That Darned Inverted Yield Curve

The bond market has an inverted yield curve, a fancy term which means that the returns on two-year bonds exceed the returns on ten-year bonds, which means that the smart money is seeking safe haven from a coming storm. In plainer terms, an inverted yield curve has always been a reliable predictor of a looming recession.
Combined with some other distressing data about business investment and manufacturing hiring and economic downturns in such important countries as Great Britain and Germany and China, the news spooked Wall Street so bad that all the stock markets dropped by more than 3 precent with Dow Jones Industrial average having it’s worst day in decade. The three major American stock indexes have dropped a full 7 percent over the past three weeks, the Asian and European and South American markets are similarly panicked, and you can only imagine the anxiety its causing President Donald Trump.
Trump can and surely will still brag about the unusually low unemployment rate and how economic growth has been chugging along at a slightly better rate than the previous six years of the Obama administration, but for now he can’t brag that despite all his faults he’s delivered the greatest economy ever. For now he’s on “twitter” blaming Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell for not more aggressively cutting interest rates, but Trump appointed Powell, whose policies have been in the long term interest of the country rather than the short-term political advantage of Trump, and the smart money isn’t buying it even the rubes in the red MAGA ball caps do.
The smart money seems to think that Trump’s trade wars and deficit spending and petty feuds with longtime allies and trading partners is largely responsible for the mess. When Trump retreated from his threatened increase on tariffs with China on Tuesday the stock market had a good day, which was quickly erased by Wednesday’s carnage, and it’s increasingly clear that the trade wars have taken a toll on the global economy. The Chinese economy has slowed, but given that it’s either the biggest or second biggest in the world that hasn’t helped global economic growth, and given that Trump’s good buddy and Chinese dictator Xi Jinping doesn’t have to worry about a recession during a reelection, So Trump’s not likely to win the greatest deal in the history of the world by election day. The British economy seems in recession due to its “Brexit” from the European Union, which Trump heartily and needlessly endorsed, the German government is blaming a recent economic downturn on Britain’s “Brexit” and a global economic downturn due to frayed trade relations, so the silver lining in the looming storm clouds is hard to find.
We’re not panicked, at least not yet, as the unemployment rate is still low,  but there are reasons to worry. During the last recession, the worst since the Great Depression, a Republican president and a Democratic Congress agreed on a controversial bail-out bill that was hated by both the far left and the far right, but won the endorsement of both major party presidential nominees. In retrospect we begrudgingly admit it might have averted a catastrophic economic meltdown, and note a couple of years later a Democratic president and Republican Congress didn’t get in the way in the longest economic expansion in America’s history, but we worry that such bipartisan solutions aren’t at all possible in the current political climate.
America carefully coordinated its monetary and other economic policies with our allies and trading partners during the last global recession, which might well have averted the worst of it, but that’s harder to envision happening these days. Trump has been antagonistic toward allies, obsequious toward enemies, and is not going to save the day with the greatest deal ever made.
Trump is not entirely to blame, of course. Adding to the world’s economic anxiety is an eye-popping 50 percent drop in the Argentine stock market after one of those Latin American socialist crazies got elected president, and Trump is right to argue that several of the Democratic contenders for his job are just as bad. If the economic excrement hits the fan between now and election day, the Democrats will happily place blame where blame is due but won’t do anything to bale out the country to the political benefit of Trump. None of our longtime allies seem interested in helping Trump, either, except for a few fellow populist and authoritarian nationalists.
Still, we’ll hold out hope for the best and leave it to Trump to worry about the worst. If he can’t run for reelection on the argument that for all his faults he’s wrought the greatest economy ever he’s in bad shape, as he he’s not very popular and has a lot of faults to overlook. We’ll also hold out hope that the damned Democrats don’t nominate some Latin American socialist crazy who would make things even worse, and for all our short-term worries we’ll place our long-term faith in the resiliency of the America’s still more or less free market economy and the eventual genius of the American people.

