Saturday, 19 November 2016

Why Enda needs to say: "Hello Donald! Auf Wiedersehen Angela!"

"There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever."

George Orwell
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In his valedictory spell as Taoiseach, Enda Kenny has but one major policy decision which remains to be made. In the wake of the US presidential election, he faces two directions in which he may point Irish geostrategic policy over the next decade. The first is to turn his gaze westwards to the ascendant wave of conservative nationalism which is exemplified by America's new president-elect. If you want to picture this future, look at the beaming faces of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage standing outside the gilded door of the former's penthouse apartment. For all its virtues and shortcomings (and there are many of both), this is the picture of prevailing non-elite western public opinion. To see what this picture will morph into as the years of evolution inevitably justify some of the hopes and dash others, picture geopolitics as a giant sporting event, with loud, pugnacious and politically incorrect fans draped in their national colours in a spirit of (hopefully friendly) competition. If Kenny turns eastwards to Angela Merkel in Berlin, he will see a different vision. If you want to picture this future, look at the video made by Hungarian truckdriver, Arpad Jeddi, in Calais earlier this year, as swarms of thuggish "refugees" force trucks to come to a halt so that they can stow away in their containers. This is precisely what prevailing non-elite opinion does not want. If you want to know what this picture will morph into over time, think of the aforementioned boot stamping on the face.

In the last week, outlets like the Guardian and the New York Times have hailed Germany's Chancellor as the world's foremost defender of liberalism in the age of Trump. This is the same person whose federal police and interior ministry are reputedly being advised by former agents of East Germany's notorious Stasi on how to police social media for "hate speech"; the same person whose police actively suppresses information in relation to crimes committed by Mid-Eastern and Asian migrants in order to protect her immigration policies from criticism; and the same person who supported the prosecution of a comedian who wrote a rude poem about Turkey's Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Say what you like for the lefties: their stomachs are stronger than their senses of irony. And pardon my pedantic adherence to to the etymological root of liberalism (i.e. liberty), but if Angela Merkel is the best champion we can hope for, I'd just as soon take my chances with Trump, thank you very much.

Dr. Merkel is Europe's foremost tragedy. She had the intellectual heft to provide real leadership within Europe after the 2008 crash but established a depressingly repetitive pattern of saying many of the right things and then delivering nothing more than progressive, globalist virtue signalling. In the aftermath of the 2008 crash, she spoke harshly of the Obama-led move towards fiscal stimulus and questioned the moral hazard of bailing out fiscally irresponsible governments. Faced, however, with a European peripheral debt crisis that had been caused by a dysfunctional single currency, she blinked. None other than the euro's own chief architect, Prof. Ottmar Issing, said that Greece should have left the euro, defaulted and shared the massive pain of transition between its own beleaguered economy and the lemming financial institutions that had so heedlessly rushed to lend her money. Against this advice, Merkel insisted on putting the EU and the euro ahead of her own country's public opinion and Greece's and, in doing so, managed to rip her own taxpayers off, reward the idiotic lending policies of financial institutions and simultaneously bailout Greece's rotten public sector and emasculate her primitive economy.

She also talked about the need to ensure that the ECB not breach its legal authority by purchasing sketchy member state sovereign debt. However, when Mario Draghi insisted that only such a commitment could save the euro, she went against the wishes of her own Central Bank chief Jens Weidmann by acquiescing to Dr. Draghi ignoring his legal mandates. In so doing, she put the welfare of the euro ahead of that of Europe's constituent nations' economies - not to mention the rule of law. Indeed, her ultimate insistence that the solution to the euro-crisis was "more Europe, not less" demonstrated that, when push  came to shove, her loyalty was to unelected elites rather than to Europe's populations. Indeed, in order to curry favour with the Davos elites, she ignored not only her own population but many of her own country's accredited experts, not just Issing and Weidman but former Bundesbank board member Thilo Sarrazin, whose 2015 book Europa braucht den Euro nicht (Europe does not need the euro) became a bestseller in her country.

