Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Listening to Obama
By Robert Stacy McCain on 11.30.10 @ 6:08AM
President Obama gave a speech Monday, which isn't particularly newsworthy in itself, as part of the president's job is to be Speechgiver-in-Chief. But this speech was different, at least for me, simply because I listened to part of it.
Not listening to presidential speeches is a habit I developed during the Clinton administration in an effort to preserve my sanity. It was my wife who suggested this non-listening policy after she watched me seething with fury and muttering curses throughout Bill Clinton's 1996 State of the Union address.
Presidential historians will recall that as Clinton's "era of big government is over" speech. For me, it was the "lying two-faced bastard" speech. To list and refute every falsehood in that speech would require more words than I'm willing to expend on the effort. It would be easier to say, as Mary McCarthy said of Lillian Hellman, that every word is a lie, including "and" and "the."
Just one example: "I challenge this Congress," Clinton proclaimed on Jan. 23, 1996, "to send me a bipartisan welfare reform bill that will really move people from welfare to work and do the right thing by our children. I will sign it immediately." Clinton vetoed welfare-reform twice and did not sign it until August, when Congress sent it to him for the third time, and the only reason Clinton signed it was to keep it from being used against him as an issue in his fall re-election campaign.
And, of course, after declaring the end of big government, Clinton's speech then went on to call for, inter alia, raising the minimum wage, increasing funding for education, and imposing various mandates on health insurance companies. The 1996 speech established a pattern for all subsequent Clinton State of the Union speeches -- he would begin with rhetorical salutes to fiscal restraint, bipartisanship and moderation, then finish with a grocery-list of new programs and liberal policies he wanted Congress to enact, regardless of whatever taxpayer expense they would require or regulatory burdens they would impose.
Actually listening to Clinton's speeches was an infuriating experience that, alas, became an occupational hazard after November 1997, when I joined the staff of the Washington Times. It became part of my job to edit the transcripts of Clinton's major speeches for publication, and colleagues got used to hearing me grumble and curse throughout those ordeals. And, in some ways, the problem became even worse after George W. Bush became president.
Bush had a way of proposing transparently un-conservative policies while insisting that these were, in fact, logical expressions of America's founding ideals. The No Child Left Behind Act -- crafted with the pre-approval of that eminent Burkean, Ted Kennedy -- was the first of many such Bush-era sellouts of conservative principle. Republicans nowadays scoff at Obama's "green" rhetoric, but it was Bush who said the following in his 2007 State of the Union address:
For too long, our nation has been dependent on foreign oil.… It's in our vital interest to diversify America's energy supply, and the way forward is through technology. We must continue changing the way America generates electric power by even greater use of clean-coal technology; solar and wind energy; and clean, safe nuclear power. We need to press on with battery research for plug-in and hybrid vehicles and expand the use of clean-diesel vehicles and biodiesel fuel.… At the same time, we need to reform and modernize fuel economy standards for cars the way we did for light trucks and conserve up to 8.5 billion more gallons of gasoline by 2017.… [New] technologies will help us become better stewards of the environment, and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change.
The only real difference between Bush and Obama on this score is that, in 2007, there was no recession to provide a Keynesian rationale for billions of dollars in deficit-funded stimulus spending on "green" technology. But if Bush was right in 2007 about the urgent need "to confront the serious challenge of global climate change," why had it been so important to defeat Al Gore in 2000? What's the point of voting Republican, if the Republican you're electing gets into office and demands implementation of the Democrats' policy agenda?
That painful shoe is now firmly on the other foot, and it is Democrats who are questioning their partisan loyalty after President Obama's speech Monday, announcing a two-year freeze on federal civilian employees. For several months, Republicans had been advocating a federal pay freeze -- and being denounced by Democrats for doing so. The freeze was certain to be one of the first legislative proposals pushed by John Boehner's new GOP majority as soon as they took office in January, and so Obama cleverly decided to push the outgoing Democrat majority to enact it as a lame-duck measure, thus depriving Republicans of credit for it.
Furthermore, since the federal pay freeze is popular with voters -- as White House pollsters surely told the president -- Obama now positions himself to claim that he took the first step toward a new era of bipartisan cooperation, and to cast Republicans as irresponsible obstructionists for not reciprocating in some way by supporting any of his agenda items. That this is utterly phony can be demonstrated by imagining what would have happened had Boehner and the House GOP been allowed to bring forward the pay-freeze legislation early next year: Once passed by the House, the bill would have forced Senate Democrats facing re-election in 2012 to either vote "yes" (to avoid being on the unpopular side of the issue) or vote "no" (to placate their liberal base). Assuming that several Democrats would be forced to support the pay-freeze, Obama then would be presented with a nominally bipartisan bill. If he vetoed it, he'd be accused of ignoring the will of the American people, but if he signed it, he'd be portrayed as a weakling who knuckled under to Republicans.
All of this Obama avoids by calling on the lame-duck Congress to enact the pay-freeze. Many of the Democrats who vote "yes" on this bill will be those who have already been defeated in the mid-terms, so they'll suffer no political consequence for voting in favor of the same legislation they denounced and opposed just a few months earlier. And as to other Democrats with an eye on 2012 re-election for whom a "yes" vote may be politically convenient, they can explain it to their liberal supporters by saying that they were, after all, only doing what the Democratic president asked.
So the pay-freeze gesture clearly a product of a cynical political calculation, and some of his liberal supporters were honest enough to say so. ("Obama Flunks Economics with Pointless Federal Wage Freeze" was the headline on one liberal blog.) The speech in which Obama announced this policy shift was, if possible, even more cynical than the political calculations behind it.
He talked about a Tuesday meeting with Republican leaders and his hope -- what is it with this guy and "hope"? -- that the meeting would "mark a first step towards a new and productive working relationship." Twenty-two months into his presidency, Obama has suddenly developed a desire for a "working relationship" with Republicans. These are the same Republicans that the president spent the entire fall campaign season describing as idle Slurpee-sippers unwilling to help get the nation's economy out of the ditch into which they had driven it.
Now evidently willing to forgive and forget the recklessness of these Republican drivers, Obama spoke Monday of "a shared responsibility," of acting in a "cooperative and serious way" to meet the "fundamental challenges" confronting the nation. Among those challenges is ensuring that "we're not dragged down by long-term debt," the president said: "This is a challenge that both parties have a responsibility to address -- to get federal spending under control and bring down the deficits that have been growing for most of the last decade."
The nerve of this guy, huh? Obama occupied himself from Inauguration Day onward with promoting a Keynesian program of deficit-funded "stimulus" spending -- adding up to more than a trillion dollars in new debt -- and now he declares that "both parties have a responsibility… to get federal spending under control." Does anyone recall Obama ever lecturing Nancy Pelosi's Democrats about that responsibility?
Obama also claimed Monday that he was now "interested in hearing ideas from my Republican colleagues… about how we continue to grow the economy and how we put people back to work" -- as if, for the past two years, Republicans had sat in utter silence as to their ideas for promoting economic growth. The president spoke of "tough decisions" and "a bipartisan conversation" as he approached his peroration, which included a rather surprising interpretation of the recent election:
We can't afford to fall back onto the same old ideologies or the same stale sound bites. We're going to have to budge on some deeply held positions and compromise for the good of the country. We're going to have to set aside the politics of the moment to make progress for the long term. And as I've often said, we're going to have to think not just about the next election, but about the next generation, because if there's anything the American people said this month, it's that they want their leaders to have one single focus: making sure their work is rewarded so that the American Dream remains within their reach. It would be unwise to assume they prefer one way of thinking over another. That wasn't the lesson that I took when I entered into office, and it's not the lesson today.
While Obama warned against "think[ing] about the next election," it is evidently the most recent election he wishes to ignore. So he insists that the voters who went to the polls on Nov. 2 and delivered a devastating negative referendum on the Democratic policy agenda cannot be assumed to have made a meaningful choice between the two parties. Even when the GOP picked up 63 House seats -- the biggest Republican gain since 1938 -- Obama wishes us to believe that the electorate did not thereby demonstrate a preference for "one way of thinking over another." Such is the counterfactual world presented to Americans by their president.
Given my professed habit of not listening to presidential speeches, readers may wonder why I listened to this one. Well, I just happened to be working in my basement office when Obama came on the television and, because my kids have lost the remote control to the TV in my office, it would have been a hassle to interrupt my work to get up and change the channel. I tried to concentrate on my work and ignore what the president was saying, but enough of it seeped into my consciousness to inspire exasperated curses.
So I decided to turn lemons into lemonade and wrote this column which, in keeping with the spirit of the holiday season, I will conclude with a hint to my wife: A new remote control makes an excellent stocking stuffer.
