Archive for January, 2011
31 Jan 2011

Beware the Tiger Kitten

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Tom Smith is worried that all that overachieving may lead to a sense of entitlement encompassing rather more than a lot of Americans might like.

[I]f some parents want to push their children, even to an extent that seems crazy to me, so that they will end up wonderful musicians or inventive scientists, this is much to my advantage. Who knows, little tiger girl may end up playing Mahler in a new way, and add some new meaning to my life. I may download that mp3, listen to it on my iPod or whatever we have 25 years from now, and the world will be a little better place. Or some Tiger dad will make his kitten memorize the periodical table at age three and when he grows up he will invent donuts that make one lose weight. You never know. It could happen. These would be good things for the world, maybe not so much for the kid, or maybe it would. I am happy leaving that one for the psychologists.

But here’s the thing. And here the point has been made easier to make by the curious fact that Tiger Mom is a Yale Law School professor and as Professor Bainbridge has pointed out, it seems almost an epidemic among faculty parents in New Haven. My fear is that little tiger kittens are not being groomed to make things that you and I can buy if we feel like it. I’m afraid, call me paranoid if you like, that those little achievers will want to grow up to, well, rule. Not in the imperial Chinese way, though I take it that is the ultimate inspiration for this model of child rearing. If my high school understanding of Chinese history is correct, that Empire used to be ruled by a giant bureaucracy into which one got by passing extraordinarily difficult exams, competing against other fanatically hopeful parents who saw it as one of the few ways to get the young persons out of a life of horrible drudgery. But rather in something more like the imperial Chinese way than my ideal, which is more like Thomas Jefferson’s, without the antique and misguided dislike of commerce. So, if I’m sitting in the middle of my Jeffersonian space, able to order whatever I want, within my budget of course, from Amazon, working at something I like, not taxed to death or harassed by officious officials; if I can provide for my family and hope to provide a similarly independent life for my offspring, then what’s it to me if some mom somewhere wants to drive her children so that someday they will produce a recording or a pill I might want to buy? Only good. But if we are sliding toward a world like the one that is, to exaggerate only a little, like that I was taught we should be sliding toward when I restlessly roamed the hallowed halls the The Yale Law School many years ago, then I am not so sanguine. Then I worry that all this fierce intelligence, all this ambition, all this work are going toward the building of world in which my children will be mere, well, what do you call the people who support those who so intelligently manage things from on top. Not to mention the unbelievably well educated 35 year old who will tell me someday I didn’t score well enough in some algorithm I can’t even understand to get my arteries bypassed or my prostate cancer treated. I want to live in a world, and I want my children to as well, where we are free individuals, and geniuses can sell us stuff if we want to buy it. When I suspect the little elites of tomorrow are just being made more formidable still, it excites not my admiration as much as my anxiety.

Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds.

31 Jan 2011

An Optimistic Portrait of New Islamic Rule

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Claire Berlinski is a former CIA officer, now a professional writer, who lives in Istanbul and has consequently personal first hand experience of a democratic state ruled by an Islamic Party anxious to maintain popular support and stay in power. She predicts that new Islamic rulers of Egypt and Tunisia will model themselves on the Turkish Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, abbreviated AKP).

If the Muslim Brotherhood and Ennahda end up governing or playing a large role in the governments in Egypt and Tunisia, there’s a pretty good chance it won’t look like Iran circa 1979. Here’s why.

The model for both of these movements–explicitly, in the case of Ennahda–is the AKP. What they will probably wish to do above all, at first, is reassure. They don’t want a civil war that they’d lose; they don’t want to rule by terror; and they won’t have to. They know things will go much easier for them if they lead with temperate, inclusive, tolerant rhetoric and campaign–above all–on the economy. They’ll talk so much about the economy and democracy that the Western media will rise up as one and say, “Look, why are you so worried? They’re moderates. All that radical stuff is in the past. They just want the same freedom to practice their religion they would have in the United States, and wow, look at those growth rates! Tigers!” In power, they will focus intensely, like the proverbial laser-beam, on creating the appearance of economic growth. (Long term growth? Heck, who knows if tomorrow will ever come?) There will be no fulminating anti-Western rhetoric (except on special occasions), no hand-choppings, no stonings. Everyone will heave a big sigh of relief.

