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Deconstructing "Progressive " thought


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Looking for motive here:


Proving Reagan wrong
Byline: bob | Category: Economy, Culture | Posted at: 12:11 pm

“Why are they doing all this when they have to know that it isn’t going to work?” was the question my wife asked about the stimulus package.  My answer to her:  “It’s not about fixing the economy; it’s about proving Reagan wrong.”  It’s about proving that an enlightened government is superior to a country led by tens of millions of individual sovereign decision makers.

I’ve lived through the Carter years once before.  As a nation, we’ll survive this again.  Sadly every quarter century or so America has to relearn its lesson.

All I ask is, please, don’t add insult to injury by bringing back disco.

We have plenty of historical examples of "a country led by...individual sovereign decision makers" outperforming centralized governments, enlightened or not, from Classical Greece to the Serenìsima Repùblica Vèneta to Elizabethan England, and on and on. America is exceptional since it seems to have achieved a critical mass of individual sovereign decision makers coupled to the the resource wealth of the Continental United States and historical isolation from predatory military powers.

Can the Americans survive? Most likely, but there will be a great deal of detritus to sweep away in 2010 and 2012.


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On CNN this morning I saw yet another panel of pundits.

The memorable line in this case from one of the experts "They don't know what will work so they have to try everything". There was real fear in her eyes as she said this.

I'm just wondering how that line would work with the DS on your next exercise.  "I don't know Warrant.  My plan is to go left, right and retreat and hope for the best."


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The failed business, banks and "zombie enterprises" that political rent seekers will create using stimulus package money, and the activities of rent seeking political organizations like ACORN (and the damage they will cause) are the detritus that will have to be cleared away.

The unfortunate fact is many of the rent seekers will take down large numbers of ordinary citizens with them, and only clearing the regulatory and legal decks will allow capital and labour to flow quickly and provide the jobs and economic growth and recovery that is really needed.


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Of course Progressive ideology isn't monolithic either, and there are stress points that can be exploited, either internally for the advantage of one or the other faction, or externally...


Democrats Could Face an Internal Civil War as Gentry and Populist Factions Square Off
by Joel Kotkin 02/28/2009

This is the Democratic Party's moment, its power now greater than any time since the mid-1960s. But do not expect smooth sailing. The party is a fractious group divided by competing interests, factions and constituencies that could explode into a civil war, especially when it comes to energy and the environment.

Broadly speaking, there is a long-standing conflict inside the Democratic Party between gentry liberals and populists. This division is not the same as in the 1960s, when the major conflicts revolved around culture and race as well as on foreign policy. Today the emerging fault-lines follow mostly regional, geographical and, most importantly, class differences.

Gentry liberals cluster largely in cities, wealthy suburbs and college towns. They include disproportionately those with graduate educations and people living on the coasts. Populists tend to be located more in middle- and working-class suburbs, the Great Plains and industrial Midwest. They include a wider spectrum of Americans, including many whose political views are somewhat changeable and less subject to ideological rigor.

In the post-World War II era, the gentry's model candidate was a man such as Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic presidential nominee who lost twice to Dwight D. Eisenhower. Stevenson was a svelte intellectual who, like Barack Obama, was backed by the brute power of the Chicago machine. After Stevenson, the gentry supported candidates such as John Kennedy – who did appeal to Catholic working class voters – but also men with limited appeal outside the gentry class, including Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern, Gary Hart, Bill Bradley, Paul Tsongas and John Kerry.

Hubert Humphrey, a populist heir to the lunch-pail liberalism of Harry Truman (and who was despised by gentry intellectuals) missed the presidency by a hair in 1968. But populists in the party later backed lackluster candidates such as Walter Mondale and Dick Gephardt.

Bill Clinton revived the lunch-pail Democratic tradition; and the final stages of last year's presidential primaries represented yet another classic gentry versus populist conflict. Hillary Clinton could not match Barack Obama's appeal to the gentry. Driven to desperation, she ended up running a spirited populist campaign.

Although peace now reigns between the Clintons and the new president, the broader gentry-populist split seems certain to fester at both the congressional and local levels – and President Obama will be hard-pressed to negotiate this divide. Gentry liberals are very "progressive" when it comes to issues such as affirmative action, gay rights, the environment and energy policy, but are not generally well disposed to protectionism or auto-industry bailouts, which appeal to populists. Populists, meanwhile, hated the initial bailout of Wall Street – despite its endorsement by Mr. Obama and the congressional leadership.

Geography is clearly a determining factor here. Standout antifinancial bailout senators included Sens. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, and Jon Tester of Montana. On the House side, the antibailout faction came largely from places like the Great Plains and Appalachia, as well as from the suburbs and exurbs, including places like Arizona and interior California.

Gentry liberals, despite occasional tut-tutting, fell lockstep for the bailout. Not one Northeastern or California Democratic senator opposed it. In the House, "progressives" such as Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank who supported the financial bailout represent districts with a large concentration of affluent liberals, venture capitalists and other financial interests for whom the bailout was very much a matter of preserving accumulated (and often inherited) wealth.

Energy and the environment are potentially even more explosive issues. Gentry politicians tend to favor developing only alternative fuels and oppose expanding coal, oil or nuclear energy. Populists represent areas, such as the Great Lakes region, where manufacturing still plays a critical role and remains heavily dependent on coal-based electricity. They also tend to have ties to economies, such as in the Great Plains, Appalachia and the Intermountain West, where smacking down all new fossil-fuel production threatens lots of jobs – and where a single-minded focus on alternative fuels may drive up total energy costs on the farm, make life miserable again for truckers, and put American industrial firms at even greater disadvantage against foreign competitors.

In the coming years, Mr. Obama's "green agenda" may be a key fault line. Unlike his notably mainstream appointments in foreign policy and economics, he's tilted fairly far afield on the environment with individuals such as John Holdren, a longtime acolyte of the discredited neo-Malthusian Paul Ehrlich, and Carol Browner, who was Bill Clinton's hard-line EPA administrator.

These appointments could presage an environmental jihad throughout the regulatory apparat. Early examples could mean such things as strict restrictions on greenhouse gases, including bans on new drilling and higher prices through carbon taxes or a cap-and-trade regime.

Another critical front, not well understood by the public, could develop on land use – with the adoption of policies that favor dense cities over suburbs and small towns. This trend can be observed most obviously in California, but also in states such as Oregon where suburban growth has long been frowned upon. Emboldened greens in government could use their new power to drive infrastructure spending away from badly needed projects such as new roads, bridges and port facilities, and toward projects such as light rail lines. These lines are sometimes useful, but largely impractical outside a few heavily traveled urban corridors. Essentially it means a transfer of subsidies from those who must drive cars to the relative handful for whom mass transit remains a viable alternative.

Priorities such as these may win plaudits in urban enclaves in New York, Boston and San Francisco – bastions of the gentry class and of under-35, childless professionals – but they might not be so widely appreciated in the car- and truck-driving Great Plains and the vast suburban archipelago, where half the nation's population lives.

If he wishes to enhance his power and keep the Democrats together, Mr. Obama will have to figure out how to placate both his gentry base and those Democrats who still see their party's mission in terms that Harry Truman would have understood.

This article originally appeared at Wall Street Journal.


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Book review "On The Future of Liberalism by Alan Wolfe"


Wolfe in sheep’s clothing?

by William D Gairdner

On The Future of Liberalism by Alan Wolfe.