However, the true glory of Merkel's abandonment of reality came last year when, ignoring EU law (specifically, the Dublin Regulation), she unilaterally invited a functionally unlimited number of Mid-Eastern and North African migrants into her country. When this army of young men threatened the collapse of her country's social services infrastructure and (in the case of regrettably many) went on sex crime rampages in cities like Cologne and Hamburg, she tried to insist that other EU countries accept their "fair" share of the migrants and the financial burdens that went with them. Her cloyingly arrogant motto "Wir schaffen das" (we can do it) was accompanied by bizarre statements to the effect that if her people did not support this "Willkommenskultur", then Germany was "not my country". In Merkel's mind, it seemed, it was for the German people to prove that they were good enough for their Chancellor and not the other way round.     

Of course, while her population turns against her (look at recent gains in the polls by the AfD party), she basks in the approval of the outgoing US president, his chosen successor (who shall not now succeed him) and the bien pensant commentariat. Her arrogant pseudo-congratulation of President-elect Trump last week demonstrated that she values the good opinion of the international ruling class more than that of her own population. Merkel is thus on her way out. However, given the enormous damage that her maniacal Euro-imperialism and indifference to her own people's well-being have inflicted, it would be naive to believe that, in the time she has left, she cannot cause yet more trouble.

What Enda Kenny needs to do is to recognise that, in the emerging political tableau, there is a sort of Cold World War III in process. In this war, instead of nations fighting one another, we have a conflict that traverses borders. On the one hand, we have a metropolitan class, which wants to eviscerate borders and nations, fight endless Wilsonian wars, strip the democratic process of control over public policy and empower an unaccountable and arrogant administrative state to rig the world economy. On the other, we have national electorates who are not on board with this project and have been declared the public enemy by their own political class. While it would be fatuous to morally equate Merkel with Hitler, in this world war, her heedless imperial arrogance places her into a historic role equivalent to that of the Austrian psychopath. Meanwhile, Trump and Farage may be flawed individuals, but then, so were Roosevelt and Churchill, and history has cast the former pair into the historic roles that the latter played in the 1940s.

If Kenny realises this, he can add some noble purpose to his (thus far, largely pointless) reign in power. However, Ireland's respectable opinion still pines for the Merkel doctrine. The preference was best summed-up on the Senate floor last week by Labour's Aodhan O'Riordan, an upper house member whose inglorious career as a TD was ended by his North Bay constituents last February. O'Riordan was so outraged at the Kenny government's gracious congratulation of Mr. Trump and his running mate Mike Pence, that his face flushed with righteous anger as he denounced Trump as a Fascist and professed to be embarrassed at the official government reaction to his election. I wish O'Riordan's hysteria represented a lunatic fringe but, alas, it reflects what most of the political class seems to privately think.

Throughout his time in office, Enda Kenny has not once chosen to take a stand against trendy, progressive mores so one cannot be optimistic that he will act in our national interest. However, if he wishes to (even just momentarily) recapture the spirit of anti-metropolitan rebellion that he occasionally showed in opposition, he will stand athwart Merkel's frightful vision for the future and say nein.    

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Obama's Legacy: President Trump

2008 seems like another world, doesn't it? Nobody came to the office of President of the US with as much good will as Barack Obama and it seems superficially surprising that what appeared to be an inherently healing moment could be the prelude to eight years of almost unprecedented division and vitriol. In hindsight though, the signs of what was to come were there all along. An extraordinarily complicit media foreshadowed its complete abandonment of basic journalistic standards in 2016 by giving Obama a free pass on his long-term association with the sinister ethno-nationalist preacher Jeremiah Wright and Weather Underground terrorist William Ayers. History has also crammed down the memory hole the fact that despite his opponent running an extraordinarily inept campaign that included an incredibly dubious vice-presidential choice and a bizarre ad on the day of Obama's convention speech which all but invited people to vote for the Democratic nominee, the lustrous aura of faux-reconciliation was already beginning to rub off the holy one before he had even been elected. Never forget that a week before Lehman Brothers collapsed, John McCain had clawed back his deficit and gone into a slight lead. Without Dick Fuld's folly, Obama might never have won.

As he took office in January 2009, Obama should have realised that he was perhaps the most uniquely unqualified occupant of the office to date. His professional hinterland consisted of an academic career in which he had published neither a scholarly book nor even an academic paper, an undistinguished career as a public interest lawyer and state legislator and four inconsequential years in the Senate during which his main accomplishments consisted of authoring bills renaming post offices. Despite his indubitable intelligence and bookishness, his principal accomplishments prior to winning office were writing two mediocre books about his favourite subject: himself. In a moment that called for humility, he demonstrated the disasters that were to come by accepting the Nobel Peace Prize - an accolade that he had done literally nothing (good or bad) to earn.

