Quotulatiousness

August 12, 2014

Obamacare and the Tea Party

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:33

Megan McArdle on the direct relationship between the implementation of Obamacare and the rise of the Tea Party:

I think liberals really do not understand emotionally the extent to which the Tea Party was created by the Affordable Care Act and the feeling that its government was simply steamrolling it. From the Tea Party’s perspective, you had an unpopular program that should have died in the same way, and for the same reasons, that Social Security privatization did: because sensible politicians saw that, no matter how ardently they and their base might desire it, this was out of step with what the majority of the country wanted (and no, you cannot rescue the polls by claiming that the only problem with the law was that it wasn’t liberal enough; when you dig down into what people mean when they say that, the idea that there was ever a majority or a plurality that was secretly in favor of Obamacare collapses).

The rage was similar to what progressives felt as they watched George W. Bush push the country into a war in Iraq. That defined and animated the anti-war movement (which is why said movement collapsed when Bush left office, and not, say, when Bush agreed to a staged withdrawal of our forces). Yes, those people would still have hated Republicans, even if there had been no Iraq War. But they would not have been as passionate, as organized or as powerful without it.

Liberals tend to write off this anger as racism, as irrational hatred of Barack Obama, or as perverse joy in denying health care to the poor, but at its root, it’s the simpler feeling that your country is making a mistake and you can’t stop it because the people in charge are ignoring the obvious. Yes, a lot of money and energy was poured into the Tea Party by rich backers, but rich backers cannot create a grassroots campaign unless the underlying passion is there in the voters (paging Karl Rove and Crossroads). The Obama administration created that passion with Obamacare.

[...] I’ve written before about how my Twitter feed filled up with comparisons to 1932 the night that Obama took the presidency, and it’s quite clear to me that the Obama administration shared what you might call delusions of FDR. It thought that it was in a transformative, historical moment where the normal rules of political caution didn’t apply. The administration was wrong, and the country paid for that.

July 16, 2014

Consistency in US foreign policy

Filed under: Government, Middle East, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:53

Nick Gillespie on why the shift from Bush-era policies in the Middle East and elsewhere to Obama-era policies wasn’t so much a shift as a continuation:

Obama’s foreign policy certainly hasn’t lacked for the use of force. It has, however, lacked for successes, as became clear during an unintentionally hilarious yet telling State Department press conference in May. State’s Jen Psaki said that, in her view, “the president doesn’t give himself enough credit for what he’s done around the world.”

“Credit for what?” one reporter interrupted. “I’m sorry, credit for what?” The others in the room started laughing.

Around the same time, NBC’s Richard Engel, who is not known as a staunch critic for the administration, was asked to name a few countries with which relations have improved under Obama. His reply? “I think you would be hard pressed to find that…I think the reason is our allies have become confused.”

First under Bush and now under Obama, the one constant in American foreign policy is a lack of any conceivable constraint on whatever the president deems expedient at any moment in time. This is disastrous, especially when it comes to military and covert actions, because it precludes any serious public discussion and prioritization.

That’s not just bad for the U.S. It’s also bad for our allies, who have no framework by which to structure their own actions and expectations. The president is allowed to both declare red lines and then to ignore them when they are crossed, to dispatch troops or planes or supplies according to whim. In all of this, Obama in no way represents a break from Bush, but perfect continuity.

As The Daily Beast’s Eli Lake wrote for Reason back in 2010, the roots of this particularly strident new sense of imperial power can be traced back to the authorization of use of military force (AUMF) signed into law just a few days after the 9/11 attacks.

“Just as President Bush said the 9/14 resolution gave him the wartime powers to detain, interrogate, capture, and kill terrorists all over the world,” wrote Lake, “so too does President Obama.” Until recently — and because of pushback from characters such as Rand Paul, his fellow Republican Sen. Mike Lee, and Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden — Congress has been especially deferential to all aspects of executive power when it comes to foreign policy and war-making.

The results are plain to see in the still-smoldering battlefields across the globe and the rapidly deteriorating situations in places as different as Ukraine, Egypt, and even the U.S. border with Mexico. When the executive branch has carte blanche to act however it wants, it can’t act effectively.

