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

Monday, March 31, 2014

Simple Questions

The Obama administration and its trained hamsters in the media are trumpeting their claim (you'll note that I do not use the word "fact" anywhere in the post) that six million people have signed up for Obamacare as of today. Happy days! This is really great!! Obamacare is working!!!


In an age when every action on a website is instantaneously recorded, tabulated, and reported, it is absolutely astonishing that even the trained hamsters in the media aren't pushing for more detail, but hey, more detail might reveal that the Obamacare train wreck is in fact a train wreck.

Again, even for a shoddy website like the one designed and built for Obamacare (at a cost of between $300 and $500 million [we don't even know the exact cost!!]), enrollment information is instantaneously recorded, tabulated, and reported. So here are a few simple questions:
  • How many of the enrollees have paid for the first month(s) of their policy? 
All of the following questions apply only to those enrollees who have paid, because paid premiums are what fund the ACA :
  • How many of the enrollees are under the age of 35?
  • How many of the enrollees have had their enrollment partially subsidized and what is the average amount of the subsidy?
  • How many enrollees have had the entire premiums subsidized?
  • How many of the enrollees are replacing an existing policy that was canceled because Obamacare judged it substandard?
And a few clearical questions:
  • How many enrollments are accurately transmitted to insurance companies?
  • What is the error rate of those transmissions?
  • How long does it take from the time one enrolls until their policy is in place and will be accepted by a medical provider?
  • How many people quit before completing the enrollment?
  • How many minutes/hours does one spend completing the enrollment?
These are all reasonable questions that should be available to the 47 percent of us who pay income taxes and fund the development of the website and will (sadly) further subsidize this disasterous program by (1) spending uncounted tens of millions promoting it, (2) uncounted billions bailing out insurance companies who get into financial trouble because of it, and (3) uncounted tens of billions funding increased subsidies to stop a full-on revolt when medical premiums rise by double digits in 2015.

The M.O. of the Obama administration is to stonewall when things don't go its way. That's evident in the important information and hard data that it refuses to release about Obamacare. As taxpayers we have a right to this information and data, after all, it's not a matter of national security or a matter of privacy (the data can easily be reported in the aggregate), it's only a matter of political liability. But the media hamsters nap away, reporting a "major milestone" as it it was real.

It isn't.

How do I know? Because if it were real, if there were hard data to back it up, there's another element of the M.O. of the Obama administration—they leak or promulgate any positive news instantaneously and trumpet that news ad nauseum. Instead, what we get is an unverifiable claim about ACA "enrollments," and otherwise—crickets.

Friday, March 28, 2014


Victor Davis Hansen is a historian and a keen observer of American politics. In a recent essay about trust in government he writes:
Transparency and truth are the fuels that run sophisticated civilizations. Without them, the state grinds to a halt. Lack of trust -- not barbarians on the frontier, global warming or cooling, or even epidemics -- doomed civilizations of the past, from imperial Rome to the former Soviet Union.
Hansen contends that all politicians bend the truth, some more than others, no doubt, but the electorate has come to expect that. But we have also come to expect that an independent, adversarial media will ferret out the truth and that permanent government agencies (e.g., the Justice Department) will work to protect the public, not elected politicians.

Under the Obama administration, those expectations have been dashed. Hansen writes:
What distinguishes democracies from tin horn dictatorships and totalitarian monstrosities are our permanent meritocratic government bureaus that remain nonpartisan and honestly report the truth.

The Benghazi, Associated Press and National Security Agency scandals are scary, but not as disturbing as growing doubts about the honesty of permanent government itself.

It is no longer crackpot to doubt the once impeccable and nonpartisan IRS. When it assured the public that it was not making decisions about tax-exempt status based on politics, it lied. One of its top commissioners, Lois Lerner, resigned and invoked the Fifth Amendment.

A system of voluntary tax reporting rests on trust. If the IRS itself is untruthful, will it be able to expect truthful compliance from taxpayers?

Many doubt the officially reported government unemployment rates. That statistic is vital in assessing economic growth and is of enormous political importance in the way citizens vote.

It was reported in November that the Census Bureau may have fabricated survey results during the 2012 presidential campaign, sending false data to the Labor Department that could have altered official employment statistics.
Indeed, almost no objective observer believes the Obamacare enrollment numbers that have been announced by Health and Human Services. Why is that?

I think the answer lies in the clear perception that data are withheld purposely for partisan political gain, data are messaged dishonestly to put the best possible spin on bad news, data are "unavailable" when any reasonable person knows that simply can't be true in an era of websites with instantaneous data collection and reporting.

Consider the public reaction to the NSA metadata collection revelations. Most knowledgeable observers clearly understand that the NSA was collecting communications metadata in an effort to ferret out terrorist activity—to connect the dots. Most knowledgeable observers recognize that our spy agencies do, in fact, look hard at foreign governments, their leaders and their institutions. Anyone who expresses shock at these activities is either woefully ignorant or supremely disingenuous.

But yet, even knowledgeable observers, myself included, feel uneasy about these revelations. Why? Because we no longer trust the government to police itself, and we certainly don't trust this administration to do the right thing. Once independent government agencies (e.g., the IRS) are co-opted by the administration in power and act as political weapons for that administration, it's reasonable to expect that NSA metadata might also be mined by that administration for political purposes. If it happened at the IRS (and it DID happen at the IRS), it could also happen at the NSA. Hence, a feeling of unease—a breakdown in trust.

Sadly, that may be one of a number of negative legacies left by the Obama administration once it leaves the scene in two and half years. And that is nothing to be proud of.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Stop Freaking Out

Mathew Yglesias is one of the blogoshere's most prominent Left-Wing voices. He is a strong advocate for big government, a staunch defender of everything Obama (except when Obama isn't left-wing enough), a harsh critic of any attempt to control spending or entitlements ... he is stereotypical. He is also not very bright.

In a recent video post on Ezra Klein's new site, Juice Vox, entitled (not surprisingly), "Stop Freaking Out About the Debt," this voice of the Left embarrasses himself (without realizing he has done so). He suggests that our national debt is $12.5 trillion, when in fact it's $17.3 trillion (what's $5 trillion to a big spender), he confuses deficits and debt, using the terms interchangeably, he makes the ridiculous statement that "after all, the federal government can never run out of money,"...  it goes on and on.

In a fully cited (I do not reproduce the links here) post in the conservative blog, Red State, Erick Erickson takes a rather harsh look at Yglesias:
He [Yglesias] thinks Joe Lieberman is a dumb Jewish politician; was shocked to discover Senators represent the states as opposed to populations; was unaware of a black conservative tradition; couldn’t understand why Miami didn’t expand westward (hint: a giant swamp); had no idea an incumbent President had been defeated in primaries (Jimmy Carter lost 13 primaries in 1980 to Ted Kennedy and Jerry Brown); thought Bobby Jindal’s reputation for intelligence was just ethnic stereotyping; argued it was okay to lie about having kids; wanted to know why Egypt didn’t have a Parliamentary system as if it’d matter and, by the way, it already does have one; thinks there are too many banks [there are actually too few with power concentrated in the too-big-to fail giants]; thinks no banks have been chartered in 2013 even though banks were chartered in 2013; and the list goes on.
Yglesias has also suggested that stretching the truth (a.k.a. lying) is perfectly justified when debating ideas with the Right. He tweeted: "“Fighting dishonesty with dishonesty is sometimes the right thing for advocates to do, yes.”  Hmmm ... again, he's in synch with the Obama administration on that. 

But back to the national debt. Yglesias is joined by left wing economists such as Paul Krugman and Robert Reich who have argued that more spending and more debt are the right path. Strong advocates of the highly debatable Keynesian notion that the government can spend us out of a recession, they have argued that the frighteningly large 2009 stimulus ($800 billion) simply wasn't large enough. Following the well-established dictum that is used when progressive ideas fail—'all we have to do is spend even more money.' Both Krugman and Reich should know better, but are blinded by their big-spending, big government ideology.

My position on the debt has been oft-stated on the blog—it's dangerous, it's destructive, and it's getting worse. But I suspect that there are many senior advisors in the White House who agree with Yglesias. After all, we should all just stop freaking out about the debt, shouldn't we?

Following the sage words of that famous philospher of yore, Alfred E. Newman, the administration's position, along with Yglesias' can be stated in three words: "What? Me Worry?"

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Valerie Strauss has written a compelling article on the state of primary education in the United States. She tells the story of an experienced kindergarten teacher in Cambridge (MA) Public Schools, Susan Sluyter, who resigned her position in frustration over government mandates that have fundamentally changed education for the worse. In her letter of resignation, Sluyter writes:
I have watched as my job requirements swung away from a focus on the children, their individual learning styles, emotional needs, and their individual families, interests and strengths to a focus on testing, assessing, and scoring young children, thereby ramping up the academic demands and pressures on them.

Each year, I have been required to spend more time attending classes and workshops to learn about new academic demands that smack of 1st and 2nd grade, instead of kindergarten and PreK. I have needed to schedule and attend more and more meetings about increasingly extreme behaviors and emotional needs of children in my classroom; I recognize many of these behaviors as children shouting out to the adults in their world, “I can’t do this! Look at me! Know me! Help me! See me!” I have changed my practice over the years to allow the necessary time and focus for all the demands coming down from above. Each year there are more. Each year I have had less and less time to teach the children I love in the way I know best—and in the way child development experts recommend. I reached the place last year where I began to feel I was part of a broken system that was causing damage to those very children I was there to serve.
This experienced teacher goes on the describe intrusive, jargon-filled, measurement-based programs, obviously designed by high-priced "educational consultants" hired by bureaucrats at the federal and state level. These ill-conceived programs have never themselves been testing broadly to determine their efficacy, but are simply rolled out as mandates with government dollars attached to sweeten the pot. With funding in the balance and political pressure from sanctimonious politicians, local school administrators are forced to implement them.

