Archive for the ‘Democrats’ Category.

Failure – The Obama Administration’s Foreign Policy Legacy

I’m fascinated by disaster and failure. I’m not talking natural disaster; although fascinating in themselves (who around back then does not recall when Mount St. Helens blew up in 1980?) natural disasters don’t provide teachable moments the way a man-made failure or disaster does. Soon the Discovery Channel and The Science Channel will simulcast a scripted movie about the Challenger disaster. The movie is based on Dr. Richard Feynman’s memoir “What Do You Care What Other People Think” and will invariably show how Science and the human analytical mind went from a cloud of smoke and debris at 50,000 feet to the reason for the disaster: an O-ring seal in a solid rocket booster. Such failure analysis is why travel on large aluminum jets is the safest method of transportation in human history, going from perhaps the deadliest form of transport to the safest in less than a century. Such success came about through hard detective work the scene of each disaster, followed by a long period of investigation and analysis where the failure was pinpointed and most importantly, having the lessons learned applied to the rest of the industry.

The bible for those interested in the study of failure is German professor Dietrich Dorner’s 1996 book, The Logic of Failure. The book is based on a set of cognitive experiments done with software simulating a small town’s society in the US, and a fictional area in the Sahel. The studies found that while participants came from varied walks of life and backgrounds, “People court failure in predictable ways.” It then ties the experiments to real life failures such as the nuclear catastrophe at Chernobyl. As a systems analyst involved with complex multi-million dollar software development programs, I consider the book “must reading” for everyone in IT. Feel free to pass along a copy to those behind the Obamacare rollout.

Five years ago the people of Iraq had, thanks to the blood of thousands of American and allied soldiers, achieved a level of freedom unparalleled in their history. The national sport of kite flying was legal again and girls headed to school in Afghanistan. al Qaeda and its affiliates were on the run and confined to lawless patches in northern Pakistan, northern Nigeria and Somalia. Iran was boxed in between biting sanctions that undermined the regime internally, successful American military operations on either side of it, and an Israel ready, willing and backed by American leadership to attack Iran to stop it from acquiring nuclear weapons. China was busy flooding the world with cheap crap, content to use North Korea as its proxy to stir up trouble in favor of the regime in Beijing. Our relationship with Russia had begun drifting away from engagement towards confrontation over its aggression towards Georgia, but Russia was clearly a state in decline both internally and internationally. Even Syria was seen as a player, with Democrats having genuflected at Bashir Assad’s feet, Nancy Pelosi having claimed “the road to peace begins in Damascus” in 2007, four years before Vogue’s schmaltzy interview with the Assad family, “A Rose In the Desert.”

Today Iraq is a client state of Iran, its skies filled with Iranian cargo planes resupplying the Assad regime in Syria and Hezballah in Lebanon, its social fabric once again ripped by car bombs as the Sunni/Shi’a war rages on the ground. The Obama administration, convinced of its failure before it took office walked away from American success in Iraq by its refusal to negotiate a status of forces agreement with Baghdad. Historians will one day ask “Who lost Iraq?” and the answer will be Barack Obama. Immediately after setting up their base in Afghanistan in 2001, the Marines buried a piece of steel taken from the World Trade Center rubble on the site. Soon the Taliban and their al Qaeda allies will reclaim this as a war trophy as the kites and girls disappear from the streets, and the music that has filled the air in Kabul since 2001 will be replaced once again with silence punctuated by gunfire and explosions. Again historians will ask “Who condemned these people to savagery? Who lost Afghanistan?” Again the answer will be President Obama, a man who once called Afghanistan “the good war.”

After taking power President Obama fluttered around the world on what critics like me called his “Apology tour,” apologizing for American misdeeds both real and imagined, in the belief that the new-found humility would please our friends and sway our enemies. The Obama Administration has accomplished exactly the opposite. Today Iran is expanding its “Shi’a Crescent” throughout the Middle East, and the only ones standing in the way is Israel in an unlikely (and unspoken) alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. This after a popular rebellion took the streets in 2009 that could have changed the course of History, but it received no hint of support or backing from the Obama administration and it was ruthlessly crushed. It will be decades before the people rise up against the theocracy, if they ever do.

Today from Morocco across northern Africa to the Sinai, and from Nigeria across the continent to Somalia Africa burns with Muslim extremists allied with al Qaeda. Obama’s support of the rebellion to replace Mohammar Khaddafi in Libya has opened a Pandora’s Box of weaponry built over decades by Libya’s Great Loon, handing AK-47s, RPGs, and anti-aircraft missiles to everyone with an axe to grind and a Koran burning a hole in their hearts. Where there had been one failed state 5 years ago, Somalia, there are now at least 3 (Somalia, Mali, Libya) with numerous others (Algeria, Chad, Mauritania, Nigeria, Niger, Western Sahara) circling the drain. After Khaddafi’s fall al Qaeda training camps sprouted like mushrooms across North Africa and the Sub-Sahara, breathing the lawlessness that the Libyan Debacle created, and repaying the Obama administration for its “lead from behind” strategy by killing an American ambassador and his three bodyguards in the first such incident in 30 years.

Although the administration’s failure vis-a-vis China is not as bad as the disaster it has created in the Middle East, the Obama Doctrine of placating our foes while dissing our friends has been noticed in Asian capitals. South Korea is developing closer ties with China at the same time Japan rearms and prepares to ditch its anti-war constitution ghost written by Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Nations like Pakistan who haven’t really decided whether they are American allies or its enemies see no downside to throwing their lots in with the Chinese or Iranians. Pakistan even provides China the tail-section of a top-secret stealth helicopter used in the operation to kill Osama Bin Laden, America’s enemy number 1 watching porn in air conditioned comfort on Pakistani soil. There is no blow-back, no consequences suffered for entertaining the man responsible for the deaths of 3,000 Americans, and none for handing over the tail rotor section to America’s greatest military adversary. And to top it off, the true hero of the event, a local doctor who had the guts to help the Americans confirm Bin Laden’s identity, sits in jail as a traitor to his people. If anything playing up to America’s adversaries almost wins respect from the Obama administration itself. China understands this best, waging a cyber war against the US government and private industry without retribution.

Then there’s Europe. When the Obama Administration hasn’t sacrificed its allies to appease its enemies in Teheran and Moscow, it bugged their phones, proving yet again this administration’s inability to differentiate friend from foe. “Everyone does it,” is not an acceptable excuse for a superpower. There is absolutely no reason the US should be bugging Angela Merkel’s phone just as there is no reason it should be spying on 10 Downing Street. Perhaps the mushy-headedness that comes with moral relativism has blinded the administration to the differences of say, between Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin, or David Cameron and Ayatollah Khamenei.  The “Special Relationship” with the UK is special for a reason, one that is much older than the inhabitants of the West Wing and much more sublime than the political wonks can comprehend. Ditto the German Chancellor. Frau Merkel was born in East Germany and has first hand experience with illegal and unjustified surveillance. Unlike some of her predecessors, she has not risen to power on an anti-American platform, and has done an exemplary job of aligning the interests of Germany with the broader interests of Europe and the United States. Spying on her was a stupid idea that should never have been approved, and once approved, it should have been cancelled, and if not cancelled it should never have been revealed. Yet a contract DBA waltzed off with the keys to the entire American Intelligence in the worst espionage failure since Klaus Fuchs handed the Soviets the Bomb. Again, no consequences. No one fired let alone jailed.

Many on the right have concluded that this is all by plan, that the Obama administration and his Democratic party supporters have been intent on taking the ship of state and intentionally running it aground because they are socialists or communists. In the Irving Kristol Lecture to the American Enterprise Institute on February 10, 2004 Charles Krauthammer suggests it is more complex and subtle than that:

“What I do know is that today it is a mistake to see liberal foreign policy as deriving from anti-Americanism or lack of patriotism or a late efflorescence of 1960s radicalism.

On the contrary. The liberal aversion to national interest stems from an idealism, a larger vision of country, a vision of some ambition and nobility – the ideal of a true international community. And that is: To transform the international system from the Hobbesian universe into a Lockean universe. To turn the state of nature into a norm-driven community. To turn the law of the jungle into the rule of law – of treaties and contracts and UN resolutions. In short, to remake the international system in the image of domestic civil society…

And to create such a true international community, you have to temper, transcend and, in the end, abolish the very idea of state power and national interest. Hence the antipathy to American hegemony and American power. If you are going to break the international arena to the mold of domestic society, you have to domesticate its single most powerful actor. You have to abolish American dominance, not only as an affront to fairness but also as the greatest obstacle on the whole planet to democratized international system where all live under self-governing international institutions and self-enforcing international norms.” – Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passion, Pastimes and Politics

Seen in this light, Obama’s foreign policy has not been a failure at all. It has accomplished exactly what it was intended to do. It has weakened America’s foreign policy hand across the board. America’s military is weakened through political purges of its officer corps, lack of direction and budget cuts. Its diplomatic corps is undermined by the lack of protection of its staff, as proven in Benghazi, by the White House’s high-handedness shown towards America’s closest friends the UK and Israel, and the spying program targeting American allies as well as its enemies that State Department personnel are forced to explain in their host countries. Its adversaries Syria, Iran and North Korea are all in better positions than they were five years ago. Ditto China and Russia. As the US weakens its enemies strengthen, and its allies are then forced to either band together (EU standing up to Russia and encouraging Ukraine to join, ASEAN nations co-coordinating efforts to balance China) or leave its sphere of influence entirely (Saudi Arabia, Egypt and perhaps Israel in the Middle East, South Korea in East Asia).

