‘The Great Degeneration’: Niall Ferguson explains how America is engineering its own demise

The Great DegenerationWith ‘Civilization: The West and the Rest,’ Niall Ferguson described the “killer apps” that Western civilization used to propel itself past its rivals. With ‘The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die,’ he shows readers how quickly the wheels can come off the bus and send all of civil society’s passengers over a cliff.

While Mr. Ferguson’s analysis does not exclusively focus on the U.S., by the time he’s done unsealing the “boxes” of democracy, capitalism, the rule of law, and civil society, it is obvious that America is very, very sick — perhaps terminally ill — and that short of a miracle our experiment in self governance will not end well.

As Mr. Ferguson states:

“Where bad institutions pertain, people get stuck in vicious circles of ignorance, ill health, poverty, and, often, violence. Unfortunately, history suggests that there are more of these suboptimal frameworks than there are optimal frameworks. A really good set of institutions is hard to achieve. Bad institutions, by contrast, are easy to get stuck in. And this is why most countries have been poor for most of history, as well as illiterate, unhealthy and bloody.” Niall Ferguson, The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die (New York: Penguin, 2012), 18.

When the author speaks of the rule of law turning into the rule of lawyers, it’s hard not to think of what America has become. When the author talks about a “corrupt and monopolistic elite” exploiting the system of law and administration to their own advantage, it’s hard not to think of what America has become. When the author talks about public debt being managed to allow the current generation of voters to “live at the expense of those as yet too young to vote or as yet unborn,” it’s hard not to think of what America has become.

Over and over again, ‘The Great Degeneration’ shows that we as a society are creating complex systems that are destined to fail. What makes the story all the more tragic is that it’s all quite predictable.

As Tocqueville said in 1835 with the publication of ‘Democracy in America’:

I see an innumerable crowd of like and equal men who revolve on themselves without repose, procuring the small and vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls. Each of them, withdrawn and apart, is like a stranger to the destiny of all the other: his children and his particular friends form the whole human species for him; as for dwelling with his fellow citizens, he is beside them, but he does not see them; he touches them and does not feel them; he exists only in himself and for himself alone. …

Above these an immense tutelary power is elevated, which alone takes charge of assuring their enjoyments and watching over their fate. It is absolute, detailed, regular, far-seeing, and mild. It would resemble paternal power if, like that, it had for its object to prepare men for manhood; but on the contrary, it seeks only to keep them fixed irrevocably in childhood. …

Regular readers of this blog know that a shift in tone began to occur roughly three years ago. That is because I share many of the author’s conclusions about modern-day America and western civilization. Our culture is sick, but it is only willing to talk about its symptoms instead of the disease. The institutions have been compromised, and until they are fixed our slide into irrelevance will continue.

‘The Great Degeneration’ is a rather quick read at 153 pages. If you get a chance, pick it up at your local book store. If for no other reason, it is fascinating to think about some of the events that have occurred since its publication; Mr. Ferguson’s knowledge of the past helps him to accurately predict the future. You’ll give him a round of applause for the effort — after you wipe a few tears from your eyes.

CBO: This American debt bomb is going really to hurt when it explodes — just so you know

CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf was speaking at The Atlantic’s 2014 Economy Summit in Washington and he had a message for the American people: Pain.

CNS News reported:

The United States faces “fundamental fiscal challenges” stemming from the growth in spending for Social Security and major health care programs,” CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf told a gathering in Washington on Tuesday.

The rising cost of those programs leaves Americans with “unpleasant” choices to make, but the sooner they’re made, the better, he said: “So we have a choice as a society to either scale back those programs relative to what is promised under current law; or to raise tax revenue above its historical average to pay for the expansion of those programs; or to cut back on all other spending even more sharply than we already are,” Elmendorf said.

“And we haven’t actually decided as a society…what we’re going to do. But some combination of those three choices will be needed.”

Elmendorf said there are various ways to proceed: “But they tend to be unpleasant in one way or another, and we have not, as a society, decided how much of that sort of unpleasantness to inflict on whom.”

I’ve been beating this drum for over four years now on this blog — I’ve called it the Jenga Economy — but Mr. Elmendorf is correct: “we have not, as a society, decided how much … unpleasantness to inflict on whom.”

