Why I like Coolidge and why we are not recovering.

I spent the past six months reading about Calvin Coolidge. I was interested in why the 1920s were a period of great prosperity and why the severe recession/ depression of 1920-1921 was so short. At its peak, there was 25% unemployment. Gross domestic product dropped by 6.9% in one report.

The recession of 1920–21 was characterized by extreme deflation — the largest one-year percentage decline in around 140 years of data.[2] The Department of Commerce estimates 18% deflation, Balke and Gordon estimate 13% deflation, and Romer estimates 14.8% deflation. The drop in wholesale prices was even more severe, falling by 36.8%, the most severe drop since the American Revolutionary War. This is worse than any year during the Great Depression (adding all the years of the Great Depression together, however, yields more severe deflation). The deflation of 1920–21 was extreme in absolute terms, and also unusually extreme given the relatively small decline in gross domestic product.[2]

The Harding-Coolidge administration took office in March 1921 and the recession was over in months. Why ? Governments were smaller then and had less influence on the economy. The Wilson Administration has been widely described as the equivalent of a fascist regime with its war time controls and economic meddling. Again from the Wikipedia article:

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Afghanistan, Egypt and Obama

I have previously posted my opinion that Afghanistan is not worth the cost. I stated my reasons why we should leave here and here and here. Nothing has changed there but a lot is happening elsewhere in the Middle East.

Egypt’s escalating tensions amount to the first real foreign crisis for the Obama administration that it did not inherit. The crisis serves as a test of Obama’s revamped White House operation. Daley, a former Commerce secretary in the Clinton administration, is now running a staff that is briefing Obama regularly on Egypt.

They have handled it badly. This is a very dangerous time for us. The Egyptian Army seems to be siding with the protesters. That may or may not last.

The left-wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz says that Egyptian army officers in Cairo’s central square have tossed aside their helmets and joined the crowd. “The Army and the people are one,” they chanted. MSNBC’s photoblog shows protesters jubilantly perched on M1A1 tanks. The real significance of these defections is that the army officers would not have done so had they not sensed which way the winds were blowing — in the Egyptian officer corps.

And even as Mubarak tottered, the Saudi king threw his unequivocal backing behind the aging dictator — not hedging like Obama — but the Iranians continued to back the Egyptian protesters. The Saudi exchange tumbled 6.44% on news of unrest from Cairo. Meanwhile, the Voice of America reports that Israel is “extremely concerned” that events in Egypt could mean the end of the peace treaty between the two countries. If Mubarak isn’t finished already, a lot of regional actors are calculating like he might be.

But Washington will not be hurried. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that President Obama will review his Middle Eastern policy after the unrest in Egypt subsides. The future, in whose spaces the administration believed its glories to lie, plans to review its past failures in the same expansive place. Yet time and oil wait for no one. Crude oil prices surged as the markets took the rapid developments in. U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu observed that any disruption to Middle East oil supplies “could actually bring real harm.”

Of course, Mr Chu should not worry as we have wind and solar to take up the slack. Actually, we get our oil from Canada and Mexico but the price of oil shifts with the world’s supply.

The present Obama commitment to Afghanistan is ironic since he promised to bring troops home but he has declared that Iraq was NOT necessary and Afghanistan is. This is slightly crazy. The Iraq invasion was an example of US power being applied in a critical location; right in the middle of the Middle East. Afghanistan is a remote tribal society reachable only through unreliable Pakistan. It has minimal effect on world events. We went there to punish the Taliban for harboring the people who attacked our country. Thousands of them have been killed. We have little of interest there now. We should have left last year.

With a Shi’ite dominated government in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and a Muslim Brotherhood that may keep Egypt in neutral or tacitly accept Teheran’s leadership, how could things possibly get worse?

They can if Saudi Arabia starts to go. And what response can the U.S. offer? With U.S. combat power in landlocked Afghanistan and with the last U.S. combat forces having left Iraq in August 2010, the U.S. will have little on the ground but the State Department. “By October 2011, the US State Department will assume responsibility for training the Iraqi police and this task will largely be carried out by private contractors.” The bulk of American hard power will be locked up in secondary Southwest Asian theater, dependent on Pakistan to even reach the sea with their heavy equipment.

