Thursday, October 31, 2013

There's Nothing New About a Deeply Divided Nation

By Alan Caruba

The polls and the pundits tell us that the people of the United States of America are deeply divided politically and they’re right.

A bit of history helps to understand this.

The former colonies that later became the states when they accepted a federal form of government were always divided, along with their citizens, a goodly portion of whom did not want to declare independence and go to war with Great Britain. After it became clear that the Articles of Confederation were useless, a group of wealthy elites got together in Philadelphia and, in the greatest secrecy, scrapped the Articles and wrote our revered Constitution.

Fortunately, this group—now called the “framers” or “founders”—were highly educated for their time, most were successful businessmen and/or farmers. However, to call George Washington, who presided at the meeting, a farmer was an understatement. Washington owned thousands of acres and had many enterprises related to the crops he grew with the assistance of several hundred slaves. Washington was one of the wealthiest men in the nation. He and others may not have liked slavery, but there were no tractors, harvesters, or other farm equipment of later eras. Plows were still pulled by oxen or horses. If you wanted to get anywhere, you either went on foot, by horse, in a carriage, or by boat.

Washington, having led the armies of the aspiring American nation to victory over eight years, was a universally revered commander who had ultimately demanded and got complete control over the military from a generally useless continental congress that notoriously failed to pay the army.

When the Constitution has been ratified by enough states to become the new government of the new nation, there was never any question in anyone’s mind as to who should be its first President. As Harlow Giles Unger, the author of a new, excellent book, “Mr. President”: George Washington and the Making of the Nation’s Highest Office”, makes clear “…in one of the defining events in the creation of the U.S. presidency, Washington startled his countrymen by ignoring the constitution limits on presidential powers and ordering troops to crush tax protests by American citizens—much as the British government had tried, and failed, to do in the years leading up to the American Revolution.” History and life is filled with ironies.

Unger makes clear an aspect of our history that is generally unknown, but based on Washington’s experience with the Continental Congress during the Revolution, “from the moment he took office in the spring of 1789, Washington was obsessed with establishing the President as ‘the supreme power to govern the general concerns of a confederated republic.’ Fearing anarchy, disunion, and an end to American freedom if he failed to act decisively, he transformed himself—and the presidency—from a relatively impotent figurehead into America’s most powerful leader, creating what modern scholars have called the ‘imperial presidency.’”

Over the eight years of his two terms as the nation’s first President, Washington turned the office into one that “controlled executive appointments, foreign policy, military affairs, government finances, and federal law enforcement, along with the power to legislate by presidential proclamation and to issue secret fiats under the cloak of executive privilege.”

I share this with you because it is useful to know that even Washington was called a 'usurper' of power in his day when there was still a lot of fear that an American monarchy would be imposed. Despite the high regard with which Washington was held, it took the power of his personality, his high level of leadership, and his personal integrity to create the presidency that we still have to this day.

John Adams served as Washington’s Vice President and observed that “The executive and the legislative powers are natural rivals; and if each has not an effectual control over the other, the weaker will ever be the lamb in the paws of the wolf. The nation which will not adopt an equilibrium of power must adopt a despotism. There is no alternative. Rivalries must be controlled or they will throw things into confusion.”

After five years of Obama as President, we have seen that equilibrium swing back and forth and, indeed, this has been the history of the three branches of our government. It is now swinging away from Obama as his former support wanes and the impact of the aptly named Tea Party movement increases. The U.S. is only a year away for his powers to be blunted by a Congress that is likely to swing in the direction of conservative, Republican leadership.

As stressful as the process is for everyone, this is the way the nation was intended to be governed and the enmities that are inherent in that process are the price we pay in a nation whose population is sharply divided between those who have little knowledge of our history or of the manner in which we have emerged from many crises in the past and grown stronger.

This is not a time for despair. It is a time to harness the power of the people who hold the Constitution in high regard and to vote for those who share that regard.

© Alan Caruba, 2013

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

My Advice to Californians; Get Out Now

By Alan Caruba

If you live in California, I have a bit of advice. Get out now while you can afford the gas to load up the van and head north or east. You won’t be alone.

According to “Crazifornia: How California is Destroying Itself and Why It Matters to America”, about 150,000 Californians have been fleeing the state each year of late. “In fact,” wrote Laer Pearce, “Los Angeles alone has lost more households than New York, Miami, and, incredibly, the economically decimated city of Detroit…combined.”

The tide of traffic leaving the state is likely to increase. According to a news release from Earthjustice, one of the innumerable environmental organizations bent on destroying every form of energy that has fueled the growth of the American economy, the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has “finalized a groundbreaking decision to build innovative high-tech energy storage systems that will lead California toward a future of clean, renewable energy and away from dependence on fossil fuels.”

You remember fossil fuels, oil, natural gas, and coal. The “clean, renewable” energies are wind and solar because, of course, the sun shines all the time and the wind blows all the time. Or not.

By definition, energy “storage systems” can use mechanical, chemical, or thermal processes to store energy; these processes range from battery technologies to energy storage within compressed air or molten salt. If that sounds bizarre, it is.

According to Will Rostov, an Earthjustice attorney, “Clean, renewable energy sources will shape our future, whether the dirty antiquated fossil fuels industry likes it or not, so it’s excellent to see California getting there first. It took years by environmental advocates and state regulators to reach this point.”

Actually, Europe has been there for some time now. In England’s Yorkshire Dales, they’re tearing down four wind turbines that have been around for twenty years and “have not worked in years.” Indeed, across Europe there is a lot of buyer’s remorse for having embraced wind and solar. As Marc Morano, the editor of, noted in an October 17 article, “Wind and solar mandates are breaking Europe’s electric utilities.”

“Last week the CEOs of Europe’s ten largest utilities finally cried uncle and called for a halt to wind and solar subsidies. Short of that, they want subsidies of their own. They want to be paid, in essence, not to produce power.” Thanks to mandates to use electricity from wind and solar Europe’s energy costs increased 17% for consumers and 21% for industry in the last four years.

