We Must Replace Radical Change With Practical Change!
Will American voters be intelligent enough to allow pragmatism to triumph over radicalism? (See 1 and 1a below.)
John Dunn has eloquently put into words what I have been alluding to all along.
Obama will fall because of his own arrogance and hubris.
In the end he has become his own worst enemy, his own nemesis! (See 2 below.)
Obama's experiment an abject failure? (See 2a below.)
Every once in a while I am sent some witticisms that are worth posting:
" FIVE RULES TO REMEMBER IN LIFE 1. Money cannot buy happiness, but it's more comfortable to cry in a Corvette than on a bicycle. 2. Forgive your enemy, but remember the ass-hole's name. 3. If you help someone when they're in trouble, they will remember you when they're in trouble again. 4. Many people are alive only because it's illegal to shoot them. 5. Alcohol does not solve any problems, but then neither does milk.
Partners help each other undress before sex.
However after sex, they always dress on their own.
Moral of the story: In life, no one helps you once you're screwed. "
Will the shift in the West's political tide force Netanyahu's hand? Is an unwelcome October surprise closer at hand? (See 3 below.)
And then there is Putin! (See 3a below.)
For decades I have preached Conservatism in financial matters and personal conduct.
I have urged all my children to be savers, to conduct themselves so as not to bring dishonor upon themselves, their immediate family and the nation at large.
I have warned again profligacy and the failure of government to do much of what it promises; not because I do not believe we need government but simply because bureaucratic solutions have proven, time and again, to fall short of their professed and announced goals and projected costs.
Failure breeds distrust!
I have consistently railed against the idiocy of liberal thinking, actions and policies which , historically, have proven disastrous because they have mostly failed in a variety of ways.
Ironically if you want more of something spend money on it (poverty, dependency and dumbing down come to mind) and if you want less of something tax it (competitiveness and productivity come to mind.).
The articles I have posted in this memo go to the very heart of my philosophy of conservatism.
Conservatism, to me, connotes sensible personal deprivation, perseverance, a willingness to take responsibility (not just mouth meaningless words as politicians often do) and a pattern if conduct which considers the other person's rights.
My brand of conservatism also embodies a sense of patriotism and a willingness to defend and protect, a belief that our founders knew something and produced a document worth adhering to and above all scrupulous honesty.
Finally, my sense of conservatism precludes any belief there is a free lunch.
If Americans are capable of returning to these basic precepts that, in my opinion, form the basis of Western Civilization, there is hope we can recover from the abyss progressive thinking has caused. If not, we are doomed and our failure is only a matter of time because our debt, growing public ignorance and decline in values will accelerate and crush us.
Romney may not be equal to the task considering the divisive contentiousness in Congress. However, between himself and Obama there is no doubt Romney is our best hope if we are to have any chance of contending with our massive debt, public ignorance and dependency upon failing government solutions.
We have experienced more than three years of fraud and deceit. We have experimented and flirted with lunacy and now we must replace radical change with practical change that works!
1)Romney's Practical Vision vs. Obama's Left-Wing Extremism
By Peter Ferrara
Mitt Romney (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In his weekly radio address on April 14,President Obama displayed his lifelong commitment to an ideological extremism of pure theory unhinged from reality. That failure of leadership is why America is in a scary downward slide that will not stop until fundamental change is made at the top.
The weekly radio address was on Obama’s so-called Buffett Rule, which would double the top tax rates on investment income such as capital gains and dividends. The most revealing statement was this: “Now, this is not just about fairness. This is also about growth. It’s about being able to make the investments we need to strengthen our economy and create jobs. And it’s about whether we, as a country, are willing to pay for those investments.”
So this is Obama’s growth model. Double the top tax rates on investment income, to get the money to increase government spending (in case you haven’t noticed, “investments” is the Orwellian term Obama uses to refer to government spending), which is what really drives economic growth in Obama’s mind.
If you raise taxes on something you get less of it. That’s a fundamental principal of economic logic. That is why when the government wanted to discourage smoking, it sharply raised taxes on cigarettes.
Similarly, when you raise taxes, especially tax rates, on investment income, you will get less capital investment creating the investment income to tax. But capital investment is the lifeblood of capitalism. Capital investment, financing factories, stores, and other businesses, is what creates jobs. Capital investment, financing tools such as computerized steam shovels instead of hand shovels or bare hands for digging, is what makes Americans the most productive, and therefore, the most highly paid, workers enjoying the highest standard of living in the world.
Capital investment is what increases the demand for labor, which is what bids up wages. Capital investment increases the productivity of labor, which produces the cash to pay workers higher wages. When workers are more productive, businesses want to hire more of them, bidding up wages further.
Some government spending contributes to economic growth. Education creates human capital, which also makes workers more productive. But America already spends more on education than any other country in the world, and has for a long time.
Some government spending on infrastructure contributes to economic growth. Roads, highways, bridges, airports, seaports, enable businesses and their goods and services to get around. It promotes domestic and international trade, which maximizes economic growth and prosperity. While America still has some infrastructure needs, especially in maintenance, it already has the most developed infrastructure in the world.
Moreover, America already spends a lot on infrastructure, and has for a long time. Federal, state and local gas taxes are primarily devoted to infrastructure, and quadrennial federal highway bills devote hundreds of billions to infrastructure spending.
But if more government spending were the key to economic growth, America would be the most prosperous ever right now, because we have enjoyed an all time record spending spree under President Obama. The first thingPresident Reagan did coming into office was to push through a federal spending cut of about 5% in his notorious 1981 budget cuts, much vilified by the Left. That was one of four explicit components of Reagan’s economic recovery plan, which produced an historic, generation long, 25 year economic boom from 1982 to 2007.
The first thing President Obama did upon coming into office was to increase federal spending
by nearly a trillion dollars for his so-called stimulus, much of it to be devoted to infrastructure spending we were told. The result was the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression, with the economy still flat on its back 3½ years later. The first 11 quarters of the Obama recovery averaged real growth of 2.4%, “slower growth than in every modern expansion, and about half the growth rate of all recoveries since World War II,” the Wall Street Journal commented in last weekend’s edition. The first 11 quarters of the Reagan recovery averaged real growth of 6.1%, almost 3 times as much.
Moreover, the Congressional Budget Office, theJoint Tax Committee, and his own Treasury have already told President Obama that his Buffett Rule will not produce any significant revenue increase, about 0.1% of what Obama’s own budget proposes to spend next year, and over the next 10 years, and about 0.3% of Obama’s deficit this year.
But that didn’t stop Obama from telling the American people in his weekly radio address on April 14 that we need the Buffett Rule because, “we live in the real world, with real choices and real consequences. Right now, we’ve got significant deficits to close. We’ve got serious investments to make to keep our economy growing.”
Obama apparently calculates that the average American hearing his radio address won’t know anything about what CBO, Joint Tax, or Treasury say about it. What he miscalculates is that a majority have already tuned him out, because they have learned by experience that they can’t trust what he says.
Moreover, the truth is that raising the top tax rates further on investment income will only lose revenue, rather than giving him more money to spend to increase economic growth (haha). In the last 40 years, every time the capital gains tax rate has been increased, capital gains revenues have declined. And when President Bush slashed the tax rate on dividends in 2003, dividends paid soared, increasing rather than reducing the resulting revenues. The CBO, Joint Tax, and Treasury missed those effects in their estimates every time.
