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

Monday, September 30, 2013

Breaking Bad

There is a long running meme among the intelligencia: most television series are garbage—formulaic, derivative, simplistic, poorly written, and often poorly acted by 'pretty' performers who have no relationship whatsoever to real-world people. They're right—most TV shows aren't worth the time it takes to click to another channel. That's what makes the few—very few—classic series so special.

Breaking Bad, AMC's dark series about a high school teacher and loving father, turned meth cook, turned drug kingpin (with all that implies), is one of the very few series that can legitimately be called a classic. It was creative, unpredictable, complex, beautifully written, well-acted by 'real' performers, and worth every minute of viewing over its five-year run. It seems that the best writers and producers know when to end a classic series, and in every case it's when you don't want the series to end.

Breaking Bad, above all, was story of transformation. Every major character had a complex story, and every story had texture and depth. The series was uncomfortably violent, it's main protagonist, Walter White, slowly transformed himself from everyman into a monster, dragging along almost everyone who was close to him. As the years passed, the series got even better, introducing shocking plot twists as the characters were sucked into a vortex of violence, corruption, and criminality. And yet, in an odd way, each maintained some semblance of humanity. Vince Gilligan, the creator of the show, and Brian Cranston, a brilliant actor who brought Walter White to life, have been immortalized by this series. It was a tour de force.

Breaking Bad ended last night. It is destined to become a classic, aired in syndication for many, many years to come. It is, arguably, the best show every produced for commercial television, and possibly, the best TV series ever produced.

Thursday, September 26, 2013


The Obama administration desperately needs to distract from the strategic debacle that is Syria, the catastrophic pro-Morsi policies that followed the so-called 'Arab Spring' in Egypt and continued well into Morsi's march toward Islamist dictatorship, the chaos that now reigns in Libya following the President's lead-from-behind strategy to depose Mohammar Kaddafi (not to mention the Benghazi "phony" scandal), and the continuing stream of al Qaeda attacks (think: Nairobi) that were preceded by the President's specious claims that the Islamist terrorist group was "on the run."

Enter his speech at the U.N. Barack Obama needed to do something "important" in the Middle East. So ... he resurrected detente with the anti-Western, Islamist dictatorship that is Iran and "peace-talks" between the Israelis and Palestinians.

The idea of reaching out to Iran is both laughable and pathetic. The Mullahs, recognizing the weakness exhibited during the Syria debacle, recognized that Obama was an easy mark who is anxious for a foreign policy "victory" and oblivious to the side effects of any easing of sanctions (Iran's objective). The fact that Iran is the world's most active state sponsor or terror, the fact that it publicly suggests that it would nuke Israel if given a chance, the fact that Iran is the patron of Syrian dictator Assad (you remember, the guy Obama said had to go until, well ... until he didn't). Obama's media hamsters are so desperate to support this effort at detente that they're calling Iranian President Hassan Rouhani a "moderate" because, they claim, he is not a holocaust denier. Wow, that makes him an absolute liberal in the Iranian hierarchy, doesn't it. And of course, he's "ready for negotiations" on nukes—even though negotiations will go nowhere, any agreement will be unverifiable, and will undoubtedly be a fraud. Come to think of it, that the deal that Obama cut with his new buddy, Vladimir Putin, for Syrian chemical weapons. You can only laugh.

An apt description of Obama's new negotiating partner is provided by Lee Smith:
As for Rouhani, his speech yesterday revealed rather less about the man than the regime he represents. Forget about the Islamic Republic’s theological foundations, ignore the conviction, held by various regime figures, that the Mahdi is destined to return. Rouhani, like every Iranian president before him and like thousands of other Iranian clerics and regime figures, is one part Polonius, one part Wizard of Oz, a mid-level manager thrilled by the prospect of his own muddled thought becoming reality.
But he's a "moderate"—there nothing to worry about, is there?

In the same UN speech, Obama again resurrected a plea for an independent Palestinian state. You know, a state for the people who regularly call for the destruction of Israel, lob rockets across the border with considerable frequency, murder Israeli civilians in terrorist attacks, and then whine when Israel has the temerity to defend itself from their barbarism. Even if this was a good idea, could Israel honestly believe that any strategy offered by Obama's mini-me, John Kerry, would (1) make sense, (2) not end in disaster, or (3) have Israel's best interests at heart. If you think the answer is yes, well, re-read this paragraph.

Douglas Murray summarizes this latest peace ploy accurately when he writes:
The idea that solving the Israel/Palestinian question is the key to unlocking the problems of the region was what everyone who wanted to sound as if they knew what they were saying was most delighted to say: "What was that about Yemen? Well of course the real problem we need to solve is the Israel/Palestinian issue." Rarely in diplomatic history has so much been got so wrong by so many people for so long.
The Israeli-Palestinian policy is an excuse that enables Arab dictators (virtually every leader in every Arab state) to place blame for broken cultures, anemic economies, and warring internal factions on a convenient scape goat. Stated simply, it is NOT the central problem, although you'd never know it listening to the Washington elite (of both parties), European leaders, and virtually every leftist.

Again, Murray comments:
For at least the twenty years since the Oslo Accords, the idea that the Israel-Palestinian conflict was the "key" to unlocking the problems of the Middle East was the leitmotif of any discussion about the Middle East and North Africa areas. So pervasive was it that people could refer to the "Middle East" problem as though everyone agreed that there was only one problem across that whole set of benighted lands.

