In his first interview after the 2020 presidential election, former President Trump said that “getting along with Vladimir Putin (of Russia) is a good thing, and I get along with him very well.” Trump also said, however, that nobody was tougher on Russia than he was. And in John Bolton’s book “The Room Where it Happened”, Bolton says that Trump did tell him that both Russia and China were a threat.
It would seem that the U.S. has shared interests with Russia. Russia is a mostly Christian country that is geographically close to countries with extremist Muslim movements (like Afghanistan) and to countries with extremist Muslim governments (like Iran and Turkey). Russia’s wide-open spaces borders a crowded and powerful China. And some conservatives such as Pat Buchanan believe that Russia is morally superior to the hedonistic West.
One big reason to be on the good side of Putin is, as Putin accurately pointed out at a banquet, that Russia was the only country that could “destroy America in half an hour or less.”
Putin has been described as rightly embittered by the expansion of NATO to former Soviet Bloc countries. Donald Trump said in 2014 that “We’ve hurt Russia and we’ve done certain things that have really hurt Russia…” He added that Putin is “wounded” and that “wounded people and wounded animals can do lots of strange things and we’d better be a little bit careful.”
Whether the reasons for Russian behavior are understandable or not, its’ government has made the decision to be an adversary to the Western democracies.
Apart from the Russian troop buildup to Ukraine, on March 24 Daily Street News reported that “Tanks and other heavy armor” are “on-the-move in Grodno, Belarus, [heading] toward the borders of Poland and Lithuania.” Grodno is at the western-most road-hub leading to the Sawalki gap, considered to be “the most vulnerable stretch of land in Europe.” It is the ideal staging area for a Russian/Belarussian invasion of Poland and Lithuania. As reported by Time Magazine, “If Moscow gained control of the [Sawalki] corridor the Baltic States would, catastrophically, be cut off from other NATO allies.
It would seem that Russia would be cautious about China, but Russia and China are allies, and as an example, they agreed last January, to develop a joint Ballistic Missile Early Warning system.
It would also seem that the Russians would be cautious about extremist Muslim nations, but Russia supplies the very anti-American Muslim nation of Iran with arms. In addition, American General John Nicholson, while he was head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan said this: “We’ve had weapons brought to this headquarters and given to us by Afghan leaders [who] said, this was given by the Russians to the Taliban. We know that the Russians are involved.”
A country where Russia, China, Cuba, and Iran are all involved lies 1000 miles away from the U.S. That country is Venezuela. Nicolas Maduro’s Marxist dictatorship that leads that country got help in a rough spot from Russia. When it looked as if an uprising against Maduro’s regime in Venezuela might succeed, Russian paramilitaries arrived to protect Maduro.”
According to Bolton’s book “The Room Where It Happened”, “Moscow’s menace was undeniable, both military and financial, having expended substantial resources to buttress Maduro.”
Venezuela hands out passports to Iranians (and has Hezbollah (an Iranian supported Muslim terror Group) within its borders. An agreement between Venezuela and Iran was signed during a visit of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to Tehran on October 19, 2010. The contract provided for the establishment of a jointly operated military base in Venezuela..
Maduro has defied Western pressure with the assistance of Cuban security forces, as well as Russian and Chinese support. Russia startled U.S. officials in December 2018 by sending to Venezuela for military exercises two bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons. It also dispatched about 100 members of the military to repair Maduro’s S-300 anti-aircraft missile defense system after a nationwide power outage.
Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez, boasted that his air force could sink the U.S. Fourth Fleet in the Caribbean because it had received 24 Russian Sukhoi Su-30MK2 combat aircraft.
So, to sum up, Russia works with America’s enemies, and concessions to it are of dubious value. Trump, according to Bolton’s book, did privately float the thought of getting out of NATO entirely, and Biden in practice has been worse than Trump, signing an extension to the New Start nuclear weapons treaty without conditions that the Republicans had been pressing for. Wishful thinking – that Russia has been pressed to the wall and is acting reasonably given the circumstances, is dangerous. During the cold war with the Soviet Union, which was then Communist, Americans had apologists for it as well – and our president called Stalin, who turned out to be a mass murderer, “Uncle Joe”. Winston Churchill, who was prime minister of England during World War II, said of Russia in 1939 “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.” Russia saw its national interest differently than we would have – it signed a treaty with Nazi Germany, and they both carved up Poland, among other developments.
During the Trump administration there was an uprising in Venezuela that failed. The U.S. tried to help and the story is in John Bolton’s book “The Room Where It Happened”.
“Nicolas Maduro’s autocratic regime was a threat due to its Cuba connection and the openings it afforded Russia, China, and Iran. …Moscow [had] expended substantial resources to buttress Maduro, dominate Venezuela’s oil and gas industry and impose costs on the US. Beijing was not far behind.”
Trump was considering a military option against Venezuela, but Bolton dissented: “I explained why military force was not the answer, especially given the inevitable congressional opposition.”
Bolton, who laments Trump’s propensity to change his mind often, also writes: “…Of course, Trump also periodically said that he wanted to meet with Maduro to resolve all our problems with Venezuela, which neither Pompeo nor I thought was a good idea. “
The Venezuelan liberation movement that the U.S. tried to help started when:
“The new young president of the National Assembly, Juan Guaido, announced at a huge rally in Caracas that the Assembly believed Maduro’s manifestly fraudulent 2018 reelection was illegitimate, and therefore invalid.”
Its interesting now to note that Trump claims the U.S. election that defeated him (Trump) was fraudulent and therefore invalid, and John Bolton disagreed with Trump on that accusation. In response to that and other criticism by Bolton, Trump said his former national security adviser (Bolton) was a “dope,” and that Bolton’s advice always boiled down to “Gee, let’s go to war.”
At least in the case of Venezuela, this was not true, Bolton was against going to war.
The Russians themselves were not averse to using force for their interests, and Russian paramilitaries reportedly were arriving to protect Maduro.
To give you an idea of what Maduro’s regime was (and is) like: “Maduro’s secret police broke into Guaido’s home and threatened his wife and young daughter.”