— Bud Norman

The World’s Comics Vie for Second Place

All of the late night comedians took most of the Obama years off from political humor, but they’ve been back at it with a vengeance since Donald Trump took office. So far Trump and his staff and most steadfast supporters are unamused, but they’ll have to get used to it. Trump ridicule has become an international phenomenon, and it’s been interesting to see what sort of jokes the various countries have come up with.
Trump’s pledge of “America First” has sparked a competition amongst the rest of the world’s comedians to come up with the funniest reasons why their countries should be second, and much of it is not bad. Some comedy show in the Netherlands was the first to provide an “official” video by one of its late comedy shows explaining why their little-known country should place, and it went “viral” pretty much everywhere, and several of our most begrudgingly pro-Trump friends had to admit it was pretty funny. Apparently everyone in the Netherlands speaks English better than the current American president, as it’s all very ‘merican-sounding and without any bothersome subtitles, and they’ve all been following American politics closely enough to have noticed Trump’s penchant for hyperbole and boasts and saying “believe me” an awful lot. The filmmakers boast about the great ocean the Netherlands built between itself and Mexico, and how effective it’s been at keeping Mexicans out of the country, and how you can see it from space, and how everybody says that the Netherlands builds the best oceans, but it’s also rather endearingly self-deprecating. There are a couple of gags that you apparently have to follow Netherlands pop culture to get, and we don’t even follow American pop culture, but much of the humor is apparently universal.
The late night comic with a reputation as the edgiest in Germany followed suit, with some self-deprecating jokes about how he was admittedly stealing the premise from the Netherlands, and it’s also pretty good. There’s the same emphasis on Trump’s hyperbole and boasts and “believe me” verbal tic, but some more barbed Nazi jokes and a self-deprecating plea that Germany should be second because “Who more deserves a third chance?” By that point the late comics in Belgium, Denmark, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Portugal and Switzerland had joined, with the German comic placing them all conveniently on the same web site. They’re all pretty much the same jokes about Trump’s bombast and poor English skills and nationalistic fervor, and by now everyone in the world is apparently aware of Trump’s “locker room” about grabbing women by the wherever and his apparent affinity for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, but they all throw in some local humor that demonstrates what each country likes to kid itself about, which is interesting to learn even if we don’t know anything about Lithuania’s or Luxembourg’s pop culture.
Trump ridiculed his way to the presidency with such witticisms as “Low Energy” for Jeb Bush and “Look at that face” for Carly Fiorina and a “tweet” that unfavorably contrasted “Lyin'”Ted Cruz’s wife’s looks to his own third bride and an impersonation of some pesky New York Times’ reporters degenerative bone disease, and he’s had plenty to say about past presidents of both parties, so he should have expected some return fire. So far the comedians around the world are coming up with better material that he has, so he needs to either get serious or start being a whole lot funnier.

