Obama, Edward Said, and the Politics of Identity

This month’s issue of Standpoint magazine features an editorial on one of Obama’s lesser-known intellectual influences. Of all the relationships from Obama’s past, this is one of the most troubling. And yet, when it comes to Barack Obama and Edward Said, its hard to think of two people with more similar personal histories and characters.

Barack Obama was first introduced to the postmodernist professor Edward Said when he took a class of his at Columbia University in 1982. There is no mention of this in the otherwise highly revealing Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. It warrants a mention in the more recent Barack Obama: The Story by David Maraniss. According to Maraniss, the young Obama was not impressed with Said’s over-theoretical approach and his handling of the class. Obama apparently called Said a “flake” when he handed back the students’ papers late and suddenly cancelled the class for the next term.

How much did Said’s ideas influence Obama? It would be going too far to say that he inspired Obama to become an Alinsky-style community organizer in Chicago, as Standpoint actually suggests. Obama was heading down that route well before 1982. Obama would, however, meet Said several times as a political ally and friend when climbing the political ladder in the 1990s:

From left to right: Michelle Obama, then Illinois State Senator Barack Obama, Columbia University Professor Edward Said and Mariam Said at a May 1998 Arab community event in Chicago. Edward Said delivered the keynote speech.

I don’t want to go so much into the links between Edward Said’s Orientalism and Barack Obama’s own worldview, if there is any. What I find more interesting in this case is the personal identities of the two men, and how they have presented their narratives. Here we find remarkable similarities. I believe both Obama and Said largely invented their personal narratives in order to make gains in their respective fields as well as to serve ideological goals.

Obama

In the case of Obama, I highly  recommend Steve Sailer’s masterwork America’s Half-Blood Prince: Barack Obama’s “Story of Race and Inheritance”, which is a thoughtful analysis of Obama’s intellectual and ideological foundations based on his own 1995 autobiography. This book is very different in style and content from Obama’s Audacity of Hope in 2006, for understandable reasons.

Sailer examines the obsession Obama had, from a very young age, over whether he was “black enough” to be a black leader. Obama had good reason to doubt his ‘blackness’. After all,  he was mostly raised by his devoted white grandparents in Hawaii, where he enjoyed a very privileged upbringing and went to the finest schools. It was clearly difficult for Obama to write Dreams from My Father as a book of suffering and conflict, as he tries to do in order to (as Sailer says) “turn himself into an authentic angry black man”. Given that most of his troubles lay solely within his own head, the Obama of this book comes off as a mere self-obsessed whinger.

Every aspect of Obama is incredibly politicized. In Dreams, Obama admits he “ceased to advertise my mother’s race at the age of twelve or thirteen, when I began to suspect that by doing so I was ingratiating myself with whites”. Part of this act was his fundamental decision to identify with his black scoundrel and bigamist of a biological father – who abandoned him at the age of two and his mother at 19 – over the white family that actually raised him. His  mother, Ann Dunham, was possibly at fault here. As she grew to resent her Indonesian second husband, in part due to his business activities with Americans, she began to ingrain the young Obama with romantic notions of his Kenyan father, an anti-western socialist. Ann would leave her son with his grandparents in Hawaii on two occasions; the second time to do research for her 1067-page anthropological dissertation with the hilarious title of Peasant Blacksmithing in Indonesia: Surviving and Thriving Against All Odds.

While living in New York, Obama even made the decision to break up with his serious white girlfriend of a year for reasons of race: “Well… there was a woman in New York that I loved. She was white… I pushed her away… She couldn’t be black, she said. She would if she could, but she couldn’t. She could only be herself, and that wasn’t enough”. Eventually he would marry a woman named Michelle, another figure obsessed with her own blackness. Michelle’s doctoral dissertation at Princeton is called Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community. That’s seven words, two of them ‘black’.

