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Ed Driscoll

Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal

Yes, Next Question

July 28th, 2014 - 11:35 pm

“Is the Obama administration losing touch with reality?”, Mark Tapscott asks at the Washington Examiner. Considering that Barack Obama alternated posing next to Styrofoam Roman columns and uttering quotes such as, ”We’re going to keep on praising together. I am confident that we can create a Kingdom right here on Earth,” during his in 2008 presidential bid, this administration and reality were never on very good terms to begin with. But as Tapscott writes, their relationship is much more strained these days:

There is an air of unreality about the Obama crew these days that became starkly evident last week with a letter to Congress from National Security Advisor Susan Rice seeking repeal of the 2002 authorization for the invasion of Iraq and White House press secretary Josh Earnest claiming Republicans are seriously seeking to impeach his boss.

House Speaker John Boehner and every other top GOP leader has denied it, but that didn’t stop Earnest and the Democratic fundraising machine from insisting that impeachment is “part of their agenda.”

Similarly, Rice claimed repealing the 2002 law is needed to “give Americans confidence” that U.S. “ground forces will not be sent into combat in Iraq” even though House GOPers were preparing to approve a resolution saying U.S. ground forces should not be sent back to Iraq.

But then seeing the Obama administration publicly weaving such fantasies isn’t really surprising, considering they’ve argued for years that one half of one-third of the federal government is responsible for all of America’s problems.

Aaron Hanscom, our lead editor and textual master of ceremonies on the PJM homepage asked me the other day if any president had checked out as dramatically from current events in my lifetime. I told that while it’s a little before my time, the closest analogy that comes to mind is the Wilson Administration, which attempted to maintain the fiction that its namesake was still running the show after Wilson’s devastating stroke in October of 1919, exhausting himself while attempting to pass the League of Nations. Wilson would linger on in office until being mercifully relieved by Republican Warren Harding in February of 1924 as a shell of a man; even Wikipedia notes:

[Post-stroke, Wilson] was insulated by his wife, who screened matters for his attention and delegating others to his cabinet heads. Eventually, Wilson resumed his attendance at cabinet meetings, but his input there was perfunctory. By February 1920 the President’s true condition was public. Nearly every major newspaper expressed qualms about Wilson’s fitness for the presidency at a time when the League fight was reaching a climax, and domestic issues such as strikes, unemployment, inflation and the threat of Communism were ablaze. Neither his wife nor his physician nor personal assistant were willing to assume authority to take upon themselves the certification required by the Constitution to declare his “inability to discharge the powers and duties of the said office”. This complex case became an inducement for passage of the 25th Amendment.

It took a stroke to effectively end the Wilson presidency; it simply took Obama discovering that the world and the Beltway are mean places full of mean people who keep saying no to him — to  him! — the ‘Bam Who Would be King for Wright’s sake! — for him to take his golf ball and go home.

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Parliamentary Objection

July 28th, 2014 - 7:39 pm

“Why the Left Protests Better: A History of ‘Disobedient Objects,’” is the headline of this Daily Beast article, which posits:

Walking through the show, it’s impossible to miss the trend—virtually all of the innovative, daring pieces of design and art have emerged from left-wing protest groups. The organizers insist this was never the intention, they just couldn’t find any examples from the Right. Grindon told The Daily Beast the realization surprised him, but it seems the Left is more inventive, better at protesting.

“I think, by structure, those movements on the far-right aren’t about creating solidarity, aren’t about creating new worlds. They’re often about preserving at least imagined versions of the world, so they tend [to] not radically experiment with the culture,” he said. “They tend not to have the same level of creativity.”

They tend to have actual jobs:

Not long after [Andrew Ferguson] and I met, we were driving down Pennsylvania Avenue and encountered some or another noisy pinko demonstration. “How come,” I asked Andy, “whenever something upsets the Left, you see immediate marches and parades and rallies with signs already printed and rhyming slogans already composed, whereas whenever something upsets the Right, you see two members of the Young Americans for Freedom waving a six-inch American flag?”

“We have jobs,” said Andy.

—P. J. O`Rourke, from the introduction to Parliament of Whores.

For my interview with P.J. earlier this year on his new book, The Baby Boom, click here.

Wasting Away Again In Obamaville

July 28th, 2014 - 4:19 pm

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Now is the time when we juxtapose, Small Dead Animals-style:

On Tuesday, the chief human resources officers of more than 100 large corporations sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi urging quick passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

The officials represent companies with a vast array of business interests: General Electric, The Walt Disney Company, Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, McDonald’s Corporation, The Wendy’s Company, Coca-Cola, The Cheesecake Factory, Johnson & Johnson, Verizon Communications, Hewlett-Packard, General Mills, and many more. All want to see increases in immigration levels for low-skill as well as high-skill workers, in addition to a path to citizenship for the millions of immigrants currently in the U.S. illegally.

“Companies lay off thousands, then demand immigration reform for new labor,” Byron York, the Washington Examiner, September 11, 2013.

But where to house all those illegal immigrants flooding the border to replace American workers? The big box stores emptied out by the Obama economy, of course:

The Obama administration is reportedly looking to house illegal immigrant juveniles in empty big box stores and even airplane hangars across the nation.

According to a report in The New Republic, “in recent weeks, FEMA representatives have sent mass emails to advocacy networks throughout the country soliciting potential detention facilities and offering guidelines for acceptable spaces.” Suggestions for “workable locations” include “Office space, warehouse, big box store, shopping mall with interior concourse, event venues, hotel or dorms, aircraft hangers [sic].”

