Juan Williams Says Gaddafi’s Death Vindicates Obama Policies
Juan Williams has knocked out a quick editorial piece attempting to use Gaddafi’s death as a means of generating a positive story about Obama.
Writing on Foxnews.com, Williams says that:
Essentially America has been at war in Libya. And tonight or today, this morning, what we’ve seen is that that policy has led to the ouster and also the death of Muammar Qaddafi.
Wow, really? War? Carried out by executive fiat?
Never mind all the posturing about the Constitution, the War Powers Resolution, etc., it seems that now that the Bad Guy is dead the Obama apologists are being perfectly open about it.
They assert that their man is no longer merely President - sworn to uphold and bound to act in accordance with the Constitution. No, he is now the omnipotent sovereign, who can wage war with impunity. The authority of Congress be damned, Williams seems to argue.
Yes indeed, we’ve been at War in Libya, Gaddafi is dead, and you fools who worry about the niceties of the Constitution and Rule of Law just need to get real. The results, Williams says, speak for themselves.
And Williams’ argument speaks for itself too. His agenda seems clear.
Robert Reich: The Austerity Death-Trap
Robert Reich has weighed in with his criticism of Ron Paul’s proposed cuts in federal government spending. (Well, actually, he doesn’t really offer much of a critique, but uses Ron Paul’s plan as a springboard for discussion of some of his usual and familiar points.)
Now I both like and respect Robert Reich. He’s a learned man, with an impressive resume and lots of interesting things to say. Also, unlike many people with his experience and credentials, he doesn’t come off as being totally full of himself. So I’m pretty much always prepared to hear him out - and I find that by doing so I frequently come away with some new information or maybe just a perspective on things that I hadn’t previously considered.
In addition, unlike certain other “progressive” or Keynesian economists, he doesn’t try to ignore or sidestep the fact that one way or another the government needs to get the money that it intends to spend. As Peter Schiff is fond of saying, the government doesn’t have any money - and Reich seems to recognize that.
In this case, though, he more or less offers his standard diagnosis and prescription: Since consumers aren’t spending, the only way to get the economy moving is for the government - the “spender of last resort” - to spend more money.
In our current circumstances, however, I am just not convinced that he’s got it right. I know, I know, who the heck am I to say that - but here’s my thinking:
Front of House and the Back Room
The White House doesn’t seem to be trumpeting this one for some reason, but the Obama administration wants the police to be able to attach a GPS device to your car, secretly and without your permission, and track your movements. The Supreme Court is due to hear arguments on the issue in November (U.S. v Jones).
I suppose we needn’t worry, though. The police would only use such tactics on criminals.
Or maybe on people they think are criminals. Or people who look like criminals. Or people they think might be associating with criminals. Or who might be related to a criminal. Or who’ve been seen talking to a suspected criminal at the mall. Or maybe who are the sort of person they want to “keep tabs on” - you know, someone with dissenting views or something.
But don’t worry.
Front of House:
Never mind the cronyism, the give-aways to pet companies, the lobbyists he’s taken on board, and the big bucks he rakes in from Wall Street - you need to listen to his words. He’s on your side. Listen. The words are deep and eloquent.
Two Lists of Candidates
1. Presidential candidates (both Republican and Democratic) who appear to have a thorough understanding of the economy, the federal government’s fiscal situation, and monetary policy (including the Fed’s role in it):
- Mitt Romney
- Newt Gingrich
- Herman Cain
- Ron Paul
2. Presidential candidates (both Republican and Democratic) who advocate solutions to our economic, fiscal and monetary problems that would be of as much or greater benefit to the 99% than to the 1%:
- Ron Paul
The Fed and Unintended Consequences
In his excellent commentary in today’s edition of Barron’s, Randall W. Forsyth makes the following points:
As notes long-time Fed watcher Lacy Hunt of Hoisington Investment Management in Austin, Texas, the unintended consequences of [the Fed’s] policies have all but superseded their professed aims. For instance, QE2 - the Fed’s purchase of $600 billion of Treasury securities completed in June - caused the current slowdown instead of giving the economy a boost, he writes in Hoisington’s Quarterly Review and Outlook. Real disposable income was lower in August than in December, in part because of the jump in commodity costs. ‘While rising equity values [aka the stock market] have helped a few consumers, inflation in necessities, such as food and fuel, decimated real incomes for the average family. Thus the emergent cyclical weakness that lies ahead can be directly related to the unintended consequences of quantitative easing,’ Hunt says.
