Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


Debt Ceiling Thoughts

  • They say that those who successfully fake authenticity can get away with anything. The corresponding danger is that when you try but fail to fake it you can't get anyone to believe you, even if you are being sincere. Barack Obama, graduate of Columbia and Harvard Law, sometimes - as in yesterday's news conference - drops his g's and refers repeatedly to what "folks" want and believe. The falsity of this rhetorical persona renders everything he tries to convey less plausible. 
  • The product President Obama was trying to sell yesterday was as dubious as the salesman. As Clive Crook pointed out, Obama's passivity often extends to speaking as though someone else has been president since January 2009: "Asked at the press conference to make one specific proposal on entitlement reform, he dodged yet again, merely laying out criteria for what he might be willing to accept if somebody else happened to come up with a plan." 
  • This leading-from-behind approach to the national debt not only clouds the future but distorts the past. In the press conference Obama yet again blamed the federal deficits on everyone but himself: "It turns out that our problem is we cut taxes without paying for them over the last decade; we ended up instituting new programs like a prescription drug program for seniors that was not paid for; we fought two wars, we didn't pay for them; we had a bad recession that required a Recovery Act and stimulus spending and helping states -- and all that accumulated and there's interest on top of that." You would never know that the Obama administration proposed a 2012 budget that told the American people that a national debt rising to nearly 100% of GDP over the coming decade was the best we could hope for and, really, nothing to worry about. Or that Obama treated the Bowles-Simpson Commission report as an interesting analysis that had no bearing on his administration's fiscal policy.
  • Other things don't add up. Even The New Republic, willing for four years to give Obama the benefit of every doubt, found his assertion that "some modest modifications" in Social Security and Medicare "can save you trillions of dollars" mystifying. The entitlement changes laid out so far by the budget negotiators reduce outlays by no more than $350 billion over the coming decade. The "trillions" claim could make sense only if Obama were prepared to raise the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67, as envisioned in the proposal put forward by Senators Lieberman and Coburn. If Obama is receptive to such an idea he is, again, waiting for someone else to do the heavy lifting.
  • "We have a chance to stabilize America's finances for a decade, for 15 years, or 20 years, if we're willing to seize the moment," Obama said, but this "unique opportunity to do something big" would require "some shared sacrifice and a balanced approach" - a mix of spending cuts and tax increases. Strangely, when Obama speaks of the tax changes he has in mind, the revenue they would generate for the government always sounds incidental. The real purpose is to give people facing a reduction in their government benefits tangible reasons to believe we're all in this together, that they are not being singled out for sacrifices. Thus, says Obama, the balanced approach would "require revenues" because "even as we're asking the person who needs a student loan or the senior citizen or people -- veterans who are trying to get by on a disability check -- even as we're trying to make sure that all those programs are affordable, we're also saying to folks like myself that can afford it that we are able and willing to do a little bit more; that millionaires and billionaires can afford to do a little bit more; that we can close corporate loopholes so that oil companies aren't getting unnecessary tax breaks or that corporate jet owners aren't getting unnecessary tax breaks."
  • Cutting $4 trillion from the projected national debt sounds surprisingly easy in Obama's telling: a modest modification of a social insurance program here, and asking a few gazillionaires to do a little bit more there, and before you know it we're running surpluses as far as the eye can see.  When you look at the numbers, though, you keep coming back to the fact that the Obama commitment that has put the country on the wrong path was his determination to significantly and permanently expand federal domestic programs while keeping his campaign promise to limit any and all tax increases to families making more than $250,000 per year.  As Derek Thompson points out, this pledge renders it very difficult to increase federal revenues by more than $1 trillion over the coming decade. That upper boundary, in turn, means that the progressive hope - a 50-50 split between revenue increases and spending cuts - could accommodate no more than $2 trillion in deficit reduction over ten years, not the $4 trillion that would be the lowest amount compatible with Obama's professed desire to "do something big."  
