Just 113 Shopping Days left Until the Next Crisis

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… only 110 shopping days left until the can starts moving still further down the road.

Incompetence, sufficiently advanced, is indistinguishable from malice. This is the pettiest, most overtly incompetent and destructive administration in memory – both sides of the aisle – and we were treated to late-night television of them congratulating each other for their hard work. Disgusting.

In a shabby display of partisan one-upmanship, we just experienced a government that thought it politically prudent to deny death benefits to survivors of its fallen warriors; to close the World War II memorial to those in whose honor it was erected; to roll out the president’s signature legislation on software known to be faulty and untested; to refuse to talk to the opposition while calling them intransigent; to call Republicans “terrorists,” “arsonists,” “suicide bombers,” “domestic abusers,” and so on, while describing Iranian president Rousani (ex-CEO of Hizbollah) as “moderate.”

Republicans were no better. Insisting on gutting the only accomplishment of a sitting president is beyond tilting at windmills, it’s hallucinatory; conducting a high-profile information operation (trying to make ObamaCare the issue) while the press is reading from White House talking points is delusional; the Speaker of the House not talking to the Senate Minority Leader for the first nine days of the shutdown is dysfunctional; openly bickering among themselves only feeds the self-righteousness of the opposition, and so on.

What Democrats got from this deal: a clean CR and a clean debt-ceiling relief, and perhaps mostly, cover for the “embarrassingly inept” (Robert Gibbs’ words) rollout of the ObamaCare network interface. What Democrats lost from this deal: any chance of deterring a guaranteed lame-duck remainder of the president’s term. What Republicans got from this deal: two days of focus on ObamaCare. What the Republicans lost from this deal: getting anything meaningful done about spending, ObamaCare and entitlements. The Republicans gave President Obama a blank check for a promise to negotiate later, but that may turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory for him. His behavior, and that of his cohort, has made future relations with Congressional Republicans far more difficult – and Democrats need at least some Republicans to get anything done (at least until after the 2014s, and probably after that as well). It’s the typical self-inflicted wound of short-term thinking.

What Americans got out of this deal: Nothing but a breather until these morons go at each other again.

… and that’s just their foreign policy!

Let’s see if I’ve got this – President Obama has asked to postpone a vote (he would lose) to authorize an action (he tricked himself into), because President Putin (owner of Team Assad) will call Secretary Kerry’s bluff (from a cheeky response to a stupid question). Oh yeah. That’s how to make policy! And they did all this with Joe Biden on the bench! Not a single aspect of this Laurel and Hardy act can be traced to a Bidenism.

Remarkable depth at Court Jester.

the View While Leading from Behind

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President Obama’s catch-phrase during the Libya campaign perfectly sums up his foreign policy: “Leading from Behind.” Aside from its deliciously oxymoronic antecedents, it’s why we distrust politicians. “Leading from Behind” is called “following.” When history’s most powerful nation does it, it’s cowardice.

We’re at it again.

Our president is circling the brink of a decision while American credibility circles the drain. Now he wants a show of hands before he acts on what he himself has described as “a heinous illegal act,” that crosses the “red line” he himself put in the sand. And if Assad gases another town while we’re waiting? It’s more important that the president can finger-point if his “limited yet decisive” attack fails. Limited yet decisive? I guess that’s like leading from behind.

National leaders are Machiavellian Realists – that’s how they separate themselves from the crowd to attain leadership. These are not, by nature, nice people – they lie, cheat, steal and bribe (and in some places, kill) in order to acquire national leadership. They’re ruthless. They’re also, usually, world wise, and thusly shepherd their nation well enough through the rough seas of the anarchy that is international relations. We are living what happens when a national leader is clueless about the rest of the world – why it is configured as it is, what motivates the various players, things like that. You get nervous insecurity meekly put forward as “Leading from Behind.” It’s pathetic sophistry.

The normal undefined nature of international affairs is unusually chaotic – and that chaos is unusually volatile – because of the Arab Spring, the ambiguous rise of PRC and Russian intransigence. It is made all the worse because, just at this moment, the Free World is without a spokesman. The Obama political machine has a spokesman (and a surprisingly inarticulate one at that), but the Free World has lost its leader – he’s hiding in the back of the line. “As Scandinavia goes, so goes the Free World!”, or something like that.