— Bud Norman

The Classics and the Current Scene

There’s a certain unmistakable craziness afloat these days everywhere along the political spectrum throughout western civilization, and in times like these our temperamentally conservative soul seeks solace in classical history and its constant assurance that our remarkably resilient culture has been through all this sort of thing before. Western history is not altogether reassuring, though, as it also frankly reveals that such times are awful to live through, whatever happy chapters might await some day long past our passing.
We were last reminded of this when Europe’s vexing problems with the recent wave of Middle Eastern and North African refugees started washing ashore, and trainloads of unaccompanied minors were crossing into the United States from only slightly more assimilable cultures, and some scholarly fellow reminded us of Edward Gibbons and his “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” which described how the Goth invaders welcomed by the Romans “still wore an angry and hostile aspect; but the experience of past times might encourage the hope they would acquire the habits of industry and obedience; that their manners would be polished by time, education, and the influence of Christianity, and their posterity would insensibly blend with the great body of the Roman people.” It seemed an eerily apt description of the western elite’s optimistic multi-cultularism, except that they no longer put in any stock in that Christian influence and no one who’s paying any attention any longer takes western education seriously, and the rest of it also seemed eerily familiar. “Notwithstanding these specious arguments, and these sanguine expectations, it was apparent to every discerning eye, that the Goths would long remain the enemies, and might soon become the conquerers of the Roman Empire. Their rude and insolent behavior expressed their contempt of the citizens and provincials, whom they insulted with impunity.”
After that desultory blast from our historical past, a recent round-up of headlines from across Europe will sound discomfortingly familiar. Although the European press was slow to give up its specious arguments and sanguine expectations it now begrudgingly concedes that at a welcoming party for newly arrived “refugees” in Germany the honorees seized the opportunity to grope and sexually assault their hosts, that similar behavior by recent immigrants was epidemic in public squares around the continent during New Year’s Eve celebrations, that rape and other violent crimes by the new arrivals are now common, and that the welfare-dependent new arrivals are expressing their contempt of the citizens and insulting them with impunity, and that they may yet prove the conquerers who usher in the Dark Ages. This is by now apparent to every discerning eye, even in a Europe that doesn’t have a First Amendment and a resulting right-wing press, so the main concern is now with hoping that it doesn’t benefit those awful right-wing parties.
So far as we can tell, being here on the prairie and thus so far away from the action and reliant on the heavily-censored press, many of these awful right-wing parties are merely proposing a sensible alternative to cultural suicide. The Fleet Street press is pretty puckish even without a First Amendment, and reading of even their most critical suggests that the dreaded United Kingdom Independence Party merely wants independence from the suicidal European Union and its immigration policies, which seems reasonable enough, and we’re not at all scared even by that Geert Wilders in Holland, who is banned almost in every respectable jurisdiction, and certainly not by Holland’s agnostic Somalian refugee Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who now lives in for fear of her life in America because of those offended by her steadfast defense of of western rather than Islamic values, and who has also been banned from American campuses, and neither do we fear the continuing influence of Pim Fortuyn, the homosexual and secularist and libertarian who was assassinated by a radical environmentalist for launching the “right-wing” crusade against mass immigration. Even in the worst case scenarios, we wonder if any of those “right wing” parties are any crazier than those more respectable parties with their specious arguments and sanguine expectations about the new arrivals neatly fitting in with the churches and gay bars next door and diversity-tained companies next door, and we note that the European press has admittedly been surpassing the facts lest those right-wing parties seem reasonable.
Still, we cannot dismiss the more respectable left’s worries. Classical history also warns us against that strain of patriotism that mutates into nationalism, and all the troubles that has caused in just the past century, and a lot of those European right-wing parties do seem to veer off in a troublesome direction. No matter how comely its leadership, the National Front in France hasn’t yet disavowed its Vichy roots, whatever purposes they might serve American interests many of those anti-Putin forces in Ukraine have roots in the worst of Europe’s history, some of the other vigilante groups around the continent are also a bit rowdy for our tastes, and at this point there are more anti-immigrant parties popping up around the west than we can vouch for. By now our only hope is that Europe allows enough room for frank discussion to come to a reasonable conclusion, and that hope seems faint.
“Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question, inaptness to act on any. Frantic violence became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defense. The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected. To succeed in a plot was to have a shrewd head, to divine a plot still shrewder; but to provide against having to do either was to break up your party.”
The impeccably conservative Kimball dredged up this ancient comment by the Greek historian Thucydides, commenting on long ago events, to convey his current distaste with the Republican and therefore right-wing presidential candidacy of real estate mogul and reality show star and recent Democrat Donald Trump, currently the front-runner in his party’s race, and we have to agree this desultory blast from the past is redolent of a round-up of recent headlines from the campaign. We don’t mean to equate Trump with the worst of Europe’s current right, and we certainly don’t mean to equate him with the best of it that wishes to merely forgo civilizational suicide, but we do think he’s a recklessly audacious and imprudent sort who confuses frantic “tweeting” and shock jock taunts with manliness and who has pulled off countless improbable plots and divined far more implausible ones, and we do share Kimball’s discomfort. He’s settled on Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose right-wing views and reckless audacity have arguably infuriated the supposedly right-wing Republican elites even more than Trumps, and we’ve tentatively reached the same conclusion, although after reading so much history we’re reluctant to place much faith in any mere man. The craziness on the left seems all the more frightening, though, where a self-described socialist and the epitome of a western elite vying to see who can offer the most specious arguments and sanguine expectations, and even the most ancient histories can’t provide any comparable craziness as a guide.