While of course it would be nice if all disputes could be solved — Cyprus, Kashmir, Turkey, Morocco, Tibet -- what is worse is that the allegation came from every side of the political spectrum. Politicians of the left said it. Politicians of the right said it. The idea that solving the Israel/Palestinian question was the key to unlocking the problems of the region was what everyone who wanted to sound as if they knew what they were saying was most delighted to say: "What was that about Yemen? Well of course the real problem we need to solve is the Israel/Palestinian issue." "A bomb was planted in which Western city? Well what we really need to do is solve that border dispute issue of the Israelis."
There are problems in the Middle East—lots of them. Iran's march toward nuclear weapons is extremely serious, but a diplomatic solution coming from a weak president who has lost virtually all of his international credibility, is a non-starter. Iran is playing Obama, biding its time and looking for even more weakness and indecision. Worse, it's hoping to reach a "settlement" that will mean nothing but allow Obama to crow about his international accomplishments.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, despite what conventional wisdom would have you believe, is NOT the cause of the problems in the Middle East. It's only one of many, and it's not close to being the most important, the most dangerous, or the most pressing. But when your entire Middle Eastern policy is in shambles, it's comforting to play the Iranian and the Palestinian cards. And that's exactly what Barack Obama and John Kerry have done. The problem is, they've drawn a busted flush.

Update (9/27/2013)

Charles Krauthammer comments on Obama's trained media hamsters and their reaction to Hassan Rouhani—the "moderate:"
Offer a few pleasant words in an [Rouhani] op-ed hailing a new era of non-zero-sum foreign relations, and watch the media and the administration immediately swoon with visions of detente.

Detente is difficult with a regime whose favorite refrain, fed to frenzied mass rallies, is “Death to America.” Detente is difficult with a regime officially committed, as a matter of both national policy and religious duty, to the eradication of a U.N. member state, namely Israel. It doesn’t get more zero-sum than that.

But at least we have to talk, say the enthusiasts. As if we haven’t been talking. For a decade. Strung along in negotiations of every manner — the EU3, the P5+1, then the final, very final, last-chance 2012 negotiations held in Istanbul, Baghdad and Moscow at which the Iranians refused to even consider the nuclear issue, declaring the dossier closed. Plus two more useless rounds this year.
Barack Obama is being played, and the funny thing is, I don't think he cares as long as the political atmospherics make him look good.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What? Me Worry?

According to virtually everyone on the Left, a significant majority of all democrats, left-wing economists like Paul Krugman and Robert Reich, President Obama and his trained hamsters in the media, massive federal spending and the resulting deficits are the only things that will bolster our economy, gargantuan public debt is acceptable and generally irrelevant, and quantitative easing (in effect the Federal Reserve 'printing money' to buy our debt)is nothing to worry about.


This is, of course, one of the Left's many fantasy arguments, and it will crumble once interest rates begin to rise (as they will and must) and when math (e.g., reality) collides with fantasy.

In a frightening article at CNBC, Peter Tanous discusses the problem, using simple math to illustrate:
Since it began in late 2008, QE has spurred a vigorous debate about its merits, both positive and negative.

On the positive side, the easy money and low interest rates resulting from quantitative easing have been a shot in the arm to the economy, fueling the stock market and helping the housing recovery. On the negative side, The Fed accomplished QE by "printing money" to buy Treasurys, and through the massive power of its purchases drove interest rates to record lows.

But in the process, the Fed accumulated an unprecedented balance sheet of more than $3.6 trillion which needs to go somewhere, someday.
Here's the math:

Our current federal discount rate, which has been artificially held low because of quantitative easing, is 0.75 percent. Obama's media hamsters never seem to mention the deleterious effect that hyper-low interest rates (less than 1% in many instances) have on holders of bank savings accounts and CDs (you know, the middle class and seniors who Obama cares sooo much about. But I digress ...

Because of our enormous debt these low rates are important to keep our debt service manageable. But what if rates rise to say, the average of the last 20 years—about 5.7 percent (still quite low, but representative).

Peter Tanous comments:
So here's where it gets scary: U.S. debt held by the public today is about $12 trillion. The budget deficit projections are going down, true, but the United States is still incurring an annual budget deficit by spending more than we take in in taxes and revenue.

The CBO estimates that by 2020 total debt held by the public will be $16.6 trillion as a result of the rising accumulated debt.

Do the math: If we were to pay an average interest rate on our debt of 5.7 percent, rather than the 2.4 percent we pay today, in 2020 our debt service cost will be about $930 billion.

Now compare that to the amount the Internal Revenue Service collects from us in personal income taxes.

In 2012, that amount was $1.1 trillion, meaning that if interest rates went back to a more normal level of, say, 5.7 percent, 85 percent of all personal income taxes collected would go to servicing the debt. [emphasis mine] No wonder the Fed is worried.
With every passing day, Barack Obama takes me back to my youth and reminds me of a face that I saw each month on a well-known periodical, MAD Magazine. The face was that of one Alfred E. Neuman, and his signature phrase was a simple one, "What? Me Worry?"

It seems to me that through astonishing fiscal ignorance or gross fiscal irresponsibility, Barack Obama and his supporters are following in the hallowed footsteps of Mr. Neuman. What? Me Worry?

You better.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


A CNN report last night on the upcoming debt ceiling "crisis" accurately presented the following facts: (1) the House of Representatives passed legislation that would raise the debt ceiling, temporarily maintain spending at current levels, and defund Obamacare; (2) with the legislation the U.S. government would be in NO danger of default on its enormous debt and there would be NO government shutdown; (3) the House of Representative's bill has been passed along to the Senate who are expected to reject it, and (4) the Senate democrats were acting in support of Barack Obama, who has indicated the he would (a) not negotiate with the GOP and (b) veto any GOP legislation that crossed his desk.

