Can You Hear Me Now?

Edwards:       Drop the weapon and put your hands on your head.

K:                    I warned him.

Edwards:       Drop the weapon!

K:                    You warned him.

Edwards:       Don’t make me kill you.

Jeebs:              You insensitive prick!  Don’t you know how much that stings!

—Will Smith as Edwards, Tommy Lee Jones as K, and Tony Shalhoub as Jack Jeebs in Men In Black

OK, everybody who’s surprised by the colossal failure of the rollout of FUBARCare raise your hand.

Mr. Obama, you can put yours down.

Amazingly, the Progressives are still trying with a straight face to defend this thing, and some are even having the brass stones to blame Republicans for the problems.  But by now it is impossible for any remotely rational person not to see what a pack of lies this has been:

But the FUBARCare debacle over the last week is hardly surprising; to the contrary, it was utterly predictable, because it is merely the most recent illustration of this Administration’s consistent display of incompetence and deceit.  Indeed, is there anything this Administration has touched that hasn’t turned out to be a gigantic steaming pile of cow flop covered with (f)lies?

Afghanistan

The primary goal of our military involvement in Afghanistan was to “get” Osama Bin Laden.  That was achieved—in Pakistan—on May 2, 2011, over two and a half years ago, yet Americans are still dying in Afghanistan.  At last count, over 700 Americans—more than during the entire Bush administration—have been killed there since Bin Laden’s death.  Why?  Perhaps if Obama attended a security briefing once in awhile he’d be aware that our armed forces are still engaged in that theater.

Benghazi

On September 11, 2012, four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed in a series of military-style assaults on our consulate—sovereign U.S. soil—in Benghazi, Libya.  Although Stevens had repeatedly warned of the deteriorating situation and requested additional security, although escalating incidents over the preceding several months had led the British to close their facility, and although the 9/11 anniversary posed an obvious symbolic targeting date, the Administration refused to bolster security and left the diplomatic personnel in place.  Although the President knew about the attacks less than 90 minutes after they began, and although they took place over a period of some nine hours as the President and his staff watched in real time via surveillance drone, the President did nothing.  That weekend, Obama sent U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice all over the Sunday talk shows with a series of talking points blaming a silly internet video when they knew it was an al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist assault, while he ran around to multiple campaign fundraisers.  Obama later pledged to hunt down those responsible and bring them to justice, yet to date the only person jailed as a result has been the producer of the irrelevant internet film (who just recently got out of prison); no one in Libya has been arrested, and the Benghazi raid isn’t even among the crimes for which the Administration is offering a reward for information.

Economy and Budget

We’ve been told for several years now that we’re in a “recovery” from the Bush recession.  Obama has repeatedly said that he was focused like a laser on jobs, and that he “will not rest” until everyone has one.  Yet as of September, a full ten million people have left the workforce since Obama took office.  Workforce participation is now at a paltry 63%.  A recent Census Bureau report counts more people receiving means-tested government benefits (read: welfare) than with full-time jobs.  Meanwhile the national debt now exceeds $17 trillion, nearly double what it was when Obama took office (just under $10 trillion), Obama is continuing to spend at around a $4 trillion/year clip, and Harry Reid says “everybody” wants to pay more in taxes.

This is some rescue.

Fast & Furious

On December 14, 2010, U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was killed in a gun battle with Mexican drug runners.  Guns used in the fight were traced back to Operation Fast & Furious, a Justice Department action in which illegal guns were deliberately permitted to be sold and transported outside the U.S. in an effort to track them to Mexican cartels.  Despite multiple memos and emails to Attorney General Eric Holder mentioning the program—including some from before Terry’s murder—Holder has steadfastly denied (read: lied) knowing anything about it.  Since then, he and the President have spent the better part of the last three years doing everything possible to avoid providing Congress, the American people, or the Terry family any information about it.

Government “Investments”

Obama the investment banker, in his infinite wisdom, illegally diverted $80 billion in TARP bailout money effectively to nationalize GM and Chrysler.  On the GM side alone, taxpayers are still out nearly $20 billion, and the GM stock still held by the government would have to triple in value for John Q. Public just to break even.  To put that in perspective, the first time in our entire history that the total federal budget reached $20 billion was 1942, and here we’re talking about the loss on a single piece of a single program.  Meanwhile as I have reported previously, Obama’s Energy Department has lost billions making high-risk loans to unproven “green energy” firms—many, not coincidentally, owned by huge Obama donors—that have gone belly-up.  And the few jobs “created” through the bailout and loans have in large part been overseas.  Not a particularly good rate of return.

IRS & NSA

When the IRS hasn’t been gearing up to serve as the jack-booted enforcers of FUBARCare, it turns out they’ve been selectively targeting conservative political groups to delay or deny them tax-exempt status.  Originally passed off as the isolated action of a couple of rogue low-level employees in Cincinnati, it is becoming increasingly clear that this was actually a deliberate program to weaponize the IRS as a political tool for the Left, overseen at the highest levels.  Meanwhile, we’re learning that the NSA has been—without a warrant—effectively spying on millions of innocent private U.S. citizens.  Once again, however, the Administration absolutely refuses to discuss either issue with Congress or the American people.

World Image

Obama took office pledging to restore America’s image in the world.  Then in his first official act, he embarked on a global apology tour, basically denouncing everything America has ever been or done.  Since then, he has displayed a breathtaking lack of leadership in the Middle East, he’s been horrifyingly weak in dealing with Russia, and he’s alienated and offended our European and Western Hemisphere allies by repeatedly getting caught spying on them (compounded by the fact that he never sits down with those leaders one-on-one to foster those relationships).  The Saudis have recently severed diplomatic ties.  And Obama’s relationship with Israel is so deteriorated that one suspects the only circumstance in which he wouldn’t piss on Benjamin Netanyahu is if the Prime Minister were on fire.  If there is left any nation that would count us as a friend, or at least acknowledge any respect for us, I don’t know who that would be.

At this point the grim reality has to be inescapable.  Even the true believers on the Left can’t avoid recognizing—without engaging in an unconscionable self-fraud—that this President is an embarrassingly epic failure.  He has accomplished exactly nothing positive, and the level of arrogance, ignorance, incompetence, and paranoia that permeates this Administration is unlike anything we’ve ever seen.  At the end of the day, we’re left with nothing but angry lectures, empty platitudes, cheesy staged political stunts, fundraisers, and golf.

And lies.  Upon lies.  Upon lies.

This is what you get when you elect a community organizer with literally zero real-world experience, whose sole drivers are a blind adherence to radical ideology, and a limitless thirst to erect a monument to his own ego, real-world results and consequences be damned.

Some of us tried to tell you . . .

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Holding People Accountable

“Knox, for the ninth time, there is no bat.  If there were, we would find him, we would arrest him.”

            —Pat Hingle as Commissioner James Gordon in Batman

 

I’m going to make a bit of a strange connection, but stick with me here.  It’s all about accountability.  Just ask Obama.

Speculation and accusations continue to swirl around the White House over Benghazigate, as the President’s position that he didn’t know anything and couldn’t do anything and never lied about anything becomes increasingly untenable.  Perhaps the most fundamental problem Obama faces is that even in his world, he can’t blame this one on Bush, since the Libyan Spring took place on his watch and with his overt support; under Bush we had no consulate in Libya for terrorists to attack.

Having painted himself into a corner, Obama has now been forced to acknowledge that the Benghazi incident reflects some potentially serious problems.  Speaking on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Monday, Obama said that “[I]f we find out that there was a big breakdown and somebody didn’t do their job, then they’ll be held responsible.”

