Trading Bad

“What I give them lasts a lifetime; what they give me lasts 142 games.  Sometimes it seems like a bad trade.  But bad trades are part of baseball.  Who can forget Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, for God’s sake?”

        —Susan Sarandon as Annie Savoy in Bull Durham

 

I suppose these things happen.

In 1989 the Minnesota Vikings gave the Dallas Cowboys five players and six draft picks (including three #1 picks and three #2 picks) for an aging Herschel Walker and a couple of mid-late round draft picks that, other than receiver Jake Reed, didn’t turn into anyone you’ve ever heard of, and the Vikings haven’t even sniffed the Super Bowl since.  Dallas converted those picks into (among others) Hall-of-Famer Emmitt Smith, Pro Bowlers Darren Woodson and Russell Maryland, receiver Alvin Harper, and three Super Bowl wins in four years in the early-to-mid-1990s.

A lopsided deal, to be sure.  But as far as I know, nobody died in the process.

By now you’ve seen that the Obama Administration made a deal with the Taliban to exchange five jihadists from Guantanamo Bay for Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held prisoner in Afghanistan and Pakistan since 2009.  On its face this doesn’t seem like a major issue, and one might even call it a victory any time we can secure the return of an American POW.  The U.S. government has on many occasions and under a number of administrations engaged in spy swaps and other forms of prisoner exchanges.

But this one struck me as different from the get-go, and as more facts emerge—and I confess we’re still pretty early in that process—the worse this thing looks.

To begin with—and maybe this is just my ignorance—I thought it a bit odd that the Taliban even had a U.S. prisoner to exchange.  I did not know they were in the business of keeping live American prisoners, and indeed it turns out that Sgt. Bergdahl was the only one they had.  Which in itself begs the question why they had him alive in the first place; what value was he to them?

Then there was the notion of the exchange rate.  I do not mean to imply that any human being is more or less valuable than any other, but in return for this single infantry sergeant the Obama administration gave up five reportedly senior Taliban officials and military leaders, including men with direct ties to al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden (don’t sweat that, because Obama got a pinky-promise from the government of Qatar that they’ll keep an eye on these guys for the next year, just to make sure they don’t revert to their more violent tendencies; you’ll forgive us, however, if we wonder if that’s as good as the one Obama gave Bart Stupak (D-MI)).  Not only is that effectively trading generals for foot soldiers, but it’s not even a 1:1 deal.  Of course, we’ve seen how Obama negotiates with anyone outside the GOP, so that isn’t particularly a surprise.

But I can excuse all of that.

What I can’t excuse are the details that are emerging about the apparent circumstances of Bergdahl’s “capture,” and the way the President went about making this deal.

All the facts are not in; the Pentagon says it will investigate the matter, and unlike the many other promises from this Administration that it will investigate this, that, or the other thing and hold those responsible accountable—see Benghazi, Fast & Furious, IRS, NSA, VA, etc.—this one I sort of believe.  But what appears to be coming clear is that Bergdahl was not an ordinary POW captured in combat.  Multiple reports from men in his unit—apparently until now suppressed by the Pentagon, undoubtedly at the direction of the White House—indicate that Bergdahl instead was a deserter who walked off his post and voluntarily into the hands of the Taliban (which might explain in part why he was in the unique position of being in Taliban hands alive).

That’s bad enough, and I understand that the military takes such a dim view of desertion that the penalties for such an action are, well, somewhat on the stiff side.  One could reasonably ask why you would give up anything in exchange for a deserter.  But what really should bother everyone about this is the fact that the U.S. military spent as much as 60 days trying to find and rescue Bergdahl, and as many as 14 U.S. soldiers died in the process.   Add to that the however many Americans killed in the process of capturing the five jihadists released from GITMO in order to get Bergdahl back.  By making this deal, the Obama administration has cheapened those sacrifices, if not nullified them entirely, all for what really amounts to a political smoke screen—since when does Obama give a crap about the military—aimed at distracting attention from the VA debacle (which was distracting attention from the Benghazi and IRS scandals, which were distracting attention from FUBARCare . . . ).

That ought to make you sick to your stomach.

Worse still, all of the nearly 3,000 Americans killed in Afghanistan—every one of them a volunteer, by the way—presumably died defending this country and the American way of life; a way of life that was supposed to be grounded in the rule of law and separation of powers guaranteed under the Constitution.  Say what you will about whether that’s what we’re accomplishing in Afghanistan from a policy standpoint—and it’s a fair complaint after twelve mostly rudderless years, and three years after the last plausibly legitimate objective was achieved—for people who volunteer to go there and serve, that’s what they believe they’re doing, and it’s why they’re doing it.  Yet, the Bergdahl trade represents yet another act in this Administration’s continuing imperial erosion of that concept.

Under the National Defense Authorization Act, the White House was obligated to give Congress 30 days’ advance notice before releasing any GITMO detainees.  Obama ignored this, and told no one in Congress ahead of time, except apparently Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who claims he was notified just before it happened.  Even liberal Harvard law professors and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) acknowledge that this was a violation of the law.  The Obama Administration claims—depending on when you ask them—it could not give notice because Bergdahl’s health was deteriorating such that his life was in immediate danger and they could not risk a delay scuttling the deal, or that the Taliban was going to kill him; but video of Bergdahl’s release appears to show him in reasonably good health, and it’s unclear why he would have suddenly been in immediate danger after having been in captivity for five years.  At this point in this Administration, does anyone with a mind even bother listening to the explanation du jour?

Part of the problem here is that it turns out that an exchange of GITMO prisoners for Bergdahl had been under consideration as far back as 2011—in itself begging the question why the sudden urgency now—and Congress told the President no.  But the bigger issue is the underlying attitude of this Administration that if in its sole judgment circumstances warranted a more expedited approach, then the law passed by Congress and signed by him simply didn’t apply.  This President has such utter contempt for Congress, the Constitution, and the separation of powers, and views himself so above the law, that none of it matters.  This prisoner exchange, like so many actions by this lawless President, is totally at odds with the framework of freedom so many have died in that godforsaken hellhole to defend.   Left unchecked, it leaves us yet another step down the path of voiding the price those servicemen and servicewomen paid.

And that’s a bad trade, indeed.

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Ask Not At Whom The Gun Points

 

“Mr. Ambassador, you have nearly a hundred naval vessels operating in the North Atlantic right now.  Your aircraft have dropped enough sonar buoys that a man could walk from Greenland to Iceland to Scotland without getting his feet wet.  Now, shall we dispense with the bull? . . . It would be wise for your government to consider that having your ships and ours, your aircraft and ours, in such proximity is *inherently* dangerous.  Wars have begun that way, Mr. Ambassador!”

       —Richard Jordan as National Security Advisor Jeffrey Pelt in The Hunt for Red October

 

March, 1770.  Large numbers of armed British troops have been occupying Boston for nearly two years.  The soldiers are not there to prevent some foreign force from harming those British citizens, but to enforce the Townshend Acts—a series of heavy taxes on imported goods—against them.  In other words, they are there as the muscle to make sure the people of Boston did what the King and Parliament in London said.

On March 5, a squad of these soldiers opens fire on a crowd during a confrontation outside the Old State House.  Five civilians are killed.  The event will later come to be known as the “Boston Massacre,” and it is among the flash points that will lead to the American Revolution.

It is also the almost inevitable result when a tyrannical central government turns its military against its own citizenry in an attempt to impose its will by force.

July 2, 2008.  Then-Senator Barack Obama, campaigning for the Presidency, gives a speech in Colorado Springs in which he called for a “civilian national security force” on the same scale as the U.S. military:

“We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that 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.”

Come again?

[As an aside, this statement alone should have illustrated that the man is completely ignorant or an idiot.  At that time, the U.S. military employed about 2.5 million people in and out of uniform, and was spending at a clip of over $700 billion a year, some 20% of the entire budget, and multiples above what the rest of the world, including our allies, spends combined.  And he was proposing to create out of thin air a second organization “just as powerful,” and “just as well-funded.”]

But back to the subject, just what is a “civilian national security force,” and what is its mission?  Is it to defend the U.S. against foreign threats?  Is it to project power and protect U.S. interests abroad?  Ask yourself these questions in light of Obama’s 2008 comments as you consider the following.

