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

Monday, February 29, 2016

50 Times

Progressives often defend Bernie Sanders suggestion that we move to a government run "universal" health care system by saying, "Well, look at how well Medicare works for older people. That's how universal health care would work."

Medicare does work reasonably well today, but here are a few things to ponder: (1) Medicare is rapidly going broke as health costs and the population of senior citizens escalate; (2) part of the reason that health costs escalate is because there is no competition among providers; (3) because costs are hidden from the consumer, Medicare patients are given millions of unnecessary tests, medications, and procedures, escalating Medicare costs for taxpayers, and (4) fraud and abuse are rampant.

But how much fraud and abuse? Ethan Barton comments:
Don’t ask the top congressional watchdog how many tax dollars are lost each year to Medicare and Medicaid fraud.

“It would be really nice to know how much fraud there is in Medicare and in other healthcare programs,” Government Accountability Office Health Care Director Kathleen King said in a WatchBlog podcast Wednesday. The GAO is Congress’ chief oversight investigative tool for monitoring executive branch spending and management.

“Part of the reason that we don’t have a reliable estimate at this point is because providers could do things that look legitimate on their face,” she said.

A properly enrolled Medicare provider, for example, could submit a “claim that looks perfectly legitimate,” but bills for services that were either never provided or were more complex than the actual service, King said, which is “very difficult to catch.”
Hmmm. So health care providers can cheat and no one in the government can tell?

The Feds spent $845 billion on Medicare in 2015. Medicaid Fraud Control Units across the country recovered about $745 million. Let's assume that the Medicare equivalent found an equal amount of fraud. Are we, therefore to believe that fraud and abuse are under 2 tenths of 1 percent of overall expenditures? That. Is. A. Joke.

Countering this ridiculously low number, Politifact suggests that Medicare fraud and abuse hovers around 8 to 10 percent. In real dollars, that would be about $80 billion. The Journal of the American Medical Association agrees. That means that fraud and abuse are about 50 times greater than the amounts uncovered by the feds. 

Big Intrusive Government demands that taxpayers account for every nickle of income, keep detailed records and receipts for 7 whole years, and file yearly detailed tax returns delineating all of that. Yet, BIG has the unmitigated gall to tell us that (1) they can't determine the level of Medicare fraud and abuse, and (2) they find less that 0.2 percent of overall expenditures when they try, when the amount should be 50 times more.

But no worries. Many progressives are perfectly okay with all of this. After all, what's a few tens of billions when Bernie tells them that the "rich" will pay for it all?


Americans for Tax Reform notes that Obamacare is not immune to fraud and abuse. They write about a recent GOA report that indicates that "the government has made billions of dollars in Obamacare subsidy payments to individuals that may have been committing fraud." They write:
As the report notes, the system used by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) relies on data sent by three government agencies – the IRS, SSA, and DHS – to check eligibility for Obamacare. However, the system used by CMS is unable to verify many inconsistencies in the data.

This inability to properly verify enrollment has meant billions of dollars have been sent out to enrollees without verifying whether the applicants were fraudulent. As the report notes:
“According to GAO analysis of CMS data, about 431,000 applications from the 2014 enrollment period, with about $1.7 billion in associated subsidies for 2014, still had unresolved inconsistencies as of April 2015—several months after close of the coverage year.”
While CMS has information that could shed light on fraud, it has not developed any procedure to utilize it. As the report notes:
“CMS foregoes information that could suggest potential program issues or potential vulnerabilities to fraud, as well as information that might be useful for enhancing program management.”
These latest findings should not be surprising. Time and time again, watchdogs have sounded the alarm over Obamacare exchange verification and controls.
So ... Obamacare fraud is rampant, but Universal health care will be pristine. Yeah ... right.

Sunday, February 28, 2016


Self-described progressive, Hillary Clinton, and self styled democratic socialist, Bernie Sanders, are tripping over themselves declaring their support for a national $15.00 per hour minimum wage. After all, they insist it will help low wage workers and serve to crush income inequality. It's a wonderful progressive fantasy that is easy to sustain as long as the fantasy doesn't collide with real world economics. In Seattle, Washington, the fantasy is under attack.

A very progressive Seattle City Council voted in a $15.00 minimum wage last year, instituted in stages over a few years. The state of Washington has a minimum wage of $9.32 an hour, but Seattle's was mandated at $13.00 on January 1, 2016, rising to $15.00 on January 1, 2017. Gosh, that must be really great for high schoolers and the far-too-many college grads who now work minimum wage jobs as a result of the Obama economy.

Mark Perry analyzed the results of the $13.00 per hour mandate in Seattle:

Now that the first Seattle minimum wage increase has been in effect for more than ten months, and as local employers brace for the additional minimum wage hikes that will eventually increase their annual labor costs per full-time minimum wage worker by 61% and by a whopping $11,300 (from the increase in hourly labor costs from $9.32 to $15 an hour), are there any noticeable effects so far on the city’s labor market? Is Seattle’s radical experiment with the highest-ever minimum wage in US history serving as a “model for the rest of the nation to follow”? Or is Seattle serving as an “economic canary in the coal mine” for other cities and states (and the country) considering the “bold action” of imposing higher labor costs on employers by as much as $15,500 annually per full-time minimum wage workers if they enact legislation increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour?

Early evidence from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on Seattle’s monthly employment, the number of unemployed workers, and the city’s unemployment rate through December 2015 suggest that since last April when the first minimum wage hike took effect: a) the city’s employment has fallen by more than 11,000, b) the number of unemployed workers has risen by nearly 5,000, and c) the city’s jobless rate has increased by more than 1 percentage point (all based on BLS’s “not seasonally adjusted basis”). Those figures are based on employment data for the city of Seattle only.
So ... the economic justice warriors have conducted an experiment that actually provides useful metrics for their ideas. Immediately following the initiation of their special minimum wage, Seattle has seen the "the biggest decline [in employment] over any 9 month period since between April and December 2009 period during the Great Recession." Boy, that's a testament ... oh wait, a drop? In employment? People lost jobs? Really? Who would have guessed?

Certainly not Hillary or Bernie who are either too stupid, too ideological, or too dishonest to recognize that government mandated wages that are out of step with the market do nothing for the poor or the lower middle class except ensure that they have fewer jobs to choose from or no job at all.

And the 11,000 Seattle residents who lost their jobs? They're just necessary collateral damage in the social justice wars.

Saturday, February 27, 2016


In an odd way, it's actually amusing to watch Barack Obama's pathetic attempt to burnish his "legacy" by stumbling toward the closure of Guantanamo Bay. His claim that Guantanamo is a recruitment tool for Islamic terrorists is demonstrably false; his release of hardened terrorists endangers lives all over the world, and his suggestion that the closure will save money is laughable, coming from a president who has increased the annual deficit by at least half a trillion dollars during every year he has been in office.

The true foreign policy "legacy" of the Obama presidency is best exemplified by the debacle that is now Syria. The German media outlet Der Spiegel dares to go where the trained hamsters in the US media will not tread (italics are mine):
The man who could answer many of these questions [about a direct confrontation between Russia and Turkey in Syria] is saying very little these days about Syria, despite the recent drama. In the past, Barack Obama has said that Assad must step down and he still refers to him as "a brutal, ruthless dictator." At the same time, though, Obama is doing nothing to counter him and there are no signs that he has anything up his sleeve either.

The New York Times recently wrote that it is difficult to distinguish between Putin's and Obama's Syria strategies. Meanwhile, historian and journalist Michael Ignatieff and Brookings Institution fellow Leon Wieseltier lamented in the Washington Post, "It's time for those who care about the moral standing of the United States to say that this policy is shameful."

It is very clear at this point that the US has no strategy beyond its half-hearted efforts to provide training and arms to rebels -- and to otherwise rely on negotiations. But none of this has born any fruit, as events in early February demonstrated.

Secretary of State Kerry worked for three months to get the warring parties to a negotiating table under the auspices of the United Nations -- moderate rebels, representatives of the regime, Iranians, Saudi Arabians and Russians. But Moscow then turned around and launched its offensive right as the talks began. Within 48 hours, the Russian air force carried out 320 airstrikes in northern Syria alone. It was no coincidence that the storm on Aleppo began at that exact moment. The aim was that of destroying any possibility that the opposition would have a say in Syria's future.

"All sides were aware that a continuation of the talks would become increasingly difficult for the opposition as the regime intensified its military offensive," diplomats in Geneva said. After two days, the UN mediator Staffan de Mistura suspended talks. Right now, it doesn't look as though the opposition will be prepared to return to Geneva on Feb. 25 as planned. And why should they?
Obama's phony red line and the message it projected, his feckless behavior relative to Syria in general and ISIS in particular, and the weakness projected by his inaction have lead to a catastrophe in which million of Muslims are leaving the region in a slow motion invasion of Western Europe.

Obama's foreign policy legacy (supported, I might add, by Hillary Clinton) is the debacle in Syria, chaos and instability throughout the Middle East, a weakening of our relationship with Israel and Egypt, and a strengthening of Russia's and Iran's position in the region. No wonder he's trying so hard to focus on Guantanamo.