June 22, 2014

George W. Bush’s former Drug Czar does his very best Baghdad Bob imitation

Filed under: Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:46

Image courtesy of Meme Generator

Image courtesy of Meme Generator

Nick Gillespie reports on the one war we should be happy to lose once and for all:

It turns out that Dick Cheney isn’t the only Bush administration muckety-muck still fighting the last war.

Even as the former vice-president took to the pages of The Wall Street Journal to blame Barack Obama for the deteriorating situation in Iraq, George W. Bush’s drug czar, John P. Walters, is arguing in Politico that no, really, victory in the war on drugs is just around the corner. We’ve just got to hold the line, don’t you see, especially against Barack Obama, “whose administration has facilitated marijuana legalization” despite also setting a record for federal raids against medical pot dispensaries in California.

More important, insists Walters, is that you understand “Why Libertarians Are Wrong About Drugs.” Well, OK. I know I’ve been wrong about drugs at times. For instance, I seriously worried that Colorado might have taxed its fully legal pot out of reach of most buyers, thus allowing a black market to thrive. But it turns out that the biggest problem in the Centennial State is how to spend extra tax revenues generated by pot sales, which are coming in 40 percent higher than expected. Oh yeah, and crime is down in Denver.

Recognizing that public opinion increasingly backs treating pot similar to beer, wine, and alcohol, Walters explains that the “the libertarian commitment to freedom should absolutely be acknowledged and, in a time of growing state control, defended. But, when it comes to drugs, libertarians have yet to grasp just how much drug abuse undermines individual freedom and erodes the very core of the libertarian ideal.”

This is simply the old, unconvincing argument that currently (read: arbitrarily) illegal drugs rob individuals of the ability to act rationally or purposefully and thus present a special case in which freedom must be disallowed. This canard is as worn as out as a meth addict’s gums. The same thing was said about booze in the run-up to Prohibition, of course: The man takes a drink and then the drink takes the man and all that.

May 23, 2014

He was for the Veterans Health Administration before he was against it

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Government, Health, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:33

The Wall Street Journal‘s James Taranto rounds up some amusing-in-hindsight bloviations by Paul Krugman about the efficiencies of the Veterans Health Administration:

There was no ObamaCare in January 2006, when former Enron adviser Paul Krugman wrote this:

    I know about a health care system that has been highly successful in containing costs, yet provides excellent care. And the story of this system’s success provides a helpful corrective to anti-government ideology. For the government doesn’t just pay the bills in this system — it runs the hospitals and clinics.

    No, I’m not talking about some faraway country. The system in question is our very own Veterans Health Administration, whose success story is one of the best-kept secrets in the American policy debate.

The “secret” of the VA’s “success,” Krugman argued, “is the fact that it’s a universal, integrated system.” That saves on administrative costs and allows for efficient record-keeping. Krugman acknowledged that the VA had a history of mismanagement and mediocre care, until “reforms beginning in the mid-1990′s transformed the system.” But wait. Hasn’t it been a universal, integrated system all along? Maybe the secret is something else. At any rate, the Phoenix revelations suggest it’s the system’s failures that are being kept secret.

Krugman lamented that his argument “runs completely counter to the pro-privatization, anti-government conventional wisdom that dominates today’s Washington.” That was 2006, remember, when Republicans had the White House and both houses of Congress. If Krugman is to be believed — a big “if,” to be sure — the Bush administration did a far better job running the VA than the Obama administration is doing now. Which reminds us of something Waldman wrote: “There’s an old saying that when they’re out of office, Republicans argue that government is inefficient and incompetent, and when they get in office, they set about to prove it.”

Krugman concluded that 2006 column as follows:

    Ideology can’t hold out against reality forever. Cries of “socialized medicine” didn’t, in the end, succeed in blocking the creation of Medicare. And farsighted thinkers are already suggesting that the Veterans Health Administration, not President Bush’s unrealistic vision of a system in which people go “comparative shopping” for medical care the way they do when buying tile (his example, not mine), represents the true future of American health care.

Good Glitches,” anyone?

Krugman managed to get two more columns out of the glorious VA. One, in September 2006, also damned Medicare Advantage and complained that the administration opposed the idea of letting elderly vets use Medicare benefits at VA hospitals:

    “Conservatives,” writes Time, “fear such an arrangement would be a Trojan horse, setting up an even larger national health-care program and taking more business from the private sector.”

