"The public cannot be too curious concerning the characters of public men." --Samuel Adams
Government & Politics
The Wright Stuff
As our Founding Fathers acknowledged, character is of the utmost importance in choosing leaders for our constitutional republic. George Washington called good moral character the "first essential in a man." Likewise, Samuel Adams said "nothing is more essential," and Thomas Jefferson warned that a "degeneracy" of public character is a "canker" that could destroy a republic. In short, questions of character are important, particularly come election time.
Questions of character, however, are different from assassinations of character. Leftists are quite adept at the latter; hence Barack Obama's campaign attacks on Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital. A new ad declares, "In a career of buying and selling companies, Romney's pattern was to reap quick profits for himself and his investors at the expense of workers and communities. Sometimes it meant sending American jobs overseas. Other times, it meant cutting wages and benefits. In Romney's economic philosophy, CEOs and wealthy investors prosper by any means necessary, even when it meant companies failed and workers were left behind. Romney believes in two sets of rules -- one for people like him, another for everyone else."
Mitt Romney can defend his own record. Capitalism can at times be messy, and a vibrant free market economy is rife with both winners and losers. Humans are also fallible. Managers make mistakes, and good workers are sometimes hurt through no fault of their own. Indeed, there are times when cuts must be made to ensure the viability of an enterprise (ahem, the federal budget). Yet Obama's line of attack suggests that Romney is heartless and greedy, and that capitalism itself is evil. He also conveniently leaves out the numerous companies and jobs that Bain Capital saved -- far more than the administration's ridiculous "saved or created" refrain. Without irony, Joe Biden slammed Romney for leaving taxpayers with the "hidden price" of bad investments despite the administration's own record of failed green energy "investments," such as Solyndra, which have lost myriad jobs and cost taxpayers billions of dollars.
To his credit, Romney fired back with an ad featuring some of those workers who still have jobs thanks to capitalism. His stump speeches now also feature a running debt clock to highlight Obama's failed fiscal path.
On the other hand, Romney is refusing to countenance any ads that link Obama to his long-time pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Romney's strategy is politically savvy, as he aims to keep the focus on the economy and not Obama's past associations. Romney's reaction wasn't strong enough for the Obama camp, however, which criticized him for not living up to the standard of John McCain. We're going to go out on a limb and say that McCain's losing strategy is not one Romney should emulate. But character matters, and we won't shy away from noting that Obama sat silently in a pew for 20 years while Wright delivered his racist and virulently anti-American rants. In effect, Obama was a disciple of hate.
Wright himself recently claimed that an Obama ally offered him $150,000 in 2008 to stay quiet until after the election. Wright also says Obama personally asked him to do the same, albeit without the offer of cash. According to Wright, Obama said, "Do you know what your problem is? You have to tell the truth." If that's true, then Obama was not only well aware of what Wright shouted from the pulpit, notwithstanding his assertions to the contrary, but he also considers Wright's worldview an accurate reflection of the truth. Wouldn't that be a question of character?
None of this is to say that the election will hinge on Jeremiah Wright, or Obama's other questionable associations, for that matter. If that issue were that important to voters, Obama would have lost in 2008. This election is a referendum on Obama's record. Still, some of us understand that much of the foundation for his record -- "social justice" and wealth redistribution, for example -- was laid while he sat under Wright's teaching. And as our Teacher said, "The truth will set you free."
Profiles in Narcissism
Barack Obama edited the official White House website biographies of previous presidents going all the way back to Calvin Coolidge to add bullet-point facts about himself. For example, "On Feb. 22, 1924 Calvin Coolidge became the first president to make a public radio address to the American people. ... President Obama became the first president to hold virtual gatherings and town halls using Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, etc." With a fine president such as Coolidge, that's where the similarities end.
Most egregious, perhaps, is the graffiti that Team Obama sprayed on Ronald Reagan's bio, which falsely implies that the great man was, like Obama, a class warrior: "In a June 28, 1985 speech Reagan called for a fairer tax code, one where a multi-millionaire did not have a lower tax rate than his secretary. Today, President Obama is calling for the same with the Buffett Rule." As we have noted before, this is a major distortion as Reagan was making speeches calling for lower tax rates for everyone, not punitive rates for a few.
As the Heritage Foundation's Rory Cooper, who discovered the edits, put it, "Any person selected to the highest office in the land is bound to indulge a small degree of narcissism. But when it permeates the entire attitude and culture of the executive branch, it begins to become a problem. No president is larger than the presidency." Obama thinks he's the exception.
