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

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Exactly Backwards

It seems that every day the news out of the Middle East gets worse. Today, the Taliban initiates new attacks in Afghanistan. Yesterday, al Qaida's black flag flies high in Syria, the day before ISIS makes significant gains in Iraq. So much for "soft power" and the Obama's administration's errant belief that political settlements are a pivotal condition for success in the region.

In a fascinating article on power and politics, Mathew Continetti writes:
It is one of the oldest tenets of modernity: The state must establish a monopoly on violence before civil society can develop and politics can thrive. Read your Hobbes: “And covenants, without the sword, are but words and of no strength to secure a man at all.” Or read the Founders, who, in both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, argued that rights had to be secured before they could be exercised. Power precedes politics.

Something liberals too easily forget. Raised in material abundance, groomed in institutions of higher education, living and working in safe city precincts, liberals are susceptible to the mirror-image fallacy: the belief that, at the end of the day, all human beings are basically alike, basically good, and basically want the same things liberals want—autonomy, diversity, peace, H&M, inexpensive yoga classes, outdoor brunch.

Which leads them to suppose that international politics operates in the same way as domestic politics, through consultation, debate, negotiation, pleading, trading, log-rolling, and compromise.

If only it were so. The affluent societies of the West may be at peace, but the rest of the world remains a Hobbesian environment where there is no monopoly on violence, no global Leviathan. And where there is no overwhelming and dominant power, where there is no deterring balance among equals, there is war.
Admittedly, this is a very harsh view. It is also quite accurate when applied to the Middle East and to much of the rest of the world. In Libya, Syria, Iraq, and soon Afghanistan, the lack of a "monopoly of violence" will lead to continuous bloodshed and potentially, a war that spills beyond the borders of the Middle East.

Continetti continues:
Rising above, coming together, earning confidence, making plans, aligning interests, voicing aspirations, participating in processes—this isn’t an off-site team-building exercise. It’s the Middle East. Next to oil, violence is their biggest export. Why should the Iraqis listen to Obama, when he has no soldiers in Baghdad to put the fear of Allah into Maliki? Why should anyone?

To have successful politics, you need to secure the peace. You need to monopolize violence through the application of power, the deployment of force. The world today is replete with spaces where power is in retreat, leaving violence in its wake, and the liberal internationalists who run our foreign policy are committed to covenants without the sword. They think politics precedes power, and the result is weakness and war.
There are no easy solutions here, but the Obama administration has their strategy exactly backwards. What else is new?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Into the Fire

Remember Hugo Chavez, the socialist president of Venezuela? When elected in 1999, he proceeded to demonize capitalism, used rabid populist rhetoric to shore up his political base, and demonized the United Stated in forums such as the United Nations (to much applause). Following his communist instincts he began nationalizing private industry in an effort, he claimed, to help his country and the his people. Chavez was widely embraced by Hollywood glitterati and many on the Left in the US. In the beginning, Barack Obama considered him a "friend."

Unfortunately, Chavez (who died in 2013) and his like-minded successor, Nicholas Maduro, have created economic chaos, massive shortages of everything from food to toilet paper, endemic corruption, a thriving black market, and general misery for many Venezuelans. But none of that's a surprise—it's what always happens when socialism is taken to its logical conclusion.

Yahoo News reports:
CARACAS (Reuters) - A blackout cut power to much of Venezuela on Friday, snarling traffic in the capital Caracas and other major cities as authorities scrambled to restore electricity after the outage, which twice interrupted a presidential broadcast.
It's ironic that the power went out during Maduro's speech. Maduro, of course, would never blame his socialist policies for any of Venezuela's travails. It's always his opponents (sound familiar?) who are to blame. Again from Yahoo:
The OPEC nation has suffered an increasing number of power outages in recent years, which critics have attributed to low electricity tariffs and limited state investment following the 2007 nationalization of the power sector...

President Nicolas Maduro in December blamed a similar power outage on opposition saboteurs who attacked a transmission line with a firearm.

Critics call the power problems a symptom of 15 years of socialist policies that have left the country without a steady supply of energy despite having the world's largest oil reserves.

Late socialist leader Hugo Chavez in 2007 nationalized the country's power sector as part of a broad wave of state takeovers.

Maduro this year weathered three months of often violent opposition demonstrations demanding his resignation that were in part motivated by complaints over shoddy public services. He said the protests were a U.S.-backed attempt to overthrow him.
Why is it that socialism's failures are always someone else's fault? Why is it that those on the far left never examine the wreckage it creates and come to the conclusion that the ideology is flawed? Why is it that economic chaos, shortages, huge debt, and corruption always occur after extreme socialist policies are instituted?

Parenthetically, the Miami real estate market is thriving—at least in part because South Americans (many from Venezuela) from socialist countries are hedging their bets and buying residences in the U.S. If the policies of the past 5.5 years and continued for the next 2.5, and then continued for the next eight, those South Americans may be jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

Friday, June 27, 2014

What and When

Glen Reynolds of Instapundit notes the passing of two Watergate-era figures:
Howard Baker, who famously asked “what did the President know and when did he know it?” and Johnnie Walters, the IRS Commissioner who refused to go along with Nixon’s efforts to target his enemies. Both were Republicans who stood up for the rule of law.

Where are the Democrats willing to stand up for it under this Administration?
It is striking to watch the Democrats during the investigation of this scandal. The IRS has targeted American citizens for their political beliefs. The resultant lies and stonewalling by the IRS and the Obama administration should be condemned by anyone who believes that government agencies should not be weaponized. And that includes leading Democrats in Washington.

Instead we hear Democrat members of the committee suggest that this is a "witch hunt." We hear others suggest that the investigation is being conducted solely for political purposes. And still others try to protect IRS bureaucrats who are either blatantly lying or breathtakingly incompetent.

Do the Democrats on the House committee honestly believe that there is nothing serious going on? Do they honestly believe that we have all the answers and that we've had "enough" or "too many" investigations"? Do they honestly believe that this president has done all he could to ensure that this never happens again?

A lot has changed since the Watergate era, but good men and women should still put the law and the country ahead of their political party. Howard Baker did. So did John Walters. I'm still waiting for the first Democrat to stand up and say, “what did the President know and when did he know it?”

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Trained Hamsters

During the Obama years, I have noted on many occasions that the main stream media acts as the president's trained hamsters. Not only do they parse stories that they must report in a way that protects this president, but they spike important stories, government and economic data, and outright scandals that might damage the president. Of course, their job should be quite different—to "speak truth to power" and to aggressively question and investigate the nation's ruling political elite. Their abrogation of that fundamental responsibility has made them a laughing stock, an entity that cannot be trusted or believed.

There are, of course, a few exceptions (Jake Tapper and Sheryl Attkisson come to mind) who worked for the MSM but still did their job. But in the main, the editors and "journalists" working for the most "prestigious" new outlets have allowed political bias to cloud their reporting. All to the nation's detriment.

Peter Wehner comments on all of this when he writes:
Here’s a thought experiment. Assume during the George W. Bush administration the IRS had targeted, Planned Parenthood, the Center for American Progress, and a slew of other liberal groups. Assume, too, that no conservative groups were the subject of harassment and intimidation. And just for the fun of it, assume that press secretary Ari Fleischer had misled the press and the public by saying the scandal was confined to two rogue IRS agents in Cincinnati and that President Bush had declared that there was “not even a smidgen of corruption” that had occurred.

Let’s go a step further. Assume that the IRS Commissioner, in testifying before Congress, admitted that the emails of the person at the heart of the abuse of power scandal were gone, that the backup tapes have been erased and that her hard drive was destroyed. For good measure, assume that the person who was intimately involved in targeting liberal groups took the Fifth Amendment.

Given all this, boys and girls, do you think the elite media–the New York Times, Washington Post, The News Hour, and the news networks for ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN–would pay much attention to it?

Answer: They wouldn’t just cover the story; they would fixate on it. It would be a crazed obsession. Journalists up and down the Acela Corridor would be experiencing dangerously rapid pulse rates. The gleam in their eye and the spring in their step would be impossible to miss. You couldn’t escape the coverage even if you wanted to. The story would sear itself into your imagination.
Any objective assessment of the facts, of evidence uncovered to date and of evidence destroyed to protect the administration (it is inconceivable that after an email information request from Congress, Lois Lerner and six other IRS employees all had their disk drives "crash" in the same time period and that no server backup was maintained) clearly indicates that the IRS scandal is big, very big. It is far worse than Watergate and far more dangerous.

And yet, grudging media coverage or no coverage at all.


The simple answer is bias, but it might be more complicated than that. The vast majority of reporters support left-leaning politicians and policies. Their colleagues, friends, and acquaintances do the same. Who among them would want to break a story that leads to the downfall of liberal icon, Barack Obama? Who among them would actively talk to a modern day 'deep throat,' knowing that the information delivered could lead to this president's resignation? They would be shunned by the same set of colleagues, friends, and acquaintances. It's far easier to act like the three monkeys—hearing, seeing and speaking no 'evil.'