    Think about that: they won’t let vets on Medicare buy into the V.A. system, not because they believe this policy initiative would fail, but because they’re afraid it would succeed.

OK, but think about this: According to The-Military-Guide.com, “if you’re eligible for any level of VA care, whether it’s high-priority or low-priority, you’re no longer eligible for ACA exchange subsidies.” (ACA is an abbreviation for PPACA, in turn an abbreviation for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, ObamaCare’s official title.) There are worse things than being excluded from ObamaCare, of course — but the VA may be one of them.

April 30, 2014

American foreign policy in the Obama era

Filed under: Government, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:49

Victor Davis Hanson sketches out the way US foreign policy changed when Barack Obama was elected:

The first-term foreign policy’s assumptions went something like this. Obama was to assure the world that he was not George W. Bush. Whatever the latter was for, Obama was mostly against. Given that Bush had left office with polls similar to Harry Truman’s final numbers, this seemed to Obama a wise political approach.

[...]

Second, policy per se would be secondary to Obama’s personal narrative and iconic status. Obama, by virtue of his nontraditional name, his mixed-race ancestry, and his unmistakably leftist politics, would win over America’s critics to the point where most disagreements — themselves largely provoked by prior traditional and blinkered administrations — would dissipate. Rhetoric and symbolism would trump Obama’s complete absence of foreign-policy experience.

[...]

Third, Obama had a clever recipe for concocting a new disengagement. He would mesh the increasing American weariness with intervention abroad and fears over a shaky economy with his own worldview about the dubious past role of the United States. The result might be that both libertarians and liberals, for differing reasons, would agree that we should stay out of problems abroad, that a struggling lower class and middle class would agree that money spent overseas was money that could be better spent at home, and that critiques of America’s past would seem not so much effusions of leftist ideology as practical reasons why the United States should disengage abroad.

Finally, to the degree that any problems still persisted, Obama could either contextualize them (given his legal training and community-organizing experience), or talk loudly and threaten. For example, by referencing past American sins, by an occasional ceremonial bow or apology, by a bit of psychoanalysis about “macho shtick” or the schoolboy Putin cutting up in the back of the room, an exalted Obama would show the world that he understood anti-social behavior and could ameliorate it as a counselor does with his emotional client. The world in turn would appreciate his patience and understanding with lesser folk, and react accordingly. Again, in place of policy would be the towering personality of Barack Obama. And if all that did not work, a peeved Obama could issue deadlines, red lines, and step-over lines to aggressors — and reissue them when they were ignored.

November 13, 2013

The environmental damage from “green” ethanol production

Filed under: Economics, Environment, Government, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:46

Ethanol was supposed to be an environmentally friendly substitute for gasoline, and it was renewable … but it’s not living up to promises:

With the Iowa political caucuses on the horizon in 2007, presidential candidate Barack Obama made homegrown corn a centerpiece of his plan to slow global warming. And when President George W. Bush signed a law that year requiring oil companies to add billions of gallons of ethanol to their gasoline each year, Bush predicted it would make the country “stronger, cleaner and more secure.”

But the ethanol era has proven far more damaging to the environment than politicians promised and much worse than the government admits today.

As farmers rushed to find new places to plant corn, they wiped out millions of acres of conservation land, destroyed habitat and polluted water supplies, an Associated Press investigation found.

Five million acres of land set aside for conservation — more than Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined — have vanished on Obama’s watch.

Landowners filled in wetlands. They plowed into pristine prairies, releasing carbon dioxide that had been locked in the soil.

Sprayers pumped out billions of pounds of fertilizer, some of which seeped into drinking water, contaminated rivers and worsened the huge dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where marine life can’t survive.

The consequences are so severe that environmentalists and many scientists have now rejected corn-based ethanol as bad environmental policy. But the Obama administration stands by it, highlighting its benefits to the farming industry rather than any negative impact.