California, in addition to requiring comparable use of wind and solar power while pushing to close coal-fired plants and keep some nuclear plants shuttered, will require its utilities to purchase 1.3 megawatts of “energy storage” power by 2020.

The San Jose Mercury News reported that “The first-in-a-nation mandate is expected to spur innovation in emerging storage technologies, from batteries to flywheels. Once large quantities of energy can be stored, the electric grid can make better use of solar, wind and other technologies that generate sporadically rather than in a steady flow, and can better manage disruptions from unpredictable events such as storms and wildfires.”

This is another very expensive Green pipedream that, like other California initiatives, would prove impossible to achieve and will be abandoned or ignored.

Since neither wind nor solar produce electricity in a steady, predictable fashion that enables utilities to ensure a flow of electricity to consumers, “energy storage” is the new, idiotic, alternative way of providing electricity that has been in effect since Edison first invented the turbines to produce it.

There is, simply put, no reason to require “energy storage” if “dirty, antiquated fossil fuels” were used. Wind and solar provide just over 3% of the electricity used in the U.S.

According to the Western Region Deputy Director of the Sierra Club, Evan Gillespie, “Fossil fuels like natural gas are a dead end for the people of California, the power companies, and the entire planet.”  If you listened to Strela Cervas, Coordinator at the California Environmental Justice Alliance, fossil fuel use is a conspiracy against “low income communities and communities of color overburdened by pollution, in particular from power plants. California does not need any new gas-fired power plants.”

Those low income communities might not agree, along with all the rest of the Californians, in the wake of the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. While California strives to save the state from a warming that has not been occurring for more than 15 years, the new mandate that 33% of the state’s energy come from wind and solar is estimated to cost $114 billion, all of which will come out of the pockets of energy consumers.

According to Pearce, “Legislators, regulators, lawyers and environmentalists have driven up the cost of doing business in the Golden State until it has become 30% greater than in the neighboring states.” The result of 40 years of anti-business (and anti-energy) policy has caused a decline in the state’s standard of living. “California’s median household income plummeted by 9%--nearly twice the national average between 2006 and 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.”

This is the kind of environmental insanity that has been at work at the federal level since Obama was elected in 2008. Billions have been lost in loans to wind and solar companies that went bankrupt within months and years. Think Solyndra. Now apply that same insanity to the whole of the nation as the administration continues its “war on coal” and actually laments the growing access to natural gas and oil due to hydraulic fracking technology.

The U.S. will produce more oil than Saudi Arabia this year. It has several centuries’ worth of affordable coal, scads of natural gas, and could expand its nuclear power generation if it wanted.

California is leading the way as it drives out its citizens and businesses, leaving behind only those too poor to leave; those dependent on a range of welfare programs that “redistribute” money from “the rich” and the middle class. They are turning the entire state into Detroit.

It is a war on the provision of electricity; the lifeblood of the nation’s capacity to function.

© Alan Caruba, 2013

The Environmental Enemies of Energy

By Alan Caruba

While Americans grapple with the Obamacare debacle and 90 million are officially unemployed according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is another threat to our future as environmental groups like the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth continue their assault on the provision of electrical energy, the lifeblood of the nation’s economy and our ability to function at home and on the job.

Recently, Sierra Club members were told that they, “supporters, partners, and allies have worked tirelessly to retire 150 coal-fired power plants since January 2010—a significant number in the campaign to move the country beyond dirty and outdated fossil fuels.”  

Coal, oil and natural gas are labeled “dirty” for propaganda purposes, but what the Sierra Club and others do not tell you and will never tell you is that they account for most of the electricity generated in America, along with nuclear and hydropower. Wind and solar power provide approximately 3% of the electricity and require government subsidies and mandates to exist. Their required use drives up the cost of electricity to consumers.

Among the many ongoing lawsuits that the Sierra Club is pursuing is one against Navajo coal mining, the Keystone XL pipeline, one seeking penalties for “ongoing violations” at Montana’s Colstrip power plant. They filed a suit against the power rate increase for Mississippi’s Kemper County coal plant.

In early October, The Wall Street Journal published an article, “Mississippi Plant Shows the Cost of ‘Clean Coal’.” It is testimony to the nonsense about “clean coal.” The plant, the reporters note, was meant to demonstrate that Mississippi Power Company’s Kemper County plant was “meant to showcase technology for generating clean energy from low-quality coal” but it “ranks as one of the most expensive U.S. fossil fuel projects ever—at $4.7 billion and rising.”

“Mississippi Power’s 186,000 customers, who live in one of the poorest region of the country, are reeling from double-digit rate increases,” adding that “the plant hasn’t generated a single kilowatt for customers…”

Seven power plants in Pennsylvania are under attack by the Sierra Club and EarthJustice which have filed a federal lawsuit. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has exposed this common practice by environmental groups to “sue and settle.”

“It works like this. Environmental and consumer advocacy groups file a lawsuit claiming that the federal government has failed to meet a deadline or has not satisfied some regulatory requirement. The agency can then either choose to defend itself against the lawsuit or settle it. Often times, it settles by putting in place a ‘court-ordered’ regulation desired by the advocacy group, thus circumventing the proper rulemaking channels and basic transparency and accountability standards.”

High on the list of government agencies that engage in this is the Environmental Protection Agency, but others include Transportation, Agriculture, and Defense, along with the Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Army Corps of Engineers. One recent victory touted by Friends of the Earth is an EPA air pollution regulation is one that affects ships navigating along the coasts of the United States and Canada, out to 200 nautical miles, to “significantly reduce their emissions.”

Like the touted benefits of wind and solar power, “clean coal” is another environmental myth that is costing billions. Recently, the Global Warming Foundation reported that “The world invested almost a billion dollars a day in limiting global warming last year, but the total figure--$359 billion—was slightly down on last year, and barely half the $700 billion per year that the World Economic Forum has said is needed to tackle climate change.” The report cited was generated by the Climate Policy Initiative.

