Over time, however, a reverse Nirvana Fallacy took hold of many economists, most famously Alan Greenspan. This was the idea that capitalism was a self-regulating system; market failures were, with few exceptions, either self-correcting, or less harmful than regulation aimed at eliminating them. Such thinking influenced the regulatory laxity that contributed (decisively in my view) to the financial collapse of September 2008 and the ensuing worldwide depression, and to the disbelief until then of many economists that there would ever again be a major depression. Greenspan and other like-minded economists and political leaders were wrong to think capitalism self-regulating; they neglected the need for an institutional structure, and a culture, that differentiate successful from unsuccessful capitalist economies.
The institutional structure of the United States is under stress. We might be in dangerous economic straits if the dollar were not the principal international reserve currency and the eurozone in deep fiscal trouble. We have a huge public debt, dangerously neglected infrastructure, a greatly overextended system of criminal punishment, a seeming inability to come to grips with grave environmental problems such as global warming, a very costly but inadequate educational system, unsound immigration policies, an embarrassing obesity epidemic, an excessively costly health care system, a possible rise in structural unemployment, fiscal crises in state and local governments, a screwed-up tax system, a dysfunctional patent system, and growing economic inequality that may soon create serious social tensions. Our capitalist system needs a lot of work to achieve proper capitalist goals.
FP: So it’s not just me who sees decline. But there isn’t much capitalism that’s left in the US system.
Michael Freund: Peace-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Israel's leaders appear to have developed a previously unheard-of malady, one so acute it threatens to overwhelm both their mental faculties and common sense. It is what I refer to as "Peace-Traumatic Stress Disorder" (PETS), and its symptoms are fairly easy to discern.
Like any anxiety condition, it can be traced to a harrowing and life-threatening event: the signing of the disastrous Oslo accords with the Palestinians nearly two decades ago. The terror and bloodshed brought on by that dubious deal with Yasser Arafat, along with as its profound failure to bring peace, seem to have left deep psychological marks on its proponents, clouding their ability to think clearly about Israel's current predicament.
But whereas most of those who suffer from stress disorders seek to avoid any reminders of the original ordeal, victims of PETS ironically follow a different path.
Indeed, they seem compelled to embrace the trauma, and even to relive it.
Take, for example, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, one of PETS' most high-profile casualties.
In a speech to the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv on May 30, Barak's affliction was on full display.
"We must aim to discuss all of the core issues, putting an end to the conflict, and an end to mutual claims," he said, adding, "if this appears to be impossible, we need to think of an interim agreement, and even unilateral actions."
NEEDLESS TO say, Barak's remarks were completely detached from reality, and given the fact that he is tasked with the nation's defense, this is all the more disturbing.
Since Barak is widely praised for his keen intelligence and sharp analytical skills, the only explanation for his invoking the possibility of Israel taking still more such measures must be that he is suffering from PETS. Rather than coming to terms with the past and learning from it, he is seeking to press the "rewind button" and repeat the mistakes of yesteryear.
Likewise, the current government seems determined to recreate the trauma of forcibly removing Jews from their homes by pushing forward with plans to evacuate families from the Ulpana neighborhood in Beit El before the end of the month.
In doing so, they are consciously ignoring the fact that previous expulsions, such as those from Amona in February 2006, painfully sharpened divisions within Israeli society and undermined efforts to strengthen our national cohesion and unity.
Every time the Israeli government has uprooted Jews, it has only played right into the hands of our foes, who view such measures as a sign of weakness and frailty.
FP: Not different than what I’ve been arguing here. Barak is an idiot and an utter failure. My concern is that he is not the only one in the government and that Netanyahu, who is in the habit of talking tough and then cave, is considering following in the footsteps of Sharon and Olmert and make grand gestures in the delusion that he’ll be the PM of peace; I suspect that’s the main reason for the unity government. Barak is in a frail position in the government and if Netanyahu were definitely against concessions, Barak would not have made such a statement, unless he really suffers from PETS. But, hey, I would love to be proven wrong.
On the other hand, he is of the left and here’s what the left does:
Caroline Glick: Defeating the Jewish Alinskyites
Less noticed has been the adoption of Alinsky's methods by radical leftist Jews in the US and Israel for the purpose of undermining the American Jewish community on the one hand, and Israel's nationalist camp on the other. This week we saw the impact of both campaigns.
Instead, due to J Street's agitation, and the penetration of the Jewish organizational world by J Street fellow travelers, for the past three years, the American Jewish community has been fighting among itself about what it means to be pro-Israel. At a time when the US Jewish community's party of choice is increasingly falling under the influence of radical leftists and Muslims who reject Israel's right to exist, rather than standing tall, Jewish communities around the US are being neutralized by the solipsism of self-defeating, J-Street-invented issues like whether AIPAC is legitimate and whether Jewish anti-Zionists can be considered pro-Israel.
