Archives for: January 2015

There is an agenda, and it profits them, not us

Because of the controlled and lying media in the US, which is both scrutinized and attacked by the people in power if they don’t play ball with the left and this administration, we are forced to get the facts about how fucked up things are elsewhere. Most of the time we are only able to glean the facts through the miasma of smoke & mirrors created by the LSM from the foreign press. Especially when we are talking about the economy or the economic impact of the shit done by the statists currently in charge. Case in point, and article of all things in Al Jazeera, pointing out the effects of the past six years of social justice policies by the Obama administration and the left:

The first data on 2013 incomes show continuing bad news for Americans, my analysis of a new Internal Revenue Service report shows.

Average income fell 2.6 percent in 2013, even though the economy grew 3.2 percent in real terms over 2012.

Average inflation-adjusted income in 2013 was 8 percent lower than in 2007, the last peak economic year, and 6.9 percent less than in 2000, the year President George W. Bush set as the standard to evaluate the effect of his tax cuts and regulatory policies.

This is the latest sign of a disturbing trend. An ever-shrinking share of national income flows to individuals while corporate profits expand.

Yeah, you might want to take this with a grain of salt because the report is compiled by a politically motivated attack dog of this administration that has been proven to target and attack the enemies of the state and has an agenda. And Al Jazeera, despite the fact that it was dumped by Al Gore the climate warrior to a conglomerate of oil men, also suffers from some credibility problems because of its usual anti-American agenda. But the truth is that we can glean most of these details that back up how terribly unjust these “social justices” schemes and scams the left engages in, for profit, by ourselves, and with just a little bit of research. The leftists love big business and hate small business, and the actions of the last 6 years show that. It is nothing more than that whole central planning shit that worked so well for communist countries rearing its ugly head with our credentialed elite class. The leftists in charge have pissed away trillions of tax payer dollars pursuing this unicorn, and things are worse than they were before, especially for the middle class, which they absolutely want to eliminate in their vision of what an utopian society should look like.

TARP, for example, was nothing but an attempt to keep afloat those companies that because of a couple of decades of horrible politically motivated legislations and behind the scenes encouragement to engage in horribly stupid and risky lending practices, followed by government assisted laundering of the bad paper tied to these politically motivated schemes and scams, got in huge financial trouble when the house of cards came crumbling down. Tax payers footed the bill for the obvious consequence that indubitably always follow in the wake of social engineering attempts like this one. That was accompanied by the left, under the pretense of to wanting to fix the problem they caused in the first place, and in the most self serving way possible, producing a slew of new legislation that did nothing to address the fundamental underlying problem, only to then come full circle again. Tax payers better be ready to have another trillion dollar or more bill served to them, some time in the not too distant future, to correct for the same problem that caused the previous meltdown.

Then we had the trillion dollar Porkulus bill that served to do nothing more than funnel a shit-ton of money these crooks stole from the productive to democrat friends, activists, causes, or donors. From fucking over investors in favor of their union buddies at GM to pissing away billions on shitty green projects that went nowhere, many connected democrats and democrat friends made oodles of money, often at the expense of others. Democrat politicians were then richly rewarded for that largess with fat donation checks. A ton of criminal shit happened too – check out old New Jersey’s governor Jon Corazine and how a big donation to the Obama administration let him get away with the crime of the century – and is still going on. Big money pissed away making democrat élites and their connected buddies rich.

And let us not forget Obamacare, which is by far the best example of how fucked up these “social justice” scams are, and was only passed by lying to the public at large about what the real intent was. In a nutshell, Obamacare boils down to the crooks in government that want to destroy healthcare in America – so they can finally force the single payer system they can’t get otherwise on us – getting in a temporary arrangement with the very same evil insurance industry companies they blamed for the need to this shit for in the first place. How is that working out for you, huh? Stupid and envious idiots that bought the lies about other people – particularly the rich – paying for this, are now all shocked that they are the ones getting slammed in the ass with the costs. And the high price all comes with very little to show for. Wait until this mess plays itself out to see how much damage it will do to the middle class.

I can go on and on about how horrible things are for everyone but the liberal elite and their connected friends, but you should get the picture by now. That is, unless you are one of the true believers of this collectivist bullshit cult’s “social justice” nonsense. My one consolation is, unless you happen to be one of the lucky freeloaders, that the damage being done is fucking you envious collectivist a-holes over just as hard as it is me. And even the free loaders are going to be screwed by the left’s desire to fuck us over with millions of illegal immigrants they hope will become good democrat voters in return for tax payer provided largesse.

At least my 401(k) is soaring for now because of this unholy union between the collectivists and the big business conglomerates. The problem is that might not last long either considering that these collectivists already are trying to raid the savings of the middle class to keep their unicorn on life support for a little longer.

The lesson here is that “social justice”, like many other such collectivist buzz words, is really code for criminal behavior.

Sully Retiring?

Andrew Sullivan has announced that’s he retiring:

Why? Two reasons. The first is one I hope anyone can understand: although it has been the most rewarding experience in my writing career, I’ve now been blogging daily for fifteen years straight (well kinda straight). That’s long enough to do any single job. In some ways, it’s as simple as that. There comes a time when you have to move on to new things, shake your world up, or recognize before you crash that burn-out does happen.

The second is that I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again. I’m a human being before I am a writer; and a writer before I am a blogger, and although it’s been a joy and a privilege to have helped pioneer a genuinely new form of writing, I yearn for other, older forms. I want to read again, slowly, carefully. I want to absorb a difficult book and walk around in my own thoughts with it for a while. I want to have an idea and let it slowly take shape, rather than be instantly blogged. I want to write long essays that can answer more deeply and subtly the many questions that the Dish years have presented to me. I want to write a book.