As for Obama's own biography, Breitbart News "obtained a promotional booklet produced in 1991 by Barack Obama's then-literary agency, Acton & Dystel, which touts Obama as 'born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.'" The editor responsible calls it a "fact-checking error," and it adds fuel to the fire of questions about Obama's past. However, as we have said before, we -- and Breitbart News -- remain convinced that he was born in Hawaii just as his birth certificate says.
Campaign Trail: The Ron Paul Revolution Shifts Gears
Ron Paul has announced that he won't actively campaign in the 11 remaining Republican presidential primaries, conceding that his team doesn't have the funds or the support to carry the day in any of the contests. It's worth noting, however, that Paul didn't suspend his campaign and that he intends to maintain a presence at state conventions where his supporters can continue to woo delegates into supporting him at the Republican National Convention in Tampa later this summer. Paul's campaign has been remarkably adept at canvassing national convention delegates from various states, and it now appears that his strategy is to lock up enough delegates to influence the structure of the Republican platform for the general election.
Hope 'n' Change: More Unwelcome ObamaCare Changes
Thanks to a provision of ObamaCare enforced by the Department of Health and Human Services, insurance companies are effectively being turned into surrogates for the Obama re-election campaign. ObamaCare originally mandated that insurers must either spend a certain amount of their revenue on actual medical care or return it to customers in the form of rebates. Now HHS is compelling insurers to send a notice to customers along with the rebate that states: "This letter is to inform you that you will receive a rebate of a portion of your health insurance premiums. This rebate is required by the Affordable Care Act -- the health reform law." Insurance companies initially went along with ObamaCare because they believed it would provide them a larger pool of customers. We wonder if they feel the same way now that their revenue stream and their relationship with customers is directed by the federal government.
In other ObamaCare news, HHS awarded a $5.9 million grant to the Urban Health Initiative (UHI) at the University of Chicago Medical Center last week. UHI was one of only 26 grant recipients out of a pool of 3,000 applicants. Does that make UHI lucky? Hardly. UHI is run by Eric Whitaker, a frequent golf partner and longtime friend of Barack Obama. The initiative itself began as an offshoot of a program run by Michelle Obama before she left her as-yet unfilled $317,000-per-year post at the University of Chicago to become first lady. In addition, senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett was Chairman of the University of Chicago Medical Center Board of Trustees before leaving to serve the White House. Even top Obama political flak David Axelrod has a history with UHI, having aided them in their public relations strategy in 2007. HHS maintains that the grant was awarded after an objective review, and the Leftmedia likewise ignored the obvious impropriety.
Finally, though friends of Obama seem to benefit from ObamaCare, Franciscan University, a Catholic college in Ohio, became the bloated law's latest victim. The university announced that it would drop its student health insurance program, citing ObamaCare's mandate that all insurers offer reproductive health services such as abortion and sterilization. Franciscan University was one of the original opponents of the reproductive health provision before it went into effect, citing its blatant disregard for religious liberty. This proves once again that Obama's claim, "If you like your health care coverage you can keep it," was utterly misleading.
News from the Swamp: The Next Budget Battle
Washington's steadfast refusal to address the government's debt crisis seriously and revisit the tax code appears headed to yet another 11th-hour showdown later this year. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) stated this week that any proposal to raise the debt ceiling must include corresponding spending cuts and entitlement reform. This is the same position he held the last time the debt ceiling was reached, and, as they did last time, Democrats have resorted to political demagoguery devoid of both courage and solutions. Barack Obama warned Republicans that he would not tolerate another bitter fight. He called for "a serious bipartisan approach," which isn't possible as long as he is involved.
This time around the fight is even more complicated because of a devastating array of tax hikes that are set to hit on Jan. 1, 2013. Taxmageddon, as the looming crisis is now called, will include an end to the Bush tax cuts for all taxpayers, a rise in the capital gains and dividends rates, an end to the Alternative Minimum Tax fix, and a 50 percent reduction in the child tax credit. Unless these provisions are extended or the tax code is fundamentally changed, the economy will suffer a $500 billion hit that will likely wipe out any economic gains that have been made and plunge the U.S. back into a recession.
Boehner pledged to do something about the problem, but Congress doesn't have a reputation for thinking ahead. In a particularly divisive election year, there will be few courageous members of Congress willing to stick their necks out for what is sure to be a bitter partisan battle. Many political strategists calculate that action won't take place until after the election, leaving the country's fiscal future to be determined during a six-week lame duck session.