May 30, 2014.  We have previously covered the fact that over the last couple of years non-military branches of the federal government have been stockpiling billions of rounds of ammunition, military-grade weaponry, armored vehicles, and bullet-proof portable checkpoint facilities.  You could almost make the case for a small amount of that at DHS, which at least has a counter-terrorism function.  But why are huge amounts of guns and ammo being gathered at the Social Security Administration, or at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration?  Why are S.W.A.T. teams—yes, I said S.W.A.T. teams—being formed at federal agencies like:

  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of Education
  • U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
  • Tennessee Valley Authority
  • Office of Personnel Management

Your government is stationing armed troops among us, right under our noses.  Against whom are these non-military agencies being mobilized?  It can’t be against some external threat, because that’s already the function of the existing U.S. military that’s so under-utilized it’s being downsized.  That leaves only one alternative:  they’re being mobilized against us.

Why?

Draw your own conclusions, but I’ll make a few observations:

The Social Security Administration handles a gigantic pool of money, and while at least theoretically in IOU form that pool is currently earmarked for distribution back to the people who contributed it, what would happen if the government unilaterally decided to renege on those IOUs?

The Tennessee Valley Authority provides electricity for most of the Southeastern U.S.  What would happen if it closed its 11 coal-fired power plants, thus unemploying a huge number of coal workers, and likely resulting in the rationing of electricity?

The Department of Education is poised via Common Core to nationalize the U.S. education system.  What would happen if someone didn’t want to be, um, “educated”?

The Department of Agriculture and the Fish & Wildlife Service are heavily involved in the promotion of biofuels and regulation of endangered species.  Both efforts involve the potential seizure of vast swaths of land in the name of ensuring sufficient ethanol feedstocks or preserving this, that, or the other critter.

The Office of Personnel Management has, among its tasks, responsibility for conducting background investigations for background checks.  In other words, they’re in the business of collecting information about U.S. citizens.

NOAA has satellites, boats, and airplanes.

And with the exception of TVA (and even that’s federally-owned), the common thread running through all of these agencies is they are under the direct control of the Executive Branch, headed by people appointed directly by the White House.

Rusty, that’s crackpot conspiracy-theory nonsense.

Maybe so, but then I challenge you to come up with a legitimate benign alternative explanation.  And even if it is, let me add another piece of the puzzle.

In 2010, the Obama Administration issued DOD Directive 3025.18 (updated September 2012), Defense Support of Civil Authorities, authorizing the deployment of U.S. military assets to respond to domestic situations, including troops engaging in the use of force.  The document itself actually has its roots in the 1950s, and at its core is a reasonable defensive-preparedness tool.  The current iteration of the directive authorizes federal military intervention on U.S. soil “when necessary to protect Federal property or functions.”  That in itself is pretty vague and open to a wildly broad interpretation.  But it gets worse.

In addition to authorizing the deployment of troops, the 2010 document also authorizes the loaning out of military assets, including weapons, ammunition, vessels, and aircraft, to requesting agencies.  Prior to 2010 I can’t find any reference to the loaning out of military hardware.  Moreover, while the predecessors to the 2010 directive spoke in terms of providing assistance to “civil authorities”—i.e., state and local governments—as best I can tell the 2010 document for the first time expands the universe of those who can request combat assistance to “qualifying groups,” which means non-governmental bodies as determined by the Secretary of Defense.  In other words, under the guise of protecting federal property or “functions,” or otherwise where it is determined safety or security support is needed, the U.S. military and its assets are now subject to being deployed or loaned out on U.S. soil to anyone Chuck Hagel (or whomever Obama appoints) says.

Imagine the Sierra Club—or the DNC—being able to requisition a combat division, or at least borrow a few thousand military-grade rifles and a couple million rounds of ammo.

Your real military is being gutted, while Obama and his ilk do everything they can to disarm you.  Meanwhile unaccountable tentacles of the Executive Branch are arming themselves, and what’s left of the military is being authorized to deploy domestically at the behest of non-governmental entities.  The federal government is spending more time and effort preparing to defend itself than defending the borders against foreign invasion; it’s easier for a Guatemalan kid to get into Texas from Mexico than it is for a U.S. Marine.  It deploys all kinds of assets to rescue kidnapped Nigerians or find disappearing Malaysian airplanes, and it falls all over itself to feed and house illegals; but it can’t be troubled to lift a finger to rescue embattled Americans in Libya, or to free Americans or their spouses imprisoned for apostasy by Islamo-fascists in Iran or Sudan.  It cries bloody murder when an American has the temerity to expose the fact that it’s spying on ordinary citizens, yet broadcasts its schedule for withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan to the world.   Everyone on earth is entitled to the protection of the U.S. government except Americans.

Pogo cartoonist Walt Kelly made famous the statement “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Indeed.

Mysterious Ways

Mobster:       Clay Bertrand?  Sure I know him.  He comes around the Quarter.

Broussard:    Who is he, Joe?  I’ve been to all the bars.  No one wants to talk.

Mobster:       I told your uncle I never met a lawman who wasn’t a punk.  You, too, Bill, even if you’re family.  He’s a big shot businessman.  I seen him on the TV news a lot with all the other big shots.  Guy’s a fag, you know?  Goes by another name down here.

Broussard:    What’s the other name?

Mobster:       Shaw.  Clay Shaw.

Broussard:    Clay Bertrand is Clay Shaw?  The guy who used to run the International Trade Mart?

Mobster:       Yeah, what’s the big mystery?  Everybody down here knows the guy.

        —J.J. Johnston as the Mobster, and Michael Rooker as Bill Broussard in JFK

 

Over the last several days, whistleblowers have been coming forward to expose rampant incompetence, inefficiency, and outright fraud within the Veterans’ Administration.

Color me shocked.

Actually, I and many others have for years used the VA as Exhibit A for why FUBARCare was going to prove a bad idea.  Indeed, the VA is the poster-child for the problems inherent in central-government-provided service organizations.  And the fact that the VA was a trainwreck was so well-understood by everyone that FUBARCare’s proponents never even attempted to challenge it, relying instead on the evasion that things just would be different this time.

Everyone, apparently, except the President, who we’re told just got wind the other day from CNN that the VA sucks and is corrupt.

On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was fielding questions about the VA mess, in particular about when the President first learned of the problems.  He had this response:

“You mean the specific allegations that I think were reported first by [CNN] out of Phoenix, I believe?  We learned about them through the [news] reports.”

This is, of course, bullcrap as is everything else that spews forth from Carney’s, er, mouth.  But taking him at face value, here’s my question: where have I heard this before?

February 3, 2009:  Former Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD) ultimately withdrew from consideration as Health & Human Services Secretary after ABC News broke the story that he had failed to pay over $100,000 in taxes.  Speaking about the issue with NBC’s Brian Williams, Obama said “I screwed up,” and that he was “frustrated” and “disappointed” in himself and his team.  Screwed up what?  Frustrated and disappointed about what?  About not catching—and presumably quashing—that information ahead of time.  In other words:

I did not know my HHS nominee had a tax problem until I saw it on the news.

June 13, 2011:  Recall the heady days of 2009 when the new Administration and the Democrat supermajority in Congress was cramming through the first $800 billion round of “stimulus.”  A central—and oft-repeated—premise behind Stimulus was that a vast ocean of “shovel-ready” jobs would keep unemployment below 8% and eventually cut it to 5.6%.  That, of course, didn’t happen, leading Obama to wisecrack—because, you know, flushing $800 billion down the toilet is nothing if not funny—that “shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected.”  In other words:

I did not know there weren’t as many “shovel-ready” jobs as I thought until they failed to appear.

October 12, 2011:  We’ve covered Operation Fast & Furious many times in this space, and I will assume you remember the basic story.  Talking about the program with CNN Espanol, Obama said, “I heard on the news about this story that—Fast & Furious—where allegedly guns were being run into Mexico, and ATF knew about it, but didn’t apprehend those who had sent them.”

Everybody say it with me:

I did not know about Fast & Furious until I heard it on the news.

September 20, 2012:  You will also recall the September 11, 2012 assaults on the U.S. Consulate compound in Benghazi, and the Administration line (read: lie) tying the attacks to a wider outbreak of protests over a YouTube video.  Obama continued pushing this tale during a Univision town hall when asked whether the attacks in Libya were a terrorist attack:

“Well, we’re still doing an investigation, and there are going to be different circumstances in different countries . . . What we do know is that the natural protests that arose because of outrage over the video were used as an excuse by extremists to see if they can also directly harm U.S. interests.”