I want to spend some real time with my parents, while I still have them, with my husband, who is too often a ‘blog-widow’, my sister and brother, my niece and nephews, and rekindle the friendships that I have simply had to let wither because I’m always tied to the blog. And I want to stay healthy. I’ve had increasing health challenges these past few years. They’re not HIV-related; my doctor tells me they’re simply a result of fifteen years of daily, hourly, always-on-deadline stress. These past few weeks were particularly rough – and finally forced me to get real.

Whatever one may think of Sullivan, he has been a major force in blogging for 15 years. Putting up dozens of posts a day, linking to dozens of different points of view with over a million readers. Almost everyone’s blogging style is based heavily on Sullivan’s. His blog is how I found Right-Thinking and Moorewatch. It’s also how I found great writers like Conor Friedersdorf, Ed Morrissey, Allahpundit, Megan McArdle and Peter Suderman, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Ann Althouse, Stephen Bainbridge and probably a dozen others I’m forgetting. I was with him a lot during the Bush years but disagreed with him on Obama. I found his Palin obsession alarming and frankly crazy. But I always found that he would present all sides even if he was wildly and incorrectly opinionated on a subject.

The haters are out in force today. They are dragging out his publicity for The Bell Curve, saying he thought blacks were inferior to whites (because, apparently, you have to think that if you don’t burn every copy of the Bell Curve in existence). They are saying he was irrelevant. This is envy from people who would kill for a thousandth of his readership or influence. And offensive coming from people who are crowing about the victory of gay marriage — something Sullivan pushed for 25 years in the face of withering opposition from other gays as well as conservatives. Sullivan was wrong sometimes or a lot (more since Obama was elected). But he was the only blog that had enough support to go completely independent.

I don’t think this is the end for Sullivan. He’s made similar announcements before, although I suspect he is a lot more serious this time. As someone who swears, at least once a month, that I’m done blogging, I can sympathize. Lee warned me about the addictive power of blogging when he gave me the keys to Right Thinking. I suspect Sullivan will be back at some point, albeit probably in a much-reduced way. But it’s been a good fifteen years, regardless.

Thanks, Andrew.

Chupacabra attacks!

I knew it!

We’ve heard the “exhaustion” excuse from stars who miss events.

But “attacked” by a “chupacabra”?

You have to hand it to Johnny Depp for that one.

That’s what he said was his reason for missing a news conference for his new movie, Mortdecai, in Tokyo on Tuesday.

Next time one of the women I am dating gives me grief I am using this excuse as well! Then again, Depp might be refering to the democrats and their fiscal policies. They are vampires after all.

Obama, Man of Contradictions

Last week, Alex put up a good takedown of the talking points from Obama’s State of Union Monarchial Address. But I’ve thinking about it for a week and there’s one thing I keep circling back to:

Almost everything that Obama claims credit for has come from policies he opposed.

A list of the things that Obama is claiming credit for it too long for a blog post since I’m pretty sure he’s now claiming credit for the sun continuing to rise. And that’s understandable: a good job description of “President of the United States” would be “someone who takes credit for anything good that happens”. But you can burrow down to several specific things he’s crowing about. And the striking this is that almost all of them are the result of policies he has opposed.

First, Obama took credit for the shrinking budget deficit. Putting aside that it’s easy to shrink a deficit after you’ve exploded it, the progress on the deficit, such as it is, has come from things Obama or his liberal travelers opposed — budget rescissions and the sequester. And it came without the thing they insisted was needed: massive tax hikes on the rich. The reason the deficit is smaller is because Republicans held the line on spending, keeping the level of spending flat for the last four years despite endless and repeated demands from Obama and the Democrats for ever more “stimulus” spending. The Keynesians out there, having caught their breath from screaming about how sequestration would wreck the economy, are now screaming that the 2009 stimulus finally worked, six years down the road. Whatever supports their bias, I guess.

(It should also be noted that the deficit may start rising again as soon as next year because of the failure to address entitlement spending.)

Obama also took credit for falling gas prices and booming oil production. But oil production on Federal land has actually fallen over his tenure. And he has opposed new energy projects like Keystone XL. His party has opposed fracking and just got it suspended in New York on dubious environmental justification. This is the man who, in 2012, specifically said we couldn’t drill our way out of this and that $2 gas was a fantasy. To be fair, I think the low in gas prices is temporary and prices will start rising again. But the overall point remains: increased oil production was not supposed to either be possible or to help with the energy crunch. And how does Obama reconcile this energy boom with his demand for restrictions on fossil fuel exploitation to combat global warming? He doesn’t. He simply talks out of both sides of his mouth.

(Speaking of global warming, Obama touted the agreement with China. But as I pointed out at the time, the CO2 reductions under that agreement are ones we were likely to meet anyway due to things that having nothing to do with Barack Obama: increased fracking and improvements in energy efficiency in the private sector.)

The biggest boast from Obama was about the economy, which had its healthiest quarter in 15 years. Obama is spiking the football on the economy and that’s understandable, given the howling recession he inherited. But the improvement of the economy came not when we got the stimulus, not when we got Obamacare, not when we passed Dodd-Frank but when we stopped persuing Obama’s agenda. Stimulus spending stopped. Subsidies stopped. Keynesian bullshit stopped. And suddenly, we’re doing better.

In fact, we’re just now finding out that a particularly vital piece of liberal received wisdom may have been garbage:

How much did cutting unemployment benefits help the labor market?

Quite a bit. There is a new NBER Working Paper on this topic by Hagedorn, Manovskii, and Mitman, showing (once again) that most supply curves slope upward, here is one key part from the abstract:

In levels, 1.8 million additional jobs were created in 2014 due to the benefit cut. Almost 1 million of these jobs were filled by workers from out of the labor force who would not have participated in the labor market had benefit extensions been reauthorized.