We won’t see anything all that alarming until these parties have solidly established themselves in all the organs of the bureaucracy, the military and the judiciary. By then they’ll have figured out exactly how to win elections that look pretty free and fair: They’ll get a lot of help from the world’s best professional political advisers.

Then we’ll see subtle things, little feelers–they’ll wait to see if anyone in the rest of the world cares; they’ll notice that no one does (since they’re so busy being grateful that these governments haven’t yet introduced floggings and stonings). Women will slowly disappear from public life, but it will happen so gradually no one will really be able to pin it on them, and besides, it’s just women. In Egypt they’ll co-opt some very prominent Copts who will go out and shill for them, talking about the terrific reforms they’re putting in place to improve their status (until the shills quit in disgust, but that won’t get much media play overseas).

They won’t rip up the peace treaty with Israel. That’s stupid. They don’t need that kind of hassle. You don’t stay in power by bringing disaster upon the heads of the people you propose to govern, and of course they realize that what people actually want are jobs, not an apocalyptic war with Israel.

But right before every election–and yes, they’ll hold them–something odd will happen (a strange incident involving a ship full of unusually violent humanitarian aid workers, for example). Games like this have a terrible potential to get out of hand, so yes, we should worry about this. And these governments won’t do much on the diplomatic scene to stop Iran from, for example, swallowing other Middle East countries whole, or acquiring nuclear weapons. Not that they did much before, but they’ll do even less. The consequences of this won’t seem that bad until the day Iran announces it’s a nuclear power. (But who knows, maybe by then the Iranian regime itself will have collapsed–you’ve got to admit we just don’t know which governments are going to fall next.)

The good news: I predict this won’t happen overnight. If I’m right, that gives the Egyptians and Tunisians who don’t love this vision of the future a lot of time to organize and come up with a better alternative. If they want to know how to do it, they’ve got a great model in the Turkish opposition. Just look at everything they’ve done, and do exactly the opposite.

31 Jan 2011

Scots Climber Falls 1000′ and Survives


Telegraph story.

30 Jan 2011

A Stalingrad Moment

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James Polous, at Ricochet, was listening to Obama’s State of the Union address and speaks for his own generation when he notes that the Big Zero picked the wrong metaphor.

[Y]ou heard it in the surrealistically repurposed Sputnik Moment, which became in Obama’s hands a way to get older Americans to imagine that the reliable, stable world of their past was actually a cavalcade of personal reinvention and societal reeducation.

Young Americans? To the extent that we heard anything, we heard that our future is cut and dried: science and math education, because that’s what they do in China; a career as a scientist, an engineer, or a science and math teacher, because in South Korea those people are celebrated as “nation builders;” a lifetime of work spent in an economy propped up by spending, subsidies, and a perpetual partnership between big government and big business.

Cheer up, kids. You’re the ones you’ve been waiting for. Remember?

Which generation’s Sputnik moment is this, again? If we’re fated to work with metaphors from the middle of the twentieth century, let’s at least choose one that resonates with people who are coming of age in the twenty-first.

Say, perhaps, the Hitler Finds Out metaphor. From the vantage of the young, for the President — and, indeed, virtually the entire leadership class of the United States of America — this is their Stalingrad moment: the moment at which the vast armies they continue to maneuver around the gigantic battle map turn out to be gone, destroyed, never to return again. The bold challenges, the arbitrary and random numerical goalposts (80% more of these, 100,000 more of those) — it all gave off the disconnected feel of denial-driven fantasy. It’s not that the emperor has no clothes. It’s that he has no divisions.