Obama has domesticated America on the international stage, to use Krauthammer’s term: so now what? Where is the Golden Age promised by Locke and the internationalists? If they are correct, a humbled America should encourage its enemies to stop their own military buildups (they don’t need offensive military capability with America’s gone). North Korea and Iran no longer need nukes now that American nukes are rusting away awaiting destruction as Obama unilaterally disarms. Without American backing Israel should engage its enemies diplomatically in a desperate bid to secure peace with the Palestinians. The world should be much better today than it was five years ago.

Is it? I suppose that depends on your perspective. Five years ago Americans could have traveled safely throughout Africa except for one nation Somalia. Today I’d hesitate to walk through the narrow streets of Zanzibar as I once did freely nearly two decades ago, and have struck Valley of the Kings in Egypt off my bucket list until further notice. Northern Kenya, Mali, Eritrea, Mauritania, Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Western Sahara, and Libya are now no-go areas for Westerners. I suppose that’s great if you can’t help but shout Allahu Akhbar every time you touch an AK-47, but for the rest of us things have gotten worse not better under the new regime.

Dietrich Doerner writes, “For them (people who failed most often at complex analytical tests) to propose a hypothesis was to understand reality; testing that hypothesis was unnecessary. Instead of generating hypotheses, they generated ‘truths’.” The Obama administration came to power proposing a hypothesis, that the world would be a better place with the United States weakened. It treated this hypothesis as a truth, steadfastly refusing to let go of it, sacrificing ambassadors, diplomatic relationships built over generations, and American influence in the process. When Doerner’s study participants failed, they invariably blamed others for their failures just as the Administration has focused the blame on the GOP.

When the Obama administration took power I and many others had hoped it would govern from the center, that things wouldn’t be as dire as we had feared. We hoped that it would try its crazy ideas, learn they didn’t work, then try something else. But they didn’t learn. They stuck to their “truths.” Five years on our foreign policy is a shambles, America weaker and friendless as it has been at no other time in its history. The disaster is worse than we expected, and we still have 3 full years left in this president’s term.

Will America be able to survive this epic failure? Thirty-two years ago Ronald Reagan took power and turned around foreign policy debacles of the previous Carter administration pretty quickly. Will a Republican president be able to do the same after eight years of disaster? And what if the GOP selects the wrong candidate and Hillary Clinton wins in 2016? How much failure can this country accept and still survive?

Yet Another Victim of a Lie: Me

Like many others I’ve recently been notified that my current health insurance policy will be cancelled and I will have to find another.

Thank you President Obama and his Democratic Party.



Hat tip: Snoop the Goon

Obama’s Leadership Failure

Over the past five years I have watched the collapse of American prestige in the world. I have come to terms with this loss, recognizing that such things are reversible and that a new administration will one day take over and reverse the decline. But as we learned during the Carter era, reinforced by Reagan’s retreat from Lebanon after 242 US Marines were killed in 1983 and later Clinton’s Somalia fiasco, such a loss resonates into the future. The prime example of this was Osama Bin Laden’s recognition of these failures as signs of America’ s loss of will, making it the “weak horse” which would collapse by the addition of a grain of salt on its back. One by one grains were added, the 1993 WTC attack, the Khobar bombings in Saudi Arabia, the Embassy Bombings of 1998, and the USS Cole attack of 2000, and the horse failed to fall. The 9-11 attacks were just more of the same, more grains of salt added to the horse’s back from Bin Laden’s perspective. But instead of collapsing under the strain Bin Laden’s metaphor collapsed, and he and his organization found itself on the defensive against a determined foe, one that eventually turned him into fish food in the Indian Ocean.

We are repeating history, and in this sequel we are much closer in time to Carter’s 1980 failed hostage rescue mission than we are to Tora Bora. President Obama’s core belief that words matter, that diplomacy can solve every crisis and that the military option is only resorted to by leaders less intelligent than himself, has been shown a failure to everyone outside his inner circle. Over the past 5 years (I include Obama’s promises in the final stage of the 2008 campaign as well as the self-importance he attached to his president-elect status after the 2008 election and before the 2009 inauguration) Obama has used promises and threats instead of deeds and action to guide US foreign policy. There was some success at first as allies took his word for the former and our enemies heeded the latter, but as the world changed the promises weren’t met and the threats weren’t acted upon, our allies became disheartened while our enemies were encouraged. Such mistakes must have come as a surprise to both, to see the most powerful and influential nation on earth run by an administration filled with the best and brightest progressive leaders the country had to offer acting like an impoverished, helpless and morally bankrupt banana republic on the world’s stage.

Nations adjusted accordingly. China has become more aggressive in its territorial claims. North Korea continues to threaten the world with nuclear annihilation with impunity. Iran has taken the success of North Korea to heart and vigorously pursues the Bomb. While the Obama administration spoke about the decimation of al Qaeda, the terrorist organization proved powerful enough to kill an American ambassador, the first in thirty years, take over leadership of the rebellion in Syria, turn Iraq into a killing zone,  and scare the administration into closing a score of embassies throughout the Middle East. Not bad for an organization that the administration has said is “on the run.” Clearly al Qaeda accomplishes more in retreat than many armies do on the offensive.

Then there is Russia.  It’s ironic that President Obama treats Vladimir Putin as his equal and Russia as a superpower by giving it veto power over American actions in the Middle East and throughout Asia. In effect Obama elevates the status of Russia while subverting American interests abroad. Such actions must demoralize nations in the former Russian sphere of influence like Poland and the Czech Republic, while encouraging our friends in the Middle East such as Israel and Saudi Arabia to begin to cut their own deals with Russia.

Speaking of friends, we once had one in Egypt. It was a typical Middle Eastern friend. It took gobs of money from us then fed the masses a steady diet of anti-American propaganda that encouraged Islamic terrorism. But the Egyptian regime was successful for the most part. It kept itself in power, maintained the peace – albeit a cold one – with Israel, and kept the foreign currency flowing into Egypt from European and American tourists. Make no mistake Hosni Mubarak was no Winston Churchill, and the Egyptian regime never had our back the way Australia always has, but to expect anything more from Arabs in the Middle East requires complete ignorance of the culture and history of the area. Nevertheless the Obama administration and the State Department under the leadership of Hillary Clinton, a woman whose resume highlight for the job included hosting dinners as the First Lady in the White House for eight years, proved through their actions (and inactions) that for all their supposed brilliance, they were at heart as dumb as a box of blocks when it came to Egypt.

First the administration saw the Arab Spring as a revolutionary moment for liberalism in the country, forgetting that Egypt has been ruled throughout its five thousand year history by pharaohs, kings and military juntas when independent and by Rome, the Ottoman Empire or France when not. Although Egypt lacked any democratic culture or institutions, the Obama administration happily threw Hosni Mubarak under the bus, thinking that he would be replaced by a liberal Democrat they had met at a Washington DC state dinner, Mohamed ElBaradei. The Obama administration didn’t understand what was really happening in Egypt during the Arab Spring: the military junta had stopped supporting Mubarak when he attempted to turn over power to his son and make the presidency a dynasty. Elections were held and the masses didn’t vote for a familiar face in the DC dinner circuit; instead they elected the front of a terrorist organization bent on the destruction of Israel and the United States, and the ideological parent organization of both Hamas and al Qaeda.

Maybe the Obama administration and the State Department thought they were dealing with the Egyptian equivalent of Sinn Fein, and that like the IRA in Ireland, the terrorists in Egypt would lay down their arms and take up the ballot box to achieve their aims of global conquest. Many on the Right questioned the administration support for the Brotherhood as being more diabolical, and that some great conspiracy lay behind American support of the Brotherhood even when it became obvious that it was trying to turn Egypt into an Islamic state like Iran. Although I doubt that Obama is a closet Muslim, or that Hillary’s “special friend” Huma Abedin’s ties to the Muslim Brotherhood dictated our policy towards Egypt, nothing but sheer stupidity successfully explains our support of the organization as it attempted to wrest control of the state from the military. The military reacted and said “Enough,” taking power away from the Islamists and restoring the status quo of a generation ago when Mubarak ruled Egypt with military support and the Muslim Brotherhood conspired to take power from behind bars. The result of this episode in Middle Eastern foreign policy is the brilliant progressive leaders of the Obama Administration and State Department have angered all sides in Egypt.

