GOP Convention Losers And Winners

“A good friend of mine used to say, ‘This is a very simple game.  You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball.  Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.  Sometimes, it rains.’  Think about that.”

            —Tim Robbins as Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLouche in Bull Durham

 

I confess I’m having to go a little on what I’ve gotten from the media and friends, because I didn’t catch every bit of all three days of the GOP convention.  But I think I got the gist of the highlights.  Here are some thoughts on the losers and winners:

Losers

Reince Preibus

Good heavens, I didn’t think anyone could make me long for the return of Michael Steele as chairman of the RNC.  Now, I don’t know.  I’ll make some allowances for Hurricane Isaac disrupting some of the plans, but there seemed to be serious gaps in the flow of the convention during prime time, and decided difficulty in establishing and maintaining energy.  Professional political rallies should be highly scripted affairs; everyone should be massed in front of the camera and know what to chant and when.  This week, not so much.  When Preibus spoke he was incoherent.  And some of the speaker lineup decisions—giving John Boehner two prime time spots, including unpracticed lay people on live national TV, the Clint Eastwood quirkiness—seemed really questionable when you had people like Allen West, Herman Cain, and yes even Sarah Palin out there who would have brought down the house, yet they weren’t on the roster.

The Republican Establishment

You saw everything you needed to see when Rand Paul followed Mitch McConnell on Wednesday night.  If the GOP is to survive, there’s not just going to have to be a passing of the torch, but a clean break.  The trips to the cryptkeeper—McConnell, Boehner, John McCain, The Bushes (especially Bush 41)—weren’t the sort of tributary nods to respected elder statesmen that they’ve been in the past.  The Democrats can do that; for reasons that pass understanding, former President and serial adulterer/perjurer/disbarred lawyer Bill Clinton remains hugely popular.  Not so with either Bush–one a one term President, the other whose unpopularity was a major factor in the election of Barack Obama.  The old guard appearances were uncomfortable, stilted, and did nothing but demonstrate that those who’ve been entrenched for too long are now simply in the way.  They hurt the cause this week . . . a lot.

The Media

Look, if you’re going to cover something, cover it.  But when you not only cherry-pick the speakers but you—I have to assume deliberately—consistently cut away from almost every minority speaker it really begs the question why?  Are you racists?  Or are you deliberately trying to avoid what were not only some of the very best speakers of the convention, but also the evidence that belies your Republicans-and-the-Tea-Party-are-a-bunch-of-racists narrative?  It spoke volumes when Yahoo! was forced to fire Washington DC News Bureau Chief David Chalian after an unexpected hot mic caught him saying the Romneys would love to have a party “with black people drowning.”

It’s amazing what the people on the Left say when they think no one but them is listening.

Winners

Condoleezza Rice

Wow.  As always, Dr. Rice was intelligent, articulate, and classy.  What I didn’t expect, really, was the charisma and energy she brought to the stage.  Nor did I expect the level of popularity she’d carry.  On a night that was largely otherwise dead, she lit it up.  She may choose not to do anything with it—she’s consistently said she’s not interested in politics in her own right—but I think she can probably write her ticket within the GOP if she wants to.

The Young Guns

The natural flip side to the Establishment being among the losers, and the need for a clean passing of the torch, is that the up-and-comers were the political stars of the convention.  By far the best performances outside of Dr. Rice were from the rising stars of the new guard:  Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Mia Love.  Add to this list some of the others who weren’t at the convention like Allen West and Mike Lee (I’d like to include Scott Walker and Ted Cruz in this group, too, but as I said after Day 1, I don’t think they helped themselves this week), and there’s a deep bench; but they’re going to have to stand up and boot the old guard out the door.

Of course, the whole point of the convention exercise was the official nomination of the Romney/Ryan ticket, and it remains to be seen whether they are winners or losers coming out of this.  I don’t think either did anything to hurt themselves this week, but I don’t think the convention planners and a lot of the lineup did them any favors.  I expect the post-convention boost we’ll see will be less than hoped-for, meaning the ticket will effectively have to make up some ground on its own.  Three things I’d like to see from them over the next 70 days:

1.         Turn Paul Ryan loose and put him on the attack.  This guy has an honesty, and a no-nonsense plain language way about him that lends itself to making people understand the truth about Obama.  And he can handle the national spotlight.  Can’t wait for October 11; Ryan will destroy Joe Biden.  Even money the White House cancels that debate.

2.         Be more specific about the plan.  Romney had a nice start in his acceptance speech, when he outlined a simple five point broad-brush plan.  They need to flesh that out to complement what should be the attack narrative that Obama has no plan.

3.         Stay on message, and stay on offense.  Stop responding, stop defending, and start driving the discussion.  This shouldn’t be about tax returns, bank accounts, and Bain Capital.  This should be about spending, jobs, and an executive that’s come completely unmoored from the Constitution.

There’s a lot of time left, and a lot can happen.  Syria could spill over.  Iran/Israel could explode.  Gasoline prices could continue to rise.  And there’s always the dreaded October surprise.  Stay tuned.

This would be a lot of fun if it weren’t so danged dangerous.

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Grading the RNC Convention, Day 1

“So far, this is not blowing my skirt up, gentlemen.”

            —Charlton Heston as Spencer Trilby in True Lies

I watched the first day of rabble-rousing at the RNC convention last night, and one word kept coming to mind:

Underwhelming.

Maybe it was the storm-altered schedule.  Maybe it was the protesters outside.  Maybe it was the establishment bullying of the grass roots (read: Tea Party) conservatives over a proposed rule change earlier in the day.  Maybe the bar was open too early and for too long.  Maybe the Democrats surreptitiously piped vaporized valium into the ventilation system.  But what should have been an epic pep rally instead had all the energy of a Lawrence Welk marathon on methadone.  Obvious applause lines, boo lines, invitations for “yes we did” or “no more years” chants met the uneasy silence of shuffling feet, and quiet side conversation.

To begin with, a number of the speakers split their time with lay people who were invited to tell us how they in fact built their business.  This was a mistake.  You can’t take amateur public speakers and put them live on national television.  I appreciate pushing the grass roots “we built that” theme, but they would have been much better served doing the man-in-the-street bits via videotape, where they could edit and have do-overs.

Full marks for pushing diversity, possibly to a fault.  Nine of 18 prime-time speakers were women.  Seven were at least nominally minorities.  Four were the children of immigrants, and one was from Puerto Rico.  One was even a Democrat.  But they needed to be combining that with an energy and a specific message.  We needed to hear less about how well a given speaker has done in their specific state, and more about the particulars of how Obama has failed and how Romney is the solution.  Instead we for the most part got flat, vague platitudes.

Here are my grades for the speakers I saw:

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH)    D

I would give him an F, but he did manage not to cry.  If you were expecting the sort of firebrand oratory you got from him in his dynamic “hell no” speech back during the Obamacare debates, you were disappointed.  He did nothing to generate any kind of buzz.  Worse, just as I thought it my daughter said out loud, “Oh my God, he sounds like Obama.”  Play a speech of his and close your eyes—it’s true.  Yuck.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus     F

I kept asking myself whether this man was drunk every time he slurred out “Mitt Rhhaaaaaaahhhhhmey.”  He was dull, at times incoherent, and did nothing to get the crowd into it.  I couldn’t believe it could get worse than Boehner—I was wrong.

Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love  (R-UT)    B

This could be a GOP rising star, if she shows she can walk the walk.  She started a little flat, but when she quit trying to read the teleprompter and just let go, she started to generate some of the buzz you’d hope for at a national convention.  She was particularly effective when she went on the attack, looked straight ahead, and addressed her remarks to “Mr. President.”  Bottom line is you know she must have done well because the classless Left immediately hacked her Wikipedia entry to call her a “House Nigger” and a “dirty, worthless whore.”  But of course, we’re the divisive hatemongers.

Dallas Radio Host Janine Turner    D

Um, who?  Memo to Ms. Turner:  quoting Ben Franklin is not a snarky joke.  Let most of the air back out of the building after a valiant effort by Mayor Love to get the party started.

Senator Rick Santorum  (R-PA)    C+

Pretty tough sledding for Santorum, who should have had a fully warmed-up room to work by the time he took the rostrum.  Instead, he was starting basically from scratch, and many of his pause lines that should have had the joint jumping were met with an awkward silence.  He had a lot of the right things to say, but too little specific attacks.  Mentioned Mitt Romney exactly once.

Senator Kelly Ayotte  (R-NH)    C-

Again did a decent job of sticking to the “we built it” theme.  But again I kept asking where the energy was.  Lost any momentum she may have had when she split her time with a local New Hampshire businessman, who had a nice story, but was flat at a time the room needed to be getting pumped up.

Governor John Kasich  (R-OH)    C-

I had high hopes for this one, remembering a prior convention address (my memory says 1988, but I could be wrong) when the then-unknown congressman from Ohio lit up the stage with a firey explanation of the truth.  I have to say, that guy didn’t show up last night until about the last 90 seconds.  Kasich spent most of his time reading from hard copy notes (no teleprompter for him) and detailing the success he’s had in Ohio.  That would be great if he were running for President.  But he’s not.  Only when he put the notes down and went on extemporaneous attack did we see glimpses of his former self.  Too little, too late.

Governor Scott Walker  (R-WI)    C

Same issues as Kasich.  Flat (crowd didn’t give him any help), and spent too much time on how great he’s done in Wisconsin.  Another possible rising star for 2016, but he didn’t help himself or the cause last night.

Senate Candidate Ted Cruz  (R-TX)    C+

Cruz has a great story.  But the largely dismal performance of the cast before him left him with a snoozing audience, when by the time he spoke they should have been foaming at the mouth and hanging from the rafters.  Kudos for ditching the podium and teleprompters altogether, but he still sounded too scripted.  And his nervous giggles gave away his surprise at the lack of response to lines that should have brought down the house.

Representative Artur Davis (D-AL)    B+

One of the most effective things they could possibly have done was bring in a disaffected black Democrat to voice his regret over getting caught up in the Obama hype.  Davis did not disappoint.  He was genuine, and provided the first real attacks of the night.  Did a good job of trying to rally a flat house.

Governor Nikki Haley  (R-SC)    B

Relative to the night’s performances she should probably get an A, but frankly like so many of the others I expected a little more fire and brimstone.  As with Mayor Love, she was most effective when she went straight ahead and addressed Obama directly.

Mrs. Ann Romney    B-

It’s always a little uncomfortable watching wives who aren’t themselves professional politicians conscripted into a prime speaking role at these things.  I thought Mrs. Romney did a solid, if stiff, job in trying to convey a more personal side to her husband.  May have tried too hard to press the woman-pandering angle.

Governor Chris Christie  (R-NJ)   B+

Governor Christie was the only speaker of the night who really met expectations.  I was pleased to see he kept it on the reservation, and in fact he may have been a little too cautious.  There was serious disconnect, however, when Christie tell us to choose respect over love after Ann Romney had just spent her entire time talking about “love,” and Ted Cruz earlier told us a “love story.”  Christie must not have gotten the memo.

I am very concerned that last night signals this campaign turning into a milquetoast redux of 2008.  Tonight’s lineup is no real improvement.  Scattered among a list of mostly who’s-that’s are people like Ron Paul (batting leadoff via video—a nice bone to throw his supporters, but old Walter’s—look him up—hardly the sort of dynamic speaker who’s going to get the house rocking), Governor Tim Pawlenty (zzzzzzz), and the dynamic duo of Senator John McCain and President George W. Bush (I would have run like hell from both of them).

This does not bode well.  I can only hope Thursday’s closing lineup has some heavier bats to make up for the inclusion of Governor Jeb Bush (again, why would the GOP create any handholds for Obama’s “Bush sucked” campaign narrative?).  But if the “mystery speaker” turns out to be someone like Donald Trump, Tim Tebow, Colin Powell, Karl Rove, or (God bless her) even Nancy Reagan, I think this campaign is over.

Small Talk In The Face Of Big Issues

“We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them.  And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it.  He is interested in two things, and two things only: making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it.  That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections.”

            —Michael Douglas as President Andrew Shepherd in The American President

 

I love this movie, and if you can get past Meathead’s politics, I think Rob Reiner is a wonderful storyteller (see Princess Bride, A Few Good Men, This Is Spinal Tap?).  But how ironic is the climactic monologue by the liberal president mocking his conservative challenger above, when we see the intellectual level at which the Left is engaging today?

What am I talking about?  Consider:

Sandra Fluke—because, you know, as a third year law student who managed to get Rush Limbaugh to call her a slut she’s got all the qualifications necessary to opine on anything on a national stage—is apparently going to be a featured speaker at the DNC convention.  Presumably she’s going to talk about how condoms and The Pill are going to make the world safe for all womankind.

A collection of feminist protesters dressed as giant vaginas—one can only imagine what a group of gay protesters might dress as—met delegates arriving in Tampa for the RNC convention.  It’s not clear what substantive policy they wanted to advance, but they were chanting “keep your hands off my vagina.”  Um, you got it, lady.

Samuel L. Jackson is complaining that it’s “unfair” that God would spare the RNC convention from the wrath of Hurricane Isaac.  He should be more careful about suggesting that there is a God, much less that He’s somehow inserting Himself into our political process, lest the Freedom-From-Religion zealots get after him.

Ellen Barkin, meanwhile, published a tweet cheering on Hurricane Isaac and urging it to “wash every pro-life, anti-education, anti-woman, xenophobic, gay-bashing, racist SOB right into the ocean” at the RNC convention.  Classy.  I assume she’s also disappointed in the westward shift in Isaac’s path away from Tampa.

NBC’s Chris Todd was also quick to politicize Hurricane Isaac, suggesting that it would cast the shadow of Bush and Katrina over the RNC convention.  Aah, yes, I forgot that George Bush personally mis-designed the levee system (originally built by the French in the 1700s, and modified by the Corps of Engineers in the 1960s), personally created Hurricane Katrina, and then personally directed it into New Orleans (and Mississippi) for the specific purpose of killing black people.  I also seem to have missed that part of the Constitution making the federal government responsible when state and local officials wholly fail to plan for and react to a weather disaster that in their part of the country is not only predictable, but a statistical certainty over time.  My mistake.

President Obama, in between in-depth interviews with Glamour magazine and hanging out with mega-wealthy Hollywood and Wall Street campaign contributors, found time to honor the late Neil Armstrong by having his campaign website publish a poignant photo . . . of himself.  Similar to what we’ve seen historically from people like Mao, Kim Jong Il, and Fidel Castro, it’s all about a cult of personality—promote the image, not the substance.

And, of course, we’ve seen the DNC and its surrogates running around accusing Mitt Romney of being a felon and a murderer.

So here’s what we’re getting from the Obama campaign, in a nutshell:

Women should be afraid of a war on their bodies.

Blacks should be afraid that racists will spawn hurricanes aimed at them.

