"Here comes the orator! With his flood of words, and his drop of reason." --Benjamin Franklin
After two weeks of steady denials that recent strikes on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt, were terrorist attacks -- along with blaming a YouTube clip for violence and unrest in all of the Muslim world -- this week opened with another smooth move from Team Hope-n-Change.
Kicking off his latest oratorical mini-seminar this week at the UN General Assembly, Barack Obama belted out a 30-minute paean to free speech and tolerance. He also grudgingly reserved only two paragraphs near the end of his screed to address what should have been his main point, the threat posed by Iran's nuclear ambitions. Although two weeks late-to-need, the speech was nonetheless underwhelming when it finally arrived.
While the majority of his remarks were supposed to be devoted to advocacy for free speech and mutual respect between differing religions and worldviews, Obama undermined his own case by once again rejecting the individual free speech rights of the producer of the 14-minute YouTube clip, "The Innocence of Muslims." He declared that the "crude and disgusting" video had "sparked outrage" among Muslims for its disparaging remarks about Mohammed. (As a side note, the man responsible for the video, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, was arrested Thursday because unsupervised Internet activity allegedly violates his parole from a previous conviction.)
At once alienating the U.S. government from this particular individual's right to free speech, Obama apparently saw no irony in affirming a commitment to that constitutional right for Americans. He must have been thinking in terms of "collective rights" -- the only kind statists allow -- so this oversight is somewhat understandable. It's also interesting to note that just the day before this denunciation, Obama told the leftist gaggle on "The View" that "the best way to marginalize that kind of speech is to ignore it." Obviously, he thinks the best way to "ignore" such a video is to denounce it in six different languages at the UN General Assembly.
Of course, immediately after stating that the U.S. Constitution protects free speech, he went on to make this pathetic addition: "I know that not all countries in this body share this particular understanding of the protection of free speech. We recognize that." If the video is indeed one of the causes of violence in the Muslim world, it becomes self-evident that those affected countries are not exactly huge fans of free speech and tolerance. Pakistan tops our list as "most tolerant," after Pakistan's railway minister offered $100,000 to anyone who kills the maker of the video.
To be sure, Obama did attempt to make a case against extremism, reminding his audience, "Let us remember that Muslims have suffered the most at the hands of extremism." While technically correct, it's another Obama half-truth as most Muslim suffering is self-inflicted. None of these attacks and protests were the work of non-Muslims. (In related news, the New York display of the taxpayer funded "art" piece "Piss Christ," in which a crucifix is submerged in the artist's urine, did not cause rioting or murderous violence from Christians.)
Throwing gas on the fire, Obama let loose a string of "the future must not belong to" so-and-so remarks, including, "The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam." He followed up this statement with a quote from Gandhi and a pleasant bromide about condemning intolerance, generally. Which statement is more likely to be repeated by Muslim extremists?
Again, perhaps the president should have focused on the imminent danger posed to the world by Iran. The ongoing Iranian nuclear crisis warranted short shrift in Obama's speech -- clearly, the matter is not a priority for him. Maybe it should be, though: In his usual, even-keeled delivery, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad this week again called for the "elimination" of Israel. We suppose this sounds slightly better than the phrase he used in 2005 -- that Israel should be "wiped off the map" -- but it still reflects deadly intent and nukes would be a tool to that end.
Nor would Obama meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who warned that Iran will effectively have a nuclear weapon by next summer, and helpfully drew a literal red line so the illiterates at the UN understand. The president was too busy chatting with the harpies on "The View" to be bothered with what he told "60 Minutes" was "noise." Obama's priorities are so out of whack, even NBC News Obamaphile Andrea Mitchell scolded, "This was not the moment to sit down with 'The View.'"
No, it was actually the moment to sit down with other world leaders, one-on-one, in serious discussions about grave matters, as many foreign heads of state -- including Israel's Netanyahu -- had asked him to do. However, that task fell to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. No doubt foreign leaders were unimpressed by the president's acting like they didn't exist.