The right answer is that you disperse the pain across as wide an area as possible because we are all Americans and we are all responsible for the debt tumor within. The problem is that we have “leaders” who lie to the American people about what is really happening under the surface, we have some that are just plain stupid, and we have others —like Sen. Claire McCaskill — who openly admit they have serious issues.

Hotair reported:

I do believe a $17 trillion debt is irresponsible. I do believe that. … It’s not like I am such a fiscal hawk that I don’t see that there are needs out there that we need to address. Supporting extending unemployment insurance, all of those things. … I don’t think we can keep our eye completely off that ball. So, some of the people who think, well, you know, deficits don’t matter, and debt doesn’t matter. We have cut our deficit by a lot, and that’s great, but I don’t think it’s responsible to go back to the old way, ’cause you know what the old way was? We said yes to everybody. You know, we want to be loved. That’s why we run for office.

She wants to be loved? That’s why she runs? Again — she’s said yes to everybody because she wants to be loved.

Unbelievable. You can not make this stuff up.

Leaders do not say yes to everyone. Leaders know that they must make tough decisions and that they will not be loved by everyone. Leaders take it on the chin because they know that what they’re doing is in the long-term interest of those under their command.

It is safe to say that Sen. Claire McCaskill is not a leader. The vast majority of her friends in the Senate are not leaders, and neither are the vast majority of her counterparts in the House. But, like I said, we’re all in some way culpable for what is to come.

The constituents who elected politicians to whisper sweet nothings into their ears are responsible. The American citizen who seemingly prides himself for being an uninformed boob is responsible. Independents who only opt to rhetorically throw stones at both parties are responsible. And yes, yours truly is responsible…in many, many ways that I’d be happy to expand on in the comments section.

Are you prepared for the “unpleasantness” coming down the pike? I am.

Related: The Jenga Economy: Brought to you by the federal government

‘Act of Valor’ SEAL blasts Washington’s attempts to lower standards in ‘Damn Few’

Rorke Denver Damn-Few

Lieutenant Commander Rorke Denver was the former head of Basic and Advanced SEAL Training. He was one of the stars of a number one movie, “Act of Valor,” in which active-duty Navy SEALs gave Americans an inside look the world’s most elite fighting force. He is now the author of an illuminating book, “Damn Few,” which comes out February 19. And after its release, he’ll be known as the patriot who sounded the alarm on the Beltway political class’ efforts to lower the standards of arguably the greatest fighting force the world has ever known.

Since Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that combat roles would now be open to female soldiers, Pentagon brass has assured Americans that the standards of excellence expected by infantrymen and special operations forces would not be compromised. Those promises ring hollow, given that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Patrick Dempsey, talked out both sides of his mouth in an effort to alleviate fears during a press conference last week: “[If we do decide that a particular standard is so high that a woman couldn’t make it, the burden is now on the service to come back and explain to the secretary, why is it that high? Does it really have to be that high?”

And that’s where the importance of Lt. Cmdr. Denver comes in. Speaking on the consequences of the success Navy SEALs had in Iraq and Afghanistan, the saving of Captain Richard Phillips of the MV Maersk Alabama when he was taken hostage by Somali pirates, and of course the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden, Lt. Commander Denver writes:

“The message as it was delivered from General Bryan “Doug” Brown, SOCOM’s commander, was simple: “You guys need to make ’em grow.”
Then an interesting thing happened.
The special-operations forces of the Army, Air Force, and Marines each produced projections of how their units could expand and how they would expand. Those units all expanded as promised. …
There was on notable exception: the SEAL teams. …
It didn’t take long, less than a year, for a fresh directive to find its way to the junior and senior SEAL leadership, this one considerably firmer in tone.
“That wasn’t a suggestion,” was the way it was heard on the ground. “We want more SEALs. You will get us more SEALs.” There was also an addendum to that, unstated by still perfectly clear: “And if you won’t, we will find new leaders who will.”

Lt. Cmdr. Denver’s first-hand experience should serve as a clarion call for anyone who cares about the safety of the American people. Pundits and politicians of all stripes — as well as Pentagon officials — claim that the integrity of our elite units will be maintained when it has already been attacked. “Damn Few” even details how at one point during Lt. Cmdr. Denver’s tenure on the SEAL’s Academic Review Board, candidates were getting “ten, eleven, and twelve opportunities to pass their tests.”

