The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Killing

Through this week, the Obama campaign is celebrating the one year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden. The President does deserve credit for making the decision to approve the mission, but it's only fair to note that the intelligence operations and planning the led up to the mission had been ongoing for more than 8 years, and that the credit for the "kill" really should go to the intelligence analysts who found bin laden and the Navy Seal team that did the deed. But no matter, when things go bad, it's the President who gets the blame, so this President has every right to take the credit when things go well.

The problem is that the bin Laden kill is just about the only thing that has gone well in the Middle East during the President's first term. His foreign policy and decision making in the region have been highly suspect, and the results are ... well ... awful. William R. Jacabson summarizes:
North Africa is or is on the way to domination by radical Islamists. We pushed Mubarak out without any transition, and the Muslim Brotherhood and even more extreme Islamists are nearing control. The same is true in Libya and Tunisia.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban are resurgent, waiting out Obama’s timeline for withdrawal. In Iraq, the Iranians have extended their influence and the nation again is dividing along sectarian lines, with the unifying factor (except among the Kurds) being hostility to the U.S.

In Syria, where for once we could have dealt a crushing blow to Iranian influence, we have helped Bashar Assad hang onto power to the extent that both sides hate us.

Our one true ally in the region, Israel, is in its most precarious position in decades, surrounded by massive Iranian-backed missile bases in Gaza, Lebanon and Syria.

There is almost nowhere in the Middle East that the United State is better off than it was four years ago.
Like his domestic policy, Obama's foreign policy in the Middle East has been incompetent and ineffective. His efforts to reach out to our enemies has been perceived as weakness throughout the region, emboldening some of the bad actors that reside there. His ham-handed attempts at balance in the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation have set back any attempt at compromise and increased the probability of war. His naive support for the Arab spring has contributed to an Islamist takeover in almost every country that "revolted." And his ambivalence to the true slaughter in Syria has countenanced a human rights disaster.

So yeah, the President did good when he approved the killing of Osama. But the rest, not so much.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Perfect and Safe

Reuters reports that the Obama administration has proposed federal legislation to ban mobile phone usage by drivers of automobiles. States can choose to do this (some do, others don't), but the feds? Naturally, this leads to a complementary debate about government intrusion into our lives. The question is this: How much control does the federal government have over our day-to-day use of technology, and how much does a concern for “safety” trump all other aspects of our lives?

There’s little question that talking on a mobile phone (or far worse, texting) will distract some drivers. But so does manipulating the car’s entertainment system, removing your morning coffee from its cupholder, or simply talking with a passenger. Where do we draw the line?

This debate goes beyond mobile phone usage because if taken to the extreme, it will lead to a damping of new technologies that may have to potential to "harm" some users. Frank Fleming [sorry, no link] poses an intriguing example when he writes:
Imagine if cars hadn’t been around for a century, but instead were just invented today. Is there any way they’d be approved for individual use? It’s an era of bans on incandescent bulbs; if you suggested putting millions of internal-combustion engines out there, you’d get looks like you were Hitler proposing the Final Solution.

Even aside from pollution, the government wouldn’t allow the risks to safety.

“So you’re proposing that people speed around in tons of metal? You must mean only really smart, well-trained people?”

“No. Everyone. Even stupid people.”

“Won’t millions be killed?”

“Oh, no. Not that many. Just a little more than 40,000 a year.”

“And injuries?”

“Oh . . . millions.”

There’s no way that would get approved today.

Driving is basically a grandfathered freedom from back when people cared less about pollution and danger and valued progress and liberty over safety …
We live in an imperfect, sometimes dangerous world that regulators and activists want to make perfect and safe. This fantasy desire for perfection and absolute safety can't stand up to the harsh light of reality. But that doesn't stop the people who think that government always knows best.