This somebody will be held responsible line sounded like something I’d heard from this administration before.  So I did a little digging, and shockingly, this isn’t the first time Obama has said something about holding people accountable.  Indeed, he’s said it many times, in many different contexts.  Here’s what I could find without too much work:

On the banking industry:

And when we learn that a major bank has serious problems, we will hold accountable those responsible[.]”  February 24, 2009 address to joint session of Congress;

On burning Korans:

We will take the appropriate steps to avoid any recurrence, including holding accountable those responsible.”  February 23, 2012 letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai

On the economy:

One nice thing about the situation I find myself in is that I will be held accountable.”  February 2, 2009 on NBC’s Today

On Operation Fast & Furious:

There may be a situation here which a serious mistake was made, and if that’s the case then we’ll find out, and we’ll hold somebody accountable” (eerily similar to the Benghazi statement).  March 22, 2012 interview on Univision

On security leaks:

[S]ince I have been in office, my attitude has been zero tolerance for these kinds of leaks[.]”  Obama during June 8, 2012 press conference; Senior Adviser David Plouffe “[O]bviously people need to be held accountable if they did something wrong.”  June 17, 2012 interview with CNN’s Candy Crowley.

Perhaps the most interesting to me, however, is President Obama’s statement about accountability in his discussion of the Stimulus during his February 24, 2009 address to a joint session of Congress:

“That is why I have asked Vice President Biden to lead a tough, unprecedented oversight effort—because nobody messes with Joe.  I have told each member of my Cabinet as well as mayors and governors across the country that they will be held accountable by me and the American people for every dollar they spend.”

Every member of his Cabinet will be held accountable for every dollar they spend, huh?  Well, that got me wondering again how that whole Department of Energy green energy stimulus giveaway program was going.  So in the interest of accountability, I thought it might be time for an update of the green energy subsidy casualty list I published back in February.

UPDATE: A123 Systems—Bankrupt, October, 2012

A123 began in 2001 from a research lab at MIT on $100,000 in federal seed money.  In 2009 it received $249 million in DOE loan money to develop electric car batteries for the Fisker Karma (which later proved to have serious defects resulting in the recall of all 239 Karmas produced).  This, despite public admissions in their SEC filings that they had “never been profitable.”  A123 is $144 million in debt and filed for bankruptcy on October 16.

UPDATE: Abound Solar—Bankrupt, July 2012

Abound was a Colorado-based manufacturer of thin-film solar panels.  In December 2010, it received $400 million in DOE loan guarantees, about $70 million of which it cashed in.  Unable to compete, and unable to find a buyer for itself as a going concern, Abound filed for bankruptcy liquidation on July 2.

UPDATE:  Solar Trust of America—Bankrupt, April 2012

This one didn’t get much press.  Oakland-based Solar Trust of America holds the development rights for the Blythe Solar Power Project in Southern California.  It received $2.1 billion in DOE loan guarantees in April 2011, but ran short of cash when its 70% majority owner—German company Solar Millennium AG—filed for bankruptcy in Germany in December.  Solar trust filed for bankruptcy in the U.S. April 2.

Ener1—Bankrupt, January 2012

Ener1 was a New York-based parent company of a firm that received $118 million in federal “stimulus” grants to produce electric car batteries in part for the Fisker Karma (see below), a deal that ultimately fell through in favor of A123 (see above).  Ener1 filed for bankruptcy in January.

Beacon Power—Bankrupt, October 2011

Beacon received $43 million in DOE loans.  Beacon declared bankruptcy in October 2011, and began selling off its assets in December.

Evergreen Solar—Bankrupt, August 2011

Evergreen was a Massachusetts-based manufacturer of solar panels.  It received government grants including an estimated $5.3 million in federal “stimulus” money.  Evergreen went bankrupt in August 2011, and in November sold its assets to a Chinese firm.

Solyndra—Bankrupt, August 2011

You all know the Solyndra story.  Solydra netted a $535 million loan over the objections of financial analysts, and the debt was later restructured to move taxpayers behind Obama bundler George Kaiser in the creditor queue.  Solyndra declared bankruptcy in August 2011, and later sold its assets for pennies on the dollar to a new outfit also partly owned by Kaiser.

Spectrawatt—Bankrupt, August 2011

Spectrawatt was a New York-based manufacturer of silicon cells used in solar panels.  It received $500,000 in “stimulus” grants in June 2009.  Spectrawatt filed for bankruptcy in August 2011, and was bought by a Canadian firm.

Nevada Geothermal—Insolvent, October 2011; UPDATE: Auditors Doubt Viability, July 2012

Nevada Geothermal is a Nevada-based geothermal energy company that received $66 million in federal grants, and another $79 million in DOE loans; loans it immediately used to pay off or renegotiate other loans that were or were about to be in default.  A July 4, 2012 report said internal auditors were questioning the firm’s viability going forward: “[M]aterial uncertainties case significant doubt on the company’s ability to continue as a going-concern.”

Amonix—Layoffs, January 2012; UPDATE: Closed Main Plant, July 2012

Amonix was a California-based solar systems manufacturer with a plant in Nevada, partly owned by Obama mega-bundlers John Doerr, Daniel Weiss, and Steve Westly.  Amonix received $5.9 million in federal “stimulus” grants in 2010.  It laid off two-thirds of its workforce in January, and closed its main plant in July.

Sunpower—Insolvency/Layoffs, November 2011

Sunpower, yet another California-based solar firm, received a $1.2 billion DOE loan in September 2011.  Barely a month later, it announced hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, and that it was “reorganizing” and cutting jobs.  It is now owned by the French oil giant Total, without whose backing it would be bankrupt.

Fisker Automotive—Layoffs, February 2012

Fisker Automotive is a California-based manufacturer of luxury electric cars.  It received a $529 million DOE loan to produce its $102,000 Karma, which it manufactures in Finland.  After producing—then recalling—a grand total of 239 units, Fisker announced in February that it was laying off employees in its Delaware and California locations.

Hundreds of billions of your tax dollars at risk or gone, on a program that’s seen eight bankruptcies and counting, at least two insolvencies, and three sets of layoffs and plant closures.  That’s in addition to jobs being sent overseas (Fisker) or entities being taken over by foreign ownership.  All to “create”—giving the administration the most charitable benefit of the doubt—a few hundred jobs.

Yet neither Secretary Stephen Chu or anyone else has been fired or even taken to task by the administration.  Come to think of it, I don’t recall anyone getting fired over banking failures, burning Korans, the economy, or security leaks, and only one low-level scapegoat firing in Fast & Furious.  And my bet is as long as Obama is in office, no one gets fired over Benghazi.

Maybe “holding people accountable” doesn’t mean what the Obama administration thinks it does.

Easy A

I got some oceanfront property in Arizona
From my front porch you can see the sea
I got some oceanfront property in Arizona
Yeah, if you’ll buy that, I’ll throw the Golden Gate in free.
—George Strait, Oceanfront Property
In the words of the immortal Syndrome—look him up—ooohhh this is too good!  But make sure you’re sitting down and don’t have anything in your mouth, because I don’t want you to spit your coffee all over your computer when you read this:
Energy Secretary Steven Chu gives himself an “A” on controlling gasoline prices.
You read that right.  During a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing Tuesday, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) asked the physics-guru-turned-federal-investment-banker whether he still considered himself to be doing “A-minus” work on gasoline prices.  Chu responded that “I would say I would give myself a little higher.”  In other words, an “A.”  Regular unleaded gasoline now averages $3.87 a gallon and is well over $4 in some parts of California, and the Energy Secretary—with a straight face—gives himself (and, by extension, the administration) an “A.”
Wow.  Just.  Wow.
Even hard-core Obamaphiles have to at least raise an eyebrow at that one.  In their continuing fantasy land of blaming Bush for everything and accepting responsibility for absolutely nothing, can these people really be this bold and/or this out of touch with reality?  This is now so patently ridiculous that it is impossible for any rational adult to take anyone in this administration seriously.  
To refresh everyone, in addition to his fetish for giving away billions in taxpayer dollars to fund unproven green energy startups run by Obama campaign mega-bundlers, Dr. Chu is a rabid global warming fanatic, and crusader against fossil fuels.  In 2008 he told the Wall Street Journal that “we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe”—at that time upwards of $9/gallon—as a means of eliminating petroleum use in the U.S.  This guy is no friend of gasoline. 
Taking a page from the John Kerry playbook, when pressed about it, Chu backed away from that statement last week, arguing that he wasn’t the Energy Secretary at the time he said it, and now that he is part of the administration he supports what the President at least claims is the goal of lower gasoline prices. 
I guess Chu was for higher gasoline prices before he was against them. 
Interestingly, he qualified his backtracking by saying that the thinking was driven by the poor economy.  Apparently, the administration’s concern isn’t to see lower gasoline prices because that’s what people want or need, but only because higher gas prices might hurt the recovery (if any); the implicit corollary being that if the economy were in better condition, he wouldn’t mind the high gasoline prices so much.  I’m sure that altruism will really comfort middle and lower-income Americans now paying in some areas over $4/gallon.  Given Chu’s history and statements like this, I suppose we have to wonder a bit what he understands “controlling gasoline prices” to mean.
So what, exactly, has the administration been doing on energy, and what has been happening to gasoline prices, such that Dr. Chu is awarding an “A”?  Let’s see:
 