Across 460 pages of Dreams, Barack Obama never strays from the subject of race, and never ceases to agonize over his “racial credentials”. He claims that from the age of ten “I was trying to raise myself to be a black man in America, and beyond the given of my appearance, no one around me seemed to know exactly what that meant”. Because of the desperate shortage of racial tension and black people in Hawaii, he actually had to learn about being black from “TV, movies, the radio; those were places to start. Pop culture was color-coded, after all, an arcade of images from which you could cop a walk, a talk, a step, a style”. He found meaning in his blackness and the grievance he developed against the race of his own mother and grandparents in Hawaii. The happiest moment in this autobiography is when his alcoholic half-brother Roy’s converts to Islam and asserts his black identity by changing his name to Abongo.

Obama’s maternal grandfather Stanley Armour Dunham, mother Ann Dunham, Maya Soetoro and Barry Soetero/Barack Obama

Said

The case of Edward Said is similarly absurd, but at least he didn’t have to learn about being an Arab from TV. Like Obama, Said manufactured a narrative, downplaying a wealthy upbringing in Egypt and America in favor of portraying himself as a Palestinian refugee. This issue briefly came to public attention in 1999 when an Israeli-American lawyer and academic by the name of Justus Reid Weiner claimed to have found proof that Said lied about much of his early life. These allegations have been hotly contested. Here, I will stick to what we do know about Edward Said.

In a 1998 issue of the London Review of Books, Said reminisced: “I was born in Jerusalem and spent most of my formative years there… after 1948… my entire family became refugees, in Egypt”. Said claimed that he and his family were kicked out of  their “beautiful old house” in the wealthy Arab neighborhood of Talbiya, Jerusalem. He frequently posed dramatically before this building during a documentary film he did that same year for the BBC, called In Search of Palestine.

What Said did not make clear is that his aunt owned the house in Talbiya. Said’s immediate family often visited Jerusalem and stayed in the house, part of which was also the Yugoslavian consulate. Edward Said was born in Jerusalem on one of these trips, but the family’s permanent address recorded on his birth certificate is in Cairo and the line for a local address is left blank. Said’s father, Wadie (or William), was an American citizen and permanent resident of Cairo nine years prior to his son’s birth in 1935. There he owned and ran the very successful Standard Stationery Company, which grew to include a branch in Alexandria in 1929 and eventually a second store in Cairo itself. Said’s mother Hilda (or Musa), a Christian born in Nazareth, but of Lebanese extraction, moved to Cairo on marrying Wadie in 1932. There they resided for decades, including many years in Cairo’s most affluent neighborhood on the island of Zamalek in the Nile River.

Curiously, while Said wrote lots of moving words about growing up in the house in Talbiya, claiming to remember exactly the rooms where he first read Sherlock Holmes and Tarzan, nowhere did he ever mention the presence of a Yugoslavian consulate upstairs. Considering the consulate attracted numerous visitors, ranging from regular seekers of visas to diplomats and even the King of Yugoslavia himself, it seems a great oversight on Said’s part. Golde Meir herself showed  up for a formal function only weeks before Said claims his family was forced to flee the country. Such trivial matters escaped young Edward’s memory.

Said made an interesting claim while speaking at a Palestinian university, alleging that Martin Buber, arguably the greatest moral philosopher of the 20th century, lived in the house from which his family had fled. The “great apostle of coexistence between Arabs and Jews”, he bitterly remarked, “didn’t mind living in an Arab house whose inhabitants had been displaced”. Powerful stuff, but the real story is much more interesting. Martin Buber and his family, all refugees from Nazi Germany, did indeed move into the ground-floor and basement of the house in Talbiya in 1938. However, Said’s aunt Nabiha Yusef evicted the Bubers in 1942. This memorable event took place when Edward Said insisted he was growing up in the same house. The Bubers claimed Mrs. Yusef broke the lease and contested the eviction in court. Once again, Said forgets all about it. Buber’s granddaughters have testified that they remember Said’s aunt and her children, but not little Edward and his four sisters. Probably because he just wasn’t there.