For perhaps the first time in his life Obama will be judged not by his words but his actions. No speech he gives will excuse the failure of his leadership on foreign policy, particularly on Syria. It is ironic that the words so prized by Obama and his followers are what has boxed him into a corner in the first place. His team knew the ad libbed term “red line” would prove disastrous. Now he is so desperate he is begging Republicans like former foe Senator John McCain and House Speaker John Boehner to save him. Given the stupidity of the GOP it’s quite possible they just will, providing him the option he needs so that when things get worse in Syria he can blame them. Unlike McCain and Boehner I can live with an America that cannot be trusted by its friends and is no longer feared by its enemies – at least until January 2017. The progressives and Obama believed they knew best and elections have consequences. To paraphrase my late mother-in-law, they chose this path, and they must walk it.


Lies, Damned Lies and Propaganda

The unemployment rate is down to 7.6%, it’s lowest in 4 years. Alan Krueger, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers at the White House, writes “today’s employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression. It is critical that we continue the policies that are helping to build an economy that creates jobs and works for the middle class as we dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession that began in December 2007.”

So, happy days are here again? Only if you are drinking the kool-aid at the White House. Every month roughly 150,000 more people join the workforce as they come of age or arrive on our shores as immigrants. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says that payrolls expanded by 88,000 people last month. So why did the unemployment rate drop to 7.6%?

A record 663,000 people gave up trying to find a job and left the workforce. These people are not counted in the BLS employment statistics; only those that are working or actively seeking employment within 2 years of having a job are counted. Anyone beyond that 2 year mark is simply dropped from the statistics, as is anyone who applied for and received disability, or moved back to live with their parents while attending school.

So is this statistic really indicative of a healthy economy?

Consider the following thought experiment:

In 2017 a Republican moves into the White House. Within a few months of taking office, her policies begin to have an effect on the economy and it starts to boom. Businesses start hiring, the economy picks up, and wages rise. At the same time social programs are cut back by the Republican administration and its allies forcing those on the dole to return to the work force.

What happens as these people reenter the workforce?

The BLS begins to include them back into their statistics because they are actively looking for work. If the number of jobs is growing but the number of job seekers is growing faster because they are being forced to get a job or encouraged by the success of friends and family to get one, what happens to the unemployment rate? It rises as the number of people outside the workforce shrinks, the exact opposite of the situation today. Do you think the mainstream media will trumpet the expanding economy sucking people off their couches and back into the workforce?

Happy days aren’t here again, and won’t be while leftist ideology trumps job creation, and crony capitalism allows the wealthy to benefit from the Left’s War on Poverty.

Americans have been conditioned to believe that a low unemployment figure is good while a higher unemployment figure is bad. Such simple notions used to be true until economists and their political patrons realized it provided them with a tool to support their favored policies. They then began manipulating the figures, including this while excluding that in order to support their favored legislative agenda. A century and a half ago Mark Twain recognized the danger of statistics who wrote “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” But today our political leaders have gone beyond lies with their manipulation of statistics, whether damned or not, into the realm of pure propaganda.

We Are Idiots

In 2008-9 our country experienced an unprecedented meltdown of its financial system brought on by the cosy relationships between government regulators, politicians and bureaucrats. In response the Federal Reserve embarked on a program whereby the it stole money from the bank accounts of 98% of the country and shifted it to the wealthiest of American society through depressing interest rates paid to savers on their accounts below the rate of inflation, meaning that for every $1,000 in your bank account you lose $30 every year to inflation. This subsidized those with money by providing them with low borrowing costs, allowing them to leverage their wealth for even greater gains in the stock market. It’s not good enough that a billionaire invests $100 million in the market; no, he must use that $100m as leverage to control a billion dollars worth of stock. The stock market has become a casino where small investors are left to chase nickels in front of steam rollers while the government funds the wealthiest segment of society. Worse, the Cyprus Model has put paid to the idea that bank savings are property and protected by the law. Instead savers have become “speculators” and their savings “investments” to be wiped out whenever banks need a bailout. It must not be forgotten that the initial bank bailout, the first put forward by the European Union, looked to steal 6.7% of guaranteed savings below 100,000 Euro. The European Union isn’t exactly communist China or Soviet Russia yet it completely ignored its own law of guaranteed deposits (the EU FDIC) and took the money. Is such an event possible in the United States? Yes. Unlikely perhaps at this point, but still possible.

To support this stock market bubble the federal reserve has flooded the markets with currency yet denied such actions, euphemistically called “quantitative easing”, are inflationary. Government bureaucracies such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) manipulate employment statistics to make it appear as if good times are here to stay by excluding the long-term unemployed and those who have given up on finding a job, meaning that if your wife is working and you’re looking for a job, our economy will improve by you staying at home and watching daytime TV since your household will go from 50% unemployment to 0% unemployment. Similarly the BLS manipulates inflation rates by discounting the volatility of food and fuel, the largest categories all but the very wealthiest people spend their money on besides taxes and housing, and making “qualitative adjustments” that hide inflation. In addition companies are passing on higher production costs to consumer through stealth inflation, providing less product for the same money. The profusion of dollar stores are proof of the success of this strategy since shoppers at these stores believing they are getting a bargain while in reality they are paying more per unit of good than at other stores. 4 loads of Tide for a $1 might seem a deal until one goes to a supermarket and finds a 40 load box of the detergent for $7.

Not one person from the banking crisis has been indicted or prosecuted by the Obama administration or Congress, a fact that spawned a PBS Frontline show “The Untouchables.” Could this be because the federal government would be prosecuting it’s own? Former SEC Chairwoman Mary Schapiro resigned and has taken a position at Promontory Financial Group, a bank consulting group, but promises not to lobby the government she once worked for. That has led to Forbes wondering what other of her qualifications Promontory is willing to bill $1,000 – $10,000 an hour for. She’s among numerous ex-federal employees at her new digs. Check out the nifty graphic at ZeroHedge listing Promontory employees and their former positions in the government. Yet we are supposed to believe this revolving door between regulators and those they regulate is free from moral hazard. In the comments at ZeroHedge someone calls the place a “high end whorehouse.” It it were taxpayers wouldn’t be the ones being screwed.

Banks like JP Morgan-Chase and investment firms like Goldman Sachs are considered too big to fail, taking their “skin” out of the game and replacing it with the American taxpayer’s. If JPMC or Goldman’s risky investments turn out well, it’s “capitalism” and their corporate managers and shareholders are rewarded; if they bomb it’s no big deal. The shareholders or managers are still rewarded as they were in January 2010 when banker bonuses were “bigger than ever” according to the New York Times even after the economic collapse of 2008-9. The American worker will simply work a few hours to provide the taxes the firms need to be bailed out, that is if she has a job. It’s a great system if you are Lloyd Blankfein GS’s CEO who earns upwards of $100 million a year at Goldman Sachs. It benefits Democratic politicians like Hillary Rodham Clinton and President Obama too since Blankfein is a large donor to the Democratic party.

Then there’s the debt. To call it a “mountain of debt” is to betray a shallow awareness of the world’s topography. Here are some neat visualizations of our debt in $100 bills, and an impressive sounding statistic that’s hard to visual: a line of $1 bills would stretch from the Earth to Uranus. We’ve reached a point where analogies lose their meaning, although the current debt being greater than the country’s entire output in 2011 must be at least a bit sobering to even the drunkest Keynesian economist. The best way to consider the debt is by making it personal. Since 2008 the debt has expanded by $26,000 per person. Multiply that number by those in your household and ask yourself if you feel that amount richer over the past 4 years. That would mean an extra $78k for my household, enough to drop the Wife’s med school debt by 40% or replace our aging cars, each with over 150k miles on them, as well as buy a new car for the Kid. If you don’t see that money, where did it go? Ask yourself: are you better off today than you were 4 years ago? Then ask Lloyd whether he is.

The system is corrupt yet we do nothing about it. We are told happy days are here again, that the stockmarket is at record highs, yet those of us who dabbled in the market prior to 2009 have still not recovered from the losses suffered then, leaving us on the sidelines of this rally. Small investors piled into the market and out of the market late back then, proving they were the “greater fools” and some are doing so today as the market skyrockets and smart money looks for the exits. Sure our 401K’s are expanding, but the numbers are meaningless for anyone other than those planning to retire in the coming months before this bubble bursts. Self employed people and contractors like myself don’t have 401K’s, we just have our wits and an ever sharpening skill set that we use to stay employed, but both are slowly being eroded by time as we age and the younger cohorts below us grow hungrier and more competitive. Time will unravel us, and when it does we will be poor and destitute, remembering the hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxes paid that could have gone, should have gone, into our retirement funds but didn’t. At that point we’ll be on the side of the 47% who don’t pay taxes, but by then the government will be completely broke. We shouldn’t expect any sympathy from the generations coming up in our shadows, since both Left and Right are in agreement that theirs will be the first generations to have lower living standards than preceding generations. It doesn’t help that we’ve sent them to substandard schools whose sole purpose seems to be to employ Masters of Education degree holders instead of actually teaching our children the skills they need to succeed in life.