The mindset in Washington is that if teams of SEALs are so effective, the U.S. should simply double or triple or quadruple the numbers — but it doesn’t work that way. Why not just have all soldiers be SEALs while we’re at it? What Congress doesn’t get, and what “Damn Few” does an excellent job of demonstrating, is that it takes a very special, very rare kind of person to even want to try out for the challenge of becoming a SEAL. And then, only the best warriors have the mental and physical toughness to earn the coveted “SEAL Trident.”

Social engineers in Washington and the high-ranking Pentagon officials who want to curry favor with them are trying to turn the “damn few” into the “damn many.” Sadly, the concerns in Lt. Cmdr. Denver’s book may be a harbinger of things to come. At one point he writes of his time as an active-duty SEAL that “it was like being a member of an excellent fraternity, the greatest man club in the world. Maybe the last one.”

Inevitably, some women will have what it takes, physically and mentally, to become SEALs. But they shouldn’t earn that distinction with lower standards. It would be a shame if politicians who claim to act in the public’s interest decimated the one fighting force that consistently secures freedom and liberty around the world. “Damn Few” comes out February 19. For those who take national security seriously, it is a must-read.

Related: American Sniper Chris Kyle: Guardian Angel who doesn’t know it

Black Hawk Dumb: Terror haven Somalia likely to get U.S. taxpayer cash

It was only two years ago that then-CIA Director David Petraeus testified before Congress on the dangers posed by Somali terrorists, saying “extremist networks over the past two decades have made southern Somalia one of the world’s most significant havens for terrorists. Al Qaeda’s affiliate there — al Shabaab — is large and well-funded relative to most extremist groups, and it has attracted and trained hundreds of foreign fighters, including scores of Americans and dozens from other Western countries.”

Today the U.S. is preparing to formally recognize the Somali government, paving the way to send taxpayer dollars to the place that will forever be associated with “Black Hawk Down,” where a U.S. Army Ranger was dragged through the streets in 1993.

Bloomberg reports:

    The U.S. will formally recognize the government in Somalia tomorrow, a step that paves the way for the U.S. and international finance organizations to aid the war-torn African nation.

“It’s the start of a significant process that underscores the return to stability that has occurred in Somalia over the last four years,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson said [told] reporters. …

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton plans to exchange diplomatic notes with Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud … in a meeting at the State Department.

Americans watched as the Obama administration gave weapons and aid to Libyan rebels. Our reward? U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and former Navy SEALs were slain in the Benghazi terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2012. Now the American people are supposed to believe that with a few U.S. dollars and some help from the CIA, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud can transform Mogadishu into Club Med.

Most Americans don’t know about the importance of the clan in Islamic culture. They are unfamiliar with women like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who grew up in Somalia and says she was beaten until she learned 800 years of her father’s ancestry, or that strangers in the country will often trace their lineages until they find a common ancestor. But the State Department does know this. Yet Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is planning to exchange “notes” with Somalia’s president, which will in all likelihood lead to dollars. And that cash will go to a clan culture riddled with African members of al-Shabaab, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Boko Haram and other terrorist groups.

If the State Department thinks it can cozy up to Somalia and not get burned, maybe it should ask French intelligence agent Denis Allex for advice. Or maybe not, since the French government believes members of al Shabaab executed him on Jan. 11.

The question before Americans isn’t whether we should be engaged in Africa, because we should (to what extent can be debated). The question is, who are we going to hold accountable if this goes horribly wrong?

If Clinton’s aversion to answering questions about the Benghazi terrorist attacks and ensuing cover-up is the model for how this administration does business, conservatives should make oversight of any cash transfers to Somalia a priority. If something goes wrong in Mogadishu, the most likely scapegoat will be Republican members of the 113th Congress.

Lone Avenger: Robert Downey Jr. soars above his liberal critics

Scarlett Johansson openly shills Obama-themed clothing and accessories—and no one cares. Robert Downey. Jr. gave a 2009 interview where he intimated that his time in prison taught him to shun liberalism, and there is no doubt the waves are still rippling. Telling. Very telling.

In 2009 Robert Downey Jr. was interviewed by the New York Times. When I read it I smiled, because the old phrase, “A conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged by reality,” seemed to ring true for the good actor:

“I have a really interesting political point of view, and it’s not always something I say too loud at dinner tables here, but you can’t go from a $2,000-a-night suite at La Mirage to a penitentiary and really understand it and come out a liberal. You can’t. I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone else, but it was very, very, very educational for me and has informed my proclivities and politics ever since.”