September 18, 2013

The transformation of the Presidency to a “dictatorship”

Filed under: Government, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:36

In the October issue of Reason, Matt Welch talks to Jeremy Scahill about the changes in the role of the President from mere executive branch head to virtual dictator:

Jeremy Scahill has emerged in 2013 as one of the most trenchant and scathing critics of President Barack Obama’s prosecution of an open-ended war and unprecedented tactical framework launched by George W. Bush and his vice president, Dick Cheney. “Obama,” Scahill writes in his new bestseller Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield (Nation), has gone from a candidate campaigning against Cheney’s War on Terror abuses to a president guaranteeing “that many of those policies would become entrenched, bipartisan institutions in U.S. national security policy for many years to come.”

Scahill’s 642-page critique, and the accompanying IFC documentary of the same name, picks up the journalistic baton from late-Bush-era books such as Charlie Savage’s 2007 Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy and Jane Mayer’s 2008 The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals. But while those books helped galvanize an anti-imperial, pro-civil liberties left in opposition to Republican politicians, Scahill’s tome, and his ongoing commentary on Twitter and for The Nation, stands as a harsh rebuke to those on the left who sold out those principles once Democrats regained power in Washington. “I think if McCain had been elected,” Scahill explains, “liberals would be crying impeachment over some of the stuff that Obama has done.”

Scahill, the 39-year-old author of the 2007 bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army (Nation), is steadfastly a man of the left — he has worked in the past with documentary polemicist Michael Moore and progressive Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman. But he’s also a skilled and intense reporter with good sources inside the shadowy worlds of American special ops, rendition, torture, and assassination. If Democrats finally begin to hold the Obama administration to the standards by which they once judged its predecessor, Scahill will be a prominent reason why.

July 30, 2013

The real, long-term source of damage to American interests from the NSA revelations

Filed under: Business, Government, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:10

In The Atlantic, James Fallows explains why the NSA’s digital overreach has likely harmed US long-term interests in many different ways:

In short: because of what the U.S. government assumed it could do with information it had the technological ability to intercept, American companies and American interests are sure to suffer in their efforts to shape and benefit from the Internet’s continued growth.

    American companies, because no foreigners will believe these firms can guarantee security from U.S. government surveillance;

    American interests, because the United States has gravely compromised its plausibility as world-wide administrator of the Internet’s standards and advocate for its open, above-politics goals.

Why were U.S. authorities in a position to get at so much of the world’s digital data in the first place? Because so many of the world’s customers have trusted* U.S.-based firms like Google, Yahoo, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, etc with their data; and because so many of the world’s nations have tolerated an info-infrastructure in which an outsized share of data flows at some point through U.S. systems. Those are the conditions of trust and toleration that likely will change.

The problem for the companies, it’s worth emphasizing, is not that they were so unduly eager to cooperate with U.S. government surveillance. Many seem to have done what they could to resist. The problem is what the U.S. government — first under Bush and Cheney, now under Obama and Biden — asked them to do. As long as they operate in U.S. territory and under U.S. laws, companies like Google or Facebook had no choice but to comply. But people around the world who have a choice about where to store their data, may understandably choose to avoid leaving it with companies subject to the way America now defines its security interests.

Update: Also in the aftermath of Edward Snowden’s revelations, you’d think that Senator Ron Wyden would get the credit he clearly has been deserving all this time:

For many, many years we’ve covered Senator Ron Wyden’s seemingly quixotic attempts to signal to the American public (and press) that the NSA was doing a hell of a lot more surveillance than most people believed, even those who were carefully reading the laws. Because secrecy rules meant that he couldn’t directly reveal what he’d learned while on the Senate Intelligence Committee, he had to issue vague statements, documents and speeches hinting at things that were going on that he couldn’t actually talk about. Of course, now that Ed Snowden leaked a bunch of documents, it’s shown that Wyden was absolutely correct in what was going on (and that the American public wouldn’t like it).

You’d think that would lead people to have a lot more respect for the incredible efforts he went through to alert people to these issues without breaking the secrecy laws. And, in fact, many more people are aware of those efforts. The Washington Post has a nice article about Wyden’s attempts to bring these issues out and to get a real debate going on them.

However, towards the end, the reporter talks to two different former top lawyers at the NSA, who both appear to be really, really angry about Wyden daring to suggest to the public that the NSA wasn’t playing straight with the American public. First up, we’ve got Stewart Baker, the former NSA General Counsel and top Homeland Security official, who is so anti-civil liberties and pro-surveillance that he’s almost a caricature of himself — including claiming that the Boston bombings prove that Americans need less privacy and that civil libertarians complaining about too much surveillance are the real cause for the September 11 attacks.