Indeed, if the Buffett Rule tax rate increases are piled on top of all the tax rate increases on investment income already enacted into current law for next year, when the Obamacare taxes go into effect and the Bush tax cuts expire, the result will be renewed, double dip, recession. That will produce a massive decline in revenues.
The bottom line is that raising tax rates on investment income to finance increased government spending could not be a more confused, upside down policy to promote economic growth. It reflects only Obama’s extreme, neo-Marxist ideology, which is fundamentally offended by investment income flowing to “the rich.” That is what he means when he talks about fairness, though the Buffett Rule doesn’t improve fairness either. But that ideology is all he really cares about, not economic growth.
In sharp contrast, presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney in his remarks April 24 in New Hampshire displayed a keen fundamental grasp of how America’s capitalist economy works, saying, “I have a very different vision of America, and of our future. It is an America driven by freedom, where free people, pursuing happiness in their own unique ways, create free enterprises that employ more and more Americans. Because there are so many enterprises that are succeeding, the competition for hard-working, educated and skilled employees is intense, and so wages and salaries rise.”
This is how America’s capitalist system has worked for 300 years to create the richest, most prosperous nation in the history of the Earth. That is why for those 300 years, working people have been coming to America from the world over, from every land, city, and town, every religion, every race, every creed, every nook and cranny around the world. They are not neo-Marxist philosophers, like the President. They are real people pursuing happiness in the real world, and voting for capitalism with their feet.
That is why Romney could so confidently say, reflecting this long history of the America we love, “I see an America with a growing middle class, with rising standards of living. I see children even more successful than their parents – some successful even beyond their wildest dreams – and others congratulating them for their achievement, not attacking them for it.”
But that is not what E.J. Dionne, columnist for the Washington Post, sees, or understands. In his column of April 26, “Romney Thinks Magic Is What Economy Needs,” Dionne derided Romney’s April 24 speech as “magical capitalism.” He responded to the passage quoted above by writing, “Just like that, all will be well – as if we never needed the trust-busting of theProgressive Era, the social legislation of the New Deal, the health programs of the Great Society, and the coordinated action of the world’s governments in 2008 and 2009 to keep the Great Recession from becoming something far worse. This is Romney’s true radicalism.”
But Romney never said anything like that. Dionne offers a false alternative, and like President Obama he thinks a majority of Americans can be so easily fooled. Dionne’s rhetoric is like
deriding Romney’s proposed 20% across the board cut in federal income tax rates for everyone as calling for abolishing federal income taxes altogether
Dionne, however, is right about one thing. Capitalism and its economic growth and prosperity are like magic, a magic America lived through in the last century. In the last century, 1900 to 2000, Stephen Moore and Julian L. Simon note in their underappreciated work, It’s Getting Better All the Time: 100 Greatest Trends of the Last 100 Years, real per capita GDP in America grew by nearly 7 times, meaning the American standard of living grew by that much as well. The authors explain,
“It is hard for us to imagine, for example, that in 1900 less than one in five homes had running water, flush toilets, a vacuum cleaner, or gas or electric heat. As of 1950 fewer than 20 percent of homes had air conditioning, a dishwasher, or a microwave oven. Today between 80 and 100 percent of American homes have all of these modern conveniences.”
Indeed, in 1900 only 2% of homes enjoyed electricity. As Cox and Alm note further in their insightful Myths of Rich and Poor, “Homes aren’t just larger. They’re also much more likely to be equipped with central air conditioning, decks and patios, swimming pools, hot tubs, ceiling fans, and built in kitchen appliances. Fewer than half of the homes built in 1970 had two or more bathrooms; by 1997, 9 out of 10 did.” This is all the result of magical, booming, capitalist economic growth and prosperity.
Such magical economic growth has produced dramatic improvements in personal health as well. Throughout most of human history, a typical lifespan was 25 to 30 years, as Moore and Simon report. But “from the mid-18th century to today, life spans in the advanced countries jumped from less than 30 years to about 75 years.” Average life expectancy in the U.S. has grown by more than 50% since 1900. Infant mortality declined from 1 in 10 back then to 1 in 150 today. Children under 15 are at least 10 times less likely to die, as one in four did during the 19th century, with their death rate reduced by 95%. The maternal death rate from pregnancy and childbirth was also 100 times greater back then than today.
Also greatly contributing to the well-being of working people, the middle class, and the poor in America has been the dramatically declining cost of food resulting from economic growth and soaring productivity in agriculture. As Moore and Simon report, “Americans devoted almost 50 percent of their incomes to putting food on the table in the early 1900s compared with 10 percent in the late 1900s.” While most of human history has involved a struggle against starvation, today in America the battle is against obesity, even more so among the poor. Moore and Simon quote Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, “The average consumption of protein, minerals, and vitamins is virtually the same for poor and middle income children, and in most cases is well above recommended norms for all children. Most poor children today are in fact overnourished.” That cited data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau. As a result, poor children in America today “grow up to be about 1 inch taller and 10 pounds heavier than the GIs who stormed the beaches of Normandy in World War II.” But Obama has already managed to reverse this long term trend, producing sharply rising food prices accelerating throughout his term.
Moreover, it is economic growth that has provided the resources enabling us to dramatically reduce pollution and improve the environment, without trashing our standard of living. Moore and Simon write that at the beginning of the last century,
“Industrial cities typically were enveloped in clouds of black soot and smoke. At this stage of the industrial revolution, factories belched poisons into the air—and this was proudly regarded as a sign of prosperity and progress. Streets were smelly and garbage-filled before the era of modern sewage systems and plumbing.”
This is why the most important priority today by far is restoring traditional, robust, American economic growth and prosperity, which will produce even more dramatic leaps in this century, and provide the resources to solve every problem. More important than where we are today is where we are headed. Today we are 20% below the long term trendline of American economic growth and falling farther and farther behind. That is why even illegal immigrants are now leaving America and returning to their homelands. The economic boom that is within this economy and straining to break out will return America to that long term trendline of economic growth and prosperity.
Romney understands how to do that. Obama doesn’t, and doesn’t believe in it. He believes with all of his heart that it’s unfair. Ditto that for Dionne, an ideological soulmate of Obama’s. Dionne was a big time prep school Marxist back in his Harvard days, just like Obama was. But like all those prep school Marxists we knew in college, he grew up to pose as just another liberal Democrat, like Obama did to infiltrate the system. That is why Obama, and Dionne, do so truly represent the heart and soul of today’s Democrat Party, and that heart and soul is Che.
If that is not what you want for your family, your children, and your country, that is why you should not be contributing to or voting for them.
1a)The Big Picture: Our Curiously Failing Civilization ByJack Curtis
Governments around the world are in various stages of financial failure, all seemingly trying to be Argentina. Curious, no? Look at debt and deficits; you see government spending issues; most of the few exceptions have other problems. Look then at global migration patterns showing people leaving poor places for places going broke, an unhappy trend line. Look anywhere; we can't seem to govern ourselves worldwide, while people protesting are multiplying everywhere.