But there were intermediate steps the U.S. could have taken and did not:
“Consistent with his public threats of a “full and complete embargo” on Cuba because of the oil shipments between Venezeula and Cuba, Trump also repeatedly asked the Defense Department for concrete options on how to stop such shipments, including interdiction. Although military force inside Venezuela was a nonstarter, using force to slice Cuba’s oil lifeline could have been dramatic. The Pentagon did nothing.”
“In the meantime in late March, Russia sent in new troops and equipment, labelling one shipment as humanitarian, and trying to obfuscate what its presence amounted to. There were strong indications more were coming…”
“An unnecessary negative development, says Bolton, was Trump’s decision to call Putin…Putin said our support for Guaido had consolidated support for Maduro. ..” Bolton notes that he thought Putin largely persuaded Trump.
In one chapter Bolton tells the story of the uprising, the rallies of freedom lovers in Venezuela, the defectors from the regime, but in the end, it all failed. Why?
At the end of the chapter, Bolton gives his reasons:
“At the end of that last day in April 2019, two decades off mutual mistrust, cowardice on the part of several regime leaders who had committed to act but who lost their nerve at the critical moment; some tactical mistakes by the inexperienced Opposition; the absence of any US advisors on the ground who might and I underline “might,” have helped make a difference; and the cold cynical pressure of the Cubans and the Russians, brought the attempted uprising to a halt the day it started… But make no mistake: this rebellion came very close to succeeding. “
On reading this chapter, I’m not convinced by Bolton. “Close to succeeding” is still not succeeding. Maybe if there had been American military presence more people would have taken the risk to defect. If you were a military person in Venezuela, you had to do a cost-benefit analysis. You saw the Cubans, the Russians, and the Iranians in your country, you assumed that Maduro’s military was mostly loyal to him, and you would take a big risk in opposing Maduro. American (or other forces) were nowhere to be seen. So I’m not surprised the uprising failed. Bolton says that one day Venezuela will be free. But if we look at Cuba’s own regime, it outlasted all the presidents from John Kennedy to now, and it shows no sign of going away. Venezuela, in my view, may stay a dictatorship for a very long time.
In his book “The Room Where It Happened”, John Bolton describes his period as National Security Advisor in the Trump Administration. Bolton and others were disturbed that Trump would change his mind about various issues, and advisors were constantly worried he do something dramatic (and wrong, in their view). For instance Trump asked Bolton why not withdraw entirely from NATO. I’ll concentrate in this post on the chapter “Trump Heads for the Door in Syria and Afghanistan and Can’t Find it.” Here are some quotes from the book
War by radical Islamist terrorists against the United States began long before 9/11 (bloggers note, 9/11/2001 was when Islamic terrorists flew airplanes into American skyscrapers) and will continue long after. You can like it or not, but it is reality. Donald Trump didn’t like it, and acted like it wasn’t true.
“Ironically, although the media painted Trump as viscerally anti-Muslim, he never grasped…that Erdogan (the leader of Turkey) was himself a radical Islamicist…(who) was busy transforming Turkey from Kemal Ataturk’s secular state into an Islamicist state.”
Turkey had a long war with Kurdish groups, the PKK being one of the groups. The U.S. considered the PKK to be terrorists, but the Kurds had helped the U.S. fight ISIS. The U.S. felt that abandoning the Kurds would have severely adverse consequences for any future effort to recruit allies who might later be seen as expendable.
Trump wanted “to get the hell out” of Northeast Syria, where the American presence helped deter the Turks from invading and attacking the Kurds.
Trump told Erdogan that if Turkey fought ISIS, (which was present in Syria) the U.S. would just get out. Bolton did not like this, he felt that “withdrawing from Syria was a huge mistake, because of both the continuing global threat of ISIS, and the fact that Iran’s substantial influence would undoubtably grow.”
The French President, Macron, did not like it either. He told Trump that Turkey was focussed on attacking the Kurds and would compromise with ISIS. Israel’s ambassador Ron Dermer told Bolton that Trump’s decision to pull out made his (Dermer’s) day the worst day he had experienced thus far in the Trump administration.
Bolton had left the Trump administration for a month when in October 6, 2019, Trump again ordered a withdrawal. Bolton writes that “The result of Trump’s decision was a complete debacle for US policy and for our credibility worldwide.”
The presence of the U.S. special forces amongst Kurdish YPG fighters had formerly served as an effective barrier against Turkish attack. Their abrupt withdrawal, following a phone conversation between Trump and Turkish President Erdogan, gave Ankara an unambiguous green light to initiate military operations against the Kurdish forces which could not be walked back by subsequent conflicting statements from the White House. Less than 24 hours later, Turkish jets began pounding Kurdish positions, followed by a Turkish artillery and ground attacks. Later, the United States joined Russia in vetoing a statement supported by the rest of the Security Council condemning Turkish operations against the Syrian Kurds.
Switching to another war, the war in Afghanistan, Trump believed he had given Secretary of Defense James Mattis all the leeway he requested to finish the Taliban. The Taliban, however, were winning. Trump had campaigned on ending “endless wars” in faraway places. Bolton’s argument was that
“we hadn’t started the wars and couldn’t end them just by our own say-so. Across the Islamic world, the radical philosophies that had caused so much death and destruction were ideological, political and well as religious. Just as religious fervor had driven human conflicts for millennia, so it was driving this one, against America and the West more broadly. It wasn’t going away because we were tired of it, or because we found it inconvenient to balancing our budget.”
Bolton adds that he is not a “nation builder”, and the point wasn’t to make Afghanistan or Iraq or Syria nicer places to live. It was about keeping America safe from another 9/11, or even worse, a 9/11 where the terorists had nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. Bolton also worried that if the Taliban took power in Afghanistan again, they would destabilize their Muslim neighbor, Pakistan. Pakistan had nuclear weapons, so having it fall to terrorists would be a specially bad scenario.
