Saturday, 23 January 2010

Obama's first year, a scathing review by...

Conrad Black in The National: Jan.22,2010

Incompetent Obama teeters on the edge.

The burning question after the Massachusetts Senate election is whether the administration responds by making a course correction to survive politically by jettisoning its policy core and cleaning up its methods, or 'doubles down,' as President Obama has implied, and escalates the ideological and guerrilla war for direction of public policy. This was a referendum on the Obama administration, including health care, not just on health care. Even less was it just the rejection of an astonishingly unappealing candidate, predestined to glory as a trivia question. John F. Kennedy took that seat with lashings of his father's money in an anti-Brahmin revolt against Henry Cabot Lodge in 1952, and was reelected by 864,000 votes in 1958. In the intervening years of Teddy Kennedy, the Democrats could have won with a candidate not confined to two legs and one head. This was less a wake-up call than a Te Deum for a dying and sweaty dream.

The president has three principal problems. He is well to the left of the public and of what he promised the voters in 2008, and it is an old, passe leftism, that is authoritarian, deviously presented and was discredited in this country decades ago; the sort of nostrums that caused Bill Clinton and others to become 'New Democrats.' He is increasingly perceived as having credibility problems and of being cold, cocksure, narcissistic and intoxicated by what he modestly called 'the gift' of his own articulation. And as president, he has been quite, and quite surprisingly, incompetent.

The second of these problems seems to prevent the president from appreciating the last. The only serious domestic initiative to show for the last year is an obscene stimulus bill that has had to be defended by the spurious supposition of 'jobs saved' since, contrary to promises, unemployment has risen by over five million after it was enacted. That target could have been attained without squandering 787 billion borrowed dollars.

Current economic projections call for massive debt increases of $1 trillion a year for a decade, with huge money supply increases that will make history not only by their size but, according to forecasts, by their non-inflationary nature, accompanied by tax increases that will, also miraculously, not retard recovery from the recession. No audible sane person believes this arithmetical fairy tale, including, one dares to hope, the president himself. It is a recipe for guaranteed stagflation and currency devaluation.

The administration bought wholly into the unproved claim that carbon emissions are causing global warming, but global warming has not, for the last ten years, been happening. The president padded around the Copenhagen global warming conference trying to generate enthusiasm for $100 billion annual transfers to the Mugabes and Chavezes, as well as the Chinese (the world's largest carbon emitters), as conscience-alleviating payments for the carbon emissions of the economically advanced countries. America's fellow culprits found less tangibly burdensome expiations. So will America.

Mr. Obama must have noticed that the science and the politics were wrong, and that the arithmetic was too. The whole concept, like his promotion of renewable energy, his cap-and-trade bill, his redesignation of carbon dioxide as a pollutant, and his pursuit of complete nuclear disarmament, is mad. It was a worthy encore to the president's previous cameo appearance in the Danish capital, where his and his wife's prodigies managed to bring Chicago in fourth in contention for the 2016 Olympics, (out of four competing cities).

In foreign policy, engagement with Iran and North Korea, appeasement of Russia, over Georgia and missile defense, attempting to bully Israel and to deny that there was an agreement between the Sharon and Bush (Jr.) regimes over settlements, and siding with Chavez and the Castros in the Honduran crisis against constitutional democracy and America's legitimate interests, have all failed, practically and morally, at least without knowledge of indiscernible and unlikely, contrary intelligence.
There have been no initiatives to reform NATO, the UN, the IMF, all in need of modernization, and there has been a regrettable delay in launching the long-promised and necessary measures to turn the Afghan operation into a success, while the U.S. and its allies have been milling about, losing ground and taking increasing casualties.

The fumbling over Guantanamo has been another fiasco, as attorney general Holder has acknowledged that it is an exemplary prison. But Obama has been entrapped by Teddy Kennedy's unfounded identification of Gitmo with Abu Ghraib. The president's reaction to the near disaster of the panties-terrorist in the skies over Detroit began with waffling from a Hawaiian luau, and gained altitude agonizingly slowly.

