Obama

The Discreet Charms of the New Class

I first read Ayn Rand in college, and enjoyed her insofar as she expressed things I had previously pondered but never fully articulated. Her philosophy attempted to wed Aristotle with dialectical materialism, and I’m not entirely sure how well she pulled it off.

But she did hit upon some under-spoken truths in her major works, of which I have always appreciated the line that kicks of Francisco d’Anconia’s speech in Atlas Shrugged: the one that posits an “aristocracy of pull” which would replace the old naughty aristocracy of wealth. And it is that idea which analogizes into the New Class that Matthew Continetti captures in his look at the upcoming nuptuals of Sam Kass and Alex Wagner in “Love in the Time of Obama” (h/t Ace and Instapundit, which should give you an idea of how significant New Class range-finding is in the wingnut blogosphere).

Both Kass and Wagner, let it be said, are talented. Or at least Wagner is. I haven’t had dinner at the White House. Wagner is pretty, bubbly, and informed, and though her show reminds me of an interminable seminar on theories of representation in the West, I’d rather watch an hour of her than any of the other MSNBC hosts. Yet I cannot help being struck by the disjunction between her attitude toward conservative elites and her attitude toward herself, toward her own part of the upper crust. I cannot help being struck by the unknowingness with which she and her guests establish categories such as “rich” and “elite” that exclude everyone they know.

Both of them are where they are because of who they are and who they know. Now, this has always been true. Knowing the powerful is always better than not knowing them. But in the New Class, that’s the first of the only two criteria for membership. The second is a sycnophantic devotion to the State as such, to the power of Institutions to Do Amazing Work. Matt Yglesias can snark merrily about income inequality and such from his tony DC rowhouse that costs more than the yearly salaries of everyone at my workplace, combined, because his work provides endless justifications for Leviathan. Ted Cruz, on the other hand, went to Harvard but is a pariah in the circles Kass, Wagner, et al. move in. Going to the Right Schools makes you one of the Right People only if you have the Right Opinions.

And it strikes me that ideological devotion and credential makes a frightfully weak foundation to build a fortress on. Traditional aristocracies, ancient and medieval, rested on control of productive land and military prowess. As technological advancements spread both wealth production and lethality around in the Early Modern period, the medieval nobility gradually lost power.

The Senate of Rome followed a different path. Senators in the Republic held their positions for life so long as they owned sufficient land, and held prestige insofar as they demonstrated other aristocratic virtues, of which the chief was the ability to command soldiers in war. With the coming of the Empire, senators switched from being statesmen to synchophants, playing a Game of Gossip with the Emperors for Caeser’s favor. By the end of Caligulia’s reign, most of them were dead, replaced by new families from the minor nobility and provinces.

So building an aristocracy on Opinion and discreet tax-farming seems destined to fail. But perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps the real source of the New Class’ strength is their ability to control What can and cannot be said. Obama is a moderate and a statesman, because our masters who went to the right schools and learned the right way to say the right things say he is ad nauseam.

All of which is another way of saying that Orwell was at least as much of a prophet as Ayn Rand.

George Will Explains it Very Slowly to Barack Obama

The true believer truly believes.

Obama, startled that components of government behave as interest groups, seems utterly unfamiliar with public choice theory. It demystifies and de-romanticizes politics by applying economic analysis — how incentives influence behavior — to government. It shows how elected officials and bureaucrats pursue personal aggrandizement as much as people do in the private sector. In the public sector’s profit motive, profit is measured by power rather than money.

Obama’s tardy epiphanies do not temper his enthusiasm for giving sauropod government ever-deeper penetration into society. He thinks this serves equality. Actually, big government inevitably drives an upward distribution of wealth to those whose wealth, confidence and sophistication enable them to manipulate government.

Now, my fine progressive friends, argue the contrary. Demonstrate that a powerful government does not become a plaything for the wealthy’s game of thrones. Show how Leviathan doesn’t primarily benefit those who already enjoy the fat of the land.

katt

 

The Triumph of Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin seized, or received, or something, power from Boris Yeltsin on the last day of the 20th century. The 1990′s had been a dreadful time for Russia, and Putin has seemed hell-bent on restoring power and strength to the Motherland. While it may be overstating matters to claim that his New York Times Op-Ed (published on 9/11, no less) represented a capstone in that grand strategic goal, it’s hard not to take note of a President of Russia disputing the President of the United States directly in  America’s most prominent newspaper. Who, on New Year’s Eve, 1999, would have predicted that?

Reading the article, it’s hard not to admire the cheek of the thing. Putin casting Russia as the defender of international law, as though the 2008 South Ossetia War had not happened, brings a grin. But best of all may be that the last paragraph, which Ace speculates was added in response to President Obama’s speech.

My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.

Attacking American exceptionalism while referencing our own Declaration of Independence.

well-played-sir-well-played-indeed

 

HEH: Roger Simon declares that the New York Times finally has a columnist worth reading.

