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Top Articles of the Week

   Posted by: Pat    in Budget/Economy, China, Congress, Top Articles, Uncategorized   Print Print

Here are this week’s Top 5:

1. American’s Desire for Earned Success – Pollster and pundit Michael Barone pontificates on why Democrats’ plans for winning over the majority of Americans – by buying them off with entitlements and benefits – isn’t working:

Why aren’t voters moving to the left, toward parties favoring bigger government, during what increasingly looks like an economic depression?…

I think the larger mistake the Obama Democrats have made is that they suppose ordinary voters want government to channel more money in their direction.

But ordinary Americans don’t want money as much as they want honor. They want what the chance to achieve what American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks calls “earned success.

2. Wisconsin Recall Elections Bring Disappointment to Unions – As expected by political insiders, last Tuesday’s recall elections involving six Republican state senators yielded only two new Democrats, falling one shy of what was needed to turn the State Senate. This affirms the voters’ general support for how things are going in the state. It also comports with the good news coming out of Wisconsin in the last few months showing the positive effects of Governor Walker’s collective bargaining law – cities able to re-negotiate with unions and save their budgets from a lot of red ink:

Someone has to be pretty deep in the Land of Denial to spin the Wisconsin recall elections as good news for Democrats. But the Daily Kos’ Markos Moulitsas rose to the occasion yesterday.

Republicans managed to keep four of the six seats that Democrats and their public union allies had targeted for recall, thwarting Democratic plans to wrest control of the state legislature from GOP hands. Of the two seats that Republicans lost, one was in a solidly Democratic district that a Republican happened to hold only due to a fluke of nature, David Freddoso of the Washington Examiner notes. And the second was held by an alleged adulterer whose wife revealed that he had moved outside his district to live with his young lover.

3. Getting Serious with the Super Committee – The Super Committee was chosen this week by the respective Congressional leaders and the positioning has already begun over spending cuts, defense cuts, new tax revenues and entitlement changes. But like we saw with the previous budget deals, there seems to be little willingness to make structural or permanent changes. Yet a cursory review of current programs with the question in mind – do they serve a valuable purpose – could go a long way toward debt reduction:

But what many of these media accounts will inevitably fail to do is ask fundamental questions about these programs: What were they designed to do? And is there any evidence they accomplish their purpose? Those questions are significant because much of discretionary spending that our government introduces is speculative in nature. That is, there is little or no evidence when we begin this spending that the money will actually accomplish what we want it to. That’s why we wind up funding anti-poverty programs that don’t reduce poverty, and job training initiatives that don’t get people jobs. We justify tax expenditures to make homes more affordable or to reduce our energy dependence, when there’s little evidence they accomplish either. And yet, once begun, we often can’t get rid of this spending, even when the evidence against its effectiveness is substantial.

4. Britain is in Disarray – Despite the hullabaloo caused by S&P’s downgrade of the U.S., this last week saw even more turmoil in the European economies and even violence in Britain:

The British state is morbidly obese. For a third consecutive year, government will spend more than half the gross domestic product — partly because half of all jobs created during the 13 years of Labor Party governance that ended in May 2010 were in the public sector.

Britain’s debt, now 62 percent of GDP, is scheduled to rise to 71 percent in 2013-14 before declining. Government devours 47 percent of national income.

The five-year goal of reducing it to 40 percent will be difficult because Cameron has a tepid mandate. In 2010, Conservatives almost suffered a fourth consecutive defeat, and they failed to win a majority against an exhausted and unpopular Labor government.

5. Are US-Sino Relations Destined to Fall Apart - As the U.S. economy continues to stumble, questions and fears continue over the Chinese and their long-term desires. The relationship is made even more tense by the Chinese military buildup as evidenced by their first naval battleship completed this week. What some are arguing is a serious focus on improving and maintaining better relations with the Chinese:

In a recent piece in the New York Times, Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, stressed the importance of improving Sino-US military relations.

Mullen acknowledged that PLA-Pentagon ties have frequently been characterized by ‘misunderstanding and suspicion,’ and complained that Beijing continues to employ bilateral defence ties as ‘a sort of thermostat to communicate displeasure. When they don’t like something we do, they cut off ties. That can’t be the model anymore.’

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British Prime Minister Gordon Brown met with President Obama and spoke before a joint session of Congress yesterday. Here are some of his words from his eloquent, and uplifting speech:

Madam Speaker, Mr Vice-President, I come in friendship to renew, for new times, our special relationship founded upon our shared history, our shared values and, I believe, our shared futures.

I grew up in the 1960s as America, led by President Kennedy, looked to the heavens and saw not the endless void of the unknown, but a new frontier to dare to discover and explore. People said it couldn’t be done – but America did it.

And 20 years later, in the 1980′s, America led by President Reagan refused to accept the fate of millions trapped behind an Iron Curtain, and insisted instead that the people of Eastern Europe be allowed to join the ranks of nations which live safe, strong and free. People said it would never happen in our lifetime but it did, and the Berlin Wall was torn down brick by brick.

So early in my life I came to understand that America is not just the indispensible nation, it is the irrepressible nation.