Had he shown some humility, he might have concentrated on foreign policy - one of the few areas in which the US Constitution accords the president significant unilateral power. Despite his puerile (and probably quite superficial) anti-Britishness, his undergraduate prejudices against any country that's ever had a colony and his typical leftist tendency to view Islam through rose-tinted glasses, Obama's core instincts in relation to foreign policy seemed to be sensible. He appeared to have absorbed the lesson that every American intervention in the Middle East and West Asia had been a disaster and they should leave well enough alone. Had he decided to define his presidency by reference to a cold, realist foreign policy and given up on grandiose domestic projects that had no viability in an era of austerity, he might have been a successful (if hardly spectacular) president. However, despite having opinions on foreign relations, they did not motivate or animate him. Obama cared more about a domestic agenda of big government leftism. He therefore made the Lyndon Johnson trade-off. In order to reserve political capital for his socialistic domestic agenda, he outsourced foreign policies to the Wilsonian and Neo-Con cadres whose failures in Iraq had discredited his predecessor before the 2008 crash had even occurred.

Had he asserted himself properly, the disastrous war in Libya, with the subsequent North African division of the migrant crisis might never have happened, the Saudi and Qatari-backed "freedom fighters" of Syria might never have crystallised into ISIS and Jabhat al Nusra and the so-called "Arab Spring" might have been recognised as a reactionary Islamic revanche rather than a democratic revolution. When Donald Trump called Obama the founder of ISIS, he wasn't entirely accurate, as ISIS has many other fathers (and mothers), but his underlying point as to the centrality of Obama's negligence in the group's foundation was spot-on.  

Having turned his back on foreign affairs, Obama pursued what appeared to be his main policy objective of radically socialising vast swathes of the American economy. First, he enacted an US$800 billion"stimulus" package of pork barrel spending and tax cuts. It turned out that the Federal government couldn't actually identify infrastructure or public works projects quickly enough to spend the money, the result of which was that the inventory cycle had rolled over and the Great Recession had technically ended before the first Dollar of stimulus money was spent. His other main priorities were comprehensive "climate change" action which would have inflicted massive pain on blue collar America at the point at which it could least afford it and a law called "Card Check", which was designed to make it easier for Trade Unions to intimidate recalcitrant workers into voting for union representation by eliminating secret ballot requirements. When these Bills died in Congress, he turned his attention to passing Obamacare, a chaotic farrago of bureaucratic socialism and crony capitalism to make it palatable to industry special interests. This was to be his signature policy achievement and, ironically, one of the tie breaker issues that brought Donald Trump to power.

Even after all these years, it seems to me that Obama's policies were designed to worsen the 2009 recession, to elongate it and to deepen it for the purposes of making vast swathes of the population welfare-dependant and inclined to support bigger government - and he came quite a long way down that road to achieving his aim. However, it would have taken a powerful imagination to foresee that the Federal Reserve would be able to use 84 months of zero interest rates and three rounds of quantitative easing to inflate yet another massive financial bubble. This bubble saved his presidency from one-term ignominy by depriving his Tea Party opposition of political oxygen, but it probably also killed the plans of his more ideological backers like Jared Bernstein, Van Jones and Robert Reich for a vast expansion of central planning over the economy.

Bubbles aside though, a second term and the attendant liberation from electoral concerns allowed Obama to pursue his pet projects. What happened next surprised me. Just as he had quickly lost interest in foreign policy in his first term, he seemed to lose interest in economic policy in his second. A lame duck Obama felt free to pursue his passion for racial identity politics. His hostility to his country's ethnic majority was never too hard for an astute observer to glean. In his early years, he concealed it beneath a veil of patronising condescension ("bitterly clinging to their guns and religion") but as time wore on, his petulant personality made it harder and harder for him and his wife to conceal their distaste. In 2008, Michelle Obama had said that ordinary people's lives had been worsening for decades - they had. By 2016, she chided Mr. Trump by saying that America had "never been greater" than today - an easy conclusion to reach if you believe that those whose lives are demonstrably getting worse are somehow getting what they deserve.