A political ideology may usefully be defined as a structure of interdependent ideas. It is like a building: if you can falsify the foundational notions in critiquing it, the whole structure will collapse. Readers already comfortable with the political leanings and beliefs of Alan Wolfe, a political scientist at Boston College, will enjoy The Future of Liberalism because it will make them feel—especially since the election of Barack Obama—that they are safely ensconced on the cozy side of history.[1] His critics—I am one—will appreciate the book because it is rare to find quite so much earnest and contestable special-pleading for modern “liberalism” between two covers. It is a book that calls to mind the droll complaint that to do things like physics, or mathematics, or chemistry, you need a pencil, some paper, and a wastebasket. But to do political science, you don’t need the wastebasket.

A reviewer’s first duty to potential purchasers of a book, however, is to give them a clear sense of what it is about—and for that I am definitely going to need the wastebasket. Professor Wolfe has written a book interesting as much for its occasional nuggets of wisdom as for his display of polemical energy. From cover to cover he is galloping as hard as he can on what Laurence Sterne in his rollicking novel Tristram Shandy would certainly have described as his “hobby-horse.”

With respect to topic, tone, balance, and what Wolfe repeatedly calls “fairness,” he has done his evangelical best. He begins by defining and defending his terms by pigeonholing his mostly conservative enemies with humorless caricature, and throughout the book, he tries hard to distinguish and promote his personal and often heartfelt understanding of “liberalism” as the salvation of Western civilization. To his credit, what helps a reader stay the course until the end is Wolfe’s awareness of the objections he may be stimulating. He curtseys to them in a timely way, just as the reader has mentally lined them up. He also makes a point of frequently scolding liberals, not for being wrong, but for not being sufficiently Wolfian in their liberalism.

One of my main objections to the book as a whole, however, is that with the exception of a few of the better chapters that manage to stay on topic, page after page of this book feels like a rambling lecture from someone who has launched himself into the field of debate like a steel ball into a pinball machine of ideas. The ideas light up when the ball happens to hit them, but there is no hint of where it will head next. So I think the best way forward is to follow the ball and react to some of his core ideas.

Wolfe writes that liberalism should be championed “as a reminder of Americans’ connection to basic values that stretch back centuries.” The two core liberal values, he insists, are “freedom and equality,” and he locates them principally in the thinking of John Locke. The first objection to this statement is historical and moral. Locke himself and almost all the American Founders had a conception of virtue and the common good that was as clearly distinguished as can be imagined from the merely individual good and that, as President Clap of Yale asserted in 1765, demanded “conformity to the moral perfection of God.” The most important “basic value” back then was that anyone uttering Wolfe’s brand of hyper-individual, modern secular “tolerant” liberalism would have been considered an anti-social abominator out to destroy the bonds of community. The second objection is philosophical and was voiced in 1850 by Frédéric Bastiat when his philosophy of liberty was attacked by Alphonse de Lamartine because it did not include equality, and so, Lamartine argued, could not proceed to fraternity. Bastiat replied that the second part of such a program would always destroy the first, making the third impossible.

I have always told my children that liberty and equality (in the substantive sense of the latter that Wolfe says distinguishes liberals from conservatives today) are joined like a teeter-totter. As one goes up, the other must go down. This doesn’t seem to bother Wolfe, who in discussing the rights conceived by the French and American Revolutions claims that “there is a direct line from the ideals of those revolutions to the welfare states of the contemporary world.”

There is insufficient space here to demonstrate adequately the profoundly erroneous nature of this assertion. Suffice it to say that the American founding principle of equality had nothing to do with equalizing outcomes, and the French meaning of equality (spelled out in Article VI of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen) specifically stated that equality meant before the law only, and that all citizens are admissible to “dignities, positions, and employments, according to their ability, and on the basis of no other distinctions than that of their virtues and talents.” Not a scrap of affirmative action there (which did not, however, prevent the French from trying it).

Wolfe’s brand of liberalism is something else. He asserts that “as many people as possible should have as much say as is feasible over the direction their lives will take,” and that “if this requires an active role for government, then modern liberals are prepared to accept state intervention” (in the economy, moral life, sexual life, family life, regulation of speech, education, hiring, affirmative action, and many more domains). So there is the plain and simple —very simple—and quite contradictory, equation: government direction (that is, coercion) will make you free. Wolfe justifies this pro-state position with repetitive litanies of the fears and horrors consequent upon the folly of conservatism: unemployment, low pay, disease, old age, ignorance, hunger, poverty, war, prejudice, and so on. For good measure (just to show more “fairness”), he does offer plenty of policy directives by which even liberals “ought” to abide. (“Ought” is the most frequent word in his polemic). There is some honest insight, too. With respect to the “direct line” to the welfare state he imagines, Wolfe does mention the real reason for it, and it has to do with crass opportunism, and not with theory: “Once people get the idea into their heads that they deserve dignity and respect, they will see no reason to stop with procedure and [will] go all the way to substance.” But he has no objection to this.

Read the rest on the link!


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And Progressiveism faces the ultimate test:


Obama is in trouble

POSTED March 6, 2009 | 5:13 PM

Did you feel it? The political ground shifting beneath President Barack Obama since his speech last week to Congress? It's been  downhill since and I'm not referring mainly to the Dow Jones record-setting dive. The pivot point of the shift was the speech, or rather what the speech did to the evolving public narrative of Obama.

Let's review:

* Since the first of the year, Rush Limbaugh's audience has exploded , according to Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post, even as his daily assaults on Obama have intensified. The conservative Talk Radio maestro has become quite possibly the most listened-to radio personality in America since before Paul Harvey (God rest his soul).

Demand for his air time hs suddenly become so intense, Limbaugh told The Examiner's Byron York earlier today, that his network sold 80 percent as much advertising in January 2009 as it did in all of 2008, and expects to sell-out the year by the end of March. That was before Obama and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel launched an explicit counter-attack against Limbaugh that seems only to be making him bigger.

* Glenn Beck's eminently forgettable presence on CNN has been transformed, according to The Los Angeles Times, by his move to Fox News where his main theme has been variations on this question - Wake Up! Wake UP! What in Heaven's name does Barack Obama think he is doing to America? Beck has a tough time slot from which to win big ratings because he's in the middle of evening drive-time. Even so, in a very short period of time at Fox, his audience has grown to the point that it is now exceeded only by those of Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity.

* Obama remains personally popular with the public, but worries and even outright opposition to some of his cornerstone proposals are growing. Democrats in Congress are even beginning to express in public print their worries that Obama has reached too far with the $787 billion economic stimulus package, the $410 billion omnibus spending bill and the $3.6 trillion budget proposal (and the trillions more senior aides whisper are coming in further bailouts, loan guarantees, "tax cuts" that are really just grants, and other spending accountrements of Leviathan Unleashed.)

* Paralleling these developments, a potentially devastatng conservative case against Obama is coming together rapidly. Two influential columns this week tell the tale: On Thursday, Daniel Henninger offers this crucial observation in a WSJ piece otherwise devoted to asking why Republicans aren't more eagerly and quickly taking advantage of the fact the Obama Democrats have all but declared war on the 75 percent of the U.S. economy that is private and therefore productive of the nation's wealth:

"Beyond the stock market, there is a reason why, despite much goodwill toward his presidency, the Obama response to the faltering economy has left many feeling undone. There isn't much in his plan to stir the national soul. It's about 'sacrifice' now so that we can live for a future of small electric cars and windmills. This may move the Democratic Party's faith communities, but it cannot revive a great nation. If the Democrats want to embrace market failure as a basis for their ideology, let them have it. As politics, it's a downer."