The poor should be afraid the wealthy are looting them.

The elderly should be afraid they will be pushed over a cliff in their wheelchairs.

Hispanics should be afraid they will all—legal and illegal—be rounded up and deported.

Young people should be afraid there will be no free college and no job waiting for them at some environmentally responsible non-profit non-corporation.

George Bush sucks.  Mitt Romney’s rich and he sucks.

Oh, yeah.  And Obama is cool.

THIS is what they have to talk about?  Condoms, genitalia, hoping hurricanes kill Republicans (and blaming God’s “unfairness” when they don’t), and George Bush?

In 1984 the Reagan campaign ran its now iconic “Morning in America” ad, trumpeting the accomplishments of the first term.  It was an overwhelmingly positive message themed around how much better things were than they had been four years earlier.  There was no mention of the Democratic challenger (Walter Mondale, if memory serves), and no pitting of subgroups of Americans against each other.

I would have thought after four years of hope and change that the Left would be all too eager to engage in an “I told you so” parade of successes.  I would have thought that after four years of the most brilliant, post-partisan, post-racial, Great Uniter presidency the Left would be talking about what a great job Obama has done, and how much better off we all are.  I would have thought that with all the serious issues facing us, the Left would have at least some interest in actually addressing something substantive.

So where’s the plan?  Where’s the substantive discussion of what, exactly, Obama plans to do over the next four years to deal with the economy and jobs?  Where’s the substantive discussion of what, exactly, Obama plans to do over the next four years to manage the growing crisis in the Middle East?  Where’s the energy plan—not the sophomoric fantasy of a green grid that doesn’t exist, but a realistic grown up plan?

For all their clamoring, the Obama campaign has been almost totally silent on his record over the last four years, and on any concrete plans for the next four.  Nothing of substance.  Instead, we get nothing but divisiveness, fearmongering, personal attacks, and blaming Bush.  Oh, yes, and plenty of genitalia thrown in, just to keep it interesting.

Forward.

Whatever that means.

What If We Give It Away?

Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?

Hot ashes for trees? 

Hot air for a cool breeze?

Cold comfort for change?

Did you exchange a walk-on part in a war

For a lead role in a cage?

            —Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here

 

Sunday I watched the first couple of episodes of the HBO miniseries John Adams, based on David McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, starring Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney.  If you’ve not seen it, it’s exceedingly well-done (fair warning: some scenes are pretty graphic in their depiction of the hard realities of 18th century life, and difficult to watch), and although I would certainly side with Jefferson/Madison and against Adams/Hamilton on the federalist debate, John Adams’ central role in our founding is undeniable.

In one scene, Abigail Adams and her children stand on the road in front of their farmhouse outside of Boston giving water to the parade of bedraggled Colonial Militiamen making their withdrawal from the Battle of Bunker (Breed’s) Hill.  The men were exhausted.  Limping.  Bleeding.  Dragging their wounded and dead behind them in hand-drawn wagons.  And as I watched the scene and contemplated what these men did and why, I found myself with tears streaming down my cheeks.

By way of historical background, Bunker Hill and Breed’s Hill sit on the Charlestown peninsula across the Charles River from what today is downtown Boston.  In 1775 the area had strategic significance because from the elevation of the hills it would be possible for the colonists to bombard British-occupied Boston.  On June 17, 1775, British forces took the two hills and pushed the Colonial Militia out of the Charlestown peninsula.  Although nominally a British victory in that the geographic objectives were achieved, it came at great cost, as the British suffered over 1,000 casualties (roughly 1/3 of their total complement in the action), more than double those sustained by the Colonial defenders.

It was following this engagement that the Militiamen were depicted in the scene from John Adams.  Consider for a second what they had just done.  Substantially outnumbered, untrained, under-supplied, un-funded, and for the most part bearing only whatever arms they brought with them from over the mantle in their home, these men left their farms and families to go stand up against the most powerful professional military force in the world at that time.  The British had intimidating uniforms, state-of-the-art military weaponry, plenty of supplies, and professional military training.

Consider further what engaging in this fight meant.  In the 18th century, you didn’t have repeating arms. Muzzle-loading flintlock muskets were one-shot propositions, and reloading meant standing up and remaining stationary for 20-30 seconds while you inserted a powder charge, dropped in a ball and wadding, tamped them all down, powdered the firing pan and cocked the weapon, then raised it to your shoulder to fire.  Once an enemy had closed the distance, there was no longer any time for that; this meant that an engagement sooner or later meant hand-to-hand combat, in this case against an enemy who probably had a bayonet on the end of his musket while you didn’t.  You had to get up close and personal.  You had to get your hands bloody.

How many of us today could do that if it came to it?

History records that the Colonials suffered approximately 25,000 casualties during the War for Independence from 1775 to 1783.  Although it dwarfs the number of casualties we have seen in modern times in Iraq and Afghanistan, the number doesn’t shock us.  But realize that 25,000 casualties would have amounted to about 1% of the total population at the time: the Census Bureau estimates that in 1776 the population of the Colonies totaled about 2.5 million people.  To put that into modern perspective, imagine a war beginning tomorrow that costs 3.1 million casualties over eight years.  That’s more than double the American losses in all armed conflicts from 1775 to the present, combined.

I’ll ask the question again: how many of us today could do that if it came to it?

It’s a high, high price indeed.  So what drove our Fathers to pay it?  What made them pick up what they had on hand to take on the most powerful professional army in the world?  We’re of course familiar with the old grade-school saw that the Colonists were fighting against “taxation without representation,” and that’s true enough.  But there’s more to it than that.

Did the Colonists take up this challenge so that their government could give them free stuff?

Did they pay this price in order to be forced to engage in trade, or to buy a product dictated by the government?

Did they bleed and die to convince their government to prevent them from engaging in commerce or expanding their reach?

Did they make these sacrifices so that their executive could at his whim ignore legislation passed by their elected representatives?

Did they fight to become part of Europe, or to be governed by a new global collective world order?

The answer to these questions, of course, is no.  The Colonists weren’t looking for free handouts from the British government; they didn’t even want the regular troops stationed for defense against the Indians, and that’s at least a legitimate function of government regardless of your political persuasion.  They rebelled against the Tea Act and Townshend Acts, which effectively attempted to use taxation to compel the purchase of excess tea from the British East India Company (sound vaguely familiar?).  They complained about the restriction of trade with the Dutch, and the prohibition of settlement west of the Appalachians (ANWR, anyone?).  They howled at the disbanding of their local assemblies, and the rewriting of their local charters and vetoing of their local laws by royal fiat (see DOMA, DREAM, CLASS, etc.).  And, ultimately, they fought and died to be independent from rule by a European authority, and could barely agree on a central government among the 13 States, much less would they ever have assented to becoming subordinate to a global collective power (see current UN proposals to curtail U.S. 2nd Amendment rights).

Our Fathers not only wouldn’t recognize this place today, I submit they’d be really, really pissed.  They made enormous sacrifices, and paid a huge price in blood specifically to be free from much of what we see today from the District.  How cheaply have we given away that for which they paid so dearly?

And how many of us today could pay that tab again to get it back?

An Open Letter To The Paulites

Gibson:           Wait a minute!  Are you out of your mind?  You can’t pull agents off a priority surveillance to follow your wife!  It’s gross misappropriation of Sector resources!  It’s   . . . it’s a breach of national security!  You copy, Harry?  This is too far.  You’re losing it big-time.  I have to stop you.

Tasker:           What are you going to do?  Tell?

