Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Commissar Sebelius To The Rescue!

The headline in a recent Wall Street Journal editorial reads: "Health insurers finally get some oversight."

The sub-head continues the theme:

"In the past, these companies ran wild with no accountability"

At least, according to Sec. of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, that is.

She must be right. There is no State Insurance Commissioner in every State of the Union. There aren't thousands of regulations dictating prices, terms of coverage, etc., etc. None of that existed until ObamaCare and the mighty Commissar Kathleen rode to the rescue of the proletariat. Missing her own irony, she lists several of them later in the editorial, including herself (as past commissioner in Kansas).

She begins:

In the last two weeks, my department has been accused of "thuggery" (this editorial page) and "Soviet tyranny" (Newt Gingrich). What prompted these accusations? The fact that we told health-insurance companies that, as required by law, we will review large premium increases and identify those that are unreasonable.
Nothing thuggish about violating the 4th and 5th Amendment protections of private property and voluntary trade, the sanctity of contract, et al, of course. But who needs them? It's comforting to know instead that my 'right' to health insurance is being protected by the pure and all-powerful Wizard of Health Care, no longer bound by any such quaint notions.

Can't these idiots at least go back to telling semi-plausible lies? They're making it far too easy on me.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

RObama Hood Boasts of Looting the Rich, Poor, And Everyone In-Between

Naturally, the title reflects my take not his own on Obama's list of 'accomplishments':
When I talk to Democrats around the country, I tell them, “Guys, wake up here. We have accomplished an incredible amount in the most adverse circumstances imaginable.” I came in and had to prevent a Great Depression, restore the financial system so that it functions, and manage two wars.

In the midst of all that, I ended one of those wars, at least in terms of combat operations. We passed historic health care legislation, historic financial regulatory reform and a huge number of legislative victories that people don’t even notice.

We wrestled away billions of dollars of profit that were going to the banks and middlemen through the student-loan program, and now we have tens of billions of dollars that are going directly to students to help them pay for college. We expanded national service more than we ever have before. [emphasis added]

The Recovery Act alone represented the largest investment in research and development in our history, the largest investment in infrastructure since Dwight Eisenhower, the largest investment in education — and that was combined, by the way, with the kind of education reform that we hadn’t seen in this country in 30 years — and the largest investment in clean energy in our history.
As I've written before, Obama is right in a way to boast here; he hasn't lost a major battle yet. That aside, in any society more than half-awake, this list would be seen for what it is: a series of Constitutional rights violations that should see its perpetrator in jail.

How ironic, then, that hard-core Progressives are still whining that he hasn't done enough. They complain that ObamaCare contains no 'public option' (i.e. explicit socialized medicine), that some in the Administration are talking about 'fiscal austerity measures', etc. (Granted, it's only talk.) Goebbel's Stand-In Press Secretary Robert Gibbs spoke the truth for once when he recently called them crazy, that they wouldn't be satisfied with anything less than open communism. (My words, not his.)

As for the remaining sane members of society — and thankfully their numbers are larger than I'd previously thought — we're dissatisfied, too (albeit in a rather different direction). We'll have our say in about a month and be in a position to throw some serious sand in the juggernaut's gears. Still, optimistic caution is in order. As I wrote in that Teflon King piece:
Even with increased Republican resistance after November the trend is likely to continue, sad to say. Republican politicians are still morally weak when it comes to the vulnerability Democrats are expert at exploiting: politicians' faux concern for the welfare of 'the little guy'. Unless the Tea Party sentiments come to dominate the country, men like Boehner and McConnell will always cave in the clutch. They don't have the will or the background to consistently make a principled stand for the rights to private property, voluntary trade, or individual liberty.
After reading The Pledge, I'm sorry to have to say I was more right than I knew.

There are plenty more seriously laughable, and laughably depressing, comments in Obama's Rolling Stone interview, (such as The One laughing off Fox News — after excoriating them elsewhere — since he has "swore to uphold the Constitution, and part of that Constitution is a free press."). So, er, enjoy.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Pledge to America Is Weak Tea

[W]hen loyalty to an unyielding purpose is dropped by the virtuous, it’s picked up by scoundrels—and you get the indecent spectacle of a cringing, bargaining, traitorous good and a self-righteously uncompromising evil.

Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual, pg 173.

I had planned to write a 'review' of the Republicans' Pledge to America. After slogging through the whole thing — puffed up by ridiculous photos of 'concerned' politicians meeting with 'ordinary' Americans — I found myself stumped.

It's a very mixed bag — a few good ideas here and there, surrounded by a lot of cream puff. Well-meaning goo, to be sure, but the sort of thing that could've been written by any centrist Democrat. (There are actually a few of them left, such as Idaho's Walt Minnick.)

If it was intended to appeal to the middle — and what Republican proposal does not? — it succeeded. If it was supposed to persuade anyone who sees what the real problems in America are today, it's off by a country mile.

It's a long-sight better than anything the Democrats promise, certainly. But, then, given that the Progressive-dominated Jackass party is only an explicit admission or two away from blatant Corporatism, it could hardly be worse.

Anyway, luckily, I've been saved the heinous pain of writing anything at length, which would require reading it again to pull out quotes. Andy McCarthy has saved me the trouble. I don't share quite his degree of outrage - possibly because my expectations for the Republicans in Congress were so low - but he does capture the gist of my views.