The second column appeared today in The Washington Post and was written by Charles Krauthammer. Obama's mastery of public speaking has heretofore served to deflect attention away from the details of what he is actually proposing. And there is in those details, according to Krauthammer, a fundamental deception: Obama summons visions of catastrophe that are the result of too little government regulation of the financial markets and he offers as a solution vastly more government regulation of .... health care, energy and education.

"The 'day of reckoning' has now arrived. And because 'it is only by understanding how we arrived at this moment that we'll be able to lift ourselves out of this predicament,' Obama has come to redeem us with his far-seeing program of universal, heavily nationalized health care; a cap-and-trade tax on energy; and a major federalization of education with universal access to college as the goal.

"Amazing. As an explanation of our current economic difficulties, this is total fantasy. As a cure for rapidly growing joblessness, a massive destruction of wealth, a deepening worldwide recession, this is perhaps the greatest non sequitur ever foisted upon the American people," Krauthammer said.

In other words, Krauthammer said, Obama tries to have it both ways, with the alleged errors of deregulation being compounded into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression by America's failure to nationalize health care, shift our economy to alternative energy sources and give everybody a free pass to college. Obama is trying to make the cause and the cure synonymous. "Clever politics, but intellectually dishonest to the core," Krauthammer said.

I would only disagree that the Obama deception represents a clever political strategy. The deception proceeds from the fundamental contradiction in the Obama strategy - talking like Ronald Reagan but walking like the second coming of Norman Thomas - and indeed that of all Washington liberals. Sensing the political fragility of the moment, they are racing to enact as much of their statist agenda as possible before the 2010 election puts the brakes on what, God willing, will ultimately be seen as an unfortunate interregnum between Republican Bush and a genuinely conservative regime to come.

Again, the speech to Congress was the pivot point. Before the speech, Obama was protected by a kind of political equivalent of the Star Trek Shield. His symbolizing of an historic milestone, which alone moved millions of white voters to his column, combined with his soaring rhetoric, which negated criticism from John McCain and other Republicans of the substance of Obama's proposals, to protect him through election day and into the transition.

But the magnetism of his historic moment began fading once the economic stimulus, the omnibus and the budget were on the table. As people focused more on the details and how they didn't square with what they thought he had promised during the campaign, the soaring rhetoric lost much of its power. It may even now be approaching a net negative because it throws so much more light on the inaequacies of the policies.

And so the ground has shifted and the essential narrative is changing. Before, supporting Obama was an act of personal and national affirmation made all the more pleasant and attractive by the seeming reasonableness of his policy proposals and the winsomeness of his public personality . He succeeded admirably in making himself a comfortable and reassuring choice, thus making it not merely "safe" to vote for him, but positively compelling.

Now, though, the mask is off and the disconnect between rhetoric and reality is emerging as the dominant driver of the Obama narrative. The contrast is no longer between the young, personable, historic candidate Obama and a creaky, cranky old Republican White Guy, it's between what America thought it was getting in a President Obama (cool, reasonable and beyond partisanship) and what it now sees as the reality of a President Obama (government spending out of control, an uncertain hand on foreign policy, broken promises, more bureaucrats, etc. etc.).

Put another way - what we see now is neither what we were promised, nor what we expected.

Forgive me, please for saying so, but, if you read my Valentine's Day column on why Obama seemed locked in on a strategy that was likely to make him a one-term occupant of the White House, none of the above would come as a surprise to you. My only surprise today is that the shift has begun so quickly.


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Progressives and charitable giving:


Philanthropy and Its Enemies
Activists want to redistribute foundation wealth based on racial quotas.


Nonprofit leaders are reeling from the recent news that President Barack Obama's proposed budget would limit tax deductions on charitable contributions from wealthy Americans. But now the philanthropic world has something else to worry about. Today the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP), a research and advocacy group, will release a report offering "benchmarks to assess foundation performance." Its real aim is to push philanthropic organizations into ignoring donor intent and instead giving grants based on political considerations.

The committee is part of a rising tide of politicians and activists who are working to change the face of American philanthropy -- and not for the better.

The report, titled "Criteria for Philanthropy at its Best," advises foundations to "provide at least 50 percent of grant dollars to benefit lower-income communities, communities of color, and other marginalized groups, broadly defined." The committee looked at 809 of the largest foundations in the country, whose combined three-year grants totaled almost $15 billion, and concluded that the majority of foundations are "eschewing the needs of the most vulnerable in our society" by neglecting "marginalized groups."

Two years ago, an advocacy group in San Francisco called Greenlining began releasing similar reports. Greenlining's aim then was to pass legislation in California mandating that foundations report to the public the percentage of their dollars given to "minority-led" organizations and the percentage of their boards and staffs made up by racial and ethnic minorities. The legislation was dropped when several foundations promised to donate money to causes Greenlining favored.

Now Greenlining has put out reports in Florida, Pennsylvania and New York trying to shame foundations into distributing grants differently, as well as pressure them into recruiting more "diverse" board and staff members. The NCRP report picks up on this theme to suggest that foundation boards and staffs should include people with a "diversity of perspectives."

Earlier this year, the Council on Foundations, an umbrella organization for philanthropies, released a study called "Diversity and Inclusion: Lessons from the Field," in which the leaders of several foundations touted new steps they were taking to "embed diversity and inclusive practices" into their organizations. The head of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, for example, wrote that his organization decided to "strive to be an anti-racist institution." Representatives of the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation offered a head count of their board. The original donor, Charles Noyes, had chosen "family, friends and business associates as board members, all white with similar life experiences," they said, but now the foundation's board is 41% people of color and 71% female. The California Endowment bragged that it is giving money to Hispanics in Philanthropy and Funders for Lesbian and Gay Issues.

Does any of this have anything to do with effective giving? The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy begins its report with the premise that a grant maker "best serves the public good by contributing to a strong participatory democracy that engages all communities."

Really? What about the foundations founded to save whales or cure heart disease? Do they need to contribute to a participatory democracy? And who decides if a foundation is giving to a "marginalized" community anyway? The idea, put forward in the report, that giving grants to "large cultural or educational institutions" doesn't benefit minorities is offensive. Black people don't go to museums? Hispanics don't go to college?

Looking at the recipients of some grants doesn't tell you anything about who the real beneficiaries are. The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation is devoted to reforming K-12 education. It gives plenty of grants to white men studying schools. But if these grants lead to real reforms, presumably the biggest winners will be racial minorities, who are most at the mercy of bad public education. Eric Osberg, vice president of Fordham, finds the idea behind the NCRP report "worrisome." He says, "We see ourselves serving all communities by advocating more school choice, higher standards and better teachers in the classroom."

Which brings us to another one of NCRP's recommendations -- that at least 25% of grant dollars be used for "advocacy, organizing and civic engagement to promote equity, opportunity and justice in our society."

This might be a worthy mission, but whose mission is it? Philanthropists give money to foundations with a particular cause in mind. And promoting "justice in our society" may not have anything to do with it. Indeed, foundations that redirect funding to match the NCRP criteria may have to violate donor intent in order to do so.

The best way for a donor to make sure that his money is given for the purposes he wants is to choose people for his board who agree with him. Whether these people are family members, co-religionists or old college buddies, what is important is that they share his philanthropic vision.

This seems to be of little importance to the folks at Greenlining, the Council on Foundations and the NCRP. The committee's report argues that "diverse groups make better decisions and that a minimum of five people are needed for a plurality of perspectives to reflect collective or social preferences." But foundations are not legislatures, and their purpose isn't to reflect the preferences of society as a whole.