  • This failure to be clear and candid is not simply Obama's but a liberal failure of which Obama's $250,000 promise is a recent and clear instance. European social democrats not only want a government big enough to guarantee the economic well-being of every citizen, but are willing to acknowledge that the revenue base such an enterprise requires can be provided only through broad-based taxes, such as a value-added tax, which significantly reduce everyone's disposable income. American liberals want the former but shrink from the latter, thus committing themselves, stupidly or cynically, to the proposition that America can progress toward a social democracy with a tax system that curtails the lifestyles of the rich and famous, but no one else's.
  • Given all this, Republicans could be forgiven for echoing an old SNL parody: "I can't believe we're losing to this guy." But they are. Obama has "dramatically transformed the debate over the debt limit to his advantage," according to Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, using "the threat of post-August 2 turmoil to paint the Republicans as reckless and unreasonable." The source of this emerging political defeat is that "no [debt ceiling] increase can currently get 218 votes in the House. If House Republicans were voting to cut spending by $10 trillion and raise the debt ceiling by $10, they still might not be able to get a majority." This intransigence, meant to cow and constrain Obama, has wound up enhancing his leverage and flexibility. In Lowry's account, the "paralysis in the House" means Obama can suggest he's amenable to "phantom spending cuts that he's never compelled to reveal but that he takes credit for proposing in negotiations."
  • The no-retreat, no-surrender Republicans on Capitol Hill regard opposition to any and all debt ceiling and tax increases as a matter of principle. Believing that government has already taxed and borrowed enough, they refuse to be complicit in any plan to tax and borrow more. Principles are necessary for governing ably, but not sufficient. Statesmanship requires the application of timeless principles to transient realities, which are usually complex and difficult to perceive with clarity. In a democracy, where public sentiment is the ultimate arbiter of all questions, statesmanship requires an understanding of what the people will insist on, cannot abide, and might tolerate, which must be far more subtle and discerning than the insight such crude measures as public opinion surveys can provide. On the fundamental question about the size, scope and financing of American government, public sentiment is inchoate, not clear and resolute. As Crook argues, when Democratic politicians vow to "defend Medicare and Social Security" and Republican ones promise to "roll back wasteful government and [oppose] job-killing tax increases," the public "agrees with both sides."
  • In politics it's better to be right than wrong, but it's imperative to be right shrewdly, in ways that attract allies and divide adversaries by presenting them with difficult choices. Within the public's contradictory feelings about the welfare state, it's possible to discern the raw material for an enduring center-right consensus. The fact that Democrats refuse to advocate wide-spread tax increases, and that the welfare state can't begin to approach European dimensions until they not only produce but sell such arguments, suggests that our distinctive don't-tread-on-me spirit continues to make an American social democracy impossible. For that consensus to dominate American politics, causing the welfare state to ingest a decline proportion of a growing economy, will require the smartest and not merely the most unyielding efforts of conservative politicians. One idea Republicans should consider is Kevin Williamson's: "a very narrowly tailored bill that would permit the issuance of new debt -- but only for the purpose of financing current debt service." Under such a law, "The national debt no doubt will rise, but only by as much as it costs to refinance current obligations." In the unlikely event Obama and the Democrats want to do something about our deficits, as opposed to doing nothing about them while getting credit for wishing to address the problem, that plan would permit and ultimately require them to put some cards on the table. Such a course compares favorably to the Republicans' current negotiating path, which will lead them to "take much of the blame [for any default] without having achieved any tactical or strategic aim," in Lowry's assessment. "The last thing Republicans should want," he correctly points out, "is to make President Obama fortunate in his adversaries."
Categories > Politics