Trump said in a meeting with Bolton and others:
“We’ll never get out. This was done by a stupid person named George Bush. Millions of people killed, trillions of dollars, and we just can’t do it. Another six months, that’s what they said before, and we’re still getting our asses kicked.” Then he launched into a favorite story, about how we helicoptered schoolteachers every day to their school because it was too dangerous for them to go on their own” “Cost a fortune. The IG was right,” he said….(he added:) They hate us and they shoot us in the back, blew the back of the guy’s head off, arms and legs and things (referring to a recent “green-on-blue” attack where a Utah National Guardsman was killed.) [green on blue means an Afghan soldier or policeman who is supposedly on our side turns his gun suddenly on our soldiers].
My own impression of the book is that Trump wanted to keep his promises to his base, and did not understand why “endless wars” were justified, especially wars we were losing. On the other hand, I understand Bolton’s views as well. Personally, for what its worth, I feel the U.S. is a weak power – dramatically in debt, and currently with the left in power. I do not think we have the money to fight wars, and constraints such as the need to fight door to door (this happened in Fallujah Iraq, for instance) because we don’t want to bomb civilians does mean that we lose a lot of soldiers. In the case of Afghanistan, our supplies had to travel through either Pakistan (not quite a friend), or a former territory of the Soviet Union (I’m not up to date on what the status of our presence in that second territory is now). Elements of the Pakistan military help the Taliban, and Afghanistan also borders another enemy of the U.S., Iran. It just seems like a very bad setting to put our soldiers in.
Nonetheless, we should remember that when the Taliban were the rulers of Afghanistan, Osama Bin Laden plotted the 9/11 attacks from their territory, and Al Qaeda, the group that attacked on 9/11, had training camps there. We were minding our own business, when planes full of Americans were flown into the Pentagon and the Twin Towers. Its a big dilemma, and when we leave, those who allied with us will face death.
Trump, at least in this chapter, does not strike me as the caricature his opponents believed in (as a fascist), here in the United States. Bolton is not a fan of Trump, but that still doesn’t change my impression.
To learn about the leftist movement in the U.S. it helps to focus on what they do when they are in power. That is what “Radical in Chief” does as it examines the rise of Barack Obama to the presidency. I’ve put prior posts based on the book in this blog, and I’ll conclude with some miscellaneous lessons about the left.
Obama was involved with ACORN, an organization that was notorious for fraudulent voter registrations. Given the current controversy (did voter fraud cost Donald Trump the presidency), and a professor who I’ve argued with who denied that voter fraud is a problem, this is worth knowing. Voter fraud is a breaking of the rules that allow for peaceful change of power, because people on the losing side decide that they have no peaceful way of ever regaining power.
The left can use the latest slang, and be in tune with the latest trends, but their goals are not any more progressive than those of Karl Marx in the 19th century. Here is a flyer the Weathermen put out: “Cats are being fucked over everywhere. Like, what is there to do? You can go to school, but we know their schools are just jails. They’ve even got pigs there to make sure we don’t make any “trouble” for the jail wardens…It doesn’t make any difference where you work, cause it’s all jive shit…SDS is recruiting an army right now, man, a people’s army, under black leadership, that’s gonna fight against the pigs and win!!!”
Another interesting point is that Organizers following the ideas of Saul Alinsky use polarization as a tactic. Organizers search for “enemies” – businessmen and political leaders who can either offer the group something valuable or serve as “targets” for anger. Targets are sometimes baited to strike back, thus further enraging the group. So whether a bank gives in and offers mortgages on easy terms or refuses to lower its lending standards, the community organization wins. Either the loans go through, or the group gets mad — and membership grows. Best of all, targeting encourages the public to view the business community — and ultimately capitalism itself – as the enemy. So the cause the left seems to be for may be secondary to radicalizing the people they recruit.
When Obama was in power, he included a massive 1.4 billion dollars in this 2011 budget to create a massive force of government funded community organizers (Americorps). Congressional Democrats turned back Republican efforts to prohibit the flow of taxpayer dollars to groups “engaged in political or legislative advocacy”. So left wing press groups got massive funding. Again, this is a breaking of the rules. Government is not supposed to help citizens further a political agenda.
In the year 2021, again the left is in power. In the past, there has been both deception as to the goal of particular policies, and a breaking of the rules of Democracy, and there is no reason to think that this isn’t going on right now.
Jeremiah Wright was the preacher in the Church that future U.S. president Barack Obama attended in Chicago. Wright is famous for saying “God Damn America” and that the Muslim attacks on 9/11/2001 that brought down the twin towers were “America’s chickens coming home to roost.” But behind these statements is a socialist outlook. Wright was (and is) a radical, and its worth understanding how he saw the world. Like Obama’s other friend, Bill Ayers, Jeremiah blamed black poverty on the government. He also blamed black imprisonment on the government, and implicitly on America’s entire economic and political system. Wright insisted that his faith be placed within the context of “black liberation theology”. This theology was created in the sixties by James Cone, a professor of theology. In Cone’s book “Black Theology and Black Power”, Cone says that the black intellectual’s goal is to “aid in the destruction of America as he knows it.” To achieve that destruction, making whites feel guilt is important so that white men will “tremble, curse and go mad, because they will be drenched with the filth of their evil.” To Cone, those who looted during the urban riots of the late 1960s were affirming their “being”. Long before it became a cliché, Cone came up with the concept of institutional racism – “racism is so/embedded in the heart of American society that few, if any, whites can free themselves from it.” Cone thought that racism could not be eliminated as long as capitalism remains intact. Jeremiah Wright and James Cone visited Cuba in 1984 – it was on this trip that Jesse Jackson, another black radical, courted controversy by chanting “Long Live President Castro! Long live Martin Luther King! Long live Che Guevara!”
