Category Archives: Uncategorized

Spooked by Rubio

That I can remember, no former President has joined forces with a current one to oust a Senatorial candidate of their own party.  It reeks of panic and desperation, yes, but it also raises an interesting question—why?

Even if the path to victory appears easier with candidate Big Bird, I wonder why the Presidents, former and current, would risk alienating principled Democrats, African-Americans and skeptical independents by pleading with Meek to take one for the team. On this Halloween weekend, what about Marco Rubio so spooks these two?

He’s Hispanic? Is that it? That’s what insiders are claiming….From the Wall St. Journal:

People familiar with the matter said the former president and other top national Democrats worry a win by the charismatic Mr. Rubio, a 39-year-old Cuban-American, would make him a political phenomenon capable of boosting the GOP’s chances with Hispanic voters.

So Clinton and Obama fear his success would open the door to droves of Hispanic Americans? That theory ignores the fact that the seat up for grabs was held by Mel Martinez, a Cuban-born American.  It also ignores the fact that Susana Martinez is way ahead in the New Mexican gubernatorial race, so it’s not as if Hispanic Republicans are an endangered species.

What else could it be? Most certainly Marco Rubio poses a threat, but not as a Moses to millions of Hispanic voters. They fear a Rubio ascendency could impact their futures. He’s dynamic, direct and a charismatic leader in a Presidential field of also-rans.  Palin is polarizing, Romney’s a stiff. Gingrich faces insurmountable personal obstacles, and none of the others have the charisma to rally the people. Perhaps the old sage sees competition for his wife and maybe Obama sees it for himself.

The Presidents should relax; because Americans understand all too well the amount of damage a one-term Senator can inflict. Whether it’s Hillary or Barack, if it’s 2012, they won’t be facing Mr. Rubio.

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What Comes After Trillion?

In recent weeks and in an effort to curb growing outrage and voter disaffection, President Obama has shown up everywhere, save  the guest judge chair on ‘American Idol’. From town halls to prayer breakfasts, on prompter and off, the President has been seen pimping his budget and defending his prescription for the U.S. economy, which is predictably focused on government, not business, creating jobs.

He’s also appeared a bit touchy in recent days. In his State of the Union, he denied that his healthcare plan is a result of some ‘Bolshevik plot,’ and sought to blunt nasty ‘communist’ or ‘socialist’ aspersions cast by those evil tea-partiers.  It’s easy to see why he’d want to avoid such labels, however true they might be. Forget economic output comparisons between old Europe and the United States over the last thirty years and just examine last week’s market reaction to Spain and Portugal’s budgetary crises. Spending and raising debt ceilings hasn’t helped their respective economies. Add Greece to that mix as they are trying to get spending under control. 

Obama has repeatedly pledged to restore fiscal discipline to Washington, yet his budget would more than double the current debt, increasing it to $26 trillion over the next decade. Forty cents on every dollar spent in the budget is borrowed. And while it would be nice if maybe our loan shark was Canada or Britain, China continues to invest in our debt. With each security sold or Wall St investment made, Beijing wields more influence and hinders further criticism of their monetary, trade, or human-rights policies.

What can Americans expect from these borrowed Chinese dollars? How will the President use this debt to catapult the U.S. economy into prosperity? 

His budget spells it out.

Under the ‘Reviving job creation and laying a foundation for economic growth’ section Obama outlines his recipe to grow jobs. ‘Investments’, spending, are programmed for education, clean energy and infrastructure to lay a foundation for long term job growth. He provides high-speed rail with $5 billion over five years, $1 billion in this year’s budget. Just how will hi-speed rail create jobs and sharpen America’s competitive edge?  

Adopting this particular European idea is folly on so many levels. European cities are much closer together and their highways are radically inferior; there just isn’t enough room for road expansion. Another reason for a viable European railway—weather. Many businessmen from Milan take the train to Turin or Venice to avoid fog which, in the winter, can create hours of delays. In addition, gas is more expensive. Choosing between spending 80€ to fill up your tank or 20$ to take a train, is a no-brainer. And when Europeans visit America, they rent cars; they don’t purchase Amtrak tickets.