Political Philosophy

Politics and the Art of Computer Maintenance

I have a light-hearted exegesis on political philosophy over at Intellectual Conservative. A sample:

I'm having computer troubles - like everyone else - and that got me thinking about politics. In the political vernacular, "PC" is shorthand for "politically correct" (the hyper-sensitive self-censorship expected of normal people by America's self-appointed diversity police), but another PC, the personal computer, contains far more insight into modern politics.

Let's start with origins. The computer's predecessor was the trusty old calculator. The calculator pretty much did what you might have been able to do yourself, but did it faster, more efficiently and with less prospect of error. That's also a fine prescription for good government. In the limited-government scheme of the American Founders, government exists to do those things citizens can't do efficiently on their own.

Naturally, I think the whole politics-by-analogy article is worth a read.


Notes From The Week That Was

I've been away,

1.  Megan McArdle explains why an extended failure to raise the debt ceiling would be a policy and political disaster (though that doesn't mean that the sky falls on August 3.)

2.  The Democrats seem to be taking Mitch McConnell's offer of a compromise as a sign of weakness and are increasing their demands. 

3.  Ross Douthat notes that we are unlikely to get a sustainable budget until at least 2013.  

4.  The economic climate could change, but Obama is currently vulnerable but not doomed.  The Republicans still need a plausible challenger who is both visibly competent, and can explain incremental reformist policies to swing voters.  I don't really see that candidate currently running.  God help me, but Romney is coming the closest, but I don't think he will wear well.  (though he might beat Obama in a favorable environment - if he gets out of the primaries.)

5.  If Obama is reelected, even if Republicans retain the House and gain the Senate, Obama will still be in a strong position to shape policy within a deteriorating fiscal environment.  It takes time to responsibly phase in entitlement cuts and introduce market-oriented reforms into the health care sector.  In the US context, it is much easier to suddenly raise taxes and centrally ration health care than to cut benefits and convert Medicare into a premium support program.  2012 is important because an Obama victory means that our policy options narrow and worsen.  Time is running out.

6.  This puts me in mind of something Mitch Daniels said earlier in the year:


Here I wish to be very plainspoken: It is up to us to show, specifically, the best way back to greatness, and to argue for it with all the passion of our patriotism. But, should the best way be blocked, while the enemy draws nearer, then someone will need to find the second best way. Or the third, because the nation's survival requires it.

Purity in martyrdom is for suicide bombers. King Pyrrhus is remembered, but his nation disappeared. Winston Churchill set aside his lifetime loathing of Communism in order to fight World War II. Challenged as a hypocrite, he said that when the safety of Britain was at stake, his "conscience became a good girl." We are at such a moment. I for one have no interest in standing in the wreckage of our Republic saying "I told you so" or "You should've done it my way."


Okay, the stuff about the "passion of our patriotism" is clunky writing but the point is sound.  Come what may, politics won't end in 2012 and it will be our responsibility to bring the most good possible out of whatever circumstances we face. 

7.  Run Bobby Run.  For President.  

Categories > Politics


How to Save $7 billion per year

From an article on the government and the non-profit sector in the Winter, 2011 issue of National Affairs:

The conclusion of a January 2010 report by the federal Department of Health and Human Services-titled Head Start Impact Study--that compared Head Start participants of a contrl group.  The study found that virtually all gains in vocabulary, math, and other skills realized by Head Start children had dissipated by the time the students completed the first grade.  To Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution and Jon Baron of the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy, the report demostrated that the program "had almost no effect on children's cognitive, social-emotional, or health outcomes at the end of 1st grade."

According to the same article, by Howard Husock, Head Start receives $7 billon per year.  Perhaps we would save a bit less than that by shutting it down, as we would have to pay unempoyment for the people who are employed by the program.  It might also be wise to use another chunk of that money to look for more effective ways to improve education.  So let's call it $6.5 billion per year.

Categories > Education

Foreign Affairs

Wave Running Out?

Michael Barone notes that the most recent wave of migration might be petering out.  Looking back at past waves of immigration to America, he notes that experts always assume that the future will resemble the past, particularly the recent past, "almost no one predicted that these surges of migration would begin -- and almost no one predicted that they would stop when they did."

That might be true again:

From 1980 to 2008 more than 5 million Mexicans legally entered the United States. And Mexicans account for about 60 percent of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. today.

Immigration policymakers have assumed that the flow of Mexican immigrants would continue indefinitely at this high level. But now evidence is accumulating that this vast surge of migration is ending.

The Pew Hispanic Center, analyzing census statistics, has estimated that illegal Mexican entrants have been reduced from 525,000 annually from 2000 to 2004 to 100,000 a year in 2010.

