Duly Noted: Excuses for the Inexcusable
From the desk of George Handlery on Sat, 2008-03-15 08:23
Our time is composed as a mosaic. Its small bits get overlooked as we tend to focus on the big chunks. This column presents some disregarded details that deserve attention.
1. From here it seems that color is creeping into Obama’s once free-of-race campaign. There are implications for his electability once the majority catches on.
2. At the time of America’s elections, the economy might be on the voters’ mind. Thereafter, the new administration’s main problem will be security. By then, the US’ “B Team” could be in charge to handle the challenge.
3. America’s choice. On 5 March Iran helped the undecided. The Mullahs want a Democrat. Tehran knows what it is talking about. So should the voter.
4. Castro is going. Again the demand arises for the lifting of the US’ blockade. Pause to think. Cuba’s ideology assumes that the system with which it demands contact, is collapsing. At the same time, the boycott by the system doomed by the law of history is made responsible for whatever fails in Cuba’s socialist paradise. Revealingly, the EU’s commission for development representing tottering Capitalism, has (9 Feb.) recommended that the blockade of Cuba by lifted. Seldom has access to a cadaver been so forcefully demanded by the future’s depository. The insight: Cuba’s rulers realize something that their “useful idiot” supporters do not know and will never learn.
5. Violating a promise, in Britain there will be no referendum on the EU’s new basic law. You see, the document is no constitution because it abridges the rejected original one. Besides, it grants England the option to apply a minimalist interpretation of the Lisbon treaty. The likely outcome: Once OK-d, massive pressure will be brought to implement the maximalist version.
6. Another broken election promise. In Hessen (Germany) the Social Democrats’ candidate, Ms Ypsilanti countered the charge of leftism by promising not to enter a coalition with the extreme reds. Now she and her pinkish SPD have a chance to govern with the votes of the deep reds. Ypsilanti blames the voters for making this alliance “necessary.” An SPD deputy’s revolt nixed the deal. (After the war in the Soviet Zone the SPD was brutally persecuted.) Without her there was no majority. Ypsilanti withdrew. Then pressure was put on the deputy. She crumbled and surrenders her mandate. Ypsilanti is back in the game. The next act is predictable.
7. The scandal – mainly in Germany – of wide-spread tax cheating, uncovered by using an illegally obtained and originally stolen CD, continues. Especially the “little people” are outraged. In their case the deft maneuvers of the wealthy do not pay. A study claims that 75% of the Germans cheat on their tax. So call the outrage a sign of envy and not of moral uprightness. Perhaps the idea of equality – confused with justice – should be given an extended meaning. All people shall be allowed to cheat, not according to their ability but according to their self-determined need.
8. Taxes and distortions. The value of a person’s contribution can result in an income that becomes, due to its size, subject to confiscatory taxes. If this is felt to be the case, competitive skills and personal ingenuity will shift from economic value-creation to tax avoidance. This distortion is especially damaging when avoiding taxes generates more revenue than creative activity brings after taxes.
9. Unaware of the above, the German government wants to access the holdings that fled its policies. Meanwhile it continues to make its subjects feel that they pay for steak while getting greasy-spoon burgers. Berlin claims that not its policies cause the flight but the alternatives offered by others. (Not all of these are, by the way, in actual fact tax heavens. Subject to Swiss taxes, the writer can testify to that!)
10. Just one more impertinent idea. In the name of solidarity, productive people have to pay for those who are, by the standards of a government bureaucracy, down on their luck. Even the original supporters of the idea, such as this writer, notice that this burden-sharing is abused. This provokes the question: “how about solidarity by the beneficiaries of succor with the contributors who pony up their dough?”
11. A piece by a Lt. Col. J. Rose of the German army should be mulled over. In “The Disintegration of Nato – A Chance for a More Peaceful World” the alliance is called “obsolete.” Its dissolution would “initiate the end of the American Empire.” NATO covers of an “offensive alliance.” Dissolution would not fully eliminate “the chief threat to international security represented by the USA,” however, it would reduce the threat. It would also be a “chance for the emancipation from the USA.” Conclusion: what might worry some is the craving of others.
