It’s difficult to listen to a Barack Obama speech when it would be easier, faster, and less painful to write one.
So it was with as much a sense of impending boredom and déjà pivot as concern about predictable content that I embarked on listening to President Obama’s speech on “the economy” delivered on Wednesday at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois.
If you’ve heard any of the many other “pivots” to jobs and the economy, always when the stuff Obama actually cares about somehow fails to support his poll numbers, you won’t be surprised that I can (and therefore shall) summarize his economic points in brief…which is to say in 45 minutes less than he did:
- Foreign competition and the greedy rich have hurt the middle class and (most importantly) the power of labor unions.
- Evil banks and credit card companies and health insurers destroyed the economy before he took office, so nothing that’s happened since, at least nothing bad, is his responsibility.
- He remains strangely proud of the auto bailout, Obamacare, and spending billions of taxpayer dollars on renewable energy boondoggles, at least two of which I would avoid reminding the public of were I in his shoes.
- He is equally proud of Dodd-Frank, Obamacare, the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and raising the highest marginal tax rates, even though one of those things has not yet done anything and the other three are obviously harmful to economic growth.
- The president complained about inequality increasing, money distorting politics, and, remarkably, predicted that “Social tensions will rise, as various groups fight to hold on to what they have…” As a friend remarked to me: No, Barack, that’s the America we already have…the one you helped create, and the one you exploited to get re-elected.
- It takes quite a pair of cojones for the man who blew up the federal deficit to previously unimaginably high levels to then crow about how fast the deficit is now falling. But then, this man is a narcissist’s narcissist, which explains why he somehow missed the irony of his own complaint, mere moments later, about “political posturing… and stale debates.”
- Staleness on parade: We need to “rebuild our manufacturing base,” “educate our workforce,” and “make the investments necessary to promote long-term growth and shared prosperity.” I could go on, but you’ve heard them all a dozen times before.
- And in a repeat of his usual threat, which he probably views as a helpful promise, Obama offered to disrupt the nation’s traffic repeatedly: “Over the next several weeks, in towns across this country, I will engage the American people in this debate.”
Given the yawn-inducing leftist pabulum of the five-point economic plan (which I won’t offend your intellect by repeating) offered by our never-had-a-real-job president, the interesting part of Wednesday’s speech was political.
Obama characterized Republicans, especially in the House of Representatives, as harming the poor and “vulnerable” children. He blamed the GOP for the “meat cleaver” nature of the sequester despite the fact that he rejected being given the authority to turn it into a scalpel, that is the ability to allow federal departments to more carefully allocate spending cuts as long as the amount spent was not lessened. As always, he wanted the issue more than the solution.
The president said he will “work with Republicans…wherever I can” but that is a promise he has made and broken so many times in the past that it is unlikely anyone but John McCain believes him.
After a brief sop to moderates, suggesting that “Democrats need to question old assumptions…and embrace changes to cherished priorities so that they work better in this new age,” Obama went on to attack and insult Republicans…garnering the biggest cheers of the afternoon from his hand-picked audience.
He claimed that “there are Republicans in Congress right now who privately agree with me on many of the ideas I’ll be proposing, but worry they’ll face swift political retaliation for saying so.” Perhaps there are such Republicans, a small-and-shrinking number, but they are far too few to overcome the broader GOP opposition -- opposition which is wise on both policy and political grounds.
In one of his most egregious combinations of slander and straw man, Obama continued on to say that other Republicans “will dismiss every idea I put forward either because they’re playing to their most strident supporters, or because they have a fundamentally different vision for America -- one that says inequality is both inevitable and just; one that says an unfettered free market without any restraints inevitably produces the best outcomes, regardless of the pain and uncertainty imposed on ordinary families.”
This demands more than a sentence in response. There is not a single Republican in Congress who utters the words, or secretly believes, the selfish, cruel caricature painted in pale watercolors by the president.
It is true that inequality is inevitable in a free society but that doesn’t mean that conservatives think of it as “just.” Eliminating inequality is a fine goal to the extent that it can be done without what Frederic Bastiat called “legalized plunder,” which is to say to a limited but still real extent, such as through allowing school choice and competition, policies angrily opposed by Democrats who prefer union dollars to getting poor children out of poverty. (See, Barack, two can play at that game!)
No Republican I know argues for a completely “unfettered free market.” After all, capitalism is not a synonym for anarchy, but rather a system that has definite rules to prevent fraud and theft; there are legitimate restraints on a “free market,” though far fewer than we already have, and far far fewer than this president wants.