"The flow has already stopped," Douglas Massey of the Mexican Migration Project at Princeton University recently told the New York Times. "The net traffic has gone to zero and is probably a little bit negative."

Barone suspects that declining conditions in the U.S. and improved ones in Mexico account for the change.  If Barone is on target, it is an interesting and important trend.  He suggests it would allow us to focus our immigration policy on attracting more skilled and educated immigrants.  It might also give us time to assimilate the latest wave of immigrants.

Categories > Foreign Affairs

Political Philosophy

Negativism on Positivism

Strauss and Voegelin on Popper. Ouch!

Straus to Voegelin:

May I ask you [Voegelin] to let me know sometime what you think of Mr. Popper. He gave a lecture here [at the New School for Social Research], on the task of social philosophy, that was beneath contempt: it was the most washed-out, lifeless positivism trying to whistle in the dark, linked to a complete inability to think "rationally," although it passed itself off as "rationalism" -- it was very bad. I cannot imagine that such a man ever wrote something worthwhile reading, and yet it appears to be a professional duty to become familiar with his productions.

Voegelin to Strauss:

You are quite right to say that it is a vocational duty to make ourselves familiar with the ideas of such a work when they lie in our field; I would hold out against this duty the other vocational duty, not to write and to publish such a work. In that Popper violated this elementary vocational duty and stole several hours of my lifetime, which I devoted in fulfilling my vocational duty, I feel completely justified in saying without reservation that this book is impudent, dilettantish cr*p.


Default Warnings Overblown

Obama Administration officials and Members of Congress continue to warn us that when we reach the debt ceiling on August 2nd, we will default on our debt obligations. Moody's Investors Service, one of these obnoxious credit ratings agencies that is given far more influence over world markets than it probably should have, announced that it has put the U.S. Treasury ratings on review for a downgrade in the wake of the government's continued failure to reach a deal. Things probably were not helped today when President Obama walked out of a negotiating meeting with Congressional leadership and Majority Leader Cantor said that all progress in negotiations had been completely erased.

To emphasize, reaching the debt limit does not mean we instantly default. We will still have the money to pay off what we owe. However, we will not have money to run most other things in government, so it would still be painful. If it came down to it, though, we can (and arguably by the 14th Amendment must) continue to meet our loan obligations. Default on our debt would be a purely political choice by the government, not an automatic one. Cries of default are just political scare tactics that are making the markets panic early.
Categories > Economy


Ave Caesar

Happy Birthday, Caesar. 2111 years ago, Gaius Julius Caesar was born in Rome. The "noblest man that ever lived in the tide of times" would go on to be spared in the proscriptions of Sulla, fight pirates, conquer Gaul, invade the Rhineland and Britain, subjugate Egypt, and make himself the unparalleled master of the ancient world. As Dictator for Life, the lean and hungry men of the Senate feared he would become a tyrant and name himself King, so under the leadership of his good friend Marcus Brutus they murdered him at a meeting of the Senate. In one of the many ironies of history in Caesar's life, he died at the foot of a statue of his old friend and rival, Pompey Magnus. His adopted heir, Octavian, would finish his conquests and establish the Roman Empire, bringing with it a time of peace and prosperity unparalleled in Europe until the modern day. He remains one of the few Ancients who is familiar to even those who do not study history.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Caesar is his name. When Brutus and Cassius killed him, they sought to kill the idea of Caesar as well as the man. In this, though, they emphatically failed, as Octavian took the name Caesar upon himself and it lived on to vanquish all those who had tried to destroy it. So great was Julius Caesar that his name was itself transformed into a political title associated with complete power and grandeur. Indeed, from Caesar's rise to the dictatorship of the Roman Republic until the deposition of Tsar Simeon II of Bulgaria in 1946, there was always a chief of state in the world who bore a variation of Caesar's name--the most famous of the Moderns being the Czar of Russia and the Kaiser of Germany. They chose his name over simple titles like "king" or "emperor" because they all sought to position themselves as successors to this man who had managed to transcend all other men and become like a god on Earth-- and if he was not godlike on Earth, the Romans certainly made sure to deify him in death.

