Quote of the Day: Obama’s Bizarre Syria policy edition

August 31, 2013

I admit it: John Podhoretz got me to laugh out loud. Snark that’s true often does that:

Some people compare foreign policy to a game of chess. Barack Obama is playing 52 pick-up.

Though, really, that’s true of Obama’s foreign policy overall, not just Syria.


Man-of-the-people President to celebrate Labor his way

August 30, 2013

Because nothing says “fighting for the middle class” more than headlining a fundraiser where a single plate costs more than many people make in a year:

President Obama will travel to Los Angeles on Sept. 9 to recognize organized labor.

Obama will appear at the AFL-CIO convention, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast Thursday.

That night the president will also appear at a $32,400 per plate Hollywood fundraiser held at the home of Marta Kauffman, the co-creator of the sitcom “Friends,” according to an invitation obtained by the Sunlight Foundation.

The White House is billing the appearance at the labor convention as the latest in the president’s summer-long middle class economic tour, according to the Los Angeles Times.

I bet the servers at this shindig will feel real honored by all the attention, as they’re passing out plates of surf-and-turf to Hollywood stars, Democratic pols, and union bosses.

The Democratic Party has come a long way since Jackson’s day.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Syria: In which Jonah Goldberg rants

August 30, 2013

And it’s a thing of beauty. I would have included it in the last post, but I didn’t read the Goldberg File (1) until after sending it to press. But, I do want to share it. Far from his usual amiable discourses laced with pop-culture references, it’s clear he’s as disgusted as I:

For the first time since the Brits grew exhausted with the Hurricane of Fists they were getting from the 13 colonies, the British parliament voted against the government on an issue of war. Obviously, this was not directly Barack Obama’s fault. But he’s hardly blameless either. This mess is part of the larger mess he created. Obama follows polls and acts like it’s courage. He mocks and belittles American leadership and then is shocked when no one wants to follow America. We were supposed to be in an era of renewed global cooperation and engagement. Instead, Obama can’t hold the support of our closest ally — because the British Left balked. Forget forging new alliances with “former” enemies — as Obama promised would happen once it dawned on the Arab street that his middle name is “Hussein” and they realized he’s black; Obama can’t even maintain historic alliances with longstanding friends.

Oh, and thank goodness Hillary Clinton gave the Russians a big toy button with the word “overcharge” on it. We’re really reaping the payoff on that now.

Part of the problem stems from the simple fact that Obama can’t sell anything but himself. Even when he tried — and he really tried — he couldn’t sell Obamacare to the American people. When it comes to the Syria intervention — which, if done right, I am in favor of — he’s not even trying to sell. His body language in that PBS interview was that of a husband forced to explain to his wife how he got the clap. He talked like a teenager looking at the floor while telling his parents that he doesn’t know how their car ended up in the neighbor’s swimming pool. The only thing his “shot across the bow” talk did for him was convince everyone that he’s not wagging the dog to boost his poll numbers. A war-mongering charlatan would at least fake commitment better.

But what do you really think, Jonah?

He should have a headache more often.

Footnote:
(1) Email only, sorry. But do subscribe. It’s free and worth every penny.


Obama foreign policy success: Britain says “Thanks, but no.”

August 30, 2013
Obama foreign policy advisers

Obama foreign policy advisers

What was I saying yesterday about the “stunning ineptitude” of Obama’s diplomacy? On top of everything else, he’s failed to convince one of our oldest allies, Great Britain, to join us in “sending a message” to Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Late yesterday, the House of Commons dealt a stunning blow to the political fortunes of Prime Minister Cameron by refusing permission to attack Syria. While British domestic politics played the major role in this, there’s no doubt that Team Smart Power failed to do the needed legwork to make things easier for Cameron. I could rant about it, but Charles Krauthammer does it just fine:

This is a complete humiliation for the Obama administration. Forget about the merits of what Obama wants to do, which I think it’s a bad idea, but let’s assume it’s a good idea. This involves the elementary conduct of international diplomacy, trying to get some allies aboard so you don’t act unilaterally. 

So who’s the main ally in the world who has been with us in every trench for the last 100 years? The British. And now the British have voted against us. The other supposed ally was the French, President Hollande, and now he’s saying we got to wait for the report from the UN inspectors which will be early next week. So here is Obama and the Democrats, who railed against the Bush administration for its supposedly unilateral invasion of Iraq where we had 48 allies for a mission that involved boots on the ground — a real invasion, a real war. And here’s Obama trying to gather an ally or two for a pinprick, and he gets nothing. 

This is just on the basis of thinking ahead, let’s say, a week ahead. When they leaked all this information about exactly what we’re going to hit, where we’re going to hit it, what the reasons are and the objectives are’ and we’re going to have a coalition of the willing, did nobody actually think to check with the allies? I mean, these are guys who couldn’t organize a three car funeral.

In other words, Obama, who likes to be compared to FDR, who himself lead a grand coalition in World War II, wasn’t even skillful enough to put together an alliance less than one-tenth the size of that built by the reviled George W. Bush in 2003.