The Administration would later claim that the YouTube video story was the result of bad information from the intelligence community, but we now know that claim to be a lie.  However, taking the President at his word, once again the Administration’s essential message in response to a negative event was:

We did not know about it.

May 13, 2013: The President of the Associated Press announced that the Department of Justice secretly obtained phone records of individual reporters and an editor, including home phones and cell phones.  Jay Carney, in his daily press briefing, said, “Other than press reports, we have no knowledge of any attempt by the Justice Department to seek phone records of the AP.”

We did not know DOJ was seizing phone records until the AP reported it.

May 16, 2013:  Then-IRS official Lois Lerner was forced to admit that the IRS was targeting conservative groups for investigation into, or delay or outright denial of, tax-exempt status.  Of course, at the time the IRS denied any higher-level officials knew about it, and Jay Carney denied any knowledge of when the White House knew about it.  For his part, President Obama told a press gathering, “I can assure you that I certainly did not know anything about the [inspector general’s] report beforehand.”  By May 20, that story had morphed into an admission that senior white house staffers in fact did know about it, but didn’t tell the President.  In other words:

Obama did not know the IRS had been weaponized until it was reported in the press.

August 7, 2013:  Shortly before NSA was forced to admit publicly that it was gathering email, telephone, and Internet data on Americans, Obama went on the Tonight Show and told Jay Leno, “There is no spying on Americans.”

I did not know about spying on Americans until Edward Snowden told the world.

October 22, 2013: After four years of planning and hundreds of millions in development costs, the FUBARCare signup website opened as a colossal failure, and even as late as mid-November, nearly half the site still had yet to be constructed.  HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told CNN’s Sanjay Gupta that Obama did not know prior to the launch that the website had serious problems, although we would later learn that senior administration officials had been warned months earlier that the site would not be ready in time.  Once again:

Obama did not know about it until he read about the site failures in the news.

October 27, 2013:  After it came to light that NSA was also listening in on the heads of state of our European allies, NSA officials claimed—you guessed it—Obama was never told about it.

Obama didn’t know about spying on Angela Merkel until it was reported in the news.

If ignorance is bliss, Obama’s got to be the happiest guy on the planet.  But seriously, how many times does he get to claim the ostrich defense before he loses all credibility?  Every single time something bad happens, the response from the White House and its defenders is Obama didn’t know.  Every.  Single.  Time.  How can that be?  Even Alfred E. Neumann would be embarrassed by now.

Either—and this is my bet—he’s just a pathological liar and congenitally incapable of taking responsibility for anything, or he is galactically incompetent.  I understand a President has to delegate.  But he cannot be so detached that he has absolutely no idea—none—what’s going on within his Administration until he hears it from Wolf Blitzer on CNN’s The Situation Room.

We should simplify things and ask instead what Obama does know.  Maybe he can answer that before he grabs a dog at the turn.

The Coming Enviro-Nazi Revolution

You don’t need a weatherman

To know which way the wind blows

          —Bob Dylan, Subterranean Homesick Blues

 

Before I get into today’s material, let’s refresh our recollection on a couple of pertinent provisions of the Constitution (you know, that silly little document that’s only the supreme law of the land).

Article I, Section 1:

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States[.]

Article II, Section 2:

[The President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur[.]

Pretty straightforward.  Congress and Congress alone has the power to make laws.  And any treaty—an international agreement or compact, according to Black’s Law Dictionary—requires the approval of two-thirds of the Senate.

Those are the rules by which we’re supposed to be playing in this country.

With those in mind let’s look at today’s catalyst.  Fox News reports that the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) is launching a new initiative to expand its role in driving a global “green” agenda.  Albeit couched in vague and often sweepingly meaningless language, the purported scope of this initiative is vast, and the level of hubris (ignorance?) it displays is mind-boggling.  Witness this example from its statement of objective on disasters and conflicts:

“11.8  Disasters and conflicts.  As a part of United Nations system-wide strategies for natural and man-made disaster risk reduction and preparedness, crisis response and recovery, UNEP will build national capacity to use sustainable natural resource and environmental management to: (a) reduce the risk of natural and man-made disasters[.]”

Really?  The U.N. is going to reduce the risk of natural disasters?  You mean somewhere amidst the champagne, caviar, and hookers they figured out how to stop earthquakes?

Glory be.

More seriously (because I don’t normally take the U.N. all that seriously (can’t think why)), I want to focus on a specific piece of the UNEP initiative that I find particularly disturbing.  One of the explicit objectives is to expand the U.N.’s role in pushing its view of the “green” agenda via the legal process.  In other words, the U.N. wants a say in the creation and enforcement of law at the national level.  Consider the following “Indicators of achievement” regarding UNEP’s program of “Environmental Governance”:

“Increase in the number of legal and institutional measures taken by countries to enforce the rule of law and improve implementation of internationally agreed environmental objectives and goals, with the assistance of UNEP.”

“Increase in the number of countries that undertake a review of, and adopt recommendations for, enhanced compliance with, and enforcement of, international environmental obligations[.]”

“Increase in the number of initiatives and partnerships of major groups and stakeholders in support of the development and implementation of national and international environmental law, with the assistance of UNEP.”

UNEP wants to work to increase the number of (a) legal measures countries take to enforce the rule of law, (b) countries that adopt UNEP’s recommendations for compliance and enforcement of international environmental rules, and (c) initiatives in support of the development and implementation of national environmental law.  And all this flows directly from UNEP’s express strategy “to support coherent international decision-making processes on the environment, support development and implementation of environmental law, norms, and standards[.]”

In the U.S., as I have discussed at least here, here, here, here, and here,  we already have a serious problem with an arguably unconstitutional and undeniably unaccountable EPA running out of control.  But think about the implications of an unholy marriage of EPA and the U.N. in light of UNEP’s stated strategy.  And if you think it can’t happen, I have to tell you that we are in fact already heading down that path.

In 2011, EPA entered into a “Memorandum of Understanding” with UNEP reciting their intent to cooperate on matters of environmental policies.  Although it includes disclaimers that it is not intended to create law and does not constitute a binding agreement, this document smacks of an international treaty, yet as far as I know the Senate has never passed on it as required under our Constitution.

But it gets worse.

Among the areas where EPA has agreed to cooperate with UNEP is “the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws.”  EPA itself wasn’t supposed to be developing any laws in the first place; that is a power delegated to the Congress.  Yet under the guise of “regulations”—which get enforced, including criminal penalties, just the same as “laws” in the form of statutes passed by Congress—EPA has in practical fact been legislating for decades.  Now we have EPA agreeing to cooperate with UNEP in that practice, thus inviting U.N. participation in the creation of U.S. law, entirely bypassing Congress in the process.

If you thought taxation without representation was bad, try legislation—read: governance—without representation.

Possibly more sinister, buried in the details of this “cooperation” in the development of environmental law is a little thing called the “Global Judges Program.”  Uh oh.  This program under UNEP’s Division of Environmental Law and Conventions is explicitly aimed at conscripting the international judiciary to advance the “green” agenda on behalf of the U.N.:

“The goal of this programme of work is for DELC to carry out, on a cohesive, structured and sustained basis, national activities . . . for strengthening the role of the judiciary in securing environmental governance, adherence to the rule of law and the effective implementation of national environmental policies, laws and regulations including the national level implementation of multilateral environmental agreements.”  (emphasis mine)

The problem, of course, is that the international community in general, and the U.N. in particular, have a verrrry different view of the proper role of the judiciary and what “rule of law” means than has traditionally been the view in the U.S.  Outside of radical Progressive circles, the proper function of a judge in the U.S. at least used to be seen as being to apply the law as written by the appropriate legislative body.  That’s it.  And by “rule of law” we meant that the judge is to discharge this function dispassionately and objectively without regard for who the parties before the bar are, or what the “desired” outcome might be—the law is what it is, and the outcome it generates also is what it is.

For Progressives in the U.N. and EPA, however, the role of judges is to advance agendas by creating policy and law via judicial decree.  “Rule of law” is whatever a given judge says it is at any given time.  Now the U.N. wants an active role in pushing U.S. federal judges to serve in exactly this manner, creating and enforcing law in accordance with the U.N.’s “green” worldview, and EPA has agreed to cooperate in helping them achieve this.