Young Americans already face a future defined by an inescapable reckoning. They already tend to look at our grand entitlements as phantoms, as dead entitlements walking. They already know the problem isn’t that we have too few college graduates, but that we — like Tunisia and (gasp!) China, to mention a few — have too many for the market to absorb. And they already know that all the science and math in the world can’t serve to nourish our personal and cultural convictions about the purpose and character of American life in transformed times.

When will Obama’s generation reckon with that?

The young people who are going to get to pay the check for Barack Obama’s socialist free lunch are feeling a bit dyspeptic.

30 Jan 2011

Antiquities Vandalized in Egypt

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Last year, the New York Metropolitan Museum returned 19 artifacts from the tomb of Tutankhamun. Back in 2003, the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Atlanta gave Egypt back the mummy of Ramses I.

Riding a wave of liberal guilt and political correctness, Egyptian officials have demanded that Western museums generally empty their Egyptian exhibitions and return antiquities recovered by Western scholarship. Targets for such demands have included the Rosetta Stone currently in the British Museum, the Berlin Museum’s bust of Queen Nefertiti, and a number of reliefs depicting a journey in the Afterlife from the Louvre. Only the Louvre has so far capitulated to Egyptian demands.

It ought to have been obvious that irreplaceable art objects and antiquities are more accessible to larger audiences and to scholars, and considerably safer, in museums located in the West.

Hyperallergic has a collection of photographs of the damage to the Egyptian Museum from Aljazeera.


This Red Alert from the security consultancy Stratfor suggests that security forces might have been behind the (clearly limited) vandalism to the museum, attempting to create a pretext, and support, for a crackdown on demonstrators.

The Egyptian police are no longer patrolling the Rafah border crossing into Gaza. Hamas armed men are entering into Egypt and are closely collaborating with the [Muslim Brotherhood]. The MB has fully engaged itself in the demonstrations, and they are unsatisfied with the dismissal of the Cabinet. They are insisting on a new Cabinet that does not include members of the ruling National Democratic Party.

Security forces in plainclothes are engaged in destroying public property in order to give the impression that many protesters represent a public menace. The MB is meanwhile forming people’s committees to protect public property and also to coordinate demonstrators’ activities, including supplying them with food, beverages and first aid.

30 Jan 2011

Tunisia, Then Egypt, Then?

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Richard Fernandez thinks that a string of Middle Eastern dominoes are teetering and pictures just how bad the US economy is going to look if they all should happen to fall.

The left-wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz says that Egyptian army officers in Cairo’s central square have tossed aside their helmets and joined the crowd. “The Army and the people are one,” they chanted. MSNBC’s photoblog shows protesters jubilantly perched on M1A1 tanks. The real significance of these defections is that the army officers would not have done so had they not sensed which way the winds were blowing — in the Egyptian officer corps.

And even as Mubarak tottered, the Saudi king threw his unequivocal backing behind the aging dictator — not hedging like Obama — but the Iranians continued to back the Egyptian protesters. The Saudi exchange tumbled 6.44% on news of unrest from Cairo. Meanwhile, the Voice of America reports that Israel is “extremely concerned” that events in Egypt could mean the end of the peace treaty between the two countries. If Mubarak isn’t finished already, a lot of regional actors are calculating like he might be. …

    “If this can happen in Egypt, there is no reason that it can’t occur in Libya or Saudi Arabia,” said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital LLC, a New York-based hedge fund that focuses on energy.

Unrest within, and therefore the loss of Saudi Arabia to the West, is now a thinkable proposition.

Indeed, events in Egypt are likely to prove as damaging to Riyadh as to Washington. Teheran will have won a great diplomatic victory over the kingdom if Mubarak is thrown out on his ear. Iran backed the demonstrators; the Saudi king backed Mubarak. This follows on the heels of the Saudi defeat in Lebanon. Washington had been counting on Saudi Arabia to hold off the Hezbollah, and the kingdom lost. With the Hezbollah in power, the flag of Iran may soon symbolically fly over Beirut and Cairo.

