Repeating History With Barack Carter
"Let us recollect that peace or war will not always be left to our option; that however moderate or unambitious we may be, we cannot count upon the moderation, or hope to extinguish the ambition of others." --Alexander Hamilton
We warned last week about the U.S. throwing good money down the rat hole that is the Middle East. Events this week have confirmed just how prescient we were. In what appeared to be a coordinated effort, adherents of the Religion of Peace™ rioted first in Egypt and then in Libya, murdering four Americans in the latter nation, including our ambassador and two former Navy SEALs. Another embassy assault in Yemen followed. It shouldn't be lost on anyone that this occurred on the day that America solemnly observed the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
In the face of it all, the Obama administration continues its failed policy of abandoning friends, bowing to enemies and apologizing for America at every turn. It's uncannily reminiscent of the Carter era. Apparently, all the "hope and change" fomented during the Arab Spring has resulted in quite a spectacular Arab Fall.
In Egypt on Tuesday, protesters allegedly became angry over a film that they claimed insulted the murderous pedophile Mohammed. Reminiscent of their sieges of Christian cities in the 7th and 8th centuries, they scaled the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, hauled down and desecrated its American flags and replaced them with black flags containing Islamic emblems and the words, "There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his messenger." The riot prompted U.S. security guards to fire off a volley of warning shots as a large crowd of more than 2,000 angry Muslims (is there any other kind?) gathered outside the embassy. Egypt, of course, is the country for whom the Obama regime just announced it will forgive $1 billion worth of debt to the American taxpayer. And this is the thanks we get.
Of course, BO isn't sure if Egypt is an ally, so the confusion is hardly surprising.
The official response to the initial violence (before the walls were breached) from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo was offensive, at best. The embassy issued a statement condemning "the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims." So Muslim riots and attacks on our embassy -- on 9/11 -- are the fault of some amateurs with a video camera?
Mitt Romney weighed in immediately after the embassy's apology, saying, "It's disgraceful that the Obama administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks." Naturally, the Leftmedia went apoplectic and changed the focus to Romney's "timing" and his "politicization" of the matter instead of Obama's Carter-esque foreign policy failings.
Obama quickly responded and threw his embassy personnel under the bus, saying the embassy's statement "didn't come from me, [and] it didn't come from Secretary [of State Hillary] Clinton." Always passing the buck. He then helpfully added, "[T]he United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others." This was just a week after members of his own Democrat party at their convention loudly rejected the most central tenet of Liberty, that it is "endowed by our Creator" and not the gift of benevolent political masters. And just months after the administration trampled religious liberty with its ObamaCare contraception mandate.
Later Tuesday, events turned deadly in Libya. During a night attack on the U.S. consulate and a safe house in Benghazi, Islamists killed U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three American security personnel. U.S. officials said the Benghazi attack may have been planned around the distraction of the protests, and it seems that members of the Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia, an offshoot of al-Qa'ida, perpetrated it. Libyan officials say they've already made arrests. "It bears the hallmarks of an organized attack," one U.S. official said. Yet other squishy U.S. officials cautioned against assuming that the attacks were even terrorist attacks, much less deliberately organized to coincide with the 9/11 anniversary. Right, just an unfortunate coincidence that Muslims attack U.S. embassies on the anniversary of the deadliest Muslim attack on America.
Ambassador Stevens was on the side of the "freedom fighters" when the recent Libyan revolution was at its most vulnerable, in danger of being crushed by Moammar Gadhafi's troops when they were moving on Benghazi. During the early days of the revolution, Stevens boarded a Greek cargo ship and sailed right into Benghazi, working with the rebels and offering his support throughout the revolution. For his courage and steadfastness, he received a murderous show of gratitude.
Worse still, reports indicate that the U.S. had advance warning of the attacks and yet did nothing to place embassies on high alert. The White House, of course, denies this -- which would be plausible only because Obama skips so many intelligence briefings.
As has been the case for roughly 5,000 years, the situation in the Middle East remains tense and dangerous. Obama isn't helping, as on Tuesday the White House declined Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's request to meet the president during a UN conference at the end of the month. Of course, the White House denies the snub, but to turn John Kerry's comments at last week's DNC back on Democrats, we'll take the word of Netanyahu over Obama any day. Adding insult to injury, Obama announced the same day as the snub that he'll appear with David Letterman next week, and his campaign spent the week raffling chances to attend a fundraiser with various celebrities. It's always good to know where our president's priorities are.
