Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What Needs Resetting



By Mona Charen
Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The bodies of 298 passengers and crew of Malaysia Air Flight 17, 80 of them children, lie unburied in a Ukrainian field while Vladimir Putin's men fire their weapons into the air to keep international investigators from approaching the site. Yes, "Putin's men." Calling them "Russian separatists" unnecessarily dignifies them. They are supplied, armed and trained by the despot in the Kremlin.

At the very least, Putin is responsible for arming these dangerous actors. At most, it's possible the missile wasn't fired by Ukrainians at all, but by Russians, which would answer President Barack Obama's question: "What do they have to hide?" The SA-11 is apparently a complex system requiring four well-trained weapons specialists to operate. In either case, the man with blood on his hands is Putin.

Obama began relations with Russia with a "reset." The premise of this new start was that relations between our nations had deteriorated due to the policies of former President George W. Bush.

But Obama was following the same trajectory as his predecessor. Bush, too, began with high hopes for Putin. He was even taken in, for a short time, by Putin's profession of religious faith -- surely one of the biggest cons of modern diplomacy. As Bush watched Putin commit one aggressive act after another, both domestically and internationally, he wised up. Midway through his second term, journalist Peter Baker writes, when Tony Blair said he was more worried than ever about Putin, Bush replied, "You should be."

Bush may have clung too long to the hope of moderating the criminal in the Kremlin, but Obama had even less excuse. He had the benefit of Bush's experience. He had witnessed Putin's invasion of Georgia in 2008, his unflagging support for Iran and Syria, his use of oil and gas to intimidate Ukraine and other nations, his obliteration of democracy in Russia, his muzzling of the press, and his systematic murder of domestic critics. Funny that Obama would have thought that responsibility for the decay in relations should be laid at the feet of Bush.

When Putin took command of the FSB (the KGB renamed), Russia was enduring international criticism for its war in Chechnya. Moscow apartment complexes experienced a wave of bombings that killed several hundred. Putin pointed the finger at Chechens, and the enraged Russian people endorsed the continuation of the war.

Some members of the Kovalev Commission, appointed to investigate the bombings, expressed interest in accounts of possible FSB responsibility for the attacks. Here's what happened to them: Sergei Yushenkov, co-chairman of the commission and a member of the Liberal Russia party, was assassinated in front of his apartment; Yuri Shchekochikhin, another commission member, independent journalist and Duma member, was poisoned with thallium; and Mikhail Trepashkin was arrested on a weapons charge that later morphed into an espionage case. He was tried in a closed military proceeding and condemned to four years in prison.

A KBG defector, Alexander Litvinenko, wrote a book called "Blowing Up Russia" alleging that the FSB was responsible for the Moscow bombings. He died, slowly, of poisoning with polonium-210. Litvinenko had also accused Putin of arranging the murder of Anna Politkovskaya -- a Russian journalist and critic of Putin and the Chechnya war. She was gunned down in the elevator of her apartment in 2006.

Putin has applied the logic of the Moscow bombings (stoke hatred of others to rally Russians around himself) to relations with other nations. Russian state TV, after labeling the elected government in Kiev, Ukraine, as Nazi for months, recently accused the Ukrainian army of crucifying a 3-year-old boy. Russian media feature an almost daily diet of conspiracies supposedly concocted by Americans to undermine and humiliate Russia.

For about the 100th time, Obama this week warned Putin that if he didn't cooperate in the Malaysia plane investigation, he would risk "isolating" Russia from the international community.

Putin doesn't seek to be part of any community. He seeks to be feared -- and he should be. A look back at recent history shows clearly that he is incapable of shame and deaf to conscience. In light of this, Obama can at least do a few things: 1) arm the Ukrainians with something considerably more lethal than MREs; 2) stop placing phone calls to the Kremlin -- we should have nothing to say to him; 3) fast-track liquefied natural gas export permits; and 4) freeze the assets of Putin and his cronies just as we did to Saddam Hussein.

The thing that needs a reset is our perception of Putin.

No More Aid to the Palestinian Authority



By Cal Thomas
Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The anti-Semitic "tradition" of blaming Jews for the world's problems mostly took a temporary back seat in light of the indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israel by the terrorist group Hamas.

Major newspaper editorials condemned Hamas, but their condemnation was hedged by calls for "restraint" on "both sides" and "proportionality" in Israel's response to the attacks. There is little or no mention of Hamas' directive to ignore Israel's warning to leave homes in areas where the rockets have been placed among civilians. The Hamas strategy is to parade the bodies of the dead before TV cameras to demonstrate Israel's "cruelty" and uncaring attitude toward innocent lives.