In addition to the ‘I wanna be like Europe’ nonsense, the President fails to understand that multi-nationals aren’t flocking to China and India for their infrastructure; it’s their cheap labor and lower taxes. Cutting-edge is not a herd of cows meandering about the roadway unimpeded, it’s I-95 from Miami to New York.  

Another bedrock of the new Obamaconomy is clean energy. Not only does the new budget allow for $54.5 billion in ‘green’ loans, it encourages “new nuclear facilities and a range of renewable energy projects that reduce greenhouse gases and pollutants, while simultaneously creating jobs and contributing to long-term economic growth.” Energy efficiency is a critical component, but perhaps it would be better to fund those programs when the economy is on solid footing.

Another baffling mention in a growing economy subsection is the $1 billion Michelle Obama childhood obesity project. It would be altogether different if this $1 billion were to feed starving American children, but as it stands, we are going to be borrowing from the Chinese to better nourish overweight children. 

The budget also lays out plans to bring grocery stores and other ‘healthy’ food retailers to ‘food desert’ communities.

Where to start…Shouldn’t Publix or Whole Foods decide where to put their stores? And what exactly is a ‘food desert’ community? Inner cities? Maybe if bag boys weren’t scared to push Grandma Edith’s cart to her car, Whole Foods might consider the idea. Government doesn’t need to help businesses decide how to expand profits. That job falls to management and their expertise.

 As Americans watch their friends and family lose jobs with no end in sight, they see a President more interested in remaking the nation than strengthening the economy. Since their own wealth hasn’t been enhanced through second mortgages and house flippers, they aren’t apt to believe that borrowing from China will result in an economic renaissance.

 If fiscal conservatives don’t win in November and get a handle on these trillion dollar deficits, Americans better familiarize themselves with a new term—quadrillion.

Islamophobia in Eurabia?

Yesterday, Swiss citizens overwhelmingly approved a ban on new minaret construction in Switzerland, and in the process, infuriated all the right parties—the BBC, the Muslim Brotherhood, and elites in the United States. The Swiss should feel shame, and Europe should be worried, according to the Guardian, yet this vote represents a popular trend—Muslim immigrants must meld into society, not attempt to alter it.

In taking a quick peek at the numbers, fifty-seven percent approved the ban, on a relatively high turnout of fifty-three percent. And while only five percent of the Swiss population are Muslim immigrants, and only four minarets hover in towns throughout Switzerland, a clear majority were galvanized into opposing any dramatic changes to the cultural landscape.

France is considering a ban on niqabs and any other face-concealing veils, and one mayor in Italy has erected a controversial sign along with a new policy—no burqas and niqabs in Varallo, Italy. The warning is also translated in Arabic.

“Throughout the city, we are applying the prohibition of wearing these clothes that, in the case of the burqa, prevent the recognition of the person. The signs signify the will “of the Administration to stop this practice of Muslim women that goes against our traditions and standards on safety.”

Some elites, progressives and academics might find this cultural preservation trend troubling for many reasons: it upsets their utopian view of European multiculturalism; it challenges their enlightened Europe as America’s role model argument; it shatters political correctness into pieces. Make no mistake—banning burqas and minarets isn’t politically correct, nor is it expedient.

Perhaps conservatives were wrong. Maybe Americans could learn a thing or two from Europeans. Culture is important, and it merits the fight.

“Going against our traditions…”

Imagine if we used that response to the current assault on Christmas or the English language taking place in America. It’s racist to take the position that Americans or legal residents should have a rudimentary command of the language, and it is offensive to say “Merry Christmas.” By contrast, Italians are picky about their culture, which is why schools were informed of possible penalties if they dared to remove any of the crucifixes the European Human Rights Court found so offensive.

