The Weekend Web


The Weekend Web

Is the U.S. economy too big to fail or too big to save? Plus, now that Hezbollah’s in control, let’s bring Hezbollah under control!

As the U.S. government prepares to inject billions of dollars into collapsing mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the New York Sun editorial page asked some pertinent questions, such as at what point do government bailouts stop? At the New York Times, the debate is over whether these institutions are too big to fail—or are they too big to save? The Times then makes a chilling comparison between the federal government propping up these banks and the global economy propping up America:

Meanwhile, as American debts swell and foreigners hold more of it, nervousness grows that, some day, this arrangement will end badly. The dollar has been declining in value against other currencies. Some foreigners have begun to hedge their bets by buying more euros. “Obviously, this is going to come to an end,” Mr. Schiff said. “Foreigners are not charitable organizations, and they’re going to demand that we pay them back.” No single country owning large amounts of dollar-based investments is inclined to dump them abruptly; nobody aims to start a panic. But fears have begun to grow that one day a country may get spooked that another is about to dump its dollars—and that could trigger pre-emptive panic selling.

But be assured, once America is too big to save, it will fail, as we have repeatedly said. For now, everything hangs by a thread—“the government offers its rescue of the mortgage companies, and foreigners keep stocking the government’s coffers,” the Times writes.

But all the while, the debt mounts along with the costs of an ultimate day of reckoning. Debate grows about the wisdom of leaning on foreign credit, and about how much longer Americans will retain the privilege of spending and investing money that isn’t really theirs. Bailouts amount to mortgaging the future to stave off the wolf howling at the door. The likelihood of a painful reckoning is diminished, while the costs of a reckoning—should one come—are increased. The costs are getting big.

A spectacular crash is coming. And don’t expect our leaders to cut spending in order to stave off catastrophe. During the first nine months of fiscal 2008, the U.S. government incurred a $268 billion deficit. That’s $148 billion more than a similar period last year—and much more spending is on the way. Being that this is an election year, political rivals are more likely to abandon financial sanity in an attempt to win votes. The national debt, which is the total amount the government has borrowed and not repaid, is almost $9.5 trillion—the highest level in U.S. history. And that number doesn’t even begin to include the tens of trillions in promised Social Security and Medicare benefits. Here is how The Hill summarizes current conditions in Washington:

Political rivals have engaged in election-year finger-pointing. The Bush administration blames Democrats for not dealing with the nation’s entitlement programs; Democrats on the Hill fault President Bush for the cost of the Iraq war.

Meanwhile, they both continue to spend with no thought for tomorrow (emphasis ours throughout):

Congress first responded to the turmoil in the financial markets by approving legislation … that sent rebate checks to millions of Americans, driving up the deficit by $152 billion …. Also, Congress will likely approve an unpaid-for, one-year patch of the Alternative Minimum Tax that costs a little more than $60 billion, and might pass a package worth more than $50 billion in extensions of expiring tax incentives without raising taxes or cutting government spending. Piling onto that deficit is the $186 billion emergency supplemental that President Bush signed into law on June 30. … Congress, with the White House’s consent, is authorizing more spending, like the $50 billion package to step up the country’s relief efforts on hiv and aids …. But perhaps the biggest wildcard is the massive housing-rescue package, with provisions to prop up mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Bush administration is pressuring Congress to approve sweeping legislation with provisions that would offer an unlimited line of credit for the government to fund Fannie and Freddie for up to 18 months. The bill has not yet been scored for its price tag.

For consumers, the predicament is equally nightmarish. Today’s New York Times notes,

Years of spending more than they earn have left a record number of Americans … standing at the financial precipice. They have amassed a mountain of debt that grows ever bigger because of high interest rates and fees.While the circumstances surrounding these downfalls vary, one element is identical: The lucrative lending practices of America’s merchants of debt have led millions of Americans—young and old, native and immigrant, affluent and poor—to the brink. More and more, Americans can identify with miners of old: in debt to the company store with little chance of paying up.

Like a chronic drunk after a life of partying, the United States is about to wake up cold, damp and broke in some alley without a roof over its head, and with an economic hangover of unprecedented proportions. But those who have been reading are well aware of America’s financial condition and should by now be preparing to face a rapidly deteriorating economy.

Eat and Drink Today, For Tomorrow We Die

At Power Line on Friday, in listing the many threats Israel faces from the outside, Paul Mirengoff points to its rampant internal corruption as perhaps the greatest threat facing the Jewish state. “Prime Minister Ehud Olmert symbolizes the problem,” Mirengoff wrote. “Israelis live under great pressure,” he continued:

[A]nd it is not surprising that they have become quite materialistic. Americans are at least as bad, with less excuse. And while an Israel as materialistic as today’s might not have prevailed in 1948, there’s no reason to assume that it cannot survive today, given the technological and related advantages it possesses. But a corrupt Israel—one in which its soldiers are asked to sacrifice so much while its leaders line their pockets—is another matter.