Then we Americans, of course, came along. With our Founders nervous of the likes of Caesar, and understanding of the temptation such a man could bring with him, they purposefully sought to make sure that such a name is not given the grandeur that it has received for the past two thousand years. So far it seems we have been successful, as the images most Americans associate with the name Caesar now include a salad, a pizza chain, and a Las Vegas casino, as well the butt of jokes in movies like The Hangover and Mean Girls. One interesting thing, though, is the phenomenon of naming certain officials in the Executive Branch "czar" lately. The Drug Czar, the Car Czar, the Global Warming Czar, the Healthcare Czar. Caesar essentially represents the centralization of power with one governing authority, as do these executive czars that came to prominence over the last few administrations. On the one hand we now have the ghost of Caesar haunting our halls of government, but on the other we have further ridiculed this name by giving it to a few self-glorified bureaucrats, "peevish schoolboys unworthy of such an honor". Amusing. It is also an interesting note that the independence of our great republic is celebrated in the month named for Julius Caesar. At times I hope that our Founders did that on purpose.
Categories > History

The Family

It's Bigamy Too!

As Groucho would say.

Ann Althouse points us to a lawsuit in Utah challenging the state's ban on polygamy.  The suit is not asking to legalize polygamy, per say, but only saying that the state has no right to prosecute someone who is legally married to only one person, but, in fact, considers himself married to several women, "Mr. Brown has a civil marriage with only one of his wives; the rest are "sister wives," not formally wedded."

Professor Althouse comments:

I think the Lawrence-based argument for decriminalizing polygamy is much stronger than the Lawrence-based argument for requiring the government to give legal recognition to same-sex marriage. One is an argument demanding only that the government leave them alone as they pursue their "own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." The other is a demand that the government alter its treatment of its citizens, giving them access to to the benefits of having the official status as a married couple.

If each of us has the right to purshue his "own concept of existence," then we are free to choose to be slaves, no?  On what grounds, other than an underlying idea of what it is to be human, can one justify the right of an individual to choose how he will live?

I am also reminded of the bit in Natural Right and History were Strauss discusses Max Weber: "Weber's own formulation of his categoric imperative was 'Follow thy demon' or 'Follow thy god or demon.'  It would be unfair to complain that Weber forgot the possibility of evil demons."  Basically the same idea as Bill Cosby's comments on cocaine. (at 3:50 or so).

Categories > The Family

Refine & Enlarge

The American Mind

Today's Farmer Letter follows on the heels of the Fourth's "Novus Ordo Seclorum", and meditates on how it is that the ordinary children of the earth have a right to rule themselves.

Categories > Refine & Enlarge


Tax Facts

Peter Schrag, a veteran California journalist and author of several books on the state, now writes a weekly column for the California Progress Report.  In the latest, he compares Sacramento's fiscal problems to Washington's, and finds that at both the state and national levels, "government and government services are being taken down piece by piece. The paucity of revenues has become an immutable political absolute, like the law of gravity, even as the rich get richer and pay an ever-shrinking share of the taxes. They pay less than in the past, less as a share of their income and wealth, and less compared to the share paid by others."

One of his readers replies that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, Schrag's last three contentions are, respectively, wrong, misleading, and wrong, at least as they pertain to federal taxation. According to a June 2010 report, the "total average federal tax rate" - the sum of federal income, social insurance, corporate and excise tax liabilities divided by household income - for the top percentile of the income distribution was 37% in 1979 and 29.5% in 2007. In constant 2007 dollars, the average household income of the top percentile was $550,000 in 1979 and $1,873,000 in 2007, meaning that it paid $203,500 in federal taxes in 1979 and $552,535 in 2007 - a 172% increase, adjusted for inflation, in the average federal tax bill.

As for the second claim, yes, the rich paid a smaller percentage of their income in federal taxes in 2007 than in 1979 - the CBO report doesn't address the question of household net worth - but everybody paid a smaller portion of their income in federal taxes in 2007 than in 1979. The top-percentile decline from 37% to 29.5% represents a 20% decrease. For households in the lowest quintile of the income distribution the total average federal tax rate declined from 8% in 1979 to 4% in 2007, a 50% decrease. For the second quintile the rate declined from 14.3% to 10.6%, a 26% decrease. For the middle quintile the decline was from 18.6% to 14.3%, a 23% decrease. For the fourth quintile the figures are 21.2% in 1979 and 17.4% in 2007, an 18% decrease.  