In Israel, the success of local Alinskyites was on display this week as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu found himself squaring off against his party's most committed constituency.
Netanyahu is not the best friend of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. But he is more a friend than an enemy.
SO IF Netanyahu doesn't oppose the communities of Judea and Samaria, why is he supporting the destruction of Givat Haulpana? The answer is that he and his angry constituents were set up by the radicals who run the state prosecution.
True, the leftist-dominated Supreme Court ordered the government to destroy the neighborhood. But the state prosecution gave the court's justices no other choice.
The case regarding Givat Haulpana exposes several of the pathologies of Israel's legal system. But by far the most glaring pathology it reveals is the politicization of the state prosecution by the radical leftists who run it.
The Alinsky strategy is brilliant in its cunning mendacity. And his followers in the American Jewish community and Israel have already succeeded in causing great harm. The stakes are high in both countries. The time has come for the majority of American Jews and Israelis to stop being cowed and confused by their destructive manipulations.
Go and read my comments in the previous post and see that this is what I was writing about.
Martin Sherman: Richard Beinart and Peter Goldstone – Part II (MUST READ)
How could we give permission [for there] to be a state of Islam and a state of Jews? It [the two-state notion] is a kind of apartheid....For the Palestinians and the Israelis, I am sure that the one democratic state will be the only solution
– Badran, Khaled Jaber’s grandfather, April 2012
We need all [of] Palestine... Israel as a Jewish state is a big lie. It’s a big lie. [Israel is] a European colonial imprint.... It’s a matter of time.... They will go away the same way that France went from Algeria and Italy from Libya.
– Falastin, Khaled Jaber’s mother, April 2012.
Why is all this relevant to the assessment of Beinart’s critique of Israeli policy and its US supporters? Because it focuses on one on the major defects in Beinart’s argumentation: His total disregard for the nature of Palestinian society, its deep-rooted hatred of Israel and the widespread rejection of Jewish sovereignty, within any borders whatsoever, as a policy- relevant factor.
Beinart’s haste to accept the emotive superficiality of the 55 second video that spurred him write his book results in a picture of Israel as cruel, discriminatory oppressor, wreaking suffering on a passive, disenfranchised civilian population.
However, a little research into the incident, and the figures it involved, would convey a very different portrait of reality.
It would show Palestinian society as one of pervasive and abiding enmity toward Israel – because of what it is, not what it does – that embraces all segments including non-Muslim secular movements. The Jabers would not be depicted as poor agrarian peasants, toiling in the parched fields, deprived of adequate water by Israeli malice, but educated intellectuals actively affiliated with one of the most extreme terror organizations on the planet and utterly opposed to any conciliation with a Jewish state.
In the former portrait, all the onus is on Israel to act to end the conflict; in the latter, Israeli action is irrelevant for ending the conflict, a portrait in which – as Daniel Gordis pointed out in his debate with Beinart – there is “nothing Israel can do to end the conflict – not even land for peace.”
FP: I did recommend and comment on Sherman excellent part I. I make the same recommendation for part II.
It is consistent with my claim that the Western world and particularly its liberal intelligentzia are utterly and willfully ignorant about the Middle East, the Arab world and the nature and history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. It is impossible for the Judts, Beinarts and Goldstones to conceive of the medieval barbarism, genocidal anti-Semitism and the anti-Western hatred induced by envy and a sense of inferiority due to self-destructive failure in the Arab world. Let alone to imagine that all this is residing in Arab intelligentzia and academia.
This is why it is so easy for the Arabs play them like a violin and most likely hold them in contempt for stupidity. The such obvious manipulation by the Arabs would have not so effectively turned so sharply the West against Israel, were it not for this Western ignorance and naivity.
Elliott Abrams: Washington’s Celebrity Journalism Hits Istanbul
David Ignatius handles Tayyip Erdoğan with kid gloves.
Now, all of this is particularly interesting when juxtaposed against the column yesterday by the mainstream-media foreign-policy analyst David Ignatius. In the Washington Post, Ignatius wrote of Erdoğan’s “clout,” his economic achievements, and “Turkey’s ascendancy in the region.” Ignatius refers to Turkey as “this prosperous Muslim democracy” without a word about darkening clouds on the economy. And as to democracy, there is one brief reference to “Erdogan’s squeeze on Turkish journalists, judges and political foes” — with no explanation as to what that might be. In fact the language itself is suggestive: “squeeze” is a slightly humorous word, used lightly. That an American journalist might usefully protest the imprisonment of 100 journalists amid an obvious crackdown on the press eludes Ignatius. No, this is a lovefest; Ignatius is sweet on Erdoğan, and also on his top aides, writing that “Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s ambitious foreign minister, argues that his country is a role model for Arabs because it shows that democracy brings dignity, not chaos or extremism.” Apparently Turkish democracy also brings jail if you offend the ruling party, but that’s not important enough to be mentioned.