It's so seamlessly written I couldn't find many money quotes, but this will give you a flavor:

Worse, though, the pledge proposes its own irrational (but populist) health-care mandates: “We will make it illegal for an insurance company to deny coverage to someone on the basis of a pre-existing condition, eliminate annual and lifetime spending caps, and prevent insurers from dropping your coverage just because you get sick.”

As the Red State blogger Hogan pointedly asks, how is coercing a private insurer to cover people any better than coercing a private person to buy coverage? The constitutionality clause the Republicans write for that one ought to be interesting.

Furthermore, as Hogan adds, sick people can’t pay for health insurance — if insurers are mandated to cover them outside the terms of their policies, it will be necessary to force healthy people to pay the freight. That is, we’d be in cruise-control toward an individual mandate anyway.

HAPPY 2008!

Far from addressing entitlements and getting the government out of the health-care business, the pledge would leave the welfare state largely intact, content — once you flip past the preamble — to “rein in” but not stop the government’s growth. How? By vowing to roll out-of-control federal spending all the way back to...the out-of-control levels of 2008.
The biggest problem with The Pledge, as McCarthy points out at the outset, is whether anyone can believe any of the used dishwater promises its authors make about curbing the Leviathan's appetite. On that question, I am not immensely hopeful.

In the end, though clearly the mere existence of The Pledge is a consequence of pressure put on the GOP by the Tea Party movement, the response is a disappointingly weak brew.

Communists Represent the Middle Class?

Daniel Foster at NRO reports on a "confederacy of liberal groups" who plan to hold a rally in response to Glenn Beck's. They claim to represent "America’s embattled middle class.”

There are some mainstream left-leaning groups (the SEUI, the American Federation of Teachers, and others). What's more interesting, though, are the groups the confederacy fails to mention. It reveals this effort as just so much, very stale, communist bombast.
  • Chicago Democratic Socialists of America
  • Code Pink
  • Committee of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
  • Communist Party USA
  • Democratic Socialists of America
  • International Socialist Organization
Yawn... It's clear that Progressives are out of ammunition. That won't stop them from initiating kamikaze raids, of course, but they officially now got nothin'. When you align yourself with groups like this, you've lost the middle class for sure.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Impact of Regulation, Quantified

One useful measure of the impact of irrational regulation is how long it takes to build large structures. Here are a few blasts from the past:
  • Empire State Building: 410 days.
  • The Pentagon: two years.
  • Gateway Arch: two years.
  • Golden Gate Bridge: four years.
  • Hoover Dam: five years.
  • Rockefeller Center (14 buildings): nine years (of which Radio City Music Hall was done in the first two years and 30 Rock in three).
Some of the additional time required today can be accounted for by increased valid safety measures and higher population in surrounding areas. But that's compensated for to some degree by better machinery and increased experience.

The net difference is attributable to nanny statist measures, Progressive/viro legal maneuvering, and politics. The difference is often not small. That's pretty obvious when you look at things like the former WTC site in Manhattan, which is still far from complete nine years later.

It's less obvious, but even more disturbing when you consider projects that are not even getting off the ground, such as the ten thousand new nuclear power plants the country needs.

Worst of all is the sheer destruction of useful projects torn down as a result of environmentalist activism, such as the many dams they boast of eliminating.

Time for a renaissance, one energized by the idea that Man the Builder is a noble creature, one who's earned the right to hold his head high. As a start, he should stop apologizing for transforming human existence from a life that was "nasty, brutish, and short" to something peaceful, comfortable, and oftimes dazzling. Then He can develop once again the pride that will motivate throwing off the shackles of the envious, the small, the anti-life.

Creative civil engineering isn't merely useful, it's glorious — and one because of the other.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

"Lawless Legislators" Published at Pajamas Media

My article, Lawless Legislators, has been published at Pajamas Media. I hope you'll weigh in with your thoughts on the topic, there and here.



Thursday, September 23, 2010

No-Longer Great Britain: UK Totalitarianism In Training

Those wacky Brits just love their statism.
The UK’s tax collection agency is putting forth a proposal that all employers send employee paychecks to the government, after which the government would deduct what it deems as the appropriate tax and pay the employees by bank transfer.

The proposal by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) stresses the need for employers to provide real-time information to the government so that it can monitor all payments and make a better assessment of whether the correct tax is being paid.

Currently employers withhold tax and pay the government, providing information at the end of the year, a system know as Pay as You Earn (PAYE). There is no option for those employees to refuse withholding and individually file a tax return at the end of the year.If the real-time information plan works, it further proposes that employers hand over employee salaries to the government first.

“The next step could be to use (real-time) information as the basis for centralizing the calculation and deduction of tax,” HMRC said in a July discussion paper.
So what's holding them back, some lingering respect for liberty, some vague collective memory of the Magna Carta? No, it's just that total confiscation is just too expensive:

"[T]he cost of implementing the new system would be "phenomenal," Bull pointed out."

If the Brits had any balls, they'd do what we did to their government 235 years ago. Then again, if the majority of Americans today had any balls, they'd do it to the American government. We'll see what the testosterone level is come this November.

[Hat Tip Jonah Goldberg at NRO.]