This is not where we want to be. The problem is that Obama and Hillary and the rest of this administration have no concept of strategy.

The Obama administration made fundamental strategic mistakes, whose consequences are now unfolding. As I wrote in the Ten Ships, a post which referenced the Japanese Carrier fleet which made up the strategic center of gravity of the enemy during the Pacific War, the center of gravity in the present crisis was always the Middle East. President Obama, by going after the criminals who “attacked America on 9/11” from their staging base was doing the equivalent of bombing the nameless patch of ocean 200 miles North of Oahu from which Nagumo launched his raid. But he was not going after the enemy center of gravity itself.

For all of its defects the campaign in Iraq was at least in the right place: at the locus of oil, ideology and brutal regimes that are the Middle East. Ideally the campaign in Iraq would have a sent a wave of democratization through the area, undermined the attraction of radical Islam, provided a base from which to physically control oil if necessary. That the campaign failed to attain many of its objectives should not obscure the fact that its objectives were valid. It made far more strategic sense than fighting tribesmen in Afghanistan. Ideology, rogue regimes, energy are the three entities which have replaced the “ten ships” of 70 years ago. The means through which these three entities should be engaged ought to be the subject of reasoned debate, whether by military, economic or technological means. But the vital nature of these objectives ought not to be. Neutralize the intellectual appeal of radical Islam, topple the rogue regimes, and ease Western dependence on oil and you win the war. Yet their centrality, and even their existence is what the politicians constantly deny.

Events are unfolding, but they have not yet run their course; things are still continuing to cascade. If the unrest spreads to the point where the Suez and regional oil fall into anti-Western hands, the consequences would be incalculable. The scale of the left’s folly: their insistence on drilling moratoriums, opposition to nuclear power, support of negotiations with dictators at all costs, calls for unilateral disarmament, addiction to debt and their barely disguised virulent anti-Semitism should be too manifest to deny.

Leftism is making common cause with Islamic terrorism. Why ? I don’t really know. Some of it may be the caricature of Jews making money and being good at business. Some may simply be the extension of animosity to Israel extending to all Jews. The people behind Obama are not free of these sentiments. His Justice Department is filled with lawyers who defended terrorists at Guantanamo. Holder seems uninterested in voting rights cases if a black is the offender. He was even unwilling to say that Islamic terrorism was behind 9/11.

Because it will hit them where it hurts, in the lifestyle they somehow thought came from some permanent Western prosperity that was beyond the power of their fecklessness to destroy. It will be interesting to see if anyone can fill up their cars with carbon credits when the oil tankers stop coming or when black gold is marked at $500 a barrel. It is even possible that within a relatively short time the only government left friendly to Washington in the Middle East may be Iraq. There is some irony in that, but it is unlikely to be appreciated.

I would add a bit to this from one of my favorite essays on the topic. It compares Gorbachev to Obama.

Nor are the two men, themselves, remotely comparable in their backgrounds, or political outlook. Gorbachev, for instance, had come up from tractor driver, not through elite schools including Harvard Law; he lacked the narcissism that constantly seeks self-reflection through microphones and cameras, or the sense that everything is about him.

On the other hand, some interesting comparisons could be made between the thuggish party machine of Chicago, which raised Obama as its golden boy; and the thuggish party machine of Moscow, which presented Gorbachev as its most attractive face.

Both men have been praised for their wonderful temperaments, and their ability to remain unperturbed by approaching catastrophe. But again, the substance is different, for Gorbachev’s temperament was that of a survivor of many previous catastrophes.

Yet they do have one major thing in common, and that is the belief that, regardless of what the ruler does, the polity he rules must necessarily continue. This is perhaps the most essential, if seldom acknowledged, insight of the post-modern “liberal” mind: that if you take the pillars away, the roof will continue to hover in the air.

In another passage:

There is a corollary of this largely unspoken assumption: that no matter what you do to one part of a machine, the rest of the machine will continue to function normally.