— Bud Norman

Chuckling Away the Refugee Crisis

We have long noticed that whenever a doctrinaire liberal is confronted with verifiable facts and irrefutable logic he tends to respond with a condescending chuckle and an upturned chin and a self-righteous assurance that only the worst sorts of Fox News-watching and church-going and Republican-voting people and otherwise uncivilized people would be rude as the mention such things. This annoying tendency has been on conspicuous display during the recent debate about what to do with that tidal wave of people desperately fleeing the Middle East, which we are assured is a blameless part of the world where a Religion of Peace prevails, when the modern liberal has been reduced to condescending chuckles and ad hominem arguments to explain why the western world is obviously obliged to import millions of potentially dangerous people from the pathologies of a hostile and increasingly belligerent region.
It wouldn’t be so annoying if it were only coming from the hipsters at the local beer dive, but it’s also coming from President Barack Obama and all of his potential Democratic successors and too many of their allies in the respectable press, not to mention such formerly sensible European Union grandees as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and it seems at the moment the tidal wave will prove irresistible. This comes just days after at least one lone wolf of that tidal wave of putative “refugees” helped pull off a sophisticated and deadly terrorist attack on Paris, and shortly after their allies in the Middle East had downed a Russian jetliner over Egypt and bombed some religiously internecine enemies in Beirut and Ankara, and long since the European continent has been engulfed in decades of similar difficulties with an unassimilated Muslim population, and a numbing 14 years since America suffered an even more deadly attack on its soil, and by now the modern liberal hopes that the same old condescending chuckle and rote recitations of moral relativism will once again suffice. Real arguments for the insane policy of relocating a large chunk of the most troubled parts of the world to the west, however, are harder to come by.
There’s the hard-to-resist sob story about innocent refugees of war, of course, but in this case a suspiciously large chunk of the refugees of the Syrian civil war are young and male and fighting-fit, and an awful lot of them don’t seem to be from Syria, and at the moment a large chunk of Syria as well as Iraq and many other Middle Easter countries are “governed” by people who have openly declared war on the west, and it takes quite a condescending chuckle to dismiss any concerns that the unwashed public in Germany or red state America might have about it. We’re told that the refugees will be properly “vetted,” but no chuckling or ad hominem attacks on our racist motives can dispel our doubts that there’s a database somewhere that can reliably verify each of the proposed 100,000 “Syrian” “refugees” that the administration wants to bring in are really who they say they are, or that the records we’ve been allowed access to in the currently at-war-with-us country of Syria are at all reliable. The lower administration officials whose reputations are at stake on such obviously ridiculous claims are more carefully stating their statements, but the higher and more term-limited officials above them doing the usual chuckling and disparaging of dissenting opinions. The same thing seems to be going on in more vulnerable Europe, and even there the population seems rightly skeptical. There’s the same condescending chuckles and upturned chins and self-righteous talk about religious discriminations, as if the Christians and Yazidis and other victims of the region’s religious genocides weren’t already underrepresented in the west’s relocation efforts, and as if those genuinely blameless minorities didn’t import a cultural and religious hostility toward the west, but we doubt it will prove persuasive to the publics that are expected to welcome these new neighbors.
There’s already a populist backlash growing almost everywhere, from the majority of the United States whose governors have raised objections to the suddenly insurgent political parties that are drawing massive protests through the the rest of remnants of the western world. To the extent the condescending chuckles and ad hominem attacks have succeeded in banishing such arguments from respectable debate In some parts of the western world have succeeded, the most disreputable sorts of people have seized an advantage. In France the notorious and Vichy-linked Le Pen Party has surged in the polls, similarly suspicious organizations Germany are gaining on the increasingly unpopular Merkel, and even here in the relatively unaffected United States Donald Trump has increased his lead in the Republican party’s presidential race, and whichever Democrat facing him seems sure to fare badly on the refugee issue and the broader question of immigration into the country.
That condescending chuckle and those ad hominem arguments cow a lot of people into compliance with liberal orthodoxy, both here and in Europe, but they don’t always carry the day. There are not only a lot of governors but also a full slate of Republican candidates questioning the idea of allowing large numbers of “Syrian” “refugees” into the country, and they seem to have counterparts around the rest of the western world, and in many cases they seem reasonable people, and there’s some hope that the for-now majorities in those jurisdictions will wind up voting for the most respectable champions of the status quo, and that their votes will still count.