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Horror Story of the Day

The title should actually read, "Horror Story of the Past 43 Years," but that's not quite as snappy and there's no single word for it. But then, there's no single word to describe the combination of sheer, unadulterated chutzpah, foolishness, stupidity, and vice implicitly contained in the graph below:

I'm pretty sure at least a thousand different individuals — many of them living comfortably on fat government pensions — belong in jail as a result of this debacle. Unfortunately, the best we can hope for at present is to replace the current crop of criminals this November, and try to minimize giving the new ones quite so much slack on the leash.

[Hat Tip, Powerline.]

Monday, September 20, 2010

Rajan Fisks Krugman On Frannie Role in Crisis

Professor of finance at University of Chicago Raghumam Rajan, takes Paul Krugman to task over numerous errors relating to the origins of the financial crisis. Not least is his demonstration of the ways Fannie and Freddie, and the government policies that drove them, were relevant.

This gem, for example, is delicious since it shows Krugman's ongoing intellectual dishonesty, as his explanations shift.
Critics were quick to point out that Krugman had his facts wrong.

As Charles Calomiris and Peter Wallison of the American Enterprise Institute (Wallison is also a member of the financial crisis inquiry commission) explained, “Here Krugman demonstrates confusion about the law (which did not prohibit subprime lending by the GSEs), misunderstands the regulatory regime under which they operated (which did not have the capacity to control their risk-taking), and mismeasures their actual subprime exposures (which he wrongly states were zero).”
So, Krugman shifted his emphasis.

In his blog critique of a Financial Times op-ed I wrote in June 2010, Krugman no longer argued that Fannie and Freddie could not buy subprime mortgages. Instead, he emphasized the slightly falling share of Fannie and Freddie’s residential mortgage securitizations in the years 2004 to 2006 as the reason they were not responsible.

Here again he presents a misleading picture. Not only did Fannie and Freddie purchase whole subprime loans that were not securitized (and thus not counted in its share of securitizations), they also bought substantial amounts of private-label mortgage-backed securities issued by others. When taking these into account, Fannie and Freddie’s share of the subprime market financing did increase even in those years.
Rajan goes on to shred Krugman a half-dozen more ways from Sunday. The whole piece is well worth a read.

In the end, as the Grand Poobah says in The Mikado, it's nice to have my opinions confirmed by an expert.

Reynolds Fisks Federal Revenue Claims

Alan Reynolds, a CATO fellow writing at NRO, offers an effective utilitarian rebuttal to the government's claim that raising taxes on the top 2% would bring in an additional $34 billion in Federal revenue.

Set aside for now that the money belongs to its owners and it's immoral for the Feds to confiscate it. Set aside that utilitarian arguments are not the way to argue about taxes, since they assume social utility is the proper justification for taxation. The analysis is still valuable. An excerpt proves the point:
If anyone could really believe the proposed tax hikes could possibly have no harmful effects on the economy, the $34 billion revenue estimate would still be wildly optimistic.


Because it also assumes high-income taxpayers make no effort to avoid the added burden. In economic jargon that means assuming an “elasticity of taxable income” of zero, although recent studies put the actual elasticity closer to one.

Evidence from past changes in the highest tax rates suggests affected taxpayers will be able to conceal almost enough incremental income (above the $250,000 threshold) to offset the steep surtaxes tax on such income, leaving even the IRS no better off.
More investors would maximize contributions to tax-favored savings plans, or switch to tax-exempt bonds.

The academic evidence is especially clear that a higher tax rate on dividends would dampen investors’ appetite for dividend-paying stocks, and that a higher tax rate on capital gains would reduce the frequency with which investors sell assets and therefore have to pay the tax.
Mr. Reynolds, though, is silent on an even more important point: he assumes Obama believes, or even cares much, whether the $34 billion will be gained or lost.

For the radical egalitarian Obama, taking money from 'the rich' isn't motivated by the need to reduce the deficit. Reynolds points out that it would cover all of nine days, as no doubt Obama either knows or waves away. (The figure is puzzling anyway, since the deficit is larger than $306 billion per annum, but never mind that now.)

No, Obama's decisions here flow from his warped view of "fairness." He said so long before the election and that hasn't changed. The rest is just political rhetoric to accomplish that goal.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

More Obama Lawlessness

The Wall Street Journal has a fine editorial that clearly demonstrates the Obama administration's ongoing willful ignoring of the Constitution. The piece surveys the appointment of Elizabeth Warren to both head and not head the new consumer protection racket agency created by the disastrous Dodd-Frank financial 'reform' legislation.

The WSJ really sums it up well:
Whatever else can be said about this White House, it isn't afraid to poke a stick in the eye of its critics. How else to explain President Obama's decision Friday to put Elizabeth Warren in charge of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau while avoiding Senate confirmation and, for that matter, any political supervision.

The chutzpah here is something to behold. The pride of Harvard Law School, Ms. Warren is a hero to the political left for proposing a new bureaucracy to micromanage the services that banks can offer consumers. But she is also so politically controversial that no less a liberal lion than Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd has warned the White House that she probably isn't confirmable.

A President with more political and Constitutional scruple would have nominated someone else. Mr. Obama's choice is to appoint her anyway and dare the Senate to do something about it.