Friday, February 26, 2016


In an fascinating, illuminating, and frightening video, Boston Dynanics shows us just how far artificial intelligence and robotics have progressed:

A careful evaluation of the video leads to a few simple conclusions:
  1. Low and moderately skilled labor are in serious jeopardy over the coming decade. Stock clerks, fast food servers, and other low-skill jobs may become a thing of the past, particularly if progressives insist on a mandatory $15.00 or $20.00 minimum wage. Mid-level skill jobs may also evaporate, replaced by Gen 2 robots. Consider a UPS truck driven autonomously, with a Gen 3 Boston Dynamics robot in back to 'hand deliver' packages to your doorstep. Bye-bye Fedex and UPS drivers, not to mention postal workers!
  2. In the video a human pushes the robot who (?) maintains its balance. A human also moves a box repeatedly to stop the robot from completing its job goal. The robot is passive, but what if its A.I. goals were such that it would move to eliminate the pusher so it could get its work done. Bye-bye human.
  3. The robot is shown moving across uneven terrain in a very human-like way. An obvious extension at Gen 4 would be infantry robots—weaponized, of course (what could go wrong?). These soldier robots would replace boots on the ground in places like Syria. Bye-bye wounded warriors and hello visions of the Terminator.
In my estimation these predictions are not a 'whether'—they're a 'when.' And the 'when' is no more than a decade away.

All of this represents serious challenges for future generations—lots of very good things, and also, lots of potentially bad things—increasing levels of unemployment, potential danger to humans, and most important, unintended consequences that no one can yet foresee.

The future's high beam headlights are in our rear view mirror. Should we slow down and risk a rear-end collision or move over and let it pass right by us?

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Despicable Thing

Remember when Chris Cristi allegedly closed a few traffic lanes leading to the Washington Bridge? You'd think he had stonewalled the deaths of a US ambassador for political purposes, or sicced the IRS on his opponents, or cozied up to a leading world sponsor of terrorism. The main stream media provided us with unrelenting  24-7 coverage of Cristi's atrocity, week after week, until they were sufficiently convinced they has destroyed his national political ambitions.

Now Barack Obama, in what can only be called gansta politics, Chicago style, has cut funding war on terror related funding for New York City> Critics claim this is in retailiation for Democrat Senator Chuck Shumer's opposition to Obama's dispicable Iran "deal." After all, Barack Obama is no known for cutting federal funding for anything.

The Washington Examiner reports:
New York City's former top cop said Sunday that the Obama administration cut funding to fight terrorism in the city to retaliate against Sen. Chuck Schumer for opposing a nuclear deal with Iran.

"There's a certain amount vindictiveness on the part of Washington aimed at Sen. Chuck Schumer," Ray Kelly, New York City's police commissioner under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said in an interview with John Catsimatidis on AM 970 in New York.

"Apparently they remember very well that Sen. Schumer did not support their Iran deal," Kelly said, arguing the proposed cut "was aimed at getting a reaction from Sen. Schumer."

Schumer was the most senior Democrat in Congress last year to oppose an international agreement under which Iran agreed to give up its nuclear weapons program in exchange for relief from econonmic sanctions.

Schumer, a Democrat set to become the party's Senate leader, joined New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city's police and fire commissioners to blast a White House budget plan that would cut annual funding for the city's Urban Area Security Initiative from $600 million to to $330 million.

As the country's largest city and the only U.S. location repeatedly attacked by terrorists, including the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, New York officials have long sought extra consideration in allocation of federal anti-terror funds.

"New York is an enduring target," Kelly said. "It always will be."

Schumer statements drew a pointed White House response, an unusual reaction aimed at a key Democratic ally.

"At some point, Sen. Schumer's credibility in talking about national security issues, particularly when the facts are as they are when it relates to homeland security, have to be affected by the position that he's taken on other issues," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday.
Obama is a product of corrupt Chicago politics where sychophantic loyalty is rewarded and reasoned opposition is severely punished. He did it to Democrat Senator Robert Menendez, and now he's doing it to Chuck Schumer.

Obama's despicable behavior comes as no surprise to those of us who understand his essential character, but it is surprising that any president would put a major U.S. city as risk to make a pathetic political point.

And the main stream media? Almost no mention of this outside New York City. After all, closing a few traffic lanes is worthy of nation news when its done under a Republican Governor in NJ. But when a Democrat President of the United States puts 10 million NYC citizens at greater risk—crickets. Maybe that's the most despicable thing of all.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Crony Capitalism

What on earth is "democratic Socialism"? A euphemism for Bernie Sanders cryto-communist ideology, the direction that Hillary Clinton and the entire Democratic party are headed to keep the hard-left base happy, or something else? The answer is all three, but it's the 'something else' that is interesting.

The Democrats, by a significant majority, enthusiastically promote big government. The bigger the government gets, the more power Democrats derive by addicting significant percentages of citizens to government benefits paid for a shrinking band of taxpayers. Bernie Sanders is a master at this, suggesting that lots of free stuff can be had if only "the rich" were taxed more. It's a proposal that has been proposed by many leftist politicians worldwide. It also an approach that has failed in every country in which it has been tried. The real question isn't whether socialism will fail, it's when. In countries like Venezuela, socialism destroyed a vibrant country in only 20 years. In Europe, the damage has occurred more slowly, but over the past 60 years, countries like Greece, Spain, Denmark, Italy, Portugal, and many others are struggling economically and teetering financially. No matter, socialism sounds sooo good to leftists who rely on belief rather than history or a basic understanding of human nature.

If you listen to Bernie Sanders, the government should control almost everything—banks, big businesses, the "rich," healthcare, profits, executive pay—the works. It should do this with suffocating regulations, politically correct hiring, and intrusive regulation. This, of course, is to ensure that "income inequality" is erased. But at the end of the day, Bernie's covert strategy is anti-capitalist. Of course, he won't admit that, suggesting the capitalism is good—as long as it's his kind of capitalism. And Bernie's capitalism is crony capitalism. That's the 'something else' that defines "democratic socialism."

Most people have heard the phrase 'crony capitalism,' but don't really understand its intent or structure. Here's conservative commentator Jay Cost with a useful discussion:

Win or lose, Bernie Sanders run for the presidency will shape the platform of the Democratic party. As a consequence, the party will define a platform in which the government—ever more than it does today—rewards the companies it likes and punishes those that it does not like. This is wrong, whether a Democrat or Republican is in the White House. Crony Capitalism sits at the core of Big Intrusive Government (BIG) and it's just one more reason why a party that promotes BIG as its central tenet should not be in the White House.

Monday, February 22, 2016

iPhone Follies

In the ongoing controversy between the FBI and Apple, we encounter a situation in which both sides are right. Before I comment on this issue, Bloomberg explains the overall situation:
A federal judge has ordered Apple to assist the agency in getting access to Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone 5c, arguing that it probably contains information critical to the investigation. Apple calls this government overreach and is preparing for a fight.

On the surface, the court order is fairly straightforward. The Justice Department has a warrant to search the phone, and the data in question could be crucial: It could include messages, photographs and contacts that might show whether Farook was connected to a larger terrorist network or was planning further attacks.

But Farook’s phone has a security feature that automatically clears its data after 10 incorrect attempts at entering a password. The FBI wants Apple to create a customized version of its operating system to circumvent the security feature and allow its agents to try as many password combinations as it takes to gain access.

Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook sees this request more ominously: The government, he wrote in a message posted on the company’s website, has “asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone.”

But this wouldn’t be a backdoor because it wouldn’t be built into Apple’s products -- a deliberate weakness that hackers might hope to exploit. It would be a technique for opening the phone over which Apple would retain sole control, subject to court order. In fact, the order says the software need never leave the company’s campus.
On one hand, those of us who believe that government has grown into an intrusive behemoth have legitimate concerns about providing the FBI or any government agency with the power to invade the privacy of smartphone users. After all, under the current administration, the IRS—a supposedly non-partisan government agency—was weaponized to attack Barack Obama's opponents. The media looked the other way as the administration lied and stonewalled about the scope, the origin and the intent of the IRS actions. A dangerous precedent was set (no one was prosecuted). Now the government is asking for the tools to invade every iPhone on the planet. There is cause for concern.

On the other hand, there is a legitimate need to investigate Islamic terrorist activity in the United States and worldwide—to understand the involvement (if any) of Mosques, Muslim organizations, and other radicalized Muslims. The information in Farook's iPhone could be valuable, could lead to other terrorist cells, and could, over the long term, save lives.

What to do?

Since it is acknowledged that Apple could make a one-off mod to its operating system that would allow access to Farook's data via automated generation of every password combination, it would seem reasonable to have Apple do the work without involvement by the FBI. Once the data is freed, Apple, would turn the data and the data only over to the FBI. Then, under court appointed oversight by a three senior judges and their selected non-government technical advisors, Apple would destroy the the one-off mods made to the OS. The three judge panel would ensure that all mods were destroyed in a manner that could not be reconstructed or hacked. This would satisfy the FBI's need for evidence in this case, but at the same time would safeguard privacy.