The collapse of our education system is proof of our sick society, one that raids the education budgets for the young to pay for the guaranteed pensions of the old, one in which the only people who treasure marriage these days are gay and everyone else hooks up like a shed-full of feral cats in heat, with an increasing percetage of the products of these unions are on ADHD medication. I’d need to be medicated too if I was forced to sit still with a body full of hormones and brimming with youthful energy, taught by teachers who, like the children of Lake Wobegon, are all above average, all 98% of them. Conversely, Walter Russell Mead points out ”only 78.2 percent of American students graduated high school in 2010. Sixty-seven percent of all fourth graders could not read at grade level in 2009. And only 32 percent of eighth graders and 38 percent of twelfth graders were reading at or above grade level that same year.” Of course if we measured education aptitude by the number of body piercings and tattoos we’d lead the world.

David Stockman, former Reagan budget director, is getting beaten up in the press for his book The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America. Journalists, products of the Masters of Education employment entities described above, look at the highs of the Dow and discount Stockman’s thesis that the system we have today is more akin to the monopolies and crony capitalists that spawned the progressive movement over a century ago rather than some Randist free market anarchic paradise that they instinctively fear. The treatment of Stockman is similar to that shoveled out to Bob Woodward for daring to criticize President Obama game of chicken with the sequester, as J-school graduates leaped in defense of their icon in the White House attacking Woodward with various ad hominems that any of the profs would have failed them for had they used them in class (or rather, a class where failure was an option – evidently a rarity these days where students can pass without actually studying.) Watching Woodward, a man whose politics I disagree with yet whom I respect for helping pull off the greatest journalistic story of the century, being attacked by the likes of Andrew “I’m here, I’m queer, blah blah blah” Sullivan was like watching a fine thoroughbred horse attacked by a swarm of flies fresh from their home in a dung pile. But such is the fate for anyone who dares call “shenanigans” in the current climate where anyone who can’t continue deceiving themselves is lampooned, debased, or in the case of Woodward, threatened.

Our problems aren’t just economic either. The Obama administration has fled the Middle East and attempts to appease Iran by refusing to support the rebellion against the Assad regime in Syria.

“I think that the United States has not taken a more active role in Syria from the beginning because they didn’t want to disturb the possibility, to give them space, to negotiate with Iran,” Javier Solana, the former European Union foreign policy chief, said Monday at a Brookings Institution discussion about this week’s talks. Solana, who was a top negotiator with Tehran in the nuclear program until 2009, added, “They probably knew that getting very engaged against Assad, engaged even militarily, could contribute to a break in the potential negotiations with Tehran.”

As Walter Russell Mead notes this could be a catastrophic mistake.

If Solana is right that this policy has been driving the White House all along, this is Obama’s initial Iran failure—remaining silent during the 2009 Green Revolution—on steroids. Weakness doesn’t win you the friendship of bullies. And if this dispatch is right, we should expect some ugly repercussions from the Sunni Arabs, the Israelis and the Turks. All these powers want to see Iran’s claws clipped and they want Assad to go; all of these powers chiefly view the value of their US ties at the moment in the light of the confrontation with Iran. If they come to feel that the United States is willing to throw the Syrian lamb to the Iranian tiger, their trust and confidence in the United States, and consequentially America’s power to get things done in the region, would go into a deep eclipse.

Things don’t look any better on the other side of Asia with North Korea promising to attack the United States. So far the US response has been mild, yet that hasn’t stopped the press from asking White House spokesman Jay Carney if that hasn’t provoked a communist dictatorship whose people are being starved to death on a steady diet of leftist propaganda and grass. But their carbon footprints are tiny, for now. How much carbon will be released by a nuclear strike on Osaka or Guam? Quite a bit I suppose. In any event we soon might find out if North Korea acts on its threats.

A whole industry is set up to use imagery and fantasy to modify our behavior so that we buy something, yet somehow a related industry employing the same techniques but for entertainment purposes ie exempt from responsibility when an admittedly sick individual dresses up as villain of the violent movie being shown to the audience he then commences to massacre. The Roman Catholic Pope is labeled as an extremist for calling abortion murder while a doctor who performs late term abortions and keeps the tiny feet of his victims in a jar as memento mori is lauded as a hero. The billionaire mayor of New York City makes it his personal mission to rid the city of large soft drinks while the city’s crime rate rises and the city becomes less friendly to all but society’s richest and poorest.

But when all is said and done, who is to blame for this mess that we find ourselves in? We are.

We didn’t demand for the bankers to be tarred and feathered (well, we did but failed to hold our elected leaders accountable for allowing the bankers off scot-free.). We continually vote in the politicians who offer us platitudes instead of common sense and plunder the public purse for the benefit of the monied elite regardless of their party affiliation. We engage in bitter fights over issues that don’t impact us directly (I’m not gay, on medicaid and I can’t get pregnant, so honestly just how worked up can I get about gay marriage, social programs and abortion?), yet ignore the issues that unite us and affect our daily lives. We vilify other Americans for their differences yet are willfully blind to the commonalities. Intellectual laziness encourages us to accept stereotypes and straw men built by those who feed on hatred the way a maggot feeds on the flesh of an open wound instead of putting ourselves in the other’s position, or to use an old cliche, “walking a mile in the other man’s moccasins.” We have Obama himself saying, “It’s not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations,” accepting a stereotype and succumbing to a form of elitism and intellectual laziness by belittling his opponents instead of attempting to understand them and winning them over. We’ve accepted the low standards of education because we’ve been trained that “fighting city hall” or in this case the school board is futile. So our kids read less than we do, they can text faster and know the special combo to beat the god Zeus in the “God of War” video game. They’ll be alright. Right? We keep our heads down, do what we are told and hope that our dreams come true, the way they do on TV between the ads for drugs to help men get it up and women feel not so down.

We should be ashamed for what we’ve done, or more importantly, not done, expending the effort to fight for accountability from our elected officials and receiving their heads in baskets after they ignored us 4 years ago. Today the problems are even worse, the threats greater, yet we continue on the way we did before the 2008 financial meltdown and on September 10, 2001, fighting among ourselves without giving the other the benefit of the doubt or the dignity our opponent deserves. To paraphrase my late mother-in-law, we chose this path, and we did so because we are idiots.

Why Americans Need Assault Rifles

After introducing a plan to ban 150 different types of guns and high capacity magazines, Sen Diane Feinstein tweeted, “The bill will NOT affect hunting or sporting firearms. Instead, the bill protects hunters and sportsmen.” Congressman Rick Nolan (D-MN) , speaking on Face the Nation, defended the legislation, saying he didn’t need an assault rifle to shoot a duck. Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) also supports the legislation saying hunters don’t require assault rifles to kill game.

I’m always somewhat bemused when gun control advocates talk about hunting, as if the 2nd amendment is the right to eat meat, while the word “hunt” or “hunting” does not appear anywhere in the Bill of Rights. In fact by that logic one doesn’t need any type of gun to hunt; a bow and arrow or a flint-tipped spear can take down a deer just as effectively. The 2nd Amendment has absolutely nothing to do with hunting; it is much more powerful than that.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Never has a single sentence caused so much controversy. The late SCOTUS Chief Justice Warren Burger once criticized the amendment on the MacNeil-Lehrer news hour, claiming it was poorly written and a disaster for the country. Like many liberals he believed the amendment applied to organized state militias such as the National Guard. The original Bill of Rights lays out the rights granted to the People of the United States by the Creator, it does not give rights to government, whether state, local or federal. As for the definition of militia, Buckhorn provides reference to Title 10 United States Code section 311:

(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard. (b) The classes of the militia are – (1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and (2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.

So if you are a male American between the ages of 17 and 45, guess what? You’re part of the militia, and while Title 10 USC Sec 311 defines the National Guard and Naval Militia as “organized,” the 2nd Amendment does not begin “A well organized Militia.” Besides the “unorganized militia” is just a class of militia according to Title 10 USC Sec 311 so we don’t have a situation where one group of people bears arms and another does not. And better yet, like all the Bill of Rights the “right of the people” derives not from government or any sovereign, but from God – just as the rights to assembly, free speech and freedom of religion do. That undermines the idea put forward by gun control advocates that the term “well regulated” grants power to the government to control arms. The word “regulated” today isn’t the same as it was in 1789, and replacing the Framer’s word with  modern usage would make the amendment nonsensical. How could a right granted by God be controlled by a government of man?  A better modern word would be “trained” or “provisioned”, but it’s unfair to blame the Founders for failing to anticipate the evolution of English after they have succeeded in creating a document that has withstood the test of time so well.

Reams of paper have been produced supporting or disparaging this or that about the 2nd Amendment, and brighter men than me have argued both for and against it, but my view is that the Founders of the Republic had a nation like Switzerland in mind. While gun control advocates are keen on comparing the US to the UK, Canada and Australia, nations that ban guns in most cases, they tend to ignore Switzerland. Switzerland does not have a professional army and instead relies upon civilians to participate and train in a militia. The Swiss are issued an assault rifle, currently the SIG SG 550, a fully automatic weapons that even US gun nuts can’t easily get their hands on*. The Swiss also have a very weak central government, something I believe the Founders preferred but became an idea that got lost after the North won the Civil War.