Wright cited the opposition of Martin Luther King to the Vietnam war and said “When one goes against the war, one tampers with the financial institutions and the financial system that was put in place by the Founding Fathers of this country to keep the rich, rich!” One colleague of Wright’s, Ira Carruthers, believed that the skin-pigment melanin made black culture better than white culture. “If you object that such theories are pseudo-scientific, Carruthers replies that Western science itself is a method of oppressive control.” Its interesting that Thomas Sowell, a black conservative, started as a Marxist. Exploring Manhattan, he saw disparities in wealth. “Nothing in the schools or most of the books seemed to deal with that. Marx dealt with that,” says Sowell. But various sobering experiences eventually intruded and Sowell became a champion of the free market. Says Sowell: “We (Sowell’s family) were much poorer than the people in Harlem and most anywhere else today, but in the sense of things you need to get ahead, I was enormously more fortunate than most Black kids today.” That’s because he discovered the public library. “When you start getting in the habit of reading when you’re 8 years old, it’s a different ballgame!” Jeremiah Wright, on the other hand, graduated from Central High School of Philadelphia in 1959, among the best schools in the area at the time. At the time, the school was around 90 percent white. The 211th class yearbook described Wright as a respected member of the class. “Always ready with a kind word, Jerry is one of the most congenial members of the 211,” the yearbook said. “His record in Central is a model for lower class [younger] members to emulate. Wright joined the Marines, and then the Navy. It seems as if his worldview moved left, while Sowell’s moved right.
I think if you want to understand black radicalism, you have to understand the attraction of Socialism. Black radicals are not just people who experienced racism, or who believe that the whites keep blacks down. They also have a socialist worldview. Which is ironic, because Marxist countries have used slave labor, have a complete intolerance for free speech and for human rights. Sowell writes, “If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules… that would have gotten you labeled a radical 50 years ago, a liberal 25 years ago, and a racist today.”
Bill Ayers was a weatherman (a terrorist revolutionary) in the 1960s, and a friend of Barack Obama (the future president of the U.S.) in later years. Stanley Kurtz’s book on Obama has a chapter on Bill Ayers, and its worth looking at for understanding what radicals believe and how they try to implement their vision. In Bill’s violent incarnation, he participated in the bombings of New York City Police Headquarters in 1970, the Capitol building in 1971, and the Pentagon in 1972. 15 years later he worked as a professor of education at the University of Illinois. From the Kurtz book we learn that: in Ayers eyes schools should be “sites of resistance” to an oppressive system. The point, Ayers says, is to “teach against oppression,” against America’s history of evil and racism, thereby forcing social transformation.
Kurtz talks about the “shared desire of Obama and Ayers to funnel a very large pot of money to the city’s most radical community organizers”
Money began to flow as well to Bernardine Dohrn’s Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern University School of Law. Dohrn had been a weatherwoman. She is Bill Ayer’s wife. Bernadine thought of the American justice system as a modern version of the “slave ship” and the prison system a veritable political “gulag”. Dohrn also thought that violence is less the fault of criminals than of America’s structurally racist society. Welfare reform laws were a form of “state violence”. Even low wage jobs were a form of “state violence”.
Bernadine’s husband (Bill) compared America’s juvenile justice system to the mass detention of a generation of young blacks under South African apartheid.”
Bill also believed that America’s prison system is a racist plot to clear the streets of the kids most likely to make a socialist revolution.
Kurtz once appeared on a radio talk show to talk about the relationship between Obama and Ayers, specifically that Ayers worked directly with Barack Obama at the Chicago Annenberg Challenge and had a role in appointing Obama to the board. Callers to the show demanded that Kurtz be barred from speaking. Supposedly Kurtz was a “right wing hatchet man,” a “smear merchant,” and a “slimy character assassin,” perpetrating one of the “most cynical and offensive smears ever launched against Barack.”
But Kurtz shows in the book that the “smear” was well documented.
Ayers once told an interiewer that the notion of the United States as a “just and fair and decent place… makes me want to puke.” This leaves me with a question. When I see the U.S. I see a place that had (and has) flaws, but has attempted over time to correct them. I see a country where blacks have equal rights under the law. Unlike Bill, Bernadine, and Barack, I do not have a dream of a socialist alternative that makes a favorable contrast with the current situation. I see countries that socialists like, (such as Cuba) as unpleasant places to live in, where people’s potential is wasted, and free thought is not allowed. Why is there such a divergence in what I see, and what Bill Ayers sees? Why have many of his ideas become mainstream among the left?
Its not that I don’t see systemic problems with the U.S. Just the National debt, which jumps by a trillion during some president’s terms, is enough to prove a problem exists. And “cancel culture” and the breakdown of the family, and a host of other ills. Perhaps the world is divided into people who want to patch their rowboat, versus those who want to burn it in the belief that the ocean will disappear from under them!
ACORN (The association of Community Organizations for Reform now) was the largest community organization in the United States. ACORN was notorious for fraudulent voter registrations. It used ‘in-your-face’ protest tactics, and it helped precipitate the banking crisis of 2008. That crisis cost millions of jobs and hurt the people all over the world. (see https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/reports/2010/04/28/the-impact-of-the-september-2008-economic-collapse). So how did an organization which was supposed to help the little guy cause so much damage? Skeptics argue that the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) which ACORN used to force banks into making high-risk loans to low-credit customers, could have influenced at most only about a quarter of the loans at the base of the financial meltdown. What critics miss is that ACORN used a combination of local protest actions and national lobbying to spread subprime lending far beyond the confines of CRA-controlled banks.
For instance, there is this quote from Stanley Kurtz’s book “Radical in Chief”.
“However much pressure ACORN put on banks to lower credit standards, tough requirements in the “secondary market,” run by quasi-federal housing agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, served as a barrier to change. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac buy up mortgages en masse, bundle them, and sell them to investors on the world market. Back then, Fannie and Freddie refused to buy loans that failed to meet high credit standards. If, for example, a local bank buckled to ACORN pressure and agreed to offer poor or minority applicants a 5 percent down-payment rate, instead of the normal 10 to 20 percent, Fannie and Freddie would refuse to buy up those mortgages. That would leave all the risk of these shaky loans with the local bank.”
So the local bank would tell Acorn that they could only lower credit standards by a little.
In response ACORN had its friends in Congress introduce bills compelling Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to support subprime lending. Acorn won this showdown. Now quotas for low-income loans were imposed on Fannie and Freddie.
When Bill Clinton became president of the United States, ACORN found friends in the new government. ACORN had captured Fannie and Freddie, but now it wanted to rope in the insurance companies. ACORN people met with Bill Clinton and explained what they wanted to do. Clinton was enthusiastic, and said that while he probably couldn’t get a bill to ACORN’s liking through Congress, he would use the “executive power of the president” to achieve their goals.