In related budget news, Obama's budget proposal suffered its third straight defeat in a year after Republicans forced a vote on it in the Senate this week. What's startling is not that Obama has lost three votes in a row in the last year; it's that he hasn't garnered a single vote of support from either Republicans or Democrats. The Senate defeated his 2011 budget 97-0, while in March the House defeated his latest proposal 414-0. This time, the Senate vote was 99-0. The White House claims it has a balanced approach of tax increases to offset higher spending, while adding $6.4 trillion to the deficit in the next 10 years. GOP budget proposals produce deficits of less than half that over the same time frame. Meanwhile, it's been more than three years since Senate Democrats have even submitted a budget.
Around the Nation: California's Sprawling Deficit
In January, those who crunch the numbers deemed that California's expenses would run $9.2 billion over revenues for the next fiscal year. That's a pretty staggering figure for a state budget, but because revenues haven't materialized as expected and court orders are blocking some needed cuts, Gov. Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown is now staring at a $15.7 billion hole.
Warning that "schools will suffer" if nothing is done -- it's always about the children, isn't it? -- Brown proposes that voters approve a two-pronged revenue "enhancement" measure in November. On the ballot is a proposal to soak wealthy taxpayers with an income tax surcharge and to raise the sales tax "temporarily" from 7.25 percent to 7.5 percent. Once the sales tax is raised, however, it will never be lowered, at least not as long as Democrats are in charge. If the measure passes, Brown plans to increase school spending by 16 percent over last year.
The real problem, though, goes far beyond the deficit. Those who can afford to are leaving the state in droves and taking their capital and investment with them, only to be replaced by illegal aliens and others who become a net drain on the system and continue to demand even more government goodies. Obviously, raising taxes on the remaining wealthy only encourages them to move elsewhere, which means the expected revenue from those tax increases won't materialize. Lather, rinse, repeat.
While California plans its own demise, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma are either working to cut taxes, or they have already done so. Florida, New Hampshire and Tennessee are able to balance their budgets with no income tax at all. Maybe instead of the same failed policies, California could take a hint.
Income Redistribution: If at First You Don't Succeed...
As economists weigh in with a mixed outlook on the nation's economy this year, Barack Obama continues to advocate the same approach that hasn't produced results. His latest priming of the pump, designed to drive unemployment below 8 percent -- which conventional wisdom holds will improve one's chances of being re-elected -- features a grab bag of goodies to ensnare the maximum number of voters in a government trap: additional help for homeowners to refinance their mortgages, tax breaks for small businesses that hire workers, job assistance for veterans, and tax credits for clean energy companies. All told, the spending would amount to an additional $34.7 billion of "stimulus" -- money we don't have for a plan that won't work.
While conventional economists seem to think another economic downturn is unlikely, predicted slow employment growth won't make much of a dent in the unemployment rate. Besides, Europe's economic woes could jump the Pond and slam the American economy. Somehow, though, the same people who are always surprised by "unexpected" bad economic news aren't seeing the situation on the ground. Those who have seen the unfolding events of the last three-plus years aren't expecting the miracle Obama wishes for with his new spending.
This Week's 'Braying Jackass' Award
"Things really are starting to come back. There are signs of life and hope in the Heartland. Jobs are starting to come back." --Joe Biden, bragging on the Obama economic "recovery"
On the contrary, James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute has three charts that show "the U.S. economy is struggling through an abysmal recovery not really worth the name." That includes lackluster GDP growth, falling real wages and a shrinking labor force. In other words, things really aren't starting to come back.
Regulatory Commissars: Big Loss Means More Government
"In the wake of losses at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., the White House is seeking to ensure a tough interpretation of a regulation designed to prevent banks from making bets with their own money," reports The Wall Street Journal. After news broke that J. P. Morgan Chase lost $2 billion in a trading blunder, the company's stock plummeted, and the Obama administration immediately leveraged the incident to call for a clamp down on regulations not yet put in place from the infamous Dodd-Frank financial regulation overhaul of 2010. The Left's answer in all such situations is more government, despite the failure of a massive infrastructure of regulations to stop this loss in the first place.
In fact, those responsible for the loss at J.P. Morgan lost their jobs, something that tends to happen in the private sector. On the other hand, as Cato Institute's Mark Calabria challenges, "Show me the list of regulators who lost their jobs, despite the massive regulatory failures that occurred before and during the [2008 financial] crisis."