This same coalition of groups has argued that because foundations are tax-exempt organizations, they should yield to pressure to serve public interests. But by this logic, the public has a right to tell you what to do with your house because you took a mortgage deduction on your income taxes last year.

If foundations are supposed to align their funding with public preferences, then why should they give grants at all? Why not just direct donor checks to the IRS? Indeed, if every foundation adhered to NCRP's recommendations, the world of philanthropy would look curiously monolithic. The diversity among foundations is not measurable by simplistic racial and gender head counts.

What makes Americans give billions each year is not pressure from activists or government mandates. It is a diversity of interests, freely chosen and passionately pursued.

Ms. Riley is the Journal's deputy Taste editor.


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Progressiveism has consequences:


Government and Moral Hazards
Posted by Shannon Love on March 17th, 2009 (All posts by Shannon Love)

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Sometimes, I hate Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit. I started writing a post on moral hazards in the financial system last night and then I pop onto Instapundit today to find a link to a Popular Mechanics’ article he wrote about moral hazards. He even uses the example of auto safety improvements that I intended to use.


Glenn makes something like the  point I intended to make:

This approach could be taken beyond the world of personal transportation. We’re in the current financial mess in part because things that were actually dangerous—from subprime mortgages to risky financial instruments that no one fully understood—felt safe and ordinary. Modern financial markets, with computers, regulations, deposit insurance and bond ratings, felt as routine and as smooth as that four-lane highway in Spain, causing a lot of people who should have been paying attention to doze off. Investors might have been more careful if it had felt like they were driving down a twisty mountain road with no guardrails, especially since we really were engaged in the financial equivalent of high-speed mountain driving, only without the discipline of fear.

The current financial crises definitely resulted from government generated moral risk. The massive federal government created and managed enterprises, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and the Federal Home Loan Banks, aka Flubs, (henceforth, collectively the GSEs) are ground-zero for the crises. They were simply too big not to dramatically impact the market. Collectively, the GSE purchase half the mortgages issued in the U.S. Collectively, they issued most of the mortgage-backed securities (MSBs) currently in circulation. By design, these institutions created a vast moral hazard that built up over four decades until the system collapsed under the weight of risky behavior.

The GSEs created moral risk in several ways.

(1) By design, the GSEs separated the profit earned from a particular mortgage from the risk of issuing that mortgage. Prior to the GSEs most institutions who issued a mortgage had to hold the mortgage, because few people would trust a private institution’s judgement about the safety of the mortgages it issued but did not keep in-house. If the borrower defaulted then the mortgage issuer lost money. This created a strong feedback system that tied benefit and risk tightly together. Politicians decided that this aversion to risk caused lenders to loan to conservatively so they created the GSEs to remove the risk from issuing mortgages.  Now, the only feedback on the risk of mortgage came from the GSEs and with their government backing they paid far less attention to risk posed by mortgages.

By analogy to autos, this is the same effect you would get if the government started providing free, full coverage, no-fault collision insurance.  Suddenly, the economic risk from dangerous driving would disappear. People would no longer have a financial incentive to avoid fender benders nor would they worry that risky driving would raise their insurance rates. Everyone can see this kind of moral hazard clearly but most have a problem seeing the same moral hazard in the financial system. 

(2) By design, the GSEs hid the hazard of buying their MSBs by using their implied government guarantee. With private MSBs, the purchaser of the MSB has to trust that the seller has correctly calculated the risk of the collection individual mortgages that back each unit of the security. Again, prior to the GSEs, few people would take that risk. Privately issued MSBs covered only a few percent of the residential real estate market and those mostly dealt with high value properties that historically held their value in good times and bad. The GSEs solved this “problem” in two ways. First, they used the presumption of political oversight and regulation (which in fact turned out not to exist) to convince buyers that the GSE would properly calculate the risk of the mortgages the GSEs bought. Second, they used the implied guarantee to assure buyers that even if the GSEs made a mistake, the government would make good the payout on the securities.

By analogy with autos, this is the same effect you would get if the government claimed to protect against lemons at an auto dealer. Imagine if an auto dealer could claim that (a) the government checked the dealer’s car inventory for lemons and that (b) the government implied it would make good any financial loses that a buyer might incur if they got a lemon anyway. How carefully would people check out cars before they bought them?

(3) By design, the GSEs had much better credit ratings than did any private actors. All credit-rating agencies, both in America and overseas, rated the GSEs as much safer than their private sector counterparts, due solely to their presumed government oversight and backing. This in turn made insurance against their defaults, called Credit-Default Swaps (CDSs) much cheaper than they should have been. Since most CDS issuers hedged by bundling GSE based CDSs with private ones, this artificially lowered the prices of all CDSs.

By analogy with autos, this is the same effect you would get if the government generated the actuarial tables for auto insurance to make accidents seem less common than they actually were. Auto insurance would be cheaper but the entire industry would be built on a flawed understanding of the risk of driving. Also, imagine that it turns out that the government wouldn’t pay for damages and lemons and that the insurance companies had to take up the entire slack.

So, by extended analogy, imagine an automobile based transportation system in which people (a) paid no financial penalty for reckless driving, (b) paid little attention to the mechanical quality of the cars they purchased and (c) private insurance companies operated on faulty accident statistics. Eventually, such a system would collapse. People would recklessly drive unsafe cars and the auto insurance companies would go bankrupt trying to pay damages. 

This vast moral hazard explains most of the financial collapse. Lenders issued increasingly risky mortgages because like government insured drivers, they paid no penalty for making risky loans. Buyers of MSBs ignored the dangers of MSBs because, like those protected against lemons, they assumed that the MSBs were safe. Insurers charged to little for MSB default insurance because, like insurance companies using government statistics to price risk, they misjudged the true risk of MSBs.

I can’t repeat this often enough: By design, the GSEs were intended to distort the markets in favor of more risky lending and that is exactly what we got. The private institutions that failed did so because they (a) mimicked the business model and practices of the GSEs, (b) bought GSE-issued MBSs, and GSE stock, based on their high ratings and/or (3) issued insurance against the default of the GSEs’ MBSs based on their high ratings.

Without the GSEs, the circumstances of the collapse would have never developed. Fewer of us would have cars and we would pay higher insurance but the cars we did have would be mechanically safer, we would drive them safer and our auto insurance could pay out if we had an accident. Instead, our political impulse to get something for nothing has led us to the financial equivalent of a nationwide pileup of rust heaps driven by meth-crazed teenagers.


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Summing Up Socialism Perfectly

From Theo Spark:

    Experiment in Socialism

    An economics professor at Texas Tech said he had never failed a single student before but had, once, failed an entire class. The class had insisted that socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer. The professor then said, "OK, we will have an experiment in this class on socialism."

    All grades would be averaged and everyone would receive the same grade so no one would fail and no one would receive an A. After the first test the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. But, as the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided that since they could not make an A, they studied less. The second Test average was a D! No one was happy. When the 3rd test rolled around the average was an F.

    The scores never increased as bickering, blame, name calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for anyone else. All failed to their great surprise and the professor told them that socialism would ultimately fail because the harder people try to succeed the greater their reward but when a government takes all the reward away; no one will try or succeed.

Did you ever notice that your socialist "friends" demand equal wage for equal work ... that they get indignant when they are deprived of their fare share or renumeration for a job well done? Did you notice how many of them engage in capitalist projects like owning revenue properties? And, did you notice how many among the socialist elite take in large incomes, vastly greater than those they depend on for power? Strange that.