The (darkly) funny thing is that in 1952 a revolutionary mob burned Wadie Said’s flagship store in Cairo to the ground. Several years later President Nasser actually forced Said’s family out of the country after nationalizing the family business. Said didn’t write much about this devastating loss. He never wailed about it for the cameras of the BBC. This is because he supported Nasser’s pan-Arab socialism, and, of course, the loss couldn’t be blamed on Israel.

There is another aspect of Said’s fabricated history aside from the question of where he grew up. This revolves around his  copious outpourings on the subject of  ‘identity’. Said spoke endlessly about how he as a “Palestinian (sic) going to school in Egypt, with an English first name, an American passport” grew up with “no certain identity at all”. His 2000 memoir, titled Out of Place was dedicated to this deceptive reminiscing. In fact, decades before Out of Place, Said revealed in his personal correspondence that despite his Christian background and western education, he never felt like a minority in Egypt and regarded his heritage as “Arab-Islamic” (this is shown in Efraim Karsh’s excellent Islamic Imperialism: A History).

Said pulled off a great trick. He endeared himself to Palestinians, the wider Arab and Muslim world and (most importantly) white western leftists. He would devote an entire career to hating imperialism, despite his suspicious fondness for the structures of the Ottoman Empire and Islamic rule over the Iberian peninsula (again, demonstrated in the excellent work of Karsh).

Barack Obama is quite similar to Said. He’s run into problems over his birth certificate. He also became the black leader he wanted to be, but not exclusively a leader of blacks along the lines of Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson. His speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention emphasized the “improbable love” between his white mother and black father. Obama became America’s Half-Blood Prince, a healer in the great racial divide. With the election in November, it would be wise to reflect on his accomplishment.

Obama, Romney, and Dependency

Only a few days ago, the Daily Caller obtained a complete audio recording of a speech in 1998 by then Illinois State Senator Barack Obama. He was speaking at a Loyola College forum on community organizing and policy-making  Loyola refused all requests to release the full tape or transcript of the talk. Some good soul in Chicago who got permission to view the existing videotape recorded the full speech secretly.

The most disturbing aspect of Obama’s speech is his idea that welfare recipients and “the working poor” form a coalition -“a majority coalition”, he says – that can be mobilized to advance “progressive” policies and continually elect the Democrats.

Obama at Loyola, 1998.

The speech is an interesting accompaniment to the now notorious words of Romney in Boca Raton, Fla., where he said that the 47% of the population who are net gainers from the welfare state will vote for Obama “no matter what”.

The consensus in the media is that these words uttered at a private fundraiser amounted to a “gaffe”, and Romney has been apologetic about the whole thing. I for one believe that Romney has nothing to be sorry for (although his “47%” would include students and retirees, and that certainly needs to be clarified). Indeed, Obama hints that his dream coalition would be over 50% of the voting population.

The issue of massive dependence on state welfare should be what the 2012 election is all about, and I hope it now dominates its final stages. Its hugely important for libertarians to be involved in this debate, even those of us disenchanted with a race between two men who can both reasonably claim to have invented Obamacare. Obama and Romney are correct on one issue: people who appear to gain more from the welfare state are not likely to support the people who agitate for smaller government. Its fair to say that Obama and many Democrats are deliberately seeking to make the majority of the population dependent on handouts. This will ensure permanent victory for the “party of government”. That will make Americans poorer and less free as long as the charade can be propped up, and it all turns into Greece.

Can the Republic of Jefferson be prevented from becoming the Hellenic? Whats most worrying is that we are fairly close to this situation already: almost half of all U.S. wage-earners pay no income tax. 70% get more in dollars from the government than they pay in with taxes. That half and their dependents will receive a plethora of benefits: “free” education from K-12, Pell Grants, Medicaid, rent supplements, food stamps, unemployment checks and many, many more. Why should these people throw their lot in with conservatives and libertarians who will reduce taxes they don’t even pay, while cutting or abolishing their benefits? As George Bernard Shaw said, a government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.

