ago... This crisis was not caused on Wall Street — it was caused
in the White House. The root problem was not financial — it was political,
and those truly responsible for this fiasco were not bankers, nor even
Bush Republicans; they were Clinton Democrats. For generations, America’s
bankers have been firmly refusing credit to those they judged unworthy
of it. Yet the mountain of toxic subprime debt that has threatened to overwhelm
the entire financial system, and the astonishing number of mortgage foreclosures
across the United States, is proof that, at some point in the relatively
recent past, bankers radically altered their behaviour and began to shower
mortgages on borrowers who had no realistic prospect of keeping up their
repayments. What could possibly have induced them to act so recklessly,
and so out of character?
...The banks were bullied into lowering their lending standards by left-wing idealists intent on equal opportunities at any cost.
- Dennis Sewell, "The Spectator"
The current world disaster
is the result of markets rigged by some bankers, politicians and central
bankers, not of a market working transparently and freely.
- Charles Moore, "The Spectator"
It is a fascinating
feature of this great financial disaster that everyone — or at least everyone
sensible — is confused. I do not mean the basic, widespread confusion about
terms and processes — about what is short-selling or a derivative, what
are monolines, HELOCS, etc. I mean confusion about what is good news and
what is bad. Has America nationalised its banks, and if it has, is that
good or bad? Was it good to allow Lloyds to swallow HBOS, because it saved
the latter, or bad, because it overthrew competition requirements and created
moral hazard? Was it good that Gordon Brown met Sir Victor Blank at a party
and told him he could push through the Lloyds deal in defiance of competition
law, because that showed masterful crisis management, or bad, because it
was cronyism? Why was it clever to save AIG but good to let Lehman Brothers
go? Is it good to turn Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs into ordinary commercial
banks, because now they can no longer behave in their former racy way,
or bad, because they have now been officially placed in the ‘too big to
fail’ category, and are therefore protected from their own folly? Behind
all these questions is an even bigger one. Why is it that government, which
we generally, rightly, consider more inefficient than business, is nevertheless
the authority to which we look to save us in such a crisis?
...Derek Simpson, the joint general secretary of the trade union Unite, told the Labour conference that all these ‘spivs’, ‘fat cats’ and so on (he left no cliché unturned) should be ‘taxed out of existence’. It is unusual to have such a direct admission of one of the strange things about socialism, which is that it advocates forms of taxation which, if fully implemented, would end up raising no revenue.
- Charles Moore, "The Spectator"
During the Great Depression,
the U.S. government decided it should be easier for people with low incomes
to buy houses. Fannie Mae was created to buy mortgages from banks so that
smaller banks didn't have to carry the entire debt burden on their own.
Eventually, two things happened: Fannie Mae started buying riskier "subprime"
mortgages, which were still rated AAA or "safe" by ratings agencies. It
also started packaging these mortgages as securities, chopping them up,
and selling them to other investors, who resold them to other investors,
and so on—a process called securitization. Many of these investors were
foreign companies, banks, and governments. Risky practices like credit
default swaps, in which investors promise to support each other in case
someone goes bankrupt, started in the United States but soon became the
norm across the world. Mortgage-backed securities were dangerous and people
knew it, but American housing prices continued to climb, so investors bought
them, anyway. The result was an international, interdependent system in
which all markets leaned on other markets for stability. So when the U.S.
mortgage market collapsed, everyone else's followed.
That doesn't mean Europe would have survived had it not been for us irresponsible Yanks. Several European countries, particularly England, Ireland, and Spain, had their own housing bubbles that burst around the same time as ours. (Others, such as Germany, had stable housing markets.) These bubbles were exacerbated by Europe-specific factors. For example, even as housing prices increased by as much as 10 percent a year in Spain, the European Central Bank set interest rates appropriate for the entire European Union, where prices were increasing much more slowly. As a result, local bubbles expanded faster than usual.