Finally, the contention that the rich paid lower taxes compared to the share paid by others is contradicted by the CBO data.  Its report states that the "share of total federal tax liabilities" paid by households in the top percentile of the income distribution nearly doubled between 1979 and 2007, from 15.4% to 28.1%. The additional 12.7% of the total federal tax liability borne by top-percentile households in 2007 corresponds to the 12.6% decline in the payments of all federal taxes from households in the first four quintiles of the income distribution. Those families paid 43.5% of all taxes in 1979 and 30.9% in 2007.
Categories > Economy



Within international law--since the Peace of Westphalia created the modern international system in 1648--sovereignty is understood to be the quality of having complete and independent authority over a geographic area, most likely an entity with a monopoly on the use of force within that territory. Within the classical usage, the moral authority of the entity exercising that force (in the United States, that authority resting with "we the people") is important to true sovereignty. As understood within international law, a sovereign state maintains territorial integrity over its area, has borders that are to be inviolable by other states, and maintains supremacy in the making of laws within its boundaries. There are, of course, some exceptions to this definition such as the Holy See, the Knights of Malta, and Native American tribes, but the general idea is the same.

In response to the recent execution of convicted child rapist and murderer Humberto Leal Garcia, a Mexican national, by the state of Texas, United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has declared that the state of Texas violated international law. Pillay referenced a ruling by the International Court of Justice in 2004 that ordered the United States to review and reconsider the cases of the 51 Mexican citizens on death row in the United States, including Garcia's (who was convicted of raping, mutilating, and murdering 16-year-old Adria Sauceda in 1994). As the United States rightly does not recognize the sovereignty of the International Court of Justice within its territory, as by law nothing can be higher than the laws of the U.S. Constitution, this order was ignored. Ignoring requests from the Mexican government, President George W. Bush, and President Obama, Governor Rick Perry's press secretary said, "Texas is not bound by a foreign court's ruling." The United States Supreme Court declined to get involved.

Now, the United States is a signatory of the 1969 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which does stipulate foreign nationals must be put in contact with their embassies so that lawyers may be provided and their citizens looked after. However, in the 2008 Supreme Court case Medellin v. Texas, the 6-3 majority maintained its history of declaring that foreign treaties are not binding on domestic courts until domestic laws are passed in line with the treaty. President Obama, like President Bush before him, believed that America would be violating its treaty obligations if it executed foreign nationals without obeying the Vienna agreement. However, had President Obama really been concerned with the issue, then he would have known that the Supreme Court maintains American sovereignty within American territory and would have worked to, in the two years his party controlled Congress, make federal law in line with the obligations of the treaty.

Without arguing the merits of the death penalty itself (as that is an entirely different argument to get into), the real issue here is sovereignty. This man raped and murdered an American teenager on American soil, and thus he is subject to American law (and, in particular, Texan law). While we are signatories of the Vienna Convention, the Supreme Court is right to uphold the fact that the United States Constitution is the sovereign law of the land, and unless federal or state law is in line with an international treaty, that treaty's obligations are not applicable to domestic courts. Texas did not violate international law by executing Leal, as it was a domestic issue and international law is not sovereign over domestic courts. However, the governments of Mexico and Honduras do have legitimate complaints about the United States government violating their sovereignty and breaking international and federal law by arming malicious and murderous criminals in their nations with weapons that have been used to kill their government officials and citizens.
Categories > Courts


Gunrunning Scandal Grows

As the investigation into the secret gunrunning operation Fast and Furious continues to inch closer and closer to Attorney General Eric Holder's guilt, it has been revealed that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) sent over 1,000 additional weapons to criminals in Honduras. MS-13 is a terribly organized and murderous gang with operations stretching from El Salvador to Los Angeles, responsible for killing cops and innocents throughout the Americas. As we armed Mexican drug cartels with Operation Fast and Furious, now we have allegedly armed MS-13 in Honduras with Operation Castaway. If the reports on this second gunrunning mission are true, then the Department of Justice has knowingly let thousands of weapons slip into the hands of criminal enterprises known for wanton murder, drug trafficking, modern day human slavery, political assassinations, and general terrorism.