“Report: FEMA Looking to House Illegals in Empty Big Box Stores, Aircraft Hangars,” Tony Lee, Big Government, yesterday.

Strengthening the American economy: the parties intertwined in the deeply dysfunctional corporatist marriage between the left and big business just might be doing it wrong.

Update: As Investor’s Business Daily notes, “Democrats Admit Amnesty Is For Political Purposes,” which also explains why their enabling friends in big business are so eager to go along.

Truman Shrugs

July 28th, 2014 - 12:44 pm

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“Is Barack Obama John Galt?”,  John Hinderaker provocatively asked yesterday at Power Line:

Now, Barack Obama has decreed that the American Atlas should shrug. Weary of its burdens and tired of being blamed for the world’s problems, America is withdrawing from its global leadership role. And the result, as in Atlas Shrugged, is disaster. Everywhere one looks, there is turmoil and violence. Russia is resurgent; China threatens Vietnam, Japan and the Philippines; Iraq’s Christians are being wiped out; Iran’s nuclear weapons program proceeds apace; the Sunni Gulf states seek new alliances; the Taliban is retaking Afghanistan; American diplomatic personnel are withdrawn from Libya as that country descends into chaos; al Qaeda extends its influence in Africa. The list goes on and on. The United States has gone Galt–everywhere except Gaza, where we are playing a discreditable role in support of a terrorist regime–and the forces of evil and disorder are on the march.

Of course, the analogy ultimately breaks down. In Atlas Shrugged, the world’s producers go on strike in order to show that the Left is wrong. Barack Obama has withdrawn the United States from its leadership role, not in order to demonstrate that the Left’s critiques are wrong, but because he believes them to be right. Unlike the producers in Atlas Shrugged, Obama means for the U.S. to “go Galt” permanently.

It’s an interesting analogy, though perhaps not built around the right person. As John concedes, Barack “You didn’t build that” Obama is no John Galt. (And certainly no Howard Roark, to justify a rerun of the Photoshop I created in 2012.) But he can be seen in many ways to be something akin to Harry Truman. Both were machine hack Democrats, who assumed the office of the presidency deep into global struggles against anti-Semitic terror-based ideologies. Like Obama sitting in the pews of Trinity United rapturously drinking in the poisoned words of Rev. Wright, Harry Truman was raised in a crudely racialist environment:

Many who are aware of Harry Truman’s support for Israel and his desegregation of the armed forces are shocked by the anti-Semitic statements contained in his recently discovered 1947 diary. But Truman’s bigotry comes as little surprise to historians who have studied the man and his career.

Truman’s ugly comments about Jews being “very, very selfish” and, as such, not caring “how many Estonians, Latvians, Finns, Poles, Yugoslavs or Greeks get murdered,” or his charge that “neither Hitler nor Stalin has anything on them for cruelty or mistreatment to the underdog,” are distressingly consistent with his disparaging views about other racial and ethnic minorities. As a younger man, he wrote in a 1911 letter to his wife, Bess: “I think one man is as good as another so long as he’s honest and decent and not a n***er or a Chinaman.”

Even his reverential biographer, Merle Miller, admitted in the Truman biography “Plain Speaking” that later in life “privately Mr. Truman always said ‘n***er’; at least he always did when I talked to him.” He also often privately referred to Jews as “kikes.”

And like Obama’s Manichean demonization of his political enemies (and like his former boss, FDR), Truman was perfectly prepared to max out the Godwin meter if it suited his career, believing that the ends would justify the means and that such transgressions would largely be airbrushed out of history.

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“The very expensive death of the Chevy Volt,” as diagnosed by John Hayward at Breitbart.com:

I’ve been a student of the Chevy Volt electric-car debacle since the first time I took a stab at figuring out the actual per-unit cost of each car, with the subsidies figured in.  The thing launched with a sticker price of $41,000, but direct state and federal subsidies – i.e. taxpaying chumps forced at gunpoint to pay for part of your shiny new electric car – could take it down to $33,500 or less.  But if you figured in all the subsidies those taxpayer chumps were forced to give manufacturers, they really cost at least $81,000 apiece.  You paid $33k or so, while people who will never drive a Volt, and maybe never buy a Chevy, covered the rest.

Later Voltologists suggested I was being far too generous to this boondoggle, because the subsidies indirectly drawn into production of the vehicle and its battery were far larger than the direct nuts-and-bolts subsidies I was counting.  It has been suggested the real unit cost was closer to $200,000 per car.

Hayward goes on to note:

Well, here we are in 2014, and it can be decisively stated that skyrocketing Volt sales are not in the cards.  In fact, Detroit News reports that the European version of the Vault is being scrapped completely.  As for domestic sales…

Volt sales have also struggled and never met GM’s initial forecasts for sales growth.

Volt sales fell 34 percent in June in the United States to 1,777 and are down 12.6 percent this year to 8,615. GM cut prices of its plug-in hybrid Volt last year. It’s also offering hefty incentives for its slow-selling plug-in Cadillac ELR, which has sold just 390 vehicles in the first half of the year.

Last September, then GM CEO Dan Akerson told The Detroit News the automaker would take on upstart EV automaker Tesla Motors. Akerson said the Detroit automaker plans to confront Tesla via its Cadillac brand.

“If you want to compete head-to-head with Tesla, and we ultimately will, you want to do it with a Cadillac,” he said.