Posted by Brett at 11:43 AM
DREAMs Are Made of This
By W. James Antle, III on 11.30.10 @ 6:09AM
What's the difference between "amnesty" and "comprehensive immigration reform"? In theory, the answer is simple: Under the latter, an illegal immigrant must satisfy strict requirements to qualify for the former. Various enforcement measures designed to deter further illegal immigration -- i.e., future comprehensive reform beneficiaries -- are also thrown in.
In practice, the answer is even simpler: Not much. Scrutinized carefully, the conditions for legalization that are supposed to set comprehensive reform apart from a blanket amnesty are usually riddled with loopholes or totally unenforceable within the shambles that passes for America's immigration system. So instead of targeting a small, sympathetic subset of illegal immigrants, the legislation would wind up benefiting a much larger population -- not much different from the 1986 amnesty.
That brings us to the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act for short, now pending before the lame-duck session of Congress. (The bill was a key Harry Reid campaign promise.) Supporters say it is designed to help high school students whose parents brought them into the United States illegally when they were small children. Guilty of no crime of their own, under the DREAM Act these youths could adjust their legal status by attending college or serving in the military.
An American Immigration Council fact sheet in support of the bill says, "The DREAM Act is not an amnesty. No one will automatically receive a green card. To legalize, individuals have to meet stringent eligibility criteria: they must have entered the United States before age 16; must have been here for five years or more; must not have committed any major crimes; must graduate from high school or the equivalent; and must complete at least two years of college or military service."
Hardly anyone wants to deport young people who have only known the United States as their home, did not voluntarily break our immigration laws, and do not even speak the language of their country of origin, even if they didn't have bright futures ahead in either college or the U.S. military. The trouble is, as usual, the DREAM Act's "stringent eligibility criteria" fall apart on close examination and its possible implications stretch far beyond youngsters caught in this unfortunate set of circumstances.
First, an illegal alien doesn't have to provide real evidence that he meets these criteria to keep the immigration authorities at bay. Simply filing an application is good enough. Until the application process is complete, the potential DREAM beneficiary cannot be removed from the United States for any reason. If the application is rejected and amnesty is denied, the applicant reverts to his previous immigration status -- and none of the information gathered during this process can be used against the illegal immigrant in future deportation hearings.
DREAM thus provides a huge incentive to apply for amnesty and see what happens. The burden of proof falls on the federal government, not the illegal immigrant. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that about 2.1 million people would qualify, but as staffers for Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) point out (see their fact sheet about the bill), "we have no idea how many illegal aliens will apply." There are no numerical limits on potential beneficiaries and currently no end date for the application process. Sessions argues: "Clearly, the message sent by the DREAM Act will be that if any young person can enter the country illegally, within five years, they will be placed on a path to citizenship."
Then there is the question of how "stringent" the bill's requirements really are. DREAM doesn't require applicants to finish any degree program or even be particularly good students. For those who go the military route, honorable discharge is not required. "Good moral character" can include up to two misdemeanor convictions, including drunk driving. In any event, if the DREAM beneficiary can prove that their removal from the country would result in hardship to themselves or someone here legally who is a spouse, child, or parent, both the college and military service requirements can be waived.
Finally, those who are amnestied under the DREAM Act and ultimately become U.S. citizens can sponsor their siblings and parents for immigration -- including the parents who brought them here illegally. As the bill's supporters point out, this is not a speedy process. But the parents would at least have the advantage of not having to petition from overseas like other prospective legal immigrants.
DREAM is being tweaked to satisfy skeptics' objections. The maximum age for applying has been reduced from 35 to 30 (past versions of bill have had no age requirement). Another sticking point is in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. DREAM retroactively repeals a federal ban on the practice, but it would allow states to retain their prohibitions on such tuition breaks.
In the end, all comprehensive immigration reform packages and their DREAM-style mini-mes falter on this challenge: they rely on an already overtaxed immigration bureaucracy to enforce their elaborate conditions for legalization. So applicants must either be buried in a morass of paperwork or the conditions have to be so full of loopholes to make the distinction between reform and amnesty almost meaningless.
It's the stuff that DREAMs are made of.
To read another article about the DREAM Act, click here.
Posted by Brett at 11:36 AM
Is Sarah Palin Too Dumb to Be President?
By Jeffrey Lord on 11.30.10 @ 6:09AM
The 2012 Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting is not very bright.
In fact, dumb as a post is a more accurate if blunt assessment..
Does this describe Sarah Palin? Yes -- if you choose to listen to the Inside-the-Beltway elites. But just in case she doesn't run for or win the nomination, don't worry. Whoever the GOP nominates will quickly assume this "too dumb to be president" role -- bestowed by many of the same people.
Because this "too dumb to be president" argument is precisely the same-old, same-old argument from liberal elites about Republican presidents or prospective presidents for decades. The argument is particularly relished when it comes to describing conservatives like the former Alaska governor. But even GOP moderates can never escape this tag once they morph from unannounced candidate (and therefore not a political threat to liberalism) to actual frontrunner, nominee or, God forbid, the actual president.
Barry Goldwater, the first modern conservative to win a GOP presidential nomination in 1964, would have been lucky to be tagged as being merely too dumb to be president. He was also said to be, according to Time magazine, "psychologically unfit to be president," "emotionally unstable," "immature," "cowardly," "grossly psychotic," "paranoid," a "mass murderer," "amoral and immoral," a "chronic schizophrenic" and "dangerous lunatic." One psychiatrist breezily announced Goldwater had a "strong identification with the authoritarianism of Hitler, if not identification with Hitler himself."
Reagan, also pegged as a war-monger, was called an "extremist" at the beginning of his political career and an "amiable dunce" just after his election to the presidency. They were a mere blip in the cascade of insults about his intelligence hurled in Reagan's direction over almost a quarter century as a serious American politician. This particular man who was "too dumb to be president" won the Cold War without, as Margaret Thatcher said, firing a shot. Not to mention launching the American economy on a path to creating some 50 million jobs over the next three decades.
But I digress.
Perhaps the most instructive case of "too dumb to be president" is that of Gerald Ford. Elected to Congress in 1948, a man with a ready smile and outgoing personality, Ford had won rave reviews from the liberal press when he challenged the House Republican Old Guard following Goldwater's defeat, becoming Minority Leader. All the way through his House career, and on into his surprise accession-by-appointment to the vice presidency following the resignation of liberal bête noire Spiro Agnew, the moderate Republican Ford was pictured as good-ole smiling Jerry, the steady, smart House leader who had not an enemy in the world. He played golf with his old pal House Democratic leader Tip O'Neill. Just a nice, smart, swell guy, said the press.
Then a funny thing happened to good old Jerry Ford. In the wake of Watergate he became president with Nixon's resignation. Within a month he pardoned his predecessor, believing (correctly) that until the nation had rid itself of the Watergate/Nixon obsession he, Ford, would have an impossible time getting things done as president. Nothing dumb there. Ford had no sooner announced the pardon and disappeared from the television air waves than the re-positioning of Ford by the liberal media had begun. The man who had graduated from Yale Law School and been the epitome of openness and hard work was, in the blink of an eye, dumb as a post and a conniving liar to boot. Up from the mists came a Lyndon Johnson quote saying that Ford the college grid star had played too much football without a helmet. An on-camera tumble on the slippery steps leading down from the door of Air Force One led to the depiction of the most athletic president since Teddy Roosevelt as a bumbling fool. On a new program called Saturday Night Live, an unknown writer/actor named Chevy Chase rocketed to fame portraying Ford as dumbly prone to hilarious stumbles and dramatic falls over all manner of furniture. Chase anticipated the Tina Fey as empty-headed Sarah Palin routine by decades.
Then there's the Romney saga.
That would be George Romney, not Mitt, George's son.
George Romney was a liberal Republican, a spectacularly successful business executive as the chairman of American Motors. On the strength of his dazzling business career he was elected Governor of Michigan, where he became a popular political figure with both voters and the national press.
Then a funny thing happened to George Romney. In 1967 he began running for the 1968 GOP presidential nomination. The polls showed he was the man-to-beat for the nomination, the one man in the Republican Party who could take on and beat LBJ, the same LBJ who beat Goldwater in 1964 by a landslide. Then, returning from a fact-finding trip to Vietnam, Romney incautiously allowed as to how he had been "brain-washed" by the Johnson administration on Vietnam. And…. bam.
Within a media cycle the brilliant business executive and innovative Governor of Michigan had become -- you guessed it -- an idiot too dumb to be president. The dumb-as-a-post tag hung around his neck by a media concerned that old George was making just a little bit too much progress and that Tricky Dick, as they called Richard Nixon, would be easier to beat. Romney was finished. His last stint in government was not the White House but the Department of Housing and Urban Development, in Nixon days the equivalent of political Siberia.
What does any of this have to do with Sarah Palin? As the New York Times Magazine recently noted, there is a caricature now abroad in the land of the former Alaska governor "as a vapid, winking, press-averse clotheshorse." In other words, Sarah Palin is an idiot. Dumb as a post. Too dumb, but of course, to be president.