Both sides should stop posturing and get this done.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Busted Flush

As we count down the months until the Obama presidency is over, it's worth noting that though bad decisions, hubris and incompetence, he has set the stage for regional instability in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, North Africa, and parts of Asia. As a consequence, bad things can still happen while Obama remains in office. Richard Fernandez discusses this when he writes:
... After years of talking about a "world without nuclear weapons", legacies, grand bargains, rule based international systems, open borders and falling seas, the final act of the Obama administration has been to allow a budget aimed at belatedly giving America a fighting chance for survival, to at least let someone do what he could not do himself.

It seems clear there is widespread consensus there will be a major period of instability or conflict after Obama leaves office, perhaps even before he departs. Conflicts in Eastern Europe, Turkey, the Middle East, North Africa, China, etc. are not only possible, they have actually started and each is escalating.

What is still unclear is how bad it will get. That depends on two things: the extent to which Western defenses can be rebuilt and the judiciousness with which foreign and security policy leadership is exercised. Political events in 2016 are crucial not only in America, but all over the world because they will determine, more or less, who is in charge when the balloon goes up. If the West can prepare in time and uses its assets properly, the worst of the crisis can still be avoided and a general peace might still be preserved. If nothing intelligent replaces the last seven years of foolishness then the embers now smoldering may burst into open flame, merge and threaten everybody with the major conflict Dmitry Medvedev warned against.

There will still be some calls in the next few months for president Obama to "do something" but there will be fewer than you would expect. The word is out, even among allies. He's a busted flush. For the moment, the consensus appears to sit tight, get ready, take no chances and wait out Obama's term.
Barack Obama is indeed a "busted flush," and waiting out the remainder of his presidency seems a reasonable strategy for allies who have felt abandoned by his feckless foreign policy.

But what if the Democrats prevail in the next presidential election? The options are discouraging. On the one hand, we have Bernie Sanders who will double down on Obama's 'make bad decisions and/or do nothing' strategy. A long time opponent of a strong United States, Sanders will follow Obama's lead by abandoning allies and cozying up to adversaries. On the other hand we have Hillary Clinton—the architect of Obama's disastrous foreign policy failures during his first term. Even worse, it's almost a certainty that Clinton can and will be blackmailed by our adversaries—all of whom likely have incriminating emails hacked from her infamous private server.

And on the GOP side, we have the Donald—a man whose simple-minded, shoot-from-the-hip  approach to foreign policy does not provide much comfort. One can only hope that he'll have the brains to surround himself with good people and the humility to listen to them. There's a glimmer of optimism if Marco Rubio wins the nomination because he is well-versed in the details of foreign policy, but the young senator remains a long shot. And Ted Cruz? His ideological extremism will preclude any chance of him winning the general election.

Bottom line—the "busted flush" in the white house has set the stage for big loses in the world wide game of poker that we call foreign policy. His continuing chatter during the game now grates on his opponents, and his gambling stake is running dangerously low. He tries to buff, but the other players now know all of his tells.

Friday, February 19, 2016


In arguing, as I have argued many times in this blog, for a balanced Supreme Court, Peggy Noonan writes:
When the court is roughly balanced, 5-4, the public is allowed to assume some rough approximation of justice will occur—that something that looks like justice will be handed down. There will be chafing and disappointments. ObamaCare will be upheld. Yay! Boo! Gay marriage will be instituted across the land. Yay! Boo!

The closeness of the vote suggests both sides got heard. The closeness contributes to an air of credibility. That credibility helps people accept the court’s rulings.
A court that is unbalanced (either to the Right or to the Left) reeks of judicial coercion and as a consequence, will be less respected by the people. That's not a good thing, yet extremists on both the Left and the Right want to load the court to exercise their ideological will. That's a serious mistake.

But it's Noonan's dissection of the the Left's position in all of this that's most interesting. During the Obama years, the Left has ascended. Barack Obama gave tacit permission for increasingly extreme leftist positions to be espoused by his supporters. At the same time, the media showed its true ideological position, becoming what has been called a "Democratic Superpac." The Democratic party has careened leftward, and now offers us  a crypto-communist as presidential front runner (that may change soon).

Noonan writes:
There is something increasingly unappeasable in the left. This is something conservatives and others have come to fear, that progressives now accept no limits. We can’t just have court-ordered legalized abortion across the land, we have to have it up to the point of birth, and taxpayers have to pay for it. It’s not enough to win same-sex marriage, you’ve got to personally approve of it and if you publicly resist you’ll be ruined. It’s not enough that we have publicly funded contraceptives, the nuns have to provide them.

This unappeasable spirit always turns to the courts to have its way.

If progressives were wise they would step back, accept their victories, take a breath and turn to the idea of solidifying gains, of heroic patience, of being peaceable.

Don’t make them bake the cake. Don’t make them accept the progressive replacement for Scalia. Leave the nuns alone.

Progressives have no idea how fragile it all is. That’s why they feel free to be unappeasable. They don’t know what they’re grinding down.

They think America has endless give. But America is composed of humans, and they do not have endless give.
In my last post I wrote about the growing narrative espoused by Obama and his supporters when they encounter less "give" than they expect—"It's not who where are." But the "we" in that sentence should include the half of the country that doesn't agree with the Left.

I suspect that as the months pass, the Left will learn the limits of "give." But then again, maybe not.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

It's Not Who We Are

There's a new progressive narrative that has begun to emerge. Barack Obama uses it regularly as he continues his effort to divide the country along ideological lines. When some progressives encounter an idea, a statement, or a policy that competes with with their politically correct view of the world or clashes with their overall belief system, they intone the following—"It's not who we are." This implies that the idea, the statement or the policy is well outside their view of the mainstream and anyone who entertains it is the other—morally deficient and politically extreme.

The implication is obvious: Right-thinking Americans have all adopted a set of values that dovetail perfectly with progressive thinking. Here are just a few: 
  • "diversity" trumps merit as a national goal, 
  • "undocumented" immigrants are victims and should take no responsibility for their past actions, 
  • the "religion of peace" has no connection whatsoever with "violent extremism," 
  • "climate change" is the most important "crisis" facing our country because computer models tells us it is, 
  • "millionaires and billionaires" have sole responsibility for "income inequality," 
  • ever-expanding government is a good thing while the private sector is rapacious and uncaring, 
  • "soft power" is the only legitimate approach to international relations and results in consistently good results.
Not all Americans (including yours truly) agree with those positions, each of which can be refuted by examining the facts and/or the consequences that have resulted when those positions have been applied. In fact, half the population might have trouble with one or more of them. Are those who disagree any less American? Are our values somehow less moral or less caring or less right?

There's a certain conceit among progressives in all of this. Progressives truly do believe that they hold the moral high ground in all things. They appear to have a unique ability to filter out their repeated failures in social policy, economic growth, and international affairs. For example, it's never big government tax and spend policies that have led to tepid 2 percent GDP growth, the lowest labor participation rate in modern history, or the smallest number of business start-up in the past 50 years. Noooo. It's the recession of 2008 (now eight years ago!), big banks, big business, and "millionaires and billionaires" who are solely to blame.

But when a prominent figure suggests that smaller government might do far more good for the middle class and the poor than fantasy programs proposed by neo-socialists or when a demagogue like Donald Trump ham-handedly suggests that it might be wise to establish a moratorium on immigration from countries that have active terrorist organizations, we hear "That's not who we are."

When progressives sit on their high moral perch and intone that phrase, it might be worth noting that (using the jargon that has been co-opted by progressives) "we" have a wide diversity of views, no view should necessarily be valued above another, and accusing someone of having a divergent opinion is a micro-aggression against that person.

240 years of history have indicated that the "we" —the people of America—value individualism, hard work, personal responsibility, education and entrepreneurship, but at the same time exhibit empathy for the underdog and always provide a hand up, but reject the notion of a lifetime of handouts. "We" value the importance of government and are willing to support it via taxes, but also recognize the inherent danger in a government that has grown too large and intrusive, and bridle when those tax dollars are wasted by incompetent or avaricious bureaucrats and politicians. "We" reject moral equivalence, recognizing that some cultures are less deserving of acceptance than others, that there is "good" and "bad" in the world, and that our first duty is to protect ourselves, our children, and our country.

That's who "we" are, and we don't appreciate being told by the supposed elites that we must be something else.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Rancorous and Unproductive

Both Democrats and the GOP are demagoguing the new vacancy in the Supreme Court, but it's the Dems whose sanctimonious hypocrisy is laughable. As I noted in the Update to my last post, the Dems have blocked the court nominations of many GOP presidents on many occasions, but have (with the complicity of the media) wrapped themselves in "a fight against extremist jurists" meme. In reality, they, like the GOP, were acting in their own political best interest.

In the past GOP presidents have certainly opposed Dem-majority congresses, but there has never been the overt rancor fostered by Barack Obama over the past 8 years. This president has publicly ridiculed and often demonized the GOP congress dozens of times, and his acolytes in the Democratic party have followed suit. Now, the democrats expect all of that to be forgotten. That isn't how it works.

Chris Stirewalt of FoxNews writes:
In the face of a Republican refusal to allow him to install a new Supreme Court justice in the final year of his term, President Obama has a few choices.

Option one: He could admit defeat and wait for the unlikely chance to make a recess appointment.