Other scapegoats include ratings agencies, which knowingly gave subprime mortgages AAA ratings. The biggest ones—Moody's, Standard and Poor's, and Fitch—are all based in the United States. The problem with blaming them is that most investors knew their ratings were bunk but bought the securities, anyway. You could blame Congress, too, for insufficient regulation. But, in fact, many European housing markets are just as loosely governed as the U.S. market.
- Christopher Beam, explaining the credit crisis, "Slate Magazine"
There is plenty of
blame to go around. Greedy Wall Street speculators took mega-bonuses even
when they knew their leveraged companies were tottering — and someone else
would pick up the tab. Crooked or stupid politicians allowed Fannie Mae
and Freddie Mac to squander billions, as they raked in campaign donations
and crowed about their politically correct support for millions of shaky
— and now mostly defaulting — buyers...
Wisdom and blue-chip college educations are not quite the same thing. The fools in Washington and New York who blew up Wall Street had degrees from our finest professional schools. The most chilling example, at the very beginning of this ongoing mess, came in 2003 during the House Financial Services Committee’s hearing on Fannie and Freddie. At one point, Harvard Law School graduate Rep. Barney Frank, (D., Mass.), asked Fannie Mae CEO and fellow Harvard Law School graduate Franklin Raines — who took millions in bonuses even as he helped bankrupt the once-hallowed institution — whether he felt the mortgage giant had been “under-regulated.” Raines answered him under oath, “No, sir.” Then overseer Frank announced, “OK. Then I am not entirely sure why we are here.” If these guys are our best and brightest, then it is about time we rethink what constitutes wisdom, since an Ivy League law degree certainly seemed no proof of either intelligence or ethics.
- Victor Davis Hanson, "National Review"
"The root of the problem
is political greed in Congress. Members ... from both parties wanted short-term
political credit for promoting homeownership even though they were putting
our entire economy at risk by encouraging people to buy homes they couldn't
afford. Then, instead of conducting thorough oversight and correcting obvious
problems with unstable entities like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, members
of Congress chose to ... distract themselves with unprecedented amounts
of pork-barrel spending."
- Senator Tom Coburn
Some of America's best-paid
bankers were overrated dopes who had no idea what they were selling, or
greedy cynics who did know and turned a blind eye. But it wasn't only the
bankers. This financial meltdown involved a broad national breakdown in
personal responsibility, government regulation and financial ethics. So
many people were in on it: People who had no business buying a home, with
nothing down and nothing to pay for two years; people who had no business
pushing such mortgages, but made fortunes doing so; people who had no business
bundling those loans into securities and selling them to third parties,
as if they were AAA bonds, but made fortunes doing so; people who had no
business rating those loans as AAA, but made a fortunes doing so; and people
who had no business buying those bonds and putting them on their balance
sheets so they could earn a little better yield, but made fortunes doing
so... These are the people whom taxpayers bailed out on Monday to the tune
of what could be more than $300 billion. We probably had no choice. Just
letting Citigroup melt down could have been catastrophic... That's how
we got here: a near-total breakdown of responsibility at every link in
our financial chain, and now we either bail out the people who brought
us here or risk a total systemic crash. These are the wages of our sins.
- Thomas Friedman, "New York Times"
Surely, as conventional
economics teaches, the wages of bankers are just another price? These bankers
were being paid only what was necessary to ensure that the supply of bankers
met demand, weren't they? If they were being paid more than necessary,
wouldn't they simply be undercut by new entrants? Yet anyone with common
sense can see that this conventional economic account doesn't seem a remotely
realistic description of how bankers' pay was really determined... When
setting wages, bankers don't start from scratch. They don't consider if
they really need to pay that wage to recruit someone. They use the salaries
of others as an easily available anchor point. And they don't notice as
the whole lot of them float away from what is necessary... Is all this
an argument against free markets? No. Social psychology explains human
behaviour, and that behaviour isn't created by free markets. Governments
and social groups can be much worse. And free markets at least provide
the opportunity for someone to make a fortune by dissenting. We need the
little boy who noticed that the Emperor had no clothes. And the free market
remains the best way to get him to speak up.