The plan is for Ms. Warren to run the new bureau from an office at the Treasury Department. Instead of calling her the "Director" of the bureau — the statutory title for the organization's boss — Mr. Obama has appointed her an "assistant" to him and a special adviser to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
It gets worse,
The new bureau was already destined to be a bureaucratic rogue. When Members of Congress objected to it being "independent" in the way Ms. Warren hoped, Mr. Dodd and the Administration cooked up a plan to make it part of the Federal Reserve without actually answering to anyone there.

The bureau has independent rule-making authority and can grant itself an annual budget up to $646 million. It will draw this money from the operations of the Fed, so the bureau needn't deal with the messy intrusions of Congressional appropriators and will therefore receive limited Congressional oversight. [emphasis added]

Ms. Warren's bureau will dictate how credit is allocated throughout the American economy — by banks and financial firms, and also by many small businesses that extend credit to consumers. The bureau's mandate under the new Dodd-Frank law is to ensure that "consumers are protected from unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts and practices and from discrimination."

If those terms sound vague and overbroad now, wait until Ms. Warren's hand-picked staff begins interpreting existing laws on fair lending and writes new rules.
Violation of Article II, Section 2 anyone? Violation of Fifth amendment property right protections anyone? Violation of the Congressional appropriations rules anyone? Barf bag anyone?

As a not entirely side note, I happened to catch Ms. Warren on the News Hour the other night and she reminded me of no one so much as Jimmy Carter. Oozing smiley-faced malice for the finance industry, she waved her hands and bleated on and on about honesty, following the rules, protecting the public, and so forth. The irony — given the method of her appointment and the nature of the agency she helped create — could escape only the most obtuse.

Obama is really giving FDR a run for his money for "most blatantly indifferent to the law" award. I can't wait for him to be neutered in November.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Thoughts for Constitution Day

Today is Constitution Day, the date in 1787 when our founding document — minus the first 10 amendments (the Bill of Rights) — was completed and presented to the Convention for consideration. It was ratified over the succeeding two years, eight months by the original 13 State legislatures, though only nine were required for acceptance.

I don't believe Jefferson was exaggerating when he wrote to Adams about the men gathered to consider it, saying: "It really is an assembly of demigods."

Anyway, history aside, as an amateur Constitutional scholar — very amateur* — I reject the common false alternative of "originalist" versus "judicial activist" interpretations.

Still, I'm much more sympathetic to the view that the Constitution has a specific meaning in a given context, one generally inline with the original ideas of Madison, and that emphasis should be given to that meaning. I also agree that "judicial activism" is nothing but a Progressive cover for social engineering through legal decisions.

The bottom line for me in Constitutional interpretation is a simple question: "Does a given interpretation protect the individual rights outlined in the document, or does it not?"

That, I believe, is consistent with Madison's vision — which still holds true — and allows for changing social and material circumstances over the ages. Because, though the applications change, the rights we have are constant over millennia, since they're based on human nature and the fundamental requirements of living.

*Side note: In Latin, amateur means "lover" and was originally intended to suggest not someone inadequately competent — which is also true of my Constitutional scholarship — but someone who did something for the love of the doing, not for money. Amateurs were actually viewed as often superior to 'professionals' who engaged in an activity solely for pay.

Words are interesting things, embedding not just individual thoughts but social mores.

McCarthy Exposes Teacher's Islamic Indoctrination

Andy McCarthy does another of his excellent turns at exposing the way Progressive 'educators' are helping the spread of Islamism in the U.S.

For those with a strong stomach, here's part of McCarthy's report:
A sixth-grade class in Wellesley, Massachusetts, was dragged by their teachers to the notorious Roxbury mosque — the $15 million Saudi-funded, minareted Islamic center started by Abdurrahman Alamoudi (now serving a 23-year terrorism sentence) and run by the Muslim American Society (the quasi-official arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States).

Capitalizing on the goo that passes for “social studied” curricula, parents were told the “field trip” was “to learn about the architecture of the mosque and observe a midday prayer service.” One parent was concerned enough to volunteer as a chaperone and bring along a camera.

The result is stunning: an unabashed exercise in Islamic dawa, the “call to Islam” and the manner by which the Brotherhood’s spiritual guide, Yusuf Qaradawi, promises that Islam will “conquer America” and “conquer Europe.” Qaradawi — wonder of wonders — is a trustee of the Roxbury mosque (although he is banned from the U.S. for sanctioning terrorism).
The indoctrination of anti-American values by teachers is now de rigeur in public schools and every single indoctrinator should be fired, post haste. That wish, of course, is sheer fantasy because those who would fire them are either utter avoid-all-controversy pragmatists or actually agree with the teachers.

The only ultimate solution to horrors like this is to eliminate the public school system, which has always been an immoral and impractical idea. That, too, is fantasizing at least for the next 20 years, probably longer. In the interim, McCarthy is doing the next best thing by exposing it to as wide an audience as possible.

The problem is, will many care? So far, the answer appears to be a resounding "No."