This mother of five with a successful marriage, the woman who, without benefit of a famous name or marriage, has been elected successively to positions as city council member, mayor, president of the Alaska Conference of Mayors, served as the appointed (by the then-governor) chairman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission before being elected governor herself -- this before becoming only the second woman to be tapped for a major party vice-presidential nomination, a successful author and bona fide TV star like Reagan -- this is the woman who is now presented by everybody from GOP Establishment types to liberal enemies as just a vacant Barbie-style version of other men who were too dumb to be president. Goldwater? Romney? Ford? Reagan? Kemp? Bush 43? Bush 41? Like them all, Sarah Palin is just too dumb to be president.
To ask why so many elites dismiss Sarah Palin as dumb is to ask not only the wrong question but to willfully ignore a by-now very, very distinct pattern. It is, yes, a pattern of modern media treatment with prominent Republicans that is discernible as far back as Dwight Eisenhower. But in fact what some call Palin Derangement Syndrome is merely the modern face of elitist arrogance that has been present since the evolution of America itself as just one more colonial outpost of the British Empire.
No less than George Washington was denied a commission in the British Regular Army as a young man because he was seen by British elites as a more spectacular example of what Washington biographer James Thomas Flexner called "the incompetent provincial soldier." It wasn't simply that American colonists couldn't cut it professionally, in this view, it was that those who ran and served in the British Regular Army were, don't you know, just so much smarter than their American-born subjects. In a word, the British elites of the day were snobs. And they looked at young George Washington, already a young man of considerable military experience, as just too dumb -- not to mention unworthy -- to be a commissioned officer in the British Regular Army.
The British, famously, learned the hard untruth of this some twenty-plus years after haughtily refusing to give Washington a commission he had manifestly earned as an officer of the colonial militia. Washington may have been too dumb to serve in the British Regular Army but he wasn't too dumb to be the winning general of the American Revolution.
But the arrogant attitude, the we-is-better/smarter/more plugged-than-thou approach to life remained in some sectors of American life even as the British retreated, humiliated at the hands of Washington.
In terms of the American presidency and those who wished to run for the job, the first American to seriously face this too-dumb-and unworthy attitude was the man now considered the co-founder of today's Democrats. That would be Andrew Jackson.
Facing John Quincy Adams for the presidency in 1824, the Jackson-Adams battle was infinitely more than a battle between two men of differing political views. Adams was American Establishment Royalty, a category already well come-to- life by the time this son of Founder and ex-president John Adams began his career. At an early age, freshly graduated from Harvard, Adams was set on a path well-salted by elitists of the day. He was elected to the Massachusetts State Legislature, served as a diplomat or Minister in the Netherlands, Portugal, Prussia, Russia, and Great Britain. He was elected to the U.S. Senate, served as a Professor of Rhetoric at Harvard, where he was known for speaking fluent Latin and reading the Bible in Greek. By the time he faced Jackson he was James Monroe's Secretary of State.
Jackson was everything Adams was not. A rough-and-tumble frontiersman, spottily educated but enough to become a country lawyer, he was the embodiment of what was then seen as the American Western frontier. His fame came from his role in the American military, a brutal Indian fighter who emerged as the hero of the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812. Briefly a U.S. Senator, Jackson was rough-hewn and plain-spoken, like Palin the very embodiment of everything the refined fledgling Eastern Establishment of the day simply could not abide.
After losing to Adams in a hotly controversial 1824 election settled in the House of Representatives (which Jacksonians dubbed "the corrupt bargain"), Jackson roared back in 1828 to serve two presidential terms as the bane of the American Establishment, launching among other things a successful war on the Bank of the United States, roughly speaking the Federal Reserve of its day. He was decidedly anything but too dumb to be president, and in fact well outranks Adams in those historian-generated "great presidents" ranking lists.
What began with the blistering fight between Jackson and Adams has in one fashion or another rooted itself in today's world as an ongoing battle between the American Liberal Establishment, its media acolytes (what Palin refers to as the "lamestream media") and American conservatives.
If Andrew Jackson was pilloried in the day as little short of a hot-tempered barbarian from the frontier who was not good enough or smart enough to wipe the soles of John Quincy Adams' fancy Boston boots, since at least 1952 the image of the dumb-conservative or dumb Republican has become the modern telling of this tale.
Successively Republicans as varied as Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Barry Goldwater, George Romney, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Dan Quayle, Bob Dole, Jack Kemp, George W. Bush, John McCain and now Sarah Palin have been presented as some version of the following: bumbling and unimaginative (Eisenhower), a tricky, un-classy smear artist unworthy of being on the same stage as the polished liberal champion JFK (Nixon), a shockingly unstable dumb idiot with psychiatric problems (Goldwater), dumb as a post (Romney), dumb jocks (Ford and Kemp), a lightweight (Bush 41), a vapid pretty-boy (Quayle), a boring, clueless old man from Kansas (Dole) and run-of-the-mill dumb idiot with degrees from Yale and Harvard who was really dumb because he loved the Forbidden Culture of Texas (Bush 43). McCain, like Romney and Ike, was a media hero until he became a serious potential president -- at which point he suddenly morphed into a dumb mad-hatter with a lobbyist mistress, a Barbie-like vice-presidential nominee, and a thing for grilling steaks on a grill in the Arizona desert. The latter of which was so drearily middle-class.
Which is to say, the treatment that is now being prepared for Palin if she decides to make a run for the 2012 presidential nomination is nothing new if you are a Republican, much less a conservative. You are simply too dumb to be president.
What is particularly amusing is the GOP political-consulting complex circling the wagons to protect their fortress, as reported before Thanksgiving by Politico. Based on all this history, just who is it among the prospective 2012 candidates that they think will escape the "too dumb to be president" treatment Palin will undergo were she to run? George Romney's son Mitt, like his father a successful businessman turned governor? Mike Huckabee? Or a Pawlenty, Daniels, Barbour, Rubio, Perry, Jindal etc., etc., etc.?
Dwight D. Eisenhower was a hero-general of World War II, the man who organized D-Day, the successful invasion of Europe -- yet he was mocked from one end of the country to the other as nothing more than a bumbling, unimaginative fool. With the greatest of respect to all those under consideration for 2012, there is not an Eisenhower at the starting gate.
Whoever emerges as the winner of the 2012 GOP nomination is in reality in line to be Palinized. Painted as the next Republican too dumb to be president.
Is Sarah Palin dumb?
Of course not. What a dumb question. It's also the wrong question. Who's asking this question is a better question. And how dumb are they to be asking it? Or worse, dumber by simply asserting it as fact.
The only people who are dumb -- really dumb -- are those inside the Republican political-consultant complex who think that by nominating someone other than Governor Palin they will have a nominee capable of avoiding this particularly dumb fate.
The Republican nominee for president in 2012 is being prepared by the American liberal media to be presented as a woman -- or man -- who is too dumb to be president. It is a preposterous proposition on its face, all on the list being, like Palin, people of enormous accomplishment in life. It is even more preposterous in the face of the utterly laughable idea -- now validated by the actual results of the 2010 elections -- that the Harvard-trained President Obama has been some sort of a whiz-bang genius in the White House. With unemployment riding perpetually just shy of double digits, the nation's treasury massively in debt to the tune of trillions, with all this "outreach" to Islamic countries who still inspire would be bombers and terrorists -- the real question may be "is the someone too dumb to be president already president?"
But no one in the liberal media will ask this of any liberal president. Republicans and conservatives only need apply for the "too dumb to be president" title.
That's the game. It's an old game.
And the absolute last person who should pay any attention to this very old game -- and who is, one suspects, as repeatedly demonstrated by her seriously accomplished life and record, far too smart to play it -- is:
Someone who is decidedly not too dumb to be president.
If she wants to be.
Posted by Brett at 11:32 AM
Can Republicans Talk?
By Thomas Sowell
The biggest battle in the lame duck session of Congress may well be over whether or not to extend the Bush administration's tax cuts, which are scheduled to expire in January. The fact that this decision has been left until late in the eleventh hour, even though the expiration date has been known for years, tells us a lot about the utter irresponsibility of Congress.
Neither businesses nor individuals nor the Internal Revenue Service will know what to do until this issue is resolved. In a stalled economy, we do not need this prolonged uncertainty that can paralyze both consumer spending and investment spending.
Republicans want the current tax rates to continue and Democrats want only the current tax rates for people earning less than "the rich"-- variously defined-- to continue, with everyone making more than some specified income to have their tax rates rise next year.
What makes predicting the outcome of this battle very iffy is that Republicans won a big majority in the House of Representatives in the recent election, but the tax cuts are scheduled to expire before the new members of Congress are sworn in-- and the Democrats have a big majority in both Houses of Congress in the lame duck session, where this issue will be decided.
