Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Balanced Budget Amendment is No Panacea

By Alan Caruba

As this is being written, early Sunday evening, the House has passed Speaker Boehner’s legislation, rejected on arrival in the Senate, and the Senate has rejected Majority Leader Harry Reid’s!

While the details of how much spending is to be cut are being negotiated, the sticking point is the insistence by some on a “balanced budget” amendment to the Constitution and that is likely the cause of this pathetic spectacle.

J. R. Kearl is a professor of economics in Provo, Utah. He has good academic credentials and, more importantly, he possesses a fair amount of common sense. In a July 19 opinion that appeared in the Deseret News, Prof. Kearl warned that “the balanced budget amendment now being touted by proponents is silent on distinctions between operating and capital expenditures, silent on distinctions between on-budget and off-budget expenditures, and silent on mandated expenditures.”

Those of us who lack degrees in economics may not be familiar with these terms, but they are crucial to how states—even those with balanced budget requirements—conduct the business of governance.

“Many states and local government have balanced budget laws, but they apply only to ‘operating expenditures’ and not ‘capital expenditures’ used to fund, for example, infrastructure and buildings,” wrote Prof. Kearl. “A balanced budget amendment that does not make this distinction rules out this option at the federal level.”

To write such an amendment would require language nearly as long as whole sections of the Constitution. It is impractical and unwise, particularly in the event of a war. It is not needed.

What the U.S. needs is a realistic budget that constrains the way its seemingly endless departments and agencies throw public funds at politically-driven pet projects, the “earmarks” we have heard so much about, and the conduct of functions that would work better if privatized.

As the Constitution defines this, it is “to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States…” Towards this end, the Constitution empowers the Congress to “regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with Indian tribes” among a number of enumerated duties of the federal government; read Article I, Section 8.

The United States does not need a balanced budget amendment. It needs to stop borrowing and spending money in stupid, wasteful ways. An amendment would only encourage a future Congress to create all manner of agencies and means to get around it and you can be very sure it would.

“In short,” says Prof. Kearl, “it is at best poorly written and incomplete, and at worst naïve and ill conceived.”

If a balanced budget amendment is the issue that is keeping the two houses of Congress from coming to an agreement to raise the debt ceiling, it is a very bad idea that ignores the nation’s obligation to pay its bills.

Cutting spending is the real issue facing a Congress so divided in ideology that even getting an agreement on that will be a major achievement. It is unrealistic to suddenly decide the nation should not borrow what it needs to meet its obligations. All nations borrow all the time.

There would have been no America if the Continental Congress had not borrowed from France to conduct the Revolution.

And this is hardly the first financial crisis in the history of the United States. We have been through a lot of them and, to our credit, have striven mightily to regulate our banks and other financial institutions that have too often failed us.

The present crisis reflects the way that, from 2000 on, we have been poorly served by those regulatory agencies and even by the ratings organizations, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, who sanctioned all manner of hocus-pocus financial instruments.

We are in this mess because both the federal government and individual Americans went on a borrowing and spending binge over the past ten years or so believing that the value of housing in America would always increase.

As they say in New Orleans, laissez le bon temps roulez, let the good times roll. Well, the good times are over until we get our house in order. To do that, the federal government will need to borrow enough to pay its bills.

After that, we need to elect legislators like Paul Ryan and others who will take a chain saw to the present federal government to reduce its size and its role in the economic life of the nation.

Too many feckless decisions have been made for too long by people who frequently came from or benefited from the very source of the problems we have. There are many entities to blame, but let’s get beyond the blame game long enough to pay our bills.

Capitalism is messy and risky, but it is still the best economic system ever devised. Diluting it with a lot of “social justice” programs as the U.S. has been doing since the Great Depression of the 1930s, has brought us to this point.

The least we can expect from Congress is to act swiftly and pragmatically at this point. Those calling each other schoolyard names should not be invited back to govern.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Unleashing Americans

By Alan Caruba

“I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.” -- Thomas Jefferson

My father was a certified public accountant, as is my older brother. I not only lacked any arithmetical skills, I spent much of my early years ignoring the ups and downs of the economy, thinking that these matters were beyond my comprehension. What I failed to understand was that the economy was as much a creature of meddling politicians as economic theories.

I was born in the midst of the Great Depression and have now lived long enough to be caught in a new one. I know that economists and others say we are in a Recession, but it feels like a Depression to me and to the millions of other Americans who are out of work and being laid off weekly. It feels like one to those who suffered foreclosure on their homes. It feels like one every time we go to the supermarket and gasp in disbelief at the cost of groceries.

The unimaginable debt that Americans have incurred by borrowing far too much as a nation and as individuals with credit cards, and the ease with which one could borrow against home equity, has now forced us to deal with the reality of a financial crisis that began in late 2008 when the housing bubble burst.

Historically, it started far earlier when Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, elements of the 1930s New Deal, were created to bring “social justice” to the housing market. By the time of the 2008 implosion, they owned more than half of all mortgages issued in the nation.

While the politicians seek to position themselves to blame the other party, the saving grace is that in 2010 voters returned power in the House to Republicans; doing so by electing a large number of “Tea Party” candidates pledged to reduce the debt and reverse what have been the disastrous policies of the Obama administration.

Despite the breathless reporting of the 24/7 news channels, the parade of politicians on both sides explaining their positions, the real news is that Americans are finally engaged in a real debate over the debt and the nation’s future. In 2012 they will vote to change course and, just as European nations that also borrowed too much, they will have to accept austerity measures.

A lot of government programs and, indeed, whole agencies and departments should be ended.

It’s not the death of socialism in America, but it is the recognition that a government that seizes and redistributes the wealth of working Americans must be reversed, revised, and reduced in size and scope.

Too much taxation, too much regulation, too much borrowing, and too much wasteful spending is what the national debate is all about and it is a long overdue debate.

In the land of the brave and the home of the free, Americans want to be free to decide what kind of light bulbs they can purchase, what kind of cars they can drive, and end all the other restrictions that make doing business in America an expensive, unrealistic nightmare.

In a way, the infatuation with a completely unknown, untested, and inexperienced president has been a wake-up call. Barack Obama was packaged to be a celebrity, a “messiah”, when all he really was, was an ill-prepared, standard issue Marxist. He surrounded himself with economic advisors and unvetted “czars” who shared his belief that one last, big push could “transform” a nation that was more in need of a sensible budget than grandiose and failed socialist solutions.

The result was the appalling Obamacare law that attempted to seize twenty percent of the nation’s economy. The House has voted to repeal it. Twenty-six States have gone to court to have it nullified. A Republican president and Senate in 2012 will end it.

Obama and the “green economy” advocates around him have dumped billions into wind and solar energy companies that could not exist without government subsidies coupled with government mandates for their use. Combined, wind and solar provide less than three percent of the nation’s electricity and will never meet its needs.

The nation’s auto industry, once the envy of the world, is almost entirely controlled by the government that, even in the midst of the debt ceiling debate, was being told it must produce lighter, more dangerous automobiles to meet unrealistic demands that they provide more mileage per gallon. You cannot get more energy from a gallon of gasoline than you can from any other source of energy that is ruled by the laws of physics.

Openly scornful of fossil fuels, the Obama administration has rendered the nation more dependent on foreign oil and waged war on coal and now natural gas.

The Obama moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico has wreaked havoc on the oil industry, pursuing the same policies of earlier administrations that have thwarted exploration and extraction of the billions of barrels of U.S. oil that go untapped and unused. Oil rigs have been departing the Gulf to other nations, along with thousands of jobs and millions in the revenue they contributed to the economy. The vast resources of the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge remain off-limits even though only the tiniest part of the refuge would be affected.

We suffered a socialist “stimulus” that stimulated nothing but an increased multi-trillion dollar debt.

I think America has turned an invisible corner and that as soon as we rid the nation of President Obama and his tax-and-spend Democrat supporters in Congress, the nation will begin to correct its borrow-and-borrow-some-more profligate ways. A smaller, less intrusive government may emerge in the years, the decades ahead.