It turns out that one paragraph in a single interview years ago made quite a few waves in the Hollywood community, so much so that Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere tried his hand at character assassination in 2011. I wonder if he’ll do a companion piece, since Joss Whedon wants to insert Democratic talking points into Captain America’s mouth; Mark Ruffalo (i.e., The Hulk) wants to stop oil companies from providing gas and heat to our homes; Samuel L. Jackson (i.e., Nick Fury) admits that the only reason he voted for Barack Obama was because he’s black; and Scarlett Johansson (i.e., Black Widow) hawks Barack Obama clothing and accessories for his re-election campaign. I won’t hold my breath.

Given all this, the universe demands that I write something pro-Robert Downey Jr.

Let us first establish one thing: Liberal Hollywood actors get to be activists. They get to loudly and proudly state their opinions. They get handed megaphones in front of large audiences or microphones off to the side of a fashion show runway. Robert gives a passing reference to rejecting liberalism and he’s attacked. Here’s what an anonymous source told Wells:

“His values are pure Republican values … He’s a serious materialist. He loves the great clothes, the beautiful house, the cool cars. He’s a ‘protect the rich’ guy. Why should the rich have to pay for this or that? The people who have it should keep it, and the people who don’t have it shouldn’t complain.”

Really? So Robert Downey Jr. tells the New York Times that his time spent in prison had a profound impact on his politics, but somehow we’re supposed to believe it’s really about wanting to swim in Olympic-sized pools of gold like Scrooge McDuck? Consider me skeptical.

What’s more likely: that Robert Downey Jr. found out that there are some really bad, really evil people behind bars…or that he just loves designer clothes? What’s more likely: that Robert Downey Jr. learned that allowing someone to suffer the consequences of their actions is often times better than perpetually shielding them from blow back…or that he wants to have a really nice house he can lord over the rest of us?

Robert admitted to the New York Times that he didn’t talk politics too loudly at dinner tables in Hollywood. Can anyone blame him? Even somewhat obscure allusions to a conservative streak gets the guy lambasted by his peers. It would be incredibly dangerous for Hollywood’s “Iron Man,” … someone as “cool” as Downey, to be openly conservative. The kiddies might take to such a message if it was articulated by an actor with a respected resume that runs the gamut. Downey can give a serious performance in an art house flick, he can do dark comedy, or he can do the summer blockbuster. And so, Hollywood must make the message loud and clear: “Great career you have there. It would be a shame if something happened to it.”

I’m sure that liberals in Hollywood aren’t happy that Iron Man 3 is getting The Tom Clancy treatment, particularly if that includes a script infused with Clancy’s conservatism. And so, I will leave them with one more comment to ponder. During his time directed by Joss Whedon for The Avengers, Downey said this:

“I will never mess with your intent. I will question every day how you plan to get there. But I will never mess with what you’re trying to accomplish.”

That sounds like many conservatives I know. Conservatives are much more inclined to say, “I know that you want to create a better place. However, your policies are naive, they don’t work in the real world and they actually have the opposite effect of your intended goals.” Remember when liberals used to pride themselves on questioning authority? Now it’s up to conservatives and libertarians; the Progressive college students soak up everything they’re told and liberal Hollywood stars blindly follow Barack Obama off a financial cliff.

Anyway, God bless you Robert Downey Jr. You’re one hell of an actor. See you opening night.

Related: Robert Downey Jr. ambushed over politics: Reporters want Iron Man to be a liberal activist

Robert Downey Jr. was at the 2008 Republican convention. What are the chances a full-court press effort was immediately underway to “re-educate” him? Probably good. I’m sure Iron Man can make up his own mind, but the pressure in Hollywood to conform to liberal orthodoxy is strong. Regardless, when liberal blogs attack him for not towing the line, I will defend.

Update: Since Robert Downey Jr. has attended a Barack Obama fundraiser, I have addressed the matter in depth.

Related: Iron Man 3: Americans will love it, but so will moviegoers who hate America

Obama speaks out on Augusta, silent on Islam

If Augusta became a club for Islamic golfers tomorrow, would Barack Obama or Jay Carney criticize it? Magic 8 ball says, "not likely."

The Masters is once again upon us, so you had to know it was only a matter of time before President Obama or a prominent member of his administration spoke up on Augusta National’s men-only policy. Today, White House spokesman Jay Carney got the call.