And no Republican says that capitalism must inevitably produce the best outcomes in every individual case. There are losers in a free market. With good policy, many can be retrained with new skills and re-enter the workforce. And of course it is offensive and outrageous to suggest that Republican legislators are numb to the “pain and uncertainty” of those who lose jobs due to the creative destruction that embodies economic liberty.
Obama went on to accuse Republicans of blindly opposing him while not offering ideas of their own: “You can’t just be against something; you gotta be for something.” This is a bald-faced lie, of course, with the Ryan budget as a well-known case in point of a detailed, serious plan to address some of the nation’s most pressing concerns. Of course, Obama’s reaction to that was to invite House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (aka Jack) to a speech and then insult him in front of the gathered crowd. A truly classless man, our president.
So, let’s get this straight: Obama first says he wants to work with Republicans. Within minutes, he lies about what Republicans believe and claim that they have not offered constructive, substantive policy ideas. He followed up that warm welcome to Republican cooperation by saying that he will “not accept deals that do not meet the test of strengthening the prospects of hard-working families,” which is Obama code for high-taxing, big-spending, union-boosting budget busting which no Republican should support.
Obama concluded his barrage with a frequent refrain, suggesting that if Congress will not bend to his will, then he will proceed (the rule of law be damned) to implement his vision (his word, not mine) of transforming the nation into a European-style social-welfare state: “Yes, Congress is tough right now but that’s not going to stop me. We’re going to do everything we can, wherever we can, with or without Congress, to make things happen.”
Interestingly, this particular threat was not in the pre-released speech transcript, showing that -- as is typical of this president -- his true nature comes out in his ad-libbed petty-tyrannical rhetoric.
And when he’s not side-stepping Congress, he’ll be continuing the transparent cronyism and arm-twisting which has been a defining trait of this administration: “Where I can’t act on my own and Congress isn’t cooperating, I’ll pick up the phone, I’ll call CEOs, I’ll call philanthropists, I’ll call college presidents, I’ll call labor leaders -- I’ll call anybody who can help -- and enlist them in our efforts.” Again, with ad-libbing being this president’s truth serum, the part about calling labor leaders was not in the pre-released transcript.
He went on to give an example, positively mentioning Costco and the Container Store (one wonders whether those companies smiled or cringed at the mention), but leaving the distinct impression that he would be more than willing to use his bully pulpit as a hammer rather than for gentle praise.
Also of note, and raising questions about the competency of his messaging team, the president referenced, as Press Secretary Jay Carney has repeatedly as well, "phony scandals" -- having the primary effect of causing Americans to remember the very real scandals of the IRS targeting, Benghazi, and Fast and Furious, just to name the most famous few.
Just before closing his speech with a shout-out to Galesburg’s most famous son, author Carl Sandburg, himself, a century ago, a member of Wisconsin’s arm of the Socialist Party, President Obama offered the most frightening sentence I have heard in a long time: “I care about one thing and one thing only, and that’s how to use every minute of the 1,276 days remaining in my term to make this country work for working Americans again.”
Coming from a man who has not the first clue how to achieve such a goal, a man who engages in economic malpractice at every turn, a man who neither likes nor understands the nation he nominally leads, our best hope is that those intransigent House Republicans keep on doing exactly what they’re doing.
Today would be my younger brother, Cliff's, 44th birthday. There is nothing more sad in my life than the knowledge that my children and my brother will never meet. He would have been a great uncle, as he was a great person.
You can read a little more about him, and about the small charity we set up in his honor here:
I spent quite a few hours on the radio last week talking about the Rolling Stone magazine cover glorifying the surviving Boston Bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
I talked a lot about the language on the cover, including how passive it was: He "was failed by his family" and "fell into radical Islam"...making it sound like Tsarnaev has no personal responsibility and that others are almost entirely to blame for the murder and destruction he perpetrated.
But over the last few days, I've had an experience which is causing me to reconsider.
Late last week, my wife and I took an afternoon hike in the Rocky Mountain foothills a few miles from our house.
And wouldn't you know it...the one time I looked up to see the view instead of watching the path, I tripped over a log and fell into a big pile of radical Islam.
It smelled quite bad, and I couldn't get all of it off my shoes and my shirt and my hands, and even trying to rinse off a bit in the river didn't get all of the sticky slime off of me.
Like some devious chemical weapon, the radical Islam that I fell into started working quickly.
