Friday, April 27, 2012

Let Slip the Chihuahua of War! Biden Attacks!

Sorry, folks. I have had a hard time writing this post.

I listened to VP Biden's "foreign policy" speech and thought to myself, "That's not very good.  The White House can't have sent out the Veep with this pablum. I must have misheard."  I went to the White House website, and, yes, indeed, the speech I heard was the one Biden gave. Whoever runs the WH website obviously has it in for Biden. Every grammatical error, every oratorical stumble, and every dumb aside has been left intact. In fact, the "highly educated person" who posted the speech could not even spell the word "campaign," as you will see.

If this speech is the best the Obama "camapaign" can do they should be in deep trouble. Quite aside from the poor writing and poor delivery, the content of the speech, what there is of it, is dishonest.  Judging from what it says, Obama allowed General Motors to live, and made sure Osama bin Laden died. That seems to be the slogan, and that somehow Governor Romney wanted the opposite, to wit, he wanted Osama alive, and General Motors dead. Where do they get this nonsense?

Let's look at the facts. The bailout of GM and Chrysler was begun by Bush, not Obama. You can be in favor of it or against it (I am against) but Obama carried out Bush's bail-out, with an Obama twist. Bush's bailout was aimed at helping GM and Chrysler, rightly or wrongly, while Obama twisted it to help the UAW. Without a bail out neither GM nor Chrysler would have stopped producing cars. They would have gone to bankruptcy court, and the UAW would have taken a beating.  The companies would have emerged stronger companies had the law been allowed to work. Obama, of course, had to save the corrupt UAW leadership; the last thing he and the DNC wanted was for a bankruptcy court to cancel the lucrative UAW contracts as part of a restructuring. The UAW has been saved, for now, and the taxpayers are out tens of billions of dollars. So if anybody gets the blame/credit for the auto bailout it is President Bush.

Osama bin Laden is dead because of policies, e.g., water-boarding, begun by President Bush, and opposed throughout by the DNC and Obama. Deciding to take out Osama was not, despite the White House hype, the equivalent of Washington's decision to cross the Delaware, Lincoln's to save the Union, General Eisenhower's to launch on D-Day, Truman's to drop the bomb, or even of the hapless Carter's to go with 'Desert One.'  Despite what Biden says, Obama's career would not "have been over" if the "secret" raid turned out to be a bust.  It was, all things considered, a relatively minor event compared to the others I have listed. It was important to kill Osama to drive home to the jihadis that we do not forgive or forget, but did not require any soul-searching or angst on the part of the President, particularly when one reads how Obama carefully insulated himself from any blame were the mission to fail.  The mission required good intel--which we had thanks to Bush--the military capabilities in the area--which we had thanks to Bush--and the brave and talented personnel to carry it out--which we had thanks to America.

Romney 2012.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Embarrassing Nonsense: The State Department on the Recent Summit of the Americas

According to the State Department website, on April 25, the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA), Roberta Jacobson, testified before the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. You can read her testimony here.  

It is embarrassing beyond belief, and fundamentally dishonest.  I am sorry to say that; I know many people who work in WHA, and some are even my friends. This statement, however, is an outrageous misrepresentation of what happened at the Summit of the Americas (SOA), is pure nonsense re what is happening in Latin America, and blithely ignores the mounting threats to our core interests.

The SOA spin is egregious, to wit, "the Summit highlighted the many practical ways that countries and societies in the Americas are coming together to solve problems and build a more successful and interconnected future. President Obama reinforced the spirit of partnership that has been at the core of his administration’s policy in the region."  When and on what planet did that SOA take place? The one that took place a few days ago in Cartagena, Colombia was a total bust for the US.  Nowhere in this silly statement is there any mention of how we got hammered on Cuba and drugs.  When I  mentioned this yesterday to a senior political appointee in WHA, she also spun a tale of great victory, claiming that the lack of a joint declaration at the end of the SOA had been a great victory for the US as we had prevented the SOA from formally endorsing the presence of Cuba at the next SOA in three years. True, but false. The Latin American countries have made it clear that Cuba will be at the next SOA, or there will be no SOA. Even Colombia abandoned us on this as payback for the Obama administration's egregious handling of the FTA with Colombia.  Our policy now depends on God. We must rely on God to "take care" of the Castros and Hugo. We have become a modern version of the South Pacific Cargo Cult, awaiting deliverance from the skies. 

This official testimony, in fact, only mentions Cuba, Venezuela and the other ALBA thugs in a throwaway line in the penultimate paragraph, i.e., "we continue to support human rights activists and fundamental freedoms around the world through democracy programming, including in challenging environments like Nicaragua, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Cuba." 

That's it.  

No mention of what Chavez and company are up to with the Iranians and the drug cartels; no mention of the arms deals with Russia; no mention of the increasingly authoritarian clampdown in Ecuador, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Venezuela; no mention of the imprisonment of American Allan Gross in Cuba; no mention of the increasingly deranged economic policies being followed by Argentina.  No mention of anything real, just a lot of blather about partnerships and cooperation on a range of minor issues of no importance to the US.

I miss Jimmy Carter . . . 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Tale of Two Speeches

I listened to the President's speech today on the value and costs of college, and was left profoundly depressed.  This President, who has done nothing about the cost of college education for the past three-plus years, is suddenly motivated. Could the looming arrival of the month of November have anything to do with that motivation?

The speech was a cynical exercise in vote-buying. This President has no record of accomplishments, he has at best been "present" and at worst, well, at his worst, we wish he had been just "present." He has broken the bank, and set us up for decades of debt and impossible to fund liabilities. All he can do is promise more of the same. As evidenced by his speech today in North Carolina, he continues to stoke the fires of resentment and envy, and to pit voters against taxpayers. He also continues to lie, or at least deny reality. He tells college students that a college education is the surest guarantee for a path into the middle class; he says this with a straight face on the same day that data has come out showing that one in two college grads faces unemployment or "underemployment." The most likely result of a college education nowadays is a guaranteed path to a bed in your parents' basement, and to massive indebtedness. That, of course, is no surprise as a typical college education is close to worthless on the market.  As I have related before, it has fallen to me to hire recent college grads for various jobs, and the typical grad is, to put it bluntly, an ignoramus with an inflated ego and a greatly exaggerated view of his worth.

In any other business, those who run colleges would have gone to jail on a variety of fraud and price-fixing charges. But, not in America. No, not in America. On the contrary, President Obama wants to give students and college administrators even more of the taxpayers' money so we can have more "gender studies" majors filling the ranks of the Occupy "movement." Correction. I exaggerate. What he really wants is for the college crowd to vote for him next November 6. He doesn't really care what happens to them after that as he continues his war on the American economy.

