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Unexamined Premises

It’s Barack Obama’s Cloud Cuckoo-Land and We Just Live In It

January 23rd, 2015 - 12:45 pm

It’s easy to despise Barack Hussein Obama, perhaps the least qualified man ever to accede to the Oval Office. The empty resume, the imaginary biographies, the laziness, the arrogance, the profligacy with the public treasury, the weakness, the cowardice and the cringing servility when dealing with America’s enemies abroad: his six years as president of the United States — a presidency we will all look back upon someday with wonder, shame and national embarrassment — have been as disastrous and harmful as some of us predicted at the time. The man is a disgrace.

And yet…

obama_being_there_1-6-11_bigThere is one thing, and one thing only, to like about him. And that is his complete and utter contempt for his domestic political enemies and the high-handedness with which he treats them. And why shouldn’t he? As the beneficiary of the Being There presidency, he must retire to the family quarters of the White House each night laughing his head off at the electorate and yet at the same time being utterly convinced of his own rightness. After all, he won, didn’t he?  Twice! If he’s so dumb… how come he’s president?

As Yuval Levin noted in a post over at NRO after the State of the Union speech, Obama acts as if the electorate had not just delivered his party a crushing rebuke in an election in which he said quite clearly that while he may not have been on the ballot, his policies most certainly were. (Not that he cares about what happens to the Democrats after he retires to a live of Secret Service-protected, taxpayer-supported, think-tank enriched utter indolence.) But he appears to be living in a fantasy land of his own device, one in which he, Barry, remains beloved by the masses who didn’t bother to show up at the polls.

 The most striking thing about President Obama’s State of the Union address was how thoroughly and consciously it was disconnected from the political moment. The president addressed the Congress he will face for the remainder of his term, which is the most Republican Congress since 1929, but he didn’t really speak to that Congress or to the electorate that sent it. He made no mention of the recent congressional election and offered no reason to think its results would change his approach to his own job.

Instead, he began by pointing to economic gains that suggest that, six years after the end of the last recession, we may finally see the sort of growth that could merit being called a recovery. He then proceeded to propose a set of policies — giving the federal government far more power over community colleges, cutting taxes for families with two working parents but not for those with a stay-at-home parent, levying new mandates on employers — designed to draw contrasts with Republicans rather than to close distances or to be enacted. Then he painted a rosy picture of international affairs on an Earth-like planet that plainly is not this one. And finally he hearkened back to the promise of his 2004 Democratic Convention speech, which he knows everyone recalls fondly on cold nights, and said it wasn’t too late for Americans to prove ourselves worthy of that speech and its maker, if only we would behave a little less like congressional Republicans.

In short, so far, so nuts. But this presupposes that sanity is currently an operative virtue in the American political system. Alas, it’s not; what counts is a ruthless, Nietzschean Will to Power, against which everything else is either nugatory or negotiable. One man’s tilting at windmills and mistaking sheep for enemy soldiers is another man’s Don Quixote, the crazy hero of his own tale who eventually becomes our hero as well. For Obama, the sheep are the Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, and as long as he can send them fleeing with just a shake of his mighty rhetorical lance, he must be doing something right.

Because, in the current political system, it is the GOP that’s tilting at windmills — in this case, the windmill that what the American people “really said” in November’s election was that they wanted to have both parties work together and “get something done.” This is an even more idiotic delusion than Obama’s, since the clear meaning of the vote — by Obama’s own standard! — was a repudiation of both the Emperor Hussein and his fawning courtiers in Congress (one of whom mysteriously wound up with four broken ribs and the possible loss of his sight in one eye over the Christmas break, an event in which the national lickspittle media has shown exactly zero interest).

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas

Now you might think that the beating of the former Senate majority leader, the single most important man to Barack Obama over the past four years, the apparatchik who effectively blocked any attempt at Congressional rollback or oversight of what has become a rogue presidency, might be of interest to the “national media,” that collective of prep-school and college classmates who make up the Praetorian Guard of the Democrat-Media Complex — even if it was an “exercise machine” that administered the beating. (And why, pray tell, is Reid not suing the manufacturer?)

