July 19, 2018 – SPENGLER ON RUSSIA

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We get fooled by Russia. We enjoy their accomplishments in Western idioms of literature and music and assume Russians are just like us. But those creations come from a thin veneer; a tiny percentage of Russians. Scratch below the surface and you will find xenophobic thuggish paranoid peasants. And they got there in the natural way – by geography.

Russia is located in the middle of the Great Northern European Plain that stretches from Germany all the way to steppes of Asia. There are no mountains or seas. Just an endless rolling landscape. There are no barriers to entry. No protection. Since the beginnings of Kievian Rus in the ninth century, Russian has fought in 158 wars. Here’s the list in Wikipedia. They fought with all their neighbors; The Byzantine Empire, Poland, Prussia, the Mongols, Lithuania, Sweden, etc. etc.. Five Romanov Czars, and Ivan the Terrible and Boris Godunov just before them, all fought with Sweden. Nine times Russia fought with the Byzantine Empire. And when that empire was history, Russia fought sixteen times with Turkey. 

Many of these were existential wars and in more than a millennium they formed the Russian psyche and its preference for a strong central state that could police the borders and protect the country. No wonder they prefer order. No wonder they persecute apostates. No wonder they like Putin. 

Our political ancestors lived on an island that was, with some exceptions, free of the fear of invasion from without. Our ancestors had more fear of tyranny from within. So, they wrote the Magna Carta. They wanted to control and temper the central state. They

nurtured the idea of representative government responsible to the citizens. We can pretend we are clothed in virtue, but if our culture developed and grew on the bountiful soil at the inhospitable intersection of two continents we would likely think like Russians.

Trump must have great intuition. His thoughts on Russia exhibit nuanced sophistication as he struggles to find a way for the two countries to exist together in the 21st century. The present enmity from the chattering classes is little more than a nuisance. David Goldman, writing as Spengler, comments on recent events with Russia. The title is; Once Again, President Trump Is Magnificently Right—This Time About Russia 

President Trump offended the entire political spectrum with a tweet this morning blaming the U.S. for poor relations with Russia. “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity,” the president said, and he is entirely correct. By this I do not mean to say that Russia is a beneficent actor in world affairs or that President Putin is an admirable world leader. Nonetheless, the president displayed both perspicacity and political courage when he pointed the finger at the United States for mismanaging the relationship with Russia. …

… Unfortunately, the delusion that the United States would remake Russia in its own image persisted through the Bush and Obama administrations. I have no reason to doubt the allegations that a dozen Russian intelligence officers meddled in the U.S. elections of 2016, but this was equivalent of a fraternity prank compared to America’s longstanding efforts to intervene in Russian politics.

The United States supported the 2014 Maidan uprising in Ukraine and the overthrow of the Yanukovych government in the hope of repeating the exercise in Moscow sometime later. Then-Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland pulled whatever strings America had to replace the feckless and corrupt Victor Yanukovych with a government hostile to the Kremlin. She didn’t say it in so many words, but she hoped the Ukraine coup would lead to the overthrow of Vladimir Putin. Evidently Nuland and her boss, Hillary Clinton, thought that the Ukraine coup would deprive Russia of its Black Sea naval base in Crimea, and did not anticipate that Russia simply would annex an old Russian province that belonged to Ukraine by historical accident. …

… Russia is in crisis, but Russia always is in crisis. Russia has a brutal government, but Russia always has had a brutal government, and by every indication, the people of Russia nonetheless seem to like their government. If they want a different sort of government, let them establish one; what sort of government they prefer is not the business of the United States. America’s attempt to shape Russia’s destiny, starting with the Clinton administration’s sponsorship of the feckless, drunk and corrupt Boris Yeltsin, had baleful results. So did the State Department’s attempt to manipulate events in Ukraine in 2004 and 2014. …

… Nonetheless, it was America that made a mess of relations with Russia, and President Trump’s tweet this morning was right on the mark. You can usually gauge the merits of this president’s public statements by the decibel level of the protests. …

  

 

 

Here is a good article Spengler wrote for the Asia Times in 2008.