The U.S. and the EU can't stop borrowing and spending, though no one can expect their stultified economies to bear the debt they've run up. Arab riots and civil wars reflect those countries' corrupt dictators' inability to sufficiently subsidize the citizens. Armed insurrections and massive demonstrations plague Russia, India, China, and Latin America; Africa has more than its share of failed and failing states. The Global Incident Map shows worldwide terrorism and both underlines instability and helps explain the migrations. Predictable civil order seems lost.
For "rich" Europe and North America, it's the famous doom of all democracies: the citizens have learned to vote others' wealth to themselves via a devil's compact with demagogues. Once in place, such deals can't be controlled (Who's re-elected for shutting off the goodies?) until they outrun available resources and impoverish the economy. "Kick the can down the road" (meaning past the next election) is the U.S. mantra for postponing the end-game; in the EU, it's quasi-austerity. It's the same game in both places: Save the Banks. The people? Let them eat cake...
For everybody outside the rich world, it's the same thing at one remove. That rich world has been such an engine of the world economy that most of the rest are, in varying degrees, dependents. When the rich customer cuts back, the dependent suffers. For those living hand-to-mouth in the first place, the suffering is worse; that puts those governments at more immediate risk. If we really look, much post-WWII stability has been a wire-walking façade.
Civilization: a state of social culture characterized by relative progress in the arts, science, and statecraft. Start with the Babylonians; the picture is later expanded by the multicultural Romans (equal opportunity conquerors) and expanded again by the widely differing but integrated Europeans, Indians, and Chinese. Perhaps it's time we recognized an additional element in the mix that now defines civilization: technology.
Modern transport, communication, and information technology have linked the whole planet into a functional unity irrespective of language, culture, religion, or other differences. Whether very poor or wealthy, educated or illiterate, nearly everybody on earth is in reach of a network of information and services via a common, worldwide technology. The only obvious threats to that lie with paranoid governments insistent on controlling it and various Luddites intent on its destruction to preserve interests under threat.
Such miracles, like free lunches, carry costs. One cost of the world's economic integration: a cold in the rich world quickly produces sneezes everywhere else, an unsung partner of things like just-in-time inventory control. Another cost is the greater awareness of events and conditions everywhere. The whole world knows at once of riots anywhere; if cell phones organize the rioters, the world knows that, too. And how a local dictator reacts will appear quickly on YouTube, with any blood in full color. Poorly informed people are becoming much more knowledgeable and sophisticated, seeing how others live, and developing greater expectations that their governments aren't prepared to accommodate. As citizens' expectations rise, governments facing them before a world audience find their control of events affected, more so when such strategic interests as oil are involved. An event anywhere can light a fire under a planetary pot; the technology that spreads civilization also expands risk.
When considering political collapse, we look for the signature social meltdown; a strong civilization may work through bad finances. Before they're swept from history's stage, civilizations rot from inside. What do we see?
Western civilization was the Judeo-Christian replacement for failed Classical Europe. Its centrality was the general acceptance of Christian morality, built on widespread religious belief and embedded in governments and law. In what's being called a post-Christian era, that's dissolving; Western citizens are struggling with each other over such basics as human rights, obligations, behavior, and the value of human life.
These are so fundamental that it's hard to see how a social unity can exist for long without general agreement; for example, note the current Obama administration attack on the Catholic Church over abortion and birth control mandates. In case of doubt, the State Department has now listed the Vatican bank as a money-laundering suspect. Here is a direct attack on the First Amendment "free exercise of religion," so the administration is attacking both the Church and the Constitution. It's not obvious what may re-unify this fracturing society outside the implementation of force.
More generally, the replacement of Christian morality with secular moral relativism has fueled social and political corruption and weakened the bonds that once held society together, again leaving only government to compel unity.
The United States has relied upon its Constitution for coherence; that's failing. The president claims the power to kill whom he wishes, seizes private businesses, and starts wars when he likes, all extra-constitutional acts. Congress allows that and has authorized military seizure and indefinite imprisonment of citizens without due process[i]; the Constitution is now treated as a dead letter by both president and Congress. Add that a constitution is moot without the rule of law, which requires stability in the language. In American society today, words have made prophets of Lewis Carroll and George Orwell by losing their historically more stable meanings and becoming politically adjustable tools, poisoning the very foundation of a rule of law. Western societies resemble cracking glass.
Islamic civilization today is fractured between the educated and the traditional, the corrupt wealthy and the poor, the tribesmen and the citizens, the Sunnis and the Shiites, the believers and the pragmatists, among contending nationalities and most definitively between modern reality and rigidly archaic belief patterns. That's another cracked glass, with threatened fundamentalists frequently applying force to compel stability.
China is assembled by force of arms, India is a basket of contending religions and cultures, and there is little that is stable in Africa outside dictatorship. Latin America is fully competitive; its dictators seem to alternate with oligarchs, leaving always-seething masses of ill-educated poor.
In short, few places are well-glued together; contending social elements threaten elements of social cohesion nearly everywhere. When one considers, too many seem political equivalents of San Francisco, the "City That Waits to Die" from its location on the San Andreas earthquake fault. The common fault imperiling our widespread, technical civilization is government financialmismanagement, history's perpetual nemesis for governments' inevitable hubris. Our rickety world assemblage relies on a single, corrupt fiat-money financial system. Bankrupt governments are reduced to what amounts to counterfeiting their own money, and we know no one can continue indefinitely as the source of his own blood transfusions.
As economic failure spreads through the interconnected world, unemployment and wealth lost in collapsing investments and failing banks will pull the desperate into the streets as we've seen, something the U.S. left is already promoting with its "Occupy" troops. Will the world's contentious groupings maintain a civil society as this intensifies? If not, what will preserve our fragile technical civilization? Only force? Just possibly, shared need will preserve enough for the purpose...if not defeated by Malthusian interests. Without shared beliefs to build upon, mounting disorder seems likely to fuel more repressive governments during a lengthy civil interregnum. The last widespread interregnum was called the "Dark Ages"; we can only guess how future historians may characterize what we seem to be preparing...
[i] National Defense Authorization Act 2012 Sec. 1031 (S 1867)
As the Greeks saw it, "nemesis" was an abstract force (personified by the goddess of divine justice of the same name) aimed directly at the destruction of a single individual. It is nemesis that brings down the heroes of the tragedies. A force that builds up over years, inescapable, inevitable, and in large part created by the hero's own actions. Nemesis is very much the Western equivalent of karma. It is a form of divine payback, which, we are told, is a bitch.
Nemesis is what is taking down Barack Obama. Not politics as such, not the actions of his opponents -- at least not yet -- not any disaster or setback in the world as a whole. Obama is in the process of being ablated as the result of his own actions, born from his own personal flaws. There's a certain type of personality that constructs a life out of the nurturing and protecting its own failings rather than attempting to resolve or overcome them. This is the only formula that is required to understand Barack Obama.
For close to four years, I've been arguing that Obama's actions as president -- actions taken in defiance of law; of American tradition; of the realities of current condition; and, not the least, of the American people -- would, in his final months, take him down. That was my prophecy, vouchsafed unto me in the seventh house during the seventh hour of the seventh day, and behold, it is coming to pass exactly as foretold.