There is an ungated copy here (pdf). Like the sequester, this is another area where the Keynesian analysts simply have not proven a good guide to understanding recent macroeconomic events.

You see that? When the Republicans said that extended unemployment benefits were keeping people out of work, they were pilloried for it as heartless ignorant savages. We were told it was cruel to cut off unemployment benefits based on half-baked theories of labor. Now this is only a working paper, not a refereed one. But the simple fact is that the labor market has surged as unemployment benefits were cut off.

I’m willing to give Obama credit for some things. It’s true that more people are insured. But that tends to happen when you make being uninsured against the law (excuse me, subject to a tax). And the expense of insuring those people has proven as steep as skeptics predicted. And I’ll give him some credit for drawing down our overseas commitments (although the idea that we are out of Afghanistan is laughable). And … um … I’ll even give him credit for part of the achievements above. He did, after all, agree to the sequester. I’ll agree that the stock market is booming. But it wouldn’t be if Obama had gotten his demands for more taxes on capital gains, a financial transactions tax and a push to address income inequality.

But Obama’s biggest achievements are not his … or at least not his alone. The lion’s share of the credit has to go to the Republican Congress for ignoring everything he wanted to do. They didn’t restrict energy exploration, they didn’t pass more dunder-headed stimulus spending, they did hold spending flat, they did cut off unemployment benefits. Every single one of those things was predicted to be a disaster and yet none of those disasters have materialized. And now Obama and his Keynesian allies want to claim credit.

I don’t expect this to matter to the Democrats. Keynesian economics, command-and-control regulation, the wisdom of the welfare state — these things are articles of faith. But the evidence that they work — least of all that they deserve credit for the “Obama economy” — is scant to say the least.

Beware Greeks Breaking Bonds

Just recently, I read Michael Lewis’s Boomerang, which includes a long essay on the economic problems of Greece. It’s difficult to describe Greece’s economy without the words “holy fucking shit, dude, are you serious?” but I’ll try.

For years, the Greek budgets were a fraud. The EU rules required them to keep their deficits below 3% of GDP. But massive amounts of the Greek economy are underground. Their system encourage abuse and fraud so that very few people pay taxes and no one thinks they should pay taxes. Government spending figures were made up so that they could comply with EU budget requirements. Their government is large and pays salaries much higher than any other country. And they can retire at age 50 and draw huge pensions. They also have a fertility rate of 1.3, so it’s not like a baby boom is going to sustain this massive wave of retirees.

When you know the details, you realize just how necessary the recent austerity was. Greece was in so much debt and their budget was so out of control, they had to make drastic changes. This wasn’t some evil imposition by imperialistic Germans; this was math.

Well, the Greeks voted today for an anti-austerity party:

Exit polls suggest a historic victory for the anti-austerity Syriza party in Greece’s general election.

The polls indicate that Syriza took between 36% and 38% of the total vote, with the ruling New Democracy party a distant second with 26%-28%.

It is unclear whether Syriza has enough votes to govern the country alone.

Syriza’s Alexis Tsipras has pledged to renegotiate Greece’s debt arrangement with international creditors.

He has also vowed to reverse many of the austerity measures adopted by Greece since a series of bailouts began in 2010.

The result is being closely watched outside Greece, where it is believed a Syriza victory could encourage radical leftist parties across Europe.

The exit polls suggested Syriza had won between 148 and 154 parliamentary seats. They need 151 seats for an outright majority.

(Aside: there are a lot of liberals who think we should have a parliamentary system in this country, mainly because they don’t like Obama being opposed on legislation. This election is a good demonstration of why I don’t like parliamentary systems. Syriza is going to take over Greece based on a third of the vote. The parliamentary system encourages radical minorities to take the wheel of government and spin it madly. I’ll take our gridlock, thank you.)

Fuck Greece. They’ve gotten tens of billions of dollars in help and their response is to whine and cry because they can no longer live high on the hog on a fraudulent system paid for by other countries. Don’t let them leave the Euro; kick them the hell out. Let inflation and default ruin their economy. Maybe then they’ll figure out that you can’t run a country on bullshit.

Maybe other people will too.

Gas prices, the ppb of oil, and the future

I filled up my car today and paid $2.11 a gallon here in The People’s Republic of Connecticut. In some other parts of the nation that don’t have ridiculously high government imposed gas taxes – taxes that they claim they will use to fix the crumbling infrastructure and ill maintained infrastructure they have held tenure over, but somehow always end up in the general fund where they then get spent on vote buying social pet projects – this number is now below $2 a gallon. The last time I remember oil under $2 a gallon was a decade ago. But why is this happening? There are a ton of varying opinions about cause and effect out there. Let’s explore.

First off, the obligatory democrats are always talking out of their ass reference. They knew they were full of shit, we knew it, and because despite every and all efforts by the Obama administration failing to hinder the expansion of US oil recovery, we got more drilling, we now have definite proof. Collectivist Keynesian shitbags can pretend that the economic laws of supply and demand don’t matter – like they do with the reality of human nature and a lot of other natural laws – but reality has a way of bitch-slapping stupid people. You fuckers knew you were lying when you were pretending more oil on the market would not reduce prices, and we now have proven it. The opposition to any more drilling and recovery was primarily because these Marxists fucks want to destroy the brown energy industry to favor their friends, and coincidentally another one of their special interest big donor blocks, in the proven failed green industry.