President Obama thinks women should be allowed membership in the Georgia golf club that is hosting the Masters tournament this week, according to the White House.

“His personal opinion is women should be admitted,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a press briefing on Thursday.

The Augusta National Golf Club, where the Masters golf tournament began on Thursday morning, only accepts male members, and is considered sacred ground in the world of professional golf. …

“We’ve kind of passed the time that women should be excluded from anything,” Carney said.

Interesting, Jay. If Augusta National became an Islamic golf club tomorrow, American liberal feminists and men like Jay Carney wouldn’t say a peep. Suddenly, criticizing the practices of the male members of such a club would be off limits. Barack Obama has nothing to say about “allies” like Hamid Karzai and his “code of conduct” for beating women, and yet a men’s golf club gets a dressing down from the White House Press Secretary. Telling.

Mr. Carney, I invite you to walk down to the nearest mosque in Northern Virgina, summon up the disdain in your voice that you had for Augusta, and say the exact same sentence: “We’ve kind of passed the time that women should be excluded from anything.” Something tells me that I’ll be waiting awhile…

With that said, let me be clear that I’m not inadvertently making the case against Augusta. Whereas I see Augusta as a club where a bunch of guys can get together, drink some beers, smoke a few cigars, play golf…and be guys, Islamic fundamentalists treat women as sub-humans and seek to dehumanize them through a variety of ways. I see Augusta as the ultimate “man cave” for American guys who like to play golf, and I see radical Islam as the religion for guys who literally want to bring us back to the Stone Age. Big difference.

I’m being somewhat facetious, but when is Barack Obama going to issue a statement on Curves, the women’s health and fitness club with the motto: “no makeup, no men, and no mirrors,”? Why do overweight women get a place to call their own and feel comfortable with their…curves, but chunky men on the verge of Type 2 diabetes get the cold shoulder? Or was that the cold double-chin? The point is, there are organizations that cater specifically to men, and there are organizations that cater specifically to women. Sadly, the type of person who wants men to become androgynous, “mantyhose” wearing fools also wants a world where men and women must do everything together. No thanks. I love my wife, but sometimes I like to hang out with a bunch of dudes and just be…a dude. Guys like Tim Allen have made really unfunny sitcoms featuring characters who do the same thing.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all this talk about guy stuff has me itching to watch the Expendables 2 trailer again.

Barack Obama: The Hollywood Squares President

President Barack Obama has mistaken his job as Commander in Chief with that of a game show host for Hollywood Squares, where contestants use celebrities as tic-tac-toe pieces to win prizes. While his list of  ties to the entertainment industry is long and well documented, last month demonstrated more so than usual just how misplaced this administration’s priorities are. President (and former Hollywood actor) Ronald Reagan had the Kremlin on line one. In 2012, indicators suggest Mr. Obama reserves that spot for whoever is on the latest cover of Entertainment Weekly Magazine.

Only days into the new year, details finally emerged of a 2009 Alice in Wonderland party in the State Dining Room. Director Tim Burton played pricy interior decorator, and Johnny Depp in full Mad Hatter regalia breathed life into the affair. Perhaps no one told the president that if you have to try and keep a lid on the opulence of a party it’s probably too expensive to hold to begin with.

In January, Mr. Obama also took time out of his schedule to write TV star, singer and Hollywood darling Zooey Deschanel a personal birthday card. Voters didn’t need to wonder why for long, because it turns out that the Obama campaign has an extensive “wish list” of Hollywood supporters he’s eying to help carry him over the finish line. George Clooney, Michael Moore, Ben Affleck, Whoopi Goldberg, and Jay-Z are just a few of the pieces Mr. Obama would like to have back on his Campaign 2012 tic-tac-toe board.

Presidential game show hosts also need money, and the month ended with news that Will Ferrell would be throwing a fundraiser for the president in Los Angeles. The cost for admission? Roughly $36,000, the kind of chump change “the 99%” might find in their couch cushions during Spring cleaning—if by 99% you mean Bruce Springsteen.

Many commentators have asked if the president really believed his own State of the Union rhetoric when he said, “The state of our union is getting stronger.” The answer is yes, because that’s what happens when you spend too much time with people who live in the land of make-believe. The world’s dictators and despots are playing global chess while the leader of the free world is playing Hollywood Squares with Will Ferrell. If the Obama administration had a genre it wouldn’t be comedy. In fact, it’s a tragedy.