Nobody acts with the arrogance of an Obama without paying for it. In the ancient dramas, it was called hubris. (A lot of debate exists as to how that word was actually pronounced, there being no "u" sound in ancient Greek. Some say it's an "ee" sound; some say a "y.") The hero apes the gods; begins to view himself as more than human, beyond the laws that prevail even on Olympus; and the machinery of fate starts grinding. And once that machinery goes into motion, it doesn't stop until its victim has been reduced to dust.
Obama is one of the most arrogant figures ever to sit in the White House. John Adams, Andrew Jackson, and Teddy Roosevelt do not have a thing on this man. There has been considerable speculation that his condition is clinical, that he is in fact a narcissistin the psychological sense, and there is evidence to back this contention. The public sneer, the smirk, the upthrust chin, the repeated use of the personal pronoun at times when it is far from appropriate (e.g., the speech announcing the shooting of Osama bin Laden, where you'd be forgiven, from the way he told it, in believing that Obama himself took the old butcher out in single combat). The remarks like "I won" in circumstances where they are completely uncalled for. He required no help, on taking office, in boosting his already mammoth ego to the level of near-megalomania, but he got it anyway. Obama, we were told, was "kind of God." He was the One, the Messiah, the "Alpha and Omega," in the words of a chant repeated by some of his followers -- a description that in the Old Testament was limited to the Almighty and none other.
Obama was praised as fulsomely (in the real sense of the word) as any individual since Josef Stalin. But unlike Uncle Joe, he actually believed it. This kind of thing would have turned the head of even most solidly grounded of individuals; with someone as unstable as Obama, it was fatal.
It was fatal in that it set the stage for nemesis. And Obama took it from there, with some of the most lurid, unjustifiable, and grotesquely inflated policies and programs since the heyday of the New Deal. The $760-billion stimulus. Government takeover of entire industries. The shanghaiing of an eighth of the American economy through his health-care plan. And this is only to mention the most egregious offenses. There is scarcely a single aspect of American life that Obama hasn't attempted to remake in his own image. And why not? He was the Alpha, after all. And the Omega.
The odd thing is, he didn't actually do much. He didn't really put a lot of work into it. Like a Divine Right princeling, he thought that all he needed to do was make his wishes clear for them to be realized -- an odd conception of the presidency that I think is unmatched anywhere else in the record. Obama wanted millions of shovel-ready jobs; he sent his Ivy League-trained economists out to arrange it. He wanted a health-care revolution, and he turned that over to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. And so on down the line -- every revolutionary program was assigned to some secretary or czar or union goon.
The results have been what any normal individual might have expected. As Americans, we have gotten next to nothing out of all this wasted effort and energy and cash. But that's more than what Obama got. Because the only thing he got was nemesis.
His grand schemes are falling apart. It seems that a week doesn't go by without another "green" corporation -- Solyndra, First Solar, Ener1 -- going down the tubes despite (or perhaps because of) being funded to the tune of hundreds of millions by Obama's functionaries. His dream machines -- the electric cars and high-speed trains -- have been transformed into punchlines. His grand design, ObamaCare, appears to be headed for the boneyard through action by the Supreme Court, the only question being whether the justices will kill it outright or maim it to a point that it can't survive. (Obama's reaction was characteristic: public insistence that the Supreme Court had no right, historically, legally, or otherwise, to lay a finger on one of Obama's sacred endeavors.)
Which brings us to the open scandals. Arrogance begets arrogance. The United States was born out of a reaction to imperial flunkies who truly believed that they could behave as vaingloriously as their monarch and his corrupt nobility. The Bourbons were brought down not so much by their own actions (Louis XVI was in fact something of reformer) as those of their out-of-control bureaucrats. It's no different today. We see it in the GSA scandal, the Secret Service hooker scandal, and above all in the Justice Department's Fast and Furious scandal. All these result from hirelings mimicking the activities and attitudes of their bosses, including their ultimate boss in the Oval Office. Each is rooted, and obviously so to even to most blasé observer, in arrogance. Fast and Furious reveals the blueprint: a crazy scheme (gun-running on one hand, ObamaCare on the other) that no commonsense individual would ever consider for a moment put into play despite protests, disaster ensuing by leaps and bounds, deliberately ignored because the scheme "has to work," a climax amounting to complete collapse, with the protagonist (Holder, Obama) acting as if none of it has anything to do with him, as if he can simply walk off without so much as a word spoken.
Obama believes exactly that. So pure is his arrogance, so exalted his narcissism, that he will do nothing to defend himself out of the conviction that no such thing is required of him. That he, among all human beings alive in the second decade of the third millennium, does not need to respond under any circumstance. This is the difference between Obama and previous administrations -- Richard M. Nixon and Ronald Reagan worked like stevedores to overcome Watergate and Iran Contra, Nixon with no success while Reagan at last put it behind him. But Obama, exactly like his appointees, doesn't think he has to make any defense at all. He truly believes that he can't be touched. (The other difference between these scandals and earlier ones is that hundreds have died as a result of this administration's activities.)
This is pure arrogance, and it is a hallmark of nemesis. Because none of this is going away. The current scandals will continue to snowball, and there will be more coming over the next months as the seeds scattered by Obama in his first years burst into bloom. (As this is being written, there comes word of a DreamWorks scandal busting open, involving Joe Biden; the Chinese; and, for all I know, the guy who thought it was a good idea to make a picture out of John Carter of Mars.) They have had three years to germinate and spread. As the campaign heats up, so will the scandals.
Obama will then find himself in the lonely place -- the place where the naked soul comes face to face with machinery of fate itself. A place that a man cannot walk out of, where no excuses can be made, where no explanation will ever suffice. By the time it's all over, the election may well be the least of Obama's worries.
The Greeks gave us a complete picture of a very basic human predicament, arising out of the personal flaws and failings of the individual. A portrayal that still speaks to us because its basic elements remain unchanged even with the passage of millennia. We are seeing it repeated in our time. It will be a terrible spectacle. But it will also be just.
The temple of postmodern liberalism was rocked these last few weeks, as a number of supporting columns and buttresses simply crashed, leaving the entire edifice wobbling.
Fake but Accurate Identities?
The trivial Elizabeth Warren “high cheekbones” fraud nonetheless offered a draw-back-the-curtain look into the gears and levers of our national race industry. The real story is not that the multimillionaire liberal (and one-percenter) Warren fabricated a Cherokee identity for over a decade (to the delight of her quota-thirsty universities), but rather the notion that if a pink blond at Harvard can get away with faking a career-enhancing minority identity, then anyone, anywhere, can—or rather often has.
Give Ward Churchill his due: he worked at it—unlike Warren, who junked her supposed great, great, great grandparent once she got tenure and being “Indian” was a drag at Cambridge cocktail parties. At least, like the proverbial chameleon on the leaf, Churchill tried to alter his appearance with buckskin, beads, and braids to find an edge his otherwise mediocre talents and white male status would not supply. In contrast, Warren simply by fiat claimed high cheekbones—no beads, no trips to the reservation, no buckskin, no Churchillian effort. Note the connivance of Harvard, which hand-in-glove used Warren’s pseudo-identity to pad its “diversity” goals, which enable a mostly white yuppie left-wing faculty to, well, not feel too guilty about remaining a mostly white yuppie left-wing faculty
Anyone who has taught in a university has come across the “Cherokee” con, especially given the Oklahoma diaspora in California. By the time I retired from CSU, I was exhausted with “1/16th” Cherokee students, who claimed success with their gambits. This was a world of Provost Liz Smith-Lopezes, José Beckers, Simba Bavuals, and all the other attempts to traffic in victimized identities.