But not in the Cloud Cuckoo-Land that we currently inhabit. Whatever you may think of “fundamental transformation,” the fact is that Obama and his media buddies have done their best to make it a reality, even if it is only a Jedi-mind-meld virtual sort of reality that can still be overturned by the one-eyed man (not Harry Reid) who realizes that in the country of the blind he is king.

A point I’ve made before: Obama resembles no historical figure more than San Francisco’s Emperor Norton, a bona fide 19th-century Bay Area crackpot to whom everybody paid obeisance but not a whit of attention. This should be the GOP response to the Emperor Hussein for the next two years: genuflect when he comes into the room, flatter his overweening vanity, indulge his sybaritic tastes in vacations and restaurants — and then completely and utterly ignore anything he has to say or, more important, actually does under the guise of “executive orders.” The English-South African Emperor Norton issued many executive orders, including the dissolution of Congress and the building of the Bay Bridge, two eminently sensible ideas, as it turned out, and one of which was actually acted upon after his death. Otherwise, he was a beloved figure of fun in America’s most beautiful, wackiest city. 

Here was his proclamation of executive authority:

At the peremptory request and desire of a large majority of the citizens of these United States, I, Joshua Norton, formerly of Algoa Bay, Cape of Good Hope, and now for the last 9 years and 10 months past of S. F., Cal., declare and proclaim myself Emperor of these U. S.; and in virtue of the authority thereby in me vested, do hereby order and direct the representatives of the different States of the Union to assemble in Musical Hall, of this city, on the 1st day of Feb. next, then and there to make such alterations in the existing laws of the Union as may ameliorate the evils under which the country is laboring, and thereby cause confidence to exist, both at home and abroad, in our stability and integrity.

—NORTON I, Emperor of the United States.

No wonder Obama calls himself Barack Obama II. Which is exactly the way he should be treated henceforth.

Did somebody say 'trickeration'?

Did somebody say ‘trickeration’?

John Roberts was right: of course Obamacare was a tax. And not just a tax, but a massive new welfare program balanced on the backs of the kulak middle class in the guise of “health care reform.” Like all modern Democrat-led expansions of government, it came as a wolf in sheeple’s clothing, a nasty measure passed by stealth with malevolence aforethought. Hello, suckers!

Those Americans who didn’t get health insurance last year could be in for a rude awakening when the IRS asks them to fork over their Obamacare penalty — and it could be a lot more than the $95 many of them may be expecting.

The Affordable Care Act requires those who didn’t have insurance last year and didn’t qualify for one of the exemptions to pay a tax penalty, which was widely cited as $95 the first year. But the $95 is actually a minimum, and middle- and upper-income families will actually end up paying 1 percent of their household income as their penalty. TurboTax, an online tax service, estimated that the average penalty for lacking health insurance in 2014 will be $301.

And that’s just the beginning. Unless the GOP wing of the Permanent Bipartisan Fusion Party can actually stop lying to the voters who put it in control of Congress and repeal this monstrosity, the greatest deception in American history will become a permanent, punitive feature of the dwindling quality of life in the land we used to call America.

For this, we can thank not only Mr. Fundamental Transformation, Maerose Prizzi and Sen. Pat Geary, but the legendary low-information voter, who a) thought Obamacare was supposed to mean free health-care and b) never dreamed the tax — er, “penalty” — was going to hit him. The lo-fos must have missed the bit about the IRS enforcing the measure.

“People would hear the $95, quit listening, and make an assumption that that was what their penalty was going to be,” said Chuck Lovelace, vice president of affordable care for Liberty Tax Service. “I think that a lot of people will be surprised when they get in there and find out that their penalty is [based] on their household income.”

The penalty is designed to prod Americans to buy insurance and the penalty for not having it is scheduled to rise considerably: to a $325 minimum or 2 percent of income in 2015, and to a $695 minimum or 2.5 percent of income in 2016.

It’s all in a day’s evil for the criminal organization masquerading as a political party, a gang that has been at war with the American experience since Aaron Burr, one of the founders of Tammany Hall, shot Founding Father Alexander Hamilton and got away with it. Their naked lust for the expansion of their own political power never stops, never sleeps, never quits. Screwing you is, quite literally, their life’s work.