–Bud Norman

Immigration, Extremism, and Existentialism

Life in the tiny town of Sumte, Germany, is about to become very different. The 105 residents of the remote and little-noticed Lower Saxony village will soon be joined by 500 of the millions of migrants who are heading to Europe from the Middle East, with another 250 scheduled to arrive soon after, so it is reasonable to expect that some significant changes are inevitable. The rest of the western world won’t be out-numbered seven-to-one within its own borders quite as soon, but it would still do well to consider the fate of Sumte.
It’s tough enough for a town of 105 people to suddenly accommodate another 750 or so in the best of circumstances, especially when it has no shops or schools or police stations and a limited amount of sewers and roads and other infrastructure, and such an influx of newcomers who do not speak German and practice a consequentially different religion and derive from countries with a culturally enforced hostility toward western values is by no means the best of circumstances. The German government, which one might well have thought had been created to protect the German way of life for its citizens, has reportedly told the people of Sumte that the only responses to the resettlement plans are “yes and yes,” and the rest of the western world suddenly seems faced with the same grim options. The people don’t much like it, in Sumte or pretty much anywhere else in the western world, but their supposedly democratic governments don’t seem to care. Throughout most of Europe’s officialdom, and among at least half of America’s political parties, and even among the American press that brought us the sad story of Sumte, the bigger worry seems to be that extremist nationalist parties might benefit from the inevitable discontent.
We’re at least somewhat sympathetic to the concern regarding Germany, where extremist nationalist parties have proved so very bellicose over the past century, although even there we’re inclined to feel sorry for the Sumteans, but we wonder why Sweden and Great Britain and Denmark and other countries that have less troublesome histories should be similarly guilt-ridden. The sudden surge of migrants asking for the generous welfare benefits of Scandinavia, long the envy of America’s liberals and the role model for the surging insurgent Democratic presidential campaign of self-described and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, suddenly has those far-right crazies popping up even there. Even in the United States those Republicans have gone so extremist as to oppose mass immigration, with the same appalled reaction from the respectable press and the more respectable members of both major parties, and there is the same glaring gap between the opinion of the populace and that of its elected officials. Almost nowhere in the western world are the governments acting to defend the western civilization that its people have grown accustomed to, whether the populace prefers it because of racism and xenophobia and chauvinism or the same objectively valid reasons that have caused millions of people from the Middle East to migrate to the west, which also seems worrisome.
If the respectable press and the respectable parties are able to declare that any opposition to a preemptive surrender to a Third World invasion is outside the realm of respectability, we expect that the disreputable parties will indeed benefit. The New York Times’ account of Sumte’s travails includes some clearly reviled quotes from one neo-Nazi town councilman, as well as some regretful comments by an unreformed East German communist town councilman that are quoted with great respect, and although we’d like to think that at least a few of the other 103 people in town are somewhere in the more sensible middle we expect they’ll be tarred as right-wing extremists if they’d prefer to not be suddenly outnumbered more than seven-to-one by people who don’t speak German and practice a consequentially different religion and derive from countries with a culturally enforced hostility toward western values. Here in America we can still hope the Republicans will  insist on immigration policies that perpetuate the existing culture, and will retain whatever respectability comes with its status as one of the two major parties, but in much of it Europe we can see how only the worst sorts of elements will address the concerns of otherwise respectable people.
For the moment America’s immigration problems are less threatening, as most of the country’s unprecedented number of new arrivals don’t speak English but at least practice a religion that is less consequentially different than the American norm, or they don’t practice any religion at all, which is becoming the American norm, and they’re not so hostile to most western values, even if they derive from countries with a culturally enforced hostility to capitalism, but the issue is still thorny even here, and the Middle Eastern influx is becoming even thornier. Already the issue has provided a platform for the likes of Donald Trump, and anyone hoping to shame him out of the race should hope that a more respectable candidate will emerge to represent the overwhelming public opinion in favor of retaining something more or less like the cultural status quo.
The same respectable secular opinion that believes the culture of any cannibalistic Amazonian jungle tribe with bones in noses must be preserved in amber seem to also think that Sumte, Germany, or the entire country of Sweden or all of western civilization should be sacrificed on an altar of multi-culturalism to the most supremacist strain of Islam.  They’re worried that extremist parties might benefit from the extremism of the small town yokels in Sumte, Germany, and Wichita, Kansas, and we share their concern, but we’d also prefer to not only avoid the Nazis or the admittedly less dangerous charms of Donald Trump but also leave Sumte and the rest of western civilization intact.