A variant of this is the frequently expressed denial of the law of unintended consequences: the belief that, if the effect you intend is good, the actual effect must be similarly happy.

Very small children, the mad, and certain extinct primitive tribes, have shared in this belief system, but only the fully college-educated liberal has the vocabulary to make it sound plausible.

With an incredible rapidity, America’s status as the world’s pre-eminent superpower is now passing away. This is a function both of the nearly systematic abandonment of U.S. interests and allies overseas, with metastasizing debt and bureaucracy on the home front.

The turmoil in Egypt is a test that, I fear, Obama and his Secretary of State, will not pass.

The Shooting in Tucson

I have had a house in Tucson for the past five or six years. It is in Gabriel Gifford’s Congressional district. I know the corner of Ina Road and Oracle Road where the shooting occurred. I know and like Tucson and Arizona. I would rather be living there than here because I have serious fears about California’s future while I think Arizona is now in pretty good hands. They had a housing bubble but they have more sensible people in that state government.

Gabriel Gifford’s district includes some of the most affluent areas of Tucson. To be re-elected, she had to be a “blue dog” Democrat. She has an appealing personal story. Her father is a sheriff of a neighboring county and her husband is an astronaut. I would not have voted for her because she had a very attractive opponent but there was very little of the animosity in that election that there was in other district races. Some of her constituents were unhappy about her healthcare vote. She had gotten the message and voted against Nancy Pelosi for minority leader of the Democrats, one of 17 Democrats to do so.

The press conference by the Pima County sheriff yesterday was disgraceful. I watched the whole thing. He went over and over his theories that harsh political discourse was somehow a cause of the shooting. He repeated the whole mantra three times by my count. Other than that, he provided very little information, for example, declining to give the suspect’s name when everyone with an internet connection knew what it was. I think he may have been reacting to personal distress as he probably knows Ms Gifford’s father and has known her for a long time. I also suspect he is a Democrat as Tucson is a rather left wing city being the site of the University of Arizona. The City Council has been very left wing and several members were defeated in the previous election as they had spent far too much money on frivolous projects, some of which had never been completed.

There is a lot of wild talk on left wing web sites, some of which is being rolled back as Daily Kos and the DNC scrub web sites of similar images and rhetoric as conservative sites and people they are attacking. A lot of it has been scrubbed but some people have found Google caches.

Like this DLC “targeting map.”

There has been a lot of talk about how “angry” Arizona people are. Well, maybe they have reason to be angry. The Obama administration has sued the state to try to stop an Arizona law that merely enforces a federal law that Obama seems disinterested in enforcing. Arizona is overrun with illegals immigrants, drug violence is 60 miles away in Mexico and auto insurance rates are sky high because of car theft. Someone I know had a LoJack system installed in his car. When he realized the car was stolen, the police activated the locator and the car was already 60 miles into Mexico.

Some of the angry rhetoric comes from a sense that the people have lost control of the government since Obama was elected. The health care bill was opposed in every poll of public opinion. The Republican minority was completely opposed. Yet, the bill was passed by procedural maneuvers never before used to pass legislation of this magnitude. As the people have learned more about the bill, they like it less. Nancy Pelosi told us they have to pass it so we can find out what is in it. Yes, the people of Arizona are angry. But it had nothing to do with yesterday’s shooting.

The young man is obviously a paranoid schizophrenic. His ramblings on a You Tube video contain the typical delusions of schizophrenics. He goes on about the government controlling minds through grammar. He appears to be obsessed with grammar and goes on about introducing a new currency for which he will be the Treasurer. These are the delusional ravings of a psychotic. There appears to be some level of disappointment that he is not associated with a political ideology, especially the tea party. There are already think pieces about “violence”, by which they mean talk radio and Fox News, just as Clinton did after the McVeigh bombing in Oklahoma.

By day’s end, the argument that the political right—fueled by anti-government, and anti-immigrant passions that run especially strong in Arizona—is culpable for the Tucson massacre, even if by indirect association, seemed to be validated by the top local law enforcement official investigating the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D).