Now even some Democrats are professing to have second thoughts. (They don’t really — they’re just embarrassed the fraud is is not quite working out the way they’d hoped.) The unlovely, soon-to-be-new face of the conspiracy, New York’s senator Chuck Schumer, was first out of the box, followed quickly by former Iowa senator Tom Harkin; Schumer said the Marxist Dems’ first priority should have been — stop laughing! — helping the middle class, while Harkin opined that health-care reform should have been done “the right way” (i.e. “single-payer,” i.e. completely government controlled).

OBAMA-IF-YOU-LIKE-IT-YOU-CAN-KEEP-IT

Over at the Weekly Standard, William Voegeli has a long piece called “Liars’ Remorse” about the pickle the dwindling band of Democrats now finds itself in, electorally speaking. As the monstrous nature of Obamacare becomes ever clearer, even to the lowest of low-information, easily bamboozled, gimme voters, they are faced with a rare situation: their cover has been, at least temporarily, blown. And for this we can thank the gift that keeps on giving, the true id of the Democrat Party and its contempt for the intelligence of the American people: Jonathan Gruber. As Voegeli writes:

The voters’ cognitive deficiencies are a retrospective problem for Democrats, as Tomasky and Hiltzik point out, but also a prospective one. They mean that new government interventions cannot be secured through candor and clarity, but require guile and subterfuge, a position made clear by MIT economics professor and Obama administration adviser Jonathan Gruber. Explaining, in 2012, why the Affordable Care Act taxes insurance companies, which will pass along the costs to policyholders, rather than taxing the insured directly, Gruber said, “It’s a very clever, you know, basic exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter.”

In 2013 he told a University of Pennsylvania audience that the ACA “was written in a tortured way” so that neither the Congressional Budget Office nor the public would see its individual mandate to buy heath insurance as a new tax. “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage,” Gruber concluded. “Call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.”

When, days after the 2014 midterm elections, Gruber’s remarks were publicized, Democratic politicians and journalists scrambled to denounce them, and Gruber himself apologized in congressional testimony for his “glib, thoughtless, and sometimes downright insulting comments.” Disdaining and deceiving the people are indeed affronts to democracy, but are not the only transgressions against American self-government. Gruber’s arrogance was gratuitous, but the deceptions he smugly praised served a Democratic purpose: convincing people that government interventions that can bestow formidable benefits while imposing negligible costs are, despite sounding too good to be true, low-hanging fruit ready to be harvested.

Watch and listen to the cocksure arrogance of this whiny little creep as he gloats about how the administration put one over on the gullible American public:

But not to worry — there’s more where that came from. In his upcoming State of the Union address, Obama is “expected” to propose even more freebies and goodies to his core constituency: wastrels, layabouts, bums and moochers. Here’s The Hill, salivating over the prospect of more government action:

The White House wants President Obama to play the part of Robin Hood at Tuesday’s State of the Union address. Obama hopes to use the big speech to remove a blemish of his presidency: an economic recovery that has left wage growth behind.

Free community college. A $175 billion tax cut for the middle class. Faster, cheaper broadband internet. A week of paid sick leave. Discounted mortgages. Obama wants to move forward with all of these populist proposals for the poor and middle class, and he wants to do so by taking from the rich in the form of higher taxes on the wealthy and Wall Street.

Few of the proposals are going anywhere with a GOP Congress, but the White House sees Obama’s penultimate State of the Union as the president’s last, best chance to lay down policy markers for the next two years —and to frame the 2016 battle for the White House. It’s also meant to ensure Obama remains relevant for as long into his presidency as possible.

Now, you know this is a lie because the Democrats’ lips are moving, but also because no one has been more snuggled up to Wall Street than President Robin Hood. The Democrats are now the party of the very, very, very rich and the indigent and the indolent: they don’t give a damn about the middle class except as it affects them at the ballot box.