As Mark Alexander said yesterday, Ronald Reagan warned us about the consequences of inept leadership. Did we learn anything? If the American people do not resoundingly defeat Obama on November 6, it will most certainly affirm this observation from 19th-century German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel: "The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history."
Quote of the Week
"Mr. Obama ... came to office saying, and apparently believing, that a more deferential America would be better respected around the world. He will finish his term having disproved his own argument. The real lesson of the last four years -- a lesson as much for Republican isolationists as for Democrats who want to lead from behind -- is the ancient one that weakness is provocative." --The Wall Street Journal
This Week's 'Alpha Jackass' Award
"Governor Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later. [emphasis added] And as president, one of the things I've learned is you can't do that. ... [I]t's important for you to make sure that the statements that you make are backed up by the facts and that you've thought through the ramifications before you make them." --Barack Obama on Romney's statement re: the Cairo embassy
"In their fantasy world, all the complex global changes of the world since World War II have never happened. In their fantasy America, all problems have simple solutions -- simple and wrong. It's a make-believe world, a world of good guys and bad guys where some politicians shoot first and ask questions later." [emphasis added] --Jimmy Carter in 1980 -- probably the last politician Obama should be quoting right now
What National Security Crisis?
Apparently, Michelle Obama thinks that the biggest national security crisis facing our nation isn't Islamic fascists but obesity.
Maybe she meant fat Islamists.
Government and Politics
News From the Swamp: Back to Politics on the Budget
As the federal budget deficit for Fiscal Year 2012 blew by $1 trillion for the fourth straight year, Congress reported for duty after its August recess and the conventions with the objective of ... stopping the budget cuts scheduled for next year. Meanwhile, the Budget Control Act of 2011 set the debt ceiling at $16.394 trillion -- and the national debt surpassed $16 trillion last week.
The latest FY2013 continuing resolution proposed by Congress won't even freeze spending. Instead, the bill increases it by $8 billion. The House passed a resolution Thursday funding the government through March, though it completely avoids reworking the previously agreed to sequestration cuts and looming tax increases. The tax increases in particular mean we face a fiscal cliff on Jan. 1, 2013, that could send the economy back into recession. That's assuming we ever left the last one.
One noteworthy tax that needs attention (again) is the Alternative Minimum Tax. Year after year, this tax that was allegedly intended to ensnare a handful of wealthy non-taxpayers 50 years ago, must be adjusted so as not to hit middle class families. The tax isn't indexed for inflation, meaning as incomes rise, more Americans are subject to it. Why not just repeal it? A Bloomberg dispatch explains that: "Lawmakers haven't been willing to repeal [the AMT] because revenue from the tax is assumed in future budgets." In other words, adjusting it each year becomes a "spending" item that can be used for political leverage.
To wit, Barack Obama said this week that he would be "more than happy to work with the Republicans" on a budget and deficit deal -- just so long as they cave on tax hikes for the top income brackets. "You can't reduce the deficit unless you take a balanced approach that says, 'We've got to make government leaner and more efficient,'" he said. "But we've also got to ask people -- like me or Governor Romney, who have done better than anybody else over the course of the last decade, and whose taxes are just about lower than they've been in the last 50 years -- to do a little bit more." Blaming and soaking the rich won't fix the economy.
The Federal Reserve aims to "do a little bit more" by opening the spigots of a third round of quantitative easing, or QE III, in the form of buying $40 billion per month in mortgage-backed securities. That means interest rates will likely remain low for another couple of years, and also that the Fed will have created $3 trillion out of thin air since 2008. Hello, inflation. Obviously, this is a politically timed economic primer for the election, but on the other hand, the first two QEs did little, if anything, to help the ailing economy. Third time's the charm?