Something else didn't exist, either: respect from the president for those who were murdered in Libya. In that same "60 Minutes" interview, the tone-deaf Leader of the Free World referred to the violence in Egypt, Libya and elsewhere, including the context of four murdered Americans, as "bumps in the road." As columnist Charles Krauthammer notes, "If Romney had said that the death of our ambassador, the attack on our embassy, the death of three other Americans, the hoisting of the black al Qaeda flag over four U.S. embassies, and demonstrations all over the Middle East all the way to Indonesia including a burning in effigy of Obama in Sri Lanka of all places is a bump in the road, it would be a three day headline." Indeed. The president's statement is disgraceful.
We close where we started: remember those denials of terrorist attacks on American sovereignties abroad? Well, not so fast. Now Secretary Clinton has conceded "preliminary findings" that, yes, well, indeed these attacks might have been terrorist strikes after all. But don't judge the administration too harshly for having zero situational awareness on the entire set of events. After all, who could have known that rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) used in coordinated attacks against American assets on the anniversary of 9/11 "might" suggest a link to terrorism?
Quote of the Week
"My statement to the United Nations would have been, 'The future does not belong to those who attack our Embassies and Consulates and kill our Ambassadors. The Angel of Death in the form of an American Bald Eagle will visit you and wreak havoc and destruction upon your existence.'" --Rep. Allen West (R-FL)
Government and Politics
The BIG Lie
"When I came into office," Obama told "60 Minutes" on Sunday, "I inherited the biggest deficit in our history. And over the last four years, the deficit has gone up, but 90 percent of that is as a consequence of two wars that weren't paid for, as a consequence of tax cuts that weren't paid for, a prescription drug plan that was not paid for, and then the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Now we took some emergency actions, but that accounts for about 10 percent of this increase in the deficit, and we have actually seen the federal government grow at a slower pace than at any time since Dwight Eisenhower -- in fact, substantially lower than the federal government grew under either Ronald Reagan or George Bush."
If that outrageous list of exaggerations, half-truths and straight up falsehoods sounds familiar, it's because it's a replay of Obama's claim last week to late-night comedian David Letterman. We might forgive him if only he were joking.
Obama claims that he bears only 10 percent responsibility for the "biggest deficit in our history." If he meant to point out that Congress and not the White House has the power of the purse, then he'd have the beginnings of a point. But of course he was blaming his predecessor. Yet Democrats took over Congress in 2007, and Bush's biggest budget deficits happened on their watch. More to the point, the deficit of $1.4 trillion in FY2009 was caused largely by the $800 billion "stimulus" of February 2009, and subsequent years have borne the burden of the new budget baseline (not that Congress has passed a budget in those years, opting instead for continuing resolutions, another of which passed both houses in the last 10 days). Regardless, the drastically increased spending in 2009 sure didn't help us out of the "worst economic crisis since the Great Depression."
Wars and tax rates that began in 2001 and 2003 are also hardly to blame for soaring deficits in 2009 and following. In fact, as we tire of pointing out, the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 resulted in more federal tax revenue, which the last time we checked didn't cause deficits either.
As for the prescription drug plan, if it was such a budget buster -- and make no mistake, it is -- why did Obama and the Democrats expand it under ObamaCare? Entitlements are by far the main driver of our budget deficits, and of our calamitous $16,000,000,000,000 national debt. Everyone in Washington knows it, yet Obama has only exacerbated the issue.
Since Dwight Eisenhower, only Lyndon B. Johnson was comparably responsible for the massive growth of the federal government -- expansion of entitlements, the practical takeover of one-sixth of the economy, draconian regulations of the financial sector, government ownership of industry and restrictions on personal liberty are all off the charts under the Obama regime. For him to posture as some sort of patron saint of limited government insults the intelligence of all Americans -- even those who voted him into office.
Hope 'n' Change: ObamaCare Won't Bend Cost Curve Down After All
Two recent studies exploring the health care market came to the conclusion that insurance premiums and overall health care spending are rising at accelerated rates. The Health Care Cost Institute reports an increase in health spending of 4.6 percent in 2011, up from 3.8 percent in 2010. A separate study on health insurance premiums by the Kaiser Family Foundation reports a 3 percent rise year-over-year for individuals and a 4 percent rise for families. Family insurance premiums have increased more than $2,000 during Obama's term.