Still, there was room for the predictable screeds against Israel. The New York Times gave space on its op-ed page to Nathan Thrall, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group covering Gaza, Israel, Jordan and the West Bank. Thrall writes, "Israel and much of the international community placed a prohibitive set of obstacles in the way of the Palestinian 'national consensus' government that was formed in early June."

The Times of Israel reported on a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Berlin -- yes, Berlin -- during which crowds reportedly chanted "Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come on out and fight." They might as well have chanted "Sieg heil."

Hamas is a designated terrorist organization that is religiously and politically committed to the eradication of Israel. That it formed a coalition with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its supposedly "moderate" leader, Mahmoud Abbas, doesn't make Hamas more moderate; it underscores the true ideology of the PA.

The Guardian newspaper printed a column by associate editor Seumas Milne, the gist of which was, "The idea that Israel is defending itself from unprovoked attacks from outside its borders is an absurdity." Occupied people, like the Palestinians of Gaza, says Thrall, "...have the right to resist, by force if they choose."

Yes, Gaza is occupied, but by Hamas, not Israel, which withdrew in 2005 and created a vacuum Hamas predictably filled.

Writing in The Jerusalem Post, Caroline Glick notes the objectives of Hamas, which has vowed never to make peace with Israel: "In the midst of Operation Protective Edge, Hamas released a music video in Hebrew calling for the Palestinians to bomb Israel and kill all Israelis. 'Raze it (Israel) to the ground, exterminate the cockroaches' nest, and banish all the Zionists,' the lyrics read."

While the United States has limited options in the region, it does have one that could help undermine Hamas and free Gaza from its real occupiers. The U.S. should eliminate financial aid to the Palestinian Authority, which has been provided in the false hope that "moderation" would prevail over terrorism. According to the Congressional Research Service, "Since the establishment of limited Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the mid-1990s, the U.S. government has committed approximately $5 billion in bilateral assistance to the Palestinians, who are among the largest per capita recipients of international foreign aid." What have we gotten for it?

A bill sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) would prohibit any direct U.S. assistance, loan guarantee, or debt relief to the PA so long as it is affiliated with Hamas. The bill is currently tied up in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It should be voted out and debated by the full Senate.

Last year Edwin Black, writing in The Times of Israel, reported that "Each year, American aid and financial programs fungibly fund terrorist salaries paid by the Palestinian Authority. This astonishing financial dynamic is known to most Israeli leaders and Western journalists in Israel. ... But it is still a shock to most in Congress, who are unaware that U.S. money going to the Palestinian Authority is regularly diverted to a program that systematically rewards terrorists with generous salaries."

Now that the Palestinian Authority has formally aligned with Hamas and its murderous objectives, which in reality are little different from theirs, despite its outward claim that Israel has a right to exist (how tolerant of them), ending U.S. aid might get their attention.

There is no moral equivalency between Israel and those who wish to destroy the Jewish state. None. Stopping aid to terrorists would be the best policy option.

Bordering on Madness



By Thomas Sowell
Tuesday, July 22, 2014

In a recent confrontation between protesters against the illegal flood of unaccompanied children into the United States and counter-protests by some Hispanic group, one man from the latter group said angrily, "We are as good as you are!"

One of the things that make the history of clashes over race or ethnicity such a history of tragedies around the world is that -- regardless of whatever particular issue sets off these clashes -- many people see the ultimate stakes as their worth as human beings. On that, there is no room for compromise, but only polarization. That is why playing "the race card" is such an irresponsible and dangerous political game.

The real issue when it comes to immigration is not simply what particular immigration policy America should have, but whether America can have any immigration policy at all.

A country that does not control its own borders does not have any immigration policy. There may be laws on the books, but such laws are just meaningless words if people from other countries can cross the borders whenever they choose.

One of the reasons why many Americans are reluctant to keep out illegal immigrants -- or even to call them "illegal immigrants," instead of using the mealy-mouthed word "undocumented" -- is that most Hispanics they encounter seem to be decent, hard-working people.

This column has pointed out, more than once, that I have never seen Mexicans standing on a street corner begging, though I have seen both whites and blacks doing so.

But such impressions are no basis for deciding serious issues about immigration and citizenship. When we do not control our own borders, we have no way of knowing how many of those coming across those borders are criminals or even terrorists.