- Daniel Finkelstein, "The Times"
We talk about the "credit
crunch" and the calamities associated with the shriveling of credit (as
in the Depression). But, in Britain and elsewhere, pre-"bailout" levels
of personal indebtedness accumulated on assumptions about home value are
unsustainable. In essence, we devalued the currency of credit. Everyone
knows Polonius' line from Hamlet - "Neither a borrower nor a lender be"
- but forgets what follows: "Borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry." The
west's husbandry has a very dull edge right now. And even Polonius' advice
is no protection in an age when you can be neither a borrower nor a lender
but taxed up the wazoo to pay for the debts and loans of everybody else.
- Mark Steyn
Detroit was the industrial
powerhouse of the world fifty years ago. Now it’s a basket case. They did
that to themselves. There’s no reason for Congress to collude in doing
it to the rest of America.
- Mark Steyn, on the proposed bailout of Detroit's auto industry
Is greed part and parcel
of capitalism? As Sarah Palin might say, 'you betcha'. But let's not delude
ourselves into thinking that greed is a feature only of capitalism and
that if we got rid of capitalism we'd get rid of greed as well. What has
also helped to land us in our current dire predicament is greed on the
part of the State and the Government. Right through the Celtic Tiger years
the Government pushed public spending to unprecedented and undreamed of
levels. It did this in no small part to win votes. It committed us to levels
of public spending that could only be maintained if the tax revenues of
the boom years could also be maintained and that was never going to happen.
Next week's Budget will see us paying the price of State excess. So yes,
greed was and is a problem but greed can affect any economic system, including
Were senior bankers able to resist maximising their bonuses through irresponsible lending practices?
No. Were shareholders able to resist maximising their dividends by maxing out this year's profits at the expenses of next year's? No.
Was the State able to resist pushing up public spending past the point of sustainability? No.
Across the board people were unwilling and unable to defer gratification and too many people in positions of great responsibility behaved, literally, irresponsibly.
- David Quinn, "The Irish Independent"
This recession is not
a failure of market economics. It is a reassertion of market economics
after a decade in which we paid ourselves more than we were producing,
and funded it precariously and temporarily by complicated credit instruments
that it took a while for the market to rumble. Now a prosperity that always
baffled ordinary citizens has collapsed. The collapse of confidence is
not irrational; it's the correction to a long run of irrational confidence.
All that stuff about the emerging Asian giants wasn't just phrasemaking
for party conference speeches. It was true. We're falling behind. We face
a mountain of debt: the difference between the life we are able to sustain
and the life we were enjoying... There is to be no return to that golden
decade of no hard choices and uninterrupted growth.
- Matthew Parris, on the effect in Britain, "The Times"
Not so long ago, corporate
giants with names like PanAm, ITT and Montgomery Ward roamed the earth.
They faded and were replaced by new companies with names like Microsoft,
Southwest Airlines and Target. The U.S. became famous for this pattern
of decay and new growth. Over time, American government built a bigger
safety net so workers could survive the vicissitudes of this creative destruction
— with unemployment insurance and soon, one hopes, health care security.
But the government has generally not interfered in the dynamic process
itself, which is the source of the country’s prosperity.But this, apparently,
is about to change. Democrats from Barack Obama to Nancy Pelosi want to
grant immortality to General Motors, Chrysler and Ford. They have decided
to follow an earlier $25 billion loan with a $50 billion bailout, which
would inevitably be followed by more billions later, because if these companies
are not permitted to go bankrupt now, they never will be. This is a different
sort of endeavor than the $750 billion bailout of Wall Street. That money
was used to save the financial system itself. It was used to save the capital
markets on which the process of creative destruction depends. Granting
immortality to Detroit’s Big Three does not enhance creative destruction.