This is a serious issue.  You don’t elect anyone at the U.N., and it operates outside the limitations of the U.S. Constitution.  Ditto EPA.  You don’t even elect federal judges.  Yet this combination of unelected and almost completely unaccountable powers is moving to create laws binding on you, and that will affect you and your very livelihood.

The U.N. was never intended as a government (at least not out loud).  It was intended as a forum for discussion and resolution of disputes without resort to world war.  But it is increasingly assuming the powers of a global government under the guise of environmental protection, and this is what’s really at the heart of the bullcrap global cooling/global warming/climate change/climate disruption hoax.  “Protection of the environment” can then be used as a justification for inserting government and law into any aspect of existence, and with the U.N. already controlling most of the “scientific” message on environmental issues, any resistance can conveniently be labeled “deniers” of “settled science”—an oxymoron in itself—and brushed aside like yesterday’s newspaper.

If we cede that sort of sovereignty, it’s over.

Transportation Overload

“Stop messing with my man, and that includes his ride.  Matter of fact, wax that m_______f_______, give it a tuneup.”

            —Faizon Love as Jamal Jackson in The Replacements

 

You’d better sit down for this one.

The Daily Mail reports that the Pentagon has put out a contract to Connecticut-based Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation—makers of the Blackhawk, among other things—to replace Marine One, the helicopter used to transport the President.  Why I’m having to get this information from a British news outlet is another article entirely, but that’s not what got my attention.

So what’s the big deal, Rusty?  These things do have to be upgraded and replaced from time to time.

Quite true.  But here’s the thing:  “Marine One” isn’t a specific aircraft, it’s a designation applied to the helicopter the President happens to be on.  In other words, there’s more than one such helicopter.  Even that in itself isn’t such a big deal, nor is it even particularly surprising.  But this is:

The current Presidential helicopter fleet serving as Marine One includes nineteen aircraft.

You read that right.  Nineteen.

And no, that’s not “over the years nineteen different helicopters have served as Marine One.”  That’s right now, all together, at one time, the President has nineteen different helicopters from which to choose.

That’s enough for Obama, the First Lady, both daughters, the First Dog, and every one of Obama’s golf clubs including his putter (assuming—snicker—he follows the rules and plays with the limit of 14) each to have their own chopper to ride to Martha’s Vineyard this summer.  The fleet includes eleven Sikorsky VH-3Ds at an original pricetag of about $6.5 million apiece (about $24 million in today’s dollars), and another eight Sikorsky VH-60Ns at an original price of about $10.6 million ($15.3 million in today’s dollars).  Nineteen helicopters with a total sticker price of just over $156 million in nominal dollars, $386 million in today’s money.

Huh?

I get it that the President has to have transportation and sometimes helicopter is the only practical and efficient way to get it done.  I get it that the President’s vehicles should project a sense of national prestige.  I get it that they would need specialized security, communications, and other features to enable the President to do his job—were he so inclined—while aboard.  And I don’t even begrudge having it decked out with accoutrements and comforts commensurate with the office.  You might even be able to justify having more than one, you know, for a backup or decoy.

But nineteen of them?

To put this in a little perspective, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of England has exactly one helicopter, and most royal family travel is via British Airways.

You can add to the nineteen helicopters the two Boeing VC-25s (military versions of the 747) that serve as Air Force One at a cost of $325 million apiece ($685 million in today’s money), and the emergency “doomsday” Boeing E-4B (also a 747, and the Air Force actually has four of them, but I’ll only count one for our Presidential purposes today) that spends almost all its time sitting idle at a purchase price of $223 million (another $322 million in today’s dollars).  Oh, yeah, there’s also the $40 million+ Presidential Gulfstream 500 for more pedestrian excursions like taking the wife for a date night fling in NYC. That’s a Presidential air wing of nineteen helicopters and three 747s, totaling about $1.7 billion in current money.

Imelda Marcos’ shoe collection starts to pale in comparison.

To return to the initial subject, the Pentagon is looking to replace the helicopter fleet.  But apparently nineteen helicopters isn’t enough—the new contract is for a total of twenty-three new choppers, at an estimated cost of about $400 million . . .

. . . wait for it . . .

. . . APIECE.

That’s right, the Pentagon is not only going replace the Presidential helicopter collection and in the process expand it from 19 to 23, but each one is going to cost more than the 747s that serve as Air Force One.  In total, the new Presidential helicopter armada will cost $20 billion.  To put that in perspective, USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77)—a freaking nuclear aircraft carrier— commissioned in 2009 only cost $6.2 billion, and she is expected to have a service life of at least 50 years.  Hell, even converted to current money, an average Apollo moon landing cost less ($18.5 billion) than this new set of Presidential travel toys.

In fairness, I don’t think this particular excess can be laid on Obama.  I expect what you see today is really the culmination of a trend/practice that dates back to at least Nixon, and the latest installment of rotary wing gems won’t enter service until Obama is long gone.  But it’s only half of the equation.  The other half is the serial abuse of this perk of the office for personal benefit, and that you can squarely lay at Obama’s feet.

Consider that the operating cost of Air Force One is a little over $220,000 per flight hour.  That’s just the airplane, and does not factor in the hoardes of security personnel, motorcades and associated transportation—all those armor-plated SUVs have to be flown to destination in a C-130—etc. that go with Presidential travel.  I could not find operating cost information for Marine One, but we can see that, for example, the VH-3D (the Presidential version of the “Sea King”) consumes on average about 1,050 pounds (about 156 gallons) of fuel per hour (not exactly “green”); at an average of $6.50 per gallon in the D.C. area, that’s just over $1,000 an hour just in gas.  The bottom line is, it’s really, really expensive to travel in these things.

With that expense in mind, think about what this President has been doing.  Since his re-election—in other words, since the time he no longer had another election to worry about ever again—the President has attended at least 45 Democrat Party fundraisers, many in places like L.A., Chicago, New York, and Houston.  He is committed to at least 18 such events in 2014 alone.  He and his entourage fly to all these things on the public dime.

The Obamas’ fetish for impossibly lavish (and frequent) vacations is well-documented.  But recall that part of that practice is their habit of flying separately.  They have even been known to enlist a separate flight for their dog to join them.  But even traveling together, the cost is enormous.  For example, their annual end-of-year sojourn to Hawaii involves about 19 hours round trip flight time, meaning the First Family air bill alone is well over $4 million.

As Judicial Watch has chronicled–and had to fight tooth and nail in the federal courts to obtain the relevant documents–there have been Presidential golf weekends in places like Palm Springs, Key Largo, and West Palm Beach, again involving millions of public dollars in travel expenses.  There have of course been the First Lady’s (and daughters’) separate trips to Spain, Africa, China, Aspen.  There have been the dubious “official” trips to places like Dublin and Copenhagen.  And on and on.

All of these things cost money.  A lot of money.   Between the gigantic fleet and its insatiable operating costs, we are now spending literally billions of dollars ferrying the Chief Executive and his family—and all the attendant security, staff, hangers-on, posse, etc.—all over the planet.  Some of that travel is legitimate.  And I don’t even begrudge the occasional boondoggle—if the G-8 is meeting in Paris and you want to save a seat on Air Force One so the First Lady can fly over and tour the Louvre, that’s not a big deal.

But way too much of what we now see—and pay for—is plainly not legitimate travel necessary as part of the President’s job as an employee of the United States.  And the size of the fleet used to do it is unconscionable.  Yet there is no adult watching over the candy store.  Oh, sure, there are a handful of voices shouting in the wind, but there is no meaningful oversight to say “No, that’s too much.”

We should all be contacting our Congressman to ask for some kind of inquiry into the necessity of having two dozen $400 million helicopters, three 747s, and however many Gulfstreams reserved for Presidential transport, and placing some sort of governing mechanism to police their use at public expense.

Or at least ask for a ride.

A Tale Of Two Books

I remember when, I remember, I remember

When I lost my mind

There was something so pleasant about that place

Even your emotions had an echo in so much space

And when you’re out there without a care,

Yeah I was out of touch

But it wasn’t because I didn’t know enough

I just knew too much

Does that make me crazy?

            —Gnarls Barkley, Crazy

 

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE DISCUSSES MATURE THEMES.  READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED

 

I saw these two stories separately, but h/t to Glenn Beck for helping me make the connection.

Meet Giovanni Rubeo, a Fifth Grade student at Park Lakes Elementary School in Broward County, Florida (yes, that Broward County).  It seems that his class sometimes gets “free reading” time during first period.