These numbers certainly expose as empty the promise Candidate Obama made on the campaign trail in 2008 to "lower premiums by up to $2,500 for a typical family per year." Obama now claims he never said that ObamaCare would actually bring down health care costs, only that costs would grow at a slower rate.
In related news, an audience of ObamaCare-loving AARP members got a dose of reality during a visit by Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan. The headlines all reported that Ryan was booed when he talked about shoring up Medicare by repealing ObamaCare. What the media didn't report, however, was how Ryan won over the crowd with his criticism of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, an unelected, unaccountable group of 15 bureaucratic tyrants who will have the power to make cuts to Medicare with virtually no oversight. He also explained how Medicare has already been cut by $716 billion to help, shall we say, bend the cost curve for ObamaCare. By the time Ryan finished dissecting the lies of Obama's health care law and explaining how a Romney-Ryan administration could actually prevent Medicare from going bankrupt, the audience was actually applauding for Ryan.
Campaign Trail: Romney's Taxes
Mitt Romney released more personal tax information this week, which the Obama campaign turned into another shiny object to distract media attention from the president's failed record. Romney released his 2011 returns, as well as enough information to give a pretty clear snapshot of his tax filings for the last 20 years. His average annual tax rate for the period 1990-2009 was 20.2 percent, refuting Sen. Harry Reid's ridiculous charge that Romney didn't pay any taxes for 10 years. Reid, in characteristic fashion, didn't apologize for his baseless accusation, instead choosing to double down and claim that Romney was still hiding something.
Democrats did their best to keep the class warfare attack alive. Top Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod accused Romney of padding his own tax liability -- in other words, paying too much. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. The reason for that, of course, is that Romney donated over $4 million to charity last year, or about 30 percent of his income, but he didn't claim all possible charitable deductions, leaving him to pay an effective tax rate of 14 percent.
In the end, Romney paid more in taxes than leftists cared to admit, he didn't take advantage of the "loopholes" they claim to despise, and he is significantly more generous with his wealth than the vast majority of leftists. Take Joe Biden for example. Biden's tax records reveal that he gave away just $3,690 to charity in the entire decade leading up to his vice presidential run, about a thousand times less than what Romney gave in a single year. To be fair, the miserly Biden may be wealthy, but he's not in the same income class as Mitt Romney. Regardless, his charitable donations amounted to a microscopic 0.2 percent of his income.
News From the Swamp: Waters Under the Bridge
The House Ethics Committee exonerated Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) of any wrongdoing after a three-year investigation into accusations that she illegally obtained TARP funds for a bank in which her husband owned stock. Waters's office arranged a meeting between executives for OneUnited Bank and the Treasury Department in 2008 for the purposes of obtaining a TARP bailout. The bank eventually received $12 million, despite the fact that it was improper and possibly illegal for Waters to be so intimately involved when she stood to benefit financially. She tried unsuccessfully to have her ethics case dismissed, claiming the investigation was a partisan witch-hunt, but her protests led to six House members recusing themselves from the investigation and a new panel to hear her case. Outside attorney Billy Martin was brought in to continue the investigation, and this week the committee determined that Waters did not violate ethics rules because she believed she was acting on behalf of all minority banks, not just the one for which she specifically lobbied.
Sadly, Waters being let off the hook by the House Ethics Committee shouldn't come as a surprise. So many other members of Congress, notably Democrats like Charlie Rangel and Linda and Loretta Sanchez, received nothing more than slaps on the wrist for their ethically challenged conduct. These examples only further prove that we cannot leave a body of elected officials to police themselves. Voters should remove elected officials when they run afoul of the rules.