The problem with this is that there is NO global warming. The Earth is in a perfectly natural cooling cycle and has been for 15 to 16 years at this point. The notion of spending any money on “climate change” is insanity. The climate is largely determined by the Sun and other natural factors over which mankind has no control. The claim that carbon dioxide is a contributing factor to climate has been decisively debunked despite the years of lies emanating from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Indeed, during the current cooling cycle, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen!

For all their caterwauling about fossil fuels, environmental groups have resisted the expansion of the use of nuclear power that emits no so-called “greenhouse gas” emissions. The Friends of the Earth recently declared that “The quickest way to end our costly fossil fuel dependency is through energy efficiency and renewable power, not new (nuclear) reactors that will suck up precious investment and take years to complete.”

The Obama administration’s record of bad loans to companies providing renewable power—wind and solar—is testimony to the waste of billions of taxpayer dollars. In September, the Department of Energy made $66 million in green-energy subsidies to 33 companies, half of it to companies by a single venture capital firm with close ties to the White House.

The continued loss of coal-fired plants has reduced their provision of electricity from over 50% to around 47%. The resistance to the construction of nuclear facilities slows the replacement of their loss, but plants utilizing natural gas have benefitted greatly from the discovery of billions of cubic feet through the use of hydraulic fracking technology holds the promise of maintaining the nation’s needs. Need it be said that “fracking” has become a target of environmental organizations?

Environmental organizations are the enemies of energy in America and worldwide. Without its provision third world nations cannot develop and the ability to provide the energy America needs is put in jeopardy.

© Alan Caruba, 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013

Rules for Spies

NSA Headquarters

By Alan Caruba

With all the dramatics by Germany, Argentina, and the leaders of other nations protesting that the National Security Agency is spying on them, the experts on espionage have been patiently pointing out that all nations spy on one another and always have. Two thousand years ago Sun Tzu, a Chinese general, wrote “The Art of War” and devoted a chapter to “The Use of Spies” in which he said, “Be subtle! Be subtle! And use your spies for every kind of business.”

I often visit “Stormbringer”, a blog by a former U.S. soldier with an extensive special operations background, and he recently published “Rules for Spies” by John Schindler, “a National Security Agency veteran and now a professor at the Naval War College.” Schindler spent ten years at the NSA as an analyst and counterintelligence officer.

Most of us will never know what really goes on in the NSA and that’s the way it’s supposed to be, but I will raise a personal objection to its use to spy on Americans. As I understand it, the NSA is authorized solely to spy on foreign subjects, as is the CIA. Domestic surveillance is the job of the FBI. Clearly the lines of legal authority have been breached. One can only hope that congressional oversight will correct this problem.

In the meantime, here is a selection from Rules for Spies that will provide some insight regarding the way espionage and counter-intelligence should be conducted:

“All important intelligence methods have already been perfected by the Russians. We need to figure out how to do them nicely.”

“It’s not what you know. It’s not who you know. It’s what you know about who you know. If you don’t understand that, in intelligence, your job is based on breaking other people’s laws, get out now.”

“U.S. intelligence is the world’s BIG DAWG, especially in SIGNINT (signals intelligence) and IMINT (image intelligence, i.e, that gathered by satellites and other means) but the bureaucracy is so vast as to undercut too much of that.”

“SIGNINT is the golden source, but if the enemy doesn’t understand his own system, neither will you. If you don’t understand the other side’s collection and what he’s doing to mess up your collection, you’re clueless too.”

“The bigger your bureaucracy, the less effective your intelligence system is. No exceptions.”

“You can learn tradecraft. You can’t learn common sense. Nor can you get ‘up to speed’ on a problem in a couple of weeks.”

“Intelligence services are accurate reflections of their societies. It’s not always a pretty picture.”

“The best way to protect your secrets is to steal the other side’s.”

“If you don’t own the street, the other side will. And soon they will steal your lunch.”

Schindler’s reflections on bureaucracy and the way it can undermine or misinterpret intelligence are of particular importance in the present time. The U.S. not only has the largest intelligence gathering operation on planet Earth, but its size can contribute to failures to analyze and act on it.
Examples of this would include, of course, the 9/11 attack that transformed America in major ways. Despite a huge Homeland Security Department, created in the wake of 9/11, and the existence of the FBI, NSA and the CIA, none of that vast structure deterred the Boston Marathon massacre last year, despite intelligence passed along by the Russians regarding the brothers who perpetrated it.

Examples of this would include, of course, the 9/11 attack that transformed America in major ways. Despite a huge Homeland Security Department, created in the wake of 9/11, and the existence of the FBI, NSA and the CIA, none of that vast structure deterred the Boston Marathon massacre last year, despite intelligence passed along by the Russians regarding the brothers who perpetrated it.

The most worrisome aspect of all the intelligence gathering is the capacity of a those in positions of leadership in America to use it against Americans who are simply exercising their First Amendment rights.

Recently, as reported in The Washington Times, “Maryland State Police and federal agents used a search warrant in an unrelated criminal investigation to seize the private reporting files of an award-winning former investigated journalist”, Audrey Hudson, “who had exposed problems in the Homeland Security Department’s federal air marshal service.” The documents revealed her sources within the department. The Times is “preparing legal action to fight what it called an unwarranted intrusion on the First Amendment.” The seizure is consistent with the Obama administration’s campaign to identify “leaks” to journalists. 

Stop Watching Us is a collective of 100 public advocacy groups, among them the American Civil Liberties Union, Freedom Works, as well as individuals like Chinese artist/activist Ai Weiwei and Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who worked with Edward Snowden to expose many of the NSA’s surveillance procedures. Snowden, however, is in my opinion a traitor.

Philosophically, I am in agreement with Stop Watching Us, but I have no problem with spying on others, allies and enemies alike.

© Alan Caruba, 2013

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Same-Sex Marriage is an Oxymoron

By Alan Caruba

“Oxymoron: A figure of speech in which antithetical incongruous terms are combined, as in a deafening silence or a mournful optimist; pointedly foolish.” – Webster’s II New College Dictionary. To this definition, one can add “same-sex marriage.”

