Squaring the Culture

"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

08/01/2012 (2:03 pm)

I Had Help Building That. So?

Whenever President Obama gets too far away from the teleprompter, he says something he genuinely means. That’s a disaster for him, because what he genuinely means is usually something odious to the average American.

Back in 2008, in a candid observation to a plumber named Joe, it was a raw expression of the rationale behind income redistribution, which many Americans properly regard as theft. Respect for private property is the cornerstone of American liberty, and one of the principle reasons government exists is to protect it. For the government to steal property and give it to others who have not earned it negates the reason for government the same way policemen ignoring the law negate the reason for policemen. What candidate Obama said to Joe the Plumber made it clear that the Democrats’ candidate for President embraced at least some ideas from within Marxist thought.

This time around, it is a raw expression of Marxist collectivism — only the Left wants us to think that it was something thoughtful and harmless.

Here is what the President said:

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

“Give something back.” As though providing wanted goods and services at an acceptable price, providing jobs for the community, and paying taxes as required by law do not give something valuable to the community on their own.

The Left has been adamant that the furor over this statement is because Obama was misunderstood. “He is not dismissing entrepreneurship,” they cry. “You’re taking him out of context.” Michael Smerconish, a moderate talk show host from my former hometown, Philadelphia, speaks calmly for the Left from the Huffington Post:

…the context of Obama’s two sentences was a far cry from an assault on American entrepreneurship. He was arguing that, while he was willing to cut government waste, he would not gut investments that grow the economy or give tax breaks to the likes of himself or Romney…lost in a squabble over “you didn’t build that” was the opportunity for a more serious conversation about social contracts.

To illustrate the more subtle point about social contracts, Smerconish brings up an earlier speech from Harvard professor and US Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren (she of the false “native American” claim,) running against Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts, which has gotten fame and notice all over the Internet. Ms. Warren, in an off-the-cuff talk in Andover, MA (a bastion of posh leftists like herself, as it happens,) expressed the same idea as President Obama in more eloquent fashion:

There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody.

You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.

Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

“The rest of us paid for…” Oh, my God, the arrogance…

What is astounding is that Smerconish and the rest of the Left think we on the right object to these sentiments because we do not understand them. They are incorrect. We understand them perfectly, and reject them. They arise from a system of thought on the basis of which a third of the world was subjugated under brutal tyranny in the 20th century, and hundreds of millions of citizens were murdered by their own governments. We would like to avoid those results if we could, thanks.

These statements from the President and Ms. Warren presuppose that a business exists solely to benefit itself, and nobody else. That particular form of ignorance has its roots in Marxian thought, namely, the notion that the bourgeois make their wealth on the backs of the poor while providing nothing in return, like vampires.

Nothing could be further from the economic truth. The truth is that the primary aim of every successful business is to benefit the consumer, and it only makes profit if it succeeds in benefiting the consumer. This benefits the entire community by providing desired goods and services at an acceptable price.

You don’t think so? Wait ’till you hear how people whine about the loss if it’s forced out of business. Remember how they declared that Catholic hospitals had no right to go out of business, because they provide a unique public good? Remember how they wailed about Wal-Mart putting smaller retailers out of business?

Additionally, the successful business pays taxes. The amount it pays in taxes is fixed by the legislature. The laws passed by the legislature define, for the sake of the community, what the business’ fair share is. By definition in a free republic, if the business has paid its taxes according to law, it has paid its fair share. It is not benefiting from roads “the rest of us” paid for; it is benefiting from roads it helped pay for itself, by paying taxes.

And finally, the business provides jobs in the community, and pays its employees for performing those jobs. The employees also pay taxes, which fund the roads and bridges about which Ms. Warren is so concerned.

So for every successful business that is moral and legal, the social contract has already been fulfilled. The businessman owes nothing more than he has already provided. He is entitled to keep all the profit that is left over, not just “a big hunk of it.” He has already paid back to the community, and owes nothing more.

The entire conversation about the social contract is already encompassed by the US Constitution, and by the body of laws formed under it. The terms of the social contract are defined by the law of the land. When an individual or a business has met the obligations set out in the duly constituted laws, that individual or business has met the terms of the social contract — and owes nothing else. The same is true of people “paying their fair share;” it is completely defined by the law. When a person has met the obligations of the law, they have paid their fair share — and owe nothing else.

If progressives want to reopen that discussion, it signals their intent to revise the basic social contract reflected in the Constitution. (Will they admit that? Never.) They have flooded the nation with their calls for a redefinition of “fair share,” and their notion that somehow, legitimate businesses need to “give back” more than they have already given under the existing social contract.

Have they told us how they intend to redefine those things? Not really, but the structure of ObamaCare gives us a clue: almost the entire “law” consists of the creation of a series of unaccountable bureaucrats, each of which will decide on their own how medical practitioners will meet the standards they produce. There is no recourse for changing the standard produced by the bureau. There is no oversight for the bureau.

They seem to want to be able to define “fair share” and “giving back” themselves, and to modify them at whim. That way, they can create a permanent debt, one that can never be fully repaid. This gives them permanent control over the populace, without any possible appeal or recourse.

This is the language of control. Individuals with control issues do something similar: they create a permanent, interpersonal debt that somehow never gets fully repaid, so you remain under their control. Loan sharks do the same: whatever you pay goes against interest, but somehow the principle never gets repaid and you remain under their control. Political controllers create the idea of a debt that you owe the collective that can never be repaid; that way, you will always be under the control of the collective.

By contrast to this, the US Constitution guarantees that the definition of “fair share” will be determined by properly selected representatives of the people. No person will be held to an arbitrary standard created by some tyrant’s whim, nor will the standard vary by the individual’s race, religion, or national origin, nor may it be changed except by due process of law. Those are the terms of the social contract designed to protect our liberties — the contract that Progressives now want us to reexamine.

Oleg Atbashian, at the PJMedia blog, captured the collectivist spirit of Obama’s remarks perfectly today, and explained in detail where we’ve seen those ideas before. (Note: free registration might be required.) He observed, among other things, that Obama’s intent to pin the success of businesses on the collective encompasses the same spirit by which the left blames its failures on anything but its own ideas. None of us are responsible for our failures, nor for our successes; we all belong to a collective consciousness, and our destiny comes to us from beyond our control:

In the erstwhile USSR, the government redistributed not only the nation’s dwindling wealth; it redistributed successes and failures. All achievements were credited to the Party and its leaders, as well as to a centrally appointed regiment of “Heroes of Socialist Labor” who conspicuously “sacrificed for the common good.” The failures were blamed on foreign aggressors, Western imperialism, enemies of the people, kulaks, saboteurs, corrupt bureaucracy, irresponsible middle management, selfish greed, and lack of proletariat consciousness, as well as on natural disasters and bad weather. Sound familiar?

