Those who control the past control the future

As part of my course in economics, I teach some of the history of the subject and have noticed something of a trend over the past few years in the kinds of background knowledge I can assume they will have. There was a time that I could count on at least some of my students having heard of and known something about Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill. Almost all will have heard of Karl Marx but none will have heard of Thomas Malthus or David Ricardo. John Maynard Keynes lots of them already have heard of but never Mises and Hayek. Thus, when I teach students the economics of the free market, much of it is completely new to them. Very few have much of an idea how our economy works, and many (most?) believe that it is the government that causes economic activity to happen.

John Howard has now entered into the debate over how our history is taught. There is a front page story in The Australian on Howard’s critique of the Australian history high school curriculum. Here is some of what it says in this article:

The former prime minister said last night that ‘our Western heritage appears to be so conspicuously absent from the history curriculum reflects a growing retreat from self-belief in Western civilisation’. In a swingeing critique of the government’s national high school curriculum, which is being introduced at various levels in the states through to 2014, Mr Howard said a lack of proper perspective in history teaching would ‘deny future generations a real understanding of what has made us as a nation’.

‘The curriculum does not properly reflect the undoubted fact that Australia is part of Western civilisation; in the process, it further marginalises the historic influence of the Judeo-Christian ethic in shaping Australian society and virtually purges British history from any meaningful role,’ he said in the inaugural Sir Paul Hasluck lecture at the University of Western Australia. . . .

‘It is a fact that the modern Australia is a product of Western civilisation; the Judeo-Christian influence is a reality and the British inheritance self evident. We cannot properly understand our nation’s history without fully recognising that this is the case,’ Mr Howard said.

‘The laudable goals of enhancing the teaching of indigenous and Asian history could have been fully achieved by the curriculum’s authors without relegating or virtually eliminating the study of influences vital to a proper understanding of who we are as a people and where we came from.

‘That our Western heritage appears to be so conspicuously absent from the history curriculum reflects a growing retreat from self-belief in Western civilisation.

‘It is as if the West must always play the villain simply because it has tended to enjoy more power and economic success than other parts of the world since 1500.

‘Magna Carta; parliamentary democracy, the language we speak – which, need I remind you, is now the lingua franca of Asia; much of the literature we imbibe; a free and irreverent media; our relatively civil system of political discourse; the rule of law; and trial by jury . . . these are all owed in one form or another to the British.’

This is a sorry situation if it’s true. We are one of the most successful societies on earth, a magnet for others from everywhere, but if our students are not taught about that great Western tradition which we are all the beneficiaries of it will not last for very long.

Shameless liars

There does seem to be something going on here. The Washington Post’s fact checker in chief has for the second day in a row drawn attention to Obama White House lies, in this case in regard to the continuous denial that the attacks on the American embassies in Egypt and Libya were premeditated terrorist attacks rather than spontaneous demonstrations about some obscure film trailer shown on Youtube. He writes:

In any kind of confused overseas event, initial reports are often wrong. But the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans were killed, including the ambassador, is a case study of how an administration can carefully keep the focus as long as possible on one storyline — and then turn on a dime when it is no longer tenable.

For political reasons, it certainly was in the White House’s interests to not portray the attack as a terrorist incident, especially one that took place on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Instead the administration kept the focus on what was ultimately a red herring — anger in the Arab world over anti-Muslim video posted on You Tube. With key phrases and message discipline, the administration was able to conflate an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Egypt — which apparently was prompted by the video — with the deadly assault in Benghazi.

Officials were also able to dismiss pointed questions by referring to an ongoing investigation.

Ultimately, when the head of the National Counterterrorism Center was asked pointblank on Capitol Hill whether it was a an act of terror — and he agreed — the administration talking points began to shift. (Tough news reporting — as well as statements by Libya’s president — also played a role.) Yet President Obama himself resisted using the ‘t’ word, even as late as Tuesday, while keeping the focus on the video in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly.

On Wednesday, however, White House spokesman Jay Carney acknowledged also that Obama himself believes the attack was terrorism — and so more than two weeks after the attack the Rubicon finally was crossed.