Still, Warren, as no other recent examples, reminds us of the bald fakery in America these days. “Van” Jones was not born Van Jones. Louis (note the Jehmu Greene bowtie) Farrakhan was not born Farrakhan (yet just try to be a cool black racist as the Caribbean Louie Wolcott, aka Calypso Gene). In his twenties, Barry Dunham Obama went from Barry (a not very useful preppie suburbanite-sounding name) to Barack Obama. In the La La lands of academia, high journalism, and big government (though not in the landscaping business, farming, or short-order cookery), we sometimes wear identities in America as we do clothes, a different outfit as the occasion demands, given that our present-day Jim Crow racialists are busy figuring out to what degree pigment, ethnic ancestry, nomenclature, or assumed identity “counts.”
Cross the border and you in theory can go from an impoverished Mexican national that lived a wretched material existence thanks to grandees in Mexico City to a “minority” with vicarious claims against the American system who is suddenly eligible for oppression-based, affirmative action recompense. But if your family came from Egypt in 1950, you apparently qualify for very little reparations, even if you are darker than the recent Jalisco arrival. Yet again, score 1600 on the SAT and achieve a 4.5 GPA in high school, and if both Asian and wanting to go to Berkeley or Stanford, well then, who cares about the Japanese interment, the Chinese coolie labor of the 1850s, or the exclusionary acts of the 1920s? Too many Asians doing too well is not diversity at all, so we go into the reverse quota mode of exclusion. Warren reminded us that we will soon need DNA badges to certify the exploding ethnic, racial, and gender claims against society. And just as there are too few young these days to support the retiring Baby Boom generation on Social Security, so too we have too few oppressors left to pay out subsidies and recompense for the growing legion of Warren-like victims.
Isn’t It the Economy, Stupid?
We have had 38 months of 8% plus unemployment. We are setting records in the numbers of Americans not working and the percentage of the adult population not employed. GDP growth was a pathetic 1.7%. The borrowing hit $5 trillion under Obama, who between golf outings and campaign hit-ups of wealthy people, adds $1 trillion plus each year in more debt. To question how to pay it back is to pollute the air or abandon the children. In 2005, Paul Krugman was writing why Bush’s spending was going to crash the economy; in 2012, Paul Krugman is writing why Obama’s far greater deficit spending, on top of Bush’s debts, is not going to crash the economy, given that we need to borrow far more than our paltry $3 or $4 billion a day.
In 2004, the media’s “jobless recovery” was the description of George W. Bush’s 5.4% unemployment rate. “It’s the economy, stupid” referred to George H.W. Bush’s 1992 annual 3.3-4% GDP growth rate. “Unpatriotic” was W’s $4 trillion in borrowing in eight years, not $5 trillion in three. If Obama right now had 5.4% unemployment, 3.4% economic growth, and a budget deficit of about $400 billion, what would the media call it—a job-full recovery, “it’s not the economy, smarty,” or patriotic borrowing?
Those with capital—slurred as one-percenters, fat cats, and corporate jet owners unless hit up for Obama campaign donations—are not hiring or buying. Maybe they think oncoming Obamacare will smash them. Maybe they see on the Obama horizon rampant inflation, debt cancellation, or higher taxes as planned liberal remedies for our endless borrowing. Maybe these shrugging Atlases see that fossil fuel energy is not pursued on federal lands, but needless new regulations are implemented.
Whatever the reason, they hesitate—only sorta buying here, kinda hiring there. And the result of millions of these collective hesitancies is an ossified Europeanized economy, run by technocrats without private sector experience and exempt from the sacrifice they demand of others, as they desperately try to borrow and grow the government to ensure a permanent lease on power through the creation of a vast angry dependent constituency. Not near-zero interest rates, not nearly a trillion dollars in “stimulus,” not four years of chronic deficits, not “quantitative easing,” not any classical priming seems able to shock the unwilling and hesitant back into action.
And Then There Is Our Survival
For about three years I have been monotonously suggesting that we were once again in a 1977-1979 Carteresque era, as Obama systematically trashed his predecessor’s policies, denounced “exceptionalism” and “unilateralism,” gave soaring narcissistic sermons on his/our new morality abroad, redefined both allies and enemies as morally equivalent neutrals, and generally suggested that if you were a China, Russia, Middle East, or Latin America, you had justifiable grievances against the pre-Obama U.S., at least during the era when the president was just “three years old.” Last time we did this, after three years of Carter’s sermonizing, calculating nations in 1979-1980 saw that it was time to get up from the table and cash in their chips. So we saw Russia in Afghanistan, China in Vietnam, Iranians in the U.S. embassy, communist insurgencies in Latin America, and radical Islam on the rise, culminating in the annus terribilis 1980. I’m afraid 2012 may be our 1980. For the Carter Doctrine will we get a Johnny-come-lately “Obama Doctrine”?
A “reset” Russia now threatens unilaterally to preempt and take out proposed U.S. anti-missile sites in Eastern Europe (Poland and the Czech Republic should enjoy that, even though it is mere bluster). The Chen case reminds of China’s growing contempt for the indebted U.S. (They did not get the message that a community organizer and Chicago part-time lecturer is a postnational, postracial healer.) The Arab Spring is turning into an Islamist Winter. What the media forgot to tell us about the spike-the-ball presidential trip to Afghanistan is the president’s promise to end Predator drone strikes against al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan—the liberal favorite tool of foreign policy (no prisoners in Guantanamo, no tribunals, no trials, no media videos of the explosions, no reports of the kids and granny blown up along with the suspect, little dollar costs, no U.S. lives endangered, no downside really other than we sometimes are not quite sure whom we blew up below).
The more we praised and emulated the EU, the more it unraveled and the more its leaders distrust the “lead from behind” America (Obama never quite got it that, when Europeans trashed us for leading and being capitalist, the whining was a psychological mechanism for being happy that someone other than themselves was still leading and somewhere outside Europe was still capitalist). Or alternatively, just as Obama is our Nemesis, so too he is Europe’s: be careful what you pine away for.
If I were a state or clique up to no good, and if I thought Obama might not be reelected, in my final window of opportunity, perhaps around September, I might flex my muscles in the former Soviet republics, send another missile over Japan or South Korea, cruise into Taiwanese waters, put some Argentine Marines on the “Malvinas,” seek readjustment in Cyprus and the Aegean, send some rockets into Tel Aviv, dispatch some suicide bombers from Gaza, and let off more missiles from Iran. Not just to make a statement, or to gain more “please don’t” concessions, but because it was my pleasure to do it—if only for the hell of it.
Ministry of Truth
Around January 2009, deficits became “stimulus.” “Jobless recovery” vanished from the vocabulary. Guantanamo, renditions, and preventative detention virtually ended. And Obama’s successful surge paved the way out of Iraq. Predator assassinations of hundreds of suspected terrorists and anyone nearby when the explosives went off were liberal improvements over waterboarding three confessed terrorists.