Back to business now that we have gotten that out of the way. This precipitous price drop, even though I believe it will not remain that low forever (more about that later), is bound to jump start our economy and help a lot of us that now will have extra pocket change. And it doesn’t come without the profiteers trying to screw over the tax payers yet again. The leftists, under the guise of getting more money to fix the very infrastructure they have been neglecting for decades, precisely because they were diverting gas tax dollars to social pet projects, are putting pressure on everyone to get more money from people that are finally getting a much needed and deserved break in the though economic times the leftists have given us.

As if this time the bulk of this extra revenue wouldn’t actually also be diverted to vote buying projects they depend on. Yeah, and pigs will fly too. These assholes count on people’s stupidity and envy. Think about how these will impact us all once prices climb again – and they will. Let us also note that this money grab is not limited to the feds. Many state governments, especially the ones run by democrats that do the same as the feds (like mine), are all hoping to follow that example and do the same. Can’t have people keeping more of their money when they need to buy votes in these desperate times that their base consists of so many of the non-productive. It is almost as if these people’s decision making is based on what can do the most economic harm possible. Of course, when you already believe the money doesn’t belong to the people earning it in the first place, you tend to not bother with these stupid details anyway.

Now that we have gotten that nasty business out of the way, let’s discuss why the prices are dropping as precipitously and fast as they are. The general consensus is that the Saudis are doing this, and it is on purpose. The Saudis, OPEC’s biggest producers, have decided not to cut their output to regulate prices, and are counting on their over $800 billion in reserves to ride out this shorting of the market. The move to let the oil prices plummet is basically driven by their calculated belief that if the price goes too low it will force fledgling the US oil industry, especially the fracking industry that the Russians had been directly targeting without much success so far, I add, to collapse.

The Saudis, like most of the other OPEC nations and Russia, all need oil to be at between $90 and $100 a barrel to keep their current economic plans viable. The supply produced by the US has basically made that impossible, because the extra oil was sooner than later going to force a correction that would drop prices and keep them between $65 to $75 per barrel. And while that drop is something that would be an economic boon to most of the world that depends on oil for energy, it would spell a slow economic death for the oil producing nations that need/want the higher prices. Have no doubt that this move is a calculated attack on the US oil industry. The Saudis are counting that if they keep the prices below $50 a barrel for a while that they can drive the US out of the oil producing. Even more important is their belief that the greens will then prevent that oil producing industry from coming back for decades. This gamble that the greens will prevent the oil production from starting right back up again is based on their observation of how things played out in the 70s, and while many believe that this time it will not work, I think that their gamble isn’t all that crazy. The greens, after all, want to destroy the brown energy sector and don’t give two flying fucks how costly and destructive their agenda is, because in the end it is about them lining their pockets above all else. Most of the big actors have become stinking rich fucking us all over.

The fact is that this economic boon they will usher in and the low gas prices themselves can’t last as the demand and supply curve correct themselves eventually. But then again, we can make some economic moves that will preposition us to come out of this attack against our economy and economic interests, as the winners. The fact is that anything that keeps the price of oil lower than the $90 to $100 per barrel that the actors behind this attack want is a good thing. Lower prices would be a huge hit that forces some of the world’s shittiest nations to change their ways, for lack of funds to cause trouble with, to at a minimum do less harmful things. That would be a big bonus for the world in general. Of course I doubt this administration and the collectivists that are in league with the greens have any desire to do so, and they will actually do things that will undermine that possibility. We need to make sure we push back and prevent them from doing that. Cheap energy is exactly what the world needs right now, just like it needs a lot less big intrusive Keynesian nanny-state government.

In the mean time enjoy this gift for as long as it is allowed to last by the people that want to control us serfs.

Deja Vu of collectivist stupidity

I admit I didn’t even bother watching the freak show, because I figured it was going to be more of the same, and I was not disappointed. From what I have read and seen now, I can tell that the man is just full of shit, talks out of both sides of his mouth, has a forked tongue, again showed why he is a narcissistic a-hole, by peddling the same trope the left has been peddling for decades: envy and jealousy. Pathetic.

The Washington Times points out that he calls for civility, then taunts. What’s new about that? I mean this has been the guy for 7 years. The Weekly Standard points out that in typical democrat fashion Obama attacks campaign donations, then proceeds to ask for them. The fact that these people that cry the loudest about the evils of donations – but specifically donations to their opponents – isn’t either new or news. These are after all the people that usually want to ban corporate money but see no problem with union money. They are also the people that denigrate and attack the rich, but get the most money from them and as the last 7 years show. do the things that make those rich people richer. The Washington Times also points out that in typical petulant child fashion, Obama managed to tell those evil republicans that just won the last electoral cycle with massive popular support that he was going to take his ball home if they didn’t let him win the game. This has been president “I won”, after all, and by now everyone should know that when they talk about working together or bipartisan efforts, democrats always mean “do what I want”.

This thing was such a snooze fest of the usual collectivist trope that even Ruth Bader Ginsburg seems to have nodded off. There were some highlights though. The Examiner points out that while Obama touted the left’s “War on Womenz” meme and again talked about the pay disparity, that the misleading and false statistics they usually use to back their cherry picking up was not repeated this time. Maybe this had something to do with that. Obama had so much good to say about our clearly broken secondary education system, but that is because, as Glen H. Reynolds has pointed out repeatedly, these institutions are one of the collectivist’s biggest donor blocks.

Fox News does a good job explaining what we saw, and that was that after this last electoral cycle’s shellacking, Obama went back to the usual democrat talking points. More class warfare – preying on the envious and the jealous works – and more taxing the productive and spending to buy votes from those that vote for a living, because that serves the country so well. Basically we got another “Give me your votes and I will give you free shit” donkey speech. Old and tired shit. If you like me just parodied what you expected an old collectivist twit would say and then watched something else, you didn’t miss much and were probably dead on.