Another Stimulus Failure

Via Jonah Goldberg at NRO:

The L.A. Comptroller reports what happened to their stimulus money:
"I'm disappointed that we've only created or retained 55 jobs after receiving $111 million," says Wendy Greuel, the city's controller, while releasing an audit report.
Man, does it get boring always repeating "Told ya so." If she's disappointed, imagine how the taxpayers feel seeing their money pissed away in a scheme that never had a chance of working.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Robots to Receive Artificial Skin

I'm not a fan of UC Berkeley. The town setting is filthy and filled with creatures you'd never want over for dinner. Much of the campus architecture is revoltingly 'modern' and most of the professors — even in the sciences — are so left wing they belong in another country. But on rare occasions, the odor of genius arises from that swamp.
Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a new technology that may help robots feel, give the sense of touch back to those with prosthetic limbs, and ultimately help robots do the dishes without breaking them (and while they're at it, maybe make a sandwich without turning it into land of the flatlanders).

Also, once they start grafting that stuff onto damaged humans there's just no telling where the future will lead. And that unpredictability about limits is part of the glory of invention.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pataki Talks Turkey on ObamaCare, Update

As a follow up to my post on Madison discussing economic uncertainty, here's a good example in how it applies, and from a surprising source. Mr. Pataki made a number of - putting it as generously as possible - dubious moves as Governor of New York. [See, in particular, the paragraph about Cato's 'grade' on his fiscal policy.] Still, what he says here is unassailable.
We were told that most Americans would pay less for their health care. Yet the Obama administration's own Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services just reported that health care costs will instead go up by over $1,000 per year by 2019 for a family of four.

We were told that ObamaCare would drive down the costs of health care. Yet just this week health insurers asked for premium increases of up to 9% solely because of ObamaCare.

We were told — and how many times did the president say this? — that if you were happy with your current coverage, you wouldn't need to change it at all. Yet under rules issued in June, his own administration estimates that 51% of all employees and 66% of workers in small businesses would have their current plan changed within three years as a result of new mandates.
Faced with not only the certainty of higher costs but the uncertainty of new regulations yet to be written by the 157 new bureaucracies of ObamaCare, if I had a business I'd be looking for ways to fire existing staff, not hire more.

If the businessmen in America have any courage at all they'll band together and give a huge middle finger to the Federal Government.

Update [9/17/2010]: The founder of Home Depot just gave Obama and his gang a metaphorical middle finger. Excellent! I predict Home Depot's sales will now rise noticeably. Bravo, Mr. Marcus.

Madison on Economic Uncertainty

James Madison understood economic uncertainty and its cause long before - and much better than - many today. That's the advantage of focusing one's mind on reality, particularly with regard to human nature. In Federalist 62, he writes:
“What prudent merchant will hazard his fortunes in any new branch of commerce when he knows not but that his plans may be rendered unlawful before they can be executed?

What farmer or manufacturer will lay himself out for the encouragement given to any particular cultivation or establishment, when he can have no assurance that his preparatory labors and advances will not render him a victim to an inconstant government?”
If the willfully clueless in D.C. absorbed only this one insight from Madison we would be much further along the road of a long-delayed recovery.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Why I Don't Write About 9/11

Every year September 11th rolls around and I feel I should write something about 9/11. Every year, I don't. I can't really say why. Even though I lived in California at the time, I felt and feel deeply and very personally about the horror that took place in Manhattan that day.

Maybe that's because I used to live there, and still have friends there. It might be because I've been through the WTC countless times on my way to work and pleasure, and can't fully grasp its being gone.

Or, it could be the outrage I felt then and still feel — not only at the perpetrators and their cohorts, but almost as strongly at the political leaders who've refused to do much of anything about it.

Much of anything? After hundreds of billions spent and thousands of American soldiers' lives sacrificed? Yes. I believe that amounts to not much of anything, at least not by comparison to a real war.

War was never declared. That would be the minimum one could expect from the President and Congress when America was attacked by jihadists supported and goaded by half a dozen Middle Eastern theocracies for the past 30 years.

Worse, although from the first I strongly supported the efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq and still do, I always felt it was a second string effort. It always seemed too much like when the government interferes in the economy during a crisis, i.e. mostly to appear to be "doing something."

There was never any hint the U.S. would invade Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Libya, and Lebanon — not to mention Pakistan for good measure.

Iran should have been — and still should be — the main focus of any effort to combat Islam-inspired jihad. It was and remains the ground zero of all such attacks and they won't stop until Iran is neutralized. Yet, even after it was shown six ways from Sunday that Iran was (and is) supporting the jihadists in Iraq, the President largely ignored it.

That neutralization effort would have to go beyond military conquest, too, as we did in Japan after WWII when State Shinto was dismantled in the Japanese culture. That effort, by the way, was done forcefully and without apology, unlike the mealy-mouthed diplomacy we see, for example, in Afghanistan and Iraq, both of whom have constitutions making Sharia their explicit legal foundation. [For an in-depth historical examination of U.S. efforts in Japan, see the work of Dr. John Lewis, particularly No Substitute for Victory and Gifts from Heaven, The Meaning of the American Victory Over Japan, 1945.]

Even at its peak, while our soldiers and Marines and many officers continued to act with unbounded heroism against absurd ROE, the most senior officers and civilian authorities offered tepid political support.

At his most 'cowboy', Bush never came close to emulating Churchill, FDR, or even Thatcher in his will to win the war. That many in Congress opposed him is no excuse. He ignored the pansies when he thought he should, and rightly so. If he had acted more forcefully, the American people would've made it near-impossible for Congress to pull his funding.