The entrepreneurial energies of Americans will be unleashed if that occurs. The present Recession/Depression will join all the previous ones we have been through. We have all been chastened and we will conclude it wasn’t just Barack Obama’s policies, but decades of socialist policies dating back to the earliest days of the last century.

If that occurs, our children and grandchildren will have the excessive burden of debt lifted from them and American’s energy, innovation, and optimism will prevail.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Friday, July 29, 2011

Cartoon Round Up

The Tea Party is Making Obama Look Good

By Alan Caruba

"There are plenty of ways out of this mess, but we are almost out of time," said President Obama on Friday morning. It only took from his Monday address to Friday’s to make Obama look good and, for that, we can thank the intransigent Tea Party element of the Republican Party.

When presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) says she will never vote to raise the debt ceiling, she is being unrealistic because the “ceiling” simply allows the nation to continue borrowing to meet its massive financial obligations. The time for cutting spending lies ahead and the Tea Party can play a role in that, but right now the United States of America is looking default in the eye and risking a downgrade of our historic AAA credit rating.

It is ironic that the author of much of the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt, achieved over three short years in office, can talk about the Republicans resisting Speaker John Boehner’s proposed legislation and correctly say they are risking “taking down the nation.”

A nation this sharply divided between Republicans and Democrats has gone to the mat at the eleventh hour far too many times whether it was TARP or Obamacare. The 2010 elections that gave power to the GOP in the House was a good step in the right direction insofar as it curbed Obama’s efforts to spend the nation out of the deep financial hole created over decades. It gave, however, majority power to only one element of Congress, the House, leaving the Senate in the hands of Democrats. There can be no change in the White House until 2012.

You don’t, however, cure the spending built into the nation’s budget, but putting its credit rating in jeopardy or giving President Obama the opportunity to scare senior citizens, veterans, contractors and everyone else with threats their checks are not going to be in the mail. That’s a recipe for anarchy.

Up to now the Republicans have made a succession of very good moves—all of which have been rejected by President Obama. The plan put forth by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) provided for $6.3 trillion in spending cuts in the first ten years. It will take ten years to winnow a debt that has been building since the introduction of “entitlement” programs in the 1930s and 1960s.

As Peter Ferrara who has conservative credentials as long as your arm wrote in The American Spectator, the Ryan plan would “drive federal spending to 15% of GDP, well below the postwar historical average of 20%. Ryan’s budget included tax reform to get the economy booming again, with a 25% top income-tax rate for incomes over $100.000 a year, and a 10% rate for incomes below that.”

Lest we forget, noted Ferrara, “the first act of the new GOP House majority was to vote to repeal Obamacare. That means $1 trillion in spending cuts, and $500 billion in tax cuts, during the first ten years alone, as scored by the CBO.”

The Tea Partiers in the House do not want to take yes for an answer when it comes to the gains that can be secured if the debt ceiling is raised and the 2012 elections promise to put a GOP candidate into the Oval Office and capture power in the Senate. They can have it all if they support Speaker Boehner.

As Wall Street Journal columnist, Kimberly A. Strassel noted Friday morning, referring to Speaker Boehner’s prolonged negotiations with President Obama, “Instead he realized that this White House had no intention of agreeing to serious debt reduction and that it cared primarily about tax hikes. His decision to call off the talks earned him some catcalls, but it reset the political dynamic.”

That was evident in President Obama’s Monday primetime address to the nation that was universally seen as offering no plan and no leadership. By Friday morning the dynamic had changed as Speaker Boehner became the man unable to achieve a resolution to the current crisis; all because Tea Party dead-enders could not see their way clear to a compromise.

This is precisely why the President is effectively beating up the Republicans in Congress.

As Strossel correctly noted of Speaker Boehner and the House Tea Partiers, “What he did do this week is position his party to take credit for a bill that averts a crisis, cuts more spending than any Democrat thought possible, and exposes the White House’s insincerity on the deficit and economic prosperity. The Republicans who yesterday undermined (the) bill now bear sole responsibility for whatever political fallout comes next.”

If that is four more years of President Obama, it will be because Tea Partiers refused to compromise, to be realistic, and to understand that you don’t turn around decades of bad social legislation in a day.

They now have a weekend left to see the light or take down the Republican Party and the nation.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

America, the New Rome

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ignoring Iran to Our Peril

By Alan Caruba

On Saturday, July 23, Daryush Rezaee-Nejad, an Iranian scientist involved with its nuclear program was assassinated in front of his home in Tehran. Two motorcyclists shot him in the head and throat. Being a nuclear scientist has become a very bad career choice in Iran.

According to Debka, an Israeli news agency that appears to have lines of communication into its intelligence community, “This was another in the series in the past year of mysterious attacks of top-flight scientists attached to the Iranian nuclear program.” What better way to slow down that program than (a) infect it with a computer virus called Stuxnet and (b) systematically kill the scientists involved with the development of a nuclear weapon?

It is not hard to say who may be involved in such an effort. The obvious parties would be the U.S. and Israel. Ali Larijani, Iran’s parliamentary speaker, was infuriated by the latest killing, calling it an “American-Zionist terrorist act” the demonstrated “the degree of American animosity.”

Earlier assassination attempts included Dr. Majid Shariani who was killed, but the attempt on Prof. Fereydoon Abbassi failed. He was appointed Vice President for Nuclear Affairs and Chairman of the Atomic Energy Organization. In a possible related effort, three Russian scientists known to be assisting Iran’s nuclear program died in an airplane crash.

For the record, American administrations going back to Jimmy Carter’s have no reason to feel anything other than animosity toward Iran, beginning with its breaking every diplomatic rule in the book by taking U.S. diplomats hostage in 1979 and holding them for 444 days.

The Iranians have been attacking U.S. military forces, starting with Marines stationed in Beirut as peacekeepers in 1983 right up through the conflict in Iraq, providing arms and aid to insurgents. By any standards you might apply, Iran has been at war with America for just over three decades.

In their push to acquire nuclear weapons parity, the Iranians have been relentless. In his book, “The Rise of Nuclear Iran: How Tehran Defies the West”, Dore Gold related the history of Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons. Gold is the president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and has held positions in Israel’s diplomatic corps.

Noting that Iran is an Islamic theocracy that so idealizes the cult of martyrdom it was the first to “systematically employ suicide bombing attacks in the present era”, Gold warned that it “could very well be immune to deterrence and the threat of full scale retaliation should it employ nuclear weapons.”

The notion that it is American intelligence operatives behind the assassinations and the Stuxnet virus ignores the greater likelihood that these have been Israeli efforts to slow Iran’s efforts, given that Iran has made no secret of its desire to destroy Israel.

There is another reason to question whether the U.S. is involved insofar as policies of the Obama administration going back to 2009 have led some observers to conclude that “President Barack Obama has decided to let Iran acquire nuclear arms.” That was the opinion of Anne Bayefsky in August 2009, writing in the National Review Online.

More recently, Fred Fleitz, a retired intelligence expert with a twenty-five year career at the CIA, DIA, State Department, and House Intelligence Committee staff, wrote a warning that was published in The Wall Street Journal, “America’s Intelligence Denial on Iran.”

“Mounting evidence over the last few years has convinced most experts that Iran has an active program to develop and construct nuclear weapons,” wrote Fleitz. “Amazingly, however, these experts do not include the leaders of the U.S. intelligence community.” Incredibly, U.S. intelligence officials are standing by their 2007 assessment that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and has not restarted it since.

This constitutes criminal negligence.

“One cannot underestimate the dangers posed to our country by a U.S. Intelligence community that is unable to provide timely and objective analysis of such major threats to U.S. national security—or to make appropriate adjustments when it is proven wrong,” wrote Fleitz.

It’s hardly a secret that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. One can easily access maps showing the sites where the program is known to be underway.

There’s a reason for the Stuxnet virus and for the assassinations. It is the fact that Iran, once armed with nuclear weapons, will use them against either Israel or America or both.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Turning Point for "Entitlement" Programs

By Alan Caruba

The result of all the drama emanating from Capitol Hill and the White House has been to get a lot of people wondering about the sustainability of Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid.