Date
Event
January 2009
Obama takes office; Chu appointed Energy Secretary.
$ 1.79
July 2009
Federal government takes over GM.
$ 2.53
September 2009
DOE approves $535 million loan to solar startup Solyndra.
$ 2.55
February 2010
South Dakota PUC grants permit for Keystone XL Pipeline to run new crude supplies from Canada to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries.
DOE restructures Solyndra loan.
$ 2.64
April 2010
DOE approves $529 million loan to electric luxury car maker Fisker Automotive.
$ 2.85
May 2010
Obama administration issues drilling moratorium in Gulf of Mexico.
$ 2.84
July 2010
Obama administration issues second drilling moratorium in Gulf.
$ 2.73
August 2010
DOE approves $43 million loan to green energy storage company Beacon Power.
$ 2.73
November 2010
GM rolls first production Chevy Volt off assembly line.
$ 2.86
December 2010
“Arab Spring” begins, eventually resulting in regime changes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, and tumult throughout much of the rest of the Middle East; Obama administration cheerleads as Islamists fill much of the resulting power void.
$ 2.99
May 2011
Federal judge orders Obama administration to act on stalled Gulf drilling permits.
$ 3.91
August 2011
State Department issues final report saying Keystone XL Pipeline will have “no significant impacts” on the environment, but the White House does not act.
Solyndra files for bankruptcy.
$ 3.64
September 2011
DOE approves $1.2 billion loan to solar firm SunPower Corp.
$ 3.61
October 2011
Beacon Power files for bankruptcy.
$ 3.45
November 2011
Chu takes responsibility for Solyndra decision, and defends the DOE loan program.
SunPower reorganizes, begins layoffs.
$ 3.38
December 2011
Fisker recalls all 239 units of its $100,000+ Karma.
$ 3.27
January 2012
Obama administration rejects Keystone XL Pipeline.
           
Green energy “stimulus” recipient Ener1 files for bankruptcy.
$ 3.38
February 2012
Fisker begins layoffs.
Obama administration claims credit for increased drilling actually resulting from permits granted under Bush.
$ 3.72
March 2012
GM suspends production of Volt due to poor sales.
Obama renews call for increased taxes on oil companies.
$ 3.87
In fairness, President Obama is right when he says there is no magic bullet.  As I’ve covered a number of times, gasoline prices are a function of the market; although the President doesn’t set that market (at least not yet), there can be no denying that administration policies can and do influence it.  The truth is, at every possible turn this administration has taken the road that raises gasoline prices rather than lowers them.  Obama has actively fomented unrest in the Middle East, driving futures speculators to bid up the price of crude.  He has suspended, then stalled drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and forbids drilling in ANWR.  He delayed, then rejected the Keystone XL Pipeline that would have brought additional crude to U.S. refineries.  Meanwhile, his administration has poured billions of taxpayer dollars into serially bankrupt entities pushing energy technologies for which there is no market because they don’t yet work. 
The objective results are undeniable:  gasoline was $1.79 the day he took office, and today it’s $3.87.  Unless your goal is to drive the price to European levels, that can hardly be classified as “controlling” it.  Presumably we’ll soon hear some vague and unverifiable garbage from Jay Carney that what Chu meant was that gas prices—like unemployment, and the deficit, and the debt, and the anti-U.S. unrest in Afghanistan, etc.—would be much worse but for everything the administration has been doing.
Chu says he’s been “doing everything [he] can to get long-term solutions,” and that’s all well and good, but it doesn’t help anyone today.   I don’t care what my truck runs on, as long as it runs.  Some day that may be some kind of algal urine, but that technology isn’t currently viable and it remains to be seen whether it will ever be.  What we do know is that my truck will in fact run on gasoline right now—if I can continue to afford to fill it up.
On the current state of the record, for Chu to claim an “A” for this administration on energy policy, and specifically as to gasoline prices, is nothing short of laughable. 
If only it were funny.

I Hope We Live To Tell The Tale

 
Shout,  shout
Let it all out
These are the things
I can do without
Come on
—Tears for Fears, Shout
With all the recent obsession over condoms, you may have missed this one, which I suspect is exactly how the Dems hoped it would play.  That’s OK; I’ve got your back on these things.
 
But let’s keep our eye on the ball.  
Week before last, the L.A. Times recounted the tale of the Genesis Solar Project, a huge solar farm being constructed in a Southern California desert.  Genesis received a partial Department of Energy guarantee on an $852 million loan back in August.
Don’t look now, but there’s trouble in green energy paradise.  Again.
Construction of the farm has yet to be completed, and at this point is held up indefinitely.  It seems in their rush to meet deadlines imposed as a condition of their DOE loan guarantee, planners missed a couple of things.  One, construction activities interfered with the native habitat of something called the kit fox.  Dead foxes started turning up all over the site, and after efforts to harass the animals into moving—where’s PETA when you need them—failed, it was determined that distemper brought about by the construction disturbances was killing the foxes off.  So, in essence, this “green energy” project is in fact creating an environmental problem.
I’m drowning in the irony of that one.
The other—likely more serious—problem in terms of the project’s ability to go forward is that  excavators discovered that the farm is being constructed on the site of an ancient human settlement.  The Colorado River Indian Tribes have a reservation near the site, and they, along with other Native American groups, are now seeking to delay or even stop the project altogether.  Meanwhile, the project stands incomplete and generating no revenue.  If they have to cut too much acreage out in order to accommodate the Indian and environmental concerns, the project will become—wait for it—uneconomical.
Shocking.
This, of course, is just the latest in the constantly growing string of disasters flowing from the Obama administration’s Quixotic quest to create an industry that does not exist, to provide products no one wants, at a price no one will pay.  Let’s review.
Solyndra—Bankrupt, August 2011
Of course, the poster child for the green energy train wreck is Solyndra, the California-based manufacturer of solar panels, over 1/3 owned by Obama mega-fundraiser George Kaiser.  Solyndra was the first to receive “green energy” startup loan guarantees from the Department of Energy, netting $535 million in a deal that was rushed through over the objections of financial analysts.  The DOE restructured that debt in early 2011 to move taxpayers behind the private equity holders like Kaiser in the creditor queue.  After there simply wasn’t enough market demand for its product, Solyndra declared bankruptcy in August 2011—almost to the day that the financial analysts who objected to the loan said it wouldand later sold its assets on the cheap to a new outfit also partly owned by Kaiser.  So basically the President’s buddies got to finance their startup with taxpayer money, moved to the front of the line to get their own money out when it went belly-up, then took the assets for pennies on the dollar, leaving the rest of us stuck with the check.
Ener1—Bankrupt, January 2012
Ener1 was a New York-based parent company of a firm that received $118 million in federal “stimulus” grants to produce electric car batteries in part for the Fisker Karma (see below), a deal that ultimately fell through.  Ener1 filed for bankruptcy last month.