Obama has managed to make my predictions that democrats in power would by their very actions sooner than later make sane people realize they are nothing but snake oil salesmen robbing Peter to pay Paul, while bagging a huge chunk of that change, back when everyone was talking about evil rethuglicans and Boosh, come true, and then without a shadow of doubt. I would love to rub it in people’s faces, but then again, when I look at the path of destruction these crooks have left in their wake, I don’t find much pleasure even in that.

The Tragedy of the Military or a Tragedy of Government

As Alex noted in his post below, there have been a number of Hollywood trolls saying negative things about American Sniper. Most have not seen the film, obviously. My understanding is that Sniper is similar to Eastwood’s earlier Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. Both movies were respectful of the military but not “pro-war” in any sense. (They are also both very good movies, especially Letters).

It’s also not the first film with a sniper as the protagonist. The solid film Enemy at the Gates had, as its hero, sniper Vasily Zaitsev. I don’t recall the Hollywood idiotorati complaining then. I guess Communist “mass murderers” are OK. Actually, given the affection Hollywood lefties have for people like Mao and Che, we know they’re OK with mass murderers as long as they’re communist mass murderers.

In any case, the discussion about Sniper got me thinking about this recent article from James Fallows. In it, he uses recent Hollywood movies about the military as an example of the American public’s poor thinking about military matters in general:

From Mister Roberts to South Pacific to Catch-22, from The Caine Mutiny to The Naked and the Dead to From Here to Eternity, American popular and high culture treated our last mass-mobilization war as an effort deserving deep respect and pride, but not above criticism and lampooning. The collective achievement of the military was heroic, but its members and leaders were still real people, with all the foibles of real life. A decade after that war ended, the most popular military-themed TV program was The Phil Silvers Show, about a con man in uniform named Sgt. Bilko. As Bilko, Phil Silvers was that stock American sitcom figure, the lovable blowhard—a role familiar from the time of Jackie Gleason in The Honeymooners to Homer Simpson in The Simpsons today. Gomer Pyle, USMC; Hogan’s Heroes; McHale’s Navy; and even the anachronistic frontier show F Troop were sitcoms whose settings were U.S. military units and whose villains—and schemers, and stooges, and occasional idealists—were people in uniform. American culture was sufficiently at ease with the military to make fun of it, a stance now hard to imagine outside the military itself.

Let’s skip to today’s Iraq-Afghanistan era, in which everyone “supports” the troops but few know very much about them. The pop-culture references to the people fighting our ongoing wars emphasize their suffering and stoicism, or the long-term personal damage they may endure. The Hurt Locker is the clearest example, but also Lone Survivor; Restrepo; the short-lived 2005 FX series set in Iraq, Over There; and Showtime’s current series Homeland. Some emphasize high-stakes action, from the fictionalized 24 to the meant-to-be-true Zero Dark Thirty. Often they portray military and intelligence officials as brave and daring. But while cumulatively these dramas highlight the damage that open-ended warfare has done—on the battlefield and elsewhere, to warriors and civilians alike, in the short term but also through long-term blowback—they lack the comfortable closeness with the military that would allow them to question its competence as they would any other institution’s.

Fallows sees this as a window into our thinking about the military. Because so few serve now, it is exotic territory to many Americans. As a result, our politics are dominated by people supporting our troops but not thinking about them too much. He argues that foreign adventures are engaged in with little thought and with supreme confidence that our soldiers can deal with whatever problems face them. Pentagon programs and the Pentagon’s budget are regarded as sacrosanct. He points out that Solyndra has gotten massive media attention but its cost is a hundredth that of the troubled F-35’s cost overruns. He argues that our distance from the military has created a “chickenhawk nation” — a nation that supports endless numerous military engagements but has little interest in either serving directly or providing the kind of critical thought military engagement deserves. And our debacles in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria reflect this.

Too much complacency regarding our military, and too weak a tragic imagination about the consequences if the next engagement goes wrong, have been part of Americans’ willingness to wade into conflict after conflict, blithely assuming we would win. “Did we have the sense that America cared how we were doing? We did not,” Seth Moulton told me about his experience as a marine during the Iraq War. Moulton became a Marine Corps officer after graduating from Harvard in 2001, believing (as he told me) that when many classmates were heading to Wall Street it was useful to set an example of public service. He opposed the decision to invade Iraq but ended up serving four tours there out of a sense of duty to his comrades. “America was very disconnected. We were proud to serve, but we knew it was a little group of people doing the country’s work.”

Moulton told me, as did many others with Iraq-era military experience, that if more members of Congress or the business and media elite had had children in uniform, the United States would probably not have gone to war in Iraq at all.

In short, he sees America as disengaged, unwilling to see the military as an institution with shortcomings and weaknesses. And our popular culture reflects this disengagement.

I think a few points are in order. First, on the popular culture front: the reason we aren’t getting military comedies anymore is because modern Hollywood sucks at comedy. Most movies have to be “serious” except for big action movies. It used to be that when people wanted to criticize the military, the did it with either gentle affection (Mister Roberts) or biting satire (MASH). Now they do it with over-serious highly politicized movies that no one watches.

Second, there is a big difference between reverence for “the military” as an institution and reverence for the people who are in it. The latter deserve nothing but respect; the former less so. There have been many people critical of military decisions, military contracting, military spending and military engagements. Defenders of aggressive foreign policy have taken to cowering behind our soldiers, equating any criticism of military policy as criticism of the people serving. That’s garbage and Fallows doesn’t really pick that apart as he should.