12. More folly. There is a sentiment around that prefers to doubt that there was a Holocaust. This is not new. New is that this claim of the fringe gains legitimacy. Just wait until retroactively Churchill, Roosevelt, Eisenhower (but never Stalin) are charged by a tribunal for “war crimes against innocent babies, widows and retirees.”
13. From a source that is, due to botched note taking, unidentifiable: “according to the agency’s own estimate, most spending fails to reach its intended recipients.” The funds are “siphoned off by a vast bureaucracy.”
14. Rare good news from the front of nationalism. A publication from Serbia reports that the Magyar and the Serb minority of both countries intend to cooperate. The aim is to further the mutual interests and the good relationship between these states.
15. Here a contradiction of the chauvinistic view of the world occurs. Serbian ultras reject, regardless of the demographics, Kosovo’s right to independence. After all, the Albanians are immigrants who came 400 yrs ago. If this argument holds, then Serbia’s claim to the Vajdasàg (Woiwodina) is an exercise in illogic. Its Serb majority had entered that Hungarian province when the Albanians settled in Kosovo. The Serbs, like the Albanians, reacted to Turkish pressure as they moved North. Once Ottoman power collapsed they were let to stay where their new settlement were. So, if Kosovo is, regardless of the facts on the ground Serbian, then the Vajdasàg is Hungarian. (Remember that in such cases, logic is suspended.)
16. China foils a terrorist plot targeting the Olympics (9 March). Indeed, the terrorists are ungrateful for the indirect support China gives them internationally. Surprised?
17. In the Intellectual Conservative (27 feb.) Robert Stapler posted a weighty study about climate change. The heated debate produced 48 responses of substance. A conclusion: The scientific issue has clearly become a political matter.
18. Self-set traps. Have you noticed that the one to exclaim first “I am insulted” wins the debate? Some Moslems are inclined to be insulted abroad by anything that is not Mohammedan. The subjects of outrage include not letting them to have what they are denying others where they already hold power. Anticipating outrage, some issues are not even raised. If such ideas still get publicity they are suppressed because they cause the “insulted” to complain. Even raising the matter is termed an insult that makes the exercise a no-no.
19. Fuzzy thinking. A “dialogue” with anybody about whatever is a typical demand by “certain circles.” In practice dialogue means that “they” may curse “us” the way they feel. We may respond only with what they permit us to say.
20. We were taught that dissuasion prevents conflicts and secures the peace. A corollary made treaties into instruments of security. The premise was that states were the originators and objects of aggression. The Islamists – being an international movement – have no country. Therefore in their case dissuasion does not work. The same goes for the value of treaties concluded where they hold influence.
21. We practice a cult that provides excuses for the inexcusable. An “identifiable group due to its characteristic way of life” has committed three separate gruesome murders in a central European hamlet. Arrests followed. The accused have identified the culprit. It is the mayor. The monthly support payments of the central government have not arrived in time.
Excuses of the Kapitein # 3
Submitted by marcfrans on Mon, 2008-03-17 00:09.
Unlike Kapitein Andre, I have NO intention of meeting any of his future posts with "scorn, sarcasm and occasional black humor", which should say something about our respective claims on the title of "worthy debater". However, this is not the first time that I have seen an exasperated 'Kapitein' descending in uncontrolled insults. I particularly remember something similar happening nearly a year ago. There is a big difference between directly expressing unpleasant or negative opinions (even about persons) and hurling gratuitous insults.