It has now been over 410 days since the IRS scandal first broke. Outright lies, continuous obfuscation, stonewalling, and now a blantant IRS coverup have all ensued. Who is orchestrating all of this? Where does it lead? The media doesn't care, and America loses.

Even as the MSM aids and abets the administration and its party in its effort to stonewall this scandal, elements of the media are doing their job. The Wall Street Journal reports:
The IRS is spinning a tale of bureaucratic incompetence to explain the vanishing emails from former Tax Exempt Organizations doyenne Lois Lerner and six other IRS employees. We have less faith by the minute that there is an innocent explanation for this failure to cooperate with Congress, but even if true it doesn't matter. The IRS was under a legal obligation to retain the information because of a litigation hold. [emphasis mine]

In 2009 a pro-Israel group called Z Street applied to the IRS for tax-exempt status. When the process was delayed, an IRS agent told the group that its application was undergoing special review because "these cases are being sent to a special unit in the D.C. office to determine whether the organization's activities contradict the Administration's public policies." In August 2010 Z Street sued the IRS on grounds that this selective processing of its application amounted to viewpoint discrimination.

Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and legal precedent, once the suit was filed the IRS was required to preserve all evidence relevant to the viewpoint-discrimination charge. That means that no matter what dog ate Lois Lerner's hard drive or what the IRS habit was of recycling the tapes used to back up its email records of taxpayer information, it had a legal duty not to destroy the evidence in ongoing litigation.

In private white-collar cases, companies facing a lawsuit routinely operate under what is known as a "litigation hold," instructing employees to affirmatively retain all documents related to the potential litigation. A failure to do that and any resulting document loss amounts to what is called "willful spoliation," or deliberate destruction of evidence if any of the destroyed documents were potentially relevant to the litigation.
Great work connecting the dots by the WSJ. Looks like there is now potential criminal liability at the IRS. Does that liability go higher?

Just imagine if the MSM fixated on this important story with an "obsession" that rivaled Watergate. We would know the truth, wherever it might lead.


Today, FoxNews (one of the few media outlets that is doing a good job pursuing the IRS scandal reports:
New evidence about the actions of the IRS official at the center of the investigation into the agency’s systematic targeting of President Obama’s political adversaries is intensifying the firestorm over the alleged corruption. IRS executive Lois Lerner apparently pushed for an audit of one of the administration’s most outspoken critics in the Senate. In emails with a colleague, Lerner claims to have mistakenly received an invitation to Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, to give a speech to a non-profit group in 2012. Lerner wrote that the group offered to pay for Grassley’s wife to attend. Lerner wanted to sic investigators on Grassley, even though, as her colleague observed, the offer was not improper. How did Lerner, a then-unknown IRS division manager, end up with a speaking invitation to an Iowa Republican Senator? We can’t know because Lerner refuses to testify. What other notable Republican did she suggest be targeted? We can’t find out because the agency “recycled” the hard drives that the IRS says include her sent items from the key period of the targeting. But what we do know is: Pushing for the selective prosecution of a high-profile administration adversary in the Senate is a big deal and will change the way this case moves forward.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


I have on numerous occasions suggested that this president and his supporters on the Left have adopted a fantasy ideology. Their world view as it relates to international relations relies predominantly on fantasy. Talk and broad abstractions will somehow cause hard and violent men to change their ways. The administration's domestic agenda again relies on ever-increasing spending and debt, both supported by the fantasy that taxpayer resources are unlimited.

Richard Fernandez summarizes this rather nicely when he writes:
The Left is contemptuous of costs because they don’t believe it matters. With the certainty of those who are devoted to magic, like those who burned the library of Alexandria, costs don’t matter because the government will pay for it. Like barbarians they don’t really see the connection between Truth — or God if you prefer — and consequences. Goodies are simply there. Arithmetic is only useful for convincing people, for making the spell work. Peace comes if you want it hard enough. Healthcare can be made universal by spending Other People’s Money. Science is but a persuasive device, but it’s the wanting, it’s the will that makes things happen. How simple can it be? The Republicans are denying poor people medical care because the states won’t expand Medicaid. Medicaid is subsidized, don’t you see? It’s just free government money.
We are watching the collision of fantasy with reality. In foreign policy, all we need do is look at the wreckage in the Middle East. Wreckage that has occurred in large past because fantasy (as expressed in grand speeches in Cairo) is no substitute for a realistic strategy along with harsh tactics focused on the hard men who populate the region. In domestic policy, all we need do is look at the wreckage (partially hidden by spin and delays) of Obamacare (still another fantasy) as an exemplar of the president's policies. Yesterday, Forbes reported:
... the Manhattan Institute published the most comprehensive study yet on the topic [Obamacare premium costs], analyzing premium data from 3,137 U.S. counties, and finding an average rate hike of 49 percent. In response, left-wing bloggers are trying out a new talking point: that rate shock doesn’t matter, because taxpayer-funded subsidies will bear the higher costs.
Hmmmm -- 49 percent! But I thought the president told us in 2010 that rates would go down? Oh, well, it's all subsidized. And I wonder, who funds these magical subsidies? It's taxpayers, of course, including millions of middle class folks who the Left professes to care so much about.

In the Middle East, we watch, horrified, as Islamists begin a relentless takeover in Iraq, Syria, and even on the border of Jordan. But wait, I thought Islamists were on the run, "decimated," and all of that. That's what I was told just before the 2012 presidential election, when Benghazi was a movie review gone violent.

Again, Richard Fernandez comments:
That would make it [Benghazi] a non-terrorist attack because the Secretary of State said so. If this account is accurate, it corroborates the administration’s tendency to view al-Qaeda in terms of magic. The Telegraph says the Kurds repeatedly warned Washington of the impending disaster. “I have completely lost hope in America after listening to President Barack Obama,” the head of Kurdish intelligence, Lahur Talabani, said. But they were just facts, and facts are trumped by narrative.

How could Obama admit to error, when having built his power on sorcery he must now cling to infallibility? The power of magicians to command the weather is destroyed once the magician is exposed as fake. For a sorcerer a mistake is not mere error but catastrophe. So the idea that reality can be trumped by perception is now the ultimate in modern sophistication, a necessary device to support the world of magic. In actuality this viewpoint is a reversion to the mentality of the cave-man, a return to the days when nature was an incomprehensible mystery to pacified by a witch-doctor.
Indeed, the magician and his ideology have been exposed as fake.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Testimony over the past week before the House Oversight Committee can lead to only one conclusion—the Obama administration is actively engaged in a coverup of the facts that lead the the weaponization of the Internal Revenue Service. That leads to a pivotal question, what could have been divulged in Lois Lerner's (and six other IRS executives) lost emails that was so damaging to Barack Obama's White House, that government policies were circumvented, laws were broken, and over 400 days of stonewalling occurred.

The trained hamsters in the media remain asleep, grudingly mentioning this full-blown scandal in passing, but doing virtually no investigative reporting (a la Watergate, a considerly lesser scandal). And yet, this president and his people can't escape from the slowly emerging facts.

Among the many arrogant, mendacious, and smug members of Obama's team of 2s, is one John Koskinen, now commissioner of the IRS. An active member of the coverup, he is doing everything possible to impede the investigation. Consider this interchange, as reported by the U.K.s Mail Online (interesting, isn't it, that foreign newspapers and websites are going a better job of reporting the coverup than MSM sources):
Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz needled Koskinen about a short-term data backup that the IRS had in place – but never used – when Lerner's hard drive crashed in 2011.

'It's actually a disaster recovery system,' the IRS commissioner testified, 'and it backs up for six months in case the entire system goes down ... That was the rule in 2011. Policy.'

Chaffetz wanted to know, 'Why didn't they just go to that six-month tape?'

Koskinen replied that it is 'a disaster recovery tape that has all of the emails on it, and is a very complicated tape to actually extract emails [from], but I have not seen any emails to explain why they didn't do it. So I – It would be difficult, but I don't know why they didn't do it.'

'But you said that the IRS was going to extraordinary lengths to give it to the recovery team, correct?' Chaffetz quizzed.

'That's correct,' said Koskinen.

'But it's backed up – on tape?'

'For six months, yes.'

'So,' Chaffetz asked, 'why didn't you get them off the backup?'

'All I know about that is that the backup tapes are disaster recovery tapes that put everything in one lump,' Koskinen replied, 'and extracting individual emails out of that is very costly and difficult, and it was not the policy at the time.'

'Did anybody try?' Chaffetz asked the IRS commissioner.