Naturally in any speech by our President, a great deal of it has to be about him. How many more times are we going to hear about how he and Michelle "only finished paying off our college loans eight years ago?" Is that even true? Who knows? His whole university education is a mystery. We are not allowed to see his transcripts; or know how he managed to land in a series of prestigious elite schools; or ask how he managed to pay for those schools.

I was in a dark mood when I switched on Governor Romney's speech from New Hampshire.  I have to admit I had never heard Ann Romney speak for more than a minute or so. I was deeply impressed by her presentation. She clearly is a secret weapon for the campaign. She speaks very well, has a very human touch, and above all a sense of optimism, happiness, and humor that is refreshing.  A real champ.  I am now not at all surprised by the fury with which she is met by the loons on the left. We can expect many more attacks on her.

The Governor's speech was a masterpiece. I am a political junkie and have been one since 1960. This was one of the best "victory/campaign launch" speeches I have ever heard. It was also beautifully delivered; clearly the Governor has learned how to give a speech. It was full of optimism, hope, and a deep understanding of the magnitude of the failures of the Obama administration. The way in which he flipped the fairness issue was outstanding--talking about the unfairness of a grandparent now unable to afford gasoline to visit his grandkids; the unfairness of a mom having to work a second job, all thanks to the Obama economy.  He has made "fairness," the real kind, a Republican issue. I think the Democrats will have to rethink their whole "fairness" spiel.  It was Reagan, but perhaps even better: I thought Reagan at times came off like a Hollywood actor reciting his lines. I thought Romney came off as genuine, human, funny, and with a clear vision of how he intends to put an end to our national nightmare.

If he can keep giving speeches like that one, he has a real opportunity to become President and save us from the Community Organizer.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Towards a New Foreign Policy (Part III)

A post-Obama administration should remember that friends and allies count.  Don't believe the old dictum about having only "permanent interests and no permanent friends." We have some very good permanent friends on the global and the regional level. On the global scale I would highlight Australia, Canada, the UK, Japan, and Israel; on the regional level, ROK, Poland, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Singapore, Colombia, Chile--and Taiwan.

There are other countries with whom we can work on occasion and with which we have overlapping interests, at times, and conflicting ones, at others: France, Spain, India, Mexico, Vietnam, and Brazil come to mind. There are others. We need a foreign policy establishment that recognizes our long-term friends, acknowledges and respects their core interests, and--how about this for a revolutionary thought?--doesn't betray, or throw them under the bus in an effort to curry favor with committed enemies or transient friends.

The UN and the OAS? Bah. Use them to expound our views forcefully, or get out.  Do not ever seek their permission to defend our interests. Seriousness of purpose is the greatest power.  This misadministration is not serious. We need to mean what we say, and say what we mean. When our enemies look into our eyes they should see the gates of hell slowly swinging open.

If you have pledged to help your neighbor put out the fire on his roof, it is advisable that your own roof not be on fire, too.  If we want to preserve our status internationally, we must fix things at home. The government-led destruction of the dollar, of our manufacturing base, and of our energy independence must cease.

Cut domestic government spending, eliminate taxes and regulations that hinder manufacturing and innovation, and--for crying out loud!--develop our own vast energy resources. Eliminating or even reducing our dependence on foreign oil is the second single greatest step to enhanced national security and global power.  Achieving that would buck up the dollar, contribute to the general wealth of the United States, enrich our treasury, and free us of countless foreign policy concerns and headaches.  Drill for oil in Texas, or fight for it in the Middle East. Our choice.

Oh, yes. The single greatest step we can take to reestablishing a foreign policy that makes sense? Send President Obama back to his shadily purchased mansion in Chicago.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

On Eating K-9s: How Obama Can Save His Presidency

So our President claims in one of his phony "autobiographical" tomes to have eaten dog. He, or more likely his ghost-writer, probably threw in that story, which might or might not be true, to try to make then little-known Barack Obama an interesting and world experienced sort, "Ah, there I was on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River, at high ebb, mind you, when I realised that the lives in my charge would be lost . . . lost unless I did something drastic. The food was gone, the cognac bottle had been drained of its last dregs long ago, and we had many leagues to go before we could rest secure. I summoned my batman, and told him in clear, mind you, even stentorian tones that carried well past his attentive but dirty ears, 'Wallace, my good fellow, prepare Fluffy as you would a Christmas goose!' A murmur rippled through the ranks of my primitive, child-like charges. I knew what they were thinking, 'This fellow knows what he's about. We, indeed, will be saved!'"

I lived for over three years in Indonesia. Dog-eating is very uncommon; it is a low-rent sort of thing to do, and frowned upon in polite society. The places that serve dog meat in Jakarta are seedy, off the-beaten-track, holes-in-the-wall. You really, really have to be in the mood for a taste of ol' Rover to go there.

Now this stupid story has bitten him in the ankle much like John Kerry's fake stories of feats of derring-do in Vietnam and Christmas in Cambodia.  It is akin to his handlers' other claim that Obama speaks fluent Bahasa Indonesia--he does not.

The Obama team is stuck with this dog tail tale. Either their man has lied, or engaged in something millions of us find repulsive--and right now I am not talking about his health care plan.

Free advice: Lemonade out of lemons. Team Obama should embrace the story; use it as proof that the President is not Muslim since Muslims do not eat dog.  Have big posters and TV ads of him clubbing, skinning, and eating dogs. Have him say, "See, I am not a Muslim after all!" Maybe he could have Reverend Wright and Bill Ayres standing behind him wearing big bibs and holding knives and forks.

There, that's my little suggestion; just trying to help out the commander-in-chief . . .

AP News: New chef hired for the White House.

Let's Put on a Show and Pay More!

Before I return to my topic of a post-Obama foreign policy, let me turn to something a little more mundane, money.

I have been watching the talk shows, reading the op-eds, and arguing with neighbors about taxes.

I oppose raising taxes on anybody for two fundamental reasons,

1) The default setting should always be that a person's money is a person's money. By instituting tax withholding many, many moons ago, we undermined that principle. We now routinely think of our paycheck as the amount the government lets us take home after withholding.  It is easy for government to raise taxes because it makes a "minor" adjustment in the withholding, and, viola!, you don't really miss that ten bucks . . . Imagine if we took home our pay, and at the end of the year had to write a check for all taxes owed for the year. Outrage! Bottom line, the government should not get first shot at your money.