I guess Parliament didn’t think keeping Obama from being mocked was reason enough to go into battle.

At PJM, RIchard Fernandez looks the isolated state Obama finds himself in and considers his options — none of them good:

Now, with Britain out of the operation, Obama faces the prospect of going into Syria almost literally alone, without the UN, NATO, Congress, or even the UK to back him up. Two courses are now open to him. He can climb down as best he can and pretend he’s changed his mind or he can go forward risking a wider war for nothing. As Andy Borowitz of The New Yorker said in a satirical piece, Obama has tried to mollify the antiwar left by promising the Syria strike “would have no objective.” It would just be a couple of days worth of random drive-by shooting without strategic content and therefore moral.

Yet a climbdown would represent a public and devastating humiliation of the man who once believe he bestrode the world. It would also represent a huge propaganda victory for Assad.

The alternative would be for Obama to double down and order an attack on his own authority despite having, as Professor Goldsmith noted, no apparent legal leg to stand on. He would risk starting a wider war that he doesn’t even want to win, and possibly illegally to boot.

Whichever way it goes, Obama’s plan for a “limited but decisive” attack on Assad is probably over. George Will advised the president to quit talking himself into trouble. “The administration now would do well to do something that the head of it has an irresistible urge not to do: Stop talking. If a fourth military intervention is coming, it will not be to decisively alter events, which we cannot do, in a nation vital to U.S. interests, which Syria is not. Rather, its purpose will be to rescue Obama from his words.

And thus we see again the truth about everything Obama does: It’s all about The O. No rational calculation of American national interests, no attempt to show how humanitarian considerations might affect those interests. Just “doing something” for appearance’s sake because Obama drew the wrong red line.

As the great Strother Martin said in Butch Cassidy, “Morons. I’ve got morons on my team.”

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Obama foreign policy success: Saudis want to cut deal with Russians

August 29, 2013
Your Obama foreign policy team

Your Obama foreign policy team

This is truly impressive. Day after day, I can sit back and watch as the American position in the Mideast and North Africa heads into the abyss.

Our Thelma and Louise ride over the cliff began quietly, with Obama turning the key and slapping our allies in Israel and embracing the Islamist premier of Turkey (But what’s a revived caliphate among friends?); he accelerated through his studied silence during the 2009 democratic revolt in Iran, thus emboldening the mullahs; he went into high gear during the Pee-Wee President’s Big Libyan Adventure that ended with the death of a US ambassador and al Qaeda looting Qaddafi’s armories; and he absolutely floored it during the so-called Arab Spring as we found ourselves, after he first dithered like some obscure Illinois state senator,  supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and al Qaeda-aligned rebels in Syria.

And now, for some reason, our long-term clients in the region seem to have decided we are untrustworthy (or barking mad) and are looking to make their own arrangements.

Via Walter Russell Mead:

[Prince] Bandar [bin Sultan al-Saud] discussed the potential cooperation between the two countries if an understanding could be reached on a number of issues, especially Syria. He discussed at length the matter of oil and investment cooperation, saying, “Let us examine how to put together a unified Russian-Saudi strategy on the subject of oil. The aim is to agree on the price of oil and production quantities that keep the price stable in global oil markets. … We understand Russia’s great interest in the oil and gas present in the Mediterranean Sea from Israel to Cyprus through Lebanon and Syria. And we understand the importance of the Russian gas pipeline to Europe. We are not interested in competing with that. We can cooperate in this area as well as in the areas of establishing refineries and petrochemical industries. The kingdom can provide large multi-billion-dollar investments in various fields in the Russian market. What’s important is to conclude political understandings on a number of issues, particularly Syria and Iran….

The key to the relations between our two countries starts by understanding our approach to the Syrian issue. So you have to stop giving [the Syrian regime] political support, especially at the UN Security Council, as well as military and economic support. And we guarantee you that Russia’s interests in Syria and on the Mediterranean coast will not be affected one bit. In the future, Syria will be ruled by a moderate and democratic regime that will be directly sponsored by us and that will have an interest in understanding Russia’s interests and role in the region.”

Yes, you read that right. Our Saudi allies (1), whose patron we’ve been since FDR’s day, now want an “arrangement” with Putin’s Russia. In return for playing along with Saudi policy in Syria, Russian interests will be protected and, oh, the Saudis will cooperate on price-fixing. (Russian oil being expensive to extract, they need high prices to make it worthwhile. The regime is utterly dependent on oil.) And the American role in all this?

[Silence]

Exactly.

WRM’s comment:

This is jaw-dropping stuff, to say the least. Nothing was signed in this closed-door meeting between Putin and Bandar—Putin requested time for both countries to look into the specifics of such a deal. But the mere fact that our allies felt like they needed to go this route signals that something is seriously awry in President Obama’s Middle East approach.

Putin probably requested time because he was too busy pinching himself to make sure this wasn’t a dream. It’s an opening for a return to influence in the Middle East that the Russians have been looking for since the Soviet Union fell apart.