From the Left: Warren Practiced Without a License
Democrat Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren may have received her Harvard Law School appointment by falsely asserting that she had Native American ancestry so as to claim a minority-hire position. (She has repeatedly doubled down on her "supporting documentation" -- that her mom told her she was part Cherokee.) Having acquired the position, Republican Sen. Scott Brown now charges that Warren illegally practiced law out of her Harvard Law School office, and, unlike for Warren, the facts back him up.
Specifically, Warren listed her Harvard office as the office of record for briefs filed publicly with various courts. In one case Warren was paid $212,000 over three years to represent Travelers Insurance Company in an asbestos-related case. That was in addition to numerous other companies she represented beginning in the late 1990s. The kicker is that Warren was never licensed to practice law in Massachusetts, violating at least two provisions of Massachusetts law -- first, the practice of law in Massachusetts without licensing; and second, using her Cambridge office on a continuing basis for the practice of law without a Massachusetts license. When asked by The Boston Globe, Warren refused to disclose the full extent of her private law practice.
So, the Godmother of the idea that "you didn't build that" has been caught telling falsehoods that have advanced her professional standing. Will this make a difference to fawning progressives and a supportive media? Doubtful. But we still hope it matters to thinking Massachusetts voters on Election Day.
Regulatory Commissars: Land of the Less Economically Free
For many years, one measure of economic freedom in the world has been a guide published by the Fraser Institute. It calculates an index and ranking of countries around the world based on several general conditions: size of government, legal system and property rights, sound money, freedom to trade internationally, and regulation.
Given those parameters, it's shameful and yet no surprise that the United States, which ranked second in the world as recently as 2000, has now slipped to 18th place in the 2012 index. While Hong Kong and Singapore maintain their annual top rankings, Americans are now bested by upstarts like Bahrain, Chile and Mauritius, among others. We're not even tops in North America -- Canada ranks sixth. The "substantial decline," as the report's authors put it, has been most precipitous in the last five years, as the U.S. slipped from eighth in 2005 to 18th in 2010, the most recent data available. With an ever-expanding government, deficit spending as far as the eye can see, and onerous regulations dreamed up daily, it's quite likely that the United States will fall out of the top 20 next year as 2011 data becomes available.
What's the result of this loss of economic freedom? Median household income has plummeted 8.2 percent since Barack Obama occupied the Oval Office. Second quarter GDP growth was just revised downward to a meager 1.3 percent. Orders for durable goods, a key manufacturing indicator, fell an astonishing 13.2 percent in August. There are countless other signs that leftist policies are undermining our economy, and yet Obama may still be able to buy the election.
Income Redistribution: Another Energy 'Investment'
The Obama Department of Energy has a long history of redistributing our income to fund alternative energy boondoggles, er, "investments." The latest example, an underwater turbine, went on line last week in Maine. The Ocean Renewable Power Company Maine's Cobscook Bay Tidal Energy Pilot Project (say that five times fast!) received $10 million from the Energy Department to build and operate the turbine off the coast of the easternmost part of the state.
So what's the catch? The turbine will produce electricity by harnessing tidal energy, but at 21.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, that electricity will cost nearly double what Maine residents pay on average. Not only that, but they're starting small. Really small. The first generator will power just 25 homes and provide only 53 jobs. To be fair, as many as 20 turbines will be built to power about 1,200 homes. Tidal energy is also more reliable than wind energy, for example, and the Energy Department claims that it could produce as much as 15 percent of electricity nationwide. If the technology is so promising, why is the federal government taking the place of investors? And if it's not promising (ahem, Solyndra), why is the government wasting our money?
Around the Nation: Agriculture Settles Again Over Alleged Discrimination
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced Monday that his department is making available at least $1.33 billion in cash awards and tax relief payments, as well as $160 million in farm debt relief, for women and Hispanic farmers who believe that they were discriminated against by the USDA in loan applications between 1981 and 2000. "The opening of this claims process is part of USDA's ongoing efforts to correct the wrongs of the past and ensure fair treatment to all current and future customers," Vilsack said.