Yes, we are all dependent on each other, and yes, we are all part of each other. Like so much of that about which the Left lectures, it is annoying, not because it is false, but because it is trivial. We are interdependent; and we cannot build a tree house before God has first created trees. What of it? Every adult knows that he or she has to function as part of an interdependent society to survive: and those of us who have grown up know that when one has lived a moral and virtuous life, one has fulfilled one’s obligation to society. The interdependence of everything is not something liberals grasp and conservatives don’t; it’s something liberals think is new revelation, like teenagers discovering “world peace” for the first time, and conservatives understand is already encompassed in the way we do things. No, the grocer did not build his grocery by himself; and by the same token, I did not fill my refrigerator without the grocer. I thank him by paying his price and honoring the rules of his store. He thanks me by providing fresh vegetables and employing my neighbors. We all get along fine. Beyond that, we owe each other nothing more than decent treatment.

But none of that negates the crucial fact that we are responsible for our failures, and we are responsible for our successes. The businessman really does deserve credit for building his successful business, and President Obama really did insult him when he said that he was no smarter and worked no harder than anyone else. Maybe he didn’t mean it that way, but that’s what he said.

We all get the same benefit from government: we drive on the same roads, and the same firemen put out our neighbors’ fires. So, why aren’t we all equally successful? Because, despite the prating of America’s Marx-influenced political left, individual effort really does make a difference.

President Obama wants us to give him leave to redefine at will how much we all must contribute to the collective in order to fulfill the social contract. The world has already seen where that leads; that’s why we object. We think the social contract under which we currently operate works just fine, thank you very much. We did not misunderstand him at all.

10/10/2011 (10:08 am)

Occupy Washington

An acquaintance of mine made the observation that no mention of Occupy Wall Street should fail to mention the collusion and corruption that they are protesting. This guy thinks that Wall Street is responsible for the woeful economic condition of the US. He’s an idealist, and also, in my estimation, a dupe. The real cause of the meltdown is in Washington — and so is the real cause of Occupy Wall Street.

I have some expertise in finance, and did a fair amount of digging during the meltdown in 2008 and 2009 to be sure that I understood the underlying causes. There was collusion, and Wall Street was complicit with it at the end. Suffice to say, it’s mostly the result of ill-formed government policy aimed at noble-sounding goals, with some criminal profit-taking in the mix — from politically-connected financiers in Washington.

The important thing to remember is that buying politicians does not benefit anybody so long as government is not involved in the market. If Washington was not overreaching into financial markets, there could be no collusion between government and finance. That’s one of the main reasons why some of us are so adamant about reducing the size and reach of government — and why any protest about it should take place in Washington.

Occupy Wall St. will not focus on Washington, though, because Washington organized it. My acquaintance is idealizing the protesters, but I’m pretty sure they’re astroturfed — that is, they’re organized and orchestrated by a political machine with political goals.

The Tea Party, a genuine grass-roots movement, rose in clear opposition to the bailouts; that was the real grass-roots reaction to the collusion and corruption. It threatens to remove power from entrenched interests in Washington, and in early elections seems to be having an enormous effect that Washington cannot control. The President and his party cannot retain power in the 2012 election without neutralizing the Tea Party, and all of their efforts to demonize and marginalize it — and there have been several — have failed.

So the President did the one thing at which he seems genuinely competent: he organized a protest. The goal is to seize the news cycle, steal the sincere initiative from the Tea Party, and give the Democrats a chance to retain power in the 2012 election. Occupy Wall Street is, in brief, the Democrats’ Anti-Tea-Party.

The protesters don’t realize it; they hold debates in the street discussing what they’re there for, which means that they don’t have a clue. But Progressive street activists do what they’re told. If political activists suggest a demonstration on Wall Street, Progressives demonstrate on Wall Street. They don’t know why; they just do it. Listen to their words, and you’ll hear lots of references to 1968 and the Vietnam war. They’re idealizing themselves. They do it on the fly, ad hoc, because they genuinely don’t know why they’re protesting.

But their organizers do know why they’re there; they’re there to neutralize the Tea Party. The Left has always known how to manipulate the crowd. It’s how they obtain and keep power. They sow the seeds of the protest in the right places, the echo chamber starts, the people move, and voila! A movement.

The real demonstrations not only belong in Washington, they have already taken place; that’s what the Tea Party was, and is. Occupy Wall Street is the response to the Tea Party by the entrenched, political interests who stand to lose if the Tea Party succeeds.

With that in mind, let’s take a moment to review why the meltdown occurred in the first place.

The Meltdown: Let’s Remind Ourselves

There are almost a dozen separate causes of the financial collapse of 2006. Yes, 2006. FNMA artificially postponed the most direct effects for 2 years by acting as the entire secondary market for mortgage loans, doubling its holdings in that brief, 2 years. They amplified the worst effects by doing so.

The Community Reinvestment Act, during the Carter administration, began as a limited initiative affecting only inner city banks. It was the first direct cause of the rise in housing prices, but it was small.

The CRA became national policy under the Clinton administration, when FHA was instructed to loosen their loan criteria and $1 trillion was dumped into the secondary market for mortgages by the federal government. Suddenly, the loose lending standards of the CRA were no longer small. Loose lending + instant liquidity = increased demand for housing. Housing prices started rising rapidly.

Then the Fed set interest rates artificially low in 2001 to counter the recession caused by the Internet bubble collapse, the Enron/Worldcom/auditing crisis, and 9/11. The favorable mortgage rates and eagerness to lend generated a whole lot of speculation in housing, driving prices up even more. The Democratic party prevented any serious investigation of FNMA and FHLMC, while they provided easy liquidity for marginal loans — this is where the criminal collusion occurred. Government-subsidized rating agencies completely missed the weakness in mortgage securities that infiltrated due to the relaxed lending criteria, and new federal regulations in Sarbanes-Oxley forced banks and financial institutions to invest artificially large sums in AAA-rated securities (look up “Recourse Rule.”)

When land prices started dropping, as the price of any artificially-inflated commodity must, major holders of mortgage-backed securities were forced by yet another Sarbanes-Oxley provision (“mark to market”) to write down the value of their holdings, and then to try to borrow enough to meet federal reserve requirements. This sucked all the air out of the capital markets. Most of the financials couldn’t get the loans to cover their reserve requirements, so they had to declare insolvency. Then the bailouts started — more collusion.

Count the number of times “federal” gets mentioned in that thumbnail description. This collapse was manufactured by brainless federal policy. The claim by progressives that the collapse was caused by “a failure of capitalism” and “deregulation” is a joke without a punchline; the economists saying it know they’re lying, and most of the people repeating it are too ignorant to understand why they’re making idiots of themselves.