By the next morning, I had the beginnings of a long beard.
And by that afternoon, I had already married two additional wives, which wasn't easy because apparently even in liberal Boulder, you can't marry a 12-year old.
Over the next few days, I found myself uncontrollably facing east every few hours, and when I got a ticket for not coming to a full stop at an intersection, I told the officer that the blame was obviously with Da Joos. (He gave me the ticket anyway.)
It got really bad: I almost started thinking that Barack Obama had a wise and effective foreign policy with his Middle East apologies and ignoring the nascent Green Revolution in Iran and calling for Israel to return to its 1967 borders, and that Hillary Clinton was a good Secretary of State because she called Syrian President Assad a "reformer" and did such a great job with Benghazi.
By yesterday, I was in such terrible shape that I was actually slightly sad that Helen Thomas, the ancient Wicked Witch of the White House press briefing room who said that "Jews should get the hell out of Palestine," had died.
All because I accidentally fell into some radical Islam!
My wife...my first wife I mean...just wasn't having it anymore. When I told her about the Iranian cleric who ordered that "women have to provide sex to their men anywhere and at anytime," she just said "take me to Paris and we'll talk about it. In the meantime, go empty the dishwasher."
But when my wife realized, from the combination of the beard and the funny smell and the crazy behavior that I had fallen into some radical Islam, she came to my rescue.
First, she showed me some pictures of myself, as a 13-year old boy, at my Bar Mitzvah. My first reaction was "where can I buy a pressure cooker?" but slowly, the images started to penetrate my desperately confused mind and I realized those were pictures of me and my family, celebrating a millennia-old tradition.
Next, she showed me some news stories about Malala, the young Afghani girl shot by the Taliban because she wanted to go to school, and the Norwegian rape victim in Dubai who was sentenced to jail for having unlawful sex and drinking alcohol, and the British Army soldier hacked to death on the streets of London by two Muslim fanatics, and the 19-year old girl stoned to death in the Ukraine for wearing fashionable clothes and participating in a beauty contest...and the 9/11 attacks and the Boston bombing.
With that, the fog had almost completely lifted, and to get me completely back to reality, my wife showed me the most recent Tweet from Heidi Klum, which should bring a smile to every non-radical-Muslim’s face.
So today I have those two extra marriages to get annulled but otherwise I'm back to normal...or whatever normal is for me.
I've asked the National Forest Service to go to the hiking trail and carefully, with hazmat suits, clean up the pile of radical Islam that I fell into so that nobody else has to suffer through the woman-hating, Jew-hating, modernity-hating, anti-intellectual horror that I suffered the last few days, all just from falling into some radical Islam.
You understand, don’t you? It could happen to anyone…right, Dzhokhar?
As a black woman in a nation that has taken too many pains to remind me that I am not a white man, and am not capable of taking care of my reproductive rights, or my voting rights, I know that this American god ain’t my god. As a matter of fact, I think he’s a white racist god with a problem. --Professor Anthea Butler
This verdict is a crystal-clear illustration of the way white supremacy operates in America…When Zimmerman was acquitted today, it wasn’t because he’s a so-called white Hispanic. He’s not. It’s because he abides by the logic of white supremacy, and was supported by a defense team -- and a swath of society -- that supports the lingering idea that some black men must occasionally be killed with impunity in order to keep society-at-large safe. --Aura Bogado
The United States has its first black president (despite Toni Morrison’s previously offering that honor to Bill Clinton).
We have two black Senators and are 43 black members of the House of Representatives (including non-voting members from Washington, D.C. and the Virgin Islands).
Blacks are successful in academia and business, in professional sports and entertainment, and as CEOs of several of America’s largest companies such as Merck, American Express, and McDonald’s.
There are television stations, radio channels, and newspapers devoted to black audiences, and black characters (treated just like characters of other races) are ubiquitous in major TV shows and movies.
This is not to suggest that there are not large, unsolved problems in black communities across the nation, nor that racism does not exist in the impact of nominally race-neutral policy at every level of government and society from schools to prisons to corporations. I, like everyone reading these words, want all of these situations to improve because a life defined by lack of opportunity or inspiration is not solely a tragedy for that person, but also for his family, neighborhood, state, and nation.
But to our country’s true racists, people like University of Pennsylvania Associate Professor of Religion Anthea Butler or the Nation columnist Aura Bogado, the United States is an irredeemable cauldron of white hatred.