As a reader service, we have compiled a comprehensive timeline of administration statements, showing the evolution in talking points, with key phrases highlighted in bold. Many readers sent suggestions for this timeline, for which we are deeply grateful.

We will leave it to readers to reach their own conclusions on whether this is merely the result of the fog of war and diplomacy — or a deliberate effort to steer the storyline away from more politically damaging questions.

OK. Here’s this reader’s conclusion. They are shameless liars. I suspect there’s no one out there with a different conclusion.

Potentially the most transforming president of the twenty-first century

It makes me actually angry that the media are such fools that for reasons that remain entirely invisible they are willing to lie, distort and deceive, not just to keep the worst president in more than a century in office, but also to keep someone who might well turn out to be the best president over the century to come out of office. On this matter, let me take you to an article in today Financial Review that outlines Mitt Romney’s concept of how to deal with foreign aid. Here are the direct quotes from a speech given yesterday about the program he has in mind:

Working with the private sector, the program will identify the barriers to investment and trade and entrepreneurialism in developing nations. In exchange for removing those barriers and opening their markets to US investment and trade, developing nations will receive US assistance packages focused on developing the institutions of liberty, the rule of law and property rights.

The aim of a much larger share of our aid must be the promotion of work and the fostering of free enterprise. Nothing we can do as a nation will change lives and nations more effectively and permanently than sharing the insight that lies at the foundation of America’s own economy – and that is that free people pursuing happiness in their own ways build a strong and prosperous nation.

What an extraordinary vision! A system of foreign aid that will work, that does not empower a bureaucracy but which makes private individuals pursuing their own interests the centrepiece of America’s assistance program. No doubt there are endless obstacles, but if implemented this would work and transform the remaining dead spots of the world’s economies even if this was taken up in only a minor way at first. Not everywhere is going to turn into Chile, Thailand or South Korea but this is the only way in which they could.

Mitt Romney has the potential to become the greatest president of the twenty-first century but first he has to be elected in November. How bizarre that it still remains a close run thing which can only be because of the impaired moral vision of so many of our graduates of higher education and the inanities they have passed on either in teaching others to despise the free market or in writing media stories filled with leftist stupidities and ignorance in which the underlying premise is that governments must protect the poor by preventing others from becoming rich.

Obama gets Four Pinocchios

This is what Obama said:

Over the last four years, the deficit has gone up, but 90 percent of that is as a consequence of two wars that weren’t paid for, as a consequence of tax cuts that weren’t paid for, a prescription drug plan that was not paid for, and then the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Now we took some emergency actions, but that accounts for about 10 percent of this increase in the deficit, and we have actually seen the federal government grow at a slower pace than at any time since Dwight Eisenhower, in fact, substantially lower than the federal government grew under either Ronald Reagan or George Bush.

Taxes are lower on families than they’ve been probably in the last 50 years. So I haven’t raised taxes.

OK, so he lied and misstated the truth yet again. But on this occasion he has been taken up by The Washington Post fact checker in chief who has awarded Obama the coveted Four Pinocchios. When it comes to Obama, he could retire with the trophy, but for the WP to take this on, it is near on unprecedented, specially six weeks out from the election. There is some kind of signalling going on here, and who knows, they may even wish to be on the good side of the incoming president. Here is the summation but there is a lot more that comes before:

We are not trying to make excuses for the fiscal excesses of the Bush administration — and Congress — in the last decade. But at some point, a president has to take ownership of his own actions.

Obama certainly inherited an economic mess, and that accounts for a large part of the deficit. But Obama pushed for spending increases and tax cuts that also have contributed in important ways to the nation’s fiscal deterioration. He certainly could argue that these were necessary and important steps to take, but he can’t blithely suggest that 90 percent of the current deficit “is as a consequence” of his predecessor’s policies — and not his own.

As for the citing of the discredited MarketWatch column, we have repeatedly urged the administration to rely on estimates from official government agencies, such as the White House budget office. It is astonishing to see the president repeat this faulty claim once again, as if it were an established fact.

