Archive for November 2012

The Council Has Spoken: Nov 30, 2012

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council:  Joshuapundit –The Next Islamist Domino – Jordan

Noncouncil:     Sultan Knish-War Is The Answer

Full voting here.

Why I Oppose the Nomination of Susan Rice to Secretary of State (and You Should Too)

In general I believe the Senate should confirm a president’s nominees, but not in the case of Susan Rice. In my view Rice would be a disaster as Secretary of State.

The Benghazi incident where al Qaeda terrorists killed four Americans including the Libyan ambassador deeply troubles me. The incident is a combination of three failures, each of which Rice had a hand in. First the ambassador asked for better security for State Department workers in the country and was turned down by the administration. Second, when the ambassador and his security detail came under attack communications broke down and prevented an effective rescue from being mounted. Finally, ambassador Rice took to the airwaves for weeks denying the nature of the attack, blaming an Internet video instead of acknowledging it as a terrorist attack against the United States that resulted in the death of four Americans, including the loss of its first ambassador in over 30 years.

In 1994 and 1995 I lived in a national park Tanzania. To get there I had to fly through Nairboi Kenya and spent over a week there on the way in and another on the way out. During my stays in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam Tanzania I visited the US embassy in both cities to check in and get information on the area. On my visit to the embassy in Dar I learned that the low profile building on the outskirts of the city had once held the Israeli embassy before the Israelis built another more secure compound elsewhere in the city. At the time I thought nothing of it, nor did I question the location of the US embassy in a poorly built highrise in downtown Nairobi.

Three years later both embassies would be destroyed by simultaneous truck bombs engineered by al Qaeda. The attacks killed 224 including 12 Americans and wounded over 4,000. Prior to these attacks the Kenyan ambassador had pleaded with Secretary of State Madeline Albright for better security at the facility in Nairobi but was ignored. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) has raised suspicion over Susan Rice’s involvement in the failure to secure the embassy because at the time she was the Assistant Secretary of Affairs in Africa. “What troubles me so much is the Benghazi attack in many ways echoes the attacks on those embassies in 1998, when Susan Rice was head of the African region for our State Department. In both cases, the ambassadors begged for additional security,” Collins said. Administration supporters counter this, saying Rice had “no direct role” in the scandal at the African desk, with the Soros funded political action committee ThinkProgress saying Collins stance against Rice was “hypocritical.” The problem with attacking Collins is that she is not considered by members of either party as an extremist, and if anything sides with the Democrats on many issues against the will of her party. If the administration can’t count on the support of Collins, they know they can’t count on anyone with an “R” behind their name, as well as a few conservative-leaning “D”s.

The similarities between Benghazi 2012 and East Africa 1998 are eerie enough without Rice’s presence, but to those of us who take a hardline against Islamic terror both events are connected by Democratic administration that failed in their sworn duty to protect the citizens of the United States. President Clinton’s response to the attack was to launch cruise missile strikes on Sudan and Afghanistan that destroyed a powdered formula factory but did little damage. The weak response by the USA gave credence to Osama Bin Laden’s narrative that the United States was a “weak horse” whose back would break when enough pressure was applied.

Why Sudan? The attack on Sudan ties the embassy bombings and Rice to an even bigger intelligence failure, Susan Rice’s thwarting of Bin Laden’s capture in 1997 – a year before the embassy attacks and a full four years before 9-11. In the book “Losing Bin Laden,” author Richard Miniter describes the primary role Rice played in convincing President Clinton to rebuff Sudan’s offer of handing over Osama Bin Laden who lived there at the time. She argued that Sudan was bluffing and Clinton shouldn’t take it seriously. Bin Laden evidently thought otherwise, left the country and moved to Afghanistan where he plotted the attacks that led to the death of 3,000 Americans four years later.

So on one hand we have senior State Department official (do mid-levels meet with the President and offer him advice?) in two intelligence failures prior to 9-11 and one after. What is common between these incidents is a failure to appreciate the depth of hatred for the USA and the danger presented to it by Islamic terrorism, a failure that was on display in Susan Rice’s performance after Benghazi denying it was a terrorist attack.

Is this the person we should have as the head of our diplomatic corps?

The likely nominee is John Kerry. While I believe he was unfit as Commander in Chief and do not have much respect for his behavior during the Vietnam War, and while I think he might be a wealthy weasel for basing his yacht in Rhode Island to avoid taxes, I do not view him with the same level of concern as I do Susan Rice and would not actively oppose his nomination as Secretary of State. But Susan Rice? Either the woman has bad luck by being party to the greatest intelligence failures since World War 2 or she is actively causing these failures. Either way she does not belong as head of Foggy Bottom.