Theoretically, the Democrats could win, hands down, since they have the votes. But Congressional Democrats are well aware of how they lost big in the recent election, and some Democrats don't want to gamble their own jobs in the next election by going the class warfare route.
Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats can afford to have all the tax rates go up in January because they couldn't get together and pass a bill to prevent that from happening. But the nature of that bill matters, not just for politicians but-- far more important-- for the economy.
Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, now a professor at Berkeley, has made the case for the liberal Democrats' position in an article in the November 28th issue of the San Francisco Chronicle titled "Extend benefits for jobless, not tax cuts for the rich."
Professor Reich points out that both Republicans and some conservative Democrats say that we cannot afford another extension of unemployment benefits because the deficit is already too large. Then he adds: "But wait. These are the same members of Congress who say we should extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy."
Reich advocates "extending unemployment benefits for struggling families without a breadwinner" because "These families need the money. The rich don't."
This is the Democrats' argument in a nutshell. It seems very persuasive on the surface, however shaky it is underneath. But cuts in tax rates do not mean cuts in tax revenues, as Reich assumes. How the tax-rate battle in Congress turns out may depend on how well the Republicans answer such arguments.
These are not new arguments on either side. They go back more than 80 years. Over that long span of time, there have been many sharp cuts in tax rates under Presidents Calvin Coolidge, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. So we don't need to argue in a vacuum. There is a track record.
What does that record say? It says, loud and clear, that cuts in tax rates do not mean cuts in tax revenues. In all four of these administrations, of both parties, so-called "tax cuts for the rich" led to increased tax revenues-- with people earning high incomes paying not only a larger sum total of tax revenues, but even a higher proportion of all tax revenues.
Most important of all, these tax rate reductions spurred economic activity, which we definitely need today.
These are the facts. But facts do not "speak for themselves." In terms of facts, the Republicans have the stronger case. But that doesn't matter, unless they make the case, which they show little sign of doing.
Democrats already understand the need for articulation. Robert Reich is only one of many articulate Democratic spokesmen. But where are the articulate Republicans? Do they even understand how crucial articulation is? The outcome of this lame duck session of Congress may answer that question.
To read another article by Thomas Sowell, click here.
Posted by Brett at 11:23 AM
Those Whom the God Would Destroy ...
By Bill Murchison
As life in the 21st century gets loopier and loopier, the truly deranged come out of the woodwork, passing themselves off as benefactors of mankind, candidates for sainthood, etc. Maybe -- who knows -- candidates for another Pulitzer Prize: something The New York Times hardly needs, but self-inflicted moral grandeur can do odd things to you.
The New York Times' official rationale for publishing "a cache of a quarter-million confidential American diplomatic cables, most of them from the past three years," is the public's supposed "right to know what is being done in their name" by their diplomats.
The cables being made public in serial fashion -- not just in the Times but in several left-wing European publications -- "tell the unvarnished story," the Times says, "of how the government makes its biggest decisions, the decisions that cost the country most heavily in lives and money. They shed light on the motivations -- and, in some cases, duplicity -- of allies on the receiving end of American courtship and foreign aid."
We the people, on the Times' showing, need to know. Everybody, it seems, needs to know The Truth. Let it all hang out. Let freedom ring and Satan take the hindmost. Blah, blah, blah.
I think many of us, if the real truth be told, have never heard such exalted bullcorn -- such self-serving claptrap.
America's allegedly greatest newspaper, far from further entrenching the Right to Know, serves notice of just how daft we all must have gotten while no one was looking.
The Australian whose WikiLeaks website obtained and volunteered to share the secret documents is nutty as a fruitcake, not least in his anti-Americanism. The editors who are publishing the documents -- including those at The New York Times -- are likewise nutty.
Hillary Clinton bromidically suggests that spilling the beans on American opinions of foreign leaders, and on American concerns about Iran and nuclear weapons, won't destroy our foreign relationships. She could be right. She could be wrong. The real point is elsewhere. It takes the form of a question: What have we come to when morally disconnected folk inside and outside the great communication media of our day put on Olympian airs -- as if human restraints had nothing to do with them. As if their instincts alone were sovereign; their understandings of What We All Need, whether we know it or not, enjoyed divine status. The editors of the Times know what's good for us. Just ask 'em.
The Times' daftness -- its moral blindness to consequences -- in some ways emblemizes the age. We don't have to live by common sense anymore. Rational behavior isn't required of supposedly civilized people. You can thumb your nose at antiquated notions of prudence and restraint and good will. What's all that as against the people's right to be told ... by YOU?
Whether or not foreign policy damage results from WikiLeaks' information dump, with The New York Times as partner, is only partly the point. The larger point -- at least it seems so to me -- is the larger disposition our era shows for plain, old-fashioned irrationality.
Don't worry about whether something you want to do might harm someone, possibly many people; just think about what YOU hope will come of it. You -- wonderful you. Isn't that the modern spirit?
Civilized people aren't supposed to buy into this trumpery. Civilized people are supposed to look before they leap, most particularly when their arms are wrapped around other people's necks.
Yes, of course, WikiLeaks' stolen cables would have gotten out in Europe and elsewhere even had the editors of The New York Times scornfully refused to be used. Can't the editors nonetheless see? Sane people don't do irrational things, whether others do them or not. Rational people weigh consequences. It makes one wonder to whom the immediate future belongs -- rational people or the likes of Ahmadinejad, Hugo Chavez and the nitwits of North Korea.
A troubling piece of counsel comes to mind, from the formless past: Those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad. We may live to find out whether it's true.
To read another article by Bill Murchison, click here.
Posted by Brett at 11:17 AM
You Can Stop Paying for Al Gore's Mistake
By Debra J. Saunders
In Greece earlier this month, Al Gore made a startling admission: "First-generation ethanol, I think, was a mistake." Unfortunately, Americans have Gore to thank for ethanol subsidies. In 1994, then-Vice President Gore ended a 50-50 tie in the Senate by voting in favor of an ethanol tax credit that added almost $5 billion to the federal deficit last year. And that number doesn't factor the many ways in which corn-based ethanol mandates drive up the price of food and livestock feed.
Sure, he meant well, but as Reuters reported, Gore also said, "One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president."
In sum, Gore demonstrated that politicians are lousy at figuring out which alternative fuels make the most sense. Now even enviros like Friends of the Earth have come to believe that "large-scale agro-fuels" are "ecologically unsustainable and inefficient." That's a polite way of saying that producers need to burn through a boatload of fossil fuels to make ethanol.
Gore also showed that most D.C. politicians can't be trusted to put America's interests before those of Iowa farmers. But there is one pursuit in which homo electus excels: spending other people's money.
Beware politicians when they promise you "the jobs of the future." Last week, the Washington Post ran a story about a federal grant program in Florida designed to retrain the unemployed for jobs in the growing clean-energy sector. Except clean tech isn't growing as promised. Officials told the Post that three-quarters of their first 100 graduates haven't had a single job offer.
In May, President Obama came to a Fremont, Calif., solar plant where he announced, "The true engine of economic growth will always be companies like Solyndra." This month, Solyndra announced it was canceling its expansion plans. The announcement came after voters rewarded the green lobby by defeating Proposition 23 -- which would have postponed California's landmark greenhouse gas reduction law AB32 -- because voters bought the green-jobs promise.
Back to Gore. There is a movement in Washington to end Gore's mistake. Republican Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Jim DeMint of South Carolina have proposed ending the 45-cent-per-gallon subsidy on corn ethanol, which is set to expire on Dec. 31 unless Congress extends it.
As DeMint explained in an e-mail to the Washington Post's Greg Sargent, "Government mandates and tax subsidies for ethanol have led to decreased gas mileage, adversely effected the environment and increased food prices. Washington must stop picking winners and losers in the market, and instead allow Americans to make choices for themselves."
That's what free-market types who oppose corporate welfare -- like me -- have been saying for years.
So the question is: Will this new batch of Republicans have the intestinal fortitude to buck the farm lobby and agribusiness by weaning them from the public teat? Or are they no better than the farm-lobby-pandering Al Gore?
Posted by Brett at 11:13 AM
Desperate Libs Ratchet Up Extremist Label
By David Limbaugh
With the advent of the tea party movement and President Obama's recent "shellacking," the left's long-established effort to marginalize mainstream conservative Americans as fringe extremists has reached a new stage of desperation.
For at least the past half-century, the dominant media culture has portrayed minority liberalism as mainstream and conservatives as shrill malcontents. From the time I started paying attention to politics as a young kid, liberals have been demonizing conservatives as reactionary throwback Neanderthal knuckle-dragging, warmongering extremists.