It does seem fairly clear that the Fed’s mandarins, together with people in the Treasury Department and the politically-minded operators within the Presidential administration, have a strong - if not always overtly acknowledged - incentive to pursue short-term policies that goose the stock market, even if they’re harmful to the broader economy.
As Bernanke has pointed out, the market will respond favorably, and almost instantly, to easy money policies or even credible rumors of them. With such a nifty tool for manufacturing a readily measurable and seemingly objective vote of confidence in their favor, it comes as no surprise that politicians (and especially the President, who would seem to be the chief beneficiary) would be pressuring the Fed to use it whenever possible.
Please note, by the way, that my reproduction of the quoted excerpt from Barron’s is intended to be fair use, and not in substitution for the entirety of the article, which I recommend that you read in full. You can find Barron’s online here.
Wise After the Fact - or Common Sense Ex Ante?
Some are saying that revelations about the foiled bombing plot that’s been linked to Iran have damaged Ron Paul’s credibility - as in this piece in the American Spectator. The foiled plot targeted the Saudi Ambassador to the US and the Israeli Embassy.
But almost a year ago, Ron Paul wrote an op-ed piece in The Hill’s Congress Blog under the headline Saudi Arms Deal is About Iran. Here’s some of what he wrote (and the punch-line comes at the end of it):
This month the US Administration notified Congress that it intends to complete one of the largest arms sales in US history to one of the most repressive regimes on earth. Saudi Arabia has been given the green light by the administration to spend $60 billion on some 84 new F-15 aircraft, dozens of the latest helicopters, and other missiles, bombs, and high-tech military products from the US weapons industry.
* * *
Imagine if China had armed an aggressive, anti-American Mexico to the teeth. How would we feel? Threatened? That is likely how Iran feels with this massive arms sale to Saudi Arabia. To underscore this message, the US quietly announced early this month that it was selling 20 F-35 Stealth fighters to Israel. As Israeli military purchases are paid for with US foreign aid, we must realize that the weapons pointed at Iran in the Middle East are American made and largely paid for with American tax dollars. Certainly Iran understands this. Will such a provocative move, arming two anti-Iranian powers in the region to the teeth, lead to a trigger event to bring about a full invasion of Iran?
In my view there’s no justification - ever - for terrorist attacks (and for the most part, I tend to side with Israel). Equally, though, what a deal for Ron Paul: largely ignored as a Cassandra a year ago, and now having his credibility called into question when - of all things - his predictions seem to be coming true.
Quantitative Easing = Regressive Tax (and Worse)
Money-printing, which the Federal Reserve has indulged in with gusto ever since the Great Recession, is what Paul [Brodsky of QB Asset Management] calls “a terribly regressive tax on the working and middle classes.”
Folks with higher incomes and access to credit, he points out, are able to maintain their customary standard of living and continue to shoulder their debts without much discomfort. But lower-wage earners and those with less access to credit, along with the 14 million or 15 million unfortunates who have lost their jobs, are really hurting.
Part of the reason that the Fed (encouraged, aided, abetted, and probably even commanded by the federal government) gets away with devaluing our money is that the process takes effect slowly. From one day to the next, you don’t really notice the difference, but over a period of years (or even months) you begin to realize that you’re paying more for gas, food and heat.
What gives, you ask - we’re told that inflation is at rock-bottom levels? (Although actually, we’re not necessarily being told that anymore - the latest CPI figures definitely show that it’s on the rise.)
The state of the US today reminds me, in some respects, of conversations I had when I was working in Russia shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The one thing I heard time and again from Russians is that certain aspects of the Soviet collapse seemed to happen in very slow motion - it was the sort of thing that you only see clearly when you look at it in retrospect.
These people said that when they were living through it the decline was generally so gradual that for the most part it went largely unnoticed by the average citizen - until at some point you began to find that your money was all but worthless, and that many of the institutions and other features of daily life that you had taken for granted no longer seemed to function.
If people here in the US somehow think that this couldn’t happen to us, I would only say that in my humble opinion I believe them to be mistaken.
Rhetoric Watch: The ‘Isolationist’ Epithet
This is America’s moment. We should embrace the challenge, not shrink from it, not crawl into an isolationist shell …
- Mitt Romney
We cannot afford to be a country of isolationists right now. 9/11 showed us that try as we might to ignore the rest of the world, our enemies will no longer ignore us. And so we need to maintain a strong foreign policy, relentless in pursuing our enemies and hopeful in promoting our values around the world.