Yes, and you want to do it with your own money, you corporate parasite.  What’s the big strategy for the crippled Volt taking down the arthritic Tesla in the Who-Gives-A-Damn electric car micro-market?

While GM will cheerfully continue rake in tax payer dollars to build their hybrids, their deep down sense of shame is perhaps reflected in their recent ad for the coal-powered Cadillac, whose strutting theme is the antithesis of the welfare state, corporate and otherwise:

“Let me save you a bunch of time: All the news overseas is bad this morning. Bad, bad, bad,” Jim Geraghty writes:

Breaking news out of Algeria:

An Air Algeria-operated MD83 carrying 116 passengers and crew disappeared en route from Burkina Faso in Africa to Algiers, the aircraft’s owner said.

The plane, which took off in the west African country shortly after midnight, was supposed to land at 05:10 a.m. local time, Swiftair, a charter company based in Spain said in a statement today. The plane carried 110 passengers and six crew.

“There has been no contact with the plane until now,” Swiftair said. “Emergency teams and the company’s personnel are working to figure out what happened and will notify people as further information is available.”

Ukraine: “While Kiev made significant advances against rebels in the country’s east in recent days, Ukrainian and U.S. officials say Russian weapons are continuing to pour over the border. The escalation in fighting suggests Russian President Vladimir Putin has no intention of dialing back his support for the separatists, denting Western hopes that international attention from the airliner crash would force him to change course.”

In contrast, a “tiny bit of good news” spotted by Jim out of Israel…

“Under pressure from Israeli and American officials, the Federal Aviation Administration lifted a temporary ban on flights by American carriers to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport late on Wednesday night.” The European airlines are reinstating flights.

…Followed by more grim news from Europe, which reads like the continent is reverting back to 1930s-era antisemitism.

Meanwhile, Time magazine, as Ed Morrissey notes at Hot Air, is running the following cover:

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Naturally, Time-Warner-CNN-HBO has a serious case of amnesia as to how we got here. To refresh their memory, here’s the man they propped up in 2008 holding a copy of Time columnist and CNN droning head Fareed Zakaria’s then new book, which portrayed the brave new “Post-American World” as if it were a good thing. Here’s CNN clearing a path for Barack Obama in mid-2008 via “The Wright-Free Zone”:

In November of 2008, even before he took office, Time magazine declared Barack Obama the next FDR. Apparently, now Time-Warner-CNN-HBO is surprised to see a similar amount of moral relativity from this president in regards to Russia and Putin as FDR displayed towards Stalin and the Soviet Union.

No one perhaps more so than Candy Crowley of CNN, who asked Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) if she “believes that U.S Russian relations are now at cold war levels.”

Feinstein responded yes.

Gee, who knew?

And who did everything she could to derail Romney’s chances in 2012? But of course:

I’m not sure which is worse — Time-Warner-CNN-HBO feigning surprise that the world has ended up as ugly as it has during the administrations that they greased the skids for twice, or their amnesia regarding their complicity. But in any case, today’s news of fresh disaster was sadly all too predictable — and avoidable.

Update: “How Our World Fell Apart,” from Ed Klein at Townhall. For my interview earlier this week with Ed, click here.

Well, of course. But it’s always nice to have confirmation:

“The longer individuals were exposed to socialism, the more likely they were to cheat on our task,” according to a new study, “The (True) Legacy of Two Really Existing Economic Systems,” from Duke University and the University of Munich. The team of researchers concluded this after working with 259 participants from Berlin who grew up on opposite sides of the infamous wall.

When playing a dice game that could earn them €6 ($8), subjects originally from the East, which was for four decades under socialist rule, were more likely than their market economy counterparts in West to lie about how they fared. The Economist explains the task:

The game was simple enough. Each participant was asked to throw a die 40 times and record each roll on a piece of paper. A higher overall tally earned a bigger payoff. Before each roll, players had to commit themselves to write down the number that was on either the top or the bottom side of the die. However, they did not have to tell anyone which side they had chosen, which made it easy to cheat by rolling the die first and then pretending that they had selected the side with the highest number. If they picked the top and then rolled a two, for example, they would have an incentive to claim—falsely—that they had chosen the bottom, which would be a five.

The results were that “East Germans cheated twice as much as West Germans overall,” leaving the researchers to conclude the “the political regime of socialism has a lasting impact on citizens’ basic morality.”

And then there’s the game that asks: who goes national socialist? 

Popular during the predecessor regime to the former East and West Germany and increasingly en vogue today.

Update: QED.

Quote of the Day

July 22nd, 2014 - 3:53 pm

The real issue when it comes to immigration is not simply what particular immigration policy America should have, but whether America can have any immigration policy at all.

A country that does not control its own borders does not have any immigration policy. There may be laws on the books, but such laws are just meaningless words if people from other countries can cross the borders whenever they choose.

—Thomas Sowell, “Bordering on Madness.” Read the whole thing.

Related: “If governments shouldn’t be in the business of deporting children, Mexico should go ahead and amnestize all the Central American kids currently waiting near its northern border to cross into Texas, right?”

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“Liberals are increasingly religious about their own liberalism, treating it like a comprehensive view of reality and the human good,” Damon Linker writes at The Week:

From the dawn of the modern age, religious thinkers have warned that, strictly speaking, secular politics is impossible — that without the transcendent foundation of Judeo-Christian monotheism to limit the political sphere, ostensibly secular citizens would begin to invest political ideas and ideologies with transcendent, theological meaning.