It’s hard to argue with a concern for safety, but every new regulation and law that purports to increase the safety of the population must be carefully weighed against the degree to which it erodes our freedoms.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


The GDP plummeted in the last quarter to an anemic 2.4 percent, indicating that the economy is sputtering. Unemployment claims rose last month "unexpectedly," and as a consequence, it appears that hiring has sputtered as well. Young people getting out of college are struggling to find real jobs in their chosen field. The President continues to push a big government spending plan that will increase our debt by $1 trillion at year's end. All of that is decidedly not "cool."

But if you read recent coverage in the main stream media, one of the current pro-Obama narratives is that the President is "cool." Who can argue after his Slow Jam on late night TV, right?

Kathleen Parker comments:
That Obama is a cool drink is no one’s revelation. He’s the ice tinkling in the glass. He’s Muhammad Ali to Romney’s, well, Romney. It’s hard to come up with a more quintessential un-cool guy than the presumptive Republican nominee. What can you do? There’s no book for cool, though if there were, Romney would have memorized and distilled it to a PowerPoint presentation.

Then again, who really cares? [emphasis mine] Once you’re beyond a certain age, cool becomes as attractive as a 60-year-old in jeggings. Young folks do get that you’re not actually young or cool, nor do they really want you to be.

Some of us learned this lesson along that garden path called Parenthood. The cool parents might be fun for an overnight — you can get away with more — but it’s nice to have a grown-up at home. Even the youth of America appreciate a grown-up in the White House. And though Obama is unfairly blessed with charm, pizazz and a natural athlete’s grace, he does not benefit necessarily from playing well with comics. The line is extra fine between humorous and silly.
So the MSM, lacking strong arguments that the President is competent, effective, and bi-partisan and increasingly plagued by scandals, have decided that the narrative du jour is that Barack Obama is "cool."

Kids may have been wowed by Obama's coolness in 2008, and they might be swayed by his pandering efforts to reduce student loan interest rates (something that been proposed on both sides of the aisle). But if they have half a brain, those same kids may begin to ask why their cool President can't seem to construct policies that will heal the economy and provide them with much needed jobs so they can begin to pay off their college indebtedness.

Personally, I'd take an uncool, but competent executive and leader any day, and the kids should too. After all, we need adult leadership after four years of feckless governance.

Cool? Who cares.

Friday, April 27, 2012

We Know Him

Peggy Noonan is certainly no friend of the President. But as a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, she is one of the most astute observers of the political scene. As she watches the evolving Presidential campaign, she suspects that despite some early polls that show President Obama in the lead, despite a main stream media that is deeply committed to his reelection and aggressively averse to in-depth reporting of news that might hurt him, Obama may be in trouble. She writes:
It's interesting that the Obama campaign isn't using what incumbent presidents always sooner or later use, either straight out or subliminally. And that is "You know me. I've been president for almost four years, you don't know that other guy. In a high-stakes world do you really want someone new?"

You know why they're not using "You know me"? Because we know him, and it's not a plus.

There is a growing air of incompetence around Mr. Obama's White House. It was seen again this week in Supreme Court arguments over the administration's challenge to Arizona's attempted crackdown on illegal immigration. As Greg Stohr of Bloomberg News wrote, the court seemed to be disagreeing with the administration's understanding of federal power: "Solicitor General Donald Verrilli . . . met resistance across ideological lines. . . . Even Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court's only Hispanic and an Obama appointee, told Verrilli his argument is 'not selling very well.' " This follows last month's embarrassing showing over the constitutionality of parts of ObamaCare.

All of this looks so bush league, so scattered. Add it to the General Services Administration, to Solyndra, to the other scandals, and you get a growing sense that no one's in charge, that the administration is paying attention to politics but not day-to-day governance. The two most public cabinet members are Eric Holder at Justice and Janet Napolitano at Homeland Security.
Holder is presiding over a serious scandal. No, not the Secret Service Scandal or the GSA Scandal, but "Fast and Furious"—a story about gun-running sponsored by the Justice Department for reasons that are not sufficiently clear—that has gotten relatively little coverage in the MSM because it is potentially explosive for this President. Napolitano presides over the TSA which, like most big government agencies, emphasizes process over common sense (why else do a pat-down search of a little boy with MS) and is generally disliked by by the flying public.