British Tax on Millionaires Fails to Increase Revenue

I’m fascinated by unexpected outcomes of simple arguments. Here in the USA we are in the midst of an ideological fight between the Republicans who want to increase tax revenue without increasing tax rates and Democrats who want to add money to the treasury by increasing tax rates alone.

The British have already had this fight, and the Labor Party won. In 2011 the UK introduced a 50% tax on those making over a million pounds. In tax year 2009-10 there were 16,000 taxpayers. Today there are 6,000 taxpaying millionaires, a decline of over 60%. Worse from the government’s perspective the increase in the tax rate cost the government £7 billion in lost revenue.

So raising tax rate results in lost revenue? Simple argument; unexpected outcome for a liberal. All too predictable for a libertarian/Republican.

Young Men and the Women of Generation Cupcake

To put it crassly, nothing motivates a man better than getting laid, especially when that man is in his late teens through late thirties. Men will do anything, risk anything, pay anything for a piece of tail – just ask Gen. David Petraeus, former Congressman Anthony Wiener and President Bill Clinton. I have followed women across continents, done deeply embarrassing and stupid things, and even built a career and sobered up because of a woman. Women are great motivators, or at least they were. Now I’m not so sure.

I look at the women in Generation Cupcake, the latest generation to follow the selfish Baby Boomers, the cynical and sarcastic Gen-Xers and the Millennials (what are they known for other than coming of age after Y2K?) and I feel sorry for straight young men today. No wonder they aren’t having sex as some studies have found if women like Sandra Fluke and Senator-elect/Squaw Elizabeth “Whines with Fist” Warren represent the state of feminism these days.

I’ll admit I’m old fashioned. I expect women to work and make at least as much as I do if not more. They don’t have to handle the housework, cooking or child rearing I’ll handle that – as well as spider-removal duty, fixing anything that breaks around the house and maintaining the cars. I realize that while men are smart enough to cook women are obviously not mechanically inclined as proven by number of great chefs and dearth of female mechanics and pest control workers. But a woman can whip up a Gantt Chart just as good as any man, and lawyering and doctoring? Well I’m married to a doctor – a good one I might add – and have hired female attorneys who were just as much sharks as mob defense attorneys.

But I am a feminist of sorts. I was born in a household full of women; there was so much estrogen in the air I’m still amazed I made it out of the house straight. To me feminism means independence and self-reliance two attributes that were missing from the traditional view of women. Yet while these attributes are key to adulthood but have evidently been lost by today’s women. Instead of independence they have become dependent on their parents and the government for support. Likewise self-reliance is lost and they are forced to doing what any kid does when he wants something that he can’t get himself: he whines.

Sandra Fluke whined for someone to buy her the Pill; Warren whined for a senate seat. Both got what they wanted and are content for now, but both lack the ability to set a goal and reach it independently. They will want something else and they will whine and stamp their feet until someone provides it to them.

Is this what the suffragettes fought for? Is this what the thousands of women who worked in munitions plants supporting their sons and husbands fighting in World War 2 suffered for? Is this what women want, to be coddled by proxy-parents like rich men or the government?

That isn’t freedom, it’s living in a cage albeit a gilded one where your parents buy your wine and your government pays for your pills. It’s like the most selfish generation of people unleashed on this country, the Baby Boomers, have spawned a generation even worse than them. Luckily I’ve raised a son who got so turned by women that he’s found other pursuits that aren’t “psycho” or “selfish” the way he puts it. The neuroticism and selfishness displayed by girls his age is good news for a parent who isn’t keen on seeing his son sexually active at a young age, but I can’t help but wish that women his age were a little more free and “normal.” Women can be inspiring creatures when they are mature and sane, but the women of Generation Cupcake clearly are neither.

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.
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Calculations used in this article can be accessed here in their entirety.

The Council Has Spoken: Nov 23, 2012

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council:  The Razor –Freedom of Choice: Why Liberals Should Exercise Their Freedom to Pay Higher Taxes

Noncouncil:    Via Meadia-America, Israel, Gaza, the World

Full voting here.

Freedom of Choice: Why Liberals Should Exercise Their Freedom to Pay Higher Taxes

To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil. – Charles Krauthammer

It’s interesting to be hated. I’m a white male, married to the same woman for over two decades. We love rescuing animals in the US and working on conservation and health projects in Africa. Together we don’t make enough to qualify for the top 2% of wage earners, but we are uncomfortably close. She works 50+ hours a week in health care, has had her life threatened twice for failing to prescribe narcotics, and daily faces patients who act like their ordering off the ala cart menu at a Chinese Restaurant, “I’ll have the MRI with antibiotics I don’t really need, oh and a side of Vicodin.” I work at a job that I enjoy for similar hours but as a contractor don’t know where I’ll be working from one month to the next. The only job security I have comes from the combination of my skills, wits and luck.