2) It does no good, not even in terms of paying for government. Having worked in the government for 34 years, I assure you that if you give the government an extra ten dollars, it will spend an extra forty dollars. The "new" money does not go to paying off the debt, or reducing the annual deficit, it goes to new programs and projects, which inevitably cost much more than the new money. Every single program is rife with waste, fraud, and mismanagement. I repeat, every single one. That is the nature of government. The money is not real. It just appears. There is little to no incentive to handle the money with respect. Congress can always "give" you more. I remember a Deputy Chief of Mission, a friend and an incredibly honest bureaucrat, who ran a moderately sized embassy; he was roundly criticized and chastised for having returned money to the Treasury at the end of the fiscal year. He naively thought that having saved the government money, reducing expenses, was a good thing.  The budgeteers were outraged because he had just made their next year's request more difficult: obviously the job could be done for less. That's a bad thing in the government. That's how it works.

A proposal. Those who genuinely want more of their money to go to the government should give it to the government. We, after all, have a volunteer military. Why not have a cadre of voluntary donors to the government?

This cadre could hold big Castro-like rallies where they pledge their love for the state and turn over their checks, cash, gold, jewelry, houses, BMWs, etc. They could hear speeches from Warren Buffett, Alec Baldwin, the staff at MSNBC about how the state is good, all power to the state! Maybe they could rent a barn and put on a show!?! Have bake sales! Scavenger hunts! Raffle off one of Clooney's European mansions!

What a wonderful world . . .

Friday, April 20, 2012

Towards a New Foreign Policy (Part II)

I would remind the next administration that they learn a valuable lesson from the current misadministration. Power is important. Speak softly and carry a big stick, the biggest, baddest stick in the whole town. 

Power is like gold coins: spend sparingly. 

Don't have the Secretary of State making idle, non-credible threats--a real specialty of the current one. SecState Clinton seems always "warning" somebody that something really, really bad will happen if they don't stop doing something or another. Note the repeated warnings to North Korea, to Syria, to Iran; they are classic examples of the sort of foolishness that has marked this misadministration. As things now stand, even Haiti pays no attention to what we say. 

It is no surprise that the recent Summit of the Americas turned into a total bust for the Obamaistas. There is no credibility to their positions. The sucking up to the Argentines on the Falklands was idiotic. First it seems that our Harvard-educated President did not know the difference between the Falklands and the Maldives, and second he tried to use the Argentine name for the islands. Why? The people of the Falklands want to remain British. The Falklands are British, period. The Argentines have no difficulty criticizing us on Puerto Rico, embarrassing us on Cuba at the Summit, and working against us on a host of issues at the UN and the OAS. Why be solicitous of their extravagant claims? 

Another important lesson is that our power should be used in pursuit of core national interests. Democratic administrations have a habit of marching off to war in places where we have little or no core interests at stake: Vietnam, Laos, Libya, Serbia come quickly to mind; ongoing demands that we intervene in Sudan are part of that mindset. American liberals seem to find it noble for us to use military power in places where "nobody can accuse us of having tangible interests" (Note: an actual quote during a debate some years ago in State on whether we should intervene in the Zaire civil war.)  In places where we do have real and important interests, e.g., Cuba, Venezuela, Central America, Korea, the liberals do not want to employ American power. 

We must fight the urge to be the world's cop. Intervene where it matters to our interests, regardless of the views of the UN or the EU, and stay out of where it does not matter, regardless of the views of the UN and the EU. We must make sure we have defined victory; go for victory; take our victory, and get out. 

Our Army is the American, not the Salvation Army.  No more nation building. That has proven our undoing in Afghanistan. There are places in the world where we will have to go, e.g., Afghanistan, that are nasty pieces of work. They have religions, cultures and political traditions hostile to freedom, equality, PETA, and gay rights. There is little effective we can do about that. We need to pursue our core interests; in the Afghan case, killing the al Qaeda thugs and their supporters, and move on. Bribe some warlords to kill folks who need killing, forget about trying to build democracy and farm-to-market roads, or empowering feminist NGOs. I am always reminded of the scene in the 1974 Luis Buñuel film, The Phantom of Liberty, in which Napoleon's soldiers are gunning down Spanish peasants while shouting "Long live liberty!" and the Spaniards are dying shouting "Down with liberty! Long live the chains!" Freedom might not be for everybody on the time table we would wish. 

Rethink foreign aid. Frankly, many conservatives do not understand how our aid programs really work. We, in fact, give very little money to the foreign countries that are ostensibly the recipients of our largesse--Israel is an exception, we have a very effective aid program there, to wit, we cut them a check. In the vast majority of cases, the money is consumed by a welter of consultants, NGOs, and bureaucrats. Modern USAID projects are, quite frankly, pathetic. They do nothing but appease some domestic constituency that wants the US promoting, for example, the empowering of women. Domestic groups form alliances with favored groups in "recipient" countries, and cook up lame projects that involve a lot of travel, conferences, and setting up offices with nice logos, fax machines, cellphones, and websites. Get rid of USAID. Our foreign assistance should be a slush fund--with appropriate controls--to be used to get what we want, or to reward those who do what we want.  

Cut the foreign policy bureaucracy drastically. The NSC is obscenely overstaffed, as is CIA headquarters. State could easily be cut in half and prove a much better organization. Get rid of extraneous offices, programs, and priorities. Focus, focus, focus. The same could be said about the Pentagon; it is awash with offices, programs, and personnel having little or nothing to do with defense. 

Let me make a modest proposal that is of a symbolic nature, but one which might drive home a new way of thinking. The State Department should be renamed the Defense Department, and the current Defense Department should go back to its old, and more evocative name, the War Department. That might make it clearer to people working there what should be the true nature of their jobs and priorities. 

This is getting a bit long, and I still have a lot more to say, so let me stop here, and we will continue in part III with a focus on "synergy." I love to write that word.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Thoughts on a Post-Obama Foreign Policy: A "Holistic" Approach (Part I)

I always have envied the loonies' ability to borrow language from other fields and apply it to their causes and slogans. One such word is "synergy," another, my favorite, is "holistic." I love that word. It conjures up incense, herbal tea, a small silver bell ringing rhythmically, some George Harrison in the background, soft cotton cloth, a yogi or two . . ..

Being a hard-hearted right winger, I generally don't get to use  "synergy," or "holistic," in fact, I don't think I ever have used either. That ends today: I advocate that the GOP advocate a "holistic" approach to foreign policy which understands the "synergy" between domestic and foreign affairs.