Worse, the Sunni coalition which Washington counted on to contain Iran is now a broken reed. The horse President Obama hoped to ride to the battle is now broken down and being hauled to the glue factory. With a Shi’ite dominated government in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and a Muslim Brotherhood that may keep Egypt in neutral or tacitly accept Teheran’s leadership, how could things possibly get worse?

They can if Saudi Arabia starts to go. And what response can the U.S. offer? With U.S. combat power in landlocked Afghanistan and with the last U.S. combat forces having left Iraq in August 2010, the U.S. will have little on the ground but the State Department. …

Events are unfolding, but they have not yet run their course; things are still continuing to cascade. If the unrest spreads to the point where the Suez and regional oil fall into anti-Western hands, the consequences would be incalculable. The scale of the left’s folly: their insistence on drilling moratoriums, opposition to nuclear power, support of negotiations with dictators at all costs, calls for unilateral disarmament, addiction to debt and their barely disguised virulent anti-Semitism should be too manifest to deny.

Because it will hit them where it hurts, in the lifestyle they somehow thought came from some permanent Western prosperity that was beyond the power of their fecklessness to destroy. It will be interesting to see if anyone can fill up their cars with carbon credits when oil the tankers stop coming or when black gold is marked at $500 a barrel. It is even possible that within a relatively short time the only government left friendly to Washington in the Middle East may be Iraq. There is some irony in that, but it is unlikely to be appreciated.

29 Jan 2011

Americans Wondering Which Side We Are On


Latest news from Egypt:

Looters broke into museum, destroyed two Pharaonic mummies late Friday, says nation’s top archaeologist – Reuters. BreakingNews

Demonstrators loot luxury homes, gated compounds in Cairo’s suburbs as residents try to defend their property – NBC BreakingNews


Tim Cavanaugh, at Reason, wonders what will happen.

Hosni Mubarak seems to have gotten another day to pursue his bold vision of remaining president of Egypt for another day. …

[W]ho’s lined up to take over Egypt[?] Ayman Nour, the Mubarak challenger who spent four years in prison following the 2005 election, has reportedly been injured in the demonstrations. Nobel laureate Mohammad ElBaradei, who just two days ago seemed like a joker trying to jump in with the winning side, has had his reputation burnished by being hosed down and put under house arrest by the regime. He also has a history of opposition to U.S. policy that makes it hard to tag him as an American puppet. But those are both long shots. Mubarak’s prisons hold plenty of innocent people and honorable dissidents, but they also hold some of the worst people on this planet.

Mubarak’s going down at all is another long shot. Apparently phone usage has been restored and the internet can’t be turned off forever. But what is euphemistically called Egypt’s “extensive security apparatus” plays out in reality as a situation where a great many people are implicated in the regime’s crimes and have a lot of incentive to keep it in place. In a world where you can’t even count on The New York Times to go out of business, you can never underestimate the ability of a discredited institution to linger.

Americans pay an immense annual bribe of American tax dollars annually to the illegitimate Egyptian dictatorship for being, to some degree, an American friend and ally. Being an American friend and ally, as far as I can see, in the Egyptian case consists of not attacking Israel and getting beaten again, declining to support fundamentalist Islamic efforts to overthrow corrupt regimes including itself, and now and then supporting some American policy at the United Nations. What a deal!

We Americans obviously do not care very much about who is president, or pharoah for that matter, of Egypt. We do tend to desire the government of that country to refrain from starting wars, building an arsenal of WMDs, or supporting terrorism. America has been supporting, propping up, and lavishly bribing, the government of Hosni Mubarak out of a not-unjustified fear that popular revolutions in Islamic countries do not turn out well.

Our bien pensant mainstream media is actively cheerleading the rioteers in Egypt’s streets, but has not done a very successful job of explaining what exactly they are so unhappy about.

Allegedly, Egyptians are up in arms because their country, which has never its thousands of years of history been a democracy, is ruled by a dictator who was not legitimately elected. American news outlets are assuring me that Egyptians generally feel profoundly chagrined by the lack of their ability to cast individual ballots in elections decided by millions of votes, and object strongly to the current government’s corruption.