Option two: He could find a nominee moderate enough to win 60 votes in the Senate. This would require Obama working his own party as hard as he did Republicans to find a centrist choice that could overcome bipartisan opposition.

Option three: He could pick a nominee totally unacceptable to the Republican majority in the Senate and spend several months berating Republicans for their unpatriotic perfidy.

Which one do you think it will be?

It would be a fitting end for the Obama era to close with a rancorous, unproductive struggle fought in the opinion columns and television shows the president supposedly distains. And that seems almost certainly where we are headed.
The only meaningful legacy that Barack Obama has left is the" rancorous and unproductive" politics he has actively promoted. Time after time, he has treated those who oppose his ideology as unworthy of recognition.

What goes around, comes around. And now it appears that the GOP-lead congress will treat his Supreme Court nominee in the same way Obama treated it—as unworthy or recognition. The congress would be wrong to do this if Obama applied Option #2, but that, as Chris Stirewalt notes, is not in Barack Obama's nature.

Monday, February 15, 2016

A Supreme Nomination

The unfortunate death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has opened up still another wedge issue for both Dems and the GOP. In this case, the GOP and many of it presidential candidates were wrong to suggest that Barack Obama not propose a nominee for the Court or to suggest that any nominee be rejected out of hand. Obama has a right under the Constitution to propose a nominee, and the Senate has an equivalent right under the Constitution to assess the nominee in depth and reject that person for cause. That's the way it should work.

Barack Obama has been hyperpartisan throughout his presidency, avoiding any realistic compromise with the Congress (think: Obamacare, annual budgets), so there is little reason to believe that he will select a Supreme Court nominee who can earn bipartisan support. But it is possible that Obama will make a rare good decision and nominate a respected jurist with moderate positions on many issues—a person who might lean right sometimes and left at other times. It's also possible that Obama will avoid his penchant for nominating "diversity" candidates instead of the best candidate. What the United States simply does not need is a transgender, mixed race, disabled judge with a mediocre record who does check off every "diversity" box. Diversity should not be the guiding criterion for a Supreme Court Justice.

In my view, we all should wait and see who this president nominates. If the nominee has the record, the temperament, and an ideology that is exemplary, he or she deserves a fair hearing. But if Obama does what Obama almost always does and nominates a judge that has consistently demonstrated political partisanship in his or her rulings, that nominee should be rejected out of hand.

For those on the Left who are already polishing the meme that the GOP congress will once again be "obstructionists" on this issue, I would suggest a look back at recent history.

According to American Thinker:
in August 1960, the Democrat-controlled Senate passed a resolution, S.RES. 334, “Expressing the sense of the Senate that the president should not make recess appointments to the Supreme Court, except to prevent or end a breakdown in the administration of the Court’s business.” Each of President Eisenhower’s SCOTUS appointments had initially been a recess appointment who was later confirmed by the Senate, and the Democrats were apparently concerned that Ike would try to fill any last-minute vacancy that might arise with a recess appointment.

In 1987, GOP President Ronald Regan nominated Robert Bork, a conservative jurist with eminent credentials as a legal scholar, to the Supreme court. After a vicious confirmation process, a Democrat congress rejected his nomination. The Democrats, supported by their media friends (they weren't yet trained hamsters), offered no apology for their actions.

In 1991, GOP President George H.W. Bush nominated Clarance Thomas, an conservative jurist who happened to be an African American to the Supreme court. After a vicious confirmation process, in which a Democrat congress conducted lengthy hearing that Thomas himself publicly characterized as a "lynching," he was finally confirmed.

In 2001, from Wikipedia:
Miguel Angel Estrada Castañeda (born September 25, 1961) is an attorney who became embroiled in controversy following his 2001 nomination by President George W. Bush to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Senate Democrats, claiming Estrada was a conservative ideologue with no experience as a judge, and unable to block his nomination in the Senate Judiciary Committee after the Republican Party took control of the Senate in 2002, used a filibuster to prevent his nomination from being given a final confirmation vote by the full Senate.

And this, from a speech offered by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY):

ABCNews reports:
On January 29, 2006, Mr. Obama told George Stephanopulos on "This Week" that he would "be supporting the filibuster because I think Judge Alito, in fact, is somebody who is contrary to core American values, not just liberal values, you know. When you look at his decisions in particular during times of war, we need a court that is independent and is going to provide some check on the executive branch, and he has not shown himself willing to do that repeatedly."

Given these examples of how the Democrats (and Barack Obama!) treat nominees (and presidents) who they don't like, I would suggest that they spare us all the phony moral outrage that is sure to surface when the GOP delays or rejects an unacceptable nominee.


It seems that as the Democratic party moves further and further left, it adopts memes that are based not on hard facts, but on emotions driven by a narrative that fits its hard-left ideology. Over the past few years, the "systemic racism" meme has gained widespread traction with progressive politicians and their trained hamsters in the media.

As a consequence, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has been embraced by both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. It exemplifies the "systemic racism" narrative and exhibits a level of hypocrisy that is breathtaking. In urban areas across the country, African American children and other innocents due are murdered daily becuase of black-on-black violence. This tragic reality gets barely a mention by BLM. Sure, there is some hand-wringing in the media, but you generally don't see BLM or any other progressive activist blocking traffic to protest black-on-black violence. However, the rare shooting of a black person by a white police office evokes wails of outrage (even before the facts are known) and 24-7 media coverage.

Kimberly Strassel comments:
Apparently the Black Lives Matter movement has convinced Democrats and progressives that there is an epidemic of racist white police officers killing young black men. Such rhetoric is going to heat up as Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders court minority voters before the Feb. 27 South Carolina primary.

But what if the Black Lives Matter movement is based on fiction? Not just the fictional account of the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., but the utter misrepresentation of police shootings generally.

To judge from Black Lives Matter protesters and their media and political allies, you would think that killer cops pose the biggest threat to young black men today. But this perception, like almost everything else that many people think they know about fatal police shootings, is wrong.

The Washington Post has been gathering data on fatal police shootings over the past year and a half to correct acknowledged deficiencies in federal tallies. The emerging data should open many eyes.

For starters, fatal police shootings make up a much larger proportion of white and Hispanic homicide deaths than black homicide deaths. According to the Post database, in 2015 officers killed 662 whites and Hispanics, and 258 blacks. (The overwhelming majority of all those police-shooting victims were attacking the officer, often with a gun.) Using the 2014 homicide numbers as an approximation of 2015’s, those 662 white and Hispanic victims of police shootings would make up 12% of all white and Hispanic homicide deaths. That is three times the proportion of black deaths that result from police shootings.

The lower proportion of black deaths due to police shootings can be attributed to the lamentable black-on-black homicide rate. There were 6,095 black homicide deaths in 2014—the most recent year for which such data are available—compared with 5,397 homicide deaths for whites and Hispanics combined. Almost all of those black homicide victims had black killers.

Police officers—of all races—are also disproportionately endangered by black assailants. Over the past decade, according to FBI data, 40% of cop killers have been black. Officers are killed by blacks at a rate 2.5 times higher than the rate at which blacks are killed by police.
But accurate data collected by a respected left-leaning publication seem to have no influence on those who promote the systemic racism narrative. Their goal is to divide the nation for political advantage.

Sadly, a group like Black Lives Matter might actually do some good if it focused its energies not on a narrative that is not supported by the facts, but rather on the reality of urban life. If the BLM "activists" worked to promote a culture that strives to strengthen the urban family, discourage child rearing by single mothers, promote education, encourage entry into the trades, reduce the number of gang members, establish incentives to build small businesses in urban areas, and dozens of other worthwhile goals, they would provide enormous benefit to the African American community. But those things are difficult, they take time, and effort, and long-term commitment. It's so much easier to rant about "white privilege" and block traffic. 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Universal Health Care

To the joy of many progressives, the Democratic party is veering to the left. As a consequence, there is a possibility, albeit a relatively small one, that Bernie Sanders will continue to defeat Hillary Clinton in upcoming primaries and ultimately gain the presidential nomination.

Sanders is applying a well-worn strategy used by every socialist—offer lots of "free" stuff to those on at the middle and lower ends of the income scale and grow government as quickly as possible (via profligate spending) to strengthen your control of the populace. Claim that deficits and debt are nothing to worry about, that "efficiency" will reduce government costs, and finally, that the "rich" will be taxed heavily to pay for it all. All of that is a lie, but no matter—it works with a growing segment of the electorate.

Let's take one of Bernie Sander's trademark programs—Universal Health Care—the holy grail of liberal/socialist politics for a generation. Yevgeniy Feyman dissects the program:
Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders recently released his health-care plan: a government-run single-payer system for the U.S., similar to what many European countries have. Criticism of the plan has so far focused on its lack of political feasibility, but there is an even more important reason to be wary: Accounting for costs and tax increases, it would reduce labor supply by 11.6 million. In a struggling economy, with tepid wage growth, hurting employment should be the last thing on any politician’s agenda.