'I have no idea or indication that they did,' came his answer.
The IRS scandal is, in my opinion, the most egregious (and criminal) use of government intimidation in the past 100 years. Aggressive targeting of an opposition party or citizens who oppose the majority party is something that both Democrats and Republicans should reject. But based on their obfuscation and whining, and Democratic members of the committee seem quite disinterested in getting to the bottom of the scandal.

For a time, I believed that the facts would never come out and that Obama's attempts to stonewall the IRS scandal would succeed. I'm beginning to change my mind. I hope the truth emerges and that all senior white house officials who were involved (and White House officials were involved, otherwise, why the cover-up?) will be held to account.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Not Progress

As Barack Obama's team careens from one foreign policy failure in the Middle East to the next, one gets the feeling that this team of 2s is over-matched—unable to fathom the reality of the Middle East and unwilling to establish a strategy that might have a chance of managing a bad situation. Just today, Obama announced that Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al Maliki, had to go. Hmmm. Sound familiar?

Sure, Maliki is incompetent, corrupt, and dictatorial, but so were Mubarek in Egypt, Kaddafi in Lybia, and Assad in Syria. Obama called for the ouster of all three men. How did that work out for us? Egypt is in turmoil, Libya is in chaos, and Syria is the home of war crimes. But wait, Barack Obama assured us that al Qaeda was decimated, didn't he? In fact, it was touted pre-2012 election as one of his foreign policy "successes." I guess ISIS isn't "core" al Qaeda, so that makes it all okay.

Elliot Abrams comments:
The Middle East that Obama inherited in 2009 was largely at peace, for the surge in Iraq had beaten down the al Qaeda-linked groups. U.S. relations with traditional allies in the Gulf, Jordan, Israel and Egypt were very good. Iran was contained, its Revolutionary Guard forces at home. Today, terrorism has metastasized in Syria and Iraq, Jordan is at risk, the humanitarian toll is staggering, terrorist groups are growing fast and relations with U.S. allies are strained.

How did it happen? Begin with hubris: The new president told the world, in his Cairo speech in June 2009, that he had special expertise in understanding the entire world of Islam—knowledge “rooted in my own experience” because “I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed.” But President Obama wasn’t speaking that day in an imaginary location called “the world of Islam;” he was in Cairo, in the Arab Middle East, in a place where nothing counted more than power. “As a boy,” Obama told his listeners, “I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and the fall of dusk.” Nice touch, but Arab rulers were more interested in knowing whether as a man he heard the approaching sound of gunfire, saw the growing threat of al Qaeda from the Maghreb to the Arabian Peninsula, and understood the ambitions of the ayatollahs as Iran moved closer and closer to a bomb.

Obama began with the view that there was no issue in the Middle East more central than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Five years later he has lost the confidence of both Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and watched his second secretary of state squander endless efforts in a doomed quest for a comprehensive peace. Obama embittered relations with America’s closest ally in the region and achieved nothing whatsoever in the “peace process.” The end result in the summer of 2014 is to see the Palestinian Authority turn to a deal with Hamas for new elections that—if they are held, which admittedly is unlikely—would usher the terrorist group into a power-sharing deal. This is not progress.
In the Middle East, one thing is very, very clear. When hard men are confronted with soft power, there is a mismatch. The hard men perceive (correctly) that weakness sits behind words that are spoken, that veiled threats are temporary or illusory, that red lines aren't, that America is weak and ineffectual. When that happens, hard men act in their own self-interest. Very often, evil actions follow.

Clouds are gathering, and Obama's team of 2s is incapable of making the decisions required to protect this country from the coming storm. Frightening.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

What's a Little Hypocisy?

Demonization of the State of Israel has become increasingly fashionable among many those on the left, a large percentage of intellectuals, and leftist academics. Their claim is that the poor, beleaguered Palestinians are "oppressed" by the only true democracy in the Middle East. They conveniently look the other way when anti-Christian pogroms, judenrein, extreme Muslim misogyny and homophobia run rampant among Palestinians and most other Arab countries. After all, what's a little hypocrisy when you occupy the moral heights?

Nolan Finley comments on the latest in a long line of divestment/boycott votes, this time by the "progressives" of the Presbyterian church:
What is it they want Americans to divest from? A rare, functioning Middle East democracy that operates under the rule of law and treats all its citizens — men, women, Arab, Jew — with justice and respect.

A nation enduring an average of nearly one rocket attack a day launched by Palestinian militants and their supporters; many of those rockets are targeted at schools and residential neighborhoods.

A nation forced by an international community that purports not to negotiate with terrorists to sit across the bargaining table with those who have slaughtered their children in vicious terrorist strikes.

A nation surrounded by neighbors who are pledged to its extermination, and yet is blamed for all of the instability and unrest in its region.

And still under today’s bizarre hierarchy of victimhood, it’s the Palestinians who wear the mantle of the oppressed.

Israel is blamed for the stagnant peace process, even though the Palestinians have repeatedly broken the conditions established for resuming talks, most recently by forming a unity government with Hamas, the terrorist group that controls Gaza — the primary launching pad for those rockets.

Even the United States, supposedly Israel’s best friend, is ignoring its own law against providing support for any nation that aligns with terrorists by continuing to fund the Palestinian Authority to the tune of $440 million this year. With Hamas in the PA fold, that’s a direct subsidy of terror.
Finley forgets to mention that not a single Christian church has been burned to the ground in Israel or that every Muslim citizen of Israel is protected under the rule of law and lives a far safer and economically stable life than he or she would in any other Arab state. But none of this matters to those whose moral preening is their raison d'être.

Even more disturbing is the Obama administration's antipathy to Israel, but then again, why should we expect anything else from an administration populated by a team of 2s who also happen to lean to the extreme left.

And with all of this as background, Israel progresses as a nation with a vibrant economy, more tech start-ups in one year than all Arab nations combined in the past decade, and a forceful leadership that will not be cowed by the useful idiots on the left. At the end of the day, it probably the success of Israel, despite the boycotts, the rockets, and the hatred spewed by its Arab adversaries that galls the left the most.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Name Change

We recently applied for trademark protection for the name of our start-up company, The intent is to allow us to control the use of the name, to protect the company's URL, and to otherwise indicate that the name is unique. It's very unlikely that the name could be deemed offensive to anyone or any group, and that's a good thing. Because if it were somehow in violation of political correctness, it might be deemed "offensive" by a government agency and rescinded.

I suppose that's why I've been following the latest travails of the Washington Redskins NFL franchise. Although I have no strong feeling about the team's name, I understand why some people might be offended by it. There have been repeated efforts to convince the team to change it's name, but the majority of the team's fans along with its management have been resistant to the idea. After all, the name has been in use since 1932 -- over 80 years. And yet, those who argue that it should be changed probably have a point.

As is typical in situation like this, a group of activists are "outraged" that the name remains in use. I understand their position, although I think it's overwrought. They could try to picket Redskin games, coordinate fan boycotts, threaten TV sponsors, or any of the usual things activists do to coerce those who don't agree with them. I wouldn't care in the slightest. All of this would be done in an effort to have the Redskins become the 'Red Hats' or something like that.

Let public opinion force the team's management to change their name.

But there's something more ominous going on. The U.S. Patent Office has cancelled the team’s trademark— a move that will cost Redskins management millions of dollars in the long term. Ironically, it will also allow even greater use of the team logo and name.

Over the past 5.5 years we've watched as an activist president has weaponized government agencies to threaten and/or attack those who are deemed politically incorrect (think: the ever-growing IRS scandal). When activists (including this president) can't get their way by convincing the public or congress of their rightness of their cause, they can now use the government as a weapon. Forget the laws, forget past legal precedent, they have a sledgehammer and they'll use it. That's why the Patent Office move is deeply troubling to anyone who believes in limited government.

Robert Tracinski comments:
The ruling was based on a dubious argument that “redskins” is a slur against Native Americans. Well, then maybe we’d better rename the state of Oklahoma, which drew its name from Choctaw words that mean “red people.” Or maybe we should petition the US Army to decommission the attack helicopter it named after a people it defeated in 1886. Then again, forget I mentioned it. I don’t want to give anyone ideas.

This name-bullying has become a kind of sport for self-aggrandizing political activists, because if you can force everyone to change the name of something—a sports team, a city, an entire race of people—it demonstrates your power. This is true even if it makes no sense and especially if it makes no sense. How much more powerful are you if you can force people to change a name for no reason other than because they’re afraid you will vilify them?
This is still another example of a new lawlessness encouraged by the current administration. Things big or small (and the Redskins name is very small potatoes when viewed in relationship to other more pressing national problems) are now accomplished by governmental fiat, using co-opted government agencies (e.g., the IRS, the EPA, ICE, and now, the Patent Office) to accomplish what can't be accomplished through more democratic (lower case "d") means.