Aside from being white and conservative (libertarian actually) we are hated because we obviously don’t our fair share. Now granted, technically we’re excused from this requirement because we are not part of the minority being mugged, currently set at the top 2% of taxpayers, but I don’t trust technicalities to protect my family. For example the targets of liberal ire initially were the billionaires and millionaires; then it was 1% for awhile before some of the brighter liberals realized that you can’t soak the top 1% and get all the free healthcare and cell phones you need, so it became 2%. How long before it’s 5%? 10%? Anyone with more than anyone else except those who are more equal than me?

Nobel Prize winning Paul Krugman argues that we should bring back the 91% tax rate. Krugman’s argument in essence is that the American economy grew in the 1950s under the tax rate, workers were safely empowered by unions and as a result of both company executives enjoyed modest remuneration. Of course Krugman doesn’t mention other aspects of the 1950s that may have had something to do with prosperity, such as Republican control of Congress and the White House, and its darker side segregation although the treatment of Col. Allen West by the liberal establishment serves as a reminder of that last item. He does mention that the 91% number is a sham though, writing, “The best estimates suggest that circa 1960 the top 0.01 percent of Americans paid an effective federal tax rate of more than 70 percent, twice what they pay today.”

Wait, top .01%? Didn’t he mean 1% or 2%? No, but today we are talking about a minority 200x larger? And no one paid 91% even though it was on the books. Why? For the same reason we’re in a mess today: the tax code is riddled with loopholes and taxbreaks that the average 2%er isn’t privy to or can’t use.

Krugman, Blofeld, Kitties
Cats Love Villains: Paul Robin Krugman and Ernst Stavro Blofeld

Contrary to what I may think about Paul Krugman personally, I doubt he’s stupid. While I don’t know exactly how much he earns per year, I would guess it’s in the low millions, putting him the under 1% category, but nevertheless appear on the surface he’s advocating for higher taxes on himself. I’ve wondered this about the Democrat leadership: Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, all of them are extremely wealthy as are their top-tier supporters, billionaires like Nazi-collaborator George Judenrat Soros, Ian Fleming’s inspiration for Blofeld if Fleming lived today, Warren Buffet and Penny Pritzker. Why are the begging to be coerced to pay more money to the IRS?

It’s because they aren’t.

If Krugman, Pritzker et al truly believed the Federal Government needed their money more than they did they would have handed it over already. There is nothing preventing a them or a anyone of lesser-worth from cutting a check to the US Treasury for 91% of their income. Has Whoppi Goldberg, Opera Winfrey or other members of the Hollywood elite pledged to do this? If not why not?

Because they know that these laws will not impact them. Krugman hints at this when he mentions the “effective federal tax rate of more than 70 percent.” How does one go from a 91% on paper to actually paying 70%? Through deductions and loopholes. How does one find those deductions and loopholes? Well GE CEO and Obama supporter Jeff Immelt knows: he has thousands of tax accountants and lawyers at his disposal who are so good at their jobs they have allowed GE to avoid taxes altogether according to the New York Times. It’s also especially ironic watching a liberal arguing for a return to the “old days” while conservatives are urging tax simplification and the closure of deductions and loopholes, progressive ideas that haven’t been tried before. Up is down, left is right and apparently I am evil in our doublespeak world of Oceania. I haz a sad...

Liberals support these tax rates because they know they won’t be subject to them. They won’t be subject to them because they write the laws and will make sure they won’t. Unfortunately I know that their return to the past will mean paying more for me because I can’t afford to send money offshore or hire an accountant. The money we earn goes quickly and the little that we save usually ends up in the pockets of locals we hire to improve our home.

I have been told, “If you don’t like abortion don’t have one.”* But I can also use the same twisted logic about taxes:

If you don’t want to pay lower taxes, don’t. Don’t waste time collecting receipts to itemize your taxes. Have your employer withhold the maximum, then when tax time comes around, send in a check with an extra 25% of your income. Bask in the afterglow of helping all those less fortunate than you and paying your fair share.

If you like Big Government, stand in line for me at the DMV or for someone else applying for disability at the Social Security office. If you want higher taxes, by all means pay them. But if you don’t want me to tell you what to do with your body, don’t tell me what to do with my money.

UPDATE: Mickey Kaus notes this about Krugman’s 91% figure.

Hmm. Something seems off here. Did this super-rich hundredth-of-the-1% in the ’50s really a) pay anything near those super-high 91% marginal rates, or did they b) employ accountants and loopholes to avoid them (as the conventional tax-reformer wisdom would have it)? If you read Krugman’s paragraph you’d probably conclude (a)–high income tax rates really sock it to the rich! But the truth is closer to (b).

According to this CRS study, that 91% marginal rate produced an effective income tax rate on the top o.o1 percent of only about 45%. Krugman himself appears to be relying on Piketty and Saez–but they come in with an even lower figure, 31%. They only get to 70% by including corporate taxes, which Krugman mentions, and estate taxes–which he doesn’t mention at all.