— Bud Norman

Barbarians at the Gate, Then and Now

The decline and fall of the Roman Empire happened a long time ago, but it still seems to show up in the news often. What with the obvious decline and seemingly imminent fall of America and the rest of western civilization so far underway, the analogies are too hard to resist.
Everyone has his favorite theory about the causes of Rome’s demise, of course, with each person’s preference always neatly coinciding with his views on the current scene. The modern-day isolationists blame imperial overreach for that long ago decline and fall, while those who favor a more robust foreign policy point to the lack of attention paid to seemingly unimportant outposts in the empire. The cultural conservatives like to cite the legendary moral decadence of those final days, and the more liberal sorts have a notion that it was because of income inequality or some chemical in the pots they were cooking with that only went undetected due to the lack of a fully-funded Roman Consumer Protection Agency. A very smart fellow over at the American Spectator has written a most intriguing article about Europe’s recent immigration crisis, with obvious implications for our own problems with the matter, and he also posits an analogy to the fall of Rome.
His interpretation of classical history and its lessons for today is more persuasive than most, largely because he cites Edward Gibbons’ “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” the little-read but widely accepted as authoritative book on the subject. The passages he quotes, describing the mass migration of Goths into the Roman Empire at the end of the 4th Century, also have an eerily familiar ring.
“The Barbarians still wore an angry and hostile aspect; but the experience of past times might encourage the hope that they would acquire the habits of industry and obedience; that their manners would be polished by time, education, and the influence of Christianity; and their posterity would insensibly blend with the great body of the Roman people,” Gibbons wrote. He added that, “Notwithstanding these specious arguments, and these sanguine expectations, it was apparent to every discerning eye, that the Goths would long remain the enemies, and might soon become the conquerors of the Roman Empire. Their rude and insolent behavior expressed their contempt of the citizens and the provincials, whom they insulted with impunity.”
The European press has been reluctant to admit it, preferring to focus on the heartbreaking photos of dead Syrian children washing ashore on the beaches of a Europe that is somehow responsible for the mess that Middle Easterners have made of the Middle East, and of course the same old specious arguments and sanguine expectations about industry and obedience and good manners, but the current wave of refugees closely resemble those conquering Goths. The more democratic “social media” on the continent have been providing videotape of the refugees who are swamping the continent as they attack police, scornfully toss away the food and water that are generously provided them, and make demands for immediate transit to the jurisdictions with the most lavishly funded welfare states, and they also note how an inordinate number of these refugees from the Syrian conflict seem to be young and male and able-bodied and and unmarried and not from Syria, and how their rude and insolent behavior expresses their contempt of the citizens and provincials of modern day Europe.
Any American with a discerning eye has by now noticed such rudeness and insolence and contempt of the citizenry among a troublesome portion of this country’s gate-crashers, and especially among such advocacy groups as La Raza, with its nakedly racialist and suddenly plausible ambition for a reconquista of the southwest quadrant of this formerly anglophone country, but here, as in modern Europe and ancient Rome, the prevailing impulse is for specious arguments and sanguine expectations. Even such an able historian as Gibbons probably overlooked the economic arguments that were made in ancient Rome, about Goths doing the work that Romans wouldn’t do and all that, and there’s reason to believe that Germany’s plummeting fertility rates are driving Germany’s suddenly welcoming attitude toward hundreds of thousands of non-German-speaking and illiterate-in-their-own-language refugees from lands where the most stern sort of Islam is practiced, but now as in retrospect such specious arguments and sanguine expectations cannot explain the current madness.
We’ve always been inclined toward the theories about Rome falling due to a lack of attention paid to the far-away and politically troublesome chores of a Pax Romana and gradually slide into moral degeneracy, which fits neatly with our views on foreign policy and to a lesser extent our views on the social issues, and of course we understand that the latter is largely responsible for the former, but at the present moment we’re liking this idea about a lack of border enforcement being the cause of it all. Allowing the allegorical Barbarians into the gate, and then providing them with subsidies and various legal protections, proved a bad strategy back in the day and seems to prove just as futile this time around.
This time around the specious arguments and sanguine expectations are offered in all sincerity, and we suspect that even such a discerning eye as Edward Gibbons’ would concede that the ancient Romans had similarly good intentions, but they are no more convincing. Rarely do we disagree with anything that in appears in City Journal, the publication of the oh-so-intellectual yet right-wing Manhattan Institute, but we were even unswayed by a very well-written argument that at least the most authentic of these “refugees” deserve the compassion of America and the rest of western civilization. The author’s argument not only earns respect by its appeal to the values of western civilization, but also from the fact that his father once feed the horrors of the holocaust in Nazi Germany and survived only by joining a beleaguered French Resistance in the snowy Pyrenees after being turned away by the western democracies, and we do not take it lightly. Still, we reject his argument that his father was no different from the men who so openly express contempt for the nations they hope to inhabit and live of its productivity, and we’d think it a most tragic result of history if Europe were atone for the Holocaust by ceding the continent to people who proudly pine to finish the job.
Here and in Europe, though, the next few epochs of history could go in any direction. Throughout what used to be called “western civilization” there are rules of etiquette that insist on the specious arguments and sanguine expectations about industry and obedience and all the rest of it, but the social media and Donald Trump and all those nativist parties popping up in European countries suggests that will meet some resistance.