No one is audibly lamenting the retirement of George W. or throwing shoes at his successor's head because he speaks in sentences, but this president is bestriding the world as a flake, cow-towing to the Mikado, apologizing for President Truman's use of the atomic bomb, criticizing Roosevelt and Churchill's uninclusive approach to winning World War II, and Churchill and Eisenhower for disposing of the pajama-clad hysteric Mohammed Mossadegh as head of Iran.

And instead of sending the Congress completed bills and drumming up public support for them, as legislatively successful past presidents like FDR, LBJ, and Reagan did, he just rolls a Christmas tree into the Capitol Rotunda and invites Reid and Pelosi and their vacuum-cleaner committee chairmen to festoon it with their favorite pork baubles. Stealing the Alaska Senate election with the fraudulent prosecution of Senator Stevens, (since retracted), the Minnesota Senate election with the fraudulent recounts against Senator Coleman, and the unchallenging seduction of Senator Specter as he was circling the Republican primary drain in Pennsylvania, to get 60 Democratic senators, enabled the public purchase of party loyalty, the dismissal of sincere moderates like Senator Olympia Snow, (whose furrowed brow is a mortal challenge to Botox), for a bad health care bill that is not a reform. This was not what was thought to be meant by the slogan 'Yes we can!,' is not leadership, and the people, even in Massachusetts, don't like it.

It has been a year of fecklessness, amateurism, and posturing. Less that is useful has been accomplished by this president in his first year than by any president since Herbert Hoover, and he was ambushed by the Great Depression after seven months.

President Obama rose with astonishing speed from a more improbable sociological provenance than any of his 42 predecessors, an alumnus both of the genteel finishing school of Harvard Law and of the Chicago boiler room for hardball politicians. Neither his radical nor sleazy connections stuck to him. He deftly made an unspoken arrangement to liberate white liberal America from its guilt complex over historic treatment of African-Americans, and to banish the down-market Al Sharptons, Jesse Jacksons and Charlie Rangels as black spokesmen, in exchange for a one-way ticket to the White House. With this implicit, non-refundable offer in his back pocket, he almost effortlessly seemed to take the Democratic Party away from the Clintons and rode the trends, the economy, and the sclerosis of his opponent's campaign straight into the White House, with professional skill and elegance.

Withal, this president seems overwhelmingly confident, strangely detached, and, as Peggy Noonan, Ronald Reagan's leading speech-writer, and now one of the leaders of the Obama Buyers' Remorse Movement, wrote, 'cold and faux eloquent.' He is fluent and sonorous, but rather vapid. And now, Maureen Dowd, foxy doyenne of New York Times columnists and pin-up girl of the D.C. Democratic establishment, niece of FDR's top fixer, former co-leader, with Michelle, Caroline Kennedy and Oprah Winfrey, of the Obama massed, synchronized cheerleaders, has apostacized and reviled the president as a nasty egotist. When A Democratic president has lost Ms. Dowd and the Kennedys' Senate seat, it is time to return to the drawing boards.

If the president has a Damascene rendezvous with the real wishes of the American people and turns the White House bowling alley into a cram-course charm school, he can be a popular and successful president yet. An excellent bi-partisan health care bill that really is a reform can still be had and would be hugely admired, especially after this debacle. If he wants to double down on what we have seen in the last year, he will leave the White House in a submersible in three years.

For all the claims that the Republicans are too influenced by religious zealots and country club knuckle-draggers, the administration may be in the hands of 'redistributive,' pacifistic Kool Aid drinkers. If it is, the Republicans will have to elevate their 2012 presidential candidate this year. The office may, 213 years after the retirement of George Washington, actually seek the (wo)man, but not from what is conspicuously on offer now, from either party.