Gibson:           G*dd#mmit, Harry, this is both our butts.  So your life is in the toilet.  So your wife is banging a used car salesman.  Sure, it’s humiliating.  But take it like a man.

            —Tom Arnold as Albert Gibson, and Arnold Schwarzenegger as Harry Tasker in True Lies

I’ve mentioned a couple of times my growing frustration with The Mike Church Show on Sirius/XM.  King Dude used to be my preferred morning drive time programming.  But as we got into this election cycle, he went off the cliff over Ron Paul.  That was fine to a point.

But he won’t let it go.

Even this week, Church’s commentary has been inundated with Ron Paul this, and Rand Paul that.  He moans on and on about Ron Paul not being on the list of GOP convention speakers (I note his son Rand is actually on the speaker list two days).  And when he’s not pimping for Ron Paul, he’s endlessly trashing Mitt Romney for not being Ron Paul.

Mr. Church, does Ron Paul have photos of you hottubbing with Satan?

Look, I share your frustration with the Republican establishment.  I understand that the GOP has been a large part of the expanding government problem.  And I am sympathetic to much of the Libertarian message Paul espouses (although I won’t go with him on things like legalizing drugs or complete isolationism, and the whole Lew Rockwell connection and Paul’s affinity for bizarre conspiracy theories is a little creepy).  But at some point all of you Paul disciples need to come to grips with the reality that Ron Paul is not going to be the Republican nominee for President.  Nor is he ever going to win the Presidency.  That’s not a comment on his substantive policies, it’s just a fact, every bit as much so as the sun will rise in the East.

I know you love him, but you need to get over it.

Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee for President; nothing will change that now.  Is he the perfect candidate?  No.  He wasn’t my first (or second, or third) choice, either.  But he’s what we have to work with, and he has one very, very important attribute you need to keep sight of:

Mitt Romney is not Barack Obama.

And this really is the point that scares me about all of the Paulian grousing.  I’m hearing Paul supporters either so frustrated they say they’re going to sit the election out completely, or endlessly trashing Mitt Romney as being indistinguishable from Obama.  While I am not here to shill for Romney or the GOP, let me just say that both positions are counter-productive, and fatally short-sighted.

First, not voting—or writing in Ron Paul, which is the same as not voting because he cannot win—is for all intents and purposes a vote for Barack Obama.  Let me explain.  The Presidency is not won by total popular vote (which is why national polls are meaningless), but by electoral votes, which are divided by state.  Assume your state has 10 electoral votes, all 10 of which will go to the candidate who wins that state.  If 47 people vote for Obama, 45 people vote for Romney, and the 8 people who love Ron Paul either don’t vote or write-in for Paul, Obama wins.  That’s the same result as if those 8 people voted for Obama; the only thing that changes is his margin of victory is 55-45 instead of 47-45-8.  Either way, Obama gets all 10 electoral votes.  Your protest accomplishes nothing.  The only action that would change the outcome is if at least 5 of the 8 Ron Paul folks actually vote for Romney (3 if we assume the other 5 don’t vote). 

Flashback to 1992.  Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot ran as an independent on a pseudo-Libertarian platform.  While he did not carry a single electoral vote, he garnered some 18% of the popular vote.  Whether that siphoned enough votes that would otherwise have been GOP to cost George H.W. Bush re-election is debatable, but it is certainly within the realm of mathematical possibility.  The race this time around is infinitely closer than the ’92 Bush/Clinton contest, and the margin of victory either way is likely to be razor-thin.  Ron Paul protest non-votes almost surely tip the scales to Obama.

Second—and the reason the first point is so critically important—Mitt Romney is in fact not Barack Obama, and blurring that distinction is dangerous almost beyond words.  Look, I get it that the Massachusetts healthcare thing is a huge albatross, but at least it’s the sort of smaller-scale experiment for which the 10th Amendment was intended to make States the laboratories:  Massachusetts is free to try universal government-provided health insurance, so long as it doesn’t inflict it on Texas.   I get it that even with his adoption of the Ryan budget proposals you’re still talking about a HUGE central government, but at least he’s a step in the right direction.  You can’t turn the aircraft carrier around unless you can stop it first.

More importantly, a President Romney won’t be fiating the Constitution out of existence.  I’ve harped on this many times, but Professor Thomas Sowell did an excellent piece (h/t to my Dad for pointing this out to me at RealClearPolitics.com) highlighting the stakes in this election and the dangers of focusing on isolated issues at the expense of the bigger picture of the steady destruction of the Constitution under this incumbent President:

“If laws passed by the elected representatives of the people can simply be over-ruled unilaterally by whoever is in the White House, then we are no longer a free people, choosing what laws we want to live under.

When a President can ignore the plain language of duly passed laws, and substitute his own executive orders, then we no longer have ‘a government of laws, and not of men,’ but a President ruling by decree, like the dictator of a banana republic.

When we confine our debates to the merits or demerits of particular executive orders, we are tacitly accepting arbitrary rule.”

Candidate Obama agreed with this premise, opportunistically hammering then-President Bush over use of “signing papers” (caveats attached to his signature on bills, purporting to exempt him from enforcing certain parts, thus assuming for himself a line-item veto that doesn’t exist), and promised never to use such devices to get around the constitutional mandate that the President enforce the laws enacted by Congress.  President Obama’s actions once in power, however, have been very different than his campaign rhetoric (see the DREAM Act, No Child Left Behind, the CLASS Act, waivers under Obamacare, Clinton’s welfare reform, the Defense of Marriage Act, the Voting Rights Act (as applied to The New Black Panther Party), etc.).  Time and again Obama has ignored the constitutional limits of his office, and done, un-done, or re-done legislation to suit his fancy.

This is why this election is so critical, and why you Paul supporters can’t get so caught up in your Libertarian ideals that you lose sight of what’s happening.  We’ve already seen the extent to which Obama is willing to discard the Constitution and take unilateral action he has no authority to take.  How much worse is he going to be when he no longer has to face re-election, and he now knows (thank you, George W. Bush and Chief Justice Roberts) he may actually already have 5-4 support in the Supreme Court?  How much worse still if he gets to appoint replacements for Justices Thomas or Scalia and boosts the Left majority to a theoretical 6-3 or 7-2?

You Paul supporters will have your time to fight the Libertarian fight another day, but only if we ensure that Obama does not get a second term.  If you take your toys and go home now, if Obama wins re-election, tomorrow may never come for that liberty you claim you so cherish.

Amateur Hour

It’s time to put on makeup, it’s time to dress up right

It’s time to get things started

On the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, muppetational,

This is what we call The Muppet Show!

            —Theme from The Muppet Show

 

As you might have noticed, things are a little tense on the global stage.

The year-and-a-half long conflict between the Syrian government and opposition forces continues to rage on.  The Obama administration has given verbal support to the “Free Syrian Army,” apparently oblivious to the fact that Al Qaeda has been fighting alongside them.  Now it seems the fighting has spread into neighboring Lebanon.  In related news, hard-line Islamic group the Muslim Brotherhood now controls Egypt—after an Obama-supported uprising against Hosni Mubarek—and is reportedly clamping down on opposition; its new president Mohammed Morsi is set to attend a summit in Teheran later this month (gee, wonder what they’ll talk about?).  The Muslim Brotherhood similarly seized power in Libya after a revolution toppled dictator Moammar Gadhafi, again with the Obama administration cheering them on.  Yet, essentially nothing from the White House.