Is this journalism? Perhaps it is a special kind: You treat everyone (except of course conservatives!) you interview with kid gloves, you see and write no evil, so that you are certain to maintain access. You write what they tell you, never challenging claims (in this case) that the economy is fine and democracy is blooming. It is closer to stenography than journalism. And of course it tells the reader little of use about what’s really happening. It is the Authorized Version of the facts. It is guaranteed to get you invited back, and it is most likely to win you a variety of awards. As you are speaking for the Great and the Good, you stay of course on the left, where they always are; being tougher on Republican administrations and conservative governments is essential, and losing some access to them is needless to say a badge of honor. Columns about George W. Bush were tough; columns about Barack Obama are fawning.
That is predictable. But when Ignatius writes of “Turkey’s ascendancy in the region” while Abramowitz says the “much-touted vast Turkish influence in the Middle East seems to have faded”; when Ignatius writes about Turkey’s prosperity and The Economist sees “trouble ahead”; when Ignatius writes admiringly of Erdogan and Turkish democracy but human-rights groups launch campaigns to “Set Turkish Journalists Free,” one may wonder if Ignatius is practicing journalism at all.
FP: Ignatius has not written a serious article in a long time; I don’t know if his thrillers are any good because I don’t read them, but perhaps he should stick to them. He is but one of the many stenographic celebrities in the mainstream media who take their cues from (or give them to) Obama e.g. Thomas Friedman, Fareed Zakaria, Nicholas Kristoff, Paul Krugman. It appears that the more celebrity you become, the less journalism you do. The decay of a free press speaking truth to power is both a cause and a consequence of the decline induced by senile democracies (for more on the state of the US media see the comments on Young’s piece below and Fifty Shades of Disgrace).
Here’s more evidence of that senility—the corporate welfare state:
A fat stack of recently released e-mails between the White House and pharmaceutical interests are showing just how well the two parties worked together in 2009 in the epic quest to make President Obama’s health care overhaul more palatable. In that special D.C. “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine” kind of relationship, the White House got the drug industry to pay for millions of dollars in pro-ObamaCare ads. It would almost be depressing, if it weren’t so tremendously unsurprising. From the WSJ:
The emails also show that the money for the ad campaign from drug-industry companies, health-care lobbies and unions went through nonprofit groups that didn’t have to disclose their donors. One such organization, Healthy Economy Now, was created in the spring of 2009 in conjunction with White House officials and the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee according to the emails. …
The emails, released by Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, reveal financial details about the arrangements with PhRMA and others to promote the planned legislation, and the development of administration’s t message, tying the high costs of health care to the future of the U.S. economy. …
The emails show that drug makers hesitated to agree to pony up a lot of money for the ads without proof that their desires and concerns were reflected in the deal with the administration. One email from a Democratic consultant to PhRMA sent to other PhRMA folks on June 3, 2009, said that the start of the ads, and the “spend” on airtime “depends on how things develop.”
The NYT has a more in-depth piece with the specific details, complete with defensive Democrats pointing out that Republicans have no right to complain, since Republicans are ostensibly the ones who normally benefit from the involvement of well-monied interests in politics (and no, the door definitely swings both ways on that one — unions much?), and that President Obama was just doing his due diligence in bringing all interested parties to the table.
What these Democrats seem to fail to understand, however, is that nobody is accusing the President of doing something that nobody else has done before him. The problem is that President Obama promised to run the most transparent administration, ever; to put an end to “business as usual” lobbying involvement; and to disable such pervasive crony capitalism and rent-seeking. And yet here we are, with everything going “business as usual,” and even ramped up a notch. The hypocrisy is enough to make your head spin.
The important point here is that “everybody’s doing it”. Those who believe that there is any significant difference between the parties are delusional. There is one politico-economic elite that caters to itself at the expense of the public.
Do you need more evidence for that senility?
Mark Steyn: Our Celebrity President (MUST READ)
Last week, the republic’s citizen-president passed among his fellow Americans. Where? Cleveland? Dubuque? Presque Isle, Maine? No, Beverly Hills. These days, it’s pretty much always Beverly Hills or Manhattan, because that’s where the money is. That’s the Green Zone, and you losers are outside it. Appearing at an Obama fundraiser at the home of Glee creator Ryan Murphy and his “fiancé” David Miller, the president, reasonably enough, had difficulty distinguishing one A-list Hollywood summit from another. “I just came from a wonderful event over at the Wilshire or the Hilton — I’m not sure which,” said Obama, “because you go through the kitchens of all these places and so you never are quite sure where you are.”