You Can Call Someone a Dupe if You Have Evidence. Eugene Robinson is a Dupe.

It must be nice to be Eugene Robinson—not everyone gets paid to be wrong on a daily basis. By the smile on his face, you almost have to believe he has no clue just how dreadfully detached from economic reality his conclusions are. Take for instance his most recent column, in which he states that both sides are not at fault when it comes to the debt impasse (no need to guess who he blames for the ordeal):

This is patently false. The truth is that Democrats have made clear they are open to a compromise deal on budget cuts and revenue increases. Republicans have made clear they are not…

Progressives understand that Medicare and Social Security are not sustainable on their current trajectories; in the long term, both must have their revenue and costs brought into balance. Pelosi’s position is that each program should be addressed with an eye toward sustainability — not as a part of a last-minute deal for a hike in the debt ceiling that covers us for two or three years…

Meanwhile, though, the clock ticks toward Aug. 2 and the possibility of a catastrophic default becomes more real.

A quick look at history, provided by U.S. Census Bureau, the White House Office of Management and Budget, and Congressional Budget Office shows that it doesn’t matter who’s been at the wheel in Washington, DC for decades—federal spending has continued to skyrocket. Both Democrats and Republicans have been driving us towards the cliff Thelma and Louise style, only one Party slows down briefly from time-to-time to think about the impending disaster (before turning the wheel over to Thelma again).

When Eugene Robinson goes to the eye doctor, all he sees are R's on his chart. Really angry, recalcitrant looking R's.

Eugene notes that “in the long term” our entitlement programs need to be addressed so that costs can be “brought into balance.” Wrong again, Eugene. Revenue rates are generally close to their historical average, while spending as a percentage of GDP has  accelerated at a faster clip than talking heads at an opportunity to roll around in partisan cat nip. They need to be addressed now.

Eugene Robinson does not believe in the Laffer Curve. He believes in Eugene Robinson. When that fails there's the Partisan Parabola of Economic Ignorance.

In Robinson’s world, there is no difference between a “revenue cut” and a “tax cut.” To Eugene, it’s impossible to have increased revenue through lower taxation and a limited government. The vast majority of his arguments are tethered to a false premise instead of solid economic ground, which is why tax-paying Americans watch them float off into space. Case in point: “The clock is ticking toward Aug. 2 and the possibility of a catastrophic default.” Got that? Unless we mimic the financial malfeasance of Europe we’ll wind up like Europe.

Eugene’s right: don’t blame both sides. Blame guys like him on August 2nd, who spend their time using scare tactics on the public instead of teaching them Basic Economics.

Ben Bernanke Thinks He’s Ashton Kutcher. He’s Really a Japanese Zombie.

The New York Times and Ben Bernanke both want you to know that the reason why the economy is growing at an anemic 2% rate is because of—wait for it—the earthquake in Japan! What about all those predictions of 4% growth, you ask? What about the Keynesian explosion about job-awesomeness we were promised with hundreds of billions of stimulus? If you believe in the Butterfly Effect (or the Ashton Kutcher movie by the same name that no one saw because Ashton Kutcher was in it), perhaps a little insect sat on a fault line on the coast of Honshu, Japan, caused an earthquake, there were supply disruptions, and now we’re alluding to the possibility of a double-dip recession! The Times explains:

Few economists are predicting an out-and-out return to recession, but the risk has increased, with the health of the American economy depending in part on what is really “transitory.”

During the first press conference in the central bank’s history two months ago, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke used the word to describe factors — including supply chain disruptions after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and rising oil prices — that were restraining economic growth in the first half of the year (emphasis added).

Earlier this week, Mr. Bernanke confessed that “some of these headwinds may be stronger and more persistent than we thought,” adding, “we don’t have a precise read on why this slower pace of growth is persisting.”

You “don’t have a precise read,” Ben? I think you do. And so do other economists:

[T]he unexpected shocks from Japan and the Middle East in the first half of the year go only partway toward explaining the deceleration. Many worries remain: housing prices have continued to fall, hiring is weak, wages are flat, growth in emerging economies like China and India is slowing and the debt crisis in Europe could have ripple effects.