Immediately after the report, CNN's Anderson Cooper and other Obama trained media hamsters parroted Obama's mendacious talking points by discussing how the GOP was putting the federal government at risk, that the GOP were "anarchists" who didn't care that seniors wouldn't get the social security checks and that soldiers wouldn't get paid. There was only one problem. The report that preceded their biased and inaccurate discussion indicated that none of their claims were true.

Fact: The current GOP legislation funds the government and raises the debt ceiling. It would appear that it is the Democrats who seem anxious to shut the government down and ruin our credit rating. Their lock-step support of the "Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) has forced them to put the operations of government at risk. They also have an option to meet in conference committee and negotiate an equitable solution to the significant disagreements between the Democrats and the GOP. But equitable and negotiate are two words that are verboten in the Obama era.

Rather than sitting down and negotiating with the Speaker of the House, Barack Obama seems anxious to blow things up. He's confident that his charisma will enable him and his media acolytes to spin a shut down as the GOP's fault—even though the GOP has a bill on the table to keep the government open. He might be right, but it's a sad commentary on the man who was re-elected president.

Glen Reynolds comments:
So the Republican-controlled House of Representatives -- with the help of a couple of Democrats -- has voted to defund ObamaCare. In response, President Obama, declaring that the Republicans are "trying to mess with me," has accused the House of trying to shut down the government …

It's also sadly typical that Obama sees this debate as being all about him. The Republicans aren't trying to overturn a deeply unpopular bill that was crammed through on a party-line vote despite widespread opposition by Republicans and Democrats. They're "trying to mess with" Obama. It's not about policies or governance, it's about personalities …

ObamaCare has become, if anything, even more unpopular now as costs have risen way beyond projections even as the number of people covered has shrunk to less than half of what was advertised. People are losing their insurance -- or their jobs -- as policies are canceled and employers shift to part-time hiring in order to escape ObamaCare's onerous restrictions. It's no wonder that an NBC poll a week ago found that 45% of U.S. adults say that the Affordable Care Act will make the health care situation in the U.S. worse, while only 23% say the law will make it better. And as ABC notes, currently 52% oppose the law, and, even more striking: "In 16 ABC-Post polls since August 2009, it has never received majority support."
So, Barack Obama and his supporters will shut down the government in an effort to support their fantasy that Obamacare will soon be loved. Loved? Not by the people whose insurance is rising, not by the young people who are being coerced into participating, not by the major unions who are now against the ACA, not by the full-time workers who have been demoted to part time so that their employer can avoid high insurance premiums, not by the legions of unemployed who can't find jobs at small companies that simply don’t want to expand their payroll and in the process incur significant overhead costs. But the President's ego must be served, and fantasy must prevail—even when doing so will create havoc.

We have three more years of this. Yikes!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Nairobi vs. Benghazi

This weekend brought us still another Islamist terrorist attack on Western interests—this time in Kenya. All too familiar mass killings of innocents were followed by a siege and hostage situation. The situation has yet to be fully resolved.

These events were perpetrated by al Qaeda and its Islamist affiliate, al Shabbab, both of whom are still capable of doing great damage. The UK Telegraph is reporting that some of the arms that have gone missing in the chaotic aftermath of the overthrow of Libya's Mohamar Kaddafi have found their way into al Shabbab's hands. So much for the 'success' of Barack Obama's lead-from-behind strategy during the ill-conceived Libyan military intervention.

It's also worth noting that with hours of the Nairobi attack, an Israeli special forces team was in the city working with Kenyan military to defeat the Islamists.

It's interesting that the Israelis moved to intercede in a terrorist attack within hours. No one gave a stand down order. Reportedly, they flew 2,300 miles into harms way to help stop the attack.

Now let's compare Israel's response in Nairobi to the US response in last year's Benghazi attack. We don't know much about the US response due to stonewalling by the Obama administration and the state department. US special forces teams were less than 1,000 miles away from Libya, were highly trained and available, but they never moved, although the attack as best we can determine lasted well over eight hours.

We still don't know why that happened. We still haven't had full accounting from the military officers who were involved. We still don't know whether Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton had and role in decision making that led to the deaths of a US ambassador and three other Americans. We still don't know whether rumors of a covert CIA gun running operation are true and what affect that had if it is true. We still don't know whether domestic political considerations (the 2012 Presidential campaign) has any impact on decision-making. We still don't know whether any of the perpetrators will ever be caught and punished. We still haven't seen the results of any FBI investigation. What we do know is that that the administration knowingly and blatantly lied about the cause of the attack, and that the MSM is remarkably uninterested in any of this and as a consequence, the administration's stonewalling has been applied with near perfection.

But one thing is certain. When Israeli interests were at risk, Israeli Prime Minister Bebe Netanyahu acted immediately and forcefully. He demonstrated the decisiveness one would expect from the leader of a Western democracy. Can the same be said for Barack Obama when a similar situation confronted him in September, 2012?


In response to the Nairobi attack, John Kerry stuck very close to the Obama Administration narrative when he said:
“[T]oday’s terrorist massacre of so many innocents is a heartbreaking reminder that there exists unspeakable evil in our world which can destroy life in a senseless instant.”
The narrative, of course, demands that one never use the word terrorism and never-ever associate it with Islam.