It retards it. It crosses a line, a bright line. It is not about saving
a system; there will still be cars made and sold in America. It is about
saving politically powerful corporations.
- David Brooks, "Bailout to Nowhere", "The NY Times"
The government is putting
money into banks, even when the banks don't want it, in hopes that the
banks will put it into circulation. But the latest statistics shows that
banks are lending even less money now than they were before the government
dumped all that cash on them... Out of $355 billion newly appropriated,
the Congressional Budget Office estimates that only $26 billion will be
spent this fiscal year and only $110 billion by the end of 2010. Using
long, drawn-out processes to put money into circulation to meet an emergency
is like mailing a letter to the fire department to tell them that your
house is on fire. If you cut taxes tomorrow, people would have more money
in their next paycheck, and it would probably be spent by the time they
got that paycheck, through increased credit card purchases beforehand.
If all this sound and fury in Washington was about getting an economic
crisis behind us, tax cuts could do that a lot faster. None of this is
rocket science. And Washington politicians are not all crazy, even if sometimes
it looks that way. Often, what they say makes no sense because what they
claim to be doing is not what they are actually doing... What are the Beltway
politicians buying with all the hundreds of billions of dollars they are
spending? They are buying what politicians are most interested in— power.
In the name of protecting the taxpayers' investment, they are buying the
power to tell General Motors how to make cars, banks how to bank and, before
it is all over with, all sorts of other people how to do the work they
specialize in, and for which members of Congress have no competence, much
less expertise... To this day, we are still subsidizing millionaires in
agriculture because farmers were having a tough time in the 1930s. We have
the Federal National Mortgage Association ("Fannie Mae") taking reckless
chances in the housing market that have blown up in our faces today, because
FDR decided to create a new federal housing agency in 1938. Who knows what
bright ideas this administration will turn into permanent institutions
for our children and grandchildren to try to cope with?
- Thomas Sowell
McDonald's is one of
the two corporations among the 30 that make up the Dow Jones industrial
average that saw their share prices rise in 2008. McDonald's served 58
million people a day last year, up 2 million from 2007, and will add 650
stores this year. The other prospering company from the Dow 30 is Wal-Mart.
See a pattern? Markets are working; prices are driving behavior; people's
consumption is conforming to reality.
One reality that might linger in people's minds after the economy recovers is this: The price difference between "the best" and the adequate often is much larger than the quality difference. All over America, local magazines identify, for the benefit of food snobs and other poseurs, their cities' "five best breads" and "five best lattes," as though settling for the sixth best would be a hardship. Come the recovery, Americans will be better off, and perhaps also better.
- George Will, "Newsweek"
The stimulus legislation
is a strange response to the president's inaugural call for "a new era
of responsibility." State and local governments, which in the five flush
years 2003–07 irresponsibly increased spending five times faster than population
growth, will get hundreds of billions. Forty-nine states have governors
better than California's, but as that state sinks into insolvency (its
budget deficit is 40 percent of the sum of all the states' deficits) Arnold
Schwarzenegger is merrily saving the planet. Last week the president gave
California permission to impose, for vehicles sold there, one of Schwarzenegger's
many dubious achievements—fuel-efficiency standards even more burdensome
than the federal standards. California's market is so large, its standards
will force upon Detroit's insolvent manufacturers (actually, upon taxpayers)
the additional costs of hastening production of cars people do not want
to buy (which is why government coercion is "necessary").
Rep. John Campbell, who owned a slew of automobile dealerships before coming to Congress from Southern California, has been told by a senior executive of Toyota's American operations that if Toyota were not making substantial profits from its SUVs and pickups, it could not continue making the Prius, which it sells at a loss. The federal government, which is in a position to dictate to mendicants, wants Detroit to make more cars like the Prius and fewer profitable vehicles. This is a novel business model.
