The Obamas’ Not So Excellent African Adventure

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The Obamas arrive in South Africa

President Obama’s recent trip to Africa drew some criticism for its estimated  60-100 million dollar cost. In addition to his wife and daughters, his mother-in-law and a cousin were in tow. Much of the costs are guess-work as security operations are classified. Overall,there is a case for the president as a big spender, but this trip is more or less in  line with what has gone before.

US presidents go to Africa. The president went briefly to Ghana  in 2009. Mr Bush went twice, and as ex-President has been a number of times, and was on the continent while Mr Obama was traveling there this time. President Clinton took a one week trip in 1998. Jimmy Carter was the first American President to visit Sub Saharan Africa. While Presidents Reagan and H.W. Bush did not follow on Mr Carter’ s trailblazing, it now appears to be de rigueur for American presidents to take an African trip.

The question is, why? With it its resources and unstable governments, the continent was a cockpit during the cold war, but left to development and intelligence types. The US has no strategic alliances with any black African nation, and while the establishment of the Africom (Established in 2006 under the Bush Administration) command may presage a future struggle, it would be hard now to find any compelling national interest in Africa. Wars may rage and populations flee, but the brutal fact is that ii matters little in current geo-strategic terms, and not at all to ordinary citizens.

So why do our leaders go there?

First, it’s fun. The reception there seems heartfelt, and it’s hard to find anyone getting the treatment Nixon once did in South America.

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Cute kids, colorful local dress

There were a few demonstrators out in South Africa, but Mr. Obama was generally received enthusiastically, and courteously. African kids are just too cute, and that makes for great visuals. The music, dancing and colorful dress must provide a real boost, particularly when things are not going so well Stateside.

Then, being from the government, and leaders, our Presidents want to help, and do stuff. Every African trip results in some sort of “initiative” with a few billion dropped off to keep the local rulers in gold braid and the foreign NGOs in SUVs and Macs.

OBAMADANCE

The LA Times noted the proclivity of American leaders to dance when introduced to African rhythms. The President refrained, they say, but he’s either jogging or getting with the beat. Messrs Carter and Clinton kept their feet firmly on the ground, But Mr. Bush and Mrs. Clinton get their groves on whenever they are in the region.
   The VOA, Hurriyet, the Tanzanian press, and other displaying this image all lead with news of a new ‘initiative.”

That all such help seems to have had no effect at all is lost on these guys, regardless of party. There is a bland well-meaning and quite unself-conscious condescension in all this.

Really, what on earth can people who live in a taxpayer-funded mansion, travel in a luxury jet, and who move with great ease through a continent were many are lucky to find an over crowded bus on an appalling road. If there are roads at all. The Obamas did as well as any of their predecessors in displaying a tin ear as they dispensed platitudes in the course of their progress.

In Senegal, the First lady engaged with students at a girls’ school. It is customary for politicians to “relate” to their constituents. Just a regular Joe.  Mrs Obama deployed this technique when she said:

I know a little bit about this{the students’ struggles and adversities} from my

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Heartfelt reception: First Lady at girls’ school in Senegal

own experience.  See, like many of you, I didn’t grow up in a family with a lot of money.  My parents had to work hard every day to support us, so they never had the chance to get the kind of education they wanted for themselves.  But they had big dreams for me.  And more than anything in the world, they wanted me to graduate from secondary school and attend a university.  So they, too, made tremendous sacrifices to make that dream come true.”

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             The First Lady’s childhood home.

The President’s wife has been poor mouthing this way since at least her time in Princeton, as  her thesis demonstrates. Her father had a secure city government job that provided adequately for his family. Working hard every day to support a family is a situation millions would wish for. Michelle Obama has always had a warm bed, food on the table, decent clothing and, beginning not long after her graduation from Princeton, considerably more.

It is grating enough for public figures who have never suffered want, and who have done extremely well, to pretend to a history of deprivation so as to make themselves seem authentic, but it is downright embarrassing to have such people wallow in this petty whining abroad in a far less fortunate corner of the earth, in the faces of some who have known, and are still engaged in real struggle. One wonders what the young ladies thought. The First Lady at least was attempting to encourage her audience. Her husband was distinctly discouraging, although one doubts he would see it this way.

Ultimately, if you think about all the youth that everybody has mentioned here in Africa, if everybody is raising living standards to the point where everybody has got a car and everybody has got air conditioning, and everybody has got a big house, well, the planet will boil over — unless we find new ways of producing energy.

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             Boiled planet

I took this quote from Media Matters, which was incensed that these remarks would be seen as condescending and demanding. They point out that the president spoke in the larger context of aiding Africa in benefiting from the advances he sees as necessary to prevent the continents from melting and the seas vaporizing.