As usual, the gentle Dr. Mead speaks volumes via understatement. We are witnessing the growing collapse of American influence throughout a region crucial to our security, and our rivals will be sure to pick up the slack. This isn’t just the loss of a few years’ work: this is the crumbling of a geopolitical position that’s taken 70 years to build. And it’s all due to the stunning ineptitude of Barack Obama and the Hundred Acre Wood school of foreign affairs. They are leading us toward a major disaster.

And we’ve got three more years of this? I need a drink…

Footnote:
(1) Yeah, I know. Many Saudis donate to al Qaeda and other groups, and the Kingdom itself is an aggressive pusher of Islamic supremacism. But, when it came to Mideast geopolitics and security, they knew which side their bread was buttered on. And now they’re looking for a new baker.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


North Korea: Dictator executes ex-girlfriend for doing porn, owning Bible

August 29, 2013
"I've got some bad news, boss..."

“She did what??”

I’ve figured it out: North Korea is the only nation founded on a bad acid trip:

Kim Jong-un’s ex-girlfriend was among a dozen well-known North Korean performers who were executed by firing squad on Aug. 20, reports said Wednesday.

Sources in China said singer Hyon Song-wol as well as Mun Kyong-jin, head of the Unhasu Orchestra, were arrested on Aug. 17 for violating North Korean laws against pornography and were executed in public three days later.

The victims of the atrocity were members of the Unhasu Orchestra as well as singers, musicians and dancers with the Wangjaesan Light Music Band.

They were accused of videotaping themselves having sex and selling the videos. The tapes have apparently gone on sale in China as well.

A source said some allegedly had Bibles in their possession, and all were treated as political dissidents.

According to reports (and we don’t know how reliable they are), Mun and her colleagues were mowed down by a machine-gun firing squad, which I suppose is merciful compared to dropping a mortar round on top of the condemned. And, really, who among us hasn’t at some time, however briefly, fantasized about doing the same to a pain-in-the-neck ex?

The families of the victims were all sent to North Korea’s hellish gulag, par for the course for the world’s largest prison camp masquerading as a nation.

It is good to be King psycho-dictator.

At first glance, the “porn and Bible” angle made me think this was some sort of fake, but it does make a weird sort of sense. Think about it: you live in a police state that takes most of your income and rations how much food you get. You get more than most, but you want more. Well, porn sells.

Plus, and here’s where the Bible comes in, these are acts of rebellion and defiance. Could it be that the sex-videos and Bibles were some weird equivalent to a teen “acting out” against a parent, giving them a sense, however fleeting, of a bit of freedom and individuality? We’ll never know. But, in an atheistic, puritanical, Confucianist-Stalinst state, both uncontrolled sex and religion threaten the totalitarian rule of the individual by the government — they become thought-criminals, a la 1984, and have to be destroyed.

In this case, instead of being grounded, they were shot and their families swept into non-existence.

Final thought: North Korea has to be one of the most thorough internal-surveillance states on the planet. I find it very hard to believe that no one knew this was going on and that it didn’t get back to Dear Leader III before now. As a friend asked, did Kim know, but tolerated it until the new wife found out and demanded “something be done?”

Again, we’ll never know, but anything twisted is possible in North Korea. Especially if it’s twisted.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Syria: The New York Times goes foaming-at-the-mouth Neocon

August 29, 2013

So, this was the headline in an op-ed in yesterday’s times:

syria NYT hypocritical headline

And speaking as a Neocon… “amateurs!”

I eagerly await the Times editorial denunciation of the Times op-ed writers.

Can one die of an irony overload?

via Instapundit


Eric Holder’s racialist hypocrisy

August 28, 2013

Remember when Eric Holder threatened to seek civil rights charges against George Zimmerman in the wake of his acquittal in the killing of Trayvon Martin? Remember how he sued states,  claiming that their voter identification laws harmed the civil rights of minority Americans? Remember how he sued Louisiana for providing school vouchers, charging that they reinforced segregation?

Well, you can forget it, if the victim is White.

A woman who said she was brutally attacked by a group of black teenagers in Pittsburgh’s North Side Sunday said the girls savagely beat her while calling her racial slurs.

(…)

Police said Slepski was savagely beaten after the girls threw a bottle at her car on Concord Street and she stopped to confront them.

“I was mad. I knew they were younger. I thought they were in their early 20s. I got out and said, ‘What is your problem?’” Slepski said.

All four African-American girls then called her names before getting physically violent.

“They yelled, ‘Shut up white [expletive].’ The other said, ‘Get that white [expletive],’” Slepski said.

Slepski said she tried to get back into her car but the girls grabbed her by the hair.

“The one punched me in the head and I was on a set of concrete steps and my head hit the concrete so hard,” said Slepski. “Then they all got on top of me and all their hands were in my hair. They kept telling each other to, ‘Kick her in the head. Kick her head in the concrete.’”

Writing at PJMedia, Christian Adams, who’s made a second career out of tracking Holder’s dedication to racial injustice, says Holder is no better than the old segregationists:

Well here’s an easy case Eric. It won’t be too hard to prove a violation of 18 USC 249 or 18 USC 245 in this context. No outrageous self-defense defenses here.

