Archive for the ‘Obama’ Category.

This Should Get Obama’s Attention

On the Writings of Julius Caesar

A few days ago marked the 2000th anniversary of the death of Augustus Caesar. The event passed quietly as far as I can tell which is a shame in my opinion. Augustus as well as his adopted father Julius Caesar shaped the foundation of our society in a way that even they would not have imagined. He should at least be remembered if not celebrated.

Most of us get history shoved down our throats. I remember being forced to read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar freshman year of high school when I was more interested in smoking pot and listening to Blondie than understanding Elizabethan English, even that of the Great Bard. Of course Shakespeare’s take on Caesar was about as factual as Tina Fey’s of Sarah Palin so I suppose I didn’t miss much. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve developed an interest in and a deep appreciation of ancient works. For this I credit “Black Swan” author and philosopher Naseem Nicholas Taleb, and the crazy frat boy turned project manager who turned me on to him. Taleb is one of the few writers I’d like to meet, and he has written extensively about the stoics and other ancient philosophers. I started reading Seneca because of him, and it hasn’t been easy. I’ve learned that I am weak when it comes to translated works. I need the rhythm and comfort of modern speech to appreciate these ancient writings, and while I’ve struggled with Seneca’s translation, The Complete Works of Julius Caesar as translated by W.A McDevitte and W.S. Bohn has been a good investment of $1.50.

Caesar writes in the 3rd person as if some disembodied narrator which I find somewhat annoying, but once you get past that his story comes alive. You are in the mind of one of history’s greatest generals at a crucial point in our civilization’s history.

One thing becomes quickly clear: Caesar is always at the disadvantage in battle. In Gaul his forces are always out-manned by the tribes arrayed against him, but Caesar understands victory does not rely on numbers alone, and his tactical genius combined with a veteran, well-disciplined force overcomes the numerical advantage of his enemies. But it isn’t easy. Here is a sample of Caesar in battle.

Caesar had everything to do at one time: the standard to be displayed, which was the sign when it was necessary to run to arms; the signal to be given by the trumpet; the soldiers to be called off from the works; those who had proceeded some distance for the purpose of seeking materials for the rampart, to be summoned; the order of battle to be formed; the soldiers to be encouraged; the watchword to be given. A great part of these arrangements was prevented by the shortness of time and the sudden approach and charge of the enemy. (Gallic Wars, Book 2, Chapter 20)

What comes through his narration is the unpredictability of war. One would also expect Caesar to embellish his successes while airbrushing away his failures, yet Caesar’s retelling of events comes through as exceedingly honest. For example, Caesar didn’t win all his battles. In fact at the battle of Dyrrachium he almost lost everything against another one of History’s great generals, Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus or Pompey the Great.

Pompey had taken up a position upon some hills with his back to the sea. Unable to assault Pompey directly Caesar set about building fortifications around Pompey’s position with the idea of boxing him and eventually strangling his army. Pompey’s navy controlled the sea so his army could resupply whereas Caesar’s could not, but thousands of horses need a lot of forage Caesar became expert at picking off cavalry in search of food for their horses. A stalemate descended on the battlefield, and it wasn’t until two Gauls defected from Caesar’s camp to Pompey that the stalemate was broken. They informed Pompey about where Caesar’s forces were weakest, and Pompey focused his attack on that point. Caesar’s army turned and fled, and he struggled to figure out what happened, stopping panicked soldiers himself for details of the rout. Learning the circumstances Caesar believed that he had lost the war. Then his luck changed. Caesar writes,

In this calamity, the following favorable circumstances occurred to prevent the ruin of our whole army, that Pompey suspecting an ambush (because, as I suppose, the success had far exceeded his hopes, as he had seen his men a moment before fleeing from the camp), didn’t approach the fortification, and that his horse were retarded from pursuing… By retarding the rapidity of the enemy’s pursuit, preserved our army. (The Civil Wars, Book 3, Chapter 72)

Caesar had developed a reputation for daring as a general, but this can only have been abetted by his experienced army. Nowhere was this more apparent then at the Battle of Pharsalus, the climactic battle of the Roman Civil War. Before the battle Pompey had managed to starve Caesar’s army of supplies. Pompey employed this strategy of attrition, waiting for Caesar’s forces to fall apart under the stress of skirmishes and lack of supplies. Caesar in turn sought to provoke Pompey into battle, appreciating for himself the wisdom of Pompey’s strategy but Pompey resisted being drawn into battle. At this point Pompey had the high ground on a hill and had double the number of troops – 45,000 vs Caesar’s 22,000.