- George Will, "Newsweek"
Last week Congress
was importuned to have the government pay for the slaughter of dairy cattle
in order to raise milk prices. Cows should die in Wisconsin so that mothers
in Watts will pay a higher price—one that government deems "reasonable"—for
milk for their children? The dairy lobby sees opportunity in a New Deal
- George Will, "Newsweek"
Obama faces a moment
of decision over the stimulus. He can either pass it on a pretty much party-line
vote in the Senate as well as the House, maybe picking off the odd Republican
or two with funding for special projects. Or, he can go and tell the Democrats’
Congressional leadership that it is a new time in Washington and that he
wants a focused bill that draws on the best ideas from both sides of the
aisles. The course he takes will determine the tone and the opportunities
of the next four years.
- James Forsyth, "The Spectator" (it was passed on a partisan vote)
The adage “follow the
money” will be hard to apply in the current administration, when there
is so much money going in all directions that it is doubtful whether anybody
can follow it... The great sense of urgency of the Obama administration
to get legislation to authorize slow-moving spending projects may seem
inconsistent. But the urgency is real, even if the reasons given are not.
The worse-case scenario for the administration would be to have the economy
begin to recover on its own before this massive spending bill is passed,
reducing their chances of creating the kind of politically directed economy
- Thomas Sowell
The new "phrase" running
through the financial world is "too big to fail" - what exactly does that
mean? I think it means that very rich people got even richer by consolidating
viable businesses into huge conglomerates that were harvested, making a
very few people obscenely rich at the expense of the everyday citizen.
If the politicians really want to fix the world economy, then the governments
that are pouring tax dollars into these entities that are "too big to fail"
should require as a prerequisite that these mega businesses should be broken
down into small enough units "so they can fail" if poorly run, without
taking the rest of the world with them.
- A Webber
At the ludicrous G20
summit in London last week, the official communiqué crowed over
a “clampdown” on tax havens — those British colonies in the Caribbean and
a few other offshore pinpricks in the map. “The era of banking secrecy
is over,” the G20 proclaimed. Does anyone seriously think a Swiss bank
account or a post office box in the Turks and Caicos are responsible for
the global meltdown?
No, but the world’s governments have decided to focus on irrelevant scapegoats. In the current crisis, Japan, Germany, and Italy (plus Russia) are in net population decline that’s only going to accelerate in the years ahead. So, unlike the U.S., they can’t run up the national debt and stick it to their kids and grandkids, because they don’t have any kids and grandkids to stick it to. If New York is running out of rich people, Germany is running out of people, period. The Chinese and other buyers of Western debt know that. If you’re an investor and you’re not tracking GDP versus median age in the world’s major economies, you’re going to lose a lot of money.
If government has a role in this crisis, it ought to be to reverse the combination of unaffordable social programs and deathbed demographics that make a restoration of real GDP growth all but impossible in many European nations. But that would involve telling the citizenry unpleasant truths, and Continental politicians who wish to remain electorally viable aren’t willing to do that. President Sarkozy, the Times of London reported, “said that the summit provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to give capitalism a conscience.” What he means by “a conscience” is a global regulatory regime that ensures there’s nowhere to move to. If you’re France, which has a sluggish, uncompetitive, protectionist, high-unemployment business environment whose best and brightest abandon the country in ever-greater droves, it obviously makes sense to force the entire planet to submit to the same growth-killing measures that have done wonders for your own economy. But it’s not good news for the rest of the world. The building blocks for a global regulatory regime and even a global central bank with an embryo global currency (the IMF and the enhanced role of “Special Drawing Rights”) are an ominous development.