UPDATE 2/27/12:  No sooner did I post this, than I see that A123, who won the Karma contract out from under Ener1 on the strength of some $390 million in federal subsidies, is laying workers off, despite hefty pay increases for its executives.
Beacon Power—Bankrupt, October 2011
Beacon was a Massachusetts-based manufacturer of energy storage technology.  It received $43 million in Department of Energy loans.  Beacon declared bankruptcy in October 2011, saying it had been unable to obtain additional private investment (one wonders why).  It received bankruptcy court approval in December to begin selling off its assets.
Evergreen Solar—Bankrupt, August 2011/Now owned by the Chinese
Evergreen was a Massachusetts-based manufacturer of solar panels.  It received government grants including an estimated $5.3 million in federal “stimulus” money.  Evergreen went bankrupt in August 2011, and in November sold its assets to a Chinese firm.
Spectrawatt—Bankrupt, August 2011/Now owned by the Canadians
Spectrawatt was a New York-based manufacturer of silicon cells used in solar panels.  It received It received $500,000 in “stimulus” grants in June 2009.  Spectrawatt filed for bankruptcy in August 2011, and was bought by a Canadian firm.
Sunpower—Insolvency/Layoffs, November 2011/Now owned by the French
Sunpower, yet another California-based solar firm, received a $1.2 billion DOE loan in September 2011, the very last days of the program.  Barely a month later, it announced hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, and that it was “reorganizing” and cutting jobs.  It is now owned by the French oil giant Total, without whose backing, it would be bankrupt.
Amonix—Layoffs, January 2012
Amonix was a California-based solar systems manufacturer with a plant in Nevada.  It was partly owned by John Doerr, Daniel Weiss, and Steve Westly, who collectively have bundled at least $700,000 for Obama.  Amonix received $5.9 million in federal “stimulus” grants in 2010.  Last month it announced it was laying off two-thirds of its workforce.
Nevada Geothermal—Insolvent, October 2011
Nevada Geothermal, as the name suggests, is a Nevada-based geothermal energy company that received $66 million in federal grants, and another $79 million in DOE loans; loans it immediately used to pay off or renegotiate other loans that were or were about to be in default.  In other words, the company was already insolvent, a fact apparently known to the Obama administration at the time the DOE made the loans.  According to the DOE website, this project created 14 permanent jobs.
Fisker Automotive—Layoffs, February 2012
As I have previously reported, Fisker Automotive is a California-based manufacturer of luxury electric cars.  It received a $529 million DOE loan to produce its $102,000 Karma, which it manufactures in Finland.  After producing—then recalling—a grand total of 239 units, Fisker announced earlier this month that it was laying off employees in its Delaware and California locations, despite miraculous and unverifiable DOE claims that the loan had “created or saved” 2000 jobs.
Remember back when it was all about focusing on the economy and creating jobs?  These projects include five bankruptcies, one insolvency and one about to go under if it can’t resume construction, three laying people off, three now owned by foreign parents, and one manufacturing its product—to the extent it does so at all—overseas.  They represent a total federal investment of about $2.5 billion, and leaving aside temporary construction, appear to have added only 14 permanent U.S. jobs (without deducting for layoffs and bankruptcies), a clip of about $178 million per job.  Contrast that with the Keystone XL pipeline project Obama rejected (claiming it needed more study), which would unquestionably have created tens of thousands of U.S. jobs and not cost the federal taxpayer one red cent.
In a funny coincidence, with one exception (Nevada Geothermal—you work that one out) every one of these debacles involves federal money going to firms based in California, New York, or Massachusetts, huge chunks of it to big Obama backers.
I’m not saying, I’m just saying.
With this objective record on this issue alone, for the life of me I can’t understand how this President continues to net an approval rating as high as the 45% he’s been hovering around for months.  The level of incompetency is both obviously demonstrable, and staggering.  Worse, I can’t believe the GOP isn’t keeping this on the front burner and getting this message before the American public.  I’m aware of it, and now you’re aware of it, but Joe Six Pack isn’t, and he’s the one who matters.
This, and the force-feeding of Obamacare, should be the centerpiece of the campaign.  I hope the GOP gets around to telling this story soon, or it’ll be too late.

Geeks Out Of Their Depth

Brian:           What I had said was I’m in the math club, uh, the Latin club, and the physics club . . . physics club.
Bender:          Hey, Cherry.  Do you belong to the physics club?
Claire:            That’s an academic club.
Bender:          So?
Claire:            So, academic clubs aren’t the same as other kinds of clubs.
Bender:         Ah, but to dorks like him, they are.  What do you guys do in your club?
Brian:             Well, in physics we . . . we talk about physics, properties of physics . . .
Bender:          So it’s sorta social.  Demented and sad, but social.  Right?
—Anthony Michael hall as Brian Johnson, Judd Nelson as John Bender, and Molly Ringwald as Claire Standish in The Breakfast Club
Continuing with a theme running over the last few posts, it should be apparent by now that government—and this administration in particular—has no business meddling in affairs of business.
You should be reasonably familiar with the story of Solyndra, the California-based solar panel maker that received over $500 million in loans from the Department of Energy in 2009, only to go bankrupt last fall.  Congress and the FBI continue to investigate whether there was any wrongdoing in that deal, and while the administration has steadfastly insisted that political connections had nothing to do with the issuance of that loan over the objections of DOE financial analysts, there remains a lot of smoke for there to be no fire.  Documents released on Friday reveal that the administration learned in the Fall of 2010 that Solyndra was in trouble and about to announce large-scale layoffs, and the White House was apparently more concerned with the optics of that development on the mid-term elections than on what that development said about the wisdom of such deals.
Last November, Energy Secretary Steven Chu took “full responsibility” for the decision to go ahead with the Solyndra loan, saying that decision was his, and his alone.  He also conceded he did not expect taxpayers to recover much, if any, of their money.  President Obama stood by Chu, and basically pooh-poohed the loss as no big deal; just one of the inevitable lumps we have to expect to take.
Better get your helmet on, Lumpy.
CBS News reported over the weekend that as many as 11 more of these “clean energy” loan recipients may be in similar trouble.  Of 12 companies (including Solyndra) CBS identified as being in trouble—totaling $6.5 billion in federal loans—5 have already filed for bankruptcy.  That’s 12 out of a grand total of about 40 “green energy” firms receiving DOE loans.  One of the bankrupts, Beacon Energy, turns out to have had an S&P rating of CCC-plus—non-investment grade bad junk bond status—yet it still received $43 million in taxpayer money.  Among the not-dead-yet firms that haven’t quite found their way to the bankruptcy court are companies like Nevada Geothermal—a pet project of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid—which received $98.5 million from DOE, some $80 million of which didn’t go to develop green energy and create jobs, but instead went immediately towards a prior loan that was already in default, according to Rep. Darrell Issa, one of those driving the Solyndra investigation.  SunPower—recipient of $1.2 billion after being taken over by a French oil company—owes more than it’s worth.  And there’s First Solar—recipient of $3 billion in federal loans—which fired its CEO after losing more than any other company in the S&P 500 in 2011.
All of these loan projects come out of the Department of Energy, and Secretary Chu continues to defend the program, despite mounting evidence that something is going drastically wrong with it.  Which begs the question, who is this guy, and what qualifies him to be the man with “full responsibility” for making go/no-go decisions that are “[his], and [his] alone” on billions of dollars in federal loans to private businesses?
Dr. Steven Chu is a physics professor and a career academic.  His degrees are in mathematics and physics.  Prior to becoming Energy Secretary, he was a professor of physics and molecular biology at Cal-Berkeley, and before that he taught physics at Stanford.  He won a Nobel Prize in physics in 1997.  One gets the impression that Dr. Chu kicks ass at physics, and if you want someone to study the effect of lasers on molecular structures through the time-space continuum (don’t get too caught up in what the hell that means, it’s just a combination of words I just made up, and it may well be gibberish—I’m not a physicist), he’s probably your man. 
I’m sure he’s also a nice guy and has the best of intentions.  But other than the fact that he has an extensive background in receiving government grants, what the hell makes this man even remotely qualified to be taking spins of the venture capital roulette wheel with billions of dollars in house money?  Dr. Chu has no background in business or finance.  None.  Zero.  And who put him in this position?  That’s right:  Barack Obama, another career academic with not only zero experience in business or finance, but also no experience in management of any kind.
So we have one blind egghead leading another blind egghead.
Not only are the people in charge of these gambles singularly unqualified to be making them, I can’t find anything in the Constitution that authorizes them to make those bets.  Let’s assume for a second that Dr. Chu were in fact eminently qualified with an extensive background in business and venture capital transactions.  Let’s assume further that it’s a really, really good idea to provide billions of dollars in seed money for green energy startups.  Even if all of that were true—and apparently none of it is—that still wouldn’t mean that the United States federal government has the power to do it.
I’ve harped on this before.  The federal government is not empowered to do whatever the Executive Branch decides is a good or even necessary idea, and that’s true even if the President is right.  Article I only gives Congress the power to do 17 very specifically identified things (plus the power to enact legislation to do those 17 things).  NONE of them involve taking money from the citizenry to give to other citizens in the form of high-risk venture capital loans.  Article II only gives the President the power to execute the laws enacted by Congress.  Nothing in the Constitution authorizes the Congress or the President to operate an investment bank with taxpayer money.
Don’t even bother coming at me with the Commerce Clause.  The Commerce Clause authorizes Congress to regulate commerce, not to engage in commerce:
“The Congress shall have Power To . . . regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian Tribes[.]”
The intent of that provision was not for the federal government to promote or even to manage commerce, but simply to ensure that competing state tariffs didn’t result in a Balkanized economy; Hamilton and Madison discussed this very notion repeatedly throughout the Federalist Papers (see Nos. 7, 11, 22, and 42).  No, I’m not going to go back and review the thousands of pages of Supreme Court opinions over the last 150-so years explaining the “penumbras”—look it up—of power implied in those 21 simple words.  It is plain from the face of those words that the modern expansion of Congressional power allegedly derived from them perverts the Framers’ intent beyond recognition.
It is exceedingly dangerous when people in power go beyond their authority.  This is particularly so when they do so in areas where they think they’re smarter than everyone else, including the true experts, when in reality they have no idea what they’re doing.  This administration is out of its depth and out of control, and if we’re not careful, we’re all going to drown with it.