Congressional Democrats are attempting to turn this illegal operation into an excuse to call for harsher gun restrictions within the United States, while Congressional Republicans led by Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) are seeking to get to the bottom of the scandal and find out who among the highest echelons of the Justice Department knew of Fast and Furious. Right now, President Obama is standing by his Attorney General, who has claimed that he neither knew of nor authorized the gunrunning scheme. ATF's Acting Director, Kenneth Mellon, is set to appear before a Senate committee investigating the issue later this month, and if it is anything like his previous comments to Congress, President Obama may very well have to start distancing himself from Eric Holder, whom Congressman Issa and Senator Chuck Grassley have accused of blocking their investigation.

As whistleblower Peter Forcelli, an ATF agent, said: "We weren't giving guns to people who are hunting bears. We were giving guns to people who were killing other humans." There really is little difference between our government giving weapons to cartels in the Americas and the Iranian government arming militants in the Middle East. The intentions may very well have been different, but the means and the actual ends were not. All involved must be held accountable, and Congress should not let up in its investigation, even in the midst of this debt crisis. I do not believe that President Obama had knowledge of the operation, but it very much seems like Eric Holder must have. The Attorney General should be subpoenaed and his records checked.
Categories > Congress


Just A Thought

Disclaimer: I'm on a laptop and subject to balky WiFi so no links or spell checking.  Sorry

I was watching Fox New Sunday yesterday and the panelists were discussing how last Friday's lousy unemployment report mean both sides are digging in.  Maybe Obama has decided that the unmeployment report means he should now adopt a higher risk strategy to reelection.  It minght look something like this:

It is unlikely that he will be able, by November 2012, to convince the majority of the public that he is doing a GOOD job on the economy,but he could win a aganist a divided and/or discredited Republican Party.  So he could hold out for a either a deal on his terms or let some kind of partial government shutdown occur until the Republicans capitulate due to public pressure.  His terms could well some combination of phony cuts (of the kind Ross Douthat described on his blog) and distant cuts that would never be implemented in the event of an Obama reelection and hundreds of billions of tax increases implemented up front.  The purpose of a deal on such terms would be to split and demoralize the Republican Party by fomenting a war between the Washington leadership and those who identify as Tea Party supporters.  If Republicans don't take the deal, Obama can take his chances that the Republicans will take the blame when Social Security checks and veterans benefits are reduced(for however long the standoff lasts) when the government runs short of money and tries to avoid a sovereign default.

Categories > Politics


Happy Birthday, JQA

In honor of John Quincy Adams' birthday today, I thought it would be fitting to post a link, and some words from, his speech of July 4, 1837:

The most celebrated British moralist of the age, Dr. Samuel Johnson, in a controversial tract on the dispute between Britain and her Colonies, had expressly laid down as the basis of his argument, that--"All government is essentially absolute. That in sovereignty there are no gradations. That there may be limited royalty; there may be limited consulship; but there can be no limited government. There must in every society be some power or other from which there is no appeal; which admits no restrictions; which pervades the whole mass of the community; regulates and adjusts all subordination; enacts laws or repeals them; erects or annuls judicatures; extends or contracts privileges; exempts itself from question or control; and bounded only by physical necessity." (Johnson's Taxation no Tyranny)

The Declaration of Independence was founded upon the direct reverse of all these propositions. It did not recognize, but implicitly denied, the unlimited nature of sovereignty. By the affirmation that the principal natural rights of mankind are unalienable, it placed them beyond the reach of organized human power; and by affirming that governments are instituted to secure them, and may and ought to be abolished if they become destructive of those ends, they made all government subordinate to the moral supremacy of the People.