Let it be said that in recent years in America, the United Kingdom, and certain other countries the “financial sector” grew too big. In The Atlantic, Simon Johnson points out that, between 1973 and 1985, it was responsible for about 16 percent of U.S. corporate profits. By this decade, it was up to 41 percent. That’s higher than healthy, but it wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near that high if government didn’t annex so much of your wealth — through everything from income tax to small-business regulation — that it’s become increasingly difficult to improve your lot by working hard, making stuff, and selling it. Instead, in order to fund a more comfortable retirement and much else, large numbers of people became “investors”... The great powers are erecting a global regulatory regime to export their worst mistakes to the entire planet.
- Mark Steyn, "National Review"
Interest on consumer
loans of all kinds—for cars, credit cards, or other purposes—is not deductible
for federal tax purposes, but interest on home equity loans is deductible
no matter what the purpose of the loan or the use of the funds. As a result,
homeowners are encouraged to take out home equity loans to pay off their
credit card or auto loans, or to make the purchases that would ordinarily
be made with credit cards, auto loans, or ordinary consumer loans. Under
these circumstances, homeowners are encouraged not only to borrow against
their homes' equity in preference to other forms of borrowing, but also
to extract equity from their homes for personal and even business purposes...
State-based U.S. residential finance laws, accommodated by the national
mortgage market system, give U.S. homeowners two free options that contributed
substantially to the financial crisis we confront today. First, any homeowner
may, without penalty, refinance a mortgage whenever interest rates fall
or home prices rise to a point where there is significant equity in the
home... The result was the so-called cash-out refinancing, in which homeowners
treated their homes like savings accounts, drawing out funds through refinancing
to buy cars, boats, or second homes, or pay for other family expenditures.
By the end of 2006, 86 percent of all home mortgage refinancings were cash-out
refinancings, amounting to $327 billion that year. Unfortunately, this
meant that when home prices fell, there was little equity in the home behind
the mortgage and frequently little reason to continue making payments on
- Peter Wallison, on how US domestic policies triggered the subprime mortgage collapse, "AEI"
This crisis is different
from all the others since the end of the second world war. Previously,
the authorities got their act together and prevented the financial system
from collapsing. This time, after the failure of Lehman Brothers last September,
the system broke down and was put on artificial life support. Among other
measures, both Europe and the US in effect guaranteed that no other important
financial institution would be allowed to fail. This necessary step had
unintended adverse consequences: many other countries, from eastern Europe
to Latin America, Africa and south-east Asia, could not offer similar guarantees.
As a result, capital fled from the periphery to the centre. The flight
was abetted by national financial authorities at the centre who encouraged
banks to repatriate their capital. In the periphery countries, currencies
fell, interest rates rose and credit default swap rates soared. When history
is written, it will be recorded that – in contrast to the Great Depression
– protectionism first prevailed in finance rather than trade. Institutions
such as the International Monetary Fund face a novel task: to protect the
periphery countries from a storm created in the developed world. Global
institutions are used to dealing with governments; now they must deal with
the collapse of the private sector. If they fail to do so, the periphery
economies will suffer even more than those at the centre, because they
are poorer and more dependent on commodities than the developed world.
- George Soros, "FT"
If Treasury Secretary
Timothy Geithner hopes to prevent a repeat of this global economic crisis,
his rescue plan must recognize that the real problem is not the bad loans,
but the debasement of the paper they are printed on. Today's global crisis
-- a loss on paper of more than $50 trillion in stocks, real estate, commodities
and operational earnings within 15 months -- cannot be explained only by
the default on a meager 7% of subprime mortgages (worth probably no more
than $1 trillion) that triggered it. The real villain is the lack of trust
in the paper on which they -- and all other assets -- are printed. If we
don't restore trust in paper, the next default -- on credit cards or student
loans -- will trigger another collapse in paper and bring the world economy
to its knees.