I'll never forget the "Daisy" ad from the LBJ presidential campaign, which featured a little girl picking petals from a daisy in a field as an ominous countdown from "10" led into footage of a nuclear explosion. The voice of LBJ then interceded with "These are the stakes, to make a world in which all of God's children can live or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die."
The unmistakable message was that Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater could not be trusted with his finger on the nuclear button. The ad resonated because the liberal media had already laid the foundation that conservative ideas were not just antiquated and obsolete but also dangerous.
Liberals similarly depicted Ronald Reagan as a bellicose buffoon itching to light up Moscow with his "Star Wars" nuclear toys; never mind that "Star Wars" was the left's pejorative shorthand for Reagan's proposed Strategic Defense Initiative, which was, as its title indicated, a defense system.
They also characterized Reagan's domestic policies, particularly his tax cuts, as extreme. Never would it have occurred to them that top marginal income tax rates of 90 percent were extreme, but a mere 25 percent across-the-board cut -- allowing American workers to keep a bit more of what they earned -- was.
The left even branded the moderate George W. Bush as a conservative extremist because of his tax cuts and his fierce resolve and firm policies in the war on terror. He got no slack from libs for his no-federal-dollars-left-behind education program, the new prescription drug entitlement or his immigration policy, among others.
These same people, mind you, sold Barack Obama -- National Journal's most liberal senator of 2007, member of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's church, colleague of William Ayers', committed Alinskyite, consummate street agitator -- as a refined, urbane, erudite Harvard Law School graduate who would usher in a new kind of post-racial, post-partisan politics and show us the virtues and possibilities of governing through compromise and consensus.
Even two years' worth of Obama's hyper-partisanship, race-baiting, thuggish Alinskyite tactics and policy extremism has not deterred liberals from denying his (and their) extremism. Nor did the electorate's stunning repudiation of his agenda shake his or their resolve or their commitment to persist in portraying conservatives as extremists.
To this day, the liberal media largely ignore Obama's proven policy extremism and his dogmatic tactics in promoting it, from his stimulus package to reversing welfare reform to cap and trade to amnesty to swallowing up private businesses to excessive abuse of executive orders and his appointment of radical unaccountable czars to his appeasement approach on foreign policy and the war on terror to forcing Obamacare with its mandates down our collective throat.
They barely acknowledge that Obama remains immovably dedicated to his agenda, preferring to quote him resurrecting his phony gestures of bipartisanship, as in, "I believe that if we stop talking at one another and start talking with one another, we can get a lot done." Does he mean like "I don't want the folks who created the mess (the ones he consigned to the back seat) to do a lot of talking"?
We read more about the alleged extremism of Sarah Palin and the tea partyers than we do about Obama and his soundly trounced agenda. Now here are the real extremists, they say. Obama's Homeland Security Department, you will recall, suggested they were domestic terrorists. Network television and cable liberals helped foster the notion that the protesters were wild-eyed bigots just one nurse shy of serial killer Richard Speck. Democratic operative Paul Begala recently said, "The party of Palin is so far to the right it makes Newt look like Che Guevara."
Yes, tea partyers are extremists because they refuse to compromise on our national solvency or to conspire with statists in converting America into a European-style socialist nation.
In the run-up to the 2012 elections, we're going to see a growing intensity in the liberals' frantic and fraudulent effort to depict tea partyers, Sarah Palin and other real conservatives as extremists.
As this scenario inevitably plays out, we must remember that adherence to a fixed set of tried-and-true principles, otherwise known as America's founding ideals, is hardly extremism. Besides, to quote the victim of the "Daisy" ad, "extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice."
To read another article by David Limbaugh, click here.
Posted by Brett at 11:06 AM
Empty Promises on Healthcare Will Hurt Obama
By Byron York
Barack Obama is only halfway through his term, but it's not too early to ask: What is the biggest whopper he has told as president? So far, the hands-down winner is, "No matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people. If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your healthcare plan, you'll be able to keep your healthcare plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what."
Obama made that particular pledge in a speech to the American Medical Association in June 2009, but he said the same thing, with slight variations, dozens of times during the healthcare debate. And now, exactly eight months after he signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law, we're seeing just how empty the president's promise was.
The New York Times reports there is a "growing frenzy of mergers" in the healthcare field in which hospitals and other care providers, pressured by the new law's provisions, are joining forces to save money. "Consumer advocates fear that the healthcare law could worsen some of the very problems it was meant to solve," the paper reports, "by reducing competition, driving up costs and creating incentives for doctors and hospitals to stint on care, in order to retain their cost-saving bonuses."
The Obama administration's answer to the problem will undoubtedly be more regulation. But the wave of mergers is just one of many signs of trouble with the new law.
For example, we know that the government's Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has found that the new law will increase healthcare costs, rather than reduce them, in the coming decade. We know that cuts in Medicare, with the money saved going to pay for expanding coverage to the poor, will jeopardize seniors' access to care. We know the law will make it impossibly expensive for companies that currently offer bare-bones health coverage to low-income employees to keep doing so. We know several corporations are taking giant write-downs because the bill will increase the cost of providing prescription-drug coverage to retired employees. And perhaps most important, we know the law offers an enormous incentive for employers who currently provide coverage to workers to stop doing so, sending those workers to buy coverage in government-subsidized healthcare exchanges.
In sum, what the law means for millions of Americans is: No matter what the president said, if you like the coverage you have now, you can't keep it.
And a lot of people do like their coverage. A new Gallup Poll found that when Americans are asked to assess the quality of their own health care, the results "are among the most positive Gallup has found over the past decade." A total of 82 percent of respondents rate their health care as excellent or good, while just 16 percent rate it as fair or poor."
The key question of healthcare reform has always been how to make things better for the 16 percent while not messing things up for the 82 percent. Obama decided to blow up the system for everyone.
In doing so, he has created not just well-founded anxiety in those who are skeptical of the new law but also unrealistic expectations in those who support it. "We just told millions of people that they can go to the exchanges in 2014 and buy insurance," writes Aaron Carroll, an Indiana University School of Medicine professor who blogs on healthcare issues at a site called the Incidental Economist. "There won't be any lifetime or annual limits. There won't be denials for pre-existing conditions. There won't be any surcharges for having such conditions. And it's going to be 'reasonably' priced." Carroll talked to lots of insurance executives, and concluded it's just not going to happen. "I feel like many people think they will have choice of doctor, choice of hospital, and the ability to dictate care," he writes. "I'm not seeing how insurance companies will be able to offer such products at prices people can afford."
Is any of this a surprise? The fact is, the president knew or should have known that his healthcare scheme would have these effects. He paid a political price for his actions on Nov. 2. There might be more to pay on Nov. 6, 2012.
To read another article by Byron York, click here.
Posted by Brett at 11:03 AM
Needed: A Part-Time Congress
By Cal Thomas
"I wanted the music to play on forever.
"Have I stayed too long at the fair?" -- Barbra Streisand lyric
The finding by the bipartisan House Ethics Committee that Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) is guilty of financial misconduct and the conviction of former Texas Republican Rep. Tom DeLay by a jury in Austin, Texas on charges of political money laundering brings a question: Are we getting the Congress we're paying for?
I'm with Louisiana Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, who told Human Events last week, "Make them part time; give them term limits. Don't let them become lobbyists. When they have to live under the same rules and laws they pass for the rest of us, maybe you'd see some more common sense coming out of Washington." Jindal, a former congressman, said once elected, too many lawmakers become entrenched in Washington and are transformed into the very people they campaigned against.
I've seen no polling on this question, but I would bet most Americans are not clamoring for Congress to pass more laws. Several states have part-time legislatures that meet every two years to consider a budget and other truly important matters. At other times, the part-time legislature is on-call should anything momentous occur. Should Congress follow suit? Maybe if it did we would be better off. A part-time Congress might reduce the temptations exemplified by Rangel and DeLay.
Serving in Congress should be seen as just that: service, which is distinct from self-service. It ought to be considered a privilege, not a profession.
The Founders were keenly aware of the danger of a Congress divorced from the realities of the rest of the country. During the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Roger Sherman of Connecticut wrote, "Representatives ought to return home and mix with the people. By remaining at the seat of government, they would acquire the habits of the place, which might differ from those of their constituents."
Returning home shouldn't mean flying home for long weekends and then coming back to Washington. It should mean returning to a real job where the member can't raise his own pay, receive top medical care at reduced or no cost, print and spend other people's money, or count on others to pay into his retirement fund. If he owned a business, he would have to meet a payroll and balance the budget. The member would also have to rely on Social Security, like other Americans.
Some states are getting as bad as Congress in their cost and ineffectiveness. The Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives writes of Pennsylvania's legislature: "With a price tag that's grown to $300 million, Pennsylvania's 253-member General Assembly is the most expensive (and second largest) state legislature in the country. It's also among the four 'most professionalized' in the nation with staff totaling nearly 3,000. For perspective, the legislatures of Illinois and Ohio -- the states closest in population to Pennsylvania -- have 1,023 and 465 staff, respectively."