National Post

Saturday, 16 January 2010

I used to be a fair cook, then I married...

and my cooking became redundant, as it were. My wife is a talented and courageous cook.Did you know that you need courage to cook really well, that venturing into unknown fields of gastronomy is full of danger, at least it's full of challenges?
So, I became a temporary bachelor in these past few weeks and having been accustomed to exceptional fair at home, I have resisted going out to eat more than necessary, which meant: cooking again.
Nothing exceptional in this, many men cook, and some are masters of the art. But I have noted after a few dinners how unintentionally international my preferences for food have become. A few examples (recipes forwarded on requests):
From top to bottom:

American cod,wild rice with mushrooms with wine sauce (Hungarian Cserszegi F├╝szeres)

Hungarian beef paprikash with American grits

American steak, cooked in the living room fire place (don't tell my wife, an important game was on tv)

Norwegian smoked,wild salmon farfalle with Russian vodka sauce

Hungarian bundas kenyer(aka french toast)with Canadian maple syrup

Monday, 11 January 2010

Belated, 2010, New Year's resolution....

Don't act beyond your capacity to repair.

The last 10 years, so well summed by...

Conrad Black:

What a dismal decade.

As we say farewell to this rather dismal decade, which opened with Millennial celebrations of a New World Order and The End of History, and has been thoroughly disfigured by terrorism, economic stupidity, inept political leadership and untrammeled vulgarity of public tastes, I dare to hope for somewhat better things (for the world as well as my family and self).

Readers will have noticed that Copenhagen was about as complete a mockery as was forecast, here and elsewhere. Thousands of protesters, festooned with banners about the water level in Tuvalu, and dressed as polar bears and seals, inanely screaming at the earnest Global Coolers, had to be restrained by the gentle Danish police.

Most of the world’s most odious leaders were present, demanding trillions of dollars to assist them in green development. Zimbabwe’s infamous Robert Mugabe, who has violated every clause of the Clarence House agreement which conferred independence on Rhodesia, and has terrorized the country and reduced its standard of living by 99%, accused the advanced nations of trying to disguise the baleful effect of their carbon emissions on all mankind behind trivial concerns about the absence of human rights in Zimbabwe.

Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, now challenging Fidel Castro (“Papa Castro” to the Trudeau family) as Latin America’s shabbiest tyrant, announced the death of capitalism, to the rapacity of which he imputed the impending destruction of the world’s environment, as well as the dissipated prosperity of his own oil-rich country which he has master-minded.

The chief spokesman of the aggrieved despots, Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir (whose country’s government’s cupped hands are dripping with the blood of a million victims of domestic genocide) dismissed a European offer of $11-billion to promote green industrial growth in the Third World as a pittance.

I can’t be the only person who wondered if sincere dupes of this nonsense, from the Prince of Wales to Elizabeth May, have the remotest idea of what mayhem they have brought down on the world. At least Al Gore has made a lot of money from it. Indeed, it must be said that this unlikely man has had the greatest revenge of anyone ever wrongfully deprived of the U.S. presidency, except perhaps Richard Nixon. Gore has grown rich, eminent, won a Nobel Prize, completely disrupted the world and turned international relations into a gigantic slap-stick farce. The absence of evidence that global warming is actually occurring, and that human activity affects the world’s temperature at all, was scarcely mentioned. The real result, however, is the pledged objective of not permitting the world’s temperature to increase more than two centigrade degrees by 2050. Since it has only risen one degree in the last 35 years, and not at all in the last ten, this should be safe enough. The heads of government fellowship will pat itself hydraulically on the head and back, and money will be handed over to the toads of despotism when pigs fly and shrimps sing.

This must be the supreme coruscation of what Malcolm Muggeridge christened the “great liberal death-wish;” a canard about a fraud, invoked to impoverish the world’s advanced countries in favour of its most rancid despotisms, which have already squandered and embezzled a trillion dollars of Western aid; all for a nonsensical purpose, solemnly agreed to, and then ignored.