This could exonerate the President only in the eyes of those who are thoroughly committed to the green agenda. The “new ways of producing energy” are not rolling out next week, so the essence of the President’s admonition is that Africa( and the world’s poor) must wait.

Why should they?

One wonders if any of the young African audience were science majors. The most ardent anthropogenic global warming seers do not posit a burning planet. Climate scientists are in fact revising their forecasts downward. Mr. Obama has perhaps been too busy with one thing or another to have heard about this.  Wherever one stands on the climate issue, the President in this instance sounds like an arrogant fool.

There is nothing wrong, in my view, with privilege. We should all aspire to it. Too often, however, the privileged are not only blind to their own advantages, but rather mean when it comes to extending them to others.

The kindest thing world leaders such as Mr Obama could do for Africa would be to simply stay away. And the same could be said for the “initiatives” they scatter like party favors.

A public figure long associated with Africa related causes, who has learned a little something about condescending to Africa, is Bono of U2, who last year said in regards to development in Africa:

Job creators and innovators are just the key, and aid is just a bridge,” he told an audience of 200 leading technology entrepreneurs and investors at the F.ounders tech conference in Dublin. “We see it as startup money, investment in new countries. A humbling thing was to learn the role of commerce.”

Humility in regards to Africa is not something we can expect from Western leaders. It just feels too good to spread money and good cheer in places where men and women survive, live, and sometimes, yes, thrive, in conditions the President, you, or I, cannot comprehend and could not last out a day.

The Romans had  saying “Semper Aliquid Novo ex Africam.”  “There is always something new coming out of Africa”.  While it is a continent of wonders, for too long the news has been monotonously dismal.  This has changed.  Unevenly, not fast enough perhaps, but still, incomes in Africa after decades of stagnation and decline, are rising.  Not “initiatives,” but Africans themselves are bringing this about.

Thus it behooves us to take something new to Africa.

Respect.

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Does One Voice Matter?

It does.

To me.

And that’s enough.

As did many observers,after the 2012 U.S. Presidential election, I felt a sense of great futility.

A president with one of the worst economic records in history, a clearly failing foreign policy, a man of no managerial or administrative skills whatsoever, had been reelected on the basis of “coolness.” Familiarity with rap and basketball, ease in the talk show guest chair and near universal adulation as a great husband and fine father were the qualities judged by a plurality essential to leading to a country of 300 plus million.

Then there was his hapless opponent, and the stumble bum Republican campaign, which, while ably and precisely aided on its disastrous course by Obama For America, would have buried Mr. Romney all on its own. With of course, plenty of assists from a phalanx of media fellatrices.

Another four years of policy based on feelings, which sounds silly and insubstantial, but is all the more dangerous for its inchoate millenarian utopian longings manifested in multiculturalism, politically correct nostrums rooted in Stalinism, all backed by the coercive power of the sate, shown only occasionally with guns, more oftenly cloaked in a phantasmagoria of regulations and impenetrable law. Lawlessness is shrugged off with a giggle or a sneer, as the opposition party has the vapors and clutches its pearls.

Across the conservative threads(libertarians were largely cheering what they see as the coming conflagration, there were repression of weary defeat, and a strange sense of relief: If it’s all over, one no longer needs to care, as often expressed in the comment threads:.

It’s over

Fuck it.

Let it burn.

And my favorite:

Burn it down

Scatter the stones

Salt the earth where it stood.

So I quit blogging, restricting my writing to outraged, or cynical tweets, far easier to do while surfing the net, reading, watching TV or doing all three.

I mean, why bother?

Yet, over these last months things, some small and obscure, some momentous and widely known lead me to believe that it is not all over. The tide of infantile leftism has not washed away everything.

While Europe and the U.S. may be turning on the economic system that made them havens where humanity is safest, richest, healthiest, and happiest, much of the rest of the world – with the exceptions of some foolishly misguided regimes in Lain America, and of course, the Middle East – even large parts of Africa, are emerging from the poverty and oppression that has been the lot of most since humans first formed governments.

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I admit to only skimming this 2000 page plus behemoth back in the 70s.

The Malthusian misery that experts saw as Asia’s inescapable fate turned out entirely wrong. Gunnar Myrdal’s Asian Diilemma of burgeoning populations and scarce resources gives way to an Asian dilemma as how best to supply the goods, services and opportunities the continents’ new middle classes demand.

While Mr Obama, fresh off diversionary feints on immigration and gun control, turns to “Climate Change,” that issue has nearly dropped out of public consciousness, as the defects in it proponents” arguments become more and more clear as they themselves cannot explain the failure of their models.

Even as, in the wakes of the Boston bombing, and the Woolich beheading, governments and media rush to assure us that these atrocities have nothing to do with Islam, public disapproval of Islam rises.