John C. Calhoun, America’s scariest-looking Vice President but a towering intellectual, foresaw this situation centuries ago:

The necessary result … of the unequal fiscal action of the government is to divide the community into two great classes; one consisting of those who … pay the taxes … and bear exclusively the burden of supporting the government; and the other, of those who are the recipients of their proceeds, through disbursements, and who are, in fact, supported by the government; or, in fewer words, to divide it into taxpayers and tax consumers.

He added:

This would give rise to two parties and to violent conflicts and struggles between them, to obtain the control of the government.

We are there, Mr. Calhoun. We are already there.

Trust The Irish State To Protect Your Children? How About Not Putting Them In A Brothel?

The Irish Government and all the major political parties claim to have they best interests of the nation’s children at heart. That’s why they are all backing the children’s rights amendment to the Constitution. So they say.

Three things immediately pop into my mind on this referendum.

Firstly, I find it funny that the government has no qualms about shouldering every child in this country with tens of thousands of euros worth of debt from the day they are born. I believe we need a constitutional referendum to prevent politicians screwing the next generation over in order to get votes much more than we need the new Article 42A.

Secondly, and in common with the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, I’m highly disturbed by the apparent exemption of state agencies from the requirement to consider the “voice of the child” when proceedings are taken against them.

Thirdly, why I can’t see why we supposedly need to enshrine the state’s role as protector of children if the Irish state can’t even stop children under its care ending up in brothels.

Lets not forget the WikiLeaks revelations last year on this particular matter, which ought to be far better known. From the Irish Independent in June 2011:

Children have been going missing from State care and ending up working as sex slaves in brothels for at least three years, leaked US embassy cables reveal.

Health Service Executive (HSE) officials made the shocking admission during a private briefing of diplomats from the American Embassy in Dublin.

Details of the disclosure were contained in cables obtained by the Irish Independent through the whistle-blowing organisation WikiLeaks.

Cables reveal how foreign-born children who went missing from HSE care had been ending up in the sex trade as far back as 2008.

The disclosure was made to US diplomats conducting research for an annual report on people trafficking in Ireland.

According to one cable, the HSE said some foreign children who went missing from care had been retraced to brothels, restaurants and private households where they may have been used as domestic slaves.

The missing minors were found in various towns throughout the country.

Disturbingly, the unnamed HSE officials admitted statistics on the number of these children were not being maintained.

A February 2009 cable, detailing a HSE briefing, said gardai had located two minors – both missing from HSE care – in the sex industry during the previous year.

The cable, which gave a detailed assessment of Irish efforts to combat people trafficking, was forwarded to the office of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

According to the dispatch, HSE officials believed Chinese children were at greatest risk of being trafficked.

They also claimed traffickers bringing such children to Ireland were likely to be non-nationals who preyed on their compatriots.

When a child under the age of 17 arrives in Ireland without a parent or guardian, they are automatically placed in foster care or hostel facilities administered by the HSE.

However, each year dozens of children go missing from care. It is suspected many end up in the hands of the traffickers who arranged for them to come into the country in the first place.

According to the cable, gardai indicated trafficking gangs were increasingly targeting Ireland due to the ease with which children could escape from HSE facilities.

Briefings received by the embassy between 2006 and 2008 indicated there was no evidence at the time to substantiate suspicions children were being trafficked into the sex trade in Ireland.

However, for the past three years the HSE has acknowledged in briefings with American officials that trafficking of minors into the sex trade is happening.

The children’s rights referendum? Its just more government Kool-Aid. Maybe even a power grab.

The Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland and Jihadists

According to the Irish Times, dozens of young Muslims in Ireland have gone to Syria to assist the anti-Assad cause. This does not include medical or humanitarian volunteers. We are talking about people actually fighting. This largely unreported phenomenon also occurred in Libya. Few are aware that between five and ten Muslims who traveled from Ireland were killed in clashes with pro-Qaddafi forces. One of those involved in Syria is Mehdi al-Harati, a pro-Palestinian activist in Dublin who took part in the 2010 flotilla provocation. He founded the Tripoli Brigade, which was one of the first rebel units in the Libyan capital. Now, he leads a brigade in northern Syria.

