George Sarant

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Archive for June 2015

MEANWHILE IN THE REST OF THE WORLD…

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While people in the US have been preoccupied with domestic concerns there are ominous clouds gathering in the rest of the world. There is the fiscal crisis in Greece which will be addressed separately, three terrorist attacks in different places on the same day, ongoing slaughter by ISIS that has now apparently become too routine to report on it, mischief making by Vladimir Putin, and worst of all, the turn things have taken with the Iranian nuclear talks. Normally there might be good reasons for the US to take some action on all these fronts, but with the possible exception of Greece, at this point in time we are better off doing nothing than acting due to the fecklessness and incompetence of this administration. 

It increasingly appears as though they are caving in to the Iranian ayatollahs in the nuclear talks. It is just unbelievable that a French Socialist government is taking a harder, more realistic line with regard to Iranian nukes than the US because they are concerned that this administration is going to give away the store. What does it tell us, when the Europeans, for the first time in memory, are taking a harder line than the US? Meanwhile Israel is in the doghouse due to contempt for Netanyahu, who increasingly is being proven to have been right all along. No deal is better than this deal. All other missteps are containable and remediable, but not when it comes to increasing the chance of blowing up the world. 

Also ominous is the the massacre of 38 European tourists in a Tunisian resort, because of the terrible impact one evil actor can have on a country’s economy. Tourists are leaving, canceling trips as a result of this seriously damaging the country’s economy, and harming all those poor people who work in that field. The Tunisians I have interacted with have all been good and gracious individuals, identify with the modern world, and simply want the opportunity freely live in it like everyone else. They don’t deserve this. 

With regard to terrorism, we should remain vigilant, but hold off any significant action until this administration leaves office. It makes a lot more sense to hold your fire than to mobilize action under an incompetent command. This is clearly no longer our problem, but the entire world’s. From Europe to Russia to Arabia to India to China to Africa and beyond, we are all in the same position, and fortunately on the same side, something we unfortunately have failed to make any use of to any significant degree, but if properly approached would go a long way towards putting an end to this. This is something the President could and should have pulled off, given the expectations and good will he had coming into office, but instead of utilizing that credit to pull everyone together on this, he went around the world disparaging his own country, apologizing to Muslims who did not ask for it, criticizing Christians, sowing more division and chaos, and achieving even lower US standing the world than his demonized predecessor. He has also improbably managed to enable Vladimir Putin to represent himself as a more plausible beacon of western tradition. 

Americans, at least those who are politically concerned, waste an undue amount of time and energy contesting domestic issues that the President actually does not have much power over. It is in foreign affairs that the President wields more power and can determine the direction of things, sometimes for better, be just as often for worse. Policy is no doubt important, but not as much as competence, which has been in pretty short supply, not just in this one but over the past few administrations.

Written by georgesarant

June 29, 2015 at 6:45 PM

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US SUPREME COURT DECISIONS 2015

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The US Supreme Court dropped a number of bombshells in its current session that have caused elation among some and provoked outrage among others, but how this all will play out depends on how the political class conducts itself, and there the record is mixed. The two decisions that involve sharp political differences got all the attention, but the worst was actually the one that basically said that the government can declare discrimination even where there is no discrimination. That means the government can redefine reality as it wishes, which is rather totalitarian notion that could destroy individual autonomy.

With regard pretty much ratifying Obamacare, there is little Republicans can do about it now, at least as far its overall purpose of enabling health care for everyone. If it is repealed it has to be replace by something else that accomplishes the same thing. The way it was passed was stupid, its detail awful, and its implementation inept. That said the only options now remaining are to come up with something else or to improve its many flaws. It has cost me a few thousand personally by putting a really stupid limit on Medical Savings Accounts, but that is the sort of thing that can be tweaked and is what Republicans should focus on. A wholesale reboot is unrealistic now unless all the bases are covered, and what they should address are areas where some people have been screwed and fix them, along with improved management, while lightening the government’s heavy hand.

With regard to same-sex marriage, let it be. I say this not because of the tenuous basis of the court’s ruling, nor without regard to historical tradition, nor using rights as a basis for it, but rather on what really matters- human connection and compassion. The reason this must now prevail has nothing to do with ideology, spiritual beliefs, or politics, and is reflected in the way things now make sense in ways they would not have not so many years ago, due to an increased awareness of the circumstances of others. For almost everyone is either related to, or friends with someone who is gay, who they care for and who is in some way part of their lives. As this has risen in consciousness it has thus become personalized, and in this life what matters most is personal.

This is in fact a conservative position, because we believe fervently in the personal, we recognize there is a distinction between the private and the public, and we reject the left’s ongoing attempts to politicize all aspects of life. That is also why I have no sympathy for gay activists, (or various other kinds of activists) because of monomania. People are not defined by one characteristic, but have many attributes that are equally if not more important to them. Being gay is not a political condition, it is a human condition.