For the first time in the history of the U.S. Presidency, Mr. Obama had to badger a foreign head of government to meet him (China’s premier Wen). Last year, shoes were thrown at the U.S. president. This year we had self-abasement before the Japanese Emperor and (unsuccessful) supplication to the Chinese. If this trend continues, by the end of this new decade, the U.S. president will be invited to international meetings as a shoe-shine boy.

The great stars of Copenhagen were the Chinese and the Canadians. The Chinese strutted and gloried as a mighty economic growth story, a super-power presumptive, while leading the G-77, as the under-developed countries now modishly style themselves, out of the conference in protest against the supposed miserliness of the advanced countries. China has staged the greatest act of international pocket-picking in history, beggaring the U.S. by dumping trillions of dollars of cheap goods in it, which the United States bought with money largely borrowed from China. And as it spurned the importunity of the United States at Copenhagen, and basked in the adoration of the Third World, its leaders po-facedly demanding hundreds of billions of dollars to clean its economic growth, while refusing the donors the right to monitor the use of the money.

All Canadians should be proud of Stephen Harper. Of all the leaders of serious countries, he is the most conspicuously skeptical of this great eco-scam. This is Canada’s finest foreign policy hour since Mackenzie King supported Charles de Gaulle’s takeover of St. Pierre and Miquelon from Vichy at Christmas 1941, against the mindless opposition of the U.S. state department.

The flip-side of this controversy is the emerging U.S. economic miracle, which at this point officially promises increased taxes, faster economic growth, 50% to 100% annual increases in money supply without inflation, for a decade of trillion dollar annual federal budget deficits without seriously raising interest rates, or devaluing the dollar. All 18 wheels will come off this impossible contraption, in all directions of the compass. And all numerate people, including, presumably, the unfathomable Timothy Geithner and the fabulist President whom he serves, know it.

I predict that in a decent interval after his confirmation as Federal Reserve chairman next month or February, Ben Bernanke will announce that the central bank will no longer buy the treasury notes that finance this orgy. The United States cannot drink itself sober. China has now passed on the pleasure of continuing to buy low yield instruments of a country that is doing the necessary to convert its currency into wall paper, if not toilet paper. The Federal Reserve is buying the treasury issues that finance the federal government’s deficit-straight additions to the money supply — the most familiar form of currency debasement and rampaging inflation, from the times of Caligula to Juan Peron and Robert Mugabe.

Obama and Geithner will scream like wounded banshees that Bernanke has betrayed them on how to deal with what they will portray as George W.’s messy leavings, while Bernanke devalues the dollar by about 15%, raises interest rates to about 6% and requires federal government spending cuts of about $500-billion annually, largely from a revisitation of entitlements and some sales and transaction taxes that the Congress will have to agree to in conference as an emergency compromise between the parties. The health care charade of buying individual senators with from $100-million (Christopher Dodd,), to $3-billion (Bill Nelson of Florida — not Ben Nelson of Nebraska who folded at $100 million) can’t slice this Gordian Knot. There will be fewer lawyers and investment bankers in the U.S., and more savers and investors, and if the politicians don’t ruin it again, market forces will shape up the U.S. to meet the Chinese challenge. But both job creation and economic growth will be slow in a transitional period.

In the Christmas spirit of shriving and confession, I thank Anita Kern for pointing out, re my Copenhagen column two weeks ago, that the Silver Skates was not written by Hans Christian Andersen, though he had some similar story titles, but by the American Mary Mapes Dodge, and was about Holland and not Denmark. And I have been intermittently trying for many weeks to apologize for the reference in my column about the visit to Canada of the Prince of Wales, for the reference to Nelson Mandela marrying the widow of Mozambican President Maputo. It was president Machel, and Maputo is Mozambique’s capital. I have no way here of chasing up Andersen’s short story titles, and I believe the Maputo error was editorial, but in the interests of the season, I take these allegations for myself, a character-enhancing process with which I have become familiar in this decade, but do not recommend.

Good riddance to 2009. Let us all have a splendid 2010.

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