Of particular interest here is the role of the Islamic Cultural centre of Ireland:

DR ALI SELIM , a theologian at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland, in Clonskeagh in Dublin, compares those who flocked to Libya last year and Syria today to the International Brigade during the Spanish Civil War. “They see it as a battle against injustice that transcends nationality,” he says. The prospect of “martyrdom” is also a strong motivation, he adds. “Many of them, before they leave here, say, ‘Make prayers for me; I want to be martyred,’ because they understand that, in Islam, martyrdom is the way to eternal life,” he says. “If they die as martyrs, they will be held in high esteem. If they survive and come back, they will also be held in high regard, because they have performed a very important duty.”

Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an influential Muslim Brotherhood-linked Egyptian religious scholar with strong connections to the cultural centre, recently called via Twitter for people to go to fight in Syria or send weapons there, describing such assistance as obligatory.

Is the ICCI an active recruiting ground for these fighters, or are they turning a blind eye? And what are the motivations of those going to Syria? Selim’s reference to injustice that “transcends nationality” and opportunities for “martyrdom” indicate a strong jihadist presence: men who dream of creating an Islamist state in Syria, or even pan-Islamists who dream of restoring the Caliphate.

The Irish “Anti-War” Movement has been silent about all this, which is no surprise given that its a communist front that takes takes sides in wars more than it opposes them.

The Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland, Clonskeagh, Dublin

The Unexpected Joys Of Working 2-11

In recent months I have been working in a particularly dull Mossad safe house, in shifts alternating between 9am-6pm and 2pm-11pm. The former is the roughly the conventional workday we all experience at some stage, while the latter brought some opportunity for reflection and comparison.

Why is the average workday shaped like it currently is? To make use of daylight. Today, it still makes sense for farmers and many in construction, but not the modern day post-Edison office worker.

Exposure to sunlight makes us happy and healthy. Sunlight is at its strongest between 11am and 3pm. How horrible it is to spend the loveliest hours of the day stuck in an office or classroom! I felt like that for much of this summer. I feel that way every summer.

And if we exclude time spent sleeping, people simply don’t spend much time in their homes on workdays. Perhaps as little as four hours, morning and evening. So when we are not working, we are left in the dark or the dullest hours of the day, and usually rushing or exhausted.

If the average workday was between 2-11 or 2-10, these drawbacks can be avoided. My total commute to work is about one hour. It would be much less if I had my own car, which is one reason why for most people in London its 37.8 minutes per journey

I come home from work around midnight, do some bodily maintenance, get my eight hours, and rise around 8:30. It leaves me with four and a half free hours before I have to go to work again. These hours are the best of the day. Here’s one good week for me working 2-11: One day, I was able to lounge around outdoors, read an interesting collection of economic essays as well as an entire Spectator under the sun. The day after, I went to an afternoon piano recital before work. Another day, I attended a public lecture. The day after that I had wine and cheese in a lovely park with a student friend. We lay about like peasants in Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Land of Cockaigne before I was obliged to leave.

It would have been better to have more friends around doing this, but unfortunately most were at work during the nicest hours of the day. There was also the fact I couldn’t join my companions for sushi or cocktails after work because our hours were so mismatched, but this could change if we all gave up this 9-5 rule-of-thumb. The only exception were full-time student friends, who do jackshit most of the time anyway. Yet I still hadn’t felt better since my time working in an Israeli factory between the hours of 6am and 2pm. That was due to a good Israeli diet, Mediterranean-style napping, and the fact that it stayed warm and bright well after work.

Working ‘normal’ hours, I would have been rushing about in the morning, and perhaps too tired to bother pursuing a challenging book or activity after coming home. That’s when most people get sucked into the demonic trash of television, because its there and its easy. If its been tough going at work all day, a man may not be in the mood to embrace his wife and children the way he should, and relationships suffer. If you or the kids don’t need to be at work and school until 2pm, you can play ball in the sun, or you can engage in some afternoon delight with your loved one.