In case anyone is interested, I never claimed that the radical left "controlled Congress". Thank God, the situation is not that dire yet. I said (in the context of the NIE report) that it currently "controls the Congressional AGENDA". Both the Speaker of the House (Pelosi) and the majority leader in the Senate (Reid) are radical-left and somewhat unrepresentative of the larger Democratic Party, and the manner in which their ascendency occurred was somewhat unfortunate. They largely determine the "agenda", but do not control a majority of the votes. There is the further complication that some of the most important congressional committees are currently also 'run' by radical lefties, but there is some reason to think that matters will improve after the next elections (when some moderate Democrats from former 'red' states will likely carry more weight).
It is unfortunate that many Europeans cannot grasp what it means to have genuine power separation between the Executive and the Legislature. For them, the Executive almost always 'controls' the Legislature, and 'democracy' descends into 'particracy' (Belgium and Italy are perfect examples of that). It should therefore not be a surprise that most European parliaments (not all) tend to be 'weak' and no genuine check on the Executive. As to the 'independence' of the judiciary, well... the loss of the constitutional 'right' to freedom of political speech (in both the EU and in much of 'Old Europe') says it all....
Final Reply to marcfrans RE: Excuses
Submitted by Kapitein Andre on Sun, 2008-03-16 23:23.
I once considered you a worthy debater. However, I have come to the conclusion that you merely enjoy the sight of your own typing. You are a veritable windbag prone to repeating yourself incessantly, arguing strawmen and resorting to ad hominem when challenged. Below are my response to some of your points. This is my last posting to you on this thread, and in the future, any posts from you directed at me will be met with scorn, sarcasm and occaisional black humor until such time as you learn to debate:
I. Au contraire, the countries I am referring to are more advanced than the United States in terms of integration: clearly you don't know what you are talking about. Moreover, integration is a collective analysis rather than an individual one, and the ascension to the American elite by specific persons with minority backgrounds does not necessary reflect upon the integration of the minorities groups from which they are derived.
II. You have presented no relevant counter-arguments to my "squandering" contention. As I noted in my first reply, comparisons between social and military expenditures are irrelevant and out of context; this point was driven home when I argued that "squandered" funds could have been injected into social programmes or be rebated to the taxpayer. Secondly, arguing for the utility of military spending is equally irrelevant given that criticising excessive and unnecessary military spending is not the same as criticising it altogether. Thirdly, as per usual, you have resorted to ad hominem and fighting strawmen i.e. your references to leftism and "popular dogmas".
III. Anyone familiar with international relations understands realpolitik, your unclear references to "head-in-the-sand attitudes" and "hiding the unpleasant truth" notwithstanding. Secondly, although I personally contend that unipolarity is a myth, the quest to ensure that the United States remains the sole superpower has influenced White House policies, namely in the areas of foreign relations and the military, since the beginning of the Bush administration. It was no surprise that many of the PNAC's luminaries, who contributed to and/or endorsed 2000's "Rebuilding America's Defenses", held high office in the administration and were behind the Bush Doctrine. Again, your mention of "the hard left's peverse self-hatred" is merely a strawman here.
IV. The "radical left" has never controlled Congress. However, if you are going to discuss politics in the U.S. intelligence community, you cannot ignore the fabrication and manipulation of intelligence on Iraqi WMD possession and programmes preceding Operation Iraqi Freedom.
V. It is strange that we have come to different conclusions on European collective security. According to Chancellor Merkel, who I lunched with last week incidentally, the EU is more than ready and capable.
Excuses of the Kapitein #2
Submitted by marcfrans on Sun, 2008-03-16 21:46.
1) The countries in question do indeed consider themselves the summum of civilisation, rightly or wrongly, but they are NOT "more advanced in terms of integration". The latter contention is in direct contravention with empirical observation. Blacks, Asians, Latinos and 'others' are prevalent at the heights of US politics, civil service, US corporations, academia, etc...There is nothing comporable like that (on the same scale) in "the countries in question", and I know what I am talking about.