The pressure on Pompey to finish off Caesar’s forces was strong. His advisers and lieutenants pushed the old general to destroy Caesar and his army, and they claimed the victory at Dyrrachium proved that Caesar was fatally weakened. Excited at the prospect of ridding themselves of Caesar and returning to Rome as heroes, Caesar quotes one of Pompey’s generals as denigrating Caesar’s forces. “(This is not) the army which conquered Gaul and Germany… a very small part of that army now remains… the flower of the forces perished in the two engagements at Dyrrachium.” Finally Pompey relented, announcing “I have persuaded our cavalry, and they have engaged to execute it… to attack Caesar’s right wing on the flank, and inclosing their army on the rear, throw them into disorder, and put them to the rout, before we shall throw a weapon against the enemy.” (The Civil Wars, Book 3, Chapter 87).

Throughout his works Caesar portrays himself as favoring a peaceful resolution to a crisis over war, and when war was necessary, enforcing a just peace on the defeated. The lives of captured soldiers were spared; towns that surrendered to his army did not have their citizens put to the sword. These were uncommon practices by his enemies according to his Caesar, and his concern with his enemy and the Republic showed before battle. Facing double the number of men in his army, a force well supplied and enjoying better ground and lead by a general Caesar himself respected, Caesar exhorted his forces as Pompey  began arranging his men for battle. “He took care to remind them that he could call his soldiers to witness the earnestness with which he had sought peace… he had been always reluctant to shed the blood of his soldiers, and did not wish to deprive the republic of one or other of her armies.” (The Civil Wars, Book 3, Chapter 90).

The pivotal battle turned out to be somewhat anti-climatic from a modern point of view, but here again Caesar’s experienced troops were the deciding factor. Charging towards Pompey’s forces required Caesar’s soldiers to cross a vast no-mans-land between the two armies. Pompey under the advice of his adviser Caius Triarius held back his men, waiting for Caesar’s troops to tire and then be easily beaten. But his experienced troops understood what Pompey was doing and changed tactics in the middle of their run. Caesar writes, “(Caesar’s men) perceiving that Pompey’s men did not run to meet their charge, having acquired experience by custom, and being practices in former battles, they of their own accord repressed their speed, and halted almost midway; that they might not come up with the enemy when their strength was exhausted.” (The Civil Wars, Book 3, Chapter 93). Caesar notes that Pompey’s men did not fail in the battle, “for they received our javelins, stood our charge, and maintained their ranks,” but within minutes the tide of the battle changed. Caesar had made up his thin ranks not in the customary three rows but four. This crucial fourth row of men were able to withstand the cavalry charge Pompey had planned; had that fourth row not been there the cavalry would have broken through Caesar’s line and been able to attack his forces from behind. But the fourth line held and pushed back the cavalry, sending it routing. Once that happened the battle was for all intents and purposes over. Pompey left the battlefield and returned to camp, eventually disguising himself and fleeing.

Throughout the books Caesar drops names of those who helped him which reminds me of the way American presidents pepper their speeches with the names of average Americans. I find it fascinating that over 2000 years later these men, or at least their names, are not forgotten thanks to Caesar’s pen. Caesar writes, “There was in Caesar’s army, a volunteer of the name of Crastinus, who the year before had been first centurion of the tenth legion, a man of pre-eminent bravery. .. He looked back at Caesar and said “General, I will act in such a matter today that you will feel grateful to me living or dead.”” Earlier in the Gallic Wars he notes “two very brave men, centurions, who were now approaching the first ranks, T. Pullo and L. Varenus. These used to have continual disputes between them which of them should be preferred, and every year used to to contend for promotion with the utmost animosity.” These two men became the main characters of the HBO series Rome. Caesar sprinkles these names and vignettes throughout this works, betraying what I consider to be a literary sensibility by the writer. Caesar was educated in the Greek classics so he probably understood the importance of supporting characters to help tell a story, and since the Romans themselves were just as interested in their own history as we are in theirs, he no doubt knew that his story would be much more interesting if it wasn’t filled with self-aggrandizing commentary. It’s a lesson our current leader should learn if he was open-minded enough to appreciate the thoughts of a “dead white male.”