What has happened, and is potentially far more dangerous for everyone than any “Arab Spring,” is America’s abdication of leadership, a mantel it has held for the better part of a century. The rightness or wrongness of being leader of the Free World isn’t at issue here – the fact that, without warning, we have chosen to just walk away, is. The rightness or wrongness of the remainder of the Free World not having an answer for that isn’t at issue here, either. That both of those facts coexist, is. We have thrown gasoline onto the fire engulfing the Greater Middle East. It’s amateurism at work. By treating every crisis in splendid isolation – with no detectable knowledge of, or appreciation for, history – Mr Obama finds himself (and us) immersed in a world of unintended consequences.

He’s a naïve man who thinks himself worldly. At the risk of sounding somewhat Rumsfeldian, he doesn’t know that he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. That’s a very dangerous psychosis while holding such profound toys.

Barack Plus Four and a Half[1]

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While I can’t demonstrate prevarication, his utterances enjoy a less than random association with the facts of his actions.

It started early. Day 1, act 1: President Obama signed an executive order closing the Guantánamo Bay detention facility (Camp X-Ray). It’s still open. This was an unforced error – even I knew why Guantánamo couldn’t be closed – the guys remaining are the worst of the worst, their native countries don’t want them back, we don’t want them in our society, and they can’t be tried in civilian courts because the battlespace is ill-suited to collecting admissible evidence – so I’m sure he had to dig deep into his cohort of advisors before he found one that agreed that X-Ray could be evacuated and closed (or maybe not and did it anyway). It continued through the selling of his “stimulus” package (unemployment won’t go above 8%); ObamaCare (almost everything he said about it, including “If you like your insurance, you can keep it”); Benghazi (“a video made them do it”); introducing race into the Trayvon Martin case (after promising to be a “post-racial” president); on and on.

He was going to “change the way Washington works,” yet presides over the most hyper-partisan administration in recent memory. A president needs to be a statesman, especially at home. You have your party leaders do the trash-talk when it’s necessary. You work with the opposition to get programs passed. You work with your own party’s leadership to set legislative agendas. He has done none of this, and ignited the partisan wars by shucking-off ObamaCare to the tutelage of Nancy Pelosi, perhaps the most rabid partisan in Congress. And she ruled like a spoiled child – “We won [the election] so we’re going to write the bill” she told Republican leadership upon closing them out of discussions on the writing of the Affordable Care Act. And the war was on. It was passed [on a technicality] and signed into law without a single Republican vote. If this was “Hope and Change,” it had an odor of decomposition about it.

He campaigned against the Bush warfighting programs enthusiastically, and capturing and interrogating POWs excepted, has extended virtually all of them, expanding some (e.g., Patriot Act and drone strikes). He abandoned Iraq, which has predictably devolved back into Sunni-Shi’ite tit-for-tat bombings and killings, and is providing its ground routes and airspace to Iran for supplying the Assad regime in Syria’s civil war. He announced his surge in Afghanistan (the “good” war) in the same speech that he announced their withdrawal – another unforced error. One never gives the enemy a date to circle on the calendar, beyond which he doesn’t have to worry about you anymore. Sure enough, the Taliban and remnants of al Qaeda have bided their time, reorganizing and strengthening, and are beginning to exert themselves against coalition and Afghan troops.

This administration has said out loud that it favors European gasoline prices (they’re already up ~$2 a gallon since Obama took office) and wants electricity prices to “skyrocket.” His energy policy seems to be to regulate and tax carbon-based energy generation out of business. The only problem is that there is nothing to take its place, meaning that he will either drive us back into the 19th century or allow costs to rise to the point of pricing-out even middle-class families on things like gasoline and electricity – and we know what those two prices do to the cost of everything else.

His administration is out of control. Nobody at IRS (not taking the Fifth Amendment) seems to know what’s going on over there, and the Director of the FBI can’t even tell you who is heading the investigation. The State Department lethally mishandled security in Benghazi, and the administration’s bungling of the aftermath looks, walks and quacks like a cover-up. We’re not sure what they’re covering up because they are moving eye witnesses around the country under aliases and subjecting them to monthly polygraphs to make sure they haven’t talked to the media or Congress. His EPA is passing failed legislation into law as regulations – an overreach that sticks a finger in the eye of checks-and-balances built into our government. His ATF resurrected a gun-running program that the Bush administration cancelled because it lacked accountability, and it blew up in their face because of a lack of accountability, resulting in the death of a border agent.

With Syria in flames, Libya tottering, Egypt ruled by a junta, Iraq circling the drain and Afghanistan poised to fail, our Secretary of State has decided that yet another doomed attempt at a “Two-State Solution” is what the world needs. Never mind that one party has no interest in living in peace with the other – they teach their children to kill Jews and that their ultimate aim in life is to “push Israel into the sea.” Indeed, after four and a half years (four under Democratic superstar Hillary Clinton) we have no discernible, let alone articulable, foreign policy – treating each situation in isolation. We wanted to get “phony” turncoat Edward Snowden back from “reset” Russia, but all the cajoling, threatening and begging fell on the deaf ears of Colonel Vladimir Putin, who is maximizing our embarrassment with great amusement.