The plan truly promises everything under the sun. Not only will everyone be able to get any medical treatment needed — with no cost at the point of service — but the plan won’t require a terribly high tax increase. The funding mechanism boils down to an increase in payroll taxes: an “income-based premium” of 2.2 percent for individuals and a tax of 6.2 percent on employers. Because economists, as well as the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation, recognize that the "employer share" of payroll taxes is mostly borne by workers in the form of lower wages, this translates to an 8.4 percentage point increase overall.

These elements of the plan were the first to draw criticism. Not only do most single-payer countries fund their health-care systems with higher taxes on the middle class, but they also typically exclude a variety of services and drugs from coverage. Without being able to say no to some expensive drugs and services, the government would have a tough time driving down prices.

But perhaps the most stinging rebuke came from veteran health economist Kenneth Thorpe of Emory University. In Thorpe’s estimation, Sanders’ plan would require a total tax hike of 20 percentage points, and would cost $1.1 trillion more each year than the campaign has estimated. This is at least partly because the government would have to pay more than Medicare’s low rates to keep doctors and hospitals in the system, and making health care free at the point of delivery would also increase use of health-care services.
Innumerate progressives and other low information voters would prefer to believe Bernie's claims (think: Willful suspension of disbelief). After all, the claims sound great—free and excellent medical care that someone else will pay for. Only one problem—that's not true. What we'll get—what all participants in existing universal healthcare programs get—is higher taxes, fewer choices, longer wait times, less state of the art cures, more bureaucracy, greater inefficiency and fraud, and a monstrous entitlement that will eventually lead to national insolvency.

Friday, February 12, 2016


In 1994, Democratic President Bill Clinton signed a "deal" with North Korea that was heralded as a major step in stopping the rogue regime's march toward nuclear weapons. It was praised by Dems and a few GOP members as a major step toward bringing the NoKos into the family of nations. It didn't work. Over the intervening years the NoKos have conducted a number of underground nuclear tests and have become even more belligerent while at the same time starving their own people.

21 years later, Barack Obama signed a "deal" with Iran that he heralded as a landmark in stopping the rogue regime's march toward nuclear weapons. It was praised (only by Dems) as a major step toward bringing the world's largest sponsor of Islamic terror into the family of nations. When considering the potential lessons that could have been learned from the 1994 deal, the Dems seem to be characters in Ground Hog Day (the movie, not the yearly event). The only difference is they don't seem to learn from past experience.

The two Democratic candidates for 2016 provide guarded praise for Obama's "deal," recognizing, I think, that the whole thing is so poorly conceived and so full of loopholes, it could go south while the presidential race is still on. Every GOP candidate condemns the deal (correctly, in my view) and commits to rescind it upon taking office.

Going south is what the Iran deal is already doing. Benny Avni reports:
The promise of Iran’s denuclearization may be unraveling faster than the promise of North Korea’s denuclearization.

This week, Stratfor published satellite-photo analysis strongly indicating that Iran is moving much of its nuclear activities from sites that the United Nations inspects to “no-go zones” where it may well continue developing nuclear-arms technology.

Wait, but didn’t Secretary of State John Kerry promise the pact he signed with the mullahs last summer “blocks of all Iran’s paths to a nuclear bomb?” And isn’t Iran complying?

Iran indeed took enriched uranium out of its known sites, closed down its plutonium plant — and then concealed whatever it’s doing in the Parchin military complex.

Parchin’s status was contentious during the talks. Our tireless diplomats demanded inspectors’ access there, but Iran contended that its military facilities are non-nuclear, so no inspection necessary. Yet, intelligence reports have raised suspicion that in the past, Iran had tested explosives at the Parchin facility, which can be used for detonating nuclear weapons.

Tehran finally agreed to let the International Atomic Energy Agency have a look-see. Except the inspectors weren’t allowed to visit Parchin’s secretive, deeply-buried parts.
Obama and Kerry were so focused on making a deal—any deal—that they capitulated to Iran's demands in every aspect that mattered. That included the establishment of 'no-go' zones like Parchin where Iran can secretly continue its nuclear bomb-making research without worry about pesky IAEA inspectors.

It took the Nokos only two years after Clinton's non-proliferation deal to become a nuclear power. I suspect that Iran just might better that time. But by then the Islamic Republic will be another president's problem.

The Dems love to repeat the canard that "Bush Lied and People Died." One can only hope that the operative phrase in 2017-18 isn't: "Obama capitulated and Nuclear War was Initiated."

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Too Fragile

As Bernie Sanders continues his ascendency as the candidate of starry-eyed college kids, 1960s-era progressives, and those on the hard-left, the mainstream Democratic party and it's dishonest and corrupt flag bearer, Hillary Clinton, rely on a southern "firewall' to stop Bernie's advance.

As a cyrpto-communist, Bernie's socialist narrative is wrong on most things, but not everything. His suggestion that "too big to fail" is dangerous resonate with most voters. His argument that Wall Street continues its irresponsible development of financial instruments that benefit no one but Wall Street and its very big money investors is largely accurate. With that it mind, there is a way that Sanders could be propelled into the presidency.

Allister Heath writes:
They bounce back after terrorist attacks, pick themselves up after earthquakes and cope with pandemics such as Zika. They can even handle years of economic uncertainty, stagnant wages and sky-high unemployment. But no developed nation today could possibly tolerate another wholesale banking crisis and proper, blood and guts recession.

We are too fragile, fiscally as well as psychologically. Our economies, cultures and polities are still paying a heavy price for the Great Recession; another collapse, especially were it to be accompanied by a fresh banking bailout by the taxpayer, would trigger a cataclysmic, uncontrollable backlash.

The public, whose faith in elites and the private sector was rattled after 2007-09, would simply not wear it. Its anger would be so explosive, so-all encompassing that it would threaten the very survival of free trade, of globalisation and of the market-based economy. There would be calls for wage and price controls, punitive, ultra-progressive taxes, a war on the City and arbitrary jail sentences.
In the main, U.S. economic fragility can be traced to the massive growth of government (and the consequent diminishment of the private sector), our $19+ trillion national debt, our financially unstable entitlements, and the notion that "moral hazard" no longer applies to the financial sector. Over its eight years in power, the current Democratic administration has done nothing to moderate any of these things. In fact, through bad policy and irresponsible ideology, it has made things worse—much worse.

If another 2008 crash occurs in the short-term (and it might), Bernie Sander's anti-capitalist rhetoric will resonate across the electorate. It could propel him into the presidency.

Of course, the socialism that Sanders advocates won't fix a thing. In fact, it'll make a bad situation even worse, possibly irreparably worse. But that won't matter. If people are angry today—and they are—they will be infuriated if another crash occurs. Let's just hope it doesn't.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Willful Suspension of Disbelief

Have you ever watched an action adventure movie with a scene like this:
Six bad guys with automatic weapons stand no more than 30 feet away from the hero. They open fire but do not hit the hero as the he runs wildly across an open space, dives through the air, turns toward the bad guys while he is airborne, and fires, killing them all. 
All of this happens on camera in slow motion. The audience smiles inwardly. What a guy!

We all know that things like that don't really happen. That the hero would be shredded by automatic weapons fire coming from the six men. That flying though the air and aiming accurately enough to kill six people is close to impossible. But a Hollywood director knows that the audience will accept all of this because of something called suspension of disbelief.

For the past eight years, the Democrats and their trained hamsters in a media that presents the Dem narrative have relied heavily on suspension of disbelief (SoD) by a significant percentage of the voting public. And its SoD that shields the Dems from public anger that should occur as a consequence of the ruinous results of their governance. The Dems tell us things like this:
  • Obamacare will save us money, and you'll be able to keep your current insurance.
  • The Benghazi attack was precipitated by an obscure anti-Islam video.
  • The widespread IRS attack on conservatives didn't happen, or if it did, was due to decisions made by GS-12s in Cincinnati.
  • Climate change science is "settled" and there is no reason to investigate the accuracy of models that predict catastrophic outcomes.
  • The failed state that is Libya had nothing to do with the decisions and actions of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
  • The rise of ISIS was all George W. Bush's fault.
  • Income inequality is the sole fault of millionaires and billionaires.
  • Climate change is our most urgent national security challenge.
  • Everyone has a right to "free" college.
  • Islamic terror groups have nothing whatsoever to do with Islam.
  • Universal health care programs implemented in other countries are problem free.
  • Hillary Clinton used a private server for "convenience."
  • There were no classified documents on Clinton's private server, but if there were, they weren't marked classified, or if they were marked, they were over-classified and therefore not really classified.
  • Foreign governments donated tens of millions through cut-outs to the Clinton Global Initiative and didn't expect anything in return.
  • The economy is in good shape and unemployment is very low.
  • Every Muslim immigrant from terror-infested countries can be fully vetted before entry and besides, you're a racist if you suggest otherwise.
  • Bernie Sanders is a different kind of socialist and his programs will help the poor and middle class, as long as "the rich" pay their fair share.
  • The on-going collapse of Venezuela under socialist rule is not worthy of examination.
and on ... and on ... and on.

Victor Davis Hansen provides a useful example:
Recent news reports daily detail how former Secretary of State Clinton’s private emails—contrary to her early serial assurances—contained far more than just ordinary classified material. She sent communications of such a sensitive nature that they now cannot even be read by most government officials.