I know I’m not the first to realize this, but the epiphany that a long-dead man like Julius Caesar could come alive in my imagination through his writings has been profound and humbling. The Renaissance thinkers believed that the Greeks and Romans had discovered all there was to know about the human condition, and that it was up to them to rediscover that knowledge and refine it. Like them I am simply amazed at how little has changed between Caesar’s era and our own when it comes to the human condition. Caesar is betrayed and lied to just as the EU is today by Vladimir Putin. He experiences fake friends just as the US does in the guise of the Saudis. His men act with honor and cowardice just as our soldiers do today. We may shoot missiles instead of launching javelins but I would bet that if you took one of Caesar’s legionaries and put him in a foxhole in Afghanistan he would get along just fine with American soldiers.

It is readily apparent to me why Caesar has not been forgotten over the millennia. He speaks to us across Time to remind us of that we face the same struggles he did, possessing the same soul-destroying fears as well as our own capacity for courage and greatness. Through his writings he transcends death and serves as an important guide for us as we stumble towards our own future.

 

“All this blood we see out here is on Obama’s hands”

Once again the British media covers American problems better than the American media does. This Daily Mail piece interviews ranchers on the border in Texas. Warning: It’s not pretty.

2 More Years of Failure Instead of Impeachment

John Boehner does have some brains at least. The House Speaker has ruled out impeachment, saying “(I)t’s all a scam started by the Democrats in the White House.”

Boehner is right. The GOP doesn’t need to make a martyr out of the worst president I’ve lived under in my brief lifetime. Better instead to let Obama golf his way through his lame duck presidency as the world falls apart and the Democratic Party’s 2016 chances with it.  Let the Democratic Party own this mess without the distraction of Obama’s martyrdom. They need to savor the failure of his presidency as only his opponents have and face the consequences of their stupidty to raise this inexperienced academic to the most powerful position in the world.

My late mother-in-law used to always tell someone when they complained, “You chose this path.” We as a country chose this path and we are constitutionally obligated to suffer the consequences of our actions. No matter how much I detest this president, I do not want to see him impeached unless incontrovertible proof arises for  “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” All the scandals I have documented on this website, all the idiocy the world and this country has suffered from the incompetence, misguided idealism and sheer greed of this president and his administration do not rise to that standard.

I opposed the impeachment of Clinton when I was a Democrat, and I oppose the impeachment of Obama as a registered Republican. I am relieved to see Boehner appreciates what impeachment means to the political fabric of the United States in contrast to those who will impeach anyone whom they oppose.

Michelle Obama Welcomes Illegal Immigrants

Courtesy of our comrades at The People’s Cube:

WSJ: IRS Scandal Worse Than Watergate

Having grown up with Watergate, even watching the congressional testimony on the network news instead of episodes of Match Game or the TV clown on the local UHF station, I agree with this assessment voiced by the Wall Street Journal editorial page editor Daniel Henninger.

 

“The Watergate break-in was the professionals of the party in power going after the party professionals of the party out of power. The IRS scandal is the party in power going after the most average Americans imaginable.”

 

The Fall of Baghdad – The Sequel

As a former supporter of the Iraq War I was none too pleased to see Obama fail to negotiate a status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government in 2011, nor was I thrilled to watch the country we freed fall into the orbit of Iran after we left. Watching Sunni Islamic militants sweep southward and threaten to topple the Shiite led government though does fill me with a smidgen of schadenfreude though. The New York Times is reporting the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki asked the US to strike militant positions last month, but the Obama administration declined.

Good.

Other nations must be taught the US is not the world’s policeman nor is it an empire. When we are asked to leave, we leave.  We do not act the way extremists on the right (Ron Paul) and left (Noam Chomsky) claim. If you want us out, we’ll go. The Iraqis wanted us gone, and much to the dismay of many on the right including myself, we went.