Both Democrats and Republicans agree that the “debt ceiling”, the limit on how much the federal government is permitted to borrow, must be raised. It is essentially an accounting fiction because, since 1960, it has been raised 78 times; 49 times by Republican presidents and 29 times by Democrat presidents.

What makes it an issue now? $14.3 trillion dollars worth of U.S. debt.

It is not just the size of this debt, probably the greatest that any nation has ever owed in history, it is that it was initially due to a financial rescue program in 2008 when President Bush and Congress sought to avoid a collapse of Wall Street and banks. The TARP funds were eventually repaid.

Part of the current debt is due to massive spending programs by the Obama administration, allegedly to “create or save” jobs and “stimulate” the economy. They did neither.

The Obama spending programs were, in essense, Democrat slush funds parceled out to the party’s faithful to ensure that teachers and other public service workers would be retained, that General Motors and Chrysler could avoid the normal bankruptcy procedures that would have restructured both companies—and likely reduce union power, and that favored contractors could receive funding for “shovel ready projects.”

A long term, on-going problem has been the current and future debt is attributed to meeting the obligations of Social Security, introduced in 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and to the high costs of Medicare and Medicaid. The latter became law on July 30, 1965 as an amendment to the existing Social Security legislation.

In sum, both programs reflect the Democratic Party’s commitment to “social justice” (wealth redistribution) that began in the early part of the last century. Republicans were not immune to this. President George W. Bush added to the costs of Medicare with prescription coverage.

The battle on Capital Hill is between the Democrats, led by President Obama, who wants to raise taxes in the midst of what is called a recession but is truly a Depression 2.0. Raising taxes is what President Roosevelt did and it simply prolonged the Great Depression by sucking money out of the free market economy.

On the other side of the non-negotiating table are the Republicans who, thanks to the Tea Party members of the House, have been forced to reclaim their reputation as a party devoted to limited government and prudent fiscal policies.

It is assumed by all that the debt ceiling with be lifted. It is unknown whether the nation’s credit rating of AAA will be reduced as the result of a failure to substantially cut spending and, far more importantly, meet its obligation to repay its debt. Indeed, the central issue is all about credit.

A nation that must borrow billions every day to meet its obligations cannot afford to lose a rating that is rooted in the very beginning of its history when Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, insisted that all Revolutionary War debts be paid in full.

Social Security is the largest government benefit program in the world. It represents more than 20% of the federal budget and, together with Medicare/Medicaid, they accounted for 53% of total federal outlays in Fiscal Year 2008, with net interest payments accounting for an additional 8.5%.

Here’s the rub. At the time that Social Security was created, somewhere between 10 and 14 workers were paying into the system for every recipient receiving a check. By 2010, the ratio was about 3 workers paying in for 1 taking out.

Social Security is unsustainable.

When President Roosevelt was pitching Social Security, he promised that no worker would ever pay more than 1% of their income into the system. By 2010, self-employed persons like myself were paying 15.3% of their income into Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid.

President Roosevelt promised that Social Security would be self-sustaining and that its benefits “should not come from the proceeds of general taxation.” In practice, although a “trust fund” was set up, every dollar contributed to Social Security has gone into the general revenue fund and has been spent by Congress in any manner it saw fit.

In 1935 no one expected that Americans would routinely be living into their seventies, eighties, and nineties. The age at which recipients could begin to draw benefits was 65 and that coincided with the average lifespan nearly 80 years ago. Today, men on average live to age 78 and woman outlive them by a wide margin.

In the same fashion that the House has voted to repeal Obamacare and 26 States have joined together to argue in court that it is unconstitutional, Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid have arrived at a moment in time, a turning point, when both must be dismantled—assuming of course that the Congress and White House manage to avoid a financial catastrophe for all Americans.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Identifying a Psychopath

By Alan Caruba

One hardly needs an advanced degree in psychology or be a full-fledged psychiatrist to conclude that Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian mass-murderer, is very likely a psychopath. Anyone who would blow up a government building and gun down children, thinking that he was going to ignite a revolution against Muslims in Europe is not dealing with a full deck.

The event initiated a torrent of news coverage and comment. Much of the initial coverage was wrong. Breivik was not a “fundamentalist Christian” and he was not linked to any particular group. He was the classic lone wolf. Like the Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski, Breivik had his own “manifesto.”

Breivik, Kaczynski, and other psychopaths share characteristics which had been identified by Robert D. Hare, a noted researcher in the field of psychopathy. In 1995 he published his Psychopathy Checklist. It is still in use today for the purpose of diagnosis.

In the forthcoming August/September issue of Free Inquiry, a magazine favored by humanists and atheists, David N. Stamos, a philosopher who teaches at York University in Toronto, Canada, has a meditation on “The Philosophical Significance of Psychopaths.” His timing is fortuetous to say the least.

Stamos informs us Hare calculated that “roughly one in every one hundred humans is a full-fledged psychopath.”

Let us dispense with the notion that that they are all mass-murderers. They are not. Many rise to positions of considerable power and influence precisely because their traits are prized in pursuits that range from politics to the management of corporations.

Here then, out of the twenty characteristics that Hare identified, are those I will cite for the purpose of this commentary:

Glib and superficial charm
Grandiose (exaggeratedly high) estimation of self
Need for stimulation
Pathological Lying
Cunning and manipulativeness
Lack of remorse or guilt
Callousness and lack of empathy
Parasitic lifestyle
Failure to accept responsibility for own actions

By now I suspect you are saying, “Wait a minute! That fits Barack Hussein Obama!” and you would be right.

So, is he a psychopath? That is not for you nor I to say. We lack the training and experience to make such judgments, but it shouldn’t keep us from drawing some general conclusions.

Stamos poses and answers his own question, “What distinguishes psychopaths from normal people? Principally, it is a total absence of what we typically take to be moral qualities; sympathy, empathy, compassion, guilt, remorse, conscience, loyalty, truth telling, and a sense of fairness.”

“Psychopaths are highly narcissistic. Not only are they extremely self-centered, but they also think of themselves as being of a higher nature than the rest of us,” writes Stamos. “To them, normal individuals are made weak by sympathy and emphathy and refrain from getting the most that they can from life because of conscience, guilt, and remorse.”

“To psychopaths, we are like sheep. They, on the other hand, are like wolves—animals of prey. The sheep exist for the sake of the wolves. The sheep are to be manipulated, used, and even killed if the situation is right. All that matters is that the wolf be gratified.”

Breivik has forced the world to ask what it is that makes a man a psychopath. Hare believes that psychopathy shows up early in life and likely has a genetic component. It does not matter what one’s formative experiences are. The psychopath is going to make his way in the world based as much on his deficiencies as his abilities.

Not only does the psychopath lack a conscience and other chracteristics we prize in our fellow human beings, “they don’t want them” writes Stamos, “because they see nothing wrong with themselves. They look at the moral virtues and values of normal humans as the very features that make those humans weaklings and suckers, ready to be exploited by people like them.”

As President, a psychopath might blame all present ills on his predecessor and earlier administrations.

As President, a psychopath might not accept any responsibility for failed programs.

As President, a psychopath might prove to be an unreliable person with whom to negotiate.

As President, a psychopath might regard bringing the greatest nation on earth to ruin as proof of his own grandiose view of himself.

This is, of course, pure conjecture. Call it food for thought.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Obama is Boring Us to Death

By Alan Caruba

About halfway into his fifteen minute televised address on Monday evening, it occurred to me that Obama is literally boring Americans to death. He was elected to a great degree based on his eloquence and he delivers a speech well, but last night’s speech is the one we have been hearing since January and earlier.

I really don’t give a hoot about “millionaires and billionaires.” Heck, I want to be a millionaire!

“Corporate jets”? What’s that all about? Even Playboy’s Hugh Hefner once had a corporate jet. I would love to have a private jet if only to avoid having to go through airport security these days.

“Corporate taxes”? US corporations pay the highest tax rates of virtually every other nation. Yes, they look for loopholes. You would, too!