So the purpose of the militia isn’t to hunt, it’s not target-shooting, or even self-protection: it’s to level the playing field between the People and a tyrannical regime. This is something I hadn’t even realized myself until recently. In the past I’ve argued in support of gun ownership on the basis that self defense is a human right. I even have a bumper sticker on my car to that effect. But the 2nd Amendment is much more sublime. The amendment does not specify what kind of threat requires an armed population. It doesn’t say it’s necessary to protect against a foreign power, Indians, or the forces of mad King George V. It simply states that a militia is necessary for the security of a free state, and freedom is thread that is consistent throughout the documents of the period from the Declaration of Independence through the Articles of Confederation and finally, the Bill of Rights. That free state is so important that is requires a well trained and provisioned militia to secure it.

Could that threat be the tyranny of our own government? Why do you think the Founders placed it so high up in the Bill of Rights? They weren’t fools. They knew that tyrants often take power through democratic means. They recognized that power corrupts and over time any government can be corrupted from within, presenting a danger just as great as invasion from without. The 2nd Amendment therefore provides Americans with a “reset button,” allowing its citizens to resort to force of arms to remove any tyrannical government that comes to power. Such a government would possess the means of the state – billions of dollars, tanks, warplanes, and other tools of war to subjugate the citizenry, but as the American Revolution proved, and as shown by every counter-insurgency the US has participated in from the Philippine Rebellion of the 1920’s to Vietnam of the 1960’s and Afghanistan of today, superior men, arms and material do not in themselves guarantee victory.

The reality of this statement means that Americans would be fighting Americans. It wouldn’t be the first time; the greatest calamity ever to befall our nation was the Civil War, killing 620,000, the equivalent of 5.2 million Americans today, and setting the development of our nation back decades. The idea of Americans killing Americans repulses me in a way that is hard to describe. The extremes of Right and Left both celebrate the idea for the advancement of their own particular causes, and yet the very thought just makes me want to puke.

The best thing about having a “reset button” such as the 2nd Amendment is that it makes such scenarios unlikely. As my good Watcher’s colleague Joshupundit pointed out in a personal communication, extremists like Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam demand gun control because it makes it easier for them to impose their will on the majority of Americans once Americans are disarmed. “He (Farrakhan)  likes the idea of gun control because the [Nation of Islam] has it’s own channels to obtain firearms if they need them.” Ditto the American Communist Party. The masses will be disarmed but the extremists, whether inside the government or at society’s fringes, won’t be and their path to power will be unobstructed.

This reset button comes at a price. Every year Americans die by guns who would otherwise not, and it would be a grievous insult to comfort a parent who has lost a child to gunfire by saying that his or her life is the price we pay to guarantee freedom. But if we are to consider those lost by gun violence today, we also must consider those who would die under dictatorship. The 2nd Amendment minimizes the losses and insures our government’s, and by extension our society’s stability by making any serious attempt at destroying our democracy impossible due to the hundreds of millions of guns in the hands of 80 million Americans who bear them responsibly and vigilantly.

Most people who aren’t familiar with guns don’t understand the difference between automatic and semi-automatic weapons; at least I didn’t until I started educating myself about guns and owning them. An automatic weapon is one that continuously fires until the magazine is empty after the trigger is pulled once. A semi-automatic fires one bullet each time the trigger is pulled. Assault rifles can be semi-auto or full auto, but those under consideration for banning are semi-auto because full auto versions are highly restricted.

Automatic weapons are for all intents and purposes banned from private ownership in the US. While it is possible to get a license for one, the guns are expensive and highly regulated. Most of those I have seen in action are rented at gun ranges by guys with more testosterone than sense. Want to blow $30 in 5 seconds? You can by firing an AK-47 at full auto. In the process you’ll pretty much hit everything BUT the target you are aiming for which is why I don’t see a need for a fully auto weapon. A gun on full auto will pull up and controlling it becomes like wrestling a python, but some guys like to show off at the ranges by making noise. It makes a lot of money for the ranges and ammo manufacturers, but honestly I prefer the maxim “One shot one kill,” myself. As a result I don’t believe a ban on them tilts the playing field towards tyranny the way a ban on assault rifles would.

What The Buddha Can Teach Democrats and Republicans

The Buddha taught everything changes, and that the root of human suffering was our resistance to the acceptance of this reality. Congress could use a few Buddhists right now because the way both parties are acting one would think that we’ve achieved some sort of permanent status in Washington DC.

The Republican Party lost its mojo last election after drinking tea to victory in 2010, and is acting like it will never be in power again. Likewise the Democrats are acting as if they will be the majority party in perpetuity and Obama won with a landslide last November even though he won fewer votes in ‘12 than he did in ‘08. Both statements would be true if time stopped today and never flowed again, but that isn’t its nature. The former prince of a tiny kingdom in India 2,500 years ago understood that and did so without polls, political consultants or reading op-ed pieces in the Washington Post.

Republicans today should be proposing legislation that benefits the majority party. Why? Because things change. It will find its groove again will likely retake the Senate in 2014 and the White House in 2016. In order to prepare for that day, they should be agreeing to the legislation being put forth by the Democrats. End the filibuster? Absolutely. Expand Executive orders? Yes. Give the president the power to raise the debt ceiling? We’re on board. Today the President talks of using an executive order to restrict gun rights. That will set a precedent for a Republican president in four years time to use an executive order to restrict abortion rights, so the GOP should cheer and the Dems should reconsider their support of such an expansion of executive power.

Similarly the Democrats should be proposing legislation that protects the minority power because it is likely they will become that in two years time and it takes time for laws to be legislated and put into place. They also should be putting into place laws that build strengthen the legislative branch over the executive because it is likely they will return to Congress under a Republican president.

Of course neither party is willing to do this because it would appear they are giving in to the other, but back in the day party leaders like Tip O’Neil and James Baker would have had the foresight to see an election or two down the road and recognize the rhythm of American politics, the pendulum that swings from the left to the right and back again, marking the passage of time in the Republic. For Republicans today it’s hard not to despair, but to quote from another great man a few thousand miles to the west of the Buddha (although only a few hundred years before Him), King Solomon who pondered the eternal truth of the statement, “This too shall pass.” And the Democrats who are exultant and ready to remake history as Progressive ideals conquer all, a reminder: “This too shall pass.”

It would behoove both Democrats and Republicans to prepare for today’s passing because as the Buddha taught, whether or not we like it, it will.

If You Have to Ask Who The Sucker Is…

If you thought the 98% was safe from tax hikes, that the leviathan we call the Federal Government would be sated with the blood and treasure of the top 2%, think again.

Senate-Passed Deal Means Higher Tax on 77% of Households

More than 80 percent of households with incomes between $50,000 and $200,000 would pay higher taxes. Among the households facing higher taxes, the average increase would be $1,635, the policy center said. A 2 percent payroll tax cut, enacted during the economic slowdown, is being allowed to expire as of yesterday.

Ah, but that 2% cut is to keep Social Security solvent for your future, so it’s not that bad, right? Well, yes it is that bad. Remember all that talk a decade back about keeping Social Security in a lockbox? Well it was just that: talk. Social Security funds are not saved and spent only on retirees. Instead that money is added to the general fund and replaced by an IOU. So that $1,635 extra you pay this year could easily go to Hollywood movie studios or rum producers in Puerto Rico. It does not add to the solvency of the fund; it’s just extra cash for the federal government, which is not unlike an extra gram to a meth head.

Some Democrats are now noticing the damage to their paychecks.

“What happened that my Social Security withholding’s in my paycheck just went up?” a poster wrote on the liberal site “My paycheck just went down by an amount that I don’t feel comfortable with. I guarantee this decrease is gonna’ hurt me more than the increase in income taxes will hurt those making over 400 grand. What happened?”

It’s interesting to see the assumption made by the poster between comfort and taxes, especially when he’s taking the hit and not some faceless Two Percenter. ““Obama is the biggest f***ing liar in the world. Why the f*** did I vote for him”?” Because sir, you are a sucker.

So pass this news along to your smug liberal friends who screamed about the wealthy paying “their fair share” and voted for Hope and Change in 2008 and 2012, and ask them where their going to find the extra $136.25 to send the people who own the President and his party.

RIP Senator Daniel Inouye

Rhymes with Right has a moving piece honoring the passing of Senator Daniel Inouye. Inouye was a member of the Greatest Generation, but fought for a nation that didn’t trust him simply because of his ethnic heritage, becoming a hero in more ways than one. Just because a man has a “D” behind his name doesn’t make him less a man; in fact in Inouye’s case I think he had more guts and sense than any of those he most recently served with having “R”s behind theirs.

Aloha, Senator, and Requiesce in Pace after a life lived with honor.