Third, the military get inordinate respect in our society because they earn it. No matter what the conflict, they have undertaken it without complaint and done as good a job as can be done, even when faced with impossible tasks. Their behavior in even the most awful theaters has been exemplary. And, as Fallows notes, you can’t help but be impressed when you meet soldiers. I haven’t met one who wasn’t respectful, hard-working, smart and dedicated. The only problem I’ve ever had is that they look so good in their uniforms, they make me feel spectacularly underdressed.

Reverence for soldiers, if not necessarily the entire military industrial complex, is a good thing. It’s a great thing, actually. A few years ago, I read my way through the entirety of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. It is a great, if extremely long, read. And it’s an important read because I believe the Roman Empire is the nearest historical parallel to the United States.

Three things I learned reading Gibbon:

1) If anyone tells you that the Roman Empire fell for Reason X, they are probably full of it. I’ve heard the Rome fell because of going off the gold standard, because of too many foreign adventures or because of the decline of morality. None of these hold up when you read Gibbon. In fact, the decline of Rome began almost exactly at the same time they abandoned paganism for Christianity and stopped conquering people.

2) In fact, Gibbon partially blames Christianity for the fall of Rome. He believe that the Romans became too focused on the afterlife and not focused enough on real life.

3) I think Gibbon overreaches a bit on Christianity but he does get to the fundamental truth: Rome fell because the Romans stopped defending it. Their military might had decayed, their Emperors had become incompetent and their defense of Rome consisted mainly of trying to bribe their way out of it.

In the Notebooks of Lazarus Long, Robert Heinlein says:

No state has an inherent right to survive through conscript troops and in the long run, no state ever has. Roman matrons used to say to their sons: “Come back with your shield, or on it.” Later on, this custom declined. So did Rome.

God knows our nation isn’t perfect. But a world with America is a giant improvement over a world without it. The survival of our nation depends on our willingness to defend it and the skill and courage of those who choose to defend it. We had better have respect for those who stand between us and the ash heap of history.

But as I noted above, there’s a difference between respecting the people and respecting the institution. Even movies that respect the soldiers can be and often are critical of the military and our political leadership. Eastwood’s Flags of our Fathers, for example, makes a point about the politicization of the soldiers who raised the flag at Iwo Jima. Other recent films, like Blackhawk Down, Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker have focued laserlike on our soldiers and the difficulties they face but either left the politics aside or criticized them in a very subtle way.

In short, Americans understand what a lot of pundits like Fallows don’t: it is possible to revere our soldiers and loathe the men who blithely send them into harm’s way with no clear objective of what they’re supposed to accomplish. Majorities of Americans now oppose open-ended foreign engagements like Syria. Still more want our engagements to come with a clear game plan and objective. Obama’s push to get into Syria was deeply unpopular. But if we’d gone in, the American people would have had no less respect for the men and women going into battle.

And that gets me to the main point. I think Fallows identifies a lot of problems with our military. He’s right that the F-35, a massively overbudget program designed to replace the cheaper and devastatingly effective A-10, is a scandal. He’s right that we are too willing to send the military into situations they aren’t suited for. We’ve gone from a conventional wisdom that the military can’t do anything to a conventional wisdom that they can do everything. Hell, we even sent them to fight Ebola last year and I’m pretty sure bullets don’t work on a virus.

Here’s where I think he misses the mark: this is not unique to the military. It’s more pronounced because the military is the biggest government program and the most visible. It’s more pronounced because we have a combination of neocons and liberal interventionists who have decided that the only “serious” approach to foreign policy involves bombing people.

But other programs have similar problems. As I noted a few weeks ago, California is about to throw $100 billion at a semi-high-speed-rail system. That’s one of dozens if not hundreds of massive bloated expensive infrastructure programs around the country. Bridges are being replaced at a hundred times the cost and in five times the construction time they were originally built. Subway lines and rail lines are being built at a cost of hundreds of millions per mile. And yet, what do we hear? Nothing but platitudes about how we need to build infrastructure and create jobs.

Public schools spend insane amounts of money and achieve mediocre results. Head Start is a gigantic babysitting program that even our government has concluded has no measurable effect on children. Yet education is sacrosanct. When Bush tried to cut programs that everyone agreed were wasteful, redundant and ineffective, he was pilloried because some of those programs were educational .. wasteful, redundant and ineffective but educational.

My own agency, NASA, has frequently had massive cost overruns (and, like the Pentagon, protects its big programs by spreading them out in multiple Congressional districts). Farm subsidies always wind up costing more than projected. It’s only recently that our massive vile War on Drugs and the two million people we’ve jailed has come under criticism.

In short, Fallows is identifying a symptom, not a disease. That military budgets are bloated, that programs like the F-35 are massively over-budget, that we keep sending our military into theaters where they have no clear mission is a symptom. The disease is a government that is dysfunctional, that cowtows to both special and general interests, that is driven by crack-brained pundits and egghead analysts, that never takes one step back to say, “should we really be doing this?”

You want to cure the symptoms? Cure the disease. Government agencies bloat. That is what they do. They secure their positions, they spread out their tendrils, they get powerful interests on their side and they defend themselves. And our leaders find new things for them to do. Government agencies aren’t programs; they are organisms.

Our federal government has 15 different departments. What they should do is put them in a 15-year cycle. Each year of the cycle, one department is completely torn down and replaced with a new department (or abolished, if we don’t think it’s necessary. I’m look at you, Commerce.) So in year T-2, you decide what agencies you need in the new Department and what functions it should have. In year T-1, you decide where the federal employees should go, which ones should be let go and what facilities need to be repurposed or sold. Then in Year zero, you transition to the new department.