But like in all the other similar cases you refuse to prosecute, the victim here wasn’t one of “your people.” Ginger’s parents didn’t endure the sort of garbage that your wife’s parents did down south. So she isn’t entitled to equal protection of the law, right?

Make no mistake, Ginger isn’t the only victim who won’t get justice from Justice, just because of her race. Neither will the parents who were beaten at the Wisconsin State Fair. Nor will the parents in Ohio who saw thugs come on their lawn shouting racial slurs before they beat them.

In the United States, we like to say Justice is blind, holding all equal before the law. In Eric Holder’s America, however, Justice peaks out from under her blindfold to check your skin color, first.

RELATED: Adams has written an excellent book on Holder’s Department of Injustice.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Syria: President Short-Pants starts a war to avoid being mocked

August 28, 2013
Don't you dare mock him!

Don’t you dare mock him!

Oh, good God. Is this what our foreign policy has come to? That the President of the United States, heir in office to giants such as Washington, Lincoln, FDR, and Reagan, is going to attack another country so he won’t be called a wimp?

Hey, that’s not my description. Ask the infamous “unnamed US official:”

Some experts said U.S. warships and submarines in the eastern Mediterranean could fire cruise missiles at Syrian targets as early as Thursday night, beginning a campaign that could last two or three nights. Obama leaves next Tuesday for a four day trip to Sweden and Russia, which strongly supports Assad’s government, for the G-20 economic summit.

One U.S. official who has been briefed on the options on Syria said he believed the White House would seek a level of intensity “just muscular enough not to get mocked” but not so devastating that it would prompt a response from Syrian allies Iran and Russia.

“They are looking at what is just enough to mean something, just enough to be more than symbolic,” he said.

And there you have it, friends. We have officially returned to the Clinton-era policy of “lob a few missiles to send a message” that worked so well against al Qaeda that we wound up with a smoking crater in Manhattan a few years later. It’s a finely calibrated public relations effort, meant to show that Urkel is really The Hulk, not really to stop Assad’s gassing of his own people.

There’s an old saying: “If you strike at a king, you must kill him.” Roger L. Simon quotes Bret Stephens, who describes what Obama must do, if he’s going to war:

Should President Obama decide to order a military strike against Syria, his main order of business must be to kill Bashar Assad. Also, Bashar’s brother and principal henchman, Maher. Also, everyone else in the Assad family with a claim on political power. Also, all of the political symbols of the Assad family’s power, including all of their official or unofficial residences. The use of chemical weapons against one’s own citizens plumbs depths of barbarity matched in recent history only by Saddam Hussein. A civilized world cannot tolerate it. It must demonstrate that the penalty for it will be acutely personal and inescapably fatal.

If we fail to do that, if we just lob a few missiles in a weak version of Operation Desert Fox, then Assad will climb out of his bunker at the end and rightfully claim a victory — he stood up to the mighty United States and he’s still here.  Imagine how Tehran, Moscow, and Beijing will interpret that “message.”

If the United States goes to war, then it has to be done in such a way that there is no doubt who the biggest dog in the junkyard is.

George W. Bush understood this well, when we liberated Iraq: he had the military hunt down Saddam’s sons and kill them, and Saddam himself was dragged from a hidey-hole to be hanged. All the top Baathists were targets. The goal was to show the world that not only were these men beaten, they were unmistakably crushed and wouldn’t be coming back.

Now, in the age of Smart Power, the goal is to avoid being laughed at.

I weep.

via PJM

UPDATE: John Steele Gordon also notes the “all about me” angle.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


#IRS: Going after veterans’ groups?

August 28, 2013
"Thanks for your service?"

“Thanks for your service?”

Well, here’s a surprise (he wrote in sarcasm): while harassing Tea Party and other conservative groups –and interfering with their ability to participate in the 2012 elections, coincidentally enough– our public servants in the IRS decided it would be a good idea to audit veterans organizations, the members of which are largely opposed to the Obama administration.

Coincidentally.

From The Army Times:

A Kansas senator wants the IRS to explain why veterans groups are being asked to prove their members actually served in the military.

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said he is “troubled” by an IRS rule that could make veterans service organizations provide DD-214 separation documents “for every member at posts around the country.”

The American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans group, has about 2.4 million members and 14,000 posts. Veterans of Foreign Wars, with 1.5 million members, is the nation’s second largest veterans group. It has more than 7,600 chapters

The policy that has Moran and others excited was published in January 2011 in an Internal Revenue Service Manual chapter covering tax-exempt veterans’ service organizations. Apparently, the policy is just now getting attention from veterans’ groups.

The tax code sets requirements for veterans groups to qualify for exempt status; for example, 75% must be current or former members of the Armed Services. That’s reasonable enough, but what has Moran and others up in arms is the apparent lack of notification to these groups that they have to provide DD-214s and that failure to comply can mean fines of up to $1,000 per day.

As you can imagine, American Legion, VFW, and other groups are pretty upset, and Moran has some questions for IRS Acting Commissioner Werfel that he wants answered. Now.