Force Wealthy Liberals to Pay Their Fair Share

Speaking of insanity, when will Republicans stop their fetishistic devotion to the wealthy after the party has been abandoned by them? As Victor Davis Hansen point out, 8 of the 10 wealthiest counties in America voted for Obama in November 2012, yet the party continues kowtowing to the uberrich by most recently exempting Hollywood from animal cruelty laws. Hollywood isn’t exactly supportive of the GOP, yet that hasn’t stopped the party from cosponsoring and supporting legislation such as the DMCA even going so far to fire  Derek Khanna, formerly of the Republican Study Committee for daring criticize the legislation that protects the film and music industries at the expense of artists and consumers.

It’s time to cap the tax exemption on charitable giving. Why not a cap on say, $10 million? Everything beyond that is taxable. Such a cap won’t hurt charities like Goodwill or AmVets, two charities that are largely supported by small donations from individuals, but it will put a dent in giving to large high profile charities and foundations supported by liberals that in return support liberal causes. Hansen suggests limiting the mortgage interest tax deduction to a single mortgage on the primary residence to the first $100k with no interest tax deduction on second or vacations homes. After all why should taxpayers subsidize mansions and multiple homes of the wealthy? Also, disallow the tax deduction for state and local taxes. For the average taxpayer this won’t result in much, but it would kill those who live in Blue states such as California, Illinois and Connecticut who are allowed to deduct their high state taxes from their federal taxes, in effect forcing people living in low tax Red states to subsidize the wealthy in La Jolla and the Hamptons. As Ann Coulter states, “You want high taxes, New York and California? Then pay them — with no deductions for state and local taxes on your federal returns.”

Coulter also points out that the reason why capital gains are taxed at a lower level than wage income is that most people pay taxes on their labor and then invest the money, so capital gains are a form of double taxation. But for the likes Warren Buffet who are compensated completely through capital gains, they do in effect pay a lower rate than the doctors, engineers and others who have to work to get the cash they need to invest. She writes, “Close that loophole. Almost no Republicans will be harmed in the making of this tax change. (There’s a reason Sen. Chuck Schumer fought so hard to save it.)”

Then there’s the Hollywood excise tax that Instapundit Glenn Reynolds has suggested re-instituting the excise tax on Hollywood that was repealed in the 1950’s. Hollywood has replaced the blacklist and slavish devotion to anti-communist ideology of the 1950s with their leftist equivalents today. The industry provides an outlet for a leftist interpretation of history (watch any Oliver Stone film to see what I’m referring to) while enjoying the benefits of conservative tax policy. As Reynolds notes, “Why should movie stars and studio moguls, with their yachts, swimming pools and private jets, not at least shoulder the burden they carried back in Harry Truman’s day—when, to be honest, movies were better anyway.”

Update: Victor Davis Hanson weighs in.

If the country is going to turn redistributionist, then we might as well do so whole-hog — given that eight of the wealthiest 10 counties in America voted for Obama. Why not limit mortgage interest deductions to just one loan under $100,000 — while ending tax breaks altogether for second and third vacation houses?

Under the present system, the beleaguered 99 percent are subsidizing the abodes of Hollywood and Silicon Valley “millionaires and billionaires” — many of whom themselves have been railing against the one percent. Should the government provide tens of thousands of dollars in tax breaks for a blue-state one-percenter to live in tony Palo Alto or Newport Beach when there are plenty of fine homes far cheaper and sitting empty not far away in Stockton and Bakersfield?

Blue states usually have far higher state income taxes that are used as deductions to reduce what is owed on federal income tax. Why should working folks in Nevada or Texas have to pay their fair share, while Wall Streeters get huge federal write-offs from their New York or Connecticut state income taxes?

Why California (Still) Matters to Conservatives

What is the purpose of government?

Is it to provide for the collective needs of the citizenry that the people cannot provide individually for themselves, or is it to exist for the purpose of improving the lives of those working for the government itself?

This is an answer that California is determined to learn. According to former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, as reported by Bloomberg, half of the state’s budget is devoted to government employee salaries, health care and pension benefits and other compensation. According to the Census Bureau, in March 2011 there were 671,942 full time public sector employees in California. The state also employed an additional 310,298 part-timers for roughly a million workers. The Census estimates in 2011 California had a population of 37,691,912. The 2011-12 state budget was $85.9 billion. So if what Bloomberg reports is true, 2.7% of the population of California is gorging on 50% of the budget while the remaining 97.3% makes do with the rest.

The public sector unions, of course, see nothing wrong with this situation. Bloomberg reports:

“At the time we accomplished our biggest gains, I actually felt I was losing the recruitment war,” (Jon Hamm, chief executive officer of the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, the union for CHP officers) said in an e- mailed statement. “I think it is clear that when our biggest gains were negotiated I did not feel they were ‘excessive;’ in fact, almost the opposite was true.

So the high compensation was necessary to recruit the best and brightest. Where have we heard that argument before? With CEO pay, another group whose pay some, such as the Soros front group ThinkProgress, have argued is unjustifiable. Note to Lefties: When you start using your opponent’s defense as your own, guess what? You have become your opponent.

Albert Einstein reportedly said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results (I think this guy says it best.) When Democrat Gray Davis took the governorship the state had $12 billion surplus. Gray immediately went on a spending spree, throwing money at every possible Democratic constituency in existence. He did the job so well the damage outlasted his successful recall from office and blighted the terms of the governors who followed him. But instead of revolting against their politicians they keep electing the Democrats over and over again. Today the state is a one party Democratic state. There is no opposition to these policies that enrich the few while causing the many to suffer. The California GOP lacks any power to fight the continued plundering of the state by the rapacious minority of public sector workers belonging to unions who support the Democratic party alone.

Californians choose this of their own free will. It is a damning testament to Democracy, one that undermines faith in the form of government elsewhere in the country. It would be easy for conservatives and libertarians who believe in the separation of federal and state power and live in the remaining 49 states to write the state off as a basket case and wash their hands of its problems, but doing so ignores the sheer economic weight of the state. At a GNP of $2 trillion, 1/7th the entire US, the state’s economy is tied with Italy’s for eighth largest in the world. We may smirk as the EU struggles to maintain its cohesion and even compare California’s fate to the supposedly lazy Greeks, but California’s economy is 5 1/2 times the size of Greece’s.  That means we have over five Greeces, an EU sized mess,  in our own American back yard. An economically dysfunctional California isn’t just a threat to itself, it could wreck the American economy for years.

It is only a matter of time before California goes cap in hand to Washington DC, and when it does it will be met with howls of protests from conservatives and libertarians – and rightfully so. But the truth is California isn’t going to go away; we can’t kick it out of the Union the way the Germans are contemplating doing to Greece, but at the same time we can’t ignore it either. It is in our own interest and the interest of the country’s to help get the state back on its feet and to do so while balancing the needs of its people while getting them in touch with the responsibilities they shirked in the past.

Party Like It’s 1999? Why I’m All For It

I’m not a fan of Steve Forbes but his essay President Obama, Clinton Prosperity Requires Clinton-Sized Government is proof that even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes. In it Forbes counters the unspoken assumption by Democrats returning to Clinton era tax rates Clinton era growth will follow, pointing out that the federal budget back then was half a trillion dollars smaller and the Fed wasn’t printing dollars like a bunch of coked up monkeys running the printing presses.

In 1998 the budget for fiscal year 1999 Clinton submitted contained $1.7 trillion in spending and $1.8 trillion in revenue for a $9 trillion economy. It was the first balanced budget in 30 years, and resulted in a $124 billion surplus.

Contrast this with Obama’s 2012 budget. $3.8 trillion in spending and $2.5 trillion in revenue resulting in a deficit of $1.3 trillion. To put it another way the 2012 deficit alone is roughly 3/4 of Clinton’s budget. The US economy has grown to $15 trillion in 2011, making it about 66% bigger today than it was in 1999, but the rate of government spending has increased 124%, almost double economic growth that period.

So where has the money gone? Defense obviously. In 1998 when the ‘99 budget was being formulated American troops were deployed on a peacekeeping mission in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Today the world is different and America has deployments not only in Afghanistan but covertly in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Northern Africa and wherever Islamic terrorists like to hang out, so in my opinion the expense is justified to a degree. But I am not averse to defense cuts. How long do we have to protect Europe from the Germans or Russia? Isn’t 70+ years of American boots on the ground enough there? I’ve even advocated drawing down troops in Japan and South Korea, although these nations may not be so keen to see our backs given China’s rise to superpower status.

By comparing the 1999 and 2012 budgets by budget function, what’s interesting is the lack of divergence between functions over the 13 year period. As a portion of the total budget defense’s portion grew by 2.56% between 1999 and 2012, the largest positive shift of budget resources. Considering how things have changed in the world a 2.56% allocation to defense seems modest. Other notable changes include a nearly 9% decrease in Net Interest – a fact that strikes me as some kind of budgetary gimmick or error, and a 2.53% decrease in Social Security payments (don’t we have a higher percentage of elderly in our population today than in 1999?)