If this continues and grows more pervasive, we'll be skating on the edge of tyranny.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

To Himself

The community in which I live is blue. The majority of my friends and acquaintances are Democrats who enthusiastically supported Barack Obama in 2008 and stood behind him (albeit, less enthusiastically) in 2012. They looked at me oddly when, in 2008, I suggested that Senator Obama had neither the experience nor the ideological temperament to be President of the United States. They called me a conspiracy theorist when I suggested that his past associations, his lack of transparency about his past, and the resultant fawning media coverage might not bode well were he to be elected to the presidency. It was a time of mass hysteria, and the Obama campaign took full advantage of it.

Now that almost six years have passed, my community remains blue, but discussion of Obama is muted or non-existent. True believers remain, but many Democrats now openly state that Barack Obama is a failure, both domestically and internationally. Among the true believers (and almost true believers) there are two prevailing themes: (1) that Obama was better than the GOP alternative in both 2008 and 2012, and (2) that GOP obstructionism blocked Obama from accomplishing anything. In other words, Obama's election and his subsequent failure as a president and leader were not his failures, but the GOP's fault. How convenient!

Daniel Henninger comments:
The defenders of the Obama presidency—which increasingly is becoming a project separate from the person—argue that GOP obstruction thwarted the president's agenda. If the Republicans were the rank partisans of Democratic myth, Eric Cantor would still be Majority Leader and Mississippi's Sen. Thad Cochran would be waltzing to his seventh term.

As to the American people now pushing his approval below 40%, Barack Obama entered office with more good will than any president since John F. Kennedy. If the Obama presidency has run out of aerobic capacity 2½ years from the finish line, it is because of Mr. Obama's own decisions. He did this to himself.
Indeed, "he did this to himself." He did it because he had no experience to begin with, but far worse, his arrogance blocked him for accepting good advice, learning from his copious mistakes, negotiating with his opponents in good faith, and changing a losing strategy on both the domestic and foreign policy fronts. He populated his administration not with the wisest, most experienced people, but with hyper-partisan hacks. He allowed his agencies to become partisan weapons, doing his bidding rather than the work of the American people. He blatantly lied on a regular basis to pass questionable legislation ("you can keep your doctor"), deflect Watergate-level scandals ("not a smidgen of evidence"), and get relected ("al Qaida is decimated").

It's actually amusing to listen to Democratic true believers rail again Congressman Darrell Issa, the man investigating the ever-growing IRS scandal.

Henninger comments:
The IRS tea-party audit story isn't Watergate; it's worse than Watergate.

The Watergate break-in was the professionals of the party in power going after the party professionals of the party out of power. The IRS scandal is the party in power going after the most average Americans imaginable.

They didn't need to do this. The Obama campaign machine was a wonder, perfecting the uses of social media in 2008 and 2012. But the Democrats were so crazed in 2010 by Citizens United, so convinced that anyone's new political money might bust their hold on power, that they sicced the most feared agency in government on people who disagreed with them.

Barack Obama wanted this job. He didn't want it to come with Ukraine, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or Darrell Issa. But it does.
We still have just over 2 years left in the Obama presidency. There's much damage than can still be done and no real way to stop it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Kindred Spirits

Barack Obama and Richard Nixon. Both presidents of the United States. Polar opposites politically. Kindred spirits when it comes to their desire to use the federal government against their enemies and their propensity to cover up key facts when a congressional committee investigates.

James Taranto comments on the strange similarities between these two presidents:
... on Friday, a new development in the Internal Revenue Service scandal drew comparisons to the Wategate coverup. The IRS informed the House Ways and Means Committee, one of the panels investigating the scandal, "that they have lost Lois Lerner emails from a period of January 2009-April 2011," Chairman Dave Camp announced:

Due to a supposed computer crash, the agency only has Lerner emails to and from other IRS employees during this time frame. The IRS claims it cannot produce emails written only to or from Lerner and outside agencies or groups, such as the White House, Treasury, Department of Justice, FEC [Federal Election Commission], or Democrat [congressional] offices.

The missing emails could be crucial in determining the degree to which other agencies and politicians directed or cooperated with the IRS's efforts to suppress opposition to President Obama. "Frankly, these are the critical years of the targeting of conservative groups that could explain who knew what when, and what, if any, coordination there was between agencies," said Camp. "Instead, because of this loss of documents, we are conveniently left to believe that Lois Lerner acted alone."

Only three days ago we learned of the highly suspicious claim that two years of emails have been lost to investigators. Today, we learn that the IRS claims to have "lost" emails for six other employees under investigation in the same scandal. The Left and many on the right used the "18-minute gap" (correctly, I think) to indict Richard Nixon as a corrupt and mendacious president. I wonder if the Left will talk about the two years of missing emails in the same manner?

Ironically, most people think the Richard Nixon was forced from office because of Watergate. In fact, he was forced from office because of the threat of impeachment for something else. And what was that something else? Richard Nixon tried and failed to use the IRS against his political enemies. That's a criminal offense.

Obama and Nixon. There's only two real differences. Richard Nixon actually had a few foreign policy successes (opening up China comes to mind). Based on a growing body of circumstantial evidence coupled with a massive cover-up, Barack Obama and/or his political operatives not only tried, but succeeded in using the IRS against his enemies.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Stonewalling on Steroids

The Obama administration has perfected the art of stonewalling to a level that is truly impressive. Whether it's the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal, the Benghazi scandal, the AP reporter intimidation scandal, the IRS scandal or even the VA scandal, this administration reflexively stonewalls congressional requests for information. In the rare event that Obama's trained media hamsters request elucidation (often in a effort to help protect this president), the administration stonewalls some more.

But nothing can beat the latest efforts by Obama's IRS to cover up criminal wrongdoing that it appears, now leads to the White House. In a truly remarklable response to congressional requests for IRS division chief (think: 5th amendment) Lois Lerner's emails, the IRS has informed the Ways and Means committee that they have all been lost due to "a disk crash." Conveniently, the crash wiped out  emails between Lerner and outside sources (e.g., people in the White House) during the very time that IRS abuses occurred. A truly remarkable coincidence!

Sharyl Attkisson, one of the few main stream journalists that has any integrity left after five years of Obama, asks a few questions that must be pursued following the "disk crash" announcement. She writes:
In light of the disclosure, these are some of the logical requests that should be made of the IRS:
  • Please provide a timeline of the crash and documentation covering when it was first discovered and by whom; when, how and by whom it was learned that materials were lost; the official documentation reporting the crash and federal data loss; documentation reflecting all attempts to recover the materials; and the remediation records documenting the fix. This material should include the names of all officials and technicians involved, as well as all internal communications about the matter.
  • Please provide all documents and emails that refer to the crash from the time that it happened through the IRS’ disclosure to Congress Friday that it had occurred.
  • Please provide the documents that show the computer crash and lost data were appropriately reported to the required entities including any contractor servicing the IRS. If the incident was not reported, please explain why.
  • Please provide a list summarizing what other data was irretrievably lost in the computer crash. If the loss involved any personal data, was the loss disclosed to those impacted? If not, why?
  • Please provide documentation reflecting any security analyses done to assess the impact of the crash and lost materials. If such analyses were not performed, why not?
  • Please provide documentation showing the steps taken to recover the material, and the names of all technicians who attempted the recovery.
  • Please explain why redundancies required for federal systems were either not used or were not effective in restoring the lost materials, and provide documentation showing how this shortfall has been remediated.
  • Please provide any documents reflecting an investigation into how the crash resulted in the irretrievable loss of federal data and what factors were found to be responsible for the existence of this situation.
I would also ask for those who discovered and reported the crash to testify under oath, as well as any officials who reported the materials as having been irretrievably lost.
The IRS and the White House clearly know that this looks really, really bad and really, really suspicious. It makes Nixon's 18 minute gap look like child's play. It further supports the contention that the Obama administration is more corrupt, more mendacious, and more guilty of criminal wrong doing that even the Nixon administration.

The media has for the most part ignored the story (as the administration hoped they would). But as Nixon learned, even stonewalling on steroids will fail in the end. At this point, it's fair to conclude that the Lerner emails contained not a smoking gun, but a pallet of C-4, and that blatant lies and misdirection are the Obama's administration's only hope for survival.

UPDATE (6/16/14):

In an article quite aptly titled "The Dog at My E-mails", John Fund writes:
A growing number of computer professionals are stepping forward to say that none of this makes sense. Norman Cillo, a former program manager at Microsoft, told The Blaze: “I don’t know of any e-mail administrator [who] doesn’t have at least three ways of getting that mail back. It’s either on the disks or it’s on a TAPE backup someplace on an archive server.” Bruce Webster, an IT expert with 30 years of experience consulting with dozens of private companies, seconds this opinion: “It would take a catastrophic mechanical failure for Lerner’s drive to suffer actual physical damage, but in any case, the FBI should be able to recover something. And the FBI and the Justice Department know it.”