The Islamist terrorists who attacked the Westgate Mall are reported to have run through the mall demanding that shoppers prove they were Muslim. If they proved to be adherents of Islam, they lived. If they could not prove it sufficiently, they died. Harsh and telling. This is NOT unfocused, senseless "evil" It is something else—a focused, coordinated attempt to dominate through terror, to destroy through fear, and to conquer through barbarity.

It would have been interesting for a member of the media to ask John Kerry exactly what the name of the unspeakable evil was? What was it's motivation, its intent, its context? But that would run counter to the narrative, and that simply wouldn't do ... would it?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Banana Republic

Just last week, Barack Obama commented on those with the temerity to suggest that maybe, just maybe, we should soberly consider what the continual raising of the debt ceiling means. No one, and I mean no one, is suggesting that the United States of America should default on our debt (although true to form, Obama created that strawman and then attacked it). But raising the debt ceiling opens the door to profligate spending (something that the President and his supporters seem to embrace with little or no consideration of the consequences). The president suggested that those who want to consider our financial situation soberly actually want to turn the USA into a "banana republic" [his words].

And then, in another speech, the President stated, “Raising the debt ceiling, which has been done over a hundred times, does not increase our debt.”

Huh? If we open the door to new debt, it's an absolute certainty that we will incur new debt. The United States has run trillion dollar deficits in each of Obama's first four years in office and is projected to run at least a $700 billion deficit this year. Is it possible that the President doesn't understand that each deficit adds to the debt?

Mark Steyn comments on the deficit and on spending:
Is all this spending necessary? Every day, the foot-of-page-37 news stories reveal government programs it would never occur to your dimestore caudillo to blow money on. On Thursday, it was the Food and Drug Administration blowing just shy of $200 grand to find out whether its Twitter and Facebook presence is “well-received.” A fifth of a million dollars isn’t even a rounding error in most departmental budgets, so nobody cares. But the FDA is one of those sclerotic American institutions that has near to entirely seized up. In October 1920, it occurred to an Ontario doctor called Frederick Banting that insulin might be isolated and purified and used to treat diabetes; by January 1923, Eli Lilly & Co were selling insulin to American pharmacies: A little over two years from concept to market. Now the FDA adds at least half-a-decade to the process, and your chances of making it through are far slimmer: As recently as the late Nineties, they were approving 157 new drugs per half-decade. Today it’s less than half that.

But they’ve got $182,000 to splash around on finding out whether people really like them on Facebook, or they’re just saying that. So they’ve given the dough to a company run by Dan Beckmann, a former “new media aide” to President Obama. That has the whiff of the banana republic about it, too.

And later in the week, the President implied that he would absolutely, positively not negotiate with the hated Republicans to help alleviate some of their financial concerns with respect to Obamacare, the debt ceiling, or the unrelenting and historically high growth of government programs. Obama's spokespeople are suggesting that he might consider negotiating with Iran's Islamist, anti-Western "moderate" President, but the GOP—never!

In fact, in the world according to Barack Obama, the only thing that matters is income inequality and the only solution is higher taxes in an effort to redistribute income to mitigate the problem.

Again Mark Steyn:
With government redistributing more money than ever before, we’ve mysteriously wound up with greater income inequality than ever before. Across the country, “middle-class” Americans have accumulated a trillion dollars in college debt in order to live a less comfortable life than their high-school-educated parents and grandparents did in the Fifties and Sixties. That’s banana republic, too: no middle class, but only a government elite and its cronies, and a big dysfunctional mass underneath, with very little social mobility between the two.

Like to change that? Maybe advocate for less government spending? Hey, Lois Lerner’s IRS has got an audit with your name on it. The tax collectors of the United States treat you differently according to your political beliefs. That’s pure banana republic, but no one seems to mind very much. This week it emerged that senior Treasury officials, up to and including Turbotax Timmy Geithner, knew what was going on at least as early as spring 2012. But no one seems to mind very much. In the words of an insouciant headline writer at Government Executive, “the magazine for senior federal bureaucrats” (seriously), back in May:

“The Vast Majority of IRS Employees Aren’t Corrupt”

So, if the vast majority aren’t, what proportion is corrupt? Thirty-eight percent? Thirty-three? Twenty-seven? And that’s the good news? The IRS is not only institutionally corrupt, it’s corrupt in the service of one political party. That’s Banana Republic 101.
Now, are we a banana republic? Of course not. But as I watch Washington's political elites* make breathtakingly irresponsible financial decisions, and demagogue anyone who suggests that we reign them in, I can only conclude that we're working hard to become one.


Ed Morrissey posts an illuminating graph that confirms that the elites in Washington DC are doing quite well, thank you, and are contributing more than their fair share to income inequality. The red curve represent median income in DC. The blue gray curve represents median income across the United States. Pay particular attention to the slope of the graph in the Obama years:

Update (9/23/2013):

As an example of the kind of delusional economic thinking that has exemplifed leaders of the Democratic party, we get this from Nancy Pelosi, as reported by The Washington Times:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says Republican-led efforts to rein in government spending are pointless because there is nothing left to cut in the almost $4 trillion-a-year federal budget.

“The cupboard is bare. There’s no more cuts to make. It’s really important that people understand that,” Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, said in an interview broadcast Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
The march toward economic calamity accelerates with every comment like Pelosi's.

Nothing to cut, huh? To say that contention is ridiculous is a gross understatment. To say it is dangerous is just about right. To say it is breathtakingly irresponsible just confirms business as usual in Washington, DC.