I know a lot of people are saying, “why don’t you just do all the departments at once?” But ending or reorganizing a federal department is a massive undertaking. A 15-year cycle means that a lot of federal employees can be pushed into early retirement if necessary; it allows some institutional knowledge to be built and preserved; it allows time for the massive undertaking that reorganizing a department would be; it allows the organizations to accumulate bureaucratic cruft to make the effort worth it. I’m not even convinced you could do one a year. Some, like the Department of Defense, would need to be done over several years. A 20-year cycle might be better.

But the point is that the problems in Washington — including those in DoD — are a result of creating massive permanent untouchable institutions in Washington. Sunsetting those institutions or subjecting them to periodic reorganization would do lot more good than “demystifying” the military.

Post Scriptum: I didn’t have a place for this, but did want to note it. Part of the purpose of Fallows piece is to flog the work he did with Gary Hart’s commission on military reform. I’m not sure how Hart came to be regarded as a genius on these things. He was pushing himself as a military reformer in the 1980’s but his ideas were terrible. They mainly consisted of railing against new-fangled technologies like chobham armor and fly-by-wire fighters. He thought they would be unreliable and that we should be mass-producing older “more reliable” weapons systems. This point of view had some respect from old generals who thought it was done better in the old days, but not much respect among anyone else. And history has proven him wrong.

I remember this because my dad, the Air Force colonel, was going through the War College at the time and I was his research assistant. He showed me an Air Force Magazine article that hilariously took apart Hart’s criticisms. I hope I can find it one day and share it with you. It was so awesome I still remember it thirty years later.

One example: Hart criticized modern armor because it used aluminum, which he said was inflammable. Powdered aluminum is inflammable, but the aluminum alloys used in our armored vehicles was not and is not. The writer imagined a general discussing how to build tanks of inflammable materials without letting the soldiers catch on. They pondered building tanks out of wood or highway flares before settling on aluminum alloys.

Ending Shared Theft

I can’t believe I’m going to say this but here goes. Ahem. Cough. Uh, is this thing on?

Hi. Um … here we go …

Eric Holder has done something right.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Friday barred local and state police from using federal law to seize cash, cars and other property without warrants or criminal charges.

Holder’s action represents the most sweeping check on police power to confiscate personal property since the seizures began three decades ago as part of the war on drugs.

Since 2008, thousands of local and state police agencies have made more than 55,000 seizures of cash and property worth $3 billion under a civil asset forfeiture program at the Justice Department called Equitable Sharing.

The program has enabled local and state police to make seizures and then have them “adopted” by federal agencies, which share in the proceeds. It allowed police departments and drug task forces to keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds of adopted seizures, with the rest going to federal agencies.

I’ve talked about civil asset forfeiture many times. This is the vile practice where law enforcement officials seize your money, your car or your bank accounts and … well, basically keep it. You never have to be charged with a crime. They never have to prove the assets came from crime. They just take it, like a highwayman. And they are perfectly free to use those assets for any purpose, including, in one case, a margarita machine.

Some states have trained to “reign this in”. Granted, they haven’t reigned it in by say, abolishing it. But they’ve at least tried to redirect the money from going directly to law enforcement to going to schools or something. The Feds responded with their Equitable Sharing Program, where the police turn the money to the Feds to bypass state laws. The Feds keep a cut and then turn it right back over to the police. That’s the program Holder is suspending.

Now, to be fair, this is a directive. The next AG could reverse it. Hell, Holder could. Let’s not mistake this for, say, Congress passing a law to abolish it. Radley Balko breaks down the decision further, pointing out that federal investigations — such as investigations by the DEA or IRS — will still be able to use this tool. And, in fact, local law enforcement will be able to use Equitable Sharing when they are part of a federal or joint investigation. In fact, Holder’s justice department recently successfully argued before the Supreme Court, in Kaley, that the government could seize your assets before trial to keep you from hiring a good lawyer.

So let’s not dance in the streets just yet. But this is a step in the right direction. The next thing that needs to happen is for Congress to abolish the practice completely. Asset forfeiture may have made sense when we were seizing the 18th century smuggling ships of overseas booze barons. It makes no sense in a modern context. If the Supreme Court won’t abolish it, Congress must and should.

When you suck, double down on what makes you suck.

The once victorious left is getting its ass handed to it after showing the world how fucked up the shit they believe in is in practice in just a short 6 year span. Oh don’t get me wrong. The LSM has tried real hard to hide the damage being caused, but it has failed. Who still believes anything done by this administration fixed anything? I mean, we have had the LSM telling us for 6 years now how the recession was over and things were getting better. Sure, if you are one of the people that votes for a living or an ultra rich lib connected to this administration, you have made out real well – at the expense of future generations that will now have to pay for that deficit spending – but if you are middle class, you have been shafted by these crooks and know better. If there have been economic boons, it has been despite anything done by the Obama administration and the left.

Take energy for example. The US is now producing and exporting more oil than ever, and it has had an incredible impact on that racket. As a result of that the oil prices the democrats spent years telling us would remain unaffected by anything that would increase oils supply – such as more drilling in the US, fracking and shale oil recovery, Xcel pipeline, you name it – have plummeted, giving most Americans a needed break. Don’t worry though, because democrats in DC are already talking about increasing the taxes on gasoline. Their reasoning is that since the infrastructure is falling apart higher taxes can address it. Of course, the fact that what they collect is misappropriated and misspent disproves this nonsense. This drilling, fracking, and any effort related to increased oil production has happened despite an anti fossil fuel agenda by the left. Let me remind you of the billions these fucks pissed away on green bullshit, Obama’s efforts to destroy the coal industry, and the fact that they admit they want high energy prices so people are forced to give up comfort, convenience, and even basic needs to live like the leftist twits believe us peons should. There must be a god above that has not only allowed us to overcome this nefarious activity, but has shown without any doubt, that the left is inimical to energy and growth.