Meanwhile, Iran swears up and down it isn’t developing nuclear weapons.  Yet it is increasingly publicly declaring its intention to wipe Israel off the map.  Speaking at a Ramadan rally last  week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad said Israel’s very existence is an “insult to all humanity.”  He went on to claim that the Islamic nations in the region would soon be bringing a new Middle East into existence.  How, if there is no nuclear weapons program, is Iran going to wipe Israel off the map?  A conventional war would almost surely draw the U.S. and Russia in on opposite sides, triggering a world war.  Either is a serious, and seriously dangerous prospect.  Again, virtually nothing from the White House.

If that didn’t grab your attention, we learned last week that the Russians had a nuclear attack submarine hanging out undetected in the Gulf of Mexico for several weeks in June and July.  The Akula submarine can fire cruise missiles such as the SSN-21, with a range of over 1800 miles, enough to reach from Russian-friendly naval supply stations in Cuba to anywhere on the U.S. east coast, and as far west as Salt Lake City.  The Russians have also apparently reached a deal to sell as many as 11 new submarines, including an Akula, to longtime U.S. antagonist Venezuela.  The Russian stealth mission coincided with Russian strategic bombers increasingly finding their way into U.S. airspace near Alaska and California, according to the Washington Free Beacon.  Meanwhile there have been reports that the Russians have warships and marines at least in the vicinity of Syria, if not heading there.  Of course, all of this follows on the heels of Obama unzipping his fly in a meeting with outgoing Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, telling him to inform incoming President Vladimir Putin that he would “have more flexibility”—read: I will be free to bend over—regarding U.S. defensive missile installations in Europe after the election.  The Russians know there will be no reaction from the White House to their increasingly bold maneuvers, and indeed there has been none.

These are serious issues with potentially serious consequences.  A strong leader would be out front, leading.  So what is the White House talking about?

Condoms.  Mitt Romney’s tax returns.  Russian punk bands.

Sex, tax, and rock & roll.

With all of the potentially cataclysmic matters around us, these are the weighty issues on which this administration chooses to focus its attention?  Par for the course, really.  The economy remains in the tank with unemployment still stagnant above 8% (real unemployment above 14%), yet for all his pledges to “focus like a laser” and “not rest” until everyone has a job, Obama hasn’t met with his jobs council in well over six months.  We have right at $16 trillion in debt and we borrow 40 cents of every dollar we spend, and Obama’s sole “plan” consists of a class warfare pitch to increase taxes on the rich; a plan as I’ve discussed before as a matter of basic mathematics cannot have any material impact on the situation because there simply isn’t enough money to cover his spending, even if you took it all.

There is no substance to this President.  Everything is empty platitudes (hope, change, forward) that sound nice but don’t mean anything, juvenile populist division tactics that won’t actually address any real-world problems, and trying to be hip and cool.  He is incapable of adult consideration of serious issues.

To illustrate the point, the Republican National Committee has a terrific new ad on its website entitled “Serious Questions.”  It begins with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell—no friend of the Right—asking the question why Obama hasn’t fielded questions from the White House press corps or held a press conference in months, and Obama campaign spokesman Ben Labolt explaining that there’s no reason to believe the questions he’s fielding from local media on the campaign trail are any less serious than what he would be seeing from the national media.

Of course.

The ad then plays real life excerpts from the questions Obama got from a New Mexico radio station the very next day.  Among the serious, probing questions put to the President:

Red or green (presumably asking about New Mexico chili)?  Answer: red, although green apparently has its moments.

Favorite New Mexican food?

Where in Chicago to get the best soul food?

Favorite song to work out to?

If you had a super-power, what would it be?  Answer: flying (I guess he misses his pot).

Really???  These are the questions the President of the United States is answering???  You listen to this radio interview and it sounds like Beavis and Butthead are talking with Alfred E. Neumann.  Even when he takes “substantive” questions from local media, it’s strictly limited to scripted softballs carefully controlled in advance by the White House.

The fact of the matter is, this man—and his wife—likes the trappings of the job.  He likes the big house, the fancy airplane at his beck and call, and the hobnobbing with all the uber-wealthy folks in Martha’s Vineyard and Hollywood (all at our expense, of course).  He likes shooting hoops with famous people, and playing golf on exclusive—and closed for his private enjoyment—golf courses.  He likes basking in the adulation of the women of The View, starry-eyed idealistic and naïve college students, and giggling brain-dead radio groupies.

What he doesn’t like is the dirty, difficult business of actually doing the job.  He doesn’t have the stones to confront potential enemies on the world stage, even as they are posturing against us.  He doesn’t have the intellectual firepower or interest in developing an actual plan for actually dealing with the actual fiscal crisis we face.  He doesn’t have the stomach for making the hard decisions. So he dodges the issue.  He avoids the question.  He makes sure he’s never in a position where he actually has to deal with something substantive.

Present.

At a time when we need actual leadership, someone with a legitimate and concrete plan, what we’re given instead is a series of well-orchestrated photo ops, baseless and vulgar personal attacks, and worn-out excuses.  You might have thought that after four years of on-the-job training he might have developed some actual leadership skills.  Yet we see nothing but the same vacuous nonsense he’s been peddling all his political life.

Hopefully Major Bowes is about to strike the bell.

EPA: Born To Be Wild

Peck:            I want to know more about what you do here.  Frankly there’s been a lot of wild stories in the media and we want to assess any possibility of dangerous, and possibly hazardous waste chemicals in your basement.  Now you either show me what’s down there, or I come back with a court order.

Venkman:   You go get a court order, and I’ll sue your ass for wrongful prosecution.

Peck:            You can have it *your* way, Mr. Venkman.

            —William Atherton as EPA’s Walter Peck, and Bill Murray as Dr. Peter Venkman in Ghostbusters

This is how out of control the Beast is.  And I’ll bet you didn’t even know it.

The Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1970 at the insistence of President Richard Nixon.  It is charged with enforcing, and creating regulations under, statutes enacted by Congress such as the Clean Air Act.  The agency has quasi-criminal law enforcement powers, including the ability to levy fines and impose sanctions.  It currently has over 17,000 employees (not including contractors), and an annual budget over $8.6 billion dollars.

This would be bad enough in itself.  As we’ve discussed many times, Article I of the Constitution vests the legislative power—the ability to enact laws—exclusively in the Congress.  Article III vests the judicial power with the Supreme Court and other courts created by Congress.  EPA operates outside that constitutional structure, exercising what amounts to both legislative power abdicated by Congress, and judicial power inappropriately usurped from the courts.

Worse, EPA’s actions aren’t subject to Congressional oversight, review, or approval.  Nor do they sunset.  While the Administrator is appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, the agency itself is populated almost entirely by Greenie career bureaucrats.  They have no term limits, and they never face election.  They are accountable to no one.

This arrangement of an unaccountable agency, filled with ideological zealots effectively invested with the powers of legislature, judge, jury, and executioner, is a recipe for heavy-handed abuse, to say the least.  Recall the comments of disgraced former EPA Administrator Al Armendariz, who described his philosophy of environmental enforcement in a speech to subordinates in 2010:

“It was kind of like how the Romans used to, you know, conquer villages in the Mediterranean.  They’d go in to a little Turkish town somewhere.  They’d find the first five guys they saw and they’d crucify them.  Then, you know, that town was really easy to manage for the next few years.”

True, Armendariz was ultimately forced to resign over these comments.  But what he made the mistake of saying out loud simply articulated what is undoubtedly the prevailing culture at EPA: due process, guilt, or facts be damned.  The edict was to make examples so that everyone is afraid of the agency.