May 1, 2013

A quick primer on crony capitalism

Filed under: Business, Government, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:58

In The Atlantic, Timothy P. Carney gives us a thumbnail sketch of the rise and rise of crony capitalism in the United States since 2004:

The 2005 and 2007 energy bills required drivers to buy ethanol, created a government loan-guarantee program for private sector green-energy projects, and effectively outlawed the traditional incandescent light bulb. Ethanol and the green-energy finance programs are pretty naked corporate welfare. General Electric and the light-bulb industry lobby supported the light-bulb law, which forces consumers to buy higher-profit-margin high-tech bulbs.

Then, 2008 saw an avalanche of corporate bailouts: Bear Stearns, AIG, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Then the TARP bailed out all of Wall Street, and later General Motors and Chrysler.

Obama came to power in 2009 and signed an $800 billion stimulus bill supported by the Chamber of Commerce and loaded with goodies for the likes of Google and Solyndra. Obama pushed cap-and-trade with the support of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a corporate coalition led by GE, which had set up a business to create and trade greenhouse-gas credits.

In June 2009, Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, a regulatory measure that Philip Morris supported and reportedly helped write — smaller competitors called it the “Marlboro Monopoly Act.” That same month, Wal-Mart, the country’s largest private-sector employer, publicly endorsed the employer mandate in health insurance that became part of Obamacare. The drug lobby wrote significant parts of Obamacare, and the hospital lobby liked the bill enough to file an amicus curiae brief with the Court defending the law from its challenge by states and the small business lobby.

Boeing and the Chamber of Commerce launched a full-court lobbying push in 2011 to save and expand the Export-Import Bank, the government agency Obama loves using to subsidize U.S. Exports — including lots of Boeing jets. In a lesser-known case of regulatory profiteering, Obama hired H&R Block’s CEO to a top position at the IRS, where he crafted new regulations on tax preparers — rules which H&R Block supported and small tax preparers sued to overturn.

April 22, 2013

Torture under the Bush administration

Filed under: Middle East, Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:00

Steve Chapman on the brutal legacy of torture of suspected terrorists during the Bush years:

The autopsy gave a spare account of how the 52-year-old man died. He suffered blunt force injuries on his torso and legs, and abrasions on his left wrist indicated he had been tied or shackled down. One of his neck bones was fractured. Death came “as a result of asphyxia (lack of oxygen to the brain) due to strangulation,” and it was ruled a homicide.

It’s too much to hope for justice in this case, though. That’s because the homicide came at the hands of the administration of George W. Bush. The victim was an Iraqi whose demise occurred while he was in American custody. He was one of some 100 people who since 2001 have died while our government was holding them, some of whom were tortured to death.

The advocates of “enhanced interrogation” make it sound simple and effective. An uncooperative terrorist gets waterboarded and quickly agrees to spill vital secrets, or gets weary of being cold and sleep-deprived and divulges plots in time to stop them.

Dick Cheney and Co. never dwell on the captives who were subjected to prolonged and escalating brutality that failed to elicit the desired information — possibly because they didn’t have it. Those who favor this approach don’t mention the inmates who will never talk because they are in their graves.

Some of the tortured survived the ordeal. But living or dead, they have been consistently ignored by the American people, few of whom realize what cruelties have been inflicted in our name.

The victims were ignored again last week when an independent commission issued a report that said, “Perhaps the most important or notable finding of this panel is that it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture.” The report was released Tuesday — as the Boston Marathon bombs were eclipsing all other news.

March 21, 2013

How Russians view American foreign policy moves

Filed under: Government, Middle East, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

In short, they don’t believe it’s mere ham-handedness, arrogance, and incompetence — they think it’s only supposed to look that way:

It’s instructive to view ourselves through a Russian mirror. The term “paranoid Russian” is a pleonasm. “The fact is that all Russian politicians are clever. The stupid ones are all dead. By contrast, America in its complacency promotes dullards. A deadly miscommunication arises from this asymmetry. The Russians cannot believe that the Americans are as stupid as they look, and conclude that Washington wants to destroy them,” I wrote in 2008 under the title “Americans play monopoly, Russians chess.” Russians have dominated chess most of the past century, for good reason: it is the ultimate exercise in paranoia. All the pieces on the board are guided by a single combative mind, and every move is significant. In the real world, human beings flail and blunder. For Russian officials who climbed the greasy pole in the intelligence services, mistakes are unthinkable, for those who made mistakes are long since buried.