2) You simply re-affirm your earlier contention of "squandering" of military resources and of "dubious military adventure", and ignored my 2 counter arguments. There is indeed little doubt that some substitution must have occurred of "squandering" from "social programs" into 'security' programs. But you seem unaware that "squandering" can take place in both areas, and that much of social expenditure may actually have negative net utility. In this, you are simply repeating mistaken leftist 'conventional wisdom' and seem unfamiliar with much empirical research of the last 30 years on social spending. But I can make the simple broad observation that, for instance, the quality of education today is considerably less than that of my own generation, and yet the spending on education has increased many times over (in real terms after inflation adjustment). You should become more familiar with serious studies of social spending and be more critical of popular dogmas.
3) I am all for more 'Realpolitik', but this should not be confused with 'head-in-the-sand' attitudes, nor with hiding the unpleasant truth from the public. "Unipolarity" is a silly slogan of resentful anti-Americans. It plays no significant role in US internal foreign policy debates (not to be confused with the hard left's perverse self-hatred).
4) There is currently no significant problem with American "competitiveness", relatively speaking (to others), but there is a significant problem with 'overspending' and with the composition of investment. I agree with you that FDR-esque "solutions" would be ill-advised, but do not expect such solutions to materialise.
5) The NIE has been shown to be a 'politicised' policy document, not factual data provision. It reflected a serious misunderstanding of the proper role of competing intelligence agencies and also abuse-of-power by certain powerful 'civil servants'. It should never be repeated, but whether it will or not, wil depend largely on the degree to which the radical left continues to control the Congressional agenda. Domestic 'politics' should never be abused to undermine foreign policy, and civil servants should never engage in 'politics'. Obviously, common sense is in short supply today (which may well be reflective of excessive public 'social spending' to some extent).
6) The matter of Europe's capability with regard to "collective security" can only be 'proven' after NATO's collapse. So it is too early to tell. My assessment is based on the internal political discourse on defense matters in Europe, the expressed 'popular will' if you will, and on private conversations with US officials engaged in internal NATO 'negotiations' . I fear that yours is based on wishfull thinking, despite the evidence provided by the type of (absurd) pronouncements by German military officers like Lt.Col Rose. One should remember that, under the American umbrella, the German (and the Japanese) military have not known real combat for 2 generations now. The German officer corps may lack a sense of realism that would be essential to ensure "collective security".
7) The Albanians certainly have the upper hand in terms of breeding, which is another way of saying i.t.o. cultural self-confidence, but not in terms of "force". The latter is being exerted by the misnamed "international community" on the Serbs. In practice, the Albanians "upper hand" is a direct result from Europe being wedded to 'soft' power and its refusal to exert 'real' power.
In Reply to marcfrans
Submitted by Kapitein Andre on Sun, 2008-03-16 07:48.
marcfrans: ...the fact that media outlets in many other western countries wish for their own Obamas says nothing about Obama's qualifications or lack thereof. It simply reflects their (mostly unspoken) belief that racial/ethnic/religious integration is much less advanced in their societies than it is in the US.
Actually, the countries in question consider themselves and are more advanced in terms of integration.
I. When you cite "U.S. defense spending", are you referring to the Department of Defense budget or all military-related expenditures? The former does not include such expenses as the nuclear forces, Veterans Affairs and the ongoing operations in the Middle East. In addition, my comments regarding American military-related spending are completely unrelated to any and all discussion of social spending. However, given the latest figures on American spending in Iraq (as compiled by the CRS and CBO as well as Stiglitz), one can only conclude that vast funds are being diverted from possibly substantial social programmes* and/or tax rebates to an arguably dubious military adventure. Indeed, such squander should enrage classical liberals and marxists alike.
II. The United States' post-Soviet quest for security has been derailed by the desire to certain American politicians and bureaucrats to maintain the "unipolar moment", and the influence of certain moral positions on American foreign policy. Were Washington to begin behaving according to realpolitik, security would be relatively simple and quick to achieve. Improving American economic competitiveness is a far more difficult and pressing challenge, and requires government intervention, although not through subsidies to individuals or businesses. Unfortunately, American officials and central bankers seem destined to resurrect fiscally irresponsible FDR-esque solutions.