1999-2012 Budget Comparison
Comparing the FY1999 to FY2012 US Federal Budgets

When I look at the budget figures for both years, nothing leaps out at me and says “Here’s why we’re $16 trillion in the hole.” Bush didn’t add a whole new category of spending, and neither has Obama. The reason our budget mess is not apparent in these figures is because it’s a problem of scale. To use another analogy, it’s not as if any slice of the pie has grown over the others, the entire pie has grown beyond inflation and outpacing the economy. If the government grew at the same pace as the economy in the period 1998-2011 the federal budget in 2012 would have been $2.50 trillion dollars, $1.3 trillion less than the actual 2012 budget and coincidentally, the same figure as last year’s deficit. The entire federal government expanded and I find that disturbing because that implies uncontrollable growth, and a single statistic proves it.

How much does federal spending make up the economy? Dividing the 1999 $1.7 trillion budget by $9 trillion GDP results in 18%. Using the same numbers for 2012 and we get 25%. The federal government now owns 7% more of the economy than it did in 1999. 7% of an imaginary number like $15 trillion is meaningless on the face of it, but when we realize that while we weren’t looking the federal government added to itself an economy the size of Mexico (2011 GDP $1.15 trillion) or South Korea (2011 GDP $1.11 trillion) that it didn’t possess in 1999 and things start to look a bit more serious. Perhaps those Tea Partiers weren’t as crazy as the mainstream media portrayed them as after all, unless of course you assume government control of the economy isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

If we add state and local spending, the situation gets worse for a Tea Partier, better if you are a socialist, adding another 14% of GDP for combined government spending of 38.9% of GDP. Ranked against other nations in the world that puts us roughly tied with Canada, a few points ahead of Japan and Australia and a few points behind Spain and Ireland, two nations that are struggling to stay afloat in the EU.

Total US Govt Spending as Percentage of GDP 1903-2011
Total US Govt (federal/state/local) Spending as Percentage of GDP 1903-2011

It is ironic that the administration of President Bill Clinton, a man so detested by the GOP establishment they tried to have him forcibly removed from office would serve as the epitome of small government at the same time as his Democratic successor strives to emulate his tax policies to fund an even bigger government. But it is what it is; up is down right is wrong, good is evil and the Clinton era stands as a shining example for small government libertarians and conservatives to strive to recreate. So party like it’s 1999 and embrace the smaller government ideals that underlaid its prosperity.
Calculations used in this article can be accessed here in their entirety.

Democrats Should Watch What They Wish For

Watching liberals freak out over a possible Romney presidency would be entertaining if it weren’t sad to those of us hoping to see Washington work again for the good of the country. If one were to believe the hysteria, minutes after taking the oath of office he is going to take away everyone’s health insurance and force them to buy private plans from insurance companies his friends own, send all American jobs to China, force women to emulate the Mormon wives portrayed in Big Love, invade Syria, Iraq, Iran and any other Middle Eastern country the angel Moroni tells him, and unleash torrents of crude oil into the wilderness all the while sitting behind his desk in the Oval Office tapping his fingers together and maniacally laughing. I’m sure forcing people to drive with their dogs on top of their cars comes his second day in office.

People on the right don’t get this at all. While liberals relished the spectacle of Republican Primaries where each candidate defined him or herself as more conservative than Mitt Romney by portraying him as a liberal RINO (Republican In Name Only), they evidently failed to notice that of all the GOP candidates Mitt Romney is the most liberal on many issues important to conservatives. He is after all the grandfather of Obamacare, the issue that nearly sank him in the primaries, and worse, wasn’t the governor of Texas, the way George W. Bush was, or California (which once had a flourishing conservatism) like Reagan. No he was governor of the bluest of blue states, Massachusetts, a state that many on the right refer to as Taxachusetts due to its tax code that more resembles socialist France than small-government loving New Hampshire. Face it, a Republican in Massachusetts is like a Pomeranian. A Pom is as much a dog as a Rottweiler. It may bark like a Rottweiler but if you are going to stroll through a city park at night you’ll note the salient difference between the two dogs and want the Rotty, not the Pom, at your side.

The rise of the Democratic party is directly the result of the election of 2004. Had Kerry defeated Bush that year it is unlikely that the Democrats would have taken over Congress in 2006 which laid the groundwork for the Obama election in 2008. By the time Congress came into session in January 2007 Bush was already a lame duck, despised by the electorate with no political capital to spend in Washington. What were the great achievements of his second term? See for yourself. He pacified Iraq of course, but that’s already unraveling. Domestically the only thing that can be loosely classified as an achievement is the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 2005, a bill sponsored by then Senator Joe Biden which I vehemently opposed. As a rule second terms always disappoint. Clinton’s was marred by scandal and the failed attempt at impeachment, so he did what presidents often due to burnish their entry in History by chasing after foreign policy illusions. Reagan had Iran Contra, and Nixon, well let’s just note that ended badly for him.

There is no reason for the pattern to break. In a second term Obama will have a Republican House and possibly a Republican Senate. The GOP rank and file will follow the Democrat’s example and purge itself of all the establishment figures that shoved Romney down the throats of the Tea Party faithful, forcing the GOP further to the Right in the same way that Kerry’s failure forced the Democrats leftward. In the long-term this will be good for Conservatives because it will be nearly impossible for the Democrats to win again in 2016, and so the GOP will choose a candidate that will make Michelle Bachmann look as liberal as Nancy Pelosi. But he or she won’t be defeated in the primary by a centrist establishment candidate, because the establishment will have been purged of RINOs in the same way that the Democrat Party purged itself of conservatives like Zell Miller, Dick Gephardt and Jim Webb.

If Obama wins it is unlikely either the House of Senate will move back into Democratic hands. So in 2016 when America voices its desire for change it will elect a much more conservative Republican than Mitt Romney, and will hand him or her a unified Congress. If this doesn’t scare liberals today, it should, because had someone told me in 2004 that my vote for “W” would have resulted in the Democrats controlling both halls of Congress and electing the most liberal president since Carter, I would have voted for Kerry and encouraged my libertarian and conservative brethren to do the same.

Mitt Romney is many things, but he is not a conservative. He may claim Reagan’s mantle, and the GOP will pretend it’s his, but don’t fool yourself: Romney is a liberal Republican and honestly at this point that’s okay for me. I’m tired of extremists of any stripe, and would welcome a moderate in the White House. The question is whether the Democratic Party wants to remain relevant in the long-term by losing the election this November and likely retaking Congress in two years, or desires to re-elect Obama now and give up control of Congress until 2018 and risk electing a Republican extremist in 2016. Elections have consequences, Obama once said. They sure do, and Democrats should remember that before they cast their votes.

The GOP: The Short Bus Party

Being a registered Republican is a constant reminder that I’m a member of the party that evidently took the “short bus” to school. For all the accusations by the Democrats about how the GOP left a mess for the Democrats to clean up, the GOP simply doesn’t have the smarts to point out that the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress for much of that period, had the entire federal government and the majority of state houses the first half of the Obama administration, and that the CEO of Countrywide Angelo Mozilo, the leading subprime lender, ran a “Friends of Angelo” program that gave sweetheart deals to Democrats. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee received a deal estimated to be worth $1 million by Michael Moore – no friend of the GOP. Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad (D-ND), Fannie Mae CEO and Democratic Party kingmaker Jim Johnson also received special deals from Mozillo. Countrywide also financed deals for other Democrats including Nancy Pelosi’s son, Senator Barbara Boxer and Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Clinton Donna Shalala and Congressman and current Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn (D-SC). While Republican Alphonso Jackson made Angelo’s list, the rest of the list is skewed towards the Democratic Party not necessarily because Mozilo is a Democrat, which he may be, but that’s where the power was at the time.

Has the GOP run ads about this, carpet bombing the media to fight back against the meme that it is to blame for the financial crisis in 2008? It’s very simple. I’ve seen Barney Frank and Chris Dodd on CSPAN clips from the era protecting the subprime mortgage industry, resisting tighter regulation and denying that anything was wrong. The RNC can’t figure out how to edit the video and put these clips together? For every punch in the face by the Democrats I see the party and its leaders step back and raise their hands shouting, “See, this guy doesn’t fight fair,” and refusing to punch back. Meanwhile the Democrats mug their Republican enemies, brutalizing them with below the belt tactics like a robber kicking the crap out of an old lady on the sidewalk all the while yelling, “See? Self-defense! She started it! Ouch! She hit me! She’s just as bad and morally culpable as I am,” in the hope that the media and independent voters will buy their narrative, believing that either they are the morally superior party or at least, that the GOP is just as bad as they are. If people become jaded and don’t vote they win because Democrats will rely on union thugs to canvas cemeteries for votes on Election Day. Wait, that’s an exaggeration. They won’t use union activists to canvas cemeteries; that’s the local Democratic party’s job.