The mandates upset the delicate balance that is required for early childhood learning. They sacrifice a warm classroom environment on the alter of test preparation. They force unproven methods on experienced teachers who know the dictates don't work, but are forced to apply them anyway. Worse, they take the fun out of learning for many children, increase the level of frustration for students and teachers alike, and fail to achieve what they were intended to achieve. But that shouldn't surprise anyone—that's what happens when decisions are made hundreds or thousands of miles away from the point of application. That's what big government does, and that's why it fails.

Government intrusion into primary education has been going on for many years, but began in earnest with the well-intentioned, but fundamentally flawed "No Child Left Behind" legislation promoted by George W. Bush. Under the Obama administration, the intrusive nature of the mandates associated with No Child Left Behind have been modified and expanded in a damaging attempt to normalize education across locales, different social and economic groups, and different cultural norms.

Sluyter writes:
All the above-mentioned initiatives and mandates have had the obvious effect of removing teachers from their classrooms for significant amounts of time and fracturing their concentration and ability to teach. There were many days last year when I felt I had hardly spent any time in the classroom. It was my assistant teacher with whom the children were more familiar. She was more in the role of classroom teacher. I was more in the role of data collector.

The negative impact of all of this on a classroom of young children (or children of any age) is substantial, and obvious to many classroom teachers. Teachers everywhere are seeing an increase in behavior problems that make classrooms and schools feel less safe, and learning less able to take place. Children are screaming out for help. They are under too much pressure and it is just no longer possible to meet the social and emotional needs of our youngest children. They are suffering because of this ...

The overall effect of these federal and state sponsored programs is the corrosion of teacher moral, the demeaning of teacher authority, a move away from collaborating with teachers, and the creation of an overwhelming and developmentally inappropriate burden imposed on our children.
Sluyter uses the word "corrosion," and I think that's appropriate. Big government programs do have a corrosive effect—on our liberties, on our independence, and yes, on the education of our children. By mandating compliance, they never consider the broad variability that is the United States. And it's the variability that matters—a lot.

Despite all the hype and misinformation that the media presents, the problem isn't the proven "old school" methods we've used for generations to educate our children. The problem is big government intrusion into local schools. The disastrous consequences are already being felt. Susan Sluyter  should be commended for telling us all.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Economic Growth?

Every president, whether a Democrat or Republican, tends to spin economic statistics to his administration's benefit. That's normal politics, and we've all learned to discount such claims in an effort to find reality. But where other presidents spin at a rate that is equivalent to a hand held toy top, Barack Obama's spin is more like a high speed dental drill. This is what the president claimed in a speech a few weeks ago:
"We've now seen over four years of economic growth ... We've seen 8.5 million new jobs created. We've seen the housing market bounce back. We've seen an auto industry that has come roaring back. We've seen manufacturing return for the first time since the 1990s."
Think: high speed dental drill. Unfortunately, Obama's trained hamsters in the media repeat his spin without investigating whether it's accurate. presents a discussion (using the following chart where blue is forecast and red is actual) that examines the success or failure of Obama's economic agenda based on the administration's own projections and promises when Obama took office in 2009. By every measure—GDP, debt and deficits, unemployment, spending—Barack Obama's economic performance has been weak, very, very weak.

Of course, Obama's supporters and his media hamsters immediately jump into the breach, trying desperately to explain away the historically poor recovery under Obama's watch. considers some of the excuses:
But, his backers say, the recession was deeper than Obama expected at that point. Except that nominal gross domestic product in 2010 turned out to be exactly where Obama said it would be. It was only after then that growth fell short.

Others will say that Obama just did in his first budget what every president does: Paint a rosy picture of future economic growth. This doesn't hold water either, since Obama's projections were in line with the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and other economic forecasters, all of whom expected a normal recovery.

Then again, the economy might have suffered from what Obama likes to call "self-inflicted wounds" imposed by Republicans — the threat of default, the sequestration, the turn to "austerity" policies, etc.

The problem here is that federal spending from 2010 to 2013 was almost exactly where Obama pegged it in his first budget, and it's much higher as a share of GDP. Deficits were also far higher than Obama expected.

From a standard Keynesian perspective, these should have provided additional stimulus to the economy — above what Obama initially forecast.

So the GOP's efforts to rein in spending can't be blamed for Obama's failure to meet his economic targets.

What can? Perhaps it's the combined effect of the massive Dodd-Frank financial regulations, ObamaCare, the hugely expensive new EPA regulations and two enormous tax hikes on investment income.

None of these policies are pro-growth.
It's worth remembering that the Obama administration and his cabinet have a historically low percentage of senior people with private sector experience. Put bluntly, Obama and his advisors are members of the political class. They've never had to meet a payroll, never had to grow a business (except, of course, growing the government programs and entitlements at frightening rates), never had to worry about profit and loss (why should they? the government simply prints money when things get tight).

I suspect that Barack Obama views private sector business as a necessary evil, profit as something that is somehow dirty, the inherent meritocracy that allows some businesses to fail and others to succeed as inherently unfair. He wants to pick the winners and the losers—and does so with government programs, crony capitalism, and excessive regulation.

The result? Just take a long look at the above graph. If that's "economic growth" one can only wonder what will happen when the inevitable economic downturn occurs.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Protection Rackets

What do Uber, Airbnb, and Tesla all have in common? At first glance, not much. Uber is the urban answer to finding a conveniently available ride from point A to point B. Using your mobile phone, you call up Uber cars in you vicinity and off you go. Airbnb is a peer-to-peer method for finding a place to stay just about anywhere. Someone wants to rent their place for a day, a week or a month, and someone else want to stay there. Develop a high tech website, and everyone is happy. Tesla is an innovative electric car company that sells high-end vehicles that have recieved just about every award in the book—best, highest performance, safest. Without one dollar spent in advertising, they sell as many cars as they build. And they do this without a dealer network, direct to the consumer.

So what do the 21st century companies have in common? Big government—at the behest of special interrest groups—is trying hard to kill each of these innovative 21st century companies. It's crony capitalism at its worst. Nick Gillespie comments:
What the Invisible Hand of free-market innovation giveth, the Dead Hand of politically motivated regulation desperately tries to taketh away.

That’s the only way to describe what’s happening to three wildly innovative and popular products: the award-winning electric car Tesla, taxi-replacement service Uber, and hotel-alternative Airbnb. These companies are not only revolutionizing their industries via cutting-edge technology and customer-empowering distribution, they’re running afoul of interest groups that are quick to use political muscle to maintain market share and the status quo.

The battle between what historian Burton W. Folsom calls “market entrepreneurs” and “political entrepreneurs” is an old and ugly one, dating back to the earliest days of the American experiment. Market entrepreneurs make their money by offering customers a good or new service at a good or new price. Political entrepreneurs make their money the old-fashioned way: They use the government to rig markets and kneecap real and potential competitors.
In the case of Uber, Airbnb, and Tesla its the taxi cab industry, the hotel industry and the automobile dealers associations that play the roll of political entrepreneurs—and it's big government, this time at a state or city level, who look at political contributions, sales taxes and other $$$$ and side with those who want to crush the innovators.

After all, if a company comes up with an innovative business model, they have no right to compete again the crony capitalists, do they? The public has no right to choose what they want or aquire a better product at a potentially attractive price, do they? Only the crony capitalists can play, right? That why states and cities are passing special restrictive legislation to bar Uber, Airbnb, and Tesla from doing business in their locale. Money talks.

Gillespie has it right when he writes:
If mobsters were pulling these sorts of stunts, we’d recognize the attacks on new ways of doing business for what they are: protection rackets, with state regulators rather than professional hitmen creating and enforcing rules to benefit well-connected businessmen. The real losers are not just the next generation of innovators but also customers who lose out on more ways of getting what they need or want.
Just another reason to downsize government at every level.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Testing the Limits

Vladamir Putin is simply the last (and most powerful) in a long line of powerful, thuggish leaders or groups that have made a mockery of Barack Obama's foreign policy as implemented by his past Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Obama's defenders are now confronted with the reality of Crimea, the reality that Obama arrogantly, incorrectly and publicly mocked Mitt Romney's prescient and correct contention that Russia was one of our most serious strategic threats, and the reality that Obama's "soft power" doctrine (if you can call a feckless approach to foreign policy a 'doctrine') has failed in every venue (i.e., Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Venezuela, North Korea, China, Russia). Instead of admitting error and adapting their world view, Team-Obama (1) claims that there's not much they can do, now that Crimea or Syria or Egypt or ... is lost and (2) blames Obama's domestic opponents (e.g., Romney) for not suggesting concrete alternatives to the president's approach.

It is true that Obama has been overtaken by international events and that now, after he has failed, there really isn't much he can do (except look incompetent and weak). But that's missing the point. It is the job of a President to avoid situations like the ones that are now haunting Obama. That happens when a competent president uses a combination of effective diplomacy coupled with the exercise or threat of hard power (by the way, hard power need not be military, but it must be hardball in every other sense—e.g., fomenting unrest by disaffected minorities in countries that oppose us, launching serious and penetrating cyberwarfare attacks, establishing crippling sanctions and punishing allies who do not abide by them).