The good war in Afghanistan turned bad, and the bad one in Iraq turned good. The Obama “surge” brought peace to Iraq. We were told that we could not just sit by and watch Libyan thugs kill the innocent, but could do just that in oil-scant Syria. Obtaining UN and Arab League approval to go to war without the U.S. Congress was “leading from behind.”
Those who made over $200,000 never paid their “fair share,” but could—and not by paying more in taxes, but by buying a $40,000 a person ticket to an Obama fundraiser. Golf was now longer an aristocratic indulgence, but fresh-air, healthy downtime for an overworked president. Mangling words and abject ignorance—whether “corpse-man” or Maldives/Malvinas—were evident only to nit-picking partisans. A downright mean country redeemed itself with free jet service to Costa del Sol, Aspen, Vail, and Martha’s Vineyard.
Yes, after January 2009, Al Gore lives in a tiny green home. “Two Americas” John Edwards did not really build a 30,000 square foot mansion, with a 4,000 square foot “John’s Lounge.” “Punish our enemies” was the new civility.
What Does It All Mean?
In short, liberalism does not work, contrary as it is to human nature. I wish I could just say that about every thirty years or so, forgetful Americans take an allergy shot of it, suffer the reaction, and then get another three decades of Carter/Obama immunity. But instead statist redistribution and intrusion are an insidious process, no longer specific just to Democrats, but bound up in the growing affluence and leisure of the West—both serving its various needs of alleviating guilt to the masses, subsidizing half the nation, and providing much envied power and lucre to a highly educated and technocratic elite who have little talent for acquiring either in the private sector. That it is not sustainable does not mean that it will not cause havoc as it totters and collapses. Look at Russia and Eastern Europe circa 1989, or the present-day EU, or Greece proper, or California or Illinois today.
3)Change of French presidents weakens Western front against nuclear Iran
Francois Hollande, new President of France
Two stalwarts of the Western confrontation against a nuclear-armed Iran suffered election defeats this week: Nicolas Sarkozy was swept out of the Elysee by the Socialist leader Francois Hollande Sunday, May 6. Three days earlier, the two parties forming UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s government coalition were trounced in local elections across Britain. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who faces an election in four months, never imagined he would be left so quickly on shifting sands against the Iranian nuclear threat. In Washington, Dennis Ross, Barack Obama’s former adviser on Iran and frequent visitor to Jerusalem with messages from the White House said Sunday, May 6, that oddly enough Israel had attacked the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 and destroyed Syria’s nuclear facility 2007 without talk. So why were Israelis talking so much now?
Ross answered his own question by suggesting that Israeli leaders aimed at giving the world a strong motive for raising the heat on Iran and tightening sanctions so as to stop Israel going to war; then, if sanctions and diplomacy failed, no one could complain if Israel attacked Iran’s nuclear program.
Ross appears to have forgotten the rows between the US and Israel in 1981 over attacking the Iraqi reactor and how hard Ronald Reagan leaned on Menahem Begin to stop him going through with it. But most of all, Ross was reflecting the Obama administration’s impatience with the Iran debate going back and forth between Jerusalem and Washington for two years and is determined to wash its hands of the problem for now and get on with winning the president a second term in November. The outgoing French President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke more forcefully and frankly than any other Western leader about the real danger of a nuclear-armed Iran and accepted that it would have to be tackled by military action. He was also stood out as one of the few French leaders of recent times prepared to fight for French and Western Middle East interests. The role of French special forces, navy and air forces, alongside US and British forces, was pivotal in the campaign to overthrow Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi. In recent weeks, he placed French units on standby in case President Obama decided to intervene in Syria. In the event, the US president pulled back from an operation that was planned to have involved Saudi and GCC armies as well. France’s successful military showing in the Libyan war brought no political or economic rewards. Indeed, Paris shelled out a million dollars it could ill afford to pay for it. Sarkozy’s opponent Francois Hollande did not make this an issue in his campaign, but it was certainly not lost on the French voter. The French Muslim voter no doubt settled scores with Sarkozy for his ban on the veil and pro-Israeli policies and may even have cost him the presidency, although this issue too did not come to the fore in electioneering. David Cameron, who probably spent even more on the Libyan war than Sakrozy and could afford it even less, is paying a heavy political price for the unpopular austerity measures he is clamping down on the British people to haul the country out of a deepening recession. Iran has therefore won a handy breather on several fronts: Barack Obama is carefully avoiding any war involvement in the course of his election campaign – he even asked world leaders to give him “space”; French President Hollande needs time to find his feet, attack the declining French economy and rescue the euro. He will have no time or attention to spare in the months to come for Iran’s nuclear threat or the Syrian bloodbath. When ten days ago, Netanyahu sent his security adviser Yaacov Amidror on a round trip to European capitals to pitch Israel’s case against Iran, he never imagined how quickly the Iranian issue would recede into irrelevance as key Western government go swept up in more pressing business and upsets. Netanyahu announced Sunday that he would call an early election in four months, a year before it is due. Prime minister since 2009, he is assured by every opinion poll that he is miles ahead in popularity of any Israeli politician. He told a meeting of his party Sunday, May 6, that he didn't want "a year and a half of political instability accompanied by blackmail and populism".
Currently in his element, he may feel that it is up to him now to take the initiative for preempting a nuclear Iran. And the sooner the better.
3a)Putin Decoded: World view of a Russian feeling dissed
By Angus Roxburgh
At the second presidential inauguration of Vladimir Putin, a former correspondent who once worked for him looks at the world view of the Russian iron man. His theory: The president believes the West is conspiring to "destroy" Russia
My first memory of Vladimir Putin — if you can call it a memory — goes back to late 1991, just a month before the collapse of the Soviet Union, when I caught sight of him, without knowing who he was, of course, in St. Petersburg. I was making a series of reports for the BBC in the city, which had just been given its original name back, after 67 years as "Leningrad." As we filmed a meeting between the mayor, Anatoly Sobchak, and a visiting British politician, a small, fair-haired man flitted anonymously in the background.
Rewatching the footage 20 years later, I recognize the features: soft, thin hair parted to one side; glassy eyes; and protruding lips. He walks with his head pressed forward and an aggressive gait, rolling slightly from side to side. This is Mr. Putin at 39, recently returned from a five-year posting as a spy in East Germany and now head of the city's "external relations committee." He is unobtrusive and slightly nervous, just as you would expect from a man used to living in the shadows. He fingers his chin self-consciously, knowing a Western TV camera is pointed at him — possibly for the first time in his life.
Putin's job was to attract foreign investors to the city. He would later succeed in bringing in giants such as The Coca-Cola Company. But in 1991 his immediate priority was to solve the city's food crisis — a colossal task, as I saw for myself when I toured the St. Petersburg "food depot."
In the communist system, all agricultural produce was brought to an enormous central area, to be sorted and transported to the city's shops. Don't imagine a Western-style fruit distribution center, where apples and oranges are individually wrapped in tissue and packed into shock-resistant boxes, then whisked out to retail stores. In a system devoid of incentives, almost all the produce went to waste. Workers were fishing through crates of potatoes that had already turned into a stinking black mush, picking out the few that could be salvaged and tossing them into another crate. Eventually a few of them might have reached a shop, and some might even have been sold and eaten.