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Something I had always suspected is now confirmed: the "Progressives" use Freikorps tactics to try and shut down discussion and possible dissent:


BREITBART: Online activists on the right, unite!
Andrew Breitbart


A digital war has broken out, and the conservative movement is losing. Read the comment sections of right-leaning blogs, news sites and social forums, and the evidence is there in ugly abundance. Internet hooligans are spewing their talking points to thwart the dissent of the newly-out-of-power.

We must not let that go unanswered.

Uninvited Democratic activists are on a mission to demoralize the enemy - us. They want to ensure that President Obama is not subject to the same coordinated, facts-be-damned, multimedia takedown they employed over eight long years to destroy the presidency - and the humanity - of George W. Bush.

Political leftists play for keeps. They are willing to lie, perform deceptive acts in a coordinated fashion and do so in a wicked way - all in the pursuit of victory. Moral relativism is alive and well in the land of Hope and Change and its Web-savvy youth brigade expresses its "idealism" in a most cynical fashion.

The ends justify the means for them - now more than ever.

Much of Mr. Obama's vaunted online strategy involved utilizing "Internet trolls" to invade enemy lines under false names and trying to derail discussion. In the real world, that's called "vandalism." But in a political movement that embraces "graffiti" as avant-garde art , that's business as usual. It relishes the ability to destroy other people's property in pursuit of electoral victory.

Hugh Hewitt's popular site shut off its comments section because of the success of these obnoxious invaders. Breitbart.com polices nonpartisan newswire stories for such obviously coordinated attacks. Other right-leaning sites such as Instapundit and National Review Online refuse to allow comments, knowing better than to flirt with the online activist left.

During the Clinton impeachment scandal, a new group out of California called MoveOn.org employed a plan to get its members to dial into right-leaning talk radio shows with scripted talking points falsely claiming that they were Republicans. They said they would never vote for the GOP again if the case against Bill Clinton was pursued.

Rush Limbaugh was the first to isolate these "seminar callers," whose mission during the Lewinsky mess was to fool the listening audience into believing they were outraged conservatives willing to cut their ties to the Republican Party if the GOP-led Congress continued down the impeachment path.

Eleven years later, "seminar callers" abound and call screeners are trained in the art of weeding them out. But the filtering does not always work.

"This is nothing more than the Internet version of Soviet disinformation," Human Events editor Jed Babbin told me. "MoveOn.org and the little boys from 'Lord of the Flies' who run Media Matters want to make it appear that there's huge dissension within conservative ranks on issues on which we're most united."

The left also uses disinformation to inundate the advertisers of conservative-leaning talk shows to intimidate them from financially supporting popular mainstream shows.

Media Matters even offered its services to an autism support group in its attempt to bring down talk-show host Michael Savage. It had nothing to do with Mr. Savage's underlying offense. Would Media Matters go after Keith Olbermann if he made a tirade against the afflicted? David Brock and company certainly didn't raise a peep when President Obama made a joke at the expense of the Special Olympics.

So now that the right is vanquished and thoroughly out of power, why doesn't it learn from its conquerors and employ similar tactics?

The answer is obvious. The right, for the most part, embraces basic Judeo-Christian ideals and would not promote nor defend the propaganda techniques that were perfected in godless communist and socialist regimes. The current political and media environment crafted by supposedly idealistic Mr. Obama resembles Hugo Chavez's Venezuela more than John F. Kennedy's America.

The Huffington Post, Daily Kos and other left-leaning sites benefit from the right's belief that there are rules and decorum in political debate and civic engagement. Of course, every now and then, a curious right-winger will go in and engage in discussion at a left-wing site, but rarely under purely disingenuous and mass coordinated means.

David Brock, John Podesta, am I missing something?

As a prolific consumer of online content, I value nothing more than the sincere expression of opinion that differs from mine. Sometimes I am even moved or swayed from my dogma. But that was not the type of communication that got Mr. Obama elected.

The American right is in a heap of trouble in a media age that doesn't shun the goons and liars that have poisoned the political process and won the American presidency by breaking the rules of fair play. It is time to fight back, but it won't be easy. The enemy is willing to do and say anything in order to win.

• Andrew Breitbart is the founder of the news Web site www.breitbart.com and is co-author of "Hollywood Interrupted: Insanity Chic in Babylon - the Case Against Celebrity."


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Brad Sallows said:
>If the Conservatives believed that the best way to deal with the situation was fiscal prudence, then why didn't they make the case to Canadians, explain that the recession won't affect Canada as badly as the US, and that the most responsible, optimal solution is in continuing with the November fiscal update?

They did make that case.  But the political reality is that the Opposition parties agreed to replace the Conservative government given an opportunity and to spend approximately $30 billion, so the Conservative government prorogued the opportunity and proposed - in general outline - the Opposition's budget, in order to remain the governing party.  The Liberal fraction of the Opposition is satisfied that enough of its demands have been met, so this Parliament continues.
I also believe that allowing a recession to morph into a depression is a terrible idea, regardless of party affiliation. For my money I'd take the stagflation of the 1970's over a repeat of the Great Depression (or for that matter the Panic of 1907) any day.


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I grew up during the Stagflation, and now that I understand what was happening, I wouldn't take that either.

The Obama administration, the McGuinty government and the Federal parties (all of them) have given us an unsustainable bill, and here are the end results:


To my Daughter

It’s difficult to express how proud I am of you. You are a remarkable, pretty, smart and talented young woman. A number of years ago we started you on piano lessons. You decided it wasn’t for you and stopped, but a seed was clearly planted. A couple of years later you began piano again, impressively teaching yourself. As I sit and listen to you play music that is well beyond a difficulty level any reasonable person would expect, and playing it well, I am awed at what you have accomplished.

You are even more impressive as an artist, even though you are loathe to admit it. The award you will soon be awarded by the Hespeler Legion for your Remembrance Day poster will attest to your skill. There are times when you draw something and I am simply speechless. Your ability is stunning: your picture from two years ago, which your Principal kept in his office for the year, and later, a teacher requested to be allowed to keep it for her own home, proves that I speak not just as a parent with an uncritical eye.

You have never been athletic. Your first foray into sports was baseball when you were barely tall enough to hold the bat. You, and your then BFF were adorable to watch and I have rarely enjoyed baseball more. But you weren’t very good - you weren’t really expected to be - and by years end, you were too scared of the ball to have any hope of ever hitting it. It would be years before you lost that fear, and that is why I was so surprised three years ago to learn you were on the volleyball team. Your friends talked you into it, and although you never enjoyed it, you played with a smile. As you always do when your unsure, you listened to the coach, worked hard and took your task seriously. You were never the best player on the team, never got the game winning spike, but as a result of your tenacity and maturity, you never cost your team the game either.

Now you are looking for your first job, and as you look to start your work life, your latest act of generosity truly astounds. You see, you have given your mother and me $1,000, to do with as we please. My choice is to buy a laptop, and get this blog out of the basement, into the light of the kitchen. To be sure, you probably didn’t know you gave us this money, and your brother will share in the costs, but it is still overly generous.

In the next year your mother and I will receive three cheques, signed Dwight Duncan and Dalton McGuinty no doubt, from the Province of Ontario totalling $1,000. While on the surface, it may appear the above mention gentlemen are providing this windfall, let us not kid ourselves where the money is rally coming from. When Mr. Duncan announced this gift, he also announced a budget deficit of $56B over the next 7 years. This means that as I approach my mid-50’s and look to end my productive years, and you begin your career, the bill will come due for that $1,000. It will not be me who pays that bill, and it certainly won’t be Messrs. Duncan and McGuinty, but you.