Government Sucks At Business

Annie:   Anything you can do, I can do better.  I can do anything better than you.
Frank:   No, you can’t.
Annie:   Yes, I can.
Frank:   No, you can’t.
Annie:   Yes, I can.
Frank:   No, you can’t.
—Annie and Frank, “Anything You Can Do,” from Annie Get Your Gun
Ronald Reagan warned us back in 1964 that “outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy.” 
The fact of the matter is that the United States federal government sucks at business.  Let’s leave aside for now my usual rant about the Constitution and limited government, and just consider the practical by revisiting a few examples of the “green economy” experiments the Obama administration has forced on the rest of us.
Solyndra
In September 2009, the Department of Energy approved a $535 million government-guaranteed loan to the California-based solar panel manufacturer, after pressure from the White House to speed up the process.  Conveniently, the approval came just two days before a previously-scheduled visit by Vice President Joe Biden and Energy Secretary Steven Chu, allowing them to use the visit to trumpet the deal as a victory for the administration’s commitment to “investing” in green technology.  The deal was supposed to generate at least 4,000 jobs.
What wasn’t disclosed at the time was that Solyndra’s loan application had been tabled by the Bush administration, and financial analysts within the Obama administration—i.e., business people who might actually know what they’re talking about in this area—questioned the deal and the cash flow assumptions upon which it was based, predicting that Solyndra would run out of cash in September 2011.  By March 2010, auditors were questioning Solyndra’s continuing solvency, even as President Obama was visiting the company and touting it as a model of clean technology and job creation.  In February 2011, the Energy Department helped Solyndra restructure its debt, moving taxpayers to the back of the line of creditor claimants, curiously behind private investors like Obama mega-contributor George Kaiser.  On August 31, 2011, almost to the day financial experts within the Obama administration said it would, Solyndra filed for bankruptcy, and laid off almost its entire workforce.
So much for job creation.
Fisker Automotive and A123 Systems
In 2009, Fisker Automotive received a $529 million Department of Energy loan—sound familiar?—to produce high-performance luxury electric cars.  At the same time, A123 Systems received a $249.1 million grant from DOE to develop the battery that was eventually supplied to Fisker for use in its Karma, the $102,000-a-pop car that was to come from its DOE loan (in fairness, Fisker also plans to use part of the loan money to produce a more economical “Nina,” but production of that car won’t be seen until at least 2013).
How many of you in the 99% are lining up to get one of those?
Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the showroom.  First, production was delayed from 2009 to 2011 due to regulatory issues; in other words, the government’s own EPA left hand was getting in the way of its green technology right hand.  Then, only 239 cars were produced, every one of which was recalled in December due to safety issues associated with the A123 battery.  And even then, the EPA fuel economy ratings for the Karma (52MPGe with a range of 32 miles, 20 MPG on gasoline) ultimately fell well short of the green nirvana promised by Fisker executives (67MPGe with a range of 70 miles).   But here’s the kicker:
Fisker assembles the Karma in Finland. 
In Finland.
In.  Freaking.  Finland.
So what we see here is three-quarters-of-a-billion-dollars in taxpayer money wrapped up in a project that to date has produced a grand total of 239 cars retailing at more than double the median U.S. income, that aren’t nearly as “green” as promised and have been recalled due to safety issues, and that are built in Finland, not the U.S.
Is that all you get for your money?
Chevrolet Volt
Remember “too big to fail”?
General Motors was one of those.  The U.S. Treasury spent $49.5 billion to help GM weather its 2009 bankruptcy, and the U.S. taxpayer still holds about a 25% stake in the company.  At its current stock price of around $23 a share, we’re still about $24 billion in the red on this “investment.”  The stock would have to more than double to around $55 for us just to break even.
Meanwhile, GM unleashed the Chevy Volt, which was to lead a new revolution in green electric cars (never mind that these cars run on batteries charged with electricity that’s still generated by fossil fuels, and no one as yet has figured out how to dispose of the dangerous lithium once those batteries die).  Trouble is, with a base sticker starting above $40,000, few can afford the Volt.  Even with a federal tax subsidy of $7500 to anyone who purchases a Volt, GM has only managed to sell about 8,000 units in the U.S. and Canada since 2010, again as predicted by an Obama administration task force, who advised the President in 2009 that the car “will likely be too expensive to be commercially successful.”  Yet on they pressed.  And now, like the Fisker Karma, it appears that GM may be moving production of the Volt abroad (such as it is)—in this case, to China.
All of this begs the question why the Left has such a hard time understanding that the government shouldn’t be in the business of being in business.  For all their insistence on the importance of investing in a green future, of the need for government to stimulate growth and create American jobs, you’d expect to hear them trumpeting some success stories.  Where are the concrete examples of actual substantive success in these ventures?  From just the three examples above, we see some $51 billion in taxpayer money spent on projects that have resulted in one bankruptcy, two manufacturing units and the jobs they embody being shipped overseas, and the sale of fewer than 9,000 cars; cars that don’t work that well, aren’t as green as advertised, and that virtually no one can afford.
I’ve made this point before, but it bears repeating.  The essence of the theory of evolution is that nature, given a large enough universe of sample events, adapts to find the most efficient means of supporting and propagating life.  The same holds for capitalism: millions of people making billions of decisions driven by their own economic best interest will result in adaptations diverting capital resources to their most efficient use.  Better ideas rise to dominate, and poorer ideas are cast aside.  Meanwhile, the price of experimentation is very, very small; the consequences of any one of these billions upon billions of decisions being a mistake are localized and miniscule.
But when government intervenes, we give up the statistical house advantage of numbers.  In place of billions of small low-risk decisions by millions of people acting in their own interest we substitute a handful of gigantic bets made by a small number of people who inherently lack the time, expertise, information, and self-interest to make them.  And the consequences of any one of those bets going bad are large in scale and magnitude of their impact.
   