Admittedly, this system works best if one goes to bed immediately after coming home from work, so you can make the best of the late morning/early afternoon. Mealtimes need to be adjusted. However, If you want to get sloshed or go to the movies after work, no problem: you might not have to wake up until 12:00 the next day. This leaves you with five or even six hours for drunkenness and other nighttime activities, and you can still get a  full night’s sleep.

If the conventional 9-5 workday no longer serves the interests of much of the modern working population, as much as another system might, its high-time to abandon it.

If you will it, it is no dream.

Support Free Trade? Support Israel? Just Want Cheaper Medicine? Then Support ACAA!

On Wednesday September 18th the International Trade Committee of the European Parliament met to discuss a trade agreement with Israel. The proposed bill is set to be voted on in October. If passed, the Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAA) would remove barriers to trade between Israel and EU member states in industrial products, particularly pharmaceuticals.

The ACAA is a fantastic opportunity to cut healthcare costs for Europeans and generate economic growth in Israel by further opening the European market to Israel’s renowned pharmaceutical industry.

The ACAA can only benefit the European consumer and Israeli enterprise and foster more peaceful cooperation between our peoples. Who wouldn’t want cheaper medicine for our children, our elderly and the increasingly financially squeezed average worker?

The “Palestine solidarity” crowd, that’s who. Putting left-wing politics ahead of people, Labour Party MEP for Dublin and Chair of the European Parliament Palestine Delegation has urged “caution” in the EU in regards to ending protectionist practices against Israel.

So, it seems the likes of Costello are prepared to screw their own constituents and average folks all over the EU in order to further the foreign policy objectives of people like the United Left Alliance. Or perhaps the Baathist’s best buddy in Ireland, Chris Andrews. Lobby groups like the IPSC are set to go into overdrive to stop this agreement. Unfortunately, even with the demise of Chris Andrews, many politicians in Ireland seem to believe they were elected to represent Palestinians as much as or more than the Irish.

I urge everybody who cares free markets, Israel, or simply the interests of consumers everywhere to tell these people where to shove it. Perhaps we can also teach them that the operation of the free market and free trade is the most surefire way to promote global peace and harmony. Just ask Milton:

The Idiocy of Muslims

I think we can all agree that The Innocence of Muslims is a terrible film. But lets not be fooled into believing that its offensive nature is the reason for this recent round fiery demonstrations and violence, anymore than it is the fault of a teddy bear named Mohammed or some Danish cartoons.  Elements in the Muslim world reacted in much the same way in 1989 with the publication of The Satanic Verses, a work of some literary merit. Unless we want our grandchildren to be dhimmis, its time to stop babying these people and allowing extremists to undermine our long-established liberties.

YouTube has been pressured by the White House to remove the ridiculous trailer. Apparently, the First Amendment doesn’t count for anything when some Muslims are offended. Google, the owners of YouTube, have commendably stood firm against the Obama administration. Unfortunately, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, an Egyptian Copt and the alleged filmmaker, has been detained in San Diego. The Islamist-controlled government of Egypt has issued an arrest warrant for him, six other Copts connected with the film, and, incredibly, the stupid Florida-based pastor Terry Jones.

Salman Rushdie must be thankful he didn’t write The Satanic Verses in America today. He didn’t like Margaret Thatcher’s politics.  Thatcher didn’t like him. But the great woman stood by and protected Rushdie in his hour of need. Her loyalty was to her country’s constitution. Barack Obama’s is clearly elsewhere.

The spirit of Charles Martel or the men who held out against the Ottomans at the Gates of Vienna is sadly absent in modern-day Europe. Recently, the historian Tom Holland did a documentary on the mysterious origins of Islam for Channel 4. The program included some truly cringe-worthy scenes, involving Holland bending over backwards to a Muslim academic at at George Washington University by the name of Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Holland grovelled before his masta and asked what he must do to prove that he is not an imperialist in his scholarly work. Now, this Nasr fellow gives every indication of being an arrogant, odious person. When asked by Holland if a non-Muslim can hope to understand the origins of the Muslim world, he gave an emphatic single-word response:  ‘no’.  Nasr was clearly a religious man, but his his head happens to be full of the usual nonsense of one of the greatest academic shysters of all time: Edward Said.