Add Mirengoff to a growing list of commentators concerned about the survival of Israel as a state. Peacemakers often debate over what Israel needs to maintain defensible borders, but with corrupt leadership and a general population lost in the present, there comes a point where no border—no matter how secure it may appear to be geographically—is defensible.

Henry Alford wrote an interesting piece in the travel section of today’s New York Times, titled “Seizing the Day in Tel Aviv.” The article highlights the vast cultural divide that exists between the Tel Aviv melting pot and the more religious capital in Jerusalem. “For Israelis,” Alford writes,

the 45 minutes that separate Jerusalem from Tel Aviv are a fitting metaphor for the cultural gulf they see between, on the one hand, the hidebound, pious cradle of world religion and, on the other, the libertine, nightclub-filled Mediterranean idyll. … Tel Avivans are quick to point out that their city is less suffused with history than Jerusalem, and that that is what makes their city so hospitable to newcomers and to people who don’t fit in elsewhere. Perhaps, like others in the Middle East, Tel Avivans must perforce set their gaze on the present.

Alford interviewed one resident who said the “the fear of the future makes the present more vibrant.” After telling one woman about his plans to visit Tel Aviv, her response was that he better hurry “before they push the button.”

One of our staff members here in Jerusalem recently heard a comment reflecting this same sense of doom. After telling an acquaintance about being on a raw foods cleanse to improve his overall health, the Israeli’s response was, “Why only vegetables? We’re all going to be nuked by Iran next year anyway—might as well enjoy life.”

Live it up—we’re all going to die anyway. That’s the sentiment gaining momentum in Israel—especially among the younger generation.

Stop! We Mean It! Stop Now! Now! Seriously! Oh, Never Mind.

Stephen Hayes charts the astonishing reversal of the White House’s longstanding policy of refusing to negotiate with Iran until it gave up its uranium enrichment activities.

Without any indication that Iran was suspending its uranium enrichment program, the State Department announced that [Undersecretary of State William] Burns would be heading to Switzerland for direct meetings with Iran’s nuclear negotiators.So what changed? Very little.In the weeks leading up to the State Department’s announcement, Iran had been deliberately provocative. At a Kuala Lumpur summit for developing nations, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned of George W. Bush’s “satanic desires.” Iran test-fired long-range missiles, including the Shahab-3, which is capable of striking Israel. And a few days after that, it rejected a generous aid offer from our European allies—backed by the State Department—that included nuclear fuel, assistance on a nuclear reactor, and improved trade and diplomatic relations, if the Iranian regime would simply suspend its uranium enrichment program.The State Department response wasn’t to get tough. Instead, Condoleezza Rice directed her diplomats to simply drop the one precondition for engagement that we had insisted on for years and in effect reward these provocations.

In fact, this week the administration revealed that it is considering opening a U.S. interests section in Tehran, one step short of having an embassy there.

Hayes cites one politician rightly labeling such behavior “preemptive capitulation.”

It appears the pieces are in place for a final deal to be worked out soon regarding Iran’s place in a post-American Iraq.

Religious Tolerance, Muslim Style

More than 200 religious leaders gathered in Madrid last week at an interfaith conference sponsored by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. The three-day event was considered a milestone because, among other things, it was the first time a Saudi monarch had invited Jewish rabbis to attend a religious conference—a decision that probably didn’t sit well with Islamic hard-liners.

That’s not to say Abdullah was Mr. Congeniality at the gathering. Before skipping out on the conference he sponsored in order to visit Morocco, the Saudi king opened it by declaring that Islam is a “religion of moderation and tolerance.” However, as the New York Sun noted last week, “tolerance” in Madrid has a different meaning than it does in New York—or London, or Sydney, for that matter. Tolerance for Muslims, it would seem, is little more than persecution for Jews and Christians. And it appears Islam’s over-bearing influence permeated the conference from beginning to end, much to the annoyance of the other religious leaders in attendance: “The conference concluded on a sour note this afternoon,” reported Joseph Goldstein, “as Christian and Jewish participants complained that the organizers, the Muslim World League, had too much control over the conference’s closing communiqué.”

Several conference participants were upset on Friday when the final statement, read by an official from the Muslim World League, differed substantially from an earlier draft which had been agreed to by conference participants. “The major complaint of many participants was that the document appears to have been revised at some stage without the consent of members of a drafting committee. And the vast majority of participants never had a chance to review any version of the statement before Mr. Al-Zaid of the Muslim World League read it aloud.”

So much for Muslim tolerance. Perhaps the Saudi king might have set things straight if he hadn’t left his conference the day before.