Noonan is right. We know Barack Obama, and what see is all flash and lots of style, but little competence at governing and almost no attempt to lead all Americans in a bi-partisan manner. We see a President who continually tries to change the subject—the "war on women," "fairness," "corporate greed," "millionaires and billionaires," but never says anything substantive about our nation's crippling debt and looming entitlement crisis, and NEVER proposes anything substantive to address them in a meaningful way. We see a President who divides us during difficult times (a cheap, despicable political trick)—it's us and them, rather than all of us.

Peggy Noonan has it right. We see a President who is in bigger trouble than the pundits believe. And the trouble is of his own making.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Barack Obama is doing what appears to be the only thing he's really good at -- campaigning. No matter that the United States faces serious, possibly destructive, economic problems, no matter that the country is operating without a budget (due in no small part to the Democrats' refusal to produce one -- for over three years!), no matter that non-partisan trustees tell us that Social Security and Medicare will fail within two decades, no matter that he's decided to punt on every foreign policy issue of any importance. No matter.

Michael Goodwin comments:
There is no budget, and no serious attempt by the White House to make one. The explosion of debts and deficits, growing strains on Medicare and Social Security, the expiration of tax cuts, warnings from Europe about the impact of debts on markets— all set aside until after the election. So, too, plans the president has on foreign policy, the Mideast, gay marriage, carbon taxes and regulations.

Incumbency is a powerful tool, and no president forsakes its advantage. Yet the impression of Obama’s first two years, that he never stopped campaigning, has morphed into the sense that he does nothing else. When it comes to the people’s business, there is no there there.

He has held twice as many fund-raisers as George W. Bush at this stage, most involving the ultimate perk — the use of Air Force One, with taxpayers picking up most of the cost.

His official trips outside Washington virtually all involve battleground states. He has been to Ohio 20 times, Florida 16 times, Pennsylvania 15 and Michigan 11, according to CBS News.

Obama’s bid to energize the youth vote is an excuse to visit other swing states. He flew yesterday to the University of North Carolina for his 11th visit to that state, then to the University of Colorado, for visit No. 7 there. Today, he is scheduled to address students in Iowa — his eighth visit there.

He’s making the rounds of another part of his base, the late-night comedy shows. He made his first comments since the dimensions of the Secret Service prostitution case became known on the Jimmy Fallon show yesterday. Yuk, yuk, ha ha.
There's absolutely nothing funny about an executive who doesn't do his job.

But then again, Barack Obama's domestic "accomplishments" have put the country deeper into debt, his international "accomplishments" have done little, if anything to support our allies and have set the stage for more unrest (think: the so-called Arab spring). So maybe it's better that he is out of the White House campaigning. Hopefully, he'll be out of the White House for good next January.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


American's tend not to watch political developments in Europe. That's a shame, because they are a harbinger of what might happen in the U.S. in the not-to-far-distant future.

Just yesterday, the nation's Social Security and Medicare Trustees reported that the money for Medicare and Social security will run out in 2033.* Only ten years ago, Democrats in Congress argued that there would be "no problem" until 2075. In reality, I suspect insolvency will occur sooner that 2033, unless we act now!

But back to Europe.

In France, a socialist candidate, Francois Hollande, out-polled the current French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, on a platform of more spending and higher taxes. 28 percent of the French public decided to disregard their nation's slide into insolvency and continue cradle-to-grave entitlements that simply can't be sustained. A significant minority of the French are used to these entitlements and demand that they continue, even if it causes their country to fail.

Investor's Business Daily comments:
The political developments in France and the Netherlands explain why major European stock markets plunged 3% to 4% on Monday, and the euro slumped.