In March of this year, John Koskinen, the new IRS commissioner, testified before Congress that all the e-mails of IRS employees are “stored in servers.” The agency’s own manual specifies that it “provides for backup and recovery of records to protect against information loss or corruption.” The reason is simple. It is well known in legal and IT circles that failure to preserve e-mails can lead to a court ruling of “spoliation of evidence.” That means a judge or jury is then instructed to treat deletions as if they were deliberate destruction of incriminating evidence.
Nah ... couldn't be! The most transparent administration ever wouldn't be hiding incriminating evidence. Would it?

When the truth is known, and I certainly hope it will become known, people should go to jail. And some of those people currently work in the executive branch. The 'disk crash' fairy tale just about proves it.

UPDATE (6/16/14):

And this from Ron Fournier, another journalist (who generally sides with Democrats on issues of policy) who has maintained his integrity through the Obama era:
Six weeks after the scandal broke, I chastised House Republicans for cherry-picking evidence and jumping to conclusions. In the same column, I urged the president to be transparent: pave way for investigators to question witnesses under oath and subpoena the White House and his own reelection campaign for related emails and other documents.

If forced to guess, I would say that the IRS and its White House masters are guilty of gross incompetence, but not corruption. I based that only on my personal knowledge of—and respect for—Obama and his team. But I shouldn't have to guess. More importantly, most Americans don't have a professional relationship with Obama and his team. Many don't respect or trust government. They deserve what Obama promised nearly six weeks ago—accountability. They need a thorough investigation conducted by somebody other than demagogic Republicans and White House allies.

Somebody like … a special prosecutor. Those words are hard for me to type two decades after an innocent land deal I covered in Arkansas turned into the runaway Whitewater investigation.

Nothing has changed. The White House is stonewalling the IRS investigation. The most benign explanation is that Obama's team is politically expedient and arrogant, which makes them desperate to change the subject and convinced of their institutional innocence. That's bad enough. But without a fiercely independent investigation, we shouldn't assume the explanation is benign.
With Eric Holder heading the DoJ and the trained hamsters in the media avoiding the IRS scandal, it's almost inconceivable that a special prosecutor will be appointed. That's a shame.

UPDATE (6/18/14):

In a truly brazen effort to impede the IRS investigation, Obama's allies at the IRS have now announced that emails for six additional IRS employees who are under investigation have been "lost."

One can only hope that a few dedicated journalists will pursue this store as Obama's trained media hamsters turn away.

As an aside: I have to wonder how the IRS would respond if a taxpayer told them that financial records were "lost" and therefore an audit would have to be cancelled. You know the answer and so do I.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

All Gone

During the 2012 presidential debates, Barack Obama criticized Mitt Romney for suggesting: (1) that Russia and Validamir Putin were our geopolitical foes and (2) that the US should have established a Status of Forces Agreement (Obama failed to do so) and maintained a residual military force in Iraq. Obama belittled Romney for such outmoded views. Only one problem. Romney was right and Obama was wrong. On both counts.

The situation in Iraq is devolving rapidly. It is unclear whether Baghdad will fall to the Islamist group ISIS, but if it does, Barack Obama will be left with a task the his bumbling administration appears to be ill-equipped to manage—retreat.

Richard Fernandez comments:
America will also be leaving behind a training effort “billed as the most ambitious American aid effort since the Marshall Plan — began in October and has already cost $500 million, including $343 million worth of construction projects around the country.”

If the embassy is evacuated as al-Qaeda reaches Baghdad the optics will be atrocious. The very magnificence of the buildings will underscore the magnitude of the defeat. The sheer size of the palaces will make destruction no easy task. For these grand edifices, constructed at so much taxpayer cost must be reduced to total ash by America’s own hand. The taxpayer pays for the matches.
The tree girt gardens

As the US embassy in Saigon prepared to be overrun the incinerators were filled to overflowing with US dollars and classified documents. Liquor stores were smashed. In the event there was not even enough time to destroy everything. Yet by comparison the US Embassy in Saigon is hovel compared to the facility in Baghdad.

North Vietnamese troops as well as intelligence and army officials scoured the abandoned Embassy shortly after taking Saigon on the afternoon of April 30. Over the next several days, they apparently were able to piece together classified documents that had been shredded but not burnt and used these to track down South Vietnamese employees of the Central Intelligence Agency.

In the event Baghdad is overrun, one can only hope the rear guard uses enough C4 to leave not a stone upon a stone. And thermite where appropriate. Until it’s gone. All gone.

But great though the loss of the buildings will be, the blow in terms of intelligence gathering capabilities, networks, facilities and dislocation will be monumental. No one knows how many translators, sub-agents and locals who have risked their lives for the US will be left twisting in the wind. It will be no easy task to thoroughly efface the work of years. Yet it will have to be done if al-Qaeda is not obtain the greatest intelligence windfall of its career. President Obama may find a way to screw that up too, for even to be properly defeated requires a competence he may lack.
The billions thrown away and the lives lost (now apparently for no good reason) are reminiscent of Vietnam. Entry into the Iraq war was a decision made by one president, George W. Bush, and he has been held to account. But Bush adjusted his strategy and ultimately, with the help of David Patraeus,* secured a tenuous victory of sorts for the Iraqi people. It was left to Barack Obama to manage the situation. He has failed miserably. The result is what we see happening today.

Obama's failure comes as no surprise. With no meaningful strategy and even less leadership capability, he and his dumb and dumber national security team have failed in virtually every attempt at foreign policy in the Middle East. They have projected weakness and indecision, have tried to embrace foes and have alienated allies, and have pin-balled from one position to the next. Most important, their results have been atrocious.

I laugh when I hear the trained hamsters in the media discuss "Obama's legacy." What will that be—exactly? What accomplishments will be placed on the list? What "victories" will be mentioned? What achievements will be touted? Obama's legacy is best characterized by the current situation in Iraq—"all gone."


*BTW, am I the only person who wonders: What happened to David Patraeus? Why has he not spoken out on recent events in Iraq as past military commander, or for that matter, on the Bowe Bergdahl controversy as the past head of an intelligence agency? Why is he silent? What threats hang over his head, and who made them? All this because he had an affair with a subordinate? I know, I know, that's really uncommon in Washington. Never happens, right?

But there has to be more—where is he, why is he not speaking out, why has the media not pursued him for comment? Lots of question. No answers.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


Almost three years ago, Barack Obama had an opportunity to intercede in Syria when providing arms and assistance to non-Islamist groups opposing Syrian strongman Bashar al Assad actually would have made a difference. He dithered and then dithered some more. Then, when Assad used chemical weapons against his own people (at least, that was the claim), Obama defined a red line, then decided he didn't mean it. As a consequence, non-Islamist groups crumbled, al Qaeda affiliated groups prospered, and now the administration tells us there is nothing they can do in Syria.

But it gets worse. Now, the Islamists in Syria have moved into Iraq, destabilized the country to the extent that it may very well disintegrate. Why? Corrupt leadership in Iraq is part of the cause, but Obama's (purposeful, in my opinion) failure to establish a 'status of forces' agreement is a significant contributor.

Michael Totten comments:
l Qaeda splinter group ISIS has taken the Iraqi city of Tikrit and the Kurdish Peshmerga has taken the Iraqi city of Kirkuk. Iraq's army fled both and hardly fired a shot.

God only knows what happens next, but this much is clear—the Syrian war is no longer the Syrian war. It’s a regional war. It spilled into Lebanon at a low level some time ago. It sucked in Iran and Hezbollah some time ago. Now it is spreading with full force at blitzkrieg speed into Iraq and has even drawn in the Kurdistan Regional Government which managed to sit out the entire Iraq war.

This could easily suck in Turkey, Jordan, and Israel before it’s over.

Or maybe it won’t.

In the future we might see the events of the last few days as the beginning of the end of Iraq as a state, or at least the beginning of the end of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose American-trained army has proven utterly useless. Or maybe he’ll survive in an Iranian-backed rump state.
It can be argued that this president snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq. But then again, in the Arab world, there cannot be any victory because the culture is irreparably broken, massively corrupt, nursed on tribal hatred, misogyny and despair.

It just might be that Obama's feckless actions of late are right for the wrong reasons.

But that's also a fantasy. As Totten says
... it’s only a matter of time before we get sucked in [to Iraq] kicking and screaming one way or another. Because the Middle East isn’t Las Vegas. What happens there doesn’t stay there.

We're out for now, though. This is the time of festering.

Come to think of it, many of the poor decisions this president has made—Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, to name only a few—have consequences that are the equivalent of festering wounds. They're already infected, the infection is spreading, and the cure is almost as bad as the disease.

UPDATE (6/13/14):

The Independent (UK) provides one of the best descriptions of the upheaval in Iraq:
Iraq is breaking up. The Kurds have taken the northern oil city of Kirkuk that they have long claimed as their capital. Sunni fundamentalist fighters vow to capture Baghdad and the Shia holy cities further south.