We start with the basics. Foreign policy is important. It should not be an afterthought, or something left to the naive, the incompetent, the ignorant, or the malicious, i.e., the Obama administration. Securing foreign markets, for example, can prove a major source of jobs, as I have noted before. Even more important, however, foreign affairs can get you killed. We need go back no further than September 11, 2001, to see a grotesque reminder of how the outside world can come calling. Simply put, there are people who want to kill us, all of us, men, women, children, old, young, Democrat, Republican, independent, white, black, brown, Christian, Jew, agnostic, atheist, etc. Some are so eager to kill us that they willingly die to do so. I repeat: foreign affairs can get you and your family killed, and right in your home or work place. We saw it on 9/11/2001; on 12/7/1941; and almost saw it during thirteen days in October 1962, when JFK nearly got into WWIII because he did not have the vision, intelligence, and gumption to get rid of Castro when he had the opportunity, an opportunity bought with the blood of brave Cuban freedom fighters in April 1961. They want to kill us, crush us, and conquer us, because of who we are. What we, a mix of races, religions, and creeds, have accomplished has defied and continues to defy the predictions and prescriptions of royalists, Nazis, Fascists, Marxists, populists, jihadists, and all-knowing UN and EU bureaucrats.

The current mis-administration has, at best, no understanding of the importance of the United States in the world, and, at worst, the conscious aim of making us "just another country." The first step, therefore, to developing a foreign policy is to decide how you view the USA. If you view us as Andorra with guns, then the Obamaistas are for you. I, on the other hand, view America, as I think most Americans do, as a country that from its creation has played a unique role in fomenting freedom, prosperity, and opportunity here and abroad.  Interestingly, Britain's National Army Museum last week voted George Washington to have been the British Empire's greatest military foe, ahead of Michael Collins, Rommel, Napoleon, and Ataturk. That is a very astute conclusion. The nation that Washington helped create, for all its flaws, moral lapses, and excesses, has been the world's greatest foe of empires, kings, dictators and oppression; it has been and remains the most open and least xenophobic society ever to exist, and history's most successful country by almost any measure. The United States matters a great deal because of its military power and wealth, but above all for its ability to generate and implement revolutionary ideas in politics, culture, and economics.

In Part II, I will get down to brass tacks, with recommendations on repairing the damage done by Obama.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Summit of the Americas: A Typical Obama Disaster

You had to be in the State Department during the run up to the just-concluded Summit of the Americas (SOA). You could cut the smugness and condescension with a knife. Obamaistas were boasting about how the SOA would be a triumph as Cuba was not going to be raised, and drugs would not be a major issue. Fail.

Deja vu. They were equally as giddy after the April 2009 SOA in Trinidad in which, they claimed ad nauseam, that President Obama had "wowed" the Latin Americans, and that our policy in Latin America was now on a sound footing after the "bad " Bush. I was working in our delegation to the Organization of American States (OAS) and heading for Honduras for the June 2009 39th GA of the OAS. The feeling throughout the Administration was that Obama, thanks to his "third world" background, his breaking of racial barriers, and his willingness to apologize for the United States had Latin American leaders swooning at his every word. We were assured by the Secretary and her acolytes that thanks to Obama's "rock star" performance, not only would the OAS General Assembly go swimmingly, but so would our relations with the Hemisphere.  


The administration refused to believe persistent information we had that the host of the GA, the soon-to-be deposed Manuel Zelaya of Honduras, was going to double-cross us and insist on Cuba being admitted to the OAS. We had a raucous GA in which we were betrayed by Honduras, Brazil, and Argentina, who threw in with Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Ecuador in pushing for Cuba. We were able to stop it only because of tough negotiating into the wee wee hours by career officers, and the invaluable assistance of the Chilean Foreign Minister. The following two years in the OAS were a constant anti-American slug-fest; nobody respected or feared Barack Obama. Clearly, the "wow" factor had a very short life.

The SOA that just ended in the amazingly beautiful city of Cartagena was a disaster. (Note: If you get the chance, go to Cartagena. It is a stunning city with a terrific history and architecture, and some great people. In fact, if you get a chance, go to Colombia, a wonderful country that has re-invented itself with a lot of hard work by some very brave men and women.) It was a disaster, and not because of the Secret Service prostitution scandal. On the contrary, that scandal is a godsend as it overshadows how poorly Obama and Clinton did in Cartagena on the substance. This SOA  showed, once again, how out of touch the Obamaistas are with Latin America and the Caribbean, and their persistent disregard of Canada, by far our most important foreign relation in the world, and an invaluable ally in the OAS and the Hemisphere. The Obamaistas live in Fantasyland, and do not allow reality to disturb their E-Ticket ride.

We got hammered on Cuba, and drugs, and nearly all the others have made it known that this will be the last SOA without Castro's Cuba in attendance. (One wonders if Obama asked the Latin Americans to wait for his re-election when he will have more "flexibility" on Cuba.)  Even our traditional ally Colombia, under President Santos, put significant distance between himself and us. Santos clearly feels he owes nothing to Obama, after Obama stiff-armed Colombia on the Free Trade Agreement for three years, and signaled weakness vis-a-vis Castro, Chavez and his ALBA gangsters (see my previous posting on Latin America.) There was no joint declaration, not even some diplomatic pablum, at the end of the SOA.

The US was essentially a non-factor at the SOA, a process we invented and once used effectively to promote free trade, capitalism, and democracy. No more. Now it is just another forum to beat up on the USA--and that is very easy with the Obama-Clinton team.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Democrats Have the Wrong Rule

Is there a bigger piece of hokum--except for maybe global warming--than the current fake Obama push for the "Buffett Rule," that piece of demagoguery that will solve nothing except give the government maybe $4-5 billion/year so that it can spend an extra $30-$40 billion? Remember, if you give the government a dollar it will spend five or six on new "programs." 

Spending must be cut, not taxes raised. The people's money belongs to the people not to government programs. 

Whenever I hear Obama and his friends talk about the Buffett Rule, I think they have misspelled the word. I am sure they mean the Buffet Rule. They, after all, view government as an endless smorgasbord; there is no limit to what government can and should offer.  You want free contraception? Sure. You want free health care? Of course. You want to bail out the UAW? Coming right up. You want to stop global warming? Yep, yes we can. And on and on and on . . .  .

The Buffet Rule, now there's a slogan . . . 

Obama and Clinton: The Quest to Make Us Ashamed of Being Americans

I don't know how many of you are following the disastrous Summit of the Americas (SOA) unfolding in Cartagena, Colombia. On the one hand I hope not too many, as it is embarrassment after embarrassment. On the other, I hope every American is seeing this disaster and what it tells us all about the quality of leadership we have in the White House and the State Department.

Here we have our clueless Secretary of State drinking and dancing at a local hotspot in Cartagena called "Cafe Havana." Who does the imaging for this silly woman? Given that one of the issues of greatest contention at the Summit is the issue of Cuba's participation in the SOA, why would Clinton go to a bar named Havana? Once there, given the state of the economy at home, the amount of money this silly SOA costs, and the tawdry spectacle we have seen of Secret Service agents bringing prostitutes to taxpayer-provided rooms--and then, apparently, not wanting to dip into their considerable per diem to pay the girls for services rendered--why would our clueless Secretary and her gaggle of acolytes engage in drinking, dancing, and partying on the taxpayer dime  (these folks, too, get generous per diem payments for being there)? Could not our newly confirmed Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roberta Jacobson, have warned Clinton? Guess not, as other photos show she is there drinking and whooping it up, too. As I have stressed before (here and here) we have no foreign policy team in Washington DC, and when it comes to Latin America, we have the very worst possible incompetents working the issues. These are not serious people. We must show them the door come November.