A critique of that same fact checker is also found here written by March Thiessen of the American Enterprise Institute. He had pointed out that Obama had not attended his intelligence meetings but was taken on by the fact checker in the days he worked only to defend Obama. Thiessen therefore responded with this as his conclusion.

Perhaps Obama does not feel he needs such daily interaction. But the fact that he has not been having it is indisputable. (Though, interestingly, since my columns appeared, Obama attended his PDB meeting seven days in a row for the first time in seven months. If live briefings are no better than paper briefings, why has Obama suddenly begun receiving briefings in-person?)

It is a fact that for eight years before Obama took office, there was a daily meeting to discuss the PDB. And it is a fact that, on taking office, Obama stopped holding the daily intelligence meeting on a daily basis. Kessler may not think that is important, and he is entitled to his own opinion — but not his own facts.

I give Four Pinocchios to the Fact Checker.

As they used to say in Roman times, who will check the checker?

The man who wrote Civilization and its Enemies voted for Obama in 2008!

Lee Harris wrote two of the best books on the death of the West to have been published this century, Civilization and its Enemies and The Suicide of Reason. But even though he wrote such books, this is what I now find out:

The voters who really matter are those who, like me, were willing to give Obama a chance the first time around, but who, after watching his performance over the last four years, are not at all sure that they are willing to give him another.

He voted for Obama in 2008! He won’t this time he says, but if even someone who understands what he was able to write so brilliantly about can have voted for Obama, then the present was always the train wreck about to happen that has finally happened. Didn’t he read his own books? Did he not understand what they said? Was he really that out of touch with everything known at the time about Obama’s past? It is an immense puzzle and that’s all there is to say.

But he does now seem to have found his balance and has written an article, Stop Apologizing for Our Liberties, that unfortunately still sees the Obama administration on our side of the fence but is nevertheless more in keeping with his books. This is the central point:

Since the commencement of the current crisis, the Obama administration has repeatedly explained to the offended followers of the Prophet that the U.S. government had nothing to do with making the obnoxious film that, via its posting on YouTube, has set off weeks of bloody riot all across the Muslim world. This, of course, is quite true, but beside the point. Those who think that the rioters are foolish to attack the U.S. government for a film made by a lone crackpot are underrating the rioters’ intelligence. They know the U.S. government didn’t make the movie. What enrages them is that the U.S. government allowed such a movie to be made in the first place, and, even worse, that the government didn’t do the proper thing after it discovered who was responsible for making the blasphemous film—namely, to behead the blasphemer, in accordance with Sharia law. No doubt there are some moderate Muslims who would have probably been content with a less drastic punishment, such as hanging, and even a few liberal ones who would have been satisfied with a long prison term. But, across the spectrum, Muslims are not upset because of what our government did, but what it failed to do—punish an individual for exercising his constitutionally protected right to free expression.

There is nothing more to explain. This is who we are and that is who they are. What a compromise here would be I cannot even begin to imagine.

Newt’s advice on how to debate Obama

The first debate between Mitt Romney and the President will be on 3 October and in most ways it will be for Romney the Grand Final, Superbowl and World Series all in one. I don’t know what it will actually mean to “win” the debate, but on past observation, the major test is merely to look presidential. You don’t have to look more commanding or show more authority. The bleak facts of the situation are well enough known to all. It will therefore be, I think, only necessary for Romney to show he has what it takes to do the job, that he has policies that are in tune with the needs of the time, and not to say anything that will fall into the territory of a major blunder.

Newt Gingrich has his own advice, and having lost in the debates to Romney, he may not be the ideal person from whom such advice should be taken. Nevertheless, he has had his successes and they have all stemmed from a rhetorical genius the led to the first Republican House majority since the Eisenhower administration. You can read the whole article here, which is mostly a history of past debates, but which finishes with suggestions for Romney. I have only included the topic headings used by Gingrich. If you are interested, you can read it all yourself.

