Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Strange Parallels

Strange Parallels

Yesterday one of my favorite blogs, Gates of Vienna, ran an important piece. It is mostly translated from the original Flemish (it comes from a Dutch blog, after all) and it is titled "The Hitler Myth." It is about some little known facts about Hitler's rise to power and how present day Germans (and others) promote a myth about how they were not culpable. But the really interesting thing I found in this piece is the close parallel to Obama's rise, and his plan for "Change."

I know that comparing anyone to Hitler is supposed to be verboten, but please bear with me, and read on. The parallel is not about slavery and death camps, it is more about politics and economics, and how Hitler became so beloved by his people. His people were the young and less well off. The "rich" and less favored minorities were sacrificed on the altar of the better good for all. A sample:
* The Nazis brought the automobile within reach of the people.
* They doubled the number of holidays for workers.
* They introduced agricultural subsidies for farmers to protect them against the risks of weather and a fickle world market.
* Prices of food were set by the government
* The Nazis introduced the progressive income tax (still a “sacred” item for the leftist parties).
* The Nazis were not just leftists, they were green as well: they were the first to make care for the environment a government responsibility.
* Landlords were required to charge their tenants affordable rents.
* The legal position of tenants was strengthened.
* Child benefits were introduced.
* Pensions were increased.
* The cost of health care was paid for by the government. [2]
* The only tax increase that hurt “the common man” was a 50% increase on the duty on tobacco and alcohol.
* And in the war a “special social benefit” was introduced: benefits for the cost of rent, insurance, coal, potatoes and other essential goods.

And the great industrialists? How did they do under Hitler? Companies had to pay 98% tax under Hitler. In some cases even 104% of profits had to be paid. And the weapons industry? The Nazis seized all “war-related” profits. Or, in the words of Hitler himself: “As long as there are soldiers fighting at the front, nobody will be allowed to make profits from the war.”

Investors had to hand in all dividends above 6% to the State. In 1941 this was followed by a special profit tax. In that year homeowners suddenly had to pay property tax in advance over the years ahead. An increase of residential rents was not allowed.

How socialist was Hitler? Let us look at the government contributions to social security between 1938 and 1943 (in millions of Reichsmarks)

1938 640
1939 749 +16%
1940 940 +26%
1941 1395 +48%
1942 963 -31%
1943 1119 +16%

This is how socialist Hitler was. He commanded a solidarity and social justice policy the current Social Democrats can only dream about.
This is all well documented in the piece, and then goes on with an explanation of how the Shoah was concocted to pay for all the benefits the state was giving to the "workers." Other than that detail, the Obama parallel holds true, at least it does to me. Another bon mot:
The inherent problem of democracy is “the dictatorship of the majority”. In order to come to power, the politicians have to forge a majority coalition. This majority will only vote for them when there is something to gain. But where should that money come from? That can only be taken away from the minority.

In they era before Hitler, Socialism was seen as weird, intellectual, and unsuccessful. Hitler made two innovations that were crucial for the practical success. And finally Hitler succeeded in transferring money from a minority to a majority.
Of course, to get it all you should read the whole thing. But if your time is short, at least read Part IV, at the end of the post.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fed I.G. Clueless About Nine Trillion

Fed I.G. Clueless About Nine Trillion

The Inspector General tasked with monitoring the Federal Reserve is asked a simple question by Rep. Alan Grayson, which is, do they know anything about a reported nine trillion dollars of off-balance sheet lending by the Fed. Her clueless non-answer speaks for itself. A people who will not take care to monitor the actions of their government will lose their freedom soon enough.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Situation in Afghanistan

Situation in Afghanistan

An acute and cogent report from the front line in Afghanistan. Note the prescient recommendation for a three star planning HQ in-country just before Gates announced one with his appointment of McChrystal and Rodriguez.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

So She IS a Spy After All!

So She IS a Spy After All!