III. The NIE has been criticized, in the main by proponents of a pre-emptive strike on Iran. Note that the NIE admits Iran would be "technically" capable of producing a nuclear weapon by 2010-2015. Dangerously false Team B-type intelligence led to the invasion of Iraq; for this and other reasons, I trust the NIE more than I do its detractors. Any grand strategy with regards to Iran must account for its relationship to Hezbollah, which secured a strategic and propaganda victory last summer against the seemingly invincible IDF.
IV. Europe is quite capable of collective security, and only required American support because of the now dissipated Soviet threat. Nor have you elaborated on which "threats" are due to engulf Europe or to which precedents you are referring to.
V. Irrespective of whether peoples claim territory according to current "demographic realities" or to anthropological history, there remain but two means of holding on to one's lands: breeding and force. The Albanians appear to have the advantage in both areas at the moment...
*Personally, I believe social spending should be directed towards education and healthcare (which improve economic competitiveness, in my opinion), as opposed to welfare
The excuses of the Kapitein
Submitted by marcfrans on Sun, 2008-03-16 03:25.
1) Indeed, identity politics is all the rage today, and will be for a considerable time longer, all over the world. However, the fact that media outlets in many other western countries wish for their own Obamas says nothing about Obama's qualifications or lack thereof. It simply reflects their (mostly unspoken) belief that racial/ethnic/religious integration is much less advanced in their societies than it is in the US.
2) US defense spending as a share of GDP at around 4 percent of GDP is today considerably lower than 20 years ago. "Squandering" is a vague concept. From a long term perspective it is easier to "squander" on social programs than it is on defense spending, especially in cases where the former promotes 'inactivity' and the latter has positive externalities. Also, media perceptions (and misperceptions) about the economy will always play an important role in elections. Even so, Mr Handlery is right in saying that the next Administration's main problem will be (again) security. And, based on past observations, the world's tyrannies will 'test' it very quickly.
3) The NIE has been discredited, and bringing America's intelligence agencies under 'control' will be a top priority if Mcain wins. You are right that Teheran is determined to bring "shock and awe unto itself", but probably not in the way it would have wished.
4) Lt.Col Rose of the German army is as foolish as you. Not only has he forgotten NATO's actual history, but he lives in a fantasy world. Without the USA there will be no genuine "European collective security organisation", and the threats will 'suddenly' multiply uncontrollably. A similar process has occurred in other parts of the world, following the disintegration of defensive alliances, and one should learn from that. I expect that Mr Rose will get his wish in the end, especially if Obama gets into office.
5) I agree that the Holocaust should be subjected to the same rigorous analysis and criticism as any other major event and/or crime. However, given that freedom of speech/opinion is no longer assured in Western Europe, that is unlikely to happen in the near future. In the more distant future of Eurabia, holocaust 'revisionism' will become a dogma. I strongly disagree with your contention that "islamic anti-semitism" is intrinsically linked to the state of Israel. If Ahmadinejad were able to nuke Israel tomorrow, islamic antisemitism would still be there. "Israel" is just the contemporary excuse, and it is not surprising that European anti-semites would jump on that particular bandwagon.
6) Mr Handlery's point about the Albanians is clear: one must start from demographic realities on the ground and make a 'fair' accomodation. Your response to his point is not clear. Any attempts to 'undo' history will only lead to a repetition of unpleasant history.
RE: "Excuses for the Inexcusable"
Submitted by Kapitein Andre on Sun, 2008-03-16 00:44.