We have no way of knowing how many of those children are carrying what diseases that will spread to our children. And we already know, from studies of American children, that those who are raised without fathers in the home have a high probability of becoming huge, expensive problems for taxpayers in the years ahead, and a mortal danger to others.

A hundred years ago, when there was a huge influx of immigrants from Europe, there were extensive government studies of what those immigrants did in the United States. There were data on how many, from what countries, ended up in jail, diseased or on the dole. There were data on how well their children did in school.

As with most things, some immigrant groups did very well and others did not do nearly as well. But today, even to ask such questions is to be considered mean-spirited.

Such information as we have today shows that immigrants from some countries have far more education than immigrants from some other countries, and do not end up being supported by the taxpayers nearly as often as immigrants from other countries. But such information is seldom mentioned in discussions of immigrants, as if they were abstract people in an abstract world.

Questions about immigration and citizenship are questions about irreversible decisions that can permanently change the composition of the American population and the very culture of the country -- perhaps in the direction of the cultures of the countries from which illegal immigrants have fled.

During the era of epidemics that swept across Europe in centuries past, people fleeing from those epidemics often spread the diseases to the places to which they fled. Counterproductive and dangerous cultures can be spread to America the same way.

Willful ignorance is not the way to make immigration decisions or any other decisions. Yet the Obama administration is keeping secret even where they are dumping illegal immigrants by the thousands, in communities far from the border states.

Looking before we leap is not racism -- except in the sense that anything the Obama administration doesn't like is subject to being called racist.

Americans who gather to protest the high-handed way this administration has sneaked illegal immigrants into their communities can expect the race card to be played against them. The time is long overdue to stop being intimidated by such cheap -- and dangerous -- political tactics.

Is Paul Krugman Leaving Princeton In Quiet Disgrace?



By Ralph Benko
Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Professor Paul Krugman is leaving Princeton. Is he leaving in disgrace?

Not long, as these things go, before his departure was announced Krugman thoroughly was indicted and publicly eviscerated for intellectual dishonesty by Harvard’s Niall Ferguson in a hard-hitting three-part series in the Huffington Post, beginning here, and with a coda in Project Syndicate, all summarized at Forbes.com. Ferguson, on Krugman:


    Where I come from … we do not fear bullies. We despise them. And we do so because we understand that what motivates their bullying is a deep sense of insecurity. Unfortunately for Krugtron the Invincible, his ultimate nightmare has just become a reality. By applying the methods of the historian – by quoting and contextualizing his own published words – I believe I have now made him what he richly deserves to be: a figure of fun, whose predictions (and proscriptions) no one should ever again take seriously.


Princeton, according to Bloomberg News, acknowledged Krugman’s departure with an extraordinarily tepid comment by a spokesperson. “He’s been a valued member of our faculty and we appreciate his 14 years at Princeton.”

Shortly after Krugman’s departure was announced no less than the revered Paul Volcker, himself a Princeton alum, made a comment — subject unnamed — sounding as if directed at Prof. Krugman. It sounded like “Don’t let the saloon doors hit you on the way out. Bub.”

To the Daily Princetonian (later reprised by the Wall Street Journal,Volcker stated with refreshing bluntness:


    The responsibility of any central bank is price stability. … They ought to make sure that they are making policies that are convincing to the public and to the markets that they’re not going to tolerate inflation.


This was followed by a show-stopping statement: “This kind of stuff that you’re being taught at Princeton disturbs me.”

Taught at Princeton by … whom?

Paul Krugman, perhaps? Krugman, last year, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times entitled Not Enough Inflation. It betrayed an extremely louche, at best, attitude toward inflation’s insidious dangers. Smoking gun?

Volcker’s comment, in full context:


    The responsibility of the government is to have a stable currency. This kind of stuff that you’re being taught at Princeton disturbs me. Your teachers must be telling you that if you’ve got expected inflation, then everybody adjusts and then it’s OK. Is that what they’re telling you? Where did the question come from?


Is Krugman leaving in disgrace? Krugman really is a disgrace … both to Princeton and to the principle of monetary integrity. Eighteenth century Princeton (then called the College of New Jersey) president John Witherspoon, wrote, in his Essay on Money:


    Let us next consider the evil that is done by paper. This is what I would particularly request the reader to pay attention to, as it was what this essay was chiefly intended to show, and what the public seems but little aware of. The evil is this: All paper introduced into circulation, and obtaining credit as gold and silver, adds to the quantity of the medium, and thereby, as has been shown above, increases the price of industry and its fruits.