As far as tradition goes, for many things in human affairs that is where we first look, primarily because it represents the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of prior generations. But it is not immutable and is always subject to change over time as more things become part of our collective consciousness. We learn, adjust and change, but it is gradual not radical change. That is also the conservative position. To oppose any change based on tradition is not conservative, it is reactionary. Finally, there is no way that you can take away a right that has been granted. This is in no way as calamitous as some people think. It will simply become part of the fabric of things, and in rather traditional ways at that.

Politically Marco Rubio deserves credit for simply stating it’s now the law and let’s move on. The President was conciliatory in his speech in South Carolina, but subsequently instead of trying to bring people together he then took the odd step of covering the White House in rainbow lights, effectively rubbing it in on people upset by the decision, instead trying to unify everyone. It was a fleeting, gratuitous gesture, and was simply counterproductive. He should have used the moment more wisely. I don’t care about the lights as such, or what they represent, but it would be one thing if it were, say lit green on St Patrick’s Day, and various other occasions, but it isn’t and it shouldn’t be. It’s not the Empire State Building and this not the kind of leadership we need now.

Written by georgesarant

June 27, 2015 at 9:15 PM

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THE UNHINGED AND THE SYMBOLIC

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Civil societies in our time face the problem of the rare but dangerous deviant who commits violent acts. At any time, in almost any place there are a few who are so maladjusted they have no qualms about slaughtering strangers. Often they will adhere to an ideology of some sort, be it Islamic jihad, revolutionary leftism, or racism, but however unpalatable that belief system may be, it is seldom, in and of itself, the “cause,” no matter how much people may wish to discredit a beliefs they don’t like, for the behavior is virtually identical to that of deranged mass murderers with no particular agenda. Thus, eliminating this perceived cause would have little effect on someone unhinged. The paranoia would persist and become attached to something else. 

The murders in the South Carolina church by a man with clearly white racist views and an affinity for the confederate flag has provided a fundraising bonanza for the (selectively) anti-racism and hate industry, as well as renewed demands for the removal of the confederate flag, which we will examine further below. But to make any sense of this let us look at the last comparable incident of this sort, which occurred some years back when a black man boarded the Long Island Railroad and proceeded to kill as many white people as he could. The man was clearly deranged, and also motivated by racism, but little attention was given to that aspect of it, in contrast to the ideologically motivated focus on the circumstances of the South Carolina case. The problem in any incident of this kind has far less to do with racism and much more to do with mental illness, which is something far harder to perceive and ameliorate. 

It is frequently the same in the case of people in western societies flipping out and becoming Jihadists, i.e. that which is most antithetical to their own society, much in the same way some radical revolutionary cause might have attracted them in another time. Granted some are quite sane, fanatical believers, but others have a psychotic thrill in killing. For as much as the terror threat appears to have diminished, at least in terms of attacks sponsored by some organization, the “lone wolf” remains a problem that is extremely difficult to detect, as is the alienated loner, or anyone capable of going on a spontaneous murder spree. We do not yet possess knowledge sufficient enough to enable us to stop this completely, especially given its random nature. 

That is why any attempt to try and maintain that the American south is rampantly racist and no different than it was fifty years ago is completely ridiculous, if not slanderous. In South Carolina, where the murders occurred, the Governor is an Indian American woman, and one Senator, Tim Scott, is black. Furthermore he was previously elected to congress from the Charleston area, defeating the son of the original Dixiecrat, Strom Thurmond in a primary election. However, the confederate flag, does, to some extent, obscure this reality. To many in the south it is a matter of heritage and whenever there has been a referendum on it, keeping the flag has prevailed by 2:1 margins. However, it is also perceived as a symbol of oppression by others, and it is simply untenable to maintain a symbol on public property that is opposed by a very significant segment of the population. In addition, while the confederate battle flag is historic, its current use is tenuous, since it was only raised in the 1960s as an expression of defiance to the federal government. Public officials in South Carolina and elsewhere have already suggested that it be moved from public property, and it probably will be. 

With far less justification a number of large corporations have banned the sale of the flag, even on Internet auctions. They are unprincipled scoundrels who at the same time have no problem allowing communist paraphernalia associated with enemies of the US, i.e. Che Guevara t-shirts, etc. responsible for the slaughter of millions upon millions of people, which sickens far more people than the confederate flag.  They should not be in the censorship business, and especially not in such an arbitrary way. They have now opened the door to disposing of anything anyone loud enough finds offensive. They deserve the consequences. 

Something of this sort has already started with a group of nutty professors in California now demanding the removal of the American flag for supposedly symbolizing some form of evil. This has much in common with the phenomenon of self-hatred that oddly seems to be increasing, which we’ll look at next time. 

Written by georgesarant

June 25, 2015 at 2:11 AM

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