Monday, December 30, 2013

Memento: The story of liberals who can't seem to learn from reality...

If you’ve never seen the movie Memento, I would highly recommend it… The main character, Leonard, is suffering from anterograde amnesia – the inability to create new memories – the result of a violent attack. Unable to create new memories, Leonard uses tattoos and notes to help him find the person he believes is responsible for the last thing he does remember, his wife’s murder. Throughout the movie we see Leonard writing himself notes and getting new tattoos to help him take the next step in his pursuit of the culprit. By the end of the movie Leonard finds and kills “John G” the man he believes is responsible for his wife’s murder. Or at least he thinks he has, and something we discover he’s apparently done before. At the end of the movie the viewer discovers that despite Leonard’s “system” there really is no correlation between his actions and reality. Even those memories he can recall are suspect. In a nutshell, Leonard is lost in a world where reality simply doesn’t exist. Friends and foes are interchangeable and he knows what he knows only because he reads it in his own handwriting. Actions have no consequences because lessons are never learned.

One has to wonder, is to exist in such a world really living? Think about all of the things you know, from when you first learned the fact that a hissing radiator is probably hot to the realization that not everything everyone tells you is true, most of us never stop learning. It’s how we grow, it’s how we discover what works in the world – and what doesn’t – in the pursuit of solving problems, finding pleasure and virtually everything in between. Without learning we don’t grow and are destined to face an endless cycle of reliving the same exact problems day after day.

Such is the world that liberals have created for themselves… and increasingly have imprisoned the rest of us in. They seem to be unable to make new memories. They seem to be stuck in a universe where reality is disconnected from what actually goes on in the world and they believe what they believe only because they read it in their own handwriting… or in this case the typed letters of the New York Times or the spoken word on MSNBC. Reality simply doesn’t intrude on their universe.

From the trope that throwing money is the solution to America’s education mess to the mantra that more government regulation is the solution to all problems, liberals never seem to learn. One can only look at the performance of American schools and know that money and performance do not move in tandem. What liberals don’t learn is what actually works and what doesn’t. The examples are legion. From the fact that tax cuts actually spur economic growth to the folly that massive government spending can spur an economy to the notion that “You can keep your health insurance”, liberals fail to look at what is going on right in front of them. Or maybe fail to look is the wrong characterization… maybe fail to recognize is more accurate. It’s like when you look at one of those optical illusions with the old lady and the young girl. Depending on what you focus on, you see something different. Liberals look at the economic juggernaut of Ronald Reagan and focus on his tax cuts “for the rich” yet somehow fail to see that 15 million private sector jobs were created under his watch and GDP was booming. That’s 15 million families with a paycheck rather than depending on the government for support and hundreds of billions of dollars in American’s pockets. Conversely they laud Barack Obama because of his concern for the poor and minorities while his policies have resulted in record levels of poverty and massive numbers of people simply leaving the workforce because they can’t find jobs, with minorities hit the hardest.

One has to wonder how is it that liberals consistently fail to learn from the stark failures that are in front of them and have been recurring for decades. Whether it’s the collapse of urban America under generations of Democrat rule to the inverse relationship between government regulation and economic growth, one has to wonder if, perhaps there is not some widespread mental problem there. One can certainly choose to support economic policies that put “fairness” above economic growth, but to proffer the notion that higher taxes, increased government spending and more regulation is good for the economic well being of the nation is to simply ignore the history of the last 40 years. To have watched as government regulation of the housing industry brought the meltdown of the economy and then somehow choose to double down on that very regulation suggests that a portion of America’s liberal’s brains have simply atrophied to the point where they simply no longer process the learning of new material. They find themselves stuck reading the same notes they wrote to themselves decades ago such as “fairness”, “more government regulation”, “higher taxes” and of course the ubiquitous target of everything liberal: “the evil capitalists”. Like Leonard in Mememto, who blindly follows his notes and ends up killing an uncounted number of John Gs, liberals in America follow their notes (or teleprompters) and kill jobs, opportunity, prosperity and perhaps eventually the American Dream itself. One can only hope that at some point they misplace the notes and forget where they’ve put them.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Congress allows Barack Obama to exercise his inner John Marshall... and they will live to regret it.

In 1803 Chief Justice John Marshall changed the face of American government. He did it in such a subtle way that few people understood the consequences of his act at the time. After losing the election of 1800 and in an effort to thwart the power of victor Thomas Jefferson, John Adams sought to place dozens of party loyalists into various positions in the judicial system. He made the appointments and signed the commissions. Some of the commissions were delivered by the time Jefferson took office. Others were not and the new president simply ceased delivery of those, positing that with the commissions undelivered the appointees could not take their seats. One of those commissions belonged to Maryland’s William Marbury, who promptly sued to have the commission delivered.