In their book, “America 3.0”, the authors, James C. Bennett and Michael J. Lotus, assert that “The impact of marriage and family practices on our American life and our history have been overwhelming. It has caused Americans to have a uniquely strong concept of each person as an individual self, with an identity that is not bound by family or tribal or social ties. Most cultures historically and around the world today have nothing like this American spirit of individualism. Our distinctive type American nuclear family has made us what we are.”

The American nuclear family has always been defined as a man, a women, and children resulting from that bond.

In September, in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stated that only about two percent (2%) of the U.S. population are men who have sex with men. In addition, it stated that 80% of all new HIV infections in 2010 were men and that 78% of those were among men who have sex with men.

In total, only about 3% of the population is homosexual. Given the constant media attention given to this vocal minority as news and on television and in films, one might be led to believe that they constitute are a far larger portion and yet they have managed to alter public opinion significantly regarding their sexual orientation and “rights” they claim have been denied.

In October, Rasmussen Reports reported that “voters nationwide are almost evenly divided when asked if marriage is a religious or civil institution, but slightly more feel laws regarding marriage should be set at the state or local level rather than by the federal government. There are sharp differences of opinion over gay marriage depending on how voters feel about these two issues…48% of likely U.S. voters consider marriage to be more of a religious institution than a civil one. Nearly as many (45%) regard marriage more as a civil institution.”

Try getting married without a license issued by a state. You can’t. Whether you think it is civil or religious—it is both—for millennia people worldwide have regarded marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman, sanctioning it in law and practice.

For the record, this is my view and I regard efforts to change this definition as a threat to the core values of our society and the understanding that the nuclear family is the most essential element of our society. I do not oppose so-called “civil unions” that extend legal benefits to same-sex couples that are enjoyed by a traditional marriage.

We have seen what happens when the regard for fundamental elements of society are altered. An example was the Supreme Court decision that ruled that abortion was a legal right. The result has been the murder of millions of unborn children. According to available data, in 2008, approximately 1.21 million abortions took place in the U.S., down from an estimated 1.29 million in 2002, 1.31 million in 2000 and 1.36 million in 1996. From 1973 through 2008, nearly 50 million legal abortions have occurred in the U.S.

There are cases affecting the definition of marriage coming up before the Supreme Court. In a June commentary by Ryan T. Anderson, “On Marriage, Inevitability is a Choice We Can Reject”, the author notes that “Citizens have gone to the polls to vote about marriage in 33 states. The truth about marriage has prevailed 30 of those 33 times.” He expressed concern that “Still, no one can deny that Americans’ support for marriage is not what it once was. This is largely because we have done an insufficient job of explaining what marriage is, why marriage matters, and what the consequences will be if we redefine marriage.”

“Marriage is founded on the anthropological truth that men and women are different and complementary, the biological fact that the union between a man and woman also creates new life, and the social reality that children need a mom and a dad.”

“All the polls in the world cannot undo the truth about marriage,” said Anderson, but they can obscure the truth and make it less likely that men and women commit to each other permanently and exclusively. This in turn reduces the odds that children will know the love and care of their married mothers and fathers.”

What we have been witnessing in America has been a systematic attack on its most fundamental civil foundations and, when the voters have their say, they have overwhelmingly rejected same-sex marriage. However, when the courts have ruled, the consequences have been far-reaching and ultimately harmful to our society.

© Alan Caruba, 2013

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Watching Islam Change

By Alan Caruba

I find it difficult to believe that more than a billion Muslims approve of the constant attacks in the name of Islam that kill Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and, yes, Muslims. The attack in a popular Nairobi shopping mall is just one example, but we have grown so accustomed to reports of bombings in Iraq, Pakistan, and other nations that we barely take notice of them.

This may seem totally counter-intuitive at a time when militant Islam is bathing in the blood of its victims, but your grandchildren may watch as Muslims around the world retreat from current efforts to impose governments based on the Koran, preferring to separate church and state. Many will decide to embrace another religion.

It’s not widely discussed, but we could be watching the violent death throes of a religion in decline.

Indeed, it may be even sooner according to a friend who is a longtime observer of Islam and author of several books. “Maybe in the coming 20 years we will see Islam diminished to such an extent that it will become irrelevant.  The events happening in the Middle East only will make Muslims realize Islam is a failed paradigm. Many of them are already coming to realize the root cause of their suffering is Islam.”

The protests that overthrew the dictators of Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt were an expression of people who had grown tired of the oppression their governments imposed. The 1979 revolution in Iran was not based in Islam, but rather a resistance against the Shah who had ruled with an iron fist. All manner of secular and sectarian groups joined together in that revolution, but the radical Islamists took over, as often as not killing and imprisoning those who had aided in the overthrow. In 2009, Iranians in Tehran protested the regime and were ruthlessly resisted by the ayatollahs.

The civil war in Syria is not Islamic, but rather resistance to the two-generation dictatorship of the Assad’s, father and son, and the Alawite minority they represent. It began as a protest by farmers who had lost their farms and whose economic condition had worsened in recent years. To put it down, Bashar al-Assad has employed every brutal means he could. Syria had been a nation where various religions had lived side by side with no conflict. The civil war changed that as al Qaeda sensed an opportunity to seize territory.

The Egyptian revolt against Hosni Mubarak, the longtime dictator and ally of the U.S., was an example of the growing demand of ordinary Muslims to have a government that focuses on improving the economy, providing justice, and the kind of freedoms they know Americans and others in the West enjoy. When the Muslim Brotherhood won the first election after his overthrow, it took barely a year for the protesters to fill the streets and demand that Mohammed Morsi be deposed by the military.