Please read the entirety of my column for the American Spectator here:
On Monday, federal judge Gladys Kessler ruled that she cannot stop the force-feeding of hunger-striking prisoners at Guantanamo Bay because her court does not have jurisdiction to change policy at the prison near the southeastern corner of Cuba.
Currently, approximately 106 of Guantanamo’s 166 detainees are classified as hunger-strikers (reportedly defined as intentionally missing 9 meals in a row), with about 45 of them currently being force-fed.
Judge Kessler went on to say that there “appears to be a consensus that force-feeding prisoners violates Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which prohibits torture or cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment.” She notes the prisoners’ citations of statements from multiple U.S. and international organizations “condemning the force-feeding of detainees.”
The judge helpfully points out that “there is an individual who does have the authority to address the issue,” namely President Barack Obama, and proceeds to subtly chastise the president for hypocrisy by using his own words (from his May 23 speech in which, as usual, he spoke far too long in order to accomplish little but sow confusion among our allies and enemies alike):
Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are being held on a hunger strike... Is this who we are? Is that something our founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave our children? Our sense of justice is stronger than that.
Less than a month earlier, Obama said, “I don’t want these [hunger-strikers] to die.” Obama’s two statements are not so much mutually contradictory as representative of his deep desire to close the prison.
Please read the entirety of my article for the American Spectator here:
Comment:Visions, a mostly European project of Shell Oil in which they try to generate conversation about various energy-related policy questions, occasionally asks me for input.
They did again recently on the question of whether governments' energy and climate policies were adapting fast enough.
In my response, I argue (1) that adapting fast enough is impossible for government, (2) they have no idea what they're adapting to, and (3) that so-called energy and climate policies are large economic negatives for developed nations because government is often incentivized to oppose the private sector.
“A lot of people think Black English is just bad grammar, but that’s like saying that a cocker spaniel is a bad kind of Saint Bernard…” -- Columbia University Associate Professor of Linguistics John McWhorter
It’s true: some people on Twitter criticized last week’s courtroom testimony of Rachel Jeantel, a friend of Trayvon Martin’s who was speaking with Mr. Martin shortly before he died in a fight with George Zimmerman on the evening of February 26, 2012.
Most of the criticism was about the content of her testimony and her aggressive behavior when being cross-examined, saying “Yes, sir” with dripping antipathy about two dozen times. Some others criticized her manner of speaking, namely what Professor McWhorter calls “Black English,” though pushback against those people in the Twitterverse was relentless, and Ms. Jeantel’s supporters seemed to at least match her critics in quantity of social media activity with notes such as “Rachel Jeantel hold your head Babygirl…” (from a gentleman named Ghostface Killah, a rapper and member of the Wu-Tang Clan, who has nearly 450,000 Twitter followers.)
If Ms. Jeantel was telling the truth, she can indeed hold her head high. But that doesn’t make the questions raised by “Black English” go away.
These questions are not new. James Baldwin (1924-1987), a prominent black novelist, playwright, and poet, whose most famous works were written as social commentary during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, penned an essay for the New York Times in 1979 entitled “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?”
It is a remarkable read, straight-forward in its explanations (which also function as excuses, at least in the context of a reader more than 30 years later), suggesting that Black English differs from ordinary English in the same way that the French spoken in Paris differs from that spoken in Marseilles or Quebec.
Baldwin posits that Black English was useful when he was a child because a family member could “convey to me…the danger in which I was standing from the white man standing behind me, and to convey this with a speed, and in a language, that the white man could not possibly understand…”
Putting aside the sad fact that such a view of life was not unrealistic for many American blacks just two generations ago, maintaining the view today that “Black English” should be valued for its incomprehensibility to many whites or, as Baldwin also suggests, for its history of formation “within the unprecedented tabernacle” of the black church, or for its contributions to the American English vernacular, does a tremendous disservice to America’s black population, including Rachel Jeantel.
The Parisian Frenchman is unlikely to be unemployable in Quebec; a Scotsman could probably get a job in London.
Please read the rest of my article for the American Spectator here:
Last week, the Democratic staff of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce released a report purporting to show that low wages for Walmart employees hurts taxpayers and economic growth.
It is a follow-up to a 2004 paper by the Walmart-obsessed Rep. George Miller (D-CA), himself a wholly-owned subsidiary of big labor (unions represent 19 of his top 20 campaign contributors), entitled “Everyday Low Wages: The Hidden Price We All Pay For Wal-Mart.” (In 2009, Walmart officially removed the hyphen from its name.)