On the night of November 22, 2004, then-Russian president – now premier – Vladimir Putin watched the television news in his dacha near Moscow. People who were with Putin that night report his anger and disbelief at the unfolding “Orange” revolution in Ukraine. “They lied to me,” Putin said bitterly of the United States. “I’ll never trust them again.” The Russians still can’t fathom why the West threw over a potential strategic alliance for Ukraine. They underestimate the stupidity of the West. 

American hardliners are the first to say that they feel stupid next to Putin. Victor Davis Hanson wrote on August 12 [1] of Moscow’s “sheer diabolic brilliance” in Georgia, while Colonel Ralph Peters, a columnist and television commentator, marveled on August 14 [2], “The Russians are alcohol-sodden barbarians, but now and then they vomit up a genius … the empire of the czars hasn’t produced such a frightening genius since [Joseph] Stalin.” The superlatives recall an old observation about why the plots of American comic books need clever super-villains and stupid super-heroes to even the playing field. Evidently the same thing applies to superpowers. 

The fact is that all Russian politicians are clever. The stupid ones are all dead. By contrast, America in its complacency promotes dullards. A deadly miscommunication arises from this asymmetry. The Russians cannot believe that the Americans are as stupid as they look, and conclude that Washington wants to destroy them. That is what the informed Russian public believes, judging from last week’s postings on web forums, including this writer’s own

These perceptions are dangerous because they do not stem from propaganda, but from a difference in existential vantage point. Russia is fighting for its survival, against a catastrophic decline in population and the likelihood of a Muslim majority by mid-century. The Russian Federation’s scarcest resource is people. It cannot ignore the 22 million Russians stranded outside its borders after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, nor, for that matter, small but loyal ethnicities such as the Ossetians. Strategic encirclement, in Russian eyes, prefigures the ethnic disintegration of Russia, which was a political and cultural entity, not an ethnic state, from its first origins. …

 

July 15,2018 – SPENGLER

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It’s Spengler Day. Spengler was the pseudonym of David Goldman who originally wrote for the Asia Times. He has a column now in Pajamas Media. His first essay is; Israel Shows What Alliances Are For.  

 

A residual rancor against America’s $3 billion military aid budget to Israel still can be detected in the corners of the conservative movement. Yes, Israel is the only democracy in the region, and yes, Israel is an American ally, but Israel is out for Israel’s interests just as America is out for America’s interest — so why should American taxpayers subsidize the powerful and prosperous Jewish state?

 

Never mind that the $3 billion in military aid amounts to a Pentagon subsidy for American arms manufacturers. Never mind also that Israeli military technology and intelligence make an enormous (and largely untold) contribution to American security.

 

There’s a reason to maintain alliances in the cold light of Realpolitik which conservative isolationists refuse to consider: Allies can do things that we want done at much less risk to us and at far lower cost than if we were to do them directly.

 

Israel has substantially reduced Iran’s military capacity in Syria, for example, and has done so without provoking a confrontation with Russia. If the United States were to use its own planes to bomb Iranian installations in Syria, that would constitute a direct challenge to Russia’s presence in the country, and lead to a strategic confrontation that we do not want (and the isolationists want least of anyone). But Israel can do so, because Israel is no threat to Russia, and Israeli bombing raids in Syria do not humiliate the Kremlin. Israeli action keeps the matter on the local level, rather than escalating it to a matter of global tension. …

 

.. the United States gets enormous benefits by locking Israel into American weapons systems. First of all, Israel’s military R&D makes a huge contribution to our security. Its anti-rocket system, Iron Dome, was a minor miracle that the Pentagon did not believe possible at the time. More importantly, it aligns Israel with American interests, and encourages Israel to continue to take risks on our behalf.

 

All of the above should be obvious to anyone who knows the basic facts. President Donald Trump understands it clearly, and has done more than any American president to foster the Israeli-American alliance since Harry Truman recognized the new Jewish state in 1948. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that isolationists who still grumble about our alliance with Israel are victims of an ugly obsession.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appearing in Asia Times, he says NATO’s problem is that Europeans won’t fight.