The “recovery” is four years old and still jobless (less than a million new jobs created last year, 70% of them part-time); corporations are doing great, but small businesses – the engines of hiring in our economy – are just hanging on (and terrified of the future); GDP growth is stuck below population growth, meaning that our standard of living is sinking; the 2,700 pages of ObamaCare’s legislative language has produced 20,000 pages of new regulations and 20 new taxes (despite the president’s repeated promises that the Affordable Care Act wouldn’t cost us “one dime” in higher taxes).

He sees his signature achievement as ObamaCare, but his most significant accomplishment thus far is his turning a record DOW into a recovery that looks, walks and quacks like a recession. President Obama seems more concerned with his legacy than yours; a product of Columbia and Harvard Law, he is no more in touch with you and me than is Mitt Romney. But then, the rich and powerful are never “in touch” with the non-rich and impotent. He has climbed the Peter-Principle ladder to the uppermost rung and doesn’t know what to do now[2]. And it shows.


[1] Title photo courtesy of Pete Souza/White House.

[2] He used his Illinois Senate seat to run for US Senate, using that seat to run for President – he’s out of campaigning opportunity and, for the first time, must actually perform the job he has.

What Me Worry?

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The economy is finally struggling out from under ObamaNomics, but not to worry … our president is regaining the upper hand[1]. Today, he will announce draconian carbon standards for existing power plants, forcing many coal-fired plants to close their doors. What does he have in mind to replace the lost capacity? Not a damn thing.

Not his problem … “What me worry?”

The net results of this plan? More expensive electricity from the plants that decide to install the necessary equipment; more expensive electricity resulting in decreased supply from those that had to close; lost tax-base and jobs in whatever already hurting municipalities those closed plants happen to be; lost jobs in the mining industry; lost equity in millions of pension plans and 401(k)’s resulting from a permanently lower Dow. Less and more costly electricity, another shock to unemployment, and a jolt to the stock market. And – and this can’t be emphasized enough – all for no measurable difference in atmospheric greenhouse gasses, worldwide temperature, ocean levels, or anything else he says he’s doing this for. “What me worry?”

Just as Benghazi took our minds off of Fast and Furious, and the IRS took our minds off of Benghazi, and the AP debacle took our minds off of the IRS, and NSA took our minds off of the AP, and Edward Snowden took our minds off of what NSA was doing, the coming energy implosion will take our minds off of Fast and Furious, Benghazi, the IRS, the AP, NSA and Ed Snowden. Clever.

We need to tell Wiley to publish a new book on economics. Maybe, “Economics for Dummies for Dummies.” The man is not stupid, I know that, but he can’t understand economics and keep doing what he’s doing. I keep telling my conspiracy-minded friends that he’s not doing this on purpose, he’s just making mistakes, but I’m beginning to sound silly to myself when I say it. It just keeps happening. At some point, the random distribution of mistakes would occasionally benefit the economy, but not yet.

Is he really interested in weaning us off of coal? Why not press for conversion to natural gas? We’ve got it in abundance, it’s cleaner and cheaper (with the equivalent infrastructure) than coal, and a conversion strategy wouldn’t take power off of the grid. This is also a good bridge technology between gasoline and electric for transportation – no need to completely retool the automotive industry and it is a cheaper retrofit for filling stations. But none of that fits Mr Obama’s screw-the-oil-companies agenda, so don’t look for it to happen. Also, it would actually create jobs, result in affordable options, you know … benefit the economy … so that’s apparently out.

Following his foreign policy of not having a coherent policy, he is, at once, trying to replace gasoline cars with electric ones (even though we don’t have the electric grid to support that change-over), and removing power from the grid (by forcing many coal-fired plants out of business). I still don’t believe the president is trying to bring down our market economy, but it is getting harder and harder to see how, if one wanted to, one would act differently.


[1] Title illustration: soundofheart.org/EagleWatch.

the Sacrificial Lamb?[1]

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This is the most transparent administration in history. I can document that this is the case. Every visitor that comes into the White House is now part of the public record. Every law we pass and every rule we implement we put online for everyone to see.