This refers to that disgusting press conference by the Pima County sheriff. They even have a video of his rant.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, an elected Democrat, at a news conference Saturday evening.

Yup, I guessed right.

One veteran Democratic operative, who blames overheated rhetoric for the shooting, said President Barack Obama should carefully but forcefully do what his predecessor did.

They need to deftly pin this on the tea partiers,” said the Democrat. “Just like the Clinton White House deftly pinned the Oklahoma City bombing on the militia and anti-government people.”

Another Democratic strategist said the similarity is that Tucson and Oklahoma City both “take place in a climate of bitter and virulent rhetoric against the government and Democrats.”

Isn’t it odd that movies about the assassination of George Bush are not considered too extreme ?

I think Representative Gifford will recover as the gunshot wound track passed from her temple out her forehead, probably missing her brain. A family friend said she is now in induced coma, no doubt to minimize cerebral edema from the contusion to the brain from the shock wave. I don’t know if the Democratic party will recover from its disinterest in debate and its tendency to try to demonize its opponents instead of argue with them.

President Obama in India


Even Bollywood could not stay away from using the Obama metaphor. In an upcoming Hindi film titled “Phas Gaye Re Obama” (“Obama Is in a Fix”), director Subhash Kapoor said he portrays a bunch of Obama-loving Indian gangsters struggling amid the economic recession. The comedy isn’t coming out until after the president’s visit.

Washington Post (There is a nice slide show of American presidents in India at the link.)

2. NDTV video link to President Obama’s town hall with Indian students at St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai. One of the students asks a pretty tough question about the midterms at 15:00.


The president viewed a demonstration of a new system called “e-Panchayat”, a new effort to enable people in the more than 400 local districts across India to obtain and share information.


4. “What They Said: Obama’s Maiden India Visit” – IndiaRealTime (Wall Street Journal)

5. “President Obama’s visit to India, Day 1: The Obamas at Mani Bhavan “There were no human bombs then.” – Pundita (Pundita has several very good posts on the visit.)

Mr. Kamdar had a word of praise for the U.S. security personnel as well. “They weren’t at all obstructive. We could not make out who were the security and who were the staff. Everything went on so smoothly and naturally,” he said.

The Hindu

What kind of delusion is this?

Watched Charlie Rose last night. He and some of his guests were discussing President Obama’s political fortunes – post a Scott Brown victory – and what the President might do in order to reverse the downward trend. To give you a flavor of the conversation, I present the following excerpts from the transcript:

CHARLIE ROSE: Joining me now, Jon Meacham, editor of “Newsweek”
magazine, in Washington, Tom DeFrank of the “New York Daily News,” and Anne
Kornblut of “The Washington Post.” I’m pleased to have all of them here as
we take a look at this week, which is important for the president, and a
state of the union which is very important to him.”….

: “Well, he has clearly found that history is a more
complicated matter than the speechifying and the glamour, really, of the

In politics, you don’t get credit for what didn’t happen. So I think
we should say that he did in concert with the outgoing administration and
with his own folks, he did keep us out of a more severe downturn in 2009.”….

To my mind, the real problem has been that he has a kind of
intellectual snobbishness about being simple and clear about what he wants
the country to be. What does he want it to look like when he leaves? And
it sounds odd to say that sound bites are important, but they are. Jesus
spoke in them, and his stuff has aged rather well.”….

THOMAS DEFRANK: “Why is he where he is today? I think it’s because they made a real
miscalculation on health care. They thought they could sell it. They
didn’t sell it. They lost control of the message. The critics have
controlled the message on health care for the last four or five months, and
it’s a negative message.”….

ANNE KORNBLUT: “I guess it’s confusing to me why it’s so difficult for
them to show what his emotions are. All of us who have been around him or
covered the campaign know he isn’t a robot. He actually does have emotions
and a family he cares about, and he’s extremely good at talking about the
feelings he felt growing up in extraordinary circumstances.” ….

Seriously, the entire transcript and conversation are like that: He’s misunderstood, he’s misrepresented, he’s under appreciated for all that he has done! What?