The story is more involved than the above, and anyone interested on how socialist organizations get funds from the government should read the chapter on ACORN in Kurtz’s book. The irony is that the problems that ACORN contributed to did not come to a head in the Clinton administration, but during the presidency of a Republican president, George W Bush, who subsequently was replaced by Barack Obama, a Democrat who tried to minimize his ties with ACORN. Kurtz documents that Obama had more ties to that organization than he was willing to admit. Nancy Pelosi, currently speaker of the house and a Democrat, voted for ACORN sponsored provisions. And yet, we are heading in the same direction:
The basic problems of Fannie and Freddie have not been solved as of 2021, and a Biden administration is unlikely to address them – quite the contrary, says Charles Gasperino in a column in the New York Post.
There were various reasons for the 2008 financial crisis. Various steps in the loan making process were carried by people who had no skin in the game – the risk of the loan could be passed like a hot potato from one link in the chain of loans to the next. But the ultimate buyers probably had little idea that loan standards had been so weakened and that they were buying a package of loans some of which were worthless.
It was in the name of equity and justice and anti-racism that the low-standard loans that contributed to the disaster of 2008 were made. Supposedly these are pure motives, but Kurtz notes a role of Peter Dreier (an influential advisor to ACORN’s banking campaign) in all this. Dreier, who I mentioned in a previous post, wanted to overload American Capitalism with entitlements until it collapsed and Socialism replaced it. Perhaps there was method in ACORN’s madness.
There may be one reality, but our views of it are elastic. When my father taught at the City University in New York, he had a maverick colleague who wrote a book that nobody took very seriously titled “A People’s History of the United States“. The author, Howard Zinn, was a Communist, and as you can imagine, his book did not make the United States look good. Eventually Mary Grabar, a professor who was born in a Communist country but grew up in the U.S. wrote a book titled: “Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History That Turned a Generation against America“. Which book do you think was more successful? Here is a quote from the Federalist:
“Zinn’s book was first published in 1980 and is now estimated to have sold some 2.6 million copies. College Board’s rewrite of its Advanced Placement U.S. history course features Zinn’s book and embeds his anti-American philosophy. The tragedy of all this, of course, is that Zinn’s book is concentrated poison. Using a careful review of his source materials and claims, as evidenced by her nearly 1,000 footnotes, Grabar documents quite clearly and conclusively that Zinn is not only a plagiarist but a liar.”
Since the worldview of many educators is to the left, Zinn’s book has more influence than Grabar’s ever will. Or take the 1619 project. Here is quote from City Journal:
In August 2019, the New York Times magazine published the “1619 Project.” This series of essays and articles provided readers with many “facts” that they may not have known: that the American Revolution was fought to preserve slavery; that Abraham Lincoln was a racist; that America’s foundational premise was “slavocracy;” that present-day American wealth is a direct consequence of slavery; and that the essential pattern of our history is not one of unprecedented growth in freedom and democracy but institutional hatred and oppression of blacks.
If you were unfamiliar with these facts, there is good reason—none are true. As National Association of Scholars president Peter W. Wood reveals in 1620: A Critical Response to the 1619 Project, the larger purpose of the Times’s project appears to have been to promote racial grievances and resentment. Most damningly, Wood points out that a Times fact-checker who contacted a radical historian to weigh the claim that the revolution was fought to protect slavery was told that this was nonsense.
So which book has more clout?
One clue: The Pulitzer Center helped turn The New York Times’ The 1619 Project — which received worldwide attention when it was published last year — into a curriculum that’s now taught in more than 4,500 schools nationwide.
On reading the above, you might shrug your shoulders, and say we all know that the winners of the ideological wars write the history books. Some of these winners are unscrupulous and twist facts to fit their motivated reasoning. Yawn…
However, lets continue:
There is a large book, with many footnotes, put out by the Nation of Islam (a black Muslim organization in the U.S.) that claims the Jews were heavily involved in the black slave trade:. According to Wikipedia:
The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews is a three-volume work published by the Nation of Islam. The first volume, which was released in 1991, asserts that Jews dominated the Atlantic slave trade. The Secret Relationship has been widely criticized for being anti-Semitic and for failing to provide an objective analysis of the role of Jews in the slave trade. The American Historical Association issued a statement condemning claims that Jews played a disproportionate role in the Atlantic slave trade, and other historians such as Wim Klooster and Seymour Drescher concluded that the role of Jews in the overall Atlantic slave trade was in fact minimal. Critics of the book assert that it uses selective citations in order to purposefully exaggerate the role of Jews.
So why would the Nation of Islam push a book such as this? Assuming the book is inaccurate, the reason might be that NOI’s religion says some unpleasant things about Jews and so its adherents might want to believe negative facts about Jews.
Again, we might ask, how much influence has this book had:
… the bible of the new anti-Semitism is “The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews,” an official publication of the Nation of Islam that boasts 1,275 footnotes in the course of 334 pages.
Sober and scholarly looking, it may well be one of the most influential books published in the black community in last 12 months. It is available in black-oriented shops in cities across the nation, even those that specialize in Kente cloth and beads rather than books. It can also be ordered over the phone, by dialing 1-800-48-TRUTH. Meanwhile, the book’s conclusions are, in many circles, increasingly treated as damning historical fact.
Interestingly enough a writer in the Atlantic reviews the book, and indicates that yes, some Jews who were located in slave trading economies did trade in slaves, or own slaves. Nonetheless, the book is a distortion by making Jews more guilty than others.
However, as Winston Churchill once said: “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”
There is a book called “The Avengers” which I once read. It describes how:
in 1944, a band of Jewish guerrillas emerged from the Baltic forest to join the Russian army in its attack on Vilna, the capital of Lithuania. The band, called the Avengers, was led by Abba Kovner, a charismatic young poet. In the ghetto, Abba had built bombs, sneaking out through the city’s sewer tunnels to sabotage German outposts.