Campaign Trail: Policies and Fundraising
The Republican presidential and vice presidential candidates hit the campaign trail this week to stake out their stances on health care and taxes. The Democrats spent all of their convention time last week defining Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan as two men focused on gutting health care and cutting taxes for the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. The Republican ticket offered measured responses to these charges meant to appeal to the sliver of undecided voters out there that will ultimately determine the election. Romney went so far as to say that he wouldn't get rid of the entire health care "reform" law. He vowed again to repeal ObamaCare, but he stands behind the provisions that would protect people with pre-existing conditions and keep children on their parents' insurance at some point after the age of 18. While ObamaCare in total remains deeply unpopular, the two provisions that Romney supports continue to enjoy public support.
Romney also took up the tax issue, proposing an overall reduction in the tax rate to help jumpstart the economy, and at the same time reducing the number of deductions and exemptions for high-income earners to keep overall tax revenue relatively constant. Yet neither he nor Ryan offered details about the deductions they would cut, leaving an opening for critics. Ryan indicated in a separate interview that Republicans are interested in controlling spending because that's what has gotten Washington in trouble, not tax cuts.
The fundraising juggernauts continued to roll forward, too. Barack Obama finally won the monthly cash contest in August, raising $114 million to Romney's $111.6 million. It was the first month that the Obama team raised over $100 million this election cycle. Obama's campaign touted that 97.7 percent of campaign donations were $250 or less, while Romney's campaign depends heavily on large donors who are maxing out. The Republicans, including Romney, have about $168 million cash on hand. The Obama campaign has not yet divulged the total amount of cash they have available.
This Week's 'Braying Jackass' Award
"No one, not me, not anybody else, no one could have completely healed that and built a whole new economy and brought us back to full employment in just four years. It has never been done in the history of the world. It cannot be done. The test is not whether you think everything is hunky-dory. If that were the test, the president would vote against himself. He says that everything's not hunky-dory." --Bill Clinton at campaign event for Barack Obama
Blogger Doug Powers observed, "From 'Yes We Can' to 'Nobody Could Have' in just four short years."
Hope 'n' Change: Obama Undermines Medicare
Barack Obama claimed during his DNC speech last week that Republicans' Medicare "voucher" plan will put seniors at the mercy of Wall Street and insurance companies in order to reform the bankrupt entitlement. Physician, heal thyself! The next day, Obama's Department of Health and Human Services launched a program to move two million seniors out of Medicare and into -- wait for it -- voucher-based private health insurance plans that will be overseen by the states. The Obama administration notes that 18 states have signed up to take part in the program, which would grant federal dollars to states to purchase managed care plans for people who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid. In other words, the poorest seniors and the disabled will be shuffled to these new programs without their consent so that the administration can say it's relieving the burden on Medicare.
The Medicare program that Ryan proposed, and Obama vilified, calls for all seniors to have the choice of opting for a private insurance plan through a federal exchange. On the surface, Ryan's program and the HHS program seek to achieve the same ends. The major difference is that Ryan's plan is voluntary and open to all seniors, whereas the HHS plan forces the poorest seniors into an untested managed care system, essentially leaving them at the mercy of insurance companies. The hypocrisy and chutzpah cut too deep.
Income Redistribution: Bucking the Trend
We told you last week how T. Boone Pickens was no longer tilting at windmills with Congress because the private sector is converting thousands of vehicles to natural gas power on its own. Not everyone is getting the hint, though. Case in point, (again): the Chevy Volt, the poster car of Obama's energy policy.
A published report suggests that General Motors loses up to $49,000 with each Volt sold, and although the automaker disputes the dollar figure, they concede they won't turn a profit on the car until the second generation models come out later this decade. Yet the federal government, which still owns most outstanding GM stock, is piling up the losses by purchasing thousands of Volts for federal agencies including, of all places, the Defense Department.
On a related note, if Obama wants one million electric cars on the road by 2015, there's a long way to go. So far this year GM has sold fewer than half the 40,000 Volts they anticipated, so the automaker is taking desperate measures like slashing lease prices. That fire sale (pun intended) may be contributing to increased sales figures overall for GM, albeit at a slower pace than several foreign competitors. The Volts contributed 13,500 to that total, including just over 2,800 in August.
One has to wonder, though, if General Motors is traveling down a dead-end road with the Volt. The automaker is hoping to copy the success of the Toyota Prius, which took a decade to become one of the top-selling cars as its hybrid technology evolved. However, the far easier switchover to natural gas (which is also less dangerous to first responders) may eventually once again make electric cars the same footnote in automotive history that they've been for a century. And it may take GM a century to recoup our lost investment in a bad idea.