The SOA itself has become an absurd and expensive exercise.  As noted in the excellent piece by Ray Walser from Heritage it is time to retire this expensive taxpayer circus from the circuit.

I will comment on the latest SOA tomorrow.  It will not be pretty.

Thank You Instapundit and a UN reprise

The Mighty and Benevolent Instapundit has mentioned this little lamb of a blog and brought back to it many of the readers from the old days. My thanks to the Instapundit, the MIGHTIEST BLOGGER ON EARTH.

Some readers have asked whether the old postings from tsunami days are still on the web. Unfortunately, I had to delete Diplomad 1.0 under pressure from the weenies at State. I have copies of the postings and have put up a couple of them over the past few weeks. I will do that occasionally.  Below I have reprinted one of the more popular ones regarding the UN. It originally ran on November 23, 2004, that's about one month before the tsunami which showed how incompetent wasteful, and malicious the UN can prove itself.

Seeing the UN Plain: Corruption as a Way of Life
Ah, yes, the United Nations.
As school kids we all heard the UN described as "the last best hope of mankind" and "if it hadn't been invented it would need to be." Even now as adults we hear calls for "sending" in the UN; getting UN approval; the need to "work with the UN"; and praise for its "technical and relief agencies." On its official website, the UN modestly states, "United Nations. It's Your World."
We at The Diplomad are here to ask you to forget all that misty-eyed blather. Our Diplomads have served at the UN, in New York, Vienna and Geneva, and worked with the UN in a variety of other posts, and can tell you from experience that the UN is a massive, expensive hoax that needs to be ended once and for all.
Those who don't rely on the "elite" MSM for all their information, know about the UN's "oil-for-food" scam that is slowly being uncovered, and could prove the most massive financial scandal in human history (even bigger than Massachusetts' "Big Dig.") The "oil-for-food" scam, huge as it is, flows logically from the ruling ethos at the UN. The UN system is built on corruption, on the principle of the shake-down; whatever lofty objectives might have existed at its creation, for the UN corruption now provides the means and reason to exist.
Let us explain.
The UN as an institution is the purest of pure bureaucracy: it is the thirty-year single malt of bureaucracies. We refer you to the UN website for details on careers there, but suffice it to say that if you want a job that is VERY well-paying, has lots of perks (first class travel; a generous pension; right to retire almost anywhere you want; tax free), and involves little actual work, the UN bureaucracy is for you -- unfortunately, if you're an American (or Israeli) you'll have a hard time getting it given the solid anti-Americanism (and anti-Semitism) of the UN Secretariat. The UN bureaucracy must have served as inspiration for a sci-fi story we vaguely recall about an ancient civilization that builds an elaborate machine that continues to operate even after the civilization itself has died. Subsequent generations -- in this case, in Europe and the boardroom of the NY Times -- have no idea what the machine does, but don't tamper with it, and, in fact, begin to worship it.
Well, we know the secret of the UN bureaucracy machine. It exists to exist. To do that it has going one of the best scams imaginable. While most media and ordinary folks focus on the occasionally contentious UNSC resolutions and debates on Iraq or Iran, in fact, 99% of UN "work" has nothing to do with such high-visibility issues. No, it deals with scores, hundreds, in fact, of resolutions passed every year in the UN General Assembly, its main Committees, and in bodies such as the Human Rights Commission. It lives off those resolutions.
Slightly simplified, this is how it often works. A UN bureaucrat gets hold of a delegate from a sympathetic country and gets that country's delegation to propose some often innocuous sounding resolution -- let's make up a typical one right here, "The Effect of Deforestation on the Development of Sub-Saharan Africa." It will have a few bland paragraphs expressing concern about deforestation in Africa, note the impact it has on the livelihood of Africans especially the "most vulnerable sectors of the population," and then will have a little paragraph at the end calling on the Secretary General to submit a report to the next General Assembly on the impact of deforestation in Africa. Normally such a resolution gets adopted by consensus by the appropriate committee, and then goes to the UNGA where its hammered through ASAP. Under the Reagan Administration, the US delegation made a specialty of finding these little gems and trying to kill them or at least make clear that they would not pass by consensus. That is tough and frustrating work; it takes up incredible amounts of time and effort and burns up lots of political capital. Such efforts offend the MSM, powerful US NGOs and other lobby groups. The UN bureaucracy knows that at most only the US will fight these resolutions; the UN uses its allies in the MSM and the NGO "community" to savage the US and make the US look uncaring about deforestation and poverty, etc. As a result, often the US will back off as the politicial costs are seen as too great to be alone and on the "wrong" side of such an issue.
So the resolution passes. The UN bureaucracy gets tasked with writing a report. Usually these reports are short, based on pre-existing information that in the age of the internet would take an intern a couple of hours to put together, but, nevertheless, for some odd reason seem to require lots of travel by UN bureaucrats. The report will conclude that there is need for further study of this critical topic and might perhaps recommend the holding of a special conference or meeting on the topic. It goes to the next UNGA which agrees that further work is needed and asks the UN Secretariat to go ahead and provide another report to the next UNGA, and so on and on. The topic is now firmly embedded in the UN agenda -- almost impossible to remove -- and highly paid bureaucrats now have sinecures producing endless reports calling for more reports and conferences that will call for more reports and conferences. The US and a handful of other major donors pay for all this.
Sweet. Very sweet.
Even the much praised UN technical agencies, such as those dealing with refugees, are bastions of waste and corruption. No need here to discuss the disaster that is called UNRWA and what it has done to set back peace in he Middle East for nearly 55 years, all the while providing lucrative employment for generations of UN bureaucrats. The much-ballyhooed UN Development Programme (Note: Although the USA pays the lion's share, the UN uses British spellings) likewise is hugely expensive, over-staffed, painfully slow in delivering meaningful assistance, and rife with anti-Americanism. These programs [or, if you prefer, programmes] generate a blizzard of statistics showing that everything, everywhere is getting worse all the time, and desperately requiring more money for more UN programs and agencies.
The American taxpayer is getting ripped off in a big way by the UN. The "need" to play the UN's political games damages the US ability to act forcefully in its own interests. If the UN wants to stay in New York and frequent the bad restaurants and bars that have sprung up around UN HQS, that's fine -- but not with US tax money.
It's time for the US and other serious countries (e.g., Australia, Israel) to get out of the UN.