But it shouldn’t end here. The Times should open up more space to President Putin. Perhaps he should be featured in the sports and travel sections. He is known to be a great hunter and fisherman. As recently as this year he apparently caught the biggest pike on record. Who knows? He may out swim Mao yet, or even Diana Nyad.

The New York Times has a sports section?

Rehabilitating Romney

Buzzfeed started it, albeit with the typically overwrought headline (3 things = Everything. Ever).

Now NRO is saying, you know, Romneycare really wasn’t anything like Obamacare:

The best way to think about Romneycare is on a left-right scale of 1 to 10. If 10 is a libertarian utopia, and 1 is a left-wing dystopia, Governor Romney moved Massachusetts’ individual health-insurance market from a 2 to a 4. That is, it moved that market modestly to the right.

In Massachusetts, that’s not a small achievement.

Begins thus a trend? Will Obama, having previously resuscitated George W. Bush, now restore Romney to Statesmanhood?

Anyway, this doesn’t bode well for Our Lord and savior.

The Government is Watching Me Type These Words

A few weeks ago, when it was first discovered that the White House was tapping the phone records of the House of Representatives, I threw up a bit of snark on Twitter.

The problem with the modern age is the impossibility of parody.

I’m going to let Rand Paul go off on the scandal du jour:

I can remember well a Senator Obama who joined the Democratic chorus against the warrantless wiretapping of the Bush administration. Now, that chorus has gone mute. The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald has noted what he sees as “a defining attribute of the Obama legacy: the transformation of what was until recently a symbol of rightwing radicalism – warrantless eavesdropping – into meekly accepted bipartisan consensus.”

Not every Republican or Democrat is part of that consensus. When the Senate rushed through a last-minute extension of the Fisa Amendments Act over the holidays late last year, Senator Mike Lee (Republican, Utah) and I offered an amendment requiring stronger protections on business records that would’ve prohibited precisely the kind of data-mining the Verizon case has revealed. Senator Ron Wyden (Democrat, Oregon) introduced an amendment to require estimates from intelligence agencies of how many Americans were being surveilled. Both these measures were voted down.

Read the Whole Thing, as they say. And marvel at the next round of excuses to emanate from the usual suspects.

Oh, BTW…they’re also collecting credit card transactions.

TROLOLOLOLOLOL

It's been a while. It feels good.

It’s been a while. It feels good.

C.S. Lewis once wrote:

Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling “Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,” or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils.

I suppose I could take this as a tonic not to get too excited by the ongoing SCANDALPALOOZA. If this turns out to be less than we’ve imagined, that will be good, right? If Obama really is schocked and offended by what the IRS was doing, and takes  steps to prevent its future ocurrence, that will be a bonus for everyone, yes?

I must admit this. But I also must admit — because it is true — that I deeply enjoy watching my ideological opponents fail. I enjoyed watching Obama run like a frightened squirrel from the podium after promising us that he was like, REALLY MAD, YOU GUYS! I’M SERIOUSLY! It was fun seeing Eric Holder be all “DURR, WHAT ARE CELL PHONES?” I really dont’ mind watching Jon Stewart losing his temper and realizing the epic truth that the right have been promulgating for decades:

In a few short weeks, you’ve convinced people that when it wants to do some good, Government managerial competence is somewhere between David Brent and a cat chasing a laser pointer. But when Government wants to flex its more malevolent muscle, you’re {expletive} Iron Man!”

I enjoy this more than I should. Even though I know that Stewart and everyone else is just hungering, like a sad dog, for a reason, any reason, to blow this whole thing off. Even though I know that he’s sincere when he states his belief that Big Daddy White Boss really does have everyone’s best interests at heart. It’s just nice to hear someone on the other side admit that what you believe has validity.

So whatever happens, however this plays out, whatever heaping mounds of taural fecal extract that the spin masters manage to cover this in, I can think of no better expression than this:

I Do Believe Benghazi Just Flipped From “Not Going Away” to “Quite Uncomfortably Here”

Bureaucrats are generally dis-inclined to take the heat for politicians.

The blue-on-blue is particuarly encouraging. Is this a function of Obama’s declining coattails, as donkeys seek distance in preparation for 2014?

I wonder how long before Obama feels the need to throw Hillary — or some other mucky-mucks at State — under the bus?

He should make sure he does it on a Saturday night...

He should make sure he does it on a Saturday night…

Jammie-Wearing Fool wants to know:

Where was Obama the night of September 11? And why is nobody asking that question?

A Few More Contractions, and the Economy Will Really Be Rolling!

If you ever needed a definition for “spin”, this is it.

In response to the news today that the economy contracted -.1 percent in the final quarter of last year, Democrats are touting the claim that this is “the best-looking contraction in U.S. GDP you’ll ever see.” The claim was originally made by chief U.S. economist for Capital Economics Paul Ashworth.

Yup. We are double-dipping, ladies and germs, and the smart boys are loving it. Because apart from the contraction of the economy part, everything else was really “encouraging”. Yeah, that’s the word.

Encouraging.

"But look how well it's moving through the water!"

“But look how well it’s moving through the water!”