So, in the end, like a father whose son's murder is given short shrift by the courts — and like so many Americans I suspect — I'm left with a deep sadness and a great longing for the appropriate level of moral outrage by Washington. That, and an unanswered question about when the casualties of 9/11 will ever get the justice they, and we, deserve.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Explaining Obama the Wrong Way

Recently, Dinesh D'Souza - a dour, Puritanical, self-described conservative - suggested in Forbes that the reason Obama thinks as he does is due largely to his upbringing, in particular his childhood experiences in Kenya and Indonesia.

I find explanations like D'Souza's puzzling at best. Why reach for some deep, complex psychological explanation based on his upbringing rather than the more obvious one (to me, at least): he's a standard Progressive, a philosophy consciously adopted as a result of his education.

After all, there are literally millions of Americans with Obama's exact views right down the line and they have all sorts of demographic backgrounds, very few of them having anything to do with being raised in Africa and Asia, being raised by a hippie communist and an "anti-colonial" step-father, etc.

For example, individuals like Bill Ayers (Weather Underground terrorist and long-time Marxist Progressive) and Cass Sunstein (Professor of Law at Chicago and Fascist Progressive) had very ordinary, upscale, white bread American upbringings. Their hatred for all things American (not least, the Constitution) is no less warped than Obama's and you couldn't push light through the cracks between the views of all three men. Examples could be multiplied manyfold.

Why any particular individual becomes an Anti - and whether it's a very individual reason or something more basic that encompasses all or most of them - is a tough question. That said, for the most part, I find the focus on Obama's personality rather than his philosophy disturbing and distasteful, not to mention a bad tactic.

HHS Secy Threatens Insurers

The title, of course, will shock no one, but let's explain...

An editorial in the Wall Street Journal says:
Witness Kathleen Sebelius's Thursday letter to America's Health Insurance Plans, the industry trade group—a thuggish message even by her standards.

The Health and Human Services secretary wrote that some insurers have been attributing part of their 2011 premium increases to ObamaCare and warned that "there will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases."

Zero tolerance for expressing an opinion, or offering an explanation to policyholders? They're more subtle than this in Caracas.
ObamaCare gives Ms. Sebelius's regulators the power to define "unreasonable" premium hikes, which will mean whatever they decide it will mean later this fall. She promised to keep a list of insurers "with a record of unjustified rate increases" and then to bar them from ObamaCare's subsidized "exchanges" when they come on line in 2014. In other words, insurers must accept price controls now or face the retribution of a de facto ban on selling their products to consumers four years from now.

This is nasty stuff and an obvious attempt to shift political blame for rising insurance costs before the election. It's also an early sign of life under ObamaCare, when all health-care decisions are political and the bureaucrats decide who can charge how much for a service or product.
I have nothing to add to that, except this: if there's any good reason to obey the laws foisted on us by the outlaws in Congress and the Administration, I can't think of what it might be.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Article Published at Pajamas Media: Beyond Politics

My article, Beyond Politics: Removing the Progressive Drag On America has been published at Pajamas Media.

It begins:
Fighting the soul-killing, wealth-destroying acts of progressives over the long term is going to take much more than winning an election or two. It will require neutralizing their influence throughout the culture. That’s much harder, of course, but essential if we’re to have to a country that does more than seesaw between two power-hungry parties while spiraling ever downward.

The reasons that wider change is a must are not hard to find. Even where their relative numbers are low, progressives have come to dominate much more than just the Democratic Party and the major news outlets.

They control curricula for public K-12 education almost everywhere, despite the presence of a great many teachers who disagree with their views. Progressive educators’ numbers are bolstered by the roughly 70-85% of college educators and administrators who identify as liberals. They dominate credential-required education courses, and strongly influence textbook selection.
Read the rest here...

Please weigh in with your views on what it will take to restore America to individualism and freedom, here and there.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Marc Thiessen Fisks Obama

Marc Thiessen has a few choice words on Barack Obama's recent, and wholly bizarre, attempt to appear fiscally responsible.
Obama told the crowd, “It’s right to be concerned about the long-term deficit. If we don’t get a handle on it soon, it can endanger our future.”

He said that “at a time when folks are tightening their belts at home, I understand why a lot of Americans feel it’s time for government to show some discipline, too.”

He pledged, “I am absolutely committed to fiscal responsibility, which is why I’ve already proposed freezing all discretionary spending unrelated to national security for the next three years.”

And he promised, “Once the bipartisan fiscal commission finishes its work, I’ll spend the next year making the tough choices necessary to further reduce our deficit and lower our debt.”

Of course, this came from the same [man] who increased discretionary spending unrelated to national security by $72.4 billion in 2009 to reach a total of more than $1 trillion for the first time in American history.

And it came in the same week that [he] announced a new $50 billion infrastructure stimulus spending plan. [emphasis added.]

And it came from the same [man] who rammed through a massive new health care entitlement at a time when existing entitlement programs are headed on a path to bankruptcy.

But yes, [he] is “absolutely committed to fiscal responsibility.”

When Obama says he’s going to make “the tough choices necessary to further reduce our deficit and lower our debt” it can mean only one thing: your taxes are going up.
If there has ever been a bigger liar, or an Executive more willfully disconnected from reality, I can't think who it might be. And considering the competition from the past 100 years, hell the past 50, that's really saying something. Not even Carter was this far gone.