Over time and under constant influence by elites in D.C and on TV, Americans have been influenced into behaving like robots, unable to voice concerns or fight for their culture out of fear for looking like rubes. They can’t voice concerns without incessantly couching their words or avoiding the subject matter altogether. But as they’ve morphed under the pc cloud, they have also exhausted their patience with the experiment.

“The Absentee Ballot”

 

hammer_sic3aFor generations, Italy has inspired transplanted writers. From personal narratives to cookbooks, from history books to blockbuster fiction, its enchanting culture and historical legacy has helped to churn out manuscript after manuscript. Although I was fascinated by its history, transfixed by its culture and wowed by it cuisine, my Italian experience, as I write about in The Absentee Ballot, falls into an entirely separate category of “back from Italy” books: surviving liberalism and living to tell about it.

Unlike those who vowed to leave the U.S. if George Bush was elected, I had simply decided to follow my Italian husband who was returning home after spending several years in the U.S. My husband had motivated my move, and in chapter one, I explain what motivated my book.

Historically, there have always been hypercritical Europeans, but the shameless assault that I was seeing emanate from American leftists prompted me to give a broader perspective on a Europe that I found strikingly different from the one championed in their blogs, e-mails and newscasts. European attacks on U.S foreign policy and culture weren’t new, but the rhetoric that was spewing forth from American liberal circles had become unbearable.

More and more Americans jumped on the bandwagon, and the America bashing intensified. It became hip to be an Amerihater.  With the casualties rising in Iraq and no WMD to be found, they became bolder in their criticism.

Not only were these Americans blinded to the notion that they were living in the greatest country on earth, most of them hadn’t a clue about the practical effects of the policies which they advocated. George Clooney might have filmed a commercial for the former communist running for Prime Minister of Italy, but his Italian experience is quite atypical. His American paycheck, his reluctance to learn the language and his lakefront villa opulence keep him from grasping the frustrations of a typical hard-working Italian, so how is he qualified to comment, let alone recommend a candidate.  I wonder if he has ever attempted to reach the center of Milan on a train, bus or subway when strikers have shut them down. Because I used the train and the subway, I wasn’t as lucky. Then again, I was, because I was able to witness socialism at work.

Looking down, I watched impassioned hippies march through the otherwise car-packed streets, while flags and banners waved as thousands of people chanted and played music. The sea of red had the odd Soviet flag sprinkled here and there. Some protestors screamed into megaphones, while others sang the communist worker’s hymn. Not being a communist myself, I didn’t recognize what the song was until I watched the news later that night.

CGIL (ex-communist union) had turned out thousands of people, including children, to manifest in over one hundred towns across Italy.  The strikes varied in complexion from city to city, but the scioperanti, as they are called in Italy, used this occasion to protest a panoply of issues ranging from the war in Afghanistan to environmental policies. In Bologna, they took over a Benetton shop.  Elsewhere, anti-Big Mackers organized a three day event against McDonalds.

Every drumbeat and bell struck in squares across Italy signaled new grievances. Ding: Global warming. Dong: Unfair layoffs. Bing: No War. Bong: More vacations. However serious or ridiculous the grievance, the habitual strikers used any and every excuse to march and complain. I guess Machiavelli was right: the power wears out those who don’t have it. Berlusconi and the right had worn them out just as Bush had exasperated leftist Americans.

Strikes were inconvenient and periodic monkey wrenches, but there were other more critical errors in the liberal utopia, namely multiculturalism which is fundamentally altering Europe’s cultural landscape. And because Italian isn’t a widely spoken language, their struggle with immigration doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Italians have struggled with illegal immigration and waves of refugees from Africa, because of their preference for multiculturalism over assimilation. The crisis has been compounded by the severe religious divide between the Catholic majority and those Muslims calling Italy their new home.

The battle between the leftists and those vying to preserve Italy’s storied culture is growing increasingly bitter.