Forget the details about Obamacare, whether it works or it doesn’t (it doesn’t); whether it was a noble intention (it wasn’t); whether it can be fixed (it can’t). Instead concentrate on the principle behind the thing: a breathtaking Leftist power grab, so long sought and finally achieved. It’s not the end; it’s only the beginning, unless it is ripped out, root and branch before it’s too late. Over to you, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell.

Yeah, right…

Got Hate? Part Deux: The Return of Tanya Cohen

January 14th, 2015 - 2:02 am
Watch your tongue, comrades

Watch your tongue, comrades

She’s back, and better than ever. Miffed and a little hurt, too:

A few days ago, I published an article explaining how the US needs to get tough on hate speech through the law in accordance with international human rights standards, as the US remains the only country in the world – and certainly the only Western country – that has no legal definition of what constitutes hate speech. The article was based on my experiences as a human rights activist who has worked for many different human rights organizations around the world. Immediately after it was published, I received a torrent of hateful and abusive messages. While I am not the least bit surprised that bigots would be so highly threatened by my proposals, I would like to clear some things up.

First up, yes, I do strongly believe in freedom of speech, and I’ve worked with many human rights organizations to protest against genuine restrictions on freedom of speech and expression, such as government crackdowns on LGBT activists in Russia. Freedom of speech is the core of all democratic societies, and it’s a freedom that must be upheld in the strongest terms possible. But the people responding to my column with anger do not seem to understand what freedom of speech is. They seem to make no distinction between free speech and hate speech, and they seem to believe that freedom of speech includes the freedom to say anything.

Does your head hurt yet? The free-speech movement has gone from the freedom to say anything to the freedom to say absolutely nothing about anything you might actually feel passionately about. But it’s all in a day’s work for the New Fascists on the Left. Since this is Tanya Cohen, you simply must read every ridiculous word, even though you’re going to wish for an emergency root canal well before you finish:

Anyone with any kind of basic, entry-level knowledge of human rights will tell you that the human right to freedom of speech always has to be balanced against other human rights, such as the human rights to dignity, respect, honor, and non-discrimination. A human rights-based approach to freedom of speech (such as the one found here) emphasizes that speech has to be restricted when it comes into conflict with other human rights.

This, basically, is her entire argument, and while she’s a terrible, turgid writer, she is worth paying attention to for the crude way in which she gives the entire “progressive” project away: appearing to be arguing in favor of something (in this case, “free speech”), while in fact making the case against it, and then appealing to authority to back up her position.

All human rights groups understand that all governments have an obligation to punish hate speech, and that outlawing hate speech does not interfere with freedom of speech in any way (if anything, it is necessary to outlaw hate speech in order to protect freedom of speech). Amnesty International, for example, has emphasized many, MANY times throughout its long history that hate speech MUST always be outlawed. Here, you can find an explanation from Amnesty International about what freedom of speech REALLY is. Freedom of speech is NOT the right to say whatever you want about whatever you want whenever you want. Freedom of speech – like all freedoms – comes with responsibility. Words have consequences, and your freedom ends when it starts to intefere with the freedoms of others – such as their freedom to live without hatred and oppression.

Remember: real freedom is the freedom to be unfree:

I sent my article to many people in Europe, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and various other places all over the world. The reaction that I got was universally positive. Only American audiences had such a hostile reaction to my column, and I honestly believe that it’s because the concept of human rights is just so utterly alien to most people in the US. Americans do not understand that freedom of speech and hate speech are two completely different things, and that speech has to be restricted in many cases in order to protect human rights.

Many have compared my proposals to Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. These people do not seem to understand that human rights policies exist to prevent something like what’s described in Orwell’s dystopian world from happening, as they prevent people from advocating totalitarianism and other human rights violations.