In Egypt, the army and what passes for a transitional government has cracked down hard on the Muslim Brotherhood and those clerics whom are regarded as a threat. It has outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood and the interim government recently stripped tens of thousands of imams—Muslim clerics—of their license to preach. It only took ten weeks for this to occur. As reported, the government “has moved aggressively to rein in the Islamist sensibilities that allowed Mohammed Morsi to win the country’s first free and fair presidential elections more than a year ago.”

So we have not witnessed the rise of Islam in these nations, but rather the simmering desire for real freedom. In Turkey, where a secular government has existed since the end of World War I when the Ottoman Empire ceased, its current president, a rabid Islamist, could meet a similar end as Morsi as popular discontent with his government is on the rise.

Reza Azlan, an Adjunct Senior Fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations, commenting on political Islam in the Middle East, said “I think what these Islamists are starting to learn, across the region, is that you can’t maintain your incorruptible image while also having political power.”

The Muslim Brotherhood, the oldest of the Islamist political organizations, ran into a buzz-saw of resistance in Egypt from ordinary Muslims who, while valuing the role Islam plays in their lives, do not want to live under the harsh dictates of Sharia law. They want it to be separate from the governance of their nations.

As Azlan says, “Success means moderation, failure means irrelevance” noting that “the more these Islamists gain political power, the more fractured they become” and it is fracturing along generational lives with a younger, more connected generation want their nations to be governed in a more democratic fashion as they have seen in the West. Azlan says “it’s the rule of law that will define it.” The medium age in many Middle Eastern nations is around 19 and 20.

What is simultaneously occurring is a struggle for power between the Sunnis and Shiites in the region where the Sunnis are the majority. Iran and Iraq are Shiite, as is Hezbollah and Hamas. The rest are ruled by Sunnis. Iran is seeking to establish “a Shiite crescent” and is being resisted by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States, all allied with the U.S. in some fashion.

The U.S. attempted to intervene following 9/11 (and previously) but this has only led to inconclusive military operations. Under both Bush administrations, the outcome was long wars that Americans came to see as failures. Under the Obama administration, the desire was to withdraw from the region. The President has displayed a tilt toward Islam in general and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular.

It does not help that President Obama so obviously favors Islam while, at the same time, is so inept that he clearly has no strategic foreign policy regarding the Middle East. Americans and the rest of the world must wait out the remaining years of his administration. Fortunately, his ability to influence events and outcomes has been diminished.

Islam is changing. It is Muslims in a modern world that are changing it and, as the carnage mounts, many will choose to abandon it. The change will involve warfare and bloodshed, but that is usually the way revolutions play out.

© Alan Caruba, 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Obama's Legacy is Failure

By Alan Caruba

No need to wait around three years and beyond to know what Barack Obama’s “legacy” will be. It will be failure. Few, if any, presidents have demonstrated his level of incompetence and ineptitude.

Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, is called President Obama’s legacy legislation, the one for which he will be remembered, much as Franklin D. Roosevelt is remembered for Social Security or Harry Truman is remembered for Medicare. Obama is likely to regret his legacy, though you can be sure that while he lives he will blame its failure on everyone but himself.

Obamacare, enacted in his first term, will be emblematic of the eight years in which every policy Obama initiated swiftly became a failure. Does anyone recall his “stimulus” with “shovel ready jobs” that did not materialize? Or “Cash for Clunkers”? How many millions were loaned to “green energy” companies that rapidly went bankrupt? Not everything failed. His “war on coal” has been a success if you measure success in the number of plants generating electricity shut down and workers laid off. And, of course, there is the doubling of the national debt. It’s a long list.

The legislative history of Obamacare begins when it was passed by the House on November 7, 2009 and by the Senate just before midnight on Christmas Eve, 2009. Both houses of Congress had Democratic Party majorities, but it required a lot of arm-twisting and political bribery to enact the bill. President Obama signed it into law on March 21, 2010. It is doubtful that most members of Congress actually read the bill before voting to pass it.

By 2010, the midterm elections gave power to Republicans in the House and narrowed the margin in the Senate. Significantly, the Senate refused to consider any of the legislation the House sent over to end the government shutdown.

Virtually everything the President said about Obamacare before and since its passage has been a lie. In many ways Obamacare is a mirror image of his character or lack of it. Passed off as a moral responsibility to provide health insurance coverage to those who could not afford it, Obamacare is filled with hidden taxes. When you tax something, you tend to get less of it. It is blatantly unconstitutional in its implementation of fines for failing to sign up.

To date, Obamacare’s initial impact has been to turn fulltime jobs into part-time jobs. It has doubled and tripled insurance premiums. It has caused a reduction in physicians as many elect to retire or close their private practices due to its low levels of compensation. Many will not accept patients on Medicare or Medicaid.

Indeed, to implement Obamacare, $500 billion was taken from Medicare with an additional $818 billion to be taken from Medicare Part A in 2014-2023. For the senior citizens who were depending on Medicare to help cover expenses, the likelihood is that they will receive reduced services and a poorer quality of care, if they even find care.

The nationalization of 16% of the nation’s economy has been a socialist dream that has been around since the 1980s. It has arrived and, like socialism everywhere, it is a failure.

Another Obama legacy is his failure to get the economy on track since the 2008 financial crisis. It was a crisis caused by the interference in the housing market that has been around since the creation of two government “entities”, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, who not only purchased billions in mortgage loans, but demanded that loans be made to those who lacked the capacity to repay them. They then bundled the loans as “assets” and sold them to Wall Street. Though Wall Street is blamed for the crisis, the government seized control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Both are back in business. This is a formula for future crises.

As Terence P. Jeffery of CNS News recently noted, “In January 2009, when President Barack Obama took office, there were 80,507,000 Americans not in the labor force. Thus, the number of Americans not in the labor force has increased by 10,102,000 during Obama’s presidency.”

A recent report from a coalition of businesses, advocacy groups, policy experts, and nonprofit organizations concluded that 49 states have seen an increase in the number of families living in poverty and 45 states have seen household median incomes fall in the last year.