 

 It is refreshing to hear an American president call the Europeans out for the sybarites and deadbeats they are.

 

President Trump outraged European opinion by denouncing his allies on the far side of the Atlantic for their failure to meet NATO’s spending target of 2% of GDP.

 

Other alliance members, he added, should spend 4% of their output on defense, just like America does. His dudgeon at the Europeans was more than justified: the Europeans really are deadbeats who don’t pay their fair share of the cost of defending their own countries and leave the burden in the hands of American soldiers and taxpayers.

 

Trump’s remonstrations will fall on deaf ears. Why should Europeans spend money on arms, when they have no intention of using them?

 

A recent opinion poll found that small minorities in the core European members of NATO were willing to fight for their country under any circumstances. …

 

… Something more than Locke’s notion of a mutual protection society is required if we are to justify the state’s monopoly of violence, its right to imprison or kill criminals at home, and to demand of its young people that they shed blood in its defense. The state must be imbued with a sense of the sacred and must stand surety for the continuity of our lives with those of generations that follow. It must preserve a heritage and a culture that allows our words and deeds to speak to future generations just as those of our ancestors speak to us.

 

Today’s Europe is something of a Lockean dystopia: It is composed of individuals concerned mainly about their own hedonic enjoyments, who want the government to protect them from want and disease, but have no desire whatever to defend their nations, which are on a slow boat to extinction in any event.

 

It is refreshing to hear an American president call the Europeans out for the sybarites and deadbeats they are, rather than repeat the old cant about the glories of the Atlantic Alliance and the gallantry of America’s allies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then he suggests that Trump could be one of our country’s great foreign policy presidents

 

Below I repost Uwe Parpart’s Asia Times analysis of the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore. Liberal media is aghast at the president’s rough handling of Canadian boy-band frontman Justin Trudeau, and his confrontational approach overall at the Group of Seven summit. When the dust settles, though, Trump may accomplish what eluded Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama: a stabler and safer world without the need for millions of American boots on the ground. He well may go down in history as one of our great foreign policy presidents. It’s not in the bag, but it is within sight. …

 

… Of course, Trump can’t please everybody. German Chancellor Angela Merkel complains that Trump is being too nice to Russia by suggesting that it rejoin the Group of Seven. Considering that Germany spends just 1.2% of GDP on defense and can’t get more than four fighters in the air at any given moment, that’s chutzpah. Merkel’s policy is to talk tough about sanctions against Russia while rolling over for Putin when it comes to Germany’s gas supplies, which will be supplied by the just-started Nord Stream II pipeline from Russia. Germany likes to wag a finger at Russia over its depredations in Ukraine, but only 18% of Germans say they will fight to defend their country. Trump’s policy is to rebuild American strength and stand up to Russia, while looking for ways to strike agreements with Russia–on American terms. That’s the difference between speak softly and carry a big stick, and declaim loudly while waving a bratwurst. If the Germans don’t want to spend money on defense, let alone fight, that’s their business, but they shouldn’t lecture us about how to handle the competition. …

 

 

July 9, 2018 – ROGUES IN ROBES

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John Fund spotted something important in the Supreme Court immigration ruling. It was an aside in Justice Thomas’ concurring opinion.

 

Whenever there is a Supreme Court vacancy, I view it as a chance to teach voters about the courts and their legitimate role in our government. We could use that. Last year, the Annenberg Center found that only 26 percent of those it surveyed could name the three branches of government (executive, judicial, and legislative). A full 33 percent couldn’t name even one branch.