France's Hollande has said he won't accept austerity. Indeed, he thinks the EU's problem is it doesn't spend enough — a position starkly at odds with fiscal sanity.

This puts him on a collision course with Germany's Angela Merkel, who is seeking deep, permanent cuts in EU budgets and whose nation is the only one in Europe not in a fiscal crisis. Only one vision can prevail.

Worse still, just like President Barack Obama, Hollande wants to sock high-income French with a 75% income tax rate.

If Hollande thinks this will serve as a model for the rest of the EU, he may want to check his own country's recent history. Former President Francois Mitterrand, also a socialist, tried to spend and tax his way to socialist nirvana back in 1981 and 1982. The economy nearly collapsed as investment fled overseas.

The U.S. would do well not to go down this path.

Today, we have $16 trillion in debt, which is more than 100% of our GDP. Thanks to Obama's spending, which might make even Hollande blush, we're adding debt at a rate of more than $1 trillion a year.
The President and his supporters have often used the European model as their guide. If allowed to continue along this path, the United States will follow in the footsteps of Greece, then Italy, then Spain, and now France, The Netherlands, and other EU nations who have adopted the social democracy model.

To say that the President and his acolytes in politics and the media are being fiscally irresponsible is a gross understatement.


* According to one Media Watchdog group, "Over a combined total of nine and a half hours of programming, CBS, NBC and ABC allowed a mere 72 seconds of coverage to the news, Monday, that Social Security will go bankrupt three years earlier than previously expected. ABC's World News and NBC's Nightly News skipped the subject entirely."

Friday, April 20, 2012

Too Big

A few days ago, President Obama criticized Republicans who want to repeal “financial reform” legislation, commonly and named Dodd-Frank. Ironically, the Dodd-Frank bill is named after two legislators who blocked efforts to understand the danger facing the nation in the early part of the last decade and therefore have more than a little culpability for the financial crisis in 2008. Neal Bootrze , a conservative blogger, examines the “success” of Dodd Frank:
Two years after President Barack Obama vowed to eliminate the danger of financial institutions becoming “too big to fail,” the nation’s largest banks are bigger than they were before the nation’s credit markets seized up and required unprecedented bailouts by the government. Five banks -- JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Bank of America Corp. (BAC), Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. -- held $8.5 trillion in assets at the end of 2011, equal to 56 percent of the U.S. economy, according to central bankers at the Federal Reserve. Five years earlier, before the financial crisis, the largest banks’ assets amounted to 43 percent of U.S. output. The Big Five today are about twice as large as they were a decade ago relative to the economy.
Like most other Obama initiatives, Dodd-Frank is an epic fail. In the year after the crash, Barack Obama had a unique opportunity (he had majorities in both house of Congress) to implement true banking and financial reforms, including the breakup of banks that were too big to fail. But because he had raised millions from Wall Street to support his campaign, he did little if anything to reign in the financial institutions. And now he states: “Anyone who is pledging to roll back Wall Street reform, Dodd-Frank, would also roll back this vital consumer protection with it.” This has become a recurring theme with the President as candidate. Rather than honestly touting his meager accomplishments, he criticizes his opponents and their effort to unwind his mistakes. That would be reasonable if his criticism was honest, factual, and constructive. It is not.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

So Good

I was at the gym late today, exercising and watching CNN on a wall monitor. The CNN feed was set to close-captioning and the cable network was running the President’s daily campaign speech at some gathering someplace. As I watched the closed captioning, I saw the phrase “everyone has to do their fair share.” It seems that the President has decided that “fair share” is the centerpiece of his campaign and uses the phrase ad nauseum, He then implied to his audience that if everyone just did their "fair share" (i.e., that “the rich” paid higher taxes) we’d be well on our way to “solving the problems that we face with the deficit and the economy.” Not. Really. True.