Fact is, last week’s interfaith conference in Madrid was an exposé of the deep and abiding schisms between religions today—schisms which columnist Ron Fraser noted today will result in a violent clash of religions.

Pope Looking for Prophets Down Under

Speaking at the World Youth Day festival in Sydney on Sunday, Pope Benedict xvi attacked the spreading “spiritual desert” of the modern world, and called on young and old alike to embrace a new age of faith and redemption—exhorting as many as 400,000 worshipers to become, in the words of the Australian’s Sian Powell, “prophets for the renewal of religious life.”

The massive gathering at Sydney’s Randwick race course on Sunday was the largest religious gathering in Australia, and concluded a week of religious celebration and teaching. The variety of national flags fluttering in the wind during Sunday’s mass—which was beamed to as many as 1 billion people worldwide—was a testament to the pope’s growing popularity and influence. Known and feared by some as a conservative bulldog prior to becoming pontiff, Benedict has not only managed to successfully assuage many of those concerns, he’s done it without having to compromise with his conservative roots, and has even made the Catholic Church an increasingly admired bulwark against liberal secularism and Islamic imperialism.

Watch Pope Benedict: In a world where mainstream Christianity is becoming more liberal, and mainstream culture is increasingly dominated by liberalism and secularism, and radical Islam threatens to overrun Western societies, the demand for the conservative leadership and historic strength of the Vatican is sure to intensify. To learn more about this trend, read Germany and the Holy Roman Empire.

Planet of the Apes

In Genesis 1:28, God told the first human beings to “have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

It seems some people would rather not have the responsibility.

The Spanish parliament is about to endorse the Great Ape Project, “granting chimps, bonobos, apes, and orangutans some of the same rights that Jefferson once rooted in the human condition,” the Weekly Standard reports.

The Great Ape Project was launched just 15 years ago by Princeton utilitarian bioethicist Peter Singer and Italian animal rights philosopher Paola Cavalieri with the stated goal of obtaining a United Nations declaration welcoming apes into a “community of equals” with humans.

The resolution is aimed at more than merely improving conditions for primates. Spanish animals rights activist Pedro Pozas calls the project the “spear point” that breaks the “species barrier.”

This is a full-frontal attack on the most basic concept that human beings have a unique purpose on this Earth. It aims to destroy the very concept of human civilization. The Standard explains,

In its place would emerge a society sufficiently hedonistic to eschew moralizing about personal behavior ([Princeton utilitarian bioethicist Peter] Singer has defended bestiality), but also humbled to the point where people would willingly sacrifice our own flourishing “for the animals” or to “save the planet” and utilitarian enough to countenance ridding ourselves of unwanted human ballast (Singer is the world’s foremost proponent of infanticide). Thus, in the world that would rise from the ashes of human exceptionalism, moral value would be subjective and rights temporary, depending on the extent of each animal’s individual capacities at the time of measuring.

In actuality, its primary target is the truth of the Bible. But that has really always been the primary target of evolutionistic thinking. The Great Ape Project is simply a natural outgrowth of the preposterous idea that all creation is an accident and human beings are merely one of several highly developed species whose highest purpose is simply to survive and propagate.

Author Wesley Smith makes a good point:

The way we act is based substantially on what kind of being we perceive ourselves to be. Thus, if we truly want to make this a better and more humane world, the answer is not to think of ourselves as inhabiting the same moral plane as animals—none of which can even begin to comprehend rights. Rather, it is to embrace the unique importance of being human.

Request a free copy of Herbert W. Armstrong’s book The Incredible Human Potential. It will inoculate your mind against the Great Ape inanity.

Elsewhere on the Web

Victor Davis Hanson exposes some of the ironies in the public discussion of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in this thoughtful piece from yesterday’s National Review Online.

Security officials are still on edge in Jerusalem. According to Israel National News, “An Arab working in the Geulah branch of the famous Hevron Yeshiva has been arrested after threatening to carry out a terrorist attack in Jerusalem. The Arab made the threat after he was fired from his job.”

And Finally …

The Lebanese government recently consolidated with the Iranian terrorist group Hezbollah. That reality will make the following, reported by the Christian Science Monitor, an interesting exercise:

Lebanon’s top political leaders are scheduled to discuss the future of Hezbollah’s weapons as part of a national defense strategy. Supporters of the Western-backed March 14 parliamentary block, which forms the backbone of the new government, seek to disarm the Iran-backed Hezbollah or at least place restraints on the party’s ability to use its weapons. Although Hezbollah says its weapons are solely for the defense of Lebanon, its critics fear that they are intended to benefit Tehran’s regional ambitions at the expense of Lebanon’s stability.

Perhaps they should have thought of that before handing veto power over governmental decisions to Hezbollah.