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Evil White racists just didn’t bring out the fans.

While much of American made television and film is filled with endless anti-male, anti – christian, and, dare I say it anti white –sentiments(See “White House down.” Better yet, don’t) some science fiction seems to feel freer to express sentiments not acceptable in mainstream Hollywood drama or comedy, and go beyond the Left Coast’s pet hates to address issues and ideas of real substance. Resistance to big government and constitutional legitimacy are common themes(More on this topic here).

There is of course schadenfreude in Mr. Obama’s current travails. To those who have shifted their views to give him approval ratings that would have sunk him in the election, it’s” We told you so ” time. The president’s Olympian distance( some call it cluelessness), and the dodge and weave tactics of his operators have held back the deluge so far, and while wouldn’t bet on a “Downfall” scenario, irrelevance, however, is quite possible, and more than enough.

Better yet, while the Presidents approval remains in the mid to high forties, an indicator of the truth in Romney’s 47pct remarks, there is a growing sense that something is amiss. In the “Wizard of Oz it was a diminutive nobody pulling the levers powering the illusion. Now, many have the queasysy feeling that there is no one at all behind the curtain.

Republicans can be counted on to cringe at exactly right moment, and decades of of indoctrination and propaganda from left dominated institutions will not be undone by a scattered and not yet self conscious opposition, but it may be – yes ,I understand my weaselly use of the conditional here – that a second term for Mr. Obama, even with all its costs in money and institutional damage, is what is necessary to once again discredit leftism at a time when growing numbers are not old enough to remember its previous failures.

Stay tuned.

Televison Science Fiction Speaks Truth to Power

That is, truth in the face of  Hollywood tired left orthodoxy.he

While much of American made television and film is filled with endless anti-male, anti – christian, and, dare I say it anti white –sentiments(See “White House down.” Better yet, don’t) Science fiction seems to feel freer to express sentiments not acceptable in mainstream Hollywood drama or comedy.

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Misfits stay one step ahead of a Government that only wants to help.

2002’s  “Firefly”  was a space opera western in which liberty living losers in a war against an all powerful “Alliance” roam the fringes of humanity’s new home in another galaxy. The Alliance governed “Core” is clean, perfect, and monstrously oppressive. Its all pervading order and surveillance seem prescient in view of today’s data seizure revelations(Well, not revelations to me, or those who conceived this series).  A good deal of their semi-criminal activity involves avoiding revenue collectors.  Nobody’s perfect: there is one episode in which a colony of Christian fundamentalists decide to burn a psychic crew member as a witch.  Islam doesn’t seem to have made the the extraterrestrial jump.

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Nearly twenty nuclear detonations cannot destroy American’s desire for union and liberty.

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Dramatic ending to Season One: A refugee, relieved to be sheltered by the US military, finds that all is not well.

Later in the decade, “Jericho,” while positing an “evil corporation” of the Halliburton type as responsible for the nuclear decapitation of the American republic, then goes on to show hardworking, god fearing small town Americans defending themselves, and the Constitution, with firearms they know well how to use. DeToqueville’s observation of the American character as both individual and associational is clear and consistent throughout the series.

ImageThe Second Massachusetts resistance regiment in the current “Falling Skies “ is an  unsubtle and proud reference to the original Minutemen. Nationwide authority has been taken out in the initial stage of the alien invasion. It falls to citizen soldiers to carry on the fight. While it is hard to imagine the city of “Shelter in place” actually taking such action, it is cheering that someone writes scripts that find the idea inspiring. At the end of the last season, the 2nd Mass bailed out of an authoritarian non-constitutional restored government to fight the aliens on its own. Given the USA’s difficulties in Afghanistan, “Falling Skies” might also be seen as making a point on the power of assymetrical warfare

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Plenty fo guns, and an ongoing Starwars bar scene – with hookers!

Yes, the bad guys in “Revolution” are a militia, but the rebels fight to restore the Constitution and are willing to die for the Stars and Stripes.Image “Defiance,” while pushing a “Coexist” message of “Why can’t we all get along,” after alien invasions, also shows a healthy respect for self defense and entrepreneurship, with one important character the unashamed female owner of a thriving bar and brothel. Social conservatives might find this a left libertine thread, but it appears to me to be pure libertarian.

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Isolated group fighting off hordes of, um, “savages.” Is this racist, or something?

And then there is “Walking Dead.”  Pure atomistic survival. The one authority re-established after the fall of the old order, the Governor, is pure evil. Once again, it takes families and small groups – with guns – to resist.

I don’t know whether there is a conscious resistance in Hollywood, or writers  and producers simply cannot ignore the fact that warmed over 60s leftism doesn’t sell outside of Sundance, but there is an audience for values traditionally seen as American.

Reason to celebrate – and tune in!