Well, by now we know that some are more free than others, and you can see the next part coming a mile away, can’t you?

Young Master Rubeo had the audacity to break out his new Bible—a gift from his church—as his choice of reading material.  His teacher, one Swornia Thomas, caught him red-handed with the inflammatory, racist, homophobic, and otherwise patently offensive literature, and ordered him to put it away.  In a voicemail to Giovanni’s father, Mrs. Thomas explained that “He [Giovanni] had a book, a religious book, in the classroom.  He’s not permitted to read those books in my classroom.”

The horror.

Imagine for a second the global outrage and rioting that would have erupted had the book in question been the Koran (also—so I’m told, anyway—a “religious book”).  We’d have petitions in the U.N. for sanctions, and President Obama would probably have had to dispatch Secretary of State John Kerry to Florida to genuflect before some Imam just to stem the carnage.

The school district later clarified that Giovanni was of course allowed to read his Bible before and after school and during lunch, but conveniently made no mention of the “free reading” period during class.  Mrs. Thomas, for her part, has apparently refused to comment, although the schoolteacher’s husband reportedly told CBS Miami “She ain’t got nothing to say to you . . . get the [expletive] out of my yard.”

I’ll just let that speak for itself.

So we have a public elementary school teacher telling a Fifth Grader that he’s not permitted to read “those books”—i.e. the Bible—in her classroom.  Keep that in mind as we move to the next story.

Meet William Baer, whose daughter is a 14 year old Freshman at Gilford High School in Gilford, New Hampshire.  He learned that his daughter was assigned to read the book 19 Minutes by Jodi Picault.  The book’s defenders claim it has “important themes,” that it’s thought-provoking and appropriate for 9th graders, and that it’s been assigned at the school for years.

Among these “important themes” about which it’s appropriate for a public school to provoke 14 year olds to devote so much thought is an unbelievably graphic sex scene—one could read it as rape, in that the girl at one point says “no” although she soon becomes an enthusiastic participant—complete with a description of climax and ejaculation.  As Beck pointed out on his radio program, the book’s account is so graphic that if you filmed it as written and gave the film to a 14 year old, you’d be arrested for distributing pornography to a minor.  Even to read it on the air he was forced to substitute euphemisms in many places.  It was that bad.

Now, I’m not about censorship, for all I know the book may very well have some redeeming academic merit; Atlas Shrugged, and even the Bible have sex scenes, albeit not nearly in the same titillation universe as this one.  But to not only make this book available but in fact compel 14 year olds to read it without notifying parents first or providing an alternative assignment is beyond shocking.

And I haven’t even gotten to the good part.

When Mr. Baer learned of the book and its contents, he was understandably concerned, and he took his concern to a meeting of the school board.

Where he got himself arrested.

Yes, arrested.

For what heinous crime, you ask?  He exceeded the two-minute speaking limit.  Yep, he went over his two minutes, so a police officer put him in handcuffs and hauled his ass to jail.  Do not pass Go.  Do not collect $200.

I am, of course, taking a little bit of dramatic license here.  Mr. Baer was asked to stop or leave, and apparently he dared the officer to arrest him, so you might argue that he brought it on himself.  But that’s really beside my point.  Hold these two situations next to each other and ask what it says about where we are as a society.

On the one hand we have a child—a child—attempting to use his free reading time to, I don’t know, read freely.  But he is precluded from doing so because his choice of literature happens to be the Bible.  How ridiculous is that?  There is no contention that he was preaching or proselytizing; he wasn’t trying to win any converts, and he wasn’t disrupting class.  He was just reading his book—a book that not that long ago would have been required reading in most households in the U.S., and that is still a fundamental academic tool for understanding history and Western literature (try reading Milton or even Lord of the Rings without a grasp of the Bible).

There is no conceivable objection to a child using time designated for reading to read his Bible.  The book itself isn’t objectionable as long as you don’t force it on others.  Any appeal to “separation of church and state” is simply moronic—(a) the concept doesn’t exist in the Constitution, contrary to ignorant common belief, and (b) the proper 1st/14th Amendment application is the preclusion against government entities—like a public school, Mrs. Thomas—from erecting any barrier to the free exercise of religion.  Yet here we are, with a teacher telling an 11 year old he is forbidden to read the Bible in her classroom.

One wonders if he’d been OK had his choice of reading been 19 Minutes, Playboy (only for the articles, of course), or Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

On the other hand we have a public school forcing a child—yes, a child—to read material that includes scenes better suited for the erotica aisle, or hidden behind brown paper wrapping.  If you choose to allow your kids to read that kind of stuff, that’s not for me to judge; Ms. Picault, the author of 19 Minutes, brags that she reads that book to her own kids, and I think it tells you all you need to know about her that she would not only expose them to that material but wants to share in it with them.  Ew.  But when the school makes it a mandatory assignment without telling the parents, it deprives the parents (and the school assumes for itself) of the right/responsibility of determining what is/is not appropriate for their own kids.  I know my daughter better than the school district does, and I know better than they do what she’s ready to handle.

I damn sure know I want a say in to what my kids are exposed, and at what age.

But this is where we are now.  Children are forbidden to read the Bible, but forced to read what amounts to porn.  And if a parent objects too loudly (strictly speaking, too long), they go to jail.  There are people out there—people in charge of your kids—who actually think this way.

Think about this as you watch the debate over Common Core—a favorite of Jeb Bush’s, by the way, and that tells you all you need to know about him—which is essentially a nationalization of academic curricula.  You know, because everything else we nationalize works so well.  If you think it’s bad now, what’s it going to look like when your kid’s school curriculum isn’t even determined by your local school board, but by some bureaucrat from California?

Or New Hampshire.  Or Florida.

The Bigger Picture

Dorothy:         I don’t like this forest! It’s dark and creepy!

Scarecrow:     Of course I don’t know, but I think it’ll get darker before it gets lighter.

Dorothy:         Do you suppose we’ll meet any wild animals?

Tin Man:        Mmmmmmm.  We might.

Scarecrow:     Animals that—that eat straw?

Tin Man:        Some, but mostly lions, and tigers, and bears.

                        —Judy Garland as Dorothy, Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow, and Jack Haley as the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz

 

Oh, my.

Those of you who have been following the news—at least as it gets reported by outlets like Fox News and the Drudge Report—are aware that the Benghazi fiasco has resurfaced.  In the wake of fresh emails released after a court order in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by Judicial Watch, House Speaker John Boehner has finally moved to convene a special committee to investigate the administration’s response to the September 11, 2012 attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.  I will touch more on that below, but it occurs to me that there is a broader issue here.

One of the hazards of focusing so much on the news of the day—and, I suppose, a collateral benefit to the administration of having serial scandals—is we tend to forget the news of yesterday.  In so doing, we lose the forest—the broader pattern of behavior—for the trees.  More importantly, we tend not to inquire about the underlying reason for that pattern.

We don’t ask why.

Rewind to October 2008.  Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama was on the campaign trail, talking about bringing “a new era of responsibility and accountability . . . to Washington.”  It was an old message for him.  At a September 4, 2007 roundtable conference in New Hampshire, Obama lamented the “culture of corrosive politics,” and then not only called for more trust and accountability, but touted the pursuit of those virtues in government as his raison d’être:

“The American people want to trust in our government again—we just need a government that will trust in us.  And making government accountable to the people isn’t just a cause of this campaign—it’s been a cause of my life for two decades.” (emphasis mine)

Ah.  So we’re to believe that Barack Obama spent 20 years of his life—when he wasn’t “organizing communities,” collecting a paycheck for being on sabbatical to write the first of two audacious autobiographies about a life with zero substantive accomplishments, and voting “present” in the Illinois State Senate—crusading for government transparency and accountability.

Oh, OK.

As President, Obama signed a directive to the heads of all executive departments proclaiming a new era of government transparency and accountability:

“My administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.  We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration.  Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government . . . Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing.”

Let’s leave for another time the terrifying implications of a Chief Executive who chooses to capitalize “Government,” but not “citizens.”  What’s important for our purposes here is to note that this President has repeatedly and for years emphasized the importance of, and his claimed commitment to, government transparency and accountability.  And lest we get caught up in some Clintonian semantic debate, Obama was clear that what he meant by that was providing information to the public about what the government is doing, if for no other reason than “[i]nformation maintained by the Federal Government (again, his caps, not mine) is a national asset”—in other words, he knows that that information belongs to you.