Now the Iraqis are reconsidering when they have a band of beheading jihadis in pickup trucks heading their way. Too bad. Instead of asking Washington DC PM al-Maliki needs to ask Teheran for help. Sure I’d rather not see Iraq become a failed state run by terrorists, but actions have consequences and the current leadership which won a free and fair election we created must face the consequences of their actions. After they do, then perhaps we’ll consider our options but not before then.

On Bergdahl’s Repatriation

As a parent of a military aged son I’m willing to cut Bergdahl’s parents some slack over their actions and comments of the last five years. I can’t imagine what I’d do in their shoes, but I know myself well enough to understand that I’d be willing to do anything to get my son back if he were held captive. Even if he willingly joined the Taliban I might push the limits of patriotism in order to get him back onto American soil where I would do my best to undo their brainwashing.

But I understand why others might not cut them a break, especially when American lives were lost looking for him. The numbers might be in dispute but that should not detract from the fact that Berdahl’s disappearance did cost American lives. The only question is how many. And just as I can imagine what pressures I’d be under if my son was held captive, I can also imagine the inconsolable loss of my son in combat searching for him.

In my view there is sympathy enough for everyone involved in this fiasco except for the man who pulled it off. Barack Obama. Walter Russel Meade says it best, writing:

(I)t was the White House that politicized this family and brought them under a spotlight better left unlit. Rather than let Sgt. Bergdahl quietly return home, the White House turned the klieg lights on the Bergdahl family, and left them blinking in a glare that did not serve them well.

Whatever else this episode may be, it is not a clear win for the United States or for the increasingly rattled and off-balance Obama Administration. Nor will it endear the President to veterans who are disgruntled about the ongoing scandal of VA fraud and incompetence.

The utterly counterproductive and inappropriate rollout of the news indicates that somebody in the President’s circle has at least temporarily lost his or her grip on reality. How a competent professional could have thought this story was the kind of big win to put on center stage escapes us. The President would be wise to ask whether some of his political operatives are losing their edge; his enemies create enough trouble for him without his friends getting involved.

Obama’s incompetence is only matched by that of the lackies he’s surrounded himself with. It just makes me wonder how the Republic is going to survive such buffoonery for another 2 1/2 years.

Here’s Mad Magazine’s take:

The World Is Disappointed in Obama

Shifting Political Alliances and Friendships

Since most of my Facebook friends are liberals (about 2/3rds at last count), my newsfeed on Facebook provides me with a steady stream of consciousness from the liberal perspective. Take for example a friend of mine who lives and works in Hollywood. He takes predictable positions on issues and inevitably concludes that all problems in our society are caused by the opponents of the progressive agenda. I hold my tongue. When the Occupy movement was in full-swing, his posts and the comments of his friends (he has 6x the number of friends than I do on FB) demonized the 1% and belittled anyone else who questioned the authenticity of the Occupy crowd or the intelligence of its slogans. Fast forward two years later, and the same friend who demonized the 1% supports tax breaks for millionaires in the form of subsidies encouraging liberal movie moguls like Harvey Weinstein to keep movie production in California.

I am not pointing this out to show how stupid my friend is. Quite the opposite. He’s an intelligent man who has built a very successful life for himself. There is nothing wrong with pursuing policies that are in our own self-interest as long as we don’t start believing that our motives are purely altruistic. As for supporting tax breaks for millionaires while at the same time demanding for them to “pay their fair share,” we are all prone to cognitive dissonance regardless of our ideology and more importantly we are all manipulated by our leaders, although some more than others. It is our job as social beings living in modern society to be naturally skeptical of what we are told, and to also question as objectively as possible our own deeply held beliefs. I have my blind spots just as he his, but at heart I believe he is a good person even if he does spout off like an idiot sometimes*.

After my personal beliefs have moved through the ideological spectrum I am becoming increasingly aware of the limits of our two-party system. Take for example the Republican Party, the one I am currently registered with. Within the party there are people who have chosen the party because it reflects their beliefs. I am one of these people. While I don’t subscribe to everything the party stands for, I believe that it reflects my views at this time better than the other party. But that could change.