From a paranoid perspective, it certainly might look as if Washington planned to unleash chaos. The wave of instability spreading through the Middle East from Syria is the direct result of American actions. [. . .]

If the Russians sound mad, consider this: there is another substantial body of opinion that sees an evil conspiracy behind American blundering in the Middle East, and it votes for Ron Paul and Rand Paul. I am not suggesting that Sen. Rand Paul is a paranoid, I hasten to clarify: I have never met the man and don’t presume to judge his state of mind. But his popularity stems in no small measure from conspiracy theorists who think that the U.S. government really is planning to criss-cross the continental United States with killer drones and pick off American citizens on their home soil. A lot of the same people think that America invaded Iraq on behalf of the oil companies (who would make a lot more money if Iraq were zapped by space aliens) or by the Israelis (who never liked the project from the outset). A fair sampling of such paranoia gets posted on the comments section of this site.

Thus we have the strangest pair of bedfellows in modern politics, the Russians and the rubes. Try to explain to them that George W. Bush was a decent and well-intentioned man without a clue as to the consequences of his actions, and they will dismiss it as disinformatsiya. Tell them that the New York Times and the Weekly Standard both believed in the Arab Spring as the herald of a new era of Islamic democracy, and they will see it as proof of a conspiracy embracing both the Democratic and Republican establishments. How, the paranoids ask, could two administrations in succession make so many blunders in succession? It stretches credibility. I wish it were a conspiracy. The truth is that we really are that dumb.

February 20, 2013

It’s a valid concern, you have to admit

Filed under: Government, Humour, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:49

Frank Fleming has a minor, niggling concern that we should pay some attention to:

I believe I have noticed a problem with President Obama’s declaring that he can blow up Americans with drone strikes without due process.

Stick with me here; this is a bit of an esoteric argument. Now, like most people, I celebrate every time Obama obtains more power. Now he can do whatever he feels needs to be done for the country and not be burdened with getting the approval of his lessers first. So the more powerful the presidency, the better for us all. But I had a terrible thought: What if one day we get a bad president?

For instance, take this power to kill Americans with drones. No one worries that Obama will abuse such a power — I mean, we’re talking about a man who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize just for existing. It’s not like he’s ever going to use that power to blow us up (though, according to his lawyers, he legally could… and if he did, we’d just have to assume he had really, really good reasons). But just imagine if that power wound up in the hands of a president like George W. Bush. He’d probably blow up people with the drone all day, thinking he was playing a video game (“I’m gettin’ me a high score!”). Or worse yet, think of handing Dick Cheney that power. He’d most likely declare a unilateral war on kittens and puppies, blowing them up from the sky and then collecting the tears of children for some evil Halliburton project.

And the power to incinerate people isn’t the only power I fear could fall into the wrong hands. Like, what about the new authority the government has under President Obama to force people to buy things? That’s great for Obama to have, because he can force people to buy things they really do need to buy, like health care (and maybe in the future other things we all should really have, like hybrids or his memoirs). But think of what could happen if a president not as enlightened as Obama wielded such a power, backed by a Congress full of Republican troglodytes? They could make us all buy AR-15s or Big Gulps or Bibles or other dangerous, awful things.

February 8, 2013

Pinpointing the exact moment that the principled anti-war movement packed up its tents and decamped

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:34

Nick Gillespie helps us find that mystical moment when honourable, principled dissent became treason again:

Remember back in what was it — 2006 or thereabouts — when left-leaning critics of President Bush couldn’t stop talking about how nothing was more red, white, and blue than good old-fashioned American dissent? Why, our very country was founded by an act of dissent, didn’t you know! So back when Vice President Dick Cheney — routinely likened to Darth Vader and Voldemort — was running things, the very air was filled with cries of “not in our name” and all that, because it was so damned important that the United States not contravene its basic principles even in the name of self defense!