It is laughable that Obama's defenders want his opponents to suggest alternative approaches—as if this president (you know, the one who demonizes his opponents) would listen to or act on those suggestions. Barack Obama is nothing if not confident, and there is nothing more dangerous than a man with supreme hubris that is also wrong on almost every subject he addresses.

Richard Fernandez reflects on this sad reality when he writes
Obama has lots of confidence. It’s his stock in trade. And now that we’ve all bought his patented elixir and coughed it right up, what is there to say? That Barack Obama will be remembered by history as the man who threw away the victory in Iraq, who threw away Ronald Reagan’s victory in the Cold War and — at the rate he’s going — may eventually succeed in undoing Franklin’s Roosevelt’s victory in World War 2?

The way Mitt Romney [in a Recent WSJ op-ed] described the situation is this: “Why are there no good choices?”
From Crimea to North Korea, from Syria to Egypt, and from Iraq to Afghanistan, America apparently has no good options. If possession is nine-tenths of the law, Russia owns Crimea and all we can do is sanction and disinvite — and wring our hands.

Iran is following North Korea’s nuclear path, but it seems that we can only entreat Iran to sign the same kind of agreement North Korea once signed, undoubtedly with the same result.

Our tough talk about a red line in Syria prompted Vladimir Putin’s sleight of hand, leaving the chemicals and killings much as they were. We say Bashar Assad must go, but aligning with his al Qaeda-backed opposition is an unacceptable option.

And how can it be that Iraq and Afghanistan each refused to sign the status-of-forces agreement with us — with the very nation that shed the blood of thousands of our bravest for them?
There are no good choices because America is in a foreign policy clip-joint. Everything on the menu is bad and all the liquor is bogus. We should be looking for a way back on to the street and not seeking a way to get further in. The word is out: every bad guy within hail knows Obama is a screw-up and worse, one with delusions of grandeur.
That's a strong, but accurate indictment of this president.

Even some in the main stream media are beginning to question the president's approach. David Sanger (an Obama cheerleader and a strong supporter of everything Obama does) now writes:
But so far those foreign policy] tools — or even the threat of them — have proved frustratingly ineffective in the most recent crises. Sanctions and modest help to the Syrian rebels have failed to halt the slaughter; if anything, the killing worsened as negotiations dragged on.

The White House was taken by surprise by Vladimir V. Putin’s decisions to invade Crimea, but also by China’s increasingly assertive declaration of exclusive rights to airspace and barren islands. Neither the economic pressure nor the cyberattacks that forced Iran to reconsider its approach have prevented North Korea’s stealthy revitalization of its nuclear and missile programs.

In short, America’s adversaries are testing the limits of America’s post-Iraq, post-Afghanistan moment.

“We’re seeing the ‘light footprint’ run out of gas,” said one of Mr. Obama’s former senior national security aides, who would not speak on the record about his ex-boss.
"Testing the limits" occurs when adversaries perceive weakness, indecisiveness or fecklessness. "Testing the limits" is how wars start.

Slowly, very, very slowly, some within the leftist intelligencia are coming to realize that the man they wanted so desparately for president, the man they supported twice, the man who was supposed to be an gleaming historic figure, may very well make a serious impression on history. But not in the way they believed he would.

An important part of the fantasy ideology of the leftist intelligensia who continue to support Barack Obama is to completely disregard the words—the stated intent—of our foreign enemies and opponents. To paraphrase a comment made by Richard Fernandez in the aforementioned post, when Obama and his supporters hear Putin state that he is going to restore the honor of mother Russia and expand its influence and land, or Iran state that they're going to obliterate Israel and/or turn America into ash, or China declare that they're going to lay claim to most of the islands in the South China Sea, Barack Obama and his supporters think, Nah, they didn't mean that. After all, Putin and the leaders of Iran and China are reasonable people, and if we talk softly, they'll join those us who have evolved into citizens of the world and residents of the 21st century.

The problem is—Russia and Iran and China do mean it, but our current 'leaders' are too deluded to understand its import.


Michael Auslin comments on the situation:
The toxic brew of negative perceptions of Western/liberal military capability and political will is rapidly undermining the post-1945 order around the world. Reduced military budgets, global perceptions of American and European weakness, the outright dismissal of presidential redlines, and memories of total inaction like during the 2008 Georgian invasion or Syrian civil war have set the stage for future opportunism. More than one commentator has noted the similarities between Hitler in 1938 and Putin in 2014. Like Hitler did, Putin is playing a weak hand, though it is relatively stronger than the object of his aggression, and even token opposition by the West could cause him to fold. We now know that Hitler would have pulled his troops out of the Sudetenland in the face of any British or French opposition. Thus, what may matter most to global stability is the reaction of the West, and in the case of inaction, it abets opportunistic aggression.

A world in which dissatisfied powers seek to redraw old maps or restore national “honor” will be immeasurably more dangerous when they correctly gauge that the West can offer only moral outrage and little else. Neither China nor Russia may be so reckless as to act aggressively without any cause, but there are myriad “causes” out there, many of which we dismiss because they don’t fit our definition of rationality or national interest, and onto which Beijing, Moscow, Tehran and others can latch.

Policymakers and analysts too little take account of the poisonous connection between perceptions of Western credibility and the festering disputes that can be used as a casus belli for those seeking advantage. Crimea has been a sore spot for Russia (in recent history) since Nikita Khrushchev transferred it to Ukraine in 1954. It is hard to imagine a scenario whereby Vladimir Putin would be able to get away with fomenting a crisis out of whole cloth. But, as he showed in Georgia, he will respond with military alacrity when given the opportunity. Western capitals, for their part, chose not to believe that he would be so reckless as to press his advantage in Ukraine as forcefully as he has, in no small part because they have few options for opposing him.
Nah ... Putin (or Iran or China) really, really didn't mean that. Did he (they)?

UPDATE-III (3/21/2014):
And this comment from Mona Charen:
Nothing so encourages an aggressor as the perception of weakness in his antagonists. Obama hasn't even processed that he is an antagonist. Why, he means no one any harm (except perhaps Republicans). Didn't he reset relations with Moscow? Didn't he promise in 2012 to show "more flexibility" toward Putin after the election? Didn't he say, over and over again, that a "decade of war is ending" and that we are going to do some "nation building here at home"? Did he not maneuver the United States into "leading from behind" in Libya? Hasn't he pressured allies like Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians while permitting Mahmoud Abbas to skate? Hasn't he let bygones be bygones about the Edward Snowden unpleasantness?

Hasn't he drastically reduced defense spending? Didn't he give Bashar Assad a third chance after drawing red lines? Hasn't he sought to ingratiate himself with China's brutal regime (his family is traveling there this week)? Didn't he permit Putin to oversee Assad's supposed surrender of chemical weapons? How could a leader be more unthreatening?
Outside the fantasy world of the Obama administration, "unthreatening" behavior is perceived (rightly or wrongly) as weakness, and weakness leads to aggression by the hard men and women who populate leadership positions in the real world.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


It isn't difficult to see that trouble is coming. All you have to do is leave the fantasy world that has been constructed by the Democrats, the Obama administration, and by their trained hamsters in the media. In that fantasy world, profligate and irresponsible entitlement spending, massive debt, new and ever-expanding entitlements, and the unrelenting growth of government can be offset by taxation, specifically taxes targeted at "the rich." No matter that taxes on "the rich" cannot pay the bills, no matter that trillion dollar deficits lead us nowhere, no matter that things that cannot last forever, won't, the fantasy seems to hold sway. Reform social security and medicare? Not a chance. Reduce the number of people who are dependent on government? Nah, rather than trying to reduce dependency, actively recruit new dependents (e.g., food stamps, social security disability) so that the roles swell ever larger.

The democrats are the driver of this fantasy, but the Republicans have been culpable as well, unable or unwilling to stem the flow of dollars from our pockets into the maw of the federal spending. And by the way, any politician who suggests that the solution rests with stopping "fraud, waste and abuse" is lying. Unless we reduce the size of government, thereby reducing the size of fraud, waste and abuse, we're in deep trouble.

It appears that the Director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) agrees:
( - The United States faces "fundamental fiscal challenges" stemming from the growth in spending for Social Security and major health care programs," CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf told a gathering in Washington on Tuesday.

The rising cost of those programs leaves Americans with "unpleasant" choices to make, but the sooner they're made, the better, he said:

"So we have a choice as a society to either scale back those programs relative to what is promised under current law; or to raise tax revenue above its historical average to pay for the expansion of those programs; or to cut back on all other spending even more sharply than we already are," Elmendorf said.

"And we haven't actually decided as a society...what we're going to do. But some combination of those three choices will be needed."

Elmendorf said there are various ways to proceed: "But they tend to be unpleasant in one way or another, and we have not, as a society, decided how much of that sort of unpleasantness to inflict on whom."
So, in the through-the-looking-glass world of Washington, DC unpleasantness is equated with responsible fiscal restraint. And demagogues like Barack Obama will suggest that we must leave "the age of austerity" (a laughable characterization were in not so blatantly dishonest) and spend even more, expand entitlements even more, take on debt even more.
Elmendorf said Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid and Obamacare will be much more expensive relative to GDP in future years because health care costs are rising, subsidized health insurance is expanding, and the population is aging: "There will be a third more people receiving Social Security Medicare benefits a decade from now than there are today," he noted.
No worries ... our kids and grand kids will happily foot the bill, won't they?