Liberty . . . Slip, Sliding Away . . .

Cards on the table. I am a white male, who grew up in relative luxury. I went to "good"schools, traveled all over the world, and grew up mostly in wealthy white and Asian suburbs. I am Jewish, but I never suffered for that; my friends were and are of all backgrounds and none of us gives a rat's behind about the other's religious beliefs or ethnicity. I am, in short, an American with the vices and virtues of the typical sample of that species. No complaints.

My many years overseas in some pretty rough and tough places made me increasingly a political conservative/libertarian, and evermore skeptical of the role of government in the lives of people. I also came to appreciate with an almost religious fervor the greatness of American ideals and the uniqueness of the American experiment.  America is the best country on earth, and well worth defending with our lives. I am proud of the small role I played in those years overseas working against the Communist bloc, terrorists, international criminals, and various dopes in the UN, the media, NGOs, Congress, State Department, the NSC, the CIA, and the Pentagon, not to mention countless Eurobores.

That said, I am increasingly concerned about the state of liberty in our country. Speech codes, endless expressions of outrage, demands for apologies, increasing intrusion into our private lives, and a national and local bureaucratic presence cast an increasingly dark shadow over our lives.  DMV, IRS, EPA, TSA, a host of law enforcement agencies, and legions of prosecutors, investigators, etc., threaten our freedom. I, for example, once was a strong supporter of local police. I dismissed almost out of hand the views of black friends, for example, about the arrogance, brutality, and stupidity of the police.

I am reevaluating my position.

Now that I am back in the US, and have had the opportunity to interact with cops at public events, on the highways, and other venues, quite frankly, I find most of them arrogant, abusive, quick to violence and to seek to humiliate the citizen with their power, and--sorry--rather stupid. They are not like the smart, hardworking, dedicated cops we see on endless TV shows. The ones I have seen remind me of the typical and overpaid public bureaucrats with whom I have dealt all my life, but these guys have guns, squad cars, and the power of the state behind them.

I am not happy with the state of the police, and fear we risk becoming a state of the police.  How have we allowed so many things to be declared illegal and worthy of police and prosecutor attention? Why have we given uniformed, armed bureaucrats so much authority over our lives?  We conservatives who are the true defenders of liberty in our Republic need to address this almost taboo subject, and not leave it to the ACLU.  Along with cutting taxes, and spending, we conservatives need to insist on cutting drastically the size and scope of our legal codes and regulations, and to reduce the power of unelected agencies, the police, and the courts over our lives.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Discourse: Corvettes, Frederick Douglass & Liberal Hypocrisy

I own a Chevy Corvette. It is the fastest, most responsive car I have ever owned--and I have owned a lot of cars. I love my Corvette. In my three-plus decades overseas, I owned and drove cars from just about every manufacturer and every country that makes cars. Most of them were rather tinny and seemed powered by sewing machines. When I returned to the States, I went on a car buying splurge with money earned by living mostly where you can't buy anything worthwhile. I bought a Mustang GT500 which I loved, too, but my wife hated, so I had to trade it for an Expedition. I also bought a Jeep and a Trailblazer, and now the Queen of my fleet, the awesome Corvette. If you notice, all of my cars have one thing in common: Made in USA. No disrespect for the Germans, Koreans, and Japanese, all of whom make fine cars, but I think American cars, dollar for dollar, are the best in the world.

That Expedition can haul an incredible amount of people and stuff in comfort at 80 mph all day, and with surprisingly good gas mileage. The smaller and lighter Trailblazer, also, does a remarkable job of moving stuff around at high speed. The Jeep is a lot of fun, and an iconic beauty. The Corvette, ah, the Corvette . . . she is a six-speed roaring monster that eats highway and is never full. She can out run Japanese and European cars that cost tens of thousands of dollars more . . assuming no highway patrolmen read this blog, I confess that I personally demonstrated this on desert highways--165 mph and she still had more to give. An amazing vehicle. So, this leads me to my topic of today, liberal hypocrisy.

I had the misfortune recently of visiting a major university campus. I parked in the faculty lot. My Corvette was the lone representative of American vehicular manufacturing in that lot. I was awash in a tide of cars made in Germany, Japan, and Korea, or by their factories in the US, Mexico, and Canada. That Corvette with its NRA sticker stood out as it was surrounded Alamo-style by these foreign invaders and their Obama and their Co-Exist stickers. Don't get me wrong. I am all for consumers having options, and Americans should have the option to buy foreign cars. I was struck, however, talking to faculty and students by their defense of the Obama "bail-out of the car industry" and their ostensible support for unionized labor. They could not see the clash between how they spend their own money and how they force us taxpayers to spend ours. For whatever reason, these "highly educated" faculty and students buy cars made overseas or by non-union labor in the US, but insist that the taxpayers subsidize the UAW, which to a large extend caused the near collapse of GM and Chrysler.

This says a great deal about the sort of whacky liberalism that is taking over our country and driving it to ruin. Public money for these liberals seems to be a infinite quantity that mysteriously appears whenever summoned in the name of a "good cause," in this case bailing out the corrupt UAW leadership and saving it from the consequences of its failed leadership. Obama did not save the auto industry. Bankruptcy did not mean GM and Chrysler would shut down; it meant the UAW would have to defend its contracts in bankruptcy court which it could not do, so the Obamaistas went around the law. There is no understanding of basic economics, and underlines what I wrote earlier about how we are seeing the apparent "end of economics." We live in a time where leftist politicians and their lazy followers ignore or openly defy the iron-clad laws of economics, and think they are getting away with it. I previously quoted the CW song that says "falling feels like flying for a little while," and that is what we're doing: we're falling while the liberals try to convince us we're flying.

The laws of economics are like Moloch: he might eat you last, but he will eat you.

While on campus, I had the opportunity to talk to white and black history students and mentioned one of my all-time favorite writers and political polemicists, Frederick Douglass, whose portrait I had hanging in my various offices over the years.

He was a remarkable and brilliant man who, among other things, wrote an extremely readable and engaging autobiography (three versions, in fact) and wrote newspaper columns on political topics that put to shame most such writing today. He was a true original: a real rebel; an iconoclast; and a man of extraordinary intelligence and personal courage, and had been born a slave. These students seemed either ignorant of or only vaguely aware of Douglass; I could not find one of them who had read his autobiography or his columns. They, on the other hand, had "read"--I have my doubts--more recent mediocrities, and once again confirmed my view that universities in America are merely factories for producing illiterate liberals with no knowledge, yet possessed of an incredible smugness, sense of entitlement, and a reliance on Wikipedia.

American universities are garbage, and they are the best in the world. Cheerful thought, eh?