Of course, in seven years it won’t be $1,000, it will be $1,400. Sometime in the next seven or so years, over the course of your education, somebody is going to teach you about “the magic of compounding,” and they will call it that. They will treat compounding as a good thing, that the pennies your bank gives you to freely use your money will one day turn into dollars, tens of dollars even. Here’s the lesson they won’t give: The Government of Ontario borrows $1,000, and sends it to your dad to buy a new laptop, all the better to blog with, my dear. When the government borrows money, it pays it back at a premium of $57.60 for that $1,000. If they borrow the money this year, and pay it back next year, they pay back $1,057.60. But the government has already said they won’t pay it back for at least seven years. Here’s the part that’s magic: in the second year they don’t pay an extra 57.60 on $1,000, they pay $60.92 on $1,057.60. This way the debt “ magically” grows to the  point where after seven years they are paying $80.00 interest on $1,400. By this magic method, it takes only fourteen years for that $1,000 to become $2,000.

However, you probably shouldn’t worry too much about the $2,000, we’ll just add it on to the $15,000 you already owe, which of course by the time they stop borrowing in seven years will be $21,000, plus any extra they have borrowed. That’s the problem with borrowing money: $1,000 here and $1,000 there and pretty soon your talking real money.

But don’t think about that now. Instead, understand how much I appreciate my new laptop, or your mother her new desk or… who am I kidding: how much we’ll all enjoy beer and popcorn night. The beer will be for me, and the popcorn for you, which is appropriate: as I relax and enjoy my new found money, your debt will be growing like popcorn in hot oil.

Now imagine the effects of compound interest on my children who are 8 and 13 respectively....


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Without comment:


Future Present

Posted on March 29th, 2009 by Scipio

Our archeologist, while rummaging among the ruins of our fallen civilization, met a ghost from the long dead race of Americans. The wraith boasted much about what we had been as a people.

We died in the hundreds of thousands to end slavery here and around the world.

We invented Jazz.

We wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg address.

We went to the moon to see how far we could hit a golf ball.

We lifted a telescope into orbit that could see to the edge of the universe.

When people snuck into the country against our laws, we made parking lots and food stands off to the side of the road so they wouldn’t get hurt, and we let them use our hospitals for free, and we made their children citizens.

We didn’t care what God you worshipped as long as we could worship ours.

We let the People arm themselves at will. Just to make sure.

We gave everybody the vote.

We built Disneyworld. Just for fun.

We had a revolution so successful it was still going strong two and a quarter centuries later.

We had so many heroes, even at the end, that we felt free to hate them and burn them in effigy.

We electrified the guitar.

We invented a music so compelling that it rocked the world.

The archeologist asked, “If you accomplished all of this, then why did your nation collapse?” The ghost answered, “Because we went insane.”

“Please explain.”

The ghost took a breath and said, “We traded beauty for ugliness, truth for lies, liberty for comfort, love for indifference, responsibility for frivolity, duty for entertainment, history for sound bites, and children for pleasure. We had gold, but we tossed it aside and replaced it with cleverly designed dross. We turned men into women and women into men and marveled at our new creative power. We stopped looking up to Heaven and began to keep our gaze firmly fixed on the ground. We abandoned the old God for a host of hip, cool and slick new ones.”


“Those new gods turned on us. At first they granted us our every wish. They laughed with us. They danced with us. We all ate, drank and made all sorts of merry. All of us exulted in our power. And then…” Here the ghost stopped for a moment. His mouth was half open as if trying to speak. His body shuddered as it remembered an ancient terror. “But there were some among us who felt something was wrong, dreadfully wrong.”

“How so?”

“They warned us, you know. They begged us to cease our national madness and return to the days of our forefathers. At first they were just annoying, and we laughed at them. But they became louder and more insistent, and so we asked our new gods to rid us of the pests. And they did. Our gods simply required that we all get special marks on our bodies, but the pests refused to get them. But soon they began to disappear. Terrifying stories emerged about their fate, but we closed our ears and our eyes. Soon the few that remained ran off to the hills. Sometimes we would hear about them, but mostly they vanished from our memory. We were glad that they were gone, and we all laughed together and rolled with the good times. But…”


“We began to change. Where we had once looked into the mirror and seen men, now we saw animals, beasts in fact. Some of us even seemed to walk on all fours and make animal sounds. We prayed to our gods, and they answered that all was well, that we were becoming as they were, that we were becoming as gods. And then things began to break down.”

“What things?”

“Everything. Our machines, our laws, our finances, our systems of government and trade—they all seemed to rust away and no one any longer understood how they had functioned. There arose among us those who claimed to be able to fix things. They promised they could return us to the good times. We marveled at their speech, their handsomeness, their resumes, their attire. They seemed to be especially blessed by our gods. But something was odd about them.”


“They never smiled. Ever. We thought it was because of their deep concern for us. We believed these men and placed them over us. But things became worse, much worse. Our new rulers demanded more of our treasure and we gave it. Our new rulers demanded more of our children and we surrendered them. Our new rulers demanded that we live only in certain areas, join only certain groups, think only certain things and say only certain words. They said that all of this was necessary for the good of us all. Soon the way we had been just faded away. It seemed that we had always had these men over us, that we had always given them what they demanded. We began to see pictures of these men everywhere, even in our homes, even in our empty churches. More and more of us started to walk on all fours and make the sounds of animals. Those that did looked content.”

“And what about you?” laughed the archeologist as he shook his head. “Did you go on all fours?”

“No. I remained standing until the end.”

“The end?”

“It happened suddenly. There was that knock on my door, a bunch of uniformed men, some yelling. I called upon my wife and children, but they were on all fours braying like donkeys. I began to scream. My best friend across the hall opened his door to see what was happening, but then he went on all fours and started to low. I ran and the men chased me. I made it into the street. Everyone I passed was on all fours. Some were barking and some were cackling. Some were yelping like hyenas. I prayed to the gods that they might save me. But they laughed, and it was an odd sound, like the laughter of demons. There was pain like shafts of heat passing through me, a rush of warm liquid, and then all was darkness. And now I am here walking among these ruins and talking to you.”

The archeologist thought for a bit, and then leaned into the ghost and asked him in a lowered voice, almost a whisper, “So what about those old stories of Heaven and Hell? Are they true?”

“Yes. They are true.”

The man’s eyes grew wide. “Then where did you go when you died?”

“I was shown both of them. In Hell there were still all those images of our rulers. And everyone there was on all fours and making animal sounds. In Heaven I saw men walking and speaking. And there was music. I had forgotten what music sounded like. And there were none of those images.”

“Then why did you not stay?”

“I was told to come here and warn you.”

“Warn me? About what?”

But the ghost was silent. He smiled and seemed to be slowly backing away from the archeologist. At last he just faded away.

The man stood for a moment, shuddered and then walked away from the ruins. On the way home he saw the same things he had always seen, but now for the first time in memory they shocked him—streets covered with images of the rulers, lines upon lines of people on all fours making the sounds of animals, rust everywhere. He stared at the mark on his hand, and tried to rub it off. But it would not come off, it would never come off.

And all around him was heard the laughter of demons.


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What the ghost really showed the archaeologist about what happened to America...