Then trouble is coming.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


A year ago, my son and I partnered to create a small ecommerce business. We built a website on an ecommerce platform, and after designing and building a product (now, many products) we opened for business. From the first day and every day thereafter, our ecommerce platform provided us with the number of people who visited, the number of people who put products into their shoping cart but didn't complete the purchase, the number of people who did purchase, the number of dollars associated with each purchase, the total dollars spent daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly. That data is available in real time and can be acquired with a very simple click of the mouse.

Why is it, then, that HHS secretary Kathleen Sebillius, who presided over a website that cost north of $400 million and took 4 years to complete, cannot provide congress with accurate and timely numbers on the number of people who have purchased Obamacare? "Purchase" means, quite simply, that the person has paid for their insurance policy with dollars that are theirs. The reason, of course, is that Sibillius has the data, but the data isn't good. Therefore, like so many other situations involving this administration, she stonewalls.

Carrying on in a tradition of mendaciousness that has now become so common that it elicits a shrug of the shoulders, the Obama administration claims that "over 5 million" people have enrolled in the A.C.A. Even some of Obama's trained hamsters in the media are questioning that number. Why? Because an investigation of past enrollment numbers indicates that an average of 20 percent of "enrollees" never pay and are therefore uncovered.

Jonathan Tobin comments:
As we’ve noted previously, the non-payment of the premium is not a technicality. Many of those purchasing the insurance may be first-time buyers and not understand that they must pay their bill before coverage starts rather than long after the fact, as they can with a credit card transaction. Or it may be that some enrolled with no intention of paying or thinking that the hype about the glories of ObamaCare they’ve heard in the mainstream media and from the president absolved them of the obligation to pay for it. But either way, the large number of non-payments renders the enrollment figures meaningless and ensures that the rates for those who do pay are going up next year by percentages that will shock them.

The president claimed that the number of enrollees has already reached the point where the law will work rather than collapse from lack of participation. But even if we accept his premise that falling millions of customers short of the announced goal of seven million is no big deal, the fact that hundreds of thousands of those being counted in the pool of those he’s counting are not covered because of non-payment of premiums makes his assertion a colossal fraud.
The reason that Obamacare is a colossal mistake is that the middle class and the young are being asked to subsidize the insurance for the poor, the almost-elderly, the sick, and the uninsured. That seems like a nice thing to do, but in order to create the necessary transfer of wealth (the underlying goal of Obamacare), the cost of policies for the middle class and the young has been considerably inflated. Worse, because people blanch as the costs, the exorbitant deductibles, and the lack of choice (e.g., "you can keep your doctor," except when you can't), they are not signing up for and paying their policies, so next year, insurance companies will (1) raise premiums significantly or (2) be bailed out by a president who is only too happy to spend the taxpayers hard earned money.

The slow motion train wreck continues.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Factored In

The Right suggests that Vladimir Putin's annexation of Crimea and Russia's ominous actions at the Ukrainian border are a result of Barack Obama's indecisiveness and weakness. There are elements of truth in that assertion, but it is not wholly correct.

Peggy Noonan discusses the situation:
We see Viadimir Putin as re-enacting the Cold War. He sees us as re-enacting American greatness. We see his actions as a throwback. He sees our denunciations as a strutting on the stage by a broken down, has-been actor.

Mr. Putin doesn't move because of American presidents, he moves for his own reasons. But he does move when American presidents are weak. He moved on Georgia in August 2008 when George W. Bush was reeling from unwon wars, terrible polls and a looming economic catastrophe that all but children knew was coming. (It came the next month.) Mr. Bush was no longer formidable as a leader of the free world.

Mr. Putin moved on Ukraine when Barack Obama was no longer a charismatic character but a known quantity with low polls, failing support, a weak economy. He'd taken Mr. Obama's measure during the Syria crisis and surely judged him not a shrewd international chess player but a secretly anxious professor who makes himself feel safe with the sound of his voice.

Mr. Putin didn't go into Ukraine because of Mr. Obama. He just factored him in.
After more than a decade of fruitless warfare in the middle east, where blood and money were wasted on duplicitous "allies,international " the American public is tired of intervention. Putin knows this and understands that Obama's feckless foreign policy reflects that attitude.

Sadly, Obama and the ivy league geniuses that control the state department have forgotten the most basic of all lessons, suggested more than 500 years ago be Nicollo Machiavelli:
“as the physicians say it happens in hectic fever, that in the beginning of the malady it is easy to cure but difficult to detect, but in the course of time, not having been either detected or treated in the beginning, it becomes easy to detect but difficult to cure”
As the president waffles on this or that foreign policy crisis, he misses an opportunity to cure a "malady" early. As it becomes more serious, it's obvious that things are going quite wrong, but the cure is difficult or painful or impossible, spreading to other parts of the body and becoming toxic to all that are nearby

Noonan is correct when she assets that Barack Obama is not the cause of Putin's aggressive moves, but the president's actions were very much factored in as Russia made the decision to act. The real problem is that a simple fever (Crimea) may very well become a very serious "malady." I'm quite certain that Barack Obama and John Kerry are not the physicians I'd choose to cure it.


In the same article, Peggy Noonan comments on Barack Obama's foreign policy (or lack thereof):
Not being George W. Bush is not a foreign policy. Not invading countries is not a foreign policy. Wishing to demonstrate your sophistication by announcing you are unencumbered by the false historical narratives of the past is not a foreign policy. Assuming the world will be nice if we're not militarist is not a foreign policy.

What is our foreign policy? Disliking global warming?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Changing the Subject

America's trial lawyers are among the stauchest supporters of Democrats and Barack Obama. When long needed tort reform is proposed, they leap into action, urging their Democrat friends to demagogue the subject so that nothing gets reformed. They win every time.

One of the cynical aphorisms adopted by good trial lawyers is this: "When your client is guilty, change the subject!" Apparently they've taught this lesson to the Democratic strategy makers in Washington. Over the past five years, Democrats have watched as an incompetent and in some cases corrupt administration has failed to revive an ailing economy, racked up additional trillions in debt, brought an already struggling healthcare system to crisis, fostered scandals that rival (and in some case surpass) the hated Nixon administration, and initiated changes to existing law (via regulatory or executive fiat) that have questionable constitutionality. Democrats have remained supine as all of this was happened, in many cases actively defending the indefensible. Now, as the Reverend Wright might say, 'the chickens are coming home to roost' with the upcoming 2014 elections.

What do do?

When your client is guilty, change the subject!

Since discussion of the economy, debt, Obamacare, the IRS, the NSA, the CIA or any other substantive matters are poisonous to democratic candidates in 2014, one element of a strategy for reelection will be to focus on "the war on women." John Stossel summarizes:
You've probably heard that Democratic Party leaders decided that a way to win votes this November is to shout loudly that Republicans wage "war on women." Politico calls this a "proven, persuasive argument."

Give me a break.
Well, maybe not. For low information voters, social issues, both real and imagined, hold sway. Economic numbers are deadly boring, scandals require careful study so that the dots can be connected, government policy is complex and difficult to understand. But a "war on woman?" Not only is it alliterative, it's ... easy to believe, even if it's demonstrably untrue.

Stossel expands the discussion:
President Barack Obama and his supporters brag that Obamacare forces health insurance companies to sell men and women health insurance for the exact same price. On my TV show this week, Democratic activist Jehmu Greene asks indignantly, "Do you want to live in a country where you charge women more than men?"

Well, yes, I do. Insurance should account for costs. Women go to doctors much more often. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say, even if you exclude pregnancy visits, women are 33 percent more likely to visit a doctor.

Insurance companies used to reflect that in prices. That isn't bigotry -- it's just math.

Insurance companies still charge men more for car and life insurance. A survey of car insurance companies found that the cheapest policy for a woman cost 39 percent less than for a man. A 60-year-old woman pays 20 percent less than a man for a 10-year life insurance policy. Seventy-year-old women pay half as much as men.

That's just math, too, because most women live longer than men and, despite the "woman-driver" stereotype, we men get into more car accidents.

I don't hear activists complaining about men paying too much. The "victim" propaganda works only when women pay more.

The sexes are simply different. Yet government demands that colleges have gender-equal sports participation. It's fine if dance and art groups are mostly women, but if athletic teams are too male, lawsuits follow.

Obama even cynically repeats the misleading claim that women make 77 cents for every dollar men make, although his own Department of Labor says the difference evaporates once you control for experience and other choices.
But none of this matters when emotion overpowers intellect, and that's what both trial lawyers and democrat strategists count on. It often works, and that's a shame.

An aside: There's another element to the "war on woman" meme—battle space preparation. As Hillary Clinton begins her march toward the 2016 presidency, it's very important to preprogram the public into believing that anyone who questions her competency, her past actions and dealings, or her recent activities as Secretary of State is engaging in a war on women. Just as critiques of candidate Barack Obama were cynically labeled "racist," the inevitable critiques of Hillary will be labeled "misogynistic." And if the "war on woman" meme is deeply embedded into the public consciousness, those ridiculous claims will be more easily believed. Clever.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Rewrite

The New York Times was once considered a journalistic icon—America's newspaper of record. Today, it has devolved in the house organ for the Obama administration—loath to ask penetrating questions, incurious to a level of malfeasance, and hostile to anyone or any entity that has the temerity to ask questions about the goings-on inside the administration.