Those were good times, friends, and they stopped pretty much the minute that liberals and Democrats took control of the federal government. The antiwar movement disappeared once it became clear that Barack Obama wasn’t going to shut down Gitmo or stop bombing places or give a rat’s ass about that constitutional stuff he used to teach in law school.

But cheer up, because things can always get worse, as the last few days have demonstrated.

[. . .]

It’s sad, though never unexpected, when leaders such as Obama flip flop like a fish on the sand once they ascend power. Cromwell did it, the French revolutionaries did it, Castro did it, the Sandanistas did it, and on and on. It’s one of the oldest plots in history and infinitely adaptable to new conditions. How else to explain, as Jacob Sullum notes, that candidate Obama rejected the Bush administration’s position that it could detain U.S. citizens as enemy combatants without pressing charges while President Obama claims the right to kill U.S. citizens without laying charges? The guy may not be able to pass a budget but christ, give him credit for ingenuity and brass balls.

But Obama is a politician — what do you expect? Politicians are not just the bottom of the barrel — they’re what’s under the bottom of the barrel, right?

February 7, 2013

QotD: The greatest success of the anti-war movement

Filed under: Media, Middle East, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:10

The invasion of Iraq was treated as the greatest crime against humanity in the history of the world, denounced far more frequently and loudly than any act by Saddam Hussein, Bashir Assad, the Iranian regime, or North Korea.

Giant protests in lots of American cities. Giant protests in every foreign capital. The 2004 Guinness Book of Records described the anti-war movement around the globe as the largest mass protest movement in history — eclipsing any popular opposition to any act of the Soviet Union or any other totalitarian regime around the globe, ever. Among the elites in Paris, Berlin, and most corners of London, the Iraq War was the single-most important issue, and denouncing the evil of George W. Bush was the most important goal, not building a stable and peaceful Iraq. You recall Kofi Annan denouncing it, and the United Nations delegates scoffing when Hugo Chavez called our president the devil.

You recall the cries of “Bushitler,” the ubiquitous Code Pink interrupting every event in Washington, as if some ninny shouting during a press conference ever spurred sudden reversals in U.S. national security policy. You recall Hollywood’s relentless cavalcade of movies demonizing the war and those fighting it: In the Valley of Elah, Stop Loss, Green Zone, Redacted, Grace is Gone, Fahrenheit 9/11.

[. . .]

The Davos set is horrified to learn that after spending the better part of a decade screaming at the top of their lungs that an American intervention to topple a bloodthirsty Arab dictator is the absolute worst thing imaginable, suddenly Americans are no longer interested in toppling bloodthirsty Arab dictators.

(Slap, slap) Wake up, anti-war movement! You’ve got what you wanted! The United States is out of the armed intervention business, besides the occasional “leading from behind” in Libya, or the occasional covert mission in Pakistan.

Jim Geraghty, “The Demonization of the Iraq War Ensures No Syria Intervention”, National Review Online, 2013-02-07

January 31, 2013

Blaming “austerity” for most recent slowdown

Filed under: Economics, Government, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:47

David Harsanyi discusses the named (by the mainstream media) culprits for the unexpected drop in US fourth-quarter GDP:

So, U.S. consumer confidence unexpectedly plunged in January to its lowest level in more than a year. The U.S. economy unexpectedly posted a contraction in the fourth quarter of 2012 — for the first time since the recession — “defying” expectations that economic growth is in our future.

If the economy were as vibrant as President Barack Obama has told us it is, a belt tightening in a single sector of government surely wouldn’t be enough to bring about “negative growth.” But one did. Unexpectedly. No worries, though. Pundits on the left tell us that this contraction was good news — possibly the best contraction in the history of all contractions. The White House blamed Republicans and, I kid you not, corporate jet owners because — well, who else? But mostly, the left is bellyaching about the end of temporary military spending and a brutal austerity that’s enveloped a once great nation.

There’s a small problem with that argument. There is no austerity. In the fourth quarter of 2012, Washington spent $908 billion, which was $30 billion more than it spent in the last quarter of 2011 and nearly $100 billion more than it spent in the third quarter of 2012. Taxpayers took on another $400 billion in debt during the quarter. If this is poverty, can you imagine what robust spending looks like?

As always, for “austerity” to take the blame, there’d actually have to have been some austerity to start with. The US government certainly hasn’t been practicing austerity over the last four years.

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