Now we find out that Roxana Saberi, who every news organization has proclaimed innocent" and that the charges that she was a spy against Iran were "ridiculous" and "completely unfounded" turns out to have been in possession of secret Iranian government documents after all.

Not that it surprises us that those who defended her had no idea as to her culpability, but this is really funny. I will not hold my breath waiting for anyone to offer a mea culpa on this one, but it did give me a chuckle when I read this item this morning. According to her own attorney, as posted on Yahoo News:
TEHRAN (AFP) – A lawyer for US-born reporter Roxana Saberi, freed this week from a Tehran jail, said on Wednesday the spy charges she had faced arose after she obtained a classified report on the US war on Iraq.

"She had a report about the US attack on Iraq prepared by the strategic research centre at the (Iranian) presidency," Saleh Nikbakht told AFP.
No matter what her motives were, or how these documents got into her lying hands, in Iran today you have to be either stupid or crazy - or a spy - to even speak to people who traffic in such stuff. Anytime you juggle with dynamite, sooner or later something will blow up.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Gangster Government

Gangster Government

We can now see where this is going, and its not pretty. As Obama takes billions of dollars from one group and hands it over to another, more favored group, we are seeing a confluence of thought. From the right we have George Will and Michael Barone, from the left we have Matt Taibbi, all aghast at the sheer chutzpah of our new leaders. A massive takeover that renders any impulse to overstate things unnecessary.

From George::
When the president was recently asked what had "humbled" him in office, he mentioned that "there are a lot of different power centers" in America, so, for example, "I can't just press a button and suddenly have the bankers do exactly what I want." Perhaps not a button, and not exactly what he wants, but in dealing with Detroit he pressed and they were accommodating.

It is Demagoguery 101 to identify an unpopular minority to blame for problems. The president has chosen to blame "speculators" -- aka investors; anyone who buys a share of a company's stock is speculating about the company's future -- for Chrysler's bankruptcy and the dubious legality of his proposal. Yet he simultaneously says he hopes that private investors will begin supplanting government as a source of capital for the companies. Breathes there an investor/speculator with such a stunted sense of risk that he or she would go into business with this capricious government?

From Michael:
Think carefully about what's happening here. The White House, presumably car czar Steven Rattner and deputy Ron Bloom, is seeking to transfer the property of one group of people to another group that is politically favored. In the process it is setting aside basic property rights in favor of rewarding the United Auto Workers for the support the union has given the Democratic Party. The only possible limit on the White House's power is the bankruptcy judge, who might not go along.

Michigan politicians of both parties joined Obama in denouncing the holdout bondholders. They point to the sad plight of UAW retirees not getting full payment of the health-care benefits the union negotiated with Chrysler. But the plight of the beneficiaries of the pension funds represented by the bondholders is sad, too. Ordinarily you would expect these claims to be weighed and determined by the rule of law. But not apparently in this administration.

Obama's attitude toward the rule of law is apparent in the words he used to describe what he is looking for in a nominee to replace Justice David Souter. He wants "someone who understands justice is not just about some abstract legal theory," he said, but someone who has "empathy." In other words, judges should decide cases so that the right people win, not according to the rule of law.

The Chrysler negotiations will not be the last occasion for this administration to engage in bailout favoritism and crony capitalism. There's a May 31 deadline to come up with a settlement for General Motors. And there will be others. In the meantime, who is going to buy bonds from unionized companies if the government is going to take their money away and give it to the union? We have just seen an episode of Gangster Government. It is likely to be part of a continuing series.

From Matt:
It's over - we're officially, royally fucked. No empire can survive being rendered a permanent laughingstock, which is what happened as of a few weeks ago, when the buffoons who have been running things in this country finally went one step too far. It happened when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was forced to admit that he was once again going to have to stuff billions of taxpayer dollars into a dying insurance giant called AIG, itself a profound symbol of our national decline - a corporation that got rich insuring the concrete and steel of American industry in the country's heyday, only to destroy itself chasing phantom fortunes at the Wall Street card tables, like a dissolute nobleman gambling away the family estate in the waning days of the British Empire.
Nor did anyone mention that when AIG finally got up from its seat at the Wall Street casino, broke and busted in the afterdawn light, it owed money all over town - and that a huge chunk of your taxpayer dollars in this particular bailout scam will be going to pay off the other high rollers at its table. Or that this was a casino unique among all casinos, one where middle-class taxpayers cover the bets of billionaires.