With that backdrop, let’s return to the issue of Benghazi.  It has been 603 days since the attacks, and the President of the United States still hasn’t substantively addressed the American people about it.  He also has yet to explain where he was or what he was doing during the 10-12 hours the two attacks were taking place, despite having been informed within 2 hours after the first attack began that it was happening, and that it was a coordinated military-style terrorist assault.  We know from others where Obama wasn’t, and what he wasn’t doing: he wasn’t in the Situation Room, and he wasn’t on the phone with his Secretaries of Defense or State, or with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff inquiring as to what was going on.

We now know from the emails finally released to Judicial Watch last week that the bullcrap tale about protests and a YouTube video then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice took to the Sunday talk shows a few days after the attacks came from the White House’s political spinsters.  My question is this: why did it take a Judicial Watch lawsuit to secure the release of that document?  It’s been the subject of a Congressional subpoena for nearly two years, but was withheld after persons unnamed retroactively changed its status to “classified” (and by the way, look for yourself and see if you can figure out just what about that email merits a “classified” designation).  Why does Judicial Watch now have more information than Congress?

While you’re chewing on that, recall that on November 9, 2012 the House Foreign Affairs committee asked then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to testify on the Benghazi matter, which she refused to do.  It took a subpoena and nearly three months to get her on the record, and even then she hemmed, hawed, whined, and ultimately ran out the clock without providing any substantive information.  This week, current Secretary of State John Kerry likewise refused to honor a subpoena to appear before Congress to discuss the administration’s response.  Meanwhile, the Obama administration has persistently refused to turn over documents, and has blocked access to witnesses.

Why?

This is not an isolated occurrence.

Congress has been trying for years to get information about Operation Fast & Furious, the botched gun-running sting that led to the killing of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.  The Department of Justice has stonewalled the production of documents, eventually hiding behind a bogus claim of “executive privilege.”  Attorney General Eric Holder was caught lying about when he learned of the program, and was ultimately held in contempt of Congress after repeatedly changing his story and withholding documents.  Other DOJ officials have pled the Fifth and refused to testify.

The IRS got caught targeting conservative political groups for delay or denial of tax-exempt status, and sharing taxpayer information with Democrats, then got caught lying about the issue being isolated to low-level line workers in Cincinnati.  Then-IRS official Lois Lerner waived her Fifth Amendment rights by making a self-serving opening statement, then pled the Fifth and refused to testify—twice.  She has also been held in contempt of Congress.

FUBARCare is, well, FUBAR.  Yet when called earlier this month to testify about it before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Heath, and Human Resources, outgoing HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. . . you guessed it . . . refused to testify, even as she delays her “retirement” just long enough to qualify for lifetime federal pension benefits.

Obama administration officials use personal email accounts for official communication so they can shield it from FOIA requests and subpoenas, which can only reach their official public email accounts.

For all of Obama’s bluster about being all about government transparency and accountability, we know nothing about what this administration is doing, and they not only refuse to tell us, but they arrogantly flip us the bird in the process.  And if they manage to hold out long enough, if we continue to ask questions we then face juvenile retorts of “Dude, this was like, two years ago.” The President doesn’t take serious questions from the press.  His administration officials refuse to release documents or testify before Congress, and conduct untold amounts of official business in inaccessible private shadows.  Everything seems calculated to hide, divert, or delay any attempt to learn what is going on.

Meanwhile NSA is tapping your phones (gonna be different this time) and the federal government is watching you through drones, while non-military agencies of the federal government arm themselves to the teeth with no explanation.

Why?  Why is the government going to such lengths to avoid telling anyone (except Vladimir Putin—how does that extra “flexibility after the election” look now?) anything about what it’s doing?  And why is almost no one asking why?  The press won’t do it.  Hell, the GOP will barely do it anymore.  Why?

Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.

The Curious Case Of Cliven Bundy

 

Take another shot of courage

Wonder why the right words never come

You just get numb

            —The Eagles, Tequila Sunrise

 

I’m going to be a little controversial today.

You may have seen the recent standoff between Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy and the federal Bureau of Land Management.  Bundy has for years grazed his cattle on what is ostensibly federally-owned land and refused to pay the per-head fee for doing so after the land was officially closed off to protect an endangered tortoise (how closing the land only then to re-open it for a fee protects the tortoise escapes me).  Recently his ranch was surrounded by armed federal agents, his cattle were confiscated and some of them killed under circumstances that have yet to be explained fully.  Only after scores of armed private citizens came to Bundy’s aid did the government back down and give his cattle back (what was left of them, anyway).

Last week Bundy was back in the news, this time for comments he made about blacks.  Discussing his recollection of driving past a government housing project in North Las Vegas, Bundy said:

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro . . . in front of that government house door was usually open and the older people and the kids—and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch—they didn’t have nothing to do.  They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do.  They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.  And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?  They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton.  And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy?  They didn’t get no more freedom.  They got less freedom.”

[And then of course there’s the part that CNN, the New York Times, and the rest of the media edited out:  “They got less family life, and their happiness—you could see it on their faces—they wasn’t happy sitting on that concrete sidewalk”  The media also didn’t report his preceding comments on the Watts riots: “People are not happy, people thinking they don’t have their freedoms, they didn’t have these things and they didn’t have them.  We’ve progressed quite a bit from that day until now, and we sure don’t want to go back.  We sure don’t want the colored people to go back to that point.”  But I digress . . .]

Tea Party types who had come to Bundy’s defense quickly ran for cover, denouncing Bundy’s statements (as edited by the media) as racist.

I’m not so sure.

Mr. Bundy’s choice of words certainly leaves something to be desired (although I seem to have missed the memo that “Negro” and “colored” were no longer just antiquated but were now considered racist and offensive—maybe someone should inform the United Negro College Fund and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), but let’s bear in mind this man is a rancher, not a professional orator.  And if we’ll calm down a second, step back and examine what he actually said, maybe—just maybe—we’ll see that he has something of a point.

First, Bundy was not advocating slavery, nor was he stating affirmatively that blacks were in fact better off as slaves. He did not attribute his observations to some imagined inherent racial inferiority, and he did not blame blacks themselves for their situation.  He was posing a rhetorical question—“I’ve often wondered . . .”—not stating an opinion, and while his comments are stated in terms that are obviously too global, I think they can be understood as a clumsy attempt to use hyperbole to illustrate something about the black condition, particularly as it relates to poor blacks.

Consider the following:

No one can deny that housing projects exist.  And while not all blacks live in government housing, they in fact occupy the projects in grossly disproportionate numbers.  According to HUD, although blacks make up just 13% of the population, 48% of government-subsidized households are black.  While we’re on the subject of government subsidies, note that 40% of welfare recipients and 24% of food stamp recipients are black.   There is nothing racist in this observation, it’s simply the statistical fact: relative to their proportion of the population, blacks receive more government subsidy assistance than the population as a whole.

Bundy said that the people he observed in the projects had nothing to do.  This is not shocking: if you’re in a government housing project, you are most likely poor, and there is a disproportionate likelihood that you are unemployed.  This is particularly so if you’re black.  Black unemployment in fact has long exceeded the national average by a wide margin.  As of last month, “official” unemployment among blacks was 12.8%, roughly double the national rate of 6.9%, and considerably worse than it was prior to LBJ and the Left’s “war on poverty.”  Bundy referred more specifically to young blacks having nothing to do; unemployment among blacks 16 to 19 currently sits at 30.9%, four-and-a-half times the national average.  These figures obviously have a direct effect on poverty, which impacts 27% of the total black population.  Again, this is not a racist statement; if you are black, particularly a young black, statistically there is a much higher chance that you are unemployed, poor, living in government housing, and receiving some form of welfare.

That’s not racist.  That’s just a fact.

Bundy then remarked that blacks—again, his context was his observation of poor blacks in government housing—abort their babies and put their young men in jail.  Well, do they?  Black babies are aborted at a rate of 41 per 1000 women.  That’s more than double the national average of 18, and by some estimates over 13 million black babies have been aborted since Roe, the equivalent of eliminating 30% of the entire current U.S. black population.  This is exactly as Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger envisioned it, as she expressly intended her organization’s abortion function as a means of racial cleansing.  Blacks also make up nearly half of the total U.S. prison population, and 1 in 3 black men can expect to serve prison time during their lives.  We can debate whether blacks themselves put those black men in jail; the cause isn’t as important here as the statistical fact itself that a disproportionate number of blacks are incarcerated.