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The Lessons of Coffeyville and Paris

January 7th, 2015 - 1:47 pm
Violence never solves anything, except when it does

Violence never solves anything, except when it does

In 1892, five members of the famed and feared Dalton gang rode into Coffeyville, Kansas, a town near the border with Oklahoma where some of them had grown up. Their plan was to rob two banks simultaneously and then clear out. They never made it. Alerted to their presence, the townsfolk grabbed their guns and shot them to pieces, killing four of them. An eyewitness recounted:

“…Just at this critical juncture the citizens opened fire from the outside [of the Condon Bank] and the shots from their Winchesters and shot-guns pierced the plate-glass windows and rattled around the bank. Bill Powers and Dick Broadwell replied from the inside, and each fired from four to six shots at citizens on the outside. The battle then began in earnest. Evidently recognizing that the fight was on, Grat Dalton asked whether there was a back door through which they could get to the street. He was told that there was none. He then ordered Mr. Ball and Mr. Carpenter [two bank employees] to carry the sack of money to the front door. Reaching the hall on the outside of the counter, the firing of the citizens through the windows became so terrific and the bullets whistled so close around their heads that the robbers and both bankers retreated to the back room again. Just then one at the southwest door was heard to exclaim: ‘ I am shot; I can’t use my arm; it is no use, I can’t shoot any more.’ “

Those who didn’t have guns rushed to Isham’s hardware store, next door to one of the banks, where the merchant handed them out gratis. When some of the robbers exited the Condon Bank, they were met with a hail of gunfire:

“…The moment that Grat Dalton and his companions, Dick Broadwell and Bill Power, left the bank [the C.M. Condon Bank] that they had just looted, they came under the guns of the men in Isham’s store. Grat Dalton and Bill Powers each received mortal wounds before they had retreated twenty steps. The dust was seen to fly from their clothes, and Powers in his desperation attempted to take refuge in the rear doorway of an adjoining store, but the door was locked and no one answered his request to be let in. He kept his feet and clung to his Winchester until he reached his horse, when another ball struck him in the back and he fell dead at the feet of the animal that had carried him on his errand of robbery.

Law enforcement played a brief role as well:

Grat Dalton, getting under cover of the oil tank, managed to reach the side of a barn that stands on the south side of the alley… [At this point, Marshal Connelly ran across a vacant lot into "Death Alley" from the south to the spot where the bandits had tied their horses.] The marshal sprang into the alley with his face towards the point where the horses were hitched. This movement brought him with his back to the murderous Dalton, who was seen to raise his Winchester to his side and without taking aim fire a shot into the back of the brave officer. Marshal Connelly fell forward on his face within twenty feet of where his murderer stood.

But don’t worry, the story has a happy ending:

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What Is It About ‘Progressives’ and Guns?

January 2nd, 2015 - 12:07 pm
AR-15

Like it or not, it’s in the Constitution

Besides sheer ignorance, that is. John Hinderaker at Power Line does a number on Adam Gopnik’s latest anti-gun musings in The New Yorker:

No one expects sensible commentary on firearms from the New Yorker, but this gun control rant is worth noting because it is so typical of modern liberalism. Facts? Who needs facts? Bullying is all that the left aspires to.

There follows a point-by-point takedown of Gopnik’s piece about the need for “gun control” in the wake of the Newtown shootings, pegged to the recent filing of a lawsuit against Bushmaster, the maker of the AR-15 rifle that seems to have been criminally used in the murders of the schoolchildren of Sandy Hook. (There is some dispute about this.) Here’s Gopnik:

 The news that the parents of the children massacred two years ago in Sandy Hook, near Newtown, Connecticut, by a young man with a Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle, were undertaking a lawsuit against the gun manufacturer was at once encouraging and terribly discouraging. The encouraging part is that those parents, suffering from a grief that those of us who are only witnesses to it can barely begin to comprehend, haven’t, despite the failure to reinstate assault-weapons bans and stop the next massacre, given way to despair…

The lawsuit is discouraging because the death-by-gun lobby has successfully advocated for legislative prophylactics that prevent gunmakers, almost uniquely among American manufacturers, from ever being held responsible for the deaths that their products cause. If a carmaker made a car that was known to be wildly unsafe, and then advertised it as unsafe, liabilities would result. The gun lobby is, or believes itself to be, immune. Some experts have outlined legal principles that might let sanity triumph, but it is hard to think it will.

The lawsuit has no chance, of course, as we’ll explore after the page break.