Ralph Nader is proposing a libertarian/progressive alliance. Under such an alliance my progressive friend and I would be united under the same banner. It’s an interesting idea to consider especially since the top GOP candidate that he mentions, Rand Paul, is one of my current favorites. I noted that at a recent speech at UC-Berkeley Paul received a standing ovation from the crowd. That told me that perhaps there was an awareness among the left of the common ground the two groups shared. After all drug decriminalization, the expansion of individual freedom and an end to crony capitalism were once celebrated by the progressives of  the 1960s. Today this mantle has passed to the libertarians who now find themselves a home in the Republican Party of all places, the more accommodating of the two parties.

Such an alliance would shatter both parties but in my view they deserve such fates. The GOP leadership has shown little interest in the ideas of the libertarians or other ideologues in their party, choosing instead to sideline anyone who dares question their authority (like the grassroots Tea Party organizations). It seems to me the only thing that John Boehner and his ilk care about is taking power, and they will do anything, say anything to keep it.

The Democrats now act like the Republicans of the 1970s and 1980s. They stifle thought and expression through politically correct dogma just as the GOP did when the Moral Majority called the shots back in the Reagan-Bush era. Is selling arms to Iran to pay for guns for the Contras any worse than the NSA spying scandal under this administration? Is Watergate really worse than using the IRS to target administration enemies like Tea Party members? Is the Meese Commission any different from the anti-pornography crusade by Obama’s Department of Justice?

What’s the difference exactly between John Boehner and Harry Reid, or Reince Priebus and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz? One party wants the government to  control your life and is in power, the other wants the government to control your life and is out of power. Both parties want tax breaks for their friends and to end tax breaks for the friends of the other party. The only difference is the libertarian wing of the GOP and a small cohort of progressives who recognize the danger of government as exemplified by the IRS and NSA scandals.

Will such an alliance happen? It is impossible to say. Everything changes and what may seem impossible today becomes inevitable tomorrow. All I can say for sure that it’s in the best interest of my Facebook friend and myself to stay friends, to let the rants slide, and to never forget what bound us together in the first place.
———————-

  • Note: It’s been said that conservatives think liberals are misguided while liberals think conservatives are evil. The above essay reflects this, and it would be interesting to hear what my Fb friend thought of me. Does he think I’m evil because I support the Tea Party and am a die-hard non-Jewish Zionist? In order for an alliance between Left/Right to take hold both sides must stop demonizing the other. It’s not possible if either side continues taking the low road, and so far I’ve seen similar essays as the above written by conservatives and libertarians but as yet to have seen one reaching out to the Right from the Left.

The Spark in Nevada

Lenin and the early Bolsheviks believed the world had gotten to a point in its history that the proletariat would revolt. Like a forest full of dried timber baking in the hot sun all that was needed for the Communist Revolution they so desired was for a spark, iskra, to set the forest ablaze. The concept was so important to Lenin that he named his newspaper after it while he lived in exile. It was a continuation of Marx’s belief in the evolution of control over the means of production. Marx looked at the world around him at the height of the Industrial Revolution and saw the dehumanizing impact of life living in the crowded cities and working in the factories. To him this was a natural progression from the dawn of civilization that would inevitably lead to the rising up of the working class to take ownership of the factories they slaved in. Marx expected this revolution to occur in countries on the vanguard of the industrial revolution such as Prussia, France and Great Britain, but except for the brief interlude of the Paris Commune in 1848, socialist uprisings failed to materialize in these countries.

The United States has always had a small contingents of people who wanted nothing more than to be left alone. During the colonial period various groups came to America fleeing religious persecution in continental Europe. The expansion of America westward was led by individualists like Daniel Boone and religious heretics like the Mormons followed by vast waves of immigrants seeking better lives after escaping oppressive regimes in Ireland, Central Europe and Russia. Each individual of that time left a legacy that is written in our DNA as a people. Echoes of the suffering of each Russian Jew arriving penniless in New York City or illiterate Irish woman sleeping with her children on the deck of steamer paddling up the Mississippi from New Orleans can be heard as whispers in our collective unconscious. These unique experiences are why we so frustrate our allies and enemies alike. It is impossible for a Brit to truly understand why Americans instinctively abhor collectivism and celebrate the codified rights of the Constitution that protecting individual liberty. The divisiveness that comes with individual rights also encourages our enemies to see America as a “paper tiger” that will explode into confetti with the right spark, be that a sneak attack on the Pacific fleet while in port or twin skyscrapers in Manhattan.