As a follow-up to my last post, "Takes One", a story featured in yesterday's New York Times is just another laughable example of media bias and by extension and indication of how important national stories are buried, but less important local stories that reflect badly on persona non gratia (in this case, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey who was once a potential challenger for Hillary Clinton) get heavy, heavy play.

In a featured 2,500 word piece (quite long by newspaper standards) The New York Times reports:
Mr. Christie and his allies at the Port Authority are now entangled in a scandal over the closing of lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge — apparently a politically motivated move aimed at Mr. Sokolich [Mayor of Fort Lee, NJ], who had declined to endorse the governor. But long before the lane closings, the Port Authority — a bistate government agency financed by tolls and taxes — had already been turned into a de facto political operation for Governor Christie, a review of the agency’s operations since Mr. Christie took office suggests.

Let's assume that the NYT story is 100% accurate. It's worth publishing, for sure. It might even be worth 2, 3 or more stories (and the NYT has already published them). No problem with any of that.

But what is ironic, and in fact, downright troubling is that this venerable newspaper refuses to cover the Obama administration's IRS scandal (or Benghazi, or the DoJ targeting of journalists or ...) with anywhere near the number of words, column inches, or emphasis.

Let's rewrite the above NYT extract just bit:
Mr. Obama and his allies throughout the administration and the IRS are now entangled in a scandal over targeting opponents of the president during an election year — apparently a politically motivated move aimed at conservative groups, who had declined to endorse the president. But long before the current IRS scandal, the Justice Department — a government agency financed by taxes — had already been turned into a de facto political operation for Barack Obama, a review of a series of events and released documents since Mr. Obama took office suggests.

There. That wasn't so hard, was it? Even a layman like me can repurpose the NYT's words to tell an important national story.

The NYT and virtually all of Obama's trained hamsters in the media seem obsessed with the Christie story—a local scandal that does not have significant national implications—except for the political aspirations of the governor. But weaponizing the IRS—one of the most powerful agencies in the federal government, using that agency to harass groups and individuals who have differing political views, and then stonewalling so that the truth is buried—nah, that's not interesting or newsworthy at all. 2,500 words? Not a chance. Front page coverage, never!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Takes One

Looking at the long-term outlook for our country, I've come to the conclusion that the most important story of the Obama years is not a failed economy, our skyrocketing debt, our profligate government spending, the myriad scandals, or the train wreck that we now call Obamacare. It is not the continuing disintegration of the Middle East, unenforced "red lines," Iran's unimpeded quest for nuclear weapons, or Russia's move to annex Crimea. Rather, it's an escalating media bias that has allowed an incompetent, corrupt, and divisive administration to operate without challenge.

The media has decided that it is now an arm of the state—pravda-like. It covers stories that reflect well on this administration (there are very few, indeed), waters down and spins coverage that is negative but can't be avoided, and flat our refuses to cover stories that might create broad public outrage.

A case in point is the IRS scandal. The Obama administration weaponized the IRS. Hard facts along with copius circumstantial evidence make this irrefutable. Yet, the media looks the other way. The Wall Street Journal reports:
ABC, CBS and NBC have so far refused to report the latest bombshell in the IRS scandal - a newly released list from the agency that showed it flagged political groups for "anti-Obama rhetoric." On September 18 USA Today, in a front page story, reported the following: "Newly uncovered IRS documents show the agency flagged political groups based on the content of their literature, raising concerns specifically about 'anti-Obama rhetoric,' inflammatory language and 'emotional' statements made by non-profits seeking tax-exempt status."

Not only have ABC, CBS and NBC not reported this story they've flat out stopped covering the IRS scandal on their evening and morning shows. It's been 85 days since ABC last touched the story on June 26. NBC hasn't done a report for 84 days and CBS last mentioned the IRS scandal 56 days ago on July 24.
These shocking statistics can be interpreted in only one way: there is a clear attempt to bury this important story. What if the media had reacted similarly when Richard Nixon's people burglarized Warergate? In fact, the IRS wrongdoing is far, far more serious because the IRS itself was compromised.

Over the past few years, I've used phrases like "Praetorian guard" and "trained hamsters" to describe the main stream media. The alphabet networks and their print clones have lost their way. They have become a partisan arm of the Democratic party, protectors of a failed President, and propagandists for an one ideology to the exclusion of any other. They have failed to do their job, have failed to speak truth to power, have failed to serve the public's right to know.

It fascinating that a corrupt and incompetent media is protecting a corrupt and incompetent administration. Takes one to know one.

UPDATE (3/11/2014):

Sharyl Attkisson was one of very view true journalists left in the main stream media. She is an investigative reporter who did excellent work reporting on scandals among Democrats and Republicans. Like all good journalists, she did not give the Obama administration any slack—even though she worked for the trained hamsters at CBS News—and as a consequence, she became a pariah. After all, she spoke truth to power, but that's not the game when Barack Obama is president.

Jonathan Tobin reports:
The news that CBS News investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson is leaving the network does not come as any great surprise to those who have followed her career. Last year, at a time when we learned that the Obama Justice Department was spying on Fox News’ James Rosen as well as a group of reporters at the Associated Press, Attkisson reported that her computer had been hacked. But, as Dylan Byers wrote in Politico, Attkisson had an even bigger problem: most of her colleagues at CBS didn’t like the fact that she had spent the last few years reporting aggressively about the Obama administration’s various shortcomings and scandals. Journalists at mainstream media outlets like to pretend that they play it down the middle when it comes to whoever is in power. But it was hardly a coincidence that the prevailing office culture at the network that the president trusted, in Steve Kroft’s memorable phrase, not to make him “look stupid,” would think ill of a reporter that thought it worth her time to investigate stories like Fast and Furious, Solyndra and Benghazi.
Her resignation is for the best. Hopefully she'll now be free to do the excellent reporting she wants to do -- unless al her files are deleted in another "mysterious" hacking event. Hmmm.

UPDATE - II (3/11/2004):

The Obama administration has worked very hard to pre-program the MSM to report in its favor. Of course the MSM acts like a puppy dog, so hard work probably isn't even necessary. Brietbart reports on the incestuous relationship that exists between senior MSM execs and the administration:

1. According to ABC News, Obama's national security advisor Ben Rhodes was deeply involved in the editing of the CIA talking points.

2. These same CIA talking points are central to what many believe is a White House coverup.

3. Ben Rhodes is the brother of CBS News president David Rhodes.

4. At CBS News, Sharyl Attkisson is one of the only mainstream media journalists with the dogged determination and moral courage to demand the truth about the White House's involvement in the CIA talking points.

5. For months now reports have surfaced that Attkisson's bosses are unhappy with her, that she has trouble getting her Libya stories on the air, and that she's being accused of engaging in "advocacy."
House of Cards, baby, House of Cards!

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Fantasy Ideology

Any world view that relies on fantasy is dangerous. When the hard-right rails against gay marriage and argues that the government should control a woman's personal decisions, they are on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of broad public opinion, and the wrong side of the generational divide. Theirs is a fantasy ideology—a position that gives them the illusion of establishing the moral high ground, but accomplishes nothing. When the hard left embraces class warfare, denigrates capitalism, views 'oppression' very selectively, and  believes that big government is an effective mechanism for good, they become a destructive force that tears at the fabric of what makes the American experiment exceptional. Theirs is also a fantasy ideology.

Both the hard right and the far left view the world through a lens that distorts (to use the tag line of this blog). Nothing exemplifies the distortion more than the left-wing politics of the Obama administration.

Steve Hayes comments on this with respect to events over Obama's presidency:
For five years, the Obama administration has chosen to see the world as they wish it to be, not as it is. In this fantasy world, the attack in Fort Hood is “workplace violence.” The Christmas Day bomber is an “isolated extremist.” The attempted bombing in Times Square is a “one-off” attack. The attacks in Benghazi are a “spontaneous” reaction to a YouTube video. Al Qaeda is on the run. Bashar al-Assad is a “reformer.” The Iranian regime can be sweet-talked out of its nuclear weapons program. And Vladimir Putin is a new, post-Cold War Russian leader.

In the real world, it was a pen pal of the late jihadist Anwar al-Awlaki who opened fire on soldiers at Fort Hood. The Christmas bomber was dispatched from Yemen, where he was instructed by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The Times Square bomber was trained and financed by the Pakistani Taliban. Benghazi was a deliberate attack launched by well-known terrorist groups. Al Qaeda is amassing territory and increasing its profile. Assad is a brutal dictator, responsible for the deaths of more than 100,000 Syrians. The Iranian regime is firmly entrenched as the world’s foremost state sponsor of terror and remains determined to lead a nuclear state. And in Russia we face a Cold War throwback willing to use force to expand Russian influence.

And Vladimir Putin, it turns out, is who we thought he was. Unfortunately, so is Barack Obama.
Over the years I've written many times about the seeming inability of the Obama administration to see the world as it is, not as they wish it to be. We live in a world where hard men and women want to force their will on others. They cannot be stopped by talking or by diplomacy, they cannot be trusted to keep their word or honor their commitments, they cannot be cajoled into taking a softer stance, and they view negotiation and/or indecision as weakness. We can wish that these hard men and women would act differently, that "nice" would change their worldview, but that wish is a fantasy.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Opening Feint

New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, is much like his father—a past governor of New York. He's a thoughtful left of center politician who recognizes that government is not the solution to every problem and taxes are not the only way to get things done in a blue state as complex as New York. Cuomo has stated that he is in favor of universal pre-K schooling, but believes this can be accomplished without additional taxes. Setting aside the simple reality that universal Pre-K is an expensive, albeit noble proposition and that it must be intelligently funded, Cuomo's heart is in the right place. In an era of ridiculously heavy taxation, he recognizes that piling on still more taxes will hurt the already crippled economic climate in New York. Cuomo is also in favor of continuing funding for Charter schools, allowing kids in the inner city to have an alternative to demonstrably failing public schools in their cities.