Carrying the domestic analysis further, while the rate is dropping, teen pregnancy among black girls remains more than double that of whites.  72% of black children live in single parent households.  And blacks are wildly more likely than whites to be the victim of violent crime, almost always at the hands of another black.

So to recap, blacks in the U.S. are significantly disproportionately likely to:

  • Be poor
  • Be unemployed
  • Receive government subsidies
  • Be impacted by abortion or teen pregnancy
  • Grow up in a single parent home
  • Spend time in jail
  • Be the victim of violent crime

There is nothing racist about making the observation; these are simply the statistical facts of the black condition.  I think we can all agree that these are not good things, and there is almost surely a relationship between them.  And this, I think, was the essence of the point Bundy was trying—however inartfully—to make: that blacks would be better off with meaningful jobs that allowed them to get off government assistance and out of government housing, and with that maybe improve the other aspects of their domestic circumstances.

But let’s assume for a second that Bundy’s statements in fact are racist.  Why does that—as the media and Left have been trying to claim—render all the substantive points and questions raised by his standoff with the BLM illegitimate?  If someone is a racist does that mean that they are a crackpot and wrong an all issues, all the time, under all circumstances?

To be sure, Bundy’s substantive case against the BLM has problems.  He has in fact—he freely admits this—not paid the grazing fee, to the tune of over $1 million.  Although his argument that in the charter creating the State of Nevada the United States obligated itself to sell all federal land back in 1864 has some facial appeal, in context it has issues:

Sec. 10.  Five percent of subsequent sales of public lands by United States to be paid to state for public roads and irrigation.  And be it further enacted, That five percentum of the proceeds of the sales of all public lands lying within said state, which shall be sold by the United States subsequent to the admission of said state into the Union . . . shall be paid to the said state[.]”

Bundy and his supporters point to the language “which shall be sold by the United States” to argue that the federal government had a duty to sell all federal holdings.  And that is a fair reading.  The problem is, the word “shall” has been frequently misused in legislation in this country, up to and including the Constitution itself.  The title of Section 10 refers to “subsequent sales,” and this suggests that the “which shall be sold” language was really intended simply to refer to those lands that the United States sells if it sells them, rather than imposing an affirmative obligation to do so.  Even so, legitimate questions remain:

  • Why does the federal government still own more than 80% of all land in the State of Nevada?
  • If it’s federal land, and therefore publicly owned, why isn’t it open to all without a fee?
  • Why is Senator Harry Reid, who is supposed to represent the people of the State of Nevada (actually he’s supposed to represent the State itself, but the 17th Amendment killed that) vocally taking the side of the federal government against one of his own constituents?
  • Why does the BLM need to show up with helicopters and dozens of armed agents (including snipers) carrying military style weapons to collect a bill?
  • And while we’re on the subject, why are so many non-military federal agencies (EPA, NOAA, U.S. Postal Service, Department of Education) arming themselves?

Racism or no, what we do see here is more overkill from a federal government out of control.

The Price Of Afghanistan

Welcome back, my friends

To the show that never ends

We’re so glad you could attend

Come inside, come inside

            —Emerson, Lake, & Palmer, Karn Evil 9 1st Impression, Part 2

 

No, the IRS didn’t come cart me away.  Yet.

Yesterday an Afghan security guard opened fire and killed three American medical personnel in a hospital in Kabul.  This is the latest instance of so-called “green-on-blue” attacks, where armed Afghans working alongside “coalition” forces turn their weapons against their erstwhile allies.  According to longwarjournal.org, as of October 2013 there had been 83 such attacks since 2008.  Just another instance of dead Americans in a war zone far away, and I know it’s not nearly as interesting as mysteriously-vanishing airliners, or capsized Korean ferries (hence you won’t see this on CNN), but it does beg a question:

Why are we still there for these latest three Americans to die?

Let’s be clear: Afghanistan is at the crossroads of nowhere.  It has no strategic significance, no resources anyone needs, and it wields no political stroke.  It’s a godforsaken hellhole that civilization left behind a millennium ago.  So why are we there?

To recap some rather unpleasant history, on September 11, 2001, 19 jihadists hijacked four U.S. airliners, crashing two into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York (ultimately obliterating both buildings), and one into the Pentagon.  The fourth was apparently being retaken by the passengers, so the jihadists crashed it into the ground in a field in Pennsylvania.

The attacks killed 2,997 people, excluding the jihadists.  Remember that number.

U.S. intelligence quickly identified the militant Islamist group al-Qaeda as being responsible for the attacks, and on September 14 Congress—by a combined vote of 518 to 1—authorized the use of military force against those nations, organizations, or persons the President determines were responsible, and against those harboring such organizations or persons.  Al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden—who later admitted responsibility for the attacks—was traced to Afghanistan, and the U.S. State Department demanded that the Afghan government turn him over.  The ruling Taliban—bad guys in their own right—refused.  On September 20, in an address to a joint session of Congress, President George W. Bush reiterated the demand, and warned that “they will hand over the terrorists or they will share in their fate.”  Still the Taliban refused.  So on October 7, the initial bombing campaign in Afghanistan began.

At the time, this was a rational response to the attacks.  If the perpetrators were not acting on the Taliban’s behalf (or with their blessing), there was no reason not to hand bin Laden over.  The Taliban’s refusal to do so suggests the other alternative—that the perpetrators were acting on the Taliban’s behalf or with its blessing—in which case the attacks were an act of war by Afghanistan just the same as if they had invaded Manhattan with uniformed troops.  And Americans—myself included—almost unanimously supported the action at the time.  Hell, even Senators Joe Biden (D-DE), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John Kerry (D-MA), and Harry Reid (D-NV), just to name a notable few, voted in favor of authorizing a military response.

But that was nearly thirteen years ago.

By the end of 2001, the Taliban had been overthrown, although they would continue to wage an insurgency war out of neighboring Pakistan (theoretically a U.S. ally).  For the next ten years, through the end of the Bush administration and well into the Obama administration, U.S. forces continued to occupy Afghanistan to provide “security” and hunt for Osama bin Laden.

And Americans continued to die.

On May 2, 2011, U.S. special forces troops finally caught up with bin Laden—ironically in Pakistan, which one tends to suspect knew where he was all along—and killed him.  Over 1,500 Americans had died in and around Afghanistan by that point.  But with the Taliban out and the al-Qaeda mastermind now dead, surely the mission in Afghanistan was complete, right?

Wrong.  And as we approach the third anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, U.S. troops are still in Afghanistan.

And Americans still continue to die there.

I asked you to remember the number of victims killed in the 9/11 attacks: 2,997.  The American death toll in Afghanistan is now 2,317, meaning our response to the 9/11 attacks has killed nearly as many Americans as the attacks themselves.  761 Americans—roughly a quarter of the total—have died in the three years since Osama bin Laden was killed and the last ostensible purpose of the campaign was achieved.  If you count all coalition military casualties, there have actually been more “good guys” killed (over 3,400) participating in our campaign in Afghanistan than were killed by the jihadists in the first place.

At some point, doesn’t the cure become worse than the disease?

Crass as it is compared to the human cost, let’s also consider the financial cost of this crusade.  Through fiscal 2011, we had spent something like $468 billion fighting the Taliban and chasing bin Laden.  By now, the price tag is surely well over $500 billion and counting.  That’s more than 50 times the estimated cost to rebuild the World Trade Center—which, 12 years later, still hasn’t been completed, while we’ve been arguing over the location of mosques and whether documentaries about 9/11 are offensive to Muslims (of course they are; everything offends them).  One suspects we could have just bought Afghanistan outright for less (the Louisiana Purchase—a much larger and vastly more resource-rich territory—was had for a paltry $280 million in today’s dollars, and Alaska—almost as large as Afghanistan, and again much more resource-rich—was purchased for mere pocket change of about $119 million).

To give some perspective, $500 billion would rank 20th among world GDP, just behind that of Switzerland, and ahead of countries like Sweden and Norway.  The entire U.S. federal budget was less than $500 billion in constant (2009) dollars as recently as 1979.  And for all that spending, and all our fancy technology (most of which, if Iraq was any guide, will ultimately be abandoned if and when we ever leave Afghanistan), we’re 12 years in and still can’t declare victory against an enemy that can barely muster better than sticks and stones and the occasional homemade bomb.