But it’s okay. Unlike Krauthammer’s observation I don’t think Krugman is stupid. I think he’s evil.

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I’ve started saying the same thing about guns to them, “If you don’t like assault rifles, don’t buy one.” After all the Second Amendment is a right specified on parchment in the Constitution – the “right to abortion” is not, and the more assault rifles around the cheaper they’ll be for me and others like-minded to buy them. Assault rifles. Such a scary term… I own one, an MP15 in .22 caliber that would be quite useful if my house were attacked by an army of squirrels, but against even a lightly armored vehicle or assailant I’d be toast. So of course I have back up, but assault rifle… Sheesh. The only thing these rifles assault is my bank account from the cost of ammo.

The Council Has Spoken: Nov 16, 2012

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council:   Joshuapundit – Taking DC By Strategy – A Battle Plan

Noncouncil:    Victor Davis Hanson-Anatomies of Electoral Madness

Full voting here.

Why I’m Jonesing for a Twinkie This Morning

18,500 workers are getting schooled on free market capitalism this morning after Hostess, maker of American icon the Twinkie, filed papers liquidating the company after weathering strikes by unions refusing pay cuts for their workers in order for the company to exit bankruptcy. Hostess had already reached an agreement with its largest union, the Teamsters, which reviewed the company’s finances and warned the smaller Bakery, Confectioners and Tobacco workers, and the Grain Millers international union that the company was in dire straits, recommending acceptance of the company plan to stave off liquidation. Unfortunately for 18,500 union and non-union Hostess employees the unions ignored company threats to liquidate, and now are facing unemployment as America awakens to life without the Twinkie for the first time in 82 years. I’m sure First Lady Michelle Obama and New York City Mayor Bloomberg will be rejoicing given their vilification of snack foods, some of which has dented the snack maker’s profitability. 18,500 unemployed workers also means 18,500 more on unemployment, waiting for positions to open up in the lucrative high-tech fields of grain milling and tobacco working. To make the time pass quickly they might want to check out the Ludwig von Mises Institute or pick up a copy of Atlas Shrugged.

Guilty of Hypocrisy and Disappointment

Walter Russell Mead raises an important point about the Petraeus Affair.

Neither General Eisenhower nor President Franklin Roosevelt could have stood the scrutiny provided by today’s mix of press vigilance and puritan standards. On the whole I’m glad that the powerful are being held to a higher standard, but I don’t think the world would necessarily be a happier place if Dwight Eisenhower had been forced out of the Army in 1942 and FDR driven from the White House a year later.

In a prior post I wrote about Petraeus,

He allowed his own personal folly to threaten the lives of countless CIA operatives and the Americans citizens they serve to protect. I understand the temptations men of power must have, but I have no sympathy. If he’s horny he can chase all the tail he wants in retirement. A truly great man would have avoided temptation and insisted on a male biographer who looked more like Charles Krauthammer instead of a woman of striking appearance, or would have resigned the moment before he succumbed to temptation. A less great man would have admitted his affair publicly and insisted on the acceptance of his resignation the moment he became aware that he was under investigation and the lies had caught up with him.

In the same piece I stated my opposition to the impeachment of President Clinton,

Yes he lied. Yes he was philandering weasel, but he didn’t marry the country he was elected to lead it. His marital transgressions were between him and his wife, and while he deserved scorn, I do not believe that his crime of lying under oath about his illicit affair rose to the level requiring impeachment. I understand while some will disagree with me, saying that lying under oath is a serious crime which I agree it is. But to me there is a difference between Clinton’s lying about his personal life and lying about his political career.

Am I holding Gen. David Petraeus to a higher standard than Bill Clinton, and if so, engaging in a double standard? As Mead notes, “We are simultaneously the most licentious and sexually open society since Nero was fiddling around in Rome, and the most uptight and rigid country this side of Saudi Arabia. Our social judgements and tolerance about sexual behavior swing back and forth between the views of the Marquis de Sade and those of Cotton Mather depending on complex and ever changing calculations.” Mead argues the broader context of the Petraeus affair in American culture, framing it against the recent vote of Los Angeles to require condom usage in porn production and the threat of porn producers to leave the county to avoid the restriction, but it does highlight my own apparent hypocrisy where I’m willing to let Clinton’s transgressions slide but not Gen. David Petraeus’, even though the General is by far the better man.

Part of one’s intellectual development should be to call out and recognize inconsistencies of thought and belief, evaluate them and develop a more mature and consistent world view. Reading Mead’s argument has done that, and I realize that I either I am being too harsh on Petraeus or too easy on Clinton. It will take time to decide which although I am tending to believe I am guilty of the latter, believing the separation between one’s personal life from one’s public life. Gen. Petraeus is a great general. He’s a lousy husband for sure, and I’ll defer judgement on his tenure as head of the CIA - if only because such scandal does undermine the agency and endangers lives as I previously wrote.