At time when it seems that most have nothing nice to say about the US, especially Americans, I was more than pleased with Brown’s words and tone. Unfortunately, Brown was not welcomed to this country like his and his predecessor’s former visits as President Obama did not meet him at Andrew’s airbase for a ‘before the flag’ photo op, nor did he introduce him before a joint press conference, and US Press Secretary Robert Gibbs referred to a ‘special partnership’ not ‘relationship.’ These moves may seem trivial, especially if one adds Obama’s return of the Winston Churchill bust given to America by Tony Blair after 9/11, but to Britain, these slights cause much concern that the ‘special relationship’ may be thawing under this new American administration.

It can definitely be argued that Bush put a too emotional spin and emphasis on foreign relations (Putin, Koizumi, Blair, Howard), but I don’t see this as folly when it is with truly special partners, like the British. This is the nation that has sent its troops to fight along side ours in two difficult and controversial campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. Unlike so many others, they have proven their worth and their commitment and this should be honored by our Head of State. It seems that Obama desires to be above old fashioned politics, but certain traditions should be honored. Though during their joint press conference Obama stated, “The special relationship between the United States and Great Britain is one that is not just important to me, it’s important to the American people,” it still did not convince me that he really sees the partnership as very much different then say the US’s relationship with France, etc. Obama tends to lean ‘realist’ in foreign issues and ‘realists’ do not think there are such things as ‘special relationships’ or alliances last very long. In many ways this is constructive and leads to prudent policy, but I think the linkages of history, culture, democracy, capitalism, and the fight for liberty attach Britain-United States in a special way. In Brown’s speech before Congress you can hear the earnestness of Britain’s appreciation for America and its view of the two nation’s relationship.

So let it be said of the friendship between our two countries; that it is in times of trial – true, in the face of fear – faithful and amidst the storms of change – constant.

And let it be said of our friendship – formed and forged over two tumultuous centuries, a friendship tested in war and strengthened in peace – that it has not just endured but is renewed in each generation to better serve our shared values and fulfil the hopes and dreams of the day. Not an alliance of convenience, but a partnership of purpose.

Alliances can wither or be destroyed, but partnerships of purpose are indestructible. Friendships can be shaken, but our friendship is unshakeable. Treaties can be broken but our partnership is unbreakable. And I know there is no power on earth than can drive us apart.

I think that says it all.

(Photo Source: New York Times)

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Dresden’s Bombing: Justifiable?

   Posted by: Pat    in Uncategorized   Print Print

I came across this interesting Der Spiegel interview with “Dresden: Tuesday, Feb. 13, 1945″ author Frederick Taylor. In the interview they go over Britain’s bombing of eastern German city of Dresden and whether or not it was justified. Dresden is a well-known historic and cultural center for the Germans and it is conventional wisdom that the attack on it during WWII was strictly for symbolic morale-busting reasons. It is know seen by many as an unnecessary bombing that showcases the rapid moral downward spiral of warfare.

Frederick Taylor disputes the former. He argues that Dresden was indeed a Nazi-backing metropolis that was also a central communication and transportation hub for the Germany military. Taylor also asserts that the city’s industry had in many regards changed to producing war materials by the time of the bombing. In the end though, Taylor still has reservation as to the ‘justifiability’ of the scale of the bombings, which are believed to have killed 25,000 (earlier and more publicized reports had it as much higher).

In war the lines between good and evil and an a combatant and a noncombatant are extremely blurry and Dresden falls into both categories. Dresden, known as one of the world’s most beautiful cities (though I have never set foot in the town, I did see it from a train and its forest surroundings were magnificent) will forever be known as a place where the lines of war were stretched just a bit further. It will also forever be known as a sad, but accurate example that states will do whatever they can to secure their own survival.

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Great Power: War Speeches

   Posted by: Pat    in Russia   Print Print

On December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day, RealClearWorld wrote a great story about important speeches made by leaders of several great powers in the 20th Century, all coming during a time of war.  The speeches are by American Presidents Bush (9/11), Reagan (Tear Down This Wall!), and FDR (Pearl Harbor/Japan-US War), Britain’s Churchill (Finest Hour), Germany’s Josef Goebbels (Total War), and Japan’s Emperor Hirohito (Surrender to US).  All of these speeches were at crucial times in international politics and by some of the 20th Centuries biggest figures.

First, here is Sir Winston Churchill’s ‘Finest Hour’ speech.  It must have been an incredibly distressing time for Britain (and the world) and you can hear it in the sound and tone of Churchill’s speech.

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Now, I’m not one to post too much Nazi propaganda, but this speech by one of Hitler’s right-hand men, Josef Goebbels, is great and disturbing political theatre.  Goebbels calls for total war and the Germans in the audience respond enthusiastically.  If I was teaching a class on nationalism this would be shown on the first day.

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Of the three American President speeches, I will show Reagan’s ‘Mr. Gorbachev Tear Down This Wall’ as it showcases the power of rhetoric backed up by substantive policies.  The article correctly acknowledges that the Reagan-Gorbachev relationship was productive and rather warm, but that does not stop Reagan from going on the offensive.  Many factors go into a nation’s foreign policy decision making process and this speech showcases just some of them; power politics, ideology, personal relationships, leader traits, etc.

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