Frederick Douglass would have driven a Corvette . . . or maybe a Viper.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Trouble in the 'Hood: Obama Pushes Latin America Away.

We Americans of the United States variety condescendingly refer to the Western Hemisphere as our backyard. (I assume Americans of the Canadian variety refer to us as their basement, footrest, or carpet? I am afraid to ask.) A visionary senior naval officer for whom I once worked called the Western Hemisphere, "Our shared home." I find that comforting in a hot chocolate, warm blanket, Dr. Phil sort of way.

Regardless of whether you see the hemisphere as our backyard, front yard, or as our shared house, Latin America is moving out on us, and Canada, even under our friend PM Harper, might not be far behind. That is a disaster. It is one we can lay almost entirely at the feet of the insufferable, arrogant, naive, dictatorial, and foreign policy inept Obama administration, the most disastrous administration since that of the insufferable, arrogant, naive, dictatorial, and foreign policy inept Woodrow Wilson.

Why is this important? Why should this matter to Americans, in general, and to voters, in particular? We hear a lot about China and the importance of China to our economy. China is important but most Americans do not know that over 43% of all U.S. exports go to the Western Hemisphere. Leaving aside Canada, in 2010, US exports to Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) came to $301.8 billion, 22% of US global exports, second only to what we sent Europe (24%), and over three times the value of our exports to China. US exports to the region have grown at an annual average rate of 7.2% since 2005 --every 1% growth in LAC’s GDP means an extra $5.04 billion worth of US exports per year. Exports to LAC generate nearly two million US jobs. Nearly all the region is growing rapidly, some countries have growth rates that come close to China's. Brazil has doubled its per capita GDP over the last eleven years, and overtaken the UK to become the world's sixth largest economy. Canada and Mexico are our largest export markets. Chile, one of my favorite countries in the world, is now a first world economy; it could give us lessons on how to foster private enterprise, and on running a social security system that provides better services than ours, is not going broke (quite the contrary), and allows participants an extraordinary degree of control over their funds. Let us, in addition, not forget that three of our top five foreign oil suppliers reside in this hemisphere. If we can undo the anti-growth and anti-development policies in Obama's United States, the center for world oil production will come back to the Western Hemisphere, in particular to Canada and the United States. I don't know about you, but I would rather buy oil in Alberta and North Dakota, than in Saudi Arabia and Nigeria; I would rather see jobs and wealth going to Canada and the USA, than to hostile regimes in the Middle East -- but we have Obama, so all bets are off on a return to sanity.

We face a serious challenge to key economic, political, and security interests from the so-called “Bolivarian Movement” and its “twenty-first century socialism.” This petrodollar fueled “movement,” headed by Venezuela’s ailing thug Chavez, promotes anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism and authoritarianism; assists narco-terrorists in Colombia; pals around with Iran and Syria; and gives drug traffickers access to Venezuelan airspace. Chavez, an admirer of Fidel Castro, advocates Marxistoid economic “justice” and nationalism, and rejection of the United States. Chavez has bought advanced weapons from Russia and Iran, and has tight economic, military, and intelligence relations with Iran, Russia, Syria, and Cuba, as well as assorted extra-regional terrorists. His governing philosophy and style mixes Castroism, old-time populist demagoguery, and street violence. He has nationalized key economic sectors, and used class warfare rhetoric to justify his actions. He has created an anti-US grouping, “Bolivarian Alliance for the People of Our America” (ALBA), and encouraged others to tag along, undermining democratic institutions, destroying free markets, and trying to sabotage our interests.

The “Bolivarian Movement” began with the assumption by Hugo Chavez of Venezuela’s presidency in 1998, and his replacing of the 1961 constitution with one proclaiming the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Working with Castro, Chavez launched in 2004, what became ALBA as the counter to the Bush Administration’s vision of a Free Trade Area of the Americas. ALBA, consisting of Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Venezuela, is held together by Chavez’s lavish promises to provide grants, low-cost loans, and cheap or free oil. Venezuela is a major supplier of oil to Cuba, and uses the petrodollars it earns in the world market to spread an anti-US message in the region, at the OAS, and at the UN. The leaders of several ALBA countries have emulated Chavez, e.g., rewriting constitutions, clamping down on political and economic freedoms, and working against the United States. The most prominent examples of this imitation are Bolivia (President Evo Morales), Ecuador (President Rafael Correa), Nicaragua (President Daniel Ortega), and Honduras under the later deposed, June 2009, Manuel Zelaya. Chavez has encouraged Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay, among others, to adopt positions highly critical of the United States, and made others leery of too open a relationship with us. Colombia, for example, has found itself the odd man out, uncertain of how energetically to pursue closer relations with the United States--especially once the Obama administration stalled for three years in having the free trade agreement ratified, a stall that cost thousands of US jobs. In Central America and the Caribbean, traditional US allies such as Honduras, Guatemala, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, and Costa Rica have begun to feel the Bolivarian pressure.

The Obama administration's response to the threat? Apology. Appeasement. Accommodation. He named the hapless leftist academic Arturo Valenzuela as his Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere. He showed no interest in the single most important country, Canada, and spent most of his tenure traveling solo to conferences around the US and in Latin America promoting himself. He had zero managerial skills, and no concept of US core interests. He constantly downplayed the threat from Castro and Chavez, openly "welcomed" efforts by LAC to develop institutions which excluded us, and was unable to stand up to his friend the anti-American OAS SecGen Jose Insulza. He woefully mishandled the crisis in Honduras, and turned what could have been a victory for the US and a major defeat for Chavez into the opposite. He was so inept, that even inept Secretary of State Hilary Clinton could not abide him. His tenure was inglorious and damaging--an epitaph for the Obama administration as a whole. He has been replaced by a life-long Democratic State Department career civil servant bureaucratic non-entity with no authority to halt the policy drift.

Update: Thanks to PubSecrets (see comments) I was reminded of "Fast and Furious." That horrendous operation, which killed hundreds of Mexicans in an effort to undermine the second amendment, is the only well-coordinated and executed Obama policy toward Latin America.

We are on the verge of being hustled out of the Americas by a gang of thugs and crooks.

Another Update: Please see the excellent article on the Summit of the Americas in The Blaze by an old friend and former colleague, and a conservative, to boot.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Imagine If Sarah Palin Had Said This!

Our pretend President who once also was a Pretend Senator, a Pretend Community Organizer, and a Pretend "Constitutional Law Professor," just said one of the stupidest things ever said about the role of the Supreme Court.  Showing the abysmal ignorance of the "well-educated" class he so ably represents, the Pretend President claimed that the court could not overturn a law passed by the Congress.

Marbury v. Madison, any one? Any one? Any one?