Led by Opportunity Nation, a think tank that focuses on the young, the report concludes that almost 15% of those aged 16 to 24 no longer attend school or have a job. This is a vast aimless and frequently hopeless cohort of the population. It does not bode well for the future in terms of skills that will not be taught and will not be utilized.

And yet this is a President who, in the wake of the failure of the Obamacare website, said, “Thousands of people are signing up and saving money as we speak.” He is lying.

Like the fable of the little boy who cried wolf too often, millions of Americans no longer believe anything Obama says these days. Even for his supporters, the evidence is so great as to be unavoidable.

It is increasingly likely that the 2014 midterm elections will resemble the 1994 election that returned Republicans to control of Congress after some four decades by the Democratic Party.

© Alan Caruba, 2013

Glitch Happens

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Predicting America's Future

 By Alan Caruba

One of the great parlor games of pundits, politicians, journalists, and just about everyone else is predicting the future.

There’s a wonderful book, “The Experts Speak”, that is filled, page after page, with predictions and pronouncements by people of presumed wisdom and knowledge, all of which turned out to be often hilariously wrong. In 1913, regarding Einstein’s theory of relativity, Ernst Mach, a professor of physics at the University of Vienna, said, “I can accept the theory of relativity as little as I can accept the existence of atoms and other such dogmas.”

I prefer optimists to pessimists and the co-authors of “America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century—why America’s Greatest Days Are Yet to Come”, James C. Bennett and Michael J. Lotus, are optimists.

In his foreword to the book, Glenn Harlan Reynolds, better known as the “Instapundit”, cites the late economist, Herbert Stein, who said “Something that can’t go on forever, won’t”, noting that “The American 2.0 approach, which delivered stability and prosperity to many for decades, is now more problem than solution, as banks fail, bureaucrats flounder, and the economy fails to deliver the jobs—or the tax revenues—needed to keep the whole enterprise going.” Reynolds, however, agrees that “The Jeffersonian individualism that was embodied in in America 1.0 never really went away.” And that’s the good news.

Bennett and Lotus begin by saying, “We are optimistic about the long-term prospects for American freedom and prosperity. You should be, too.” They do not believe the nation is “on an inevitable road to tyranny and poverty. Predictions of the end of America are deeply mistaken,” but they do say that “The current politico-economic regime is falling apart.”

I think most people will agree with that as a deeply divided America struggles to deal with slow economic growth, a Marxist President, and the final gasp of a government that has expanded to a point of demonstrating the wisdom of the Constitution’s limits on its size and role. The Tea Party movement and the founding principles of the Republican Party are all about those limitations.

As Obamacare fails dramatically, Americans across the political spectrum will want to return to a more manageable, less intrusive government. They did that when they elected Ronald Reagan.  America needs a leader to emerge who will bring the two factions together and, if history is a guide, they will find one. It will not be easy because two generations have passed through the liberal indoctrination of its schools and because the nation’s media, composed of those graduates, is dominated by liberals.

Another factor is demography, the study of populations. Americans are living longer and the effects of that are undermining the future of progressive programs such as Social Security and Medicare. At some point they will have to be reformed, along with the rising costs of medical care.

Americans, since the early years of the last century have gone back and forth between progressive programs and a yearning for less control from centralized government. The income tax, the government’s “safety net” introduced following the Great Depression, the growth and decline of unions, and even Prohibition demonstrate this ambivalence. Obamacare is likely to be repealed just as Prohibition was.

America 1.0 stretched from the century the preceded the Revolution and extended to the Civil War. It was a largely agrarian society of farmers with the emphasis on individual responsibility. It was, as well, a society based on the nuclear family, a structure that remains today, though is under attack by liberals. America 2.0 saw the rise of industrialization and, following World War Two, the nation as a superpower in the world.

America 2.0 is crumbling, say the authors, and that “we are in the midst of slow but wrenching transition to an emerging America 3.0.” It will be “an even bigger transition, from industrial to an individualized-and-networked economy that we are undergoing now.”

One of the elements of the transition that the authors recommend is the abolishment of the federal income tax and replacing it with a national consumption tax, saying that “The required disclosure of personal economic information required in filing tax forms constitutes perhaps the largest single invasion of civil liberties in America, violating the spirit of the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against search and seizure of personal information without a judicial warrant.”

Here again, putting the Internal Revenue in change of enforcing Obamacare will likely trigger a backlash against it, the income tax system, and generate a return to the individual rights enumerated in the Constitution.

Then, too, the world is also changing as Islamism seeks to drag its population back to a dark age of feudalism and slavery. The wave of terrorism is generating a backlash, even in nations where Islam is the dominant faith. America, in the process, has learned it cannot export its unique democratic system and engage in “nation building.” The original faith in the United Nations to deter wars has faded and the growth of various regional organizations will likely replace it.

The co-authors of “America 3.0” say “We can sketch only the bare outlines of what an America 3.0 defense and foreign policy might be like in reality. But those policies must be consistent with what can actually be achieved by American power, with a renewed focus on securing the global commons for trade, maintaining our alliances, and defending the American free and prosperous way of life.”

We are living in times of both rapid and slow change, and America has the mechanism—the Constitution—to make the changes needed to adjust and the strength to protect itself from enemies, domestic and foreign, in a global economy. It won’t be easy and it will not be fast enough for most, but America will remain a dominant agent for change.

© Alan Caruba, 2013

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Great American Wind Power Fraud

By Alan Caruba

In July the Fairhaven, Massachusetts Board of Health voted to shut down the town’s two wind turbines at night between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. after dozens of residents had filed more than 400 complaints. Testing had demonstrated that the turbines exceeded state noise regulations and those specified in their operating permits.

In July the Heartland Institute’s Environmental & Climate News reported on the announcement by Nordex USA, a manufacturer of wind turbines that had accepted millions of dollars in subsidies while promising to create 750 jobs that it had shut down its Jonesboro facility. In 2008, Gov. Mike Beebe (D) had given Nordex $8 million from the Governor’s Quick-Action Closing Fund and the Arkansas Development Finance Authority had given Nordex another $11 million. The decision, said the company, was its uncertainty about receiving federal subsidies. At the time, only fifty people were employed there.

