Tag: United States

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.

Hey Mr DJ: Un-Accountability Edition

Don’t ask me why I went a month with no music threads. You see, I have taken a cue from our Masters and decided that if The Powers That Be are allowed to hopelessly bungle the government’s attempt to control 1/6th of the US economy while inflicting higher costs on millions of Americans, lay workers off even while reaping record profits, rape the entire world’s privacy rights through the once-magical and promising power of the World Wide Web, and commit any other number of ethical, moral, and legal infractions with zero explanation or a single pink slip for any single asshole who got us into this situation in the first place; I just don’t have to either.

Feels good. Go ahead and add me to the ever-growing list of people to hang from a lamp-post when all is said and done. Just please don’t string me up anywhere near Lady Gaga or Lois Lerner, I beg of you. My sense of shame hasn’t completely evaporated yet and I’d hate to be photographed with the likes of them.

Doing your own thing for fun and profit and profit regardless of how much it harms society-at-large is all the rage among our elites, almost a sport. It’s much as how they used to hunt foxes, except now we in the middle and lower classes are either the poor fox or the miserable hounds and horses helping run it down.

It’s not so much that I hate them, but that I hate that nobody even tries to stop them. Time and time again, “affluenza” protects those crooks, perverts, and greedy fucks in government and the corporate world from the prison time they deserve while the populace demands more and more crumbs; grateful for every one it gets even though it’s just a crumb.

Nothing is going to get right in this country until WE decide that it has to, you know. Makes you wonder when our society is going to grow up, grow a pair, and start paying the bills.

So let’s turn the supposed season of goodwill toward men on its head and glorify the I Got Mine ideology of our betters.

No dedications or explanations why. Merry fucking Christmas, as my mother likes to say.

1. Music about getting way with everything up to and including murder.

2. Artists who broke up the band and became fabulously rich going solo.

3. Do your own thing and screw the thread. Everybody else is out getting their own nut. Why not you?

For Government: The Trickster by Radiohead

For Big Business: Cool Blue Reason by Cake

For the Iluminati, Masons, aliens, or other shadow organization of your choice: Exopolitics by Muse

For 1%: You Only Get What You Give by New Radicals

For Hollywood: I Don’t Care About You by Fear

For Us: Who Will Save Us Now by Pleistocene

And no bitching at me for questioning either your precious grand nanny Barack Obama or your sainted corporate entrepreneurs and pirates. None of them care about you and they are delighted that you waste your time passionately arguing about meaningless fringe topics that do not threaten what’s theirs. Now go look at Miley Cyrus’s shocking new album art, you peasants.

Hey Mr DJ: On The Run Edition

Winning the War on Terror? No, not so you’d notice.

Just as Dumbledore was once driven from Hogwarts at the mere mention of Voldemort’s name, the ghost of bin Laden was sufficient to place the US on worldwide alert and close down its embassies. If it were only an over-reaction based on chicken-shittiness, it would be bad enough. Unfortunately, it is probably also an intended distraction from the scandals that are overtaking this Administration, try as it might to escape.

This is a disgraceful time to be an American. We have subjected ourselves to complete surveillance and control by a government that excels at nothing but terrorizing ourselves. As unnerving as this fact is for us, those of you around the world who depend on the United States as a force for stability and peace have been officially placed on notice that we are no longer mentally or morally up to the task. The Post-American Age is upon you.

Good luck!


1. Profiles in Cowardice: Songs about greasing your shorts in the face of danger.

2. Down But Not Out: Sucks when our enemies are pluckier, more determined, and braver than we are no matter how many of them we kill, I know.

3. Superpowers Anonymous: Powerless against Kryptonite car bombs. Where have the heroes gone?

4. Due to security precautions, there is no #4.

5. Partisan Distractions: Pretend you’re an Administration official and play a song that has anything to do with something other than #1 through #4.

Barack’s Boastful Bonus: Choose a song about someone making ludicrous claims which were subsequently proven wrong or simply making ironic statements.

Mississippi Yankee: Too Afraid to Love You by The Black Keys

pfluffy: Easy Way Out by Gotye

Santino: Alive or Dead by Middle Class Rut

Biggie G: Running Scared by Roy Orbison

InsipiD: Bling (Confessions of a King) by The Killers

bgeek: Out Ta Get Me by GNR

WVR: The Frightened City by The Shadows

Surrender, infidels.