Yes, we can complain about the hippies protesting capitalism, but that’s not what needs to be said here. What needs to be said is that Occupy Wall Street is the Obama White House’s response to the Tea Party, and that it is an organized, political movement that represents the political interests that caused the collapse in the first place. The protesters are helping the very people they protest. The real, public objection to the corruption that caused the meltdown in 2008 is the Tea Party.

06/19/2010 (8:58 pm)

Oh, Yes, It's a Shakedown Alright

The Hot Air boys introduced me to The Optimistic Conservative by cross-posting this piece of hers yesterday (thanks, boys.) TOC speaks the truth that corrupt and frightened politicians on both sides of the aisle are clearly unwilling to say: no matter what we think of British Petroleum and their role in the unfolding eco-disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration shook down BP to obtain a $20 billion slush fund, and it’s both immoral and illegal.

Joe Barton (R-TX) is right: the $20 billion escrow fund is a shakedown. Not because BP isn’t liable for the oil spill, and not because BP shouldn’t help the people losing their livelihoods on the Gulf Coast. But because Obama extorting the escrow fund from BP is an exercise of executive power outside the rule of law.

Following the rule of law would produce relief for the oil spill’s victims. It just wouldn’t put Obama’s appointee in sole charge of a $20 billion fund. That has a meaning beyond the “Chicago” implication of pure extortion, fund-skimming, and payola. It means Obama couldn’t use the money to cushion the near-term consequences of his own policies. He’d be constrained by that pesky rule of law, if he weren’t holding the discretionary purse strings for the damages payouts…

This is worth noting: within the span of my lifetime, America has become so accustomed to the largely unsupervised overreach of federal agencies that our ability to detect a shakedown in progress has been severely compromised. We have the confused idea that somebody should somehow be doing something to help all these people, and don’t we have an agency for that? – so why shouldn’t the president, the man in charge of the agencies, step in and take matters into his own hands?

This is, however, confused sentiment. It’s pure sentiment, with no temper from wisdom or judgment. It’s not a sound basis for government, no matter how we feel and no matter what the problem is. Governments good and bad operate on precedent, whether you like it or not, and one shakedown tolerated will lead as night the day to more shakedowns. Eventually one of them will get to your doorstep. No one is so perfectly positioned in his universal immune-victim status as to never face being sliced through the mid-torso region by the Super-Whammadine Shakedown-o-matic.

This is SEIU/UAW tactics writ large – and those tactics thrive on the government-by-agency paradigm.

It’s worth your time to read the whole thing. The fact that Rep. Barton was forced by shame to back down from his candor demonstrates why ordinary political activism is not going to work this time. We have a Thug President. He is not constrained by the rule of law. The very point of his bending the system this way is to place his thumb firmly on the electoral scales so that electoral politics will not remove him and cannot undo what he’s doing. The solution must lie outside of ordinary electoral politics, and must be approached now; if we wait until we see the result of his scale-cheating maneuvers, our objections will be dismissed as sour grapes for having lost an election, the way we dismissed Al Gore’s sour grapes in 2000 (never mind that our complaint would be orders of magnitude more legitimate.)

It’s already starting, in fact. Let your outrage settle just a few weeks and it goes away. The outrageous becomes backdrop. We forget what got us so agitated in the first place. We’ve watched how it went with AIG and Citibank, with GM and Chrysler, with Fannie and Freddie. We’ve become accustomed to abuses of law and process, and think this is just part of politics as usual. It is not. The republic is dying. We used to see it clearly; now it is less so. If we do not rise up and stop the Thug President from engaging in his thuggery, it will become the norm, the US will become like any penny-ante Central American dictatorship, and it will be our fault.

UPDATE 6/20 @5:33 PM: One of the RedState regulars has posted what Rep. Joe Barton (R, TX) actually said in his “apology” to BP. After reviewing it, I’m ashamed that anybody in the Republican party raised a single word of objection. He was absolutely clear in objecting to the lawless behavior of the White House, and completely correct. Unsurprisingly, the reaction by that ugly Nazi Henry Waxman and the rest of the Democratic party has been nothing but vicious demagoguery. I agree with every word of Barton’s statement… the first one, not the later one when he had been shamed into backing down. I want to identify all the Republicans who objected to his words and mark them for defeat, because nobody who countenances the plainly illegal thuggery of the Obama administration has any business holding office in this nation.

06/15/2010 (7:28 pm)

President Zero

Since the topic of leadership has come to the fore lately, two of today’s stories from the Gulf region earn our attention:

Take 1, from The DESTIN Log, Destin, Fl:

Okaloosa defies Unified Command over East Pass plans

DESTIN — Okaloosa County isn’t taking oil spill orders any more.

County commissioners voted unanimously to give their emergency management team the power to take whatever action it deems necessary to prevent oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill from entering Choctawhatchee Bay through the East Pass.

That means the team, led by Public Safety Director Dino Villani, can take whatever action it sees fit to protect the pass without having its plans approved by state or federal authorities.

Take 2, from ABC News:

Gov. Bobby Jindal Orders National Guard to Build Barrier Wall Off Louisiana Shore

Louisiana Gov. Takes Matters Into Own Hands, But Will BP Foot the Bill?

Eight weeks into the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of the Mexico, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has told the National Guard that there’s no time left to wait for BP, so they’re taking matters into their own hands.

Before his speech, the president takes another look at the oil-tainted region.

In Fort Jackson, La., Jindal has ordered the Guard to start building barrier walls right in the middle of the ocean. The barriers, built nine miles off shore, are intended to keep the oil from reaching the coast by filling the gaps between barrier islands.

When there’s an absence of leadership at the top, individuals lower on the totem who have leadership skills take the initiative where they can. The situation there on the Gulf, with the oil coming ashore, is critical, and local leaders who know what needs to be done are saying “Protocol be damned, we’re tired of waiting for real leadership, let’s do something.”

Meanwhile, President Obama is attempting to turn the public relations tide in a manner that we’re getting used to seeing from him, by taking shots at his political adversaries and attempting to shift attention. Only, this time he merely proves what’s being said about him, that he hasn’t the slightest idea what’s involved in leadership. From Politico last Friday:

Obama to POLITICO: Some in Congress hypocritical on spill

In an interview with POLITICO, the president said: “I think it’s fair to say, if six months ago, before this spill had happened, I had gone up to Congress and I had said we need to crack down a lot harder on oil companies and we need to spend more money on technology to respond in case of a catastrophic spill, there are folks up there, who will not be named, who would have said this is classic, big-government overregulation and wasteful spending…”

“Some of the same folks who have been hollering and saying ‘do something’ are the same folks who, just two or three months ago, were suggesting that government needs to stop doing so much,” Obama said.