Regulatory Commissars: Cap-n-Tax Through 'Piecemeal Progress'
The governmental corollary to the old adage "if you don't succeed, try, try again" is that if you can't get something done through Congress, have an unelected bureaucrat regulate it anyway. Cap-n-tax was stopped by a concerted Republican effort in 2009, but a recent statement by former EPA head Carol Browner suggests that Barack Obama could use supposed Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act "authority" to write new rules that would, in effect, accomplish the same goals of cap-n-tax legislation.
That belief is buttressed by another expert who spoke with Browner at a panel discussion on the environment at the Democratic National Convention. "EPA is on a pathway that may eventually take us to cap-and-trade," opined industry analyst Kevin Book of ClearView Energy. And that pathway may be widened by a second Obama term, agreed Browner. She speculated that existing coal-fired power plants would be in the crosshairs if Obama is re-elected, per his 2008 vow to bankrupt the coal industry. Millions of people around the country receive their electricity courtesy of coal-fired plants, and regulations already put in place by the EPA could mean that one-fifth of America's coal-fired power plants could be shut down by decade's end.
When you add the covert tax of cap-and-trade compliance already paid by many utilities in various parts of the country, the cost of electricity will probably have its own power surge if Obama is given another term in office.
Feds Sell Off AIG
Tim Geithner wears many hats -- Treasury Secretary, Tax Cheat and Mutual Fund Manager. We're all familiar with his diversified investment strategy that led to the federal government's acquisition of AIG, GM, Chrysler, Goldman Sachs and at least 13 other financial institutions. This week the Treasury Department announced that it was selling approximately $18 billion of its ownership of AIG, reducing its share to approximately 20 percent. Immediately upon hearing the news, the share price of AIG increased by 1.05 percent, which may be one of the few times that the U.S. taxpayer has benefited from insider trading. The Treasury Department is quite proud that this investment is paying off so well, and the department claims it has fully recouped the funds extended in the bailout program. Of course, they haven't disclosed whether their accounting conforms to Congressional Account Standards.
AIG should absorb the lessons offered by this experience: the need to return to core business focus; an understanding of the risk inherent in the issuing of performance bonds; and, particularly, the realization of the unquantified risk associated with derivative instruments. These are three hard lessons that we, their former shareholders, hope they appreciate.
The only remaining question is what the Treasury Department will do with its $18 billion cash infusion. It should be applied to the nation's credit card balance, but alas, when the federal government spends nearly $7 million per minute, an $18 billion windfall won't last four days.
Technology and Privacy
The right of privacy is not explicitly recognized in the Constitution, although a right may be inferred from the Fourth Amendment's protection of the "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." In the area of search and seizure, there is a tension between the right of privacy and the state's police power to enforce the law. This is a balancing act, much of which turns on the expectation of individual privacy. Thus, the police can search your garbage that is put out for collection and can look for things around your house in plain sight without a search warrant.
New technologies pose new challenges, such as security cameras taking pictures of people in the street. When you're walking in public, do you have an expectation of privacy? Security cameras may soon be considered old school. Consider two newer technologies that will challenge our concept of privacy -- facial recognition software and drones.
The FBI just launched a $1 billion facial recognition program that will aid them in ways fingerprints and criminal background record information can't. Among other things, the Next Generation Identification Program (NGI) will be able to compare images in its database to those of individuals on surveillance footage. The NGI system can generate a hit in as little as 10 minutes, giving police the ability to respond much faster. How will the photo database be assembled? Right now, only mug shots from the national criminal FBI database are being used. Yet think of all the official pictures taken of you, such as your passport or REAL ID driver's license, or your employee ID if you work for a government agency.
Similarly, drones are being considered for use in domestic surveillance operations in furtherance of homeland security, crime fighting, disaster relief, immigration control and environmental monitoring. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) predicts that 30,000 drones will fill the nation's skies in less than 20 years. We don't need a new report from the Congressional Research Service to tell us that privacy is an issue. Yet the Supreme Court has ruled that people have a lower expectation of privacy when outside of their house, even when that's in their backyard, permitting law enforcement to fly helicopters over private residences to conduct surveillance without a warrant. Is there a difference between a helicopter and a drone?