Only 16 percent of Pennsylvania voters think the state legislature is doing a "good" job. Congressional job approval is also pathetically low.
Would congressional term limits work? They seem to in states that have tried them, opening opportunities to people, including women, who might not otherwise have been able to challenge entrenched and well-funded incumbents. Opinion is clearly on the side of abbreviated terms. In September, a Fox News poll found that 78 percent of voters favored term limits for Congress.
Former Missouri Republican Senator John Danforth has said, "I have never seen more senators express discontent with their jobs. I think the major cause is that, deep down in our hearts, we have been accomplices to doing something terrible and unforgivable to this wonderful country ... we know that we have bankrupted America and that we have given our children a legacy of bankruptcy. ... We have defrauded our country to get ourselves elected." (Read more at http://actnowus.org/citizen .)
That's because too many have stayed too long at the fair. Limiting their terms would be good for them, good for the rest of us, and the best thing to do for America.
Posted by Brett at 10:58 AM
Carter: Obama will be one tough hombre in next two years
posted at 12:55 pm on November 30, 2010 by Ed Morrissey
Of course, this statement is relative. Coming from the man who kissed Leonid Brezhnev’s cheek, insisted we had nothing to fear from Communism, and watched the Iranians take over our embassy and seize our diplomatic personnel in Tehran, this could mean that Carter expects Obama to issue a couple of strongly worded memos. That’s not the only laughable point our former President makes in this CBS interview out today:
“In the next two years President Obama will be much more independent in fighting hard to prevail and not trying to reach out, which turned out to be fruitlessly, to get two or three Republican votes for this and that,” Mr. Carter said in an interview for CBSNews.com’s “Washington Unplugged.” “I think he’ll be a much more tough proponent of what he stands for in the future, giving up on Republicans support and taking his case to the American public.”
“Republicans so far have been totally irresponsible,” Mr. Carter went on. “Now that they’ve taken control of the House of Representatives, they’ll be responsible for a major element of the U.S. government.”
The one-term Democratic president told CBS News’ senior White House correspondent Bill Plante many of the issues he faced in the White House as “top priorities” are “still on the Oval Office desk,” including energy, health care, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and the Koreas. “Those things just carry on from one administration to another,” Mr. Carter said.
“I was blessed when I was president by a very encouraging and almost incredible degree of bipartisan support,” Mr. Carter said. “It was quite unlike… what is present here with President Obama since he has practically zero Republican support in the House or Senate.”
The reason Carter was so successful earlier in his presidency was because his party had a 149-seat majority in the House, which dropped to a mere 114-seat majority after the midterms. In the Senate, Democrats had a 61-38 advantage in the 95th Session and a 58-41 advantage in the 96th. Republicans weren’t cooperative; they were irrelevant. Carter blames his failures once again on Ted Kennedy, whom he accuses of conspiring to make him look weak by denying Carter the support of his own party. It’s not the first time Carter has leveled this charge, but — in keeping with his own sense of toughness — he only made once Kennedy was safely below six feet of dirt.
Without a doubt, Carter wins the award for worst former President in American history.
Posted by Brett at 10:55 AM
5 Reasons The CIA Should Have Already Killed Julian Assange
By John Hawkins
Wikileaks’ deliberate disclosure of these diplomatic cables is nothing less than an attack on the national security of the United States, as well as that of dozens of other countries. By disseminating these materials, Wikileaks is putting at risk the lives and the freedom of countless Americans and non- Americans around the world. -- Joe Lieberman
These documents also may include named individuals who in many cases live and work under oppressive regimes and who are trying to create more open and free societies. President Obama supports responsible, accountable, and open government at home and around the world, but this reckless and dangerous action runs counter to that goal. By releasing stolen and classified documents, Wikileaks has put at risk not only the cause of human rights but also the lives and work of these individuals. -- Robert Gibbs
One of the weirder tics of modern civilization is that oftentimes, even in matters of life and death, many people would prefer to lose in a politically correct manner than win easily, but make people angry in the process. So, we put nonsensical, self-defeating limitations on ourselves to try to avoid angry editorials and hurt feelings.
Take warfare, for example. We've built an overwhelming, nearly unstoppable war machine that can turn any military force that goes up against it into cat food and then we've proceeded to create mind numbingly stupid, overly legalistic rules of engagement that nullify many of our advantages. We have a military capable of reducing whole regions to rubble in days and yet we struggle to deal with Somalian pirates and Taliban cavemen because we can't bear the idea that there might be an unflattering piece in the New York Times if we accidentally kill some of the "civilians" who, short of picking up a gun, are doing everything they can to help our enemies.
We've seen the same sort of stupidity in our airports where we treat home grown 80 year old nuns and small children as if they're just as great a potential threat as a 21 year Muslim man from Saudi Arabia. Rather than acknowledge the painfully obvious fact that some people are more likely than others to engage in terrorism and take it into account as Israel's El Al airline does, we've got TSA security groping people's crotches and looking at them naked despite the fact most experts agree it won't do anything to stop the threats those security measures were ostensibly put into place to thwart.
Additionally, we've created these same sort of unnecessary problems for ourselves with classified data. In recent years, when leakers have turned crucial national security data information over to newspapers, we've made minimal efforts to determine their identities and have done nothing to punish the papers that have acted as freelance intelligence agents for Al-Qaeda. At a minimum, we should be putting these reporters in jail for contempt of court until they give up their sources, so we can put the leakers in jail -- but we haven't even bothered to do that.
Unsurprisingly, since we haven't treated the problem seriously, it has gotten worse. Julian Assange at Wikileaks has released massive amounts of classified data. Some of it is embarrassing. Some of it is very sensitive. Some of it could have political ramifications for our friends around the world, and worst of all, some of it could lead to the deaths of people who've risked their lives to help America. That's the first reason why the CIA should have already killed Julian Assange.
1) Julian Assange aided the Taliban and risked the lives of Afghans who helped American forces: b> Some people are appalled by the idea of assassinating Julian Assange. But, why aren't those same people appalled by the fact that Julian Assange released classified documents that he knew would lead to our Afghan informants and their families being marked for death by the Taliban?
The Times revealed that the names, villages, relatives' names and even precise GPS locations of Afghans co-operating with Nato forces could be accessed easily from files released by WikiLeaks.
Human rights groups criticised the internet site and one US politician said that the security breaches amounted to a ready-made Taliban hitlist.
...Mr Assange said: "No one has been harmed, but should anyone come to harm of course that would be a matter of deep regret - our goal is justice to innocents, not to harm them. That said, if we were forced into a position of publishing all of the archives or none of the archives we would publish all of the archives because it's extremely important to the history of this war."
These people risked their lives to help us and Julian Assange knowingly chose to put a death sentence on their heads and the heads of their families. Why is his life worth more than their lives? Is the idea supposed to be that they're just poor, simple people from Afghanistan while Assange is a sophisticated Westerner? So his life is supposed to be worth something while their lives are meaningless? In my book, they risked their lives to help American soldiers, while Assange is an enemy of America. So, their lives are worth a lot, while the world would be better off without him in it.
2) Killing Julian Assange would send a message: Julian Assange is not an American citizen and he has no constitutional rights. So, there's no reason that the CIA can't kill him. Moreover, ask yourself a simple question: If Julian Assange is shot in the head tomorrow or if his car is blown up when he turns the key, what message do you think that would send about releasing sensitive American data? Do you think there would be any more classified American information showing up on Wikileaks? That's very doubtful. Do you think the next cyber punk who thinks it is a game to put classified information on the web would think twice? Yes, you bet. Legally, we may not be able to do a lot to Assange since he's not an American, but killing him would do more to protect our classified data than any new security system.
3) You can't run a government without secrets: There's a quirky sort of thinking on the Internet that goes, "The public has a right to know. Information wants to be free. The more you know the better." There is some truth to that, but as often as not, it's complete horseflop. If you don't believe that, post the password to your email account and all your credit card info on the Internet. Let’s see how much your information wants to be free then.
Some things need to be private, particularly when a government is dealing with sensitive foreign affairs and warfare. You reveal intelligence methods and it warns the enemy. You post battle plans and it gets people killed. You put what's said in private out in public and relationships between nations can crumble or it may even get people killed. To immature, arrogant man-children like Julian Assange, this is all a big game like Civ5 or The Sims. Unfortunately, there are real lives at stake here that shouldn't be held hostage to the whims of a spoiled brat who won't have to clean up the bloody mess he leaves behind.
4) Releasing the information to the world is even worse than giving it to a single foreign government: Make no mistake about it: If we knew an Iranian spy had acquired the same information that Wikileaks has and he intended to hand it over to the Iranian government, the CIA wouldn't hesitate to kill that spy if it was the only way to stop him. While we might prefer to arrest him , few Americans would protest if a CIA sniper killed that spy and retrieved the data before he could cross into Iranian territory.