In early October, the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Healthcare, and Entitlements held a hearing on the Wind Production Tax Credit (PTC). The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) was there to argue for an extension of the subsidy. According to lobbying disclosures, in 2012 the AWEA had spent more than $2.4 million to protect the subsidy which was set to expire, but which received a one-year extension as part of the deal struck to avoid the “fiscal cliff.”

Arguing that wind energy is an important element of the mix of energy provided by coal, natural gas, nuclear and hydroelectric facilities, the facts are that in 2012 coal accounted for 37 percent of total generation, natural gas represented 30 percent, and nuclear contributed 19 percent. Wind power accounted for just 1.4 percent of U.S. energy consumption in 2012 and only 3.5 percent of the nation’s electricity generation.

Since the PTC was first enacted two decades ago, it has cost taxpayers $20 billion dollars.

One of the primary arguments for wind energy is that it is “renewable” and does not contribute to the so-called "greenhouse gas emissions" that are the cause of a “global warming.” However, the latest warming cycle ended some fifteen years ago. Not one student in our nation’s schools has ever experienced “global warming.”

Wind energy is “green” say its supporters, but it is hardly “green” to kill an estimated 573,000 birds every year, including 83,000 birds of prey according to a study published in the March edition of the Wildlife Society Bulletin. It also kills countless bats, a species that reduces the vast number of insect pests that prey on crops and transmit diseases.

A permit is being sought by the Shiloh IV Wind Project in Solano County, California, that would grant it the right to kill up to five golden eagles over a five-year period despite their protected status under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

So wind energy is justified as reducing greenhouse gases that are not causing global warming which does not exist, is receiving millions in subsidies, and wants to kill protected species, an environmental objective. This is hypocrisy on a galactic scale.

Testifying before the congressional committee, Dr. Robert Michaels, a senior fellow of the Institute for Energy Research, noted that the subsidy which was supposed to end by now has been renewed five times. The wind industry is essentially non-competitive when it comes to energy generation from traditional sources and has also been around long enough to amply demonstrate that. In a market economy, such industries are allowed to fail.

The wind industry, however, doesn’t even need to be competitive because utilities in some thirty states are required by law to include it in their “renewable portfolio standards” that set quotes for its use. This mandate is expected to see the installation of more than 100,000 renewable megawatts over the next twenty years and wind, said Dr. Michaels, and “seems certain to get the lion’s share.”

Adding to the idiocy of wind energy is the need for such production facilities to have a back-up from traditional coal, natural gas, and nuclear facilities because wind is not available with any predictability. The consumer not only pays for the electricity these facilities provide to ensure that they will always have electricity, but pays in the form of the subsidies the wind industry continues to receive.

There is no need for renewable energy mandates. Both wind and solar are unreliable sources of energy and produce so little as to lack any justification for their existence.

The wind industry exists because it spends millions annually to convince legislators that it should not only be subsidized and because many states require its use. Take away the interference of government entities and the industry would have no real basis to exist. It is a fraud.

© Alan Caruba, 2013

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Press Endures Obama's Unrequited Love

By Alan Caruba

Some years ago Bernard Goldberg wrote a book, “A Slobbering Love Affair With Obama”, about the way the press treated his 2008-9 campaign and election as President. The mainstream press continues to protect Obama, often rather blatantly. The curious thing about this is that it is not reciprocated. More and more, the press acts and sounds like an abused wife.

A case in point is the way the networks—ABC, NBC and CBS—covered the government shutdown. A new report from the Media Research Center analyzed the coverage, finding 41 stories that blamed the Republican Party and zero—none—that blamed the Democrats. There were 17 stories that blamed both sides. Recall, please, the shutdown continued because the President refused to negotiate and the Democrat-controlled Senate refused to vote on any bills sent over from the House.

A recent, glaring example of how some of today’s journalists have debased their profession was the decision by Paul Thornton, editor of The Los Angeles Times letter’s section, to openly refuse to publish any letters from skeptics about the global warming hoax that blames “climate change” on human activity, not the Sun, oceans, and other natural factors.

The cover of the September/October edition of The Quill, the membership magazine of the 8,000-member Society of Professional Journalists, featured an article by Kara Hackett, “There Goes the Sun”, referring to the metaphorical sunlight that is supposed to shine on government activities. The subtitle said, “President Obama has had successes and failures in changing the way Washington works. When it comes to his transparency promises, there’s not much to cheer. His 2008 campaign talked the talk, but nine months into his second term, where’s the walk?”

Journalists pride themselves for being on the cutting edge of events and trends, but they have been slow to realize or to admit that they have been instrumental in electing a pathological liar to the highest office in the land. “Now, after a turbulent start to Obama’s second term in office, his administration’s 2009 promise to be ‘the most open and transparent in history’ is another liability,” lamented Hackett.

Another liability…like an Obamacare from which Congress is exempt, the Benghazi attack last year, the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal, the revelations about the National Security Agency, and the fact that the IRS no longer can be trusted with your private and personal information? And that’s the short list.

The Quill devoted six pages to Hackett’s article as she carefully detailed the many measures that seemed to offer a new era in openness. Many reporters chafed at difficulties they encountered during George W. Bush’s two terms, but the hostility to Bush43 was no secret. All administrations are reluctant to share information that might not make them look good. This is a description of the adversarial relationship that has existed since the days of George Washington.

The complaints are old and common, so Obama’s 2009 instruction to agencies and departments to “adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure” when responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) inquiries was music to their ears. In December 2009, the White House issued an Open Government Directive, “ordering agencies to publish at least three high-value data sets on and create an open government Web page to update citizens about its progress.”

Like the proverbial frog in a pot of water being slowly brought to a boil, it took reporters a while to get beyond the glow emanating from the administration’s directives to the reality of dealing with government agencies and departments.