We Are Shocked, Shocked! To Find Out That There Is Spying Going On In Here

That European governments are shocked is literally the headline over at CNN:

European officials reacted with fury Sunday to a report that the U.S. National Security Agency spied on EU offices.

The European Union warned that if the report is accurate, it will have tremendous repercussions.

“I am deeply worried and shocked about the allegations,” European Parliament President Martin Schulz said in a statement. “If the allegations prove to be true, it would be an extremely serious matter which will have a severe impact on EU-US relations. On behalf of the European Parliament, I demand full clarification and require further information speedily from the U.S. authorities with regard to these allegations.”

The scale of the US spying operations is quite huge. EU buildings in the US and Belgium, millions of phone lines and data connections in Germany. But … on some level, I have to wonder if this is a bit of diplomatic kabuki. As I said before, I assume that our government spies on other governments, including friendly ones. And I assume other governments spy on us. And not always for security purposes. France’s intelligence agency used to conduct industrial espionage for French corporations.

I find myself agreeing with Michael Hayden:

“I’ve been out of government for about five years, so I really don’t know, and even if I did, I wouldn’t confirm or deny it,” he said. “But I think I can confirm a few things for you here this morning. Number one, the United States does conduct espionage. Number two, our Fourth Amendment, which protects Americans’ privacy, is not an international treaty. And number three, any European who wants to go out and rend their garments with regard to international espionage should look first and find out what their governments are doing.”

Spying on other countries is part of the President’s job description. To not do so would be a dereliction of duty. As I said in a previous post, even our allies keep secrets for their own reasons. And we zealously guard our secrets even from those allies (which is why Pollard is in jail).

Suppose a friendly country found out about a potential terror attack on the United States. And suppose that country did not want to reveal this information for fear of compromising a critical source. Would it not be the President’s duty to find this information out?

This is one of the problems I have with those embracing Edward Snowden. As time goes on, it seems that his problem isn’t just with spying on Americans but with spying at all. That’s not a purism I can embrace. Because spying is necessary.

Even on our allies.

The Hijacking Boom

Wired has an excerpt from a new book about the so-called “Golden Age of Hijacking” when US airplanes were routinely taken by crazy people and flown to crazy places like Cuba. In a span of four years (1968-1972), over 130 planes were hijacked, a threat level that, if it occurred today, would have the NSA’s nose firmly wedged in our genitals.

I found the excerpt fascinating for two reasons. First, the description of what happened to these people once they reached the island communist paradise of Cuba:

But though Fidel Castro welcomed the wayward flights in order to humiliate the United States and earn hard currency—the airlines had to pay the Cuban government an average of $7,500 to retrieve each plane—he had little but disdain for the hijackers themselves, whom he considered undesirable malcontents. After landing at José Martí, hijackers were whisked away to an imposing Spanish citadel that served as the headquarters of G2, Cuba’s secret police. There they were interrogated for weeks on end, accused of working for the CIA despite all evidence to the contrary. The lucky ones were then sent to live at the Casa de Transitos (Hijackers House), a decrepit dormitory in southern Havana, where each American was allocated sixteen square feet of living space; the two-story building eventually held as many as sixty hijackers, who were forced to subsist on monthly stipends of forty pesos each. Skyjackers who rubbed their G2 interrogators the wrong way, meanwhile, were dispatched to squalid sugar-harvesting camps, where conditions were rarely better than nightmarish. At these tropical gulags, inmates were punished with machete blows, political agitators were publicly executed, and captured escapees were dragged across razor-sharp stalks of sugarcane until their flesh was stripped away. One American hijacker was beaten so badly by prison guards that he lost an eye; another hanged himself in his cell.

I had never heard this before. That’s not surprising — either the treatment or the fact that I’d never heard of it. The treatment isn’t surprising because anyone with an IQ bigger than their underwear waistband knows that Castro was and is a brutal dictator. Donna did a series of posts on the old Moorewatch website describing the conditions in Cuba and little has changed since then. Little has ever changed in Cuba.