There are other things that they have done that are downright destructive despite any claims to the contrary. There has constantly been talk, and it has been lots of talk and very little action, about fixing the economy and creating jobs. But what has been done serves only to further the left’s political agenda at the expense of us people. Exhibit A- Obamacare has been a disaster and promises to cause incalculable damage, so much so, that democrats are running from it. It was passed by a clique with an agenda, in secrecy, based on a campaign of obfuscation and lies that mirror a cheap soap opera, pretending to want to help people and lower costs, while really basically implementing a debacle that has as its end goal the destruction of the American healthcare system so the left can finally implement their despicable single payer solution. The real damage this thing will cause is yet to come.

The left and their lackeys in the LSM have spent a lot of effort and time trying to tell us that all the part-time and McJobs created by the supposed recovery they seem to be the only ones to see – one that has also been labeled a jobless recovery in contradiction to their claims of job creation if things are not confusing enough– are good things for showcasing the left’s economic agenda. Of course we don’t heart a lot about jobs these days with the democratic party’s agenda of rewarding millions of law breaking illegals not just with legitimacy in the US, but with benefits paid for by the productive in return for votes. The truth is however that sucking at the government’s teat pays better than work in the age of Obama, and that’s the left’s legacy. They buy votes at the expense of the productive and the nations’ future. When you have so many people that believe they are owed just for existing and that work is for chumps, you are doomed. Of course, this is what the left lives off: it’s not an accidental by product, but what they need to keep their hold on power.

I can go on and on about economic damage. From the Dodd-Frank 2000 page behemoth and the fact that the fundamental and underlying problem – that government is in bed with lenders so they can buy favors from people that never should qualify for loans with the tax payer left holding the bag when the shit hits the fan as it has to – which Obama is about to do away with, to the IRS being used to target political enemies of the nanny state and the left, these criminals have undermined our nation and economy. Trillions are pissed away buying votes from a plethora of programs which primarily serve to bolster the lefts hold on power and on us peons. I stress again that any positive we have seen has happened despite their actions and agenda, and is a sign of the resiliency and strength of the American people. But the damage goes beyond the economic.

The class warriors are constantly decrying the affair of things. The world is unfair – that’s true – and they will fix it! That last one is plain bullshit and a despicable lie. They will fix nothing at all, and anything they tell you they plan to do should immediately be suspect. Take for example the revelation about public school students living in poverty. This has happened because of leftist policies. Public schools have seen an exodus of anyone that could do it because 5 decades of liberal control have devastated the system.

Education has been dumbed down and turned into nothing more than liberal indoctrination writ large. Students no longer are expected to perform and the important stuff has been replaced with liberal feel good bullshit, making the whole thing an exercise in futility. Consequently, the only people left- especially in the most broken public schools system which are predominantly in urban areas – are those that can’t afford to go elsewhere. The narcissistic leftards will claim we don’t spend enough on education, but that’s bullshit. More money, which is always their answer will do nothing to address the fact that teaching in most public schools is sub par because of the emphasis on the left’s indoctrination agenda over education.

And our problem with education isn’t restricted to our public school system. Our higher education system is also suffering from the very same problem. What once was considered a hallmark of future success, a college education, today amounts to nothing more than a license to ask people if they want fries with that. The old concept of a classical education – a means to teach people to think and solve problems – has been replaced with liberal indoctrination of low end value that despite the exorbitant cost leaves the candidates woefully unprepared to do anything other than ask people if they would like fries with that. How many social, womenz, or other bullshit studies degrees does a workforce need, huh? How many teaching jobs are out there to justify all the people with history, literature, or other such specialized degrees that might emphasize their passions, but leave little room to make a living? How smart is going into debt, to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars, for a degree that won’t guarantee you a better employment opportunity or the ability to earn enough to live and pay back what you borrowed?

The left, which profits from the existing broken system, doesn’t want to make colleges responsible for the money these institutions so freely pass out to people they know might not ever graduate or be able to pay it back with the degree they are pursuing, or to fix things so the educational value is there. The same applies to the public education system: anything that undermines their indoctrination agenda is DOA. Agenda over substance or results.

I remember when it was the religious right that was accused of wanting to legislate their morality. Today the intolerant left is straddling us with things ranging from speech codes to detailed rules about sexual behavior at college. The range of abuses of power, culminating in the record setting decline of the last 7 years, are so deep and broad that I would need weeks and hundreds of pages to just briefly touch upon them. In short, the left has spent but 6 years doing what it does to squander any and all support it had from those that were not already beholden special interests, and even amongst those, there has been a drastic erosion of support.

Queue the reason for this long post: the coming state of the union and the fact that the left is going to go back to the tried and true class, race, gender, and other envy and jealousy based tropes that coalesce its base, and Obama trying real hard to pass himself off as a man of the people by playing Robin Hood. Let me remind all of you that Robin Hood didn’t fight the rich: he fought corrupt and abusive government. He fought a government that taxed excessively and then to return what was stolen to its rightful owner. There was no wealth transfer scheme at play there. If you want a more apt comparison of Obama and what the left are up to, look towards the old USSR. That’s what they are basically doing. There is no nobility or good at work here. It is all about power and counting on the basest and vilest of human emotions – jealousy and envy – to manipulate sheep. Pay careful attention to what has really happened as democrats got to do what they wanted before you let them fool you yet again. Democrats are about rewarding bad behavior and punishing good ones, because they count on people being children for them to get and keep power.

This move is desperation at work. It’s so they can cry foul and blame the republicans when this goes nowhere in congress. Fuck the left.