He’s completely without a clue.

Leadership is not about who has what power; it’s about who has ideas and initiative that others are eager to follow. He could have zero authority, but if he’s got leadership skills, he’d be taking action that others are willing to follow or emulate. He could be the tyrant of the world with all power, but if he doesn’t know how to lead, leaders further down the chain will start taking actions on their own. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the size or power of government, and everything to do with the character of the man in the Oval Office.

When you’re President, the entire nation pauses and waits to see what you’re doing, simply because you’re the one tasked with leading. It doesn’t matter what power the President has, if he has ideas that are worth following, people will follow willingly. Most people are eager to be led, and are just waiting for someone to show them what needs to be done.

Only, leading is not something a President is supposed to learn once he gets elected; we’re supposed to elect people who have already exhibited that quality. This is what a number of us were getting at when we pointed out during the election in 2008 that Obama had never really accomplished anything (nor had Hillary Clinton or John Edwards, for that matter.) I never liked John McCain, and I still don’t, but there’s no question he’d be taking charge of the Gulf cleanup in an appropriate manner if he’d been elected. Sarah Palin would be taking charge appropriately, too; she’s shown that quality. And we know perfectly well what sort of a leader George W. Bush was. For about 3 weeks following the World Trade Center attacks, even Democrats were heaving a sigh of relief that it was Bush and not Gore sitting in the Oval Office. His response to that situation was magnificent. (And then the shriekers from the Left started carping about what he did for 7 minutes after getting the first report about the WTC attack. Democrats are clueless, and worse, they’re vicious.)

So now the leaders in localities and states around the Gulf are taking matters into their own hands. This is the clearest evidence one could possibly garner to prove that there’s a hole at the top of the organization chart. Some partisans, during the election season in 2008, took to calling Obama “Zero.” I did not join in at that time. Nor did I complain much when I read reports about the President enjoying wagyu beef and scheduling a lot of parties; I don’t object if we as a nation allow those who serve the public some perks of high office, But he has to do something to earn the perks. This time he’s earned the name. We have an empty suit in the Oval Office. We have President Zero.

06/11/2010 (1:32 pm)

The Newer, Badder, Chief Ass-Kicker Obama

Since President Obama insists that his chief role in the oil spill clean up is to Chuck Norris the Big Bad Oil Barons, he’s made it fair game for anybody who cares to comment on just how well he projects that image. I consider this two minutes very well spent. The best part is the second minute, so bear with it.

One commenter at YouTube observes that Chuck Norris could simply stand on the Louisiana shoreline and glare at the oil, daring it to come ashore.

It’s a great joke. For Louisiana’s sake, I wish it were true.

However that might work, I think we can all agree that the President is making a clown of himself by pretending that this “ass-kicker” talk somehow fills the gap left by his sheer absence of leadership skills. Barack Obama may be many things — academic, arugula-eater, hard-ball Chicago campaigner — but Chuck Norris, he is not. The irony is that President Obama probably deserves some of the less flattering labels that leftists attempted to paste on his predecessor; “frat boy” seems a lot more appropriate to describe quail-egg-scarfing, party-every-three-days Barack than it did to describe GWB, who really did know how to lead, the opportunistic whining of New Orleans Democratic party operatives notwithstanding.

06/11/2010 (12:17 pm)

Of Oil Spills and Leaders

As the oil industry’s Chernobyl unfolds in slow motion in the Gulf of Mexico, the White House finds itself embroiled in a battle to defend itself against charges of aloofness and incompetence. Between golf outings, multiple vacations, meetings with sports teams, and parties featuring quail eggs and wagyu beef, a few hours’ visits to the Gulf have not reassured the public that the White House is in control, nor have the public reassurances reminding us how many meetings the President has held, nor have photos of the President on the phone. What do they want from him, wonders President “This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal”?

A week ago Press Secretary Robert Gibbs issued what may be the Obama administration’s version of “Let them eat cake”:

…in an interview, Gibbs said Obama doesn’t see the need for a theatrical display of concern.

“If the president thought getting mad and yelling would plug the hole, he’d do it on top of the White House,” he said. “He understands we’ll all be judged by our response and our recovery efforts, not on whether he’s been a good method actor.”

Corresponding to their condescending and frankly unintelligent impression that what the public wants is theater, President Obama this week appeared on the Today Show and told Matt Lauer that his most helpful role in the matter was “Ass Kicker,” and that he consulted experts regularly so that he would know best “whose ass to kick.”

So, the White House hears criticism of the President’s “leadership,” and infers that it needs to engage in “method acting” and to go around yelling at the right people. Could they have said anything that indicates more clearly that they no idea what a leader does?

Bobby Jindal, Republican Governor of Louisiana, knows what a leader does. He’s not acting, he’s just doing his job, but unlike President Obama, he understands what his job is and goes about it in a manner that shows that he’s handling the situation. Jindal apparently realized the scope of the BP oil spill disaster within about a week of the event. By the end of April, he was coordinating local containment efforts and approaching federal authorities to obtain disaster aid and permits to build barrier islands to block oil from coming ashore. After three weeks passed with very little response from federal agencies, Jindal went public with his requests and announced “We’re not waiting, we’re moving ahead without them” — after which, suddenly, all his requests were met. Five minutes are shown below from the speech from May 24 in which he made clear what had not been acted upon:

Jindal provides us with a useful counterpoint to the Obama administration’s handling of the oil spill affair. Let’s take a look at a time line of actions taken by them both. I’ve embedded a calendar so you can picture the passage of time. Some of the times assigned to events are approximate, as specific dates were not included in some news reports.