From Bridget Johnson at PJM:

  • What legal authority does the IRS have in carrying out a mandate for personal, military service records? Was this mandate reviewed by IRS general counsel? Please provide documentation that gives the IRS the authority to collect this information;
  • Under whose leadership was this mandate initiated, for what direct purpose, and who had approving authority for this mandate?;
  • Were veteran service organizations ever specifically notified of the requirement? If so, please provide the documentation that was issued to these organizations. If not, please explain why organizations were not notified; and
  • Is it true that an organization unable or unwilling to provide this information could be charged penalty fees of $1,000 per day? Please provide clarification regarding the penalty for noncompliance.

I can see auditing groups about which there have been reports of fraud. But that would be on an individual, case-by-case basis when there’s been credible reports of a violation. But this kind of blanket “prove to us you’re not doing anything wrong” sweep looks like more of the “We don’t like small-government/conservative types, so we’re going to make their lives miserable” arrogance that we’ve seen plenty of already from our “Lois Lerner” bureaucracy. Rather than a conspiracy, it seems like Leviathan has developed an attitude problem towards their bosses — us.

And it looks like an attitude adjustment is in order.

PS: But I do want to thank the IRS for handing every Republican candidate in veteran-heavy areas even more wonderful material for campaign commercials. You guys are the bestest!

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Some questions before we bomb Syria

August 27, 2013

Syria_Topography

Threat Matrix, the blog of The Long War Journal, has some questions that need answering before President Obama, having decided Syria has crossed his ill-advised “red line,”  gives the “go” order. Here are a few of most interest to me:

3. Is there a possibility that the Aug. 21 attack was an accidental hit — of chemical stocks belonging to either the regime or the rebels — by the undisputed massive regime bombardment in the area at the time? It is known that the regime has been frequently moving its chemical weapons to keep them out of rebel hands, and it is also known that rebel fighters, including al Qaeda-linked groups, have sought and reportedly had access to chemical weapons also. The Al Nusrah Front is known to have pursued chemical weapons; credible reports of the group plotting to conduct sarin and mustard gas attacks have emerged from Iraq and Turkey over the past several months.

(…)

6. The regime has much to lose by mounting chemical weapon attacks, and especially while UN inspectors are in country and the world’s eyes are turned toward Syria. Why now? Is the basic vagueness of the US’s accusation due to a Western decision that now is the time to intervene militarily, regardless of who perpetrated the attack, since there is clearly a very distinct danger of the spread of chemical warfare in the region at this point?

…and…

8. What happens if the US actually succeeds in killing Assad and overthrowing the government? Will Islamist terror groups such as the Al Nusrah Front and the Islamic State of Iraq dominate the political scene in Syria, as they have dominated the fighting? Is that in the best interests of the US and the West, or, for that matter, those of Syria and the region? The West’s efforts for a resolution to the conflict in Syria ultimately hang upon the fragile hope that moderate forces will prevail, in a situation where the two strongest forces, the Assad regime and its largely Islamist opponents, each offer only harsh alternatives.

These are darned good questions, especially that last one. In one sense, it’s easier to deal with brutal, but secular, dictators; one can find mutual interest and cut a deal, even if that interest is simply survival. But apocalyptic minded fanatics who think conquering or destroying you is a divinely ordained mission? They simply don’t operate in the same paradigm we do, and coming to a genuine modus vivendi (other than “we surrender”) is usually impossible.

In the Telegraph, Tim Stanley asks a question related to number six, above: Why would Assad do something that would guarantee Western intervention in a war he’s winning?

Second, why would the Assad regime do something so stupid? It must know that by using chemical weapons it would isolate itself from any international support and invite a Western military response. More importantly, Assad was already winning the war – so why bother to use WMDs during the last lap to victory? Indeed, the only people who have anything to gain by Assad using chemicals are the rebels, because that would internationalise the conflict in a way that they have long lobbied for.

And yet there is a good case for intervention. Daniel Hannan weighs the arguments pro and con from a British national-interests point of view and, while he finds the interventionist arguments inconclusive, he concedes their strengths. Meanwhile asking a question for the pro-interventionists, Jim Geraghty (sorry, newsletter only) asks: If Assad has used chemical WMDs, are we prepared to accept the consequences of doing nothing:

The world has actually made good progress at eliminating existing stockpiles of chemical weapons. Most regimes have concluded the diplomatic and public relations cost isn’t worth keeping their aging stockpiles around. But . . . if an embattled regime like Assad’s successfully uses them to put down an insurrection with no major consequence short of rote international denunciation . . . how quickly will the cost-benefit calculus change? How certain could we be that Pyongyang, or some other embattled regime, wouldn’t feel the temptation? These sorts of weapons are cheap and relatively easy to make using regular civilian chemical equipment.

That’s not an easily dismissed possibility. It’s not for nothing that chemical weapons have been called the “poor man’s nukes.”