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One size fits all

Big Brother knows what’s good for you

The idea that “liberals” (or “Progressives,” as they now call themselves) are in any way “liberal” has been making me laugh for nearly half a century. Aside from their personal libertinism in matters of sexuality — as Nora Ephron wrote of her former husband, Carl Bernstein, in her roman-a-clef, Heartburn, “he was capable of having sex with a Venetian blind” — which is entirely a product of their own sense of self-involvement, there is nothing “liberal” about them at all. Even as a college student, I could see that their passion for various causes, many of them either illusory or imaginary, always had to end with the blunt fist of the government in your face. And this from people who, back in the day, were protesting against a government run by a president (Johnson) of their own party!

What we’ve seen since, with the ascendancy of the Baby Boomers, is precisely that form of totalitarian “liberalism” in action. More laws, more rules, more regulations, more punishment, more, more, more. Nothing, it seems, can be left to the judgment of ordinary citizens. Everything must be either prescribed or proscribed. As Philip K. Howard wrote the other day at the Daily Beast:

Law is essential to freedom because it safeguards citizens against misconduct and abuse. By drawing boundaries against wrongful conduct, law provides a protective zone of freedom within those boundaries. Companies can’t pollute; businesses can’t cheat; people must honor contracts. On this open field of freedom, people can act spontaneously without undue defensiveness.

Modern law goes a giant step backwards—it often bars people from doing what’s right. Law’s proper role is now seen as instructing people how to make daily choices. Instead of providing the framework for freedom, law has replaced it, creating a legal minefield rather than an open field for free choice.

Howard’s subject is the trammeling of former norms of human behavior — specifically, Good Samaritanism — by a million petty regulations whose purpose ostensibly is to protect, but whose effect instead is to harm:

Every year the rulebooks get thicker. After all, writing regulations is what many regulators do. Did something go wrong? Write a rule. Did someone find a loophole? Clarify it with another rule. Is there an ambiguity? Write a regulation. Lawmaking by legislatures is also a one-way ratchet—Legislators get credit for passing laws, not pruning them. Should unlicensed people be able to give manicures? Pass a law.

Law is good, we assume, so more law is better. The theory is that humans make mistakes and disagree, and therefore it’s good to have rules. Our dream society lies just over the horizon, once lawmakers and regulators figure out how to make the intricate pieces fit together.

In our headlong quest for a legally perfect society, we don’t take the time to take stock of what‘s been created so far. But pause for a second, and look back at what these generations of regulators and lawmakers have created. What you see is a massive, well-intentioned, legal junk pile.

Let’s stop right there: who says all this law has been “well-intentioned”? I would argue the precise opposite. None of this law has been well-intentioned, except by useful idiots, once you get past the surface of the law in question (“the Kiddie Protection Act of blah blah blah”) and look at the intent, which is always to curtail individual freedom and increase the power of the state. And the power of the state always can and must end with a man with a gun arriving on your doorstep and forcing you to his will.

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The Revenge President

The Revenge President

The men behind Obama took a calculated gamble in 2008 that the nation was ready for the first post-American president, a man with no meaningful cultural roots in the nation he would profess to lead.  They relied on the intrinsic good-heartedness of the electorate to show their lack of prejudice in voting for a man with an exotic Arabic/Muslim name only seven years after the atrocity of Sept. 11. They counted on the innate good will of the American people, judged that the time was right for a black president, and then went out and found the only half-black candidate who had absolutely nothing to do with the black American experience and ran him as an avatar of black America.

And they won, twice, both times against half-hearted Republican candidates with no skin in the game, married to interchangeable blonde wives — one a half-crazy former prisoner of war/political accommodationist and the other a Mormon whose religious faith was guaranteed to lose him some much-needed votes. If they had tried to throw both elections, they could not have done a better job, both of them refusing to go after Obama head-on, and neither of them apparently realizing the danger he posed to the republic. Neither could fathom a new kind of Democrat candidate, one who observed the surface appearances of  a traditional candidacy, but who was brimming with new, extra-Constitutional ideas about how to effect his political program. 