Why?

This is not a knock on our men and women in uniform.  They are the finest professionals, and they do the job they are given, but in this case we’ve never really defined what that job is, which makes their task impossible from the outset.  Not only are political (and political-correctness) considerations preventing our military from winning, they’ve never even been told what a win looks like.  So on and on it goes, and that begins to highlight the real cost.

Although draft registration is still required for American males between 18 and 25 years old, since 1972 we have operated an all-volunteer military force, or “AVF.”  That’s fine for short term military responses in Grenada or Somalia.  But the AVF was never designed for decades-long prosecutions of wars/occupations on multiple fronts.  With no draft to provide large scale influxes of fresh personnel, the same people have to rotate in and out of country over and over.  Years and years of multiple deployments take their toll on morale and numbers.

It’s no wonder, then, that we see two-bit regimes like Iran and Syria now openly thumbing their noses at U.S. threats (or “red lines,” or whatever).  It’s no wonder that we see Vladimir Putin feeling his oats in Crimea.  It’s no wonder that we see the Chinese in a rapid military buildup mode.  Diplomatic pressure and even sanctions are ultimately only as good as the credibility of any military action to back them up.  But in large part as a result of a decade in Afghanistan (combined with Iraq), those who would do things counter to the interests of the U.S. and its allies look at us and see a nation whose population is war-weary (and in any event has the attention span of a gnat), and whose military is depleted (and still tied down) and lacks the practical ability to replenish itself.  In other words, we’re spent, and we’re spread too thin, and everyone knows it.

Combine that with an obviously weak and indecisive Commander-in-Chief who plainly lacks the stomach to make hard decisions or to commit forces to combat, and a very public drawdown of the U.S. military in general, and just how credible is any sabre-rattling out of D.C. going to be any more?  Putin can rest pretty comfortably in his assumption that when push comes to shove, there will be no real pushback from the U.S. in Crimea.  Or Moldova.  Or Belarus.  Kim Jong Un and his benefactors in Beijing have to like their odds that the same is true on the Korean peninsula.  Maybe even in Japan.  And when you add in the new influx of cash Obama is permitting to run into Teheran, you have to think the Iranians feel less and less apprehensive about pressing their nuclear aspirations.

This must be very comforting to our allies in places like Warsaw, Jerusalem, and Seoul.

Theodore Roosevelt counseled that one should speak softly and carry a big stick.  We’ve been swinging blindfolded at the piñata so long now we don’t have any stick left, and once that happens it doesn’t matter how loudly you mindlessly proclaim that “there will be consequences,” or that rivals are on the “wrong side of history.”

Or “we will, at last, have peace in our time.”

This, I fear, will prove to be the real cost of Afghanistan.

Putting The Cart Before The Horse

“Medical evaluation:  fail.  Physical evaluation:  fail.  Psychological evaluation:  ‘Alcohol and substance addiction indicated.’  Oof!  ‘Pathological rejection of authority based on unresolved childhood trauma.  Subject is not approved for field duty and immediate suspension for service advised.’  What is this, if not betrayal?  She sent you off to me, knowing you’re not ready, knowing you’ll likely die.  Mommy was very bad.”

      —Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva in Skyfall

 

Think about this the next time it’s 95 degrees in Concord, California or Dallas, Texas, and you’re sitting in your air-conditioned living room.  Think about this the next time it’s 5 degrees in Akron, Ohio, or Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and you’re dozing off in your cozy bedroom heated via an electric furnace.

Back in August 2011, EPA issued cross-state rules aimed at curbing sulfur dioxide emissions in areas where upwind states might be impairing the ability of downwind states to meet air quality requirements.  In Texas, the rule would have required a 47% reduction in sulfur dioxide emissions by 2012.   As an aside, Texas was included in the requirement despite having already reduced its emissions by 33% since 2000, because EPA’s computer model showed emissions from Texas contributing to alleged noncompliance at a single monitoring station in Madison County, Illinois, some 700+ miles and three states away.  

Texas’ largest electricity generator responded to the rule by announcing it would reduce its generating capacity by 1200 megawatts, close three lignite coal mines, and lay off 500 employees.  Ironically, this response to an action by an agency within the Executive Branch came at the same time the White House was announcing President Obama “will not rest” until everyone that wanted a job had one.  The shutdowns and layoffs were only avoided by a last minute injunction—an injunction that will now be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The bigger impact, however, may have been on Texas’ power grid.  Had the rule gone into effect, the reduction in generating capacity would have resulted in rolling blackouts in Texas.  That would be a huge problem during the summer, when even with full power capacity we see dozens of heat-related deaths every year.  EPA’s rule would surely increase that number.

This problem of green-zealotry edicts conflicting with power grid reality is not confined to Texas, either.  EPA has been issuing carbon regulations that have or will result in the closure of hundreds of coal-fired power plants in 33 states and effectively end the construction of any new ones, with nothing in place to replace that generating capacity.  It is inconceivable that this will not have a negative impact on the power grid in areas serviced by those plants that close or are never built.

The L.A. Times reports that even in the uber-green People’s State of California, public officials are having to confront the very real possibility that, having already forced the almost complete reliance upon “green” energy sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal, they now may not be able to provide power reliably.  Whereas coal and natural gas will always burn, the greenies are shocked to discover that sometimes the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow, and when that happens the solar cells and turbines don’t generate electricity at all.  Nor does the capacity exist—and it is unclear that it ever will, or that if it does it will be economically viable—to store excess electricity generated during more productive times in order to make up for the lulls and protect the grid from overload.  And the electrical infrastructure originally designed to transport electricity generated at traditionally-fueled power plants does not yet extend to areas with the best solar/wind/geothermal generating potential.

Clearly this rush to green energy isn’t ready for prime time, yet we continue to plow ahead, oblivious to the obvious.  Sound familiar?

This illustrates the fundamental problem with Progressives in general, and the green zealots in particular: they either think they know everything about everything, or they’re so blinded by their ideological religion that they just don’t care.  If only they want it bad enough—whether it’s universal socialized medicine, or thousands of jobs in a vibrant solar panel marketplace, or an electric car in every garage, or 100% reliance on green energy—then it will be so.  The practicalities of what happens when the rubber meets the road simply don’t matter.  You want a totally fossil fuel-free power grid, well how will that work?  Somehow.  Where will the electricity come from?  Somewhere.  Never mind that the technology isn’t ready and the infrastructure doesn’t exist.  Never mind that there’s no market for the product, or that it can’t be sold for as much as it costs to produce.  If the Progressives want it, we’re going to do it, feasibility or consequences be damned.

It’s not that I oppose green energy—I don’t, and in fact I advocate an all-means-available approach that would include renewables, fossil fuels, and nuclear.  I don’t care if my truck burns gasoline, corn juice, or algae urine, as long as it runs.   But those of us who live in the real world understand that things like feasibility and consequences do matter.  We know what the Progressive Green Left can’t seem to grasp: that the electricity that heats the espresso machine at Starbucks, and lights the screen showing the Indie flicks down at the Bijou, and drives the amps at your local grunge fest doesn’t just magically appear (even though that’s the way it’s always appeared at Mommy & Daddy’s house); it has to be generated by someone with the means to do so and the wherewithal to get it where it needs to be.  But if you insist on forcibly cutting off the existing reliable energy stream before the alternatives are in fact ready to take up the slack, there will be nothing to fill the void.  When there’s nothing to fill the void, there’s, well, nothing.  No light.  No A/C.  No heat.  And that’s really going to suck when it’s July in Florida, or January in Illinois.

It didn’t have to be like this.  Emissions requirements for coal-fired facilities could have waited until functional alternative power generation facilities and infrastructure were in fact ready to replace them.  Renewable energy mandates could have waited until the technology and transmission lines were in fact in place to carry the load.  They weren’t, and they’re not, yet the Greenies forge ahead anyway, because they know best.

And so Solyndra sits idle, with no market for its Progressive Government-subsidized solar panels.  Fisker sits essentially idle, with Progressive Government-subsidized electric cars that still spontaneously combust and no one will buy.  The West is littered with Progressive Government-subsidized wind farms that have nowhere to send their power, yet continue to spin and chop up the occasional unsuspecting eagle.  And pretty soon, rolling blackouts will come to your town, courtesy of the naïve and unprepared Progressive Left.

I wonder if you’ll appreciate how much cleaner the air in your last breath was as you freeze to death.