I myself have no good answers, though I’ve favored some sort of limited intervention since the civil war started, since hurting Assad hurts his patrons in Iran, the real source of much of the trouble in the Middle East and which, as Michael Ledeen persuasively argues, should be the focus of our efforts.

As for the administration having the answers…. Heck, I doubt they’ve even asked the right questions.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Even European Commission Bureaucrats Realize that Taxes Can Be Too High!

August 27, 2013

When taxes are too high even for Eurocrats, maybe the (Social) Democrats here in America should take notice. Nah, they never will. The addiction is just too strong. (Okay, that graphic came out a bit… wrong.)

International Liberty

I’m not a big fan of the European Commission. For those not familiar with this entity, it’s sort of the European version of the executive-branch bureaucracy we have in Washington. And like their counterparts in Washington, the Brussels-based bureaucracy enjoys a very lavish lifestyle while pushing for more government and engaging in bizarre forms of political correctness.

But just as a stopped clock is right twice a day, it appears that the European Commission is right once every century. Or perhaps once every millennium would be more accurate. Regardless, here are parts of a story I never thought would appear in my lifetime.

According to the UK-based Independent, the European Commission – or at least one European Commissioner – now realizes that there’s such a thing as too much tax.

Tax increases imposed by the Socialist-led government in France have reached a “fatal level”, the European Union’s commissioner…

View original post 711 more words


In which The Maltese Falcon explains why defunding Obamacare won’t work

August 26, 2013

satire film Bogart Greenstreet Maltese Falcon

On an emotional level, I sympathize one hundred percent with the move fronted by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) to fight Obamacare by passing a continuing budget resolution that funds all the operations of government except for Obamacare. The idea would be to put the onus for a government shutdown on Obama and the Democrats, thus forcing him to sign the bill to keep the government (and his constituency of federal employees) running.

The strategy, however, is dangerously flawed. And there’s a scene in The Maltese Falcon (1) that I think illustrates why defunding won’t work. Bear with me a bit, and imagine Obama as Sam Spade and Ted Cruz as Kasper Gutman:

Spade: “If you kill me, how are you going to get the bird? If I know you can’t afford to kill me, how are you going to scare me into giving it to you?”

Gutman: “Well, sir, there are other means of persuasion besides killing and threatening to kill.”

Spade: “Sure, but they aren’t much good unless the threat of death is behind them. See what I mean? If you start anything I’ll make it a matter of your having to kill me or call it off.”

Gutman: “That’s an attitude, sir, that calls for the most delicate judgment on both sides — because, as you know, sir, in the heat of action men are likely to forget where their best interests lie and let their emotions carry them away.”

Trouble is, I don’t think Cruz, Lee, Paul, and others in the “defund it” caucus have exercised that delicate political judgment and conservatives itching for a fight are letting their “emotions carry them away.”

In today’s Conservative Intelligence Briefing, David Freddoso explaining why this is a bad plan, and it’s for the same reasons Gutman couldn’t afford to kill Spade. Here’s an excerpt:

1) Even if you like this tactic, it’s important to understand first that it is indeed a threat to shut down the government, despite its advocates’ protestations to the contrary. This tactic cannot work, even under the most optimistic scenario, unless its advocates shut down the government for a very long time and eventually force President Obama to cry “uncle.”

You can’t make Obama sign a bill defunding Obamacare over the mere threat of a government shutdown. Not only is the actual shutdown necessary, but it will have to last several weeks, months, or even straight through until the next election before he’ll sign such a bill.

Obama sacrificed control of Congress to get his health care law. He isn’t going to sign a bill defunding it now because he’s spooked by the prospect of a couple of days of embassy, Library of Congress, passport office and National Park closures. He’d much sooner let the shutdown happen and take political advantage of the consequences — stories of government workers going months without a paycheck and Americans forced to cancel international travel because they can’t get passports renewed. And even if it gets to the point that Obama really, really wants to cry uncle, he probably won’t ever get the chance to do it, because the Democratic Senate will not pass any appropriations bill that defunds Obamacare.

Two points, in my opinion, are key: first that the Democratic-controlled Senate will never pass a defunding resolution that comes out of the House. Budget bills are immune to filibuster under Senate rules, so all Reid has to do is pass his own resolution that funds Obamacare (he’ll only need 51 votes) and send it to conference committee to work out a “compromise” with the House. And then, if the House holds firm, it will be endless cries of “extremist, heartless Republicans,” which I guarantee you the MSM will support wholly. It would be a PR battle I very much doubt our side could win and which could cost us heavily in the coming elections.

Second, if a resolution does pass the Senate, he can veto it safe in the knowledge that it won’t be overridden. Heck, Reid could let a few vulnerable Red-state Democrats vote for it, giving them cover in the 2014 elections, and then sustain the veto. (He’d only need 33 or 34 out of his caucus.) As Freddoso points out, Obama has already shown himself willing to sacrifice his own caucus to win passage of Obamacare; what makes anyone think he, not facing reelection, will cave now knowing that he can probably win the messaging war?