Relax and be prepared

Be assertive and be on offense against both Obama and his media

Be honest

Use humor

Enjoy the evening

The only part of Gingrich’s advice I will mention in full is his advice about the media. What to do is anyone’s guess. Romney knows as well as anyone just how poisonous the media are and how they long for a genuine mistake to pillory him over. But he has his advisers and they have done the focus groups so they too have a strategy. For what it’s worth, these are Gingrich’s suggestions in full on how to deal with the media:

You can be on offense without being offensive.

The strongest reactions I got to my debates came from people who were desperate for someone to stand up to the media and redefine the questions and reframe the assumptions.

Americans are sick and tired of the unending liberalism and suffocating groupthink of the elite media.

If you look at my strongest applause lines virtually every one was taking on the media.

It is inevitable the media will ask Romney about ‘the 47 percent.’ Instead of answering it, Romney should pivot and say, ‘Let me tell you about the 100 percent. Obama has failed the 100 percent who have to buy gasoline. Obama has failed the 100 percent who will be paying interest on the Obama national debt for the rest of their lives. Obama has failed 100 percent of those who want to get a job and move on with their lives. Obama has failed everyone in the Middle East who had hoped the Arab Spring would lead to freedom by allowing it to turn into an Islamist winter.’

The country would be electrified.

Doesn’t seem so electrifying to me. Slow and steady wins the race which is the advice I would give. I think Romney’s already in a winning position. He now just has to close the deal.

Journalists are not the arbiters of right and wrong, good and bad, true and false

Eventually it had to happen that things said by the media become mere noise and make no impact on the right side of the political divide. There is a Politico article today, commented on by Jonathan Tobin, in which the author cannot believe Republicans not only haven’t already conceded the election, but will moreover continue to fight it out to the end. And this is so, even though the media have already, and on more than one occasion, declared some statement by Romney as a blunder that has finally finished his run for president. Here is Tobin discussing this media syndrome:

Let’s get this straight: The media decides that Romney’s gaffe about the 47 percent defines the election while Obama’s gaffes about the murders of Americans being ‘bumps in the road’ isn’t worth discussing. They push this line about Romney’s incompetence relentlessly; accept speeches filled with misstatements and distortions at the Democratic National Convention at face value after treating GOP convention speeches as ‘fact-checked’ lies and help manufacture a post-convention bounce; and then declare the race (which is still largely within the margin of error in most polls) over and consider it a ‘curiosity’ that Republicans still like their chances and understand tying their fates to Romney is a lot smarter than writing him off. In other words, if the GOP doesn’t accept their narrative and give up, they are in denial. It never occurs to the chattering classes that about half the country still plans to vote to turn President Obama’s incomplete into an ‘F’ in November and that his wife shouldn’t be fitted for her second inaugural gown just yet.

Most journalists at best have only a second rate social sciences degree, usually from some university in which its social sciences departments have been taken over by the far left. That’s why we are getting to the stage where people on the right side of the ledget won’t just ignore such people but will actively disdain their views and mistrust anything they write.

Journalists are not the arbiters of right and wrong, good and bad, true and false. Unless they are recognisably identifiable as not being of the socialist, collectivist tribe, the virtual certainty is that they are – just stand-ins for the parties of the left. Why anyone should pay attention to what they say or report is beyond me.

Apple’s Steve Wozniak: I want to become Australian

Well, what is one to make of this:

Steve Wozniak, who co-founded Apple with the late Steve Jobs, revealed his fondness for Australia and said he hopes to become a citizen. . . .

Wozniak, who quit Apple in 1987 after 12 years, told local radio in Brisbane last week that he enjoyed his regular visits to Australia.

‘I am… on the way to become an Australian citizen, that’s a little known fact,’ he told station 4BC after queuing up to buy the new generation iPhone 5.

‘It turns out that I get to keep my American citizenship,’ he added.

‘I intend, you know who knows what will follow through in the next five years, I intend to call myself an Australian and feel an Australian, and study the history and become, you know, as much of a real citizen here as I can.’

These are sentiments I well know myself. And I’m sure he will find some Indonesian fisherman that will allow him to make his wishes come true. Of course, what interests him most is the NBN which at $60 billion he thinks is a steal.