The vilification of the opponents of President Obama and his domestic and foreign policies, Tea Party Movement and others, is simply the old vilification of President Bush by the Liberal/Left with a new target. Obscenity, comparison to Hitler, labeling as fascist, calls for the impeachment or death to prominent politicians, and calling for armed opposition are all efforts to de-legitimate a legitimate political opposition and its constitutional organization. To the old vilification standbys is added the cry of racism against Obama's opponents. This video posted on Bookworm Room tells the story well. A trip down not-so-long-ago memory lane. Obama could defuse all this with a few speeches, but he does not; it serves him well. Think about that: it's within his political action philosophy.
The unintended consequences of Obaman foreign policy: Obama's cultivation of Muslim Pakistan (for obvious reasons, following the Bush policies related to Afghanistan) and pursuit of normalization of American foreign relations with anti-US Muslim states, like Syria and Iran, are pushing India and Israel into mutual arrangements. India the Hindu state is under constant terror attack from radicalized Muslims inside India who are supposedly (with some evidence) supported by Pakistan's intelligence service and by Muslim radicals from elsewhere. Likewise, Israel the Jewish state is similarly under attack by anti-Jewish Jihadists. The Mumbai massacres exemplified their intertwined fates, because the Chabad center in Mumbai was one of the main targets of the terrorists. So the US arms Pakistan, and India turns to Israel for counter-weapons systems. I expect similar ad hoc partnerships to develop among the other major nations to feel the effects of Obama's face slapping of traditional American allies, specifically South Korea and Japan.
I have posted before that Obama was not a law school professor; he was a lecturer in temporary appointment. He was not qualifed--he has no recorded original research or law publications--to be a member of the law school faculty. Now, it appears, there was not a lot of respect for him at Chicago Law.
The Economistseems to think so. The recent rise in residential real estate prices, modest though it is, along the Southern California coast is a sign that the well-off are getting their feet. Rise in the coastal prices will eventually push up prices in the inland residential districts, as middle income would-be home buyers along the coast are priced out locally and turn to lower prices in Inland Empire.
We celebrated the beginning of Passover with a seder dinner on Sunday with friends and another seder dinner on Monday evening with the congregation of the Chabad synogogue and the Rabbi, the Rebbetsin, and their three young children at the Chabad community center. Both dinners were studies in orchestrated disorder. With our friends, we read an abbreviated Haggadah. The service was interrupted by comings and goings at the table, reminiscences, astonishment at how much the young girls of one family had grown in a year, the good luck of the wife of another family in her struggle with an inherited degenerative disease, and pleasure that we all were together again. The fourteenth birthday of one of the girls was celebrated at the end of the meal, leaving all with satisfaction that the next year would be happy for all of us. The Chabad seder was barely an abbreviated service that lasted four hours, with each of the courses of the feast and glasses of wine at their appointed textual intervals. The Rabbi says that at least half of the families in the congregation of several hundred are mixed marriages. Chabad is conservatively orthodox, but happily embraces interfaith families in its mission of Jewish revivalism. My wife whispered to me, it's alright to think of the mass at this moment. And I had indeed pondered the Jewish teacher who founded the Christianity in which I was raised, before returning to the Hebrew prayers that he too heard many times.The Rabbi much enjoys the conviviality of the mealtime service. He and the Rebbetsin drew on family memories to consecrate the occasion. As we progressed through the meal, some of the children became restive. By the time the main course of poached chicken and potato kugel arrived, the children had left their tables and were playing in the quite limited space between them. As the Rabbi explained each stage of the service, the relationship of the prayers to the food, wine, and ritual, laying out the orderly rehearsal of Jewish gratitude to God, the children formed a conga line, playing choo-choo train, or raced to the entry hall, or interrupted their parents or parents' friends; or anyone, actually, who would adore them, as we all did. Halfway through the main course, I noticed motion near me on the floor out of the corner of my eye . For a half-instant, I though someone had brought a small dog to the room; then I realized it was Rabbi's four year old boy, crawling on all fours under the tables, chairs, playing some happy game, parting the forest of legs under the mantle of prayer. My wife and I independently wondered how such young children, who have never seen a train drawn by a steam locomotive, came to play choo-choo train, making the steam engine's iconic sound.