Government rule over the Sunni Arab heartlands of north and central Iraq is evaporating as its 900,000-strong army disintegrates. Government aircraft have fired missiles at insurgent targets in Mosul, captured by Isis on Monday, but the Iraqi army has otherwise shown no sign of launching a counter-attack.

The nine-year Shia dominance over Iraq, established after the US, Britain and other allies overthrew Saddam Hussein, may be coming to an end. The Shia may continue to hold the capital and the Shia-majority provinces further south, but they will have great difficulty in re-establishing their authority over Sunni provinces from which their army has fled.
The age-old Muslim Sunni-Shia hatreds have resurfaced and the result is chaos, violence, and bloodshed. Just another day in the world of Islamists.

It looks like Saudi Arabia (Sunni) has had something to do with these events, and now Iran (Shia) is likely to get involved. Festering ... indeed.

UPDATE - II (6/13/14):

And this from Jonah Goldberg:
The Arab Spring is over. Welcome to the Jihadi Spring.

Across a huge swath of what, up until recently, had been known as Iraq and Syria, a transnational movement of Sunni Islamic extremists has taken control. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has conquered — without much effort — Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, along with most of the province of Nineveh. It’s also taken Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown. Along the way it has ransacked banks (to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars), pillaged weapon stockpiles (including the stuff we left behind for the Iraqi army), and recruited ever more fighters from Iraq, Syria, and abroad.

ISIS started out as an al-Qaeda franchise, but in 2011 it broke off to become an independent dealer of Islamist mayhem. If anything, it is more extreme than al-Qaeda — though that fine distinction probably means little to the Shiites and Christians it slaughters.
Those of us who believed early that the "Arab Spring" was a mirage, have been proven correct. The "Jihadi Spring" isn't a mirage, it's real. And that's problem for an Obama foreign policy that regularly trades in fantasy.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Better Judgment

In recent months, our dismal economy has been overshadowed by other bad news that has lead many to question the competence, veracity, and judgement of this administration. In fact, the economy—essentially a jobless recovery—has been so bad for so long that it's tempting to shrug your shoulders and move on the other concerns. Unless, that is, you're unemployed, under-employed or have given up looking for a job entirely.

The White House and its shrinking band of Democratic supporters continually tell us that jobs are their number one priority. In fact, Barack Obama recently said:
"what I believe unites the people of this nation . . . is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all—the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead." And in his weekly address on Saturday, he repeated his strong appeal to young people: "As long as I hold this office, I'll keep fighting to give more young people the chance to earn their own piece of the American Dream."
The problem is that the president's words don't match his actions, his policies, and most important—the results.

Although every age group encounters a dismal job market today, no group has been impacted more serverely than young people. Andrew Puzder provides some statistics:
  • In February the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recorded the lowest percentage of 16- to 19-year-olds working or actively looking for work (32.9%) since the bureau started tracking the data in 1948 ...
  • Over the past two years, the BLS has recorded some of the worst labor participation rates for 20- to 24-year-olds since 1973, when the Vietnam War was beginning to wind down. In August 2012, the 69.7% rate was the lowest since '73. The second-lowest (70%) came in March last year. This year, the third-lowest rate came in April (70.2%). May's rate was a still-miserable 71%.
  • Looking at the seasonally unadjusted data—which is what the BLS makes publicly available—for 25- to 29-year-olds, the April 2014 labor-participation rate was the lowest the BLS has recorded since it started tracking the data in 1982 (79.8%) ...
The Obama administration would have us believe that all of this is beyond their control, that the crash of 2008 was insurmountable, and that their economic programs were appropriate. The results indicate otherwise. In his single-minded attaempts at social justice, this president has created significant impediments to job growth, and as a consequence, the young are suffering.

Puzder comments further:
Five years of 2% average yearly GDP growth simply doesn't produce enough jobs to absorb the natural increase in the labor force, and over the past eight quarters GDP growth has averaged only 1.7%. Between May 2008 and May 2014, BLS data show that the employable population increased by 14,217,000 while the number of people employed actually decreased by 94,000 and the number of people unemployed increased by 1,404,000. It remains a bad time for young people to be looking for jobs.

Nonetheless, various states and municipalities have increased their minimum wage, thereby increasing the cost of employing inexperienced workers. Minimum-wage jobs have always been a gateway to better opportunities. In making hiring decisions, businesses must weigh the quality and value of work that entry-level employees produce against the cost of employing them. For many businesses in high-minimum-wage states or municipalities—Seattle leads the list, having approved a move to a $15 minimum wage—that trade-off is no longer working.

The bottom line on labor: Make something less expensive and businesses will use more of it. Make something more expensive and businesses will use less of it. The Congressional Budget Office has forecast a loss of 500,000 jobs should the president's proposal to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour become law.

The CBO also forecast that this increase would lift a number of people who already have jobs above the poverty threshold. For 500,000 unemployed people, however, that's 500,000 opportunities American businesses will never create.
What we have seen over the past 5.5 years is a fantasy economic plan—one in which "social justice," high taxes, increasingly onerous regulations, and new government entitlements that further burden business, have acted as a brake on our economy. The result is sluggish growth and no jobs. When they voted in large numbers for Barack Obama in 2008, young people believed in 'hope and change.' The harsh reality of Obama's economic policies should be an object lesson for every young person who allowed wishful thinking to cloud better judgment.

Monday, June 09, 2014

The College Loan Bubble

A while back, Barack Obama suggested that every young person in America should go the college, and further argued that he would put mechanisms in place to achieve that "goal." Never mind that not every young person wants or needs to go the college. Never mind that not every young person has the intellectual tools to succeed in college. Never mind that significant number of college degrees and programs (think: Gender Studies or Art History) are worthless in the private sector. Never mind that the money invested in a college degree may not show any reasonable ROI for many years. Never mind that many graduates emerge deeply in debt, hindering their ability to navigate the real world.

Obama's solution is two-fold: (1) a rating system for college (better to keep the federal government out of this, although the idea of unbiased ratings is a good one and already exists) and (2) increasing the availability of student loans (bad idea!). Over this past weekend, the administration floated a vaguely defined proposal to either forgive some portion of student debt or to limit the size of payments to some percentage of a person's annual income. In other words, stick taxpayers with the problem.

The Chicago Tribune Editorial Board
University officials love to complain that they don't get all the state and federal money they'd like. They don't complain, though, about the huge subsidies they get from governments via the subsidized tuition their increasingly indebted student bodies fork over. Scratch a whining provost and you find an executive in one of America's most secure, sclerotic and administratively top-heavy industries.

Some bright thinkers in that industry, such as law prof and higher ed author Glenn Harlan Reynolds at the University of Tennessee, offer innovative ideas that would complement Obama's push for more consumer info about colleges. In essence, Reynolds contends that if Muffy or Biff gets a loan, State U. collects tuition and fees but suffers little if Muffy flunks out and Biff can't land a job. Instead, Tom and Tess Taxpayer often bear a cost.

Reynolds thinks colleges that benefit from subsidized loan money should be liable for part of the debt if a student defaults: Schools would have incentives to accept applicants who have a reasonable chance of graduating — and to warn prospective and enrolled students, loudly, that college loan money isn't free.

For most of those who earn them, college degrees are, for reasons intellectual and pragmatic, huge pluses. We share Obama's desire to see that option as available as is practical and affordable.

But the current system, like the easy-mortgage incentives that helped create the Great Recession, artificially hypes demand — only to abandon many ex-students as collateral damage.
In many ways, the current structure of the loan program encourages colleges to increase tuition every year and add still more administrators to an already bloated bureaucracy. To reuse a phrase that was prevalent in 2008, colleges suffer no 'moral hazard' when loans are made. reports that "“Tuition is up 1,200 percent in 30 years."

If, as Glenn Reynolds suggests,"colleges that benefit from subsidized loan money should be liable for part of the debt if a student defaults" good things would happen and happen fast.

We're headed for a college loan bubble, in which millions of graduates (and drop outs) will be unable to repay their debt (sound familiar). No worries though, this whole thing is too big to fail and a shrinking number of taxpayers will ride to the rescue, yet again. Ugh!

UPDATE (6/10/2014):

A college education remains important for entry into many professions, but it appears that its importance is not what it once was. Google, a technological innovator and true 12st century company, has de-emphasized the college degree. Business Insider reports:
After years of looking at the data, Google has found that things like college GPAs and transcripts are almost worthless in hiring. Following these revelations, the company is hiring more and more people who never even went to college.

In an interview with The New York Times, Google's Senior Vice President for People Operations Laszlo Bock revealed that the number of degree-less hires has trended upwards as they've stopped asking for transcripts for everybody but the most recent graduates.