I. Color and race are central to Obama's bid for presidency. Firstly, Obama's vacuous platform is merely a poor imitation of Clinton's, and irrespective of one's personal opinions of Clinton or her politics, one cannot ignore her effort, activism, experience and ability. Secondly, there is nothing remarkable about Obama, aside from his race and color, given that Western electorates are quite familiar with younger and inexperienced politicians uttering vague and grandiose statements and declarations. Thirdly, that the mass media outlets of other Western countries ask 'where is our Obama?' is the most damning indictment of his qualifications or lack thereof. As if Canada or Britain need to win an 'equality' or 'social justice' race with the United States? The anti-nationalist elites of each seem unable to rest on the laurels of Campbell or Thatcher, respectively, now that women and mulattos are presidential candidates in the U.S. Lastly, Obama is considered the wave of the future by multiculturalists, anti-racists and non-White minorities, and not because of his rather disturbing speeches. Who says identity politics has gone out of style?
II. I sincerely hope that Mr. Handlery is not advocating a Team B part deux. The United States has already squandered far too much of its wealth keeping its defense contractors solvent, and fighting paper tigers and phantoms. For the foreseeable future, "it's the economy stupid!"
III. Despite the NIE and move towards diplomatic normalcy, Teheran is determined to bring shock and awe upon itself. Allowing the IRGC to expand its control over the country is as ominous as electing the StaSi or KGB.
IV. Lt. Col. Rose is quite correct. If NATO is to truly escape its American-led and anti-Russian history, and evolve into a true European collective security organisation, it must eject the United States. I disagree, of course, that NATO is an offensive alliance, although it has behaved in such a manner at times. The major questions of a European security bloc would be whether it should include Britain and/or Russia. If the UK goes its own way, then it belongs with the United States, along with South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
V. Holocaust denial is not acquiring any greater legitimacy, least of all in Western societies. It is high time, however, that the event be subjected to the same research, analysis and criticisms as other such crimes against humanity e.g. the democide, genocide and ethnic cleasing committed under Soviet auspices. If Richard Overy can claim that Stalin's body count included "double counting," then we can certainly delve into the 5.7 million figure, which deserves similar scrutiny. Many groups suffered at the hands of the Third Reich, and yet some seem more equal than others. As far as Islamic anti-Semitism is concerned, one cannot extricate it from the existence of Israel and its conflict with Muslims, especially the Palestinians.
Handlery: After all, the Albanians are immigrants who came 400 yrs ago...So, if Kosovo is, regardless of the facts on the ground Serbian, then the Vajdasàg is Hungarian.
And yet Slavic expansion into the Balkans precedes the arrival of Magyars in Pannonia. At which point is a migrant people regarded as indigenous? Moreover, the Albanians existed in Europe before the Magyars, and arguably are an ancient European people related to the Illyrians and Geto-Dacians. If so, their presence in the Balkans predates that of the Southern Slavs and more specifically the Serbs. Unfortunately, such issues become anthropological rather than historical...
Duly Noted # 1
Submitted by Atlanticist911 on Sat, 2008-03-15 16:22.
"From here it seems that colour is creeping into Obama's once free-of-race-campaign..."
Well,this is unlikely to help.
" An Open Letter to White People".
re#1 Whites as second class citizens in the US
Submitted by Amsterdamsky on Sat, 2008-03-15 15:42.
If the racial preferences for blacks would end if with I black president I would gladly vote for him. However, I fear that it would only get worse with Obama. Not only that he has already given proposals to raise taxes significantly. Some estimates that with state and local taxes New Yorkers (who already earn very high wages due to cost of living in New York) will start approaching a 70% tax rate. Thank you no. McCain is flawed but certainly much better than the alternative.
Submitted by RS on Sat, 2008-03-15 15:13.
"This column presents some disregarded details that deserve attention."
To the contrary, most of the items enumerated have hardly been disregarded. That incorrect premise then becomes the Mr. Handlery's rationale for a laundry list of superficial comments.
The Brussels Journal deserves better. Its readers expect focused, original analysis from columnists, not file card dumps.