“Hedge fund managers”? I don’t know any. Are they doing something criminal? No. They are making bets on the economy. Better that than blowing the money in a casino.

Peggy Noonan, a former speech writer for Ronald Reagan, bestselling author, and now a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, last Saturday wrote “The president, if he is seriously trying to avert a debt crisis, should stay in his office, meet with members, and work the phones, all with a new humility, which would be well received. It is odd how he patronizes those with more experience and depth in national affairs.”

And then she said, “He should keep his face off TV. He should encourage, cajole, work things through, be serious, get a responsible deal, and then re-emerge with joy and the look of a winner...” Noonan concluded saying, “he should choose Strategic Silence. Really, recent presidents forget to shut up. They lose sight of how grating they are.”

Obama’s first year in office was distinguished by his being on television all the time, from The View to late night comedy shows. He loves the camera, loves the attention, and loves himself to the point of an unseemly, off-putting narcissism.

Instead of taking Noonan’s advice, he has become the National Mosquito, always buzzing around somewhere in the room.

Why was the Monday night speech necessary? Both Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, a Democrat, and John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, a Republican, have concluded that Obama had to be cut out of the discussions regarding the necessity to raise the debt ceiling because he was a hindrance to achieving any deal. To put it more bluntly, both concluded that Obama could not be trusted.

Reid and Boehner have essentially cut Obama out of the process. They have asserted the independence and the role of the legislative branch. Together they will send Obama a debt ceiling bill and tell him to take it or leave it. If he finds a reason to veto it, they will over-ride his veto and the rest of us will know that Obama’s agenda has always been the destruction of the nation.

Obama’s polling numbers reflect the growing realization of his arrogance and his incompetence. The advisors he chose and the programs he initiated have all proved to be failures and very costly ones at that. Unemployment rates today equal those of the Great Depression. Millions are on food stamps. Economic growth is an anemic one percent or so. Even people who don’t listen to presidential speeches or follow the news that closely know he is a loser.

There will always be at least 20% of voters who will support Obama no matter what happens. They are the true believers, the core that Democrats have always depended upon, unions, minorities, and federal employees.

The political pundits all said that the speech was aimed at the independents, always the most critical factor in recent national elections. The problem for Obama is that the next election isn’t until November 2012 and people tend to have very short memories. A lot of voters don’t make up their minds until they are in the booth. A year and a half from now is an eternity for these “undecideds.”

The speech was a bore, a repeat of all the poll-tested words and phrases he will repeat between now and November 2012. He’s become a windup doll, the White House Chatty Cathy.

It would be nice if we could ignore him and millions of American wish they could. The bad news is that he’s not going away for at least a year and a half. The good news is that he’s about to be neutered by both the Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

Washington's Magical Thinking

By Alan Caruba

The term, “magical thinking”, has been around a while to describe what individuals do to cope with the vicissitudes of life. I, for example, regularly buy a Mega Millions lottery ticket in the hope of winning when, logically, rationally, I know the odds are millions to one of that ever happening.

Magical thinking can be found in all aspects of life and it is surely magical thinking that caused America’s politicians, starting back around the turn of the last century, to believe that a really big government could take care of everyone when, prior to that, self reliance, support from the family structure, and hard work were the early guiding principles.

Indeed, the U.S. Constitution is testimony to the Founding Father’s intense distrust of a centralized government—hence checks and balances—and the fallibility of individuals entrusted with power over others. It turns out they were right because now there is no aspect of our lives into which government does not intrude.

A lot of this can be traced to the rise of Communism, the handiwork of Karl Marx, and its adaptation into Socialism, a modified form. In 1917 Russia had Communism imposed on it during the Bolshevik Revolution as the antidote to the rule of the czars. In time it utterly failed, but few have taken a lesson from that. It wreaked havoc and death on Russians for over seventy years.

Indeed, throughout the last century, wars were required to defeat various forms of totalitarian rule. Even the Peoples Republic of China eventually embraced its own form of Capitalism while retaining power in the hands of a centralized government.

Communism is a kind of magical thinking based on collectivism that always seems to come back to a handful of men ruling by coercion.

In 1908, the Socialist Party nominated Eugene V. Debs to run for president. A dedicated unionist, Debs had studied Marxism while in jail. What he believed then is still prevalent today. “When I joined the Socialist Party,” said Debs in accepting the nomination, “I was taught that the wish of the individual was subordinate to the party will, and that when the party commanded it was my duty to obey.”

“I am not satisfied with things as they are,” said Debs, “and I know that no matter what administration is in power, even were it a Socialist administration, there will be no material change in the condition of the people until we have a new social system based upon the mutual economic interests of the people; until you and I and all of us collectively own those things that we collectively need and use.” Debs was soundly defeated.

The election of Franklin D. Roosevelt, however, brought socialism to its zenith of power in America. He remained in office from 1933 until his death in 1945. Social Security is collectivism. Medicare and Medicaid is collectivism. Government “make work” programs are collectivism.

A government that owns an auto company is collectivism. A government that can shut down oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is collectivism. A government that decides how much mileage the car you buy must achieve is collectivism. A government that thwarts the building of new utilities to meet the needs of a growing population and then instructs people to reduce their use of electricity is collectivism.

And a government that believes it can continue to borrow and borrow and borrow from the rest of the world to maintain sixty percent of its annual budget for “entitlement programs” is engaged in magical thinking.

It is magical thinking to believe that the same ratings organizations, Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s, should be trusted. They both granted top grades to the “government entities”, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which plunged the nation into a huge financial crisis. Indeed, the rating organizations never saw the implosion of Wall Street institutions coming until billions in public funds were needed to keep a complete collapse from occurring.

Spending more to get out of debt is magical thinking and yet that is the only “plan” the Democrats and the President offer the public. A July 25 Wall Street Journal editorial, “Toying with Default”, provided an insight to this saying, “Here’s a number for the debt history books: Mr. Obama’s final offer in the Biden talks was a $2 billion cut in 2012 discretionary spending. The federal government spends more than $10 billion a day.”

At a time when European nations are imposing major austerity programs, the Republican Party is charged with having to save the nation from a Democrat Party that has reluctantly concluded that a reduction in spending is necessary and increase in taxes is not achievable..

As a nation, if we are to survive, we must disengage ourselves from a century of “progressive” programs that are not based in reality. Debts must be paid. Entitlement programs must be revised and eventually abandoned. Government must be reduced in size and scope. Private enterprise must be set free to function and thrive.

Earlier generations fought a Revolution to free ourselves from the British monarchy and parliament. Earlier generations fought a Civil War to preserve the Union. A present-day older generation of Americans fought two major wars against totalitarian governments and lesser ones in Korea, Vietnam, and most recently in Iraq.

The present generation of Americans must empower Republicans in Congress to save the nation from the errors of the past, the wild spending, and the confiscatory effort to “transform” the nation into a collectivist society that mirrors failed “progressive”, Communist and Socialist thinking and programs.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Mommas, Don't Let Your Daughters Grow Up to be Amy Winehouse

By Alan Caruba

Being of an age when the singers with whom I grew up included Doris Day, Dinah Shore, Ella Fitzgerald and comparable talents who combined beautiful voices with beautiful lyrics, I had not paid any attention to Amy Winehouse and, on the news of her death, had heard only one of her mercifully short catalog of songs.

Dead, no doubt, from an overdose of illicit chemicals washed down with alcohol, Winehouse reminded me of Willie Nelson singing, “Momma Don’t Let your Boys Grow Up to be Cowboys”, a cautionary, but wry warning about life lived hard and often cut short. Willie is now in his late seventies, still (allegedly) smoking pot and still making great music. Winehouse is dead at age 27.

Unless, in its usual fashion, Hollywood decides to make a movie about her wasted, tormented life, Winehouse is likely to be just a footnote or paragraph among other rock’n rollers such as Janice Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Brian Jones, and Jim Morrison, all of whom died at age 27.

A younger generation that apparently thought she had talent and the usual media groupies are lamenting her passing, but there is little in her life that anyone should mourn or wish to emulate. British singer-songwriter Billy Bragg summed it up saying, “It’s the drug abuse, sadly.”