Indeed, the Obama Agriculture Department has handed out serious cash to valuable constituency groups in the farming sector. In 2011, Vilsack oversaw Pigford II, which was a $1.25 billion discrimination settlement for black farmers who missed the 1999 deadline for the first Pigford settlement. That second round was rife with fraud. Likewise, Native American farmers received $760 million in the Keepseagle settlement. Wealth redistribution, anyone?
An Executive-Ordered Cyber Attack
It appears that the Obama regime is continuing its assault on the liberties of the people and the powers of Congress. Before a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that a new cybersecurity executive order is "being drafted in the inter-agency process" and "is close to completion depending on a few issues that need to be resolved at the highest levels." She also said the draft order still must be reviewed by the wannabe dictator residing in the White House.
This executive order is allegedly aimed at protecting critical infrastructure, such as the electric power grid and major transportation networks, from cyberattack by creating a "voluntary" program in which private companies that operate key infrastructure would meet national cyber-security standards developed, in part, by the government. We all know that "voluntary" government programs soon become mandatory, and we also know what happens to standards that the government is allowed to set.
But perhaps the most worrisome issue is that for the government to fight and prevent cyber attacks it would have to control the routes of those attacks, i.e., the Internet. This executive order would allow the federal government to use almost any pretense to take control of the Internet and the instant communication and free flow of information that it allows.
This Obama executive order is also another end-run around Congress, as Obama began exploring this option last month after Senate Republicans blocked a sweeping cybersecurity bill proposed by Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT). Sadly, Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said he was delighted to hear about the executive order and he encouraged the White House to move forward on implementation and not wait for Congress to pass cybersecurity legislation. Congress? Constitution? Who needs them?
Department of Military Correctness: We Just Need More Sensitivity
After suspending joint operations with Afghan troops thanks to anti-American Afghan militants murdering the very soldiers trying to train them, the Pentagon announced the implementation of sensitivity training to stem the violence. No, not training for the radical Islamists who have murdered at least 97 U.S. and NATO troops in the past three years, but rather training for American troops who the Pentagon apparently believes have caused the murders. In the height of asininity, Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey recently stated, "There's a percentage [of attacks] which are cultural affronts." In other words, Americans provoked the attacks, for example, by propping their feet on a table.
It seems Dempsey is taking his talking points from Afghan National Army Chief of Staff General Sher Mohammad Karimi, who claims that more actively teaching foreign troops about Islam will somehow reduce anti-Coalition violence. Those who haven't drunk the politically correct Kool-Aid (if that's not culturally insensitive to say), however, know otherwise. "The cultural affronts excuse is a bunch of garbage," said one senior U.S. Army intelligence official. "The Afghans that know we're doing all this PC cultural sensitivity crap are laughing their [rear ends] off at our stupidity." In fact, a Taliban video released last month shows an Afghan soldier boasting of killing Americans "because they have occupied our country. They are enemies of our religion."
Just like the Obama White House's effort to blame the anti-Islam video for Muslim violence in recent weeks, the Pentagon's "blame America" approach will do nothing to actually reduce or stop violence. Instead, it will send the message to our men and women in uniform that this administration cares more about kowtowing to terrorists than about having the backs of those who every day put their lives on the line for us.
Village Academic Curriculum: Is Our Children Learning?
The academic year is underway and there's already no shortage of controversy coming out of government schools. For starters, we have the complaints about Michelle Obama's tinkering with the school lunch. At her behest, a lame-duck Democrat Congress in 2010 passed a law called the "Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010," with the regulations effective for this school year. Instead of a minimum calorie content, now school lunches can't exceed 850 calories for high school-aged kids or 700 calories for sixth-graders, nor can they have too much of certain kinds of food kids tend to prefer. So government-approved food by the ton is thrown out daily by students who would prefer lunch the way it used to be. Not that kids haven't been complaining about vegetables and throwing away their "free" lunches in favor of Twinkies for years, but -- surprise -- new regulations aren't helping. Meanwhile, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has introduced a bill to repeal these USDA rules.