Mrs. Clinton, however, has demanded that these classified documents be released to the public. That gambit, she believes, will prove that she did not send anything top secret at all!

That con too requires a suspension of disbelief. Mrs. Clinton knows full well that it would be illegal for any official to release a highly classified document to the public. She is merely angling for a cheap talking point along the lines of, “I wanted to show the American people how innocent my emails were, but 'they' wouldn’t let me and covered them up.”
Clinton is only one of two presidential options that the Democratic party offers the American public. The other option is a 74-year old socialist.

That, in and of itself, requires a willful suspension of disbelief.


Next to MSNBC, the trained hamsters at CNN have championed the Democrat narrative for decades. They fully emerged from the closet after Barack Obama was elected and are now an active member of the Democrat Media "superpac." This morning, CNN ran a piece headlined: "Under Sanders, income and jobs would soar, economist says." Here's a breathless excerpt:
Median income would soar by more than $22,000. Nearly 26 million jobs would be created. The unemployment rate would fall to 3.8%.

Those are just a few of the things that would happen if Bernie Sanders became president and his ambitious economic program were put into effect, according to an analysis given exclusively to CNNMoney. The first comprehensive look at the impact of all of Sanders' spending and tax proposals on the economy was done by Gerald Friedman, a University of Massachusetts Amherst economics professor.

This more sweeping analysis was not commissioned by the candidate, though Sanders' policy director called it "outstanding work." Friedman has worked with Sanders in the past, but has never received any compensation. The Vermont senator asked Friedman to estimate the cost of Sanders' Medicare-for-all plan -- which came out to $13.8 trillion over 10 years -- and included the analysis when he unveiled his proposal last month.

Friedman, who believes in democratic socialism like the candidate, found that if Sanders became president -- and was able to push his plan through Congress -- median household income would be $82,200 by 2026, far higher than the $59,300 projected by the Congressional Budget Office.
Three paragraphs in, CCN notes that this so-called economist is a socialist. But no worries, under Bernie's utopian "economic" plans, the median income would rise to $82,000 and "unemployment" would drop to 3.8!!!

And right now, after 20 years of socialist rule, Venezuela's economy is booming. Oh wait, that's not true. Socialist Venezuela is on the brink of collapse, unemployment is skyrocketing, and inflation is 200 percent. Oops, that's not something that CNN is willing to report.

Any one who believes the garbage published by CNN's "economist," exhibits still another example of willful suspension of disbelief.

David Brookes isn't a fool, but as a moderate who supported Barack Obama from the beginning, it looks like he has been blinded to the reality of the man, his administration and his legacy. It's sometimes hard to admit you're wrong, and Brookes now writes about Obama in a way the requires a clear suspension of disbelief:
The first and most important of these is basic integrity. The Obama administration has been remarkably scandal-free. Think of the way Iran-contra or the Lewinsky scandals swallowed years from Reagan and Clinton.

We’ve had very little of that from Obama. He and his staff have generally behaved with basic rectitude. Hillary Clinton is constantly having to hold these defensive press conferences when she’s trying to explain away some vaguely shady shortcut she’s taken, or decision she has made, but Obama has not had to do that.

He and his wife have not only displayed superior integrity themselves, they have mostly attracted and hired people with high personal standards. There are all sorts of unsightly characters floating around politics, including in the Clinton camp and in Gov. Chris Christie’s administration. This sort has been blocked from team Obama.
"... basic integity." Really? A leader with basic integrity does not demonize his opposition on a regular basis, but rather works with them; does not blame his predecessor repeatedly but rather understands that he is now in charge and has the responsibility to solve problems, not whine about them; does not stonewall when wrong-doing is uncovered on his watch (think: the IRS scandal) but rather works to rectify the wrong-doing.

" ... remarkably scandal free." Seriously? It appears that Brookes is unaware of Fast and Furious, Benghazi, the IRS scandal, the VA scandal and a host of others.

"He and his staff have generally behaved with basic rectitude." Double seriously!? "Rectitude" implies honesty and integrity. Obama has knowingly lied to the American public about Obamacare, promised to "get to the bottom" of the IRS targeting of his opposition (he did nothing of the sort), and stonewalled every attempt to better understand the debacle that was Benghazi. And his staff—think Susan Rice who appeared on all five Sunday morning shows and knowingly lied about the cause of the Benghazi terrorist attack in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election.

But all of this sounds very reasonable indeed with willful SoD, doesn't it?

Monday, February 08, 2016

Incompetence or Malice

During this past weekend's GOP presidential debate, Marco Rubio argued (repeatedly) that Barack Obama's many foreign policy failures are not the result of incompetence,  but rather the result of (malicious) intent. Rubio said:
Let's dispel once and for all with the fiction that Barack Obama doesn't know what he is doing, he knows exactly what he is doing.

Barack Obama is undertaking a systematic effort to change this country, to make America more like the rest of the world... it is a systematic effort to change America.
Donald Trump begged to differ:
“I think we have a president who as a president is totally incompetent. He has no idea what he is doing, and the country is going to hell.”
Richard Fernandez dissects this disagreement when he writes:
It must be left to history to judge whether Obama was truly a failure and if so, which of the two causes, or both, drove the mistakes. But those who think the worst of the Obama should be happy if he were incompetent rather than bad. To be a really dangerous an historical personage has to be enough of a winner to build up a following. Hitler was the classic example. His apparent successes in the early war years provided the capital to fatally overreach. Similarly, Japan's 6 month opening winning streak was enough to sustain imperial legitimacy until late-1945. Without those abilities, neither would have gone very far. Of the three Axis Powers Mussolini had the least competence and he was never more than a clown.

Because Obama consistently failed at most everything he rapidly lost the ability to make the disastrous big bet. In the twilight of his presidency, the administration is more impotent than actively dangerous, having squandered his political capital -- and his nation's prestige in the last seven years. This suggests, irrespective of malice, that a good dollop of incompetence was present. Incompetence is in many ways a self-limiting condition.
No one can read Barack Obama's mind. All we can do is listen to his words, assess their accuracy and honesty, and examine his decisions and actions. At a superficial level, doing just that screams incompetence driven by combination of a woeful lack executive management inexperience, virtually no team building skills ("the team of 2s"), and a hubris that has lead him to believe he is the smartest guy in the room. But a deeper look might lead one to an accusation of malice. After all, how could anyone be so consistently wrong?

In the end, it probably doesn't matter. As Fernandez sagely notes, Obama's serial failures have limited his ability to apply malice, if that was his intent. As I have noted in other posts, the real question is whether the damage he has done to our country, whether by incompetence or malice, can be undone by the next president.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Puerto Rico

Over the past few weeks, I've written twice about Venezuela (here and here) as the most recent example of the complete failure of socialist governance. But realistically, we have to look no further than Puerto Rico to understand that over the long term the big government model is a recipe for bankruptcy. John Gray provides the gory details:
Puerto Rico’s unemployment rate has been stuck well beyond 10 percent since before the Great Recession. Today, it hovers above 12 percent. Puerto Rico has one of the lowest labor-participation rates in the west; less than half the population is working. Why? Well, it costs more to hire a worker in Puerto Rico that it does in some of the richest areas of the mainland United States. The minimum wage in Fresno, California is $9. However, the Puerto Rican minimum wage (which is enforced by Washington) is equivalent to 77 percent of the median wage of Puerto Rico, or $9.42 per hour.

The red-tape and overregulation of the island has eliminated jobs and increased welfare. Presently, nearly 35 percent of the island is on food stamps compared to only 15 percent of the population on the mainland.

Compounding Puerto Rico’s labor market woes is the fact that those who are employed are likely to be on the government dole. Nearly one in four people work for the government in Puerto Rico. That is, of course, when they are working. Puerto Rico government employees receive a European-competitive 30 days of vacation — and of course, must not be productive beyond eight hours per day — anything more costs the government time and a half ...

The New York Federal Reserve’s assessment is even sterner:
The Island appears to face two alternatives: either manage its own economic adjustment and put the Commonwealth on a secure fiscal basis, or wait for outmigration and the discipline of the market to force an even more painful adjustment.
The "severe adjustment" that the fed is talking about is bankruptcy—government pensions will go unpaid and chaos will reign.

Gray notes the many reasons for Puerto Rico's dire situation. All boil down to government intervention, overregulation of the private sector, profligate spending to provide "free stuff" by the Puerto Rican government, an underfunded pension program, and a series of "distorted incentives" for doing business in Puerto Rico that did more harm than good. Sadly, it's the same blue model that has been used in places like Connecticut, Illinois, and Detroit.

It should come as no surprise that Puerto Rico wants a bailout. Gray writes:
This is a Puerto Rican-created mess and, like other financially burdened states, it is a problem they must resolve.

But Washington is not resigned to let Puerto Rico fix its own problems. Instead, Republican Leadership has demanded that Congress draft legislation to facilitate the territory’s budgetary troubles.