This is also a lesson that the American left socialized on European collectivist thought has forgotten over the past generation. The American Left has always looked towards the Continent for inspiration but that had been tempered at least somewhat by the home-grown anarchism of Henry David Thoreau and at least found common cause with American libertarians. But sometime over the past forty years being a socialist or progressive has meant believing in the power of the State. This reflects an acceptance by the American Left of “Big Government” European-style Socialism which ironically is in decline in the Scandinavian countries, the UK and Germany. As a consequence anarchists and libertarians who once were considered extreme leftists are now viewed by the American Left as extremist members of the right wing.

Today’s American Left wing now sees the State as its salvation and protector. Unions in the private sector have almost disappeared yet the public sector unions are thriving. In 2011 the Economist reported, “government unionisation has risen from 23% in 1973 to 36% today, while private-sector unionisation has declined from 24% in 1973 to 7% today.” Challenges to state power are no longer coming from the Left as they did in the 1960, but from the Right as exemplified today by the Bundy Ranch standoff in Nevada.

In this dispute the Left stands with the federal government while the Right including the libertarians side with the Bundy family. Progressive groups have gone on the attack including calling for the silencing of Tea Partiers and other supporters of the Bundy family. In It’s Time to be Honest: The Tea Party Has Become a Terrorist Group, Allen Clifton writes,

But the longer these people are given a voice, the more they’ve moved from a political movement to a domestic terrorist organization.  In politics, they’re doing everything possible to sabotage our country for political gain while outside of politics they’re becoming even more brazenly radical than ever before.

And much like traditional terrorists, these domestic tea party terrorists have a main goal of demonizing and destroying the United States government.


Burning Man founder and liberal activist Sean Shealy plans to hold “Bundyfest” promising 30 days of anarchy across from the Bundy Ranch. In a Facebook post Shealy pokes fun at Bundy then ends, “Get a grip, folks. It’s about some cranky old dude and some cows in the middle of a barren desert. And the rule of law.” Rule of law? Coming from the organizer of the largest LSD and Ecstasy bash in the country it’s nice to know Shealy has some boundaries. It would be nice if he turned himself in for promoting illicit drug use at his bashes, but I’m not holding my breath. The Left has come a long way from getting their heads bashed in Chicago in 1968 by the police force of Mayor Richard “The police are not here to create disorder, they’re here to preserve disorder,” Daly.

The Bundy standoff has shown the true face of the American Left. Transport the hippies of 1967 through Time to today and it’s unlikely they’d find the federal government all that groovy. The anti-establishment of that era has become the Establishment.

So now it’s up to the right wing and its individualist supporters to take up the idea of “iskra.” The right wing and old-school libertarians have always had a paranoid fringe, but Edward Snowden’s  revelations of domestic spying along with the IRS persecution of conservative groups exacerbated by the government takeover of health care proves the wisdom of Henry Kissinger’s quote that even paranoids have enemies. Could Bundy be that spark that ignites the conservative base into open revolt?

Cliven Bundy is not a natural leader for everyone who distrusts the government, nor is his issue with the federal government a clear-cut case of abuse of the individual by the State. It would be nice if there was a more appealing leader than a Mormon rancher, and a more obvious case of government persecution, but the mere fact that the Bundy Ranch dispute continues making headlines on both sides of the political divide shows the there is plenty of tinder in the forest. Only time will tell if the Bundy standoff will set it ablaze.

Inside Barack Obama’s Mind

Well This Explains Alot

This explains why Obama is scrambling around the White House trying to find the receipt for its purchase…

HatTip, photo and translation brought to you by SimplyJews.

Neo-Cons Revile Obama Not Putin

In his article Vladimir Putin, Russian Neo-Con Atlantic contributing editor Peter Beinart takes neo-cons to task for exhibiting the same focus on military strength and ignoring economic power as Vladimir Putin. “In his approach to foreign policy, Vladimir Putin has a lot in common with those very American hawks (or “neocons” in popular parlance) who revile him most.”