The stupidity of the GOP is endless to the point on verging on the pathological. One would think that of all industries the entertainment industry would be one of the least popular among conservatives and their libertarian allies. The former are constantly offended by negative stereotypes of white men and the military as well as the undermining of cultural values, while the latter bristles at the entertainment industry’s war against their own consumers through the DMCA and anti-piracy crusades. The DMCA was sponsored by a Republican congressman and has received strong backing by the GOP on the principal that’s what’s good for business is good for America. This thinking goes back two generations to the repeal under President Eisenhower of the 20% excise taxes on movie theater gross revenue put in place by liberal icon Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Professor Glenn Reynolds argues that the GOP should stop carrying water for their political enemies and call the Democrats’ bluff on higher taxes by re-instituting FDR’s movie tax. The entertainment industry does not back the GOP and Democrat parties evenly; support is skewed heavily towards the latter. By agreeing to the tax the GOP would show the industry that actions have consequences, something that Hollywood and the music industry have forgotten. It’s easy to support calls for higher taxes when you enjoy low ones; it’s easy to call for fair trade when you already enjoy the benefits of free trade.

The GOP must begin to fight back. It must realize that it will not win by holding back attacks or taking the moral high road while the electorate believes that it is just as vicious and amoral as the Democrats. A good start would be to conduct a seance and channel Lee Atwater’s ghost. Atwater was the brains behind the GOP wins of the last half of the Reagan era and is arguably responsible for getting Bush I elected in 1988. He was the brains behind the Willie Horton adds that painted Dukakis as an enabler of Massachusetts rapist/murderers, and makes the liberal archnemesis Karl Rove look as politically powerful as Mr. Rodgers. As long as people believe the GOP is fighting dirty and is ethically challenged, there is nothing to be gained by acting nobly. It won’t be reported by an antagonistic press, and it won’t be believed by a jaded electorate.

The GOP should call for the repeal of the DMCA on the grounds that it protects monopolies and discourages innovation. It should call for the 20% excise tax on Hollywood as well as an end to tax deductions on union dues as part of a general agreement with Democrats on a budget deal. It should also oppose offshoring subsidies and tax breaks that are enjoyed by high-tech firms such as Google, Apple and Microsoft, companies whose employees and CEOs favor Democrats. Finally, it should encourage educational innovations that weaken the stranglehold the teacher’s unions have on public education including the usage of vouchers, charter school, home-schooling support and long-distance learning initiatives. College professors are 90%+ Democrat, and colleges and universities have become more expensive and less relevant in the 21st Century. People need to be taught how to think, not indoctrinated, shown how to adapt and survive economic change instead of protesting against it. Such knowledge doesn’t require $50k in debt or institutions where administrators outnumber teachers.

It is time the GOP brought a gun to a knife fight. The Democrats claim they have, the media broadcasts the lie and people believe it. It must embrace the spirit of Lee Atwater It has nothing to lose by doing so except the election.

What If They Gave a War and Nobody Came? The Republican’s Faux War on Women

Like most conservatives and libertarians I know, the majority of my friends are liberals and leftists of one stripe or another. Since the arrival of Facebook and my begrudging acceptance of social media, this means that I am regularly presented with liberal views of one sort or another and varying degrees of offensiveness. Since I have this journal for my own political thoughts, I use it to explore political and social issues, leaving Facebook for cat and kid photos and George Takei posts. I don’t comment or block anything my liberal friends post, no matter how much I might disagree with it, I just let it pass and within a few hours it disappears. What this process does is allow me stay in touch with people who might be offended

Let’s face it: social media is a terrible place to discuss or debate ideas. Most issues can’t be condensed into a Facebook post with a ‘read more’ tag beneath it, let alone a Twitter post. Federal spending in 140 chars or less. OMG! U suk! FTW!

The process is good for a political writer. It’s good because it keeps me abreast of the liberal zeitgeist from my perch out her in Exile and provides mental fodder for posts here.

The big topic among my friends is Senator-wanna-be Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments and how they support their belief in the GOP’s War on Women™. A long time ago I remember watching the GOP get all hot and bothered over flag burning. President George HW Bush said, “Flag burning is wrong. I believe the importance of this issue compels me to call for a constitutional amendment.” It fired up the base and gave them something else to rally around instead of Bush’s record which, in 1992, wasn’t all that much to tout.

I don’t think Obama is Bush I – I think he is far, far worse – more Nixon than anything. But he and his team are employing the same tactic obfuscate his terrible economic track record with the War on Women™. Let’s look at the components of this war. There are several specific efforts cited by Democrats as exemplifying the War which can be boiled down to the following points: the GOP platform banning abortion in all circumstances including rape or incest. This is the same wording that has been in the platform since 2004. Prior to that the platform was much less restrictive on the procedure. Second, attempts in Congress to de-fund Planned Parenthood and eliminate federal funds for family planning.

I don’t pay attention to party conventions for the simple reason that I’ve always thought they were pointless. So when my liberal friends became up in arms over the GOP party platform, I had to look it up. Honestly it’s easier to find pictures of dancing cats than it is to find actual platform text. Walter Russell Mead gives a withering critique of party conventions and platforms.

...the honest truth is that no party platform means anything in American politics anymore. No president refers back to the platform in framing legislation, no congressional leader uses it to set the legislative agenda, no living soul ever reads or quotes it for any purpose whatever. No historian of American party politics goes back to study them, no journalist refers to them more than a week after the convention. They are dead letters, produced out of a sense of ritual and to the extent they have any purpose whatever, they are idle playgrounds aimed at keeping clueless party zealots busy counting coup and scoring imaginary points.Party counts for very little in America today, and their platforms count for even less. Presidential candidates don’t feel bound by them in the slightest, and they shouldn’t.

The GOP platform is completely worthless. It excites zealots – both GOP and Democrat – and that’s what it did among my liberal friends.

As for Planned Parenthood, the organization was founded during the eugenics movement of the early 20th century, particularly of the racist variety. Since the ethnic stock I derive from was at various times the target of such a movement, I’m not a fan. I’m sure the KKK does some good, but given PP’s founding steeped in eugenics and racism, and the organizations continued flirtation with racism today, and I’m happy not seeing my tax dollars going to fund the organization. If people want to fund Planned Parenthood or the Klan, that’s their business but it shouldn’t be the federal government’s.

Margaret Sanger, Planned Parenthood Founder

All the other examples of the supposed War are talking points such as H.R. 358 which the organization claims

5) In Congress, Republicans have a bill that would let hospitals allow a woman to die rather than perform an abortion necessary to save her life.

Unfortunately, that’s not what the bill says.
IN GENERAL- No funds authorized or appropriated by this Act (or an amendment made by this Act), including credits applied toward qualified health plans under section 36B of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 or cost-sharing reductions under section 1402 of this Act, may be used to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion, except
‘(A) if the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest; or

‘(B) in the case where a pregnant female suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the female in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.

(emph. add.)

What rankles the anti-Life crusaders is the lack of language forcing a Catholic hospital or a doctor opposed to abortion to go against their moral convictions or a transfer the woman to a hospital where the procedure could take place. But that’s not the intent of the bill. The bill covers appropriation of taxpayer dollars: it has to do with payment for the procedure, and in the case where the woman’s life is endangered, the bill authorizes such payment.

And look at the details of the case: a woman dying who can only be saved by the murder of her unborn child / excision of the fetus who is receiving care by an institution or doctors who believe it is immoral for them to harm the child/fetus. How often do such cases occur, and is it appropriate for a law to exist to cover each possible exception? This is one reason why I support legal abortion even though I am morally opposed to it. A government cannot possible create laws that cover every possible contingency without hurting someone. Yet failing to create such a contingency becomes ammunition in support of the GOP’s War on Women?

Such a run to turn an extreme event into a is common the Left, from claiming the Tea Party had blood on its hands over the Gabby Giffords shooting (perpetrated by a lunatic leftist) [h/t TheRightPlanet] to Todd Akin’s statements, where the entire Republican Party broke the sound barrier distancing themselves from his comments, to no avail from the Obama administration echo chamber in the media which pounced and portrayed every Republican as a religious zealot.

Judging by the social media comments of my liberal friends I notice that some of the same people claiming the moral high ground over the Akin episode also support Julian Assange, accused of rape in Sweden. Instead of rallying around his accusers in Sweden (both women) they cheer Assange’s flight from facing justice in the bastion of socialism often trumpeted by the Left as a moral example – except when it comes to rape then suddenly Sweden is Louisiana just with better looking rednecks I suppose. What about his accusers rights to justice? Where is the moral outrage for two women who may have been actually raped versus Akin’s statements in which no woman was harmed?

I have discussed cognitive dissonance, or the holding two opposite and conflicting opinions throughout this journal, but I’m still amazed when I see it at work among people whom I would consider otherwise intelligent. The malady is insidious, and we all must regularly question our own beliefs, especially our most deeply held, to prevent falling into its trap.

As Charles Krauthammer noted, “If you vote for Romney he will kill your mother with cancer, throw your dad out of work, prevent your sister from getting contraceptives and kick your son out of college.” There are plenty of reasons not to vote for the GOP candidate this year, but the War on Women shouldn’t be one of them.