Shortly before his first election, the president promised a “fundamental transformation” of the United States of America, and it is instructive to note the tone in which he made that pledge. Listen, please; it only takes a few seconds:

YouTube Preview Image

Note the finger-pointing. Check out the saturnine look on his face. America was warned, early on, that beneath the smiling facade of Barack Hussein Obama was a very angry man. The smile and the shoeshine got him elected but since that day he has waged unremitting war on the country as founded, pillorying the nation, putting it in the dock, and making us all atone for its sins. Obama’s is a presidency-as-payback, and the “transformation” is meant to ensure that it is permanently hobbled. The animus positively radiates from him.

“Why?” is a question best left to shrinks and historians. But for those of us dealing with the consequences, what matters most is, “What next?” Freed of the need to fool the public one more time, and having buried what’s left of the Democratic Party in the rubble of two off-year elections, Obama is hell-bent on, according to PoliticoOperation Revenge

We’ll take a look at it after the jump:

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The Pope Is Catholic, Not an American Politician

December 23rd, 2014 - 2:41 pm
Pope in Rome, not in Washington

Pope in Rome, not in Washington

Almost from the beginning of his papacy, there has been a lot of nonsense written about Pope Francis. On the Left, there has been much wishful thinking about how the former Cardinal Bergoglio is really a man of progressive sympathies, while on the Right, there is a deep suspicion that the first Jesuit pope is basically a “liberation theologian” who is not a particular fan of capitalism and may in fact be a sneak commie symp. Much of what the pope is said to have said turns out to be either a mistranslation or completely imaginary, the result of having reporters either ignorant of Catholicism or openly hostile to it reporting or commenting on the pope and the Church. So who is he?

To quote the old joke, “Is the Pope Catholic?” You bet he is. To look at him any other way is simply wrong,

Yet now that President Obama has effected his instantly controversial opening to Cuba, the pope is coming in for more critical scrutiny. Having worked behind the scenes with the president and the Castro regime, the pope is viewed even more hostilely by some on the right, who seem to feel that the pontiff’s first allegiance ought to be to conservative political principles rather than to the world’s more than one billion Catholics and the tenets of their shared faith.

This particular pope, an Italian born in Argentina, gave his game away by taking the name “Francis” upon his accession to the chair of St. Peter. As it happened, I was on the air live with Hugh Hewitt from his Orange County, Calif., studio when the election was announced, and my first articulated thought (which turned out to be correct) was that the new pope had taken the name of Francis in honor of St. Francis himself, and that this signaled that his papacy would be concerned with Franciscan virtues: humility, self-abnegation, poverty and love for his fellow man; in other words, the spiritual realm. It would not be concerned with politics as we Americans understand them, which is why from time to time the pontiff’s remarks about capitalism, misinterpreted, have set off alarms bells.

Cuba, like most of Latin America, is a nominally Catholic country, and despite the imposition of a typical Caudillo system wearing Marxist drag, it’s still a land of great faith. Francis’s duty is to his flock, not to the American or Cuban governments. For him to criticize some of the predatory and unscrupulous aspects of international capitalism is perfectly justified; he need not compare it to communism and then declare it, on balance, better. That is the job of a political leader; and to call it “moral relativism” is simply ridiculous.

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‘Publish and Be Damned’

December 18th, 2014 - 3:19 pm
Keep telling yourself, 'It's only a movie'

Keep telling yourself, ‘It’s only a movie’

That was the famous reaction of the Duke of Wellington in 1824 to a blackmailer named Stockdale, who was about to publish the memoirs of one of Wellington’s mistresses, Harriette Wilson, a London courtesan who had more or less slept with everybody who was anybody in Regency London. Stockdale was fishing around the Iron Duke, hoping to snag a little cash settlement to keep the Wellington name out of what turned out to be Wilson’s laundry list of Famous Men I Have Slept With. As The Independent put it:

London society was thrilled and scandalised. Half the aristocracy was named in the book, and painted in a most unflattering light. The memoirs went through 31 editions in one year; excerpts were pirated and sold as illustrated broadsheets and French and German editions quickly appeared to delight the gossips of the Continent.

Stockdale, the impresario, and Wilson, the scarlet woman, were said to have made pounds 10,000 from the enterprise, but their good fortune did not last. Stockdale was soon ruined by libel suits, while Harriette was down on her luck again within a few years, and died in obscurity.