- Barack Obama
Thus it seems that if you are a non-interventionist who does not believe in preemptive wars carried out in contravention of the Constitution, then you run the risk of being labelled an “isolationist” - which, apparently, is a Bad Thing.
I would, however, assert that whenever one hears a President or a Presidential candidate refer to “isolationism” as if it were some inherently evil or undesirable doctrine, a little alarm bell should go off in the region of the brain that detects hyperbolic and deceptive speech. My reasons for this are three-fold:
First, the epithet is almost always used in order to set up a false dichotomy: if you don’t agree with my proposal to [invade][occupy][carry out drone attacks in] country X, then you’re an isolationist - in other words, you’re simply some sort of nihilist who would fail to take such positive military action and carry out such killings as are necessary to ensure that all the peoples of the world have the opportunity to live under a system of American values.
Yes that sounds extreme, but when you think about it, and when you read the quotes above, that does seem to be the implication.
Second, the avoidance of foreign entanglements and imperial military adventures would constitute only part of a truly isolationist approach to foreign policy - which when adopted by countries in the past has included trade, cultural, and even physical isolation as well. I am not aware of anyone, much less any significant player or commentator on the political scene, who is advocating such a comprehensive form of isolation for the United States.
Third, it’s worth noting that when countries have adopted fairly extensive isolationist policies, they have tended to become both peaceful and prosperous. Although I think such extreme isolationism would be impractical, and possibly even harmful, for the United States, the examples of Switzerland and Japan (during the Edo period) do sort of illustrate the point. It’s interesting, too, that despite their isolationism, neither the Japanese shogunate nor Switzerland could be said to have been (or be) lacking in military strength or preparedness.
Still on the Fence
I’ve been following the #OccupyWallStreet movement with interest, and as I do so I still find myself reserving judgment on it. In some respects, I like what I see, but there are other aspects of it that aren’t so appealing.
With the usual caveat that I have no delusions about anyone much caring one way or the other about what I think - here’s what I think:
Likes: Pretty much whenever I see a group protesting in the streets, my initial instinct is to side with them, especially where they seem to have organized themselves spontaneously, without the backing or encouragement of some large organization. So when I see these groups out there, clearly unhappy with the status quo, my gut reaction is yeah, I’m with you.
I think, too, that they’ve accurately identified some of the serious issues we have in this country:
- Our government is riddled with corruption and cronyism (which is especially glaring when it’s practiced by politicians who have made a lot of sanctimonious noises about being above all that).
- Large corporations and financial institutions wield far too much political influence, and seem to have concocted a system whereby the government rewards failure by socializing losses and bailing out institutions that are supposedly too big or too crucial to our economy to fail.
- Our economic lives are manipulated by unelected, unaccountable, and frequently incompetent officials who create artificial asset bubbles, devalue our hard-earned money, and pursue other reckless policies - ostensibly in the guise of independent regulation, but in fact in response to the bidding of their political and corporate masters.
So I’m pleased with the fact that there is a noisy movement that is taking to the streets and making its dissatisfaction heard.
Dislikes: Not unexpectedly, the movement appears to be somewhat unfocused, and seems to offer little in terms of concrete or practical solutions. That’s not a major criticism, though, as it would be foolish to expect a new, loosely-formed, grassroots movement to produce - instantly - a slick, polished, and carefully thought-through manifesto. Over time, that will likely evolve (but see below).
The movement is also tinged with a hint of whininess - people complaining about their personal circumstances as if they are entitled to have Big Government, Society, the Tooth Fairy, or some other sort of big mothering sow of social justice provide them with the teat of salvation. In that respect, I think they’re misguided. (And I - sort of - apologize for being so blunt.)
The demands and solutions that some in the movement have put forward seem fanciful and, in many cases, likely to do more harm than good. What I’ve been hearing so far is essentially that there’s a belief among some that more government is the solution - although this new, bigger government should be led by incorruptible people with a selfless and unwavering commitment to the little man (and woman).
I know, I know … call me a cynic. But I think there are some other, much more productive avenues available to us as a country. In my opinion, we need to get ourselves out of certain habits of orthodox political thought - which have led to the increasingly calcified and evil behemoth that is the current federal government.
I understand: We have young people who’ve spent heavily on getting a college education (which, at every turn, they’ve been encouraged to do), and now they find that there are no decent jobs for them in their chosen field - and in many cases, no realistic prospects for such jobs in the near to medium term.
These folks are very frustrated, and you would need to suffer from a pretty advanced case of complete social ineptitude not to understand that and to empathize with it.