It is sad when someone deliberately, knowlngly self-destructs with an addiction that can be overcome. In one Winehouse opus, she says others told her to get into “Rehab” and her answer was “No, no, no.”

There are too many among us who have known or had to cope with a member of the family or a friend destroyed by alcohol or drugs. It is far too common in the United States, a nation of addicts whose numbers are so great they literally fuel the Mexican drug cartels that are ravaging Mexico with turf wars and corruption while feeding the American demand.

In my case, the boy across the street from my hometown where we mostly all went onto college and careers, followed that course, married and had kids, and had a promising career. He lost his job and his family to alcoholism. It took away his dignity and his reason to live. I had known him in the full vigor of youth and I witnessed his descent to an early grave. It was not pretty.

Nothing about Winehouse was pretty, either in her physical persona of garish tattoos and a preference for dressing like a slut. She even sang a song about it that was titled with the F-word. I had the misfortune of viewing that video and it reminded me of how different, how coarse, how vulgar our present day cultural scene is compared to the sweet joys of my youth.

In a thoughtful article by Associated Press writer Jake Coyle he noted that “Early death typically mythologizes pop star, inflating their reputations. Pop culture writer Chuck Klosterman, in his book, ‘Killing Yourself to Live’, wondered why ‘the greatest career move any musician can make is to stop breathing.’”

It’s not a career move. It’s a career-ender and, regrettably, it is not even a warning to a younger generation regarding the idiocy of taking drugs or over-indulging alcohol. Coyle wrote that “Winehouse’s death, an unfortunate but unsurprising end to a long, public decline, might be best remembered not just as another tragic loss, but as a modern portrait of how untrue those rock myths really are.”

Rock’n Roll came of age the same time I did. I can still remember that, when the Beatles and Elvis Presley made their debuts on the Ed Sullivan Show, they wore suits and ties. It was a gentler time when the Beatles sang “I want to hold your hand” and Elvis lent his baritone to both “Love Me Tender” and gospel songs.

Yes, they could rock with the best, but there was a spiritual center to their lives, with the exception of John Lennon who wondered what life would be like without a Heaven or Hell.

The answer to Lennon’s question is Amy Winehouse.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Definete Proof of a Heat Wave

Saturday, July 23, 2011

It's Just a Heat Wave

By Alan Caruba

The most surprising thing about the current heat wave affecting much of the United States is that no global warming charlatan is claiming that it is the result of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Since the late 1980s, Americans were assailed with the global warming hoax until, in November 2009, the release of emails between the trolls ginning up false “climate models” were exposed.

These days the term “climate change” is used as a substitute for “global warming”, but fewer of us are fooled by this. Al Gore is planning a last-ditch effort in September to revive the hoax, but that will fail.

Even those in the mainstream media are too embarrassed to report the absurd notion that CO2, a trace gas in the Earth’s atmosphere (0.0380%) vital to all vegetation on the planet has anything to do with climate cycles. A new cooling cycle that kicked in around 1998 is the predictable result of less solar activity.

This is not to say it’s not hot. Heat waves are as common to summer months as blizzards are to winter ones. For those who possess the memory of fungus, there was a heat wave that engulfed the East Coast from July 4 through 9th in 2010. Weather records reflect that heat waves are a natural event, often following or preceding record setting cold waves.

While Al Gore and the last holdouts of the global warming hoax continue to tell us that CO2 emissions (the use of fossil fuels for energy to produce electricity, drive anywhere, and manufacture anything) will destroy the world, the world’s most sophisticated particle study laboratory, CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, will soon announce a finding that will blow the CO2 nonsense to bits.

Dennis T. Avery of the Hudson Institute, reports CERN has demonstrated “that more cosmic rays do, indeed, create more clouds in the earth’s atmosphere.” Cosmic rays are subatomic particles from outer space. More clouds means that less of the sun’s warmth reaches the Earth’s surface.

This completely overturns the torrent of lies that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been churning out for decades. The IPCC’s scientists went into full panic mood as a new cooling cycle asserted itself in 1998.

As Avery points out, the IPCC scientists had deliberately ignored “the Medieval Warming (950-1200 AD), the Roman Warming (200 BC-600BC) or the big Holocene Warmings centered on 6,000 and 8,000 BC.” There was also a Little Ice Age from 1300 to 1850 to account for as well.

While the global warming crowd has been telling everyone that they must stop burning coal, using oil or natural gas, and “reduce our carbon footprint”, a recent volcanic eruption in Iceland, in just four days, negated every government-mandated effort to control or reduce CO2 emissions worldwide for the past five years! When Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 1991, it put so much smoke and other gases in the atmosphere that it cooled the Earth’s temperatures for a few years until they dissipated.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency is frantically issuing new rules and regulations to reduce the CO2 emissions from utilities and manufacturing facilities before the public realizes that its actual goal is to kill the U.S. economy by increasing the cost of electricity and everything else. It is insanely trying to shut down the mining of coal, while other elements of the Obama regime are trying to stop any drilling for oil.

Unable to scare everyone with the global warming hoax, new horrors are being invented, from ocean acidification to the claim that the atmosphere is being overloaded with nitrogen. Relax, there’s four times more nitrogen in the atmosphere than oxygen and it’s no big deal.

The Greens think you’re stupid

Americans need to be aware that major environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth are desperate to maintain the fictions required to deprive the U.S. of the energy it needs to function.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg just gave $50 million to the Sierra Club to support its “Beyond Coal” campaign. Bloomberg actually thinks it’s a good thing the Sierra Club has managed to stop 150 coal-burning plants from being built. Meanwhile, during the current heat wave, providers of electricity are worrying whether they can continue to meet the increased demand for it. Coal provides 50% of all the electricity we use in America.

How stupid or evil do you have to be to stop building the plants that provide electricity at a time when the population and the demand for it is rising? Must America become a third world nation with rolling blackouts and brownouts?

Friends of the Earth are in a panic that Republicans might actually get the U.S. government to cut back on the insane spending that has put the nation on the edge of sovereign default. Lately they’re claiming that Majority Leader, Eric Candor (R-VA) “is threatening to sink the American economy and undermine environmental protections so that his wealthy friends, including big oil corporations, can keep sitting on their cushions.”

That’s the same Big Oil that hasn’t been able to build a single new refinery in the U.S. since the 1970s. That’s the same Big Oil that has seen ten oil rigs leave the Gulf of Mexico since the May 2010 Obama “moratorium” for drilling sites in Egypt, Congo, French Guiana, Liberia, Nigeria, and Brazil. They took a lot of jobs and revenue with them,

If you wanted to destroy America, all you have to do is make it impossible to access several century’s worth of its own huge reserves of coal and the billions of barrels of oil inland and offshore that would, indeed, make America more energy independent.

The next time anyone speaks about “sustainability”, they are talking about turning out the lights and emptying the highways of America. The next time anyone talks about “the environment”, they mean the same thing.

So, remember, it’s just a heat wave. It will end just like all the others and, in a few months, we will all be talking about the blizzards.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Friday, July 22, 2011

Obama is Determined to Destroy America

By Alan Caruba

It is astonishing that Barack Obama seemingly learned nothing from the 2010 national elections in which the Republicans regained control of the House with a net total of 63 seats. For the Democrats it represented the greatest loss in the House midterm election since 1938, which occurred nearly ten years into the Great Depression.

It is the House that determines the spending and borrowing to maintain the nation, though the President traditionally sends a budget. Obama did not. Indeed, as Speaker of the House, John Boehner, has said, Obama has never put anything on paper. Negotiating Obama's demands have changed week to week and now day to day.

What has happened to “No drama Obama”? The present impasse, topped by an angry press conference late Friday afternoon is entirely of his making. Neither the White House, nor the Democrats in Congress have put forth any plans, let alone any numbers, other than to propose tax increases, now euphemistically called “revenue” increases.

The 2010 Democrat losses in the House are largely attributed to the passage of Obamacare, a piece of legislation that was not only widely protested, but that led to the Tea Party movement and new members of the House representing its common sense agenda. The House subsequently voted to repeal Obamacare and it is being contested in the courts by 26 States.