The resulting case, Marbury vs. Madison, would change American government forever. Although Marshall was a Federalist like Adams, and sympathetic to Marbury’s plight, he decided that the Supreme Court could not force the Democratic-Republican Jefferson’s hand, despite Marbury’s right to his commission. He wrote that that although Marbury had indeed been wronged, the manner in which he sought relief was unconstitutional, because Congress had overstepped its bounds when it passed that aspect of the Judiciary Act of 1789.

And this is where Marshall’s shrewdness becomes apparent. For the first time the Supreme Court acted via judicial review, which is the notion that the judiciary gets to decide what is Constitutional and what is not. Rather than antagonize the new president and congress however, Marshall did exactly what they wanted, he let them win by allowing the commissions to go undelivered and therefore keeping the Federalist partisans off the various bench seats. In giving the Democrat-Republicans what they wanted he assured that they would not challenge the decision, and by extension his assertion that the courts had the power to overturn Congressional legislation it deemed unconstitutional, something not actually in the Constitution. In essence by not objecting to Marshall’s interpretation of the Court’s power, President Jefferson and the Congress were acquiescing to that interpretation and setting a precedent that has lasted for over 200 years and set a foundation for the plague of judicial activism that would emerge in the next century.

That is often how power gets shifted in a relationship – whether it’s a marriage or a government or between nations – with one party acquiescing to another party’s play until the point where the shift becomes accepted as natural.

Congress to its great discredit, is doing the exact same thing that Jefferson and the Congress did 210 years ago, they are acquiescing to Barack Obama single handedly rewriting the Constitution, something it has done before, when the President has used various directives to essentially implement the Dream Act without Congressional action. By using executive fiat to decide who stays and who can be deported the president is explicitly ignoring laws passed by Congress and signed by previous presidents. Can one imagine if Richard Nixon had similarly deemed the Civil Rights Act applied to only certain minorities? Does one imagine there have been more than a few peeps from Congress?

The most egregious example of Barack Obama ignoring the Constitution is his use of more than a dozen “exemptions” or delays for Obamacare. Indeed, he’s taking a page right out of John Marshall’s book as he tears asunder the document upon which our Republic is based. Just as Marshall purchased the acquiescence of the Democratic-Republicans by giving them exactly what they wanted, Barack Obama is buying Congress’s acceptance of his eviscerating the separation of powers by giving them what everyone wants, including their constituents, and that’s relief from the unworkable disaster that is Obamacare. But instead of accomplishing that task through legal means, Obama is simply obviating parts of the law by executive fiat. And Congress is allowing him to do so.

While Senators and Congressmen may stand by for this because they know their constituents (understandably) demand relief, they will rue the day they gave Obama, and every subsequent president, the power to rewrite legislation to their liking. If Barack Obama can simply decide that legislation is not constitutional, if he can just rewrite parts of laws he doesn’t like, if he can enforce laws whenever he feels like it, the real question isn’t what law he will annul or modify or ignore next, the real question becomes how much longer will the fig leaf of a Congress even be necessary?

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Little Sugar Coating and Bit of Demagogy is a Recipe for National Suicide by Regulation

One of the most odious aspects of regulation is the fact that it usually comes in a sugar coated package. Typically they are the result of a law that is intended to “help” everyone or “protect” some group or to give an advantage to a group whose members are perceived to be disadvantaged.

It’s that sugar coating that makes regulations so difficult to challenge. If you oppose pouring more money into a failed school system you “Don’t care about the children”. If you oppose solar power funding or excessive energy regulation, you “Don’t care about the environment”. If you oppose a minimum wage increase you are a shill for big business and “Don’t care about workers” and if you oppose Obamacare you don’t care about the poor and you’re racist to boot.

Of course once those regulations are in place, once they’re on the books, they almost never come off. Regardless of their ineffectualness in actually solving whatever problem they were theoretically supposed to solve, or despite their actually making the problem worse, the answer is almost never to repeal the law and send the staff out into the world to find jobs in the private sector. Instead the solution is almost invariably more laws or regulations to try and patch over the “minor” problems with the first law or regulations.

The Head Start program is a perfect example of this problem. Started during the heady progressive days of LBJ as part of his “War on Poverty” the program has been a consistent failure, showing no material benefits, yet it still exists. Not only that, its supporters continue to push for increased funding for the program. But it can’t be killed “because of the children”. Of course, that is just one of the thousands of programs costing hundreds of billions of dollars each year that were put in place to stamp out poverty. Yet, somehow, despite the distinctly changing nature of the definition of poverty, there remain more people characterized as living in poverty in the US today than at any point in our history.