"What’s interesting is the proportion of people without any college education at Google has increased over time as well," Bock said. "So we have teams where you have 14 percent of the team made up of people who’ve never gone to college."
The College Loan Program is sometimes a fraud perpetrated on unsuspecting young people by both the federal government and the colleges they attend. How would you feel if you held $45,000 of college loan debt and lost out on a Google job to another person with no college degree at all?

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Unintended Consequences

The New York Times Editorial Board exemplifies the narrative of virtually all progressives in its effusive praise of the $15.00 minimum wage recently enacted in Seattle, Washington. Here's a snippet of their editorial:
The new $15-an-hour minimum wage approved this week in Seattle does more than guarantee a raise to tens of thousands of workers in the city. As the highest minimum in the nation, it changes the terms of the minimum-wage debate and expands the realm of the possible in setting new minimums.

In recent decades, proposals to lift the minimum — whether on the federal, state or local level — have been presented as a way to restore purchasing power lost to inflation during long stretches with no raises.

Seattle lawmakers have said, clearly and correctly, that catching up with inflation is not enough. To be adequate, a minimum wage also has to reflect real economic gains as measured by average wages and productivity growth. That could be accomplished by setting the federal minimum, currently $7.25 an hour, at $11 an hour to $18 an hour. But Republicans are opposed to even a paltry Democratic proposal to raise the federal minimum to $10.10 by 2016. Congressional inaction has caused Seattle and other cities and states to act on their own.

Ultimately, however, there is no substitute for a robust federal minimum wage, because broad prosperity requires a solid wage floor, not a patchwork. The question is whether bold action by states and municipalities will embolden Congress.
So ... in an economic climate where almost 90 million people are out of work, many dependent on government entitlements to survive, the NYT suggests that increasing the minimum wage, normally something applied only to entry level jobs and unskilled labor will ... what?
  • Increase the number of opportunities for those who are unemployed?
  • Result in businesses large and small increasing their labor force?
  • Grow the number of full time jobs and damp the increasing growth in part-time positions?
  • Remove barriers for a start-up business that needs to hire a few people but has little or no revenue at the beginning?
Here we encounter another progressive fantasy. The reality is that a substantial increase in the minimum wage will do none of those things. The majority of minimum wage earners are young and do not have the burdens of family finance. The majority of minimum wage earners progress to other jobs at higher pay rates. But none of that matters to the NYT or its progressive followers.

Here's what will happen as big government (in this case, I'll include the Seattle city council) pushes unrealistic minimum pay rates on businesses.

There will be a push toward more automation and fewer human entry level workers for service-oriented jobs. Many entry level jobs are not highly skilled. At the service level (e.g., Starbucks or McDonald's), I suspect that barrista's will slowly be replaced by "cyberistas," just as cashier's in many businesses have been replaced by automated checkout counters. Either that, or a cafe latte will cost $12.00!

There will be a push toward more automation and fewer human entry level workers for labor-oriented jobs. Many of these entry level jobs are not highly skilled. Advances in robotics are happening at astonishing speed. High minimum wages will spur the development of mobile "labor-bots" which can be more easily cost justified as labor expenses rise.  Bye, bye, entry-level laborers!

Worse, still -- the young people who would have filled those entry level service and labor jobs will now have no opportunity, no ability to learn a business and progress up the ladder, and no path toward a better life.

Progressives like to characterize opponents as uncaring or mean. In reality, by NOT considering the potential side effects of their recommendations, progressive true believers are more interested in moral preening that they are in considering the unintended consequences of high minimum wages on the very people they purport to help.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

No Worries

Commentary and news on Obamacare has gone quiet in recent months. You'd think that this deeply flawed legislation was making a comeback, that administration claims of better coverage, more people insured, freedom to keep your doctor and your plan were becoming real. From a fiscal point of view, you'd think that we're seeing reduced costs, and we're on the road to medical utopia. Sadly, exactly the opposite has happened, but the Obamacare debacle is now old news, crowded off the public's radar screen by still other missteps by this administration (think: the VA scandal or more recently, the Bowe Bergdahl affair).

Among the many lies that were told to sell Obamacare, one of the most egregious was "it will save the taxpayers money." Common sense indicated that the addition of 30 million to the insurance rolls, most of them subsidized or provided with "free" (read: taxpayer funded) insurance could never save money. As an aside, there's little evidence that the total number of uninsured has changed.

Now the The Fiscal Times reports:
One of the Obama administration's major selling points in passing the Affordable Care Act in 2010 was a Congressional Budget Office forecast that the controversial legislation would reduce the deficit by more than $120 billion over the coming decade.

The CBO has consistently projected that President Obama's overhaul will reduce the deficit, and the agency estimated that the Republicans’ 2011 effort to repeal the legislation would increase deficits by $210 billion from 2010 to 2021.

In April, the agency quietly signaled that it can no longer make that projection; that the law had been changed and delayed so much that there is no longer a credible way to estimate the long-term effects on the deficit of all elements of the program taken together.

In a little noticed footnote to a report updating estimates of the effects of the insurance coverage provisions of the law, the agency headed by Douglas Elmendorf acknowledged that neither CBO nor the Joint Committee on Taxation could determine precisely how scores of provisions other than the insurance coverage would impact long term government spending.

“CBO and JCT can no longer determine exactly how the provisions of the ACA that are not related to the expansion of health insurance coverage have affected their projections of direct spending and revenues,” the CBO wrote. “The provisions that expanded coverage established entirely new programs or components of programs that can be isolated and reassessed. Isolating the incremental effects of those provisions on previously existing programs and revenues four years after enactment of the ACP is not possible.”
Hmmm. Seems that this always happens with big government entitlements. They always are projected to save money—a progressive fantasy. But when reality kicks in, they do what big entitlements always do, cost us big bucks. This would be okay, if we weren't almost $18 trillion in debt, but it's the road to ruin in the present day fiscal environment.

No worries, say the big government types, we'll just print more dollars. Oops, we're already doing just that (think: quantitative easing) to the tune of $55 billion every month. Some day that bill will come due and the result will be high inflation, skyrocketing tax rates which will precipitate slow economic activity, and ultimately cuts to programs that the big government types hold dear. Worse, it will hurt the very people that big government types claim to care so much about.

But no worries. Fantasy always wins out, doesn't it?

Friday, June 06, 2014

Truth to Power

Remember when speaking truth to power was all the rage. It was something that activists on the Left preened about as they attacked political and corporate structures in America. It was something that mainstream journalists did to challenge the resident political structure in Washington. Today, the Left's perception of speaking truth to power still applies to the 1 percent and corporate America, but speaking truth to the executive branch or the Democrat-controlled senate? Not so much. It's only the GOP-held house that needs to be spoken to.

And journalists? They were silent—the president and his people have gone largely unchallenged for 5.5 years,although their recent deeds are so egregious that even the trained hamsters in the media can't fully ignore them.

Dinesh D'Souza speaks truth to power. A vocal conservative critic of Barack Obama and producer of the surprising hit 2012 documentary film 2016: Obama's America, D'Sousa is an author, a scholar, an immigrant, and a person of color. That might be what makes him a dangerous opponent of this president. And, of course, when you become to dangerous, this administration acts viciously. D'Sousa was indicted by Obama's justice department on a relatively minor campaign finance violation in which $20,000 was donated to a senate candidate who lost. By why be surprised? If the IRS scandal is any indication, opponents to the president are fair game.

D"Sousa will release a new film, America, next month. In a recent, far-ranging interview conducted by Benjamin Weingarten he comments on his situation:
[Weingarten:] Given what’s happened with the indictment, do you have a message to other dissenters in light of the personal trials and tribulations you have gone through for challenging the government? And related to that, is the country not already, to some degree, fundamentally transformed, when you do have the selective application of the law in terms of targeting political opponents?

D’Souza: I think that with Obama, we’re seeing new lows and new aberrations that did not occur before. I mean it’s to me inconceivable that the Bush administration would go after Michael Moore in that way, or even that Clinton would unleash the IRS against his opponents. Carter certainly would never dream of doing such a thing. So, we’ve in a sense turned a corner in American politics, and I’m worried about it because to some degree politics is a game of adversaries, and if they do it to you, I’m sure there are Republicans who are taking note who say “Well, wait till we have a chance to do it to them.” So we don’t want the politics of putting your critics into handcuffs. It’s a very troubling way for a country to operate. In fact, it’s the way third world countries operate, where they use the army or the police to go after their opposition. We have been thankfully spared from that kind of politics here in America. So, I think if people knew that’s what was going on, there would be a revolt about it.
The frightening thing is that we have turned a corner. It's now okay for the president and his spokespeople to lie blatantly when it meets their needs, to spin every failure of leadership, every instance of poor management, and every politically-driven decision as the fault of their opposition, to stonewall when a scandal breaks and then dismiss inquiry as "phony."