Putin's task was to arrange emergency food supplies from the West. It was a job that, I think, had two profound effects on the future Russian leader and may still shape who he is today as he's about to assume the presidency for another six years as one of the country's most enduring, enigmatic, and controversial rulers in modern history.
First, it placed him at the center of the most humiliating moment Russia had endured for perhaps half a century. His country was on the brink of starvation. The Soviet planning system had collapsed, and the half-baked reforms introduced by Mikhail Gorbachev had merely introduced an element of chaos. Long lines of angry customers were forming outside empty food stores. Russia was forced to beg for humanitarian aid, like some third-world country. A fellow correspondent in Moscow once coined the phrase "Upper Volta with rockets." That was really how the decaying Soviet Union looked, and Putin knew it. When he came to power nine years later, he vowed never to let that happen again.
But being in charge of St. Petersburg's food imports affected Putin in another way, too. He was a novice in politics and business. His boyhood had been spent dreaming of joining the KGB, and his entire career had passed in the secret world of surveillance and espionage. For five years he had been based in Dresden, East Germany, watching Moscow's sway over Eastern Europe slowly crumble. On his return to Russia in 1990 he had stumbled into politics almost by chance. And not just into politics, but into the glittering world of foreign trade and investment — a world that soon presented him with great temptations.
Since the city had no hard currency with which to buy food imports, he was given the task of arranging barter deals — supplying Soviet oil and other raw materials in exchange for imports of foodstuffs. In 1992 an investigation by members of the St. Petersburg City Council established that the raw materials had been duly exported, but the food supplies — to the tune of $92 million — had never materialized. Responsibility for the missing largess fell directly on Putin's shoulders, and the council demanded his dismissal. His boss, Mayor Sobchak, stood by him, but the whiff of corruption has stuck to Putin ever since.
When he later became president, Putin presided over the creation of a state in which corruption is so widespread and so complex that one Russian businessman told me I would never, as a Westerner, understand it: "Theft is not theft as you know it. It is the entire system — the political system, the business establishment, the police, the judiciary, the government, from top to bottom, all intertwined and inseparable."
Putin surrounded himself with cronies from his previous life — from the St. Petersburg administration, from the KGB, even friends from his judo club, and co-owners of a "dacha co-operative" — a settlement of private country houses on a lake outside the city. He gave them the best positions in government, and allowed them to commandeer the most lucrative sectors of Russia's economy, its banks and mass media. One of the leading opposition figures, Alexei Navalny, has dubbed Putin's party, United Russia, "the party of crooks and thieves" — a coinage so successful it almost certainly contributed to the party's poor performance in last December's parliamentary elections.
Back in the 1990s, Putin's rise to the top was precipitous — and it remains something of a mystery how a little-known, middle-ranking intelligence officer, tainted with allegations of corruption, could have achieved such a meteoric career. In St. Petersburg he had cloaked himself in the kind of democratic credentials that were vital for advancement in the Boris Yeltsin period, becoming head of the pro-government Our Home Is Russia party in the city.
He was also skilled at making allies, who helped him move from St. Petersburg to Moscow. Here he swiftly climbed through the Kremlin ranks, spending less than a year in each position: deputy chief of staff to the president, director of the FSB (successor to the KGB), head of the Security Council, prime minister.
Putin appears to have impressed President Yeltsin's family and closest advisers not only with his vitality and can-do attitude, but above all with his strong sense of loyalty toward his benefactors. When his former boss Sobchak became embroiled in a corruption scandal, Putin stuck by him and helped him escape to Paris to avoid prosecution. Putin also showed great loyalty toward Pavel Borodin, a Russian official who gave him his first job in the Kremlin. When the state prosecutor started investigating Mr. Borodin for involvement in a multimillion-dollar bribery and money-laundering scam, Putin — now FSB chief — got rid of the prosecutor by using a well-worn KGB trick: secretly shot footage allegedly showing him with prostitutes. (Putin later put up $3 million in bail to get Borodin out of a Swiss jail, where he was serving time for the kickback scheme, which involved a Swiss construction firm.) His new patrons evidently understood he would show the same loyalty to Yeltsin and his family — and that his secret service connections were a help, not a hindrance.
He finally stepped into Yeltsin's shoes when the president resigned on the last day of the 20th century. Ten days earlier Putin had told a gathering of secret service agents: "I want to report that a group of FSB operatives, sent to work undercover in the government, is successfully carrying out its mission." Maybe it wasn't entirely a joke.
Putin, though now acting president, was still scarcely a public figure, and when he allowed a cameraman to follow him on one of his first days in the Kremlin he looked gauche and unsure of himself. In unbroadcast footage he appears weirdly detached from the world around him. He hasn't bothered to look and see what view there is from the window of his new Kremlin office and is surprised when he pulls back the curtains. His desk is empty, apart from a couple of papers, one of which he quickly turns face down because it is from the FSB. At home, in the presidential residence, he is taken aback when asked about the furniture because he simply hasn't thought about it: For this austere man, home comforts apparently mean nothing.
It didn't take long for the secretive secret agent to transform himself into the man we know today — confident, brusque, abrasive, given to coarse language. A Russian journalist whom he met over lunch when he was still FSB chief describes his ability to mimic his interlocutors, to empathize with them and make them feel comfortable. Soon the new president was able to make foreign leaders feel at ease. George W. Bush famously looked into Putin's eyes and felt he got a sense of his soul. For his part, Putin soaked in and copied the manners and self-confidence of the world leaders he now mingled with.
The Putin we have gotten used to over the past 12 years is a strange mixture: On the surface we see the global politician, smartly dressed, brilliantly well-informed, and quick-witted; but under the veneer we also sense the ghost of the Leningrad school brat, the youth who, by his own admission, readily lost his temper and got into scraps. "I was a hooligan," he told interviewers shortly before he was elected president in 2000.
It was the coarse Putin of the Leningrad backyards we heard when he told a French journalist who dared to question him about the ferocious bombing of Chechnya: "If you're such a Muslim sympathizer, come to Moscow. We can have you circumcised!" It was the slumdog Putin who threatened to hunt down terrorists and wipe them out — to have them "scraped from the bottom of the sewers."
It was the unsophisticated Putin, his view of Western democracy conditioned by years of Soviet propaganda and KGB training, who said it was "normal" for demonstrators in the West to be "beaten about the head" by police, and who once told President Bush that the United States wasn't a democracy because the president was elected "not by the people but by an electoral college."
"Vladimir," Bush whispered to him, "don't say that in public — it'll only show you don't understand our system at all." It was a Putin conditioned by decades of suspicion about Western plots who also told Bush he "knew," because his secret services had informed him, that America had special factories producing substandard poultry exclusively for export to Russia.
Between 2006 and 2009, I observed Putin and his entourage at close quarters, working as a media adviser to his press office. (My task, in which I admit I failed, was to educate them about Western media practices and persuade them to adopt a more open style of government.) In the past three years, in the course of making a series of television documentaries and writing a book about Putin, I interviewed dozens of politicians in Russia and the West who had dealings with him. From these experiences I have detected several factors that I believe are crucial to his personality and behavior.
Regarding his attitude toward the West, it's important to remember that Putin was not always the iron man, the obstructionist we see aiding the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria or ranting about Western "interference" in Russian affairs. What we see here is the anger of a man who feels spurned — and he is not a man to forgive easily.