If you think about it, everything of value we own travels on property paper. At the beginning of the decade there was about $100 trillion worth of property paper representing tangible goods such as land, buildings, and patents world-wide, and some $170 trillion representing ownership over such semiliquid assets as mortgages, stocks and bonds. Since then, however, aggressive financiers have manufactured what the Bank for International Settlements estimates to be $1 quadrillion worth of new derivatives (mortgage-backed securities, collateralized debt obligations, and credit default swaps) that have flooded the market. These derivatives are the root of the credit crunch. Why? Unlike all other property paper, derivatives are not required by law to be recorded, continually tracked and tied to the assets they represent. Nobody knows precisely how many there are, where they are, and who is finally accountable for them. Thus, there is widespread fear that potential borrowers and recipients of capital with too many nonperforming derivatives will be unable to repay their loans. As trust in property paper breaks down it sets off a chain reaction, paralyzing credit and investment, which shrinks transactions and leads to a catastrophic drop in employment and in the value of everyone's property... Governments should stop clinging to the hope that the existing market will eventually sort things out. "Let the market do its work" has come to mean, "let the shadow economy do its work." But modern markets only work if the paper is reliable. Government's main duty now is to bring the whole toxic environment under the rule of law where it will be subject to enforcement. No economic activity based on the public trust should be allowed to operate outside the general principles of property law.
- Hernando de Soto, "Wall Street Journal"
Roughly speaking, there
are four steps to every decision. First, you perceive a situation. Then
you think of possible courses of action. Then you calculate which course
is in your best interest. Then you take the action. Over the past few centuries,
public policy analysts have assumed that step three is the most important.
Economic models and entire social science disciplines are premised on the
assumption that people are mostly engaged in rationally calculating and
maximizing their self-interest... In "The Black Swan," Nassim Nicholas
Taleb wrote, "The government-sponsored institution Fannie Mae, when I look
at its risks, seems to be sitting on a barrel of dynamite, vulnerable to
the slightest hiccup." Globalization, he noted, "creates interlocking fragility."
He warned that while the growth of giant banks gives the appearance of
stability, in reality, it raises the risk of a systemic collapse - "when
one fails, they all fail."
...If you start thinking about our faulty perceptions, the first thing you realize is that markets are not perfectly efficient, people are not always good guardians of their own self-interest and there might be limited circumstances when government could usefully slant the decision-making architecture (see "Nudge" by Thaler and Cass Sunstein for proposals). But the second thing you realize is that government officials are probably going to be even worse perceivers of reality than private business types. Their information feedback mechanism is more limited, and, being deeply politicized, they're even more likely to filter inconvenient facts.
- David Brooks, "The New York Times"
THE CLINTON SCANDALS
"For anybody willing
to find it, and write about it, and explain it, is this vast right-wing
conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he
announced for President. A few journalists have kind of caught on to it
and explained it, but it has not yet been fully revealed to the American
- Hillary Clinton, 1998, as the Lewinsky story breaks
"I would be looking
up from a pool of blood and hearing my wife ask 'How do I reload this thing'."
- US Congressman Dick Armey, when asked what he would do in Bill Clintons position in the Lewinsky scandal
"It depends what the
meaning of 'is', is."
- Clinton and his team attempt to squirm a defence
"It is going to be
a lot harder for courts to prosecute rapists if perjury about sex cannot
be punished. Or are we supposed to apply that principle to just one man?"
- Thomas Sowell
The vice presidency
is actually a nerd's perfect job. A sidekick is supposed to be a bigger
geek than the star. Like in the teen TV drama "My So-Called Life", when
the dreamboat boy Jordan Catalano gets the telephone number of a girl he
doesn't know in two seconds flat, the nerd Brian Krakow asks him, "This
is, like, how you live?" How many times Gore must have wanted to ask that
question of Clinton, with the sidekick's tone of disdain mixed with awe.
- from "The Partly Cloudly Patriot" by Sarah Vowell
"Nobody who has five
times been elected governor of a state like Arkansas can possibly be an
- Paul Johnson, on Bill Clinton
"Everybody in politics
lies, but they do it with such ease, it’s troubling."
- David Geffen, about the Clintons
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Presidential Elections in 2004
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