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Ayn Rand meets George Orwell:


Topic: Censorship
"Atlas Shrugged": Why has Wikipedia Removed Key Elements?

What happens when you combine 1984 and Atlas Shrugged? You get a Wikipedia entry that begins to redefine what the key elements are. Why is this occurring?
by EJ Moosa
Monday, March 30, 2009
What happens when you combine "1984" by George Orwell and "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand? You get a Wikipedia entry that begins to redefine what the key elements are. You get a level of censorship that defies belief. Why is this occurring?

[link edited for length]

"Atlas Shrugged" is enjoying a resurgence of readership, and is one of the top selling fiction books at Amazon.com. I can only hope folks are reading this book, and not relying upon Wikipedia to understand the themes. There is a major theme that is missing: The Failure of Government.

Search for the "Anti Dog Eat Dog rule". Or for the "Equalization of Opportunity" bill.  Your search results will show a reference to Wikipedia's page about Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. If you use Google or Yahoo for those search terms, you will see the Wikipedia page on "Atlas Shrugged" listed as a website that has that term. 

Now search on that page for either of the above two search phrases. What do you find? Any references to them are gone from the Wikipedia entry. Search for any of the legislation passed to control private enterprise.  It's no longer there.

What is the reason that the references to these failed government actions have been deleted from the Wikipedia page on "Atlas Shrugged"? I have my theories. I would like to hear yours.
Will the entry for "Atlas Shrugged"  continue to be redefined slowly, eliminating the final references to failed government policies and actions, so that just becomes a fiction novel about anything but the failure of government?

The reason this book is popular is not because it is about railroads, sex, or futuristic engines.  The book is popular because it is about the abject failure of a government when they try to pick the winners, share the wealth, and intervene where they do not understand how things really function. 

In "1984" by George Orwell, the past is constantly being revised to control the future. Is this what is happening at Wikipedia? Are they attempting to control the content to shape the future? If so, they are off to a great start. You need to keep your ears and eyes open. This is only the start.

"He who controls the past controls the future.  He who controls the present controls the past".--from "1984" by George Orwell.

Who is controlling the present?

IF Wikipedia continues with its practice of banning members who attempt to undo these revisions (like they did when scrubbing Barack Obama's page) then it will be very difficult to undo these changes, and the Wikipedia staff will be able to stuff Atlas Shrugged down the memory hole. Luckily, sales of Atlas Shrugged are going through the roof, but how many others are not as lucky?

Brad Sallows

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>I also believe that allowing a recession to morph into a depression is a terrible idea, regardless of party affiliation.

I agree.  But the Depression was largely created and prolonged by bad government policy.  While not all of the policy mistakes of the Depression are being repeated, some are.  There will also be new mistakes.  The colossal movement to spend is going to create problems for ordinary people now (and more in the future) and, when the cracks appear, exacerbate international tensions.  I see the headlines today bragging about promised "injections of $1 trillion" by the G20 (assuming it is not some April Fools' joke), as if there was a way governments could conjure money out of nothing to "inject".  All they can do is reallocate current and future revenues, or print money (and thus devalue the "$1 trillion" even as they attempt to fabricate its existence as anything other than arbitrary reassignment of possession).

There seem to be a lot of people who think the politicians and mandarins know what they are doing.  They don't.  They have no predictive science to speak of, or prior examples matching these circumstances, to show the correct path.  They are pig-ignorant, and willing to spend any amount of money to avoid being thrown out of office or held to account.  What they are not willing to do is allow events to unfold without being seen to be in charge.  With luck, most of the new fascists will earn Mussolini's reward well before they have a chance to grow old in peace and be forgotten by the generation that has to pay for this.

In the mid-'80s, as the federal government gripped the revenue vs expenditure imbalance but was helpless to cover the cost of existing debt, I assumed I would be taxed throughout my adult life to pay for whatever programs and assets and other "positives" we might have gained during the massive overspending of the prior decade.  As the revenue vs expenditure + deb cost gap closed to where it could be strangled by a relatively modest spending cut in the late '90s, I assumed 20 years of healthy surpluses would see the net debt extinguished.  I did not imagine that we would not only punt that debt again, but punt a second one right behind it.


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The real story behind George Galloway's Canadian visit. Notice the difference between what was commonly reported and what actually happened:


This Is Not A Story About Free Speech. This Is Not A Story About National Security.

(UPDATE: The full half-hour CHQR World Tonight radio interview version of this post's contents is here).

In his contribution to the cacophony about L’affaire Galloway, Christopher Hitchens is not wrong in the substance of the opinions he expresses here. It is just that they are wholly immaterial to the matter at hand. Hitchens is wholly wrong in his assumptions. He didn’t do a lick of homework. He fails, and fails utterly.

(UPDATE II: Appended to his Slate column today, Christopher writes: In my last column, it seems I may have done an injustice to the government and people of Canada in the matter of George Galloway's canceled visit to that country. For elucidation, please consult the following blog post. For my part, let me say it was not so much that Hitchens didn't do a lick of homework, but that the references he relied upon - Canada's national newspapers - are what led him astray).

The pretended difficulties that the fascist thug George Galloway has encountered in making his Canadian appointments are of his own construction and design. This has nothing to do with Geert Wilders, Skokie, or Jean Marie Le Pen. It certainly not about “the risk of giving the power of censorship to any official.” It is not really a story about Canada's national security, either. None of these things are at stake here, any more than it was ever going to matter who won or lost when Galloway’s Canadian friends launched a court case to try and get Galloway in, the roundabout way.

This is a media circus of the same sort as the midway freak shows that involve displays of Britney Spears as she’s caught driving her SUV with a suckling infant on her lap, or Amy Winehouse snorting coke in a leaked home video. Dress it up anyway you like, that is the function the Galloway rumpus-making serves the news media.

Nevertheless, in the real world, something rather important did happen, and it actually did involve George Galloway.

A couple of weeks ago, a Canadian High Commission official in London had a conversation with someone in George Galloway’s parliamentary staff about the MP’s travel plans. The official then showed George Galloway the personal courtesy of writing him directly to advise him that a preliminary assessment of his admissibility to Canada was not favourable.

In that letter, Immigration Program Manager Robert J. Orr politely referred Galloway to certain provisions of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, specifically, Section 34 (1), which, among other things, cites “engaging in terrorism” as grounds to prevent a person from entering Canada. This provision concerns itself with the national security of peoples in faraway places; in this instance, with the security of the Palestinian people, and the Israeli people. In Canada, engaging in terrorism includes raising money for terrorist groups. In Canada, the death cult Hamas, the worst enemy the cause of Palestinian freedom has ever faced, is listed as a proscribed terrorist group.

Mere days before Orr wrote his letter, Galloway had delivered roughly $2 million (Cdn.) in vehicles, various goods and cash, directly to Hamas boss Ismail Haniyeh. Galloway boasted about this, and openly dared British and European authorities to charge him for breaking the sanctions against Hamas, and he went so far as to stage an event for Al Jazeera television in which he handed over a wad of cash in the equivalent of about $50,000 (Cdn.) directly to Haniyeh. Around the time Orr was composing his letter to Galloway, the British Charity Commission was preparing an investigation into the transactions Galloway was involved with in Gaza.

There is nothing occult about any of this.

In his letter, Orr noted that Galloway was not expected to make his Canadian appointments before March 30, and so he extended to Galloway the further courtesy of inviting him to make a submission to address his preliminary assessment of inadmissibility. The alternative would be that a Border Services Agency official might find himself obliged to make a final determination at some border crossing, informed only by the preliminary assessment, but without the benefit of a submission from Galloway himself. Orr also suggested an alternative to Galloway, to apply for a Temporary Resident Permit, but he also showed Galloway the further kindness of letting him know that it would be unlikely that such an application would succeed.