What Americans have witnessed over the first two years of his term is Obama’s continual blaming of all problems on either his predecessor or the Republicans in Congress. What they are witnessing is the duplicity of a man who appears incapable of telling the truth from day to day.

The nation is in for a week of “high drama”, all of which could have been avoided had Obama agreed to any of the proposals put foreword by Republicans from Paul Ryan to members of the so-called “gang of six.” In the Democrat controlled Senate there has been nothing but obstruction.

One senses that this is exactly what Obama wants. While saying he does not want the U.S. to default on its obligations, what better way to destroy the nation than to destroy its “full faith and credit” regarding its debts?

The emphasis the Founding Fathers put on the necessity to meet the nation’s debts can be found in Article VI of the Constitution. “All debts contracted and engagements entered into, before the adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.”

Article I, section 7, states “All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives, but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other Bills.”

There is no mystery as to how the U.S. can recover from the present recession. Government spending must be reduced. Tax rates must be reduced for corporations and the middle class to encourage investment, growth and more employment. Entitlement programs will have to be revised to ensure they can meet their obligations. They represent sixty percent of all government expenditures.

A government that must borrow forty cents of every dollar to pay its debts and whose current debt of $14 trillion equals the entire annual gross domestic product of the nation is endangering the present and future economy for present and future generations of Americans.

At this writing, it looks as if Obama intends to deliberately implode the nation’s ability to meet its obligations and he has used the most raw fear tactics to achieve his goal, falsely claiming that Social Security checks would not be sent, that the military would not be paid.

If ever a President was begging for impeachment the time for such action has arrived. The evidence that he was ineligible to run for office and to hold it is beyond question, if only because he was not a “natural born” American whose both parents were citizens. His father was a citizen of Kenya.

Raise the debt ceiling. Impeach Obama. America must be set free. What he is attempting to bring about is the worst “change” imaginable in the nation’s history.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Cartoon Round Up

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Borders Bites the Dust

By Alan Caruba

The obituary for Borders Group, the competitor of Barnes & Noble bookstores,’s bookselling operation, and scores of independent bookstores around the nation, appeared in the July 20 edition of The Wall Street Journal.

There was a time if you were the owner of a great paddlewheel boat on the Mississippi, you were golden. Passengers and goods moved in both directions. By the standards of the day, you were a very wealthy man. Then the railroads began laying track, connecting cities, towns, and finally the two coasts. Riverboat use dried up; often literally as they were abandoned if they got beached on a sandbar.

Henry Ford put a lot of blacksmith shops, stables, farriers, carriage makers, and horse traders out of business with his Model A, little black car. Pretty soon towns and cities were laying roads and highways as fast as they could to keep up with Americans who took to driving cars with a passion that has not ceased.

It is a mark of how out of touch with reality Barack Obama is that he keeps babbling about high speed train travel when even the government-owned Amtrak has never made a profit since it was organized in 1971. Despite the miseries inflicted on Americans by the TSA, people still get on planes to do business in Des Moines or visit the folks in Sarasota.

New Technology Drives Out Old Technology

New technology drives out old technology and Borders specialized in one of the oldest technologies going back to the days of Johannes Guttenberg in 1452 and his use of metal moveable type with which to print books. The Chinese had invented moveable type much earlier, but used wooden type. Books, however, have remained essentially the same, printed on paper, often illustrated, piling words upon words to convey information or just to entertain with a good story.

Despite the loss of 10,700 jobs and the closing of its many locations, the loss of Borders is not the loss of people who love to read books and buy them, too. Even the Barnes & Noble chain is looking for a buyer and I suspect its days may be numbered. revolutionized the way Americans bought books in the Internet age, but many people still favor the local bookstore and they may actually enjoy a bit of a revival once the two big chains are gone.

For some fifty years I have had a particular vantage point from which to watch the book market. Many years ago I was a fairly regular contributor to Publishers Weekly, the primary trade magazine for the book trade. It was and still is filled with the excitement of discovering new authors and tracking the established ones. However, it is the business of the book trade that is its focus.

I have been a book reviewer for so long I can actually boast that I was a founding member of the National Book Critics Circle in 1974. There are awards named after the people I knew who helped found it, Ivan Sandrof and Nona Balakian, both delightful and both deceased.

For me, books are about my self-education and entertainment. I like sharing news of them in my monthly report,, but I have felt no need to rub shoulders with fellow reviewers, most of whom—like myself—do not make a dime. You may have noticed that the book sections of most daily newspapers have long since disappeared, the Dodo birds of literary criticism.

The best news of recent times is the phenomenon of the Harry Potter series which actually enticed young people to read, to grip a book in their hands, turn the pages, and sigh when they had reached the end. And, of course, one can always read a book again!

The new gadgets, Kindle, Nook, whatever, are just another way to read books. Someone still has to write them and someone has to take a gamble and publish them. Increasingly, that someone is the authors themselves. Here, too, modern technology allows one to have books printed on demand so you need only order as many as you require depending on sales.

One of the most interesting trends for me is the way many authors of really good novels have simply bypassed the mainstream publishing houses. With a printer and an Internet site, plus word of mouth, a book can generate enough sales to often be published later by the same publishing house that might have earlier rejected it!

So, goodbye Borders. No doubt those lost jobs will add a digit or two to the nation’s growing unemployment rate and those stores will be rented out to tattoo parlors, nail salons, and others.

But not goodbye to books! If television bores you silly, try reading. Your brain will thank you.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Love of Scandal

By Alan Caruba

The television coverage of the British Parliament’s inquiry of the Murdoch’s, father and son, Rupert and James, was wall-to-wall on every news channel including Fox News, part of the Murdoch media empire. As an American, I found myself straining to understand what many of the MPs were saying as their accent often rendered them unintelligible to my ear.

The Murdoch’s were most sincerely and contritely saddened by the behavior of some News of the World reporters and editors, but I doubt they were too surprised by it, nor were the British who read the now defunct trashy tabloid. Some of the reporters had hacked into the phones of people, violating their privacy in hopes of a scoop. The editors in charge pretended not to know.

In sum, it was sordid behavior by a handful of people who had lost sight of what passes for journalistic standards. Scotland Yard had largely ignored the crimes. Top crime fighters dutifully resigned their positions. The whole mess was so incestuous, one would have to be quite blasé to ignore it.

Heads rolled. People were fired, quit their positions, and one, a reporter who blew the whistle, died though he was said to have been ill. Suicide cannot be ruled out. The police arrested an editor or two, but unless it can be proved that they were accessories to the crime, not much may come of that.

The Brits, however, love a good scandal and who doesn’t?

Americans were recently treated to former Representative Anthony Weiner’s antics and are currently obsessing over the acquittal of Casey Anthony, alleged to have killed her child and tossing the remains in a nearby swamp. While the nation heads over the financial cliff into default and bankruptcy, the last scraps of the Anthony story are still being picked over by the news and popular culture jackals. Bill Clinton's Oval Office misconduct with an intern provided months of entertainment and political theatre.

From Oscar Wilde, a famed Irish writer of the 1880s and 90s who was sent to Reading Goal for “gross indecency” to the 1963 affair of John Profumo, the Secretary of State for War, who was sexually linked to Christine Keeler, the reputed mistress of a Russian spy, to Princess Diana who divorced Prince Charles and later died tragically in an auto accident, the Brits are no slouches when it comes to scandal.

I do my best to keep abreast of what is going on in Great Britain because they are the closest thing to a rational and dependable ally we have, save for the Canadians who always stick with us through thick and thin, despite being largely ignored.

One of my favorite bloggers goes by the nom de plume of Archbishop Cranmer, a pseudonym taken from the actual archbishop who was burned at the stake in 1556. Normally he comments on things theological and ecclesiastical in England, but his comments on the Murdoch’s stuck a note of rationality devoid from most coverage.

“But it’s all a bit of a show,” said Cranmer. “Rupert Murdoch owns three (non-profitable) newspapers and a minority share in BSkyB, the output of which is regulated by Ofcom. In what sense is this an ‘empire’ which exerts ‘too much power over British public life’?”