What's truly hilarious is that he's deluded himself into believing anyone - even on the hard left - is fooled by this stuff. That, or - as is more likely - he's so irredeemably cynical he just doesn't care whether anyone believes it or not.

This guy is in for one big, serious shock to the system come January when he starts to get some real opposition. I can't wait to see him break down in actual tears on national television because we won't roll over any longer and hand him the K-Y with enthusiasm.

Tolstoy on the U.S. Govt

"I sit on a man's back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means -- except by getting off his back."

Leo Tolstoy, What Then Must We Do?, Chapter 16
Ok, maybe he wasn't talking about the U.S. government, but it undeniably fits.

[Hat tip Jonah Goldberg for the quote.]

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Guest Post: Defending Western Civilization

Guest post by Marsha Familaro Enright and Gen LaGreca.

[Editors Note: I invite you to read this top-notch essay, reprinted here with permission, and to visit the authors' websites.]

As September 11th approaches, we remember the morning in 2001 when the World Trade Center turned to rubble. It is a fitting time to consider the nature of the civilizations that collided that day—and how to defend ours.

In their quest to establish a worldwide caliphate, radical Islamists invoke morality, claiming they have God’s sanction for performing their barbarous acts.

To defend Western civilization, we, also, need to invoke morality. But although the world envies the prosperity we’ve achieved, it is widely seen as the product of soulless materialism, of unbridled “greed,” of unscrupulous self-indulgence.

What moral claim, then, can we make for our way of life?

To understand the moral values of the West, let’s turn to its beginning.

In her prescient 1943 work of political philosophy, The God of the Machine, Isabel Paterson chose as the symbol of Western man a figure from Ancient Greece: Pytheas. This enterprising merchant left his homeland to explore Britain and beyond, seeking tin to make bronze. Insatiably curious, Pytheas also discovered the relationship between the moon’s phases and the tides, and was the first to describe the aurora and other phenomena.

Pytheas epitomizes the Western spirit: a self-directed man whose free will determines his life’s course, a thinker who employs reason and science to understand the world around him, and a producer who seeks to sell goods in peaceful trade.

From its founding, America was intended to be the country where Pytheas could flourish — the first nation established to protect the life, liberty, and property of the individual. It did so by curbing government power over the peaceful activities of its citizens.

In this, the contrast between America and radical Islam could not be greater.

Whereas Thomas Jefferson exhorts us to “question with boldness even the existence of a God,” militant Islam kills people for apostasy.

Whereas James Madison proclaims that man has “a right to his property” and equally “a property in [all of] his rights,” Palestinian Islamists strap suicide belts on five year-olds, seizing their young lives for the sake of ancient vendettas.

Whereas the Declaration of Independence affirms America’s devotion to life, Osama bin Laden declares: We love death. The U.S. loves life. That is the difference between us two.

“The excellence of the West” lies in its “respect for the human being, the recognition of his individuality, the liberty it has granted him,” observes Saudi Shura Council member and Muslim reformist Ibrahim Al-Buleihi.

“Humans are originally individuals,” he continues, “but cultures (including Arab culture) have dissolved the individual in the tribe, sect, or state.” It is only “with the diffusion of philosophical ideas from [Ancient] Greece” that “the human being became an individual of value for himself . . . and not merely a means for others.” (“Profile of Al-Buleihi,” The Aafaq Foundation, July 6, 2010)

Thus, in our civilization, a person is born free to live for his own sake and to pursue happiness. In radical Islam, a person must obey a central authority and sacrifice his life to its aims. Which society is better? And which would you actually describe as a civilization?

Granted the West’s superiority, why is radical Islam advancing?

Author Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Muslim, cites “an active propaganda campaign” in which “the Saudis invested at least $2 billion a year over a 30-year period to spread their brand of fundamentalist Islam.” (Wall Street Journal, August 18, 2010)

Why aren’t we passionately defending our civilization? Certainly, money isn’t the obstacle. Is it because we don’t understand the nobility of our individualist foundation, including the virtue of private advancement and profit?

We must never forget that we of the free West are all the country of Pytheas: a people of free will, free minds, and free enterprise. Our spectacular prosperity is not our dishonor, but the glory of our liberty.

It is said that Ground Zero is “sacred ground.” In truth, all of America is sacred ground because it is in America more than anywhere else that the individual is most made sacred.

We of the West must assert the moral superiority of our civilization — or lose it to our enemies.


Marsha Familaro Enright is president of the Reason, Individualism, Freedom Institute, the Foundation for the College of the United States.

Gen LaGreca is author of Noble Vision, an award-winning novel about the struggle for liberty in health care today. Visit her website at

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Article Published at Big Journalism: Net Neutrality

My article on Orwellian-named Net Neutrality has been published at Big Journalism. Your comments will help me win a free trip to Iceland to study anarchism. Ok, that's not true (thankfully). But they would be welcomed, anyway.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Dumb Headline of the Day, #3,775

RCP shows: "Smart Stimulus Will Fix Unemployment - John Nichols, The Nation."

I haven't read the story, and I don't need to. Even apart from its being published in a Progressive rag, the idea of a "smart stimulus" is close enough to a contradiction in terms to qualify for my money.