I am conflicted because as a devoted husband of over two decades I hold my commitment to my wife as a high honor, one that seems rarer as I get older in this society. When I grew up in the 1970’s I saw my friends devastated by the divorces of their parents and I swore that I would emulate my own parents and remain married no matter what. I’ve done that and I’m rightly proud of it. But at the same time I’ve never forgotten something Dean Esmay once wrote that monogamy is easy until it’s tested. Being as homely in appearance as I am the tests are few and far between, but even for someone like me the opportunities presented themselves and I avoided them immediately. I didn’t take the test because I didn’t enter the classroom or even approach the school building.

I may have not saved Iraq but I have never strayed from the path I set out on over 20 years ago, and that bothers me. I desperately want Petraeus to be the better man. He inspired hundreds of thousands at a time when despair was the order of the day. Doing so he saved countless lives and gave millions a chance at a better life. But he couldn’t stay faithful to his own wife, something that I along with millions of men do every day. It turns out he had feet of clay, and that angers me.

I never held Clinton in such high regard. Sure I voted for him, and agreed with many but not all of his decisions and policies. But the bar was much lower for Clinton than it was for Petraeus, but the General soared so much higher above it. Now he has crashed back to earth, and worse may have jeopardized the lives of thousands of men and women who depended on his leadership.

In France this wouldn’t even be an issue. The French and Europeans in general take a much more permissive view of monogamy than we do. If America had a similar view his failure would not have damaged the CIA and the thousands of people within it, but the General’s patina would still be tarnished in my eyes. We are both men of commitment after all, but one of us failed to live up to that commitment. Call that hypocrisy if you wish, but I’m sorry, I am still disappointed in the clay footprints the man leaves on History.

Invincible

In this post I wrote, “I have felt bad about Romney’s chances to win since mid-Summer. In April my instincts or gut told me that Romney would win, but by July that feeling had dissipated.” What I didn’t mention was that in its place my gut told me that Obama would win but that he would also be impeached in his second term.

Now I am no Nostradamus. I am the first to admit the accuracy of my predictions over the past 11 years has been pretty poor, and as a rational human being I know that the future is unknowable. But the feeling in my gut remains. My instincts, completely irrational they may be, are telling me that Obama’s failure in office will lead to his impeachment.

Let me be clear: I am no fan of impeachment. I was vehemently opposed to the Republican effort to impeach then President Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair. Yes he lied. Yes he was philandering weasel, but he didn’t marry the country he was elected to lead it. His marital transgressions were between him and his wife, and while he deserved scorn, I do not believe that his crime of lying under oath about his illicit affair rose to the level requiring impeachment. I understand while some will disagree with me, saying that lying under oath is a serious crime which I agree it is. But to me there is a difference between Clinton’s lying about his affairs and lying about a political matter. The former doesn’t warrant impeachment while the latter does.

The articles of impeachment are the “nuclear option” in the Constitution. As such they should be used only rarely and as judiciously as circumstances warrant. The last president to deserve impeachment, in fact the only one in our country’s history that deserved it in my humble opinion, was a Republican: President Richard Nixon. I may be a member of his party today, but if I could go back in time and impeach him myself I would. Nixon’s crimes were treasonous to the point where it’s conceivable he should have faced a firing squad. Instead his vice president spared him the ignominy of the impeachment process, and he lived out his days long enough for his enemies to warm to him and for people to forget the gravity of his crime that undermined democracy for his personal gain. Ford believed sparing Nixon from impeachment allowed the nation to heal after a decade of riots, Civil Rights marches and anti-war protests. Sorry, I don’t accept that. Nixon should have been nailed to the wall of the House of Representatives to serve as an example to all leaders current and future that the People run this country NOT one man.

It is a chance that was lost, so the danger remains. At the same time impeachment has lost its gravity. The first “impeach Obama” bumper stickers appeared soon after his inauguration in 2009. Impeachment has become an inevitable lament for losers, but remains a misguided, dangerous and all too tempting opportunity to thwart the will of the People.

In his first term Obama presided over the looting of the American treasury for the benefit of his well connected friends. Is that an impeachable offense? By itself, no. His Justice Department has investigated his enemies, ignored racism against whites, and armed the Mexican drug cartels, an action that lead to hundreds of dead Mexicans and the death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry. Are these impeachable offenses? With proper investigation, perhaps yet we live in a system of presumed innocence so as of today, no. On 9/11/2012 four Americans plus the Libyan ambassador were gunned down by Islamists in an attack that for two weeks was blamed on a YouTube video (whose producer now sits in jail. ) Impeachable offense? On its own, no.