It wasn’t just embarrassment or adding members to their roles that interested the communists. They also used the religion of the immigrants to beat back the dominant faith which they despised. Near Siena, well-known for the palio, a centuries-old horse race in the town square, religious tensions were stoked by a communist mayor, who, without seeking the approval of those living in Colle Val d’Elsa—a village just outside of Siena, brilliantly decided to provide public funds to build a mosque on a public park. The locals were outraged, not because of racism or bigotry toward Muslims in the town, but because they weren’t asked their opinion. There was no referendum.

Construction has begun and minarets will soon tower above the small cobblestone streets and medieval frescoes. Score one for those Marxists who would love nothing more than to snuff out the “opium of the people.”

At times, politicians on the far right utilized rather unorthodox strategies to affect the growing Islamic influence in Italian society.

Roberto Calderoli, a La Lega politician, planned a “pig day” to protest another planned mosque in Bologna.  “I place myself and my pig at the disposal of those who are against this mosque,” he said, offering to tour the construction site with his pig, after which the ground would be “considered infected and no longer suitable” for building.  Although the pig day proposal shocked many Italians, only 28% of the population supports any new mosque construction.

Immigration is a main concern of both Americans and Europeans; so is racism.  

It didn’t take long for me to recognize a peculiar connection between swastikas, old soviet flags and banana peelings. During European soccer matches, all were liable to end up littering soccer stadiums in appalling displays of racism.

At Milan’s San Siro soccer stadium, Zoro, a player for Messina, heard taunting so severe that he threatened to leave the field.  Other players convinced him to stay and play, but the next time he traveled to Milan for a game, he was greeted with a sign that read, “Peanuts and bananas are the price of your fame.”

I wonder how the elites, the self-loathers and the race-baiters would get along in Europe.  From human rights to UN resolutions, these folks are constantly in search of European approval. But how would they fair living inside their socialist utopia, and would they be surprised at the life they would find?  Would Jesse Jackson continue cashing in on corporate shakedowns and exploiting every race related issue to get mug time on television?  In Europe, he would have plenty of opportunities.

If Jesse and Al could help ease European racial tensions, then maybe Al Gore would be happier in Europe under its proactive environmental policy.  But, could Gore really last? He would have to alter his rather liberal use of electricity—reported to be twenty times that of the average American household.  Electricity in Europe, like fuel, is much more expensive

It would be costlier to operate his SUVs and private planes and then there are also the inconvenient “time outs” from driving in the city. When pollution levels reach a certain level inside the municipalities, the government bans city traffic and declares a pollution free zone.

If Gore lived inside an Italian metropoli, he’d have several options, starting with the many systems of mass transit. If the busses, trains and subways are not available because of strikes, there are always other viable alternatives, such as riding a bicycle or a horse.  Somehow I don’t see Al Gore riding the subway or a horse.

If it wasn’t striking workers grinding the transportation system to a halt, it was the ‘save the earth’ crowd’s efforts to ease smog in the cities and municipalities. But as inconvenient as those interruptions were, Italy’s outrageously high taxes had an even greater impact on the lifestyles of Italians, and me. Italians are known for their creativity, and their tax-evading maneuvers required every ounce of it.

I learned the routine rather quickly. If I requested a receipt for any labor completed, the bill was usually higher. Cash was always welcome and utilized more often than I was used to in the United States. My friends were refreshingly honest about their Swiss bank accounts, and would occasionally recount their tax escapades. One of my favorites was a friend who had made trips to Switzerland for years.

One afternoon when it came time for him to cross into Switzerland, the border patrol directed him to pull to the side of the road. They needed to search the car, and they did.  They looked through his briefcase, his jacket, the car and in the trunk, but found nothing and let him pass through. The only place they hadn’t checked was underneath his hat, which was where the smuggled cash was hidden. His behavior might seem extreme and deceitful, but the strain and limitations of the tax system had forced him to find another way.