Ironically, this most ideological and divisive of all presidential administrations over the past 100 years is the very first to accuse its opposition of "political motivations," as if none of this administration's actions, words, or deeds were the least bit "political."

Dinesh D'Sousa truly understands Barack Obama—his ideology, his motivations, and his actions. That's what makes him dangerous to this president and that's why he's under indictment.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

If You've Lost Neuman

James Taranto is merciless when he references the latest spoof in Mad Magazine. He writes:
"If I've lost Neuman, I've lost Middle America." That's how we imagine President Obama reacting to being scathed by MAD magazine. The Usual Gang of Idiots tweeted a parody poster yesterday for "Barack Obama's Unfortunate New Movie," titled "Trading Private Bergdahl." The tag line: "They got five Taliban leaders. We got one deserting weasel. The mission is a disaster." Obama is depicted as the lead actor, with the Taliban quintet in supporting roles. The picture is rated "NC" for "No Congressional Approval."

How in the world did an administration known for political competence, if for no other kind, manage to pull off such a public-relations disaster? The answer is that the left has a very large blind spot when it comes to military culture.

Did the White House honestly believe that the soldiers who knew full well that Bergdahl left his post voluntarily would remain silent? I suspect that in their unlimited arrogance, members of the administration believed that the military remains, like a shrinking number of Americans, still in the thrall of this president. They were wrong. It's also likely that they incorrectly assumed that the media would remain the trained hamsters that they've been for the past 5.5 years and ignore the story. They were wrong yet again.

And even worse, they believed that the Tommy Flanagan strategy I discussed yesterday would fly. It didn't.

The smartest guys in the room? Seriously?

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Tommy Flanagan

Many, many years ago, the Saturday Night Live comedian, John Lovitz, played a part that Wikipedia describes in the following manner: "Tommy Flanagan,The Pathological Liar who used the old catchphrase 'Yeah! That's the ticket!' as he, after visible effort, finally finished constructing his latest lie."

This past Sunday, National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, appeared on ABC's This Week to discuss the prisoner swap for Bowe Bergdahl. She said:
"Sergeant Bergdahl wasn't simply a hostage. He was an American prisoner of war captured on the battlefield. We have a sacred obligation we have upheld since the found of our Republic to do our utmost to bring back our men and women who are taken in battle."
I suppose that technically what she said was correct, and I agree with her contention that we do have an obligation to get our prisoners out of enemy hands.  But as facts about Bergdahl actions emerge, parts of her statement are suspect at best. First-person accounts from other soldiers suggest that Bergdahl deserted his base and voluntarily walked into Taliban territory (for reasons unknown). He was "captured" only because of that. There was no "battle" during his walkabout. Okay ... you can argue that this is political spin, I suppose, but since the facts seem to refute her comments (unless you're a lawyer), why did she make comments in that way?

She then went on the say that Bergdahl "served with honor and distinction." Many of his fellow soldiers seem to think otherwise. Why would she make that statement? There was no need for it, given that the administration has been aware of the circumstances of Bergdahl's imprisonment for many years.

It seems that Susan Rice is the functional equivalent of Tommy Flanagan. She seems compelled to lie reflexively—about Benghazi on five Sunday morning shows, and now, about Bowe Bergdahl on (only) one Sunday morning show.

This Tommy Flanagan modus operandi is far too common among members of this administration, up to and including the president ("... if you like your plan, you can keep your plan"). Yesterday, Obama's EPA chief made the outrageous assertion that the president's new environmental regulations wouldn't increase energy costs in the 17 states that rely predominantly on coal-fired power plants and at the same time, would create jobs rather than destroy them! She channeled Tommy Flanaghan—all with a straight face.

This was really quite funny on Saturday Night Live. In real life, it's not funny at all.


The Bergdahl story gets messier by the hour. In this case, the media seems to be doing an aggressive job of reporting (that, in itself, is noteworthy in this presidency). James Rosen (the Fox reporter that was targeted by Obama's DoJ) writes:
A senior official confirms to Fox News that the conduct of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl -- both in his final stretch of active duty in Afghanistan and then, too, during his time when he lived among the Taliban -- has been thoroughly investigated by the U.S. intelligence community and is the subject of "a major classified file."

In conveying as much, the Defense Department source confirmed to Fox News that many within the intelligence community harbor serious outstanding concerns not only that Bergdahl may have been a deserter but that he may have been an active collaborator with the enemy.

The Pentagon official added pointedly that no relevant congressional committee has sought access to the classified file, but that if such a request were made, key committee chairs would, under previous precedent, likely be granted access to it. Separately, the Pentagon confirmed Monday that it is looking into claims Americans died during the search for Bergdahl.
It looks like the geniuses at the White House refused to look at the facts yet again and instead think they can spin a story with impunity. Rosen writes:
Sources told Fox News that many officials in the Executive Branch are "quite baffled" by the White House's decision to allow the president to stand alongside Bergdahl's father this past weekend, given the father's history of controversial statements, emails and online posts.
Tommy Flanagan would be proud of the administration's mendacious attempt to spin this story and create a hero where no hero exists.

Monday, June 02, 2014


News coverage of the Obama administration's actions leading to the release of a US POW, Bowe Bergdahl, at first reported events in a manner that seemed like a clear victory for the president. Sure, Obama's people traded six hardened Taliban senior officers housed in Guantanamo (including a few who were accused by the UN of war crimes) for the lone POW, but we got our soldier out. The administration's spokespeople and their trained media hamsters spun it as an indication of the president's toughness and resolve.

And then, the story got complicated. For those who were unaware of the facts surrounding the case, reports began to emerge that Bowe Bergdahl was hardly a hero. He was not captured during battle, or on patrol, or even from his forward operating base.

Nathan Bethea provides a first-hand account in The Daily Beast :
It was June 30, 2009, and I was in the city of Sharana, the capitol of Paktika province in Afghanistan. As I stepped out of a decrepit office building into a perfect sunny day, a member of my team started talking into his radio. “Say that again,” he said. “There’s an American soldier missing?”

There was. His name was Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl, the only prisoner of war in the Afghan theater of operations. His release from Taliban custody on May 31 marks the end of a nearly five-year-old story for the soldiers of his unit, the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment. I served in the same battalion in Afghanistan and participated in the attempts to retrieve him throughout the summer of 2009. After we redeployed, every member of my brigade combat team received an order that we were not allowed to discuss what happened to Bergdahl for fear of endangering him. He is safe, and now it is time to speak the truth.

And that the truth is: Bergdahl was a deserter, and soldiers from his own unit died trying to track him down.

On the night prior to his capture, Bergdahl pulled guard duty at OP Mest, a small outpost about two hours south of the provincial capitol. The base resembled a wagon circle of armored vehicles with some razor wire strung around them. A guard tower sat high up on a nearby hill, but the outpost itself was no fortress. Besides the tower, the only hard structure that I saw in July 2009 was a plywood shed filled with bottled water. Soldiers either slept in poncho tents or inside their vehicles.

The next morning, Bergdahl failed to show for the morning roll call. The soldiers in 2nd Platoon, Blackfoot Company discovered his rifle, helmet, body armor and web gear in a neat stack. He had, however, taken his compass. His fellow soldiers later mentioned his stated desire to walk from Afghanistan to India.

The Daily Beast’s Christopher Dickey later wrote that "[w]hether Bergdahl…just walked away from his base or was lagging behind on a patrol at the time of his capture remains an open and fiercely debated question.” Not to me and the members of my unit. Make no mistake: Bergdahl did not "lag behind on a patrol,” as was cited in news reports at the time. There was no patrol that night. Bergdahl was relieved from guard duty, and instead of going to sleep, he fled the outpost on foot. He deserted. I’ve talked to members of Bergdahl’s platoon—including the last Americans to see him before his capture. I’ve reviewed the relevant documents. That’s what happened.
Deserter or not, Bowe Bergdahl has undoubtedly suffered enough. It's highly unlikely that he'll be prosecuted, even though other good men lost their lives hunting for him.

But his release is not a cause for national celebration. We traded five murderous Islamist thugs for a fool who deserted his unit, put himself at the mercy of other murderous thugs, and even worse, caused other soldiers to put themselves at great risk as they searched for him.

If the Obama administration made a straight 5 for 1 trade, even for a deserter, they probably did the right thing ... probably. But it's particularly galling to listen to the president's supporters suggest that this "deal" might open up "a dialog" with the Taliban.

That would be the same Taliban who murder little girls for attending school, behead journalists and other opponents, and terrorize the Afghani populace, not to mention apply Sharia law in the extreme. Yeah, let's establish a "dialog" and see how that works out. After all, dialog is a cornerstone of Obama's "smart power" fantasy, and after 5.5 years, the results have been spectacularly good on the foreign policy front, haven't they?