Confusion about the proper role of the courts extends to many of our sitting judges. Last month, while the Supreme Court narrowly upheld the so-called Trump travel ban, Justice Clarence Thomas raised an issue that the next Supreme Court justice may have to weigh in on. Why is it, he asked, that a single federal district judge can impose an injunction blocking a presidential executive order in all 50 states even if none of his colleagues (599 district judges) thinks it’s a good idea? …

… Justice Thomas says their recent explosion calls for a rethinking of their validity because “no statute expressly grants district courts the power to issue universal injunctions.” He concludes that, as used today, they “boi[l] down to a policy judgment” about how judges define the limits of a president’s power. But that judgment is supposed to spring from the Constitution, not from the preferences of a black-robed figure. …

 

 

 

Glenn Reynolds had a good thought a few months ago about the people we put on SCOTUS. He call’s them “front row kids.” We can also think of them as “A” students. Pickerhead thinks we need more “C” students. After all, look at what the A students have brought us.

 

In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, we heard a lot about America’s division into two mutually hostile camps: a largely coastal, urban party run by educated elites, and a largely rural and suburban “flyover country” party composed of people who did not attend elite schools and who do not see themselves as dependent on those who do. This divide is more fundamental than mere partisan identification, as there are Democrats and Republicans in both groups.

One of the best formulations of this division comes from photographer Chris Arnade, who has spent years documenting the lives of America’s forgotten classes. In his characterization, America is split between the “Front Row Kids“ — who did well in school; moved to managerial, financial or political jobs; and see themselves as the natural rulers of their fellow citizens — and the “Back Row Kids,” who placed less emphasis on school; and who resent the pretensions and bossiness of the Front Row Kids.

While teaching constitutional law after the election, it occurred to me that though the Back Row Kids can elect whomever they want as president, senators or representatives, there is one branch of the federal government (and all state governments) that is, more or less by its nature, limited to Front Row Kids: the judiciary. …

 

July 7, 2018 – REX MURPHY

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We’ve spent time posting about events in Europe. We get closer to home with a stop in Canada. Rex Murphy of The National Post has an entertaining way of describing events in our country. He is thinking it’s ironic Trump-haters have become nastier than him.

It may now join the propositions of Euclid, as impregnable to rebuttal, that Donald Trump or any news that alludes to him, unhinges the minds of those who oppose him. Trump, in this respect, is like global warming. He is the universal key to every phenomenon. Any statement about Trump, so long as it is in any way condemnatory, dismissive, insulting or condescending, requires neither proof, consistency, logic or (and especially) decency.

Just as enlisting in the grand cause of global warming invests the recruit with the immeasurable gifts of infallibility, moral superiority and boundless righteousness, so too does opposition, even to hatred, of Trump free the mind from all obligation to moderation, custom, or articulate argument. It is the ultimate pass to be as nasty and crude as anyone could wish, and — with rarely noted irony — even to be more nasty and crude than the great boorish Trump himself. How odd: to oppose Trump is to become a more clangorous version of him. …

… Sarah Huckabee Sanders, an articulate, tough, poised woman, is his press secretary, who with seven of her friends went far out of Washington to have supper at a restaurant, The Red Hen. Two minutes after placing the order, the zealous owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, asked/told Sanders to leave. (No free-range chickens for you!) The obliging, polite, still esurient Sanders did, without demur or protest.

The locust swarm of anti-Trumpers soon hit the high clouds of Twitter to cheer Wilkinson’s “resistance.” She was the Bonhoeffer of Today’s Specials. Those who spoke a word or two in Sarah Sanders’ favour were mauled mercilessly. …

… Do you hate and despise Trump? Why then, you are virtue itself and a vessel of perfect probity. When the day comes, and the greeting at the Gate is done, the following dialogue will ensue:

St. Peter: “Were you against Trump and all his works and pomps? Did you call him Hitler?”

Red Hen devotee: “Yes, I was. Yes, I did.”

St. Peter: “Will that be one harp, or two?” …

 

 

 

 

Next Mr. Murphy writes on the Inspector General’s report on the FBI and DOJ.

Such was Anthony Weiner’s admiration of his private parts, he burned to share their glory with the world — particularly, that part of it composed of young and female strangers. Thus it was he became the Ansel Adams of genital selfies. Iphone in one hand, his unspeakables on the pedestal of the other, Instagram his gallery, out went the junk mail.