Exercising its rulemaking authority, EPA has enacted a sea of regulations, each of which has the force of law, even though it was never passed by Congress or signed by the President.  Now, normally these regulations are created through a negotiation process known as “Reg-Neg.”  The agency proposes a rule, and interested stakeholders on all sides of the issue are afforded an opportunity to comment.  Those interested in advancing the environmental concern at issue can present the case for why the regulation is needed.  Those burdened with compliance can present the case for why it’s technically infeasible, practically too expensive, or how a less burdensome alternative might be a better solution.  In theory, this process injects a certain amount of objectivity and balance, although in practice we’ve seen with things like gasoline additives MTBE and ethanol it’s often just lip service that will inevitably yield to the Greenie agenda.

The trouble, from EPA’s perspective, is that the Reg-Neg process is more or less public, and it takes too long.  Sometimes when you have an ideological agenda to push, you just can’t wait.    But in the immortal words of Francisco Scaramanga, “That’s no problem.

You see, there’s a little quirk built into many environmental laws like the Clean Air Act.  In addition to agency enforcement actions, private groups like the Sierra Club are authorized to bring citizen suits either against violators or against EPA itself to act as kind of private attorneys’ general in order to enforce the act.  And because they can recover their attorneys’ fees, there is considerable financial as well as ideological incentive for them to do so.

But there’s something very sinister going on here, and it stems from this mechanism of private environmental groups bringing enforcement suits “against” the EPA.  In an op-ed piece in last Sunday’s Daily Oklahoman, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt discussed his investigation of what has become EPA’s “sue and settle” strategy.  What apparently is happening is groups like the Sierra Club are filing these citizen suits against EPA, resulting in settlements between EPA and the plaintiff organization that take the form of a “consent decree”; a judicial declaration that is as binding as a regulation or legislation, without the scrutiny of either.  But the all-too-cozy relationship between EPA and its Sierra Club ideological kinsmen—I note that Armendariz skipped testifying before Congress to meet with the Sierra Club in what now appears to have been an interview for his current job with the organization—begs for a closer examination of what they’re really doing.

It seems that many of these settlements—which, not coincidentally, result in EPA funneling millions in taxpayer dollars to the Sierra Club for “attorneys’ fees—are being entered into almost immediately, sometimes the same day suit is filed.  This is interesting, because consent decrees normally take considerable time to negotiate and draft, which suggests that EPA almost certainly knew about these suits and was in discussions with the Sierra Club about them, possibly even drafting the consent decrees themselves, before the lawsuits were filed.  Moreover, according to AG Pruitt, this is most often happening when the issue relates to the fossil fuel industries to which the Obama administration has been so overtly hostile.  And compounding the nefariousness, many of these consent decrees apparently involve rules that failed to pass as legislation in Congress.

So what it looks like we have here is a situation where the administration couldn’t get rules passed by Congress, and didn’t want to go through the time, publicity, and potential opposition of the Reg-Neg process.  So instead they have EPA get together with its buddies at the Sierra Club to file a sham lawsuit against EPA that EPA can then “settle” by entering into a consent decree containing the rules they couldn’t get through the normal channels.

Ow, you’re twisting my arm.

What is supposed to be an adversarial arm’s length judicial process instead becomes a vehicle for collusion to enact indirectly what could not be enacted directly.  And it happens without any input from those impacted by the new rules embodied in the consent decrees, or from the states responsible for the expense of implementing them.  In one instance, the Mercury Air Toxics Standards, AG Pruitt estimates the “sue and settle” tactic will cost Oklahoma energy producers millions, and may jack up local utility bills by as much as 20%.  Yet there’s been no hearing, no analysis, and no vote.  More importantly, it all takes place under the radar, where 99.9% of the population has no idea what’s happening.

It’s amazing what you can accomplish when no one knows what you’re doing.

Social Security (Reprise)

You don’t have to call me “Darling,” Darling

You never even called me by my name.

            —David Allan Coe, You Never Even Called Me By My Name

As always, the academics know better than you do.

I predicted a few months ago that one of the things we’d see if Obama is re-elected is a government push to appropriate your retirement savings.  Well don’t look now, but something similar is already brewing (h/t Andrew Wilkow of Sirius/XM’s Wilkow Majority for cluing me in to this).

On July 21 the New York Times published an opinion piece entitled “Our Ridiculous Approach To Retirement” by Dr. Teresa Ghilarduccia double-dip Cal-Berkeley graduate, career academic, and currently the Irene-and-Bernard-L.-Schwartz-Chair-of-Economic-Policy-Analysis-and-director-of-the-Schwartz-Center-for-Economic-Policy-Analysis-in-the [breathe] Department-of-Economics-at-The-New-School’s-New-School-for-Social-Research.  In this piece she reiterates the theory that’s apparently has been her life’s work to promote: we need a second Social Security program.  Not a new one to replace the old broken one, but in addition to it.

Oh, she doesn’t call it “Social Security.”  She calls the fruit of her proposed program “guaranteed retirement accounts.”  These guaranteed retirement accounts are managed by the Social Security Administration, funded through mandatory contributions (read: taxes), magically generate a guaranteed rate of return, and pay an annuity for life.

Kind of, like, I don’t know . . . Social Security???

Her premise is that, left to our own devices, we don’t/can’t/won’t save enough to provide for our own retirement.  Citing “new research” from the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis of which she is the director—I love it when academics cite themselves as authority to support their arguments—Dr. Ghilarducci claims that 75% of Americans approaching retirement have less than $30,000 in their retirement accounts.  She then recounts what she says is a common cocktail party conversation she has with friends who want to talk about their retirement plans:

I repeatedly hear about the ‘guy.’  This is a for-profit investment advisor, often described as ‘I have this guy who is pretty good, he always calls, doesn’t push me into investments.’  When I ask how much the ‘guy’ costs, or if the guy has fiduciary loyalty—to the client, not the firm—or if their investments do better than a standard low-fee benchmark, they inevitably don’t know.

The problem, she explains, is that it’s simply impossible for us mere mortals to make adequate retirement preparations, with or without the “guy.”  To do that, she says, we’d have to have the omniscience to know when we’re going to be laid off—because that, of course, is guaranteed—when we’re going to die, how to make the perfect investments to beat the market, etc.  The condescension practically drips off the page.  You’re simply too stupid to do it yourself.  And, of course, the perfect proof of this is the statistical analysis showing that most people have very little in their retirement accounts.

I’m not going to challenge her numbers.  My point is this:  what did you expect?  The whole idea  of Social Security in the first place was to make adequate savings and investments to provide people’s retirement arrangements for them.  If it worked as advertised, why would you expect anyone to have any separate retirement account at all?  That was supposed to already have been taken care of by the government.

Of course, the notion that your money is sitting in a Social Security trust fund account just waiting for you to retire is a fantasy long ago debunked.  But notice that her position is self-defeating.  She looks at the less than $30,000 75% of people have saved over and above Social Security and says that because that’s inadequate to provide for their retirement needs, the 401(K) model of relying on private citizens to be responsible for themselves is a failure.  But if the savings over and above Social Security is inadequate—and therefore a failure—then Social Security itself is a failure as a means of providing for people’s retirement.  Yet her solution to this problem is to double-down with another government-managed “investment” program that’s indistinguishable from the one she effectively admits is already inadequate (not to mention insolvent).