Put somewhat differently: Human beings will be religious one way or another. Either they will be religious about religious things, or they will be religious about political things.

With traditional faith in rapid retreat over the past decade, liberals have begun to grow increasingly religious about their own liberalism, which they are treating as a comprehensive view of reality and the human good.

But liberalism’s leading theoreticians (Locke, Montesquieu, Jefferson, Madison, Tocqueville, Mill) never intended it to serve as a comprehensive view of reality and the human good. On the contrary, liberalism was supposed to act as a narrowly political strategy for living peacefully in a world of inexorably clashing comprehensive views of reality and the human good.

The key to the strategy was the promulgation of the pluralistic principle of toleration.

Which is why the proper response to the distinctive dogmatism of our time is to urge liberals to return to their tolerant roots. That’s what I’ve been trying to do in my own writing, and my efforts will continue until more liberals come to their senses and begin recalling their comrades to a robust defense of their own pluralistic principles.

Two comments: First, this is all old news to anyone who read Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism six year ago. And second, a return to liberalism’s “tolerant roots?” Good luck with that, champ.

(Photo at top of page of the Joe Louis fist memorial in Detroit, placed there in 1986, during the disastrous and racist 20 year reign of Democrat Mayor Coleman Young. Photo by James Marvin Phelps, Shutterstock.com.)

‘Schrödinger’s Crime’

July 20th, 2014 - 3:04 pm

“FedEx Indicted For Failing To Look Into Its Packages To See If Any Online Pharmacies Were Sending Drugs,” TechDirt reports:

Back in March of last year, we were somewhat disturbed by UPS agreeing to forfeit $40 million to the US government for shipping drugs from “illegal internet pharmacies.” Not that such drugs or pharmacies should be legal (that’s a whole different discussion), but it’s insane to pin the blame for the shipments on the shipping company, whose sole job is to get packages from point A to point B. In fact, we don’t want shipping companies to be liable for what’s in packages, because then they have not just the incentive, but the mandate to snoop through all our packages.

Apparently, FedEx was unwilling to fall on its sword and cough up a similar amount to the US government, so the DEA and DOJ have announced they’ve gotten a grand jury to indict the company for delivering drugs associated with internet pharmacies. You can read the full indictment, which tries to spin a variety of stories into evidence that somehow FedEx “knew” what was in those packages.

As several of Instapundit’s commenters note, FedEx is but the latest non-union company to be shaken down by the Obama administration. “Unexpectedly.”

(Headline via Twitter user “The Hired Mind.”)

When America Fell Apart

July 17th, 2014 - 12:28 pm

“The summer of 2014 will go down in history as the season when America fell apart. Let’s take a tour of the disasters,” Victor Davis Hanson writes. After going through Obama’s alienation of Germany, Japan, terrorists running rampant over the Middle East, looming war between the Palestinians and Israel, Putin’s efforts to swallow up Crimea and Ukraine, Snowden’s leaks, the shrinking American economy, the stillborn “Stimulus” program, the disaster at the American border, the IRS scandal, Obama, Susan Rice and Hillary lying about a video causing Benghazi, and the Bowe Berghdal debacle, VDH writes, “The scandals now come so fast and furiously that we no sooner hear of one than yet another new mess makes us forget it:”

What keeps the country afloat this terrible summer?

Some American companies produce more gas and oil than ever despite, not because of, the Obama administration. Most Americans still get up every day, work hard, and pay more taxes than they receive in subsidies. American soldiers remain the most formidable in the world despite the confusion of their superiors. The law, regardless of the administration, is still followed by most. And most do not duck out on their daily responsibilities to golf, play pool, or go on junkets.

It is still a hard thing to derail America in a summer — but then again, we have a long way to go until fall.

Yes, Obama’s “dense-pack” assault of endless recurring scandals and disasters actually works in his favor by numbing voters — and the media, both of whom are overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the debacle. Just imagine how the MSM would be reporting the endlessly horrible news if there was a Republican in the White House, or in the case of LBJ in 1968, a fellow Democrat they actually loathed:

William A. Jacobson, writing in the Washington Examiner notes that “For years, critics of President Obama and his administration have complained about a rising disregard for the rule of law,” an a “unexpected” development for an administration led by a man who boasted repeatedly on the campaign circuit in 2007 and 2008 of being such an astute Constitutional scholar:

Overall, the Obama administration is having a miserable term at the Supreme Court, even aside from these unanimous rejections of its positions.

While the government typically wins 70 percent of the cases at the Supreme Court, this term its win percentage is only 39 percent of the cases in which it was a party.

The Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case, finding that the Obamacare contraception mandate was invalid in some circumstances, was a fitting end to a term in which the high court handed the administration one high profile loss after another.

There always is an uneasy balance between the executive branch and the Congress. That balance is upset when the executive branch treats legislation as a mere enabler and not as binding law, and when the executive branch engages in power grabs at the expense of the Congress and citizens.

It is that disregard for the rule of law that has become the central narrative of the Obama administration.

Which is taking “phoning it in” to new heights. As Patrick Howley notes at the Daily Caller today, “Former Obama administration Labor Secretary Hilda Solis illegally solicited funds for Obama’s re-election campaign:”

Solis pressured a Labor Department employee who worked under her to contribute to an Obama campaign fundraiser that she was headlining at the La Fonda Supper Club in Los Angeles, according to bombshell new audio released by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa Wednesday. Solis was prohibited from fundraising by the federal Hatch Act, which pertains to all Cabinet members.