If you doubt that, read Thomas Wood's superb essay The Forgotten Depression of 1920. I know you don't doubt that, but go read it anyway. It's one of the best articles I've ever seen on why government fiscal or monetary stimuli are correctly described as stimulunacy.

McCarthy on Alinksy

The supremely insightful Andy McCarthy has written a long and instructive article on Saul Alinsky. As part of the effort he shows why it's important to know who he was and why what he did is still important, using as a prime example one of his most devoted acolytes.
Meantime, [Obama] berates “fat-cat bankers”—the same ones his acorn associates pressured into making the ruinous sub-prime mortgage loans that necessitated their bail-out. To squeeze them into slashing pay, Obama summoned bank ceos to a White House dressing down, admonishing that “my administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”

To rationalize expanding government control over the financial sector, he had his Treasury Secretary gather together the top executives of the nation’s nine largest banks and goad them (in terms worthy of the Godfather) to accept government capital infusions, whether they wanted the money or not, or risk the wrath of regulators.

In muscling in on the auto industry, the administration skirted the bankruptcy laws, orchestrating a takeover of General Motors in which bondholders were robbed blind in order to reward the President’s supporters at the United Auto Workers.

And as public outcry over the Gulf oil disaster mounted, Obama summoned BP executives to a White House sweat-session in the ominous presence of his Attorney General; when the parties emerged, BP had been brow-beaten into ponying up a staggering $20 billion escrow fund to be doled out by an administration flunky, Kenneth Feinberg — a left wing lawyer previously designated the president’s “czar” to police executive compensation at companies bailed out by the government.
I'm tempted to say that some leftists were/are so evil they deserve only to be put down like rabid dogs before they can bite. Apart from an unshakable attachment to the First Amendment, though, there's another consideration that holds me back. No one had to listen to him. That they did, and do, suggests there's something far more wrong with American culture than a lone nihilist. Regular readers will already know well what I think that is.

Eye Implant May Help the Blind

Despite the severe deterioration in the rate of important scientific discoveries in some areas others are still making great strides. One technological offshoot of that is shown by the following story:
Many people with advanced macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in the elderly, can learn to use their eyes in a new way with an implantable telescope, a first-of-its-kind device recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration and on its way to Long Island in coming months.
The Bionic Man can't be far behind, provided Federal degradation of the health sciences doesn't cause them an early death.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Coming Republican Flood

Judging by the latest CNN poll, the GOP is about to deliver a well-deserved bloodbath to the Democrats this November.
Back in April, Americans who dislike both parties appeared to mildly favor the GOP on the generic ballot, by a 43-to-39 percent margin, with a large number saying at the time that they would pick a minor-party candidate or stay at home.

“Now, a lot of those voters appear to be bolting to the GOP,” Holland said. “Republicans now have a whopping 38-point advantage on the generic ballot among voters who dislike both parties.”
Republicans also have a large and growing advantage among independents. Sixty-two percent of independents questioned say they would vote for the generic Republican in their district, with three in 10 saying they’d cast a ballot for the generic Democrat. That 32-point margin for the Republicans among independents is up from an 8-point advantage last month.
Now the open question is, post-November, whether voter anger/interest/enthusiasm can keep the Republicans' feet to the fire long enough and hard enough to make some real improvements. Unfortunately, no poll data is likely to reveal that so we'll just have to wait and see.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Another Oil Rig Explosion

Another oil rig in the Gulf has exploded, according to an AP report.

Ok, sign me up for the conspiracy club: Riechstag fire anyone?

De Rugy v Romer, Knockout In Round 1

The goddess Veronique de Rugy has an absolutely delicious smackdown of the totally clueless Christine Romer, soon-to-be ex-Obama voodoo priestess.
And not only did her own reports to Congress confirm these predictions, but the CBO agreed as well, and apparently, so did “respected private-sector analysts” (meaning Mark Zandy).

I know, you’ve heard me say it before, but I’ll say it again: A prediction only becomes true when it actually materializes. For instance, if you predict that 3.5 million jobs will be created, it only becomes true once the 3.5 million jobs are created.

You can’t claim victory if you haven’t gone back and checked that these jobs exist. Nor can you claim victory if the only evidence that these jobs exist comes from models that say that these jobs exist — especially when they are models that have the assumption that the Recovery Act creates jobs built into them.
She did mention using it to pay down the deficit, but when asked specifically about the deficit, she basically said we should spend more today and take care of the deficit tomorrow. In other words, more of the “eat your dessert now and your spinach later” mentality that got us into this mess in the first place. It’s never worked with my kids, and I am pretty sure it’s not the way to restore fiscal responsibility in Washington.
When D.C. starts listening to individuals like Ms. de Rugy and not smiley-faced fascists like Christine Romer, we'll see some genuine fiscal progress there.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Federal Spending Up, Private Freedom Down in 2009

WaPo reports:
Federal domestic spending increased a record 16 percent, to $3.2 trillion, in 2009, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday, largely because of a boost in aid to the unemployed and the huge economic stimulus package enacted to rescue the sinking economy.
Overall, the largest chunk of federal spending - about 46 percent of the $3.2 trillion - went to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, entitlement programs that are projected to swell as the population ages.

Pay for federal employees accounted for nearly $300 billion of the spending and nearly half of that went to the defense payroll.
I can't think of anything more appropriate to say than aaarrrggghhh!!!...