But the lack of publicity of that treatment isn’t surprising either. Many of the Left, especially in the 70’s, happily turned a blind eye to Castro’s oppression. Many bought into the cartoon version of Cuba that he happily sold to the West. And the media were very reluctant to call shenanigans on the whole thing. When Castro, having washed the blood off his clothes, is was praised and decorated by other countries for his “achievements”, the Cuban exile community, who had endured his brutality and lost relatives to his murderousness, went nuts. I don’t blame them.

The other interesting part is the response to hijacking. The hijacking boom was when the policy began that hijackers were not to be resisted or opposed. For the safety of the airplanes, crews and passengers were instructed to comply with the hijackers’ demands. That policy would be exploited on 9/11 to devastating effect before it was summarily rescinded by the brave passengers of United 93.

The other interesting part is how the hijacking boom was stopped, at least for a while.

John Dailey, a task force member who also served as the FAA’s chief psychologist, began to attack the problem by analyzing the methods of past skyjackers. He pored through accounts of every single American hijacking since 1961—more than seventy cases in all—and compiled a database of the perpetrators’ basic characteristics: how they dressed, where they lived, when they traveled, and how they acted around airline personnel. His research convinced him that all skyjackers involuntarily betrayed their criminal intentions while checking in for their flights. “There isn’t any common denominator except in [the hijackers’] behavior,” he told one airline executive. “Some will be tall, some short, some will have long hair, some not, some a long nose, et cetera, et cetera. There is no way to tell a hijacker by looking at him. But there are ways to differentiate between the behavior of a potential hijacker and that of the usual air traveler.”

Dailey, who had spent the bulk of his career designing aptitude tests for the Air Force and Navy, created a brief checklist that could be used to determine whether a traveler might have malice in his heart. Paying for one’s ticket by unconventional means, for example, was considered an important tip-off. So, too, were failing to maintain eye contact and expressing an inadequate level of knowledge or concern about one’s luggage. Dailey fine-tuned his criteria so they would apply to only a tiny fraction of travelers—ideally no more than three out of every thousand. He proposed that these few “selectees” could then be checked with handheld metal detectors, away from the prying eyes of fellow passengers. Most selectees would prove guilty of nothing graver than simple eccentricity, but a small number would surely be found to be in possession of guns, knives, or incendiary devices.

Profiling, in other words. Needless to say, this program was a success. Only one in every 200 passengers was picked for extra screening. Most did not object. Hijackings dropped. And janitors reported finding abandoned weapons.

The excerpt cuts off at that point and hijackings did boom again after the Dailey program. I may actually get the book to see why and learn how the problem was solved in the long term. But it comports with what Bruce Schneier and others have been saying about our approach to security: that we’re better off trying to identify terrorists than strip people of potential weapons. Almost anything can be used as a weapon. But very few of us are terrorists. It’s much more productive to find the latter than the former.

Hillary Testifies

Well, the conspiracy theorists were wrong again. As predicted, Hillary Clinton did indeed testify to Congress yesterday. There was plenty of grand-standing on both sides and yet more irrelevant focus on what Susan Rice said after the incident. To me, the most important part was this:

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, asked Clinton this afternoon why her office had not responded to a notification from Stevens about potential dangers in Libya.

“Congressman, that cable did not come to my attention,” Clinton calmly told the House Foreign Affairs Committee hours after her Senate testimony this morning. “I’m not aware of anyone within my office, within the secretary’s office having seen that cable.”

She added that “1.43 million cables come to my office. They’re all addressed to me.”

No one expects Hillary to read all 1.43 million cables that come into her office. However, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect the State Department as a body to have a good read on the situation at our embassies. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that the State Department would know when one of its ambassadors is warning of a decaying security situation and in not unreasonable fear for his life. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to determine, as Rand Paul pointed out, which of those cables is unimportant and which of them is critical.

You remember how, after 9/11, the Democrats went nuts about all the little memos that hinted at what was to come? At the time, I said that the problem was that our security infrastructure was being overwhelmed with information. They had so many memos and reports and analyses coming in, there was clearly no way to pick out the most important stuff from the noise. The recent report on Benghazi and Hillary’s testimony makes it clear that, eleven years later, we still don’t have a way to pick out the signal from the noise. We had an ambassador in a volatile country warning us that the security situation was bad. Surely, that should have been prioritized. Surely, of the 1.43 million cables Hillary received, someone could have narrowed it down to a few hundred of the most important and “we’re in danger” would be one of those?