I find it difficult not to be skeptical. If I could arrange to have the United States governed by an unelected, unremovable robot who enforced the original constitution reliably and impeccably, who arranged for adequate foreign defense and operated a rational and reliable system of courts, never made any new laws, and otherwise never bothered us at all, I think that I’d be very happy to live under a robotic dictatorship. Vivat Robbie!

It there any reason to believe that forcibly replacing Mr. Mubarak will cause free and fair elections to occur at regular intervals, or political corruption to vanish from Egyptian life? Maybe if we could arrange to have Mubarak replaced by a British viceroy, but that option is no longer on the table, regrettably.

I suppose the United States has an ideological obligation to support democracy. I’m willing to endorse a presidential decision to send in the marines to oust the dictatorship and install a legitimate government enjoying popular support, as long as that new government’s fundamental identity did not consist of Anti-Americanism and its political agenda was not focused on tyranny, war, and terrorism. But, in Middle Eastern countries, Anti-Americanism, jihadism, fundamentalist Islam, subjugation of women, and the active pursuit of quaint local customs like stoning people tend to be what new regimes enjoying popular support are all about. We can hardly send in the marines to install our own enemies into power and to bring the gift of barbarism to a people suffering under a peaceful and tolerant dictatorship, now can we?

29 Jan 2011

Time Celebrates Reagan’s 100 Birthday

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The way Time Magazine wants you to think it is.

A more accurate version.

28 Jan 2011

Subsidized Techology and Cold Weather

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Charles Lane was moved by a bad commuting experience to reflect on the insanity of governmental efforts to promote less efficient and impractical automotive technologies in the name of environmentalism.

Count me among the many thousands of Washington area residents who spent Wednesday night stuck in traffic as a snowstorm sowed chaos all around us. Being car-bound in sub-freezing weather for six hours can make a guy think. I counted my blessings. The situation could have been worse, I realized: My fellow commuters and I could have been trying to make it home in electric cars, like the ones President Obama is constantly promoting, most recently in his State of the Union address. …

This subsidized market niche is just one well-publicized malfunction away from disaster. Perhaps a Volt battery will overheat and burst into flames, as some computer batteries have been known to do. Or maybe a Leaf driver will suffer frostbite while stuck in the next blizzard. Let’s just hope one of his neighbors pulls over to help him out.

Modern efforts by government to promote the use and adoption of inefficient and uneconomic technologies by cash subsidies in pursuit of newer, tidier means of doing things we can do perfectly well and much more cheaply already resemble the obsessive efforts of pre-modern European princes to create gold by funding alchemical experiments. Throwing money in the direction of superstition does not actually create new industries and technologies. It just wastes money.

28 Jan 2011

Gatwick Security Identifies 3″ Toy Weapon as “Firearm”

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Security forces at Gatwick Airport recently detected an assault rifle concealed in hand luggage and prevented it being smuggled aboard a departing aircraft.

Daily Mail:

The crouching, camouflaged figure is most certainly armed. But few would say he was dangerous.

Security officials disagreed however when he passed through a scanner at Gatwick Airport.

His three-inch, plastic toy gun was branded a ‘firearm’ and banned from a transatlantic flight.
model soldier

The plastic Royal Signaller was bought by tourist Julie Lloyd as a present to take home to her husband Ken, a recently retired policeman in Toronto, Canada.

Mrs Lloyd, 59, who regularly visits Britain to see her mother, said: ‘I took it to the airport still in its wrapping, but they discovered the little gun when it was scanned.

‘It is only about three inches long and there are no moving parts. There isn’t even a trigger.

‘But they wouldn’t let me take it with me. I had it in my hand luggage. I just didn’t think it would cause a problem. They said rules were rules. There was no flexibility or common sense.’

27 Jan 2011

Rooting For American Decline

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Ezra Klein spoke for progressives throughout the land when he expressed a certain personal irritation with the “America No.1” cheerleading portions of Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.