  • April 20: The deep water horizon rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana.
  • April 23: The Obama administration was briefed on the situation and told that it could potentially become the largest oil spill in US history.
  • April 23: The government of the Netherlands offered their expertise and oil-skimming booms, and proposed dredging sand barriers to protect marshlands. The Obama administration refused the assistance.
  • April 29: Gov. Jindal declared a state of emergency, and requested the first of several permits to build barrier islands to protect his state’s coastline.
  • April 30: Gov. Jindal requested a finding of “commercial fisheries failure” from US Dept of Commerce, and loan assistance from Small Business Administration for businesses affected by the oil spill.
  • May 1: Gov. Jindal, noting the slow response of BP and the federal government, announced that the state would begin its own measures to protect its coastline. He requested 3 million feet of absorbent boom, 5 million feet of hard boom, and 30 “jack up” barges from responsible federal authorities to help stop the oil from coming ashore.
  • May 6: The Small Business Administration announced that it was offering loan assistance to small businesses in Louisiana affected by the oil spill.
  • week of May 10: Gov. Jindal applied for permits to dredge a chain of barrier islands, since it appeared to the Governor that neither BP nor the federal government had a plan to stop the oil.
  • May 22: Gov. Jindal renewed his request for permits to dredge barrier islands.
  • May 24: Gov. Jindal delivered a nationally-televised speech detailing what had been requested and what had not arrived. He made it clear about the barrier: “We’re not waiting for their approval, we’re going to build it.”
  • May 24: Interior Secretary Salazar declared his resolve to “keep our boot on their neck,” referring to BP executives.
  • May 24: Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced his finding that a “fisheries failure” has occurred, freeing funds for the assistance of Louisiana fisheries affected by the oil spill.
  • Sometime around May 25: The Army Corps of Engineers approved Gov. Jindal’s barrier island plan, but said it would pay for only 1 island as a “prototype” to see if it will work.
  • May 25: Leaks revealed that the President, taut-jawed, growled “Why don’t they plug the damned hole?”
  • May 27: Ken Salazar, Interior Secretary, shut down all oil production in the Gulf of Mexico for at least 6 months, claiming for cover that an expert panel agreed that they should shut down all oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico for 6 months. The expert panel later published a letter explaining that they agreed to no such thing.
  • May 27: President Obama acknowledged that the effort to stop the spill and clean it up is under federal direction. Responding to complaints that he appears not to care, he explained that he has more meetings about this topic than any other.
  • June 1: Eric Holder’s Department of Justice ordered BP to pay for all of Gov. Jindal’s barrier islands.
  • June 2: President Obama gave a speech in Pittsburgh implying that businesses involved in the oil spill may have violated federal laws, and emphasizing that he will “bring them to justice.”
  • June 8: President Obama told Matt Lauer that he talks to the experts “So I know whose ass to kick,” and said that his most important role is ass-kicking.
  • June 10: Seven weeks after it was offered, the Obama administration began accepting oil-skimming booms from the Netherlands.

What’s clear from this disturbing history is that the Obama administration, while responding in some sense to the fact that the oil spill had occurred, did not accept a role at the forefront, apparently waiting for other parties to solve the problem. When a proactive governor requested reasonable assistance, only one agency — the Small Business Administration — responded in a time frame indicating that they realized the gravity of the situation. Other agencies simply followed bureaucratic procedure for three weeks, until that governor made enough of a public splash to shine an unfavorable light on the administration — at which time his specific requests were met as quickly as possible, to be followed soon after with tough-sounding rhetoric. Now the administration, properly chastised, is being careful to issue more tough-sounding rhetoric, while also attempting to shift the blame away from themselves and toward the oil companies. Their agenda appears to consist entirely of talking tough and bashing British Petroleum.

Good leadership in this case would have created proactive measures to coordinate the responses of federal and state agencies to appropriate requests for aid, so that awkward legal barriers (like those preventing Dutch ships from bringing equipment) could be waived, appropriate permit requests could be expedited, and equipment could be procured and allocated smoothly. Gov. Jindal ought not have been made to wait three weeks for a permit to build barrier islands. The Dutch should not have been put off for seven weeks. Not a single foot of boom should have sat in a warehouse even a day waiting for instructions regarding where to send it. Nobody should have heard a single accusation against any party before appropriate investigation revealed the relevants facts.

Nobody wants theater, nobody wants the impossible, and especially, nobody wants angry foot-stomping; what we want is responsible action to ensure that whatever can be done, will be done. That’s what we’re missing, President Obama. Governor Jindal knows how to do that. You do not.

Ironically, Governor Jindal was dismissed with sneers in February 2009 after he delivered the GOP’s rebuttal to President Obama’s stimulus plan speech in Congress. As is usual when dealing with Democrats, Jindal’s awkward delivery apparently mattered far more than did the substance of his talk (one is astonished that Democrats apparently believe that delivering a speech poorly is supposed to disqualify one from holding high office, but delivering one containing plagiarized and fallacious details about one’s career does not). That’s why we’re now stuck with a President who apparently knows a great deal about organizing campaign financing schemes but has no idea how to lead a nation in an environmental crisis, and one whose $787 billion stimulus package, announced with such excellent style, has failed to stimulate anything other than the Census Bureau. President Obama ought to spend a few months studying Governor Jindal, who outshines him in every way when addressing matters requiring substance.

04/02/2010 (10:47 pm)

Homeland Security Meets White Guilt

The Obama administration on Thursday announced changes in their travel policy that abandons the test for extra screening based on nationality alone, and instead allows Homeland Security employees to use criteria educed from intelligence data to search travelers whose profile poses unusual risk, according to the Washington Post. Don’t look now, but the Obamites just embraced — are you ready for this? — profiling.

Knowing that the more extreme searches and precautions adopted in the wake of the Christmas Eve bomber incident would need to be altered before the onset of the summer travel season, the Obama administration introduced rules that will enable scanners to vastly reduce the number, but broadens the range of travelers to be stopped for extra searches. Screeners will be able to detain passengers whose characteristics match certain pieces of known intelligence.

Quoth the WaPo:

The official offered a hypothetical case to illustrate how the new system will work. If U.S. intelligence authorities learned about a terrorism suspect from Asia who had recently traveled to the Middle East, and they knew the suspect’s approximate age but not name or passport number, those fragments would be entered into a database and shared with commercial airline screeners abroad.

The screeners would be instructed to look for people with those traits and to pull them aside for extra searches, the official said, acknowledging that that in some cases, screeners will have to rely on their judgment as they consider the listed traits.

So if we know that a number of terrorists under surveillance happen to be, gee, I dunno, middle eastern men between the ages of 18 and 40, say…

I recall saying before President Obama took office that it was possible that reality would mug him regarding foreign policy and homeland security, and he would be forced to make policy in a more sensible way than his academic preconceptions would have advised him. This is what has taken place in his policy regarding Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. It now appears to be affecting homeland security. Certainly he knows that a 9/11-style disaster on his watch would cripple his party and his presidency, and he may even care to prevent that from happening for ordinary human reasons (no, I’m not certain that he feels much at that level, but he might).

My initial thought was to lampoon the Washington Post for reporting this without railing about the sheer inhumanity of a policy that allows profiling Muslims young men (among others.) Then I ran a search for articles published in the Post during the Bush years that took conservatives to task for counseling profiling by religion, gender, age, and race to focus on the groups from which nearly all the terrorists have come who have attacked America. I found this by William Raspberry, and this by Colbert King, and this by Eugene Robinson. And reading over them, I noticed something curious that they all had in common:

They were all written by blacks. Specifically, older black men, who might retain some personal experience of racial incidents from the 1960s.