– President Obama,

Google Plus Fireside Hangout,

February 14 2013

This is, perhaps, the best real-world example of unadulterated chutzpah. It rates right up there with Bill Clinton’s pre-Lewinski pledge to run “the most ethical administration in the history of the republic,” and Richard Nixon’s “I am not a crook.” The present situation, however, is reaching critical mass with the three-ring ScandalPalooza unfolding – and the administration’s opaque response to them. Hillary “What difference does it make” Clinton captained her ship of State down the rabbit hole over Benghazi, and then left government to prep herself for a presidential run in 2016. General Petraeus was CIA head when his department was blamed by the White House and State for the “talking points,” and he’s now out of office. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was unable to put assets on the ground in Benghazi, and he’s gone. The IRS got its mammaries in a wringer over suppressing conservative groups’ ability to raise money during two election cycles (2010 and 2012), and the people most directly responsible have been promoted out of harm’s way. Justice Department has probably been the most dysfunctional agency in the Cabinet, and Mr Holder is still there – in a perverse game of musical chairs, he’s the last man sitting. That will probably change. He is the most visible (and expendable) sacrificial symbol of President Obama’s “dedication” to open and honest government.

Eric Holder first came to public notice in 2001 when it was disclosed that he wrote the talking paper favoring Marc Rich’s pardon. For those too young to remember, Bill Clinton issued 140 pardons as his last act as president on January 20 2001. The most infamous was that of Marc Rich, a fugitive who had fled to Switzerland during his prosecution (a felony in its own right) for 51 counts of tax fraud, totaling over $48 million. The pardon was issued after Denise Rich (Marc’s former wife) made substantial contributions to the Clinton library and to Hillary’s New York senatorial campaign.

Almost immediately after taking office as Attorney General, Mr Holder’s Justice Department dropped a promising case against the New Black Panther Party and two of its members, Minister King Samir Shabazz and Jerry Jackson, for voter intimidation at a Philadelphia voting site (for carrying clubs and menacing voters they deemed unlikely to vote for Obama) in 2008. This prompted J Christian Adams, in May 2010, to resign his post at Justice, claiming that he had been told that this Justice Department won’t pursue Black-on-White voter intimidation cases.

Then, of course, came Fast and Furious, an ill-conceived plan to allow guns into Mexico so that DoJ or AFT could trace them back to specific drug lords. The Bush administration abandoned this scheme after losing track of a couple of dozen weapons. The Obama administration went ahead and, with the cooperation, and under the supervision of, the Holder Justice Department, ATF ran over a thousand weapons into Mexico – without notifying either our diplomatic people in Mexico or the Mexican government – losing track of virtually all of them.

Lastly, there is the curious case of leakers of classified information where the Justice Department has decided to shoot the messenger – vastly overreaching in its collection of phone-call details and private eMails of reporters. Mr Holder disqualified himself from the Sergeant Schultz defense by signing the subpoena for James Rosen’s eMails himself. In 2010.

All three of these circus acts are going to continue to expand, and the intrusion into reporters’ First Amendment territory has the press – finally – taking a look at the competence of this administration. It’s not just FOX and right-wing talk radio. It’s ABC News, CBS News, CNN and NBC News, it’s the New York Times and Washington Post, it’s the Atlantic Monthly, Politico, New Yorker and Time, it’s even reached the leftist British papers Daily Mail and Guardian. And these aren’t just covering the news of the scandals, they are asking questions about the competency of the administration, and about such things too much going on to be coincidence – hinting at true scandal (intent) rather than de facto scandal (bumbling). This is beginning to erode Mr Obama’s moral authority to govern and somebody’s going to pay – hint: it won’t be a mea culpa from Mr Obama.

The only one left to point a finger at is Mr Holder.


[1] Title art by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters and EagleWatch.

Hyper-Partisanship disguised as High-Mindedness

HyperPartisanship disguised as HighMindedness[1]

US Obama Britain

He warned us. He campaigned on “fundamentally changing America,” as though we were hungering for a Liberal dystopia looking more like George Orwell’s 1984 than Frank Capra’s Mr Smith Goes to Washington. And yet, the political right also warned us. “He’s not qualified – he’s never run anything, other than for office.”

Benghazi, by itself, is nothing more than an episode of utter incompetence from start to finish, except, of course, that four good Americans died as a result. If that was all that happened, cover-up and all, it would just be a shameful blemish on a presidency. But Benghazi isn’t “by itself.” It came out that the IRS had been targeting conservative groups for harassment if they applied for 501(c)4 status as a non-profit organization, and auditing conservative individuals if they dare speak out against the administration’s agenda. And now, it seems, Justice has seized the phone records of over a hundred reporters and editors on the pretext of finding a leaker of classified information.