Being Jewish, I was impressed and heartened that some Jews fought back in WW-II. But there was a twist. I mentioned the book to my father, who had left Germany at about 10 years old with his parents, and gone with them to Palestine. What he told me was that Kovner’s group was leftist, and when other, more right-wing Jews in town asked him for a copy of the plans of the sewers, he did not let them have it. I asked my father how he knew this, and he said that some of the remaining townspeople survived the Holocaust, came to Israel, and told the story.
So even reading a book which I was convinced was true, and whose heroes and heroines I was rooting for – I was not seeing the whole picture.
This raises a question – should we trust the history that we are taught? I was taught a different version of events in my schools than what is taught now. Was my version correct?
Currently we are living through a period where a significant fraction of the country believe that Donald Trump would have been re-elected president, if not for voter fraud. But I read the adjective “baseless” before any claims of voter fraud in conservative papers such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post. A conservative columnist, Ben Shapiro, says claims of voter fraud are a lie. A conservative named Debra Saunders says this in an article titled “How to start a civil war“:
I’ve talked to multiple Trump supporters who told me that the election was stolen, and that fraud skewed the vote in the Democrats’ favor. They stuck to their guns, so to speak, as recounts failed to change a single state’s outcome. They stuck to their guns as judges and courts found the Trump campaign claims to be flimsy and unconvincing — way below the bar necessary to disenfranchise legally cast American votes.
Now this is a fork in the road. One fork starts with the assumption that there was voter fraud. The other starts with the assumption there was none. Where do these two roads lead? If there was voter fraud, then the newly elected government is illegitimate. It also means we no longer live in a democracy. If there was no voter fraud, then President Trump either lied in an effort to hold on to power, or believed what the Wall Street Journal calls “Conspiracy Theories” that led the more radical element of his followers to storm into the capitol building while the congress was certifying the electoral college result.
I personally believe there was voter fraud, partly because of this study by Economist John Lott at the DOJ: (for a more popular summary, see here ). I’ve also seen two of the several undercover videos of Project Veritas where a Democrat confesses to knowing about voter fraud in earlier elections. So how do I explain away the courts rejecting all the cases that have been brought? Well two of the cases that I looked at were not rejected based on looking on the evidence, but on ‘standing’ of the claimants (in the case of the Supreme Court) or the lack of a law to enforce oversight (in Pennsylvania).
Other people explain this challenge to their belief in voter fraud by saying that courts are afraid to take such cases, but of course motivation is notoriously hard to know.
Twitter and Facebook — the social media megaphones Trump has used to communicate with some 80 million followers — have terminated the president’s personal accounts.
Apple, Amazon and Google have cut ties to the social media website Parler, which is popular among conservatives.
Now, Cumulus Media, which has more than 400 radio stations and employs some of the most popular conservative talk-radio hosts in the nation, has warned its on-air personalities to stop suggesting the election of 2020 was stolen from Trump — or face termination.
Major corporations have begun to instruct their Political Action Committees to halt contributions to Republican legislators who support Trump. And some of Trump’s Cabinet officers and White House staff have bailed out on him.
The reason this is interesting is that ‘voter fraud’ should be a topic that can be debated. It is either true, or false, or a gray area where there was some fraud, but some fraud is inevitable in any election. Its truth or falsity is independent of whether people who believe it would commit violence, and therefore must be prevented from believing it by censorship.
How we look at the whole episode varies drastically – remember, I’m claiming that history is elastic. I’ll end with the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was a two-term Republican governor of California as well as the star of the Terminator franchise and other action movie classics.
I should say that I think he is wrong, but you can see one fork in the road here:
In a video posted to social media and scored to rousing classical music, the 73-year-old said he “would like to say a few words to my fellow Americans and to our friends around the world about the events of recent days”.
“I grew up in Austria and was very aware of Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass,” he said. “It was a night of rampage against the Jews carried out [by] the Nazi equivalent of the Proud Boys [a quasi-fascist group of Trump supporters].”
“Wednesday was the Day of Broken Glass right here in the United States. The broken glass was in the windows of the United States Capitol. But the mob did not just shatter the windows of the Capitol. It has shattered the ideals we took for granted. They did not just break down the doors of the building that housed American democracy. They trampled the very principles on which our country was founded.”
Schwarzenegger described a traumatic childhood in post-war Austria, the son of a police officer who joined the Nazi party. …President Trump sought to overturn the results of an election. And a fair election. He sought a coup by misleading people with lies. My father and our neighbours were misled also with lies. I know where such lies lead.”
There you have it – on one side, a belief that a lying demagogue is misleading his followers to trample on democracy, on the other a belief that an election was stolen and this caused the end of Democracy.
Each wrong fork in the road leads us further and further from the truth. How many wrong forks have we taken?
One reason many Americans distrust politicians, is because we believe they are paid off, perhaps by lobbyists for corporations. Some politicians think of really creative ways to make money. For example President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary had siblings who phoned people offering them presidential pardons – for money! There’s a whole book on this titled Pardongate: How Bill & Hillary Clinton and Their Brothers Profited from Pardons. However, dishonesty in politics can appear in other ways – the activists and idealists who protest in favor of a particular cause may not be really interested in that cause. How can this be?
Take the Green New Deal, a proposal to convert America to run on renewable energy rather than carbon containing fuels. The proponents must believe in an existential crisis of man made global warming, correct?
On a Wednesday morning in late May, emissaries of two of the strongest political voices on climate change convened at a coffee shop a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol. Saikat Chakrabarti, chief of staff to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), was there to meet Sam Ricketts, climate director for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), who is running for president almost exclusively on a platform of combating global warming. A newly released plank of Inslee’s climate change agenda had caught the attention of Chakrabarti and his boss, who had tweeted that Inslee’s “climate plan is the most serious + comprehensive one to address our crisis in the 2020 field.” Pleased by the positive reception from the demanding Green New Deal wing of the climate struggle, Ricketts had set up this meeting with Chakrabarti to establish a personal connection and share approaches to climate advocacy.
“Congrats on the rollout,” Chakrabarti told him as they sat down. “That was pretty great.”