There’s no way to escape this being a failure of management, a failure to see a danger that loomed large in one of the most important regions of the world. No amount of excuse making about cables is going to change that.

The King’s Speech

I didn’t have time until yesterday to read through the President’s faux inauguration speech. While it was, as expected, stirringly delivered, and had some nice turns of phrase like this:

For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.

and seemed to excite his liberal base, I came away mostly unimpressed. It name-checked gay rights while ignoring that the biggest impediment to them is and has long been … government. It talked of individual liberty while pushing an agenda that chokes liberty off in favor of collectivism (the word cloud showed the most prominent words were “people” and “must”; that’s not a fluke). There was talk of reform and getting rid of “outworn programs” from someone who has opposed fundamental changes to the way government does business. And when it came to the biggest problems we’re facing: the economy and long-term debt, it addressed them with such nonsense as this:

We reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other—through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security—these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.

But the entire point of our budget crisis is that we do have to make tough choices; that we can’t have everything on the liberal wish list.

Really, it seemed to me the best aspect of the speech was that it was short.

But something bugged me about it and I finally realized what it was. Suderman:

(Update: Since I drafted this post, Suderman has withdrawn the above since he mistakenly quotes the first inaugural speech. I still think the broad strokes — that progressivism is triumphant — applies to the new speech so I’ve left it in. For a more germaine criticism, you can check out Matt Welch.)

I wouldn’t call the speech a case for progressivism so much as an attempt to assert its victory.

It’s true that Obama offered a vision of a bigger, bolder state. But what he didn’t offer was much of an argument for how to get there, or make it affordable and sustainable. There were no outright policy proposals in the speech, but there was an awful lot of spending squeezed between its lines. Yet except for a line about using technology to lower the cost of health care [which isn’t working, incidentally — Hal], Obama’s speech offered no hints about he’d pay for his expanded state; the words debt, deficit, and budget were notably absent from the text.

Nor did Obama make much attempt to win over his political opponents—to convince them that the goals he laid out were worthy. Rather, the speech instead suggested that the argument was over, that he had won, and that the opposition should simply fall in line. “There are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans,” he said. “Their memories are short, for they have forgotten what this country has already done, what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose and necessity to courage. What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long, no longer apply.”

That’s not an argument for liberalism so much as a statement that Obama believes the argument is over.

We’ve often complained that, to the Left, the definition of “partisan rancor” and “obstructionism” is any opposition to the liberal agenda. And Obama seems to be laying out the case for that once again, claiming that we don’t really need to debate anymore. All we need to figure out is how we’re going to tax enough for all this.

Really, it seemed more like the first speech of Campaign 2014 than anything else: an opening salvo claiming that the only thing standing between America and its Liberal Utopia destiny is those damned Republicans.

The Weapons Limit

Having thought about Barack Obama’s gun plan, I’m still convinced that most of it is a non-issue: the government doing what it is supposed to do with background checks and enforcing laws. The only issue that is likely to be really contentious is the assault weapons ban (and related bans on high-capacity magazines).

I oppose the ban for a number of reasons, the biggest of which is that I think it will be ineffective. There is little evidence that the previous ban or state-level bans accomplished much: crime fell before they were passed and continued to fall after they went. Criminals continued to acquire not just assault weapons but fully automatic weapons.

But I’ve also been thinking about a quote from P.J. O’Rourke Parliament of Whores. In talking about the crack epidemic, he spoke to a doctor on the front lines about what he’d do if were the drug czar. The doctor said he would make a big splash about something unrelated like assault weapons and wait for the problem to burn itself out. O’Rourke noted that this was exactly what William Bennett subsequently did.

Assault weapon bans — indeed gun controls in general — are and always have been a distraction. The real causes of crime — poverty, broken families, educational dysfunction, hell maybe even lead — are far more difficult to address and liberal solutions to these problems have usually proven ineffective. By contrast, assault weapons are easy to address and easy to rally liberals around. They sound sensible to people who don’t like guns in the first place. They make politicians feel like they’re “doing something” even when they’re not.