His other fame, leaving aside such trivia as serving in the U.S. Congress, and a hilarious run for mayor of New York, was his (now exploded) marriage to Hillary Clinton’s top aide and principal pilot fish, Huma Abedin. If Disney did noir it could be a movie: The Princess and the Pervert. …

… The whole world knew of the Abedin-Weiner marriage. The bandits of the Afghanistan mountains knew Huma and Anthony were married. The chipmunks of Central Park knew Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin were married. There are anchorites sitting on a tree spike somewhere in a desolate and empty landscape that knew this. Charlie Rose knew it.

However, there was one man, one mind alone, not furnished with that factum. It was the top man at the FBI, the No. 1 sleuth of the greatest investigative institution in all of human history, James Comey.

But Comey, a full six feet and seven inches of righteousness and zeal, says he didn’t know that Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin were man and wife. The man conducting an investigation into the conduct of the world’s most famous woman, and presidential candidate, did not know of the infamous husband of Ms. Clinton’s principal counsellor.

Ineluctably this leads to the conclusion that the only conceivable reason James Comey was selected as the head of the FBI, was that Inspector Clouseau was too busy sorting out whether there was ever any connection between one Brad Pitt and a woman called Angelina Jolie. …

… the really significant message, the big “tell” of the IG report. They know what’s best. They will tailor things for what they see as the “right” outcome. They, and they alone, are the enlightened. Those who think differently are “pieces of sh-t.” It’s not that they were going to “stop it.” It’s that they thought they had the right to stop it. 

And in all that basket of contempt and self-righteousness, who’s at the pinnacle, the chief Pharisee of the lot? James Comey. He has presided over a biased, democracy-defying FBI. He has used his position, in secret, to set the terms of the game. He went from judicious public servant to self-appointed master.

This is corruption. Not the corruption of money. The corruption of unfathomable, reckless moral egotism. Was the Clinton investigation a fix? How could it have been anything other, with this guy in charge?

 

 

July 1, 2018 – NO POGROM HERE

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There are areas of Europe where the slow pogrom is not taking place. Counter-intuitively, it is areas of Eastern Europe where Jews have found homes with far less strife than in Western Europe and the UK. David Goldman writes on Hungary. 

Last Friday evening I put on a kippah and walked half an hour across Budapest to the Keren Or synagogue maintained by the Budapest Chabad. After violent attacks on Jews in German streets,  the leaders of Germany’s Jewish community warned Jews last month  not to wear a kippah or any other visible sign of Jewish identification in public. The French community issued such warnings years ago. Belgian TV could not find a single Jew in Brussels willing to wear a kippah in public.  I walked across Budapest four times (for Friday evening and Saturday daytime services), and no-one looked at my kippah twice.  At services I met Hasidim who had walked to synagogue with kaftan and shtreimel, the traditional round fur hat. Whatever residual anti-Semitism remains among Hungarians, it doesn’t interfere with the open embrace of Jewish life. There are no risks to Jews because there are very few Muslim migrants.

On any given Friday evening, the Keren Or synagogue—one of several Chabad houses in Budapest—hosts two hundred people for dinner. Jewish life isn’t just flourishing in Budapest. It’s roaring with ruach, and livened by a growing Israeli presence. About 100,000 Israelis have dual Hungarian citizenship; many own property in the country and vote in Hungarian elections.

Prime Minister Orban has been a close friend of Israeli leader Binyamin Netanyahu for twenty years. When Orban first was elected prime minister in 1998 in the thick of an economic crisis, he asked then-Finance Minister Netanyahu for help, and Netanyahu lent him some of his staff to shape Hungary’s economic program.  I asked everyone at Keren Or who spoke English what they thought of Orban. In that gathering the prime minister would have polled 100%. …

… On April 8, Hungarians re-returned Orban to office with a two-thirds majority. He had served as prime minister for the past eight years, and has a lot to show for his efforts. Hungary’s economy is booming, with growth at 4%, unemployment at 3.9%, and a pronounced labor shortage. Budapest is a different city than the dowdy capital I last visited six years ago. New high-rises are sprouting, the streets are clogged with expensive cars, a new upscale restaurant opens every day and visible signs of prosperity are ubiquitous. Orban’s enemies do not allege that the vote was rigged, but they complain that his government put its thumb on the scales of state media to influence public opinion. It would seem that Orban’s previous eight years in office would have given the voters sufficient information.