Monday, September 16, 2013


Over the past month, Barack Obama's guard-rail to guard-rail approach to Syria has both liberal and conservative observers shaking their heads. The level of incompetence, incoherence, and downright stupidly evidenced in the handling of this matter has damaged the United States, the office that Barack Obama holds, and the near term future of our diplomatic relations in the Middle East and beyond.

As he often does after one of his many, many screw ups, the president has decided to do yet another "pivot"—this time to our disastrous economy and the upcoming budget debate. Of course, rather than offering substantive recommendations and establishing a middle ground that his party and the opposition can use as a starting point, Barack Obama (as he always does) demonizes the GOP ahead of budget talks. After all, it's always a brilliant idea to demonize the folks you have to negotiate with, isn't it?

There is only one critical issue that effects the middle class (Obama's claimed core constituency)—joblessness. The administration touts a 7.6 percent unemployment rate as "progress." But in reality the important number for the middle class is the labor force participation rate—the number of Americans who are working or actively seeking work. The Washington Post reports:
Back in 2007, 66 percent of Americans had a job or were actively seeking work. Today, that number is at 63.2 percent — the lowest level since 1978.
And worse, the trend is steadily down.

So what does Barack Obama do, what does he propose? Well, nothing, really. As he always does, he takes out his class warfare card and rails against "income inequality." He is so economically illiterate that he doesn't seem to recognize that unless the private sector is incented (via lower taxes, less strangling regulation, fewer onerous Obamacare rules and restrictions) to create jobs, the family income of large numbers of middle class people will continue to drop, exacerbating the "income gap." Ironically, it is the president's tax and spend policies that have caused the gap to widen, yet his trained hamsters in the media refuse to examine the causes (but love an idea the feeds into class warfare rhetoric).

On the economy, Barack Obama is as incoherent as he is on Middle Eastern policy. Proof? On Sunday, George Stephanopoulos (a democratic operative who claims to be an objective media commentator and who is a great friend of this president) interviewed the president on the economy. Any objective reading of the transcript of that interview indicates that with the exception of knee jerk ideological responses, Barack Obama doesn't understand the problem and doesn't have a single new idea. After hammering the income inequality meme, Stephanopoulos tries to help out Obama by giving him an excuse in the form of a softball question.To wit:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay, but you do all these things and still, 95% of the gains go to the top 1%. Do you look at that, four and a half years in, and say, “Maybe a president just can’t stop this accelerating inequality?”

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: No, I think– I think the president can stop it. I– the problem is that– there– continues to be a major debate here in Washington. And that is: How do we respond to these underlying trends? If– if you look at– at– at the data– couple of things are– are– are creating these trends.

Number one, globalization. Right? Capital, companies, they can move businesses and– and jobs– anywhere they want. And so they’re lookin’ for the lowest wages. That squeezes workers here in the United States, even if corporations are profitable. Technology. If you go to– a lot of companies now, they’ve eliminated entire occupations because they’re now robotized. We don’t have travel agents. We don’t have bank tellers.
To be brutally honest, that's a response that a high school sophomore might conjure if she was asked to do a short paper on joblessness. It's the response of a person who is one question deep on the economy. Note that taxation, spending, and debt are never even mentioned.

Read the whole interview and you decide whether this president has even a clue of the problem or an effective way to address it. By the way, with the exception of broad big government bromides (e.g., better education for young people) he never suggests anything substantive that supports his statement that "I think the president can stop it [income inequality]"

We're in serious economic trouble, and it has very little to do with the meany GOP.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


In one of the last books, State of Fear, Michael Crichton predicted that "global warming" hysterics were in the process of changing terminology, replacing the phrase "global warming" with "climate change." They were making this move, Crichton contended, because the activist scientific cadre that falsified data and otherwise promoted a political rather than scientific agenda, could not discount growing evidence that global warming is a tenuous hypothesis that cannot be proven. Of course the truly insidious nature of the phrase "climate change" is that the climate does change over the centuries. But the changes have almost nothing to do with the over-hyped causes that alarmists always seem to mention.

No matter. Climate change has become a quasi-religious belief system that moves almost all of the left and a few outliers on the right to condemn CO2, suggest ruinous cap and trade taxation, and otherwise ring their hands about shrinking polar caps, rising sea levels and other imaginary boogie men. Barack Obama is a strong proponent of this belief system, following in the shallow footsteps of Al Gore.

There's only one problem, virtually every prediction that has been based on the "climate change" belief system has been incorrect or grossly exaggerated. Nearly every scientific model that predicted rising sea levels, increasing global temperatures, and shrinking ice caps has been proven incorrect by rigorous scientific data over the past decade. Nearly every human prediction of catastrophe based on climate change (whether it's increased hurricane intensity, global famine, or flooded cities) has been proven false.

For example, from 2005 to 2009, proponents of the catastrophic effects of "climate change" argued that polar sea ice was shrinking at an alarming rate. In fact, its was predicted that summer ice would disappear in the north in 2013. In 2009, Barack Obama's science advisor, John Holdren, stated:
…if you lose the summer sea ice, there are phenomena that could lead you not so very long thereafter to lose the winter sea ice as well. And if you lose that sea ice year round, it’s going to mean drastic climatic change all over the hemisphere.

Here's the problem (for Holdren and other alarmists who think like him). There is as much Sea ice today as there was in 2002. In fact, this year, we have had a record increase in ice cover area. Of course, Sea ice levels vary year over year as evidenced by the simple graph below.

Even this graph must be considered suspect, because it is scientifically dishonest to use short term trends (either positive or negative) to make an argument about long term climatic change. But that's what alarmists do on a regular basis, and sadly, that what low information proponents of climate change believe.