I also think the assault weapons ban is really a culture war issue in disguise. I recently flew out of Pittsburgh and sat next to a college student from Alabama who talked about guns and how much he liked his AK. We’ve had plenty of discussions in the comments about guns. It’s clear that many of the readers of this blog are comfortable with guns and are even enthusiasts. But that are others who are uncomfortable around guns of any type. And when you look at that way, it’s no different than someone trying to ban porn or whatever because they don’t like it. It’s cultural chauvinism masquerading as common sense.

Liberals often say that no one “needs” an AK-47. That’s irrelevant and I think the attempts of people to justify these weapons under hunting, sport or revolutionary grounds are misguided. Owning guns is a right; it is the government that must justify its restrictions, not we who must justify our ownership. There isn’t a “need” for trashy music. There isn’t a “need” for risque television shows. There isn’t a “need” for Justin Bieber. But we allow these things because we believe in free speech. Gun owners do not need to justify a “need” so that their benevolent government can grudingly let them bear arms.

As is always the case with cultural issues, I think these is best resolved at the state level. If Californians are uncomfortable with assault weapons, let them ban them. If Alabamans are happy with assault weapons, let them keep them. It’s ridiculous to try to impose a national standard of what guns we are and are not comfortable with.

But doesn’t an assault weapons ban violate the Second Amendment? I don’t think so. The American people have long recognized that the Second Amendment does not give an unlimited right to weapons. Machine guns are banned, explosives are banned, nuclear weapons are banned. SCOTUS has upheld this. The difference between tyranny in freedom is much larger than the difference between an AK-47 and a hunting rifle.

Moreover, if we’re worried about tyranny, I would say the Second Amendment is only one of our concerns. Conor Friersdorf made this point some time ago:

I think law-abiding Americans should always be allowed to own guns.

But if you’re a conservative gun owner who worries that gun control today could make tyranny easier to impose tomorrow, and you support warrantless spying, indefinite detention, and secret drone strikes on Americans accused of terrorism, what explains your seeming schizophrenia?

Think of it this way.

If you were a malign leader intent on imposing tyranny, what would you find more useful, banning high-capacity magazines… or a vast archive of the bank records, phone calls, texts and emails of millions of citizens that you could access in secret? Would you, as a malign leader, feel more empowered by a background check requirement on gun purchases… or the ability to legally kill anyone in secret on your say so alone? The powers the Republican Party has given to the presidency since 9/11 would obviously enable far more grave abuses in the hands of a would be tyrant than any gun control legislation with even a miniscule chance of passing Congress. So why are so many liberty-invoking 2nd Amendment absolutists reliable Republican voters, as if the GOP’s stance on that issue somehow makes up for its shortcomings? And why do they so seldom speak up about threats to the Bill of Rights that don’t involve guns?

I am very happy that people are passionate about the Second Amendment and eager to defend gun liberty. I just wish they brought that same passion to other infringements on our First, Fourth, Five and Sixth Amendment rights. Because if we pay attention to those, we will never need a “Second Amendment Solution”.

Ah, those dreaded words. It’s become fashionable on the Left lately to mock the idea of rebellion. They’ve been dismissive of the Second Amendment because, they argue, a revolution against a tyrannical government would be impossible given that the government has tanks and nukes. That sounds clever and it certainly is snide.

It’s also absurd. Our own military — the one with the tanks and nukes — has had a devil of a time with a bunch of guys with small arms and improvised explosives. I know the Left likes to pretend our wars ceased to exist once Obama was elected, but the shattered bodies and souls coming back speak otherwise.

Sheer numbers tells us that a revolution is possible, tanks be damned. There are 1.4 million active duty members of our military. Assuming they all turned on us, they would still be outnumbered by the legal gun owners of Kentucky. Every hunting season, my state of Pennsylvania fields one of the largest standings armies in the world to take out a bunch of deer (and with remarkably few accidents, I might add). The idea that the Second Amendment isn’t a bulwark against tyranny is absurd.

I don’t believe that our government will ever become truly tyrannical. I don’t think that a “Second Amendment Solution” will ever be necessary. At the same time, however, I don’t think we should be gambling our future on my optimism.