As I noted in a previous post, the “Buffet Rule” taxes President Obama is proposing will raise $5 billion dollars in a year when the President insists on spending 1000 billion (1 trillion) dollars more than we have. So the Buffet taxes will eliminate one half of one percent of our yearly deficit under Barack Obama.

In the same speech, the President railed against “the other side” for proposing a deficit reduction plan that would “gut” government programs for the elderly, for education, for healthcare, for infrastructure, blah, blah. Okay, so what cuts would the President propose? Crickets.

The spending cuts proposed by Paul Ryan are relatively modest by any reasonable measure. They will sting, but are certainly not draconian. Like it or not, spending cuts are what we need to begin to dig our way out of the hole that President Obama has dug for us.

But there was something far more telling in the President’s daily campaign speech. He proposed nothing substantive of his own. He criticized, and criticized some more. He tried to frighten his audience into believing that grandma would starve, schools would stop teaching, bridges would fall down, we’d all die of bubonic plague (okay, I exaggerate) if we make any cuts to his big government model. He did not cite his own record, or his economic accomplishments, because there are none. He did not cite his job-building legislation or programs, because they don’t exist. He never mentioned Obamacare, because the public as a whole doesn’t like it. But fairness, that’s something he can wrap his prodigious oratorical talents around.

So let’s talk fairness.

Given the problems that we face, is it “fair” for a President to disengage from the legislative process to campaign full time for the entirety of 2012. Is it fair for a President to give lip service to crippling national debt and atrocious employment numbers, but offer no new programs to address these significant national problems? Is it “fair” for a President to avoid discussing an economic recovery that is so anemic that it's the worst in U.S. post-recession history. Is it “fair” for a President to criticize his opposition’s programs but offer no substantive programs of his own. Is it fair that women and minorities have suffered the most under Barack Obama’s economic policies?

I know, if only we all did our fair share … Maybe the President ought to begin doing his fair share, by trying to lead rather than divide, by avoiding pitting one group of Americans against another, by … oh, never mind.

After all, there are only six months until the election. It wouldn’t be fair to ask Barack Obama to do his job as President of the United States when he’s so good at being a candidate.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


I couldn’t help but smile as I watched the reports of the latest GSA/Las Vegas “scandal” in which the vast sum of $800,000 was frittered away on a bogus conference in the town who motto is: “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Apparently not.

Even worse from a bureaucratic perspective was the faux rap video in which GSA employees suggested that their profligate approach to spending played US taxpayers as suckers.

Congress members on both sides of the aisle expressed predictable outrage. The President asked for a renewed investigation (the event occurred in 2010), the mid-level manager who perpetrated this mess, was given a $9,000 bonus, then pleaded the fifth and is now ”on leave,” the head of the GSA was not fired, even though she buried an earlier investigation into the matter, and those of us who believe that a non-trivial percentage of the federal budget is wasted in one way or another, yawned.

Gosh, federal government waste, fraud, and abuse. Wow, I’m really, really shocked.

The sad reality is that the GSA “scandal” is a scandal only because people think its representative of a much, much bigger problem. In reality, the relative pittance (by federal government standards) spend by a bunch of government employees to party on the taxpayers dime is nothing—absolutely nothing!—when compared to the tens of billions of dollars wasted on entitlement fraud, unnecessary government agencies and departments, military programs that are both unnecessary and unproductive, procurement that is not cost effective, too many government contractors doing too little for way too much, unecessary pork, … the list is very long.

And the same President and his supporters are aghast when Rep. Paul Ryan suggests that some of the budget might be cut. They demogogue any cut, suggesting that even modest cuts will starve grandma or have been made “on the backs of the most vulnerable.” But party in Las Vegas—now there’s something that they can get all worked up about.

In reality, the federal government is inefficient. It does a decent job at a very few things (e.g., weather prediction, air traffic control, the CDC, core military functions, basic infrastructure support) and is enormously wasteful at most other things. It is a bureaucracy that is cancerous, growing out of control with the full support and encouragement of many Democrats and President Obama. Deficits of $1 trillion dollars per year are shrugged off, but $800,000 is a “scandal.”