“It is about the relationship of Parliament and the media, politicians and journalists, and prime ministers and proprietors. It is about the balance between power and scrutiny, influence and manipulation. Ultimately, it is about the right to express an opinion, because if the end result is statutory regulation of the press, another liberty will have been sacrificed to the lust of the state.”

That’s worth repeating, “another liberty will have been sacrificed to the lust of the state.” We are seeing and experiencing a lot of that in America where hardly any activity of our lives, from the cars we drive, the food we eat, the light bulbs we may purchase, and the health insurance we don’t want to purchase is grinding American liberty to dust.

Rupert Murdoch is not just an Australian, British, and a naturalized American phenomenon, a media genius with a talent for acquisition that includes The Wall Street Journal. Fox News has become the go-to television channel that is indeed, “fair and balanced”, presenting a cacophony of liberal-to-conservative analysis that is often a bedlam of viewpoints.

As this has been occurring, other U.S. newspapers have been losing circulation and revenue, laying off editors and reporters, publishing thin editions of mostly syndicated gloss, and, as often as not, closing their doors. Too many have debased themselves with their liberal slanting of news and are now useful only for their obituary and sports sections.

Let us, therefore, keep an eye on the British journalism scandal to see how their politicians use it for their own gain and hope that their avaricious American counterparts do not take any lessons from it.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Syrian Horror Show

By Alan Caruba

Name me a country where funeral processions get fired upon and more people die on the way to burying the latest martyrs for peace and freedom? It’s just about any country in the Middle East and on July 19 it was Syria where ten people died in Homs, a place where some fifty have died in the past week protesting the second generation of the Assad dictatorship.

A week earlier an alleged "pro-Assad mob" attacked the U.S. embassy in Damascus after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said of Basher Assad that he as “not indispensable” and that the U.S. has “absolutely nothing invested in him remaining in power.” So far this has been the position of the U.S. on Egypt’s Hosni Mubarack, Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, and just about everyone else in the Middle East short of Abdullah, the King of Saudi Arabia.

It was not the first time the Damascus embassy had been attacked. In December 2006, al Qaeda was credited with blowing up a car bomb outside as a gang of armed men tried to break in. The attack, though, has all the earmarks of an Iranian operation.

Let’s see, when was the last time a U.S. embassy was attacked? It was 1979 in Tehran when the Iranians took its staff hostage and held them for 444 days. The Iranians were behind the 1983 suicide attack on the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241. These days they all but own Syria as they patiently work their way toward possessing nuclear-tipped missiles with which to threaten the Middle East and everywhere else.

After World War I, Syria was carved out of the former Ottoman Empire and ceded to French colonial control. In 1946, the French granted it independence. It then passed through a series of military coups until Basher’s father, Hafez Assad, took control of Syria.

Upon his death, it passed to his son, Bashar in 2000. In May 2007, Bashar was “elected” to his second term.This is not exactly a definition of a democracy, but neither is any nation in the Middle East and never was.

In the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Hafez joined with Egypt and, in the process, lost the Golan Heights, a strategic victory for the Israelis who have shown no intention of returning it or the ancient Israeli provinces of Samaria and Judea, won from Jordan, and now commonly but mistakenly called the West Bank. The Israelis do not “occupy” it. They lived there three thousand years ago.

The Egyptians lost the Gaza at that time, but the Israelis have since ceded it to the Palestinians in the hope they might establish a state, but they have never shown the slightest inclination of establishing one except as a base from which to attack the Israelis.

From 1976 until April 2005, the Syrians had occupied Lebanon which is now a base for Hezbollah, a Palestinian terrorist group that has successfully taken control. They take their orders from Iran.

Syria has been a classic police state. Reportedly, Iran has deployed 10,000 troops to Syria to protect the Assad regime and are in effective control of the nation. Iranian troops have been in Syria since 2008 and, not surprisingly, their northern headquarters have been in Homs, the site of the latest killings.

In February 2009, it was reported that President Obama had decided to send a new U.S. ambassador to Syria and lift sanctions against a nation believed to have aided al Qaeda in Iraq and of secretly building a nuclear reactor. The Israelis, as they had done earlier with a reactor Saddam Hussein was building, bombed it to rubble in 2009.

So far, President Obama’s philosophy of talking nicely to our enemies in the Middle East has not worked and anyone with the slightest knowledge of the history of the region could have told him that.

President Bush’s decision to eliminate Saddam Hussein was based on the fact that Saddam was a constant destabilizing factor, having waged war against Iran for eight years in the 1980s, used poison gas to kill thousands of Kurds, and in 1990 attacked Kuwait to seize its oil fields.

The current U.S. policy is to withdraw troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Expecting the Middle East to act in any civilized fashion or thinking it can be taken over and reformed by sheer military force is clearly a fool’s dream.

Afghanistan has resisted control since the days of Alexander the Great. The Ottoman Empire, run by the Turks from the 1300s until the early 1920s did a fairly good job of maintaining the peace until it collapsed of its own dead weight

As nations such as Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan did little other than accept various dictators, the prospect of expecting anything but turmoil is utterly futile. What the West wants is access to and through the Suez Canal, along with the oil of the Middle East. The template of Western influence disappeared with both World War One and Two.

Just because those in the Middle East have the outward appearance of modernity, it is an illusion. This is a region of the world dominated by a warrior cult called Islam. As such it will remain an enemy of the West and of each other. It is a huge horror show.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Monday, July 18, 2011

I Don't Care If You're Fat

By Alan Caruba

I don’t care if you’re fat. I don’t care if your kids are fat. It’s none of my business. If you want to lose some weight, be my guest. Or, like Michelle Obama, if you just want to have a juicy hamburger, some fries, and a chocolate shake, that’s fine, too. Who wants to spend their life eating broccoli and bean sprouts?

My late Mother, Rebecca, taught a generation the joys of haute cuisine in the adult schools of my hometown and nearby communities. Thousands of soldiers who had fought in Europe had returned from the war with a taste of French and Italian cuisine, and Mother was the master of both, including just about any other you could name. She had an encyclopedic knowledge of wines and believed no meal was complete without them.

Mother became the first woman to serve on the board of directors of the Sommelier Society of America in recognition of her encyclopedic knowledge of wines and spirits, and was honored in 1984 for her service to the organization. She was also the first woman to be accepted in both the British and French Sommelier Societies. She received numerous awards and was the first American woman to receive the Agricultural Medal of the Comite National des Vins de France.

Mother was not fat. In her senior years—she lived to age 98—I often feared that a strong breeze might whisk her away. Dad, who lived to age 93, developed the typical older man’s paunch, but never lacked for energy.

I got to thinking about this when I read an article about Dr. David Ludwig’s opinion piece in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Dr. Ludwig is a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. He and a co-author, Lindsey Murtagh, a lawyer and researcher at the Harvard’s School, put forth the notion that the state intervention might be a good thing to take obese children away from their parents.

The next logical step is to begin rounding up obese—fat—people and putting them in concentration camps where they will be forced to lose weight thanks to a restrictive diet and a regimen of labor. When they achieve the approved body mass index (BMI) they might then be released back into society. One can imagine caravans of buses lined up outside the camps to take the formerly fat people and kids back home.

This is going to work an special hardship on black people and Hispanics because, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in studies conducted from 2006 to 2008, “Blacks had 51% higher prevalence of obesity and Hispanics had 21% higher obesity prevalence compared with whites.”

All this snooping into people’s lives and lifestyles is justified by the CDC because being fat is “a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes.”

I have a friend who has diabetes and, for as long as I have known him, has always been a big, beefy guy. In recent years he has given up smoking, endeavors to exercise more, and one of our constant topics of conversation is—you guessed it—FOOD. We enjoy comparing notes.

It is impossible to get through a single day in America without constantly being implored to eat something, whether at home, a restaurant, or fast-food franchise. I haven’t kept score, but it often seems to me that much of the advertising on television that I see is devoted to food in some fashion, when not insisting that you should buy gold, get a reverse mortgage, or join some class action law suit against a pharmaceutical company.