High taxes, multiculturalism, environmental treaties and overbearing unions were just a few of the many socialist surprises that I found had been misrepresented by socialist sympathizers in the American mainstream media. However, their most egregious propaganda—the one that prompted my book—is their suggestion that Europeans hate America.

Getting along was easy. Europeans hadn’t held it against me that I was American, just as I hadn’t held it against them that they were not.

My neighbors didn’t seem to mind having a Yankee in their backyard. As a gated country club community, Monticello wasn’t necessarily a typical Italian neighborhood, but it was almost bizarre to see how the American flag functioned as a brand. I was amazed to see kids wearing sweaters of old glory or shirts with “I love the U.S.A” scribbled across them.  None of them had “I love Germany,” or “I love China” t-shirts. It was America they were wearing.

Surely, part of this curious admiration was due to the great marketing of the flag by designers in the U.S. However, if Italians felt loathing or even indifference toward the U.S, they would avoid dressing themselves in red, white and blue.

The most recent U.S. Presidential election, provided voters a clear choice, perhaps the most unambiguous in decades. The background of candidate Obama enticed voters with a chance to make history, while his eloquence before the teleprompter invoked comparisons with Reagan. Since his presidency has begun, however, it has been his frightening policy proposals like healthcare that have functioned as a collective double espresso to the voters.

The triple espresso is The Absentee Ballot.

Wall St Invasion?

The distress over the global financial meltdown encompasses more than just frightening 401k statements and doomsday newscasts. We’ve now another impetus for headaches and acid stomachs. This week, Libya’s Qaddafi became a major shareholder in Unicredit, Italy’s largest bank, which might have prompted the Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi’s warning. “I have news that oil producing countries with large funds are buying heavily into our markets.”

So beyond China helping the United States with its perpetually unbalanced budget, we’ve got Arabs trolling for bargains. Berlusconi elaborated: “Now there are great opportunities for those who have capital, and I think that certain sovereign funds, and ones you would oppose, are hostile.”

I take it that it isn’t just moderate Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal bargain hunting in the major indices. I use the term ‘moderate’ because apart from his support for CAIR and his comments after 9/11 which elicited a rejection of his $10 million check, he’s been a revolutionary among his fellow Bedouins. He has supported women’s rights and hired the first female pilot in Saudi Arabia.

As gas prices have ballooned and the economy has slowed, “drill baby drill,” has become an increasingly popular refrain repeated at McCain rallies. More than just cheap gas, it’s our sovereignty at stake.

According to Rand, U.S. oil shale reserves represent three times that of Saudi Arabia. Yet, we would rather buy the oil from the Saudis, making them wealthy enough to buy large chunks of our corporations.

Only in America

Madonna and Phelps: American Culture on Full Display

Liberals often obsess over how the United States is viewed globally. Like elementary schoolchildren praying to be accepted by the ‘in’ crowd, they insecurely wait for Obama’s election and the restoration of their ‘cool’ status. U.S. foreign policy would show more deference to our allies, and presumably our enemies. Our warmongering would end. And finally, we would pass our mantle of the world’s most egregious polluter.

But routinely absent from their concerns and arguments about anti-Americanism worldwide, is the impact our culture has had on the image of the United States. In the Pew Global Attitudes project of 2007, 47 countries were asked about our culture, ideas and customs.

Pew asked:

Which of the following phrases comes closer to your view? It’s good that American ideas and customs are spreading here, OR it’s bad that American ideas and customs are spreading here?”

Europeans answered definitively. They consider the spread of American ideas and customs damaging to their respective cultures. Eighty-one percent of French, seventy-six percent of Spanish, and fifty-nine percent of Italians reject American culture, and in looking at last week’s news coverage in Italy alone, that notion is entirely understandable. Photos of our gold medal winner celebrating by stuffing dollar bills in the thong of a Las Vegas stripper appeared in last week’s Corriere della Sera. And Sunday, it was reported in every major Italian newspaper, that our own queen of pop had dedicated her unfortunate hit ‘Like a Virgin’ to the pope in Rome over the weekend.