New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio, is a hard left ideologue who Peggy Noonan correctly describes as a "small and politically vicious man ..." In what appears to be a multi-decade cycle in NYC, the leftist de Blasio was elected after the successful stewardship of two competent NYC mayors, Rudy Guiliani and Michael Bloomberg. It was time to wreck havoc once again on a city that had come back from the damage (e.g., deficits, high taxes, crime) that occurred under Democratic mayors that preceded them.

It's interesting to ask why de Blasio was elected. The answer is complex, but I believe that Barack Obama, a more subtle leftist himself, set the tone that made it okay for New Yorkers to elect a left-wing ideologue. Obama made class warfare a winning strategy. He repeatedly and viciously (in political terms) demonized "the rich," using class warfare as a wedge that endeared him to those that are dependent (via entitlements, pensions, or government work) on the government. He viewed taxation as retribution, and acted accordingly. More moderate democrats, many of whom felt uncomfortable with Obama's class warfare meme, remained silent and voted their party. New York City democrats, many of whom recognized that de Blasio was, in fact, a"small and politically vicious man ..." did the same—holding their nose and voting for a man uniquely unqualified to lead America's largest city.

Today, de Blasio wants to eliminate charter schools in NYC and implement universal pre-K funded solely by increased taxes on the wealthy. Peggy Noonan comments:
Bill de Blasio doesn't like charter schools. They are too successful to be tolerated. Last week he announced he will drop the ax on three planned Success Academy schools. (You know Success Academy: It was chronicled in the film "Waiting for Superman." It's one of the charter schools the disadvantaged kids are desperate to get into.) Mr. de Blasio has also cut and redirected the entire allotment for charter facility funding from the city's capitol budget. An official associated with a small, independent charter school in the South Bronx told me the decision will siphon money from his school's operations. He summed up his feelings with two words: "It's dispiriting."

Some 70,000 of the city's one million students, most black or Hispanic, attend charter schools, mostly in poorer neighborhoods. Charter schools are privately run but largely publicly financed. Their teachers are not unionized. Their students usually outscore their counterparts at conventional public schools on state tests. Success Academy does particularly well. Last year 82% of its students passed citywide math exams. Citywide the figure was 30%.
Recalling the old communist Russian proverb about the farmer and the goat, de Blasio would prefer to kill the goat (Charter schools) than allow the farmer (school kids) to prosper. Is anyone really surprised?

Universal pre-K is even more illuminating. De Blasio wants it, but only if it is funded by taxing "the rich." He has been informed that it can be achieved without punitive taxes on a small percentage of New Yorkers, but he refuses. After all, class retribution is what this is all about, isn't it?

Noonan comments on the man and the reaction of NYC Democrats to the man:
Nice liberals who back school reform are saying some very strange things about what Mr. de Blasio is doing. They're being awfully understanding. They're saying you have to appreciate that compared with his political base, the mayor is really staking out a middle ground. He is not going as far as the progressive left wants him to. They want to block all charters. They're disappointed! The teachers union doesn't want any charter expansion. And they're his base!

It is not the job of nice liberals to make excuses for pols who take a good thing from kids just to satisfy a political agenda. It is not the job of nice liberals to forgive a politician acting in a brutish way, throwing poor children from hard circumstances out of good schools.

It's not the job of liberals to explain that away. It's their job to oppose it, because this move against charter schools is an opening feint, a showing of mood, and a sign of things to come

The nice liberals of New York are sounding on this very much like frightened French aristocrats in 1792: "You have to understand, Marat is pretty ideological and we're lucky he's only cutting off our ears and nose and not our heads." No, he came for their heads later.

You say,: "He's not Marat, he's just a slob." That's true. But even slobs need to be opposed now and then.

In this move more than any so far, Mr. de Blasio shows signs he is what his critics warned he would be—a destructive force in the city of New York. When a man says he will raise taxes to achieve a program like pre-K education, and is quickly informed that that program can be achieved without raising taxes, and his answer is that he wants to raise taxes anyway, that man is an ideologue.

And ideologues will sacrifice anything to their ideology. Even children.
If Obama and de Blasio are, in fact, an "opening feint" for the political direction of the country as a whole, we are in deep trouble.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

House of Cards

Since the release of the second season of the Netflix series, House of Cards, my view of current events in Washingtom has been changed—possible permanently. The fictional account of the cynical, illegal, dishonest, money and power-driven world of the series protagonist, Congress Frank Underwood, is, if you can believe those inside the beltway, far to close to reality for comfort. The series depicts Washington, DC as a place were power politics morphs into political pressure and threats, secret deals driven by lobbyists whose influence shapes policy in ways that are almost never good for taxpayers and citizens. It depicts a world in which everything—and I do mean everything—is driven by political considerations, and the political considerations are themselves driven solely by the quest for power.

Did I mention that Congressman Underwood is a Democrat?

In most Hollywood depictions of Washington, say West Wing, Democrats are always depicted as the idealists, the populists, the honest brokers that want only the best for the people. Republicans? Venal, ideological, cynical, obstinate, obstructionist. It's such a common meme that viewers/readers have come to expect it.

Well, House of Cards is to Westwing, as William Landay's's Defending Jacob is to  JK Rowling's Harry Potter. True, both are fiction, but the former is a harsh view of the real world, and the latter is pure fantasy.

The politics in House of Cards is an ideological muddle—but in the end, almost every politician is a 'bad guy,' and that's probably appropriate. The heroes appear to be the media—by today's standards, that's laughable, but after all, the series originates in Hollywood.

Andrew Claven writes about the unique nature of the series:
...there is one way in which House of Cards relentlessly and continuously undermines the left-wing narrative, whether it intends to or not. In its heightened way, it shows the government as exactly what it is: a power center, inspiring all the soulless perfidy and amoral ambition that any power center is prone to inspire.

This is devastating to left-wing philosophy, because the central flaw of leftism is not its ceaseless cynicism about business, individualism, religion, or the common man—it’s that its cynicism evaporates into unicorn-and-rainbow stupidity when it comes to government ...

America’s Founders did not put check-and-balance brakes on government because they idealized the people. They knew the people all too well. But they also knew that it is in government that power tends to coalesce; that it is in power that men and women become most corrupt and abusive; and that it is corruption and abuse that eat relentlessly into the walls and rafters of the cathedral of liberty, until the entire structure collapses like . . . a house of cards.
As I watch to daily machinations that occur in Washington I worry that as the corruption accelerates, the fictional and the actual are beginning to coalesce.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Lois & Robert

Much to the chagrin of Barack Obama and his Democrat supporters, the IRS scandal will not go away. Sure the mainstream media is studiously disinterested and in some cases, obstructionist, and the Democrats are perfectly willing to allow the weaponization of federal agency, as long as the weapons are pointed at their opponents—for now.

Today, Lois Lerner is scheduled to testify once again before a Congressional Committee, but there are conflicting reports that the senior IRS office will or will not continue to plead the fifth. It's odd that she would do that since the president has told us that there's "not a smidgen of corruption" involved in this scandal—not a smidgen! It appears that Lerner and her lawyers think otherwise.

Commenter "J. Motes" at the Legal Insurrection blog makes an interesting comment about Lerner and the Fifth:
Lois Lerner IS government, and in her capacity as a government official she violated the rights of Americans. The Congressional hearings into IRS harassment of conservative groups are supposed to be seeking information about government violations of the inalienable rights of its citizens.

When a government official, Lerner in this case, is questioned about what she did in her official role against the American people, how can she hide behind the Fifth Amendment right that protects citizens from government abuse? She is the abuser the Founders warned us about.

Whether Lois Lerner is an innocent or a guilty party invoking the Fifth Amendment is not a relevant question at all. She IS the massive power of the government who was railroading the rights of innocent Americans. I don’t believe that any government official should be able to twist out of having to account for violating the rights of the American people by claiming to be an innocent party who is entitled to Fifth Amendment protection. The Bill of Rights, including the Fifth Amendment, belongs to us, not to government, and it protects private citizens from government apparatchiks like Lois Lerner and her fellow tyrants. How dare she lay claim to OUR right as a means of protecting government (herself) from being held accountable for violating our rights?
Of course, Lerner is still a citizen and still entitled to constitutional protections. But it is ironic indeed that Lerner purposely (and more probably, criminally) abrogated the rights of other Americans and then invokes her right to protect herself from criminal prosecution under the fifth amendment. More importantly, she invokes those rights to protect those as yet unnamed people in the administration or close supporters of it who encouraged or commanded her to weaponize the IRS.

In my view, Lerner should be given immunity, forced to testify and name names, places, and events. If she lies or "can't recall" she should be cited for contempt of congress and/or perjury and jailed. Of course, there is a danger in granting immunity. Once granted, Lerner could simply fall on the sword, allowing higher-ups to skate away.