“Thank you again for the kudos you guys offered,” said Ricketts. “We wanted to be pace-setting for the field, and I think we’re there now. … I want to ask you for input … in addition to hearing what you guys are working on.”
Chakrabarti had an unexpected disclosure. “The interesting thing about the Green New Deal,” he said, “is it wasn’t originally a climate thing at all.” Ricketts greeted this startling notion with an attentive poker face. “Do you guys think of it as a climate thing?” Chakrabarti continued. “Because we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”
So which is it – saving the planet from CO2, or changing the economic system? It could be both of course, but which of the two is more important?
Consider the words of Christine Stewart – Canadian Environment Minister: “No matter if the science is all phony, there are still collateral environmental benefits…Climate change [provides] the greatest chance to bring about justice and equality in the world.”
Yes, but then why not argue for justice directly?
I remember reading in some environmental journal about the environmental campaign to save the spotted owl. It became clear that the author regarded the owl as a tool to preserve large tracts of forest. The owl itself was incidental. Again, there is a component of dishonesty here.
And we see this odd phenomenon. in other causes – Western feminists who say nothing about the second-class status of women under Sharia, for instance. Surely if you care about women, you care about all women?
In his book “Radical In Chief”, Stanley Kurtz writes about the formation of the Citizen/Labor Energy Coalition. it was formed in 1978, 43 years ago. It was supposedly formed to fight for lower gas and oil prices. But there were broader goals. It was an initial attempt to build a nationwide populist movement, quietly directed by socialists, and designed to unify a fragmented American left. C/LEC called for creation of a publically owned energy company to compete with private ones. It crafted a regulatory regime for the energy industry that would effectively have put it under government control. And as with today’s energy battle, in public C/LEC emphasized solar energy and what we now call “green jobs”. Yet this seems to have been something of a cover for C/LEC’s top priorities: price controls and higher energy taxes.
So again, this is an example of a public image of a political group that claims it is for particular goals, when those goals are not the overriding ones.
Before she entered politics, Alexandra Ocasio Cortez was present at the protest against the Dakota access oil pipeline. According to LegalInsurrection.com:
The people who claimed they were protesting the Dakota Pipeline to save the environment have a funny way of showing it. They left behind so much garbage that the site has become a potential environmental disaster.
Officials estimated that the price of cleaning up the protesters’ mess would cost the taxpayers one million dollars.
The protests often became violent as protesters repeatedly resorted to extreme behavior to stop the building of the oil pipeline.
I’m sure protestors thought they were helping the environment, (though some might have seen the protest as just another way of radicalizing people against the Capitalist system), but in practice, if you can’t clean up after yourself, maybe you should not be protesting against pollution.
The basic point I’m trying to make in this post, and a point that Stanley Kurtz demonstrates often in his book, is that people with dramatic new visions for how our society may be structured can latch on to specific causes that are not really what they are about.
In my lifetime, most U.S. presidents wanted to be friendly with Russia.
President Ronald Reagan described it as an “evil empire” in a speech in 1983, and while being recorded joked “My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes”. The joke was meant to be off the record.
But other presidents were more trusting, even when Russia was Communist.
In 1977 President Jimmy Carter gave a speech renouncing America’s “inordinate fear of communism.”
Then the Russians invaded Afghanistan.
“My opinion of the Russians has changed most drastically in the last week than even (sic) the two-and-a-half years before that. It’s only now dawning upon the world the magnitude of the action that the Soviets undertook in invading Afghanistan.” said Carter in an interview with ABC News on December 31, 1979.
Then came a supposedly post-Communist Russia and Vladimir Putin.
Republican president George W. Bush met with Putin in 2001 and said he got “a sense of [Putin’s] soul.”
Later, Bush explained that
“…he did not make a mistake in his initial and often-ridiculed assessment of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, when they first met in 2001 and Bush said he got “a sense of [Putin’s] soul.”
Instead, Bush said, Putin became a different person.
“I think, to a certain extent, he changed,” Bush said Monday in an interview with conservative radio show host Hugh Hewitt.
“The reason why I said that is because I remembered him talking movingly about his mother and the cross that she gave him that she had blessed in Jerusalem,” Bush told Hewitt. “Nobody knows that, and I never tried to make an explanation of why I said what I said until the book” (Bush wrote a book titled ‘Decision Points’ about his time as president).
In the book, Bush writes that he interrupted Putin as the then-Russian President spoke from note cards and “seemed a little tense.” Bush asked whether the story of his mother giving him a cross was true, and writes that “a look of shock washed over Putin’s face.”
Putin then told the story of recovering the cross from a house fire and said that when a worker found the piece of jewelry it was as if it was meant to be. Bush writes that he remarked, “Vladimir, that is the story of the cross. Things are meant to be.”
Under Putin’s leadership freedom of speech and a free press have withered in Russia. Journalists who have been too aggressive have died suspicious deaths, and Putin has imprisoned business leaders who have been too open in opposing his will.
The extent to which Bush had misjudged Putin became clearest in August 2008 when Russia invaded the Republic of Georgia, a former Soviet bloc country on its southern border. The two leaders had an intense exchange in the stands of Beijing’s Bird’s Nest stadium during the 2008 Olympics opening ceremony.
Bush told Putin he had warned him that the Georgian leader, President Mikhail Saakashvili, was “hot-blooded.”
“I’m hot-blooded too,” Putin said.
“I stared back at him,” Bush writes in his book. “‘No Vladimir,’ I said. ‘You’re cold-blooded.”
Then came Barack Obama.
Obama, who had been a left wing radical in his youth, wanted to be friends with Putin. The N.Y. Times reported at one point (Putin was Prime Minister at the time): “As a pool of television journalists gathered for a news conference on the leaders’ meeting, Mr. Obama leaned in to deliver private assurances to Mr. Medvedev. President Obama found his private moment of political candor caught by a live microphone as he told President Medvedev that he would have “more flexibility” to negotiate on the delicate issue of missile defense after the November election.” In other words, he was assuring the president of Russia that he would be cooperative, but he didn’t want the American public to know how cooperative.
In the Obama administration, the wife of former President Bill Clinton, Hillary, was Secretary of State.