Yesterday Gen. David Petraeus resigned as director of the CIA. He had been under investigation by the FBI for over a year about his affair with a journalist writing a book about him, a female journalist, a rather hot one I might add. Ronald Kessler writes today,

Still, the White House, with concurrence by the FBI and Justice Department, held off on asking for Petraeus’ resignation until after the election. His resignation occurred three days after the election, avoiding the possibility that Obama’s ill-fated appointment of Petraeus could become an issue in the election.

Gen. Petraus is arguably the greatest American general since MacArthur. He took charge of a situation in Iraq that promised war without end for both Iraqis and Americans, and turned it around in two years. He tried to do the same thing with Afghanistan but achieved lesser success there. Still his success in Iraq will be studied by students of counter-insurgency for decades to come. He was a great man.

I use the past tense of the verb “to be” intentionally for he compromised himself and the office he held as director of the CIA by conducting an affair. He allowed his own personal folly to threaten the lives of countless CIA operatives and the Americans citizens they serve to protect. I understand the temptations men of power must have, but I have no sympathy. If he’s horny he can chase all the tail he wants in retirement. A truly great man would have avoided temptation and insisted on a male biographer who looked more like Charles Krauthammer instead of a woman of striking appearance, or would have resigned the moment before he succumbed to temptation. A less great man would have admitted his affair publicly and insisted on the acceptance of his resignation the moment he became aware that he was under investigation and the lies had caught up with him. Instead he stayed silent as good men died in Libya and his boss pulled out all stops to win the election.

What did Obama know about Petraeus’ extramarital affairs and when did he know it? There had been talk after 2009 that Petraeus would make a solid GOP candidate for his office in 2012, so did Obama keep this knowledge in his hand to use as a trump card in case Petraeus expressed interest in supporting the GOP field in 2012?

There is a pattern here, one that I believe my instincts are zeroing in on. President Obama feels there is nothing he cannot get away with, that he is not held accountable for his actions the way his predecessors are, and that the ends justify the means. He has never failed in his career. People who groomed him and those who supported him sacrificed themselves in order to promote him upward to bigger challenges. Everything has come easy to him, and with that must come a sense of entitlement, that he is destined to make his mark in History, and nothing will stand in his way to achieve that. He became president on the thinnest of credentials, and now he has been re-elected to the office.

He knows in his heart what the people need, and his re-election has provided him the mandate that justifies it. All his opponents and the shouting and sloganeering on the streets do not represent the majority that elected him not once, but twice. His opponents both times were laughable, the first a tired elderly throw back to a time that the American people are eager to put his political party’s history behind them, the second a zealot who inspired a few of the faithful but no one else, both sent to exile along with their parties by the unstoppable force of Destiny. The voices of dissent have been silenced by his win, relegated to the fringe and ignored by the media who trumpet his brilliance and support him without question. He had become invincible.

That’s what President Richard Nixon thought, and what President Obama may believe today. Americans were just as tired of the Democrat’s folly in Vietnam in 1968 as they were of Bush’s war in Iraq in 2008. In 1972 Nixon faced McGovern, an intellectual who inspired a few in the Democratic Party just as Romney excited pro-business types but few beyond that in the GOP 40 years later. The press weren’t as pliant under Nixon as they are under Obama, but they did see him as a man capable of ending the war in Vietnam, just as 40 years later they latched on to Obama as the candidate best capable of ending the war in Iraq.

Obama doesn’t see that the Press supports him, just as Nixon hated the press for curbing his excesses. Thankfully two reporters working at the Washington Post became intrigued by a story about a break-in at the Democratic headquarters at the Watergate Hotel. Within two years the president had to resign in disgrace or face impeachment. He chose the former path.

Where is today’s Woodward and Bernstein? Definitely not at the Washington Post given that paper’s unquestioned support of the Obama administration. Andrew Breitbart was their most obvious heir, but he’s dead. Today there is no one to keep the president in check, to keep him from ruling as he sees fit. And it’s not just the right that is worried. The press that once reported every word from Cindy Sheehan has silenced her, and every Code Pink protest against “Bush’s Wars” are ignored now that those wars are owned by Obama. Sure some on the Left worry about Obama’s kill list, but better that power resides with him rather than Romney, ignoring the fact that anything that Obama gets away with in Office will remain in the Office, setting precedent for any future GOP president to wield the same power.

He remains invincible because his supporters in the Press and the Democratic establishment want him to be so. As long as he has them, he will indeed be invincible. But are there limits to his power? Are there lines he will cross that will expose him as being vulnerable after all? Perhaps. Perhaps not, but one thing is certain: we are about to find out.

Barack Obama Nixon

Another Lost Soul

Spoke to a good friend who is mourning the loss of an old friend from addiction. I didn’t know the guy but my friend painted a picture for me showing the arc of his life that started and ended in his mother’s arms. It’s easy to dismiss the death of an addict, forgetting the person beneath the illness, but my friend remembers him and by the sound of things, he was a truly remarkable individual.