In a fascinating analysis of who may have been behind this travesty J. Christian Adams suggests that White House counsel, Robert Bauer, may have been the architect. Adams writes:
Robert Bauer had the motive to direct IRS policy against Tea Party groups. He is a longtime opponent of First Amendment freedoms and an advocate of government-speech regulation. He also can’t stand the work the Tea Party is conducting to monitor and eradicate voter fraud, work the Republican Party and national campaigns have utterly failed to perform.

During the 2008 election, while representing the Obama campaign, Bauer sent a threatening letter to the Justice Department demanding criminal investigations of people who had the audacity to speak about voter fraud. Bauer even singled out Sarah Palin in the letter. Anyone who “developed or disseminated” information about voter fraud, to Bauer, deserved the heavy boot of a criminal investigation.
Adams details the motive, the means and the opportunity for criminal wrong-doing. Read the whole thing.

The Nixonesque nature of this scandal continues to fascinate. The only real difference between this and the Watergate scandal is that the media is actively working to suppress any meaningful investigation, rather than working to uncover wrong-doing and government abuse, as they did with a vengeance during Watergate. But independent writers like Adams have replaced Obama's trained media hamsters, and we may yet get the the bottom of this scandal. God help this president and the Democrats if that actually occurs.

UPDATE (5 March 2014)

Lerner's testimony has been postponed but the claim is she will still appear. In the meantime, Jay Sekulo suggests a number of pertinent question that learn should answer. Among them:
1. What Did You Know and When Did You Know It?
- Were you or others at the IRS aware of the president’s statements?
- Did you or others at the IRS take any action in response to these statements?
- At any point did you or anyone else at the IRS communicate with White House officials regarding Tea Party 501(c)(4) applications?

2. Did You Know About the Politically-Driven Call to Investigate Conservatives?
- Were you or others at the IRS aware of these demands?
- Did you or others at the IRS take any action in response to these demands?
- At any point did you or anyone else at the IRS communicate with Democrat Senators or their staffs regarding 501(c)(4) applications?

3. Who Else is Involved?
- What did you mean when you called the “Tea Party matter” “dangerous” and when you asked whether the FEC would “save the day”?
- Do you believe it is the role of the IRS to limit the free speech rights of American citizens as defined by the Supreme Court of the United States?
- In your apology, you indicated that you knew the questions the IRS was asking Tea Party groups were inappropriate. Why did you continue to send letters well after you claim you knew the IRS’s actions were wrong?

4. Why Were Only Conservatives Targeted & Confidential Documents Leaked?
- Why were only conservative non-profits flagged for audits?
- When did you become aware of the leak of confidential documents to left-leaning media outlets, who leaked the documents, and what – if anything – did you do about it?
- Please describe all of your contacts with any other federal agency regarding any nonprofit organization.
In reality, the mainstream media should have been asking these questions—in the form of journalist investigations—for the past 10 months. But Obama's trained media hamsters don't want to get any answers that might damage their annointed one—even if criminal wrong-doing has taken place.

UPDATE (2/5/14):
The Obama administration succeeds in keeping the stonewall strong. Lois Lerner did appear today, and again took the Fifth. That's a government official who doesn't want to testify because she might incriminate herself. But no worries, Obama tells us there's not a "smidgen of corruption" in this scandal. Not a smidgen. Disgusting.

Monday, March 03, 2014


As if epic foreign policy blunders throughout the Middle East over the past five years weren't enough, Barack Obama has decided to provide us with a brief peek at his true feelings toward Israel, our only modern, democratic ally in the Middle East. Bloomberg reports:
In an hourlong interview Thursday in the Oval Office, Obama, borrowing from the Jewish sage Rabbi Hillel, told me that his message to Netanyahu will be this: “If not now, when? And if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, then who?” He then took a sharper tone, saying that if Netanyahu “does not believe that a peace deal with the Palestinians is the right thing to do for Israel, then he needs to articulate an alternative approach." He added, "It’s hard to come up with one that’s plausible.”

Unlike Netanyahu, Obama will not address the annual convention of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group, this week -- the administration is upset with Aipac for, in its view, trying to subvert American-led nuclear negotiations with Iran. In our interview, the president, while broadly supportive of Israel and a close U.S.-Israel relationship, made statements that would be met at an Aipac convention with cold silence.

Obama was blunter about Israel’s future than I've ever heard him. His language was striking, but of a piece with observations made in recent months by his secretary of state, John Kerry, who until this interview, had taken the lead in pressuring both Netanyahu and the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to agree to a framework deal. Obama made it clear that he views Abbas as the most politically moderate leader the Palestinians may ever have. It seemed obvious to me that the president believes that the next move is Netanyahu’s.

“There comes a point where you can’t manage this anymore, and then you start having to make very difficult choices,” Obama said. “Do you resign yourself to what amounts to a permanent occupation of the West Bank? Is that the character of Israel as a state for a long period of time? Do you perpetuate, over the course of a decade or two decades, more and more restrictive policies in terms of Palestinian movement? Do you place restrictions on Arab-Israelis in ways that run counter to Israel’s traditions?”
You'll note that Obama, in classic hard left fashion, uses the word "occupation" to suggest that the Palestinians have inalienable rights to the disputed land they live on and that the Jews are simply occupiers of that land. The country of Israel? Oh, that's just a detail. A 3,000 year historical record in the region? A piffle.

Of course, Obama makes absolutely no demands of the Palestinians, you know, the "folks" (using Obama's jargon) that will not recognize Israel's right to exist, the "folks" who teach blantant anti-Semitism in their grade school textbooks, the "folks" who launch rockets into Israeli civilian population centers (an act of war) on a regular basis, the "folks" who have not, in any way, shape or form, indicated that they will make the slightest concession for a peaceful settlement. Worse, Obama, along with his bumbling Secretary of State, John Kerry, seem hell-bent of pressuring Israel to negotiate with ... whom, exactly? The PLO, Hamas, Hezballah, The King of Jordon, Assad, the Iranians, Arafat's widow? The Palestinians and their supporters are fractured. An agreement with one does not mean an aggrement with others.

As far as Barack Obama is concerned, it's perfectly okay for Israel to commit national suicide under guaranteed security by ... Barack Obama! That would have just about the same weight as Obama's red lines, his blatant lies about the demise of al Qaida, his disorganized exit from Iraq, and his chaotic exit from Afghanistan, not to mention his weak and ineffective dealings with Iran.

If Barack Obama's people allowed American's to die without any effort to provide a military rescue in Benghazi, Libya, me thinks he'd be perfectly willing to allow Israelis to die in Ashkelon.

As President, Barack Obama has failed at virtually every foreign policy endeavor he has attempted, and as a consequence (think: the Ukraine) he looks weak in the eyes of the world. It appears that his handlers have decided that he needs to project a tougher image. But tougher against Russia, Syria, Iran, the Palestinians, NoKos, Venezuela? Nah ... better to beat up on a tiny democratic country, surrounded by implacable enemies, in a region he knows nothings about. Incredible, or maybe ... predictable, very predictable.


Elliott Abrams of the conservative Weekly Standard comments:
The burden of making peace is put entirely on Israeli shoulders[by Obama]. PA president Abbas (whose term ended five years ago, and who is surrounded by growing corruption) is portrayed as a lovely man ready for peace—no mention that he refused it when it was offered by then-prime minister Olmert in 2008. Is Abbas really ready, now, to sign what he would not back then: an agreement that ends the conflict entirely and finally tells Palestinian “refugees” that they have no right to go to Israel? An agreement that acknowledges Israel as a Jewish state? These doubts are never acknowledged by Obama, who assumes that the only problems are on the Israeli side.

Then comes the kind of vague threat that Secretary Kerry has also made, in his case perhaps without meaning to:
“What we also know is that Israel has become more isolated internationally. We had to stand up in the Security Council in ways that 20 years ago would have involved far more European support, far more support from other parts of the world when it comes to Israel’s position.”
Now in truth the Obama administration has stood up in the Security Council with great reluctance, trying desperately at times to avoid vetoes of anti-Israel resolutions that deserved a quick and easy refusal. And that American reluctance to side clearly and early on with Israel in the Security Council has encouraged the Europeans to draw back as well, so the Obama account has it backwards. But the message remains clear: if Israel refuses the terms we give it, life will become tougher.
What is astounding is that the majority of American Jews still believe that Obama is a friend of Israel. He is not. Never was, never will be.


Richard Fernandez comments on Obama's propensity to avoid decisions and his mendacious in suggesting that the weak accommodations he does make are wonderously successful:
To see it coming [the Ukraine] would have invalidated the fundamental premise of Obama’s foreign policy: that the train line was unobstructed; that he could talk to people he now knows he can’t talk to. For a while the deal making seemed too almost too good to be true and Obama marketed his “opportunities” and “investments” with almost evangelical zeal. Even now Obama plans to tell Benjamin Netanyahu that time is running out for Israel to make a deal with the Palestinians. One of those magic deals Kerry’s negotiated, like the one with Syria. He is figuring to tell the Israeli prime minister he had better buy now while supplies last or miss the deal of the century, the deal of a lifetime! Maybe he even plans to exhibit all the notices he’s received from his “partners for peace” about how close he is to grabbing the Big Brass Ring.

It’s almost too sad to watch. As the Washington Post editorial board just headlined, “President Obama’s foreign policy is based on fantasy”. And that’s a verbatim quote.
Fantasy is something that the left adopts in many of its dealings with the real word. It's also a word you'll find in repeatedly use in this blog. I'm glad the WaPo agrees.