Have you noticed that the media almost never reports on climate change today. The reason is that the data no longer supports their biased arguments, unless it has been rigged by dishonest scientists (think: the IPCC scandal of a few years ago).


The UN IPCC Report on Climate Change will be published next week. The IPCC was and remains a key proponent of global climate change, but previews of the report indicate that even they have significantly downgrade their estimates of the amount of change and the potential damage caused as a result.

The Wall Street Journal comments:
Since the last IPCC report in 2007, much has changed. It is now more than 15 years since global average temperature rose significantly. Indeed, the IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri has conceded that the "pause" already may have lasted for 17 years, depending on which data set you look at. A recent study in Nature Climate Change by Francis Zwiers and colleagues of the University of Victoria, British Columbia, found that models have overestimated warming by 100% over the past 20 years.

Explaining this failure is now a cottage industry in climate science. At first, it was hoped that an underestimate of sulfate pollution from industry (which can cool the air by reflecting heat back into space) might explain the pause, but the science has gone the other way—reducing its estimate of sulfate cooling. Now a favorite explanation is that the heat is hiding in the deep ocean. Yet the data to support this thesis come from ocean buoys and deal in hundredths of a degree of temperature change, with a measurement error far larger than that. Moreover, ocean heat uptake has been slowing over the past eight years.

The most plausible explanation of the pause is simply that climate sensitivity was overestimated in the models because of faulty assumptions about net amplification through water-vapor feedback. This will be a topic of heated debate at the political session to rewrite the report in Stockholm, starting on Sept. 23, at which issues other than the actual science of climate change will be at stake.
Let's see if and how the MSM reports these findings.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


Joe Klein has been a long time and ardent admirer of Barack Obama. But the recent Syrian debacle and the incoherent and unrealistic Middle Eastern policies of this president have him, along with a growing number of left-leaning pundits (Maureen Dowd, prominent among them) in a bit of a snit. Klein writes about Syria:
He [Obama] willingly jumped into a bear trap of his own creation. In the process, he has damaged his presidency and weakened the nation’s standing in the world. It has been one of the more stunning and inexplicable displays of presidential incompetence that I’ve ever witnessed.
Inexplicable? Seriously?

Those of us who took a realistic, fact-based look at Barack Obama in 2007 and again in 2011 would argue that the president's guard-rail to guard-rail actions of late coupled with an incoherent lose-lose "plan," are hardly inexplicable.

Barack Obama never had the background, the experience, the practical intelligence, or even a modicum of leadership ability to be President of the United States. But that didn't matter, as Americans got swept up in emotion, in 'hope and change,' in ... well ... the idea of the man. Sadly, the idea of the man never coincided with the reality of the man. And even worse, Barack Obama's hubris and narcissism do not allow him to learn from his mistakes. Even worse than that, his left-wing ideology blinds him to hard geopolitical facts and lead him to rely on fantasy (e.g., the Arab spring would lead to the liberal democratization of the Middle East).

To quote a commenter ("ETAB") at the Belmont Club Blog:
Think about it; people living in a fictional world are isolated in their words of 'If Only We Make Everyone Behave the Same, Then, we'll conquer reality. No. It has never been that way, no matter how much we hope and preach and tell our stories. Facts always trump fiction.
And the facts that we've all witnessed over the past decade, coupled with the harsh reality of Syria today, tell us that Barack Obama doesn't seem to have a clue. It embarrassing. It's also dangerous. It has "weakened the nation’s standing in the world." We have three more years of this. Elections do indeed have consequences.


And this comment from Jay Carney, the president's press secretary:
“[The American people] appreciate a president who doesn’t celebrate decisiveness for decisiveness’ sake.”

He then went on to tell the assembled press that Barack Obama is open to "new information" adapting his actions accordingly. Obama's trained hamsters in the press did not question the comment.

Hmmm. There an old Chris Rock riff in which he comments on men who say "I take care of my children"—as if that's something exceptional. Rock was not kind to people who make that statement.

I'd say the same holds for Carney's truly ridiculous comment. A leader is SUPPOSED to be decisive and he/she is SUPPOSED to adjust his/her actions based on new information. Suggesting that this is somehow an exceptional attribute for this president is embarrassingly laughable.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Better Lucky

In sports, there’s a cynical, but often accurate statement that goes something like this: ”Better lucky than good.” Over the past five years, Barack Obama has demonstrated that his foreign policy is far, far from good. But yesterday, he was lucky.

Vladimir Putin jumped on an extemporaneous John Kerry idea (international control of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles) and ran with it. And make no mistake, Kerry’s words were extemporaneous, unplanned, and initially viewed as a gaff, as evidenced by the State Department trying to walk them back until they decided not to walk them back. The WSJ reports that "A White House official told CNN that "that Kerry's comments were a 'major goof,' and that he 'clearly went off-script.'"
Nonetheless, Putin offered to broker a “diplomatic” solution to the Syrian crisis. This gives Obama an easy out for the mess he’s created for himself and his party and at the same time avoids a military attack that would have been lose-lose for the United States. A good thing.

Realistically, there is very little chance that control and or verification of the chemical weapons will occur and even less that it will be effective. But no matter, it’s a way out of this mess and the political class will grasp it like a drowning many grasps a straw. Even more predictably, a president will take credit for the idea, his advisors will suggest that his incoherent lose-lose Syria policy was a catalyst, and his trained hamsters in the media (h/t: James Taranto) will forget their hesitant criticism of Obama war plan and re-declare him a brilliant strategist. 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...