A private screening of the documentary before an audience of historians and “opinion formers” at Channel 4 headquarters was cancelled, due to threats directed against Holland and the broadcaster. After all, we dhimmis should know our place.

Yet political correctness clearly only runs one-way. Only days ago, Iranian TV Channel 1 broadcast a viciously anti-Jewish film called Saturday Hunter, in which an devilish rabbi teaches his young grandson to become a mass-murderer of non-Jews and to create a machine that will destroy the goyim. An interesting tidbit: the Ukraine National Symphony Orchestra did the soundtrack.

Number of deaths so far in response to Saturday Hunter: Zero. But TV3’s Vincent Browne still assures us (at 37.20) that Israel is a religious fundamentalist state, no different from Saudi Arabia or Iran. No wonder Ireland produces such cerebral giants like Chris Andrews.

Debunking Clinton on Economic Recovery

Bill Clinton notably defended Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention by saying that no president could have gotten the United States out of the recession in just one term. Yet he also claims Barack Obama might have been able to sort this mess out faster if it wasn’t for those darn Republicans and their obstructionist ways. Is this true?

The history of economic downturns and government reactions to them tells us otherwise. Thomas Sowell writes about this over at Townhall today. He notes that “for the first 150 years of this country’s existence, the federal government felt no great need to “do something” when the economy turned down”. Laissez-faire was the traditional rough guide in regards to economic crises before 1929. Lets compare recessions, then and now.

The first major financial crisis in America was the Panic of 1819. In his definitive work on the subject, Murray N. Rothbard writes that the federal government’s only action was to ease the terms of payment for its own land debtors. The Panic was history by 1923. That’s less than one full Presidential term, Mr. Clinton. Martin Van Buren, a highly underrated President, stayed the laissez-faire course during the Panic of 1837. That took five years to finally get over, but we wont quibble over a year or so, as Van Buren was a good fellow. Subsequent federal governments followed a similar approach, the occasional nasty exception being state governments which sometimes permitted insolvent banks to continue operating without paying their obligations.

The last of the real laissez-faire Presidents was Warren G. Harding. In the 1920–21 depression, unemployment hit 11.7 at its height. This is higher than its reached so far under Obama. Harding – the unsung hero of the day – did nothing, possibly because he was too busy boozing and fornicating. Wage rates were permitted to fall. Government spending and taxes were actually reduced significantly. This largely forgotten depression was over in one year. The Austrian School economist Dr. Benjamin M. Anderson called it “our last natural recovery to full employment.” Unemployment came to 2.4 percent in 1923.

Unfortunately, the laissez-faire tradition was abandoned after 1929 when progressive, Keynesian policies took hold of governments. This was true for both the Hoover and Roosevelt administrations. Some still perceive Hoover as a laissez-faire man, but let him tell the story in his acceptance speech for the Republican nomination in 1933:

[W]e might have done nothing. That would have been utter ruin. Instead we met the situation with proposals to private business and to Congress of the most gigantic program of economic defense and counterattack ever evolved in the history of the Republic. We put it into action. . . . No government in Washington has hitherto considered that it held so broad a responsibility for leadership in such times. . . . For the first time in the history of depression, dividends, profits, and the cost of living, have been reduced before wages have suffered. . . . They were maintained until the cost of living had decreased and the profits had practically vanished. They are now the highest real wages in the world.

Creating new jobs and giving to the whole system anew breath of life; nothing has ever been devised in our history which has done more for . . . “the common run of men and women.” Some of the reactionary economists urged that we should allow the liquidation to take its course until we had found bottom. . . . We determined that we would not follow the advice of the bitter end liquidationists and see the whole body of debtors of the United States brought to bankruptcy and the savings of our people brought to destruction.