Our troubles are certainly linked to Japan, only not in the way that Mr. Bernanke wants to admit. It isn’t the Japanese earthquake that caused our problems, but the Japanese solution to financial problems (i.e., liberalism) I wrote about in October:

In short, most of Japan’s prolonged economic woes stem from…the kind of “stimulus” programs liberals (and bizarrely, some Republicans) embrace no matter how unremarkable—and often counter productive—the track record at home or abroad.

Japan has turned into a nation of liberal zombies. Amazingly, guys like Joe Biden and Harry Reid keep proving that once you’re bitten by Keynesian undead it’s incredibly difficult to come back to reality.

If only more people watched F.A. Hayek in the Fight of Century instead of Ben Bernanke playing Ashton Kutcher, we wouldn’t be in this mess.

The government’s long been in bed
with those Wall Street execs and the firms that they’ve bled.
Capitalism is about profit and loss.
You bail out the losers there is no end to the cost.
The lesson I’ve learned is how little we know.
The world is complex, not some circular flow.
The economy is not a class you master in college,
to think otherwise is the pretense of knowledge.

People aren’t chess men you move on a board
at your whim, their dreams and desires ignored.
With political incentives, discretion’s a joke.
Those dials are twisting; just mirrors and smoke.
We need stable rules and real market prices
so prosperity emerges and cuts short the crisis.
Give us a chance so we can discover
the most valuable ways to serve one another.

Crazy is Patient. Don’t Be Lulled By Stuxnet Success.

Crazy is patient. Don't be lulled into a false sense of security because of the success of Stuxnet.

If the mainstream media hadn’t just tried to link the acts of a random madman to a peaceful movement aimed at restoring limited government and fiscal responsibility I’d say we couldn’t accuse them of not having good intentions…  However, one thing the Rep. Giffords tragedy has show is that liberal media  outlets often want so badly for something to be true that they’re willing to run with it with just a few indictors to go on. I’m worried that this is going to be the case with Iran now that Stuxnet has generally accomplished its goals:

Identified in June, Stuxnet is being called the most sophisticated cyber weapon ever unleashed, because of the insidious way in which it is believed to have secretly targeted specific equipment used in Iran’s nuclear program.

Computer experts have examined the worm for months, and many believe Stuxnet was created by Israel or the United States as part of a covert effort to hamper Iran’s alleged drive for an atomic weapon. But the extent to which the operation succeeded had remained unclear.

In recent weeks, however, a rough consensus has emerged that Stuxnet has had a measurable effect. In addition to the remarks from U.S. and Israeli officials, the Institute for Science and International Security, an independent think tank, judged in late December that Stuxnet appears to have “set back Iran’s progress.”


Stuxnet “will undoubtedly reshape international security and foreign policy forever,” said John Bumgarner, chief technology officer of the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit, a nonprofit research organization that studies cyber conflict. “It’s a tipping point that will usher in a cyber-defense revolution in military affairs.”

While Stuxnet is an incredibly awesome story, and it’s fun to think of Iranian mullah-nuts pulling their beards out for months trying to wonder why their centrifuges were all playing suicide bomber…it ultimately doesn’t change their will or desire to obtain nuclear weapons.

What I’m afraid will happen now is that liberals at the Los Angeles Times will become obsessed with “breathing space.”

After years of warning that an Iranian atomic bomb is right around the corner, Israeli officials now say Iran is at least four years away from deploying a nuclear weapon, maybe more. And Obama administration officials agree, although they shy away from endorsing a specific time frame. “We’ve gained some breathing space,” a senior U.S. official told me last week. “The good news is that we have slowed down the nuclear clock.”

Breathing space is fine, but it really all depends on what one plans on doing with that extra time. Is the goal to slow the clock down or is it to destroy the clock? What if Stuxnet hadn’t worked? What then?

Crazy is patient. Crazy outlasts politicians and sanctions and the weak-kneed will of bureaucrats at the United Nations who all talk a great game—until the s**t hits the fan.

Do a little research on who has done all the heavy lifting in Afghanistan over the years.  Afghanistan was one of those wars the United Nations was supposedly on board for, yet there are a lot of nations that are perfectly capable of helping out that have been MIA for years.

In short: The United Nations as it currently exists is painfully useless. Anyone expecting it to play a productive role in ultimately bringing the Iranian nuclear standoff to a peaceful end should probably not take a vacation to Las Vegas anytime soon.