There's Oil in Them Thar Hills
With gas prices soaring and tall tales of energy independence spinning from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, one might think the discovery of massive oil reserves on U.S. soil would make the news. Sadly, one would be wrong. Instead, last week's announcement by the Government Accountability Office that "the world's largest deposits of oil shale" are sitting underneath Colorado, Utah and Wyoming went almost entirely unreported.
Testifying before the House Science Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, Anu K. Mittal, the GAO's director of natural resources and environment, noted, "The Rand Corporation, a nonprofit research organization, estimates that 30 to 60 percent of the oil shale in the Green River Formation can be recovered. At the midpoint of this estimate, almost half of the 3 trillion barrels of oil would be recoverable. This is an amount about equal to the entire world's proven oil reserves." In other words, we have met energy independence, and it is us.
While the American people want energy independence, the White House is devising schemes to keep the oil untouchable. The supply lies mostly on federal land, and just this month, the Obama administration proposed new regulations governing hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), the method that would likely be used to extract the oil from the Green River Formation. So the good news is that we have a path to greater domestic oil production and energy independence. The bad news is that we have a president dead-set on ensuring that oil never sees the light of day and a media more than happy to cover for him.
U.S. Sovereignty Could Be LOST
Three decades after President Ronald Reagan put the kibosh on a treaty that surrendered U.S. sovereignty to a law enforcement body chosen by the United Nations, the Obama regime and its leftist followers in Congress appear ready to try to ratify the same treaty before Obama is possibly sent packing in November. The Law Of the Sea Treaty (LOST) is allegedly an attempt to protect the world's oceans, which constitute 70 percent of the Earth's surface, from environmental damage, as well as to lessen the oceans' potential as a source of conflict between nations. In reality, however, LOST is nothing more than an attempt at the global redistribution of power and wealth, especially America's and Europe's, via a UN body called the International Seabed Authority, which would be headquartered in Kingston, Jamaica.
The ISA would have the power to regulate the entire world's oceans, including economic activities such as seabed mining, fishing and ocean petroleum exploration. Military activities would also fall under its jurisdiction, with ISA having the authority to tell the U.S. Navy where it could and could not sail. Freedom of the seas has been guaranteed by the U.S. Navy, but under LOST it would be the ISA, whose members would be chosen by the same organization that put such exemplary human rights defenders as Cuba, China and Saudi Arabia on the UN Human Rights Council. Such nations no doubt would soon be on the ISA. LOST even imposes a global tax (a.k.a. "protection") that would be paid directly to ISA by companies seeking to exploit the ocean's resources. LOST is thus a Marxist's dream come true.
While LOST's prospects for ratification seemed dim, the Congressional Quarterly says that "hopes for ratification have been revived." LOST is championed by former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, who opposed it while in Congress but is now lobbying for corporate and environmental interests that favor it. Additionally, soon-to-be-former Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) also backs the treaty, increasing the odds that the Obama regime could cram this treaty past the Senate before November. In the name of U.S. sovereignty and freedom of the seas, LOST must be sent back to Davy Jones' locker, just as the Gipper did 30 years ago.
Judicial Benchmarks: Judge Blocks Military Detention Law
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest blocked a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act that allows indefinite military detention for those aiding terrorism. According to Bloomberg, "The complaint was filed Jan. 13 by a group including former New York Times reporter Christopher Hedges. The plaintiffs contend a section of the law allows for detention of citizens and permanent residents taken into custody in the U.S. on 'suspicion of providing substantial support' to people engaged in hostilities against the U.S., such as al-Qaeda." Forrest criticized the "vagueness of Section 1021" and worried that the public could have their "speech chilled" by the law. Her order prevents enforcement pending further review or congressional amendment. Her decision is also likely to be overturned.
Armed Forces Day
Tomorrow is Armed Forces Day. We remain the proud and the free because these Patriots -- American Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coastguardsmen -- have stood bravely in harm's way and remain on post today. For this, we, the American people, offer our heartfelt thanks and prayers for you and your families.