— Bud Norman

Meanwhile, in the Rest of the World

All of the attention is currently focused on the continuing train wreck that is Obamacare, naturally enough, but it is worth noting that America’s foreign policy is also going off the rails.
The last time Americans took notice of the rest of the world was when President Barack Obama tried unsuccessfully to whip up some enthusiasm for a bigger-than-a-pinprick-but-still-“unbelievably-small” war in Syria, and when that crisis was outsourced to Russian President Vladimir Putin and receded from the headlines the country happily resumed its inward gaze. Without an imminent threat of war, even an unbelievably small one, most people assumed that except for the unpleasantness in that Kenyan shopping mall and the usual massacres of Christians in Pakistan and Nigeria all was once again well with the world. Our international relations have actually been going so badly, though, that the results are starting up in the midst of all those horror stories about Obamacare.
Even The Washington Post, which is usually loathe to report anything embarrassing to the administration, seems alarmed by America’s recent estrangement from Saudi Arabia. The paper’s veteran foreign affairs writer David Ignatius likens the situation to a car wreck, the train wreck metaphor apparently having been reserved for the Obamacare stories, and although he allots some of the blame to the Saudis he does not spare the Obama administration his criticism. He notes that in the past week Saudi Arabia has declined to take a seat on the United Nations’ Security Council as a deliberate affront to America, and notes that the former Saudi intelligence chief publicly expressed “a high level of disappoint” in America’s stands on Syria and Palestine. There’s also a great deal of Saudi disappointment in America’s weak response to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, which threaten all of the Arab and Sunni Islam world, and in Obama’s support for the radical Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere, and a “knowledgeable Arab official” is quoted as saying that the Saudi monarch “is convinced the U.S. is unreliable.”
The Saudi monarch is a terror-loving tyrant running a backwards and troublesome land with typical Middle Eastern brutality, but his country has been a cornerstone of American foreign policy in the region since Franklin Roosevelt started sucking up to it back in the ‘30s. Losing Saudi Arabia to the Russian sphere of influence, along with its considerable economic clout and central position in the Muslim world, is a worrisome development. Worse yet, this time the Saudi’s concerns are all quite reasonable, except for the lack of appreciation for America’s Israel-bashing attempts to coddle the Palestinians, and are shared by such essential allies as Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and of course Israel, which has its own reasons to worry about Iranian nuclear bombs and American fecklessness. Throw in the reports that Secretary of State John Kerry is facing the same sort of dissent within his own State Department over the still-lingering-despite-the-news-blackout Syrian civil war, and America’s Middle Eastern policy seems in complete disrepair.
Crucial allies in other parts of the world have also been dissatisfied with America’s conduct in recent years. In Germany, where Obama was treated as a sort of messiah when he spoke to an adoring throng while campaigning there for some reason or another during the ’08 campaign, the big story if Chancellor Angela Merkel’s anger at the revelation America had been listening in on her cell phone conversations. White House spokesman Jay Carney has huffily denied that America is doing any such thing, but he conspicuously declined to deny that America has done in the past, and the omission did not go unnoticed in Germany. Revelations about the National Security Agency’s extensive data-gathering outraged many of the Americans whose phone records and internet use were being monitored, even if the press politely let the topic drop from the news, but Germans who are still smarting from the snoopiness of the Stasi secret police in communist East Germany and the Gestapo of an earlier era are understandably even touchier about such things. The rest of Europe seems miffed, too, and its Parliament has now threatened to stop cooperating with American intelligence efforts.
Obama won the presidency and wowed those naïve German crowds by promising to make America the most popular kid in the international school cafeteria, but that seems to be going about as well as the promises that Obamacare would lower your insurance premiums, allow you to keep your coverage, and be a model of bureaucratic efficiency.

— Bud Norman