Maurice, this one’s for you.

The Council Has Spoken: Nov 9, 2012

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council:  Bookworm Room –  A foreign policy/war powers law establishes that the unnecessary deaths in Benghazi were Obama’s responsibility

Noncouncil:   Michelle Malkin-Obama gets his “revenge,” but conservatives must stand tall

Full voting here.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus: Resign Now

Reince Priebus’s online profile states “In his first year as Chairman, Reince oversaw a dramatic turnaround of the RNC, building it into a strong and effective organization for electing Republicans in 2012.”

Well, as you may have noticed, the GOP got its collective ass kicked, losing the presidential election, and seats in both the House and Senate. Strong? Nope. Effective? Only if electing Democrats is your goal.

As someone who donated to the RNC I witnessed my dollars wasted. Chairman Priebus must resign or I will never donate to the RNC again.

UPDATE: I called RNC offices and was directed to a voicemailbox to leave my comment. I couldn’t because it was full – probably not with kudos and atta-boys. The number is 202-863-8500 if you want to give it a go.

The Day After Election 2012 – Lessons Learned

I’ve been in software development for over a dozen years now. Some of the projects I’ve been on have succeeded and others have failed. One of the key components of the software development lifecycle (SDLC) and one that often gets forgotten by project teams is the “lessons learned” review at the end of a project. If often is ignored because software design has become more like movie making: just as with a movie a project brings together people to work on a single goal then disperse after that goal is complete. The lessons learned on that project are usually put together as an after-thought by project managers and analysts who will never work together again, handing the results over to an organization that will file them away on a network drive never to be read. But for a sponsoring organization such documents are key to future success. All software designs face similar constraints and road blocks, and the way those constraints are handled and the road blocks overcome can help insure the next project’s success.

Over the past months I have had a very bad feeling about this election. I touched upon this feeling some in “Ending Radio Silence” but I have felt bad about Romney’s chances to win since mid-Summer. In April my instincts or gut told me that Romney would win, but by July that feeling had dissipated. I think it was ultimately due to Romney’s personality. He showed fire in the belly during the primaries when he was up against Newt Gingrich and the rest of the field, but that fire disappeared. It’s an intangible thing this fire, and I would have a very difficult time explaining it to the man if we shared a coffee together, but Romney lost it after he clinched the nomination. Instead of looking like Reagan in 1980 he began to remind me of Kerry in 2004. It wasn’t just the ability to inspire the opposition, Romney as out of touch wealthy guy and Kerry as Vietcong sympathizer that gave creative impetus to their respective oppositions, it was his failure to connect with voters in a way that Reagan could but Kerry and Romney could not. This fire I suppose is a type of charisma, and both Kerry and Romney lacked it while Reagan and Clinton had it.

So from a lesson’s learned perspective the GOP thought they had a candidate with charisma and fire but they were fooled. The lesson learned here is… well I’m not sure there is a lesson here other than what you see in the primaries is no guarantee of what you get in the fight for the general election. The red flag should have been the fact that he didn’t fire up the party base the way he should have, made clear by the effort to find “anyone but Romney” in fall 2011 through the early primaries.

This leads us to our first lesson learned: Choose the candidate that fires up the base of the party regardless of their perceived chances to win the general election. A candidate that inspires the base has shown he or she possesses charisma. The party faithful will be the first to sense that charisma but it will eventually spread to independents and even Democrats. One thing the GOP establishment has forgotten is that Reagan was liked by many Democrats not for his policies but simply because he was a charismatic leader. This charisma makes the caricatures the Democrats will paint of the GOP candidate seem hollow and less effective during the campaign.

Instead the GOP establishment has focused on electability which, in a center-right country like the US means the most “liberal” conservative around. It’s interesting to consider that both the Democrats and Republicans have failed most of the time they have tried this strategy (for the left this means choosing the most conservative Democrat). In 2004 the Democrat establishment sunk the Howard Dean candidacy in favor of the “more electable” John Kerry, throwing away the excitement and energy the Deaniacs brought to the party. After Kerry lost, the Deaniacs did the smart thing: they took over the Democratic establishment and encouraged Barack Obama’s candidacy against the “more electable” Hillary Clinton in 2008.

This leads to the next lesson learned directly related to the first: The party establishment must get behind the candidate that excites the base the most and ignore “tenure.” For some reason this is more of a problem for the GOP than the Democrats. The Republican establishment is big on backing the candidate “whose turn it is” rather than the one more popular with the base. This points out the divide between the party establishment and the party base. Since 2008 the base has been more conservative, more radical than the establishment, and the GOP has done its best to neuter that excitement to avoid being seen as extremist.