No, the better plan is to fight this anti-constitutional monstrosity where it’s weakest and where we have strong public support: its failure to lower the costs of health care, its burdensome taxes and regulations, its disruption of existing health care arrangements, and the unfairness of its blatant cronyism, for example delaying the employer mandate (illegally) while leaving the individual mandate in place. Attacking on those fronts is not only realistic, but it would keep the Democrats on the defensive.

Do that, pick our battles wisely, and we can still beat this thing.

Footnote:
(1) On my list of top-ten movies, ever.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Obamacare: A Get-Rich-Quick Scheme for Washington Insiders

August 26, 2013

When government tries to control the economy, the real winners are those who can manipulate the laws in their favor. As in so many cases, it’s true with Obamacare, too.

International Liberty

Want to know why – as shown by this map – most of America’s richest counties are part of the metropolitan DC region?

Part of the answer is that federal bureaucrats are overpaid. Another part of the answer is that the Washington area is filled with consultants and contractors, and this shadow government workforce also is overcompensated by taxpayers.

But I’m guessing that DC’s vast population of lobbyists and influence peddlers dominate the upper end of the income spectrum.

And that community of back scratchers and deal makers are getting even richer thanks to Obamacare. Here’s some of what The Hill is reporting today.

ObamaCare has become big business for an elite network of Washington lobbyists and consultants who helped shape the law from the inside. More than 30 former administration officials, lawmakers and congressional staffers who worked on the healthcare law have set up shop on K…

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Cult of Personality Watch: the return of the Obama flag

August 26, 2013

So, there was a rally in D.C. to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, where Dr. King delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech.

Naturally, for some, the rally became all about Obama:

We’ve seen this example of the cult of personality before, at Democratic Party headquarters in Lake County, Florida.  In that case, the local chairwoman couldn’t see what the problem was. As I wrote at the time:

What bothers me though, is that she didn’t see anything wrong with, in essence, promoting veneration of The Leader. In America, we hold dear the ideas and ideals of our Founding; we respect the offices and the people who hold them, but the officeholders are subordinate to the ideas. We pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States, to what it symbolizes — individual liberty, constitutional government, the rule of law — not to the man or woman who holds the office.

But, in the demonstration in D.C. as well as in Florida, the flag-wavers were doing just the opposite: venerating the man and not the principle, swearing fealty to a person , not an ideal. This act symbolizes a rejection of reason –constitutionalism, the rule of law, compromise in mutual best interest– and is instead an in-your-face embrace of the irrational, the philosopher-president who can interpret the national will better than the individual and for the good of all.

In other words, liberal fascism. How ironic –and sad–  that it should show up at a rally meant to honor one of the watershed moments in the history of American liberty.

RELATED: My blog-buddy ST and I were thinking along the same lines today. One of us is in trouble. 😉

UPDATE: Paul Mirengoff argues we’ve gone from “dream” to “nightmare” in 50 years.


Slow day today

August 25, 2013

satire napping

No  real news worth working oneself into outrageous outrage on this lazy Sunday. Good for napping and reading, though. Just finished Lincoln’s Constitution (Great book), trying to figure out which to open up, next.

What’s new with you?


No US Child Has Ever Seen A Category Five Hurricane

August 24, 2013

But the Warmists swore that the demon Global Warming would lead to more and more dangerous hurricanes. How rude of Nature not to play along.

Real Science

Today is the 21st anniversary of Hurricane Andrew, the last category 5 hurricane to hit the US. This means that no US child has ever seen a storm that strong. Andrew made landfall in Florida with winds over 150 MPH

ScreenHunter_366 Aug. 24 13.38

ScreenHunter_367 Aug. 24 13.40

Two other category five hurricanes hit the US last century – Camille in 1969 and the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, which was the most intense hurricane to hit the US since 1850.

The US has not been hit by a major (category 3-5)  hurricane in eight years, the longest such period since the Civil War. Florida has not been hit by any hurricane for eight years, by far the longest such period on record for that state.

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Good News: Ft. Hood shooter found guilty, eligible for death penalty

August 23, 2013

You wanted to wage jihad fi sabil Allah, Nidal Hasan? Fine. You can also hang for it:

Army Maj. Nidal Hasan was convicted Friday in the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, a shocking assault against American troops at home by one of their own who said he opened fire on fellow soldiers to protect Muslim insurgents abroad.

A jury of 13 high-ranking military officers reached a unanimous guilty verdict on all charges — 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder — in about seven hours. Hasan is now eligible for the death penalty.

Hasan had no visible reaction as the verdict was read. After the jury and Hasan left the courtroom, some victims who survived the shooting and family members began to cry.

There was also a 14th victim: the unborn child being carried by one of the women this brave knight of Allah gunned down.

There have already been travesties aplenty in this case, from the designation of the attack as “workplace violence” to the prohibition by the court against the prosecutors presenting Hasan’s religion as a motive, but they can get one thing right: they can sentence this traitor to death.