Now, we’re all familiar with the Democratic party’s penchant for using victim shields as a means of stifling debate. We saw it best back when Ann Coulter dared to point out, in her book Godless, how left-leaning newscasters and talk show hosts used the victimhood of four wives of 9/11 victims to intimate that it was immoral and vicious to disagree with their hard-left rants about the Iraq war. Coulter was so impressed by the tactic that her next book, Guilty, recounted the many instances in which the left played the victim while victimizing others. And we’ve more recently seen the Kabuki theater surrounding national health insurance, wherein children and pitiable poor widows were trotted out to tell their heart-rending tales of oppression at the hands of heartless, vicious insurance demons. So it’s hardly a surprise that they’ve laid back and let black men take the point on arguing racial profiling.

Still, I can’t imagine that three separate black columnists took orders from some shadowy Sound Bite Central of the Democratic party. I think that at some level, it’s a natural response of black men who are sensitive to being singled out, to object to singling out anybody. And since it’s a natural response, it’s one we should treat with some respect.

Respect, yes, but not agreement. While I can certainly understand why William Raspberry might feel uneasy about TSA singling out people who look a certain way, his unease does not constitute a sound reason why we should not do it. This is not 1960, and we’re not engaging in an attempt at keeping racial groups pure; we’re protecting ourselves against an invasion.

The confusion between defense and racial prejudice suggests that much of the left’s opposition to sane homeland security measures can be traced to simple White Guilt — white people trying to prove their anti-racist bona fides. They apparently care a lot more about absolving themselves psychologically from oppressing blacks than they do about preventing lethal attacks against their fellow citizens. It’s depressing to consider how badly our culture has been whipped around by this sort of needy vanity. The West may not survive the vast expansion of personal vice; it illustrates the vital role played by good home life and stable families in maintaining civilization.

Obama’s concession to profiling marks a rare adult moment in his administration’s brief tenure. Maybe we’ll manage to survive the next 3 years without a truly major terrorist incident.

03/29/2010 (3:16 pm)

Aaaand, Now the Scary Militia Stories


The ObamaBots are playing for keeps.

After a week of coordinated “news” reporting about how scary and violent those Tea Party inciters are, the FBI and ATF staged a raid on a fringe militia group — that is to say, the group was one that the militias consider a fringe group — in three states, indicting nine people on charges apparently related to a plot to lay pipe bombs along the route of a police funeral procession.

Take a gander at their explanation of the timing:

“Because the Hutaree had planned a covert reconnaissance operation for April, which had the potential of placing an unsuspecting member of the public at risk, the safety of the public and of the law enforcement community demanded intervention at this time,” said Barbara McQuade, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.

A “covert reconnaissance operation.” Meaning, they were going to sneak through the woods and spy on someone. In April. So it was absolutely essential to raid them the week after a bunch of alarmist propaganda. In March.

The raids took place in three states: Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan. Indictments were turned in against 9 individuals, one of whom remains a fugitive. All were members of a group called the Hutaree, a quasi-Christian group preparing militarily for the return of Christ, apparently intending to be His bodyguards (got news for them: He won’t need them). The federal indictment contains five counts, all surrounding an alleged plot to kill an unnamed law officer, to be followed by planting pipe bombs along the funeral procession route.

A web site apparently visited regularly by serious members of other militia groups contains talk indicating that the Hutaree were considered fringe even by other militia groups. They confirm a report that shows up in one of the newspaper accounts that a Hutaree member called a group leader from the Michigan Militia looking for a place to hide and was turned down. They also regard the ATF/FBI action as a move to pick off “low-hanging fruit” and possibly hoping to spark a national incident.

There seems to me to be little doubt that Main Justice was eager to ping us back after the past week or so when a few broken windows on our part and other threats not of our making caused over a hundred congresscritters to call the FBI down on the capitol building carpet to verbally beat up the Fibbies for not doing their job and to demand that they do something about the threats they perceived to their imperial personages.

The Hutaree, who by their previous nuttery over the past two years set themselves up as low-hanging fruits — wannabe John Browns with a persecution complex — made a perfect target. Yet even moving on the Hutaree had many risks for the Feds. If, God forbid, shots had been exchanged, people killed, or buildings burned down a la Waco, we would be looking at a nationwide mobilization and civil war. There are analysts deep in the Hoover Building who understand that there are no more free Wacos. Yet the Feds, prodded by the Dems in Congress were willing to risk it.

They were willing to risk it — OR THEY WANTED IT.

We’ll learn more as time passes and more details emerge, but the upshot now is that they got lucky — very lucky for them indeed, for the Hutaree have long sworn they would die rather than surrender.

Yet there were apparently no shots, no innocent deaths, and thus no retaliatory spasm of an open source insurgency using 4th generation warfare to target the war-makers and war-leaders — and those are the stakes of the game they are clumsily playing. I doubt the Dem politicians who urged them to do SOMETHING had their own deaths in mind. Unintended consequences indeed.

The opening paragraph appears to admit that some of the window-breaking of the past week was carried out by organized militia. I seriously doubt that this reading is correct, however, as it would be inconsistent with their normal mode of operation. Most likely what he means is that he thinks conservatives may actually have been behind some of the broken windows. Nothing of the sort has been confirmed yet.

On the other hand, the last paragraph does contain a pretty serious threat against Democratic party leaders in Congress. The threat appears connected to the possibility of a Waco-style incident, with the message “If you leave us alone, we’ll leave you alone. But if you don’t…”

Talking Points Memo, a leftie blog with links to the White House, headlines that the Hutaree members were indicted for “seditious conspiracy” and “attempted use of WMD.” Yes, you read that correctly. Fox News reported, on the other hand, that the group was arrested for attempting to build pipe bombs. Both are correct: it turns out that the technical definition of a “weapon of mass destruction” in the US Code appears in section 2332a(c)(2), and in addition to chemical (subheading B), biological (subheading C), and nuclear (subheading D) weapons, are defined as

(A) any destructive device as defined in section 921 of this title;

Section 921 contains a list of definitions, including this one:

(4) The term “destructive device” means—
(A) any explosive, incendiary, or poison gas—
(i) bomb,
(ii) grenade,
(iii) rocket having a propellant charge of more than four ounces,
(iv) missile having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than one-quarter ounce,
(v) mine, or
(vi) device similar to any of the devices described in the preceding clauses;
(B) any type of weapon (other than a shotgun or a shotgun shell which the Attorney General finds is generally recognized as particularly suitable for sporting purposes) by whatever name known which will, or which may be readily converted to, expel a projectile by the action of an explosive or other propellant, and which has any barrel with a bore of more than one-half inch in diameter; and
(C) any combination of parts either designed or intended for use in converting any device into any destructive device described in subparagraph (A) or (B) and from which a destructive device may be readily assembled.