New York Times reporter, Sarah Cohen, is quoted as saying that the “information agencies provide is often an extension of their public relations arms to help them enlist support rather than to help the public understand what is really going on.” Well, duh!

What was going on was a variety of government policies that turned out to be duds. A case in point was the billions in loans to “clean energy” companies that frequently declared bankruptcy before the first term ended. Another was the "stimulus."

More blatant was the way the administration twisted arms and offered bribes to some members of Congress to get the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) enacted. Not one Republican voted for it, so they needed every Democrat vote.

Virtually every promise Obama made about the bill has turned out to be a lie.

Within the press community, groups devoted to more open government began to take notice, from the Open the Government Coalition to the National Freedom of Information Coalition, Investigative Reporters and Editors, to the Project on Government Oversight.

The Obama administration became obsessed with secrecy to identify and prosecute “whistleblowers.” 

Hackett noted that “The Obama administration has used the Espionage Act of 1917 seven times, more than all previous presidents combined, to prosecute federal employees who expose government waste, fraud and abuse”, adding “These are the same employees the president once pledged to support.”

Even after signing the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act in November 2012, the administrative created a loophole big enough to drive a tank through. Hackett interviewed Jesselyn Radack, the national security and human rights director for the Government Accountability Project who noted that “whistleblowers who go through the internal channels to report wrongdoing used to suffer workplace reprisals. But now, under Obama, they’re facing the rest of their lives in prison.”

When the Justice Department subpoenaed 21 Associated Press phone lines and accused Fox reporter, James Rosen, of being a possible “co-conspirator” in a leak investigation, it was impossible for the press to ignore the thuggish efforts of the administration to shut down any “leaks” in a way that put a big chill on relations between contacts within the administration and reporters.

A recent report by The Committee to Protect Journalists on “The Obama Administration and the Press Leak investigations and surveillance in post-9/11 America” spelled out the assault on U.S. and foreign journalists, saying that “the White House curbs routine disclosure of information and deploys its own media to evade scrutiny by the press.”

What this means is that the Obama administration has a lot to hide and the front line of defense against its machinations, the press, continues to protect it despite having become a target for oppression. You’re next.

Editor's Note: I have been a member of SPJ since 1979.

© Alan Caruba, 2013

Friday, October 18, 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Get Used to It

By Alan Caruba

Oh, what a relief! Now we know that the government will be funded through January 15 and that we can wait until February 7 to fight the debt ceiling battle all over again. Three months to the next potential shutdown and four until the Democrats and Republicans go to the mattresses again like a scene from The Godfather.
Only idiots would run a government with a $17 trillion debt this way. reported that “President Barack Obama welcomed the end of the government shutdown and the raising of the debt limit Thursday with a call for the end of crisis-to-crisis governing and a new era of bipartisan cooperation.”
Does anyone still believe anything Obama says?

The deal struck between Sens. Reid (D-NV) and McConnell (R-KY) allowed the latter to secure $2 billion for a project in Kentucky and no doubt there is plenty of pork in the bill to keep everyone happy, except for those senators who weren’t able to get a piece of the bribe money.
“There is no distinctly criminal class,” said Mark Twain, “except Congress.”

What have we learned from the last three weeks? We learned that President Obama has no intention to negotiate with the Republicans and regards the Democrats in Congress as little more than rubber stamps for whatever he wants. And they seem to agree. While the Democrats showed considerable solidarity, the Republicans were tearing themselves to tatters.

We learned that President Obama, with an eye on the November 2014 midterm elections, is already in full battle mode as he and his huge propaganda machine—the media and the former campaign committee-turned-social-media-megaphone—ramp up the message that the Tea Party is composed of rightwing fanatics and the Republicans are not much better.

Given the great “success” of Obamacare, can you imagine spending the last two years of Obama’s time in office if he is able to so demonize the Republicans that they lose control of the House and cannot gain control or at least a larger margin of members in the Senate?

I jest, of course. Obamacare is the greatest gift ever handed to the Republicans.

As millions of Americans discover that their health insurance premiums have increased 100% to 300%, they will be howling for its repeal by November 2014. The younger, healthier members of society will elect to pay the fine for not signing up. Some people will discover they cannot be admitted to the hospital of their choice or that their personal physician has retired or closed their practice. Others will find their fulltime jobs reduced to part-time, if they haven’t already.

There are going to be a lot of very unhappy voters by the time the midterms roll around and that, ladies and gents, is why the Republicans “caved” this time and will likely do so again because I have a feeling that their strategy will be to fight a lot of small, but losing battles around the various deadlines required to fund the government and lift the debt ceiling. Each time they do the latter, they will remind everyone that Obama keeps demanding more money.

As for Rep. John Boehner, Speaker of the House, he was greeted with a round of applause by the Republican caucus when he announced the deal to end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling. It wasn’t that they hadn't lost, but that they understood he had fought their battle with dignity and as far as he could, given the lack of unity among GOP House members.

The memory of World War Two and Vietnam veterans, as well as others from more recent conflicts being denied access to their memorials on the National Mall or of the first closure of the Lincoln Memorial ever is going to linger. Barricades have now been renamed “Barrycades.”

The President has managed to offend veterans, the elderly (who vote in larger numbers), the unions who hate Obamacare, Catholics, and a younger generation already saddled with debt from college who are being told they must dig deeper to pay for health insurance they don’t want and probably don’t need.

Obamacare is profoundly unconstitutional. Forget about the Supreme Court’s idiotic decision to call a penalty a “tax” and ignore the other elements of the Constitution that forbid the government from requiring people to pay for health insurance or pay a fine if they do not. The Court has made similar bad decisions in the past and, as some current scholars believe, has become so politicized that it has been eviscerating the clear intent of the Constitution for decades.

Only significant Republican victories in the midterm elections will end the misery being inflicted on Americans. That is likely to occur in spite of the GOP’s poor messaging and the hostility of the nation’s mainstream media.

Taxpayers and voters are in for months of gridlock on Capitol Hill. Get used to it.

© Alan Caruba, 2013