“Hi—this is Hilda Solis calling, um, just calling you off-the-record here—Wanted to ask you if you could, um, help us get folks organized to come to a fundraiser that we’re doing for Organizing for America for Obama campaign on Friday at La Fonda at 6 p.m.,” Solis said in a voicemail recording.

Howley adds that “Solis was on official duty in her capacity as Labor Secretary when she traveled to Los Angeles to headline the fundraiser in March 2012.”

But as with Fast & Furious, the IRS scandal, Benghazi, Obamacare, and all of the other Cook County-style scandalsm which overwhelm the Obama administration’s critics in “dense pack” style, will there be any repercussions for Solis?

Privilege Checked

July 15th, 2014 - 10:34 am

America’s most visible illegal alien detained, Noah Rothman writes at Hot Air, sadly using an exquisitely PC term in his first sentence:

Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and activist who favors of immigration reform, is also a proud undocumented immigrant. Born in the Philippines but raised in the United States from the age of 12, Vargas worked and lived in America for years where he advocated through his reporting the reformation of American immigration laws.

Last week, Vargas penned a report from Texas for Politico Magazine chronicling the plight of a person in his position – a man without documentation on the frontlines of an immigration crisis. He recently produced a pro-reform documentary entitled Documented, which is set to air on CNN. It is not unfair to say that Vargas may be the most successful and well-known illegal immigrant in the United States. Indeed, that is a status and a reputation that Vargas has cultivated through his prolific and exemplary work after he revealed his illegal status in 2011.

On Monday, armed with only his Filipino passport and a copy of the United States Constitution, he was detained by immigration authorities in a Texas airport and taken to a border patrol station for processing.

The enforcement of American immigration law immediately sent the left into fits of rage.

Of course — what doesn’t send the left into fits of rage these days? Particularly when, as Noah writes, Vargas’ privilege was finally checked.

Vargas is employing a variation on a tactic that put Michael Moore on the map with his first film, Roger & Me. Just as Moore had an on-camera interview in the can with then-GM CEO Roger Smith, but couldn’t show it, lest it ruin the theme of his documentary, there’s little doubt that working through channels, Vargas could easily obtain legal American citizenship — but chooses not to do so, in order to flaunt his victim status, so desirable amongst his fellow leftists these days. (QED.)

Rothman writes that “It is true that Vargas is far more American than he is Filipino.” It will be interesting to see if he’ll decide to now make the former status official, or continue to wallow in self-imposed victimhood as the world’s most documented “undocumented” immigrant.

Chris Cabrea, Border Patrol Union vice president, tells Fox News’ Martha MacCallum that, as Breitbart TV reports, “‘a lot of our guys’ are coming down with diseases:”

“Coming off the long journey they have been subjected to and then diseases some agents are contracting. We had one get bacterial pneumonia a couple days ago,” Cabrea said. “A lot of our guys are coming down with scabies or lice.”

Cabrea added: “The border patrol is trying to play catch up and we’re having a lot of diseases coming in and some we haven’t seen in decades and we are worried they’ll spread throughout the United States especially if they are being released and have the disease.”

Shades of the opening of Tom Wolfe’s classic “Great Relearning” essay originally from 1987, updated in his 2000 non-fiction anthology, Hooking Up:

In 1968, in San Francisco, I came across a curious footnote to the hippie movement. At the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic, there were doctors treating diseases no living doctor had ever encountered before, diseases that had disappeared so long ago they had never even picked up Latin names, diseases such as the mange, the grunge, the itch, the twitch, the thrush, the scroff, the rot. And how was it that they now returned? It had to do with the fact that thousands of young men and women had migrated to San Francisco to live communally in what I think history will record as one of the most extraordinary religious fevers of all time.

The hippies sought nothing less than to sweep aside all codes and restraints of the past and start from zero.

Among the codes and restraints that people in the communes swept aside–quite purposely–were those that said you shouldn’t use other people’s toothbrushes or sleep on other people’s mattresses without changing the sheets, or as was more likely, without using any sheets at all, or that you and five other people shouldn’t drink from the same bottle of Shasta or take tokes from the same cigarette. And now, in 1968, they were relearning…the laws of hygiene…by getting the mange, the grunge, the itch, the twitch, the thrush, the scroff, the rot.

This process, namely the relearning — following a Promethean and unprecedented start from zero — seems to me to be the leitmotif of the twenty-first century in America.

The notion of “Start From Zero” has echoes of the terrifying phrase “Year Zero,” which socialist regimes invariably impose on their blighted captive subjects. As Wikipedia notes — and they’re actually right on this one — “The term Year Zero applied to the takeover of Cambodia in April 1975 by the Khmer Rouge, is an analogy to the Year One of the French Revolutionary Calendar:”

During the French Revolution, after the abolition of the French monarchy (September 20, 1792), the National Convention instituted a new calendar and declared the beginning of the Year I. The Khmer Rouge takeover of Phnom Penh was rapidly followed by a series of drastic revolutionary de-industrialization policies resulting in a death toll that vastly exceeded that of the French Reign of Terror.

The idea behind Year Zero is that all culture and traditions within a society must be completely destroyed or discarded and a new revolutionary culture must replace it, starting from scratch. All history of a nation or people before Year Zero is deemed largely irrelevant, as it will (as an ideal) be purged and replaced from the ground up.