How much more do you suppose would be in the average retirement account if the government weren’t already taking 4.2 cents out of every dollar people earn supposedly to “invest” on their behalf?  For an average wagearner making $50,000 a year that’s $2,100 a year he could have invested himself.  Actually, it’s worse than that, because his employer is forced to kick in another $3,100 that could have been paid to the employee as additional wages.  So as a result of the existing Social Security program, this average wagearner is really being deprived of as much as $5,200 a year.  If even half that were saved and invested at, say, a 5% return, over a 40 year working life that’s an additional $314,079 that would appear in that employee’s retirement account.

But that employee doesn’t have that money to invest, because the government took it from him.  And the sick part is, once they’ve taken it, for all the lip service that it’s being put in an account, and it remains his money, you and I both know that’s simply a lie.  He’s never going to get that money back.  If he dies before he qualifies to receive benefits, do his wife and kids get that account?  Do they get back the money he put in?  Of course not.

All Dr. Ghilarducci’s proposal does is duplicate the existing system to take even more from every wagearner.  But what makes her think that’s going to work this time any better than it did the last time?  She can’t possibly “guarantee” a rate of return—because that’s derived from the inherent risks in investing—unless she plans to (a) subsidize the accounts when the investments suffer losses, (b) simply declare that the accounts have more money in them tomorrow than they do today, thus inflating/devaluing the currency (you have more dollars, but they’re worth less), (c) supplement the returns in older accounts with the contributions being made into newer ones (see Ponzi, Charles) or (d) some combination of the above.  That’s the very government-management mechanism that’s rendered the existing Social Security system insolvent and unsustainable.  It doesn’t get any better just because it’s the second time around.

And why is it always a one-size-fits-all mandatory solution with these people on the Left?  The idea that because some people are irresponsible and don’t plan for their own retirement means that all people are, is nonsense.  We’re planning and saving for retirement outside of Social Security (in fact based on the assumption that it won’t even exist) in my house.  Well, Rusty, that’s easy for you, you’re a rich lawyer.  I don’t know about that, but my college professor mother and stepfather managed to make their own retirement savings plans, and they’re hardly part of the evil 1%.  My dad and stepmother (a cop and a hospital social worker, respectively) are doing it.  My in-laws (career chemical plant workers) have done it.  Why can’t those of us who are willing to take responsibility for ourselves opt out and do that?  All she’s doing is substituting her “guy” for our “guy.”

The answer is simple, and Dr. Ghilarducci herself alludes to it: because a voluntary government system would be “a disaster.”  Why?  Because no one with the means to provide for themselves would participate.  And it’s this truth that exposes Social Security Part Deux for the socialist façade that it is (just as Social Security Part Un was).  A voluntary system would leave her with no contributors to cover for her annuity payments to those who, due to time or income constraints, didn’t pay enough into the system to cover what they take out.  In other words, no wealth to redistribute, and less for her and her ilk to control.

Better keep an eye on this one.

Have Gun Will Travel

“I’ve got a trunk load of shotguns.  I got three big-bore battle rifles.  Ammo up the ass . . . and I ain’t safe!  I can’t protect myself!”

            —Christopher Malcolm as Kirk Matunas in Highlander

 

This almost slipped by me.

Buried among the lesser headlines on the Drudge Report a couple of days ago was a piece from Alex Jones’ infowars.com entitled “Social Security Administration To Purchase 174 Thousand Rounds Of Hollow Point Bullets.”

174,000 bullets.  For the Social Security Administration.

Do I have your attention now?

It seems that the SSA has issued a request for proposal for the purchase of 174,000 rounds of .357 Sig 125 grain bonded jacketed hollow point ammunition (and don’t rely on the article, follow the link to the RFP form itself).  For the uninitiated, the .357 Sig round—not to be confused with the .357 Magnum—is handgun ammunition used almost exclusively in concealed-carry and duty (read: law enforcement) type semi-automatic pistols.  The 125 grain jacketed hollow point bullet is a duty/personal defense round designed specifically to expand and “mushroom” upon impact, the idea being to cause maximum damage to surrounding tissues, while minimizing the chance that the bullet will pass through its intended target (or a wall) and hit something behind.  In other words, this is not practice ammunition, this is not competition ammunition, this is ammunition specifically designed for stopping human targets.

Um, why, exactly, does the Social Security Administration need any ammunition, much less 174,000 rounds of hollow point manstoppers?  Sig Sauer’s P250 full size carries a 14 round magazine when chambered in .357 Sig (although 10 – 12 rounds is more common), meaning the SSA is ordering over 12,000 magazines worth of ammo.  Frankly, I’m surprised to learn there are any armed employees associated with the SSA, much less enough to merit that kind of ammo volume.  What law enforcement/security function does the Social Security Administration perform?

Are there really that many little old ladies threatening to storm SSA offices looking for their monthly checks?

Taken alone, this might not be that big a deal.  But it’s not an isolated incident, as the piece goes on.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”)—yes, the folks who track hurricanes—this week purchased 46,000 rounds of hollow point bullets allegedly for the Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement.  You know, because striped bass are a real menace.  But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  The Department of Homeland Security back in March bought 450 million rounds of .40 caliber hollow point cartridges.  This, again, is law enforcement duty ammo, not paper target practice ammo.  And it retails for about $0.50 – $0.60 a round; even assuming the government gets it for half that, that’s still $112,500,000 worth of ammunition—and this isn’t the Army we’re talking about.

But just wait.

Apparently not satisfied with its March arsenal deposit, last month DHS nearly tripled its haul, soliciting bids for an additional 750 million rounds over the next five years.  That’s 750,000,000 rounds of ammo.  Add that to the 450 million from March, and DHS is in the process of stockpiling 1.2 billion rounds of ammunition, or about 5000 rounds for every single one of its 240,000 employees, including Secretary Janet Napolitano and the custodial staff.

Viewed a little differently, that’s not quite 4 rounds for every American, if you follow.

Think I’m crazy?  DHS’ assorted munitions collection will include:

Over 11,000,000 rounds of .223 Remington, which can be fired in both the military’s dreaded M-16 assault rifle and its semi-automatic civilian cousin, the AR-15;

337,000 rounds of .357 Magnum hollow point—again, law enforcement grade manstoppers;

Over 1 million rounds of .45 ACP semi-automatic pistol ammunition, most of it once again in a hollow point configuration;

373,000 rounds of 30-06 and .308 rifle cartridges, which today is almost exclusively sniper ammunition, unless DHS is planning to go elk hunting;

Over 2 million rounds of 00 buckshot shells—standard issue close range defense ammunition; and

And most curious of all: 205,000 rounds of 7.62 x 39 mm rifle ammunition (Alex, what ammunition feeds the AK-47?)

Not exactly your basic Daisy BB gun stuff.  Why?  Why do DHS, NOAA, and SSA need billions of rounds of law enforcement and military ammunition?  Why do they even have AK-47s, much less need hundreds of thousands of rounds to feed them?

Recall President Obama’s July 17, 2008 campaign speech in which he declared:

We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we’ve set.  We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.”

A civilian national security force as powerful, strong, and well-funded as the military.  Why?  Why do you need a security force as powerful and strong as the military when you already have the military? 

It was easy enough to shrug this off back in 2008 as the mindless dronings of an ignorant and idealistic erstwhile candidate.  But having now seen four years of Obama’s imperialist dismantling of the Constitution—he’s already all but done away with Congress via his unfettered use of executive fiat—statements like this become hard to ignore.  A separate national security force that’s as powerful and well-funded as the military . . . You mean something like hyper-armed executive-controlled civilian departments like DHS, NOAA, and SSA?

Rusty, you’re drifting into conspiracy-theory la la land.