This is all he does now. But hey, unlike those inbred monarchies with their dukes and marquesses and whatnot, at least he gets out among the masses. Why, in a typical week, you’ll find him at a fundraiser at George Clooney’s home in Los Angeles with Barbra Streisand and Salma Hayek. These are people who are in touch with the needs of ordinary Americans because they have played ordinary Americans in several of their movies. And then only four days later the president was in New York for a fundraiser hosted by Ricky Martin, the only man on the planet whose evolution on gayness took longer than Obama’s. It’s true that moneyed celebrities in, say, Pocatello or Tuscaloosa have not been able to tempt the president to hold a lavish fundraiser in Idaho or Alabama, but he does fly over them once in a while. Why, only a week ago, he was on Air Force One accompanied by Jon Bon Jovi en route to a fundraiser called Barack on Broadway.
Any American can attend an Obama event for a donation of a mere $35,800 — the cost of the fundraiser hosted by Dreamworks honcho Jeffrey Katzenberg, and the one hosted by Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, and the one hosted by Will Smith and Jada Pinkett, and the one hosted by Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas, and the one hosted by Crosby, Stills, and Nash. $35,800 is a curiously non-round figure. Perhaps the ticket cost is $36,000, but under Obamacare there’s a $200 co-pay. Those of us who grew up in hidebound, class-ridden monarchies are familiar with the old proverb that a cat can look at a king. But in America only a cool cat can look at the king.
There are monarchies and republics aplenty, but there’s only one 24/7 celebrity fundraising presidency. If it’s Tuesday, it must be Kim Cattrall, or Hootie and the Blowfish, or Laverne and Shirley, or the ShamWow guy . . . I wonder if the Queen ever marvels at the transformation of the American presidency since her time with Truman. Ah, well. If you can’t stand the klieg-light heat of Obama’s celebrity, stay out of the Beverly Wilshire kitchen.
To laugh or cry?
Michael Young: Messages in a battle
In the grander scheme of things, Walters’ behavior was not overly egregious. True, it didn’t say much about her distress when it comes to Syrian suffering, but her career, like that of most interviewers, has surely been built on Olympian doses of back-scratching. It is equally possible that Walters did what she did because she felt guilty about conducting a tough interview with Assad, for which Sheherazad was ultimately held responsible. “I am in so much trouble here,” Sheherazad wrote on December 8, 2011, a detail that evidently troubled Walters.
More disconcerting when one reads the emails is Sheherazad’s personality, above all her straightforward mercenary instincts. The girl is shameless, willing to say anything to propel her career forward. In preparing Assad for the Walters interview, for instance, she observed that the “American psyche can be easily manipulated when they hear that there are ‘mistakes’ done and now we are ‘fixing it.’’’
Sheherazad went on to advise the Syrian president to mention “what is happening now in Wall Street and the way the demonstrations are been suppressed by police men, police dogs and beatings.” And in a sentence remarkable for its cynicism and dishonesty, she recommends that he argue that “Syria doesn’t have a policy to torture people, unlike the US. We can use Abu Ghraib in Iraq as an example.”
Absent from the gamut of emails is any sense of the carnage in Syria, or empathy for an impoverished, humiliated and insulted population that has, additionally, been made to suffer from the depravities of Bashar al-Assad’s death squads. It is strange how intensely contemptuous are the senior members of the Syrian ruling elite of those hailing from poor, rural origins—origins once their own. Here we have the upshot of the Baath revolution, and it is fitting that the revolt broke out when those rural communities, understanding how closed were their horizons, decided that enough was enough.
They won’t soon be applying to Columbia or looking to join Piers Morgan’s staff, but I would wager that they will be the ones inheriting Syria before long. And when that happens, their resentment will be uncontainable.
FP: I commented on this earlier, but I want to add the following. Looks like mercenaries find each other: both Jaafar and Walters seem to be made of the same material. And the text I highlighted validates my concern that I expressed earlier: it is one thing to stay out of a civil war (which will bring some resentment anyway), but advancing the interests of members of Assad’s inner circle in the US is something else entirely. The Middle East has long memories and resentments.
President Francois Hollande said France will begin its Afghanistan pullout next month and complete it by year-end, after four French troops were killed in a Taliban attack.
Mr Hollande said France would pay a "national homage" to the men killed in a suicide bombing and that five wounded soldiers would be repatriated rapidly.
France's defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will head to Afghanistan on Sunday (local time).
Mr Hollande said the withdrawal of French troops from Afghanistan, one of his presidential campaign pledges, "will begin in the month of July, will be carried out and be completed at the end of 2012."
FP: To be driven out of the same country twice, with your tail between your legs is an achievement. How the mighty have fallen.