Immigration Front: Fingerprinting Politics
New York City and 30 other New York jurisdictions have just entered the Secure Communities program, which aims to identify and deport illegal immigrants convicted of crimes. Fingerprints of suspects in custody are already sent to the FBI, but under the program, those fingerprints are also shared with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Critics say it has resulted in the deportation of thousands of people accused of crimes but not convicted, and that it erodes the trust between immigrant communities and law enforcement. But Secure Communities has helped ICE remove more than 135,000 convicted criminal aliens, including more than 49,000 convicted of major violent offenses such as murder, rape and the sexual abuse of children. With that success record, why are the likes of New York's Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, while reluctantly complying, objecting to the program?
The answer, of course, is politics. Hispanics are a growing force in New York politics, and there are concentrations of other immigrant communities, such as the Haitian community in Brooklyn, that influence the outcome of elections. Cuomo wants support for his legislative program from legislators representing various ethnic and immigrant communities. Quinn is the presumptive Democrat candidate for mayor in next year's New York City mayoral election, thus, given registration numbers, making her the odds-on favorite. Meanwhile, the city's GOP is trying to get the popular Kelly to run as its mayoral candidate. Given the choice of votes or increased security for the city's residents, it seems the expedient thing is to go for the votes.
New Reports on Zimmerman/Martin Incident
When news broke that neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman had shot Trayvon Martin, and the race-bait political hustlers took charge, we cautioned that the facts should be allowed to play out before people jumped to conclusions. Two major facts are out this week: Zimmerman's medical report and Martin's autopsy. Both strongly indicate that, contrary to the racist outrage on the Left, Zimmerman was telling the truth about the altercation that led to Martin's death.
Zimmerman was examined immediately following the incident, and he had a broken nose, two black eyes, two lacerations on the back of his head and a minor back injury. The back of his shirt was also wet and grass-stained. Meanwhile, Martin's autopsy revealed that his only injury -- outside the fatal gunshot wound -- was bloodied knuckles, and that he had drugs in his system, just as Zimmerman suspected and told the 911 dispatcher. Martin's shirt also had gunshot residue, indicating that the two were at extremely close range when he was shot. Zimmerman has claimed self-defense all along, and these facts back him up. No wonder the Leftmedia has lost interest in the case.
Climate Change This Week: Second Planet Needed
The 2012 Living Planet Report, produced by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Zoological Society of London, the Global Footprint Network and the European Space Agency, is just like every other report to come from the ecofascist left -- it paints a bleak picture of our planet's future. According to Jim Leape, Director General of WWF International, "We're all familiar with the stories of what we're doing to Planet Earth, the ways in which we're changing the climate, depleting the world's fisheries, destroying the world's forests. ... The report tells us that we're already using the earth's resources 50 percent faster than it can be replenished, and that, if we don't change our ways, by 2030 we will need two planets to support us." How about this planet for us, and the other planet for the scaremongers?
On a related note, one way that our friends in Great Britain are contributing to the destruction of the planet is by pouring too much milk down the drain. No kidding. A study by the University of Edinburgh claims "the 360,000 tonnes of milk wasted in the UK each year creates greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 100,000 tonnes of CO2." Like momma always said, drink your milk!
Village Academic Curriculum: The Secret Is Out
Third-graders in New Jersey schools will no longer have to worry about baring their souls as part of a standardized test. As part of the "dry run" of a proposed question for the state's standardized assessment test, students in selected schools were asked to write an "essay" about a secret they were having trouble keeping. Obviously, such a question could expose administrators and those who grade the tests to liability issues. One parent was appalled to learn that his nine-year-old revealed he had missed school for a family ski trip. Had parents not spoken up and complained, the question likely would have been included on future exams.
Academic culture already features police officers on daily patrol in many schools, overzealous cafeteria workers inspecting school lunches, and the newest craze of categorizing any negative language directed toward certain kids as "bullying." The message that it's acceptable to reveal your darkest secrets to Big Brother is just a further indicator that schools are no longer meant for learning but for indoctrination. Parents must remain vigilant.
Back in 2010, the Pentagon decided that it was overrun with so many studies that it did what any good bureaucracy would do: According to ABC News, "[I]t commissioned a study to determine how much it cost to produce all those studies." A study of studies -- yep, your government at work. It didn't stop there, though, because the Pentagon is still working on its report. The Government Accountability Office decided to step in and hold the Pentagon accountable ... by conducting a study of the study that studied studies. The GAO found that DoD's "approach is not fully consistent with relevant cost estimating best practices and cost accounting standards," and the Pentagon "partially concurs." We still think Congress may need to commission a committee to study the study of the study that studied studies to determine if further study is required.
Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
Nate Jackson for The Patriot Post Editorial Team