Short version, if you make a bomb of any kind in your basement, it’s a WMD. I suspect this was not the definition used when examining weapons caches in Iraq.

hutareeWhat we’re watching, folks, is an effort by the Obama administration to use US law enforcement agencies to add to the public fear of an irrational, violent, right-wing insurgency rising in the US. It is possible but not certain that they expected armed resistance from the Hutaree, which would have aided their public relations campaign immensely. Meanwhile, no public statement of any kind acknowledges federal awareness or concern regarding Muslim militia training going on on American soil. I wonder why? I’m sure they know they exist…

I spoke yesterday of the possible usefulness of organized violence, and of the Obama administration’s fear of same. Today’s news is an indication of how timely that warning is. Obama does, in fact, fear armed rebellion, and this effort to build a public relations case on a group nobody will defend makes it clear how much. There are real, serious militiamen out there, training in military tactics in anticipation of tyrannical government crackdowns; their sense is that the Waco incident in 1993 is the only one of its type that will occur for free, and that the next such incident will trigger a civil war.

03/15/2010 (9:32 am)

The Gitmo Bar: How Deeply Compromised is the Holder DOJ?

Allow me to draw your attention to a fascinating and vital debate being waged among blog heavyweights on the right over what was originally called The Al Qaeda Seven, but has come to be more appropriately labeled The Gitmo Bar. The topic: does the fact that several attorneys in the Department of Justice defended Guantanamo detainees render them incompetent to prosecute the war against al Qaeda? Primary participants include former US Attorney Andy McCarthy pitted against PowerLine’s Paul Mirengoff, with side comments from Jonah Goldberg, Charles Krauthamer, Mark Steyn, Ann Coulter, all against a backdrop of the usual poo-flinging from the left.

At this point, everybody in the debate agrees that the answer to that specific question is “No.” However, a number of players, championed by Andy McCarthy, are arguing that the core beliefs of some attorneys, beliefs that led them gladly to volunteer for the specific pro bono work of defending al Qaeda’s worst, so hamstrings them in the prosecution of the war against Islamic violence that their very presence in the Department of Justice endangers Americans — indeed, that President Obama’s ideological agreement with these attorneys renders his entire foreign policy impotent against Islam-inspired terrorism.

The debate was kicked off about two weeks ago in response to an advertisement produced by a public advocacy group called Keep America Safe, over the fact that Attorney General Eric Holder had appointed what he represented as seven attorneys to his staff who had performed “pro bono” legal work in defense of detainees at the prison at Guantanamo Bay. KAS was demanding that Holder release the names, claiming a public right to know. Here’s the ad to refresh your memories:

Paul Mirengoff, over at PowerLine, reacted to this badly, taking “al Qaeda seven” as a slur against a venerable legal tradition of defending unpopular clients. McCarthy responded by producing what I regard as the definitive statement about the issue in an editorial at the National Review:

Jihadists believe it is proper to massacre innocent people in order to compel the installation of sharia as a pathway to Islamicizing society. No one for a moment believes, or has suggested, that al-Qaeda’s American lawyers share that view. But jihadist terrorists, and Islamist ideology in general, also hold that the United States is the root of all evil in the world, that it is the beating heart of capitalist exploitation of society’s have-nots, and that it needs fundamental, transformative change.

This, as I argue in a book to be published this spring, is why Islam and the Left collaborate so seamlessly. They don’t agree on all the ends and means. In fact, Islamists don’t agree among themselves about means. But before they can impose their utopias, Islamists and the Left have a common enemy they need to take down: the American constitutional tradition of a society based on individual liberty, in which government is our servant, not our master. It is perfectly obvious that many progressive lawyers are drawn to the jihadist cause because of common views about the need to condemn American policies and radically alter the United States.

That doesn’t make any lawyer unfit to serve. It does, however, show us the fault line in the defining debate of our lifetime, the debate about what type of society we shall have. And that political context makes everyone’s record fair game. If lawyers choose to volunteer their services to the enemy in wartime, they are on the wrong side of that fault line, and no one should feel reluctant to say so.

The political context — what sort of government we choose to vote for in coming elections — is the first and largest concern, but not the only one. McCarthy in a later point in the discussion recalls American attorney Lynn Stewart, whose defense of “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman included acts that a jury decided amounted to material aid of an enemy, resulting in her being disbarred and sent to prison. A review of that case reveals deep sympathies between the American hard left and Islamic radicalism that can apparently spill over into overt acts against the United States in wartime. If there exist attorneys with similar sympathies in the Justice Department, we need to know, and they need to go.

Ann Coulter, in her characteristically snippy dismissal of Mirengoff’s concern, highlights the apparent sympathy between al Qaeda and the American left by noting that these particular detainees were anything but unpopular, but in fact carried a sort of radical chic among top law firms that attracted 34 of the 50 largest firms in the nation to defend them, and gave progressive attorneys opportunities to congratulate each other over “speaking truth to power.” This odd-seeming affinity between progressives and radical Islam has been explored before: it was the subject of David Horowitz’s somewhat arcane book, Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left, and also the subject of one of my earliest essays, back when this blog was just a personal Yahoo page.

The common link appears to be hatred for the Christian West. Progressivism and Islam each apparently believe that in order for its goals to be achieved, the Christian basis for Western civilization must be neutralized by undermining its devotion to individual liberty and conscience, and the economic vitality that these create. The irony lies in the clear divergence between the goals of progressivism and those of Islam, which are, in fact, competing religions. Each apparently believes that once the Christianity of the West has been dismissed, that they will easily defeat the other. So, for the time being, progressives, who believe in a collective consciousness under a secular, progressive state, are cooperating with violent Islamic fundamentalists, who believe in a collective consciousness under sharia law, enforced by a religious, Islamic state. (For the link between American fundamental liberty and Christianity, see here, here, and here.)

wryBobThis explains to some degree why it is that Western progressives choose to side with Islamic radicals against their fellow Westerners. There’s no immediately apparent reason why they ought to; they could just as easily have chosen to defend their Western, Christian neighbors against the common threat posed by Islam, which is both migrating and, in some forms, invading, and then later, once the Islamic threat had been vanquished, return to squabbling with the right over power in America. Instead, they chose their affinity to statism over their affinity to Westernness, and proceeded to cooperate with Islam in taking down Christianness in the West. This buttresses (but does not actually prove) my own thesis that these movements have a common source in Hell, and that ultimately, what they hate is the name of Christ and the liberty and prosperity that arise from welcoming His rule.

At any rate, the debate proceeded through another few rounds, with this thoughtful response from Mirengoff, this interjection from Jonah Goldberg, Saturday’s comment from McCarthy, Goldberg’s reply on Sunday, and McCarthy’s final comment on Sunday. Attorney Stephen Jones’ contribution (Jones defended Timothy McVeigh) in the Wall Street Journal is correctly dismissed as a red herring, since nobody disagrees that unpopular clients need representation, nor is anybody, least of all Keep America Safe, claiming that any lawyer who defends Guantanamo detainees is necessarily a member of al Qaeda.