The new report, like the original, is full of economic nonsense and confusion, and so much union-fueled anger against the nation’s largest retailer and private-sector employer that it is bound to be accepted widely among Democrats and the “mainstream” media.
Indeed a Huffington Post article about the report gathered more than 32,000 Facebook “likes” and almost 13,000 “shares” along with nearly 1,700 “Tweets” and almost 22,000 comments in its first 72 hours online. Confirmation bias abounds, though there are many skeptics among the commenters.
In short, the Democrats’ report says that Walmart pays low wages and offers few benefits because, to the left’s dismay, of “aggressive avoidance of collective bargaining with its employees,” which is the true focus of Rep. Miller’s anger and frustration.
Please read the entirety of my article for The American Spectator here:
Only in the United States Congress could a legislative provision entitled “Market-Based H-1B Visa Limits” actually mean that “the number of visas calculated under subparagraph (A) for any fiscal year shall not be less than 110,000 or more than 180,000.”
If you read even a few pages of the so-called Gang of Eight immigration bill trudging its way through Congress—a bill that contains many provisions as horrendous as that one—you can’t help but think of Otto von Bismarck’s famous sausage-making analogy and wonder “who the hell wrote this mess?” The answer, sadly but not surprisingly, is special interests, namely the Chamber of Commerce and big labor unions. Speaking on background for this article, an aide to a Senate Judiciary Committee member put it plainly: “Neither the Chamber nor the AFL-CIO is interested in a free market. The Chamber is interested in delivering for their big business cronies and labor is interested in protectionism. So they work out a secret deal together, and that’s how our legislation gets made.” It is a frightening shotgun marriage that embodies the old tale of two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner. And guess who’s the lamb, my fellow citizen.
Much of the debate about the bill centers on legitimate questions of cost and border security along with illegitimate concerns such as unions’ desire to allow increased immigration only to the extent that they can capture more dues-paying members.
Some opponents of the current legislation yell “secure the border first!” (a not inappropriate suggestion that bill drafters claim to be working into the text) while some supporters, through crocodile tears, bemoan cruel racism in the dark hearts of those who have the temerity to think that borders matter at all. In a time of trillion-dollar deficits, hearken back to Milton Friedman’s warning that “It’s just obvious that you can’t have free immigration and a welfare state.”
Please read the entirety of my article for the American Spectator here:
With the hornets nest of conservative and libertarian anger which Colorado Governor John "I'm a moderate" Hickenlooper stirred up by supporting a raft of anti-gun legislation in this once-red state, I thought there was little chance he would pardon or commute the sentence of Nathan Dunlap. Particularly since Hickenlooper made sure that a bill ending the death penalty in Colorado did not get a vote in the state legislature.
Today, with a "temporary reprieve," the governor may have just done the politically unthinkable: He has made it possible for a Republican to beat him in 2014.
Nathan Dunlap shot five people, killing four of them, in a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in Aurora, Colorado in 1996. He later said that killing the people was "better than sex."
Hickenlooper says that the time since the conviction has given "the benefit of information that exposes an inequitable system." Whether or not the system is inequitable is not relevant. There is no question as to Dunlap's guilt. Zero, nada, zilch. He did it, and he was proud of it.
He deserves to die.
Furthermore, if Dunlap doesn't deserve death, then what is the purpose of having a death penalty in Colorado?
How about also pardoning the other people on death row here, including one who murdered the son of Colorado State Representative Rhonda Fields?
As usual, Hickenlooper wants to have it both ways: By doing this by executive order, and as reprieve, it means a future governor could undo today's move and send Nathan Dunlap to his just reward unless Hickenlooper does something more permanent before leaving office.
My prediction: This will make many Coloradoans, not just Republicans, extremely angry. And it will cause several Republican gubernatorial hopefuls who had been on the sidelines because Hickenlooper had seemed extremely difficult to beat now put their hats in the ring. The number one campaign slogan for the eventual Republican nominee: "I promise that Nathan Dunlap will get what he deserves."
One thing which occurred to me when the anti-gun legislation was being shoved down the throats of unwilling Coloradoans was this: Hickenlooper is aiming to get a high-paying job working for Michael Bloomberg.
Today's events make me think I may not have been unduly conspiracy-minded after all.
John Hickenlooper just stabbed his state, and the justice system, in the back. Now it's time to hope that voters do the same to his political career in 18 months, and return this state to some sense of sanity.