Obama and his supporters made no effort to conceal their desire to increase the size of their "minority" electoral base by throwing the Mexican border open (even going so far as to sue the State of Arizona for trying to enforce Federal immigration laws) and announcing that after the failure to pass "Comprehensive Immigration Reform", the Federal government would simply stop enforcing immigration laws against the estimated 11 million illegal aliens in the country. In addition to essentially destroying the last vestiges of constitutional governance by legislating by executive order, Obama was, in broad daylight, trying to, as Brecht would put it, "elect a new people" in order to turn his country into a one-party state.

Meanwhile, in the field of domestic race relations, Obama and his allies shamelessly incited flashmobs in low and middle income locales on the basis of "racist killing" narratives, many of which collapsed on their first contact with scrutiny. The two most famous rallying points were the deaths of Trayvon Martin in Florida and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. In the case of Martin, the Florida police made an entirely justifiable decision not to prosecute his killer George Zimmerman, in a case which distinguished Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz said had "reasonable doubt" and "self defence" written all over it. Obama demagogically encouraged an ultimately unsuccessful prosecution by saying that if he had a son, "he'd look like Trayvon". In the case of Michael Brown, a fabricated narrative was promulgated in which Brown had begged Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department to please not shoot. By the time it emerged that Brown had been violently assaulting Wilson and trying to grab his gun off him, a convenience store from which Brown had earlier robbed a packet of cigars had been burned down by an angry mob.

Obama and his attorneys general, Holder and Lynch, used their bully pulpit and a plethora of Justice Department law suits to falsely gin up a picture of a criminal justice system resembling the plot of To Kill a Mocking Bird. In so doing, they created a crisis which vaguely resembles the plot of Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities. Since the Ferguson shooting, murders have climbed by 16.2% in America's 56 largest metropolitan areas and yet Obama's Justice Department and its compliant press minions furiously deny that there is any such thing as a "Ferguson Effect".

Ultimately, Obama's embrace of institutional political correctness, his indifference to concerns about executive overreach, a rogue administrative state, chaotic law enforcement and his open expressions of disdain for working class white males created what his hysterical acolytes are calling the "whitelash". One does not have to believe in the ridiculous caricature of "Trumpism" as a white male supremacist movement to accept that it is, first and foremost, a vehicle for white and male anger. What Obama's supporters need to accept is that this anger is both rational and justified.

So what is Obama's legacy? Not Obamacare. That is now surely doomed. Not the rest of his agenda, which was achieved by executive orders which can be repealed in a heartbeat. No. His legacy is President Trump. Trump is the apotheosis of the Obama agenda: proof that his efforts to start a culture war against the historic American nation have been an unqualified success. He is also its ultimate downfall: it was a war he could not win and hasn't.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Trump: A Mirror for Our Rulers' Souls

So the moment that opponents convinced themselves could never happen just happened. Donald Trump is the President-elect. Much will be said about how and why this happened in the days, weeks, months and indeed years to come. What is perhaps more interesting, however, is why the Trump phenomenon blindsided the establishment to the extent to which it did and what the reaction of the world's ruling caste to his campaign says about the state of western public life. 

On the face of it, it's not hard to see how those with the most education and erudition disliked Trump as viscerally as their public statements would indicate. His rhetorical style is (to put it politely) on the nose (just Google the search term "Trumpisms" and you'll enjoy hours of entertainment). His policy programme was incoherent. His mastery of the minutiae of public policy was suspect. His shoot from the lip style of communication demonstrated a complete lack of any grounding in the finer points of diplomacy - he didn't say that Mexicans were rapists but it's hard to see how a man with as much media experience as he has couldn't have avoided leaving such a hostage to decontextualised quotation. Moreover, in endorsing torture and baldly asserting that he would expect military personnel to follow illegal orders, he was committing a sin even greater than saying the unthinkable - namely, saying in public what most occupants of high office actually think but would only say in private.

That said, it's not hard to think of previous major party nominees who have displayed many of the foregoing habits without attracting such stunning vitriol. Indeed, the most incredible aspect of the Trump campaign is the manner in which those who pride themselves most in a clinical, intellectual and unemotional approach to political thought indulged in the most ferally hysterical and plainly irrational caricaturing, whilst leaving it to the supposedly ill-tempered masses to apply a pragmatic and cool analysis to the man to whom they ultimately gave their mandate. 