UPDATE (4 March 2014):

Finally, David Harsanyi said it best in a headline for his article on Obama's position:
"On Israel, Obama Has No Clue What He’s Talking About"
Why would Israel make a bad deal with murderous thugs and then be expected to rely on a Obama for its security. That's the same Obama who has repeatedly reneged on his international commitments, dissembled on his positions, and allows our enemies to become stronger. Why, indeed?

UPDATE (9 March 2014)

Israel National News reports:
The United States believes there is no need for the Palestinian Authority (PA) to recognize Israel as a Jewish state as part of a peace agreement, State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Saturday.

Psaki, who spoke to the PA-based Arabic-language Al-Quds newspaper, said, “The American position is clear, Israel is a Jewish state. However, we do not see a need that both sides recognize this position as part of the final agreement.”
Well, of course. Why would Obama and his idiot diplomats even think that it might not be "proportional" (a word they love to use) for Israel to give up land and jeopardize its national security in return for a simple statement that the country has a right to exist? But no worries, the Obama administration is so, so pro-Israel—just listen to his campaign speeches.


Sunday, March 02, 2014


During the presidential debates of 2012, Mitt Romney was asked which nation represented the greatest strategic threat to the United States. He suggested that Russia was a prime candidate. Barack Obama smirked and suggested that "the 1980s were calling" [to laughter by the audience] and that Romney was living in the past as a cold warrior. Obama's trained hamsters in the media picked up on that meme and used it to suggest that Mitt Romney really, really didn't understand the geopolitical scheme and was out of date and out of touch. Hmmm.

Of course, Barack Obama had distinguished himself in foreign policy during his first four years as president, with success after foreign policy success. For example, Egypt as free, Libya was liberated, North Korea had given up its nukes, the Syrian civil was had stopped, Iran had given up its Uranium enrichment, Iraq ended so very well, Afganistan was going swimmingly, and we had a friendly relationship with Russia.

Oh, wait, none of that happened! Obama had failed in virtually every foreign policy endeavor he attempted. His then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton had traveled the globe but accomplished virtually nothing. So ... yeah ... he was entitled to arrogantly criticize Romney, wasn't he?

Fast forward to 2014. The media this morning can talk of nothing else but Russia's military moves in Crimea and it broader threat to the sovereignty of the Ukraine. Conveniently forgetting its criticism of Romney position on Russia, the trained hamsters are now ringing their hands and asking how this all could have happened. On those same Sunday morning shows, Obama's current Secretary of State, John Kerry, blathers on about all that Russia will lose. Does he have the brains to ask himself why on earth Vladimir Putin is making these moves if all he do is loose. Kerry is another in a long line of incompetents that have been nominated by this president.

Walter Russell Mead comments:
A Politico report calls it “a crisis that no one anticipated.” The Daily Beast, reporting on Friday’s US intelligence assessment that “Vladimir Putin’s military would not invade Ukraine,” quotes a Senate aide claiming that “no one really saw this kind of thing coming.”

Op-eds from all over the legacy press this week helped explained why. Through the rose tinted lenses of a media community deeply convinced that President Obama and his dovish team are the masters of foreign relations, nothing poor Putin did could possibly derail the stately progress of our genius president. There were, we were told, lots of reasons not to worry about Ukraine. War is too costly for Russia’s weak economy. Trade would suffer, the ruble would take a hit. The 2008 war with Georgia is a bad historical comparison, as Ukraine’s territory, population and military are much larger. Invasion would harm Russia’s international standing. Putin doesn’t want to spoil his upcoming G8 summit, or his good press from Sochi. Putin would rather let the new government in Kiev humiliate itself with incompetence than give it an enemy to rally against. Crimea’s Tartars and other anti-Russian ethnic minorities wouldn’t stand for it. Headlines like “Why Russia Won’t Invade Ukraine,” “No, Russia Will Not Intervene in Ukraine,” and “5 Reasons for Everyone to Calm Down About Crimea” weren’t hard to find in our most eminent publications.

Nobody, including us, is infallible about the future. Giving the public your best thoughts about where things are headed is all a poor pundit (or government analyst) can do. But this massive intellectual breakdown has a lot to do with a common American mindset that is especially built into our intellectual and chattering classes. Well educated, successful and reasonably liberal minded Americans find it very hard to believe that other people actually see the world in different ways. They can see that Vladimir Putin is not a stupid man and that many of his Russian officials are sophisticated and seasoned observers of the world scene. American experts and academics assume that smart people everywhere must want the same things and reach the same conclusions about the way the world works.
It's a fantasy world view, and as in all things, when fantasy collides with reality, reality wins very time.

I wonder if Obama would repeat his well planned rejoinder to Romney, if the debate were held today. The frightening thing is that he very well might. After all, fantasy tells us that Russia will act as we want it to, that it represents no strategic threat, that any other view is a "cold war" view.

After all, no one anticipated this ... except maybe Mitt Romney in 2012.

Update (3 March 2014) :
It's interesting that during the 2008 presidential campaign, Sarah Palin, of all people, predicted that the Russian invasion of Georgia was a harbinger of an invasion of the Ukraine. The Obama-Media complex leaped at her prediction as still another example of her lack of understanding of geopolitics , her general stupidity, and her unsophisticated world view.

Hmmm. Too bad she was right.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Golf Balls

A golfing buddy misses me on the course, and sent me the politically motivated golf joke (unattributed) to cheer me up. Actually, it more like a parody, but whatever. Here goes ...
(Receptionist) Hello, Welcome to ObamaGolf . My name is Trina. How can I help you?

(Customer) Hello, I received an email from Golfsmith [a national golf chain] stating that my Pro V1 order has been canceled and I should go to your exchange to reorder it.  I tried your web site, but it seems like it is not working. So I am calling the 800 number.

(Receptionist) Yes, I am sorry about the web site. It should be fixed by the end of 2014. But I can help you.

(Customer) Thanks, I ordered some Pro V1 balls [generally considered to be among the very best available].

(Receptionist) Sir, Pro V1's do not meet our minimum standards, I will be happy to provide you with a choice of Pinnacle, TopFlite , or Callaway Blue [generally viewed by many golfers as lower quality].

(Customer) But I have played Pro V1 for years.

(Receptionist) The government has determined that Pro V1s are no longer acceptable, so we have instructed Titleist to stop making them.  TopFlites are better, sir, I am sure you will love them.

(Customer) But I like the Pro V1.  Why are TopFlites better?

(Receptionist) That is all spelled out in the 2700 page "Affordable Golf Ball Act" passed by Congress.

(Customer) Well, how much are these TopFlites ?

(Receptionist) It depends sir, do you want our Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum package?

(Customer) What's the difference?

(Receptionist) 12, 24, 36 or 48 balls.

(Customer) The Silver package may be okay; how much is it?

(Receptionist) Well, off the shelf, the silver package is $99.00.

(Customer)But wait, that's 50% more than I was paying!

(Receptionist) Yes, but remember, you get a lady's left handed driver with the silver plan.

(Customer) But I'm a gu,y and I'm a righty. I don't need a left-handed lady's driver.

(Receptionist) The government has determined that everyone needs a left-handed lady's driver. Besides, you may not have to pay for any of it. What's your monthly income?

(Customer) What does that have to do with anything?

(Receptionist) I need that to determine your government Golf Ball subsidy; then I can determine how much your out-of-pocket cost will be. But if your income is below the poverty level, you might qualify for a subsidy. In that case, I can refer you to our BallAid department.

(Customer) BallAid ?

(Receptionist) Yes, we decided that everyone has a right to have golf balls.  So, if you can't afford them, then the government will supply them free of charge.

(Customer) Who said they were a right?

(Receptionist) The Democrats in Congress passed it, the President signed it, and the Supreme Court found it Constitutional.

(Customer) Whoa.....I don't remember seeing anything in the Constitution regarding golf balls as a right.

(Receptionist) There's no explicit mention of golf balls in the Constitution, but President Obama is a former constitutional scholar and he believes it would have been included if the Constitution had not been drafted by a bunch of slave-owning white men.  The Democrats in the Congress and the Supreme Court agree with the President that golf balls are now a right guaranteed by the Constitution.

(Customer) I don't believe this...

(Receptionist) It's the law of the land sir. Now, we anticipated most people would go for the Silver Package, so what is you monthly income sir?

(Customer) Forget it, I think I will forgo the balls this year.

(Receptionist) In that case, sir, I will still need your monthly income.

(Customer) Why?

(Receptionist) To determine what your 'non-participation' cost would be.

(Customer) WHAT? You can't charge me for NOT buying golf balls.

(Receptionist) It's the law of the land, sir, approved by the Supreme Court. It's $49.50 or 1% of your monthly income.....

(Customer)(interrupting) This is ridiculous, I'll pay the $49.50.

(Receptionist) Sir, it is the $49.50 or 1% of your monthly income, whichever is greater.

(Customer) ARE YOU KIDDING ME? What a ripoff!!

(Receptionist) Actually sir, it is a good deal. Next year it will be 2%.

(Customer) Look, I'm going to call my Congressman to find out what's going on here. This is ridiculous. I'm not going to pay it.

(Receptionist) Sorry to hear that sir, that's why I had the NSA track this call and obtain the make and model of the cell phone you are using.

(Customer) Why does the NSA need to know what kind of CELL PHONE I AM USING?

(Receptionist) So they get your GPS coordinates, sir

(Door Bell rings followed immediately by a loud knock on the door)

(Receptionist) That would be the IRS, sir. Thanks for calling ObamaGolf , have a nice day...and God Bless the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.