“Increases the price of industry and its fruits?” That’s what today is called “inflation.”

Inflation is a bad thing. Period. Most of all it cheats working people and those on fixed incomes who Krugman pretends to champion. Volcker comes down squarely, with Witherspoon, on the side of monetary integrity. Krugman, cloaked in undignified sanctimony, comes down, again and again, on the side of … monetary finagling.

Krugman consistently misrepresents his opponents’ positions, constructs fictive straw men, addresses marginal figures, and ignores inconvenient truths set forward by figures of probity such as the Bank of England and the Bundesbank, thoughtful work such as that by Member of Parliament (with a Cambridge Ph.D. in economic history) Kwasi Kwarteng, and, right here at home, respected thought leaders such as Steve Forbes and Lewis E. Lehrman (with whose Institute this writer has a professional affiliation).

Professor Krugman, on July 7, 2014, undertook to issue yet another of his fatwas on proponents of the classical gold standard. His New York Times op-ed, Beliefs, Facts and Money, Conservative Delusions About Inflation, was brim full of outright falsehoods and misleading statements. Krugman:

    In 2010 a virtual Who’s Who of conservative economists and pundits sent an open letter to Ben Bernanke warning that his policies risked “currency debasement and inflation.” Prominent politicians like Representative Paul Ryan joined the chorus.

    Reality, however, declined to cooperate. Although the Fed continued on its expansionary course — its balance sheet has grown to more than $4 trillion, up fivefold since the start of the crisis — inflation stayed low.

   

    Many on the right are hostile to any kind of government activism, seeing it as the thin edge of the wedge — if you concede that the Fed can sometimes help the economy by creating “fiat money,” the next thing you know liberals will confiscate your wealth and give it to the 47 percent. Also, let’s not forget that quite a few influential conservatives, including Mr. Ryan, draw their inspiration from Ayn Rand novels in which the gold standard takes on essentially sacred status.

    And if you look at the internal dynamics of the Republican Party, it’s obvious that the currency-debasement, return-to-gold faction has been gaining strength even as its predictions keep failing.

Krugman is, of course, quite correct that the “return-to-gold faction has been gaining strength." Speculating beyond the data thereafter Krugman goes beyond studied ignorance. He traffics in shamefully deceptive statements.

Lewis E. Lehrman, protege of French monetary policy giant Jacques Rueff, Reagan Gold Commissioner, and founder and chairman of the Lehrman Institute, arguably is the most prominent contemporary advocate for the classical gold standard. Lehrman never rendered a prediction of imminent “runaway inflation.” Only a minority of classical gold standard proponents are on record with “dire” warnings, certainly not this columnist. So… who is Krugman talking about?

Of the nearly two-dozen signers of (a fairly mildly stated concern) open letter to Bernanke which Krugman cites as prime evidence, only one or two are really notable members of the “return-to-gold faction.” Perhaps a few other signers might have shown some themselves in sympathy the gold prescription. Most, however, were, and are, agnostic about, or even opposed to, the gold standard.

Indicting gold standard proponents for a claim made by gold’s agnostics and opponents is a wrong, cheap, bad faith, argument. More bad faith followed immediately. Whatever inspiration Rep. Paul Ryan draws from novelist Ayn Rand, Ryan is by no means a gold standard advocate. And very few “influential conservatives” (unnamed) “draw their inspiration” from Ayn Rand.

Nor are most proponents of the classical gold standard motivated by a fear that paper money is an entering wedge for liberals to “confiscate your wealth and give it to the 47 percent.” A commitment to gold is rooted, for most, in the correlation between the gold standard and equitable prosperity. Income inequality demonstrably has grown far more virulent under the fiduciary Federal Reserve Note regime — put in place by President Nixon — than it was, for instance, under the Bretton Woods gold+gold-convertible-dollar system.

Krugman goes wrong through and through. No wonder Ferguson wrote: “I agree with Raghuram Rajan, one of the few economists who authentically anticipated the financial crisis: Krugman’s is “the paranoid style in economics." Krugman, perversely standing with Nixon, takes a reactionary, not progressive, position. The readers of the New York Times really deserve better.

Volcker is right. “The responsibility of any central bank is price stability.” Krugman is wrong.

Prof. Krugman was indicted and flogged publicly by Niall Ferguson. Krugman thereafter announced his departure from Princeton. On his way out Krugman, it appears, was reprimanded by Paul Volcker. Krugman has been a disgrace to Princeton. Is he leaving Princeton in quiet disgrace?