You think so?  Consider that Colonel Kevin Benson (U.S. Army, ret.) recently co-authored an article in the Small Wars Journal entitled “Full Spectrum Operations in the Homeland: A ‘Vision’ of the Future.”  In that piece he considers a scenario where Tea Party-influenced “extremists” mount an insurrection, and argues that “once it is put into play, Americans will expect the military to execute without pause and as professionally as if it were acting overseas.”  According to Colonel Benson and his co-author, “Army officers are professionally obligated to consider the conduct of operations on U.S. soil.”  Clearly there are those thinking about situations where Americans have to fight Americans.  These two can’t be the only ones.

To be sure, DHS is specifically tasked with guarding against terrorism and with securing the borders.  And these functions require that agency to field a limited armed wing.  But beyond initial threat response and control, the heavy lifting in any serious terrorist threat or border insurrection would surely fall to the military.  It’s almost impossible to justify DHS arming itself to the extent it is (particularly when they’ve effectively been instructed by the Obama administration NOT to enforce the border), and there’s no case for arming the Social Security Administration.  That is, unless you thought you might not be able to rely on the military.  Surely Obama is smart enough at least to question whether the rank-and-file of the Army and Marines would have his back if push came to shove against fellow Americans; and the idea that they would accept being deployed in a pre-emptive offensive strike on U.S. soil is at best questionable.

Adolph Hitler faced the same dilemma in not being able to trust the support of the German military as he increasingly assumed dictatorial power, which led to the rise of his personal paramilitary/military organization, the Schutz-Staffel, or SS.  Hitler eventually deployed the SS against his own citizens in the violent purge known as the “night of the long knives,” solidifying his ascendance to Fuhrerdom.

You want to know why I own guns?  Same reason the Founders owned them, and guaranteed the right to do so in the Second Amendment.

Back, Jack, Do It Again

You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em

Know when to walk away, and know when to run.

            —Kenny Rogers, The Gambler

Last week, the President was on the campaign trail trumpeting the 2009 auto bailout as a huge American success, and said he wants to do the same thing in every other American industry:

“When the American auto industry was on the brink of collapse, more than a million jobs at stake, Governor Romney said, let’s ‘let Detroit go bankrupt.’  I said I believe in American workers, I believe in this American industry, and now the American auto industry has come roaring back and GM is number one again. So now I want to do the same thing with manufacturing jobs not just in the auto industry, but in every industry. I don’t want those jobs taking root in places like China. I want them taking root in places like Pueblo.”

Obama’s defenders like MediaMatters have tried to water this down by making the case that he was talking about restoring jobs through eliminating tax breaks for outsourcers, and not about nationalizing industries.  But that begs the question when he says “I want to do the same thing”: same as what?  Obama didn’t eliminate tax breaks in an effort to stop outsourcing by automakers.  The only thing he did was the 2009 bailout/takeover.

So what of this tale of this great success he wants to repeat?

Obama boasts that the “American auto industry was on the brink of collapse,” and that “more than a million jobs [were] at stake,” obviously attempting to imply that he saved the entire industry.  Really?  Then how come the only action he took was with GM and Chrysler?  Big players, to be sure, but they hardly comprise the entire industry, even here in the U.S.   What about that little outfit in Dearborn, Michigan called the Ford Motor Company?  Ford didn’t take a dime of bailout money, and with 2011 net income of just over $20.2 billion—up from $6.5 billion in 2010—they’re doing just fine, thank you.  What about Mercedes-Benz, which operates a manufacturing plant for its M-Class SUV (among other products) outside Tuscaloosa, Alabama?  No bailout money for them.  Toyota builds its Tundra and Tacoma pickups in San Antonio, Texas, and has parts factories in Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia.  BMW manufactures its X-series SUVs in South Carolina.  Honda has plants in Alabama, Indiana, and Ohio.  Hyundai has a manufacturing facility in Huntsville, Alabama.  No bailout money for any of them.  Obama’s suggestion that his bailout saved the entire American auto industry is at best a gross exaggeration.

And what about these “million jobs at stake”?  General Motors had a grand total of 215,000 employees in 2009 (it has a similar figure of about 207,000 today).  Chrysler had another 47,000 in 2009 (about 51,000 today).  That’s barely a quarter-million jobs, by my poor Rice math, but here’s the dirty little secret:  fewer than half those jobs were in the U.S.  Indeed, of GM’s 215,000 employees, only 77,000—barely 1/3—were in the U.S.  Chrysler doesn’t report a U.S./non-U.S. breakdown, but even indulging in the unlikely assumption that all of them were in the U.S., that’s still only about 125,000 jobs total.  Obama claims “a million jobs [were] at stake,” but the true number maxes out at about a tenth of that figure, and even that is accepting that every single one of those jobs was at risk, and would have been lost, but for Obama’s action.

Sorry, but Obama wasn’t stopping outsourcing by bailing out and taking over GM and Chrysler; at best he was subsidizing it.

The truth is, Obama fundamentally misunderstands the nature of “outsourcing,” and of business in general.  Businesses exist to make a profit for the shareholders, not to provide employment for a favored segment of the population.  Rational behavior dictates that assuming the requisite skill sets are available and the logistics are possible, businesses will hire the least expensive labor force they can.  This is a good thing, because lower labor costs both enhance profit to the shareholders—thus encouraging more investment in businesses—and lower prices for consumers.

In the specific case of the auto industry, the primary driver of labor expense is the exhorbitant demands of the UAW.  Look again at the locations where automakers other than those locked in Detroit are making their products in the U.S.:  Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia.  This is no coincidence.  Except for Ohio and West Virginia, all of these are “right to work” states, meaning the manufacturers by law don’t have to deal with the UAW.

Ironically, Chrysler itself exposed the core flaw in the bailout logic in its 2011 10-K filing with the SEC:

“The automotive industry is highly competitive, particularly in the U.S., our primary market. Moreover, we believe aggregate manufacturing capacity in the global automotive industry substantially exceeds demand, particularly over the past several years. We have a relatively high proportion of fixed costs and may have significant limitations on our ability to reduce fixed costs by closing facilities and/or reducing labor expenses.”

Chrysler confirms that labor costs are hurting its competitive position, and its ability to reduce those costs by closing facilities or reducing wages is limited; i.e., being chained to the UAW impairs its ability to compete (hence its economic woes leading to the bailout in the first place—ditto GM).

But perhaps more interesting is the lead-in premise: the industry is highly competitive, and reflects substantially excessive supply.  In other words, Chrysler, an organization supposedly saved from extinction by Obama, says that one of the problems with the auto industry is that there are too many manufacturers!!!  Taking Chrysler’s statement at face value, Obama’s bailout really helped perpetuate both problems: it propped up two manufacturers in an industry where there are too many manufacturers to maintain long term profitability, and it continued a labor structure that leaves manufacturers too little flexibility to reduce costs in response to the competitive situation presented by excess supply.

The only way to sustain this kind of model is through repeated government subsidies—that’s what nationalizing is.  That’s what Obama did, and that’s what he says he wants to repeat with other industries.  And while you’re contemplating that, consider that the current estimate is that U.S. taxpayers will ultimately lose $25 billion on the GM proposition alone.  With just about right at $16 trillion in existing debt—not including unfunded liabilities like Social Security and Medicare—just how many more industries can we afford to repeat Obama’s “miracle”?

Any responsible hunter will tell you that sound game management sometimes requires you to thin the herd.  Too many animals stresses resources and leaves too little to eat, and all of them suffer as a result.  The same principle applies in business: sometimes you have to let the weak go so that the stronger and more competitive can prosper, and everyone benefits in the long run.