My annoyed ruminations about Plotinus' discussion of God and Evil, within the framework of his theory of the transmigration and progress of souls, continued well after I posted an article about his ideas. Over dinner, oddly enough, with friends at an Italian restaurant in Old Citrus Town's magnificent historical revival downtown. Some political reference was accidentally made in our meandering conversation about mass death, fortunately not dampening a happy occasion. If, as Plotinus said, we should not wail over premature deaths due to war or sacking of a city, because it merely releases the soul for its transmigration to another body and hence further along in its return journey to God, then how are we to define premature? Death at any age, for any cause, so releases the soul. Infanticide of all our children would be a good deed in Plotinus' philosophy, since it would hurry souls on their way. Why not Jonestown for all the earth's people? Why not kill all living things? For if the supreme principle of life is to die and reunite with God, then life is not a good in itself. We should, the conclusion seems inevitable, skip this fraternity with Evil, which is the incarceration of the soul in the material body. Plotinus says that Evil is necessary, otherwise there is no reason for the soul to progress toward God, there are no material sins for the soul to struggle against and to incite its desire to escape materiality and commune with God. Life is too nasty to hang around. Alas, there seems little obstacle here in Plotinus to the conclusion that universal termination of material life is desirable. Rather than philosophical consolation for suffering, for unnatural death, for early demise, Plotinus' philosophy only justifies suicide--and murder. Perhaps my annoyance with Plotinus came, because I had Passover on my mind, as we had already accepted invitations to several Passover seders. One of Judaism's gifts to humanity, made more than a thousand years before Plotinus' mystical philosophy, was the idea of the supreme value of life as God's gift. God demands of us to struggle, to persevere, to survive against resignation, defeatism, and the forces of death, in faith in his commandment to live. Passover reminds all of us, not just Jews and Christians who affirm the supreme value of life, that the militant advocacy of death as a favor to a god is not a singular episode of the religious past or a parochial myth with only symbolic meaning, but is a widely followed false religion. False religion persists today, unfortunately, seductively calling to action people mired in the organized pathology of yearning for death, for their own deaths and the deaths of others.
Nervous jitters from the terrorist bombing in Moscow subways by two female suicide murderer-bombers increase the police and military protection of mass transportation in New York City. My daughter commutes from the Upper East Side to the Lower Manhattan financial district. I feel a chill rip through my soul. Atlas Shrugs provides photos.
Consumer income (national aggregate figures) remains stagnant, which means the rise in consumer spending (PCE) came from savings. Indeed, the savings rate declined slightly. Calculated Risk explains. The administration, some of the macro-economists, and the media spin this statistic--the rise in PCE--as indicating "full recovery" is underway. But that is a greatly optimistic and misleading evaluation.
It is unlikely that workers' incomes are going to rise much over the next several years, or even later. The increases in productivity of US manufacturers demonstrates that they can keep their hiring low and slow, which increases labor competition and lowers pay increases. As the increases in productivity are coming from machinery, rather than (as far as I can tell) increases in education, skills, or experience of the laborers themselves, workers will have weak bargaining positions in increasing their wages. Meanwhile, the aggregate economy continues its shift of resources from the manufacturing sector to the service and governmental sectors, where productivity increases are difficult to achieve, if not impossible or self-canceling (increasing inefficiencies in government cancel weak productivity increases in private medical sector, for example).
The decline in savings is unlikely to continue for long, because workers incomes aren't rising, which will weaken their confidence in their future earnings, thereby exerting caution in spending and increasing motivation to save.
If increases in consumer consumption don't come out of savings, can't come out of incomes that aren't rising, and can't come out of future income, then from where does the money for consumption increases come? From credit? Okay, some spending based on credit is important for consumers, as for producers, because consumers need to invest in themselves, their occupations, and their children; but without long-term rise in income, use of credit is severely constrained. If the government pushes mechanisms to increase consumer lending, we could easily slip into a credit bubble. And wasn't it a credit bubble--in housing--that drove the economy over the cliff in 2007? Do we want to risk that again?
Other challenges to consumer income and household wealth loom. ObamaCare (if not repealed) will draw huge taxes out of the economy, as will increases in taxation to shore up Medicare and Social Security. And Obama remains psychotically committed to cap and trade, which would bring huge tax increases. These tax increases will make big gashes in workers' income. If all the Obama debt and the future debt of entitlements can only be paid with a huge VAT, on top of all other personal taxes, then households will have no money to increase consumption, invest in themselves, or to increase savings to make up for the threats to their livelihoods caused by all these new taxes, and for retirement.
Finally, the unemployment and underemployment rates remain very high, dampening all growth. Unless Obama's full court press toward the goal of European welfare socialism is stopped, America will face a generation or more of weak growth, or even economic stagnancy, with high unemployment and increasing obstacles to economic and social mobility as the lower and middle classes are trapped in welfare dependency. This situation will only be resolved in state fiscal crisis, as Europe now proves, compelling pull back from the mire of socialism.