Another aspect of this tyranny of regulations is the fact that that sugar coating is usually delivered via a bullhorn. Whether its teachers unions striking for more education spending or the SEIU picketing for the right to organize virtually anyone who still has a job to illegal immigrants demanding amnesty to the Democrats and the media conspiring to convince the country that the GOP wants to throw grandma off a cliff, the facts about the costs and consequences of regulations are rarely ever discussed. It’s hard to carry on a fruitful discussion when one side simply shouts platitudes and refuses examine the actual causes of the problems. If throwing money at education were the solution, the United States would have the smartest kids on the planet… Alas we don’t. If the only choice is between throwing grandma off a cliff and spending more money on a Social Security system that will crumble at some point in the future… everyone will want to save grandma.

There are few issues in life that whose salient points can be easily captured on a picket sign. Of those, none are solved by government legislation or regulation. Much to America’s shame that fact apparently doesn’t matter. “What do we want... (Insert relevant liberal trope here)” “When do we want it... NOW!”

It’s no wonder that virtually everyone in America knows the name of Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson but few know Jenny Beth Martin or Thomas Sowell. Sharpton and Jackson are snake oil salesmen with no interest in actually solving problems other than how to increase their media exposure while Martin seeks to solve the country’s problems by shrinking a dysfunctional government and Sowell, as the most lucid and articulate economist in America, simply explains the world as it really is and lets the reader choose their path to solving problems.

Finally there is the single most pernicious aspect of this sugar coated world of laws and regulation: Control. More regulations provide politicians and government bureaucrats with ever more opportunities to persecute those they don’t like and benefit those they do. Not sure about that? Just ask the conservative groups who were targeted by the IRS. How about Gibson Guitars or the insurance companies who criticized Obamacare in 2010. On the other side of the ledger are the green energy companies who’ve just been given carte blanche kill Golden Eagles, illegal immigrants the President has decided not to deport or “community organizing” groups the Justice Department is forcing banks to fund. Not to mention the various unconstitutional delays and waivers President Obama has handed out relating to Obamacare. And those are just federal laws, of which there are tens of thousands. There are hundreds of thousands more at the state and local level. When laws can be implemented arbitrarily the rule of law is gone.

Obamacare is the perfect example of legislation which was sold with sugar coating and whose opponents were pilloried as racists or who didn’t care about the poor. Today, simply because Obamacare was so overarching and so spectacularly dysfunctional, Americans are beginning to see that more laws can’t make everything better. Indeed some are even starting to understand that government action can and often does make things worse. The problem is however that most legislation is not of the supernova sort, but of the rather pedestrian sort that is passed and simply blends into the disordered order of the universe of regulations we’re expected to obey. Eventually the stars of regulation will become too numerous and will block out the dark matter in between them, i.e. the freedom upon which America was founded. At that point we will become a nation where every move, every step, every thought are regulated by the state. We are not quite there, but we’ve seen the future and it is North Korea. When we finally get there we’ll wonder what how we got there because all of the “solutions” we were swallowing tasted so sweet.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Quelle Surprise! Five years of Barack Obama undermining American influence in the world...

The American military is the most powerful in the world. Indeed, we spend more on defense than the rest of the world combined. As one might expect, that amount of military spending translates into a lot of influence around the world, far beyond the bases in Germany or the battlefields of Afghanistan. From leading NATO to acting as the last – and in reality the first – line of defense of nations such as Japan, South Korea, Kuwait and many others, the United States exercises more global power than any nation in history, even during times of peace.

What is unique about the United States however is the fact that as powerful as its military might is, that’s never been the sole source of American influence and indeed during most of the last century, the military was not even the most powerful element of that influence. Since the end of World War II, the two biggest drivers of American influence in the world have been economics and ideals.

The march of free markets around the world over the last 50 years has been largely been led by the United States. From a shining showcase of the prosperity free markets can achieve to the spread of specialization, the importation of products and the outsourcing of services, the economic power of the United States has inspired and lifted billions of people around the world out of poverty over the last half century.

At the same time, the ideals of American freedom and democracy have inspired the world for more than two centuries. From the American Revolution inspiring the French to the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor inspiring a papier-mâché version in Tiananmen Square to the rainbow of revolutions over the last twenty years, American ideals, despite their sometimes failed execution both at home and abroad, have inspired (and influenced) patriots and freedom loving people around the world for decades on end.