Today, the story appeared in the English language press. From London, The Times reported:

At her Sticky & Sweet concert on Saturday night, attended by 60,000 fans at the Olympic Stadium in Rome, Madonna introduced the song Like a Virgin — one of her earliest hits — with the words “I dedicate this song to the Pope, because I’m a child of God”. She added: “All of you are also children of God.”

That she was invited back to Rome is amazing. Two years ago, she staged a mock crucifixion at Rome’s Olympic stadium.

As for Michael Phelps, it isn’t my place to judge his behavior, but, in the context of examining how we are perceived abroad, it is a fair question to raise. Couldn’t he have arranged for his own stripper? Or, better yet, couldn’t he have held on a while longer, until the level of scrutiny on him had waned, before hitting the Vegas strip?

For many abroad, their only window into American culture comes through our films, television shows, and our music and pop icons. Sadly, last week, two of our most accomplished performers gave an ugly view, and validated the conclusions of many abroad who enjoy our entertainment but reject its influence.

As Americans, we shouldn’t just strive to move down the list of the largest environmental polluters. We should endeavor to dethrone ourselves, and end our reign as King of cultural polluters.

Obama to Make Berlin Speech?

To some conservatives, Obama’s habit of invoking Reagan’s name on the campaign trail in an admiring, deferential way, has come across as self-serving and transparent. I suppose it’s akin to former vice-President Dan Quale’s mention of Kennedy in the debate with the “what’s his name” he ran against the first go-around. Even though, honestly, I didn’t see the harm in it.

So, I’ll give Obama a pass for his opportunistic use of the father of modern conservatism’s name, though it’s tedious nonetheless. However, I wouldn’t be inclined to forgive a speech at the site of one of the greatest addresses by a President.

From Der Spiegel:

Plans for a visit by Barack Obama, the presumed Democratic candidate for president of the United States, have moved forward — slowly — in Berlin, where he may give a speech before the Brandenburg Gate this summer.

Evidently, Germany’s ambassador is keen on making it happen.

Germany’s ambassador to Washington, Klaus Scharioth, has reportedly worked for weeks to convince Obama’s campaign that the candidate’s only large European appearance should take place in Berlin.

I wonder if the Ambassador has been in touch with the McCain campaign to inquire about his European schedule, if he has any. Hmmm. I’m also curious if there is any historical precedent for a US Presidential candidate making campaign speeches to foreign audiences.

Kennedy and Reagan both made major addresses, but on both occasions they were delivered by Presidents, not aspirational wannabes.

Update: Looks like the Chancellor’s office has put the brakes on the planned speech:

From Der Spiegel:

“The Brandenburg Gate is the most famous and history-rich site in Germany,” the Chancellery source said. In the past, the location has only been used on very special occasions for political speeches by world leaders. In the past, the location has been used only on very special occasions for political speeches by world leaders. And it has been reserved for use only by elected American presidents, not candidates. And it has been reserved for use only by elected American presidents, not candidates. The decision on whether the Democrat can speak at the location ultimately lies with the Berlin state government. The decision on whether the Democrat can speak at the location ultimately lies with the Berlin state government. Chancellery officials are concerned that the Brandenburg Gate could be turned into an “arbitrary stage” that other campaigns could also seek to use in the future. Chancellery officials are concerned that the Brandenburg Gate could be turned into an “arbitrary stage” that other campaigns could also seek to use in the future.

It’s a traditional practice for US presidential candidates to visit Germany before the election. It’s a traditional practice for U.S. presidential candidates to visit Germany before the election. However, the source pointed out that agreements can only be made with elected presidents. However, the source pointed out that agreements can only be made with elected presidents. The source also noted that a the German federal government would also be equally pleased to play host to a visit by Republican candidate John McCain. The source also noted that a the German federal government would also be equally pleased to play host to a visit by Republican candidate John McCain. The door is just as open for him, the source said. The door is just as open for him, the source said.