Here’s another lesson learned: The Democrats and the mainstream media that backs them will paint whomever the GOP selects as their candidate as extreme so ignore electability. Mitt Romney is a liberal Republican who was turned into a blood-thirsty paleo-conservative industrialist. The GOP could nominate Angelina Jolie as their 2016 standard-bearer and the Democrats would turn her into a racist, crony capitalist who adopts internationally to avoid paying adoption fees in the US for her unpaid personal assistants. As long as the candidate has charisma that inspires and displays a will to win, electability follows; it doesn’t work the other way around.

Fire Reince Preibus and everyone above the title of webmaster at the RNC. This election should have marked the end of the progressive era in America, instead the progressive movement has new life. Not only did the GOP fail to take the Senate it also lost seats in the House. Whatever decisions the RNC made, including calling me three or four times a day everyday for the past month and even a 6pm call on Election Night, failed. If these guys don’t fall on their swords by lunchtime Tea Partiers should storm their offices on K Street and put them to it – metaphorically of course (well…)

Surrender on illegal immigration and amnesty. Obama said it himself that it was stupid of the Republicans to throw away a few million votes. Less than that swung the election. It’s time for the GOP to give up the fight on illegal immigration even if that means accepting amnesty. Why? Because the Hispanic vote is a better fit in the GOP than it is in the Democratic party. Hispanics are culturally very conservative. They tend to be very religious and for the most part are hardworking. Who do they compete against for jobs? African-Americans and low-skilled union jobs, both which back the Democratic Party. Hispanics do not take away jobs from highly skilled white men that tend to vote Republican, so why not add them to the party? They aren’t taking away my job, and I could use a few to lay a concrete footer for a wall outside the window right now. Cut the deal as soon as possible with the Democrats, and open the border to Mexico if necessary. The only groups that will suffer are Democrats, and by the time 2016 rolls around the GOP will have a new group in its base.

As the Wife noted, too many people see the Republicans as a bunch of anti-gay Bible thumping nut jobs beholden to Wall Street and the wealthy. This indicates the success the Democrats have had defining their opposition. As Jon Markman at the Wall Street Journal notes, the stock market has done much better under Obama than it did under Bush while the gap between rich and poor has widened under this president compared to his much maligned Republican predecessor. Yet people still believe the GOP serves Wall Street interests, ignoring the reality that Wall Street loves Democratic policies of shoveling tax payer cash into the markets, and that Wall Street has enjoyed a windfall from fees charged union pensions for risky investments.

The lesson here is that the Republican Party needs an image makeover, returning to the party’s humble populist roots referred to in Nixon’s Checker’s speech when he referred to his wife Pat owning a “respectable Republican cloth coat.” The average Republican earns less than the average Democrat, yet the GOP suffers from an image of being the party of the wealthy. These facts must be publicized. Come up with a plan that stresses the core values of what it means to be a Republican. What are those values? As a Republican myself, I’m not sure what they are – and that’s the GOP’s fault. But I would guess it can be boiled down to a government that supports you when you need it but gets out of your way when you don’t. Something like that. In the past we’ve used “small government” but what does that mean to the average American? Get specific. Publicize that the GOP is not trying to poison our drinking water and air, it’s removing unnecessary regulations and helping industry work with the government to provide jobs while protecting the environment. The GOP isn’t against health insurance, it’s for making health care cheaper by encouraging competition between providers, insurers and the government. The party needs a PR campaign so that my Wife can stop writing me texts that say “I’m embarrassed to be a Republican.”

Like many in the party I’m an ex-Democrat. I’ve voted for more Democrats in my life than Republicans and performances such as this election by the GOP makes me regret my current affiliation. The Republican Party apparatus just seems clueless, naive and downright stupid when it comes to winning elections. Democrats know how to win, and they will do everything it takes to do so. The GOP needs to absorb the Progressive Playbook, Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. This book has driven the progressive movement since Alinsky published it in 1971. Alinsky’s Rules are immoral. Their purpose is to not to put up a fair fight. Their purpose is to win. Here are the rules:

RULE 1: “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.” Power is derived from 2 main sources – money and people. “Have-Nots” must build power from flesh and blood.
RULE 2: “Never go outside the expertise of your people.” It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone.
RULE 3: “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty.
RULE 4: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules.
RULE 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.
RULE 6: “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones.
RULE 7: “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.” Don’t become old news.
RULE 8: “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.” Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new.
RULE 9: “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.” Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist.
RULE 10: “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.” Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog.
RULE 11: “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.” Never let the enemy score points because you’re caught without a solution to the problem.
RULE 12: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.

There is nothing in these rules that Machiavelli himself, or perhaps the late GOP strategist Lee Atwater would avoid doing. Read these rules. See how they have been used against Republican candidates and causes. Absorb them. These rules and the book itself are completely non-partisan: they can be used just as effectively against Progressives as against Conservatives.