In Cambodia, teachers, artists, and intellectuals were especially singled out and executed during the purges accompanying Year Zero.

Fortunately, American politics don’t quite play for those stakes — at least not yet — but there was plenty of Year Zero and Start From Zero-style talk amongst the fever swamps of Mr. Obama’s zanier supporters in 2008 and early 2009. Obama himself promised a “fundamental transformation” of America, as New Republic pundits openly called for Marxism, formerly staid Newsweek ran pro-socialism cover stories, and Spike Lee blurted out in late October of 2008 on Democrat house organ MSNBC his prediction that 2009 would usher in a BC/AD-rivaling millennial shift. “You have B.B.: Before Barack and A.B.: After Barack,” Lee promised:

What he’s done is historic. This coalition which he’s gotten: black, white, Hispanic, Asian, gay, straight, whatever. It’s come together, and this has never been done before. And I think this thing is, predeortained [sic!] or whatever you want to call it. I’m not gonna say that it’s God. But this is not a mistake this is happening now. I don’t think it’s a mistake it’s happening, that he’s here when this country is at its lowest in many, many years.

Whenever I’ve quoted Wolfe’s “Great Relearning” essay, I’ve usually asked, “So when exactly does the Great Relearning begin?” But perhaps, things have gotten bad enough during the A.B. era to start the slow process rolling. Last fall, Roger L. Simon dubbed the president a “Libertarian Manufacturing Machine.” Perhaps the distinct lack of “prededeortainment” of illegal immigrants, the collapse of American foreign policy in the Middle East, the flat-lined economy, and a president who’d much rather party with rock stars and engage in late-night dorm room BS sessions than actually do the drudgework of managing the federal government has shaken some Americans out of their slumber in time for 2016, as Victor Davis Hanson writes in his latest article.

…If there still is an America in 2016, that is.

Related: Oh, and speaking of the Return of the Primitive and The Great Relearning

I Question the Premise

July 14th, 2014 - 10:57 am

It’s rare that a journalist gets it so spectacularly wrong in the first 50 words of his article, but in the Financial Times yesterday titled “A farewell to trust: Obama’s Germany syndrome,” British journalist Henry Luce augers the plane deeply into the ground without even leaving the runway:

What did the president know, and when did he know it? Such was demanded of Richard Nixon, who resigned 40 years ago next month. In no sense can President Barack Obama be morally compared with the man who brought us Watergate. He is neither a crook nor a liar.

Well other than the greatest generational wealth theft in American history, the IRS and Fast & Furious scandals, and the greatest example of serial lying by a president ever. Even leftwing house organ, the Orwellian-named “Politifact” heaved a big Al Gore-level sigh and reluctantly awarded Mr. Obama The Lie of the Year at the end of 2013:

Which may explain the 180 that Luce does in his next paragraph:

But Mr Obama shares one problem that could cripple what remains of his presidency – most people no longer trust him. The sentiment spans foreign allies as well as domestic critics. When trust goes, respect is seldom far behind.

Unexpectedly, as the president’s defenders at Bloomberg.com would reflexively say. The same goes for journalism as well, particularly those who still write such naive material about a president who has spun so dramatically out of control.

But then, as Wikipedia notes in Luce’s biography:

His first job was as a correspondent for The Guardian in Geneva. He first joined the Financial Times in 1995 and reported for the FT from the Philippines, after which he took one year sabbatical working in Washington, DC as the speech writer to Lawrence Summers, then US treasury secretary (1999–2001) during the Clinton administration.

Unexpectedly.

Two Time-Warners In One!

July 12th, 2014 - 12:50 pm

Past performance is no guarantee of future results:

“Increasingly, the Obama White House has become so brittle, and so controlling of the message, that people are afraid to respond to me,” said Kimberly Dozier, a former Associated Press reporter. She was one of the journalists whose phone records were obtained by the Department of Justice last spring during its investigation into a leak of classified information about a failed Al-Qaeda plot. The scope of that investigation, some critics said, was unprecedented overreach.

According to ProPublica, the Obama administration has filed eight cases under the Espionage Act, which criminalizes disclosing information harmful to national security. Before the Obama administration, only three known cases had ever been charged under the act.

“Bloggers, Surveillance and Obama’s Orwellian State,” Time magazine, yesterday.

Until last month when it was spun-off as an independent entity (hopefully headed for a fate worse than Newsweek), Time magazine was part of the Time-Warner-CNN-HBO empire, which collectively portrayed Barack Obama on the cover of Time magazine as the second coming of FDR immediately after winning election in November of 2008, presented a cake on-air in February of 2010 to celebrate the the one year anniversary of the generational wealth theft that was administration’s “stimulus” program, invited children on-air as human shields to sing the joys of Obamacare, lied about the nature of the program, and allowed its anchors to share an on-air “fist bump” in Fearless Leader’s honor. Not to mention paved the way for the administration in mid-2008 by declaring their TV “news” network to be a “Wright-Free Zone”:

We’ll flash-forward to this week, and watch as the hits just keep on coming, right after the page break.

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“Harry Reid Slammed By Hometown Paper For ‘Race-Baiting,’” Chuck Ross writes at the Daily Caller:

The trigger for the Review-Journal was a comment Reid made earlier this week after the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision.