Orban is also popular because he bucked the explicit directives of the European Commission in Brussels and refused to accept an Hungarian quota of Middle Eastern migrants (not refugees—three-fifths of the millions of Middle Easterners who surged into Europe in 2016 are economic migrants, by the Commission’s own reckoning). Along with the governments of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Hungary formed the Visegrad Group and remains intransigent. Hungarians supported Orban, just as an absolute majority of Americans supported then-candidate Donald Trump’s promise to ban immigration from Middle Eastern terror states. The Soros foundations campaigned for free migration, with a budget of a size unimaginable in American terms. …

… In Western Europe, the political class hates Donald Trump viscerally. To the beleaguered nationalists of Eastern Europe, Trump is an inspiration. Americans in general and Jews in particular should remember who their friends are.

Like the Czechs and Poles, Hungary’s government worries that the United States may grow weary of its commitment to NATO. “You have to show strength to the Russians or they put their foot on your neck,” a senior official told me. Hungary also worries that the Merkel government in Germany is rolling over to Russia, giving lip-service to sanctions while increasing its dependence on Russian gas exports through the Nordstream II pipeline. Hungary does business with Russia, which invaded and occupied the country after World War II. The West shouldn’t provoke Russia, Budapest believes, but it should deal with Putin from a position of strength.

 

 

 

You’re really going to like Hungary when you learn it’s the bad boy of the EU. The story from Spiked OnLine

Brussels fears Hungary because it refuses to bow to imperial technocracy.

According to the political establishment that runs the EU, Hungary has become a xenophobic, authoritarian society. The Hungarian government and in particular the prime minister, Viktor Orban, are continually denounced for their alleged violations of EU values. The mainstream Western media have picked up the message that it is okay to hate Hungary. They give the impression that Hungary is a totalitarian and viciously anti-Semitic society in which critics of the regime are silenced and the government dominates the media.

Calls to expel Hungary from the EU by pro-EU voices in the Guardian and elsewhere echo an intolerant outlook that is growing within the Brussels oligarchy. Recently, members of the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee voted for a resolution that says the situation in Hungary constitutes ‘a clear risk of a serious breach’ of the EU’s values. 

Denunciations of the Hungarian government are often justified on the basis that this is a nation that refuses to go along with the migration policies that German chancellor Angela Merkel effectively imposed on the continent. Other Hungarian sins cited by the ‘Kick Hungary out of the EU’ lobby include a new law that makes life difficult for NGOs funded by George Soros. …

… It is paradoxical that supporters of the EU’s line on Hungary believe they are upholding the values of tolerance and democracy. In truth, they cannot tolerate a nation that has democratically decided to adopt values that are different to their own. The EU is very selective in the way it interprets its own values. Rhetorically, EU ideologues celebrate diversity, yet they are bitterly hostile to those who demand that diversity should also be applied to the realm of values. This is why the campaign against Budapest unabashedly claims that it has the right to impose its values on Hungary whether that nation and its people like it or not.

Since the re-election of the Orban government in April, hostility to Hungary has morphed into a highly politicised and irrational Magyarophobia. The EU establishment regards the massive mandate endorsing Orban’s policies as a direct challenge to its way of life. Isolating Hungary and containing its influence on the political life of other European member states has become a priority for the EU leadership. Scaremongering about the return of fascism in Hungary is really a way of imposing a cordon sanitaire around that country. Thankfully, support for the ideal of sovereignty is not confined to the people of one nation. Hungary’s challenge to the EU’s imperial ambitions may well resonate throughout the continent.