Remember when Allen Funt said, "Smile, you're on candid camera"? Big Brother will ask you to do the same.
Department of Military Readiness: DADT Repeal 'Hasn't Hurt' Military
A new study conducted by the Palm Center at the University of California concludes that the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" last year "has had no overall negative impact on military readiness or its component dimensions, including cohesion, recruitment, retention, assaults, harassment or morale." One might take the study with a grain of salt, however.
Aaron Belkin was the lead author of the study and is also founding director of the Palm Center. According to his own website, the Palm Center has been described as "one of the most effective gay rights organizations in the nation." He is also a reliable donor to the Democratic Party according to FEC records and is a long time critic of the DADT policy. Belkin is apparently an authority on other political issues, such as why gasoline price increases are really a "GOP Deception." (Huffington Post, Feb. 18, 2012). In that same posting he also opines on GOP "lies" leading up to the Gulf War, not surprising at all when one considers that he's also co-founder of the "Costs of War" project at Brown University. Perhaps there was an agenda with his "study."
Let's pretend for a moment that the study is accurate, and DADT's repeal hasn't negatively affected military readiness or unit cohesion. Why would that be? Our surmise is that our soldiers are the consummate professionals, and they put duty and love of country above their distaste for the now-announced gender-disorientation pathology of a handful of peers. Given their lot, we hope that's what's happening.
Village Academic Curriculum: The Chicago Way
Leaving empty desks and silent hallways behind them, Chicago's teachers on Monday traded classrooms for the picket line for the first time in 25 years. As of this morning, the strike is not yet resolved. Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis called the decision "difficult" and argued, "We must do things differently in this city if we are to provide our students with the education they so rightfully deserve." Rhetoric notwithstanding, providing Chicago's students with a quality education is the last thing Lewis and her union seem to care about. Instead, they're miffed that their demand for a 30 percent pay raise was met by a counter offer of "just" 16 percent over four years, and that they may be asked to pay more than the paltry 3 percent they now pay for their health care costs.
The strike, which left more than 350,000 students with no class bell to answer, comes despite the fact that the average Chicago teacher is paid $76,000 annually before benefits (compared with earnings of $47,000 for the average Chicago family) -- making them among the highest paid teachers in the nation. Meanwhile, a whopping 71 cents of every public education dollar in Illinois goes to teacher retirement costs while the city's school system faces a $665 million budget deficit. But the union cares only about the students -- or something.
That must be why it's hyperventilating over the proposed evaluation process that would focus on student performance in a district where only 15 percent of 4th graders can read proficiently, only 56 percent of freshman end up graduating, and just 31 percent of high school students met or exceeded state standards last year. No wonder 39 percent of Chicago teachers send their own children to private school.
The city has offered more than 20 proposals to the union in recent days, so far to no avail. And in its demand for more money without added accountability, the union has shown that nothing is sacred, as they chose to protest Tuesday outside of a September 11 memorial event where Gov. Pat Quinn was speaking. Indeed, in perhaps the first Rahm Emanuel statement we actually agree with, the mayor noted that the strike is "not necessary" and is a "strike of choice." With the union hijacking Chicago's government schools, it's no wonder that student performance is in the tank. If ever there were an argument for non-unionized charter and private schools in Chicago, this is it.
At the Democratic National Convention, the Donks took the opportunity to say "thank you" to the U.S. military and its veterans -- a retired Navy four-star and 51 veterans took the stage to do so. Unfortunately, the giant screen behind him featured a picture of ships from the Russian Federation Navy. The photo was reportedly a composite that included a flyover by U.S. trainer jets. The first giveaway for those who are knowledgeable was the ships' radar arrays and hulls, which differ from those of U.S. ships. Another more obvious clue was the Russian naval flag flying at the stern.
Update: Actually, it appears that the jets were F-5s, but from the Turkish Air Force!
Caught, er, red-handed, Democrat officials apologized Wednesday for the gaffe, but not without blaming "vendor error" and taking a gratuitous swipe at Mitt Romney in the process. It's really surprising that they missed a golden opportunity to blame the real responsible party: George W. Bush.
Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
Nate Jackson for The Patriot Post Editorial Team