Peaceful Secession Not an Option

That’s probably the most sensational headline I could have gone with, but it does get to the point of those petitions demanding that the White House allow states to secede.

Although the founders established a perpetual union, they also provided for a government that is, as President Lincoln would later describe it, “of the people, by the people, and for the people” — all of the people. Participation in, and engagement with, government is the cornerstone of our democracy. And because every American who wants to participate deserves a government that is accessible and responsive, the Obama Administration has created a host of new tools and channels to connect concerned citizens with White House. In fact, one of the most exciting aspects of the We the People platform is a chance to engage directly with our most outspoken critics.

So in the end, the Administration played it safe and decided on a bland response from an Administration flunky. I won’t go deep into the author’s arguments except to note that he implicitly observed that the President doesn’t have the Constitutional authority to allow any state to secede. Contrast the tone of this response with the snarky and somewhat bitchy one here and you’ll see that the White House decided to tread carefully with the question. Not sure if the recent spike in gun sales has anything to do with it.

I do have one piece of good news for all rebel scum though. The petition to build a Death Star was also denied. Without this superweapon, the Obama Administration will never subjugate the galaxy, much less implement Obamacare.

Hagel in the Spotlight

Obama has made it official, nominating former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense. This is not a surprise. Hagel has been an informal consultant for Obama when he’s looking for an alternative view on policy. He has a background of being a squad leader in Vietnam where he earned two purple heart and spent 20 years as a businessman. And his name has been circulating for weeks.

Hagel, of course, has been the target of some heavy criticism since his name was floated. Bill Kristol has led the charge, alleging that Hagel is soft on Iran and anti-Israel. I don’t think that’s the case, but I also think it’s kind of irrelevant. Hagel is not being nominated for Secretary of State, where diplomacy and foreign policy is decided. He’s being nominated as Secretary of Defense, in charge of running our wars.

That, I think, is the critical thing here. Hagel was one of the first to recognize the calamity that was unfolding in post-war Iraq. He’s also been very skeptical that we need a defense budget that exceeds what we were spending during Vietnam. Those two things alone make him a target for the neocons. Cato makes the libertarian case for him:

The reason people should care about his nomination is fairly simple. Hagel successfully running the DC gauntlet could be a perestroika moment in the American foreign and defense policy debate, and possibly even loosen the neoconservative stranglehold on the GOP. That’s something worth caring about.

As to what effect Hagel would have on DOD and/or U.S. defense policy, it’s actually tough to say for sure. He has admitted that the Pentagon is bloated and deserves to be cut. So he is unlikely to strike the Situational Keynesian pose that the GOP defense policy establishment have. He has historically been a skeptic about the benefits of bombing Iran and seems to favor a more serious effort at diplomacy. But I hope the hearing will smoke out the nominee’s views a bit better on these issues.

If Hagel survives this process, it will show that you can stare down the neocons and live to tell the tale. And if the Hagel nomination can demonstrate that you don’t need to fear Bill Kristol, the country and our foreign policy will be better off for it.

I’ll wait until the hearings to see what comes out. But, as of today, I’m leaning toward accepting the nomination for one simple reason: this is as conservative a candidate we are likely to get from Obama. Hagel would not be my ideal choice. And I’m sure the GOP could sink him if they wanted to. And Obama would run out some pansy-ass liberal who doesn’t know a gun from a kumquat but mouthed the correct inanities on Israel and Iran.

The reason I think Hagel is being nominated is not because he’s “anti-Israel” as he clearly isn’t unless you think any criticism of Israel is anti-Israel. The reason is because he’s likely to get the Pentagon to request less defense spending. No matter who becomes Secretary of Defense, spending cuts are coming, one way or another. Who would we rather have figuring out where those cuts should come from? Some career bureaucrat? Or a twice-decorated Vietnam veteran and businessman?

This is reality. Elections have consequences and I tend to defer to Presidents on their appointments unless they put up someone clearly unqualified. The Republicans are not going to get someone who lines up with every bit of received wisdom. Hagel, for all his flaws, is about as good as we’re going to get. The GOP needs to learn to take “meh” for answer.

Update: Here’s what the GOP was saying about Hagel just six years ago. Kristol himself wanted Hagel as VP in 2000.