McCarthy intimates that further revelations indicating potentially shocking sympathies between DOJ attorneys and their pro bono clients at Guantanamo are forthcoming. We should pay close attention.

The reaction of the Left to this serious and relevant intellectual discussion was singularly anti-intellectual, but sadly predictable. They picked up on Mirengoff’s disagreement, and used a disingenuously-manufactured sound bite to slander Liz Cheney, one of the founders of Keep America Safe. Sam Stein at Huffington Post called Mirengoff and asked him a leading question comparing Cheney to former US Senator Joseph McCarthy, recalling the (leftist-historian-enhanced) fright over Communism in the 1950. HuffPo’s editors then mischaracterized Mirengoff’s answer in the headline, “Conservatives Turn Against Liz Cheney — As Bad As McCarthy.” Mirengoff explained mildly that Stein had misused his words, but the left quickly flung their new talking point far and wide: using Google to query “Liz Cheney worse than McCarthy” results in 4.7 million hits on that combination of words:


Andy McCarthy (no relation to Joe) points out a crucial difference between right and left in this debate, one that highlights the reason that I am calling for national partition to separate ourselves from the progressives. Even the most extreme responses from the right — I classify my own call for partition as one of those — are political, and well within the ethical and legal mechanisms available to citizens of good character: we want to know who to vote for, we want to know how to petition the government, we ultimately want sound national defense policy. In stark contrast to this, the political left in America has engaged in an 8-year-long witch hunt against attorneys for the Bush administration that is far outside the bounds of civil society. The goal of this ongoing vendetta is to destroy the attorneys who counseled the President to construct the enhanced interrogation regime. They don’t care which mechanism they finally use to destroy them; they have attempted to ruin their reputations in their neighborhoods, take their jobs, end their careers, prosecute them in American courts, prosecute them in international courts. It was only by the intervention of a single, Democratic attorney with a sound professional ethic and the right position in the DOJ that attorneys John Yoo and John Bybee escaped prosecution by the Holder “Justice” Department. This entire, decade-long campaign aims to enforce a simple declaration: counsel your clients differently than progressive dogma dictates, and they will destroy your life. This is not the rule of law, it’s scorched earth. It’s mob justice, by thugs.

For what it’s worth, I agree that the phrase “al Qaeda Seven” is unfair. I also agree that Keep America Safe was correct in calling for Attorney General Eric Holder to release the names of attorneys who represented Gitmo detainees, which he did through a back door a few days later (the number is now 10, and counting.) And I agree that it is perfectly appropriate to examine precisely what the sympathies are of these attorneys whose prestigious firms took such delight in defending America’s enemies.

The debate over the Gitmo Bar included some interesting discussion regarding the distinction between Islam and Islamism (peaceful vs. violent jihad) that deserves some comment. I’ll leave that ’till tomorrow.

02/22/2010 (11:21 pm)

Watch Your 401(k)

BusinessWeek reports that the Treasury and Labor departments are asking for public comment on “the conversion of 401(k) savings and Individual Retirement Accounts into annuities or other steady payment streams.”

Sound innocent? Newt Gingrich and Peter Ferrara over at Investor’s Business Daily explain at some length what it means: it means the Obama administration is taking a look at turning your 401(k) account into the government’s piggy bank.

Here’s how it would work: the government would first require that your bank or investment house offer that you receive the proceeds from your 401(k) as an annuity. Later, they would mandate it; they would probably be nice and offer you three different repayment plans to fit your particular needs. The annuity would exist in the form of Treasury notes. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, they would take all the funds in your account and spend them on federal budget items, leaving you with a promise by the government to pay you back. Just the way they did with the Social Security and Medicare trust funds.

From the viewpoint of the Obama administration, this is a logical step. They’re running massive annual deficits, and the 401(k) pool represents probably more than a trillion dollars in available revenue to finance the deficits. They’ve already done exactly the same thing with Social Security, and they imagine that Treasury bills are the safest, most secure investment on the planet, so in their minds it’s not really stealing. In the odd rigidity of the liberal mind, there is no possibility that “the full faith and credit” of the government could ever become anything other than the absolute guarantee that it has been all their lives; they have no notion that their actions can, and will, produce genuine insolvency.

But insolvency will come, as night follows day. As the world’s investors see the irresponsibility of the government’s actions, they will abandon the T-bill, and then the Fed will have to crank up the presses to buy American debt with inflated dollars — and then pay the investors back with those inflated dollars. A retirement nest egg that should have sufficed for a comfortably middle-class old age will barely ensure survival, and God help the retiree whose nest egg was only just enough.

Either that, or massive new taxes will have to be drafted, which will break the back of the economy. They will never think of the only solution that would have a chance of working, to privatize as much of the massive entitlement programs as possible. Reducing their own power is against their nature.

The authors added:

Argentina provided a precedent in 2008, taking over that country’s private retirement accounts for forced investment in government bonds to cover spiraling deficits. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard editorialized at the time in Britain’s Daily Telegraph that this may be “a foretaste of what may happen across the world as governments discover .. . that the bond markets are unwilling to plug the (deficit) gap. . .. My fear is that governments in the U.S., Britain and Europe will display similar reflexes.”

This is just the latest chapter in what is developing into a war by the left on America’s seniors. All that class-war rhetoric about “the rich” ends up targeting seniors, who tend to have accumulated the most in savings and investment on average because they have been around the longest.

The attorneys at PowerLine think the Obama administration will not be able to get away with this. They point out that a large percentage of the nation’s lawyers have million-dollar retirement accounts, and will scream bloody murder if the government attempts to force them to finance the deficit. It is not clear that the Obamanites will willingly abandon their own base in this fashion; the Obama machine runs on money.

That’s plausible, but hardly reassuring. The mere threat that the government might take this step, an idea that’s been quietly floating on the air for a few months, is already slowing the rate of investment in retirement accounts. PowerLine’s Hinderaker notes:

Earlier today I learned that a relative on Wall Street has stopped accumulating funds in his retirement accounts precisely because he thinks they may be confiscated by the Obama administration. Instead, he is acquiring untraceable, tangible assets–gold and silver–that the government won’t be able to steal without a physical search of his property.

If major investors deflect their retirement savings into hard assets, like gold or collectibles, that will take those savings out of circulation, making expansion capital that much rarer and extending the recession that much further.

Socialism has failed the world in every imaginable way. No nation can afford what is planned for it by those who imagine themselves the rightful engineers of the perfect society.

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