Dim Sum for the Mind: A Selection of Tidbits Spicy, Sour and Sweet

Paul Greenberg

10/4/2013 12:01:00 AM - Paul Greenberg

As has been observed before, it can be dangerous to be an enemy of the United States, but to be our friend may be fatal. By now the world is littered with small countries we have abandoned -- like Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in Southeast Asia. And peoples betrayed time and again like the Kurds in the Middle East -- and religious minorities sacrificed like the Christians in Egypt and Lebanon. Not to mention the Captive Nations of Eastern Europe while the Cold War was still on and the Soviet empire still extant. Now it becomes ever clearer that Syria's suffering people are the next to be added to that long and infamous list.

There may have been sound strategic, tactical or political reasons for retreat in each or all of those earlier cases. Other countries may have been abandoned because our policymakers lacked foresight, as when the West allowed the communists to take over the republican cause during the fateful Spanish Civil War, not realizing it was only the rehearsal for what would prove an even greater tragedy, the Second World War.

During the last century an American theologian and realist named Reinhold Niebuhr would make the case for intervening first against fascism and then communism as each bid for global domination. Yes, he knew that the use of power in this world is fraught with moral danger, for who ever came away from exercising power over others with clean hands? Yet he also knew that not exercising power might prove an even greater fault. Just as our sins of omission may outweigh those of commission. For, in the words of the Book of Common Prayer, "we have left undone those things which we ought to have done."

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As the American economy continues to struggle, this president's approach to it is proving about as successful as his foreign policy -- that is, not very.

Barack Obama remains a true believer in Keynesianism, the faith that all a government need do to restore economic vitality is pour more and more money into the economy. That doctrine became less an economic theory and more an article of faith decades ago, notably during the 1930s, and it still has its disciples who sleep on, comfortable in their certainty whatever evidence the intervening years have provided.

It was John Maynard Keynes who famously warned: "The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually slaves of some defunct economist." His words acquire an additional layer of irony now that he himself has joined the company of defunct economists.

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Remember how, if you're satisfied with the health insurance you now have through your employer, you won't be affected by Obamacare? Tell it to another 160,000 Americans, this time those who work for the Walgreens chain. They've just been told they're being left to a health-insurance exchange, and will have to thread their own way through it to find insurance coverage.

But they'll have plenty of company. Trader Joe's, the grocery chain, is moving part-time workers at its 400 stores onto insurance exchanges, too, and United Parcel Service is dropping its health benefits for the 15,000 of its workers' spouses who can get their insurance through another employer.

It now seems so long ago that we were told how simple and smooth -- and affordable -- Obamacare would be. Call it Broken Promise No. 153.

It's not as if the folks at Walgreens or Trader Joe's are members of Congress, who had enough foresight to get themselves (and their staffs) special subsidies rather than just be tossed into Obamacare like the peons, aka citizens of the United States of America. Our ruling class only passes laws for the rest of us to follow.

Now the federal government -- that's you and me, fellow taxpayer -- is going to pay some 75 percent of these public employees' insurance premiums. These generous subsidies are reserved for members of Congress and their retinues. To borrow a phrase from "Animal Farm," George Orwell's ever-relevant fable, all are equal in this administration's eyes; it's just that some are more equal than others.

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Picking up my dry cleaning the other day, I heard the sounds of a fight brewing right behind me. A man and woman were arguing over who was next in line. The lady insisted the gentleman had been there first, while the gentleman insisted she go first, as ladies should. In the end she graciously relented and agreed to precede him. If a thought balloon like the kind used in the comics had formed above my head, it would have consisted of a line from an old ditty Phil Harris used to sing: "And that's what I like about the South!"