If people need a better mousetrap, profit motive will drive someone to develop it at a price people are willing to pay, and everybody wins.  But if nobody wants that mousetrap, all the government accomplishes by trying to force it on the market is waste, and the only one that wins is government.  That’s what happens when a handful of egomaniacal academics decide that they know better than the rest of us how to allocate our own money. 
That’s why government sucks at business.

Transparency And Accountability

And you want her
And she wants you
And no one, no one,
no one ever is to blame.
—Howard Jones, No One Is To Blame
Can no one in this administration accept responsibility for anything?  Can no one even answer a damn question?
Getting a do-over on his testimony before the Congressional committee investigating Operation Fast & Furious, Attorney General Eric Holder continued with his Teflon “I didn’t know” defense.  Although he admitted that the operation was “unacceptable” and “should never have happened,” Holder declined to apologize for it, and nowhere in his testimony did he even suggest that he as the top man in the Department of Justice should be held accountable for any of it.  Despite acknowledging that his department’s February letter to Congress explaining that every effort was being made to intercept illegal gun trafficking into Mexico was “inaccurate,” nowhere in his testimony did he suggest that he had any responsibility for misleading Congress.  Even though Holder said he “certainly regrets” the fact that at least two of the weapons ATF let go as part of Fast & Furious wound up at the crime scene where Border Agent Brian Terry was murdered, he hasn’t bothered to contact the Terry family, and even went as far in his testimony to complain that it is “not fair” to link Terry’s murder to the flawed gunwalking program.
Holder complained that inquiries into when, exactly, he knew what was going on—he’s now admitted in the face of considerable documentary evidence that his May testimony that he only learned about Fast & Furious “for the first time over the last few weeks” could probably have been modified to say “a couple of months”—are an inappropriate distraction from the real issue of stopping the flow of guns.  Holder complained that it’s really Congress that’s to blame by not providing ATF with more support.  Reliable Leftist Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT) even began setting up the tired old “blame Bush” defense, sending a letter to the Inspector General asking whether the Justice Department probe would also be including similar programs conducted during the Bush administration.
Are there any adults in this administration at all?
We’ve seen a similar pattern of denials and deflections in the continuing saga of Solyndra.  No one in the Obama administration has been willing to stand up and say “that was a mistake, and it’s on me.”  Along with all the stonewalling of Congressional requests for information, there’s been no effort to accept responsibility or to admit that the loan program was being administered by green energy zealots who lacked the qualifications and intellectual detachment necessary to be making those kinds of financial decisions.  Obama has flippantly characterized it as a necessary bet, where we all knew some loans weren’t going to work out.  Hey, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose—you pays your money and you takes your chances.  The problem, of course, is we’re not talking about dropping $1,000 on a 30-1 longshot at the track, or losing $10,000 on a commodity futures contract; we’re talking about a $530 million loss of taxpayer funds.
In one instance we have a dead American law enforcement officer, and thousands of weapons now in the hands of Mexican drug cartels.  In the other instance we have hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars funneled to a soon-to-be-bankrupt firm owned by major Obama contributors without adequate financial review.  In both instances we see the administration going to some lengths to resist Congressional inquiries into what the hell happened.  And in neither case has anyone stepped up to accept responsibility, and basically no one has resigned or been fired.  Oh to be sure, Jonathan Silver, the head of the Energy Department’s loan office—the subagency through which the Solyndra loans were run—resigned in October, but his departure was previously planned to take effect when the loan program itself expired at the end of September.
This is particularly interesting in the Fast & Furious situation.  It is all too obvious that the program—which involved deliberately letting large quantities of guns cross the border into Mexico in the hopes of them creating a trail of bread crumbs that would lead ATF to the major drug cartels—was colossally inappropriate from its inception.  As the documents laying out the details and the level of higher-echelon involvement within the Department of Justice have come to light, even AG Holder has had to admit that the program was a bad, bad idea.
Unacceptable.  Should never have happened.  
But this leaves us with a dilemma:  either Holder is lying and he knew about the program (and thus at least tacitly authorized it), or Holder is telling the truth and he didn’t know.  If he did know, the only decent thing for him to do is to admit it, accept responsibility, and resign.  That obviously hasn’t happened, and there is no sign that it’s about to any time soon.  Obama has steadfastly stood by his AG, which makes you wonder what dirt Holder has on Obama that Obama’s grandmother didn’t. 
If Holder did not know about it, as he continues to insist is the case, surely he will acknowledge that it is something he should have beentold about—presumably he would then have stopped it—and wasn’t.  If that is the situation, then what you have are rogue elements (or people in decision-making positions who lack the judgment of your average 8-year-old) within the ATF or elsewhere in the Department of Justice, and they should be fired.  But not only has that not happened, the supervisors responsible for running Fast & Furious—William McMahon, William Newell and David Voth—were actually reassigned (some say “promoted”–I’ll leave that to others) in August.  The one exception was U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, who resigned after being questioned by congressional investigators. 
The obvious question is why has there been so little fallout?
If Fast & Furious was as unacceptable as Eric Holder now admits it was, and if he and the President are as clean on it as they insist they are, there is no reason not to have had a massive housecleaning over it.  That’s what being accountable is.  But as Lyndon Johnson once said of J. Edgar Hoover, “It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.”  The only conceivable reason not to have fired everyone in a leadership position associated with Operation Fast & Furious is to keep them—and most importantly, their mouths—under control, lest they point out the skeletons and implicate Holder and the President.
Newly-inaugurated President Barack Obama told his staff on January 21, 2009:  “The way to make government responsible is to hold it accountable.  And the way to make government accountable is to make it transparent so that the American people can know exactly what decisions are being made, how they’re being made, and whether their interests are being well-served.”
Right, Mr. President.