At the same time that his luck was turning, the president trotted out Susan Rice to lecture the congress on the facts and intelligence surrounding the Syrian situation. You know, the same Susan Rice that blatantly lied to the American people about the underlying reasons for the Benghazi attack. Wow, that will really inspire confidence on the Hill.

A CCN commentator characterized the Obama strategy for Syria as “guard rail to guard rail.” The administration careened down the road toward war, changing direction, mood, message, and advocacy on a daily and sometime hourly basis. Elections do indeed have consequences.

But maybe it’s America that been the luckiest as this mess moves toward resolution of a kind. Richard Fernandez writes:
Maybe God really does look out for America. The Syrian crisis has done the nation the incredible favor of exposing a potential system failure early, like having a mild heart attack and finding that your arteries are nearly 99% blocked and only a miracle saved you from the Big One. But warnings only work when they are heeded.

The administration and its supporters are heedless. Timothy Egan writing in the New York Times on Sept 5th maintained the belief that Obama is in a bind because Bushruined American credibility for international action.
The voice that stands out most by his silence, the one that grates with its public coyness, is Bush himself. He has refused to take a side in the Syrian conflict. The president, he said, “has a tough choice to make.” Beyond that, “I refuse to be roped in.”

This is cowardice on a grand scale. Having set in motion a doctrine that touches all corners of the earth and influences every leader with a say in how to approach tyrants who slaughter innocents, Bush retreats to his bathtub to paint.
Egan doesn’t get it. Obama is in a bind because he goofed big time. “Roped in” as Bush the ostensibly stupid put it offhand. But there are none so blind as they who can’t accept they’ve been outsmarted.

Hubris and incompetence are a dangerous when applied in combination, and this president and his merry band of advisors exhibit both at the same time.

Thursday, September 05, 2013


In what has to be the quote of the day on the internet, Richard Fernandez comments on allowing Barack Obama, John Kerry, and Chuck Hagel to spearhead the President's lose-lose strategy in Syria:
To go to war under these leaders would be like undertaking to climb K2 with a carload of clowns.
With each passing day, it looks more likely that anti-War liberal Democrats will support Barack Obama, and in a show of breathtaking hypocrisy, sacrifice their principles on the alter of party loyalty. For example, Senators Ed Markey and Liz Warren from Massachusetts, left-wing antiwar adherents throughout all of the past dealings, are waffling on the Syria vote. Markey, in a true profile in courage, voted "present" in committee hearings yesterday. Impressive!

And the GOP doesn't look much better. John McCain is so caught up in combating "humanitarian abuses" that he doesn't much seem to care about a lose-lose outcome, not to mention the unintended consequences of any military action. John Boehner says he'll support Obama's lose-lose strategy, wrapping himself in protecting the prestige of the United States, even though the President's actions over the past five years have done so much damage to our international standing that a few hundred Tomahawk will do little to correct matters.

I'd like to think that in the end, the Congress will vote down the President on this matter. But when I read left-leaning commentators like Donna Brazile, Richard Cohen, Nick Kristof and others twist logic and their principles to voice support for this idiocy, I have to wonder.

In the mid-1800s, Alfred Lord Tennyson said: "By blood a king, in heart a clown." To paraphrase, "By election a president, in policy a clown."

Update (5 Sep 2013):

You'd think that the President's denial the he and he alone set the "red Line" would get at least a bit of media scrutiny in the days following that mendacious claim. James Taranto follows up:
The fierce watchdogs of the press, confronted with this brazen falsehood, show themselves once again to be Obama's pet hamsters. Instead of giving a "pants on fire" rating,'s Jon Greenberg claims Obama was "reframing comments rather than denying them." Greenberg can't even say the statement is half true, so he withholds a rating altogether. Peter Baker of the New York Times has his own euphemisms, writing that Obama was "citing longstanding international norms" and "trying to break out of his isolation." The funniest dodges come from Shawna Thomas of NBC News, who on Twitter calls Obama's whopper "a definite change in tone" and an attempt "to unilaterally widen the circle of responsibility."

That last one is priceless. Next time someone accuses you of trying to weasel out of a commitment, say you're just trying to widen the circle of responsibility.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Bombs Away

If we are to believe John Kerry and John McCain, the United States must follow the president's lose-lose plan and respond militarily to Syria's abhorrent use of chemical weapons. In fact, it now looks like the Congress just might approve the plan, giving Barack Obama cover for another ill-conceived response to a "human-rights" violation by still another Arab dictator. Let's go back two years to better understand how another ill-conceived 'plan' (I use the term plan loosely) worked out. In 2011, Barack Obama decided to support the overthrow on brutal dictator Mohamar Kadaffi in Libya. The argument in favor was that by doing this we would avoid a humanitarian disaster in that country.

The U.K.'s The Independent reports on a story that our MSM has refused to report (simply because it reflects rather poorly on this President's foreign policy acumen):
As world attention focused on the coup in Egypt and the poison gas attack in Syria over the past two months, Libya has plunged unnoticed into its worst political and economic crisis since the defeat of Gaddafi two years ago. Government authority is disintegrating in all parts of the country putting in doubt claims by American, British and French politicians that Nato’s military action in Libya in 2011 was an outstanding example of a successful foreign military intervention which should be repeated in Syria.

In an escalating crisis little regarded hitherto outside the oil markets, output of Libya’s prized high-quality crude oil has plunged from 1.4 million barrels a day earlier this year to just 160,000 barrels a day now. Despite threats to use military force to retake the oil ports, the government in Tripoli has been unable to move effectively against striking guards and mutinous military units that are linked to secessionist forces in the east of the country.