Assange has one-upped that spy. He’s not just giving sensitive information to one unfriendly regime. He's giving sensitive classified information to every hostile government in the world. Julian Assange may not be in Osama Bin Laden's league, nor is he using the same methods, but he has the same goal: To do as much damage to the United States as humanly possible. Assange is an enemy of the American people and our country will be safer when he's dead.
5) We need to regain the confidence of our allies who've been burned by these leaks: If you're a foreign government, how can you confidently work with the United States when anything you say may end up being revealed publicly by Julian Assange? If you're Pakistan, how can you work with us on counter-terrorism? If you're Saudi Arabia, how do you work with us behind the scenes to stop Iran's nukes? If you're Egypt, can you afford to work with us to limit the Palestinians’ access to explosives? How do you do these things when what you say today may be in every major newspaper in the world in six months because somebody sent the information to Julian Assange? The first step towards convincing other nations that they can trust us again would be make this a better world by removing Julian Assange from it.
To read another article by John Hawkins, click here.
Posted by Brett at 10:46 AM
Government by Regulations Instead of Laws and Treaties
By Phyllis Schlafly
Republicans are assuming that cap-and-trade (aka cap-and-tax) is dead because Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid lacks the votes to bring up the House-passed bill and because this issue proved a loser in the 2010 House races. Like the famous Mark Twain saying, its death may be exaggerated.
The Senate's environmentalism expert, Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., warns us that the Obama administration is trying to implement cap-and-trade anyway by bureaucratic regulations. Directives issued by the Environmental Protection Agency are coming down the pike to increase energy costs and kill jobs.
Last May, the EPA issued what it called a tailoring rule to govern new power plants, oil refineries and factories that yearly emit 100,000 tons or more of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons or sulfur hexafluoride. Inhofe reports that this tailoring rule will further reduce our manufacturing base and especially hurt the poor and elderly.
Inhofe predicts that the EPA standards planned for commercial and industrial boilers will cost 798,000 jobs. He also warns about the harmful effects on jobs caused by new rules on ozone emissions.
Since Barack Obama moved into the White House, the EPA has proposed or finalized 29 major regulations and 172 major policy rules. The EPA is, for the first time, simultaneously toughening the regulations on all six major traditional pollutants such as ozone and sulfur dioxide.
Before Climategate exposed the politics behind the "science" of global warming, a five-to-four Supreme Court ordered the EPA to consider regulating emissions based on that unsubstantiated and now largely discredited theory.
Despite a long record of supporting Obama stimulus and spending legislation, the expected chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., says, "We are not going to allow this administration to regulate what they have been unable to legislate."
Opposition to EPA's new rules is remarkably bipartisan. Seventeen Democrats signed a letter to EPA Director Lisa Jackson opposing the new rules.
Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.V., was elected after running a TV ad showing himself firing a rifle to put a bullet through a copy of the cap-and-trade bill, and he promised to fight EPA attempts to curb greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. He may have a difficult task because Jackson is plotting to force mass retirements of the coal plants that provide half of U.S. electricity.
EPA's aggressive overregulation is forcing the electric industry to choose between continuing to operate while taking on major capital costs of complying with heavy new burdens or closing down and building new plants that use more expensive sources such as natural gas. The public will surely end up paying higher electric rates (aka a big tax increase).
The Obamacare law was deviously designed to take decision-making away from our elected representatives and give it to 15 "expert" members of the Obama-appointed Independent Payment Advisory Board. Many provisions of this law prohibit Congress from repealing or changing decisions of the "experts."
The Obama administration is using administrative regulations to implement what is known as card check, which even the Democratic Congress refuses to legislate. Obama's recess appointee to the National Labor Relations Board, Craig Becker, has lined up a three-to-two board majority to repeal the rule that requires secret ballots in unionization elections.
Currently, a secret ballot of workers is mandated in order to unionize a company. Becker's new regulation will eliminate that worker's right and make them subject to coercion and bullying to induce them to vote yes on a card visible to union bosses.
The Obama administration is also toying with a plan to substitute administrative regulations for treaties. Several years ago, the Council on Foreign Relations fingered the treaty provision of the U.S. Constitution as its most objectionable section, and now an ex-Clinton administration State Department bureaucrat, James P. Rubin, has floated a New York Times op-ed suggesting that treaties are not "worth the trouble anymore," and we should substitute domestic regulations.
The globalists find it inconvenient that our Constitution requires a two-thirds Senate vote for treaty ratification. Horrors! That, they say, causes "international frustration" with America.
This frustration broke into print because there are not enough Senate votes to ratify the New START Treaty that Obama signed with Russia. Rubin's solution is to ditch the ratification process and substitute executive agreements and pronouncements.
Rubin reminds us that after it became clear the Senate was not going to ratify a climate-change treaty, Obama just used EPA regulations, and so we can do likewise with arms-control treaties. Let's just ignore the Constitution and let Obama bureaucrats make all important decisions.
To read another article by Phyllis Schlafly, click here.
Posted by Brett at 10:40 AM
Obama's 7 'Creator' Omissions (Part 1)
By Chuck Norris
With Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas before us, we are reminded once again of the integrated ways in which our Creator has had a role in our culture from the beginning. But will it stay that way?
As far back as the Declaration of Independence, our Founders affirmed together, "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."
Almost 235 years later, however, some media caught how President Barack Obama twice omitted the words "by their Creator" when reciting the declaration in speeches over the past several weeks.
But I discovered actually seven presidential "Creator" omissions in just the past few months!
--On Oct. 21 at a rally for Sen. Patty Murray in Seattle:
"None of us would be here if it weren't for that extraordinary leap of faith that had been taken. Thirteen colonies deciding to start a revolution based on an idea that had never been tried before -- a government of and by and for the people, a government based on the simple proposition that all men are created equal, that we're endowed with certain inalienable rights."
--On Oct. 18 at a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee dinner in Rockville, Md.:
"It has to do with this idea that was started by 13 colonies that decided to throw off the yoke of an empire and said, 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that each of us are endowed with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.'"
--On Oct. 17 at a reception for Gov. Ted Strickland in Chagrin Fall, Ohio:
"The idea of America has never been easy. The notion of 13 colonies coming together and overthrowing the greatest empire in the world and then drafting a document that says 'we find these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, endowed with certain inalienable rights' -- that's hard."
--On Sept. 22 at a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee/DSCC dinner in New York:
"And what was sustaining us was that sense that ... if we stay true to our values, if we believe that all people are created equal and everybody is endowed with certain inalienable rights and we're going to make those words live and we're going to give everybody opportunity, everybody a ladder into the middle class..."
--On Sept. 15 at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's 33rd Annual Awards Gala in Washington:
"Over the centuries, what eventually bound us together -- what made us all Americans -- was not a matter of blood; it wasn't a matter of birth. It was faith and fidelity to the shared values that we all hold so dear. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, endowed with certain inalienable rights: life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
--On Sept. 11 at the Pentagon Memorial in Arlington, Va.:
"For our cause is just. Our spirit is strong. Our resolve is unwavering. Like generations before us, let us come together today and all days to affirm certain inalienable rights, to affirm life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
--On Sept. 10 at the president's news conference at the White House:
"With respect to the mosque in New York, I think I've been pretty clear on my position here, and that is that this country stands for the proposition that all men and women are created equal, that they have certain inalienable rights; one of those inalienable rights is to practice their religion freely."
Thank God that President Obama got it right July 4 from the White House's Blue Room balcony: "And here in a still-young century, let us renew our commitment to stand with those around the world who, like us, still believe in that simple yet revolutionary notion that we are all endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights."
When Les Kinsolving, WorldNetDaily's correspondent at the White House, asked press secretary Robert Gibbs why Obama had omitted "by their Creator," Gibbs' only explanation was, "I haven't seen the comments, Lester, but I can assure you the president believes in the Declaration of Independence."
Is that a reasonable excuse and explanation to you? Is omitting "by their Creator" from direct quotes of the declaration in several speeches a permissible, benign act of the president of the United States?
To me, it is not only what a man includes but also what he omits that tells you everything about him. As Leo F. Buscaglia once said, "things omitted are often more deadly than errors committed."
Even more apropos words the president might heed came from 20th-century American novelist William Faulkner, who said, "Tomorrow night is nothing but one long sleepless wrestle with yesterday's omissions and regrets."
(Next week, I will not only discuss another significant Creator omission overlooked by mainstream media but also inform you about how you can join people like my wife, Gena, and me -- including Charlie Daniels, Stephen Baldwin and Tony Dorsett -- in ensuring that future presidents and generations are not avoidant or ashamed of the Creator, in whom our Founders trusted in the dawn of our republic.)