Whole channels on cable television are devoted 24/7 to food. Every morning TV show has food segments and, as far back as I can recall, always did. Articles, if not entire sections of newspapers and magazines, are devoted to food. As a book reviewer for the past fifty years, I have seen more cookbooks and diet books than anyone should be expected to read.

Here’s how to lose weight. Eat smaller portions. If you're still hungry, have a healthy snack during the day.

There are entire subsets of food obsessions from vegan to foods grown “organically” which is to say without chemical fertilizers to enhance crop yield, herbicides to restrict weeds that compete with crops, and pesticides to knock down the many insect predators that destroy crops. It is estimated that rodent infestations destroy a third of all food grown around the world every year.

Give me food that comes from a modern farm anytime because those e-coli outbreaks always seem to track back to some organic farm.

It’s purely an observation of mine, but it seems to me that a lot of fat people come from families that have a history of being fat. To put it another way, they have a genetic disposition to being large. Others like myself enjoy “comfort foods.” And some people are just pigs.

I don’t care. It is none of my business if you’re fat. It is surely not the government’s business if you’re fat. This is America, the home of the brave and the free…and a lot of fat people, most of whom are not morbidly obese, and should be left alone.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Caruba's Crystal Ball: 2012 Election Predictions

By Alan Caruba

It is time my friends to take my crystal ball out of its velvet-lined box, dust it off, and prognosticate. I have gazed deeply into its refracted light regarding the November 2012 elections and the Republican candidates. Here is what it tells me.

Texas Governor Rick Perry will be an August entry into the field of candidates and just blow everyone else out of the race. He has a hell of a track record in the Lone Star state where he became the first governor since WWII to reduce spending using a line item veto to scrub $3 billion from the budget. He has done many other things that conservatives just love and independent voters, shell-shot from Obama’s crazed assault on America, will support. He has never lost an election!

Gov. Mitt Romney is Mr. Flippity-Floppity; a political disaster waiting to happen. His poll rankings are due mostly to name recognition. John McCain beat him out for the nomination last time around and these two RINOs should taking up quilting or some hobby other than politics.

Rep. Michelle Bachman is the Tea Party flavor of the month, but will generate little fervor beyond the patriot legions. My crystal ball says America is not ready for a woman president and that includes Sarah Palin who, in case no one has noticed, is not running. If that makes me sexist, then so be it.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty is toast after the Iowa primaries which will tilt heavily toward Ms. Bachman because she was born there and because Iowans love mavericks. Pawlenty is just too “nice” at a time when voters want a candidate who exudes a more aggressive persona.

Rep. Rick Santorum or as we say around here, “Rick Who?” has no traction at all. He will be gone by Iowa and New Hampshire.

Herman Cain has personality to spare, but after four years of Obama, many voters are going to be wary of voting another Black American into the Oval Office. (I would vote for Rep. Allen West in a heartbeat.) Meanwhile, Cain will be offered the job of Secretary of Commerce in the Perry administration.

Rep. Ron Paul will be remembered as the Harold Stassen of this generation of voters. The original Stassen ran for the GOP nomination for president eight (8) times between 1946 and 1992! A Libertarian, Paul has a few good ideas and a lot of bad ones. On television he comes across as everyone’s angry grandpa.

Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House, was deserted by virtually his entire campaign staff weeks ago. He needs to officially retire from the race and go back to doing commentary for Fox News. Even Mike Huckabee had the good sense to stay put there.

Lastly, there’s some guy called Jon Huntsman who nobody has ever heard of except the immediate members of his family. He was Obama’s ambassador to China. No need to say anything more about Jon.

For those who actually think Obama will be reelected, relax. He’s already political road kill even though he will get the Democrat nomination.

Obama’s lost his mojo. Lots of people have someone like him in their family and, as often as not, they’re a crack addict, a mental case. The aura of the office and all its trappings will do nothing for this moron. He will do worse than George McGovern did in 1972 against Richard Nixon or Walter Mondale in 1984 against a former California Governor named Ronald Reagan.

And, yes, there are a lot of GOP candidates. By contrast the Communist Democratic People’s Party has only one.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Flatlining the Economy

By Alan Caruba

As is well known, I am an expert on practically everything. This is why I am obscenely wealthy, sought after by the major media, and am an object of desire even in my early 70s. And! I have a bridge to Brooklyn to sell you!

Despite my shortcomings, I can and I will share with you a bit of economic forecasting that takes no great genius to detect. The U.S. economy is going to flatline all the way through the next election in November 2012. It’s going nowhere and prospects thereafter are dim as well.

Millions of Americans, including those so deluded to think that a guy who had never run a business in his life could actually run a nation, put him in the White House. Let me rephrase that. He has run a nation…right into the ground.

It doesn’t matter if you think he’s a Marxist, a Muslim, a narcissist, a sociopath, or any other name for his behavior, the fact is no one is going to spend a dime more than necessary until he’s out of office and on a plane back to Chicago, Hawaii or Kenya as of January 2013.

Take, for example, the news on July 8th that unemployment had risen to a six-month high of 9.2%. Non-farm payrolls had risen to just 18,000 in June. Peter Ferrara, a senior fellow for Entitlement and Budget Policy at The Heartland Institute, responded to the news saying, “Since the Great Depression, recessions on average in America have lasted 10 months, with the longest previously being 16 months. Yet here we are 42 months, or 3 ½ years, after the recession started, and unemployment is still rising.”

Historically, noted Ferrara, “the deeper the recession the stronger the recovery. Instead, we are suffering no real recovery at all.”

No recovery!

If Obama and the moronic economic advisors he brought into office with him—only Treasury Secretary Geithner remains---wanted to turn the economy around all they had to do was cut tax rates, cut government spending, push for deregulation to reduce the costs of doing business, and exercise restraint with monetary policies. They did none of this. Instead, they doubled-down with a massive, failed “stimulus” program, cash for clunkers, and comparable measures.

Obama’s policies are mostly oriented toward public service unions and others that have been sucking billions out of public treasuries to such an extent that they have bankrupted entire states. Their private industry counterparts have virtually destroyed industries such as the auto manufacturers.

Then, too, there’s the regime’s preference to buy votes from the least productive elements of the population. On July 12th, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that it had awarded “more than $1.9 billion to public housing authorities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rice, and the U.S. Virgin islands.”

The money is allegedly intended to “build, repair, renovate, and/or modernize the public housing in their communities”, but Secretary Shaun Donovan asserted that “Housing Authorities need nearly $26 billion to keep these homes safe and decent for families, but given our budget realities, we must find other, innovative ways to confront the decline of our public housing stock.” Yeah, sure, but can we even afford the $1.9 billion being shelled out? No. It has to be borrowed just like 40 cents of every dollar the government spends.

The reality is that this government keeps shelling out billions at a time when the big debate is whether to raise the debt ceiling!

The U.S. government is leaking billions. Just watch C-Span on any given evening as the Senators and Representatives discuss and vote on the expenditure of millions for everything short of another trip to the moon. It’s like watching drunks ordering a new round of drinks for everyone in the bar.

The GOP is not going to allow the U.S. to default on our debts. There is sufficient revenue coming into the government to avoid that. The debt ceiling will be raised.

So long as President Obama keeps blathering about corporate jets, millionaires and billionaires, and all the usual efforts to blame “the rich” (now considered to be anyone earning $200,000 a year), those who generate jobs are going to keep as much of their earnings as possible and, for businesses, that means hiring as few people as possible.

There will be no chance of job growth until Obama is gone, but overall the U.S. is losing jobs by the thousands as industry moves manufacturing overseas. Since 2001 the U.S. has lost approximately 43,000 factories. Why? Lower corporate taxes, less regulatory drag.

The U.S. Census Bureau says that 43.6 million Americans are living in poverty, the highest number of poor Americans in the 5l years such records have been maintained. As of November 2010, 14% were using food stamps, 43.6 million Americans.

Look at any statistical chart about the U.S. economy today and these ugly truths leap out at you.

© Alan Caruba, 2001