American prosperity, when combined with the ideals of freedom and democracy have done more to lift the spirits and life spans of more people across the planet than any military of any size could ever hope to accomplish. The military certainly helps spread those ideals however, whether it be helping rescue the world from two World Wars or American ships and planes delivering billions of dollars of water and foodstuffs to disaster zones or famine ravaged nations.

At the end of the day American influence is largely the source of three things: The prosperity created by free markets, the ideals of freedom and democracy, and military strength. Sometimes those drivers work together while at other times they work independently of one another. They manifest themselves in small ways such as providing disaster relief to Haiti, the Philippines or countless places in between and big ways such as political and or military support for allies or a burgeoning democracy. At the same time that influence has created a tapestry of relationships around the world from strong allies to bitter enemies. In an almost perfect example the old adage you get what you give, to the degree that America succeeds in cultivating allies and friends in the world, the more prosperity we enjoy and the fewer times our military is called upon to engage in actual shooting.

All of that may be changing because of Barack Obama. For five years while he was busy inflicting his fascist, redistributitive economic policies on the citizens of the United States, he has been diminishing American influence abroad at the same time. Time and again Obama has come down on the side of leftists and American enemies. The Iran “deal” is only the latest in a very long line.

In 2009 Obama sided with leftist Honduran President Manuel Zelaya as he sought to defy the Honduran Constitution and run for reelection. Eventually Zelaya was forced into exile and as a result of his continued agitation for violence in the streets, Honduras has become one of the most dangerous nations in the world.

That same year Obama bowed to Vladimir Putin and threw American allies under the bus as he abandoned plans for a missile defense shield in Poland. 2009 also brought Iran’s Green Movement. When Iranian students took to the streets seeking to overthrow the avowed American enemy Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Barack Obama ignored pleas for a public display of support, moral or otherwise. In contrast, when protesters – including the Muslim Brotherhood – called for the ouster of one of America’s strongest allies in the region, Hosni Mubarak, Obama quickly called for Mubarak to resign. Not surprisingly, less than two years later Egypt was in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood.

In 2011 President Obama helped unleash Hell when he sent American air forces to support the overthrow of an admittedly not nice guy, Muammar Gaddafi. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the chaos that was unleashed has turned Libya into an ungovernable mess where local private militias (some of whom are Al Qaeda) are far more powerful than the government itself. Indeed, according to the Cato Institute “Human rights conditions in post-intervention Libya... are considerably worse than in the decade preceding the war.” It was in the middle of this this ungovernable mess that an American Ambassador and three others were killed by Al Qaeda in 2012. 2011 was also the year he pulled the United States out of Iraq in the worst possible way, leaving the United States with virtually no influence in a country American troops had fighting and dying in for a decade.

Finally we find our feckless president in 2013 leading his march to diminish American power in the world. His first step was to undercut longtime ally Britain in their renewed dispute with Argentina over the Falkland Islands, unlike Ronald Reagan, who was a staunch supporter of the Brits during the Falkland War in 1982. His next step was to let Bashir Assad outwit him while simultaneously turning Vladimir Putin into a credible world leader. Obama accomplished this dual disaster as he blinked at actually doing anything about a chemical weapons red line he had offhandedly warned Assad not to cross. Next he betrayed staunch American allies Israel and Saudi Arabia when he proffered a nuclear agreement with Iran that John Bolton calls “Abject surrender by the United States”. Finally just last week, he essentially acquiesced to a Chinese power grab – and simultaneously undermined allies Japan and South Korea – as the US advised American airlines to comply with China’s demands for notification when they planned to fly over water and islands claimed by all three.

For five years we have seen that whatever the situation, Barack Obama consistently chooses decisions that will weaken American power and influence in the world. The history of an American superpower is not one that is without blemishes, but it has clearly been a force for good in the world. Can you imagine a 2013 where the dominant power for the previous century had been the Soviets or the Red Chinese or some incarnation of Al Qaeda? That ability to influence events and nations requires far more than just a powerful military. It requires a leader who recognizes that American influence has been a significant catalyst for the improvement of the condition of man around the world, and one who is willing to use that fact as his North Star when carrying out foreign policy. Barack Obama has consistently done just the opposite. From supporting leftists in Central America to betraying allies on practically every continent to fueling the replacement of imperfect dictators with whom we could work with Anti-American Islamists or even chaos, for five years he has chosen the path that leads to diminished American influence.

We’ve known from before the election that Barack Obama is no fan of the American Constitution or free markets. From his willingness to diminish America on the world stage at every turn it appears that it’s not just American institutions that Obama despises, but rather the idea of a strong America itself.