The Declaration itself did not even announce the States as sovereign, but as united, free and independent, and having power to do all acts and things which independent States may of right do. It acknowledged, therefore, a rule of right, paramount to the power of independent States itself, and virtually disclaimed all power to do wrong. This was a novelty in the moral philosophy of nations, and it is the essential point of difference between the system of government announced in the Declaration of Independence, and those systems which had until then prevailed among men. A moral Ruler of the universe, the Governor and Controller of all human power is the only unlimited sovereign acknowledged by the Declaration of Independence; and it claims for the United States of America, when assuming their equal station among the nations of the earth, only the power to do all that may be done of right.

Categories > History


Is the Time Now?

Steve Hayward and others are calling this our "Reykjavik moment."  The argument being:

Gorbachev offered huge concessions to the United States on nuclear weaponry, culminating in the central agreement to abolish all strategic nuclear weapons in 10 years.  But there was a catch: Reagan had to give up development of missile defense.  Reagan said "Nyet," and the summit collapsed. . . .

The budget talks in search of a "grand deal" that are apparently under way this weekend look like the fiscal equivalent of Reykjavik: Obama may well offer substantial reform of entitlements a decade down the road, in return for a GOP concession on taxes today.  On the surface it will look like Obama is willing to break with his base, and in a sense he would be, as Nancy Pelosi will prostrate herself in front of the Social Security Administration.  But Speaker Boehner should nonetheless say "Nyet" to this deal. . . .

If the budget talks between now and August 2 (the debt ceiling deadline) collapse because of a GOP refusal to raise taxes, liberals and the media (but I repeat. . .) will howl at the moon, but Obama will have little choice but to come back to the table on Republican terms.

Is that necessarily the case?  Will President Obama avoid default at all costs?  If there is no deal, the executive branch will try to make it as painful as possible for the American people, and do its best to blame the GOP for it--just as President Clinton did when he refused to deal the GOP Congress offered in 1995.

If there's a default, it will be very expensive.  Taxes will almost certainly have to go up.  Or would it be so expensive that, even with heavy tax hikes, it will be impossible not to make major cuts to the modern bureaucratic, administrative, welfare state.

This is no fight over loaves and fishes.  This is a fight over what the job of government is, and, hence, since the law inevitably shape national character, over the kind of people the Americans will be in the future.  That's why both sides are dug in.  But is this the right place and time to make a stand?  Why would the GOP win if no one blinks until after August 2, (or whenever we finally do really have to do something about America's financial obligations)?  My instinct is that there are too many people in Washington who enjoy making deals too much, and who are too averse to bad publicity for this to turn out as Hayward and others hope.

Categories > Progressivism


Government Motors, Preforming as Expected

The wonders of large, bureaucratic planning:

The "inventory of Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size trucks stood at 122 days at the end of June, according to the Automotive News Data Center." AN says the preferred inventory number is 80 days. . . .

And guess who is profiting from the change of fortunes?

Midsize-truck buyers must look to Japan. The midsize-truck segment has largely become a neglected stepchild of the U.S. auto market. . . . The domestic Big Three have essentially mothballed their midsize efforts to focus on more popular - and higher-profit -- large pickups. The Japanese giants in the U.S. now dominate the midsize-truck business.

Bonus question: are American bureaucracies worse than those of other countries?  If there is truth to multiculturalism, presumably some cultures create more and others less efficient bureaucracies. 

Categories > Economy


U.S. Women's Advance to Semi-Finals

The #1 ranked U.S. women's soccer team just beat #3 Brazil by one point in an overtime penalty kick shootout. The U.S. team, playing 55 minutes with a woman down, scored a literal last minute goal to tie up the game at 2-2 (following two goals by Brazil's forward, five-time FIFA world player of the year, Marta), sending the match into overtime. Described as gritty and winning over the German crowd, the women's team now moves into the semi-finals, scheduled for Wednesday against France. Japan and Sweden will also compete in a semifinal match on Wednesday.

I didn't even know there was a women's U.S. soccer team, let alone that we were ranked #1 and one game away from the FIFA World Cup. Strange what happens when you are surrounded by Europeans.

Categories > Sports