Hillary’s campaign Chairman John Podesta “sat on the board of a small energy company alongside Russian officials that received $35 million from a Putin-connected Russian government fund.”
Podesta sat on the board of a tiny energy company named Joule Unlimited. A mere two months after he joined the board, Rusnano, founded by Vladimir Putin in 2007, invested $35 million in the company. Podesta sat on three separate boards of Joule-affiliated corporate entities, but only reported two.
Moreover, Podesta’s own leftist think tank, the Center for American Progress, got $5.25 million from a group called the Sea Change Foundation in the four years ending in 2013. Sea Change, in return, had received what the authors call “a large infusion of funds from a mysterious Bermuda-based entity called ‘Klein Ltd.,’ ” which appeared to have Russian ties.
“This puts Clinton’s actions while in office under deep suspicion.” Hillary was quite the leftist in her youth. She joined the Venceremos brigades in Castro’s Cuba, and her college dissertation was on the leftist saboteur Saul Alinsky (author of “Rules for Radicals”).
Then came President Donald Trump.
President Trump seemed initially to be the most openly friendly president to Putin.
In fact Hillary suggested that Donald Trump “has shown a very troubling willingness to back up Putin, to support Putin, whether it’s saying that NATO wouldn’t come to the rescue of allies if they were invaded, talking about removing sanctions from Russian officials after they were imposed by the United States and Europe together, because of Russia’s aggressiveness in Crimea and Ukraine, his praise for Putin which is I think quite remarkable.”
Given that Hillary’s own record was spotty, lets look deeper:
Trump has said contradictory things about Putin according to a CNN KFile review of Trump’s public statements. CNN’s article says:
Since 2013 — when Trump’s Miss Universe pageant was held in Moscow — Trump has at least nine times claimed to have spoken to, met, or made contact with Putin. But as the 2016 campaign wore on and his statements on Putin began to attract more scrutiny, Trump changed course, denying having ever met the Russian president.
“I never met Putin,” Trump said at a July 2016 news conference. “I don’t know who Putin is. He said one nice thing about me. He said I’m a genius. I said thank you very much to the newspaper and that was the end of it. I never met Putin.”
March 3, 2014 Amid Russian aggression in Ukraine, Trump tells “Fox and Friends” that Mitt Romney was right about Russia being a “geopolitical foe.”
“Well Mitt Romney was so right, and nobody knew how right he was going to be, and you look at Obama’s response and just take a look at what’s going on,” said Trump. “Syria was propped up by Russia. Syria’s now back in their fold 100% and that whole deal is coming to an end because Russia’s taken over.”
Trump added, “There are a lot of things we could be doing economically to Russia. Russia is not strong economically and we could do a lot of different things to really do numbers on them if we wanted to.”
March 13, 2014 Trump tells NBC’s “Today” that the US should “definitely do sanctions” against Russia for their aggression in Ukraine.
“And we have to show some strength. I mean, Putin has eaten Obama’s lunch, therefore our lunch, for a long period of time,” he said. “And I just hope that Obama, who’s not looking too good, doesn’t do something very foolish and very stupid to show his manhood. I just hope that doesn’t happen.”
March 24, 2014 Trump tells “Fox and Friends” Mitt Romney was right that Russia was “our biggest problem.”
“Well, Mitt was right, and he was also right when he mentioned in one of the debates about Russia, and he said, ‘Russia’s our biggest problem, and Russia is, you know, really something,'” Trump said.
“He said it’s a hell of a problem, and everybody laughed at him, including certain media, by the way,” continued Trump. “They laughed. It turned out that he’s absolutely right. You look at what Russia’s doing with Iran, how they controlled the situation, and Syria, and virtually every other place that … We were thrown out of every place. I’m not saying we should be there. We should rebuild our own schools and our own bridges and highways and everything else. To be scoffed at and thrown around the way we’re being thrown around is absolutely unthinkable.”
March 18, 2015 Trump tells the Daily Mail about his relationship with Putin: “the relationship is great, and it would be great if I had the position I should have.”
Trump also said he received “a gift from Putin – an award and a beautiful letter.” He does not confirm or deny meeting with Putin when asked.
Aug. 29, 2015 Trump says that Putin “hates Obama,” but that he would get along great with the Russian president.
“Putin hates us,” he said. “He hates Obama. He doesn’t hate us. I think he’d like me. I’d get along great with him I think. If you want to know the truth.”
Sept. 28, 2015 Trump tells reporters at Trump Tower that “Putin is a nicer person than I am.”
Dec. 18, 2015 Trump said on Morning Joe that Putin was a better leader than Obama, and dismissed Joe Scarborough’s allegations that the Russian president “kills journalists that don’t agree with him.”
“He’s running his country and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country,” Trump said.
He added: “I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe, so you know. There’s a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, a lot of killing going on, a lot of stupidity.”
Dec. 20, 2015 In an interview with ABC’s “This Week,” Trump defends against allegations Putin has ordered the killings of journalists and dissidents.
“As far as the reporters are concerned — as far as the reporters are concerned, obviously I don’t want that to happen. I think it’s terrible — horrible. But, in all fairness to Putin, you’re saying he killed people. I haven’t’ seen that. I don’t know that he has. Have you been able to prove that? Do you know the names of the reporters that he’s killed? Because I’ve been — you know, you’ve been hearing this, but I haven’t seen the name. Now, I think it would be despicable if that took place, but I haven’t’ seen any evidence that he killed anybody in terms of reporters.”
In practice, once he became president Trump argued he has been tougher on Russia than any of his predecessors.
“Ideally we want to get along with Russia. Getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Maybe we will, maybe we won’t,” Trump told reporters during a meeting with Baltic state leaders.
“Probably no one has been tougher to Russia than Donald Trump,” he added, citing investments in the U.S. military and NATO.
Trump gave weapons to the Ukranians defending themselves against Russian aggression. Obama had refused to do that.
Now that it looks like Joe Biden will be president, its important to remember that his son Hunter received a $3.5 million wire transfer from Elena Baturina, the richest woman in Russia and the widow of Yury Luzhkov, the former mayor of Moscow.