Imagine if Palin, Bush, Limbaugh, Quayle, Perry, Cain, Ryan, DeMint, West, etc., had said something so abysmally ignorant. The media and the late-night comics would be (rightfully) aflame with anti-conservative ridicule.

So I guess all those Jim Crow laws, passed by lawful legislatures, should remain on the books?

This man is not qualified to be President.

Let us hope and work for deliverance next November.

Monday, April 2, 2012

China's Century? Not if We Don't Give It Away

Years ago in Jakarta, I occasionally would meet, lunch, or dine with a husband-wife team of correspondents for two prominent American newspapers. They were very pleasant, had a sense of humor, and a great deal of experience overseas, mostly in Asia. They were well-educated, wrote well, and had the standard liberal biases of their class--e.g., they hated President Bush, hoped John Kerry would win the 2004 election, and viewed the United States as a seriously flawed country on the way to the dust-bin of history. They saw the 21st century "belonging" to China in the same way that the 20th "belonged" to us. They made the usual arguments about China's manufacturing prowess, well-coordinated and determined political class, social discipline, and education--which is the real kind, not the "women's studies" kind. Their writing reflected these views. This narrative continues today from other purveyors of conventional faux wisdom such as the annoying and boring Thomas Friedman, and the condescending and insufferable Fareed Zakaria.

Don't buy it. The 21st will prove "China's century" only if we destroy ourselves; but, if we do, odds are we're taking China with us--and the Chinese rulers know it (more to follow).

I love Chinese history; been to China several times; and like and respect the Chinese people--they work hard, they like Americans, and want to study and live in America. I have dealt with China's very slick, tough, and well-trained diplomats. That said, I have found it impressive over the years to see how China has transformed itself from a poor, brutal authoritarian police state into a poor, brutal, authoritarian police state with large foreign currency reserves. Sorry, but shoddily-built skyscrapers, and streets clogged with Fords, BMWs, Lexus, and Buicks, and lined with luxury stores and restaurants cannot hide the hard facts.

Confucius's 2500-year old Analects still provides an accurate account of China's philosophy of governance in which every person has an assigned role; failure to keep to it has dire consequences. I saw the repression at work in a visit to Tibet which escaped the control of our handlers. Even outside Tibet the legal system, to put it mildly, remains opaque, capricious, subject to political manipulation, and harsh. Avoid Chinese cops--who seem to be everywhere--and courts. For all the vaunted economic progress, control of the legal-political system remains with an unelected and corrupt Communist Party cadre. These rulers have agreed among themselves that not one will have the total power once wielded so disastrously by Mao. The top jobs rotate; major decisions are not made solo. Progress? I don't know. We saw a similar development in the USSR after Stalin: how is the USSR doing these days? The people remain cut out. The elite decide what's best, the people must comply--see Confucius. This secretive, stale, corrupt, aloof, and repressive system remains a major hindrance for China's development as a true power. Despite ham-handed attempts to block outside influence, word spreads of ways to live which do not involve fear and blind loyalty. We probably will not see a Chinese 21st century, but we will see a "Chinese Spring," and it could get nasty.

We hear a lot of heated nonsense about a GOP "war on women." To see a real war on women, go to China. Thanks to Chinese preference for sons, the one-child dictate means females in China are disappearing: they are being aborted, killed, and given for adoption overseas. This is gendercide, a human rights disaster of major proportions and one almost ignored. Moral issues aside, China is heading for demographic disaster. Marrying age men vastly outnumber women. Among those who can afford it, there is a hunt on for foreign brides. Large groups of young Chinese men charter planes to Indonesia, Malaysia, and elsewhere, and hold "speed dating" sessions at local hotels in the hunt for brides, stoking the anti-Chinese hatred which lies just beneath the surface of many Asian societies.

In East Asia, China is deeply feared and resented. East Asian leaders would much rather deal with the United States, and are big proponents of an active US military and economic presence in the area. They do not want China (and previously Japan) as the undisputed big gorilla in the region. As a senior Vietnamese diplomat once told me, "Everybody wants to be American. Nobody wants to be Chinese. Even the Chinese want to be American." This from a man whose father, he said, died fighting the US Marines in Hue, and whose own son was studying in California. Unless you're wealthy and can isolate yourself from Chinese reality, China is an unpleasant place to live for a foreigner, especially one from another Asian country. It has little in the way of "soft power" or uplifting universal values; it does not welcome immigrants, and views foreigners with the same sort of suspicion and disdain that Chinese citizens themselves find in much of East Asia.

Even in the economic sphere there is less than meets the eye. Most Chinese, the overwhelming number of them, live in crushing rural and urban poverty, work under appalling conditions, and suffer levels of environmental pollution and food contamination that no Western society would tolerate. The mass education system is a disaster. Increasingly foreign firms, which, after all, have fueled China's economic growth, are encountering shortages of skilled and semi-skilled workers, and are no longer quite so eager to set up shop in China.

China's banks are a mystery. They are secretive, corrupt, and work closely with the Party and the government. China pursues a policy which will be coming to the end of its rope soon, that of keeping its currency artificially low to keep exports cheap, and try to keep the job creation machine churning. The central bank, which holds the largest foreign currency reserves in the world, must come up with ways ("sterilization") to sop up the currency generated in China by the influx of foreign currency to prevent inflation and prevent the Chinese currency from appreciating against other major currencies. This involves forcing the banks to keep an ever increasing reserve, and forcing them to buy low or no yield government bonds. I am no expert, but the ones whom I know wonder how long that can continue. The experts ignore another aspect to this: the overseas political side of it. China's trading partners, the US and Europe most notably, are reaching the end of their patience with China's currency manipulations. A trade war is not inconceivable; China would have the most to lose.

One of the greatest threats to China's future is President Obama. His administration's reckless spending and conjuring of dollars out of thin air, is ruining us and stretching the Chinese ability to "sterilize" the effects of all these cheap dollars pouring in. It is no wonder that Chinese authorities have been lecturing Obama on the need for fiscal restraint and budgetary responsibility. China is tied to our mast. If we sink, they go with us--their billions and billions of dollars in US bonds, worthless. Let's view it as a backhanded compliment to our silly President.

As stated at the outset, China will have as much power and influence as we let them have. China's future as a superpower will be decided in Washington, not in Beijing. Under the Communists, China has not proven an inventive or innovative society; their technological progress is bought, borrowed, copied, or stolen. The USSR tried that, too. They offer no compelling alternative vision to the West's prosperity and freedom. They can try to become a military bully, but that will go only so far in their very complicated neighborhood and with the serious structural and resource weaknesses they suffer.

China should copy and try one thing from the West it has not so far: it works in Japan, in the Republic of Korea, and, ironically, in the "breakaway" Chinese province of Taiwan. I am talking about freedom, the real kind, not the Communist Party kind.