Modern studies continue to prove that the interventionist policies of Hoover and Roosevelt only prolonged the Great Depression by several years. Well into Roosevelt’s second term unemployment stood at the terrible rate of 15 percent, indicating that the much-vaunted New Deal was an utter failure. Obama is making the same mistakes, prolonging a crisis that could have been over already if men like Van Buren and Harding were in Washington today. This was proven by Reagan. According to Sowell again:

Something similar [to 1920-21] happened under Ronald Reagan. Unemployment peaked at 9.7 percent early in the Reagan administration. Like Harding and earlier presidents, Reagan did nothing, despite outraged outcries in the media.

The economy once again revived on its own. Three years later, unemployment was down to 7.2 percent — and it kept on falling, as the country experienced twenty years of economic growth with low inflation and low unemployment…

Despite demands that Mitt Romney spell out his plan for reviving the economy, we can only hope that Governor Romney plans to stop the government from intervening in the economy and gumming up the works, so that the economy can recover on its own.

Amen to that.

Hegelian Chic

High-end fashion has been known for esoteric advertising, but this one took me by surprise in the pages of my New Yorker this week. The only words, apart from ‘Brunello Cucinelli‘ at the bottom (cut out in my photo) are from Hegel: “The State is the actuality of the ethical idea”.

Brilliant! (I have absolutely no idea whats going on).

 

 

Racist, Crack Abuser and Pro-Obama Delegate: Marion Barry at the DNC

When it came to the Republican National Convention, the media made sure to have a 24-hour watch seeking out ‘RACISM!’ in every corner.

My favorite accusation of ‘RACISM!’ came from the Yahoo! News chief, who claimed that Republicans were “happy to have a party when black people drown” (in reference to the timing of the RNC with Hurricane Isaac).

Yet not much attention has fallen upon the presence of Marion Barry at the DNC. For many Americans, Barry is a bad memory who embodies all the evils of the early 90’s recession and the state of Washinton DC at the time. Now he’s coming to affirm Obama’s nomination in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Marion Barry first came to infamy when he was filmed smoking crack and busted in a FBI sting-operation in 1990. This year, he was filmed making racist remarks about the ever-productive Asian community in the United States: “We’ve got to do something about these Asians coming in, opening up businesses, those dirty shops. They ought to go, I’ll just say that right now, you know.”

Here are some other notable statements from this great American wordsmith:

“The contagious people of Washington have stood firm against diversity during this long period of increment weather.”

“I promise you a police car on every sidewalk.”

“If you take out the killings, Washington actually has a very very low crime rate.”

“First, it was not a strip bar, it was an erotic club. And second, what can I say? I’m a night owl.”

“Bitch set me up.”

“I am clearly more popular than Reagan. I am in my third term. Where’s Reagan? Gone after two! Defeated by George Bush and Michael Dukakis no less”.

“The laws in this city are clearly racist. All laws are racist. The law of gravity is racist”.

“I am making this trip to Africa because Washington is an international city, just like Tokyo, Nigeria or Israel. As mayor, I am an international symbol. Can you deny that to Africa?”

“People have criticized me because my security detail is larger than the
president’s. But you must ask yourself: are there more people who want to kill me than who want to kill the president? I can assure you there are.”

“The brave men who died in Vietnam, more than 100% of which were black, were the ultimate sacrifice”.

“I read a funny story about how the Republicans freed the slaves. The Republicans are the ones who created slavery by law in the 1600′s. Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves and he was not a Republican”.

“What right does Congress have to go around making laws just because they deem it necessary?”

“People blame me because these water mains break, but I ask you, if the water mains didn’t break, would it be my responsibility to fix them then? WOULD IT!?!”

“I am a great mayor; I am an upstanding Christian man; I am an intelligent man; I am a deeply educated man; I am a humble man”.

Unfortunately, Barry is a member of a Designated Victim Group, which in America means pretty much any member of a NAM (Non-Asian Minority). Thus, he can never be ‘RACIST!’ enough to be driven from an event like the DNC or an institution like the DC city council.