In his first years as president, Putin went to great lengths to be accepted by the West. He asked NATO's secretary-general, "When are you going to invite Russia to join?" He moved swiftly to forge friendships with the leaders of Britain, the US, France, and Germany — but found that only the latter two treated him the way he wanted. He made overtures, such as offering the US unprecedented help in prosecuting its war in Afghanistan (albeit for the selfish reason that he hoped this would help him fight terrorists inside Russia). He invited world leaders to lavish celebrations in St. Petersburg and Moscow. He introduced economic reforms at home that genuinely impressed the West.
But Putin felt he got nothing in return for all these efforts, and genuinely could not understand why the West — while paying lip service to a new "friendship with Russia" and "the end of the cold war" — routinely ignored Russia's security interests. Despite developing what appears to have been a sincere, if superficial, friendship with Bush, Putin had to watch as NATO took in East European states, expanding right up to Russia's borders, and America abandoned the Antiballistic Missile Treaty and pressed on with plans to build a missile defense shield in Europe. The antimissile system is ostensibly aimed against a potential future threat from Iran, but Moscow is quite convinced — and not entirely without reason — that it could be used against Russia, too, and that at the very least it destabilizes the balance of power that has kept the peace for decades.
On top of these strategic issues, Putin was furious that the US refused to abolish the antiquated Jackson-Vanik amendment, which restricted trade with Russia, and — in Putin's view — kept moving the goalposts for Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization. All these grievances accumulated like bad blood, until, in February 2007, he exploded in a landmark anti-American speech in Munich, Germany.
The US Defense secretary, Robert Gates, sat in the front row, feeling the full force of Putin's invective. Mr. Gates was not entirely unsympathetic to Putin's gasp of despair, and during talks in Moscow later that year, made some unprecedented concessions to the Russians, offering them a 24/7 presence at the missile defense installations being planned for deployment in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Gates felt this would assuage the Russians' fears that the system might be aimed against them. The Russians were astonished by the offer — it was the kind of gesture that could have kick-started a whole new relationship, by making the Russians feel included in the West's defense plans rather than threatened by them.
But it came to nothing. Gates had been winging it. When he took the idea back to Washington, it was immediately shot down by the defense establishment. "When we got the offer in writing," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told me with a derisive smile, "not one of the proposals was in it."
Instead of improving ties, incidents like that made things infinitely worse. Putin began to feel he could not trust anything the Americans said. The distrust was mutual. In my role as an adviser to the Kremlin, I tried to explain why it was that the West did not trust Russia. Don't you see, I would say, that if you are cracking down on democracy at home, if you are taking control of all the media, if you refuse to condemn the Soviet past — and even treat Stalin as if he had been just a normal leader — then people in the West are bound to look at you with fear?
The answer was always the same: The West shouldn't lecture us about democracy. We will do things our way.
This brings me to the crux of the problem — the point at which foreign relations and internal politics intersect. Putin is a complex and, in many ways, misguided character. His understanding of "democracy" sees nothing incongruous about the state controlling the media or police beating up demonstrators. But grafted on to this KGB-inspired, controlling mind-set is something the West rarely appreciates — Putin's fear that the West is actively meddling and is determined to "destroy" Russia.
When I first heard him using such language, I took it as mere rhetoric. Now I think he really believes it. He believes the conspiracy began with the "Rose Revolution" in Georgia in 2003 and the "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine in 2004, which brought pro-Western leaders to power. Because American-funded pro-democracy groups played a prominent role in these revolutions, Putin believes they were entirely sponsored by the West and would not have happened without Western interference. He believes the recent demonstrations in Russia have the same backing and the same aim — to overthrow his regime.
In fact, both the US and Russia tried to influence the Ukrainian election of 2004. One of Putin's spin doctors, Sergei Markov, sent to Ukraine to help the pro-Russian candidate, spoke to me in apocalyptic terms about what he believed the West was up to: "These people were determined that Ukrainians and Russians should start killing each other — and I mean killing each other." Another spin doctor, Gleb Pavlovsky, said it was part of a "Destroy Russia" project.
The disturbing thing is not that Mr. Markov's and Mr. Pavlovsky's words are utterly fanciful. It is that Putin almost certainly thinks the same way.
If Putin really believes the protests against him are all orchestrated by the West, it could be his fatal mistake. When he and President Dmitry Medvedev announced last September that they intended to swap roles — with Putin standing for election and appointing Mr. Medvedev as his prime minister if he won — they explained that their reasoning was that Putin's poll ratings were higher than Medvedev's. What they both failed to understand was that their arrogance in simply arranging to "castle" (the chess term the Russians use for the move) was the very thing that would trigger the collapse in Putin's ratings.
First the previously invincible Putin found himself booed at a martial arts event. Then in December, after parliamentary elections were blatantly rigged to achieve victory for his United Russia party, thousands poured into the streets to protest — for the first time since Putin came to power.
Later that month he showed himself to be out of touch with what was going on. In a televised question-and-answer session, he mocked the protesters' white ribbons as looking like condoms, and claimed the demonstrators had been paid by Western agents. He described them as "Bandar-log" — the name of the "monkey-folk" in Kipling's "The Jungle Book."
It is worth analyzing this comment, because it was no unrehearsed line. The Bandar-log are not just monkeys: Kipling describes them as undisciplined, leaderless, chattering, full of fine ideas but unable to carry anything through to a conclusion — exactly how Putin describes the opposition. He remarked, "I have loved Kipling since I was a boy." (In fact, like most Russians, he probably knows his Kipling better from a series of Soviet animated cartoons made in the late 1960s.)
In his television appearance, Putin referred to a Bandar-log scene in the book that is quite frightening. The monkeys are rioting, and only the giant python, Kaa, is able to calm them — by mesmerizing them and calling on them to step closer ... so he can consume them for his supper. Putin paraphrased Kaa's words, with a wry smile on his lips: "Come to me, Bandar-log!"
It would seem that Putin really believes he has the rioting "monkeys" fully under his control. If so, it could be a fatal error. Moscow's "chattering classes" are convinced that Russia's political scene has changed dramatically. Already, an anti-Putin candidate has been elected mayor in a provincial city. The opposition may be disoriented, having found its voice only a few months ago after years of enforced silence. But it is not about to bow its head before Kaa.
Now, speculation is rife about where Putin will go from here. Will he make compromises with the resurgent opposition, to remove its sting, or will his undemocratic instincts hold sway? For the West, one thing is clear: It will probably have to deal with the prickly Putin for another six years, and it must decide how to make the best of that. In my view it would be pointless to lose those years in cold-war-style confrontation. Putin's foreign policy has always been reactive. He responds to positive gestures with goodwill, and to pressure by pulling down the shutters or even lashing out.
So perhaps it is time to tempt him with another Gates-style gesture on missile defense — but this time, meaning it. If, as we have seen, he is suspicious of the West's intentions, then maybe it is time to reassure him. Maybe, just maybe, Putin will respond — he might become more cooperative in dealing with Syria and Iran, and if he feels more secure he might even be persuaded to loosen up at home. The alternative would be six years of cold-war standoff, which would benefit neither the West nor the democrats inside Russia who are hoping for change.