A Portrait Of Incompetency

 
“You left Claire for Frisbee the Dog?  Frank, let me sum this up for you:  you don’t know who you are, you don’t know what you want, and you don’t know what the hell is going on!”
—David Johansen as The Ghost of Christmas Past in Scrooged
Don’t look now, but the Peter Principle may have finally achieved its ultimate manifestation. 
I suppose we really shouldn’t be surprised when we elect as our Commander-In-Chief a man with literally no substantive job experience.  Oh, I guess he did author an autobiography, which was pretty audacious for a 34 year old with no meaningful life experience or achievements:  absentee junior associate, “community organizer,” part-time law professor, and incomplete-term legislator. 
Present.
But I don’t think anyone, even the major-league talk radio guys, could have imagined the level of incompetency in this administration would be this spectacular, and this pervasive.  Consider just what we’ve seen in the last few months:
  • Operation Fast & Furious, in which the Justice Department deliberately permitted thousands of illegal guns to be trafficked to Mexican drug cartels, some of which ended up back in the U.S. where they were used to murder Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.  Dozens of documents now reveal that information about this project was made available at least as high up as Attorney General Eric Holder, who either (a) in fact knew about and authorized this colossally stupid program (and is now lying about it), (b) could have known about it but didn’t bother to read the reports (Holder’s story now), or (c) really doesn’t have any idea or control over what is going on at DOJ.
  • The Solyndra (and Tesla Motors, and Beacon Power, etc.) “green energy” loan debacle, where the physics-professor-headed Department of Energy guaranteed $535 million in loans to a fledgling company in an unproven startup industry, and did so over the skepticism—if not outright objection—of those charged with doing the financial review of that deal, only to see it go bankrupt almost to the day when the financial experts predicted it would.  
  • Stimulus and the proposed Son of Stimulus, with the economy remaining stagnant and unemployment chronically stuck above 9%, despite Obama’s promises that with Stimulus I it would remain below 8%.  In response to the obvious failure, Obama offered the juvenile quip back in June that “shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected.”  Perhaps he wouldn’t have been so surprised at the gulf between his “shovel-ready” promises and reality if he or anyone in his administration had any experience or background relevant to administering any of the tasks he is purporting to undertake.
But let’s look at some of the recent issues in the Middle East, where Thomas Friedman and others have been proclaiming Obama to be an unqualified success.
Over the weekend, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization voted overwhelmingly to grant the Palestinian Authority full membership.  It did so over the U.S.’ “nay” vote, and despite federal law requiring the U.S. to withdraw its funding of the group (22% of UNESCO’s total budget) as a consequence.  While meaningless in and of itself, the vote clothes the Palestinians with an increasing degree of international legitimacy, and gives considerable momentum to their bid last month for full recognition by the U.N. proper.
It is worth noting that the Palestinians’ statehood recognition request to the U.N. was in itself made over the U.S.’ objection and in spite of a threatened U.S. veto in the Security Council.  In both instances, if Obama and the State Department have been doing any work with the relevant players to see that it never came to a public game of chicken that hasn’t been apparent.  What has been apparent has been nearly three years of publicly undermining Israel’s negotiating position, and inexplicably backhanding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for all the world to see.  The result is an embarrassing and dangerous standoff that the U.S. will ultimately lose, and it will be Israel that pays the price.
Paralleling the apparent inaction, non-communication, and ally-abandonment that have been the hallmarks of the administration’s “policy” in Israel, it was revealed last week that as the relationship with the new leadership in Iraq has soured over the timing and scope of the withdrawal of U.S. troops, neither Obama nor Vice President Joe Biden—supposedly the administration’s point man on the issue—had any communications with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki since February.  None.  Nada.  Zero.  Scratch.  Zilch.  Other than to tell him unilaterally on October 21 that all U.S. troops would be withdrawn by the end of the year—information made known to all the world, including those potential enemies who would most profit from that knowledge—there wasn’t so much as a phone call.
And you thought Obama was treating Bibi like his bitch.
We’ve seen the Obama administration cheer on the so-called “Arab Spring,” and even supply military assistance to the rebels in Libya (query how many grieving Iranian mothers and students-cum-political prisoners are left to wonder where the hell this pro-regime change policy was two years ago).  But has Obama had any idea what was going to rise to fill the resulting void?  In Tunisia, the “free elections” Obama has so loudly praised have resulted in the election of an Islamist regime that is now implementing Sharia law.  In Egypt, following the removal of reliable U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak—again with Obama waving his pom-poms on the sidelinesanti-Christian violence is now rampant, and elections next month threaten to yield the same result as in Tunisia, with the hard-line Muslim Brotherhood poised to play a significant role, if not gain outright power.  Ditto Libya, where the death of Mohammar Qaddafi has opened the door for a more Islamic fundamentalist (read: radical jihadi) regime to take hold.  God only knows what the end game will look like in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Oman, Jordan, etc.—the track record in those places where it’s already played out, however, doesn’t look very rosy.
Be careful what you wish for/ ‘cause you just might get it all/ You just might get it all.
Meanwhile, our relationship with former “ally” Pakistan has deteriorated to the point that even U.S.-installed Afghan leader Mohammed Karzai has pledged support for Pakistan should it come to a war with the U.S.  I had no idea we were at the point of even discussing a conflict with Pakistan, much less choosing sides.


And, of course, there is the well-documented situation in Iran, where Mahmoud Ahmedinedjad has as a publicly stated policy goal the elimination of Israel.  Ahmedinedjad, who is now armed with cruise missiles and is not far from obtaining nukes.  Ahmedinedjad, who earlier this summer announced the Iranian navy would soon be patrolling just off U.S. watersan announcement met with essentially no reaction by the White House.  More sanctions, maybe a request for a U.N. resolution.


That’s bold leadership, Mr. President.  Bold, indeed.
Across the board, it appears this President spends more time and effort on his March Madness bracket than he does actually grasping and taking on the foreign policy issues we face.  He has failed to take an active leadership role, and failed to assess adequately the consequences of events playing out one way versus the other—a failing he shares with both Bush administrations, by the way.  And when he has taken action it has been to tip his hand, unnecessarily concede negotiating positions, or to show outright weakness.  The level of ignorance and/or naïveté in this administration is mind-boggling; the degree to which this President is simply a pussy is frightening.
What’s it going to be like 6-12 months from now (especially if by then it appears that Obama is likely to win re-election), with virtually no U.S. troop presence in the Middle East?  What’s it going to be like with at best no Arab check on Iran, or at worst universal Arab support for Iran?  How emboldened will Ahmedinedjad be then?      
I can only pray we’ll find a successor to Reagan’s mantle in time.
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Keystone XL Pipeline Watch: 68 days since final State Department Report, with still no action by the White House
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Editor’s Note:  I will be traveling on business the remainder of this week, and may be unable to post.  Thanks for your patience, and I look forward to getting back.

Obama And Action On Jobs

With the coming of the Second World War, many eyes in imprisoned Europe turned hopefully, or desperately, toward the freedom of the Americas.  Lisbon became the great embarkation point. But not everybody could get to Lisbon directly, and so a tortuous, roundabout refugee trail sprang up: Paris to Marseilles, across the Mediterranean to Oran, then by train, or auto, or foot across the rim of Africa, to Casablanca in French Morocco.  Here, the fortunate ones through money, or influence, or luck, might obtain exit visas and scurry to Lisbon; and from Lisbon, to the New World.  But the others wait in Casablanca . . . and wait . . . and wait . . . and wait . . .
—Opening narration, Casablanca
You should pass it right away.

We are given to understand that the President thinks there is some urgency behind the need to take action to create jobs.  And you know the campaign pitch that’s coming:  It’s the Tea Party Republicans holding everything up.  Obama can’t run on his record, so he’s going to have to run on the straw man of what his record “would have been” but for the stonewalling from the do-nothing Right.