Neo-cons revile Putin the most? Seriously? Beinart clearly doesn’t understand neo-cons at all.

To put it bluntly hawks respect other hawks not doves.

Neo-cons don’t revile Putin. Sure they think he’s a warmongering Russian leader who must be confronted by a strong American and European response, but “revile” him? Absolutely not. The neo-cons see Putin as a man who has been dealt a very poor hand but who has played it brilliantly. He has maintained power in a country with more ethnic, racial, political, economic, and social fault lines than any other nation on the planet. His opponents are vastly richer than his nation, yet he has been able to divide them in ways that are diabolical or brilliant depending on your perspective. America has the largest standing army on the planet yet Putin has managed to hold it at bay in Syria, and is able to bully and invade his neighbors with impunity as shown in Georgia in 2008 and in Ukraine today.

This doesn’t mean that neo-cons want to see Putin win in Ukraine or Syria. They still want to see him defeated. But in Putin they see a man who thinks like they do, who feels a deep sense of duty to his country and is willing to do whatever it takes to make his country great again. They may disagree with his actions, but they don’t question his motives.

Neo-cons revile the likes of President Obama and his administration. They detest the thinking so prominent in academia here and among European statesmen that the solution to every problem can be resolved through talking, and that war is an anachronism with no place in the modern world. They hate the assumption that underlays the thinking of the western intelligentsia, that nationalism is dead and borders are the last impediment to a new transnational utopia. And they especially loathe the attitude that words matter more than actions; Obama’s empty rhetoric is despised much more than Putin’s use of his military.

The truth is that if neo-cons could find an American version of Vladimir Putin they would do whatever it took to put him in the White House. Thanks to Putin people fear Russia in ways they no longer fear the United States, a fact that progressives who detest neo-cons don’t quite understand because they don’t see the world as Putin and the neo-cons see it: a zero sum game with winners and losers. Putin will do what it takes to see that Russia wins, and neo-cons respect that.

Obamacare Tax Is Here for Individuals Too

Pity the small business. The federal government treats small business owners as cheats and shows them no mercy. Every month small businesses regardless of size must file payroll taxes which include the other 7.5% of each employee’s FICA plus withholding taxes. Every quarter the business also must file estimated taxes for the current fiscal year. Life is simpler for W-2 employees. Most of the work is hidden from them because if the average worker was responsible for carrying his or her share of the burden to comply with local, state and federal regulations, there would be riots in the streets. So instead governments burden the employers who must write it off as the cost of doing business in our society, and workers believe their tax refund is a “gift” from a benevolent government.

Much is being said about Matt Drudge’s “Liberty Tax”, and it’s clear that none of the critics have ever had to file a small business corporate return. If they had they’d understand how taxes are collected in this country and would recognize that Drudge isn’t lying. One issue I haven’t seen mentioned, however, is the individual penalty. Although Congress has raised the issue of delaying the individual penalty for those who opt out of Obamacare, it doesn’t appear likely to pass anytime soon, meaning that the penalty is already in force. We just don’t feel it yet.

Those who opt out, or carry a policy that doesn’t meet Obamacare’s minimum criteria of providing maternity care to men or Viagra to women, should increase their withholding amounts immediately or risk a surprise tax bill next year. How much will the penalty be? Here is an ACA Penalty Calculator that will estimate the amount due next year. For example, if you are filing as single with no dependents and make $75,000 this year, you will pay an additional $649 in 2014 rising to $1,339 next year and $1,725 the year after that (assuming 3% wage growth). Assuming the worker didn’t want to be stuck with that bill and was paid 26 times a year, she’d have to boost her withholding amount by another $25 a check this year, another $26.50 the next, and another $15 in FY2016. Things get complicated real quick with other permutations. Nothing the IRS does is simple, and handling Obamacare penalties is no different.

Most people don’t think about taxes until a few weeks before they are due, so I don’t expect this issue to get much airplay until early next year. But if you don’t have employer-sponsored health care or your plan isn’t qualified, then don’t kid yourself. You’re paying the penalty now.