One of the first big applause lines of the speech came when Barack Obama said, “For all the hits we’ve taken these last few years, for all the naysayers predicting our decline, America still has the largest, most prosperous economy in the world.” But as Matt Yglesias notes, soon, we won’t. China will. And that’s okay.

A decent future includes China’s GDP passing ours. They have many, many more people than we do. It’s bad for both us and them if the country stays poor. …

In the best global economy we can imagine, the countries with the largest GDP are the countries with the most people. That’s not America. And that’s okay.

Klein proceeds to assure us that his preferred vision of the future is not all that bad for America. We have not declined into a state of want or hardship or oblivion. We’re just going to be No. 2, and content with it, since prosperous and successful China will be innovating for us.

What’s wrong with decline and fall? Klein argues. Britain declined. Why not us?

A world in which China becomes rich enough to buy from us and educated enough to invent things that improve our lives is a better world than one in which they merely become competitive enough to take low-wage jobs from us — and that’s to say nothing of the welfare of the Chinese themselves.

But perhaps it’s better to think of it in terms of Britain rather than China. Was the economic rise of the United States, in the end, bad for Britain? Or France? I don’t think so. We’ve invented a host of products, medicines and technologies that have made their lives immeasurably better, not to mention measurably longer. We’re a huge and important trading partner for all of those countries. They’re no longer even arguably No. 1, it’s true. But they’re better off for it.

Of course, Ezra Klein’s sunny picture of a modest swoon to position 2, purely on the basis of comparative demographics, old boy, is a puerile, historically illiterate assessment of how things work.

Loss of stature and decline typically does not cease when you hit number 2. If we look at Britain’s decline, we see not only loss of economic preeminence. We see a fundamental loss of national self-confidence, the abandonment of Britain’s civilizing mission abroad, diminishing military strength leading to dependency on the United States, surrender of the country’s domestic economy to the domination of trade unions and socialism, industrial collapse, decades of economic decline, mass emigration of the ambitious and enterprizing, and ultimately even the calculated remodeling of the ethnic character of the nation through Third World emigration policies covertly imposed by Labour leaders. Britain did not just sink to Number 2. Britain lost just about everything, including its national character.

Matt Yglesias echoes Klein, without bothering to sugarcoat the message.

[S]omething I thought was really striking about Barack Obama’s speech last night was how utterly unprepared American political culture is for the idea of a world in which we’re not Top Nation. And yet the reality is that while we’re the world’s largest economy today, and will continue to be so tomorrow, we really just won’t be forever. The Economist predicts that China will pass us in 2019. Maybe it’ll be 2018 or maybe it’ll be 2022.

But it will happen. And fairly soon. And it’ll happen whether or not we reform education or invest in high speed rail or whatever. And the country doesn’t seem prepared to deal with it.

We had a similar discussion, a few months ago, on my Yale class’s email list. Some liberal classmates had condemned the US Constitution and argued that, since it allowed slavery, Constitutional Originalism was obviously undesirable. The US Constitution had always been defective.

They went on to cite demographic prediction of larger Hispanic birth-rates, and gleefully predicted that in a few more decades, the United States would be a nation in which current minorities would be a majority.

I pointed out that the ongoing line of argument demonstrated only too clearly that the perspective of the left was, in fact, hostile to the political system of the United States as founded, and to the Constitution. That the same perspective, moreover, also did not like the majority of European-descended Americans, and took pleasure in imagining this country’s people and culture swept away and replaced by a different people.

Why, I wondered epistolarily, should anyone who actually supports the Constitution, loves America, or feels affirmative ties to the America people even think of listening to leftists?

As we see, in the cases of Messrs. Yglesias and Klein, in their heart of hearts, they are not on our side. They are our adversaries and opponents.

26 Jan 2011

That State of the Union Address

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Barack Obama’s 2011 SOTU address text.