Can’t these people say “yes” to anything?
But where has this urgency been during the 28 months since May 2009 when—despite assurances that Stimulus I would guarantee unemployment stayed below 8%—unemployment first passed 9%, cresting at 10.1% in October of that year; a time, by the way, at which the Democrats held the White House and overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress?  They could have passed anything they wanted, and there would have been nothing the Tea Party or anyone else could have done to stop it.  But instead of acting on jobs, they chose to use that time and their effective supermajority—curiously always behind closed doors, in the middle of the night, and at the last minute—to ram through Obamacare and attempt to ram through Cap-and-Trade.
Where was that urgency in April of this year, when after a temporary dip to 8.8, unemployment shot back above 9%, yet there was no plan from Obama?
Where was that urgency in June when Debbie Wasserman-Schultz said the Democrats “own the economy,” and unemployment was at its 2011 high of 9.2%, yet there was no plan from Obama?
Where was that urgency during the entire month of August—a month during which the economy generated zero net jobs—while the President was so busy on the golf course he couldn’t be bothered to send a draft of his “jobs plan” for Congress to review in advance of his petulant and, frankly, childish tongue-lashing?
Where is that urgency now as Harry Reid and the Democrat-controlled Senate sit on the proposal it took Obama 966 days in office to publish because even he and the Leftists in Congress can’t get behind it?
Obama and the Left continue to dream about the hypothetical jobs of the green future—or at least funneling hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars to their billionaire friends (see Solyndra).  But they can’t manage to grasp that there’s a very real need for very real jobs right now.  And there is action that can be taken right now that will allow private industry to create jobs without costing a single taxpayer cent. 
Case in point:  The Keystone Pipeline.
As I discussed in a post last month, the Keystone XL Pipeline extension is a proposed project to extend the existing Keystone Pipeline from oil-rich sands in Canada to refineries in Texas.  This project would significantly increase the volume of available crude, and create thousands of construction, transportation, and refining jobs, all without federal “stimulus” money.  It’s been held up in bureaucratic red tape due to alleged environmental concerns—recall that Daryl Hannah, one of the great minds of our time, was arrested at a protest outside the White House (one wonders how she got there from her off-the-grid Colorado bungalow; betcha dollars-to-donuts it involved flying in one of those private jets the Left so hate)—and was awaiting a revised State Department report on the potential environmental impact.  The State Department issued its final report August 26, stating that the project would have “no significant impacts” to the environment if proper practices were followed.  All the project needs is Obama’s go-ahead.  Yet now a month later, while we’ve heard endless browbeating from Obama about the need to act now on jobs, he has done absolutely nothing on this project; a project that actually is “shovel ready,” actually will create jobs, and actually will not cost U.S. taxpayers. 
It is worth noting that one of the environmentalists’ core objections isn’t with the pipeline itself, but with the fact that it is transporting oil developed from so-called “tar sands” that represent a huge boost in reserves.  In a report published two Sundays ago in the Houston Chronicle, it appears that Chinese firms are spending billions to gobble up large segments of these Canadian sands, and will surely develop them regardless of whether Keystone XL gets built.  The only question is whether we will participate.  At a time when the White House and Congressional Left are so concerned about ceding industries to the Chinese, this seems like a no-brainer.  “Green” energy may ultimately prove to be the industry of the future, but oil and natural gas are in indisputable fact the industry of right now.  News reports continually say that his approval is “expected by the end of 2011,” but if the need to act on jobs is so urgent, and this project actually does create jobs, why not act now?
The answer is Keystone is part of Obama’s continuing political war on the oil industry.  The American Petroleum Institute—yes, it’s an oil industry lobby group, but its proposals have been echoed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—has suggested that programs to increase leasing and open drilling areas in places like the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska could create between a half-million and a million jobs, and would do so not only without costing the taxpayer, but would generate billions in revenue through additional royalties and lease rentals as well as additional excise and other taxes.  But Obama—who can’t stop lecturing on the need to stop playing politics and take action—can’t bring himself to go along with these, either. 
The truth is Obama isn’t the least bit interested in creating jobs.  He’s interested in creating the illusion of action, while punishing those the Left perceives as their enemies, and redistributing what wealth is left in this country.  It is more politically expedient to him to pander to the environmental zealots and anti-industry wackos in his base by holding up projects like Keystone, preventing domestic drilling, and pursuing industry-specific tax increases, than it is for him to take action that will actually create jobs in the real world.  So vast reserves continue to go untapped, and thousands who could be employed continue to sit idle.
At least everyone comes to Rick’s.

Solyndra: Economics Is Not The Olympics

Us and them
And after all, we’re only
Ordinary men
—Pink Floyd, Us and Them

Every time I turn on a golf tournament, the TV leader board posts a national flag next to the players’ names, as though they are competing in the tournament on behalf of their country.  Well, with all due respect to Jim Nantz—who, incidentally, is the best in the business—South Africa didn’t win the Masters this year.  Charl Schwartzel did. 

When did everything become the Olympics? 
I bring this up because some of the commentary in the wake of the brewing Solyndra disaster reflects this same sort of global competition mindset.  Yes, the Solyndra deal brings into sharp relief the breathtaking level of incompetency within the Obama administration—even the Bush administration ultimately got it right and rejected that deal.  Yes, it demonstrates the problem with the Left’s blind adherence to their “green jobs” religion.  Yes, it may be the tip of a very large iceberg of cronyism and corruption that could prove bigger than Watergate if those with the means to do so will investigate it with the same tenacity Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein went after a two-bit burglary. 
But notice the kind of thinking that is playing out here.  White House Press Secretary Jay Carney defended the loan program from which the Solyndra debacle emanated: 
“We have a choice to make as a nation, because we will be buying renewable energy products, you know, whether it’s wind, biofuel, solar . . . Do we want to buy it with a stamp on it that says ‘Made in America’ or are we going to buy it from the Chinese or other countries?  We have to be aggressive in competing in the global economy.  And, you know, high-tech clean-energy industries are going to be key to winning this century economically.” 
The always erudite Henry Waxman echoed the sentiment: 
“If you live in reality, you know the world cannot continue its dependence on fossil fuels and that we are in danger of losing this industry to our competitors, especially China.”
Nevermind the wrongheaded self-certainty of the basic premise that “we will be buying renewable energy products”—nobody’s buying them, which was exactly Solyndra’s undoing.  It’s the underlying mindset that’s the problem here.  We have to be aggressive in competing.  We are in danger of losing this industry to our competitors. 
For these people, the global market has become a matter of the United States, as a collective unit, competing against China, rather than Solyndra and First Solar competing against Suntech Power and Yingli Green Energy.  It’s no longer a competition between private enterprises, but between nations.  And it is this sort of thinking that leads to programs where the federal government is making essentially zero-interest loans—read:  subsidizing—to startups.  Because “we” have to win in the global competition with China, “we” have to “invest” in these businesses.   
Except that these businesses like Solyndra aren’t “us.”  They’re still privately-owned firms—owned by billionaires, incidentally.  And they are risky startups in unproven markets existing almost solely by virtue of—you guessed it—still more government subsidies.  If a group of people wants to start a business in that industry and try to make a profit by developing a technology that can do it cheaply and effectively, great.  Go for it.  But what these federal low-cost loan programs do is allow such entrepreneurs to forcibly take money from the rest of us to risk as venture capital.  If it works, they get rich.  If it doesn’t, we take the hit.   
Where do I sign up? 
The United States government isn’t an investment bank, and it shouldn’t be in the business of being in business.  These days it isn’t even very good at being in the business of government, but here it’s totally out of its depth.  What we see in Solyndra is an exceedingly low-interest loan being made to a venture so risky it couldn’t get real investment bank financing, which is exactly ass-backward.  This is what you get when you have a department headed by a physics professor—i.e., someone who’s never known anything but government-funded programs—with no background in business, finance, or economics making half-billion dollar business investment decisions; it’s no coincidence that Solyndra went bankrupt in September 2011, exactly when the people who actually do know something about money and markets said it would. 
Nor is it necessary for government to create markets where they don’t exist and then finance businesses to fill them.  John D. Rockefeller didn’t need federal assistance to enter the then-fledgling petroleum industry by creating what became Standard Oil (which after being broken up due to antitrust issues in 1911 became all or parts of what today are ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and BP)—in fact he did it despite ever-increasing adverse regulation.  Alexander Graham Bell didn’t need the government to invent the telephone and create American Bell Telephone (later folded into the original American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T)), thus launching the modern communications industry.  Steve Jobs didn’t need massive federal subsidies to start Apple, thus essentially creating the personal computer market from scratch. 
This shouldn’t be about the U.S. or China; it should be about letting the markets do what markets do.  If it’s a good idea, and consumers want it, the technology will develop and the businesses will come (and hence, jobs).  And American ingenuity and drive will continue to expand horizons and thrive, just as it has for the last 200+ years.  Government should be there to ensure that people like these have an even playing field—that’s what trade agreements and tariffs are for, and that’s exactly the kind of thing the Framers envisioned the federal government doing under the Commerce Clause (see Federalist Paper No. 45).  But it isn’t the government’s place to force us all to make risky investments, or to guarantee a market, or ensure against failure.  Let the market sort it out; good, efficient ideas will survive.  Bad and inefficient ideas should be allowed to die, or they become a perpetual drag. 
The idea that it’s zero-sum, either the Chinese win or the Americans win is wrong.  If a Chinese company can make a better, cheaper mousetrap, so be it.  And in fact, if the Chinese government wants to make it a loss-leader by subsidizing it, so much the better—American consumers (assuming they want mousetraps at all) get them even cheaper, and they do so on China’s, er, nickel.  
Maybe an American company should do something else that it does better.  That way, everyone wins.