While the food kids eat must pass muster with the government, the riskier aspects of school-aged sexual behavior are excused. In New York City, girls as young as 14 have been obtaining birth control pills, including the Plan B "morning after" pill, sometimes without parental knowledge. It's up to the parents to opt out of the program by returning a letter sent to them by the school district, but sadly the administrators are probably safe in the knowledge that few parents will pay attention to the letter, let alone return it and refuse permission.
Despite free lunch, free birth control and more money spent than ever before, kids don't seem to be learning as much in school. The depressing news of yet another national decline in SAT scores was punctuated by the revelation that reading scores have reached a four-decade low. The College Board, which administers the test, estimated that 57 percent of those taking the SAT weren't adequately prepared for success in college.
Topping off this laundry list of bad news from American schools is an item from Pennsylvania, where a high school band performed a controversial halftime show featuring the Communist hammer-and-sickle symbol and other Bolshevik themes. "It was 'Glee' meets the Russian Revolution," said one angry parent. Perhaps it's most telling about our times, though, that the show as originally performed by the New Oxford High School band won first place in a band competition at a nearby school.
After the ensuing outcry, the show was revised, leaving the music of Russian composer Dimitri Shostakovich but removing much of the show's symbolism. Conewago Valley school superintendent Rebecca Harbaugh didn't seem fazed by the original show, dubbed "St. Petersburg: 1917," claiming, "I'm just very sorry that it wasn't looked at as just a history lesson. ... It's about a dark time in our world's history and that's the way it was portrayed on the field." Communism has killed more than 100 million people since 1917 -- hardly material for a halftime show.
Climate Change This Week: The Other Polar Ice Cap
The Arctic Ocean will be entirely ice-free within four years -- or so predicts Cambridge Professor and "ice expert" Peter Wadhams. He says that this summer's new record-low sea ice extent of under 3.5 million square kilometers is but a taste of the "global disaster" coming. "I have been predicting [a complete collapse] for many years," warns Wadhams. "The main cause is simply global warming." Within a few years, he says, a complete breakdown of sea ice will lead to an ice-free Arctic. But freeze -- there are three major points that need to be made clear.
First, major ice melt in the Northern Hemisphere was entirely expected and can be directly attributed to natural causes. WeatherBell Meteorologist Joe Bastardi provides the many reasons for the unfavorable environment, which include different phases of the Pacific Decadol and Atlantic Multidecadol Oscillations: "The earth's temperature rose in response to the warming Pacific, which started the northern ice cap melting. The Atlantic is in its warm stage now, so the ice cap is being attacked from the ocean also. Once the Atlantic comes out of its warm phase in 10 to 15 years, the ice cap will rebound." In other words, it's called "nature."
Second, open waters in the Arctic are well documented. Bastardi provides photographic evidence of submarines surfacing at the North Pole. The first picture shows a single submarine in August 1959 and the other depicts three subs in the open waters in May 1987. So much for "unprecedented."
And third, no one seems to be looking at what's happening in Antarctica. As Steven Goddard of Real Science points out, "Antarctica currently has the most sea ice ever recorded for the date, which is 17,000 Manhattans larger than the greatest amount of sea ice ever recorded in the Arctic." He quips, "Most geographers actually consider the southern hemisphere to be part of the globe."
All sarcasm aside, what's happening in the Southern Hemisphere is equally impressive, if not more so, than what's happening in the North when taking into account the continent's mass. As Bastardi summarizes, "A nation built on the freedoms to confront reality will not survive if shackled by policies that chase utopian ghosts."
A couple in Austin, Texas, was puzzled when the Barack Obama re-election sign in their front yard was destroyed while none of the other political signs on their street had been touched. "The sign had holes poked in it like somebody had stuck a knife through it," said the homeowner. "At first I thought it was somebody who didn't like Obama." That's a stretch -- everybody likes Obama, right? Imagine their surprise when the culprit caught on camera was a deer. It could be that the buck simply didn't like the sign sullying his grazing area and he registered his vote by assailing it with his antlers. We like to think the deer was fed up with Obama's blame game and decided to remind him that the buck stops here.
Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
Nate Jackson for The Patriot Post Editorial Team