Meanwhile, of course, the Wellington name has lived on.

Although Wellington’s answer to Stockdale’s blackmail letter does not survive in his own hand, there is no reason to doubt he used those famous words. But his stance was less bold than they suggest, for he also threatened to sue ‘if such trash is published’.

The threat was ignored but the Duke did not issue a writ, perhaps because others got there before him, or perhaps because there was too much truth in what Wilson wrote. Either way, his reputation did not suffer and he was not forced to resign for reasons of security or hypocrisy or anything else. On the contrary, he remained the nation’s hero and went on to become prime minister.

Sony Pictures and its embattled leader, Amy Pascal, should have stolen a march on the hero of Waterloo and done exactly the same thing to the (apparently) North Korean hackers who stole the studio’s emails and financial secrets and threatened violence against any theater showing the ill-fated comedy, The Interview, which was scheduled to open on Christmas Day (ha ha) and has now been shelved indefinitely. The only way to deal with a blackmailer is to tell him to go to hell; otherwise, the threats will never end. But, in order to avoid some temporary embarrassment, accede to his demands and a lifetime of misery will follow. There is, shocking to say, no honor among thieves.

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Brothers from another mother

Brothers from another mother

It’s basically a sham, a false-flag operation with the hapless Dianne Feinstein as the designed drop-box, designed to make the Bush administration look bad, the Democrats look “moral” (stop laughing) and the White House look innocent (no, really, stop laughing). For proof, you need look no further than this glowing tale of the bond between two men as lovingly depicted by the Chief Stenographers of the Obama administration, the New York Times:

Just hours before he publicly responded last week to the Senate Intelligence Committee report accusing the Central Intelligence Agency of torture and deceit, John O. Brennan, the C.I.A.’s director, stopped by the White House to meet with President Obama.

Ostensibly, he was there for an intelligence briefing. But the messages delivered later that day by the White House and Mr. Brennan were synchronized, even down to similar wording, and the larger import of the well-timed visit was hardly a classified secret: After six years of partnership, the president was standing by the embattled spy chief even as fellow Democrats called for his resignation.

That’s not to say there was no friction between the West Wing and the C.I.A.’s Langley, Va., headquarters after the release of the scorching report… Some who considered Mr. Brennan the president’s heat shield against the agency when he worked in the White House now worry that since being appointed director, he has “gone native,” as they put it.

But in the 67 years since the C.I.A. was founded, few presidents have had as close a bond with their intelligence chiefs as Mr. Obama has forged with Mr. Brennan. It is a relationship that has shaped the policy and politics of the debate over the nation’s war with terrorist organizations, as well as the agency’s own struggle to balance security and liberty. And the result is a president who denounces torture but not the people accused of inflicting it.

In other words, good old having-it-both-ways Barry, forever running against the status quo as if he had not been charge of it for the past six years. Meanwhile, pointing out that the careerist Brennan, a beloved figure of fun in the intelligence community whose name is a punchline, has “gone native” is an interesting choice of phrase.  In fact, that’s one way to put it; it’s certainly not the first time Brennan has been accused of  it. One thing he and his boss in the White House seem to share is a, shall we say, fondness for Islam and Arab culture:

Mr. Brennan, 59, who spent much of his career as an Arabic-speaking C.I.A. officer, has been a central figure in Mr. Obama’s world since the beginning of his presidency. Built like a linebacker, with a hardened face, close-cropped retreating hair and an intense gaze, Mr. Brennan looks the part of a grim counterterrorism agent. More than one Obama aide compared him to a grizzled city cop, and all of them testified to his herculean work ethic. 

A native of North Bergen, N.J., Mr. Brennan attended Fordham University, spent time in Indonesia and Egypt and earned a master’s degree in Middle East studies at the University of Texas at Austin before answering a newspaper ad for the C.I.A. He rose through the ranks to become station chief in Saudi Arabia and a favorite of George J. Tenet, then the C.I.A. director, who made him his chief of staff and later the agency’s deputy executive director.

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