From a political perspective, Roger Pilon gets to the core issue:
So here’s the political point. Democrats, unlike Republicans (at least nominally), belong to the party of government. For every problem, they see not a private but a government solution. Market competition disciplines private abuses — not perfectly, to be sure, but far better than whatever controls there may be in the public sector. That’s one reason we should turn to government not as a first but as a last resort. You don’t like being abused as a taxpayer? Then don’t vote for the party of government.

The only way to reduce government waste, abuse, and inefficiency is to make government smaller. But that concept is anathema to our President. And that’s the real “scandal.”

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Buffeted by Obama

President Obama has decided that the “Buffet Rule” and the issue of “fairness,” coupled with the mythical GOP “war on women” will somehow keep the broader electorate from recognizing that:

  • he continues to propose 1 trillion dollars in deficit spending (oops, I mean “investment”) per year;

  • his management of the economy has resulted in the weakest post-recession recovery in U.S history;

  • the dismal unemployment rate of 8.2 percent is actually an optimistic assessment because millions of the unemployed have simply stopped looking for work and are (conveniently) not counted in the rate;

  • our overall indebtedness as a nation is now 100% of GDP, putting us in the same indebtedness category as Greece;

  • the non partisan CBO has noted that if the USA continues on Obama’s spending trajectory, our ability to service our debt will cease in 2027;

  • his own party is either unable or incapable of proposing their own budget and that his proposal was so bad that it was rejected in the House by a vote= of 437 – 0 (not a single Democrat voted in favor of it).

And that’s just the tip of the domestic iceberg, but no matter. The President will, as all good lawyers do, change the subject when his argument (i.e., his record) is weak.

But let's return to Obama’s big-idea, his signature piece of "tax reform" legislation—The Buffet Rule. In his own words, the President stated, it "will help us close our deficit."

Mark Steyn comments:
A-hem. According to the Congressional Budget Office (the same nonpartisan bean counters who project that on Obama's current spending proposals the entire U.S. economy will cease to exist in 2027) Obama's Buffett Rule will raise – stand well back – $3.2 billion per year [recall that under Obama our yearly deficit is $1 trillion per year]. Or what the United States government currently borrows every 17 hours. So in 514 years it will have raised enough additional revenue to pay off the 2011 federal budget deficit. If you want to mark it on your calendar, 514 years is the year 2526.

Does President Obama really think that the Buffet Rule will help reduce the deficit in any meaningful way? If he does, he is economically illiterate. If he does not, then he has no problem misleading the American public.

The sad reality is that President Obama had two years with overwhelming congressional majorities. He could have passed tax reform, he could have developed meaningful measures that would have reduced our deficit, he could have reformed our entitlements. Instead, he cobbled together 2700 pages of Obamacare and forced it through Congress in a partisan manner. The result—70 percent disapproval among the public and a constitutional challenge that will likely be upheld by the Supreme Court.

So today, with no meaningful accomplishments, the President falls back on obfuscation and divisive rhetoric. He hopes that by demonizing the rich he will somehow cause people to forget his failures. If it works, he’ll be re-elected.

Again, Mark Steyn offers a few dark comments:
Sometimes societies become too stupid to survive. A nation that takes Barack Obama's current rhetorical flourishes seriously is certainly well advanced along that dismal path. The current federal debt burden works out at about $140,000 per federal taxpayer, and President Obama is proposing to increase both debt and taxes. Are you one of those taxpayers? How much more do you want added to your $140,000 debt burden? As the Great Magician would say, pick a number, any number. Sorry, you're wrong. Whatever you're willing to bear, he's got more lined up for you.

Since the President is so, so concerned about “fairness,” one can only wonder how he thinks that $140,000 of debt dumped on every one of his constituent taxpayers is in any way “fair.” Then again, as my dad used to say, “Life’s not fair, get used to it.”