In a 5-4 decision, the Court sided with Hobby Lobby, allowing it and other “closely-held” corporations to skirt the Obamacare mandate that requires companies to provide health insurance plans to their employees that contain coverage for certain contraceptives. Companies like Hobby Lobby can now cite their religious principles in deciding to not provide coverage for those contraceptives.

An angry Reid criticized the decision, saying, “The one thing we are going to do during this work period, sooner rather than later, is to ensure that women’s lives are not determined by the virtues of five white men.”

The issue there is that only four of the justices that sided with Hobby Lobby are white. The fifth justice was Clarence Thomas, who is black.

“Sen. Reid’s slip was no accident,” reads the Review-Journal editorial. “He believes racial and ethnic minorities are ideologically monolithic constituencies who are incapable of independent or — gasp! — right-of-center thinking.”

“In the majority leader’s mind, Mr. Thomas is not an African-American because the justice doesn’t blindly subscribe to liberal orthodoxy,” the paper wrote, before pointing out other examples of Reid compartmentalizing minorities.

During his 2010 re-election campaign, Reid said of Latino voters, “I don’t know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican, OK? Do I need to say more?”

As the editorial points out, Nevada’s Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, is Hispanic.

Beyond Senator Geary’s open racism, there’s also all of those unfounded rumors that somehow keep circulating about the aging Democrat…

Turning Japanese? I Really Think So

July 12th, 2014 - 12:05 pm

Now is the time when we juxtapose, Small Dead Animals-style:

What are the lessons for the U.S. from Japan’s experience? Reason Foundation policy analyst Anthony Randazzo is the co-author of the recent study “Avoiding an American Lost Decade: Lessons from Japan’s bubble and recession” and a July 2009 cover story for Reason magazine, “Turning Japanese: Japan’s post-bubble policies produced a ‘lost decade.’ So why is President Obama emulating them?”

“Turning Japanese,” Reason.com, June 23rd, 2009, the source of Nick Gillespie’s video atop this post, also from 2009.

Flash-forward to today:

“U.S. stocks will be ‘very disappointing’ for 10 years.”

—Headline at the Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch column.

Unexpectedly, as Bloomberg.com would say.

The Misadventures of the New Old Europe

July 11th, 2014 - 3:50 pm

Back on July 4th of 2010, I wrote:

It occurred to me recently that for a guy who evidently really, really seems to dislike the British quite a bit, the America that President Obama wants to build looks a lot like pre-Thatcher England, circa 1977 or so: shoddily built cars from a quasi-government manufacturer (British Leyland then, GM today), an endless welfare state, mammoth unemployment, a neutered military, an exhausted and culturally bifurcated society, etc.

Or as the Blog Professor writes today, “On this 4th of July, I am asking myself why liberals celebrate independence from the British at all since they now want to be just like them.” [Link no longer functional -- Ed]

Which is an odd paradox for the president to be in: he certainly seems to loathe America, loathes England, and yet is forced to govern the former country as he attempts to mold it into the second.

I was wrong; it’s worse: Barack Obama doesn’t want to fundamentally transform America into the exhausted Labour Party-controlled England of the pre-Thatcher era, but into the even more dissipated EU of today. And when it comes to this particular warped vision of the socialist-in-chief, he’s succeeding all-too-brilliantly, Matthew Continetti writes in “The New Old Europe” at the Washington Free Beacon:

One cannot look at the images of protests in Murrietta, California, where demonstrators waving Gadsden Flags stopped school buses carrying the sons and daughters of Guatemala and Honduras to shelters, without recalling the vitriolic debates over busing in the 1970s, without thinking of the anti-immigration marches in Western and Southern Europe today. One cannot look at the images of the children themselves, sleeping in detention, looking vacantly in the distance, lured to this country under false pretenses, desperate for food and shelter and attachment and hope, without remembering the Spanish detention camps in the Canary Islands, or the Italian “Identification and Expulsion Center” in Rome. This isn’t An American Tail. This is Children of Men.

The questions of sovereignty, compassion, and relocation, of the economic and social costs of mass immigration of displaced peoples, of the most basic understanding of what a nation is, what borders are for, what distinguishes a citizen from an alien: Such questions have dominated European politics, and are coming to dominate American politics as well. They have also coarsened European politics, made it more antagonistic. They have set the advocates of the European Union, and of the immigrants, against nationalist publics. Elite condescension is met with public antipathy, even extremism. The casualties? No biggies: just trust, cohesion, and fellow feeling—the very ingredients for a healthy, successful country.

Doesn’t matter whether you are talking about the European Union or the executive branch under Barack Obama: a complex, technocratic, arbitrary, arrogant regulatory state that fails in its most basic tasks, even as it grows in size and scope, causes a populist, nationalist, conservative reaction. Where that leads is anyone’s guess. Who predicted David Brat’s victory? Who would have thought that the president wouldn’t visit the huddled masses at the border, but would fundraise in a castle? Americans are entering political territory they have never traveled before. And strange days are ahead for the new old Europe.

Read the whole thing.

Phony Statistics Saved or Created

July 11th, 2014 - 2:07 pm

1984-not-a-users-guide

“President Obama likes to claim that he’s deported a lot of people. But he hasn’t,” Jonah Goldberg writes in his latest column:

President Obama has gotten a lot of grief from his base for being the “deporter-in-chief.” But the basis for this charge is rooted in some statistical sleight of hand that he uses on the stump to show that he’s tough on illegal immigration. President Obama likes to claim that he’s deported a lot of people. But he hasn’t. What he’s done is count people caught and turned around at the border as “deportations.” If previous administrations had counted thwarted illegal immigrants that way, Obama’s number of “deportations” from the border would likely still be much lower than that of other recent presidents. Meanwhile, as the Los Angeles Times reported in April, “expulsions of people who are settled and working in the United States have fallen steadily since his first year in office, and are down more than 40 percent since 2009.”