Jeff Goldstein provides a handy glossary of Obamaspeak:

1. “Investment” = “government spending”
2. “civility” = “now shut up, you bitter-clinging racists. …
3. “competition” = “See? I’m all for capitalism, provided I can control the outcome, and get mine in return. So, for instance, it’s cool with me if, say, GE gets rich breaking into the Chinese market, provided they know who is buttering their bread, politically speaking. And make with the campaign cash!”
4. “Deficit reduction” = “increasing your taxes.


Ross Douthat marvels a bit.

[I]t was… striking that in an address organized around the theme of American competitiveness, which ran to almost 7,000 words and lasted for an hour, the president spent almost as much time talking about solar power as he did about the roots of the nation’s fiscal crisis.


Ralph Reed, at National Review, described Obama as channeling Bill Clinton.

Watching Pres. Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, it was hard not to close one’s eyes and hear the voice of Bill Clinton. The only thing missing was: “The era of big government is over.” Had Obama used those words, he would have had to pay royalties to Dick Morris, who actually wrote the line, and whose participation was hidden at the time from the White House staff by Clinton.

Obama is in the midst of his own Clintonian shift to the middle: extending the Bush tax cuts, replacing Rahm Emanuel with Bill Daley, and replacing virtually his entire economic team. Unlike Clinton, he has made no attempt to hide his outreach to a new crop of outside advisers, including Bill Clinton himself and former Bush campaign adviser Matthew Dowd. It is head-snapping.

The result was a State of the Union speech so filled with cognitive dissonance as to be incoherent. Self-contradiction abounded. We must reform Social Security, Obama declared, but not reduce benefits for future retirees or expose them to the vicissitudes of the stock market. That pretty much removes 80 percent of a potential compromise on entitlement reform from the table. We must reduce government spending — but increase “investments” in education, energy, and infrastructure by tens of billions of dollars. We must finish what we started in Iraq and Afghanistan — but bring all the troops home as soon as possible. That Obama could deliver these words with such apparent conviction is a testament to his political skills, but an indictment of his leadership. His only north star is himself. As one adviser told New York magazine in an unintentionally revealing observation, “He wants to be Barack Obama again.” Which leaves one wondering: Who has he been for the past two years?


As usual, Ann Althouse provides the best snark.

    At stake right now is not who wins the next election – after all, we just had an election.

Ha. What a lie! The next election is completely at stake. As for the last election, some of us think it was really important. But you’re saying: Eh, it’s over. Let’s turn away from electoral politics. But we know damned well you’re working on 2012, and your opponents want some attention paid to what just happened last November. …

    Many people watching tonight can probably remember a time when finding a good job meant showing up at a nearby factory or a business downtown. You didn’t always need a degree, and your competition was pretty much limited to your neighbors. If you worked hard, chances are you’d have a job for life, with a decent paycheck, good benefits, and the occasional promotion….

When was that true? Who is he talking about? I’m 60 and I don’t remember that ever being true.

    That world has changed. And for many, the change has been painful. I’ve seen it in the shuttered windows of once booming factories, and the vacant storefronts of once busy Main Streets. I’ve heard it in the frustrations of Americans who’ve seen their paychecks dwindle or their jobs disappear – proud men and women who feel like the rules have been changed in the middle of the game….

Proud… and bitter, clinging to their guns and religion.

    What we can do – what America does better than anyone – is spark the creativity and imagination of our people. We are the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook….

Edison? Can I have my incandescent light bulbs back? …

    Now, I’ve heard rumors that a few of you have some concerns about the new health care law. So let me be the first to say that anything can be improved. If you have ideas about how to improve this law by making care better or more affordable, I am eager to work with you. We can start right now by correcting a flaw in the legislation that has placed an unnecessary bookkeeping burden on small businesses.

    What I’m not willing to do is go back to the days when insurance companies could deny someone coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

He’ll work together with Republicans, but only if they offer little tweaks to the big overhaul he rammed through, with no consideration for their opinion, when they didn’t hold the seats in Congress.

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