Instead of proceeding as he was so politely invited, Galloway had a Canadian law firm dash off a letter to Orr that included a citation from Galloway's Wikipedia entry, a denial that he was a member of Hamas, a complaint about Ottawa's affections for Israel, and several other subject-changing diversions. The letter did not deny (because it could not deny) what Galloway had openly boasted of doing.

Galloway hasn't even tried to enter Canada, remember. Instead, he has taken the opportunity to combine with his Canadian admirers to exploit the gullibility and general slovenliness of the press in order to tell a pack of lies, monger a lurid conspiracy theory about a secret plot hatched in Ottawa to silence critics of Canada’s engagements in Afghanistan, fabricate a free-speech controversy, and blame it all on the Jews.

That’s the story Hitchens missed, but he needn't feel lonely, because he wasn't the only one. It is a rare thing, though, when Christopher Hitchens falls for a story that never even happened. In all the foreign and domestic sniggerings, objections, protests and complaints about the way Canada and its officials have handled the Galloway file, you will have to look very hard before you find one - just one - that does not wholly depend upon an embarassing error of fact, a delusion, a conspiracy theory, or an outright lie.

Try it. You will be looking for a long, long time (see also Comrade Weiss, who has opened up a southern front for us on this point in The New Criterion).

To be clear: Despite what all Galloway's friends will tell you, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney did not ban George Galloway from speaking in Canada, or from not speaking in Canada, and neither did any Canadian official do anything of the kind, either. It did not happen. It did not occur. And it won't do to say, well, yes, but however you put it, the whole thing has only only served to draw more attention to Galloway and his "odious opinions." Something has given Galloway the attention he craves, to be sure. But he hasn't been given anything like the attention he properly deserves, and as for why this is so, well, that is a very good question. It is one of the more important questions raised by this whole affair, so I'll take a shot at answering it.

The bigger story in which l'affaire Galloway is a kind of defining moment involves a phenomenon that is playing out on the same tectonic scale as the emergence of a distinctly Canadian democratic socialism in the 1930s, the Quiet Revolution in Quebec in the 1960s, and the rise of libertarian prairie populism in the 1990s. As is often the case in such upheavals, journalists are the last to notice.

Something wholly new is emerging in Canada, in all the spaces where the Left used to be, in its activist constituencies, its traditional institutions, and its lexicon. Whatever name you want to give the thing, its noticeable features include a betrayal of progressive internationalism, a pathetic weakness for conspiracy theories, and a routine apologetics for antisemitism and terror. Its outlook is generally parochial, but its global engagements tend to align with fascism’s contemporary Islamist variants, even to the point of objective support for the Taliban.

To read most Canadian newspapers, you probably wouldn't have a clue that any of this was going on.

When Galloway visited Ottawa two years ago, he was every bit as famous as he is now. He was the guest of honour at a publicly-advertised 74th birthday party for the Syrian Social Nationalist Party. The SSNP is an unambiguously fascist movement with shiny boots and uniforms, its own distinctive swastika, and an anthem sung to the tune of Deutschland, Deutschland, Uber Alles.

Not one Canadian news organization reported Galloway’s Ottawa visit.

In these ways, a dirty thing goes unreported when it shows its true face, but when it shows the face it wants us to see, it is "widely reported," and this is the face the news media has grown accustomed to presenting to us. In these ways, stenography masquerades as journalism, and journalism becomes something else again. Remember: the "news story" about Galloway that ended up going viral these past few days never even happened.

In that story, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney became so frightened that Galloway would say something fatally witty about Canada’s mission in Afghanistan that he lost his mind and invoked some little known police-state power to keep Galloway out of the country, and thus irretrievably contaminated Canada’s vital bodily free-speech fluids.

This is the story we were all invited to freely discuss. To guide us in our deliberations, the usual pundits took pains to affirm the virtue of their own avant-garde tastes and prejudices by condescending to explain that Galloway is really just a flamboyant British philanthropist, and Ottawa was being mean to him because of his humanitarian work among the Palestinians, and well, you know, the Jews were being beastly about it.

Do you notice how this commentariat consensus wouldn't be so ubiquitous if some Zionist cabal was controlling the media in Canada? Good. Thank you for noticing. Here's something else you will want to notice.

George Galloway is what we used to call a fascist thug. But nowadays, his Canadian fan base, his megaphone-carriers and his booking agents include New Democratic Party MPs, Bloc MPs, the Council of Canadians, the Ottawa Peace Assembly and a legion of student leaders, trade unionists and “anti-war” activists.

Whatever name you want to give this phenomenon, it hasn't been getting the attention it properly deserves. It's been underway for quite some time.

We should be paying attention.


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But we worked so hard to elect "the one"....

The Plum LineGreg Sargent's blog
Big Liberal Bloggers Tee Off On Progressive Groups For Not Sharing Ad Wealth
Some of the leading liberal bloggers are privately furious with the major progressive groups — and in some cases, the Democratic Party committees — for failing to spend money advertising on their sites, even as these groups constantly ask the bloggers for free assistance in driving their message.

It’s a development that’s creating tensions on the left and raises questions about the future role of the blogosphere at a time when a Dem is in the White House and liberalism could be headed for a period of sustained ascendancy.

A number of these top bloggers agreed to come on record with me after privately arguing to these groups that they deserved a share in the ad wealth and couldn’t be taken for granted any longer.

“They come to us, expecting us to give them free publicity, and we do, but it’s not a two way street,” Jane Hamsher, the founder of FiredogLake, said in an interview. “They won’t do anything in return. They’re not advertising with us. They’re not offering fellowships. They’re not doing anything to help financially, and people are growing increasingly resentful.”

Hamsher singled out Americans United for Change, which raises and spends big money on TV ad campaigns driving Obama’s agenda, as well as the constellation of groups associated with it, and the American Association of Retired Persons, also a big TV advertiser.

“Most want the easy way — having a big blogger promote their agenda,” adds Markos Moulitsas, the founder of DailyKos. “Then they turn around and spend $50K for a one-page ad in the New York Times or whatever.” Moulitsas adds that officials at such groups often do nothing to engage the sites’s audiences by, say, writing posts, instead wanting the bloggers to do everything for them.

The behind-the-scenes tensions go to the heart of the role these bloggers have created for themselves in Democratic politics — they’re basically advocates and operatives with big platforms — and their future role, too. They argue that their efforts and fundraising helped drive the Democratic ascendancy. Yet even the Dem party committees are reluctant to advertise with them, raising the question of whether the party will ever be willing to seriously invest long-term in this new media infrastructure.

“We don’t invest in the future, and Republicans do,” says John Aravosis, the founder of AMERICAblog. “The party committees really get that we can be effective as their partners and that we’re happy to help, and they take advantage of that. But even so, very little ad money comes from them. It’s more than just wanting to share in the spoils. We are small business-people who are fighting to survive economically in a really bad year.”

Adds John Amato, the founder of Crooks and Liars: “These groups actually believe that we should promote their stuff for free. Do they not understand that we need funds to sustain our viability?”
(Interpolation: and what about other, non political small business? You know, the ones that creat wealth and pay taxes?)

Definitely a dynamic to keep an eye on…

Update: Americans United for Change says it will now advertise on blogs.