Chuck Norris is a columnist and impossible to kill.
To read another article by Chuck Norris, click here.
Posted by Brett at 10:37 AM
Want To Raise a Good Person? Stop Nurturing Your Child's Self-Esteem
By Dennis Prager
By now, most people (with the exception of many psychotherapists) recognize that the self-esteem movement officially launched by California in 1986 has been at best silly and at worst injurious to society, despite whatever small benefit it may have had to some individuals.
The movement was begun by California Assemblyman John Vasconcellos. As The New York Times reported, "Mr. Vasconcellos, a 53-year-old Democrat, is described by an aide as 'the most radical humanist in the Legislature.'"
In an interview at the time, Vasconcellos told me he had personally benefited from therapy. It enabled him to improve the poor self-esteem he had inherited from his childhood. He therefore concluded that improving other people's self-esteem would greatly help society.
And so, California created its Task Force to Promote Self-Esteem and Personal and Social Responsibility, whose guiding principle was to raise young people's self-esteem in order to increase the number of socially responsible people in society.
This belief -- that increasing self-esteem among the members of society will increase goodness in society -- spread through the rest of America like proverbial wildfire.
It turns out, however, that the premise was entirely misguided. There is no correlation between goodness and high self-esteem. But there is a correlation between criminality and high self-esteem.
Florida State University Professor Roy Baumeister (Ph.D. psychology, Princeton University) has revealed that in a lifetime of study of violent criminals, the one characteristic nearly all these criminals share is high self-esteem.
Yes, people with high self-esteem are the ones most prone to violence.
The 1960s and '70s ushered in what I refer to as the Age of Feelings. And one of the most enduring feelings-based notions that came out of that era was that it was critically important that children feel good about themselves. High self-esteem, it was decided, should be imparted to children whenever possible -- no matter how undeserving. That is why boys on losing teams are given trophies, why more and more high schools have ceased naming a valedictorian (lest the other graduates feel bad about themselves), why some states have abolished winning and losing in children's soccer games (lest those on the losing teams suffer low self-esteem), etc.
A friend of mine provided me with a perfect illustration. At a Little League baseball game, he saw a pitch thrown a few feet above the batter's head. Needless to say, the batter didn't swing. But to my friend's amazement, he heard both the batter's father and coach yell out, "Good eye!"
For those who don't know baseball, it does not take a "good eye" not to swing at a ball thrown over one's head. It takes a functioning eye.
One result of all this has been a generation that thinks highly of itself for no good reason. Perhaps the most famous example is the survey of American high school students and those of seven other countries. Americans came in last in mathematical ability but first in self-esteem about their mathematical ability.
But it turns out that feeling good about oneself for no good reason -- as destructive as that is -- is not the biggest problem.
The child-rearing expert, psychologist John Rosemond, recently opened my eyes to the even more troubling problem: High self-esteem in children does not produce good character, and in fact is likely to produce a less moral individual.
This flies in the face of perhaps the deepest-held conviction among the present generation, as well as the baby boomers: That it is a parent's fundamental obligation to ensure that their child has high self-esteem.
Though I always opposed undeserved self-esteem, I, too, had bought into the belief that self-esteem in children is vital.
But as soon as Rosemond said what he said, I realized he was right.
And since he said that, I have analyzed the finest adults I know well. It turns out that none had high self-esteem as a child. In fact, virtually most of them "suffered" -- as it would now be deemed -- from low self-esteem.
To cite one example, one of the finest human beings I have ever known -- an individual of extraordinary courage, integrity and selflessness -- had a father who constantly berated this person as worthless and stupid.
Now, this father was, to put it mildly, a sick man. And he did indeed have a negative psychological impact on his child -- to this day, this person has low self-esteem. But it had no negative impact on this individual's sterling character.
The more I have thought about it, the more I have put Baumeister's and Rosemond's insights together.
If Baumeister is right, and violent criminals have higher self-esteem than most people, and if Rosemond is right, and people who do not grow up with high self-esteem are more likely to be among the finest human beings, then society has the strongest interest in not promoting self-esteem among children. Society's sole interest should be creating people of good character, not people with high self-esteem. And good character is created by teaching self-control, not self-esteem.
Now, let me be clear. No one is recommending that parents never praise a child or that parents seek to cultivate a low self-image in their child. And we assume that the child knows his parents love him/her. But, if raising good adults is the primary task of a parent -- and it surely must be -- trying to give one's child high self-esteem is not helpful, and it can easily be counterproductive.
If you don't agree with this conclusion, do the following: Ask the finest people you know how much self-esteem they had as a child. Then ask all the narcissists you know how much their parent(s) praised them.
To read another article by Dennis Prager, click here.
Posted by Brett at 10:30 AM
Senate shuns push for elimination of pet projects
From AP News
The Senate Tuesday rejected a GOP bid to ban the practice of larding spending bills with earmarks _ those pet projects that lawmakers love to send home to their states.
Most Democrats and a handful of Republicans combined to defeat the effort, which would have effectively forbidden the Senate from considering legislation containing earmarks like road and bridge projects, community development funding, grants to local police departments and special-interest tax breaks.
The 39-56 tally, however, was a better showing for earmark opponents, who lost a 29-68 vote earlier this year. Any votes next year should be closer because a band of anti-earmark Republicans is joining the Senate.
Earlier this month, Republicans bowed to tea party activists and passed a party resolution declaring GOP senators would give up earmarks. House Republicans have also given up the practice, but most Democrats say earmarks are a legitimate way to direct taxpayer money to their constituents.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Tuesday that Democrats had made the earmarking process far more transparent than it previously had been under GOP control of Congress. The reforms include requiring lawmakers to document every projects they seek and receive.
Seven Democrats voted with all but eight Republicans to ban the practice.
"I believe I have an important responsibility to the state of Illinois and the people I represent to direct federal dollars into projects critically important for our state and its future," Durbin said.
Critics say that peppering most spending bills with hundreds or even thousands of earmark projects creates a go-along-get-along mindset that ensures that Washington spending goes unchecked.
President Obama supports a ban as well, but hasn't fought them in the past two years.
Opposition from Senate Republicans leaves Senate Democrats are the only faction of Congress in a position to try to save the practice of earmarking. But their position doesn't seem very strong, since it's difficult to see how House Speaker-in-waiting John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would allow any earmark-laden bills to pass.
McConnell had long been a strong supporter of earmarks _ they were a big issue in his 2008 campaign _ but reversed course shortly after the GOP's big win in the midterm elections.
Estimates vary, but earmarks went from more than 1,300 projects worth nearly $8 billion in 1994 to a peak of nearly 14,000 projects worth more than $27 billion in 2005, according to Citizens Against Government Waste, a watchdog group that opposes the practice.
Democrats cut back the number and cost of earmarks somewhat. The new reforms that made the process more transparent have made it easier for outsiders to track a "pay-to-play" system in which lobbyists and corporate executives showered lawmakers with campaign funds in exchange for earmarks.
Ban sponsor Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said they can create "a conflict of interest that benefits just those we represent from our states or just those who help us become senators. All we have to do is look at campaign contributions and earmarks, and there is a stinky little secret associated with that."
Supporters picked up new help from Democrats Michael Bennet and Mark Udall of Colorado, Bill Nelson of Florida, and Mark Warner of Virginia. At the same time, eight Republicans who were who opposed the ban in a vote in March now have joined with earmark opponents, including Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, and Olympia Snowe of Maine.
Who Were The Eight Republicans Who Sided With Democrats Against Earmarks Ban?
By Guy Benson
Earlier this morning, the Democrat-controlled US Senate soundly rejected a GOP effort to ban earmarks. Most Republicans (who recently adopted an internal anti-earmarks stance) supported the wider ban, while most Democrats (whose addiction to federal spending is well documented) helped defeat it. Fifteen Senators, however, bucked the party line and voted with the other side. Who were they? The Sunlight Foundation has assembled a handy list that answers that question:
Here are the Republicans voting no (8):
Bob Bennett (R-UT) – defeated for reelection, Appropriations Committee
Thad Cochran (R-MS) – Ranking Member, Appropriations Committee
Susan Collins (R-ME) – Appropriations Committee
James Inhofe (R-OK)
Richard Lugar (R-IN)
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) – Appropriations Committee
Richard Shelby (R-AL) – Appropriations Committee
George Voinovich (R-OH) – retiring, Appropriations Committee
Here are the Democrats voting yes (7):
Evan Bayh (D-IN) – retiring
Michael Bennet (D-CO) – freshman
Russ Feingold (D-WI) – defeated for reelection
Claire McCaskill (D-MO) – freshman, up for reelection in 2012
Bill Nelson (D-FL) – up for reelection in 2012
Mark Udall (D-CO) – freshman
Mark Warner (D-VA) – freshman
Posted by Brett at 10:15 AM