Democrats have been in favor of a Chapter 9 bankruptcy proposal, a legal status not currently allowed to any state or Puerto Rico. Republicans, on the other hand, have offered a financial bailout, while President Obama is looking for all of the above — additional welfare, a bailout, and a modified Chapter 9 bankruptcy option. Puerto Rico is looking for a bailout; they are after yerrr money!
Unfortunately, bailouts eliminate moral hazard—the notion that one must take responsibility for one's actions and suffer the consequences if those actions are irresponsible or stupid. The vast majority of U.S. mainland tax payers have never been to Puerto Rico. But their tax dollars will flow there as part of a bailout, as sure as the sun rises on the territory's beautiful Caribbean shores.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Venezuela Revisited—Again

I wonder how many of the starry-eyed Bernie Sanders fans know anything whatsoever about Venezuela. For the sake of those younger fans (mostly college students and recent grads) who don't know much about the country: Venezuela is less than a 3-hour flight from Miami. Just 20 years ago, it was a vibrant country, rich with oil wealth. It did, however, have "income inequality" problems like all South American countries. A socialist demagogue by the name of Hugo Chavez convinced starry-eyed young Venezuelans and the "working class" that socialism and big government control would give them better lives. Like all socialists, Chavez lied.

How do we know? Let's look at Venezuela today, less than two decades after Chavez's ideas were implemented. John Hinderaker reports:
Venezuela’s disastrous experiment with socialism is nearing its inevitable end. The Financial Times has the numbers:
The year 2015 was an annus horribilis in Venezuela with a 10 per cent decline in gross domestic product, following a 4 per cent fall in 2014. Inflation reached over 200 per cent. The fiscal deficit ballooned to 20 per cent of GDP, funded mainly by the printing press.

In the free market, the bolivar has lost 92 per cent of its value in the past 24 months, with the dollar costing 150 times the official rate: the largest exchange rate differential ever registered. Shortages and long queues in the shops have made daily life very difficult.
That’s putting it mildly. Imagine there’s no toilet paper, as John Lennon once sang. Or should have, anyway.
As bad as these numbers are, 2016 looks dramatically worse. Imports, which had already been compressed by 20 per cent in 2015 to $37bn, would have to fall by over 40 per cent, even if the country stopped servicing its debt. President Maduro’s socialist government apparently has no strategy to deal with the impending catastrophe. It shapes up as one of the most appalling economic and fiscal collapses in world history.
If Bernie Sanders gets the Democrat nomination, the bumper stickers from the GOP write themselves:
  • Socialism? Look what its done for Venezuela!
I really do wish that someone would ask Bernie about our southern neighbor. I'll even give our eminent journalist the question:
Q:  Mr. Sanders, you're a proud socialist. How do you explain the failure of socialism in our southern neighbor, Venezuela. After 20 years of socialism, that country now has -10% GDP growth, inflation at 200%, continuing devaluation of its currency, and massive unemployment. Corruption abounds and shortages of everything including toilet paper lead to long lines and very angry citizens. How can the voters of this country be sure that your socialist proposals won't lead to the same disastrous results?
I know, I know, Bernie would say its an unfair comparison, that Venezuela didn't implement socialism correctly—just like all of other countries that have been crippled or destroyed by socialism over the past 100 years.


This comment from Investor's Business Daily:
It’s worrisome that so many Americans see socialism in a favorable light these days. A May 2015 YouGov poll showed that socialism was viewed favored favorably by 43% of Democrats, while a June 2015 Gallup poll showed that 47% of Americans would vote for a socialist.

It points to a collective loss of memory. After all, it’s been decades since the fact that the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet empire collapsed. As chess champion Garry Kasparov has noted in “Winter Is Coming,” there have been no truth commissions or victory parades to institutionalize the monstrous idea’s discreditation and demise. In fact, the idea seems to be resurging in the U.S. Democratic Party, even with examples of its failures continuing, the latest example being Venezuela.

That reality of socialism and its horrific results is mocked by Sanders himself, who denies it has anything to do with his own ideas. “I myself don’t use the word socialism,” he told a University of Vermont student publication in 1976 “because people have been brainwashed into thinking socialism automatically means slave-labor camps, dictatorship and lack of freedom of speech.”

Brainwashed? The very word comes from socialist indoctrination practices. Sanders’ flip dismissal of those realities reminds us of a quote from Nobel Prize winner and author of “The Gulag Archipelago” Aleksander Solzhenitsyn: “Or do they refuse to see?” Yes, Sanders and his followers refuse.
Like almost every aspect of Leftist doctrine, adherents refuse to examine anything but their narrative. After all, they are the inventors of the "safe place" where only leftist doctrine enters. They "refuse to see."

Part of the problem is that much of the media leans left, and it refuses to present information that might weaken the narrative. So a vicious cycle results. Demagogues like Sanders suggest that socialism will work. That it will benefit the downtrodden. That "free" stuff can be had if only the rich would pay for it all.

History, a far more reliable source, shows us that socialism fails—Every. Single. Time. It. Has. Been. Tried.

UPDATE (2/11/16):
In yet another modern day example of the wonders of the socialist model, we have this Wall Street Journal report from Venezuela:
CARACAS—Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro’s government began implementing a power-rationing program that will force more than 100 malls to close for hours on weekdays unless they can generate their own electricity.

Under the three-month plan, malls have to find their own power sources from 1 to 3 p.m. and again from 7 to 9 p.m., according to the Electricity Ministry, adding the measure would help Venezuela cope with a severe drought weighing on its hydroelectric plants.

“That hour between 7 and 8 is when we make most of our sales,” said Ruben Peña, a shoe-store manager at a mall in the Caracas neighborhood of Bello Campo. “We’re not sure how we’re going to make it out of this.”

The oil-rich South American country has long struggled with a shaky nationalized power grid despite billions of dollars in state investment since a 2009 electricity emergency. Business leaders warn that the latest cuts are likely to further cripple commercial activity in an economy already rattled by triple-digit inflation and chronic product shortages. The International Monetary Fund estimated the economy would contract 8% this year after shrinking 10% in 2015, making Venezuela the world’s worst-performing economy.
Hmmm. I'm sure Bernie Sanders would be proud of yet another triumph for socialism. I also have to wonder how the starry-eyed college kids who support him would react when the malls go dark and they can no longer shop at J. Crew.

Friday, February 05, 2016

New Opportunity

The UN is not Israel's friend. In fact, it isn't even an neutral arbiter of the conflict between Israel and the palestinians. Over the past 60 years, the UN has done everything possible to cripple the Jewish state, to falsely sanction and condemn it for "human rights" violations, to act against its interests, its leaders, and its very existence. The UN is corrupt and hypocritical, so its actions come as no surprise.

Benny Avni reports:
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon seems intent on using his last year in office to significantly increase UN pressure on Israel.

Last week, he told the Security Council that “human nature” can explain the recent wave of Palestinian attacks on Israeli citizens. He raised the ire of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who accused Ban of giving a “tailwind” to terrorism.

Stung by the criticism, Ban penned a New York Times op-ed saying that “nothing excuses terrorism.” But that sentence was absent from the Security Council speech, in which, as in the op-ed, the main clause was this: “As oppressed people have demonstrated throughout the ages, it is human nature to react to occupation, which often serves as a potent incubator of hate and extremism.”
Ban repeats the widely repeated leftist canard that Israel is an occupying force. No matter that the palestinians never had a state of their own prior to the creation of the State of Israel or that Jews have inhabited the region for thousand of years. There was never a palestinian state to occupy. No matter that those arabs that lived in Israel prior to the 1948 war left at the behest of their leaders with promises that once the infant state of the Jews was destroyed, they could return in glory. No matter that dozens of Arab states have killed or forced Jews to leave in an concerted effort to achieve what the Nazis called Judenrein, while Israel provides a home for 1.7 million Arab Muslims, almost 20 percent of its population! No matter that the palestinians have elected a terror group, Hamas, to lead them in Gaza, and a terror sympathizer to lead them on the West Bank. No matter that the palestinians regularly launch rockets at civilian population centers in Israel, bomb commercial businesses, and stab innocent civilians. No matter that they teach anti-Semitism from Kindergarten onward, and refuse to acknowledge Israel's right to exist. No matter that they are monumentally corrupt, stealing billions in Western aid for their own people to buy armaments and enrich their leaders, and regularly violate the human rights of its own "citizens" (think: throwing people off building who are accused of "spying" for Israel).

According to Ban Ki-moon and the majority of the lunatic Left, Israel is the "oppressor." But is there a subtext. Avni suggests the following:
In his last year, then, he [Ban Ki-moon] must have some major diplomatic breakthroughs, but those are hard to come by. Last year, Ban almost managed to arrange an unprecedented trip to North Korea, which he could’ve presented as a major success. But word of the planned trip leaked to the press in Seoul, and Pyongyang slammed the gates shut.

Joining the anti-Israel pile-on is the next best thing. And chilly relations between Netanyahu and President Obama lead many at the United Nations to believe, fairly or not, that loud attacks on Israel’s policies are no longer a major affront to Washington.

State Department spokesman John Kirby declined to criticize Ban this week. “We certainly respect” his right to express an opinion, Kirby said. (Was his right ever in doubt? After all, he owns one of the world’s loudest megaphones.) Kirby condemned terrorism against Israelis and said it has no excuse, but added that “the situation is unsustainable” and “of course, our position on settlement activity is well known and clear.”