Libyans are increasingly at the mercy of militias which act outside the law. Popular protests against militiamen have been met with gunfire; 31 demonstrators were shot dead and many others wounded as they protested outside the barracks of “the Libyan Shield Brigade” in the eastern capital Benghazi in June.
This begs a key set of questions. Are our leaders in Washington so stupid that they refuse to learn from history? Or ... are they so venal that they think their positions are beyond reproach? Or ... do they believe their own magical thinking—in which Islamist militias become moderates and secular opponents to the dictator somehow can overcome violent Islamist factions? Or ... do they simply believe their own B.S.? I think it's a combination of all of these and more.

So we sit and listen to John Kerry and John McCain (proxies for this president) tell us that unless we strike Syria, Iran will become ascendent. Our national policy over the past five years has more do do with Iran's ascendency than any missile launch against Syria, but no matter. We sit an listen to Kerry "guarantee" that Israel would be at greater risk if we don't act militarily in this instance—I wonder if he would literally bet his life on that "guarantee." We listen to McCain suggest a strong response, when tipping the scales in favor of the Syrian opposition is a very dangerous strategy. We listen to Kerry read a "report" that tells us that al Qaida isn't a serious factor—nah, they're just in Syria for a brief vacation—nothing to see there, we'll just move on.

It truly is fascinating to listen to Debbie Wasserman Schultz or Nancy Pelosi or Dick Durbin or Howard Dean support military intervention. It is astonishing to think that these heavy thinkers (I use the term thinker VERY loosely) are willing to accept this administration's sketchy intelligence after the intelligence errors that occurred in the run-up to the Iraq war. But they're good political soldiers—not to mention astonishingly brazen hypocrites.

Oh well, bombs away! Maybe.

Update - 1:

Tom Friedman is a prototypical OpEd writer for the NYT—a fierce defender of almost all things Obama. As an expert in Middle Eastern politics, even Friedman has significant reservations on Obama's lose-lose strategy:
A limited, transactional cruise missile attack meets Obama’s need to preserve his credibility. But it also risks changing the subject from Assad’s behavior to ours and — rather than empowering the rebels to act and enlisting the world to act — could make us owners of this story in ways that we do not want. “Arm and shame” is how we best help the decent forces in Syria, deter further use of poison gas, isolate Assad and put real pressure on him or others around him to cut a deal. Is it perfect? No, but perfect is not on the menu in Syria.
But no worries, today in a statement that gives new meaning to the word mendacious, the President suggested that the "red line" was not, in fact, his creation, but the world's. In a figurative sense, that may be true, but the President should speak for the United States of America, not for the world, and his actions should reflect our geopolitical interests alone.

Update - 2:

James Taranto does a detailed analysis of the President's claim that the world, not he, established a "red line." Contending that Obama's claim is cravenly disingenuous (read the whole thing) he writes:
Maybe Obama really didn't set a red line. It could have been a case of mistaken identity. Perhaps on Aug. 20, 2012, the world sneaked into the White House, donned an Obama mask, strode into the press room and took questions.

If so, the world did a bad thing and will need to be punished. But we hope that whoever has authority over such matters will have a little compassion for the world's predicament. It isn't easy carrying the weight of Barack Obama on your shoulders.
It's even worse to have a leader who can't seem to take responsibility for his own words and actions. Barack Obama has refined passing the buck to a new art form.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013


In today's USA Today, Glen Reynolds make a snarky but entirely accurate comment on five years of foreign policy under the Obama administration:
One of the things we were promised back in the 2008 election campaign was that under a Democratic administration America would be better liked and more influential in the world. Forget those dumb cowboys in the Bush/Cheney administration whose brash style grated on foreign sensibilities: Smooth, Europhile Democrats would win over the world, ushering in an era of peace and good feeling.

So, as Sarah Palin might say, how's that hopey-changey stuff workin' out for ya?
Whether it's Hilary Clinton's "reset" with Russia that has turned into an intensely adversarial relationship; an "open hand" offered to Iran that has morphed into a dangerous path toward nuclear weapons; the support of a supposedly "moderate" Muslim Brotherhood that is anything but moderate, or today's latest debacle—the Syrian "red line"—Obama's foreign policy is incoherent, amateurish, sloppy, and incompetent. Worse than any of that, it's dangerous in that it could lead to broader regional instability and war.

As Democrats are fond of saying, "Elections have consequences." The consequences of the 2-time election of Barack Obama look pretty dismal at the moment.

The administration is back in perpetual campaign mode, trying to cajole members of the Left and Right to support the President's wrong-headed attack plan for Syria. The Washington Post reports:
Obama’s proposal to invite Congress dominated the Friday discussion in the Oval Office. He had consulted almost no one about his idea. In the end, the president made clear he wanted Congress to share in the responsibility for what happens in Syria. As one aide put it, “We don’t want them to have their cake and eat it, too.”
So it seems that the President is in CYA mode. After getting our country into this mess, he now seeks political cover for his own very bad idea. It's a good political move because no matter how things turn out, he can blame congress, but it's a very bad geopolitical move. If an attack is robust enough tp cause Assad to lose power (a bad idea proposed by GOP senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham), it would only put even more dangerous people in control of the very chemical weapons that the President professes to abhor. Or, if the attack has no tangible effect, countries like Iran will conclude that we have neither the will nor the ability to effect change in the region. Barring a miracle, it's lose-lose.
But that should come as no surprise. "Lose-lose" propositions are the most common outcome of decisions made by this president.