People are pissed off about this financial crisis, and about this bailout, but they're not pissed off enough. The reality is that the worldwide economic meltdown and the bailout that followed were together a kind of revolution, a coup d'état. They cemented and formalized a political trend that has been snowballing for decades: the gradual takeover of the government by a small class of connected insiders, who used money to control elections, buy influence and systematically weaken financial regulations.

The crisis was the coup de grâce: Given virtually free rein over the economy, these same insiders first wrecked the financial world, then cunningly granted themselves nearly unlimited emergency powers to clean up their own mess. And so the gambling-addict leaders of companies like AIG end up not penniless and in jail, but with an Alien-style death grip on the Treasury and the Federal Reserve - "our partners in the government," as Liddy put it with a shockingly casual matter-of-factness after the most recent bailout.
The government is already circling the wagons against any counterattack. Even as Obama's rhetoric reveal him to be hitting some obstacles in reaching his goals, his actions reach ever dooper into the controls of power. Under impending attack from both the right and the left, his next step must be to cut down - or off - protest, or even contrary speech. His first target will be radio. We know that because his plans are already well underway. But before long television and even print media must surely be on Obama's radar, as he seeks complete domination over any constitutional restraint on his "Change."

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Saturday, May 02, 2009

No Crisis Is Wasted

No Crisis Is Wasted

In America, the chief of staff of the president famously said,
"You never want a serious crisis to go to waste," Rahm Emanuel, Mr. Obama's new chief of staff, told a Wall Street Journal conference of top corporate chief executives this week. He elaborated: "This crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not do before."
But this is by no means an exclusively American construct. In Egypt today, there are plans afoot to slaughter all the pigs in the country, citing the swine flu scare as a rationale. The World Health Organization and others claim that this is nonsense, as the vector for this flu is human to human and there has been no evidence that Egyptian swine even have any version of this flu. But governments everywhere will use any excuse they can get to make difficult decisions easier, and to use a trumped up "crisis" to enact unfavored legislation. As Egyptian health ministry spokesman Abdelrahman Shahine said,
"We're at stage five, the matter is now human not animal. The authorities took advantage of the situation to resolve the question of disorderly pig rearing in Egypt,"
The Coptic Christians are the ones officially rearing the swine, because muslim Egyptians are forbidden by Islamic law from eating pork. Do not doubt that this forbidden fruit is also eaten by apostate and irreligious moslems in Egypt as well, so now is a perfect time to destroy an indigenous industry. If they can kill all quarter million swine in Egypt, it is unlikely that these farmers will be able to reconstitute their herds anytime soon. Another victory for Pharaoh Mubarak, mirroring victories already chalked up by Obama. There will be more of this to come, to be sure. Only today democrats have said that they sense opportunity afoot in the area of Gay marriage. People are not as concerned with maintaining the moral health of civilized society while their 401ks are in the dumps. Most Americans may be against it, 55% to 38%, but democrats are for it, but this is about power, nothing more. And so it goes.

Things may look a bit bleak these days for zero base thinkers, but things have a way of working themselves out. So I will leave you with a snippet from David Harsanyi's column from yesterday.
As the left continues to lecture conservatives about their political future -- because, after all, Dems have been fully in charge for more than 100 days now -- let's recount a couple of facts: The Iraq war was supported by more than 60 percent of Americans. Polls showed wide-ranging support for the Patriot Act. Jimmy Carter was once president.

What's beloved today may be reviled tomorrow. Americans are a fickle bunch.