No wonder Ban writes that attacking Israel’s “shortsighted and damaging policies” now comes even from its “closest friends.”
Throughout his failed presidency, Barack Obama has continually tried to coerce Israel into a "peace" settlement with a murderous people who want to destroy it. He has publicly denigrated Israel's leaders and policies. By word and deed, he has tacitly given permission to those anti-Semitic elements of the Left and its trained hamsters in the media to come out of the closet and publicly condemn Israel. The BDS movement, a disgusting offshoot of the Left, exemplifies the new boldness with which legitimate organizations (universities, NGOs, academic societies) have been hijacked by delusional Israel haters.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama is continuing his anti-Isreal moves. As Caroline Glick writes: "Part of the reason Obama is acting with such urgency and intensity [against Israel's interests] is that he knows that regardless of who is elected to replace him, the next president will not be as viscerally hostile to Israel or as emotionally attached to Islam as he is."

But it may be that Obama is not running out of time. Over the past few months, unsubstantiated rumors have surfaced to suggest that Barack Obama's next gig, after his disastrous presidency, just might be as Secretary General of the UN. Since some critics view Obama as a "citizen of the world," the UN position would be appropriate. After all, the UN Secretary general doesn't do much but talk, accomplishes little or nothing, oversees a corrupt over-budgeted organization, and is ineffective in most things. Obama will be right at home.

If nothing else, the UN appointment would allow Obama—a man whose many foreign policy failures will haunt future generations and will become an ignominious legacy—to embrace the despicable anti-Israel position of Ban Ki-moon and provide a new opportunity to carry it forward with renewed vigor.


For those Democrats who might argue that Barack Obama is old news and that Hillary Clinton will be a friend to Israel, her emails (released under court order) tell a far different story. Rabbi Schmuley Boteach writes:
Earlier this week, I wrote about Hillary Clinton’s interactions with Sid Blumenthal and her troubling praise of his son, Max Blumenthal’s anti-Israel agenda. Mr. Blumenthal, one of her most trusted advisers, sent her dozens of anti-Israel articles, ideas and advice during her time as Secretary of State. But the stream of anti-Israel advice received by Ms. Clinton was much more comprehensive. Now, we see emails between Ms. Clinton and other advisors and the results are equally appalling.

In the entire forced dump of her emails, you will be hard-pressed to find a single note that is sympathetic toward the Jewish state from any of the people she trusted. The negative, poisonous approach Ms. Clinton established demonstrates that a huge segment of her close advisers and confidants were attacking Israel, condemning Netanyahu, and strategizing how to force Israel to withdraw from Judea and Samaria at all costs.

This was occurring in the backdrop of Israel’s recent Gaza withdrawal, which led to the takeover of the Strip by Hamas. There is almost zero mention of the huge risks to Israel’s security in withdrawing, as Ms. Clinton and the Obama Administration did everything they could to pressure Israel to capitulate to their demands.
Hmmm. Looks like Hillary is less than a true friend to Israel.

But wait. What about Bernie Sanders? YNet comments:
Mr. Sanders represents the leftist fringe of American liberalism. This constituency is notorious for its one-sided criticism of Israel and tolerance for the BDS movement. Although Bernie Sanders does not openly condemn Zionism, as a US senator he has repeatedly refused to support resolutions that empathize with Israel’s predicaments. Furthermore he has publicly criticized Israel for "overreacting" in the struggle against the Islamist Hamas movement.

These phenomena are ominous. They presage a future where Israel’s key ally might be led by a president who stakes out an even more neutral position in the conflict thrust upon Israel - even when Israel faces Islamists trampling women’s rights and basic religious freedoms.

By currying the favor of anti-Israeli powers in the region, the presidency of Barack Obama has greatly strained relations between the United States and Israel. A Sanders presidency is liable to perpetuate and accelerate this trend.
Obama, Clinton, and Sanders are creatures of the Left—and the Left is obsessively anti-Israel. More ominously, the Democratic party has veered hard to the left. Just another reason why every person who supports Israel—a tiny, liberal democracy that exists in a cesspool of intolerance and violence that is the Arab middle east—should reconsider his or her support for the Democrats.

David Bernstein writes about anti-Semitic bias in a hotbed of lunatic Left thinking—the American university. He writes about the concerns of an Oberlin College alumna who talked about her experiences at the college:
I noted that I found most remarkable her assertion that multiple students had dismissively referred to the Holocaust as “white on white crime,” as if the “progressive” students there found it impossible to conceive of horrific racist violence outside the parameters of paradigmatic examples of racist violence in the United States. What’s remarkable about the incidents recounted, which range from gross insensitivity to blatant anti-Semitism, is not that such attitudes exist, nor that they are necessarily serious compared with what other minority students may face at college, but that, if the Facebook post in question is true, some of the most purportedly progressive students, those who are the most acutely sensitive to and active against other forms of racism, ignore anti-Semitism, belittle it and, in some cases participate in it.
Is Bernstein really surprised by this? At the risk of committing a microagression, it's often true that the most rabid hard-left students have trouble stringing together two or three coherent thoughts. In many cases, they simply parrot the positions, narratives, and phrases offered up by hard-left professors (in some academic disciplines, the phrase "hard-left professors" is a tautology) or other campus "activists.".

My guess is that a professor or activist at Oberlin called the holocaust "white on white crime" in an effort to somehow reduce its importance compared to, say, the claim that "brown people" in the United States are victims of "white privilege" and can therefore be excused from any expectation of accomplishment because the system is "rigged" against them. If I was still and professor and wrote the last sentence, I'd likely be condemned by the poor beleaguered left wing students hiding in their safe places so they don't have to listen to any ideas that might cause them to question the leftist garbage they are taught.

Thursday, February 04, 2016


Whenever I listen to the trained hamsters in the main stream media gush about the support and enthusiasm directed at Bernie Sanders by young people, I think back to the youthful enthusism directed at Barack Obama. My goodness—Obama was young, cool, hip, glib, African American, and so, so smart. He offered us all hope and change. He promised to unite, not divide. He ... well ... if you asked young people in 2008 what they liked about Barack Obama, a glow overtook their faces and they shouted, "Everything!"

How did all of that work out for those young people, the country, and the world?

I think it's fair to say that living in your parent's basement after graduating from college with tens of thousand of dollars of debt, working in a low paying service job (think: barista) because the economy remains in the tank, and being threatened with fines because you don't want and can't afford Obamacare is not what most expected.

Yet here we are, eight years later, and the same glow is in evidence when the young talk about grandpa Bernie. After all, college has taught these first time voters that socialism is cool, and besides, what could possibly be wrong with free medical care, free college, debt forgiveness for college loans and everything else that Bernie proposes? As wannabe socialists, there's no need to worry about where the money will come from because Bernie tells them that it'll come only from the rich, and nobody likes the rich. After all, they're the people who create or invest in companies that hire college graduates, that pay salaries, that allow those graduates to pay off their debt, that offer health care benefits, not to mention training and invaluable experience that can be parlayed into a career or maybe a business of one's own.

Yeah, the rich really, really don't pay their fair share—better to give the money to the big government, 'cause ... well ... the government never wastes money or does dishonest things. It never violates the privacy of its citizens or actively attacks those citizens who disagree with it politically. It never exhibits incompetence or allows massive fraud to occur. And heavens, it would never, ever suggest that social security and medicare might be in really, really serious financial trouble. Of course not, big intrusive government is a utopian idea that socialist Bernie just loves.

The sad reality is that young people, for all of their good qualities, are often bad judges of who might be a good leader, whose politics are workable in the real world, and who offers programs that will lead to a vibrant economy that will benefit them and their children. Most don't have a clue about the history of socialism, about the repeated failure of the ideology around the word, about the wreckage left behind when the people finally reject it, about the danger of big government, or about the the word "free."

In an effort to help, the conservative blog, Bookworm Room, offers an worthwhile tutorial on socialism, its sordid history over the past century and its supposed success throughout Europe (Bernie touts this as justification for his positions). It's well worth a read at the preceding link. It's also not something that a young person would generally encounter in Social Justice 101.

Bernie Sanders deserves credit for being honest about his politics, but that's all the credit he deserves. He suggests to the basement dwelling barista that the economic system is "rigged" against her, and looking around, she raises her fist and agrees with that lie. So do millions of other young people.

But here's the thing. Over the past 50 years, that "rigged" system somehow missed millions of lower middle class men and women (like yours truly) who went to subpar K-12 schools in mill towns across the country. Those men and women sweated entrance exams and went to B-list colleges, often working their way through. They took entry level jobs, worked very hard, paid taxes, and slowly moved from lower middle to middle, to upper middle, to "rich." They did this without Bernie's "free" stuff, without socialism. They did it on their own as individuals, and that's something that a socialist simply can't countenance.

Most pundits believe that Sanders will beat Clinton in the New Hampshire primary next Tuesday, but that will be his last hurrah. That's the conventional wisdom, but this is an unconventional election year. If Sanders has stronger pull than most people think over the coming months, his socialist roots deserve what progressives like to call "a national conversation." I just hope the conversation is an honest one.