President Obama, who always considers himself to be the smartest guy in the room, has employed the Sergeant Schultz (“I know nothing!”) defense to all of this. And that’s entirely possible as he doesn’t seem to like anything about actual governing. He likes to go around informing the people about the superiority of his agenda and the demonic intentions of his adversaries. Paying attention to what his minions are doing, in his name, in the tone that he has set, doesn’t show up on his “To Do” list.

Take Benghazi. He was informed of the attack at a regularly scheduled meeting within an hour of Washington finding out that our mission in Benghazi was under attack (not “demonstration”). He instructed SecDef Panetta to handle the situation, finished the meeting, retired to the Residence, and flew to Las Vegas for a campaign event the next morning. No one handling the attack in Washington heard from the president again that night. No one in Libya heard from the president until they returned stateside. His first public reaction, the next morning – and for the next two weeks or so – placed the blame on a video, which appeared nowhere in the accounts from Libya (now he says that he called it “terrorism” from the start). State Department, for their part, also pointed to the video for as long as they could, and then decided that finding out who was responsible was pointless, or as Secretary Clinton so sensitively put it, “What difference, at this point, does it make?!” Defense, for its part, claimed that they didn’t have enough real-time intel to put troops in harm’s way (ignoring the fact that that’s exactly what Special Ops does – find out what’s going on and handle it), and then switched to, “We didn’t have assets in-place close enough to be effective” (begging the question as to why we didn’t have assets in place in one of the most volatile and dangerous places on Earth).

Our “post-partisan” leader of “the most open and transparent government in American history” has shown himself incapable of either. He is anything but “post-partisan.” To Team Obama, everything is about politics – hacking and clawing to the top and destroying any opposition. They simply ignored the 52% of those polled that were appalled by ObamaCare and rammed it through Congress without a single Republican vote. The Democrats took over one-sixth of the American economy because they could. Whenever opposition occurs, the White House responds, not with reasoned issue-based argument, rather with ad hominem attacks against those with the temerity to raise objections. All politics all the time.

The politicization of the Internal Revenue Service is horrific. It’s the kind of thing we used to accuse the Soviets of doing to dissenters. It’s absolutely … well … Orwellian. Of conservative groups, the IRS demanded donor rolls, membership lists, data on all contributions, names of volunteers, the contents of all speeches made by members, Facebook posts, minutes of all meetings, and copies of all materials handed out at gatherings. Among its questions: What are you thinking about? Did you ever think of running for office? Do you ever contact political figures? What are you reading? Liberal groups got their 501(c)4 status within 60 days. This was no coincidence or statistical anomaly, it was too finely targeted. This wasn’t the work of two lowly Cincinnati functionaries, it was too methodical and orchestrated. This was a result of the venomous tone set in the White House as to how the opposition is to be treated. The IRS Commissioner’s response to Congress – Sergeant Schultz.

That brings us to Justice Department’s scooping up of Associated Press phone records, which probably will turn out to be little more than a case of overreach, based on a legitimate query. The story we’re hearing is that an AP story about a CIA operation in Yemen that blocked an al Qaeda plan to explode a bomb on a plane headed for America. The story was published last May 7. It apparently contained classified information, and someone with an impressive pay grade demanded the leaker be found. In response, DoJ took the records of twenty of AP’s phone lines, used by over one hundred reporters and editors. This is not a search for a leaker, this is intimidation. A search for a leak would look at the byline reporter’s phone lines … this is Chicago-style warning to AP not to run unapproved stories and to sources not to talk to reporters. AG Holder’s response to Congress – Sergeant Schultz.

Nobody in this administration seems to know anything about anything that’s going on. If you complain about it, you’ll get audited (or worse). They all solemnly claim to take “responsibility” for their department, but no penalty is ever paid (assuming they can find somebody to pin it on). Benghazi? Four DoS officials were place on paid administrative leave, soon to return to duty in lower-profile jobs (at the same pay). IRS? The acting head has been “fired,” leaving office when he was going to leave anyway (also, Sarah Hall Ingram, the IRS officer in charge of the tax exempt section, has been placed in charge of ObamaCare enforcement). Justice? We’re still waiting to hear about Fast and Furious, Black Panther voter intimidation, and now, I guess, Associated Press.

What’s clear in all of this, is the tone set at the top – as it always is – is one of intimidation, bullying, obfuscation and politicization. The president doesn’t have to pass down instructions on how to do this, he sets the tone and those under him replicate it with impunity. Government has become a tree of the poisonous fruit.


[1] Title art by AP/EagleWatch.