“If you are a run-of-the-mill immigrant here illegally, your odds of getting deported are close to zero — it’s just highly unlikely to happen,” John Sandweg, the former acting head of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), told the Times.

Obama has been even more generous to the kids of illegal immigrants, sometimes called “dreamers.” He unilaterally — and some would say illegally — granted permanent resident status to any kids who’ve been living here a while and who came here under the age of 16. The same president who denounces his opponents for “playing politics” made that decision during an election year.

Oh and speaking of playing politics, this is far from the first time that the Obama administration has used a statistical sleight of hand to bolster their position, or at least get them through that week’s news cycle. As former Bush #43 speechwriter Bill McGurn noted in the Wall Street Journal back in June of 2009 at the apex of Hopenchange, “‘Saved or created’ has become the signature phrase for Barack Obama as he describes what his stimulus is doing for American jobs:”

“Saved or created” has become the signature phrase for Barack Obama as he describes what his stimulus is doing for American jobs. His latest invocation came yesterday, when the president declared that the stimulus had already saved or created at least 150,000 American jobs — and announced he was ramping up some of the stimulus spending so he could “save or create” an additional 600,000 jobs this summer. These numbers come in the context of an earlier Obama promise that his recovery plan will “save or create three to four million jobs over the next two years.”

[Bush #43 Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto] sees a double standard at play. “We would never have used a formula like ‘save or create,’” he tells me. “To begin with, the number is pure fiction — the administration has no way to measure how many jobs are actually being ‘saved.’ And if we had tried to use something this flimsy, the press would never have let us get away with it.”

Of course, the inability to measure Mr. Obama’s jobs formula is part of its attraction. Never mind that no one — not the Labor Department, not the Treasury, not the Bureau of Labor Statistics — actually measures “jobs saved.” As the New York Times delicately reports, Mr. Obama’s jobs claims are “based on macroeconomic estimates, not an actual counting of jobs.” Nice work if you can get away with it.

And get away with it he has. However dubious it may be as an economic measure, as a political formula “save or create” allows the president to invoke numbers that convey an illusion of precision. Harvard economist and former Bush economic adviser Greg Mankiw calls it a “non-measurable metric.” And on his blog, he acknowledges the political attraction.

“The expression ‘create or save,’ which has been used regularly by the President and his economic team, is an act of political genius,” writes Mr. Mankiw. “You can measure how many jobs are created between two points in time. But there is no way to measure how many jobs are saved. Even if things get much, much worse, the President can say that there would have been 4 million fewer jobs without the stimulus.”

Remember when Obama’s campaign tried to paint Hillary as Big Brother (or Big Sister in her case) from Orwell’s 1984 to launch Obama’s presidential bid? And yet no other administration in American history has governed more using the Big Lie propaganda tactics of 1984′s Ministry of Truth, in the style of its ever-rising chocolate rations and other economic happy talk, to Oceania being at war with Eurasia one day and East Asia the next.

QED:

But then, as Jonah notes in his latest emailed G-File (which should be online at NRO tomorrow), “I think I’ve stumbled onto a handy heuristic…for listening to Obama. Whenever he talks about himself, immediately flip it around so he’s saying the opposite:”

It’s not so much that he’s lying. Though if he were a Game of Thrones character, “Obama the Deceiver, First of His Name” would be a pretty apt formal title. No, he’s projecting. It’s an ego thing. I am fond of pointing out Obama’s insufficiently famous confession, “I actually believe my own bullsh*t.” What I like about it is that’s it’s like a verbal Escher drawing. He believes his own b.s. but by calling it b.s. he acknowledges it’s not believable. It’s like sarcastically insisting that you’re being serious. It’s earnest irony or ironic earnestness. If you take the statement too seriously, you could end up like android #1 in “I, Mudd.”

* * * * * * * * * *

Anyway, I don’t take psychoanalysis, too seriously (“If you did, what would happen to me?” — The Couch). But I think Obama’s penchant for deriding his opponents as cynics and opportunists stems from the fact that he sees the world through precisely those sorts of prisms. But he tells himself he’s different because he does it for good purposes and besides, he’s so awesome his b.s. is true. No one knows if God can make a rock so heavy He can’t lift it, but Obama can sling such exquisite b.s. even he can believe. And because he believes it, he can’t tolerate the idea that others don’t.

Oh and speaking of 1984, that Time piece we quoted earlier today, titled, “Bloggers, Surveillance and Obama’s Orwellian State,” contains this quote:

“Increasingly, the Obama White House has become so brittle, and so controlling of the message, that people are afraid to respond to me,” said Kimberly Dozier, a former Associated Press reporter. She was one of the journalists whose phone records were obtained by the Department of Justice last spring during its investigation into a leak of classified information about a failed Al-Qaeda plot. The scope of that investigation, some critics said, was unprecedented overreach.

Brittle is an adjective that sums up this administration rather nicely — and even more so the condition of its figureheads, Jarrett, Biden, Kerry, and in particular Obama himself, as pesky reality can’t help but interfere with their socialist worldviews and entirely undeserved hauteur.