Yes, among the ranks of the medieval psychos who’ve chosen to wage war against civilization, he’ll be hailed as a martyr. Well, to Hell with it and them. This jihadi, who broke his oath as a US Army officer, murdered 13 American soldiers and would have killed a lot more, had he not been shot by a brave cop. Anything less than a sentence of death would be a sign of weakness in his comrades’ eyes and an insult to the victims and their survivors. It must be made crystal clear that we will protect our own and, if we fail to protect them, we will exact justice for them.

Hang him.

via Hot Air

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


The Obamacare Chronicles: Delta Airlines to take a $100,000,000 hit

August 23, 2013
"Obamacare has arrived"

“Obamacare has arrived”

And it’s not like the airline industry is doing all that well, as it is. But, gee, what’s another hundred million or among friends?

Delta Air Lines has issued an urgent warning about the impact of ObamaCare, claiming the law’s implementation will contribute to a roughly $100 million increase in health care costs next year alone.

The astonishing figure was included in a letter from Delta executive Robert Kight to officials in the Obama administration. The website RedState.com was the first to obtain and publish the letter earlier this week.

(…)

In the original letter, Kight disputes the notion that the law — the biggest parts of which take effect at the start of 2014 — will mean “business as usual” for big employers. A combination of factors, he claimed, will “mean that the cost of providing health care to our employees will increase by nearly $100,000,000 next year.”

Part of that is normal medical inflation and the phase-out of an assistance program tied to the health care law. But a large chunk of it, the exec claimed, comes from various fees and costs associated with the implementation of the health care law.

One of the costly items pertains to an annual fee of $63 per “covered participant” next year. The company estimates this means a more than $10 million expense in 2014. The catch for Delta is that, because many of their employees insure through Delta, the fee meant to help subsidize the health care law’s coverage amounts to a “direct subsidy” from the company that provides “zero direct benefit to our participants,” Kight said.

Another added cost comes from the requirement to cover children and young adults on parents’ plans until they’re 26 years old. Kight reports that the change led to 8,000 more people being added to their rolls, at an annual cost of $14 million.

There’s more; be sure to read it all.

Delta claims it will absorb the costs the “vast majority” of those new costs, but…. come on. Leaving the exact meaning of “vast majority” aside (95%? 75%? 51%??) and ignoring for a moment that the rest will have to be picked up by employees who may already be stretched (and losing their spousal coverage), airlines operate on paper-thin margins; there will be tremendous pressure to recoup these costs. And that means passing them along to the consumer in the form of higher tickets prices and more fees for anything the airline can think of.

Thus not only does Obamacare not make health care more affordable, but it’s almost certain to make airline travel more expensive, too. This is almost a case-study of what happens when government tries to control an economy: the inputs and ramifications are too complex for a few “deciders” to understand, and so we end up with one disastrous unintended consequence after another.

There’s no “fixing it,” regardless of what the Democrats and the Left (but I repeat myself) will try to say in 2014 and 2016. It has to be torn out, root and branch. And if anyone says that’s impossible because there are no alternatives, tell them they lie.

Aren’t you glad the Democrats passed that anti-constitutional monstrosity, just so we could find out what’s in it?

via ST

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Detroit goes to the dogs. Literally.

August 22, 2013

Is this how it was for Constantinople in the 15th century, just before the fall? A once-great city rotting behind its walls, large swathes abandoned, shrunken in on itself? A place where dog packs now rule?

As many as 50,000 stray dogs roam the streets and vacant homes of bankrupt Detroit, replacing residents, menacing humans who remain and overwhelming the city’s ability to find them homes or peaceful deaths.

Dens of as many as 20 canines have been found in boarded-up homes in the community of about 700,000 that once pulsed with 1.8 million people. One officer in the Police Department’s skeleton animal-control unit recalled a pack splashing away in a basement that flooded when thieves ripped out water pipes.

“The dogs were having a pool party,” said Lapez Moore, 30. “We went in and fished them out.”

Poverty roils the Motor City and many dogs have been left to fend for themselves, abandoned by owners who are financially stressed or unaware of proper care. Strays have killed pets, bitten mail carriers and clogged the animal shelter, where more than 70 percent are euthanized.

“With these large open expanses with vacant homes, it’s as if you designed a situation that causes dog problems,” said Harry Ward, head of animal control.

The number of strays signals a humanitarian crisis, said Amanda Arrington of the Humane Society of the United States, based in Washington. She heads a program that donated $50,000 each to organizations in Detroit and nine other U.S cities to get pets vaccinated, fed, spayed and neutered.

Arrington said when she visited Detroit in October, “It was almost post-apocalyptic, where there are no businesses, nothing except people in houses and dogs running around.”

“The suffering of animals goes hand in hand with the suffering of people.”

Except I feel more sorry for the dogs than I do for most of the people; the people largely brought this on themselves through their shortsightedness and their tolerance for the corruption of their leaders. The dogs… Well, they’re just doing what they do instinctively, to survive.

The city can no longer afford a decent animal control service, and so some residents actually live in fear of dog packs roaming their neighborhoods. Of course. There are union dues to be paid, after all, and someone has to maintain the UAW’s private golf course.

Welcome to the liberal post-Apocalypse.

via ST’s Hot Headlines

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)