Almost as interesting as the Trump enigma is the enigmatic nature of the peculiar allergy to his obvious apostasies that those with ostensibly coherent ideological worldviews manifested. 

For instance, Trump was no libertarian. However, on foreign policy, he was the most dovish Republican since Eisenhower and the first major presidential nominee since Reagan to explicitly criticise inflationist policies from the Fed. This should have entitled him to a nuanced reception from libertarians, but instead, he attracted venom from them like no other candidate in modern history. 

Likewise, Trump was no leftist, but he was the first Republican since Theodore Roosevelt to raise issues such as wage stagnation and income inequality and far from his image as a fire-breathing bigot, he became the first Republican nominee to use the (cringe-inducing) acronym, LGBTQ in his convention speech. Yet far from giving him credit for these substantial hat-tips to their concerns, leftists insisted on treating Trump as the second coming of Hitler.

Trump was, in most key respects, the most centrist Republican nominee since Gerald Ford, with a foreign policy outlook not dissimilar to Richard Nixon's 1970s detente doctrines. Moreover, he also (much to this free marketeer's chagrin) pledged his support for the continuation of such bureaucratic entitlement programmes as Social Security and Medicare - which Mitt Romney had been viciously assailed for even hinting at reforming. And yet centrists despised him.

There was plenty for an ideological purist to dislike about Trump's worldview, but his philosophical inconsistency is hardly unique - indeed, it is regrettably the norm, as is the tendency to make unrealistic promises and to present unviable and uncosted programmes to the public. No. None of the obvious explanations behind the establishment's visceral hatred of Trump really make sense. In the end, what the great and the good really find objectionable is far less reconcilable with the existence of a political class that cares one iota about its fiduciary duties to the public.

What made Donald Trump unique within the current electoral cycle is not his (fairly banal) ideological positions or the racism or misogyny which were artificially grafted onto his persona in an effort to justify the caricature. Rather, what distinguished him was a belief that is discussed openly in every pub, bar, cafe and, yes, locker-room in the western world: a certain inchoate feeling that regularly expresses itself in private (but rarely public) discourse that western civilisation and everything we like about it is being destroyed from within and from outside. Trump was hardly the first to see it but he was the first candidate with the profile and the money to speak openly of it without fear of catastrophic social consequences.

Trump seems to have recognised that western civilisation is threatened by political correctness from within and by demographic change being imposed upon it from abroad. In the real world outside the media and academic bubble, a growing misandry threatens traditional aspects of male culture and social life while an increasingly intolerant diversity police harasses the working and middle classes about the "unbearable whiteness" of their professional or social lives. All the while, the culture of safe spaces, trigger warnings and no-platforming in education slowly dissolves and corrodes the meta-culture that protects the viability of freedom of speech, conscience and association. The growing administrative state stifles small and independent business while simultaneously taking more and more of the traditional prerogatives of elected legislatures and executives away from democratic control. Finally, foreign and immigration policy have needlessly resulted in the declaration of culture wars against the Muslim world which policies of mass third world immigration and multiculturalism doom us to losing. Slowly but surely, the intellectual propositions upon which the occidental culture that has made industrial democracy possible are being assailed with the consent of an intolerant elite and its armies of enforcers.

Trump's cardinal sin was nothing more than that he looked at two thousand years of European civilisation and saw in it something worth preserving. The perceived virtue common to all of his opponents (from both parties) was that they saw nothing in that civilisation whose ultimate destruction they were not willing to condone and celebrate. As the anonymous writer for the Claremont Review of Books who styles himself Publius Decius Mus recently put it:

"Trump, alone among candidates for high office in this or in the last seven (at least) cycles, has stood up to say: I want to live. I want my party to live. I want my country to live. I want my people to live. I want to end the insanity.

It is this aversion to any self-conscious belief in the unique virtues of European culture that explains Trump hysteria - not his (real) policy shortcomings or his (imaginary) hatreds and loathings. If the coming century is not to be a complete disaster relative to the last, it is an aversion that the educated class had best learn to conquer.